Going Cruising—Being Realistic About You, 4 Tips

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Our friend and new Attainable Adventure Cruising author Mick O'Flanagan knocked it out of the park with his post on going cruising on US$15,000 a year, including the boat—one of the most read posts in the history of this site. And no wonder, it's a lovely story beautifully told.

I think the appeal of Mick's piece is that it gives so many readers a real hope that they can attain the cruising life in a world of shrinking opportunity, particularly for younger people, who were not born, as I was, into what I firmly believe is the luckiest generation in history: boomers.

So for those of you who have had the voyaging flame kindled by Mick's post and are now thinking about how to get out there, what's the next step?

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chris freeman

John. I’m with you in the wimp category but I do like to read about those who are obviously tougher than I chose to be. Another read your readers may enjoy is google” Iron barks travels”.You may be familiar with this story about overwintering in the arctic without heating .

Taras

I’m not considering a super tought guy myself, but I do enjoy reading about others – it brings some thoughts and ideas that I can try.
Books from Pardeys and some other about cruising in northern latitudes definitely helped me understand more about want vs need, helped make better decisions and improved not only my sailing life.
While reading such books or stories its always nice to think what I would do in same scenario, would I be comfortable enought loving same way or doing similar things.

Rod.

Many people are not aware that Universal health insurance or the (NHS) National Health Service, does not cover you if you are out of the country for more than 6 months.
Many people have been caught out on this, some with dire health conditions.
England is waking up be it very slowly.

Rod.

Hi John,

It’s not the case here, might be a time element to it – not sure on that point.
Case in point, English couple came back to the UK after moving to France, they fell foul of the French system due to a change in the law once becoming retired. (very convoluted and politically motivated).
The man had a heart condition came back to the Uk thinking they would be entitled to the NHS and were told that they did not have entitlement.
I only bring this up for the benefit of people who might go off sailing into the blue, thinking they are entitled and find that the opposite is the case on their return.
I live in the med part of the year and come back (sometimes) looking a little tanned,
Occasion arrived where I had to go into hospital for minor situation and the first thing I was asked is, have I been out of the country and how long !
I’m enjoying all the posts John.
Rod.

Marc Dacey

It’s difficult to glean sensible, current information on this, but it does argue in favour (if you are Canadian or British; I don’t know about the U.S. or Europe or elsewhere) of maintaining a principal residence. You can rent that out and just keep a cot in the basement, but if your bills are being paid by an appointed “minder” who collects rent and fixes taps for a small fee, our strong impression is that you are likely to appear at home.

RDE

Hi John,
Great analysis of the factors that go into deciding what life style is suitable for the individual personalities involved. I remember meeting the Pardeys in Port Townsend shortly after they had sailed their 24′ Serafin from Japan in 54 days. Someone asked Larry what they did with all that time. “Well, we had a lot of box wine.”

In life there are needs and wants—-.

A couple of years later I was out for a Sunday sail on a friend’s boat that was an exact replica of Serafin. An inexperienced person at the helm managed to put the spreaders in the water. Immense admiration for the seamanship required to sail that boat across an ocean, but not my cup of tea. Or for very many others for that matter.

Speaking of life styles that take a different path, I’ve just been enjoying the biography of Dr. Dorian Pascowitz, a renowned doctor who cast aside material possessions to live in a 24′ motor home with his wife, raise nine kids in it, and surf every day. They raised the kids in the school of the ocean, without submitting them to a minute of the captivity (schooling) that society considers necessary in order to make them into functioning consumers.

Jim Ferguson

I always enjoy reading your posts, but I haven’t commented for a while. We met Mick and Bee in 2010 in Baddeck where our Cutter Maggie had wintered. Very few people are as qualified as them and we really enjoyed their post as well as your comments. Another possible tip is “Go offshore before you by the boat.” We did this in ’79 when we talked our way into a Transpac delivery back to California. Once we understood it was something we could both tolerate and enjoy we moved aboard our first cruising boat in 1980. Keep the articles coming.

jason thrupp

Hi John,
Thanks for the plethora of interesting and valuable articles on AAC. I particularly enjoyed Mick’s as I have the many books and articles from the earlier cruisers and the few like Mick that are still sailing in this way today.
I, like many of us, have a deep almost romantic fascination for a basic, less comfortable and more challenging life experience based around voyaging and boats; but I think your article makes a good point regards having a clear understanding of what you are truly capable of not just enduring, but enjoying. I had a 28ft 1935 Norman Dalimore Cutter which I restored and sailed when I was living in New Zealand and I spent many weeks in the summers away cruising the East Coast of the North Island. These were very basic times, but some of the best times of my life. However, I am very clear now that a few weeks was likely enough, and longer or more permanent stints might not have left me with such fond memories!
I have completed 3 out of your 4 tips and I am now patiently waiting for my ADVENTURE 40 – can you provide us an update on that project soon…
Best regards and thanks for the great site!
Jason.

Pete Worrell

John:

I am with you on your good analysis. I am filled with admiration for Mick & Bee. Kareen and I have found that judicious use of practical systems increases our enjoyment and peace of mind in cruising as a couple.

I have been thinking deeply about the fact that as sapiens, we were biologically selected for a culture that no longer exists. It’s no surprise that some of us turn to cruising, where Mother Nature is firmly in charge. It seems to us that Comfort is over-rated.

Pete & Kareen Worrell
SV PATIENCE (Hood Pilothouse 51)

Ed Finn

After reading the cruising tips, and the comments, I am reminded of that old
Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry quote,
“A man has got to know his limitations”

Vince Bossley

Hi John,
Absolutely agree with your posting above. Your header graphic illustrates it perfectly. That is why I chose to make my voyage with me and a select few friends and family. Crew can often be as much of a impediment as unwilling partners. Having said that, unsatisfactory crew are easier to get rid of! My crew never exceeded more than three (including myself), and that worked well.

We ran a watch system beginning at 2000hrs. split into three four hour watches through the night until 0800hrs. During the daylight hours everyone was on watch, could do what ever they chose providing that if they went below, they ensured someone remained on deck on watch. This worked very well and never failed once.

Additionally, I recommend all potential voyage planners read a little book ‘Psychology of Sailing’ by Michael Stadler before going too far down their chosen path. It highlights many of the issues you have discussed. It is available in nautical book stores and online.

Best regards,

Vince

Vince Bossley

Marc Dacey

We have found we got over the seemingly ridiculous formality of relieving the deck watch after we realized the sea can be pretty loud and the mental list of things to do before you crawl over the lee cloths pretty distracting, and so we do that whole “I relieve you…I stand relieved” thing. I also expect that if I am asking a question or making a request that it is repeated back to me in all but the most casual conditions, lest I require a wrench and get handed ranch dressing.

Rob Gill

Very good point John about watch handovers – I strongly support this. This always happened formally on all ships I was on and was standard practice. If you ever disagreed (heaven forbid) with the Captain’s actions or commands whilst officer of the watch, as I had to in the middle of the North Sea in fog, doing 22 knots on a 1200 foot container ship, at the grand age of 22 with a shiny new Mate’s ticket and our senior fleet captain (65) on his last trip before retirement, you would politely but firmly inform the Captain that you disagreed with his actions/commands and that he had the watch, writing this up in the log, noting the time and signing alongside. You still carried out his commands though, unless … actually let’s not go there it’s rather frightening for us sailors!

A formal handover process is also important when you have blind spots from the cockpit, and the real possibility of one person assuming another will have seen the fishing boat just ahead! Having a designated watch keeper ensures one person is taking this prime responsibility of keeping a safe “watch”.

The other really important handover (used on ships), that more often gets forgotten, especially at a stressful time is when the skipper comes on deck from off watch or is called by the watch. In this situation, the skipper should tell the watch keeper if or when they are taking back command, (or specifically what part of the duties they are taking over, if any). If this isn’t observed, it is easy for both parties to assume they are conning the vessel, which isn’t as bad as no one being responsible, but ensuing events can become confusing or worse.
Rob

RDE

Hi Rob,
I couldn’t agree more about the desirability of a standard hand-over procedure during watch changes. Even if the crew is a spouse on a double-handed boat a status update and acknowledgement should be second nature.

When flying tandem single seat aircraft the words “your airplane” always precede surrendering control of the stick. Quite useful when a thermaling hawk suddenly appears in a 180 knot collision course with your windscreen during hand-over!

Rob Gill

Hi Richard,
Crikey! Wouldn’t the correct call in this situation be “your bird”?

Vince Bossley

Hi John,
Good comments all. In relation to sleep time or lack thereof, the ‘off watch’ crew member of the system I ran overnight had a full eight hours of sleep as we only had one crew ‘on watch’ each four hour watch. If you happened to be the unlucky midnight to 0400hrs keeper, then that gave you two four hour sleeps. This can be overcome by rotating the system from time to time during long voyages.

When changing watch during the night, the crew going off watch handed over with a short formal update to the new watch keeper before going below.

One could also sleep during the day, but would soon be woken (without compunction!) if necessary by other crew wanting some down time.

Cheers, Vince

Jeff Bander

Hi John,

To see each other clearly (something implied in the cover photo) seems like the work of a lifetime, but crucial for a cruising couple who will face challenges together quite different from those seen on land.

One learning I’ve taken from the airplane community, who originated Cockpit Resource Management to fight back against the rash of accidents caused by human factors, is: “Always follow the lead of the most frightened/cautious pilot.”

This was something I had to learn. My own bravado got in the way. But when I purposely scaled it back, I came to see how sane an approach this really is.

Rob Gill

Hi Jeff,
Great comment on scaling back to the comfort level of “the most frightened / cautious”. For me this is perhaps the hardest thing to do as a lifetime sailor and racer with a less confident but quietly competent first mate, as we approach offshore sailing passages together. I just read in (John’s further reading recommendation) Phyllis’ wonderful article, “A Reluctant Voyager” which resonates for us.
I’m slowly learning that it isn’t expensive gear that helps us achieve the right balance – it’s a change of mindset for me as skipper. Like setting off on a car journey 30 minutes early so you have time to slow down, relax and enjoy the trip in safely. So maybe, what Mick didn’t say in his earlier delightful read is that he and Bee aren’t slow at all, they just purposefully set off two weeks early to have time to “smell the seaweed”?
Oh, and a $10 inclinometer mounted in our hatchway that (repeat after me Rob) “doesn’t go past 15 degrees” has been pretty helpful.
Cheers

Richard Dykiel

As a long time admirer of the Pardey’s sailing philosophy, I was glad to read that different perspective from experienced cruisers like you: you made excellent points well worth pondering.

Richard Dykiel

FWIW I also like what I read here although it might be better placed in a chapter on adventure40:

http://sailingsimplicity.com/its-not-a-house-its-a-boat/

Stedem Wood

I once heard someone describe sailors as either romantics, or escapists.

I’m not so sure, but….maybe some grain of truth in that. Your post has done an excellent job of describing there’s a lot more than romance going on for the folks who’ve been successful at ticking off lots of sea miles.

A lot of dreams are fed while discussing boats and gear and skills –but mindset seems to get lost in the discussion.

The sad and sometimes tragic consequence is apparent in the abandoned boats you see in so many harbors. Maybe more often than broken or unsuitable boats and gear, the stories you hear describe frustration, health problems, broken dreams, or water-soluble relationships and marriages.

Stedem Wood
M/V Atlantis

RDE

Back in my single days I found the perfect test for determining if a budding relationship might be water soluble. Just hand the victim a few sheets of sandpaper and point to the varnish. Works every time.

victor raymond

My wife and I are helping my Dad through the final stages of his life. If you think sailing is tough try the alternative. I would rather fall off the boat and be shark food than go through what he is experiencing. Getting old is not for sissies. Eat well, get out, keep moving and slow down the aging process.

Tim J

This is a really good article. The reality that your relationships are the most important thing in the world. It’s a common position to take the person on-board who is the least comfortable with the conditions and adjust to their comfort. Reef sooner, harness up, change course or slowing down will help build trust in your leadership. Saying “this is nothing! suck it up!” will not go well with your spouse. Experience over time will teach the ‘wimpier’ of the two that it’s going to be OK. Trust is the hardest thing to gain and the easiest thing to lose.
We are about to embark on our cruising journey of 3-9 months of cruising and crossings. We are starting with harbour-hopping to build my wife’s comfort levels. Then a passage with one night at sea, then when she is ready, we’ll do longer legs and a crossing to Hawaii, but only when she’s ready; she has a long way to go before she’s ready. It will be worth the wait.

Marc Dacey

If I may make a suggestion to aid this process: Let her drive, at least in the benign conditions. Watch-keeping and log entries and trimming create “feel” pretty quickly. She may start to like it sooner than you think.

Tim J

I totally agree. I can be a “helm hog” but need to resist to give her time on the helm. The other day she went out in the ocean with a friend, I was on another boat and saw her on the helm from about 1/2 mile away, I felt so proud she was doing that. In the end, she went a few miles out and sailed it back into the slip, (under sail) on her own with coaching from the owner. That was pretty amazing.

Marc Dacey

Maybe it’s because I’ve never driven a car, but I prefer trimming and tweaking and wandering around the deck checking things. My wife handles over 50% of the helming and I got a six-block mainsheet so she can do that, too. Good luck with her progression. A second unsolicited tip is to suggest she crew on a delivery…without you. She’ll have a totally different dynamic and will have “her own adventures”, including solo watchstanding at 0300h. She’ll come back with loads of useful experiences.

JW

This is very thought provoking for this Gen X aspiring budget cruiser. I certainly know that handling the boat described in this post is far beyond my abilities. But on the other hand it’s worth reminding people that there are some GREAT “classic plastic” bluewater boats to be had for under $10k. I did MANY things embarrassingly wrong when I started sailing and I’m still making mistakes daily as I learn. But I did one Big Right Thing that I’ve never regretted: I bought copies of John Vigor’s and Jon Kretschmer’s books of used boat reviews and I read them religiously before I went boat shopping. Before I read their books I had accepted he common wisdom that 30K was the price of entry for safe bluewater cruising. But these two writers opened my eyes to all the great smaller blue water boats in the 10-20K price range. They also educated me about the trade offs that must be made for budget cruising. For me as a lifelong backpacker the possibility of starting cruising NOW in a smaller boat with limited modern amenities was far more attractive than saving for years to afford a bigger boat with more liveaboard systems. I ended up with a simply equipped but very well-maintained Contessa 26 … and I’m so thankful to this wonderful boat every single day I sail her! Sure she doesn’t have standing headroom or a refrigerator. But she has something else that is priceless: she takes care of her people when the chips are down. There are plenty of 1970s Contessa 26s and Alberg 30s and similar boats to be found for under $10,000. They are generally fiberglass Folkboat clones, and as such they require you to scale down your liveaboard requirements to something more like a “campaboard lifestyle.” But in return you get a strong, safe boat that is cheap to maintain, easy to singlehand, and built to handle heavy weather. These Folkboat-derived “pocket cruisers” are definitely small by modern standards, but they have racked up a track record of solo passages and circumnavigations that speaks highly of their stability and durability. And besides … Folkboats are just plain fun to sail 🙂