The Three Keys To Cruising Happiness

1- Using the assumetrical as we search for the stronger trade winds (3)

On board Sila, my family's Boréal 47, we have found that John and Phyllis's "Big Five" (Mast Up, Keel Down, Rudder Attached, Water Out, People On) have helped us to prioritize our time and resources, especially for risk management. They're easy to remember and help guide our big picture decision making.

But family happiness and crew morale are just as vital as risk management for a successful voyage and, during the last 36,000 miles and three years on board Sila, my family and I have come up with what we now refer to as "The Three Keys To Cruising Happiness": weather, communication, and food.

Molly and Christopher Barnes, and their two boys Porter and Jack, have just completed a 36,000-mile circumnavigation of South America in their Boréal 47, Sila, including cruising South Georgia—one of the toughest cruising grounds in the world. Molly is the co-founder of an academic and wilderness school, an ultra runner, and an expert on motivating young people to find their own inspiration in adventure.

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Jo

In the part “Knowing what to expect” I was missing the part of having appropriate clothes.

Never was I so miserable at sea as when I was cold and wet because I went down too late to dress and to top it off the foul weather gear wasn’t up to the foul weather at hand.

I learned my lesson to put on my long undies while there was time before I’m shivering. I’m a lot more happy in rain and cold when I stay warm and dry and when there’s a big thermos with hot tea or soup at hand. It makes the difference between an adventure and total misery.

For seasoned cruisers this may be obvious, but for me as a beginner I really wish I would have realised how important this is.

Molly Barnes

Jo,

You make a great point that I took for granted! There is no question that part of our family happiness as it relates to weather was first knowing what to expect and to your point, the second vital step was doing something about it! I, too, had to learn to be a little overdressed when we first get underway so that I am warm enough later.

In cold and rainy climates, I learned a couple of tricks. As I am usually the one to haul the mainsail, I would start without a warm hat and with my various layers unzipped at the neck for maximum air. Then upon returning to the cockpit, I would capture that hard-earned heat by putting a hat on zipping up almost immediately. I also would try to have a neck gaiter and at least one pair of gloves easily accessible in the doghouse.

We talked about children’s clothes in our Attainably Adventurous Children article but it bears repeating here. For kids to be happy in difficult climates, they need the right gear too so it is worth it to purchase high quality layers and rain gear in particular. To your point, Jo, then teaching them how and when to wear them is essential!

Thanks for your comment.
Molly

Marc Dacey

Very good point about the hat and the neck gaiter. I tend to run hot at the best of times, so the key to staying warm for me is to stay cold enough not to sweat during exertions in the first place. Key to this is hoisting, grinding, etc. in a state of semi-dress (assuming it’s not pelting down) and only garbing fully when I’m ready to helm or chart or to more or less stay still. I warm the foulies, the foulies don’t warm me.

Molly Barnes

I love that expression: I warm the foulies, the foulies don’t warm me.

Marc Dacey

These sorts of expressions tend to come after a couple of seasons of doing things the wrong way. The right way prompts the conclusions.

Eric Klem

Hi Molly,

A very good list. One of the things that I have always struggled with is food in bad weather. I find it very difficult and frustrating to prepare food when the weather is bad. We have learned that my wife is much more prone to seasickness if she is hungry so it is important that we keep up a normal meal schedule. For me, a major trigger of seasickness is getting too hot, something that can easily happen in our little galley even with taking off all insulating layers. For us, this means that we pre-make 2 dinners before heading out for a longer hop which has greatly decreased the stress when it ends up being a bit rough early on before we have gotten into the routine. We haven’t done much long distance work recently so it has not been much of a concern but even so, I had a very frustrating time (had to do it twice after losing the first try) making lunch this summer as the boat was falling off waves in much rougher conditions than expected. The people that can make great meals in rough weather have always amazed me and I really appreciate when I sail with one. I would be interested sometime in hearing from your family or John or Phyllis whether you have any tips for meal preparation in rough weather based on your experience in the high latitudes beyond heaving to for a bit.

Were you anchored in southwest harbor in late August? We sailed down from Somesville headed for Merchants Row and as we went by I was pretty sure there was a Boreal in there and I doubt there are very many in the area.

Eric

Colin Speedie

Hi Eric
I couldn’t resist offering one idea – the good old pressure cooker. Great for soups, stews etc. and they could even make your boots tender and tasty if all else fails.
As a young guy racing back and forth across the English Channel we’d cook for five in a decent sized one, and if it was really rough even strap it down to the top of the cooker with bungy cords!
Every boat should have one in my view.
Best wishes
Colin

Eric Klem

Hi Colin,

Great suggestion, I had never thought of that. We have a pressure cooker at the house that we bought for our last boat which didn’t haven an oven but it never actually made it aboard. My wife uses it occasionally but I have never tried it.

We keep a couple of metal springs made for screen doors aboard to hold pots down if they threaten to jump out of the potholders. I learned the spring trick from some of the commercial boats I was on where the stoves were not gimbaled. Springs were used to hold everything in place on the stoves as they had no potholders and they would use wedges in the oven to keep things level and from moving. The other thing I picked up from them is using non-slip rug pads to keep the dishes you are working with from moving. Still, I somehow always end up with everything moving around. I think one of the keys to your pressure cooker suggestion is that it is a one pot meal.

Thanks.

Eric

Molly Barnes

Eric,

I echo what Colin said about the pressure cooker. Ours has been indispensable on Sila, especially when we were many weeks from a resupply.

In terms of preventing seasickness, I am prone to it myself so I cannot cook much at the start of offshore passages or when it is particularly rough when we are coastal cruising. My solution is two-fold. First, we make a lot in advance so that we have simple heat-and-eat meals at the start of a passage. (I frequently make a stew or lentils in the pressure cooker for those first offshore meals.) Second, we keep supplies for simple meals on hand for when we did not prepare.

Our go-to lunch for a rough day on Sila is rice because it is so easy on the stomach and requires little attention beyond starting it on the stove and watching the timer. To make the rice more interesting, we sometimes cook it with a veggie or chicken soup cube. We often add butter and parmesan (the favorite option for our 13 and under crew members), or open a tin of sardines to put on top. Spicy sardines or mustard sauce sardines add a lot of flavor to the rice without a lot of effort or time in the galley. And perhaps the best feature of the rice meal is that different crew members can spice their own bowl how they like.

I hope that helps.
Molly

Colin Speedie

Molly, you raise a really valid point about pressure cookers – they consume miserly amounts of gas to make a substantial meal for four or more people. When you’re miles form anywhere, including gas refill facilities using a pressure cooker will really husband valuable resources as well as turn out really savoury meals.
Best wishes
Colin

Eric Klem

Hi Molly,

Thanks for the great suggestions. Your reply has me thinking that I need to get comfortable with making things like soups, stews, etc. I have been spoiled in that a lot of the sailing I have done has been done with a full time cook but thinking back now, they made a lot of these and I don’t think I have ever tried it. Your rice suggestion is also a good one and one that I think I will try.

Eric

Marc Dacey

The pressure cooker solution is great. You can even take it off the stove, wrap it in blankets and it will stay warm if uncracked for six to eight hours. Another seldom-used idea is the old Forespar-style gimballed burner which may be used when the galley stove is too hazardous to attempt. It can be mounted in the cockpit or centrally, even on the mast if you’re keel-stepped, and can provide soup, coffee or stew for two. Even a couple of mouthfuls with a handful of nuts or a few crackers can improve the watchstander’s disposition in heavy weather.