Hmmm . . . Ten things we wouldn't cruise without. Oh, that's easy. Autopilot, electric windlass, roller-furling, refrigeration, radar . . . No, no, sounds too spoiled.
How about rum, beer, Jimmy Buffet music, and limes to hold off scurvy? No, no, too pirate-like.
When we really sat back and looked at the "Ten Things We Wouldn't Cruise Without," we came to a realization. Although we have a lot of new and modern equipment onboard that makes cruising easier, (and yes, we do occasionally listen to Brother Jimmy while enjoying a drink) they are not the things that make the cruising experience.
For instance, we love our electric windlass, but would we give up cruising if we didn't have one? We enjoy our refrigeration, but would it be so hard to use block ice? Of course not.
The Top Ten List we finally settled on is a combination of things that, for us, make the cruising experience even more fulfilling and rewarding, with a couple of items thrown in that we believe add greatly to our safety.
1. Protection from the Elements It may have been the cool thing to do when we were both college kids, soaking up as much sun as we could, then wearing white clothes at night to show off our suntans, but no longer. I guess that's a sure sign of getting older. Today we value protection from the sun as much as from the cold wind and rain. On Serengeti, we're removing all the canvas work, and building a hard bimini and dodger out of fiberglass. With this type of setup, we'll get many more years of life out of it, plus the visibility through a glass windshield far surpasses the view through the plastic used in most dodgers. We'll have complete side curtains to keep out the cool wind, and a movable sunscreen to block the early morning and late day sun from our eyes. We spend more time in the cockpit of our boat than any other place. So it's set up for all conditions. Making passages is a lot more fun when we are warm and dry.
2. A Good Camera When you're this close to nature all the time, you are exposed to the most magical lighting imaginable. Early mornings and late evenings serve to enhance the most incredible scenes that you'll want to capture forever. Words just can't do some things justice. Before cruising, we seldom took pictures, even at special events or on vacations. Traveling by boat has given us a whole new appreciation for the beauty to be found, and a desire to chronicle all that we see. Buy the best camera and a good quality, multi-purpose zoom lens that you can afford. We use a Minolta XTsi SLR with a Tamron 28 - 200 mm zoom lens. With this combination, we can take wide angle, and yet zoom in fairly close when needed. You'll also want to have a good waterproof bag to store it in.
3. Alternative Power One of the beauties of cruising in a sailboat is that it's such a quiet, peaceful way to travel. Since neither of us likes the idea of the noise of a generator or running the engine a lot, we opted for a wind generator and solar panels. This, combined with a high output alternator that performs well when motoring, keeps us fully charged in almost every circumstance. We spend our time enjoying the sounds of nature and each other's company without the constant drone of a diesel engine in the background.
4.Culinary Skills and Supplies You'll never find a waterfront restaurant with better seating than the cockpit of your own boat. Take advantage of it by including a selection of gourmet spices, provisions, and cookbooks. Develop a willingness to expand your cooking horizons. Remember that many of the nicest cruising grounds are a long way from the restaurants. If you can't cook, you'll soon become sick of canned food. On Serengeti, we have 10 different cookbooks, each addressing a different aspect of cooking or ethnic specialty. Our personal challenge has been to recreate our favorite restaurant meals aboard. To our surprise, we think we may have even improved upon several of these past cherished delights.
5. Our Cats If you've read our article about "Cruising With Cats," you'll understand fully how much joy we get out of having Endicott and Hinckley aboard. You'll never find a more suitable and adaptable pet for cruising than a cat. Cats quickly become comfortable in whatever space you provide, and a sailboat quickly becomes a cozy home and fun playhouse for them. You benefit from both great entertainment and loving companionship.
6. Single Sideband Radio The SSB radio is so much more than just a piece of safety equipment. We've talked often about how useful SSB is for obtaining help or critical information at times of need. The bonus value of this radio is the friends you will make through radio contact and stay in touch with throughout your cruising life. The daily nets, the support groups while traveling, the weather info . . . it just goes on and on!
7.Oil Lamps and Candle Votives Nothing enhances mood more than a beautiful flickering candle or warms an atmosphere like an antique oil lamp. Save the 12-volt lights you've got on board for specific chores or reading. Candle light and oil lamps also provide a bonus of reducing your onboard power consumption. We've found that colored candles may be pretty to look at, but when it comes to getting the best lighting value for your money, stick to the white ones.
8. Fishing Gear Not only is fishing while cruising great sport, it's a wonderful and welcomed fresh addition to the food supplies on board. Supplementing your diet with fish is healthy for your body, and it's healthy for your budget too. You may start with just a fishing rod and some basic tackle, but you'll soon want to add extras like a crab trap, and a cast net for shrimp and baitfish. (See our article on "Fishing While You Cruise" for more specifics)
9. Respect for Your Cruising Partner A cruising boat is too small a space to share with someone whose thoughts, feelings, and ideas you don't fully respect. In your travels you will share incredible experiences, be humbled by nature, and at times be confronted, confused, and challenged by situations that require solutions by two levelheaded people working together as a team. It's easy to enjoy the good times together. Coming out of the tough times and challenges stronger, more united, and with renewed respect for each other, is what it's really all about.
10. GPS OK We wrestled with including this one in our top ten list, but we have to be honest. The GPS has revolutionized navigation on land, in the air, and on water, and I think most sailors would kneel down and kiss the feet of the person that invented it.
GPS supplements the basic dead reckoning skills that every boater should have before leaving harbor. Today's boater knows exactly where he is, how fast he is going, and in what direction. No longer does he have to worry that the set and drift were correctly calculated and hope that the expected landmark will appear each time. The GPS is an incredible tool every sailor should be thankful. With the price of a GPS today, there's no reason not to have one on board, plus a backup just in case.
So, there you have it. Larry and Sue's "Top Ten" for things that have added tremendously to our cruising experience. There are many wonderful pieces of equipment that take the physical load off today's cruiser, and lots of modern conveniences that can add luxury to the basic boat. We cruise with many of these, but the true experience of cruising remains the same today as it was years ago before the advent of electric winches and such.
It's not the gadgets and gizmos that make for happy cruising, but many of the simpler, more basic things in life. Well, except maybe for the GPS.