At 32 feet, my 1977 Endeavour Dream Weaver is not always the smallest boat among the coastal and long-distance cruisers I encounter, but there are not many of us out here this size, and most seem to be in the 40-foot range. Nonetheless, Dream Weaver has been my magic carpet for more than 5,000 miles since leaving our home port in Burlington, VT, and sailing to Havana, Cuba, the Bahamas, the Florida Keys, and back along a good chunk of the East Coast south of New York Harbor. I have been sailing solo since Miami, bringing the boat back home for the first time since 1998.
Enclosed cockpit This wonder allows the skipper and his charts, binoculars, eyeglasses, and electronics to remain dry when it rains or the wind pipes up. I get wet and so does everything else, despite a dodger and a bimini on Dream Weaver. So, running in the rain or spray is miserable, and considering that visibility shrinks, it can also be dangerous. Sailing solo, I really can't go below to get warm or make a pot of coffee. And because charts get wet, despite protective covers, I consequently try to avoid running in bad weather.
Electronic chartplotters These allow one to find the marks in rough weather (and good weather, for that matter); however, I have no space for that equipment in the cockpit and can't leave the helm to use it below decks, so I rely on entering key waypoints in one of the two low-end GPS units the night before I head out.Refrigeration For a cruiser with an ice chest, the quest for ice is constant, but at least with a drain in the bottom I can tap off the melted water where the beer cans live and use it for dishwater, a convenience more important in the Bahamas than in US waters. On the plus side, I do not suffer from refrigeration PMS (Power Management Syndrome), which over the long run usually leads to owning a wind charger, solar panels and, eventually, a small gas generator. We avoid anchoring near boats where a big, noisy generator is a prominent piece of the deck equipment.
Onboard shower Sun shower bags do work, but rarely do you have the privacy for a thorough shower. Jumping overboard to soap up with a shower rinse is fine, but in areas with alligators or, worse, saltwater crocodiles, one does not linger in the water. So we carry a supply of those little wipes used to clean up baby bottoms, and wipe down.
We don't go into marinas very often; but when we do, we arrive early to allow as much time as possible to deal with showers, laundry, trash, ice, and provisioning. The best situation is to find an anchorage with a friendly marina nearby that will sell you dinghy dockage, showers, and trash-removal facilities. As I write this, I am laying over in Dowry Creek near Belhaven, NC, with spotlessly clean and friendly Dowry Creek Marina just a short dinghy ride away. This turned out to be a perfect spot to wait out a northerly that has howled for five days.
"We are here to have a nice time, not to get scared or hurt or damage the boat. We don't have a schedule to keep, so we can wait out bad weather."
With this in mind, I have stopped trying to rendezvous with crew at ports a few days down the line. When I arrive at a rendezvous like my next one in Baltimore, I call to let the new crew know I'm in port and if you can meet me, great. Many of the serious situations I've found myself in have been the result of trying to meet someone's shore schedule. I just don't do it any more.
Finally, it is great to have a buddy boat that travels at the same speed. Since beginning this piece in North Carolina a buddy boat and I have arrived in the Chesapeake and are now in Cockrell Creek off the Great Wicomico River, near the fishing village of Reedville, VA.
Stuck here by the weather and mechanical problems, we are seeing the real Chesapeake. Reedville is the home of a menhaden fishing fleet and a processing plant. Across the creek at Fairport Marina, the owner and his son unload bushel baskets of crabs from their crab boat and the locals gather for the fried chicken, potato salad, and biscuit lunch special ($4.95) at the small marina restaurant. There is a parking spot reserved for the pastor of the church, and it is occupied. You can keep your boat here at a slip for $70 a month.
Next door at Jennings Boatyard the lift is hauling a sailboat for repairs, the hull of a working boat has just been laid in the shed, and some of the restaurant crowd wanders over to see it now that it is turned right side up. "She should be able to stand up to a blow off Smith Point," one waterman observes. That is a serious compliment. You can store on the hard here for $2.00 a foot per month. It is tempting to leave the boat here and spend a lot of time cruising the Chesapeake. After all, large boat or small, we're here to have fun.
Small Boat Necessities