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Old 03-31-1999
Sue & Larry Sue & Larry is offline
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The Rewards of Self-Sufficiency

Before we left to go cruising, a close friend asked me confidentially one night how I thought Larry was going to be able to adapt to the cruising life. Her point was that Larry is a doer and not the sit-around-and-do-nothing-in-paradise type. How was he going to be satisfied in our new lifestyle?

The question left me wondering if perhaps she had a point. I mean, what can you really do to fill up the time each and every day when you're just in that one little space? Maybe Larry would get bored on the boat. Maybe I would too Boy, was I wrong!

If nothing else our new sailing life has provided us with a never-ending outlet to explore our do-it-yourself talents. One of the unexpected bonuses we have discovered is the daily reward we reap of being self-sufficient. Maybe it has some basis from a primordial urge of man against nature. Whatever it is, it certainly does the trick of making sure that both Larry and I are fulfilled and certainly never bored on the boat.

We derive tremendous satisfaction from cruising around as a completely self-contained unit. We could spend months alone, if we wanted to, and never need to touch shore or rely on anyone else. Everything we need is either already on the boat or we can fabricate it ourselves.

Larry's pride and joy on the boat is the "power plant." He rigged a large 120-watt solar panel along with a wind generator, and these contribute greatly to keeping us fully charged. The addition of an amp-hour meter has kept Larry happily monitoring the daily workings of his own personal harnessing of nature's powers.

Once you leave that dock you'll discover never-ending things that come up. But don't be alarmed. They're not necessarily bad things, just things you would like to change or adapt to better fit your personal use. For instance, you may find that your protection from the wind, water or sun is not as good as it needs to be. What are you going to do about it hundreds of miles from home?

Larry & the cats on the inflatableThere simply is no marine supply store, canvas maker or even K-Mart in many of the places you will want to cruise. Combine this with the new cruising-budget mentality (you just can't afford to pay others to do everything for you), and you'll soon realize why we've found a necessity to improvise and make the things we need ourselves.

We now look at scraps of plastic, old sails and other odds and ends with new eyes. Two years ago all of these items would have been in the trash without hesitation and we'd be running down to the store with our credit card buying all new stuff. But now we see all kinds of possibilities, which we view as treasures, and stash these finds in our "future projects" box.

The day after a big line squall came hit Charleston, South Carolina, we found ourselves reduced to Dumpster diving. We noticed a Tartan 37 mainsail had been discarded after not surviving the storm. We pulled out the sail from the Dumpster, quickly assessed the damage and discovered that there was plenty of good useable sailcloth. Hoping no one was watching, we folded it up and stowed it away on Safari. To date from that one sail we have made: covers for our life raft, the outboard, the engine lifter; a valise for our folded charts and a stylish dodger for our inflatable dinghy. Since then we've acquired other discarded sails from sailmakers and have countless other projects in mind for this cloth, including a full sun awning for the boat. We've learned how to use the sewing machine to a level beyond our expectations, and discovered that installing grommets is easy and downright fun.

I've found great joy in finding out that custom woodwork isn't hard to create if you've got the time and patience. The number of things I used to think only a professional could do have vastly diminished. Now the project possibilities are endless and I feel as if many are within our means. With the right tools and a little bit of elbow grease, you will be able to produce things that would amaze your friends.

Food is another whole area of self-sufficiency. On top of properly provisioning the boat, there is the fun of supplementing the provisions with freshly caught seafood several times a week. (See Fishing While You Cruise article). We bake all our own bread, crackers and pretzels, and even grow our own sprouts to add to the fresh vegetable supply.

But it's certainly not all work. While Larry and I always seem to find projects on the boat, that's part of our nature. We like doing things and derive great satisfaction from the finished product. But there are times that we just "veg" out and spend entire days doing nothing but reading and eating. I think the cruising lifestyle promotes and encourages the pioneer spirit in most people. For us, it has been a healthy combination of the two.

Fortunately to date we haven't had any emergency situations or breakdowns on Safari that have required our newfound skills of improvisation. We feel, however, that our day will come when these projects will have helped train our minds to think and work logically to solve more serious problem. That could well be when we're truly isolated and unable to rely on outside help. In the meantime, we're having lots of fun just figuring out how to do new things.

The tools of self-sufficiency

Complete tool box, with the usual variety of types and sizes of screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers, vice-grips, and these items:

  • 2 drills, one cordless and one more powerful plug-in type
  • jigsaw
  • random orbital sander
  • palm sander
  •  dremeltool (the sailor's friend for cutting, engraving, shaping or fabricating custom parts from virtually any material)
  • hack saw
  • bolt cutters
  • wire cutters
  • tap and die set
  • soldering iron
  • socket set
  • wire ties of every size (even gigantic 3-foot-long ones)
  • Velcro
  • large variety of s/s screws, bolts, nuts and washers
  • large variety of electrical connectors
  • multi-volt ampmeter
  • inverter for powering 110-volt tools
  • stock s/s tubing
  • aluminum and stainless steel bar stock
  • teak planks
  • hoses, belts, gaskets, filters
  • 316 stainless steel hose clamps in every possible size
  • rebuild kits for pumps
  • sewing machine
  • basting tape
  • grommet set
  • tape, duct tape and electrical tape
  • variety of paint brushes (standard and foam)
  • 5200 epoxy
  • silicon caulking
  • contact rubber cement
  • WD-40
  • lithium grease
  • sandpaper
  • fishing tackle
  • crab pot
  • casting net



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