If you've missed Liza's Copeland previous article, click here: Preparing to Sail Offshore
Ironically, the additional fuel we loaded on board to motor through the expected windless conditions was consumed running from the strong winds in the approaching lows! When we did find ourselves caught in these winds, they were frequently forward of the beam. Fortunately Bagheera is very comfortable down below on any point of sail (although few of us choose to cruise over on our ear) as well as at anchor, but these conditions certainly reinforced why we give comfort a high priority, along with the reliability of equipment and safety.
For those sailors particularly, organization below decks is critical before heading out on the high seas. If you're simply weekending or taking short vacations on board, it is easy to live out of a bag and stow the odd item before setting out—not so on the oceans. A cruise away from supplies and services means that the huge amount of cargo that is carried that has to be stored safely, with consideration to priority of use. Not just food and water, fuel and clothing, but also large numbers of charts, reference books and guides, spare parts, additional safety gear, an expanded medical kit, and items of entertainment for the crew.
Self-sufficiency in electrical power generally means additional batteries, especially with the ever-increasing numbers of desirable electronics. Watermakers also take up more of the valuable space below. One soon learns to use every square inch on board and to become very possessive about holes, never allowing a space to become empty so it can be sneakily grabbed by a fellow crew.
|"At some point, all sailors will experience rough seas. Some will also suffer the occasional knockdown, and we've even met a few that have been rolled over. Proper pre-voyage preparation should take all possibilities into account. "|
Few production boats come with enough storage and most do not have enough storm-proof bookshelves. Opening up all available space has to be balanced by not compromising structural parts of the boat. Bookshelves with secure fiddles and enclosed above are needed. Extra shelves constructed in the galley and head, such as under the sink, can make a significant difference in both extra stowage and easy retrieval.
As it is with almost any lifestyle, considerable time is spent in the galley and this area needs to be made as user-friendly as possible. We've fashioned high fiddles to hold mugs or bowls while pouring hot liquids. We also have non-slip mats, two deep sinks with a fitted cutting board, sturdy retainers to keep pots on the stove, a spice rack, hooks so that oven mits are easily accessible, a bar type paper towel holder that will take the varying roll sizes around the world, a bolt to hold the fridge/freezer door up in case the spring hinge gives way, and bungy cord across lockers to stop jars falling out. All these after-market adaptations have helped to make our galley functional in all conditions.
A variety of other improvements can be made to enhance comfort on board. While coastal cruisers often have spartan boats, long-term cruisers make their boat a home. They hang pictures on the bulkheads (securely fastened), and display souvenirs to personalize the interior. In the Azores we were invited on board an American yacht to view the various locker doors that had been carved by local woodworkers during their world travels. We have a plant hanging by the mast, (all have been named ‘Fred'!), and when cruising long term enjoy being entertained by a parakeet in our Tunisian birdcage.
The ability to move easily below decks is essential to preventing injury while underway. In jerky seas that can emanate from three directions like they did for us on this last trip, it is easy to be thrown around down below. A well-found vessel should have grab handles within easy grasp for all crew, and they should be available from the companionway all the way forward to the V-berth. Handrails are particularly important on beamy boats where one can be tossed across the cabin. In the galley, the stove should also be guarded by a stronger stainless bar so crew members are not thrown onto it, and a retainer harness should be installed if the galley is an open plan.
While you're looking around down below, check the fire extinguishers. There should be one in the engine room and one close to the galley. A fire blanket is also very effective for galley flare-ups. A coverall apron is a useful tool if you have people cooking in bathing suits (or less!) because it can help you avoid burns from hot splatters. Rig retainer lines to hold hot thermoses of coffee and tea on the counter.
On Bagheera a log book is faithfully filled in hourly when we are at sea. We are on book number five with Bagheera and of the several types we have used, we find bookkeeping journals work well with their pre-ruled lines for the various categories of information (lat., lon., COG. SOG, wind, log, barometer, etc.). The ‘comments' section also gives us an opportunity to record our feelings and some observations put down in the middle of a storm are classic, but the main purpose of writing hourly is always to be ready to go on to Dead Reckoning and celestial navigation should there be a loss of electronics.
|"Although weary, we arrived in the Azores little worse for the wear after a turbulent, 12-day run. Other sailors we met weren't so fortunate."|
For this most recent passage, it was fantastic to have our eldest son, Duncan, on board, both for his enthusiasm and muscle power. Later our two other sons joined us and the memories were flying as we cruised again en famille. Although weary, we and Bagheera arrived in the Azores little worse for wear after a turbulent, 12-day run through the Bermuda to the Azores. Other sailors we met were not so fortunate. Several had blown out sails and many a woeful tale. On Herb's radio net we heard transmissions from cruisers who had been overwhelmed and blown off track, with more than one suffering a broken mast. For all involved the crossing was good reality check that one can never ignore the possibility of unexpected ocean storms, and never be complacent in preparing for a passage that is renowned for its calms.
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