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  #1  
Old 03-19-2007
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Training before a cruise

Hi All -

In 2009, we're (me, wife, two young kids) going to be taking 18 months to cruise the east coast of the US and then down a bit farther south.

Neither my wife nor I have first aid training (other than CPR) or much mechanical or electrical expertise (other than hitting stuff with a hammer or stringing it back up with a bent coat hanger). We're trying to figure out what formal training to take before we go. We're both busy professionals so we need to squeeze as much in to as short a time as possible, yet still retain some knowledge.

We're know we need to get some sort of advanced first aid training and perhaps some diesel mechanics. The local community college has classes in both of these areas, but they are a semester long and most are during the day (which is tough since I'd have to take off from an already filled work schedule). Perhaps there are alternatives where we can go somewhere for a week and get more intense training?

Are there any other courses we should consider taking before the launch date (other than navigation, boating or sailing related courses)? Any ideas on creative ways to get the knowledge (online courses, boot camps, etc.)?

Thanks!


Chris
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Old 03-19-2007
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Crew on a delivery. I am trying to get away this spring. Delivery boats frequently present "issues" that are great learning opportunities.

Take a diving course. In many places, it's a shame to stay aboard.

*Definitely* get a shop manual for your engine and take a basic diesel fix-it course. Invest in a decent fuel filter system, put some sort of gooseneck in your tank vents (or route them well above the waterline on a heel to prevent downflooding), and get used to impeller and oil changes, prefereably in an quartering sea. Most diesel failures are fuel-related, though, so a basic knowledge of what good diesel should look and smell like, plus a prefiltering device like a Baja filter and a good supply of deck fill O-rings to keep the water out are going to help you enormously. Have a decent mechanic look over your engine, do a compression and oil test and so on.

Get a basic concept of your boat's electrics. A recent survey will highlight problems. Get a knowledge of how to shut all your thru-hulls in an emergency and how to plug holes in a hurry. Review all bilge pumps and consider a large volume manual as a back-up.

Review your radio/comm needs. With kids, you may wish to school them aboard by correspondence, and the social aspect of using an SSB to hook into cruiser nets to arrange "play dates" with other cruising kids is going to be a priority. Obviously, make sure they can swim. You don't state their ages, but even a seven-year-old can handle an Optimist in a junior sailing course and can be taught basic radio operation. I recall how an 8 and an 10 year old on Lake Ontario with their dad in 25 knots were able to actively steer for shore while calling for help on the VHF after Dad had a (non-fatal but incapacitating) heart attack. The kids were able to sail for 15 minutes (at seven knots!) until a big cop Zodiac was able to intercept them. They rounded up the boat properly, and they were taken off, whille a cop sailed their boat (I think it was a 30 footer) back to Toronto.

It was remarked on at the time that the kids had perfect radio etiquette and were calm, if concerned, throughout. That's because they had been trained.

Lastly, (and others will expand on this list, no doubt!), I think it's an excellent policy to have your wife and yourself as equal as possible in seamanship skills. That means she also should crew a delivery...without you...in order to get some sense of watch-standing and boat-tending in blue water. She should, if she hasn't already, depart, sail and return entirely solo, with you silently taking notes. Then...switch! You may not be all that and a bag of chips as a sailor in her eyes, either, but at least you'll learn where the two of you need work.

Use the next two summers to throw everyone in the water (but especially yourself, if you are as is likely the largest person) overboard in increasingly bad, but *controlled*, conditions. See how long it takes to stop the boat, throw a line or flotation device and to get off a fantasy distress call, if you are "injured". Then see if your family can get your "unconscious" body back on deck.

Start with chucking hats and liferings and move up to crew. You'll learn a lot about safety, co-operation and keeping your head in a *staged* crisis that will help enormously should you encounter a real one.

A Passport 40 is a great go-south boat in most situations, but it's a lot to handle in an expeditious fashion. You might consider round-the-buoys racing (seriously!) not to win, but to learn how to get top performance and rapid operation out of your boat. We cruise like racers thanks to five years of Tuesday nights spent on other people's boats, and can snap-tack, helm to a bearing, shiver the jib and do controlled gybes in heavy air because that's all part of the surprisingly competitive world of club racing. You may actually find that the Passport has more sailing pleasure to offer than it initially seems; at worst, you'll learn exactly how to handle your boat in rain, gusts and slop.

Hope this helps.
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Old 03-19-2007
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I have no further specific recommedations to give, but I can tell you this much from experience. Work hard at getting the human half of the combo of boat and crew ready. I found, my first time out, that all my dilligence at preparing the boat, had come at the expense of preparing myself.
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Old 03-19-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Valiente
Take a diving course. In many places, it's a shame to stay aboard.
Yep.. forgot about that one. My wife and I were talking about it yesterday. At a bare minimum, we want to be able to use a dive compressor to stay under to clean the bottom, work on unfouling a prop, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Valiente
Review your radio/comm needs. With kids, you may wish to school them aboard by correspondence, and the social aspect of using an SSB to hook into cruiser nets to arrange "play dates" with other cruising kids is going to be a priority. Obviously, make sure they can swim. You don't state their ages, but even a seven-year-old can handle an Optimist in a junior sailing course and can be taught basic radio operation.
Son will be 12, daughter will be 8. We're sending them to sailing camps over the next couple of summers in addition to several weeks of cruising throughout each summer. Our son is familiar with VHF Chan. 16 operation (i.e. mayday and pan-pan calls). Our daughter is currently 6, so it takes a bit longer to bring her up to speed

Quote:
Originally Posted by Valiente
Lastly, (and others will expand on this list, no doubt!), I think it's an excellent policy to have your wife and yourself as equal as possible in seamanship skills. That means she also should crew a delivery...without you...in order to get some sense of watch-standing and boat-tending in blue water. She should, if she hasn't already, depart, sail and return entirely solo, with you silently taking notes. Then...switch! You may not be all that and a bag of chips as a sailor in her eyes, either, but at least you'll learn where the two of you need work.
We're working on this. I have a bunch of experience racing growing up, but we've only owned boats for one, going on two, years. Our first was a 23' trailer sailor which we bought last year and sold two weeks ago. The newer one is our Passport 40 which we bought this year, launch next week, and then sell in two years to move up. My wife went to Blue Water Sailing School for several ASA courses to get comfortable, and we'll be out every weekend and many weekdays this spring/summer/fall. In May we'll be "delivering" our own boat, with a couple of other experienced hands, from Annapolis to Lake Champlain.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Valiente
Use the next two summers to throw everyone in the water (but especially yourself, if you are as is likely the largest person) overboard in increasingly bad, but *controlled*, conditions. See how long it takes to stop the boat, throw a line or flotation device and to get off a fantasy distress call, if you are "injured". Then see if your family can get your "unconscious" body back on deck.
This has been one of the most pressing items on my mind. One of my requirements is that we each be able to support the quick-stop method ON OUR OWN in case one of us goes over. It will take some doing on our Passport 40. It may or may not take even more work on our next, larger boat.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Valiente
A Passport 40 is a great go-south boat in most situations, but it's a lot to handle in an expeditious fashion.
We'll be selling the P40 in a couple of years. We expect in one year to make a decision to either have a custom 48'-54' Passport, Cabo or similar built or to buy a previously owned boat. The P40 has two cabins. We need three (one for us, one for each kid) plus a lot more storage. I have info on this decision on another thread

You mention that it would be good to get diesel training/experience, electrical training/experience. Any other areas (other than sailing) you would recommend formal training?
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Old 03-19-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PBzeer
I have no further specific recommedations to give, but I can tell you this much from experience. Work hard at getting the human half of the combo of boat and crew ready. I found, my first time out, that all my dilligence at preparing the boat, had come at the expense of preparing myself.
I read through your posts some time back. I gained some good knowledge from them! Good luck in your next try! I'm sure you will be successful this time.
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Old 03-19-2007
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You've had a lot of good advice, what can one add? Everyone should read regularly, there is a lot of knowledge in print and although just theory, is good preparation. Formal training is great, as the courses are usually well thought out to pack in the essentials. Otherwise, go do it, a little at a time. You are never going to strop learning.
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The big national Sail Boat Shows often have wonderful seminars on cruising. Landfall navigation catalogue has extensive educational cd's, and the Maryland School of Sailing has a terrific off shore cruising course ( 10 day sail from St Thomas to Virginia). My husband took their course and it was worth every penny.
Pat Cochran s/v atalhea
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Old 03-19-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by labatt
We'll be selling the P40 in a couple of years. We expect in one year to make a decision to either have a custom 48'-54' Passport, Cabo or similar built or to buy a previously owned boat. The P40 has two cabins. We need three (one for us, one for each kid) plus a lot more storage. I have info on this decision on another thread
Do you *really* need a bigger boat? I say this not only because that's a pretty roomy 40, but also because I looked long and hard at 45-50 footers before deciding that 42 feet/13 metres was about as big a boat as my wife could single-hand on watch without "complications" such as electrical winches, etc. She's five foot tall and weighs a pretty muscular 115 pounds, but she can reef our main fairly easily. Furling and downhauls and general caution take care of the rest.

If you play on a 40 footer and then go to a 50 footer and leave right away, you'll have the added stress of "breaking in an old crew on a new boat"...just learning to sail the thing effectively might be a new(ish) ball game. Not to mention you'll have to size up all your spare halyards, ground tackle, sheets and lines. Not to mention the added cost of nearly everything on the boat, plus dockage, storage, transit fees, etc.

Personally, while I respect the privacy issues, I suspect a simple curtain over a bunk will give No. 1 Son the privacy a growing boy requires, and at 12, he'll be likely old enough to stand daylight watches anyway, meaning that between school lessons, boat maintenance, doodling around between boats on visits and his watchkeeping duties, he'll stay out of his sister's hair. And yours.

You asked what I would recommend in terms of formal training that hasn't been mentioned: I would take celestial navigation and coastal pilotage courses, plus if you are going to have radar, a radar interpretation course.

Last edited by Valiente; 03-19-2007 at 05:33 PM.
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Old 03-19-2007
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The late Irving Johnson prepared himself for the rigours of ocean life by doing headstands on top a telegraph pole outside his family home.

Just a thought.
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Old 03-19-2007
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Labatt...MackBoring does diesel seminars that are excellent!
http://www.mackboring.com/train_mar.php
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