Budget Cruising/Bluewater Cruising
Given the discussions in another thread regarding cruising (especially bluewater cruising) on a very tight budget, I thought we might take a stab at putting together a list of what would be the BARE MINIMUM of: boats, gear, education to cruise with at least MINIMAL SAFETY.
I think this will provide some good insight into the realities of cruising on a budget and the things we have to have and want to have. I hope it will force us all to consider those things that are critical systems and may, in effect, force us to turn back time to a day when many of the gadgets we take for granted were not available.
I would like this to be an open discussion. I think those with experience living aboard, cruising, and being offshore will provide the best insight. Be conscious of the advice you give, because there may be many that will read this and follow it.
Going offshore, or into the water at all, can be risky business. Best to go prepared. Maybe putting all of our thoughts together we can figure a way to do it on a budget.
PS THis is the first of what may be several neccessary edits in our discussion:
A boat that will be good for cruising North AND South America. A boat that can make the jump to Bermuda. A boat that can make a minimum 5-7 days at sea with at least MINIMUM SAFETY. I also want to discuss the gear required to do that. The boat is only a piece.
Overly small and simple may be just that. It takes a certain amount of skill and knowledge to make any voyage be it coastal or blue water.
Know how to nav. by paper. Electrical problems happen at the worst possible time. KNOW PAPER CHARTS.
Race boats are well fit for the race marks, cruisers are well built for cruising. My boat will never race and a small J will not likely cruise. Know your boats purpose and use/exploit it. Buy a bay boat if that is your dream, buy a blue water boat if that is your dream, buy a racer if that is your dream. Crossing the lines dramatically is seldom successful.
I will not be able to provide a lot into what makes the best boat to go on, as I opt for more of the creature comforts a small boat would not be able to handle.
Things that are important, in any bluewater/cruising boat, in my opinion, are:
1) Tankage. THis is especially true for water.
2) Good seaberth.
3) LOTS of storage, with a lot of that being below the waterline. We take a lot of can goods... others may not. But there will be many things you carry that add negative stability if above the waterline. This will likely be more of a factor on a small boat.
4) A well draining cockpit. I have been pooped once, and should have been who knows how many times before that. I think this is imperative as the time it happened to us were were only 24 hours/120-130 miles from shore.
5) Some method of cooking. I would probably put this as a critical system.
6) Decent lazarette for sails and gear.
7) Windvane or autopilot or the ability to put it on. You cannot make a passage without it if you are singlehanding... at least not safely. I would put this as a critical system too.
8) A SOLID, DRY Cabin with high-end portholes and hatches (the latter if going offshore).
9) Deep bilge and an electric bilge pump. I feel the latter is a mandatory - though this will require a battery. I guess the elctric bilge pump could be debated??? Thoughts?
10) VHF? I feel a handheld is the very minimum. However, could it be debated that you have to have a base unit?? The power/receive will be vastly better. Thoughts? This requires a battery.
11) Intl/Colreg recognized lighting. Mandatory... but could you get buy with a solid white light powered by lamp oil?
12) Sextant, and the ability to properly use it.
13) Charts... paper, not electronic.
14) Radar reflector. I feel this is madatory. Others will dissagree.
I am trying to think of a way around batteries, and an engine. I think you can get by without an engine. I am not positive about the batteries. Unfortunately, if you have a battery, you are now forced into a way to charge it. THat means solar (expensive), wind (unreliable and marginally expensive), or an engine (which now is maintenance, weight, fuel, spare parts, etc).
I think that education is probably the most important part of the three. Without a proper background and skills, trying to go bluewater in a budget boat is going to be be far more dangerous than it would be otherwise. Also, they need to have some pretty solid sailing experience IMHO.
The next most important thing is having a good boat with solid bones. Some boats are far better suited for this than others... some good pocket cruisers include: most of the small Alberg designs: Cape Dory 25, Pearson Ariel, Triton, Alberg 30, etc. The Albin Vega, Southern Cross 28/31, Elizabethan 31, Flicka, PSC Dana 24, Westsail 32, and Bristol 29.9 are also good choices.
Some small multihulls that would be good choices are the Heavenly Twins 26, Catalac 8m, and the Iroquois. Some of the Cross, Piver and Brown designs are quite good, but most were home built, and will probably have construction and durabilty issues, so I'd avoid them unless you have special knowledge of them.
IMHO can be relatively minimal. This is especially true on a smaller boat, since it won't have the ability to support a lot of the more complicated systems found on larger boats. It also doesn't make sense to stock up on expensive systems that aren't well suited to the pocket cruising lifestyle or mentatlity.
John Vigor's book, Twenty Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere is a good starting point for anyone thinking about doing this. The Pardeys have written quite a bit about this, and I'd recommend their books and Don Casey's The Sensible Cruiser as starting points for the budget cruiser's library. Thomas Firth Jones's Multihull Voyaging is a good book for those interested in budget cruising in a multihull.
Paper charts, a GPS, hand-bearing compass, dividers, parallel rule, pencils, binoculars are a minimum.
While I'd agree with most of what CD said, I think the lighting depends on what size boat you've got. A masthead tricolor is probably a necessity for offshore work, and deck level lights for in-hoarbor/coastal work.
Sextant? I think we are long past the sextant era.
Bringing a sextant (very expensive) requires all the appropriate books (very expensive) and the knowledge to do the calcs.
I'll take a boatload of GPS receivers first. Cheap, no books, no calcs, better accuracy, works in all lighting and weather conditions.
A GPS requires batteries. It is something else to fail. Given the minimum amount of space, money, and other saftey gear, I elected to take it off of the mandatory list.
The truth is that you can get a handeld lat/lon gps very inexpensively. However, what if it fails offshore? You have a backup? Backups start costing money. What if you got swamped?
I do not want this to turn into another sextant thread. I carry one on my boat, but I am not one of the people that advocates it either. I feel a solid gps and backup(s) are the way to go... but I am not budget minded. I am thinking bare minimum.
Would you still opt out of the GPS in place of a... Cape Dory 25, for example??
To back up what you said, SD, I would put good seamanship above almost anything. That takes a lot of time to develop and, in theory, costs nothing.
Non-chartplotting GPS units are relatively cheap... you can get two or three for the price of a sextant, and many can be powered by both AA batteries and the house bank on the boat, with a proper power cord.
Yup... Seamanship is key to bluewater sailing on a small boat. I wouldn't say a Drascombe Lugger is a particularly good choice as a bluewater cruiser, but Webb Chiles was able take one 3/4 of the way around the world in a near circumnavigation.
Actually, technically, it was two Drascombe Luggers, since one got confiscated in Egypt.
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