Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: On the boat.
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We've been cruising the Pacific for 6 years and sailed for a long time before that. I agree with the comments that have been made, for the most part. Especially true for us:
- be sure to read Nigel Calder's maintenance books. Cruising sailing is essentially boat repair in exotic locations. Advice about returning to the US for anything beyond small stuff is very good, IMHO. Remember that the US uses a different standard for a lot of things--pipe thread, shorepower, measurements for hoses, screws, and plumbing fittings--and you'll have trouble finding them in some parts of the world, especially the further you get from the US.
- we owned sailboats for 40 years before setting out, but we also chartered boats in the BVI, Belize, and other places. We learned some interesting things. For example, you'll shower in the cockpit, usually in salt water (ambient temperature) with a freshwater rinse (ambient tank temperature). Short hair is easier than long hair, takes much less water to keep clean. You'll want cabin fans, and enough charging capacity to run them.
- bigger boat holds more stuff, has better seakeeping, but also is harder to dock, costs more to fuel up, maintain, and fit out. I'm not small, but I can't do a lot of stuff on our 40' boat because I either can't reach it or haven't the strength to manage it. Smaller is easier. It's a tradeoff. We have seen lots of couples cruising in 30' boats and having a great time doing it.
- If chartering would break the budget, offer yourselves as crew for a cruising sailboat. You'll learn a lot and often the only cost to you will be whatever air tickets you have to buy. Cruise with folks who have done a lot of it. You may not have to do any persuading about the shower if your wife sees that most everyone showers on deck.
- Don't put everything on the boat from the first that you think you'll ever need. Go slow. Take more time, if necessary. We are nearly 70 and there are lots of us geezers out here. You'll learn what you really can't do without--and some of it will be stuff you haven't even thought of yet.
- The cruising guides I read for years before we set out painted a really rosy picture of cruising. We've had equipment failures (although we specified what we thought was really good equipment when we had our boat built) and waited in ports for a shipment to come through. Often it's been a tiny part--a pulley, a solenoid--that had to come from the US. Eventually we built up a stock of spare parts that keeps us going. Good advice from Lyn and Larry Pardey: "Make your boat unstoppable." Pare it down, make sure you know how to fix what's on board.
- Sailing classes are often offered for a small fee by parks and rec departments, and most Navy bases (my husband was also career Navy) offer sailing classes. Check these out.
- Consider taking a class in engine maintenance if you don't know how to field strip your engine (and you want a diesel, not a gasoline engine), and learn how to repair sails. Learn splices. Basically, learn the same skills that might have been critical 100 years ago, plus electrical, electronics, and diesel mechanics. I note that you're a weather forecaster--great! You've got an important part of cruising sailing down already. Get piloting and then navigation skills (tip: women can be great navigators).
Nobody and no book can give you all you need to know, and you'll keep learning as you go. That's the fun part of cruising. Take it easy, don't be too set on firm schedules (they'll likely get blown away anyhow), and concentrate on getting all you can from every experience. It's often the ones you didn't expect that will be the ones you remember the longest.