From Landlubber to Cruiser - SailNet Community
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From Landlubber to Cruiser

The rewards  cruising are available only after you have a firm handle on details of life ashore.
The big day is rapidly approaching when you will leave the workforce for an open-ended period of cruising aboard your sailboat. It is a time in your life rivaling that of graduation or marriage and feelings of anxiety and uneasiness are common at this point. During this hectic time it is very helpful to have a detailed list to follow. This provides order during the final chaotic weeks before departure and minimizes the chance of forgetting important details. The more rapidly you cross off specific items on this list, the less stressful the transition becomes. To reduce the chance of a frenetic final week, establish a goal that leaves the last four to five days with absolutely nothing to do but to rest and relax.

By the time it is D-day minus 30,  all excess personal and real property should be sold. If you intend to establish residency in a different location, all steps except the final government notification should be completed. Except for the two or three major credit cards you’ve chosen to retain, card balances should be zeroed and accounts closed. Pertinent personal, financial, and medical data should be copied so that you and your selected contact ashore both have access to it. This might include locations of assets, powers of attorney, wills, and living wills. A system for mail holding and forwarding should also be finalized. Some cruisers elect to pay an organization that is set up to handle this task, while others have a relative or friend provide this service. Mail can be somewhat of a burden over time. Although it is may be more costly to have a professional service handle mail, most full-time cruisers eventually choose this option. The right mail-handling system becomes increasingly important if you plan offshore cruising, as it can offer valuable aid in obtaining and forwarding replacement parts. We have used the same forwarding company for the last 14 years and have no reason to change.

Documentation    A very useful data sheet is much like an expansion of the traditional float plan. In addition to departure and arrival locations and estimated time en route, information should include personal data, physical boat descriptions, mechanical and medical emergency equipment lists, and communication capabilities. A pro-forma sheet can be copied at minimum cost allowing the actual float plan data to be filled in as needed. Copies can then be easily granted to aid various government agencies with the information they'll need—useful for both high seas inspections and after arriving in ports.

There numerous amateur radio (HAM) networks throughout the world that are used by cruisers who have the proper license. If friends or relatives ashore are concerned about your well being or location, local ham operators are often willing to use these networks to obtain the desired information. This is another case for your float plan data. (The USCG also uses these to aid in boat searches and locating overdue vessels.) Maritime Mobile hams maintain a lookout for such boats and priority is given to health and welfare traffic. Having listened to numerous requests for boat watches with sketchy or perverted data on these nets, I marvel that so many are successfully located without the benefit of full and accurate information.

It's a good idea to have an accurate description of your boat, its crew, and intended route so these can be given to various government agencies as well as left at home with a contact on shore.
Bank Visit Your bank can handle automatic payments of monthly bills whether through cell phone, pocket e-mail, telephone calling card, or credit card. In some situations, you must go through the billing organization, but typically all prior paperwork can be handled at the bank. While at the bank, you can order new checks with your updated address and verify fee schedules for the use of ATM’s. These machines are an excellent device for cruisers—both at home and abroad. Now is also a good time to make a cash withdrawal for subsequent concealed storage aboard. If the budget allows, it is prudent to carry $200 to $300 in small bills when coastal cruising, and two to three times that when offshore. Large bills and credit cards are not of much use in outlying areas, but cash speaks loudly when service or goods are needed promptly.

Post Office Visit    Early in your final week ashore, visit the local postal facility and fill out their mail forwarding form. While there, remember to get a number of self-adhesive stamps—the backs of regular stamps become stuck together within weeks in the humid environment on board. Having stamps will encourage you to remain in touch friends and loved ones while coastal cruising. If the plan is to head offshore to other countries, these stamps increase the chance that a fellow cruiser heading back home will hand-carry correspondence for posting after arrival.

"While we had heard numerous horror stories about theft of items in storage, we thought we could find a secure facility. We were wrong..."

Storage Ashore    After clearing out most of your household and personal belongings, there are bound to be some things you just can’t bear to part with. The logical thought is to rent space in a local storage facility. You're likely to find costs nominal and the high fences, chained locks, and access restrictions appear to provide excellent security. While we had heard numerous horror stories about theft of items in storage, we thought we could find a secure facility. We were wrong, and although our loss was less than $2,000, some items were not replaceable at any price. In the lease agreement you sign, the leaseholder likely accepts no liability for lost items. If you elect to place things in storage, make a detailed inventory with serial numbers and photos; local authorities will need these as they attempt to recover your losses. An alternative solution is to impose upon the generosity of friends or relatives for storing items, but this too has its drawbacks. In the long run, aggresively selecting items to give away or discard may be the best solution.

Ship Stowage    Before loading things on board, sketch a plan view of the ship’s storage areas to use later and as you stow items, list their specific locations. It is also worthwhile to inventory the spares and consumable engine items such as drive belts, water pump impellers, distilled water for batteries, engine coolant, coolant pump lubricants, oil and fuel filters, oil for the engine and outboard, and transmission fluids. In this way, you can verify that sufficient supplies are available. Keep in mind that wherever you are headed, you may not be able to find these essentials.

Heavier items should be loaded low and away from the bow and stern. Items that are frequently used should be readily accessible. Some cruisers remove the paper labels from cans after listing their contents with an indelible ink pen. The labels can be a hiding place for insect pests as they feast on the glue that holds it in place. Plastic fluid containers are great; glass ones defy protective measures, and seem to break with the least provocation aboard sailboats.


Listing the specefic locations of essential engine parts and stores as you load them on will save digging through lockers later.
Miscellaneous Items    Cancel magazine delivery for all but those you want forwarded—the cost of forwarding them is often expensive. Check the expiration date on your driver’s license and investigate the policy for automatic renewal or possible absentee extension dates. When you are a live-aboard boater in a new state without a motor vehicle, getting a license renewal can be challenging. Prepare a generic letter to inform friends, relatives, and former co-workers of your forwarding address, your key contact ashore, and the preliminary cruising itinerary. Boat cards are a helpful way to identify yourself when meeting other cruisers; consider having some made up and also include these with the letters. Verify that your telephone calling card is still valid after you’ve terminated the shore-based phone service—we discovered ours was not, after the fact. Send formal documentation to local and state tax offices, informing them of your plans. We knew of many cruisers who continued to have tax assessments against their floating home—even though they were thousands of miles away and had no intention of returning to the area.

While the chance for that one last hurrah on the docks shouldn't be passed up, moderation is the key to not having the festitivities delay your departure schedule.
Many former colleagues, relatives, and friends will want to give you bon-voyage parties. These well-wishers’ actions can have an impact on the scheduled departure time. Over-indulgence in food and drink at these festive occasions are schedule deterrents, and losing two to four days is not uncommon in the last few weeks.

Once the day of departure is upon you plan to leave early in the day. Select a secluded anchorage that you can reach with little time and effort and spend the next two or three days there to review the locations of ship’s stores, the weather, your short-term travel itinerary. Last but not least—start to rest and relax as you finally begin to live your dream of life afloat.

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