Basic Considerations for Cruisers - SailNet Community
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Basic Considerations for Cruisers

Once you finally get out cruising you'll find that idyllic locations abound—you just have to seek them out. 

By the time you have been out sailing for a month or two, you'll find that a particular cruising routine has evolved. The sun wakes you in the morning and you start yawning just after sundown. The first cup of coffee or tea seems like ambrosia after a good night's rest. The first storm has come and gone; your anchor held, but there was concern when others in the anchorage were not so lucky. Experienced cruisers make the most of their luck by exercising thoughtful planning and good judgment. The emotional swings that you and your loved one are still having at this early stage can be troublesome. One moment you feel intense joy that your cruising dream has come true and then the next you find that nagging question has popped back into your mind: "Did I make a mistake by leaving the security of a shore-based lifestyle?" Don't worry, these feelings are natural given the situation. As you gain more confidence with liveaboard cruising, your broad emotional swings will lessen and you will eventually end up wondering why it took you so long to take up the liveaboard lifestyle in the first place.

Exercise    A common problem with the cruising lifestyle is that the body's muscles are often not used enough to maintain proper tone and flexibility. In Ft. Lauderdale, we became acquainted with Web Chiles—the nautical writer and world cruiser—after first observing the strenuous exercise workout he practiced aboard his sailboat, Resurgm. From him we learned isometric techniques—where one muscle group works against another—a great form of exercise when you are boat-bound. If the shore is easily accessible, a brisk walk for one to three miles is one of the best ways to get your pulse rate up to an acceptably elevated level.

Swimming is one of the best forms of aerobic exercise you can find. Of course it's an option dictated by your whereabouts, but when the water is warm enough and calm enough, you should take advantage of it by enjoying a daily swim. When Oui Si is in a good snorkeling area, we use this sport as an exercise to tone our muscles otherwise to stay fit. We consider our wet suits and snorkel gear to be a good investment since we reap both health and recreational benefits as a result—not to mention harvesting "fruits from the sea."

Pre-supermarket homonids had to catch their own food through a variety of means. Snorkeling, in addition to being great exercise, creates the opportunity for rediscovering that connection.
Maintenance    While you are still getting your sea legs, take time to review and list those tasks needed to keep things in ship-shape order. Lethargy and procrastination can be kept in check by preparing and following a written schedule of action items. Keeping a ship's log is an effective way to record the completion of each item. By categorizing the list of items into weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and semi-annual task groups, the workload is spread out in a manageable fashion while you ensure that nothing slips through due to a mental lapse. Routine daily actions such as checking battery voltages and fuel and water levels quickly become automatic—just like verifying that the anchor is doing its job by checking the bearings of on-shore references.

Although not truly a maintenance item, keeping a daily personal journal is useful to jog the memory days or weeks later—and it can be especially useful if you plan to revisit an area. Your data are also helpful as references when sharing pertinent navigation and anchorage features with fellow cruisers. My journal includes a compilation of local weather data, a listing of boats in the immediate area, and noteworthy events of the day. Making journal entries at the same time each day will help you develop discipline in adapting this routine.

"Imagine the frustration you'd feel if you tried to issue a warning to a boat that was headed for shoals and there was no response to your warning. The situation is far more common than it should be."

Communications    It is a good boating practice to maintain a radio watch on the VHF. Imagine the frustration felt you'd feel if you saw another boat headed for shoals and got no response to the warning you broadcasted. This situation is far more common than it should be. I have been on both the receiving and sending end of cases like this. In normal weather aboard Oui Si, the radio is turned off at bedtime, but prudent cruisers maintain a radio watch at all times if stormy weather is forecast. Receiving and sharing local knowledge via your radio also serves as an introduction to others in the area.

When ashore, the convenience of pay telephones can be tempting. However, be aware that some are almost like a slot machine—they take a great deal of money while giving little in return. A careful review of the comments found on the telephone can sometimes give a clue to costs. Using telephone credit cards does not necessarily prevent excessive charges, but the use of prepaid calling cards is a good alternative to help minimize financial liability.

In some locales, all General Delivery mail is held at only one of the area's post offices. It is wise to verify beforehand that the office is conveniently accessible; long taxi or bus trips can dampen the joy of receiving a long-awaited mail packet and increase the frustration when your mail hasn't arrived yet.

A regular maintenance schedule will keep boredom at bay, and more importantly, it will pay big dividends over the long run.

Boat Chores    By now you have come to grips with the three major "household" tasks associated with living aboard—food, laundry, and garbage. Doing laundry and disposing of garbage are easily accomplished while in a marina. In an ideal case, all three can be served with a single trip ashore when you are on a moored or anchored offshore. When we first moved on board we were always annoyed when some freshly laundered clothes invariably managed to take some spray as we returned by dinghy to our floating home. We soon learned that ingenuity was needed to keep garbage accumulation at a workable level since onboard space is limited. Like many other cruisers, we encountered the usual problems when handling and transporting plastic garbage bags. Bags seemed to tear open at the most in-opportune times. But those problems were resolved after we fabricated large bags from a blue, fiberglass reinforced plastic tarp found at a hardware store. The material is easily cut with scissors, then double-stitched on a sewing machine. Now we conveniently store and transport garbage ashore in one bag while another protects food and laundry aboard the dinghy when returning to Oui Si. These bags can also used to store PFDs, spare heavy-duty plastic garbage bags, and emergency foul-wear gear aboard the dinghy.

Planned Moves    After a few days or weeks in one spot, the typical cruiser starts feeling wanderlust and thinks of moving on. Prior to weighing anchor, take time to review data pertinent to this move. In addition to verifying that good weather is forecast, take note of tidal patterns and intensities. Foul currents can impede progress and cause delays, and when coupled with bridges this phenomenon can be paticularly dangerous. Although commercial boat traffic is not like rush hour on the expressway, it can be just as hectic at similar times in many ocean inlets. An even worse situation can occur during weekends and holidays when thoughtless novice boaters seem more prevalent on places like the Intracoastal Waterway. It seems to get worse as you travel south on that particular waterway. After numerous incidents, such as swamping from wakes and forced groundings, we now stay off the ICW during these times. It is noteworthy that Oui Si has taken more water aboard from boat wakes than from bad weather in open-water passages.

Sharing the road with other boats, ships, and miscellaneous watercraft will be a common part of the experience of life afloat.

Along the Atlantic coast, the most courteous boaters we observed were aboard both recreational and commercial vessels at Atlantic Highlands, NJ. Ashore, the gracious warmth and hospitality was strongest along the Gulf coast, but was pleasantly common throughout the eastern seaboard. Those of us who choose the liveaboard cruising lifestyle are perceived by most landlubbers as romantic vagabonds—and in retrospect, they might be correct. 
Randy Harman is offline  
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