Cruise planning: up close and personal
30 September 2010 | still home in Santa Barbara
We bought *Libertad* nearly a decade ago and the lofty goal (inconceivable dream?) then was to cruise when we retired, perhaps circumnavigate. Thus our intention was to purchase a boat that would be up to the task and with our mostly local cruising during these 10 years, we are satisfied we made the right selection. Even so, at that time it was overwhelming to think about planning such an extensive cruise and now that our departure is rapidly nearing, I've been thinking back on how it all happened.
We spent the first couple years learning about our boat by cruising in the Channel Islands. We enhanced our sailing knowledge by joining the Santa Barbara Sail and Power Squadron (SBSPS), taking every squadron course that was offered and by participating in as many of the planned cruises as our busy work schedules would allow. We also read voraciously about the topic - 4 monthly magazines (Latitude 38, Sail, Cruising World, Practical Sailor) and many personal-story and reference books. Through all this we were dog-earing the pages in the reading material and noting in the margin items that needed to be on our "list": things to buy, things to research, things to learn. Visiting the boats of other squadron members also gave us good ideas. Together we picked away at this list over the years but it soon became clear that our approach to this task would be best served if we patterned it after our married life "partnership". So we divided the tasks to match our specific skill sets. This allowed each of us to focus on our individual tasks and make more progress. However, it did result in some unshared expertise which we plan to remedy with cross-training once we are under way and sharing tasks onboard.
Dennis is responsible for items related to the operation of the boat and navigation. This includes not only having working systems, but also secondary systems and spare parts for all of these. He approached the task with the philosophy that if you have it, you won't need it (thank goodness * Libertad* has lots of storage space!). For instance, for battery charging power we will have the Perkins engine, solar panels, a wind generator, a propeller shaft-driven alternator, and a portable gasoline powered generator. Squadron members who crewed aboard *Libertad* on the 2008 Baja Ha-Ha can appreciate these additions, having gotten lots of practice with hand steering and navigating with paper charts as we were unable to recharge the batteries when all we had was the Perkins and we lost the starter motor forcing us to turn off most electronics!! For steering we have an autopilot as well as a wind vane. We've also added a watermaker, freezer, sea anchor, a main staysail, various new running rigging, and a new set of sails.
I am responsible for items related to safety and communication. Some obvious items in these areas are boat and medical insurance (including emergency evacuation), flares, life raft, satellite phone, SSB radio with pactor modem for email, website for our pictures and blog, and of course webcams for us, our parents, and son so that we can call and "visit" them using Skype. As a part of this, I am developing our reference library. I've really enjoyed that part of my job - the new Jimmy Cornell book that was released this month just arrived.
And then there is our house for which we had numerous "deferred" maintenance issues as well as preparations to rent it -we split that list too. Dennis is in charge of the remodel projects and I'm in charge of downsizing so that we don't have to store so much while we are gone. Craigslist is my new friend.
We share the rest - such as entertainment, the galley, and creature comforts. I like to sew, so I'm busy making sail covers, winch covers, sail bags, bedding; I bought a new Sailrite machine and I love it although it will require a special (read LARGE) storage space. Dennis loves his music so he is working on installing speakers "in every room". We also plan on having "movie nights", so he will be installing a flat screen that can run DVD's off the laptop. I'm loading up my Kindle with reading material so we don't have to take as many paper books and can use that space for my sewing machine -see, it all works out. Dennis is deciding which musical instrument he'll learn how to play and doesn't take up too much room -fortunately drums are out of the question.
Here are some lessons we have learned along the way.
1. *You can't start too early.* While we wanted to purchase some of the equipment closer to our departure date so that we had the latest technology, it helped to know which items we needed in advance so that we could keep an eye on the market and focus our visits to the boat shows.
2. *The internet is indispensible.* We have spent hundreds of hours on our computers researching equipment, insurance plans, country visa and entry requirements, and the like. The majority of our purchases have been over the net as well.
3. *Plans change.* We invested a lot of time preparing for our two sweet dogs to make the trip with us. But we eventually had to make the hard, emotional, decision to leave them behind. They are not comfortable with boating life and it's just not fair to them to drag them along. Anyone interested in the companionship of two weimaraners for the next couple years? Anyone need some ramps, dog life vests, boat booties, books on 'pets aboard', and doggie tranquilizers?
4. *Some things are never off the list.* After we purchased an item we would feel good about taking something off the list, only to see a related item reappear later. For instance, the life raft we purchased in 2008 needed to be repacked, the EPIRB battery had to be checked and its hydrostatic release replaced, PDFs had to be rearmed. And of course, as we learned in the Cruise Planning course, this routine will never stop - we will need to have monthly and annual maintenance lists to stay on top of things.
We are still very busy with the preparations, but our target departure date is approaching and we are getting excited for this adventure to start. Joining SBSPS was one of the smartest decisions we made early on in our planning. We have learned so much from the courses and the other members. And we will certainly be glad to share our 'lists' with any of you planning a similar adventure!