things cruisers might want to think about
Any season is cruising
season somewhere. I was doodling a little checklist
and thought maybe readers on Duckworks might be interested.
I made the list as I thought of things, so there’s
little rhyme or reason to them. Just necessity. Or
One can imagine
Charlie thinking about these things while working
on his around the world cruiser, Resolution.
1) Hardwood blocks that jam under
the ends of your cleats will keep sheets and other
lines from hanging up on them. A hole through the
blocks lets you put a lanyard through and tie them
to the cleats so they don’t get lost when you
pull them off and belay a line to the cleat.
2) Make yourself a cruising checklist.
You can add things to it as you wish, and eliminate
items that no longer require a check-off. Once you’ve
used the checklist for several cruises, it will have
morphed into something really useful.
3) Plan to take four days for a
three-day cruise. In other words, add about 25% to
the amount of time you plan to spend on the cruise.
That’s your safety margin. The extra time let’s
you wait out the weather or whatever might delay you
while you’re away from home.
4) Equip the dinghy. Some countries
have laws concerning dinghies. Japan’s one.
If you go out in a dinghy, you must have at least
one anchor and anchor rode, a pair of oars, a container
you can bail with, PFDs for everyone aboard, a spark
plug and tools for the outboard – yeah, in the
dinghy. I think it’s a good idea. Especially
when I hear news in New Zealand of people going out
on the ocean in 10-foot boats without a single floatation
5) Take a hand compass. Coastwise
or offshore, you must navigate. Taking bearings to
landmarks with a hand compass is one of the easiest
ways to pinpoint your position on that chart on your
6) Navigation tools.When you’re entering a strange
bay or port, be ready to navigate. Have the right
chart close at hand. Binoculars. Writing instruments.
Compass. GPS. Cell phone. VHF radio. Whatever you
ordinarily use when navigating.
7) Interior jack lines. In rough
weather, the careful skipper rigs jack lines on the
deck for the crew to hook safety tethers to. Use the
same concept below if there are not ample handholds
built into your boat. Lead webbing from each side
of the companionway hatch forward to a center point
such as the mast compression post.
8) Distances. Know what you can
see from how far away. I know that sounds funny, but
think of it this way. An island that is 150 meters
(about 500 feet) above sea level can be seen from
25 miles away on a clear day. If you can see trees
sticking up from the horizon, figure that you’re
10 miles away from them. And if you can see a white
sand beach, you’re three miles away. But don’t
take my word for it, do some rangefinding so you’ll
have your own set of indicators.
9) Fender clips. Life line clips
for the fenders mean even inexperienced crew has no
trouble putting out fenders before you sidle up to
the dock. If you’ve done it right, just clip
the fender line to the upper life line and it will
be in exactly the right position outboard.
10) Be quiet. How many times have
you wanted to sleep in and someone anchored next to
you takes off at five in the morning, clanking chains
and hollering to the helmsman. Quiet is one of the
satisfying things about being close to nature. Play
11) Make friends with fishermen.
Maybe that doesn’t mean much in a place like
New Zealand, but in Japan, anywhere you go ashore
is likely to be a fishing port. Getting to know the
commercial fishermen who work out of those ports gives
you a great source of information. Probably true world
over. I stopped over at Morro Bay, California, one
late summer day in 2000. Thinking back, I could have
spent my time better talking to the fishermen moored
12) Carry a fender board. Especially
if you’re in an area with large differences
in high and low tides. Sometimes fenders just aren’t
enough to keep your boat from bumping the wharf. A
2 x 6 about six feet long lowered outboard of the
fenders can save your topsides.
13) Consider the weight. Resolution
is a heavy little boat. Still, I’ll be carrying
something like 300 liters of water, mostly in PET
bottles (I’ve been saving my 2 liter milk bottles
since I came to NZ). Of the ton of stores I’ll
have aboard, water alone will account for some 300
kg, 30%. So I’ll have to watch where I store
the water, putting it low and inboard to help keep
the boat in trim. In little boats like Pathfinders
and Navigators, think about where you’re going
to put stores and crew, and your cruise will go a
14) Watch the weather. Japan has
many websites that cater to cell phones. One of them
is a nationwide weather site. Lots of yachtsmen have
signed up for these weather channels for a couple
of dollars a month. When I sailed from Olympia, Washington,
to La Paz, Mexico, I listened to the weather forecast
regularly on VHF radio. Those of you with laptops
and email capabilities can get weather information
that way. And give yourself plenty of time (see No.
15) Mark your anchor rode and chain.
There’s a right way to mark the fathoms, but
if you prefer meters or feet, use plastic ties to
do the job. Make up your own system. Just make sure
the crew knows what it is.
16) Use a laundry basket for the
anchor, chain, and rode. Anchors often get in the
way. Keep yours under control by putting a large plastic
laundry basket right forward and flaking the rode
and chain into it as you bring it aboard. Put the
anchor in last, and the whole thing can easily be
put somewhere out of the way. And when you get home,
you can put the basket out on the deck and wash the
whole system down with fresh water to clean away the
salt, mud, and other gunk stuck to the anchor and
17) Switch ends. Over time, the
outboard end of your anchor rode will begin to show
wear and tear. Watch it, and when the time comes,
switch ends and get years more use out of your rode.
18) Take more than one anchor. I
have three anchors on Resolution. The plow anchor
rides in place on the bow, shackled to 50 meters of
6 mm chain with 50 meters of 12mm nylon rode spliced
to it. The splice allows the rode to wind in on my
windlass and the chain to fit on the gypsy right after
it. Both rode and chain slide down into the chain
locker. A fisherman pick anchor with 10 meters of
chain and 50 meters of rode acts as the forward lunch
hook. The rode and chain live in the forward cordage
locker next to the inflatable dinghy, to be brought
out just before use. A big Danforth-type anchor hangs
on the pushpit rail with chain and rode flaked around
two horns on the after deck. Never go out with just
one anchor. Take three if you can. Oh, counting the
collapsible anchor for the dinghy, I have four.
19) Use the anchor watch function.
I have three handheld GPS units. If one or two crash,
I still have one. Two are just simple units, but one
gives me several functions besides the position and
waypoints. The one I plan on using every time I put
down the hook for the night is the anchor drag alarm.
I don’t want to end up on a rocky shore because
I slept on while Resolution dragged her anchor through
20) Overlap your watches. I’ll
be sailing Resolution alone, but when I sailed to
Mexico, there were three of us aboard. I set four
hour watches so each crewmember would have four hours
on and eight off. Here’s where the overlap comes
in. The person on watch woke his relief 10 minutes
before takeover time. Then he stayed on deck for 10
minutes after he turned the watch over to his relief.
That gives the watch time to get information on condition
of the ship, weather, sea state, etc. Some say overlap
for 30 minutes, but I found 10 minutes worked well
21) Can you repair it? We were crossing
the mouth of Tokyo Bay when the crew hauled the spinnaker
down. They were a motley bunch, not used to working
together, and the chute caught on a spreader and ripped.
There are any number of reasons why something aboard
rips, parts, collapses, or breaks. Think about it.
Do you have the wherewithal aboard to fix the problem?
One rule I have with Resolution. If I can’t
fix it or do without it, it doesn’t come aboard.
22) Think about consumables. That
doesn’t mean food. It means the kind of things
you tend to use and dispose. Do you have a change
of oil for your engine? Filters? Water pump impellers?
How about a jerry can of extra fuel? Extra rope? Shackles?
Sister hooks? Sail ties? Wire? Tape? The list goes
on, but it would do well to sit down and think about
what consumables you should carry on board.
23) Boarding ladder. On Resolution,
I’ll have a boarding ladder built into the rudder.
But if your boat doesn’t have a boarding ladder,
get one. Or make one. You’d be surprised how
difficult it is to get someone who has fallen overboard
back into the boat. If the person doesn’t have
the strength to climb the boarding ladder, hope that
your boat is big enough to use the mainsail boom as
24) Pick a safe harbor. We left
Yokohama Yacht Club just after 8 am on a clear morning.
Little patches of fog hung on the water, but we had
no idea that the warm waters of the Black Current
had blanketed the mouth of Tokyo Bay with pea soup
fog. We turned the corner at Kannon Point, expecting
to see Oshima island dead ahead. Visibility seemed
to be about two miles, but beyond that, a wall of
white. We struck the sails and fired up the engine.
Our destination was Misaki Harbor, at the end of the
Miura peninsula, but edging into the fog, we were
soon blind and almost deaf. Uraga Yacht Harbor lay
off to starboard so we plotted a course in that direction
and proceeded ahead at dead slow. About three miles
from the harbor, the fog lifted and we had no trouble
entering, along with half a hundred other yachts.
Point is, always know where you can find a safe harbor
along the way to your destination.
25) Keep a log. I’m a slacker
on this point. For little cruises in the past, I didn’t
keep a log. I should have. It’s a legal document
and you may have need for it. My logs of cruises from
Olympia to San Diego and from San Diego to La Paz,
Mexico, saved me several thousand dollars in taxes.
Besides that, your log tells the condition and hours
of your engine, and on the way, if you are writing
down your GPS coordinates every hour, you’re
never more that five or six miles from a known position
if you have to call for help. Don’t know about
you dinghy cruisers, but I’d be inclined to
keep a log on one of them, too.
26) Safety at night. If you’re
going to be sailing at night, stop and think about
nighttime crew safety. Every crewmember on deck at
night should have foul weather gear with reflective
tape on the shoulders. They should also carry water-activated
strobes attached to safety harnesses. Each should
have a knife and a small flashlight. And they should
always be clipped to the ship.
27) Food and stores. There’s
a formula for stocking up for a cruise. No. of meals
x no. of crewmembers x 1.5. Always take 50% more than
what you think you’re going to need. This is
especially true with water. And if you don’t
eat all your stores, you can always use the packaged
food for your next cruise.
28) Fresh foods in hammocks. Lots
of fresh foods come in plastic bags. Get them out
of those condensation-breeding bags and put them in
web hammocks hanging around your boat. You can put
hammocks above the quarterberths, over the double
berth forward, and in lots of nooks and crannies.
Fresh vegetables, fruits, breads, and so on, always
last better in those string hammocks.
29) Go for a tiller. It’s
a matter of KISS – keep it simple stupid. Wheels,
whether they use chains or cables, are much more complex
than tillers. When I went to meet Minoru Saito as
he finished his seventh solo circumnavigation, he
sailed his 50-foot yacht past the finish line, then
had to ask for a tow in. His engine was dead. His
wheel steering was out of order and he was steering
with the emergency tiller. And all his batteries were
dead. He’d navigated with sun sights, saving
his handheld GPS batteries for the final approach.
If you have a choice, choose a tiller instead of a
30) Conveniences. Your life might
not depend on certain things, but it certainly is
more convenient to have them. Things like toilet paper.
Paper towels. Garbage bags. Can openers. Long-necked
butane lighters. Sponges. Bottle openers. And there’s
lots more, I’m sure. Just think about it for
31) Polarized sunglasses. Summer
or winter, any time you go sailing, you should wear
a pair of polarized sunglasses. In fact, you should
probably keep a pair on board just in case you forget
to bring your regular pair. I’m not much of
a sunglass wearer. I’ll have to get into the
32) Man overboard equipment. Of
course the Coast Guard tells you what man overboard
equipment you should have, but can you use it? How
long does it take you to throw the horseshoe buoy
overboard. Is the throw rope right at hand? In Japan,
you have to carry a man overboard flag, a pole buoy
with a flag on it, that is the first thing you toss
in after the life buoy. It guides you back to where
the crewmember is because it’s easier to see
than a head bobbing among the waves.
33) UV protection. I live in New
Zealand. Probably directly beneath the hole in the
ozone layer. UV rays are strong here, and sunscreen
is a daily consumable. In Japan, both radio and TV
broadcast UV warnings, advising people not to go outside
on days when UV rays are expected to be especially
strong. Sunscreen and UV screening lip balm will be
high on my stores list for the circumnavigation, but
anyone going out on the ocean should use sunscreen,
especially if they are Caucasian or other light-skinned
34) Strings and rags. Seems you
can never have enough bits of nylon cord to lash things
with or too many rags, used for cleanup and so many
other things I just can’t list them all. Put
one locker aside for rags, and loop lashing cord over
the life lines and other places you’re likely
to need them.
35) Practice makes perfect. Why
not set aside a day or two at the beginning of the
season to run through the man overboard drill? If
your crew is willing, have someone jump over without
warning. See how fast you can get the life ring overboard,
and if you’ve got a man overboard marker, toss
that over, too. See how long it takes you to get the
boat turned around and back to the crewmember in the
water. Do it under power. Then do it under sail. Don’t
wait until someone falls overboard to practice. Now
me, I’ve got to practice getting back on Resolution
by myself. Of course, when I practice, someone else
will be aboard.
36) Pump the toilet. If your boat
has a marine head aboard, flush it every time you
go aboard. If it’s manual, give the pump 30
strokes before you leave your mooring. Flushing often
will help keep the plumbing fresh and unsmelly.
37) Name cards. Japanese sometimes
get ragged about how they always hold out a business
card when they meet someone for the first time. But
it’s not a bad idea. How about making up some
cards with your boat’s name, your own name,
your radio call sign, and your home address? Name
cards can help you network.
38) It’s easier to take off
than put on. That is, it’s easier to take stuff
off on a moving boat than it is to put it on. If you
think you might need foul weather gear, put it on
before you leave the mooring so you don’t have
to worry about operating the boat and putting on foul
weather gear at the same time. Out past the breakwater,
if you find you don’t need the oilies, strip
‘em off. Of course, you should have your PFD
on before leaving the pier.
39) Hanging pockets. One such is
the slipper hanger you sometimes see on closet doors.
One of those is good in the boat, too. Extra deck
shoes can fit right in. If you’ve ever seen
the inside of John Guzzwell’s yacht Trekka,
you’ll know what I’m talking about. A
piece of canvas with pockets sewn into it and hung
from a bulkhead can take many small items that would
just rattle around otherwise.
40) Stores map. Make a drawing
of your boat’s accommodations and list what’s
stowed in each locker. Put this stores map in a ziplok
bag and tape it in a place where the entire crew knows
where to look. You may know where everything is, but
if something happens to you, the rest of the crew
has to rely on your stores map.
That’s my little list. You can probably think
of many more, now that I’ve got you started.
Charles T. Whipple