Okay, so there’s nothing like putting a target on oneself and I’m about to do it with this post.
You see, if you’re dreaming about buying a sailboat to go cruising or if you already have a boat and plan to go at some point, you’ll find many, many opinions on this subject.
If you Google “best cruising sailboats” you’ll get thousands of sites, suggestions and opinions and I’m about to add mine to the din. But… you might not like what I have to say.
After almost four years of living aboard, cruising the east coast and most of Florida, my wife Melody and I constantly talk about our idea of the perfect cruising sailboat.
This being my third sailboat, I am addicted to sailboats. I constantly scour the web looking at what I call boat porn. Some guys hunch, late-night in the glow of the monitor, eyes fixed on some hot, (or not so hot) greasy couple moaning and cavorting like a couple of farm animals. Not me… I’m hunched in the glow looking at chain plate photos, trying to decipher whether or not there is an inner forestay.
Melody laughs, but in full disclosure, she’s been caught several times in that same glow… no not the human porn glow… the sailing vessel kind. After much conversation, I decided to add my .02 to the kitty and get down to the nuts and bolts, pardon the pun, of the perfect cruising sailboat.
I said at the beginning that you might not like what I have to say but in my opinion, the perfect cruising sailboat is… dum-dum-DUM… drum roll please!
The one you have right now.
Yep… groundbreaking, right? Taking into consideration you don’t own a sunfish of course.
Also… since this is the web and people are sticklers for absolute clarifications… if you are a family of five with two huge labs and you own an O’day 22, I acquiesce that might not be the “perfect cruising sailboat” but lets not talk of extremes and lets fall back into the comfy chaise lounge of common sense for a minute.
Chances are pretty good that the boat you currently own at this moment is just fine for doing some serious travel. And… if it’s paid for, it’s even better.
Now, Some folks have the financial ability to purchase the Hallberg-Rassy 41, the Passport 40, or the Pacific Seacraft worthy of trans-ocean passages without question. Budget is not an issue. But some who are just beginning this endeavor don’t leave the dock because they’ve read too many stories about rounding Cape Horn and they think they need 400 watts of solar power, water-makers, wind generators, and 27 pounds of pasta before they can head to the Bahamas.
Stop reading and go.
Seriously… if you’re on a Catalina 30 and you wanna get to the Bahamas then make sure she’s seaworthy, study the charts, gather the information you need, and go.
I know… that’s dangerous to say because some people consider plastic thru-hulls held in place by a gob of 5200 and some duct tape seaworthy… but again I’m asking you to get to know our old friend, Common Sense.
Too many people (myself included for a while) think that they can’t go anywhere until they find that perfect boat and that thinking keeps them from going anywhere at all. Then circumstances due to health, family or finances change and they never leave. Ever.
I’ve met many people tied to the dock at some marina who say, “Oh, we’re going to cross oceans when we get the boat ready.” And I ask, “How long have you been here?” The reply… “About eight years.” What!? When I see the boat they’re on, it’s got wind-vane steering, solar panels, wind genny, seven anchors on the bow, hard-bottom dinghy and most likely… that requisite 27 lbs. of pasta on board.
To some, the idea of cruising is more alluring than actually going, and that’s cool. But If you have a boat that might not cross the Atlantic or round the horn by God, that doesn’t mean you can’t do the Atlantic ICW or cruise your local waters.
Just check out this guy who sailed to Hawaii aboard his Ericson 32-3. Go to the 7 minute mark and watch for a few. I guarantee a smile will cross your lips.
Melody and I have done the eastern seaboard about 6 times now both off-shore and up and down the ICW more times than we care to admit. Each time we do that trip, we meet people in every kind of boat you can imagine.
In Rock Hall, Maryland I met a guy who turned his CAL 25 into an old time pirate ship complete with home-made schooner rig, port lights complete with canons, and a small Honda outboard pushing her along at about 4 knots.
Another time in Oriental, North Carolina I met a guy on a kayak doing the Great Loop. No shit. He had it tricked out with tents and all kinds of things that made his trip comfortable for his needs.
My last trip into St. George, Bermuda I saw what looked to me to be a Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20. The gentleman aboard must have been close to 80 years old. Of course, we cruisers spend a lot of time in the sun so he could have been 29, but I doubt it. I made my way over to him and asked his story and he said he built it himself and has been sailing it for the last 30 years. Been all over the world.
During our trip down the ICW last November, I saw yet another guy in an open sailboat about 17 feet long. Looked like a Drascombe Lugger with a tiny outboard, the cockpit covered with a canvas tarp. He was making coffee on a small cook stove in about 35 degree weather. Talk about extreme!
Listen, I know I’m generalizing here but there is no such thing as the perfect cruising sailboat because each one of us will use our boat for different things.
There are many tales of the hardy who’ve crossed oceans in scant vessels with sextants and little else, and those stories are awesome. I dream of a trip like that at least once a week.
But if you own a boat that’s paid for, and you know it inside and out because you’ve sailed it for the last ten years, then maybe, just maybe, that’s the perfect boat for you right now.
Maybe in a year your plans change and it’s not so perfect anymore but make that decision then when you know more about your cruising plans. Are you crossing the Atlantic, rounding the horn, or going to Bermuda? Then, maybe you’ll need all that solar and wind power. Maybe you’ll need the watermaker and the sea anchor.
But maybe, just maybe… you’ll make it to Georgetown, Bahamas – or even Key West, and decide you’ve had enough. Do you really wanna spend 150K on that Crealock 37 to find that out?
The old adage, “go small and go now” is true. My advice? Simplify and go for it. Use what you have, and get your hands dirty making it work. No, it may not be the most comfortable, but we all suffer from an overdose of comfort these days. We’re comforting ourselves to death.
Next time you’re on your boat, look around and think about storing a few jugs of water, a simple cooker, porta-potty (the truly adventurous call it a bucket) and some food. Go easy on the food, okay? When doing the ICW one is not but a few miles from the nearest grocery or gas station.
You’ll meet scads of people willing to help you live your adventure, and if you run low on anything, a ride is not far. Smart phones and internet everywhere make connection and communication a breeze.
Love the one you’re with. Dance with the one who brung ya. Get it? Life is short, people. Stop wishing. Get the F’ out there.
Oh, and don’t forget the pasta.