Q&A – #84

I get questions …

Dear Captain Woody,
I live in Melbourne Australia, and I am planning to travel to the east coast of the US to purchase a pocket cruiser. The route home would include the ICW, Caribbean, Central America, Panama Canal and then across the Pacific for home. As I will be sailing solo and on a budget, I will be looking at one of the following yachts: Cape Dory 25d, 27, 28 or the Bristol 29, 30 or the Bayfield 25, 29. I would appreciate your opinion on these yachts and any advice you may have regarding fitout requirements for such a trip.

I look forward to each new edition of Latitudes & Attitudes and enjoy the columns by yourself, Bob and Tania. I think that the magazine is the best of its kind anywhere in the world. Your thoughts on the above would be appreciated.
Kind Regard

I’m a big fan of Oz. I made a lot of friends while cruising the east and north coasts and am looking forward to a future visit.

Regarding your planned adventure: sounds like a fun route. Once you pass Cuba (to starboard) it will be mostly downwind. You didn’t have route questions though. I haven’t sailed any of those boats. I had a quick look online. They all look like similar designs, all very sturdy. The boats are going to be small, not so fast, very safe cruisers. I suspect that is what you are looking for. Go on the owner’s association websites and ask them to compare their boat to the others. Remember that people who own a certain boat will often be biased to some extent. You should still be able to get some good information. Check out www.projectbluesphere.com. My friend Alex is out cruising on a small full keeled boat. I know he did a lot of research before his purchase and has since learned even more while out cruising. You should drop him a line.

As far as setting your boat up: I’d start out with the basics. That’s a lot of sea miles and you want to be sure she is up for the task. Check bulkheads where they meet the hull, for cracks or delamination. Inspect often. Make sure you know where all of the holes in the boat are. This includes all throughhull sensors, raw water intakes, drains, exhaust, etc. and make sure they are closable. Consider fitting ball valves for longevity and ease of use. Next, on my list, is the rigging. On Low Key, I finished our voyage two sizes up from stock and still broke a strand on the beat up Baja. Like everything, there’s a balance. You want strength without too much weight aloft. You want a dry boat. Even if your new boat lives in a rainy place you may not discover all the leaks until you get out and flex the hull while taking waves. Get good at pulling up deck hardware and putting it back down. In case it wasn’t clear from last months issue, I’m a fan of dodgers. You’ll also want some kind of shade for sailing the tropics. I tied a Sunbrella tarp back from the dodger to the stern pulpit and backstay. This also helped with spray. Out there, comfort is paramount.

Gear: On a little boat you don’t want too much junk; it just takes up space and time for maintenance. (It occurs to me that the same thinking should be applied to a big boat.) Whatever fixtures come with the boat are probably what you will leave with. The following are some recommendations for anything you may be replacing.

On deck: We always say that the first thing you put on a boat is a BBQ, a beanbag and a full cooler. Next, a good anchor (CQR, Delta, Bruce) and couple hundred feet of chain makes for sound sleep. A Danforth for the stern hook (to winch the stern toward hot Ozzie beaches) worked well for me. A manual windlass near the bow is fine. Beside a reefable mainsail and a strong jib or two you’ll want a big headsail and strong pole for that long downwind coconut milk run. Self steering – if you forget everything else, don’t leave without good self steering (Aries and Monitor are most popular). Bring a good bucket. You’ll use it to rinse the decks, showers, dishes, laundry, cleaning fish and bailing … you know, if the occasion arises.

Juice: I like the wind/solar combo but for the little boats operating on a low budget, you may end up with one or the other. Solar’s silent, wind puts out 24/7 when it’s windy – you decide. Everything onboard should be 12v.

Electronics: I’ve said it before, I felt safer on Low Key sailing with just a GPS, depth sounder and radar detector in my cockpit than on million dollar yachts that I have skippered that have those blinding arrays. They tend to distract you from what’s actually happening. I had a handheld mapping GPS with 12 volt mount. My radar detector was made by CARD. Put a radar reflector in the rig. Down below you want a good VHF with masthead antenna. Consider an SSB or at least a cheap ham receiver for the fun of it.

Cabin: White lights for when parked and red lights when at sea for that all important night vision. The new LED’s use almost no amps. They can be used for running lights too. Check the LED white before you buy for the interior. You may want to go with something else for a warmer color.

Galley/head: There’s nothing wrong with an ice box. Ice is cheap when you can get it. For a stove you’re going to want at least a built in one burner with pot holders. It’s nice if it gimbals (with weight on it). A good pressure cooker works well as an oven. Along your intended path propane/butane is the most available cooking fuel. Install the tank where a leak will drain overboard. Always shut off at the tank ‘tween meals. Fresh water foot pumps, one for each sink. If you don’t have a flushing head onboard I would plumb in a basic Jabsco head.

Motor: again, you’ll go with what you got but … diesel is safer and lower maintenance. Bring the shop manual and become intimate with your engine (or nearly so).

Ambience: I know, not the first thing you think of, but it makes for a more enjoyable adventure. Besides, chicks dig it. One kerosene lamp; every boat should have one. Those little votive candlettes that come in their own silver tin, 10 for a $, are very handy and mobile and reasonably safe.

General tips: when going to sea keep the deck as tidy as possible. Down below always secure everything so items will stay put during a wet-mast knockdown. Serious offshore cruisers prep their gear for a full roll over.

This is just a sprinkling of things I would consider when outfitting my pocket cruiser. Stuff I don’t have room to elaborate on are tools, spares, foulies etc. Drop me a line if you have other questions.

Switching gears here I wanted to give an update on our friend Jes. If you read our rag you know that her Morgan Out Island 41 Blessed Be was dismasted just before arriving in French Polynesia. While a yard in Raiatea has been refitting BB, Jes has returned to WA to publish her book Doggy on Deck: Life at Sea with a Salty Dog (Absolutely Everything You Need to Know Before Cruising with Fido). No, I’m not making it up. Jes will soon fly back to Raiatea to fire up her boat and point her north. She will be sailing BB to Washington via Hawaii. I believe she’s looking for crew. Any takers? Adventure of a lifetime. Contact: svblessedbe@gmail.com


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