Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cruising Lessons

1. Paper towels and rags are your best friends. Stock up.

2. What could be more valuable in a wet environment than… a wet vac? Priceless for cleaning up water and fuel leaks. Useful only at marinas with electrical hookups.

3. Throw your romantic fantasies about sailing to the islands out the porthole. Long-distance boating is a series of crises, large and small, day and night. I already suspected this from my limited sailing experience. Any lingering doubts have been thoroughly dispelled.
4. It’s more work than play. I’ve barely touched the 20 books I brought. (Though we have lingered over rockfish, quesadillas, and bread pudding at some excellent restaurants.) It's a struggle to keep the boat in a channel that's barely marked.

5. It’s a workout. I’m building incredible quadriceps bracing against wave action. My biceps are feeling the strain of arguing against 10- to 15-knot winds while at the wheel. Not to mention climbing up and down the companionway ladder 20 times a day. (The conpanionway is the entrance to the inside cabin, below the deck.)
6. Do the math. On a slow boat, averaging approximately 5 miles per hour, with 9 hours of daylight on November days, it takes a long time to travel 1,095 miles. And that only gets you to South Beach.
7. Don’t leave home without it: mosquito nets for ALL hatches and openings. Otherwise, bzzzzzzzzt. We got it 33 1/3 percent right.

8. Learn something about diesel mechanics. (Or gasoline, as appropriate.)

9. Take along your favorite remedies for nervous breakdowns. For Pope, red wine and cheese crackers. For me, dark chocolate and dark and stormies (Gosling’s Black Seal rum, ginger beer, dash of bitters, slice of lime).
10. The sunsets and sunrises might be worth it. I’m reserving judgment for a few more weeks.

And some specific items:

11. Organize, organize, organize.

12. Do ONE THING at a time. Take off the bottle cap. Set the cap down. Pour. Pick up the cap. Put the cap on. Always keep one hand on the boat, or be ready to grab the boat in a jif.

13. Take in laundry hanging on the lifelines BEFORE putting up the sail. (Lifelines are a series of cables around the deck that help keep people and things from falling overboard.)
14.  Check what’s been overflowing into the bilge once in a while. Might explain those mysterious odors you’ve been puzzling over. (The bilge is a drainage area under the floor of the boat.)

15. Dish soap and vinegar help clean up diesel spills. And a related item: Diesel is an oil, not a gas. It is sticky, and it doesn’t evaporate.

16. 50-quart clear plastic bags are sold at Home Depot, in a big roll. Perfect size for protecting upholstery cushions from leaky windows and ceilings. Keep some in the home in case of a roof leak. (See previous blog post called "Water Water Everywhere.")

17. 2 1/2-gallon Ziploc bags are sold at WalMart, Kmart, and some grocery stores. Perfect for storing books, papers, electronics, linens, sheets, and small laptops in a damp environment. Might be useful at home for Costco-sized boxes of crackers and bags of onions.

18. A lot of marinas have courtesy bikes. Just ask. Don’t let the rust and soft tires deter you; they’ll get you where you want to go.

19. Internet seldom works as well as claimed at marinas. Just like home.
Whew. I could go on and on. But let's give some space to Pope, who of course is always MUCH more serious than me:

20. If it’s blowing more than 20 knots, reef the main sail before leaving the dock.

21. Fix lunch before leaving the dock. Rockin’ and rollin’ while underway can lead to a serious junk food dependency.

22. Look for the simple answer first. (If it smells like a diesel fuel leak, it probably is. If the fuel gauge says full, it probably is. Don't add more fuel.)

23. If it can go wrong, it will.



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