Michael, feel free to add this to your blog if you wish. I also started my cruising with an affordable pocket cruiser
and the kiss principle.
Unlike many cruisers, my desire to go cruising did not grow out of yacht club or day sailing
experience, it grew out of a love of wilderness expedition trips including canoeing, sea kayaking, backpacking and bike touring. Most notable was a 36-day sea kayaking trip with a friend in Queensland
. It was a wonderful trip, but left me wondering what the next step was. There are not many tropical places in the world with hundreds of miles of secluded beaches, and I was also ready for a bit more comfort than a sea kayak
and tent provided. A sailboat seemed the next logical step. I live in the midwest, but was used to transporting canoes, bikes and kayaks to more exotic locations. Instead of owning a cruising boat a thousand miles away, it made more sense to start with a trailerable boat capable of sailing to the Bahamas
Over the next year, I did a short cruise
with a friend on his Catalina
22 through the Florida Keys
, took a bareboat
course, a bit of say sailing and began to investigate boats. My original list consisted of boats like the Bristol 27, Cape Dory
25 and Contessa 26. Eventually I found a Cape Dory
and Contessa for sale
in the midwest, both with trailers. I was unimpressed with the headroom
in both, especially the Cape Dory. The trailer for the Contessa was also not road worthy and having a new one built put it way out of my price
range. Just when I felt like I was coming to a dead end I became aware of the Westerly Centaur. I had never heard of a bilge keel
boat before, but immediately knew it was just what I was looking for. Solid construction, 5-10 standing headroom
and with a draft
of only 3 feet it was perfect for the Bahamas
or Florida Keys
. The addition of wheel steering
was a bonus With a price
of 11K including the trailer, it was within my price range and soon it was parked in my driveway for the winter with plans to sail it on Lake Superior
the following summer. (Note, many Centaurs can now be purchased for around 5K without a trailer)
It was great to have the boat outside my door. It needed several projects done before being ready to sail. The wiring
was particularly a mess with a second battery
just sitting on the floor with alegator clips attached to it and snaking off to various components. In the end, I ended up buying
a new circuit board and rewiring the boat myself. I remember one humorous evening realizing pedestrians had stopped to watch as I sat in the cockpit
at night rebuilding the head
by headlamp light.
proved a great training ground, and brought up more problems that I was able to fix easily with the boat once again parked in my driveway before towing it to Florida
that winter. On the way, I learned that the term "trailerable" is a very relative term and swore, I'd never be the one transporting a 10,000 lb boat and trailer anywhere ever again. That turned out to be fine, after my first trip to the Bahamas, I had no more desire for inland cruising.
Over the next several years, I had many cruises in my Westerly Centaur including 4 more trips to the Abacos and one to the Exumas
. Boat improvements were always made keeping the kiss principle and economics in mind. Adding a reef to my headsail wasn't as convenient as roller furling
, but it was much, much cheaper and simpler and much easier than changing sails
and carrying extra sails
. A piece of scrap wood provided a swinging boom, so the VHF
could be reached from the cockpit
or below. A retired climbing rope
served as dock
and was used to fabricate a swim boarding ladder. Showers were provided by hanging a sunshower from the backstay. Drinking water
came from 5-gallon spigot jugs "pressurized" by gravity and stored on a shelf fabricated to fit them. The onboard water
system consisted of a tank, one hose, one sink and one foot pump, all easily accessible as was all the boat wiring
. The wring behind the circuit board was long enough, that the enter thing could be pulled out and laid face down to work on or make updates. My "refridgeration" was an ice box and ice when I had access to it.
Of course there were ongoing expenses and projects such as replacing many of the thru-hulls and seacocks, rebedding windows, painting, etc. but all in all, it was a very economic boat to maintain and sail. The combination of the kiss principle and a small boat, meant I was never stuck in port waiting for some complex system to be repaired. In fact, when my inboard died on my first trip to the Abacos, it was only a minor inconvenience, despite not even having a dingy motor
. The boat was small enough and simple enough to easily anchor
under sail. Eventually, I replaced the Inboard with a 10 hp outboard
that had a small alternator
start, that could be pull started and produce power even if the ship batteries were completely dead. While I prefer an inboard, this simple outboard
served me well for 4 more trips to the Bahamas, a couple to the Florida
Keys and another summer sailing the Great Lakes
Certainly there were times that I wished I had a bit more space and more conveniences. However, the bottom line was that instead of saving and dreaming about about the cruiser I might afford someday, I was out there cruising and enjoying the same Bahama Islands everyone in much more expensive boats were.
I now have a much newer boat with fancier systems. It costs 10 times as much as my old Westerly Centaur, but that doesn't mean I have 10 times the fun. I'm already thinking that my next boat will be another older, classic boat, basically equipped keeping the kiss principle in mind.
My general advice is buy the boat you can afford now and go cruising, as long as your budget
isn't so tight you are miserable or have to make safety
concessions to get into even a basic boat.