Back onto the THREAD PURPOSE ... geez you guys really know how to ruin a good thread.
Anyway ... OP ... my tips are:
1) HAVE ENOUGH CREW on board to not worry about watches (unless you are trying to prepare for longer trips as a couple/solo ... in which case I still recommend taking more people your first time). In my opinion, the number one threat to boats offshore doing long distances is the mental deterioration of the skipper
if he hasn't had enough sleep. One small mistake because you are tired is usually the catalyst for much bigger problems.
2) GET AN AUTOPILOT
- I installed a Raymarine
Tiller Pilot on my old boat the day before I took my wife for her first long offshore passage
... it makes the difference between a fun cruise
and a hellish one to have an autopilot in place. They are relatively cheap
, simple to install and allow the watch keeper to do other things. (You may also consider a wind-vane instead, or doing it old-school with cordage systems, but some sort of self-steering is a must)
3) GET AN EPIRB
. By "not much else" I assume your boat has a VHF
at least (if not, get one of those as well - the new ones that include AIS
receivers are well worth the extra bit of coin), but an EPRIB is a must if you are offshore. Spend the money
now on one with GPS
and anywhere off the coast of the US like you are planning you'll be confident that the coast guard can get to you in an emergency
. I personally think that it is not only unsafe, but downright stupid not to have one. If you can't afford one, try to borrow one from a friend and get the call sign switched over for the voyage. In Oz there are lots of places that will rent you an EPIRB
- but for the cost it makes more sense to buy one if you are planning on sailing offshore more than once. A sat phone
is a very nice to have item as well, and makes more sense than installing an SSB
. Again, you may be able to borrow/rent one of these instead of buying
4) LEARN ABOUT WEATHER- you can start tracking weather and planning trips now, and see how things on an imaginary voyage would pan out long before you go. Knowing the weather and being able to use the free info that's out there is really important (as others have already said - I know I'm reiterating that!). Also, don't forget to try to take current
& surface contours into account planning your routes.
5) INSTALL JACKLINES
& GET A HARNESS. You do not want to be heading up to drop the jib
in a storm without one. Again, if cost is an issue (it may not be for you, lots of people on this forum always talk about doing things on a budget), you can make a harness out of the same webbing used for the jacklines
and some shackles. I know it's not the 'quick release' everyone wants, but carry a knife and you'll be better off than not having anything. If you can spend the money
, get a manually inflating life vest with built in harness.
Oh ... and HAVE FUN!!!! Like Rebel said, it's really not that different and once you get a trip under your belt you'll feel much more confident.