IMO, you have not yet the experience to choose from among the advice received. Do start spending weekends out around the Bay, that's a good Start. Try anchoring
up the Petaluma River. Try the Napa R. China
Camp. Paradise Cay. See what you learn.
Spending weekends out with the wife and child will begin to show you how much fun your wife is able to have with the little one along. If you want to keep the wife and child, they, too, must have a good time, and your desires for cruising will be better implemented by your really noticing about their well-being. Beyond that, you will begin to see what you need, want, and can easily do without.
Confidence up? Try a trip to Drakes Bay, or Half Moon Bay. See how it goes in the ocean. If all goes well, try a trip to the Channel Is. I feel concerned that you underestimate the difficulties of traveling with a child who is not yet toilet trained, and who requires a lot of watching. There are some other issues traveling with a small child, and perhaps your good lady is on top of those. Don't let people scare you too badly: lots of cruising kids
went home to the boat the day they were born, and one I know of is a regular poster here: "atoll".
Other than that...
*If possible, fit a windvane
; ours steered us satisfactorily about 100,000 mi., silent above and below decks, no power drain
*Yes to the spinnaker; with a sock, for light air use, really, sometimes it is the only sail that will move the boat, and a great pleasure.
*Yes to the inverter
; almost all our power tools run off it, all the battery
chargers, shavers, computers
, sewing machine
*EPIRB yes, you got the kid to consider, right? you're not infallible, but human, and s**t happens sometimes
*How's your anchoring
gear now? You really want to have one really good anchor
, and a kedge. If the Danforth you lost
was a double fluke one, you'll need something for a kedge, and for a stern anchor
when necessary. I have seen Bruces used this way, too.
*We've used the ham radio and Pactor modem
for all our e-mail communications
until recently, it can be done, but no pictures!
*Most boats with small children
use lifeline netting. You will definitely need sun awnings.
*watermaker, maybe, it depends almost entirely on how stingy you can comfortably be with water
, and that is an extremely variable issue. We used to jerry jug all our water
, and personally treated all the water we put in the tanks
. Had no problem with water, even in Mexico
, but we were extremely careful.
*stable, capable dinghy
. If you cannot get up on a plane to go long distances, water trips, marketing
, banking, can take forever; and of course, no offshore
snorkeling, etc., have to take the big boat. However, with a hard dinghy
, you can row it most of the time, maybe not to put out a second anchor in a storm, though. [you might be interested in brownoarsman's thread about re-anchoring in a storm, a google
search in this forum should find it for you]
What makes a cruising lifestyle work? compassionate regard for those who are with you, flexibility in dealing with issues, determination to fix things yourselves, having lots of fun at it.
I think it is a very poor idea to rely on one I Pad for all your navigation
. Drop it. Take it outside and a wave gets it. You need backup, and IMO, paper charts for voyage planning, at least. (Exercise your imagination here, in retrospect, on the chart for Angel Island, what did you think those labels "ruins" meant for the bottom you might encounter? Everywhere you will go, someone has been there previously, and many of them have discarded stuff that winds up on the bottom: snarls of cables
, old moorings, communications cables
, and we once picked up part of a 1920's stove!)