What follows is written in a friendly tone of voice. I have bolded some important points to make it easier to read. I took some time to write these things down, because I think you have a GREAT opportunity ahead of you with your possible voyage with your daughter. It is truly the kind of thing I would enjoy doing if I had a child that age.
I have a few more tips for you. These are based on your specific situation and tailored to your experience level (with boats and on that kind of boat) and most importantly because you might be single
handing (with a 7 year old child as passenger).
Notice above I used the word "passenger" to describe the child, rather than "crew." Why? Because I think to be considered "crew" the person must have the knowledge and ability to do most important or needed tasks on a boat, without direct supervision.
If I had a 7 year old daughter (just to the two of us) and I was planning the same trip from Mobile to North Carolina, I would do the following:
1. After purchasing the boat, but before you leave Mobile, have the fuel tanks cleaned completely (inside the tanks) and the fuel that was in the tanks polished or replaced with new.
Why? Because many times boats that have not been used in a while (likely for a boat that has been listed for sale
a long time) may have fouled fuel in the diesel
tanks and sediment or gunk (sometimes it is sludge, sometimes bacteria). When those boats get offshore, they often have engine
failure due to fuel problems when the gunk in the tanks gets stirred up by waves and boat motion. That has led to some disasters for some boaters. So, get the INSIDE of the tanks and fuel cleaned before start of the voyage. This may cost a few hundred dollars, but I think it would be money
well spent and will increase your chance of having fewer problems motoring.
2. If the boat does not already have one (or two), add a RACOR fuel filter to the diesel fuel line to the engine.
Smart thing to do. It separates the water
from the fuel, and will increase the reliability
of the engine. Since you might be depending on the engine for a LONG trip, it is smart to do this. This may cost a few hundred dollars, but I think it would be money
well spent and will increase your chance of having fewer problems motoring.
My next suggestions are really focused on one of the most important things I think you can prepare for or try to prevent: Man (Woman/Girl) Overboard
Reason: One of the WORST things I can imagine happening on a long boat voyage with just one adult and a child, is if the child falls overboard while the adult is busy down below and the boat is moving (e.g. on autopilot).
3. Buy and install some "jacklines" on the boat and some harnesses with tethers for you and your daughter
(get appropriate size for child or have a sailmaker
make one for you from webbing).
I would have an unbreakable rule
with my child.
"When we are moving, either sailing or motoring, we will each wear a harness and be clipped on to the boat. No exceptions!" Why would I stress this rule with the child?
1. Even though you have a child aboard, you are the only adult sailor, so you are essentially "Singlehanding" the boat.
One of the worst things that could happen would be for you to fall overboard while the boat is moving. Even IF you feel you do not need to wear a harness and tether, I think it is always a good idea to set a good example. So, I would wear it and show my daughter that I think it is important and a sign of good seamanship when single handing a boat (sailing or motoring) and because I do it (I wear it EVERY time the boat moves), so should my daughter.
3. Install some lifeline netting all around the boat.
This netting is inexpensive and very effective. I have been overboard before (MOB) and know how easy it is to slip under the lifelines
. If there is child aboard for the cruise
this would be something I consider ESSENTIAL or a "must have." The netting is inexpensive and easy for you to attach. Make it a project
for both of you to do together.
Your life may count on it being done. I would look at my daughter and say: "WE can do this! YOU can do this!"
4. Buy a PLB for each of you. Total of TWO.
Select a PLB that also sends out a AIS
signal (you can read about these on the forum, just use the Google
Search tip I post and do a search for MOB
, etc. Attach those to the PFD
for each person. I would show my daughter how to start the PLB and operate it. Your life may count on it being done. I would look at my daughter and say: "WE can do this! YOU can do this!"
5. Buy a AIS enabled VHF radio with GPS. Research
the systems and how they can also be used to identify and find a person who has fallen overboard if they have a PLB that broadcasts an AIS signal too. This is optional and not all items do this. I would select the item based on this, not on lowest cost. I would show my daughter how to make a MAYDAY call on the radio
. I would show her how to use the AIS function on the GPS to find the MOB
. I would show her how to use the GPS "MOB" function (a button push). Your life may count on it being done. I would look at my daughter and say: "WE can do this! YOU can do this!"
6. I mentioned earlier that before leaving Mobile I would buy and install a Lifesling.
These only cost a few hundred dollars but are VERY effective and easy to use. I would install it, and then teach my daughter how to steer the boat in a circle AFTER throwing the Lifesling over the side (instructions are easy). I would practice this as our "Girl Overboard!" procedure. Practice this yourself, with your daughter watching closely for example. When you perfect the moves, then you switch roles. Practice until your daughter knows how to do it and can confidently do it without your help at all. Make sure SHE feels confident in performing this maneuver and action. Your life may count on it being done. I would look at my daughter and say: "WE can do this! YOU can do this!"
7. I would buy a variety of soft (foam) and wood plugs designed for plugging holes in boats (usually due to a through hull failure).
I would take one of these (foam plugs) and then show my daughter how to pull the speedo transducer from the hull
. When this happens, a lot of water will shoot up into the boat, like from a garden hose. Have the plug
handy and demonstrate how to plug
the hole with the plug. You can learn how by watching a video on youtube. Then let her do it, actually do it. Do it so there is not panic IF a leak springs in the future. This builds confidence in how to stop a leak.
I would look at my daughter and say: "WE can do this! YOU can do this!"
7. I would buy a small fire extinguisher. I would go to some vacant lot or junkyard or a picnic barbecue
pit in a park. Get some fuel and put it into a frying pan. Light it so it looks like a galley
fire. Get a "fire blanket" and demonstrate and practice with daughter how to throw the fire blanket on the fire to extinguish it. It is VERY easy, if one does not panic. Then do the same using the small extinguisher. Practice, don't just tell. This will only cost about $15 in materials, but it could save you in the future. I would look at my daughter and say: "WE can do this! YOU can do this!"
Fire, and then leaks
and MOB are some of the most significant risks you will have on the journey. Failed engine (due to foul fuel) is also common.
So, in the space of a couple of days, I would buy this stuff (in Mobile) and set up my boat, and practice with my daughter (she must have hands on practice) BEFORE leaving Mobile. That kind of practice and instruction would make a "crew" out of her, so she is not just a passenger. And, as I see it, it would help my daughter gain confidence on the water, have more fun and less anxiety on the water, and will give her (and you) something more about her on which you both can be proud.
That is seriously what I would do if I were in your boat shoes.
8. IF you purchase
the boat in Mobile, you will likely want to have it surveyed and the bottom inspected after the boat is hauled out. At a time like that, the "new" owner usually has the bottom painted or small repairs
made to the hull or rudder
etc. At that time, I would inspect the rudder
and shaft and prop and make sure to install some new zincs if needed (usually is a good idea). While installing the new zincs, I would ADD a "line cutter" (e.g. "Spurs" ) to the shaft. Why? Because you will be motoring a LONG voyage and some parts
of the route may have many crab pots and lines in the water. The line cutters can effectively cut these to prevent the lines from fouling (stopping or damaging) the engine. South Florida and the ICW are known as some of the places where many of these crab pots (buoys) are located. Given that you are "single handing" I would rather the cutter
do the job so I would not have to go over the side to free the prop.