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Old 13-08-2009, 05:09   #1
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What To Do Before Cruising Away?

Hello! My wife and I have been cruisers, in a sense, for many years. We have 3 kids all born in different states and have "cruised" all over America in search of the town that we want to stay in forever. We finally realized that settling down on land was not for us and "cruising" (on the water) was. Incidentally, the kids are all 18 and over. We have signed up and paid for ASA courses 101 through 108 which will start in September and take us all the way to Tahiti to complete by next May. We are both retiring at 50 which is 3 1/2 years from now and our question is, what should we do to get ready? We want to learn from people who have cut the ties with land and set out on a life of cruising the waterways of the world. What lessons have been learned? How long in advance should we start looking for and purchasing a boat? Should we sell the house now and move aboard and finish up the next 3 1/2 years aboard or wait? We will have 100k in annual lifetime income and 750k for a boat. We are currently in Maine and will remain until retirement. 3 1/2 years seems like forever now that we have decided what we want to do, but we do want to be "ready". Any help would be appreciated.

Jeff & Debbie
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Old 13-08-2009, 05:17   #2
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Join a yacht club as a crew member and race. Many folks don't realize that racers are always looking for dependable crew. This way you get sailing experience and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Also you will be socializing with sailors [ albeit racers ] and you will pick up a lot of information about boats not to mention all the advice you will get about which boat to buy.

Rick I
Toronto in summer, Bahamas in winter.
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Old 13-08-2009, 05:54   #3
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Welcome to the Forum, mauibound!

You'll get a lot of good advice here on cutting the ties, but there's a lot already written and stored in our archives. Use the Google search feature in the small "Search" pull-down menu, upper right on the page, or click on "Discussion Board" up top and just "thumb" through the various forum listings.

Besides learning to sail, consider getting a copy of Beth Leonard's book, Voyager's Handbook. It's a very good way to introduce yourselves to the multiple aspects of living aboard and cruising long distances.
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Old 13-08-2009, 06:14   #4
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I couldn't disagree more about hooking up with racers. They know little about cruising, take unnecessary liberties with the amounts of canvas up in high winds and bad weather, in a lot cases don't own the boats they are on, and treat the bay and the traffic on it with little respect for the other sailors. They spend all day tacking and jibbling and changing sails, sail boats that would never be suitable for proper sailing, and are so competative that they often make sailing seem unpleasant if they are not "in front" and "winning". They don't have the least bit of knowledge about a pleasant day sailing for hours without jumping up every few minutes to make adjustments, and usually just make enjoying the water seem fraught with anxiousness and nervousness as they jump about. They stay out too long when the weather starts to turn nasty and basically think that their s**t doesn't stink. They beat the crab out of the equipment for that extra 1/2 knot. It's sort of like the difference between golfing with a few friends, expecting a nice afternoon romp in the meadow, and then finding out one of your friends explodes and throws or breaks his clubs when he misses a shot he should have gotten . . . just not that much fun.
It is very hard to meet up with real cruisers unless you are cruising. After all, there are really not that many out here. We have been out for about a year now and it is a small and unique group that is actually out here. Also, take your time in setting goals, get started and then make decisions a little at a time. Never go "to" a place, go "toward a place. People ask us how long it takes to get from the southern Bahamas to New York, and when we say it took two months, they shake their head and walk away. Its a SAIL boat and that trip is about 1700 miles! And there are lots of places to stop! If you have the time, take your time. If you don't have the time, don't go! Rushing makes the whole trip less worth while and often more dangerous. It may take you a while, but check out the people on cruising boats that come into your town or area, you know, the ones with all the stuff on the back (like dingies and jugs and fishing poles and wind generators), things that would NEVER be allowed on racing boats.
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Old 13-08-2009, 06:58   #5
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Hi Mauibound

we made the decision in Oct of 2007 that when we retired in spring of 2009, we would be on a boat headed out into the Caribbean. We have spent that time looking for a boat. We're still looking.

Start now looking at boats. You have a lot to learn, as we have.

You need to make the decision regarding mono versus multi hull - the latter being far more expensive but quite definitely within your budget. You need to really understand that your boat budget, includes annual maintenance which may be in the range of 10% of the cost of the boat. Don't forget living expenses which depend entirely on your level of comfort requirements although you have a fabulous annual budget $100K! wow.

What depth waters will you be in - makes a difference on draft limitations.

number of guests = number of berths+ number of heads (which require maintenance).

center cockpit versus aft cockpit, headroom in galley, storage on board. Tankage capacity will limit how far you can go without having to go back to shore. Which ones do you prefer? best to know before you buy, not after.

The all time important thing to look for is engine access all around the engine because eventually, if you go far enough - you will be the repair man. If you are buying used, you will need to know how many hours on the engine. Ask for a maintenance log. Learn about surveyors. Learn about the electrical systems. Determine how old the rigging is - including the chainplates - all of which must be replaced after a certain number of cycles of useage or the mast will fall down while under way (scary huh?). You may need to have the chain plates xrayed to determine if they are in danger of breaking in a brittle manner (no warning).

The list becomes longer the more you know. Start now!! in 3.5 years you can be on your boat, getting it ready. As you have a generous boat budget - $750K - you will not be limited but will want to add all your favorite toys to it, such as as a hard top over the cockpit instead of a bimini, gel batteries and ew la la solar panels to run the water makers, the air conditioners, all the electronics and so on. It will take you a while to learn how to operate and maintain all those systems as well as operate and maintain the boat.

You'll want to install the best weather electronics before you head out very far for very long. You'll want to install the best over-sized autopilot. The list will get longer. (did I say that already?)

It's fun so don't be overwhelmed. It just takes a lot of time as it is much more difficult than buying property.

btw - we never had that much trouble with the racing crowd. Must have been a bad day with some jerks for the post above this one - possibly an anomaly as the sailing crowd usually is pretty cool. My husband had his first day on a sailboat as crew on a monohull in a race off Virgin Gorda. It was very laid back. A little profanity at the beginning but pretty lazy after that. We also raced in the Miami Key Largo race many years ago. No one was very whipped up there either. Mostly just a bunch of beer drinkers.

To sum it up - start now educating yourself on the boat and equipment you want. Learn how to maintain the equipment. 3.5 years is just about the right amount of time to get to your goal.

Bon Voyage!
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Old 13-08-2009, 07:48   #6
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Welcome to the forum

When the cruising bug bites it bites hard. 3 1/2 years will fly by with all the learning and planning you have to do. As First mate said have fun! this is part of your adventure. Some of my biggest adventures (hehe or you could call em misadventures) were right out in the lake learning to sail, so get ready to have some fun

Money will get eaten up faster than you can say "what happended to de money?" So be prepared for that.

Races are a great way to learn sail trim, but waterworldly was right about a small percentage of racers (racers are passionate about speed) so if ya see that behavior skip to another race boat.

There are so many ways to approach your dream of cruising. Some people dive right in and buy a cruising boat before ever really learning how to sail, they just learn as they go. Sometimes that works out sometimes it doesn't. Then there are cruisers who plan ever step meticulously with diligent research and planning, but that is not exactly everyones style. So take one step at a time and see where it leads you. In three months, if you wake up in a big beautiful cruising boat then I guess your the dive right in kind of cruiser Either way, GO! and in the midst of all the planning and buying take a deep breath and enjoy the adventure.

Cheers and I hope one day we meet in some "faraway" anchorage

Here is a site to compare production boat stats Sail Calculator Pro v3.53 - 2000+ boats.
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Old 13-08-2009, 07:59   #7
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It will actually help your sailing skills to spend some time with the racers.

Life begins where land ends.
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Old 13-08-2009, 08:56   #8
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Originally Posted by David M View Post
It will actually help your sailing skills to spend some time with the racers.
Yes, it will.

You will quickly sort out the folks you encounter as 'racers' and 'Sailors who race'. You can learn a lot by spending time on either of their boats... but you will have much more fun aboard the boats of the latter.

Your boat handling skills will decrease the stress level. Time spent on the water will pay large dividends when you are 'out there' on your own boat.

Read all you can, talk to as many as you can, and take EVERYTHING you read with a grain of salt.

Most of all, beware of those who have abandoned their dreams... they just might try to get you to abandon yours.
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Old 13-08-2009, 09:05   #9
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You’ve already got a solid plan for sailing instruction. The rest is just practice. Therefore, it might make sense to get a boat sooner rather than later so that you can spend time on the water at your convenience. However, beautiful as Maine is for sailing in the summer, I wouldn’t think that living aboard there year round would be much fun. An interim weekender which you haul out for the winter sounds like a better idea.

Cruising is a life style or set of possible experiences which intersects the set of possible sailing experiences. But, cruising is mostly not about sailing at all; it’s about living on a boat in exotic places. Most actively cruised boats are anchored 70-90% of the time. An interim boat will allow you to experience some limited form of cruising at your own pace. And more importantly, it will help define your needs/wants/expectations for your extended liveaboard dream boat. Buying your "dream boat" before you’ve experienced the cruising, as distinguished from the sailing, part of the dream, can be a mistake which redefines your idea of the "dream boat."
"There's nothing . . . absolutely nothing . . . half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats."

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows (River Rat to Mole)
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Old 13-08-2009, 09:13   #10
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You will know a lot more about what you want after you have done the ASA courses. A next step might be some more sea time, with offshore deliveries the best way to try other boats (see the crew listings in the forum or try, but also consider bareboat charters to check out the types of boats you may be interested in.

You will want to buy your boat at least a year before you retire, so you can get familiar with all the systems and how to use and maintain them yourselves.
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Old 13-08-2009, 09:14   #11
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Racing will hone your sailing skills under pressure for sure. Also test your ability to deal with abrasive people (skippers!) Why are you waiting 3.5 years? Sounds to me like you are set up and ready.... Buy that dream boat and get started.....
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Old 13-08-2009, 09:31   #12
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I disagree with staying away from racing in your pursuit to learn to sail, unless you like motoring or sailing slowly.
As a lifelong cruiser who learned to race in college, and now races on the side, I find the sail trim skills and helming skills I learned while racing invaluable.

Unless you are going downwind, sailing is NOT a set-it-and-forget-it pursuit. Sailing slowly is always an option, and when cruising many people (including myself) can opt to lose 1 knot or so of boatspeed to relax more. This is fine most of the time, but there are many situations when landfall or a destination is time based, be it because of weather, or other factors. During those times good sailors don't need 100s of gallons of diesel to make up time...

So many times, especially in light air, you see perfectly good boats motoring when they could sail at near the same speed. Largely this is because they do not have the art of sail trim perfected.
Many people get frustrated when they do not have perfect tradewind downwind sailing- and this often is because they don't know how to set up sails, and halyard tensions, and vangs, and outhauls correctly. You'll read on this forum discussions about relative speeds of boats, and how some are better- but anyone who is good can make a fair boat sail decently upwind and downwind.

Crew for racers to learn sail trim and the "bleeding edge," but save your seamanship lessons for elsewhere as it is true- everyone takes more chances when racing. Like any other endeavor, risk in sailing is a continuum. Just being out on a boat is riskier than staying at home. Racers typically push risk a bit further, depending on the venue. Volvo Ocean Race boats come to mind as the ultimate in risk (it sure would be fun to be on board for about 60 minutes).
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Old 13-08-2009, 10:26   #13
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The reason I recommend joining a club and crewing is twofold. One, it will definitely hone your sail trim skills and two, you will go out in weather that a newbie would not go out in. You will get out there in a fully crewed boat and this will definitely give you a lot more confidence when you're out there in your own boat and conditions deteriorate. Also you'll soon find out the limits of a sailboat without wrecking it completely.

In a club, you will meet cruisers who have done it all. Most clubs are very friendly and most members won't mind showing you their boats or even taking you out for a sail so you can test quite a few boats this way. Many clubs have seminars during the winter where the old cruisers do show and tells. My club also puts on courses to get your ham license or VHF operators license. In our club we've had talks from going down the ditch to circumnavigating to provisioning and onboard cooking, all given by experienced cruisers who have actually done these things.

Just some of the benefits of club membership and crew membership is usually very reasonable.
Rick I
Toronto in summer, Bahamas in winter.
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Old 13-08-2009, 10:43   #14
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Jeff and Debbie, your budget will certainly allow you to not only live extremely well while cruising, but to purchase a wide variety of yachts. I think the courses you have planned will be an excellent introduction; to that I would add some bareboating, both in monohulls and multihulls, in order to decide what boat you will eventually want to buy.

What I would not do is buy what I hope will be my ultimate boat; for that you need vastly more experience, not only on the water, but on various boats themselves. Having said that, purchasing a smaller boat that is popular in your area (for easier resale) may be a very good idea; it will give you vastly more time on the water and time to develop and become self-reliant on your sailing, navigation, anchoring and maintenance skills. If you mess up and hit a dock or the bottom, at least it is your boat (and at least the repair costs/loss will be much less than with your ultimate boat).

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Old 13-08-2009, 11:18   #15
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Remember the price you pay for the boat, new or used, is really just a down payment.

Be a frequent flier on Yachtworld and all the sailing forums you can.

Race, charter, and crew as you can for a year or two then buy the boat you've settled on and learn that boat.



John & Cheryl Mallon
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