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Old 07-07-2013, 07:06   #1
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Baby steps to cruising.

Hello cruisers,

Many years ago, when we had just bought our Austral 20, I made a mistake that I now discover has been made by many eager sailors with families. I took the family on an overnight trip to an island on the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria Australia.

That was not the mistake.

The mistake was, that on the way over we got caught in quite a blow. Not too bad I guess, maybe 25 knots. I happily ran up the storm jib, reefed down the main and on we plodded, getting to island eventually. The whole way there I was congratulating us on having purchased such a steadfast, safe little boat, without realising that my wife was terrified. Not so much for us as a family, but more because she was not confident in handling the boat if something happened to me. Foolishly I had not considered that her more extensive cruising experience was on much larger boats with four or five other capable crew members, so she never felt she would have to fend for herself unaided.

Wind the clock forward 5 or 6 years and we have managed to undo the damage I did and have progressed to the point where she feels quite capable of handling the boat herself (though she still leaves me to bring the boat into the pen, on the logic that then it's my fault if we break someone else's boat) and I spend more time in the kitchen than behind the wheel.

Now we are about to start semi serious cruising. By that I mean multi-night coastal trips. We will be sailing as a pair and can mostly avoid overnight stuff for the next year or two (except when we do the Tassie trip, but that will have extra crew for sure.) just doing the local sights. Our boat is a solid old Swanson, with most of the essential comforts such as a good kitchen, fridge and a hot shower.

My question is, how "big" to set these journeys? Logic says two or three nights should be plenty, but will that build the confidence the same way a week would? After how long will fatigue start to undermine the joy of the journey? I know from our experience of bringing the boat home, I was buggered after seven days. We are both pretty fit, but that knocked me for six.

Any suggestions based on your own experiences would be great. I know there's no one-size-fits-all answer, but most of you who now happily set of on a couple of months of travel must have started with something a bit shorter initially. At what point did you stop "gaining" from the trip and start to wish you'd set the sights a bit lower?

Matt
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Old 07-07-2013, 08:13   #2
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The nice thing about 1 or 2 day trips is that you can pick a nice weather window. So I would just keep extending a little bit as you get more comfortable.
We have found extra hands to be helpful and to make the overall trip less tiring. Although, I know others who would argue extra hands are more trouble than they are worth,
Just keep going as long as its fun.
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Old 07-07-2013, 08:49   #3
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Re: Baby steps to cruising.

I think coastals are more demanding and so I would keep the trips short - making daysails only.

Offshore, you go more relaxed, you have more time to take action, fewer dangers. Even a less experienced crew will do fine as long as they have the basic driving skills.

I generally avoid overnighters along the coast. If we cannot avoid them, I try to make such adventures no longer than 72 hours between anchorages or between ports.

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Old 07-07-2013, 22:48   #4
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Re: Baby steps to cruising.

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I think coastals are more demanding and so I would keep the trips short - making daysails only.

Offshore, you go more relaxed, you have more time to take action, fewer dangers. Even a less experienced crew will do fine as long as they have the basic driving skills.

I generally avoid overnighters along the coast. If we cannot avoid them, I try to make such adventures no longer than 72 hours between anchorages or between ports.

b.
Certainly an interesting perspective. Seems counter intuitive but I take the point about fewer dangers.

Problem for us is that there are a number of days of coastal in all directions before we can go offshore, unless we just go out into the big blue and back again...? Seems a little odd... but maybe.
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Old 07-07-2013, 22:52   #5
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Re: Baby steps to cruising.

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The nice thing about 1 or 2 day trips is that you can pick a nice weather window. So I would just keep extending a little bit as you get more comfortable.
Too right on the weather window, trying to find a two day window at the moment is eluding me.
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Old 08-07-2013, 09:32   #6
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Re: Baby steps to cruising.

I think you can sail safer and feel safer if you depart with good wx window and if you are able to monitor how the wx develops while under way. I do not know your coast (we only sailed Cairns to Darwin) but I would guess maybe 3G mobile network today is dense enough to allow you for receiving wx data while underway? Your BOM services are amongst the best there are.

When it comes to having others onboard, I find sailing (teaching it) to be very much like teaching diving: never ever press nor expose your crew to sail in conditions that are beyond their A+1 level. People vary in their stress and relieve patterns widely: some will take the trauma and say what the hell, others will get blocked and may refuse to actively participate in your adventures further down the road. It must be fun FOR EVERYBODY. Making bigger steps involves taking bigger risks in this respect. (These risk are NOT worth it, if you crew is your partner).

Unfortunately, sailing is like walking: we learn it by doing, and so at times you may fall too. When you judge your skills are up to the job, then it is time to jump and make that inshore/offshore/day&night passage. Before then take on the challenges one (step) at a time.

Good luck! We hope to be able to visit your part of your most lovely continent one day too!

b.
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Old 08-07-2013, 10:12   #7
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Re: Baby steps to cruising.

Am not sure what sort of trips you are talking about - coastal hopping (day sails only) for a few days (or a week) heading in one direction and then back home again.......or a passage for a few days (day and night) and back again.

One big thing to think about is your coming back weather, as sooner or later (likely sooner!) the weather you had hoped for to return with will not arrive, and either make the return miserable - or not possible (or not prudent, including for crew reasons)........apart from that knocking the edge off an otherwise nice voyage, will also be a constant nagging doubt / stress factor, with the answer either being to return home by land or to wait the weather out. One advantage folks heading away for months have is no calender to obey! and often enough no "Home" to return to either! - so for them life is easier..........
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Old 08-07-2013, 11:33   #8
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Re: Baby steps to cruising.

Ah the Gippsland lakes, that's where I started sailing. I am still not sure why the charter company gave a 30 foot yacht to someone that had never sailed before.

The most important thing when starting out is to have conditions as favourable as possible. Everyone enjoys a broad reach in warm weather.

Generally for the inexperienced I think trips of around 11/2- 2 days duration are the worst. 24 hours, or less any mild sleep deprivation, seasickness or discomfort is quite bearable. The exhilaration of leaving and arriving are close enough together. Longer than a couple of days and the body adapts, gets used to the noise and motion and the feeling is that you could go on forever.

Regular long distance sailors understand this, but stopping at 11/2-2 days leaves the worst impression on inexperienced crew. They have not yet adapted and imagine a long journey without factoring in the improvement that will occur.
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Old 08-07-2013, 12:32   #9
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Re: Baby steps to cruising.

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Originally Posted by noelex 77 View Post
Generally for the inexperienced I think trips of around 11/2- 2 days duration are the worst. 24 hours, or less any mild sleep deprivation, seasickness or discomfort is quite bearable. The exhilaration of leaving and arriving are close enough together. Longer than a couple of days and the body adapts, gets used to the noise and motion and the feeling is that you could go on forever.

Regular long distance sailors understand this, but stopping at 11/2-2 days leaves the worst impression on inexperienced crew. They have not yet adapted and imagine a long journey without factoring in the improvement that will occur.
I quite agree with Nolex here. What Ann and I dread the most are "overnighters" -- those coastal trips of 100 miles or so, long enough that one can't do it in a short winter day, and where it is essential to arrive in daylight hours for piloting reasons. They tend to wipe us out!

For Matt -- have you done Kangaroo Island yet? I'm not familiar with your local cruising grounds, but K is about 60 miles from Adelaide (nearest point) and there appear to be anchorages in several spots around its coast.

I started out "cruising" by overnighting in various anchorages around SF Bay, then expanding to the nearer coastal destinations (Half Moon Bay, Drakes Bay, Monterrey, etc) for long weekends and finally to coastal trips to the Channel Islands off SoCal... about 300 miles each way. When we had done a few of those three week to month long cruises, we gritted our teeth and did SF to Hawaii and back in 7 weeks. Our first blue water voyage... boy did we learn a lot!

The California coast has the advantage of pretty stable wx conditions in the summer, but this is offset by few good anchorages and strong and consistent NW winds and a S setting current making the return trip from Socal a beat.

Anyhow, I'd suggest just giving it a go. All the advice in the world pales before personal experience. Your boat, your crew, your cruising grounds!
Don't try to over analyse the process!

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 08-07-2013, 16:59   #10
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Re: Baby steps to cruising.

Wow, that's a different set of perspectives on the issue, thank you. It all makes sense when put that way, and, is exactly the opposite of what I was thinking. From what was written here, I was setting us up for the least enjoyable outcome.

Perhaps, taking into account the advice here, we keep with the current program of getting lots of varied experience day-sailing in all sorts of weather here in the Gulf St Vincent (yes, that would include Kangaroo Island which IS lovely Jim.) and the odd short haul overnight when the weather is suitable. Then, when we and the boat are ready for the real stuff, down to Tasmania for a circumnavigation as per the excellent suggestions on the recent thread I started on that subject. Doubly so as I seem to have found crew for that journey already, some of whom have done it before a number of times and just can't wait to get back to Port Davey. Getting them to LEAVE Port Davey might be the hard part.

Thank you again. Matt
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Old 08-07-2013, 17:15   #11
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Re: Baby steps to cruising.

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Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
I quite agree with Nolex here. What Ann and I dread the most are "overnighters" -- those coastal trips of 100 miles or so, long enough that one can't do it in a short winter day, and where it is essential to arrive in daylight hours for piloting reasons. They tend to wipe us out!
+1

The worst of cruising. It takes until night 3 to really get into the rhythm of things, then nights and days 4-x are usually quite pleasant, even with a crew of 2. Not sure how to recommend moving directly from long daysails to passages, but at least go into one-nighters prepared with the idea that you'll be less than comfortable all the way around. If you have a bunch of overnighters you can sleep during the day at each new anchorage and get into a rhythm, but otherwise plan some rest time after the one-night passages.
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Old 08-07-2013, 17:46   #12
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Re: Baby steps to cruising.

Hi, Matt,

You're sounding to me like you're itching to try your wings! Keep the priority to keep your good lady having fun, and you probably will, too. Especially if the seasickness problem is solved. As long as she is still experimenting with various cures, I'd say confine yourself to short day hops. She will be able to re-coup her energy overnight and then try the next thing.

Part of the good deal about your planned trip to Tassie is that you will have an overnighter, but what have you decided about watch schedules? This is just my opinion, but I think it would be better for the two of you as sailing partners who want to cross oceans to work out your watch schedules so that the two of you get the maximum rest. To accomplish this, Jim and I use a modified 6 on 6 off schedule. It works very well for us, allowing the offwatch to catch up during the day on any missed night time sleep. On an ocean passage, within 3 days, one is into the rhythm and feels well rested, unless the weather is awful, then you get tireder.

If you take crew to spread the load, you'll get into the habit of 3 or 4 hr. watches, and then it's hard to stretch to the full 6 hrs., because you haven't trained your body to it.

Bear in mind, too, that as skipper, you may be woken during your off watch by crew, and you're likely to lose a lot of sleep that your wife, who is familiar with the boat would be able to preserve for you.

When Jim was actively training me, the deal was to wake him up for anything at all I was unsure of. After I became more experienced, I was able to give him his whole 6 hrs. sleep most of the time.

Had you considered a training voyage of going straight through to Perth, staying out of sight of land, then day hopping as possible, using the westerlies to get you back to Adelaide, but exploring along the way?

I think Jim's Kangaroo Is. idea sounds like a good one, too.

Ann
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Old 08-07-2013, 18:19   #13
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Re: Baby steps to cruising.

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Hi, Matt,

You're sounding to me like you're itching to try your wings! Keep the priority to keep your good lady having fun, and you probably will, too. Especially if the seasickness problem is solved. As long as she is still experimenting with various cures, I'd say confine yourself to short day hops. She will be able to re-coup her energy overnight and then try the next thing.

Part of the good deal about your planned trip to Tassie is that you will have an overnighter, but what have you decided about watch schedules? This is just my opinion, but I think it would be better for the two of you as sailing partners who want to cross oceans to work out your watch schedules so that the two of you get the maximum rest. To accomplish this, Jim and I use a modified 6 on 6 off schedule. It works very well for us, allowing the offwatch to catch up during the day on any missed night time sleep. On an ocean passage, within 3 days, one is into the rhythm and feels well rested, unless the weather is awful, then you get tireder.

If you take crew to spread the load, you'll get into the habit of 3 or 4 hr. watches, and then it's hard to stretch to the full 6 hrs., because you haven't trained your body to it.

Bear in mind, too, that as skipper, you may be woken during your off watch by crew, and you're likely to lose a lot of sleep that your wife, who is familiar with the boat would be able to preserve for you.

When Jim was actively training me, the deal was to wake him up for anything at all I was unsure of. After I became more experienced, I was able to give him his whole 6 hrs. sleep most of the time.

Had you considered a training voyage of going straight through to Perth, staying out of sight of land, then day hopping as possible, using the westerlies to get you back to Adelaide, but exploring along the way?

I think Jim's Kangaroo Is. idea sounds like a good one, too.

Ann
Hi Ann,

A bit to take on board there... yes, WE are both itching to get going sooner rather than later. We planned this for 11 years now, stepping up through the boats and getting our lives in a position where we can eventually rent out the house and go sailing. The only major holdup is waiting till our son is old enough to fend for himself, about five years from now, but in the interim we want to get as much experience as possible. (With and without our son on board.)

The sea-sickness thing is pretty well sorted now, I think that first leg out of Westernport Bay was about as bad as we are likely to meet again (fingers crossed) and since then she has been pretty good, particularly using some of the remedies/preventions suggested by yourself and others.

Your point about watch schedules is well taken and reflects my limited experience so far. Actually, one of the crew who joined us for the delivery run as his first trip ever has subsequently done other trips as a delivery crew and he was recently on a boat which was doing one hour watches with a crew of four. That suprised me, still can not work out why so short?

Perth is a fascinating idea... I've read a bit about the journey and was pleasantly suprised to see that the winds are not as unfavourable going West as would first appear. Seems you have to pick exactly the right time of year though and the impression I got was that you had to stay close to shore to pickup the land effect onshore winds if you wanted to go West. At least the trip home should be possible out of sight of land.

K.I. is lovely and I plan to take photos and send them to people to coax them around to our part of the world.

Matt
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Old 08-07-2013, 18:22   #14
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Your point about watch schedules is well taken and reflects my limited experience so far. Actually, one of the crew who joined us for the delivery run as his first trip ever has subsequently done other trips as a delivery crew and he was recently on a boat which was doing one hour watches with a crew of four. That suprised me, still can not work out why so short?
Not uncommon in bad weather with crew hand steering

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Old 08-07-2013, 18:57   #15
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Re: Baby steps to cruising.

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Not uncommon in bad weather with crew hand steering

Dave
What is the logic? Simply that it is too tiring to do more than an hour?

Interestingly, the boat in question was a large day racer with no autopilot setup, though the weather was pretty mild.

The delivery skipper was VERY experienced, so I assumed there must have been a good reason for it. My guy said it worked, but it did limit his sleep to three hours at a time, which was a bit of a pain.

Matt
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