Galveston, TX to Tampa non-stop straight across, Tampa to Key West
, Key West
to Turks, Turks to St Thomas, USVI, around the Caribbean
islands for two years. Then St. Thomas to Norfolk non-stop and on up to Annapolis/ St Michaels where we still are/ sailing the Bay. Cal 46 ketch
. Several prior Chesapeake to Caribbean
non-stops on older brother's 53' Gulfstar ketch
. But been around sailboats, grew up in sailing household with dad's beautiful 37' 1937 antique/ wooden sloop
on the Chesapeake (that's where my brother & I learned bright work!... and general weekend sailing, navigation
, making on water repairs
I'm an engineer
and my advice is: focus on safety
items first... sturdy boat/ rudder
& and yes reliable (diesel) engine
& fuel tanks
and a reasonable amount of electronics
(along w/ paper charts). I consider radar
, chart plotter as 'required' for me and my family
, but certainly others have cruised successfully w/o radar
or chart plotter, but it sure makes navigation easier & safer in my opinion for all aboard... especially at night.
EVERYTHING else is window dressing and too often used as excuses for not going. Don't get me wrong, we like our comforts too (AC, hot water, solar
, frig/ freezer), but you can go, get your feet wet so to speak and decided what comforts you really want to add.
But back to your original question about experience... while many dream of selling everything, buying
a 'ready to go' sailboat and sailing off to the wild blue yonder the next day... I'm not sure that's a good idea for too many reasons to list here. Cruising is an acquired lifestyle/ and skill in my opinion, especially when considering safety
. Cruising just isn't all sunshine, sandy beaches, and cocktails. We worked harder almost EVERYDAY on the boat than our prior typical daily home/ work existence doing things the dreamers just don't realize has to be done. Maybe like you, it starts with simple day sails, then over-nighters, then weekends... then for their entire two weeks vacation
. And not just wx perfect weekends. Folks have to experience leaving their comfy house and heading out in less than idea conditions (wet, cold, more wind
than you'd prefer) because that's how real cruising is. I know I sound like a drill Sargent but the time to find out if you really like full time cruising/ 'have what it takes' is before making a very costly 'sell everything buy a boat' moment. During the hurricane
season and the predictions started coming... we averaged about 3-5 EVERY season in Caribbean... the boat had to be completely stripped, tied-up in mangroves/ or hauled, dink dealt with... then immediately all put back and move back on, then repeat two or three more times before the season is over. Ugh! What a grind!
When you area full time cruiser you use/ stress all aspects of the boat and its many systems... and accordingly they wear, need maintenance
, break with much more frequency than weekending in home waters. And, you have to maintain/ fix them yourself (who has the $$ to hire someone for everything that needs to be done/ breaks. Working on a boat at sea w/o ability for consultation or extra help with limited spares and tools challenges all of us... and usually has to be done with some urgency, since you may be adrift or w/o a major system. Doing weekend/ week long 'cruising' and fixing/dealing with whatever comes up yourself before returning lets cruisers 'to be' build these required skills/ confidence. There is no Boat US out in blue water.
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