We are planning to cast off in a few days now, and all of a sudden, a rush of clarity has come to light. When we first decided that we would go on this voyage, we made lists of all the things that need to be accomplished for us to go. The lists were long and I worked all through the winter to complete each task.
As we have been getting closer to our departure date, the list has gotten even shorter via a different method: we have been removing "needed" items from the list. This has dramatically shortened the list until we reached a point when the list was gone. I do not remember scratching off the last line item, and I don't recall us discussing the removal of the last line item. Sadly, I can't even tell you what the last line item was! All I know is that it is gone and we are going cruising.
This clarity that has overcome both Maddie and me, is the clarity that there should have never been a list from the beginning. As we sail, we will pick things up as well as discard unneeded items. We will, in effect, prepare for the journey as we progress through it!
Yes, there are obvious safety items that you should carry on board before a long voyage: life raft, EPIRB, and updated charts of the waters you will be cruising are the first that come to mind, and were also the first on the list while the list still existed.
The truth is, even if we had infinite time and managed to cross off every line item on the list in preparation for our voyage, we would still be grossly unprepared for it.
Packing to go cruising is like moving into a new apartment. There are two ways of doing it:
Option 1 is to go to a store and buy anything and everything that you think you will need. In this method, you are only allowed to go to the store once, and never again. If you don't buy it right now, you will never have that necessary item that you might need for your daily life! Sounds kind of scary to do it this way; what if you forget something, how will you do without? Worst of all, you haven't even seen your apartment yet, so you are merely guessing at what you will be needing to fill it and make it a home.
Option 2 is to move into your new apartment with the bare essentials: a bed, toothbrush, and some food for the next few days. As you need things, you can simply go out and pick up what you need in small trips. Now moving in doesn't sound so scary, you get there, figure out what you need, and then go get it as you need it!
Most people view preparing for cruising as Option 1. They will fully load their vessel with everything they can possibly imagine needing. This will be very expensive and also wasteful. Buying everything up front is a tough bill to confront. Worse yet, if you buy something because you think you might need it and end up never using it, you technically just wasted all that money!
We started out with the mindset of Option 1, but as the departure date got closer, we slowly switched over to Option 2. Option 2 is a very doable option. As you cruise, you will discover things that you are missing. When these discoveries are made, you simply write them down in a list. The list will grow as you sail along until you hit a port where you can make all of these purchases. The list becomes very handy when shopping because it avoids impulse buying. If it is not on the list, you don't buy it! You will also find that as you sail along, you will scratch things off the list before you have the opportunity to purchase them because you will realize that you can get by without buying.
All of these viewpoints will help you get cruising sooner and cheaper!
The most important item not to pack when you first cast off is food. I have made the mistake several times of buying a whole lot of food right before we cast off because we will need it! The truth is, people eat everywhere, so you will never be far from a grocery store. All the fresh food I bought will spoil, and the canned foods will last us months after we return from the trip.
The right way to pack food is to untie your docklines and head out. Don't stock up on anything, simply get going! As you sail along, you can stop at any port and pick up the food that you need once you are already cruising.
An important point to make though is that you should never cast off and instantly go on a long distance voyage. It is best to slop around the coast for a bit, getting you acquainted with what you like to cook and eat while cruising. Then you can make a list of what you want for the upcoming long leg in your voyage and pack accordingly.
Maddie and I are setting off for a very long voyage in a few days, and we have merely stopped preparing the boat in preparation for the voyage. We will unite the lines and shove off on our adventure. We plan to spend 3 months cruising the Chesapeake Bay, which is riddled with towns along the water to re-provision as we go until we do our first long leg to Bermuda.