Preparations to go Cruising

If you are thinking of going cruising and want to begin preparing your yacht for the journey, the first and most important thing to do is to stop what you are doing and re-evaluate what you really need to bring with you.

First and foremost, you will need solid rigging and good sails. A sailboat sails, and your yacht needs to have this area covered with a sound setup. This means good upwind sails, good downwind sails, good heavy weather sails, and good light air sails.

The second thing you need is a solid steering system. Be it tiller or wheel, make sure that everything is up to snuff and familiarize yourself with your system to the point that you can maintain it and repair it yourself with the tools and materials you carry on board.

Lastly, you need clothes for your trip. The obvious clothes are things you like to wear on a daily basis that are comfortable. You also need some heavy weather clothes, such as a good set of foulies, and some cold weather clothes (because it does get cold in the tropics and you want to stay comfortable). 

Notice how in this list, there is nothing about food and provisions before you cast off. The reason is, when you are tied to shore, you will over-plan your provisions and bring way too much food along for the ride! This will weigh down your yacht and cause you to sail slower as you voyage.

You might think that all this food is necessary, but when you get going, you will find that you like to eat the local food instead of canned food. Yes, canned food keeps for years, but a grocery store is never further than a week away! 

Now, even if you plan to do an ocean crossing, don't buy your food before you leave, because you will overbuy. At the begging of your cruise, you will be coastal hopping as you get all the bugs out of the systems (a shakedown cruise) and this is when you will realize that you can get food everywhere you go.

When we lived aboard, we had 1 locker dedicated to canned food. When we decided to go cruising (which will involve a trans-atlantic) we decided to increase our canned food supply from 1 locker to 7 lockers! This added a ton of weight, literally, to our boat. Our designed waterline (DWL) is currently 4 inches underwater, letting us know that our heavy displacement boat is a "heavily loaded" heavy displacement boat. This has greatly reduced our performance to windward, which has made our voyage proceed a lot slower.

Now, if you are planning to head out and go far, fast, and therefore you will need all your canned foods before you go, give yourself a month of cruising coastally before you actually shoot far away. This will let you figure out how much food you really need to carry on board before you make the leap. 

You might also find that your plans change and you won't end up going across an ocean when you thought you would, meaning that all that added weight is not that necessary! We left in July 2017 with plans to cross the Atlantic during August or September. Due to a very active hurricane season, followed by a series of powerful gales, we ended up heading South towards the Bahamas to let the winter pass and plan to cross in May 2018. Now, 6 months after we left from Baltimore, Maryland, planning on being in the Azores by November 2017, we are sitting in Cape Fear, North Carolina (three states away) in January 2018. 

We have been cruising for 6 months and still have almost all our canned food that is weighing our boat down considerably, all because we bought the food before we untied the lines. In hindsight, we would have been better off to just head out. As we made our way down the Chesapeake Bay, we would have realized that the weather was not conducive to a winter ocean crossing of the North Atlantic, and would have put off buying all those canned foods. Then when we were getting near our departure date, we could have stocked up on the foods that we did need for the actual ocean crossing.

Now we know, and we won't buy a ton of food beforehand. We will go eating this canned food for the next several years and not go replenishing it as we go, to lighten the load and hopefully raise up our waterline once again!