Three years ago we were getting ready for a departure in the late summer just like most of you. We were running around trying to achieve the perfect boat. Something we will not even try to define, as we have learned by now that there is no perfect boat but only “A” boat that takes you places or not, in comfort or barely. You have heard multiple opinions and some strong suggestions by now during your BCA encounters.
Relax…you are only sailing to the next port/anchorage and more often than not, it’s not that far. Do you really need a $4000 chart plotter, a watermaker, a satellite phone or a windvane? Only you can answer those questions. And in reality, what you really need is lots of swim trunks and swim suits, some cheap but good waterproof footwear, and the right attitude to survive out here. Sorry, nearly forgot the zap straps and two rolls of monkey duct tape to be a true Canadian boat.
The first major obstacle for most of us is the budget – we can’t afford all the bells and whistles that we see at boat shows or in magazines. The best solution is to define what you and your entourage need to live with or without, then stick to it. Any last minute flip flop will cost you dearly and will not be installed and tested properly before departure – in our mind, it is a recipe for disaster. You really need to know all your systems onboard and have the tools to repair them. The best gimmick that is not running doesn’t help, does it? On that note, a washing machine and a freezer were for us basic needs, so we are not proponents of minimalist cruising. Ice cream any one? A sure winner in any remote anchorage…
Secondly, keep in mind that your chances to be in warm weather increase drastically once you take the big left turn at Neah Bay. And yes, it is true that some parts of the world bask in above 20 Celsius all year long, so adapt your choice to this fact – a water heater is not an essential but a sun shade in the cockpit is, a powerful alternator is nice but more solar panel is a delight – truly we could go on and on like this but again, only you can make those choices. Read blogs with a somewhat similar state of mind or style of cruising you would like to achieve and ask questions to crews who are doing it in the region you wish to visit with similar lifestyles. Actually that fan above my head feels good as I am writing this in 35 degree Vaitahu (Marquesas), in April but was only a decoration in our scorching summer in Vancouver.
This brings me to a third point – define where you are going and time frame. The needs for Mexico are a lot different than the ones for visiting Antarctica. A two-year tour requires less backup than an indefinite wandering. We are not talking about the boat itself but the equipment, anything can cross ocean – you would be surprised what we anchored next to in French Polynesia. The idea of the perfect boat for a PNW sailor is very different than a French one. But again, you are not going to stay where you are, so adapt your needs to your new environment and way of life. We shouldn’t be where we are, if we had listened to some people, imagine that. We are sailing a production catamaran made of plastic – ludicrous!
Finally, this idea of yours to do your last improvement or install on route is indeed possible but not always easy! The availability and cost are not the same as those you find back at your home port with the ease of internet research. San Diego is just down the road, but they know you are coming and there won’t be any special deal for you. You are only a transient boat like hundreds every year at the same season, pick your number and stand in line, the true professionals are booked months in advance so you are left with the opportunist.
So, for the ones going down the coast – relax, it’s not that hard. If you take your time and don’t run against the weather, you will be fine. The only thing you need to travel with is knowledge, those wonderful week-ends locked up in the musky basement of the Scottish Cultural Centre will pay off rather quickly. Yes, your outboard is not going to start on the first pull, an electrical system will run havoc but not to worry, you will be able to troubleshoot it in no time. Because you know your boat better than your car engine or your last condo plumbing system – well let’s hope so.
Mexico is a wonderful place to visit – lively people, amazing scenery, and wonderful food. You will be surrounded by lots of cruisers with the same problems and they know how or where to fix it. Also the Mexicans are not used to exchanging every broken part, instead they fix them on the spot in minutes more often than not. And never forget that Mr. Google is your best friend for that major problem you have. Every time we ask for a specific situation we have on a system, it has been a problem for somebody else already. Don’t sweat it, you are not alone.
Your partner wants to have a hair dryer onboard not a problem, make sure you have a generator that can cope. You want cold beverages, well better isolate that cold box of yours. Those are the questions and decisions that need to be made in good harmony 1-2 years before departure – they will dictate success more than anything else.
So relax, keep the coast to your left, and all will be good. Yes, it’s that easy and you could be sleeping in your bed at anchor or at the dock each night if you choose to all the way down.
As for cruising Mexico, we spent two winters in the mainland and one summer in the Sea of Cortez. A delight for the senses, lots to discover in any configuration you choose. Marina or anchored, surrounded or not. You choose, nobody else will. But those decisions you make now will impact your comfort in the long run, so don’t fool yourself – be true to your spirit.
We left in 2012, travelled all the way to Ecuador and now are in French Polynesia for 2-3 years. Our trusted sailboat is a Lagoon 380 with two teenagers on board (We like challenge obviously – there is only one with us now). Our blog is www.svletitgo.com – don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. If you wish for us to write something about a specific subject – tell us, we are more than happy to give back to such a dedicated group.