Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Frequently asked questions

I am also sending this as an entry on the blog. Therefore, I have deleted you name and email address. Happy to answer any other question you might have.

Hello Mr. Hill

I have been reading your blog about sailing on Harmony, and it is very interesting. As my wife and I are hoping to do some serious cruising, I wonder if you would mind giving me your opinion on a couple of things.

First, is a 49 foot boat too large for two people to handle comfortably? If you or your wife had to handle the boat, reef the main, etc, could either one of you handle the boat by yourself? If you were buying a boat again, would you buy the same size?

It depends on who the people are. I have several friends with boats in the 50s who do fine by themselves. You have to be comfortable doing overnights. My wife has been sailing only a short time while I started at 11 years old. One of our concerns is that she is not really able to handle it by herself ( I have single handed a 40 foot boat from Tortola to the Bahamas) but that is not due to its size. In many ways a larger boat is actually easier to handle, especially in heavy weather. In order to make her feel more comfortable, we are very safety conscious. We wear safety harneses in any kind of bad weather and always at night especially if one of us has to go forward. No one goes forward unless someone else is at the helm. We tend to travel in the company of other boats and pay close attention to the weather reports. Remember that the most dangerous thing in sailing is having to keep to a schedule! We practice such activities as heaving to under different conditions.

Also check out the entry about my favorite tool on the blog. It makes things much easier.

On average how many days per month did you stay in marinas, and was it primarily because there was not a safe place to anchor, or because you wanted the conveniences of a marina?

As little as possible. It certainly is convienent at a marina and, in the Bahamas, not that expensive (e.g., about $450 per month plus electricity and water 'off season'...before March when the fishing season starts). Many places also have moorings for about $15 per night. Compare that to over $50 in our cruising area...The North East. When we stayed at marinas in the blog, it was mainly for repairs. The one exception was in Marsh Harbour because I wanted to leave the boat somewhere safe while I went home for Thanksgiving. Marinas that are mainly for cruisers also are very social places where there is usually a party somewhere and the parties usually break up about 9PM. Cruisers tend to be up with the sun.

How much cruising had you done before you purchased your cat, and do you wish you had cruised more before you made the investment?

Before the cat we raced one designs, got a 25 foot day sailor then a Pearson 40 used for club races and short cruises...two or three weeks. My wife really did not like that boat and wanted something with more space and less heeling. If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy! We looked for over two years and this boat fit our needs. I also did the Carribean 1500 (a ralley from Hampton, VA to the British Virgin Islands) seven times. The first time on a Pearson 424 to get ocean experience. Then I took my my Pearson 40 and spent 7 months (six as a single handler) on her in the Caribbean. I loved it so much that I then crewed for other people. My wife calls this 'Big Boy Camp' and she would fly down to meet us. The last time was on a cat to see how she performed on the ocean. That convinced me. If you feel inexperienced, I strongly suggest you crew on an ocean ralley. see:

I crewed for one couple on two ralleys. They had retired early, bought their first boat and moved aboard. They had little experience but were smart enough to get help and there are always people looking for a crewing position. My strong advice is, if you want to try it, do it NOW. Don't be like me and wait for a heart attack before deciding. Life is too short.

If you were going to go cruising again, and did not have a boat, what advise would you offer on brands, size, equipment etc?

It really depends on what you want to do with it. I like long distance cruising so I would advise you get as big a boat as you think you can handle with a mast under 65 feet high off the water so that you can do the Intracoastal Waterway. I would go for a heavy monohull or a cat because my wife would be more comfortable. For equipment I value spending the extra money on a good gps/navigation system, Also, a really good dinghy and motor as you will be surprised how often you will use it. I would avoid boats that have been chartered and even those brands (I saw one that had been holed and it was 1/4 inch thick including the rib. Fine for coastal but not for me on the ocean).

You have three variables: speed, safety and price. Pick any two. It depends on your values. The people I know who have bought new boats have just as much trouble and repairs as those who bought used ones. There will be a time when you need to know something about a fixing the engine and being able to reach all the parts is important. It may sound silly but good knee pads are essential. I tend to have lots of spares on board as well as extra safety equipment (e.g., solas flares and lots of them...extra belts, filters, etc.)

Get a good surveyer..NOT one recommended by the broker! Also have a mechanic test the engine!

If possible, charter the boat for a week and see how you like it. Go on the internet and see what other cruisers are doing and the troubles they have had. Check out their links.

Thank you for writing the blog, it was interesting reading.