Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Stop The Work and Just Go Cruising!

I was just reading a post in The Boat Galley about their plans for the first few months of owning a new boat and deciding when they are ready to cruise: We've done several trips between the US and the Bahamas and have developed a process that we follow for determining when we can leave. The first trip was pretty substantial: Tortola, BVI, to Florida and the first leg was a 500 nautical mile run from Tortola to Turks & Caicos. For this first trip, we spent many evenings planning the trip and deciding what needed to be done to LUX prior to departure. In our version of the above article, we took a trip to the BVIs to create a list of tasks for the big trip and to enjoy sailing LUX around the islands.

The decision process to leave is a method for addressing all of the things that prevent us from leaving. (Does that make sense? Once we have removed all the reasons to stay, we can leave.) Having a checklist is essential. There are simply too many things to track to rely on memory alone. (Check out the departure checklists by the Commuter Cruiser: Going Cruising and Leaving the Dock). Our checklist is oriented towards deciding whether we're ready to depart for an overnight trip. It is divided into sections that allow us to focus on particular areas of preparation:
Deck, Engine, Safety, Interior, Misc, Under Way.
For example, Safety includes things like check weather, install jacklines, PFD and harness for everyone, Ditch bag review, check horseshoe ring and light, MOB process review, chart selection, EPIRB mounted, liferaft review, night sailing procedure and rules review. Deck includes things to check like standing rigging, running rigging, sailbag, genoa, traveller, lube blocks and track, tramp rigging, running lights, anchor system, dinghy motor and fuel storage, boat hooks.

Do we leave when there are unfinished things on our TODO list? Sure, as long as they aren't critical to safety or important vessel functions. There are always things that need to be done on a boat. As long as the items don't compromise our safety, they can be delayed. We might have to compromise our comfort in some way, such as the time when we spent two days trying to get the refrigeration system working. We eventually got an extra cooler and more ice and went cruising, changing the menu to allow us to work from ice-cooled food supplies (i.e., no freezer). Another example was our problem with the port fuel tank. We started having problems with it on the leg from Turks & Caicos to Georgetown, Great Exuma and didn't resolve it until we were in Florida. Several of the shorter legs were begun with the knowledge that we had one reliable engine and one flaky engine. Staying somewhere wouldn't help us resolve the problem and we felt confident in our ability to manage the situation without compromising our safety. The weather was good, so we continued through the Bahamas and eventually made it to Florida where we were finally able to diagnose the problem. (The whole story is in at set of posts:

Back to the Tortola trip. Before we left, we accomplished all the major tasks on our checklist. It took us two additional days of work than we had planned. We needed to depart by 4pm to clear the islands in the daylight or we would wait to depart the next morning. The "must do" list was accomplished around noon. We reviewed the list and asked the question "Is there any reason why we should not depart?" We had four hours to review our preparations as a group (there were seven of us aboard). Everyone had time to carefully review what we had done and whether we were genuinely ready. No one could come up with a reason to not leave and we left about 4pm. We had a great trip to Turks & Caicos, with great weather, flying fish, porpoise, catching mahi-mahi, and viewing the stars at night.

When we go cruising, we make our checklists and divide the tasks into "must do" and "nice to do". The "must do" list is the gating factor on when we can leave. This way we're not stuck in a marina trying to finish a seemingly endless list of TODO items.

Happy cruising!

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