Everyone in cruising talks about the steep learning curve involved when you first start. Dan and I can certainly attest to that and the stress that goes along with the uncertainty of moving your house and all your worldly possessions across an expanse of water. While we are definitely not what we would call seasoned, we have gotten into more of a rhythm after a few weeks of traveling thanks in part to some first-hand lessons we’d like to share:
- Take seasickness medicine as soon as you feel sick (some even say beforehand if you are prone to bad bouts). Trying to tough it out only makes you miserable, it doesn’t go away without dry land under your feet.
- Weather forecasts aren’t always right. This might seem like an obvious one, but there’s something about paying money for forecasts that makes it seem like they should be more accurate and more frustrating when they aren’t.
- Paper charts are worth the cost but not only for a back-up to electronics. Our Explorer charts of the Bahamas have been invaluable in planning our routes, something that is significantly harder to do on a chart-plotter or other small screen. It is also nice to have two different sources of chart information.
- If your charts and instruments (including your eyes) disagree, trust your instruments and proceed with caution. Charts aren’t always accurate and if the visibility is bad, it’s always better to err on the conservative side to avoid problems.
- Once you get used to the sounds and reactions of your boat, be wary of believing your gauges if they are telling you something that doesn’t seem to jive with how your boat is acting. We lost significant time on our trip to Nassau because an electrical short was telling us that the engine was running hotter than it really was. If we would have tested the gauges sooner, we wouldn’t have lost those (very uncomfortable) hours.
- Calling a boat by name (thank you AIS!) usually produces a response from the captain. No name, forget about it.
- Moving around in an anchorage can produce dramatically different results in comfort levels. This is especially true if you can get tucked in slightly farther behind wave obstacles or get out of the typical line of traffic coming in.
- Fix the annoying noises your boat makes at anchor, it’s worth it! Rocking at night we can handle, creaking all night we can’t.
- Salt + inside of the boat = bad. Rinsing off with fresh water in the cockpit is worth the price of a gallon or two here and there.
- If glitter is the bane of the craft world, sand is the bane of the cruising world. Once it sticks, it is impossible to get rid of.
What lessons did you have to learn the hard way?