Frank's Blog - Yes, Finally
What I Would Not Have Done - 30 March, 2016
Occasionally, you get asked, while cruising, what you would have done differently or what you wish you had known before leaving. We did a lot of
research about what we needed while we were getting ready (and asked those questions of others). To me, the problem is not what we wish we
had known, but what we wish we had not believed.
You see, we believed that, when we left, we were going to the Caribbean and that we would be in exotic and distant places for a few years before
we returned to the US. We made several decisions based on that plan. However, that is not what happened and, in retrospect, it was a bad plan
to begin with. If we had done a better job of planning, we would not have several expensive things on board now and we might be in a slightly
better position, funds-wise (although I doubt it).
As I said, we believed that we were going to "sail away." We believed this despite the facts that Suzanne had another cancer diagnosis a year or
so before we got underway. We knew that she was going to need follow-up care for at least five years, but we blissfully ignored that fact.
We also ignored the fact that, despite having owned the boat for more than eight years, we had only done a few trips that lasted longer than a
day. Suzanne has a serious back injury that, usually, she manages. Part of her management is being able to move around and not remain in one
position for more than an hour or so. Another part of her management is that she needs to be able to lie down comfortably when the pain gets
excessive. Both of these require the boat to be fairly stable. Suzanne can tolerate boat movement for a day, sometimes two days. More than that
and she needs to be heavily medicated.
After we actually got underway, we found that we were, by necessity, restricted to the East Coast of the United States. We also discovered that we
did not have nearly enough money put aside for full-time, no-strings cruising. So, I have to work at least part of the year. We still have some major
bills that we had planned to pay off before we departed. They did not get paid off, because we decided to leave earlier than our original plan (see
the cancer scare, noted above).
We do not regret any of our traveling decisions. We have had two really good years together and I spend almost every day with my best friend
and the love of my life. We aren't doing it in the tropics, but we are together and that is worth more to me than anything else.
Now, having said all of that, there are several pieces of gear that I would not have purchased if I had thought all of this through logically.
The first piece is the four person Viking life raft we have. We paid more than $2,000 for this thing and it sits up in the v-berth most of the time.
When we were getting ready to go "off-shore" before our attempt at the ARC Caribbean 1500, it sat in the main saloon, under the table, where it
was totally underfoot. I stored it for a while in the lazarette, wrapped in triple plastic bags to make sure it didn't get wet. It is an excellent piece of
gear - but thoroughly useless to us.
The thing about life rafts is that most people don't need them, permanently. Because of that, there are companies that can rent you a life raft, if
you ever need it. In fact, we have even offered to lend our life raft to another cruiser, because he needed one and we didn't (it ended up that he
didn't need it either, so the thing never left the boat). I plan to sell the thing, but now it needs a recertification, which is another expense.
The second piece of gear that I wish I had not purchased is the Spot satellite phone. Again, this is a piece of gear that you can rent if you really
need it. But I got a "great deal" on the thing - it was "free" if I signed up for a one year service. My free phone eventually ended up costing me
almost $2,400 and I have only used it once, when I fell into the water out of my dinghy in Cocoa, FL, and destroyed my cell phone. For two days,
until I could get a new cell phone, I carried the sat phone with me. It was bulky, I couldn't make calls unless I stood in a parking lot away from all
other structures and I couldn't leave it on to receive calls because the battery died in about two hours.
The next thing I would not have bought may be a stretch. I might have gotten in any way - but I really don't think I need it. It is the Emergency
Position Indicating Radio Beacon. Again, you can rent one of these if you really need it for a short period of time. However, I don't think I have
ever been totally out of radio range by VHF, even for those times we have gone offshore. Even if we were out of VHF radio range, we have a
SPOT tracking device that has an SOS function and would probably work just as well. It wouldn't provide all of the bells and whistles that the EPIRB
would, but it would do the job. The Spot, by the way, is a good deal. It allows us to keep people informed of where we are while on the move,
without a lot of effort on our part. For some reason, that's a good thing.
I am sure there are some other things that might not have made the cut for one reason or another. For example, I have a video boroscope for
looking into tight corners and behind bulkheads. However, every time I try to use it, it actually ends up frustrating more than it provides
information. I suspect that if I used it more, the world it is trying to present to me would make more sense, but as it is, it is more of a toy than it is a
tool. Suzanne has a really good pressure cooker and, for the few times she has used it, it works great. But it seldom comes out because using the
stove, the crock pot and the microwave are much more useful, and we have the power to use them most of the time.
Suzanne says that her biggest mistake was getting rid of her stainless steel cookware and replacing it with titanium. We had been told, of course,
that "you want good cookware. Don't try to go cheap." Of course, no one ever tells you what "cheap" is and we had heard horror stories about
how aluminum alloys might fall apart in the marine environment. So, one year at the boat show, we replaced our stainless with titanium. Suzanne
gave away her stainless gear to a land-based friend who was trying to set up her own household after a break-up. Now, after two years, she kicks
herself periodically as the coating flakes off of the pans. The pans are replaceable, but you have to ship them to the manufacturer in Germany.
Similarly, we have a genuine Australian barbecue, powered by little green propane bottles. We paid extra for a rotisserie unit and, again, got a
"great deal" because it was the salesman's demo unit. But in the three years it has been hanging off the stern, I don't think I have used it a
half-dozen times. In fact, we used it more when we living in the house in Urbanna then we have on the boat. The idea was that we would not want
to heat up the boat grilling. However, it really hasn't been much of a problem and usually, it is cooler in the boat then it is out on the stern.
Most of the stuff we bought, we actually use and I don't want to sound like we were totally delusional in our planning. We did, for instance, not buy
several pounds of "per-packaged survival food" that we had looked into, nor did we purchase a water maker - although we did discuss that one
repeatedly. We also did not continue to pay for the sat phone after the first year and we are definitely looking at selling off gear we don't use
(that's the old rule, isn't it - if you don't use it for a year, get rid of it).
But the best thing I can do - short of getting a time machine - is to tell you what I did wrong...so there it is...