27 April 2009


We have been cruising the Bahamas again, this winter of 08-09, and as spring comes on, so have the winds, seemingly endless winds. We are hanging to a mooring at Exuma Park headquarters in the north Warderick Wells anchorage, enjoying the scenery and the social life among our fellow cruisers. Out came the Scrabble board and the Domino set, and so, some pleasant afternoons have been spent. So now on to some useful information, I hope, for you wannabes, and you newbies. I thought a "wish list" of important goodies you might not think of, would be nice

1. You must be able to get on and off your boat, from a dock, from a dinghy and from the water. It must be easy; you won't always be young and nimble, and your older guests, like parents, really need it easy. For a sailboat, without a rear swim platform, a folding ladder, set along the side decks as a break in the life lines, will work for dinghies and for swimming. Must have solid stanchions on either side. For motor boats or sailboats with swim platforms, all you need to add are some things to grab onto as you dismount from the dinghy, and cleats to tie to. Some sort of folding ladder for swimming should be permanently mounted. I wish I knew how to post pictures, but we have a folding ladder mounted between stanchions in the center of our swim platform, another set of single stanchions on either side of the platform to grab onto when you land the dinghy, and to allow us to tie the dinghy along the back of the boat, when we want to load and unload in heavier seas, and a pair of large handles attached to either side of the boat,at stand up height, to grab onto if we pull the dinghy alongside the platform. There is also a grab rail along the entire back of the boat about three and a half feet up from the platform, used to hold onto, and to attach our passerelle, for exiting the boat from the stern when the dock is high. We attached a small grab rail to the deck, for the passarelle, when we are backed up to a floating dock. You just can't have too many supports, for safety and comfort.

2. The dinghy, don't leave home without it! Get the biggest one you can lift aboard your boat, and get some way to easily lift it aboard. Best is to have what we had on the sail boat, very sturdy high davits, so easy, that we never thought of not lifting the dinghy every night. Yes, I said every night, keeps it clean and safe. We never went to bed without preparing the boat to take off at a moment's notice, and that meant not worrying about the dinghy. It was slung at an angle, and the plug pulled so it couldn't fill with water. Best is a hard bottom inflatable, and make sure neither the color, nor the protective strip will rub off on your hull. If you are getting up there in years, particularly the little woman, get an electric start, and even a center steering wheel, can become essential when old arthur-itis sets in.

It's the electronic age- as if you young ones didn't know, and take advantage of all of it. Latest on the scene, and a blessing like all the other gizmos have been, is AIS, which tells you who your larger neighbors are, and now for not too much extra, you can tell them who you are. Also, XM weather on your chart plotter, and FLIR, which turns night time into day on its monitor. I have a lot of issues with XM, too inaccurate, not far enough time in future, no time given for when the forecast is given, and too expensive but you get used to it, and don't want to give it up, in spite of these flaws. Cellular phones, unlocked, if you are going foreign, so you can buy SYM cards and use your phone in any country, are a must, and an antenna to extend the range, and a good antenna for wi-fi signals. Now there is a totally new technology radar on the scene, which is supposed to pick up even the smallest object close to your boat, and boy, do I want that one. Seeing the big boats isn't so hard, it's the small ones, or the floating refrigerator you want to know about. Guess we'll now need two radars. A chart plotter, and a back up, a really dependable autopilot, (we used to have a back up and thirty years ago it was essential-not now) depth sounders, weather instruments, single side band radio, and don't let anyone tell you it isn't important, VHF's, plural, even if the second one is a portable, so you can take it in the dinghy, if you don't have one mounted in your dinghy. Important point! Be sure you can hear your VHF in your cockpit; this is an essential safety factor.

I'll go into more later, it is just too late for any more.