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Further reading:

Overnighting on your boat

The Overnight Guest

Keeping a Watch Schedule


Dreaming of overnighting on your boat?
Dream no more!
Do it now.

Let us help you transition from day sailor to coastal cruiser.

Let us start out by stating that we are passionate about cruising. Our cruising territory was mainly Long Island Sound. We cruised virtually every weekend from April through November. We tried to get onboard by Friday night so we could leave early the next morning and have a full day on the water, before returning to our home port Sunday afternoon. At the time, we put on about 1500 miles a season or. It may not sound like a lot, but it is if you consider a maximum speed of about seven knots and an average closer to four. Since then we have crossed the Atlantic three times and have visited countless harbours and anchorages in many countries.

For the day sailors and budding cruisers out there, we thought it might be useful to initiate a series of seamanship pieces that focus specifically on the transition from day sailing to overnighting. It seems there are resources to get someone from zero knowledge to worldwide cruising speed in seven days or less (but we wouldn't advocate attempting that). Similarly, there are many great "learn to sail" texts and multitudinous tomes for those shoving off on long-distance adventures. What we had a hard time finding was a practical volume that's not overly technical, that starts with the premise that you know how to sail, and that address the practical questions of what you need to know to expand your horizons from day sailing to coastal cruising. So we thought we could put our experience to use in sharing what we learned along the way.

The overnight is the easy part - at least we think so. It is also a great and important first step to cruising. You just sail off like you usually do for a day sail, only you bring some extra clothes, provisions and refreshments, and then drop your hook in some amazingly beautiful place at the end of the day. That doesn't sound so tough, does it? It really isn't if you have a mentor who can show you the tricks that make it easy. Consider us that person. So start your research and we'll help with the rest. Our series of reports and resources will help you experience the joys of coastal cruising at its best. We'll cover the destinations from the cruisers' perspective, not from a landlubbers reports. We'll provide insights into practical seamanship skills. We'll report on advances in equipment and techniques.

Where to begin

When selecting a destination for an overnight cruise, we always seek a weather forecast first. It helps us pick a destination with a safe anchorage, it helps ensure that we won't be bashing upwind in heavy seas, and we always think about how long it will take us to get back to our home mooring should the weather turn against us the next morning. Although forecasts have become remarkably accurate, they’re not completely foolproof. Then we consider what type of activity we would like (shore leave, peaceful gunkhole, lively anchorage?). And though it sounds very conservative, we calculate the distance we can comfortably cover in 3-4 hours under power. Taking under consideration the tide and the fact that we may not want to go at full throttle for an extended period, we will normally pick a destination no more than 15-25 miles from home, preferably downwind in heavy weather and upwind in light breeze or hot conditions (to cool us off).

Dropping the anchor and shutting down the diesel is always cause for celebration. You have completed a journey, and along the way you may have survived an ordeal or you may just have had a stupendously wonderful time; either way you look at it, it is an uplifting experience. Chances are also that you are in a beautiful place that seems close to paradise. We'll cover anchoring considerations elsewhere. (see Anchoring basics).

Having successfully fastened our boat to the seabed, our first order of business is usually to sit back and enjoy the almost guaranteed beautiful sunset. A nice cool drink, some appetizers, sit back and relax. Watch the fish boiling and shimmering in huge schools just beneath the surface, watch the birds come down and scoop them out, watch the bigger birds knock into the small birds until they drop their prey, and watch the big bullies pick their nice little fish out of the air mid flight without getting their feet wet. Now, that’s entertainment.

After that, comes a gourmet dinner from the galley. The advantage of sailing over a 2- or 3-day weekend is that you can bring fresh produce without having to worry about spoilage. And if you view your galley as a smaller, but fully functional kitchen, there’s no end to the delectable fare that can be produced. We also have the alternative B-B-Q grill on deck, which makes cooking on a hot summer evening rather pleasant. Our boat is, after all, our vacation home.

After dinner, we either stay on deck watching the stars and talking about our dreams, or go below and pull out some magazines, or a good book. And we thank the Lord for another remarkable day in paradise. (Until the wind kicks up, of course. But that’s another story.)

So, enjoy! After the sun goes down, if the weather is calm, try bringing some candles out into the cockpit and settle in to a nice quiet evening full of stories. And don’t forget the hammock for those really warm nights when swinging above deck and watching the stars takes you to magical places far, far way. We don’t have a TV or VCR, in fact when we set out long term cruising we did install a flat screen TV. We even bought nearly 200 DVDs. In almost two years cruising, we watched precisely one movie. Needless to say, the TV is now history, and we keep the DVDs at home.

We do have a radio and cell/mobile phones so we can stay somewhat connected, but we find that a day away from the news media has a profound effect on our sense of calm. We feel that we gain far more than we miss. The occasional CD provides entertainment a- plenty, though most of the time, "silence is golden".

When was the last time you looked up at the night sky and watched for shooting stars? When was the last time you slept like you did in the cradle? So, what’s keeping you from catching up again? It’s waiting for you all along the coast.

And don't forget about Shore Leave

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