Planning a great sailing voyage is hard work. And it’s almost all new to us. Budgeting and planning, refitting and kitting our boat, safety aspects, charts, cruising guides, navigation electronics and programs, weather, tides, insurance, permits and qualifications, vaccinations, prescriptions, cruising routes, interesting places to see along the way… Not to mention the mental preparation! It’s really hard to imagine what it will be like to give up a permanent home on solid ground and move your whole life onto a floating home on the water. What will it be like to swap your safe, familiar everyday life for an uncertain future, your regular income for living off savings or odd jobs – and your monotone, wearisome life for complete freedom!
Are you having a midlife crisis or are you just plain nuts?
Our friends and acquaintances seem really interested in our plans after the trip. We have no idea! How could we, when we don’t even know when this mystical after the trip will happen? Two years from now, three years, ten years – or never? We’ll see. That’s the best answer we are able to give. But I understand the need to know – I do indeed. I’m a very security oriented person myself, I need to know beforehand, I need to make plans, and I don’t like sudden, unexpected changes. In a normal life you get to be wild and free for a week, maybe a month at a time, then it’s back on your easy, familiar routine. No wonder why many people feel like we’ve lost it and turned into reckless lunatics! If it’s any consolation, we’re not jumping fearlessly into the unknown – on the contrary, we have many, many fears! Besides, we both have made big, life changing decisions before, so it’s not entirely new to us.
So what are your plans really, I mean really?
Where are we headed? Where then? Are we going to sail around the world or what? Well, we don’t really know that either. We want to see and experience all kinds of things – new places, landscapes, history, nature, warm water and sunshine. While some long distance cruisers might argue that you need to have a plan and you need to stick to it, we are in the opposite camp. This will not be about building miles or collecting countries or oceans. But we don’t want to end up as boat bums on some anchorage either and abandon the dream of sailing the world. Maybe the right way for us is to have one small goal at a time, and then make new plans according to what interests and inspires us.
The first leg of our journey will take us to the Mediterranean. Of course we will stop in many places on our way there, but we want to cross the Bay of Biscay before the autumn storms kick in. As winter comes, we will try to find a nice place to stay for a while, until the heavy winds and rains have passed. Maybe we’ll get a chance to do some land travel as well, and see beautiful old towns, works of art and culture, steep mountains and rolling hills of olive trees. Maybe I have a secret wish of finding my way back to the creativity and enthusiasm I once knew, and give my imagination, my eyes and hands a freedom to do what they want – who knows what might come out of it. Some people find time for creativity in the little nooks and crannies of a busy working life, but sadly I do not.
I wish I could sail into the sunset like that, without a care in the world!
Planning the journey is mostly very tangible and technical, though – and lots of paperwork! Equipping the boat is no easy task, it doesn’t just happen by walking into a marine store, collecting a lot of stuff and getting rid of a lot of money. You have to find out so many things about the stuff, like how to install it, how much power it needs or produces – and what kind of power at that? Is it of decent quality and suited for our purpose, is it compatible with the other systems onboard, and how all of this can be accomplished? Oh, and do I need a permit or qualifications to install or use it?
When you’re alone at sea, it’s basically up to you to take care of yourself. So our most important preparations are to do with safety. We have to have a plan of what to do in different situations, learn the skills and learn to use all the equipment before the going gets rough. Help will not find its way to us in minutes, like it does on land, so we both have to know how to operate the boat and sail it safely to a harbour if something should happen to either one of us. We all know that anything can happen at any time, but when you’re living on land the thought seldom crosses your mind – even if car traffic is far more dangerous than boating, and how many accidents happen at home! But things become really concrete somehow, when you have to choose yourself a life raft, an emergency beacon, harness and tether or a storm anchor.
I have written before about the sailing and navigation courses I’ve taken. I’m just a person who likes to take courses, I guess. Before we bought our first sailboat I took a rescue course for boaters. It was the best thing ever, I cannot recommend enough. My husband is, like I have told you before, a former crew member of a SAR vessel so it’s not new to him, but for me the very life-like course was enough to convince me I never, ever want to fall overboard! Stay on the boat, whatever it takes!
Then I did a course on first aid. And then, radio – both the VHF and SSB kind that we have onboard. They have a lot to do with safety as well, not just for the distress call, but to get weather data – a very important tool for planning a safe passage.
Maybe you should take some sort of course for married couples as well?
We’ll have plenty of chances to hone our practical skills before it’s time to launch the boat. We plan to install new refrigeration units, solar panels and some new batteries, make some changes and additions to the electrical system, electronics, and perhaps in the field of plumbing and holding tanks as well – of the latter we have a lot of experience from last year, as we built a new waste management system for our little boat. Sanding, varnishing, cushions and curtains will have to wait until the idle days in some picturesque anchorage.
We’re actually really proud of you!
It’s about time to get out charts, dividers and tide tables. We’ve never navigated in tidal waters, and although we have done the courses, it’s been more than a decade. You don’t need a lot of navigating skills on nice day sails in the archipelago, so we are a little rusty! The day of departure feels like a long way away, but really, it isn’t! It’s just hard to see the spring coming with the kind of Siberian cold we’ve been having, and with the thick ice stretching for miles from the shore where our boat currently stands. But we’ll have our fair share of rush and hurry, before setting sail!
The quotes are loosely translated comments we’ve heard from people around us, uncensored and anonymous!
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