In 2004 I departed King Harbor, Redondo Beach, California on a voyage and adventure that was to last five months. I had no particular destination in mind, and was able to indulge my desire to travel at a leisurely pace - with no concern for schedules.
I sailed aboard my home - a 1971 32 ft. Islander, built by Wayfarer Yachts, in Costa Mesa, California. She as sloop rigged, with a fin keel, skeg-hung rudder, and a 16 hp. diesel to push her through the water. She was not a fast boat (or at least I never learned to sail her properly to show her true stride) - but I was sure of her - and she kept me safe in some sketchy conditions. She was my version of pre-school...a training ground for exploring what worked for me,and what didn't.
I had in my mind the idea of beginning a new chapter in my life of working 6 months, and sailing for 6 months.
Here's what I learned:
- I love cruising
- There are many types of people that go cruising, but the majority I found belong to a common tribe that is easily identtifiable by their common characteristics: independent, self-reliant, friendly, helpful, outgoing.
- I don't need big, new, fancy, shiny. I'm perfectly happy with older, simpler, efficient, sturdy, safe.
- Speed is not a priority for me...if it was, I would fly there. I sail because there is something mystical in the weaving of wind, wave, man, boat. Looking up at the stars each night and beginning to get a feeling for how to steer by them bridges a connection with skills that have been all but lost - a connection to ancestors that surely were seafaring folk.
- Plenty of freshwater on board (or the ability to make it) is important
- A shower may be a luxury - but I want the option of being able to offer a real shower to guests on my next boat
- The first time you are caught in a narrow, busy shipping channel...at night...in heavy fog...is the last time you'll say: "I don't think I need a radar"
- Although the Garmin YachtBoy Shortwave Receiver I had on board did allow me to listen in on weather reports, I __really__ want a full SSB radio on my next boat.
- Having a backup to the electronic autopilot (mine was an older ST-3000) would have allowed me to have a bit more piece-of-mind at times.
- Having a Wind Vane (for self-steering) installed would have __really__ given me peace of mind. Hand steering from Los Angeles to Catalina Island to San Diego, motivated me to dig out my electrical tools and learn how to repair the wiring in the ST-3000's control unit.
- 16hp was very efficient at fuel consumption - but there was a moment in a gale at sea that I really wished I had at least a 50hp to help punch through those waves...
- A fiberglass dinghy, with the full sailing kit, will be my 1st choice - not an inflatable. And forget about rowing everywhere...buy an outboard. When you are traveling in the dinghy...especially at night - think about having the following on board: an anchor with 150 ft. of rode, flares, a flashlight, and a portable VHF radio. Ask yourself what would you do if your motor died, you dropped an oar overboard, the current started dragging you out of a bay...
My voyage completed, I returned to the Pacific Northwest to find work again...with a strong desire to restructure my life so that when I depart on my next voyage - I will be able to generate passive income in one or more ways to allow a longer voyage - and more freedom.