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By Dave and Jaja Martin


New Cruiser Mistakes

Yelling. If you are having difficulties anchoring, picking up a mooring, coming along side, or changing a sail, and you are back there on the helm yelling at your partner, consider these perspectives: A) You are advertising that you're perfect--beyond reproach. You are trying to make it clear that it's your partner's fault there's a problem and that they're a jerk, not you. B) Everyone within ear shot is feeling sorry for your partner and thinks you are the biggest jerk in the world for yelling.

It's natural to get angry with yourself when things go wrong, because most shipboard blunders are avoidable if you are on the ball. You're mad 'cause you know better. Another reason you might get mad is you don't feel as is you are in control. Trying to shift the burden-of-blame by yelling at your partner is a sure indication you were in la-la land. Get a grip.

(Note: if it really is your partner's fault something stupid happens, do everything in your power to make it seem as if it was your fault. This is called "scoring points.")

For centuries women have complained that they are stuck with all the chores while the man sits at the helm sipping a toddy and giving orders. While it's true that some men are power-hungry morons who want all the glory, it's difficult for us guys relinquish power to someone who we think doesn't seem to understand, or care, about the mechanics of the boat. We are worried about leaving the helm and going below for fear that there might be a serious problem that needs immediate attention--such as a right of way situation, or a buoyage decision.

Sometimes the best way for a woman to get experience is to sail or race with an all women crew. Either that, or take the boat out with her friends and leave the guy on the dock for the afternoon. Being afraid of making mistakes and feeling judged by men can dampen the learning curve. Learn about genoa leads, halyard tension, tuning the rig, buoyage, variation, oil pressure, engine rpm's, and charting. Whatever. Next time you're out with Captain Bligh illustrate by action that you understand what is going on. You'll be respected.

Every day is not a vacation. Thinking that every day on the boat is going to be a vacation is the inherent lure of the cruising lifestyle. It's the carrot that leads us into the depths of preparation and debt. We see ourselves in a travel brochure, living the high life without a care in the world.

While it's true that just about anything is better than the 9 to 5 grind, if cruising is going to be your chosen lifestyle, get ready for life to complicate it. There is no escaping dentists, taxes, repairs, illness, childbirth, funerals, weddings, divorce, and laundromats. On DRIVER we designate certain days or entire weeks in which we plan to do nothing except have fun. Otherwise, it sometimes seems as if we are always doing chores: organizing repairs, doing laundry, or going grocery shopping.

Buying an anchor that is too small. I'm not sure why cruisers are afraid of buying a wonking big anchor. The old adage "A pound rich and a penny poor" applies here. If the worry is that a big anchor costs too much, figure out how much your boat is worth and then figure the ratio between an adequate anchor and a wonking big anchor. The result is probably less than a tankful or two of diesel fuel.

If weight on the bow is a concern try to follow our reasoning: For our 33-foot steel sloop DRIVER an adequate anchor is a 33 pound Bruce. But we chose to buy a wonking big 44-pound Bruce. That's a difference of 11 pounds. With 210 feet of chain in the chain locker, that 11-pound difference is approximately equal to 8 feet of chain. Eleven pounds? No biggie.

When we cruise in remote areas and use our 70-pound Luke anchor, the difference between it and the Bruce is 26 pounds. DRIVER weighs 18,000 pounds. What's an extra 26 pounds on the bow for a ton of security?

Going gadget crazy. Buying presents for the boat is fun. It stimulates the brain into thinking that every day really is a vacation. But everything eventually breaks or needs maintenance. Gadgets not only clutter a boat they create more work, and often they demand more battery power. So, I guess if you buy a lot of "time saving" devices, it will leave you with more time to fix the broken stuff.

Buying too big a boat.The benchmark for what constitutes ideal boat length has risen over the years. It used to be that a 35-footer was a palace. Then it was 40, 50, 60, and now 70 feet seems like a good thing. Either folks have more money than they used to, or the folks who have always had it have discovered boating as an outlet.

Whichever the scenario, the improvement of gear has allowed smaller crews to handle these bigger boats. In addition, going fast on passage is a good prerogative, and having enough room below to seat 20 for dinner would definitely be fun.

But throwing money at the cruising lifestyle and buying the biggest boat in the fleet is missing the point of what cruising can afford you. My perspective is: where do I want to cruise and how much flexibility do I want to have when I get there? When you get away from cities it can be rather tricky to find parking places for 60-plus-foot boats. In many places you will be restricted to the commercial side of harbors where it is loud and often rough. Smaller boats will fit in the inner harbors where it is quaint, and where you will meet normal people. Commercial docks tend to attract bums and tourists.

A 60-plus-foot boat takes up a lot of swinging room, and many cozy coves are just too small to accommodate. A big boat also has a tall mast and may not make it under bridges--on the other side of which might lay a good anchorage, or a short cut.

Even if money was no issue, Jaja and I would not own a boat over 40 feet. The perks of space and speed would not be enough to compensate for missing out on the quiet spots accessible only to smaller boats.

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