Tips for a Safe Voyage from Cruising Compass and Others
“The first mate he got drunk
And broke in the Cap’n’s trunk
The constable had to come and take him away…
…I want to go home”
— “Pet Sounds,” The Beach Boys
Sailing south for the winter? Whether this trip is your first winter migration or you’re an old salty dawg at making the southern passage, below are some good tips from the experts at making the voyage safe and fun — and avoid any Sloop John B. moments and that feeling of “I want to go home.”
1) Is your vessel big enough?
Is your sailboat or powerboat big enough for a winter crossing to the southern area of your choice? Capt. Jack Morton of the Maryland School of Sailing writes for BWsailing.com’s blog, Cruising Compass, that at minimum a 30-foot vessel is ideal for most. Of course, there are always exceptions, but he writes most people will feel safe and comfortable on at least a 30-foot boat if not larger. If your vessel is a sailboat, make sure it has sails for a variety of wind conditions, either for while underway or for while heaving to.
A good point raised in forums, too: Make sure your boat has a heater. If staying within a temperate/mild climate but an area that still has a ‘winter’ season, you’ll need a heater to keep the boat warm and comfortable — especially while it’s surrounded by colder, if not cold, water.
2) Filters and fuel are of the utmost importance.
“The engine is critical and should have adequate spare parts to enable you to be self-sufficient for the most common problems like impellers or belts.” — Capt. Jack Morton, for BWsailing.com’s blog, Cruising Compass
We couldn’t have written this sentiment better ourselves. Make sure you engine is flushed and clean. That means removing any gunk or buildup that may have collected over the warmer months and that can gum up your engine potentially. Replace the fuel filter. Do a full systems check and tune-up. You won’t want to waste time waiting for a tow or worse a rescue.
Bring some essential spare parts. Here’re some basic spare items to be sure to bring. They may seem like common sense, but it’s best to have a checklist:
- an anchor
- Spare fuel filter
- A spare impeller or two for each pump on board
For a complete list, see “Essential Spare Parts to Keep On Your Boat,” by Mike Smith for Power & MotorYacht.
3) How much crew and which crew members do I need?
How many crew members you can take depends on how many will fit in your rig. Be aware that sea-faring vessels get knocked about much more than coastal cruisers. So, make sure all of your crew berths will keep them snug in their perches, not ending up on the cabin floor.
As to whom you should bring? Bring the best team you have that works and gels together the best. With space at a premium, on a longer journey for some, privacy and personal space will be out the porthole. So whomever you choose for your team, they’ll have to be able to work as a team at all times.
4) When’s the best time to go?
Fall is the obvious choice, but who wants to makeway during hurricane season? This razor’s edge leaves everyone planning this trip with the difficult question of when to leave. September whether in many places is ideal probably, except for the hurricanes. But, waiting ’til hurricane season is over completely runs the risk of running into freezing winter conditions in many places.
5) Plan for weather, adequate time, and then some.
All of the blogs and forums we’ve read here at Globe Marine stress the importance that you’re going to run in to weather and probably nasty weather — be it hurricanes or nor’easters. So, plan a couple extra days into your travel timeline, just in case. Even leaving from a more southern port, like Florida, to head even further South, you’re going to run into some crazy weather possibly out there on the open ocean. It’s unavoidable, especially in winter, so be prepared for it.
This last point really hammers home point #2. You don’t want to get stuck out on the open ocean without an extra part, like an impeller. To find the right Globe Marine impeller for your boat, just click the red button below and use our handy cross reference to find the perfect fit.