After we purchased Seabreeze, I started following all the blogs I could find. Sailing Britican, quickly became one of my favorites. So, you will understand how excited I was to have Kim Brown, from Sailing Britican, write a blog post on reducing anxiety before sailing away.
Kim, Simon and Sienna are at this time sailing somewhere in the Bahamas. To say I am jealous, is a real understatement. Enjoy Kim’s article and check out her blog.
An Introduction to Kim and Britican
Sailing Britican is a family blog about how they sold up and sailed away in 2013. Captain Simon is British. First Mate, Kim, is American and their daughter, Sienna (age 3 1/2 when leaving land) is both – thus the name Britican (BRITish & amerICAN).
Thus far, they’ve circumnavigated the Mediterranean, crossed the Atlantic, sailed up the Caribbean and along the east coast of America and Bermuda doing over 23,000 nautical miles. The family creates videos on YouTube and writes articles with the hopes of entertaining, educating, inspiring and connecting with other sailors.
As we enter our sixth year as sailboat owners and forth year as full time sailboat liveaboards, we’ve racked up quite a bit of experience. Recently, we celebrated 23,000 nautical miles of travelling.
Looking back, the most difficult part of transitioning from a land-based life to one on the sea was the overwhelming learning curve. The sheer amount of things needed to be mentally consumed causes once organized and stable people to feel totally out of control.
Although the cruisers life is well worth the effort there is an initial phase or ‘bump’ that has to be overcome. We’ve met many others, just starting out, that could have benefited from some beginner tips; perhaps advice that will allow the bump to be lower and shorter!
Tip One: Feeling Overwhelmed
Realize that there is, indeed, an initial phase and its totally normal to feel overwhelmed and out of control. No matter how much you prepare, you ultimately won’t truly be prepared. And that’s okay. I often equate this transition to being similar to having a baby. No one actually prepares you for what’s to come and it’s because it’s just not possible.
Many new boaters romanticize about sailing into a sunset, swimming off the back of the boat in calm tropical waters and enjoying the sights and sounds of foreign countries and islands.Those things are all a part of sailing and they are fantastic.
There are also the not-so-great parts. It’s not fun going through a storm. Nor is it enjoyable to be ‘stuck’ somewhere waiting on parts. It’s hard to wait, sometimes weeks, for a weather window. And it’s certainly not fun when you have to quickly learn how to be a plumber, mechanic, electrician, refrigeration expert, short-order cook… not to mention sailing in all sorts of conditions. Expect to feel overwhelmed and also expect this phase to eventually end. Knowing that it’s a part of the process will make the transition easier.
Importance of Becoming an Expert in Anchoring
Before leaving your homeport become an expert about anchoring and in particular your anchor and anchor equipment. For some reason, this topic often gets missed when preparing to head out into the sunset. Many boaters, us included, learned how to sail, how to maintain an engine and spent countless hours planning on what we’d take on the boat versus leave behind.
What we didn’t fully appreciate was the whole complex world of anchoring. Considering that it’s the anchor that will keeping you from heading into harms way, it’s imperative to be happy with what you’ve got and how to use it. I can’t tell you how many new cruisers I’ve met that are going through the ‘bump’ and realize too late that their anchor doesn’t hold, they don’t have enough rode (chain or rope), or they never learned the tried and tested techniques on preventing an anchor from dragging.
Living through the bump is one thing. Not being able to sleep due to the fact that you don’t have anchor faith is an added worry; one that can be avoided. (Resource: How To Anchor: A Checklist To Prevent Dragging)
Preparing For Water… In The Boat
Create a map of all your sailboat’s through-hull fittings in addition to tying an appropriately sized bung to each fitting using a piece of string. Put the map on the wall. Furthermore, make sure you have a system (e.g. checklist) of testing your automatic bilge every week and ensuring your high water alarms work.
We’ve had water flowing into our boat on a few occasions. It’s not something that anyone wants to talk about or even consider, however, this is not the kind of thing a new, or seasoned boater should ignore. Boats get holed, stopcocks fail and engine hoses burst. To ensure your ‘bump’ phase is less stressful, it will help you to have a plan on what to do if water enters the boat.
If and when water comes in, you’ll need to pull up floorboards and determine which direction it’s coming from and then head in that direction, pulling up more floorboards. If the engine is running we check that first, as it can be a blown hose. Failing that, we start looking at all the through hull fittings. Knowing where to look and having the means to stop it will provide you with an increased sense of control.
Make sure that you have snorkeling gear, a wetsuit and at least one oxygen tank and regulator (even it you’re not a diver). It is not uncommon for props to get fouled. We’ve had ours fouled five times. In some occasions the prop will still operate and in others it becomes completely inoperable. The first time our prop was fouled we didn’t even have a mask – it took my husband 45 minutes in a fast running freezing cold tide to get a 12’ fisherman’s net off the prop.
Aside from snorkeling gear we also have two small oxygen tanks that take up very little space. They only hold ten minutes of air but we use them often. The oxygen also helps when we have to inspect the hull and change anodes. Furthermore, we’ve used the tank to dive on our anchor to ensure it’s bedded in. It’s a small amount of equipment that provides a huge amount of help.
Take Spare Parts
Spend time considering what spare parts are necessary and then stock them on your boat. If you’re going to venture into places like the Caribbean or Pacific getting parts becomes a lengthy and costly process. The more you can take with you, the better. Of course you have to be realistic about cost and space.
Consider various scenarios with what you can and cannot live without. If you have two heads, perhaps it’s okay if one goes down. If you don’t have an ancillary hand pump from your fresh water tank, having an extra fresh water pump would be high on my list. Many boat components have service packs or spare part kits. Engines, generators, toilets, pumps and so forth all have service packs. Find out what you have (e.g. the make and model of your engine), search for a service pack and determine whether you need it or don’t.
Now the Good News
The liveaboard lifestyle can be the most amazing experience. It’s full of adventure, incredible sights and many new friends. We’ve been going for several years now and I can’t foresee us stopping anytime soon. It truly is a dream world, but the initial breakthrough from living on land to living on the sea can be bumpy. Hopefully some of these tips will provide you with some key areas that are worthy of consideration.