Filed Under (Boater's Galley Companion) by Debbie on 08-06-2008

If you are  like us and dream of cruising to far away islands, there will be many questions to ponder.  Preparing to cast off is like building a beach, one grain of sand at a time.  Sometimes an old salt will generously place a couple of grains in your plams, if you’re smart you’ll remember those words.

My hubby and I were ‘dock whalloping’ (wandering the docks looking at boats for sale) when we came across a crusty old sailor.  We were blessed with about 20 minutes of chit-chat from this most interesting person.  A Vietman vetern who when returned to the US in the late 1960’s decided to buy a boat and sail away.  He’d spent the remainder of his life (up to then) aboard his boat.

Now in his 60’s he’d returned to the US with a young wife from Fiji and their baby.  He chatted as he filled jerry cans with water and shrugging said, “Don’t know what I was thinking marrying someone so young…”    Then he laughed at himself.

My hubby, Mike asked questions about cruising and safety and such.  He was generous with his knowledge.  The first thing he said was, “Have more ground tackle than you think you’ll need, a strong boat and just go.”  He talked about his bowsprit and how he’d been years modifying it so it would be strong.  Told us about being boarded one night by brigands (his word isn’t printable) and the mistake he’d made.  He’d chosen the wrong anchoring spot and was stuck there until the tide turned and wasn’t able to set sail.

Oddly enough one of the things he said he felt was important to have aboard before casting off for distant places was ‘condiments’.  Condiment?  Yep, he said you can find food everywhere but the mayo, mustard and ketchups we’re used to can’t always be found.  The right condiments can make a huge difference in the quality of your meals.

I’ve thought about that quite a bit and I think that was good advice.  I have a real definate choice in mayo and if it’s the wrong one I don’t like the food.  I’ve been watching those items that we use and if/when we ever get to go, I’m going to heed his sage words. 

The other helpful bit of information he gave us was how he kept watch when single handing.  He said he kept a kitchen timer on a string around his neck and set it to ping every 15 minutes.  When it would ping he’d sit up and look around, scan the horizon and make sure he was safe.  Then he’d reset the timer and sleep until it pinged again.  I think even if you’re not short handed the timer is a good idea.  Lost in thought could be a sad thing and the timer will remind you to take that quick look around.

What an interesting man.  I’m glad he took a few minutes from his life to share his experiences with us.  I’d have like to have had days to pick his brain but I suspicion it wouldn’t have been enough time.  So, if you’re thinking about casting off and cruising offshore to distant lands remember to pack your mayo and some really heavy anchors and rode.

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