Tips & Tricks for Setting Sail for Weeks or Months at a Time
In times like these, when the world is encouraging you to stay safe, there is no reason staying safe cannot mean setting sail and living on your boat for awhile. After all, we see an extended boating trip as the perfect answer to self-isolation and physical distancing.
So, whether you have been thinking about taking a longer boating trip for awhile now, or the idea has just come to you, here’s how to prepare for extended trips on your boat or yacht. We will cover things like:
- planning your route,
- getting the boat ready,
- provisioning and packing supplies, and
- making sure your home on land is looked after
Below are the most common types of preparations involved when planning for your extended boating trip.
Planning Your Route
The best part of planning a boating trip happens right at the start, with the planning of the trip itself. This includes coming up with a loose itinerary, picking the majority of the stops you would like to make, highlighting any new spots you would like to visit, and noting any friends or family who you want to meet up with along the way, either on water or on land.
The specifics of your trip will depend on a few things, such as:
- If you’ll be crossing international waters, you’ll need passports for everyone on board, as well as an updated insurance policy that covers you in the countries you are planning on visiting.
- If you’ll be travelling with your family or travelling with pets, you’ll have extra considerations to make for each situation.
- If the weather or climate is unpredictable where you’re headed, you’ll need clothing and possibly extra equipment for the unexpected.
- If you’ll be docking up at a marina for overnight stays rather than anchoring offshore, you’ll need to budget for this.
- If you’ll be packing most of your own groceries, follow our guide to stocking the best foods for your yacht.
While planning your route, it can be handy to consult those who have been there before you, and those boaters are happy to share their experiences. Meet other boaters at your local marina and through yachting and cruising groups and forums on social media. Follow your favourite boating websites, and pick up physical copies of boating magazines, cruising guides, and annotated charts. You should stay on the lookout for localized information on:
- Top-rated routes, tracks, and safe passages
- Notable depth and shoaling challenges
- Placements of navigational markers
- Tides and currents
- Locations and opening times of locks and gates
- Nearby marinas and potential anchorages
Always have a Plan B when planning your itinerary (the B stands for Backup). Unpredictable weather or issues with the boat might mean you have to change course from time to time. Talk to any experienced boater and they will all tell you the same thing: don’t travel on a set schedule. Pressing ahead through dicey weather conditions just to get somewhere “on time” is just not worth the risk, so don’t be rigid with your scheduling.
Lastly, remember to download the latest charts and update any related software that relates to the regions you will be cruising to before leaving the dock.
Prepping the Boat
Once you have a vague idea of where you’ll be going and for how long, it’s time to turn your attention to your boat. Depending on the age of your vessel, how often it gets out, and how it is stored, a mechanical or maintenance check might provide peace of mind.
Prepping the boat typically means inspecting the entire vessel for any potential mechanical problems or safety issues, as well as topping up your tanks. More specifically, preparing your boat involves:
- Topping up all fluid levels
- Checking all hoses and lines for leaks or cracks
- Inspecting your hull for cracks or other damage
- Checking all navigational equipment
- Making sure your VHF radio is in good working order
- Fuelling up the boat
- Fuelling up and inspecting the tender for any issues
- Filling up the water tanks
- Cleaning the strainers
- Checking the AC filter
- Checking your generator and battery power
- Ensuring your spare parts are on board
- Ensuring you have both your travel and dock lines
Also check up on your required safety equipment, such as life jackets, to make sure they’re all accounted for and in good working order. Things like fire extinguishers and flares expire, for example, and first aid kits have been known to get depleted from time to time, so it’s important to check these things before any length of boating trip.
You might also consider cruising with additional safety equipment like a life raft, a satellite phone, and an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. Transport Canada has more information on preparing your boat for long boating trips in its Safe Boating Guide.
Provisioning and Packing
The next category of long boat trip planning has to do with packing all the right supplies. This involves a certain amount of provisioning and creative packing solutions.
Packing just the right amount of food, clothing, and entertainment options takes a bit of trial and error. There is a bit of an art to packing just enough, packing only what you’ll use, and packing only what you have room for.
You’ll pick up tips and tricks along the way, but for now the three biggest tips we have for you are to:
- Pack everything in soft-sided luggage rather than hard-cased luggage, as soft luggage is much easier to store in tight spaces.
- Get rid of as much packaging as you can before setting sail, especially if you’re packing new toys for the kids, new tubes of toothpaste, and flat packs of pops and juice – leave the cardboard behind!
- Check on your provisions from last season, and toss anything that might be past its due date.
If you’re stocking your boat for the first time, check out our guide to stocking your galley with the best foods, cleaning supplies, and more. Also check out our list of important items to bring on your boat, which should assist greatly during this step.
Securing the Homefront
Just like any standard vacation, an extended period away from your home on land requires some preparation. Be sure to make these arrangements ahead of time:
- Arrange from a neighbour or family member to regularly check on your house, water your plants, and collect your mail.
- Book any necessary medical appointments to fill prescriptions and see your dentist.
- Clean up the yard and stow away anything that could tempt a thief.
- Winterize your home if you’re planning a winter get-away.
Once you have these items checked off your to-do list, all there is left to do is hope for the best weather possible as you set sail for your big adventure.
For more boating tips from Van Isle Marina, be sure to check out the rest of our blog.