What, us? Make plans?
We should know better than that. Plans have a way of never quite happening how you thought they would. Remember the old show “The A Team”? Every week, the team of good-guy mercenaries would plan out their mission. Every week, it’d all go awry but somehow they’d achieve their objective. And at the end, the lead character, Hannibal Smith, could be heard to say “I just love it when a plan comes together.”
Reminds me of cruising plans.
With that in mind, here’s our “plan*” (note that all-important asterisk!) for this fall:
- Go to the boat around the first of October (maybe sooner — we’re excited!). Spend the first few nights in a nearby motel, while we clean the summer grime off the inside and out, hook the batteries back up, replace a propane hose and gauge, make sure the refrigerator works on shore power (it did at the dock but then not in the yard so we don’t think it’s a major problem) and otherwise get the boat basically ready to be lived on, albeit in a bare-bones camping sort of way.
- Spend a couple of weeks living aboard in the yard, doing things that need to be done before the boat goes in the water. The two biggies here are bottom paint and annual maintenance on the saildrive. We’ll also check over all the electronics and make sure that everything is in place for us to get underway once we’re back in the water. The storage yard is on the Okeechobee Waterway, and once we’re in the water, we have to be on our way (we can anchor overnight in certain spots but have to move each day).
- It’s less than 50 miles from the storage yard to the Ft. Myers Municipal Yacht Basin, but we’re planning to take at least two days to make the trip due to bridge openings and locks.
- We intend to take a slip in Ft. Myers for a month and finish our “set up” work on her and learn her systems in detail, while still at a dock with shore power, water, DIY pump-outs and a car (and a good sized city with lots of all sorts of stores for everything we discover we need). One system at a time, we’ll trace it out, figure out exactly how it works, see what spares we need, etc. (Read more here.) We’ll also make the boat into our home instead of just a camping experience.
- Once we feel that we know the boat, we’ll take a mooring ball in the mooring field that’s part of the yacht basin. Here, we’ll get comfortable living off the grid, with no shore power or water, as well as fine-tuning our systems with the dinghy. We’ll do some day sailing as well to learn how she handles in different conditions. Yep, still in a city with a car available . . . and we can return to a slip if we discover anything that can’t be dealt with in the mooring field.
- Our goal in Ft. Myers isn’t to do every last project that we’d like on the boat (boat project lists are never done!) but to feel comfortable with her. From there, we intend to make our way south to the Keys, and most likely base ourselves in Marathon.
We know it won’t go exactly as we envision it, and we certainly don’t have any sort of a “schedule.” We know there’s a huge learning curve the first year and while we don’t know what all it will entail, we’re at least expecting it. And so, despite it being really tempting to just put Barefoot Gal in the water and take off, we’re going to take it step by step.
One of our (land dwelling) friends heard about our plans and said something about “Why not just take off? After all, you’ve been cruising before. You know what you’re doing.” In a joking-but-wondering-if-it-was-true way he asked if we were scared of leaving the harbor.
No. But taking things in baby steps just seems prudent to us. Learn things in a safe place and don’t move on to the next stage until we feel comfortable, such as the decision to spend a month or so in a marina at first. Then time in the mooring field, and not moving down the coast until we feel as though we’ve got the basic “living at anchor” systems down and don’t feel the need to have the support of city/marina facilities nearby.
It’s a fine line to walk between always having “just one more” project to do before leaving and saying “to heck with it, we’re going.” We’ve all seen people that talk forever about their cruising plans, but the boat never leaves the dock because it’s “not quite ready.” There’s one more thing they want to do to make the boat “perfect.”
The flip side, of course, are the cruisers who do a minimal shakedown, or ignore problems that arise in the shakedown. Whether it’s problems in the boat itself (say, an insufficient battery bank or charging, repeatedly dragging anchor or problems in — or lack of — self steering), or in those on board (seasickness, using the electronics, caring for small children or pets, for example), these need to be addressed before moving on to a more complex level or more remote locations. And then another shakedown period to make sure the solution works.
A blind insistence on adhering to a schedule instead of facing the reality of not being ready only leads to problems. We’ve seen the gamut from friends having a horrible experience and putting the boat up for sale to turning around and refusing to leave the dock to boats needing assistance or an all-out rescue.
Dave and I want to hit a happy medium between these extremes. We don’t envision that Barefoot Gal will be perfect when we leave the dock — or probably at any other time either. But we do want to know the boat and her systems before we head away from a city with good services and stores. We know that things will happen along the way and we want to be prepared to deal with them. And that means not having a firm schedule as to how the shakedown period will go!