THE TOP TEN DISASTERS THAT NEVER HAPPENED
Before we left Florida to embark on our circumnavigation, I talked to everyone I met who had cruising experience at length and asked a myriad of questions. I read books and articles about what it was like to cruise. We had done a lot of sailing, but we were not blue water cruisers. We are grateful to those people who took time to share their experiences with us and encourage us then. Now, I would like to join their ranks and be a source of information and one of the “encouragers” to everyone who is contemplating going cruising.
To those of you who are making plans to go cruising on your own boat, I want to assure you that I was afraid of everything you are afraid of today and I worried about everything you are worried about today. I could list 50 things I was afraid of, but will limit myself to talking about the top 10 things I was afraid of and tell you what really happened. Here is my list in no particular order:
#1) I WAS AFRAID…I would forget to buy and stock something important, then we would find ourselves at sea without something we needed.
WHAT DID WE DO? I made lists and more lists, categorizing all the things I could think of that a family of four would be using in the next few months. Every nook and cranny aboard EXIT ONLY was filled with something I was sure we would need and I wasn’t sure we could buy “out there”.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED? There are people living almost everywhere you go when you are cruising. Those people eat and use the basic necessities of life everyday. We found food was available everywhere. We found daily basics available everywhere. Now, it may not be the kind of food you are used to eating or choose to eat, but food is available. The basics may not be your favorite brand or exactly what you wish you had, but there is a wide variety of supplies available everywhere you go.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Make your lists and stock your boat with items and food you will use. If there is a particular shampoo or food you feel is important in your life, be sure and take a good supply with you. For instance, we always carried several jars of peanut butter because we all like it and never wanted to be without it. I prefer one brand of moisturizer, so I stocked up in Florida because I wanted to be sure I would have enough to use it daily. Otherwise, you will be able to buy supplies along the way. I subscribed to the “when you see something you use often on your boat, buy it” approach and it worked for us. For more information check out “The Anytime, Anywhere Provisioning List ala EXIT ONLY”.
#2) I WAS AFRAID…someone was going to steal everything from our boat.
WHAT DID WE DO? We kept loose things picked up and put away. We went snorkeling, rinsed the gear, dried it in the sun while someone was on board the boat, then put the gear away out of sight before leaving the boat. We closed and locked all of the hatches and doors when we all went off the boat. We ran a long metal cable in our dinghy to the gas container and engine, then locked our dinghy to the dock when we went ashore. We pulled our dinghy up onto the davits every night when we were at anchor.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED? Nothing was ever stolen from our boat or dinghy. One morning we did find muddy footprints on our stern in the lagoon at St. George’s, Grenada. Someone came aboard in the night, but our dinghy was tied up on the davits securely and the doors to the inside of the boat were locked. Nothing was lying loose in the cockpit or on deck. Nothing was taken. Later that morning, we learned someone had recently been boarding boats in the night, entering through open doors or companionways, and stealing whatever was easy to grab without waking up the crew. They were taking things that were lying about like money, wallets, jewelry, cameras, computers, etc.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Lock your boat. Lock your boat when no one is aboard. Lock your boat when the crew is asleep at night. Keep all loose gear put away out of sight. If you must leave your companionway open for ventilation at night, design and construct an alarm using bells, empty tin cans, or anything that will make noise if it is disturbed. One boat we saw put screen cloth with bells attached to the edges of the cloth over their companionway at night. Moving that screen cloth without making noise was impossible.
#3) I WAS AFRAID…boat boys would surround the boat everywhere we went and effectively, “put us under siege”.
WHAT DID WE DO? I worried about how we were going to deal with boat boys, because I “just knew” there were going to be lots of them everywhere we were going. Aggressive boat boys were often included in stories about anchorages cruisers did not want to return to. We talked about what we could do when we were surrounded by boat boys. I wondered if we should carry t-shirts, cigarettes (we are not smokers), etc. to bribe them to leave us alone. The rest of the crew said “No” to carrying items for bribing them.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED? We were not bothered by aggressive boat boys and we were certainly never surrounded by them. We did have people (men, boys, women, and girls) paddle out to our boat in many anchorages. Almost always they had something to sell…fruits and vegetables, fresh bread, lobster or fish, t-shirts or sarongs, etc. Some men came by asking if we wanted to have any boat work done or if we wanted to take a tour of the island. We would either decide to deal with them and buy something or say “No, thank you” and that would be the end of it. We asked these people not to let their boats rub against our hulls and they were careful. We did not invite them aboard. Our encounters with boat boys were good experiences.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Be friendly, but business-like when these people approach your boat. If you want to buy what they are selling, you can conduct the business with them in their boat and you in your boat. Do not feel pressured to buy what they are selling, to give them things, or to have them come aboard. We found saying “No, thank you” or “Thanks, but we are well supplied for today” with a smile was the best way to talk to the boat boys. As usual, it wasn’t so much what we said, but how we said it.
#4) I WAS AFRAID…opportunities to buy food supplies would be few and far between.
WHAT DID WE DO? Before we left Florida, I started keeping track of what we ate and what ingredients I used to prepare meals for one month. I kept my grocery receipts for that month to show me what I was buying and using. From these two lists, I started making my provisioning lists. I designed my own shopping list by dividing grocery items into 16 general categories that include most items found in a large grocery store. For more information about the EXIT ONLY shopping list and how I used it, please see the separate article entitled “The Anytime, Anywhere Provisioning List ala EXIT ONLY”.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED? There was food for sale everywhere we went. Some of our best adventures were going to local markets or shopping in grocery stores where we did not speak the language. In Turkey, we discovered that paper towels were sold folded flat in plastic bags and potato chips were outside on the sidewalk on a stand next to the pop machine instead of on a shelf inside the store.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Long before you are ready to start cruising, start keeping track of what groceries (food and household items) you buy. Collect your grocery lists and grocery receipts for at least one month. Buy a ring binder with loose pages you can add or remove. Make lists of the items on your grocery lists and receipts and organize the lists in a way that makes sense to you. If you would like to see my master shopping list, look at my article entitled “The Anytime, Anywhere Shopping List ala EXIT ONLY”. Only provision with foods your crew will eat. If they do not like a particular food on shore, they will not like it at sea either. For example, I stored three kinds of lentils aboard because they are easy to store, keep well, and are loaded with protein. I love lentils, but no one else in the crew liked them. I ended up trading them away for peanut butter in the Marquesas Islands!
#5) I WAS AFRAID…I would be sea-sick during all of the passages.
WHAT DID WE DO? I do/did get seasick at the beginning of every passage. I have tried several “cures” for seasickness including Sturgeron Forte, the Scopolomine patch, Pahia Bombs from Pahia, New Zealand, the “watch” with electrical pulses, etc.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED? Three out of four of our crew members had some sea-sickness at the beginning of every passage. Two found some relief using Sturgeron Forte. I used half of a patch behind my ear and felt some relief. I also wore a “watch” and it seemed to help. However bad the sea-sickness, everyone was better by day three and cured by day four every time. Knowing that day three was coming helped on days one and two. We also noted that reading on days one and two seemed to make the sea-sickness worse. Before we left on a passage, I would prepare food that could easily be eaten by anyone who wanted to eat during the first three days of the passage. I was not able to cook for the first three days, but by day four, hot food sounded good to everyone. Potato soup became a welcome tradition on day four. Potato soup for lunch meant that once again, we had survived the first three days of being seasick!
RECOMMENDATIONS: If you suffer from seasickness, you belong to a very large club. Seasickness and its cures are always a hot topic when cruisers gather together. Try to discover what medication or cure works best for each person in your crew and stock up on these items. Prepare some food before you leave on a passage, so no one needs to cook for the first few days. Have bland foods like crackers available. Drinking ginger tea or sucking on ginger candies often helps settle your stomach. Do not read or write until you are feeling 100%.
#6) I WAS AFRAID…I would be scared on night watch when it was pitch black dark.
WHAT DID WE DO? Some of our crew members liked being up in the middle of the night more than others did. I preferred the early evening or early morning watch, but all of us had to take our turn in the middle of the night. At first, I dreaded being on watch by myself in the middle of the night, but as my confidence grew, I became more comfortable with the idea. I came to appreciate the moon and stars in a new way.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED? We always had someone on watch and we used a flexible watch schedule. You had to take at least three hours of watch, then could take more watch if you felt like it. If the person on watch thought there was a big change in the wind or weather, that person would wake another crew member up and assess what needed to be done. Dave was always available if the person on watch thought he should be awakened and told about something that was happening (wind was up, ships lights near-by, etc.) Surprisingly, all of us came to appreciate night watch. Seeing the moon rising over the water, a full moon shining down on the waves, constellations moving across the sky, and the stars in the Milky Way lighting our path all became special memories. Seeing the phosphorescence in the water moving as it outlined fish swimming along with us was amazing. The phosphorescent glow on our stern waves reflected our path through the water. The sea at night has its own unique beauty.
RECOMMENDATIONS: We bought night-vision binoculars before we left Florida. We kept those binoculars handy on night watch. On a pitch black night, the smallest light in the distance on a ship or fishing boat was magnified by the binoculars. We could easily see the port and starboard lights of other vessels at a greater distance using the binoculars. This gave us more time to make any adjustments we needed to our course.
#7) I WAS AFRAID…we wouldn’t be able to keep in touch with friends and family.
WHAT DID WE DO? When we left Florida in 1995, we did not have e-mail, Sailmail, Airmail, Skype, etc. We got a booklet that listed all of the American Express offices in the world and arranged to have our mail drops at these offices. We would use public phones to notify our family that we had arrived at a destination immediately after checking in with officials.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED? We evolved with the cyber world. As soon as e-mail became available, we installed the equipment we needed to access Sailmail, Airmail, and Skype. Whether we were at anchor or at sea, we found ourselves communicating daily with family and friends and literally sharing our adventure with them almost as it happened. We would e-mail our latitude and longitude to our kids and parents when we were on passage. They enjoyed following our progress on globes at their houses in Kentucky and Florida.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Buy the equipment needed to access Sailmail, Airmail (if you have a ham radio license), and Skype. Cruisers everywhere are using these services and will be happy to share their expertise and experiences with you.
#8) I WAS AFRAID…our children’s education would suffer.
WHAT DID WE DO? When we left on our circumnavigation, Wendy was 16 and had two years of high school left to complete. David was 15 and had three years of high school left to complete. We registered with the University of Nebraska High School Correspondence School in Lincoln, Nebraska. The school sent each student a syllabus of each course with all the materials needed to complete the work. The lesson directions were written to the student. Our kids only needed help from us for Junior-level English (complex grammar, I helped) and Chemistry (Dave helped). Remember, this was before e-mail, so we depended on the postal systems around the world to send and return their assignments. Today, the class work is sent both ways by e-mail. We left with a full semester of class supplies. We purchased the next semester’s materials and had them sent to American Samoa using the U.S. Postal System.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED? Both of our kids did very well with their course work. I am a teacher and it was obvious to me the lessons were well-written and the directions were straight-forward and easy to follow. The hardest part of the schooling was having the self-discipline needed to stick to doing school work when the adventure of being in a new and different location was waiting a dinghy ride away.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Do your research before you leave and find the correspondence school that suits your child’s needs. We were very pleased with the school we chose. On board EXIT ONLY, we planned “school time” in the mornings until noon. We all stayed on the boat in the mornings. Dave and I did boat work while the kids did school work. After lunch, we would all “play”. We found this schedule was a good balance between school/boat work and adventure.
#9) I WAS AFRAID…I wasn’t a good enough sailor when it came to running the electronics, plotting on charts, reading the sea, wind, clouds, etc.
WHAT DID WE DO? When we left Florida, Dave was an extremely competent and knowledgeable captain. The kids and I were good crew who did everything we were told to do. We had the big picture, but didn’t know much about the details. As a family, we attended a Safety at Sea Seminar in Ft. Lauderdale before we left. The main impact of that seminar was the realization that we all needed to know the basics of running the boat, what to do in an emergency, and how to start and stop the boat. We did not know all of these things when we left, but we immediately started learning and practicing them as we headed west from Florida.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED? Everyday, we all were involved in all of the aspects of making the boat move. Dave explained how to use the electronic equipment and each of us slowly, but surely, became proficient at using the electronics, plotting our course, reading charts, reading the sea, reading the wind, and reading the clouds. At first, Dave would tell us where we were going and we all agreed. As our skills grew, we wanted to be more involved in the process of deciding what our destination would be and wanted to discuss options.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Everyone on the boat should have basic sailing skills. Everyone should know how to start and stop the boat. Everyone should know how to use the radio. There are sailing classes for every level of ability, so finding one that suits you should be easy. Successfully completing a sailing class goes a long way toward instilling self-confidence. Get as much offshore experience as you can before you head out on your own. I would also recommend that the whole crew attends a Safety At Sea Seminar.
#10) I WAS AFRAID …that everyone knew more than me and I would never be a “real” sailor.
WHAT DID WE DO? I participated in every aspect of preparing the boat to leave. I asked questions about everything. I made notes about things I wanted to remember. We attended a Safety at Sea Seminar as a family. We made every effort to include safety equipment aboard. I read seamanship books and talked to experienced cruisers.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED? As we sailed off on our adventure, each crew member made an effort to participate in all phases of the journey. We all learned skills that were needed to keep the boat moving efficiently. On passages, our watches would keep us busy. We kept a ship’s log of every passage. We made an entry in the log on the hour that included local time, compass heading, average speed, distance log, helmsman, sky, wind, barometric pressure, latitude, longitude, and pertinent comments. Having to fill in the log made us aware of what was really happening with the boat and our environment.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Take an active roll in keeping the boat moving. Take an active interest is what is going on both on the boat and outside the boat. If learning aboard is difficult, consider taking a sailing course on a boat that is similar to yours. You will enjoy your time on your boat if you are an active part of the crew and if you feel confident that you have the basic skills to control the boat in an emergency.
So, if you are thinking that you are the only one who is afraid to go to sea, now you know you are not alone. Hopefully, sharing my fears and how I dealt with them has helped you face your own fears. Start making plans to do things that will help you become a confident, competent crew member. Don’t let fear rob you of your dreams!
Awesome music video that captures the essence of what it's like to sail offshore in a catamaran around the world when conditions are less than perfect. David Abbott from Too Many Drummers sings the vocals, and he also edited the footage from our Red Sea adventures. This is the theme song from the Red Sea Chronicles.
Sailing up the Red Sea is not for the faint of heart. From the Bab al Mandeb to the Suez Canal, adventures and adversity are in abundance. If you take things too seriously, you just might get the Red Sea Blues.
If you like drum beats, and you like adventure, then have a listen to the Red Sea Chronicles Trailer.
Flying fish assault Exit Only in the middle of the night as we sail through the Arabian Gulf from the Maldives to Oman. And so begins our Red Sea adventures.
Sailing through Pirate Alley between Yemen and Somalia involves calculated risk. It may not be Russian Roulette, but it is a bit of a worry. Follow Team Maxing Out as they navigate through Pirate Alley.
Stopping in Yemen was just what the doctor ordered. We refueled, repaired our alternator, and we made friends with our gracious Yemeni hosts. We also went to Baskins Robbins as a reward for surviving Pirate Alley.
After you survive Pirate Alley, you must sail through the Gate of Sorrows (Bab Al Mandab) at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. The Gate of Sorrows lived up to its name with fifty knots of wind and a sandstorm that pummeled Exit Only for two days. Life is good.
Join Team Maxingout as they sail through Pirate Alley and up the Red Sea
See what it's like to cruise on a catamaran before you spend a bazillion dollars purchasing one
After watching the Red Sea Chronicles you will be able to see yourself sailing on the ocean of your dreams
Although I like the feel of a paper book in my hand, I love trees even more. When people purchase an eBook, they actually save trees and save money as well. Ebooks are less expensive and have no negative impact on the environment. All of Dr. Dave's books are available at Save A Tree Bookstore. Visit the bookstore today and start putting good things into your mind. It's easy to fill your mind with positive things using eBooks. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you can pull out your smart phone or tablet and start reading. You can even use electronic highlighters and make annotations in your eBooks just like paper books.