#53 – How Does Chartering Fit?

If cruising can be said to be exploring the world from the comfort of your own home, how does chartering fit?

In ten years, Don and I cruised through the waters of at least ten major charter destinations.  How weird it was to travel thousands of miles only to wake up with the oh-so-familiar logos of a Moorings yacht to one side and Sunsail to the other!  It felt like we’d never left the Virgin Islands!

It’s hard not to ask yourself in such a moment if chartering those major destinations might be an easier way. In Raiatea we met a couple doing just that.  Having bought a boat in the Moorings ownership program, they were entitled to twelve charter weeks a year at nearly thirty destinations!  And so they had been jumping from the Caribbean, to the Med, to the Indian Ocean to the South Pacific! » Read full column

#52 – Families Cruising

If only I’d known it could be done!

I’d hear this exclamation from my husband every time he and I ran across a family cruising. We’d pull into an anchorage and there would be kids: kids paddling kayaks, kids fishing in the family dinghy, kids swinging Tarzan-like from halyards or whisker poles to drop screeching with glee into the water, and, my personal favorite, a diminutive Spiderman, in complete costume, 2/3rds the way up the roller-furler! » Read full column

#51 – To Do Lists

Photo provided by Mary Heckrotte, S/V Camryka‘Tis the season when cruisers are preparing to head south for the winter, many of them for the first time, and on the East Coast and the West, they are making up their final To Do lists.

To Do lists have two sorts of items on them: Must Do’s and Wish To Do’s. As the days tick down to departure, it’s easy to get your priorities confused, knowing deep down what you should be spending time and money on, but allowing yourself to get distracted by sexier items from the wish list. » Read full column

#50 – Battling Bugs

New places bring new challenges, and unfortunately insects are one of those challenges. Some bugs are harmless, and some are a real threat to health. Some fly (or walk!) themselves aboard, and some we carry aboard unwittingly, while others we need to worry about we encounter ashore.

But don’t let fear of bugs stunt your adventure! Knowing the realities versus hearsay and being ready with precautions and remedies before the critters come winging your way is a huge help. The Admirals, as they say, have been there, done that, and below are their tips. » Read full column

#49 – Getting You on Board

When I write my column, I usually think about readers who are already on board, if not the boat itself, then at least with the cruising dream.

But I know there are some of you out there who come to boat shows, enjoy Lats & Atts parties, and read the magazine while bobbing in the slip, but who haven’t really thought of going cruising yourselves.  Maybe you like the idea of cruising, but you are skeptical about the reality of it, particularly as your partner may propose it to you.

Cruising: a never-ending vacation? - Photo provided by Lisa Schofield, S/V Lady GaladrielHe may describe it as a never-ending vacation, where you and he will rock gently anchored off one beautiful palm-fringed beach after another, sipping rum punch nightly.  He may take you to boat shows and point out all the big, beautiful boats with luxurious interiors that could be yours.  He may take you on a bareboat trip.  Or perhaps he’ll just get on his knees and tell you how this is his life-long dream and after all the years of his doing the nine-to-five for you, you owe him this one little adventure.

But the one thing he doesn’t do is look at it from your point of view. » Read full column

#48 – Chain of Command

Gwen Hamlin at the helm of Whisper (charter days)I’ve been thinking quite a lot about captains lately – what it means to be one, what it means to have one.

Traditional navies have formal command chains with authority and responsibility concentrated at the top while grunt labor supports from the bottom. But the relatively small crews aboard cruising boats make for a pretty short hierarchy. No matter what you call yourselves aboard your boat, decision-making and responsibility…not to mention physical work… is distributed much more equitably.

» Read full column

#47 – Diving In: Preparations & Gear

There are two basic reasons cruisers jump over the side: because they want to or because they have to.

The want-to department consists of snorkeling and scuba diving and hunting for seafood to spear or collect, but also cooling down, swimming a lap around the boat for exercise, or taking a salt-water bath.

The have-to department, however, is mostly boat chores: cleaning the waterline and the bottom, untangling monofilament or nets from the propeller, checking an anchor’s set, and sighting or actually moving an anchor or its rode to retrieve it when fouled. Oh, yeah, and retrieving important items – like prescription sunglasses (ahem!) – when dropped overboard.

People often ask me, when they learn I’m a dive instructor and used to run my boat in charter, how best to set up themselves up for diving.

» Read full column

#46 – Water, Water Everywhere

Photo: Ellen Sanpere It’s an inescapable fact of cruising: we live surrounded by water.

Often deep water.

A landlubber might assume that everyone who chooses the cruising lifestyle has a natural affinity for water. But this is not automatically so.

» Read full column

#45 – Tools in your Toolbox

A philosophy I picked up twenty years ago from a significant mentor has guided the way I’ve approached most everything since. I call it my Toolbox Theory.

At issue at the time was taking my scuba instructor’s certification. An expensive, challenging, week-long course with a major practical test at the end, it was all daunting in its own right, but additionally it represented a huge step in responsibility for others I wasn’t sure I wanted to take.

My mentor – then the skipper of a popular dive liveaboard in the BVI – said to me: “It’s like this, Gwen. If you do it, it’s a piece of paper in your toolbox. Once it’s there, you can choose to use it or not, but if you don’t, you don’t have the option.”

This advice carried me forward when I might have weaseled out, and, in the end, changed my life. Not just because it turned out I was a good scuba instructor and loved teaching, but because the Toolbox Theory has since guided many subsequent learning opportunities, filling my toolbox with lots of pieces of paper that represent skills I have picked up, including my Coast Guard Captain’s license.

Whether they have thought of it the same way or not, most of the Admirals have a toolbox of their own they are proud of.

» Read full column

#44 - An Admiral’s Reference Shelf

For the aspiring Admiral – that is the cruising woman who wants to be as informed and involved as possible in her cruising experience – the onboard reference shelf is an ideal resource.

Every cruising boat out there has one: at minimum a volume of general seamanship and the manual for the boat’s engine, at maximum a mini library.

The ability to reach for a relevant reference to answer a particular question at hand is helpful, but there’s no reason we can’t, at our leisure, read the whole book to expand our overall knowledge base. » Read full column