Lessons Learned

Tell us what you would do differently: Ruth Allen

We are still year round boaters and consider from time to time when we might head off again for a year or more of sailing. Currently work beckons and so we enjoy Witchcraft, sailing when we can in the Thousand Islands Region. It sure could be worse.

There is lots of good company here, many interesting boats and a boat builder specializing in Fire and Rescue Boats, some of which many of you may have seen in action.

“What would we do differently when we strike off again” is a question — or perhaps a series of questions.

Did we enjoy our travels? Was it worth it? Would we do it again? Are there things we would do differently? The answer to all of those questions is ABSOLUTELY.

Next time we will leave earlier.
Erie Canal, September 24
Erie Canal, September 24

We left Kingston Ontario on September 15. Next time we will leave earlier.

There are a couple of reasons for this. It would be a warmer transit of the northern part of the journey south. Since we felt chased by the cold there were places we only waved at on the way past.

Honestly, one cannot fully explore every spot on a single trip, but there is something to be said for a more leisurely transit.

We would replace our aging engine with something more powerful, and presumably quieter.
Changing oil
Changing oil

We had no idea how many hours the old beast had on her, and she always went, never missing a beat. However, we were concerned about it all the time. That was a rather large elephant in the saloon that we would not want to travel with again.

Will the expense of a new engine delay our departure? Most likely it will, as they are a dollar-sucking piece of kit.

Since one is under motor so much, first in the canals, and then in the ICW it seems a prudent and sensible thing to do before another longish journey.

There are a few things we would stock up on.

We did not feel the need to stuff every available spot in the boat with food from home before we left. People eat everywhere so food can be obtained, if one is not overly attached to what you eat at home. We still feel that way, there are however a few things we would stock up on. They seem like odd things: large tins or bottles of sesame oil, large containers or many small ones of the curry paste we use so much of, and basmati rice.

More seals for the raw water pump
More seals for the raw water pump

Other non-food items include more seals for the raw water pump. Although we carried extra, we needed more, which we were able to obtain via the help of a family member at home. So now we know: more of those than we thought were necessary should come along with us.

Truthfully (and luckily) most of the extra engine parts we packed, are still awaiting use. That was a pleasant thing to have happen. The same was true of the head and galley pump repair kits.

We would take all of those items again, since they could and likely would be difficult to replace.

We would try to have some sort of full enclosure for our cockpit.

Our boat essentially has an open cockpit. Weather cloths and the awnings we made before we left were helpful for rain and shade. They are in fact an essential minimum. We would try to have some sort of full enclosure, or as close to full as we could achieve. This would have made a huge difference in our comfort during those cold nights offshore from New York City.

A different main anchor
At anchor at Whale Cay in the Berrie Islands
At anchor at Whale Cay in the Berrie Islands

I would consider a different anchor as a main anchor, but my partner would be reluctant to change. We dragged once and it was our fault, not a failing of the anchor. Still I fancy one of those Manson or Rocna styles. Not an essential change, merely a nice one…

There are likely a few other things, and perhaps they could be added at another time.

Most importantly we had a terrific time and look forward to the next trip aboard Witchcraft.

She was safe and comfortable for our travels and that, after all, is the prime consideration.

Fair Winds,


SV Witchcraft

About Ruth Allenruth-P-E-Bay- Sailing-Sept09

I have been living aboard Witchcraft, my Tom Colvin designed ketch for the last six years. As soon as my four children were launched my husband (Mark) and I emptied the house, and left the land behind.

We are not full time cruisers since we are not retired. I work at West Marine Canada which gives me the opportunity to combine work and pleasure.

I live in Canada and sail every chance I get. I came to sailing later in life and found a new passion.

Visit Ruth’s blog: www.mytb.org/svwitchcraft

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What would YOU do differently next time?

Leave a comment below or email us: kathy@forcruisers.com

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1 comment to Tell us what you would do differently: Ruth Allen

  • Thanks for this, Ruth. Here’s a few thoughts from our experience:
    1. We replaced our 30-year-old Mercedes diesel workhorse engine with a brand new Yanmar because we could no longer source parts. We didn’t know it came with a precision engineered fuel pump that failed in Antigua ostensibly due to water in the fuel despite polishing the fuel routinely. That part could only be serviced by Bosch because of its extremely fine tolerances. We had to send the pump to the US. $3500 and three weeks later we were back in business. BIG lesson: get an engine made for the fishing fleet as they are made for reliability everywhere not just New England.
    2. We replaced our CQR with a Rocna and an Ultra and have not had any sleepless nights since. Best investment by far. We cover the new studies of CQR performance (or lack of it) in the new edition of our book “Happy Hooking, the Art of Anchoring” just published Sept 2011 and in our SSU webinars. It’s pretty clear that the new generation anchors are far superior to the older generations. Well worth it.
    3. Spare parts for all pumps, and complete replacement water pump and alternator saved us. We used both during three Atlantic crossings.
    4. We’d like a better awning that covers more of the deck for warm climates.
    5. We too will leave earlier in the season (October 1 from Ireland and August 15 from Maine were too late).
    6. Less food and clothing, more tools and spares.
    7. We are adding AIS. Had too many close encounters.
    8. We finally found our favored combination of communication devices: VHF + handheld, SSB for one to many, SAT phone for one to one, email and gribs.

    Happy holidays to all! May Santa bring you the stuff on your wish list. Ho ho ho.

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