Getting Ready

So, what do you do to get ready to leave home for eight months and move aboard a 34-foot boat? Previously, our longest cruise had been about six weeks on aboard and a few hundred miles. This one will be a few thousand miles and is a whole new ball game. Preparations were split between how to be “not-at-home” for months on end and making the boat more comfortable and self contained for the long term.

We’d already practiced the “being-away-from-home” stuff. Nearly all our bills are auto-pay from our checking account. We have a standard procedure for notifying our neighbors about what to expect. And, Sandy’s sisters are willing to help look after the house and tend to mail, a really big help.

New, this trip, was getting someone to mow the lawn, rake leaves, clean-up gardens and clear snow. Also, Bill installed a timer system for the lights that won’t get messed up if we have a power failure (X-10 remote light controls with a battery backup for the clock). This time we also emptied the refrigerator and put a charger on the car batteries. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

The boat was a different story and it occupied Bill much of the spring and summer. We needed better protection from the sun. We needed a bigger dinghy and outboard motor and a method to carry it. We needed lots of charts and cruising guides and wanted a GPS chart plotter to simplify the business of navigation. On this trip we’d be anchoring in different conditions with the possibility of coral chewing away at the anchor line, so we needed to add lots of chain and have the ability to quickly set a second anchor, also equipped with chain. Bringing all that chain up from muddy bottoms brings along lots of icky mud, so, yes, we wanted a wash down system that used seawater. (Fresh water is much to precious for that purpose.) And, we needed more and better storage space. There was a long list of smaller items and a few large “nice to have” things that drive you crazy trying to get done. And, there was the planning and gathering part … what do we need to take along for supplies … eight months of toiletries (yes) and eight months worth of liquor (no). Lists begat lists. (It made us feel a bit like John Stehman with his legendary lists of lists of lists.)

Happily, most of the stuff on the lists did get done with lots of swearing (mostly while fishing wires and hoses through the boat) and trashy-looking piles of stuff scattered around the house for weeks. Oh, and just a little dash of money. It meant lots of time apart, Bill working his end of the bargain, with his lists, down in Rock Hall, MD, where the boat is kept and Sandy back in Lancaster with the house, her lists and the piles.

But, we crossed off nearly everything on every list! We had a briefing with Pam & Carl and Jackie & Tom on October 4. One more day to go to tie all together. Sunday, October 5, was here and we were all packed and ready to go when Jackie and Tom arrived to transport us to the marina.

Ready? We hope, so! We’ll fine tune it all as we run down the Bay and the ICW. The aim