Not many boats are sailing across oceans this summer as we all still deal with Covid-19 and the many restrictions still in place worldwide. But that is not stopping many boat owners from setting their sights on sailing far and wide for the spring and summer of 2021. The question we keep hearing is what do you consider the proper way to prepare a boat and crew for making your first transoceanic passage? In my view, it is all about planning, preparation and practice.
The planning phase is deciding where you want to sail and when you need to sail to meet the most favorable weather conditions. If you are heading to the Caribbean from the East Coast you have to wait until November to avoid hurricane season. If you are heading to Hawaii, then summer offers the best conditions. If you are heading to Europe from the East Coast, you don’t want to leave before May 15 or after July 15. Assuming you already have a boat suitable for carrying you and your crew across an ocean, the preparation phase is all about making the boat as seaworthy as possible, as watertight as possible and as well equipped as possible. You honestly don’t need all the gear you are tempted to put on the boat, but you do need safety equipment and signaling devices, heavy weather sails, communications for ship to ship and ship to shore, water and food to last twice as long as the trip is expected to last and backups and spare parts for all essential systems onboard.
The practice phase is the most important because this is when and where the crew and the boat start to function together as a team. It is also when you discover how well your planning and preparations went. To practice you need to sail the boat a lot and sail it offshore. I like to encourage skippers and crew who have never sailed offshore, to make repeated trips to nowhere or longer coastal runs to get used to night watches, eating and sleep routines and how the shared responsibilities really work at sea. If you are planning on making that Big One, the first transoceanic passage, next year, it’s only a year away and I am sure you have your work cutout for you. Fair winds.