Welcome to Ocean Voyaging

The Pacific Crossing

Advice from an old codger who lived aboard various boats for some 20 years, and cruised the Pacific and Caribbean for six years.

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But first I would like to talk to those of you, who like me think they might be getting getting too old to travel safely on the Oceans, or that the work of sailing the boat will be too onerous. There are ways to make it easier, and to make off shore sailing safer. And ways to hang out safely on the hook.

But I must admit that I am feeling a bit too unstable at age 75 to safely handle a boat alone off shore. My balance is not as good as it was because I have been shore bound for so long and haven’t had to negotiate uneven surfaces or wobbly surfaces. I could possibly get back into shape, and go again and I am planning a re-fit of the boat just in case. Luckily my wife is much younger and can be a great help. But I think I would take along a male friend who is younger and sea-worthy for the Ocean passages.

In Virgin Gorda one Christmas I met a man who was on his third circumnavigation and his wife said it would be the last. He was 82 and almost blind, and made sail changes by feeling his way around the deck.

I had a friend in Grenada who had lost the use of his legs through polio and had to haul himself onto my boat under the lifelines by the strength of his arms. He was a happy character, not so old.

And in Mexico another older man who sailed only with his dog and no engine, and lived aboard.


There are ways to make it easier to manage the boat:

here are some general hints for those who haven’t yet chosen a boat.

The weight of the boat determines the maintenance cost. A 20,000 lb boat costs twice as much to maintain a a 10,000 boat, and twice the work if you do your own maintenance.

The number of days you are going to be at sea making a passage depends on your ability to forecast weather.

The fastest passages are made in a longer lighter weight boat, but it is more comfortable to go slow at sea. A forty foot boat will reduce your passage time by a couple of days at most compared with a 35 foot boat. And its more peaceful  and safer to be in the Ocean during good weather than almost any place you will visit. And you can always choose to sail in good weather if you can read NOAA weather charts (not those grib charts.)

Choosing a boat design that can be anchored from the stern will make your experience of anchoring very pleasant and very secure.

Use a fortress anchor set for use in sand. An FX37 will hold a 40 footer in a hurricane. For ordinary weather even a 25 lb CQR will be enough for a 10,000 boat if you anchor off the stern in a protected anchorage.

Choosing a boat design with a large overlapping headsail and small main allows you to ditch the main altogether, and sail main-less. This eliminates most of the worry about sail changing, clears the way for a large solar array, and makes sailing at night so much safer.

Get a hank-on foresail that is designed to work in winds from 5 kts to 25 kts apparent without needing a reduction in area. If an squall approaches it can be dropped and tied to the rail in less than a minute. If a gale is forecast, hank on a storm jib. Mine is 80 square feet and goes on an inner stay, and is always ready to hoist if the weather deteriorates.

Sailing below 30 degrees Latitude means the weather will rarely get bad.

Hurricanes are predictable and using weather charts from NOAA will tell you where to place the boat in the Ocean to avoid them. In four days you can 400 miles away from its track.

You can hang out in the Caribbean in any Island and sail in a few days to a safe location when a hurricane is predicted. The weather is best in the summer in the Virgins and St. Martin, and best in the winter in Grenada where it is usually 80 degrees. But this means you have to move the boat in the summer if a hurricane is forecast to cross the northern Islands. It’s only a four day reach to Venezuela which hardly ever gets bad weather, or close hauled for a day to get your Easting for Grenada, also safe for hurricanes headed for Florida, crossing the northern most Islands.

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