That’s right folks, we’re gearing up to head out in ONE MONTH. Eeks! We are a mix of emotions ranging from excited to nervous to a bit sad as we start to say goodbye to people and places we wont see again for a while. It’s taken us a long time to get to this place and while we feel pretty prepared, there are just some things that haven’t hit us yet, like the fact that we’re this close to finally getting off the dock for good and beginning our adventure at sea. However, in the heartbeat of time that we have left before we leave, we still have a lot of things to sort out before we go. Here’s a rundown of what needs to be dealt with in the next 30 days:
Medical / Safety
1. Schedule final doctor/dentist/eye exams while we still have health insurance. Yes, we will be cruising without health insurance, so we need to load up on all vaccinations & prescriptions before we go. Fact is, once you get to the Caribbean, not many practices take US heath insurance, and if they do, it’s not always guaranteed that our US insurance will cover the care and supplies we need while traveling abroad. Plus, we don’t have the luxury of having a fax on hand to send back those annoying claims forms, only to find out our visit wasn’t covered. Talking with other cruisers, some who have had health or dental emergencies while cruising, say that the healthcare in foreign countries are just as good as here in the good old USA and come at a way cheaper price. Trust us, we’ve done our research here and feel comfortable taking the risk of not having insurance, especially since we’re both young and in good health. However, that doesn’t mean that we’ll be ill prepared when we go, which leads me to the next bullet …
2. Complete our nautical medical kit. A few weeks ago, we met with a doctor who is an avid cruiser and specializes in helping other cruisers prepare their on board medical kits. We’re not talking about those cheesy kits you can get from West Marine that contain a few bandages and anti-biotic ointment (that’s actually what our current medical kit looks like now, hence the need for a professional). We’re talking everything from Lidocane to anesthesize wounds to 100% DEET spray to combat bugs to a variety of prescriptions to treat a range of illnesses and infections, and a ton of medical grade bandages/wraps/steri-strips/splints to prepare us for any minor emergency that may pop up while were out at sea. We worked with him to customize exactly what we would need for the locations we would be going and the length of time we will be traveling. Don’t worry, we won’t be doing any wound suturing out on the open sea, but this pack will give us everything we need to deal with minor injuries and some extras to stabilize a big injury while we haul ass to the nearest town for treatment.
3. Complete our ditch bag. I’ve been searching the internet on what to include in a ditch bag, and have found a few good recommendations. We can grab this in the event that we need to evacuate the boat via our life raft or even our dinghy. I want to keep it light, so I’ve narrowed it down to a few necessities:
- a waterproof VHF radio
- our EPIRB device, which activates when submerged and emits a location signal to the USCG
- waterproof spotlight / flashlight
- medical kit
- copy of our passports in a sandwich bag
1. Install a new auto pilot. Ours keeps flashing an internal error and won’t stay on for more than two minutes at a time. This is definitely a must have for the trip, because neither of us wants to be tethered to the helm 24-7. We discussed getting a new windarm and even getting AIS (radar), but these are falling into the “nice to have” versus the “need to have” and have been moved off the priority list.
2. Re-Install sails and test the new rigging. We had our sails removed and sent off to be re-stitched and to have the teal UV cover on the genoa changed out to a bright orange. Hey, at least we’ll be able to tell which boat is ours in a crowded anchorage! We’re also having the stack pack (the bag the main sail falls into) re done in a charcoal grey. Words cannot express how excited we are to have all of the teal finally gone.
3. Make new cockpit cushions and reupholster the helm seat. We’re completely starting from scratch here since the foam is shot and we want to beef them up from a 3″ to a 4″ cushion. We’re using a combination of 2″ closed cell foam glued to a piece of 2″ open cell foam to give the cushion a bit more support. ‘Cause when I’m sitting out there for a couple of hours reading a book while Matt attempts to fish, I really don’t want my butt to go numb. Priorities.
4. Troubleshoot generator. This was working like a charm up until a few months ago when we went to test it and accidentally started it under load, meaning we had left all of the breakers on and overloaded it. Rookie mistake. Matt and his co-worker, Aaron, the one who helped us service our engines and sail drives during the big boat haul, are going to have another go at it and hopefully get it working again. It would be awesome if we didn’t have to drop another few grand on a generator before we left.
5. Make a spares list for all major systems. Because Murphy’s Law proves that if it CAN go wrong, it WILL go wrong! Be prepared for the worst, hope for the best.
6. Service watermaker. We’re up in the air with this one. Our boat has a great watermaker that uses a reverse osmosis & UV system that purifies sea water into drinkable water. At it’s peak with both pumps going, it’ll covert about 12 gallons an hour. We will most likely need to change out the membrane in order to get it working again, which can cost $500 or more. Speaking to a cruiser who had just come back from a winter in the Bahamas, said that they were never more than a day’s sail away from a marina/restaurant/town that can fill up your fresh water tanks. We have a 100 gallon tank which usually lasts us about 3 weeks (we don’t shower on the boat while we’re at the marina), so we figure that we can go a week, maybe week and a half while we’re cruising without having to fill up. That’s probably about the same time we’ll need to find someplace to refuel too. Jury’s still out on this one.
Random Other Stuff
1. Install new stereo and re wire our cockpit speakers. Because having good tunes is a must for this girl. Right now our cockpit speakers are only putting out bass which is totally annoying because you can sort of tell what the song is, but you can’t hear the words. Our inside speakers are working just fine, making the malfunction of the outside speakers a big old mystery. Our actual stereo is just fine too, but it isn’t satellite radio compatible, which I really want so we can have on demand music wherever we are. I know, this definitely falls into the “nice to have” column, but trust me, after several long sails this summer, we realize our ipod playlists are limited and a nice variety of music/news/talk radio will certainly make those long stretches down the ICW that much more enjoyable.
2.Figure out how to get Internet aboard. Because we want to continue to blog/email/read celebrity gossip sites where ever we go. Right now we either use the free WiFi from the marina, or our cell phones/ipad as a WiFi hotspot. We really don’t have to think about this until we’re in Florida, about to cross over into the Bahamas, because we’ll have good old AT&T coverage thru the US. You can get a Bahamas SIM card that works off of their cellular network (which spans the entire chain) so it looks like we’ll be able to continue the whole hotspot thing for a good chunk of our trip. But, what happens when – gasp! – we get tired of the Bahamas, and want to head further south? Each country has it’s own cellular network, so getting a SIM card for every place we stop might be a big pain the the butt and not practical at all. Who wants to spend a day searching for a SIM card instead of enjoying the island? A long range WiFi booster may be the solve when we get into the lower Caribbean. This is what the team over at Windtraveler did, and they were able to maintain their blog with no issues or interruptions, so I think it’s worth investigating.
3. Organize. Organize. Organize. We have so much storage on this boat and we really need to go through each cabinet and examine it wearing a pair of cruising glasses. (Not literally mind you, in fact I’m not sure if cruising glasses even exist. It’s worth a Google). We’ve been living on the boat for a year and a half and we definitely have a system that works…. but it’s a system designed around a boat that’s at dock 95% of the time. If I need TP, I run out to the store and get it. Now, I need to figure out where to put a dozen or so rolls of TP in the event I can’t go out and get it. (No one wants to be without TP, people! Ever!). That extra closet that’s currently filled with empty hangers and a Damp-Rid container? Yeah, probably going to have to think of a way to utilize that a little better.
4. Price out insurance for the Caribbean. Right now we’re only covered to North Carolina. Obviously we will be going much, much farther than that. Because we don’t own the boat out right, we need to keep insurance. Bummer.
5. Sell our cars! Alas, we’ll be cutting the final ties that keep us on land. Since we don’t know what our final plans are, or where in this great big world we’ll end up, we didn’t want to leave anything behind to tie us down. This will probably affect us more than we know. Giving up that instantaneous freedom that a car allows is going to be tough.
I’m sure there’s much more that will be added to this list as we count down the weeks until we leave. We’re trying to keep it as simple as we can so we can stay focused and keep our eye on the prize. There’s plenty of things that can be done while we’re underway or at an anchorage somewhere. The biggest step is just going!