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Date: 2 April 2014. Blue-Water Boats.

One sure-fire sign of a beginner is the desire for their first vessel to be a blue-water boat. It's got to be set up to take them any place they can imagine. And what imaginations!  They dream of sailing across the Atlantic, island hopping in the Caribbean Sea, traversing the Panama Canal and then onward across the Pacific Ocean.  All without knowing if they even like the motion of a boat.

Many want to visit the Mediterranean, the Bahamas and Virgin Islands, Tahiti, Australia and points further.  And all this from the comfort of their floating home. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having big plans, but before you implement them, a foundation is required.

A blue-water boat should not be your first boat purchase.

A base of knowledge is created by having stretches of time afloat.  You don't gain experience from reading websites or studying a book. It takes actual days and nights on the water. And a seasoned yachtsman knows certain things innately.

For instance, I know that when the sea birds are flying inland at the water's surface, the weather is going to be snotty. Guaranteed.  And when there are no birds in the air at all, hunker down because life afloat is going to get interesting real soon.  It's time to check the snubbers, chafe protection gear, and to consider adding another anchor.

However those observations are gathered over years.  Pelicans often fly near the water getting an updraft from the surface.  Cormorants do not normally fly near the water -- so watch for them.  Ditto the wood storks. When the flocks of birds head inland, especially just above the water, the weather is going to be significantly bad.

Wood storks are about five feet tall and simply magnificent. (Photo by Bob Winter on S/V Maverick.)

As much as anyone I wanted my first boat to be my last boat -- and she was. However, I had decades of practical knowledge aboard the 40'er we owned it for nearly fifty years. And I still made mistakes.

Anyone thinking about a boating life is encouraged to spend a year (or two) gaining experience aboard a smaller boat that simply "won't do" for the final vessel.  You'll learn things that are specific to you. For instance:

  • I was certain I had to have a hot water heater. I went shopping and for $250 found one that worked off the heat exchanger, thus would warm my water while underway.  And then I bought a boat with raw water cooling (no heat exchanger) so ... wave good-bye to my $$.

  • I was positive going forward in a blow to check on my anchor would be safe and secure.  It wasn't. The bow rail ended too soon and the hand rails were not close enough spaced for me to reach them.  Fixed now by the use of a pair of life-lines, but still not what I imagined. And it could be better. (sigh)

  • I knew I would never buy a boat with a gasoline engine because I'd been less than 10' feet from a boat that blew when I was a kidlet. I was slammed down on the dinghy dock (across from the fuel dock) and broke a couple of ribs in the process. So, no gas for me. Seaweed had a gasoline engine when I bought her and only now, nearly six years later is the diesel being installed.

  • I wanted a place to bring my dinghy out of the water when underway or at anchor.
    A. Towing a dink isn't Best Policy.
    B. A dinghy sitting in water grows barnacles.
    And I still don't have a solution, but I am thinking about it.

That's just four of the many "must have" items that Seaweed failed upon purchase.  Currently I am working to resolve all of them. Still, I'm not sure if any of my list would be important to you.  And frankly until you've spent time afloat, you don't know for certain either.

So rather than being focused on that blue-water capable boat, consider trying out a far less expensive boat to test the waters.  I hate to see folks dump their hard-earned savings into a lifestyle without enough background to know for certain it's for them.  Also it's far easier to give a fair appraisal of a boating life, IF you have choices.

Then again, dreaming is fun, so I leave you with my working list of boats The Boat List I'd considered/investigated prior to going over to the dark side.*  Initially it was all about that blue-water sailboat to take me to the South Pacific. My dream boat was the NorSea27.  Then it evolved to include motorsailers, and there the ColvicWatson24 came into my sights.  But finally I chose what for me is the best boat: Seaweed, a Schucker mini-trawler.

*'Going over to the Dark Side' is the term used by boaters to refer to moving from sailboats to power. For some like me, we've always been on the dark side -- and we like it too.

So look at my Boat List but find and buy an inexpensive inadequate coastal cruiser first.

And have fun where if you do something really really stupid you won't be paralyzed by fear of fortune depletion. You wouldn't learn to operate a car with a Ferrari, when a Ford Escort would allow you to master driving safely for a whole lot less money.  The same principle applies to boats.

Your blue-water vessel should not be the first live-aboard boat bought.

What was your first boat owned?
And, what do you hope to be your Last Boat?


Categories: Boat Talk, Boats, Characters, Gear, Money, Wild Things

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