Are you ready to sail offshore?
Choosing the boat
Size Waterline length is a poor indictor of suitability for bluewater sailing in terms of how well the boat will sail, but spending weeks, perhaps months, on board means it’s important to determine how much space you and your crew actually need. Comfort vs Speed Fast and light designs can capitalise much better on light airs and run away from approaching foul weather more easily, but if you do get caught, a heavier-built yacht is likely to have a much more comfortable motion in a heavy seastate. do you need a different boat? While sailors may aspire to a new bluewater cruiser, most modern yachts are capable of sailing offshore. Learning how your yacht performs in different conditions over time will help you plan a long passage that builds in consideration of what she is capable of.
Equipping the boat
power If you’re under sail, you are reliant on your batteries, so calculate the equation of battery capacity, power consumption and generation. How much power do you realistically draw with all your usual systems running? Add up what everything draws. Then factor in what your solar panels, wind generator or alternator can provide in 24 hours. Look for ways to reduce consumption before adding capacity or over-complication. Self Steering Being able to leave the helm is essential on any long passage unless you have at least three crew. Mechanical systems have proven themselves to be the go-to solution for boats with less battery capacity and, in fact, cope in conditions many electronic autopilots cannot handle. A day spent tuning self-steering gear and getting used to it before setting off on a bluewater passage will be time very well spent. Safety equipment All the usual safety equipment needs to be carried on a small yacht, but stowage is often more of a challenge; ensure you are not tempted to stash more bulky safety equipment where it would be hard to reach in an emergency. weight Extra weight means more to stow, a slower boat and heavier loads on the rig. Small boat sailors can quickly find their yachts laden with too much and performance will rapidly diminish if overloaded. Be ruthless on weight and keep heavier kit at the bottom of the boat and along the centerline.
Sailing the boat
Crew Small boat sailors tend to be restricted in how many crew they can comfortably take with them. Consider carefully how you will manage watch systems and living together aboard. Even on a small yacht, a team of three can usually rotate through a watch system quite comfortably; more can be a challenge. heavy weather Strategy Small boat sailors, particularly those in slower yachts, must consider carefully their heavy weather strategy. How quickly can you put distance between you and foul weather? What is your setup for riding it out if you do get caught? fuel What is your policy on motoring and how much fuel will you carry? Are you dependent on the engine for battery charging? Does motoring form part of your heavy weather strategy? If so, what will you keep in reserve as an absolute minimum to get ahead of a dangerous front? food Fridge and freezer meals, or tins and pasta? Even the most efficient fridge or freezer will have a significant drain on your battery bank on a small yacht. Can you do without it completely? Some fresh goods last a long time, and fish can provide variety, but you may not want to forgo a halfway steak.
If you are thoroughly prepared, your offshore cruise will be much more enjoyable