Friday, March 12, 2010

The Truly Essential Crew

On many boats the four legged crew rule. It is no exception on our boat. Kita has worked out well as a boat dog, too well.

She is not paricular who's boat she is on. She is often an unwelcome guest on the boats of others. I think it is cute when she goes below on my neighbours boat to wake up their kids. They don't.
I don't see her to scold her when she down below on my friends boat checking out how the seafood salad is coming along.

She has her friends and feels free to go visiting when she pleases. At home, she prefers walking on boats, so she merely jumps from boat to boat, foregoing the docks when possible.

Travelling with the four legged crew, (friends cruise with their cat Lucky), requires some safety measures, just as travelling with children. The dog life jacket works in most cases. Not all dogs can swim. Those that can are unable to make great distances in rough water should they go overboard. We have had some boaters with bad luck visiting our harbour. A dog is a difficult thing to spot in the dark or heavy seas.

I keep a leash on Kita while at sea. She has fallen off the dock and has no interest in jumping in. On the boat, she perfers the cockpit floor, which suits me just fine. A large bone and she is set for a lake crossing. I do not put on her life jacket on unless I am sailing alone, or the weather is really rough. It restricts her comfort level and she tends to not want to lie down when she wears it.

I attempted sailing with one of the cats. He was almost enjoying it until we tacked. The noise of the rigging and the shift of the boat ended that in a hurry. He was scared to go many places down below, including the only suitable place I could find for a litter box. I decided the cat could stay home. I think the best time for a cat's sailing lesson might be when it is a kitten.

Dogs are not welcome everywhere. Unless you have an easily portable pooch, Toronto Island's Royal Canadian Yacht Club is not a practical destination for you. The Oakville Club has a no dog rule, but is a little more lax in enforcing it if your dog is fairly well behaved. Most clubs, however, are fairly dog freindly as long as you stoop-and-scoop and keep the animal out of the clubhouse.

Kita has so many dog friends to hang with when crusing. She loves the water, digging in it, laying in it and even sometimes swimming. She would rather be with be with me than home. She senses or smells land onboard, before we can see it sometimes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Essential Equipment

I think I like sailing because of the challenge of the unknown. You never really know until you’re on your way what the trip is going to be like. The wind and the waves are always different and never what the weather forecast said. They are never what the same at the end of a trip as they are at the start.

Provisioning and cooking on the boat offers its challenges. It does save us money, but I think I am more into the challenge of being somewhat self-sufficient. That being said, I pack so much stuff that should never be seen on a little boat. My list of standard equipment includes an electric frying pan, a toaster oven, a barbeque wok, an electric kettle and a large electric coffee maker for breakfast guests. I also carry a portable barbeque and a butane stove; a lot of crap on a little boat, I admit. I am assured no matter what the weather; I can cook a good meal, inside the boat or on shore.

I am often criticized for slowing my would-be fast boat down or trying to make my boat into a cottage. Of course many of those comments are from other cruisers, who are on my boat, drinking my coffee, hinting for me to make them breakfast because they didn`t realize the clubhouse was not open.

Monday, March 1, 2010

In Praise of the Little Boat

I love my boats. I have had the Mirage 24 for 10 years, but as half of a working couple, I can only cruise on week-ends and holidays. As cruise director in our yacht club, I cruise regularly in large groups. I am used to having one of the smallest boats in the fleet.

I do believe cruising on the wee boat has its challenges. Over the years, however, there have been so many times I have been grateful for my small boat.
As summer nears I cannot help but think of them.

The advantages:
• Everything on a small boat is cheaper, (and I mean everything from keel bolts to winches, sails to docks.)
• I have yet to be turned away from a destination because they have no room; there is always room to stick the wee boat for the night. I may not always get the best slip, but any port in a storm.
• More often than not I get a convenient slip. Most clubs were built some time ago, when all boats were smaller. As a result the slips for small boats are the ones closer to the club house (meaning closer to the restaurant, the bar, the toilets, the showers, the swimming pool and the laundry.)
• There is no room or need for complicated systems on a small boat, which means all systems are fixable. (Toilet new porta-potty, outboard engine breaks...switch for dirt in the gas tank...switch it, and I can replace any wiring myself.) There is no need for expensive marine mechanics and I am never stuck on the dock due to mechanical problems.
• Small boats can be easily sailed single handed. This allows crew to work in shifts on long trips, one sleeps while one sails. I can go by myself when crew is not available.
• A smaller boat means less bottom to paint, less deck to scrub and less mast to climb, (not my specialty.)

What other fans of small boats say:

"Life is too short not to leave when you are ready. make the boat work for you rather than working for the boat."

"I am content and happy... things rarely break here, mostly simple maintenance, most complicated piece of plumbing is a hand pump."

"Smaller boats are cheaper. There are harbors and anchorages that will be more accessible in a small boat. You won't need a full crew every time you want to go for a sail."

"The money we didn't spend on a bigger boat means that we have money left over to have a good time in the places we get to. After all, seeing the world is the goal and it takes a bit of money to do unless you want to limit yourself to seeing places you can walk to from wherever you are anchored."

"If your major priority is to get out there and cruise, then going with a smaller boat, that has simpler systems and fewer amenities is the way to go. If you need to have all the comforts of a shore-based life and want to have the big queen size berth, the 42" LCD tv, with DVD, hot and cold pressure water, 110 VAC available at all times, then you won't be happy."