The next major boat show after Annapolis is at the end of October, in Fort Lauderdale, and while it does not split itself between sailboats and powerboats, it does attract a large number of vendors for both persuasions, with displays and booths for everything from generators to kitchen appliances. So, this will be our big chance to go "window shopping", and compare choices on all sorts of items our boat will require.
When we planned this 5-day marathon last month, Lari advised us start our "List of What We Cannot Live Without". You see, living aboard a boat, whether permanently or just for long cruising periods, is a delicate balance of comfort & convenience vs. weight and performance. In other words, one can travel light and lean, living in survival mode, and improve the boat's speed and performance, or one can load up on all the conveniences of life, and weigh the boat down so much that it cannot get out of its own way! Of course, a boat does not have the same amount of living space to start with, that most of us do, with a house, yard, and garage. (Kris & Leah, in their Manhattan apartment, might come close, though!) While catamarans do have more space and storage than traditional monohull sailboats, space is still a limiting factor. Most cruisers settle for some compromise between survivalist and luxury; thus we need a list to help pare down what goes aboard.
There is a philosophical component to putting together such a list, which quickly became apparent as we researched and contemplated our own. Among the sailing community there is deep division between the ends of this spectrum. Many sailors eschew all but the bare minimum and take pride in doing without all the conveniences of modern life. Others cannot bear to be separated from their full array of creature comforts, TVs, and electronic accoutrements. Most people, ourselves included, go cruising to try and eliminate the clutter of life, get "back to basics" and enjoy the simple pleasures of nature, family, and traveling. We used to go camping for the same reasons, when our kids were little. Unfortunately, a computer and Internet are staples of keeping our business running, and these days, hand pumping a toilet and sleeping in 100% humidity is somehow no longer appealing. I'm beyond the point in life where I feel I have something to prove by suffering through it. (For those of you who knew me back when I was a snotty, rebellious teenager, yes, I have changed!) So, compromise is again the word of the day.
The first things on our "Must Have" list include whatever the latest technology is to maintain Internet connectivity. We don't see ourselves not working (different than retiring!) any time soon, so this is at the top of the list. Currently when we charter, we always bring along our cell phone extender which gets mounted to the top of the mast, and increases our cell phone (and thus Internet) range substantially. Another category close to the top is marine electronics. While we don't want to become the type of sailors that can't sense how to set the sails without checking the console, or tell that the water is too shallow by its color, we do appreciate the advances in technology for what it brings to safety while sailing.
Moving on to items in the comfort category, we have a watermaker on our list, which we feel is necessary for an adequate water supply. A watermaker will allow us to create fresh water from the frequent showers and rainfall of the tropics, and supplement what we can carry in tanks. When we cruise, we don't usually go into severe water conservation mode, as many cruisers do. Obviously, we don't take 30 minute showers, and I have no problem, when in the clean, clear waters of the Caribbean, using biodegradable soap and shampoo to wash up in the ocean, and then rinsing in fresh water. But I am NOT going to bed coated with sticky salt!
This discussion leads right into the inclusion of a mini clothes washer/dryer on our list. Many people we've spoken to have poo-pooed the idea of having a clothes washer and dryer aboard. Their solution? Take extra clothes, towels, and suits, and just do masses of laundry whenever you come to a port. This is fine if you are cruising for 1 or 2 weeks, but not realistic if you are going for a month or more. It starts to become a trade off of space (for dirty laundry and extra clothes) vs. the convenience/expense. We're going for the washer/dryer! Remember,no judging! There's no right and wrong answer here, just compromise.
Electric vs. manual heads (on board boats, toilets are called heads) to me is a no-brainer. Why would I want to spend many minutes in a hot, stuffy bathroom, pumping out a toilet, when I can just press a button? This needs very little discussion, in my mind. We visited a friend's boat once, which had three heads. One (his, of course) was electric. The other two were manual. Guess which two were clogged? Yep, the manual ones :). OK, I was judging just a bit there...
Moving on to recreation, work, and sentimentality, we can score points because books and photos are easily stored electronically, or better yet in "the cloud". (Clouds take up very little room on a boat!) And with NetFlix and Amazon, our "TV" can be combined with a computer screen, which doubles as a console for the marine electronics. Our client files and documents are securely stored on a hosted computer somewhere on land (or in a "cloud"), which I can easily access via my iPad or SmartPhone. So no filing cabinets or bookshelves needed on board. I'm still trying to talk Comcast into hosting our DVR, so I can "log in" and watch my recorded TV; we're working on it.
And so it goes. The idea of a "Must Have" or "Can't Do Without" list is really something worth considering. It is a very cathartic experience to whittle down one's life to an acceptable minimum designed to fit comfortably into a small space. Even if you are not actually moving onto a boat yourself, there is a lot to be gained from such a mental exercise-try it and email us what's at the very top and bottom of your lists! We'll publish some of the best in the next post.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails..
Explore. Dream. Discover.”
- Mark Twain