Jackie Parry – author


Lightning At Sea Tips – Precautions

It’s one of my biggest fears at sea…. streaks of electricity aiming for the highest thing in the ocean – our mast!

Here’s some tips to help prevent damage and other precautions to take:

Your *oven (or microwave) is a good temporary *‘Faraday cage’ for protecting equipment during a lightning storm. (Faraday cages shield their contents from static electric fields.) During a lightning storm ensure you disconnect your equipment, flicking off a circuit breaker is not enough if you are hit. If you have put your equipment in the oven, don’t forget to remove it before next using the oven or microwave!

In a serious electrical storm, the following is recommended:

Stay below decks (bear in mind to keep a good watch if at sea; the regulations state that ‘Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper lookout by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision’).
Stay away from the mast, boom, shrouds, chainplates, the mast compression post and mast below decks.
Plot your position and turn off all your electronic equipment.
Be aware of the set and drift so you can do a DR (deduced reckoning) if you have to. (See Navigation section.)
Do not operate radios unless in an extreme emergency.
Lightning storms are usually short lived.


Image courtesy of foto76 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you suffer a strike:

Check your through-hulls (if they are metal) for any discoloration in the fibreglass or other signs of damage associated with the strike.
Check for electrical damage and check your rigging. Double check your compass, it may have been affected.
Protection: There are lightning protection devices which some people like and others do not. Research your circumstances and see what suits your situation and set up best.

Indirect hit: A lot of damage can be suffered from an indirect hit; a nearby boat or buoy could be hit and the charge can transfer through the water to other vessels.

No GPS or Radio: It will pay to be able to navigate by chart and deduced reckoning; you may have no electronics and no way to radio for help.

Insurance: If you are insured, after a lightning strike call your insurance company at the first opportunity and follow instructions. It will probably mean a haul out and/or inspection.

Excerpt from Cruisers’ AA – now available for around $3.99 (US) on Kindle!

*A Faraday cage is a metallic enclosure that prevents the entry or escape of an electromagnetic field.

*The oven needs to be the type without glass (ie all metal, so a metal door). Please note, this is advice we have taken, and have no actual ‘proof’ it works! – It certainly made us feel better during a lightning storm.


Top tips on weather – how to read a synoptic chart

This week a ‘soon-to-be-cruiser’ asked Noel and I to recommend useful courses to study before starting to cruise. The person in question was already signed up for Coastal Navigation and Deckhands (with all that great safety stuff).

The learning is endless, but immediately we thought of weather. (Also a radio license is a good idea too).

Knowing weather is a trade, there’s a lot to it. Meteorological headquarters all over the world confer daily to create forecasts. But knowing how to read the basics of a synoptic chart, is important.

Noel teaching commercial maritime - weather came into most subjects.

Noel teaching commercial maritime – weather came into most subjects.

There are many ways to download weather. Many people rely on internet these days, and you really notice that when trying to find a free station on the SSB (long range radio) to talk on!

We used weatherfax and downloaded the really neat program from JVComm – thereafter all you need is a connection from your radio to your laptop. Every day, we could download, 12, 24, 48 and 36 hour forecasts, both wind/wave and synoptic charts.

The synoptic charts cover a large area and that’s the key. You can SEE what is happening, and what will affect you, and how. You can forecast.

synoptic chart

Here’s a brief break-down of this synoptic chart:
Remember that all systems move from west to east.
Isobars close together, is a steep pressure gradient with corresponding increase in wind strength. Top left, is a good example of isobars becoming compressed between the low in northern Japan and the high in the Atlantic.
A cold front indicated by pointed triangles, indicating the direction of movement. The red semi- circles indicate a warm front. With a front you get a rapid change from low to high pressure.
The mix of triangles and semi-circles is an occluded front.
High pressure ridges and low pressure troughs are usually indications of unsettled weather – possibly squalls and precipitation.
Sharp turns or bumps in isobars generally indicate disturbed weather. Usually something unpleasant!
The two highs at the top will eventually join together, once the cold front has passed. This will create the usual alternate Highs, then Lows.
You can see the doldrums along the equator – no isobars!
Widely spaced isobars indicate light variable winds.
Zig-zag lines are a high pressure ridge – usually containing squalls.
Dashed lines are a low pressure trough – usually indicating rain and wind

Weatherfax frequencies are available worldwide – here’s the list.

Hints and Tips
• Become familiar with the Weatherfax process and schedule prior to departure. If you are in a marina, the signal may not work very well due to interference from masts and equipment.
• To utilise Weatherfax all you need is a good SSB radio (HF), a laptop and an earphone connection from the radio to the laptop. Free software for downloading Weatherfax is available on the Internet or here.
• We usually received a wind/wave forecast for 24 and 48 hours, and synoptic charts (isobars and wind strength) for 24, 48 and 72 hours. The wind strength arrows can cover a large area though.

Weather was in most nautical subject, but had its very own subject too.

Weather was in most nautical subject, but had its very own subject too.

Receiving weather via Weatherfax:
• You must deduct 1.9 kHz off the listed frequencies.
• To receive a good Weatherfax is easy, but the atmospherics can cause disturbances. Ensure you have done everything you can to receive a good picture.
• Turn off EVERYTHING:
• the fridge
• wind generators
• solar panels
• inverters
• electronic steering gear (get someone to hand steer for a while or use the wind vane)
• all electrical devices
• solar panels (install a switch that lets you manually turn them off)

Deciphering pictures:

We like the synoptic charts as they show you why the wind is doing what it is doing, and it can show you an escape route. You can clearly see what is coming.
• Download the worldwide frequency list from here.
• Do not forget:
• Subtract 1.9kHz from the given frequency.
• Some of the listed times are not exact and can change.
• Faxes can come a few minutes earlier and often later than the scheduled times.

Weather watching at the Gambiers, where a dip in the isobars gave us a good-hiding!

Weather watching at the Gambiers, where a dip in the isobars gave us a good-hiding!

Other boats downloaded weather that was more detailed, but to specific area. It didn’t show the big picture. They could see what would happen today and tomorrow but not long term, whereas we could view a front coming for 5 days, (and we did!) It is amazing to see it on the weather fax then on radar then visually! And then feel its impact!

Wind/wave chart for same area as synoptic chart.

Wind/wave chart for same area as synoptic chart.

Note: That the wind chart stops at 30°N – so you can’t see the gale that is on the synoptic chart!

More Information:
Cruisers’ AA (accumulated acumen) has all this information and much much more. It is now available on Kindle for not much more than a decent cup of copy. (No.5 on the bestseller list! – Amazon)

Of Foreign Build – is also available on Kindle and paperback (and has just become the No. 1 best-seller in its category! – Amazon)

More about us: Noel and I have sailed thousands of ocean miles and have worked internationally on commercial boats – in Australia we taught commercial maritime and all our accumulated knowledge through recreational and professional sea-miles is incorporated into Cruisers’ AA.

Me on a practical assessment for radar and navigation - I always asked students to interpret the weather.

Me on a practical assessment for radar and navigation – I always asked students to interpret the weather.


Top tips on saving money while cruising

Buying a boat is just the start of clearing out of your bank accounts. The vacuuming of your wallet will continue if you want to maintain a seaworthy boat. So, how can you save money while cruising?

It’s easier than you think to make savings, there are reams of money saving tips and advice in Cruisers’ AA, here’s a selection to get you started:



Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1) Balance

  • You need to balance time, money and effort. Invest time in sourcing different prices and quotes for expensive items (sails for instance); but saving a twenty cent bus fare by walking five miles is a waste of time and effort.

2) Boat equipment

  • Always ask for a discount in a marine store; they are all competitive and will more than likely accommodate you a little.
  • Good quality equipment can be ‘cheaper’ in the long run, so try to think long-term, especially for the pricier items.

3) Shopping

  • Buy clothes, shoes, material and tools (if available) in recycling shops; many of these items can be new or nearly new, in great condition and incredibly cheap.
  • Buy your favourite wines less often, or accustom your palate to cheaper wine. It is amazing what you get used to.
  • Avoid visiting the touristy shops. Go where the locals shop and eat; you may have to change your diet slightly, but isn’t travelling about new experiences?

4) Health & Well-being

  • Learn to cut your own hair and your partner’s – it’s easy!
  • We purchase more expensive sun-cream for our face, brands that do not sting your eyes and are easy to apply. For our bodies we buy cheaper brands, they all work.
  • For sunburn use cold tea to help reduce the redness and pain.
  • Drink plenty of water, it helps your body naturally moisturise your skin.
  • Image courtesy of Ikunl at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Image courtesy of Ikunl at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5) Wear & Tear

  • The key to cruising on a budget is to check your equipment and to make good decisions about how much life it has left. It is tricky when money is tight, but we take time to think about potential purchases and put ourselves in the position of being at sea. If there is bad weather – that expensive item may seem very cheap all of a sudden.
  • For example, new sails are an expensive item, but well cut sails produce a lot more drive, which reduces how much time a passage will take. Thoughts of our old sails tearing during a 3,000 nautical mile voyage made the purchase a lot easier to swallow.

6) Gifts

  • Each year, for Christmas, we set a ridiculous budget, such as $5 per person. Recycle shops or local craft stalls are sought and rummaged through. The gift has to be as useful and meaningful as possible.

7) Eating on board/Eating out

  • Budget cruising means lots of meals on board. This can sound fun or easy, but the reality can become quite different. It does mean work. For two of us, that is six meals a day in total. Including the purchasing of food and the clearing up afterwards, it can feel like a full time job.
  • Share & prepare: We share the cooking so neither of us gets too bogged down.
  • Have fun: We do go out occasionally and forget about the budget – we think this is healthy and try not to dwell on it too much.
  • Balance: How you eat on board is a four-way balance between food availability, your palate, effort and budget. The more effort you put into sourcing reasonably priced supplies and cooking on board for the majority of time, then the less you will spend.
  • Enjoy the outdoors: If you are out for the day, it does not always mean you have to eat in a restaurant or cafe for lunch. We often buy fresh rolls at the bakery, a couple of bananas and an avocado, and find a nice bench to sit on. More often than not, we have our own water bottles with us and can find a park to enjoy our lunch in.
  • Eating Out: Limit your dining out to only once a week when in port.
  • Leftovers: When eating in a restaurant, we always take our leftovers home. I never feel embarrassed about this, it is my meal and I have paid for it. The people in the restaurant are always delighted that we have enjoyed the food so much we want to take it home.
  • Location, location, location: In a foreign port, eat where the locals eat, not the tourists. It’s usually cheaper and better! Avoid the main street and venture further in to the back streets.
  • Good meat is expensive in most places. Save your cash by reducing how much meat you eat and enjoy the added benefit of a healthier diet.

8) Make it fun

  • Declare that for one week there will be no eating out and that everyone must contribute to galley duties, even if it is just meal ideas. New/inspired ideas win rewards at the end of the week. Save money and lead up to the end of the week with a special meal and awards night.
  • Image courtesy of nirots at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Image courtesy of nirots at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In summary

Being passionate about everything we do is important to us, including living on a budget. Finding an alternative that is cost effective is very gratifying. Sticking to a budget is not all about missing out; every dollar you save is one less you have to earn. It’s not all about cutting back either; it’s finding a better way to live.

Over time, you will be amazed at how resourceful you become and realise that living on a budget is not repressive; it is actually a fun and exciting challenge. It improves your life and way of thinking. Do not cut corners for necessary equipment and supplies, just prioritise and think about what you actually need, not want.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Cruisers’ AA will be out on Kindle next month!….. follow us at www.jackieparry.com for more details.


Top 20 Cruising Realities No-One Talks about!

I didn’t talk to my husband for two days when his peculiar answers to my naïve nautical questions reached my bewildered ears. Back then, as a mere fledgling to sailing, my raw researching met brutal honesty. Seeking a sailboat and home, to travel the planet, I tried to grasp the financials and what, exactly, was I letting myself in for.

“How much does it cost to buy and then maintain a boat?” Coming from the corporate world I was gearing up to write in-depth project and budget plans, but abruptly shook those thoughts from my organised head when Noel replied.

“It’ll take every penny we have.”

“Oh right, well, what’s so great about sailing?” Expecting to be assailed with vivid pictures of slicing, splendidly through clear, flat water, with handsome palm trees and white sandy beaches supplying a dreamlike backdrop, the image shattered as Noel’s ruthless reply tore through my reverie,

“Getting to port,” he said, “and the local bar”.

Seven years later and over 40,000 miles clocked, I can see the wisdom in his answers.

Getting into port is one of the best bits! Daniel's Bay, Marquesas.

Getting into port is one of the best bits! Daniel’s Bay, Marquesas.

Enduring the Escapade

Long term cruising is an incredible adventure and hard work. Arriving in a new country or town, our thoughts steer to, how do we check in? Where do we get fuel and potable water? How much is it?

The men talk amps and engines the girls talk laundry and supermarkets. Noel, Mariah and I are on our last leg in the superb south Pacific Ocean. Aside from reflecting on our magnificent voyage so far, a few ludicrous “learning’s” deserve a mention.

Cleaning cupboards reality - it is not your 'average' kitchen.

Cleaning cupboards reality – it is not your ‘average’ kitchen.

First, let’s be positive. Our escapade divorces and insulates us from the world’s day-to-day problems. We are not ashamed to bury our heads in the sand and enjoy the “ignorance is bliss” scenario, while we can. News never changes; it is sad and depressing today and tomorrow.

Frequently we meet like-minded people, of all nationalities, where age is no friendship barrier. Hooking up with similar sized boats and sharing the ocean brings the comfort of companionship and the joy in sharing the dolphins that play on our bow during those perfect sailing days.

Mostly, for us, it is the freedom of living simply. We have no letterbox where small bits of paper with large numbers intrude into our sanctuary, sucking dry the bank account to allow landlubber luxuries. And yes, there is the odd G & T (Vodka for me please) while watching spectacular sunsets, doing an anchor pirouette, savouring the sedate, shifting views as we would fine wine.

Secrets of the initiated

Over the year’s advice, hints and tips have deluged our salt saturated minds until our armpits are all but overflowing. We thought we’d heard it all, but here are some unmentionables that we learned along the way:

(1) Constipation – the most fluid of us struggle on long trips. On watch, the comfy cockpit seat will become well acquainted with your behind, causing, what we refer to as – the cork effect.

(2) Seasickness – the toughest of us will become seasick. After corkscrewing for 48 hours solid, your tummy will give up all hope of hanging onto to anything. Most of us unwillingly feed the fish at some point. It is like puberty, you just have to get through it. Despite suicidal thoughts during the worst bouts of seasickness, once you have reached your haven and spent a few days in flat water, going back out into lumpy seas suddenly becomes a good idea again. On the plus side it is a great diet!

(3) Toilet tantrums – at some point most marine toilets will block. If you have not been allocated the repair task, leave the boat while it is being fixed. Build up of pressure while trying to pump it clear will create the most spectacular explosion.  Becoming AWOL at this time will help avoid a good dose of (5).

(4) Landlubbers – your farewell from home will be tearful, exciting and filled with unfulfilled promises from friends and family, who assure you that they will keep you up to date on home happenings. After two years you will be grateful for an email once every six months from your bestest buddies, all of which think you spend your entire life sitting on the aft deck sipping G & T.

G&T on the aft deck - after this I'd need one.

G&T on the aft deck – after this I’d need one.

(5) Arguments – the closest relationship will suffer at times. Falling out with your spouse is inevitable especially when you are woken three and a half minutes before you are due on watch at 3 am. Learn to talk about it and laugh, it can get damn lonely otherwise and create a yearning for (4).

(6) Moon-fright – the moon is crafty bugger. You know it is due to rise, but as you scan the horizon there is a luminous light that assumes the shape of an approaching aircraft carrier. This will be the moon, strategically cloaked with black cloud to form heart-stopping shapes. However, the moon will become your buddy, especially if dealing with number (5).

(7) Cravings – two days out of a long haul sail you will desperately desire all those things you haven’t got.  Roast chicken, ice cream…

(8) Spiders – having abhorrence to the skittering critters my husband assured me that life on board meant no spiders. This seems reasonable, after all we are away from land a lot of the time. Reality is that I am sure we have had a hand inter breeding crawly critters from different countries, probably creating a whole new weird and wonderful breed.


(9) Time – boat maintenance is a full time job in addition to washing, cleaning and sourcing supplies. If you are fortunate enough to momentarily catch up, items (1) or (2) – or both if you are unlucky, will fill the gaps. At the end of each day you’ll just have time to read a page or two of that book you’ve always wanted to read, before sparking out.

(10) Fishing – you will fish once per trip. After you have heaved the huge dolphin fish on board and it has thrashed itself to death, splattering blood over the clean, white cockpit and your battle weary body, the fishing gear will gather salt in the Lazorette for the rest of the journey. By the next trip, you will have forgotten the sticky mess and break out the lines.

(11) Sinking – on your watch, typically in the graveyard hours, you’ll check the bilge for the last time before the welcome warmth of bed and the bilge will be full of water.  Instantaneously you are wide-awake and have no problem in screeching at your partner who is obviously having their best ever sleep. Turning the mains off is not an option and two hours later you will find the solution to the problem is something as simple as greasing the stern gland. Finally, you’ll crawl into bed and the stampeding adrenaline will keep you awake until twenty minutes before you are due back on watch.

(12) Plip-plop – you will loose something overboard, deal with it, it is gone.

(13) Fitness – you will not become fit sailing. Although you do become trim, see (2).

(14) Turning back – face facts that the storm you can no longer punch into has beaten you.  It is not failure to turn back, it is common sense and above all the boat’s and your safety – also helps relieve item (2).

Fixing a sheared pin in an exotic place (Tahiti).

Fixing a sheared pin in an exotic place (Tahiti).

(15) On a long passage – when the fresh food has all gone (and if you are like us, without fridge) after a week tinned food will taste all the same. It will have that unmistakable metallic flavour (tinny flavouring assists number (2)).

(16) Dust – dust will collect with intensity, especially in those tiny, boat shape, awkward places. Adds to (9).

(17) Company – your partner is only ten feet away sleeping below, at that time you are single-handing. It can be lonely, maybe a good thing if dealing with (1), (2) or (5)!

(18) Plunging – on moonless nights you plunge into thick darkness, with peripheral vision coming to a shocking end at the bow. It’s best not to dwell on this too much.

(19) Meteorites – the dark nights are abundant with “shooting stars”, but watch for the big ones. Out of nowhere, a spot light will beam down on you while you sit quietly in the cockpit minding your own business. A huge, bright meteorite will give you occasion to create a few more grey hairs.

(20) Advice – some will be good and some, well, let’s just say, some will be totally fictitious. You will meet some gold medal winning “know it alls”, for example this article, is it fact or fiction? – best way is to get out there and find out for yourself.

Coming into glorious destinations, like the Bahamas, you can never sit back and relax.

Coming into glorious destinations, like the Bahamas, you can never sit back and relax.

For lots more great tips, tricks, ideas and advice on living on board, see our book Cruisers’ AA.


Top Ten Tips for buying a boat (+ 5 bonus tips!)

1) Research research, research

With 50 years combined professional and personal knowledge and thousands of ocean miles, we still spent two years searching on the internet  (while working on shore) before viewing boats (in San Francisco) and purchasing our second boat, Pyewacket II. Join groups in FB, cruising web-pages and read blogs that are relevant to your situation – ask questions, keep asking questions. Read, read, read.

Research, read, research and don’t stop!

2) Which material?/ What size.

Already discussed in previous articles. See here.

But, usually, the longer the boat the more cost involved, more antifoul, heavier/longer rigging., etc, but with care & knowledge it doesn’t have to be too much more. Owning and maintaining a boat that is already in a seaworthy condition is pretty much a full time job. If you want to go cruising sooner rather than later, you do not have time for a major fixer-upper.

How much work do you want to do before you GO cruising?

How much work do you want to do before you GO cruising?

3) Is it better to buy a boat from a broker or privately?

You may not have a choice. We purchased both our boats privately and sold them privately too. In the past, we thought that brokers charged too much for their service. However, we sold our friends’ sailboat on their behalf and quickly found out that doing a good job of selling a boat is an incredible amount of work. If the boat you want is for sale via a broker, do some research on the broker – be prepared. But, try to form your own opinions on the broker and remember when you are buying, the broker will be looking out for the seller (who is employing him). If you are buying privately carry out relevant checks (see below).

4) If a boat seems cheap, ask yourself why?

Is it just circumstance? Is it the market? Or is there a problem that needs addressing. Keep this in mind when viewing.

5) Verification of details

If you are buying a boat, research and verification of all the detail is extremely important and if it is all new to you, ask a friend who has some knowledge to help. If you are buying privately, we recommend that you hire the services of professional document advisers/escrow agent.


  • What equipment is being left on board
  • Who is paying for what during survey (paint, additional work that is necessary while on the hard) – make sure this is ALL clear
  • There is no money owing on the boat
  • The owners ARE the owners
  • Timeline for everything to happen succinctly (booking haul, surveyor out etc)
  • Can you have your deposit returned at survey stage if you are not happy for any reason?

6) How do you view a boat?

We viewed many boats and we were always startled by so many differences.

  • There is never a foolish question, Ask, ask, ask – research, research, research.
  • Check everything works
  • Start the engine, watch it working
  • Try the bed, enough room for you?
  • Stand at the sink – are you comfortable?
  • Find the reason why there is oil under the engine or water in the bilge.
  • Do the heads flush properly?
  • Sample the water on board, it is a good indication of the state of the tanks.
  • It is imperative that you choose your own surveyor

Is it seaworthy?

7) Technical specs

Ask lots of questions about the boat. Some of the most important things to know are:

  • Its condition, is it seaworthy?
  • The length over all (LOA)
  • Displacement (weight)
  • Draft (how deep the water must be in order to sail)
  • Age of the vessel
  • Number and types of sails on board
  • Be sure to ask if there’s any equipment that is presently on the boat that will be removed by the owner prior to the sale. For example, some owners will remove electronics like televisions, GPS systems, and even radios.
  • How regularly are the batteries charged/maintained
  • Is there a maintenance log book available for the engine?
  • At survey, you could have an engine oil analysis done (if available).

8) How many viewings? A test sail?

We always arranged a second and third visit to boats that interested us. You must spend time on board, you are not wasting people’s time if you are genuinely interested in the vessel. If we felt rushed when looking at a boat (or were constantly distracted by the broker/seller) – we viewed this as a red flag and thought there were problems that were being hidden. When we purchased our boats and when we sold our boats, the agreement was:

  • A test sail was arranged after the deposit was received (usually 10%)
  • The deposit was refundable if the test sail didn’t ‘work’(!)
  • The deposit is a good faith payment that helps filter out time-wasters wanting a day on the water
  • The deposit made the potential purchaser responsible, not so gung-ho!

9) Keep Track

If you are viewing several boats, take pictures of each. Start with the name and a full picture, then take pictures as you go through the vessel, otherwise they will all blend in to one. An organised notebook helps too. Jot down what you liked and disliked for later reference.

Finalise the test sail detail prior to going... how long, how far, deposit?

Finalise the test sail detail prior to going… how long, how far, deposit?

10) Buying the right boat

Try to restrain your emotions. While you should listen to your heart, you must follow up with your brain and acquired knowledge or your bank balance could get hurt and your safety may be compromised. Do thorough research. However, eventually your emotions will play a part.

Be broadminded and prepared to look at something you hadn’t considered previously. We started looking for something in the mid 40ft range and ended up with a 51 footer.

Cost considerations should span out to marinas or moorings. Do some research on this if you are interested in a boat in a specific area. You will need to haul it out for a survey (at your expense). It is quite likely you will have to update safety equipment: Fire extinguishers, EPRIBs, safety equipment, life jackets etc.,

Don’t forget registration will have to be transferred, this can be a sizeable expense at times.

11) Surveyor

We had all our boats surveyed. A surveyor will help verify the value of the boat and the potential expense involved in any restoration. AND highlight problems.

12) International purchase

If you are purchasing a boat in another country, research the import duty for taking it home and any tax implications in the country you purchased the boat.

13) Make an offer

Brokers will pass on any offer, it is not up to them to turn it down, they are obliged to pass it on. Put a value (you know what it is with all your research, and start low. You can go up, but not down!) The process is similar to buying a house.

Haul out and surveyor is usually at buyers cost.

Haul out and surveyor is usually at buyers cost.

14) Checks!

Check and double-check all paperwork, official numbers, licences etc. Make sure each engraved or painted-on registration number matches the paperwork.

15) Lastly

Don’t forget that boats can vary wildly – an acceptable 34 footer in one design may be too small in another design… good luck!

If you haul out for survey (and all goes well), you may as well anti-foul while you are there.

If you haul out for survey (and all goes well), you may as well anti-foul while you are there.

See our books Cruisers’ AA (accumulated acumen) for over 1,800 tips, tricks, ideas and advice on living on board.

And –coming soon– Of Foreign Build…… From Corporate Girl to Sea Gypsy Woman…. following the links above.


Which Boat?

Your boat becomes your world, town, village, home, sanctuary. There is no such thing as a perfect boat, and you will always make at the very minimum one or two compromises when you make your purchase.

If you intend to cruise long-term, do not forget to consider the boat’s ability to be your home. There are used boats out there to suit any budget.

Our second boat Pyewacket had plenty of space for 'work' and living.

Our second boat Pyewacket had plenty of space for ‘work’ and living.

Which boat building material is better?

With a plethora of different boat materials, design, layout, length etc., our suggestion for which material to buy is to buy a boat built of material you like, or can handle working with.

They all have their pros and cons:


Pros: Light, strong, attractive, easy to work

Cons: Rot, dents easily, many parts make the whole unit

Composite – usually molded lightweight timber and epoxy resigns

Pros: Light, strong, low maintenance, no electrolysis

Cons: Not a strong as steel, especially pin-point loads

Mariah II, our first boat, a composite build and cutter rigged sloop.

Mariah II, our first boat, a composite build and cutter rigged sloop.


Pros: Cheap

Cons: Undetected terminal damage, due to rust, a possibility. Poor resale


Pros: Strong, light, modular construction

Cons: Osmosis, UV deterioration

Pyewacket II, fibreglass and cutter rigged too.

Pyewacket II, fibreglass and cutter rigged too.


Pros: Best strength to weight ratio of the commonly used metals, easier to work with than steel

Cons: Electrolysis: constant monitoring of electrolysis is required (e.g. earth leakages in power circuit). Galvanic Corrosion: don’t drop a coin or sinker in the bilge, as it will corrode the aluminium


Pros: Strong, easy to repair

Cons: Maintenance, rust, heavy

When looking at boats you obviously see what needs doing, but start asking pertinent questions or thinking along the lines of what you don’t see. There are always hidden surprises. If you see a lot of work, that will only be a part of what actually is required.

All jobs on the boat take much more time than you think. Give a job a time, double it, then treble it and then you are nearly half way to estimating the time the job will take.


Previously we talked about the rough calculation (in our opinion) of a size of a boat being 10 feet per decade of your age (see previous article here).

In our twenties, it always made us feel better that we were the smallest at all the anchorages, we thought bigger boats were too big to handle for two, more expensive etc. In our middle age, several years later we leapt up to 51’ (by accident really). Pyewacket handled better than Mariah (our first boat of 33 ft) under sail and motor, she was far easier to dock. As for reefing there was no difference, it was just as easy on Pyewacket as it was on Mariah . . . in fact in some cases it was slightly less of struggle (in big seas). Pyewacket had a kinder motion and bum bars to lean on (next to the mast).


We’ve already written a fair bit about the costs (see link to article above). However don’t forget, the marina fees will be more for a larger boat, (and hauling out). But with hard work and constant maintenance on both our boats, we noticed that Pyewacket (51 ft) was not significantly more expensive than Mariah (33 ft) …  all in all an eye opener for us.

Pyewacket II - 51' and not significantly dearer!

Pyewacket II – 51′ and not significantly more expensive, however, a fair bit deeper at 2 metres (compared with Mariah’s 1.5 metres)

Make some savings with a bigger boat

We actually made some savings, having a larger boat:

Pyewacket sailed so much better to windward so we used far less diesel than we did on Mariah*.

We had far more storage for storing long-term foods and spare parts. We carried incredible amounts of water, so it didn’t matter that we didn’t have a water-maker or that we didn’t see land for months. (We could also collect rain water very easily – more on that another day).

*(I know, I know – it’s a sailboat, why do we run the engine? Well, at times there is no wind (or very little) and swells in the ocean, this can create a horrid motion on board, which is not only uncomfortable but damaging. As the boat rolls, the sails ‘slat’, or ‘bang’ from side to side as there is not enough wind to keep them full. This stress on the sails is very damaging and ultimately could end up costing you more than the diesel you use to counteract the rolling motion. At these times we would run the engine at very low revs, just enough to settle the boat’s motion, protect our sails and have a bit of comfort on board.



  • where the dinghy is to be stowed
  • the outboards
  • dive gear
  • spares
  • food
  • linen
  • towels
  • toilet rolls
  • sails
  • lines
  • clothes
  • beer
  • books
  • laptops and printers
  • charts
  • fenders
  • sewing machine
  • vacuum
  • cleaning gear
  • bathroom gear
  • shoes
  • dirty laundry…

There is no ‘right’ kind or size of boat. Our preference is on the heavier side. As well as type, design, materials, think ‘layout’ as you are going to be living on this boat for some time. In our opinion a ‘big’ bathroom looks good but is really a waste of space.

Poled out on Mariah.

Poled out on Mariah.


Different types of rig are linked with different types of boat. For example a schooner and a ketch have different aerodynamic properties, which make them more suitable to certain types of boating. A racing boat will have different aerodynamics than a cruiser. Ensure the rig is fitted according to the design of the boat. Double mast rigs allow different sail plans. Cutter rigging on the foremast is ideal for carrying a storm jib and is strong.

A Schooner has beauty, but is it manageable? Popular choices are sloop and cutter. Both our boats were cutter-rigged sloops which worked for us (furling jib, hanked-on staysail and full battened main).

The missen on a ketch or schooner take up a lot of room, usually reducing cockpit comfort.

Can you cope?

If there are just two of you on board, you are effectively single-handed for at least eight hours a day. What if something happens to your partner? Can you handle the rig? Not just when there is a 15-knot breeze, your partner may be incapacitated in a storm, can you handle everything then?


Full keel:

  • less manoeuvrability in port (wider turning circle, when applying astern propulsion it could go anywhere – probably into the wind)
  • more stable
  • take grounding better
  • can help protect prop from debris
  • don’t point very well
  • less likely, in our opinion, to broach
A good depth, 1.5 metres on Mariah. This meant we could get into fantastic ports such as Aitutaki.

A good depth, 1.5 metres on Mariah. This meant we could get into fantastic ports such as Aitutaki.

Fin keels:

  • more on performance boats
  • more efficient
  • point better
  • less structurally sound
  • grounding could result in major damage

We’ve listed two extremes here, of course there are many choices ‘between’ these. Study, research and figure out what you want to do. If you just want to do bay sailing on the weekend you would want a fin keel. If you are serious about blue water cruising, think full keel, or something close to it.

For cruising try to avoid ‘a fat-arsed’ boat, they are tempting for storage but enhance the vessel’s desire to broach.

Pyewacket's great cockpit 'stored' many people!

Pyewacket’s great cockpit ‘stored’ many people!

Then there’s depth . . . the deeper the boat the more restricted you are into some ports/anchorages… but that is not a top-list item for us – safety & comfort come first.

With some of the technical aspects tackled here – don’t forget the boat will become your home. The considerations are endless. Our book Cruiser’s AA will tell you much more.

Mariah was small (33ft) but very roomy and comfortable.

Mariah was small (33ft) but very roomy and comfortable.


Rain Catcher . . . and they say romance is dead! Part 3

I’ve been reminded about how crappy sanding a boat can be. I must have whinged about the job a fair bit as Noel bought me an electric sander today – and they say romance is dead!

Covered in a layer of sanding dust and looking forward to a beer!

Covered in a layer of sanding dust and looking forward to a beer!

This gift is almost as ‘romantic’ as my first wedding anniversary gift, ‘The 12 Volt Bible’!! But that’s a different, (and a rather incredible), story (more details here).

With the pipes clean I turned my attention to the next part, preparing the wheelhouse roof for painting.

First I removed all the loose paint, then I became a sanding maniac. My sore knees, stiff muscles and the fine coating of ‘dust’ reminded me how much I hate sanding.

Lying down on the job - I was just glad I didn't fall off!

Lying down on the job – I was just glad I didn’t fall off!

But a good painting job is all about the preparation and after one full afternoon and a full morning – hurrah! I could finally paint!

To the paint, I added Rustol Owatrol, Antirouille Incolore, the French equivalent of Penetrol, which makes oil-based paint stick and flow better. I added fifty percent to the first coat, ten percent to the second coat. The mixture is very good at covering rusty parts of steel, provided there are there no loose flakes.

The first (‘scratch’) coat went on well and highlighted all the bits I missed. The dapple pattern from the rain that followed left me a bit peeved! But, the second coat (and final) is now on and I can play plumber next – extending the ‘down-pipes’ to the water tanks.





My new sander and I will work on the rest of the boat . . . soon . . . when I recover!

Recovery food! Chocolate mouse, macadamia and vanilla ice-cream and strawberry tart!

Recovery food! Chocolate mouse, macadamia and vanilla ice-cream and strawberry tart!


Cruising Clinic – What budget do I have to purchase a boat?

Only you know your financial situation. It’s time to be honest with yourself!

In the first article we wrote:

1) What budget do I have to purchase a boat? Whatever budget you have it is extremely likely that you will find a boat you love just that ‘bit’ over your budget. This amount does NOT include:a) all the unexpected problems found during survey that need to be fixedb) all the things the vendor neglected to tell you that needed to be fixedc) all those things that just pop up at inopportune times that need to be fixed

d) on-going maintenance and repairs

e) additional equipment (your own ideas/wants)

Summary: Keep at least 10% of your budget for those unexpected issues.

What’s the real question?

The more pertinent question is, what do I get for my money? And, what other factors do I have to consider?

What do I get for my money?

What do I get for my money?


The best advice is research, research, research. While sailboats vary dramatically in size, layout, design and price, after some in-depth researching you will create a feel for the value presented. Sorry to harp on, but it is all about research. And to only consider the boat purchase cost on its own is foolhardy.


Researching will expand your know-how. Ask questions, seek advice, you will be amazed how your knowledge grows. We spent two years searching for our second boat, all via internet (we wanted to buy a boat in America to experience the Pacific Ocean for a second time).

$0 – millions

You can spend millions or a few thousand. Actually, a few hundred if you are willing to put in the time/money to make is seaworthy. But then you have to consider whether you want to GO cruising now or WORK for several years on a boat first.

Other considerations

As mentioned previously, it is not just the initial purchase, boats have to be maintained constantly. The marine environment is extremely harsh. Without proper care your boat can quickly become un-seaworthy. The problems will spiral out of control – causing the costs to escalate out of control. Everything that moves wears out and will need replacing eventually, this includes sails. As a guide, everything that moves lasts about ten years, motor, winch, sails etc, then it will need an overhaul or replacing.

Costs to keep in mind: see here for full article on calculating your costs. Your on-going expenditure will depend on:

  • From what point you started, ie condition of boat
  • Equipment on board

A smaller, seaworthy, good condition boat is far better than a large, poorly maintained, vessel that will just become a money pit!

Size matters.

Size matters.

Size matters

The size of the boat will matter. We reckon about ten feet per decade. So:

  • If you are ten years old, you want a sailing dinghy of ten feet.
  • In your twenties you can get by on a twenty-seven footer.
  • When you reach thirty you may want a bit more comfort and so on.

It’s almost like a foot for every year of your life (up to about fifty). However, larger boats can be more expensive (longer length means a longer bill at marina), you may need more gear (longer rigging, larger sails). That said, you can make savings with a bigger boat by stowing more spare parts and stocking up at cheap locations.


Boat material will be a factor. Which material do you like working with best? That may make you a saving if you can work on it rather than employing someone else to do the work.

Our priorities when buying a boat

Watertight integrity


Material/keel setup

Heavy displacement (for crossing oceans)/handling capabilities

Equipment (is it all working? Can you maintain it?)


Can we accept, repair, replace, are familiar with all the things that are not perfect.

When we bought Pyewacket, we had to install solar panels and wind generators.

When we bought Pyewacket, we had to install solar panels and wind generators.

The Answer

The answer as per cost is dependent on:

  1. Where you are buying (USA, Caribbean, UK, Australia, Europe . . .)
  2. Condition of boat
  3. What equipment does it comes with?
  4. What skills do you have?
  5. What is your budget (allowing for additional unseen/planned costs and running costs)?

More reading

The Real Cost of Owning a Boat: here.

Here’s a neat UK link providing an idea of what you’ll get for your money: here.

More help

Next time we’ll talk about WHICH boat.

Our book, Cruisers’ AA contains lots more helpful information.


Cruising Clinic – Calculate your cruising costs

What does it cost to run a boat? The answer is irritating. The answer is a question.

How much money do you have?

This article is an attempt to help you think about what it may cost. This exercise will guide you towards your potential expenses. However, you cannot forecast equipment failure, taxes, medical emergencies, breakdowns etc.

First off

It is important to remember that an enormous quantity of money does not guarantee success in this lifestyle. A simple boat equals simple costs. The fewer things you make do without, the less you will spend.

Can you 'do without' a mariner and carry your own water?

Can you ‘do without’ a marina and carry your own water?

Regular payments vs ad hoc

At first glance the land-living expenses listed below looks much shorter than the cruising list. However, the land list has regular (monthly/weekly) payments, whereas the cruising list has ad hoc costs. You may have marina costs once a year. You may have few breakdowns/repairs or no medical costs.

1) Make a list of your current (land living) expenses:


Utility Bills



Phone/Satellite TV/Internet

Car (all inclusive costs for our small Barina (5 years ago) was AUS$28 a day!). Click here for cost calculator.

Entertainment (eating out/movies)


Checking in costs can be reduced if you DIY the process and not hire an agent

Checking in costs can be reduced if you DIY the process and not hire an agent

2) Make a list of what you may spend cruising (after boat purchase)


Checking in charges*

Cruising Permits/taxes (changes with each year/country)

Marina fees (you may not always be able to anchor out)

Accommodation (can you stay on the boat when hauled out?)


Flying home (family emergency)

Gas/LPG/Fuel/Water (in some places you will pay for water)

Shipping in spare parts


Car hire (potentially)

Boat insurance (check out this comprehensive guide on boat insurance)

Storage costs (are you renting your house/selling your house, storing possessions)

Transit charges (Panama canal/Suez canal)

Repairs/maintenance/new equipment (25% of the value of your boat is a good budget)

Medical costs

Exchange rate fees/currency variations

Mail forwarding services

Bribes ($20 here and there)

Food (some places it will be incredibly cheap, other places it will be incredibly expensive!)

*Checking in charges can range from $1,000+ (Galapagos, current charges) to nothing. We estimate our checking-in costs for around the world, including cruising permits, but excluding visas, to be around US$2,500. The most expensive (for us) was Sri Lanka (US$200) and least expensive France ($0). However, this was a few years ago! (Galapagos’ charges were under $200 then.)

Can you make your own repairs, or do you need to hire an expert?

Can you make your own repairs, or do you need to hire an expert?

Personal situation

Obviously, you also need to account for your personal situation, for example:

Retired/retirement fund/savings?

Working as you go?

Skills to use while sailing?

Sold up? Still paying mortgage and/or storage?

Just how cheaply can you live?

We have friends who claim they often lived on $1 a day. They caught fish and had a very simple 28 footer. They were expert ‘fisher-people’ and had the know-how (and spare parts) to complete 99% of their necessary repairs. This is quite unusual. You must not rely on catching fish! Also, you would have to be prepared to only use five litres of diesel a year.

Bicycles and dinghies instead of cars and marinas.

Bicycles and dinghies instead of cars and marinas.

Our expenditure

At the top, under SAILING STUFF/FAQ we have listed our expenditure in Ecuador for over a month (Ecuador Expenditure), including our daily jobs. There is also a description of where we started from, ie what we already had on board.

See how others do it

Read more on how to go cruising now: here.

Click here for some interesting examples on actual living costs on various sized boats, by Sail Far Live Free.

Click here for more information of the cost of cruising. (American Sailing Association)

More help

Our book, Cruisers’ AA has over 1,800 tips, tricks, advice & ideas on improving life on board, particularly on saving $$$$s!

Next: Budgeting for a boat – what do I get for my money?


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CRUISING CLINIC – What’s so great about cruising?

Jackie Parry - author

This was my second question to Noel when we were searching for our first boat – (see the first question here).

At this point I hardly knew the front end of a boat from the back end. I also found the cruising world completely mind-boggling.

Noel’s response to this question, ‘getting to port’, holds a lot of truth (for us). I love being out there but with only two of us on board, after several days of a tag-team match (one is always on watch) it does become tiring. The constant demand on your body to move three-dimensionally, twenty-four hours a day, causes fatigue (the reason most accidents occur). Plus we are always looking forward to exploring our next destination.


What’s it like?

Sailing oceans is not like a plane or car ride. Nothing is certain except a vast puddle of water and a great stretch of sky…

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