After graduating from high school in 2003, I spontaneously (and with no sailing experience) bought my first sailboat. Since then my girlfriend LeeAnn and I have sailed thousands of miles, from pine trees to palm trees, on rivers and waterways, oceans and lakes. We still aren't too sure what all the ropes and stuff are for, so we like to consider ourselves "lucky" to have made it this far.
LeeAnn and I were married in 2009 in the Exumas Islands.
Surprisingly, not much. We've sailed off into many a sunset while leaving naysayers behind to endlessly prepare their own boats while attempting to convince others that their boats aren't ready to go either.
The perfect boat syndrome is an epidemic among would be cruisers who are afraid to go cruising because somewhere along the line they got the idea in their head that paradise wouldn't have a boat store.
It's easy for anyone to catch the perfect boat bug. I'm guilty of it too. Wants suddenly turn into needs, and if you aren't careful you can become caught in an endless cycle of preparation.
Whenever I feel like I'm confusing wants with needs, I apply the Slocum Test, which is as simple as asking "did Josh Slocum need this item to complete his circumnavigation?" The answer is almost always "no," and then I ask, "Well, if Slocum didn't need it to sail around the world, why do I need it to not sail around the world? How bad do I want this item? Enough to sacrifice my whole dream?"
There is also something to be said about preparing for a realistic destination. We've met people who are so convinced they need to buy 200 feet of anchor chain for "some day when I sail to the Galapagos" that they miss out on all the great places they could sail to tomorrow with 20 feet of chain and some rope. There is nothing wrong with dreaming big, unless that dream prevents you from ever cruising at all. Crawl, walk, then run.
Everyone has different wants and needs, and they are often dependent on your age, length of cruise, and immediate cruising destination. I didn't want to wait 30 years until retirement to go cruising.
Here are 16 essential items that every cruising boat needs:
Stopping power (a reliable anchor and dock lines)
Standing and running rigging
Sails with a few years left in them
Common essential components (battery bank, wiring, plumbing, etc.)
Holding tanks (fresh, black, fuel)
A reliable engine
Essential electrical instruments: depth finder, volt meter.
A refrigerator (often has to be added to older boats under 40')
Dinghy & reliable outboard
Am I forgetting anything? A lot of the items on the list might seem obvious, and that's just it. They are. You need very few essential ingredients to bake a cake. The rest is just icing.
Here are some common wants that people confuse as needs:
Being from Michigan, I was raised around hunting and fishing, but I never really took to it. Fishing is too boring. You just sit around hoping the fish will start to bite.
Deer hunting is about the same, except that if you do shoot a deer, you are pretty much done hunting considering the rest of your day is going to be spent cleaning the deer and dragging it back to your camp or where ever.
Spear fishing is the best form of hunting for several reasons:
If there are no fish, you move on to the next spot. There is no guessing about it.
You can shoot more than one fish in a day (unlike deer hunting).
Fish can swim better than people, and breath underwater, so it's more fair.
Sharks can eat people, so it's more interesting!
Here is a video of a lobster wishing he had found a better hiding spot. We were anchored with Side x Side who had plenty of lobsters for everyone, so this guy was left alone.
Barracudas are a common sight when spear fishing. They are curious about people, attracted to shiny objects (like the stainless steel spear in your hand), and also attracted to the vibration of a speared fish.
They "stalk" divers. Which is really eerie. I typically just stare them down, and hope they go away. I've seen people charge at them to scare them off. Which I think takes balls of steel, considering they are more likely to get defensive when they feel threatened.
Normally whenever a barracuda came around, we would just go fish elsewhere. I've heard stories of barracudas attacking speared fish. Not a situation I ever wanted to experience.
This video shows a small barracuda. I tried to get a little closer but he started to swim off. As you can see in the video, they blend in pretty well. You generally don't see them until they are pretty close:
Here are a few videos of fishing with Chris and my Dad who was down for our wedding. I was after a spiny lobster. Took me a few shots: