Surprisingly, not much. We've sailed off into many a sunset, 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 their big trip 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 going 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.
- Handheld GPS
- Chart book
- A refrigerator (often has to be added to older boats under 40')
- VHF radio
- Dinghy & reliable outboard
- Bilge pump
- Safety gear
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 example wants that people confuse as needs:
- Wind instruments (speed, direction, apparent, etc)
- Chart plotter
- All chain anchor rode
- SSB radio
- Satellite weather
- A million dollars
- Flatscreen TV
- Solar panels or wind generator
- Dodger or Bimini
- Three burner stovetop with an oven
- Two of every piece of gear
- Running rigging all leading to the cockpit
- LED navigation lights
- Anchor windlass
*Note: There are things on my list that Slocum didn't have, one of them being a seaworthy boat. Don't forget, the guy's boat sank and he drown at sea. Don't apply the Slocum Test without common sense.