I am sailing...
April 12, 2005 8:51 AM   Subscribe

I am running away to sea. What should I take for my personal comfort and entertainment (project ideas)? Any other tips for a first timer?

It is a trip across the Pacific on a sail boat, expected to take about 5 months (stopping along the way). I have been given a list of things to bring, but would like your suggestions about projects or other ideas to keep myself occupied onboard. Books, audiobooks, cds, dvds are the basics, what else? Any other useful things to bring? Any good beginners books on sailing that I can read before I go?
posted by AnnaRat to Travel & Transportation (28 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Medical insurance that includes evacuation to shore.
posted by orthogonality at 8:57 AM on April 12, 2005

portable shortwave radio.
posted by trondant at 9:08 AM on April 12, 2005

Take a look at Chapman's Seamanship & Small Boat Piloting.

Bring spare media players! Headphones go overboard real easily.

I suppose it depends on the size of the boat, how many people will be aboard, etc.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:19 AM on April 12, 2005

A copy of The Life of Pi.
posted by saladin at 9:19 AM on April 12, 2005

that sounds totally awesome! how'd you arrange for such a trip? good luck!
posted by fishfucker at 9:20 AM on April 12, 2005

well, i'd take a laptop and a spare disk for backing up data, assuming you have power onboard and a place out of daylight where you can read the screen.

a laptop, food, and somewhere to sleep is about all i need normally, but frankly 5 months on a boat sounds like torture. good luck (on preview - totally awesome for a fish fucker, perhaps!)
posted by andrew cooke at 9:22 AM on April 12, 2005

I'd take a fresh stack of Moleskines and a good helping of my favorite pens. This sounds fantastic.
posted by muckster at 9:25 AM on April 12, 2005

Response by poster: To add further, it is a 45 ft boat which will have five other people on it. I will have my own cabin. It has a CD stacker, DVD player. I have a discman that will play MP3 cds. I am just trying to decide whether to ditch the laptop (I am already away from home) or take it with me (should I worry about the effects of salt air & dampness on it?). Muckster, I just went to the shop today to peruse the Moleskines and writing/drawing implements!

fishfucker, I actually managed to line it up over the internet. This will probably prompt some further advice from some, I've vetted these people and their boat from afar to the best of my ability and am now taking a chance - I've set myself up with outs where it is possible to get out - flights from multiple points
posted by AnnaRat at 9:31 AM on April 12, 2005

oh, and five months? you can finally write your novel.
posted by fishfucker at 9:34 AM on April 12, 2005

Lotsa clothes that dry easily (or stay warm wet), not much cotton if you can avoid it, warm stuff, foul weather gear. Chewing gum or hard candy, a supply (personal) of pain killers and doo-doo medicine (stop pooping or start). Prone to sea sickness at all? Ever been out on a boat in the ocean for long periods of time?
Bottle of good brandy if you want. A book or more about the sea (this one really helps). Got super tough bare feet? If not, good ass deck shoes, God help you. I envy you a million. Fucking sharp ass knife also, Sharp fucking knife and a book about the sea above all. Triple the amount of sun-block that your list advises.
Oh and you could kill your laptop or it might be fine, depends on the dampness in the boat, the roughness of the passage and so on. If it's a sail boat that won't be running its engines much, there isn't gonna be a ton of spare power around. Cash, Cash, Cash and uhhh... Wet ones, some kinda soap that rinses out easily w/o much water.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:38 AM on April 12, 2005

• Camera.
• Maybe tape and glue and a blank book so you can create a sort of collage/travelogue as you go along? (Assuming you get off the boat at its various stops.)
• It sounds like you have reading/writing/movies/CDs covered, so maybe something more manual would be good for when you get tired of those... like a how-to book and some yarn for knitting, or a knife and some wood for whittling. Or a musical instrument to learn (small backpacker guitar?).
• Games to play with others: deck of cards, travel Scrabble. You can also do a makeshift Balderdash if you have a dictionary (which helps with the Scrabble games as well).
posted by xo at 9:45 AM on April 12, 2005

Rehydration mixes, deck shoes, ginger candies, sunglasses on a lanyard (buy the best sunglasses for the job - Maui Jims have worked well for me - you need lots of anti-glare), waterproof wound closure (that stuff that you paint on, instead of a bandaid, is good when it's wet), flashlight with lots of extra batteries, headlamps are useful, books of short stories that can be picked up easily, charcoal/drawing implements, gloves, something you've always wanted to learn: chess, knitting, painting, another language? I'd also bring a star-gazing chart, and learn how to read the sky - that's a skill that will be awesome for life, and where else would you have all the time in the world to stare at the sky? Maybe read some books on stars, nautical charting, etc. to whet your appetite.
posted by fionab at 9:50 AM on April 12, 2005

AnnaRat, I'm very jealous.

I'd bring the laptop for the stops — I don't know how much use you'll get out of it aboard with no net access. You might have to buy an adaptor to charge it off of 12-volt power, depending on how the boat is wired. One of these cost me about $70 at Radio Shack a few years back; I have a feeling you can find a cheaper one elsewhere if you tried. Or perhaps you'll have an inverter and don't have to worry about it. Or perhaps the owners won't want you sucking up power when you're out.

Definitely get a good knife and make a lanyard for it. Get somebody to teach you how to tie a bowline if you don't know how (other knots are fun, but you can get a long way with a bowline and nothing else). You could bring a marlinspike, but in this decadent age of braided line and swaging I suppose that's a bit of overkill.

Bring some materials on celestial navigation and try to teach it to yourself — it'll pass the time, it's harder than you'd think, it's interesting, you'll impress people, and when the GPS and the Loran get fried in a freak lightning storm you'll be able to save the day.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:58 AM on April 12, 2005

Condoms, for two reasons. First, the obvious. Second, because if you have things you need to keep dry (film, memory chips, etc.) there is no better way to do it. Toss it in, tie it off, and put it some place safe...

Go to a used book store and get a Navy Bluejacket Manual. Fascinating reading, and it'll give you endless tips for things you'll be doing while at sea.

Best of luck. I'll echo all the others who say they're jealous!
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:00 AM on April 12, 2005

A parrot companion will help you while away the hours!

Really, I second the idea of bringing knitting or something similar that you have always wanted to learn. Crossword puzzle books, things like that if you like that sort of thing? You'll have time.

I'm so jealous.

On preview - condoms are only good for keeping things dry if they aren't lubed or spermicided, so don't forget to check.
posted by librarina at 10:18 AM on April 12, 2005

For pre-sail reading, you might get a lot out of the US Sailing Basic Cruising and Bareboat Cruising certification manuals (the information isn't US-specific).

Bring good sailing gloves so you don't shred your hands the first week. Snorkel, mask, and fins. Dry spices and ingredients for interesting dishes you can cook in one pot.
posted by nicwolff at 11:20 AM on April 12, 2005

Weapons. I mean, how well do you really know these people? How might the isolation and stress affect them? Is there a history of insanity in their families? Pack at least a selection of knives, including concealable ones that disguise as belt buckles, etc., and small but powerful handgun. You don't need a long barrel in such close quarters, but bring plenty of ammo. You can be sure that they will.
posted by LarryC at 11:24 AM on April 12, 2005

A copy of Ulysses by James Joyce. After five months in relative isolation, you might even finish it.
posted by stavrogin at 11:35 AM on April 12, 2005

Ditto for Life of Pi. Stay away from The Perfect Storm.
posted by booth at 12:06 PM on April 12, 2005

Re: Laptop. See if you can pick up a cheap/used one off CraigsList that has a CD burner. Treat it as effectively disposable. Get some astronomy software to put on it.
posted by mkultra at 12:23 PM on April 12, 2005

How about a ham radio? (Get your license first.)

A small sextant could be fun to play with if you bring a manual.

Binoculars! Don't go without binoculars! (I learned this from my days working the sea.)

A chart and a GPS receiver could be fun to track where you are on your expected course.

Make sure you have a life jacket that fits you well. You may or may not wish to use one available on the vessel. You may wish to choose one with a transponder just in case the unthinkable happens.

You will find it helpful to know the name of the sails and rigging. Should someone yell "ready about" you should know to duck. What would you do if you were instructed to secure the jib?
posted by kc0dxh at 3:00 PM on April 12, 2005

You could bring a marlinspike, but in this decadent age of braided line and swaging I suppose that's a bit of overkill.

Not at all. A spike is the best muiltipurpose tool around. Wear one on your belt and whip it out in a split second to use as a lever, a grappler to wrest a billowing sail under control, a hammer, a wedge to pry a line with strain on it over a deck cleat or some other such obstacle, a fid for working a hole into sailcloth, etc. They're still the handiest thing ever.

For those worried about AnnaRat's safety, don't. These deck-crewing passages (I assume that's what you're doing) are really common; you can set up your own, if you want, by reading classifieds and message boards at places like Latitudes and Attitudes or Cruising World. Sometimes you can land the pleasure of making a boat delivery, in which the owners are not on board -- just a hired crew to bring a boat from, say, Maine in summer to Florida for the winter. Those are the best. it doesn't matter if Anna Rat doesn't know how to secure the jib on Day 1 -- deckhands are trainees, almost by definition. They'll show you what you need to know, and a lot will be learned through direct and sudden experience.

The worst things that can happen are that the people annoy you. They're not likely to be violent criminals at all, but there is the outside chance that they're heavy partyers, swingers, have bad tempers, etc. It happens on rare occasion. But more often than not they will fall into the range of normal. Some are cool and distant with crew; others want to be best buds. So take a flexible attitude, and remember personal space is quite different at sea; even on a small boat, you can coexist fine without getting too annoyed with each other as long as everyone gives everyone else enough space.

I think you'd have a devil of a time teaching yourself celestial navigation, though I know some genius types that have done it. It's quite detailed, and you'll do better working with someone knowledgeable. But if you bring a text, perhaps a fellow crew member can help you. Without knowing celestial nav, a sextant is little more than a funny spyglass that can hurt your eye if you don't know what you're doing. So bring a textbook and star map, and hope that someone else will have a nautical almanac and know how to use it.

And, fair winds. For good or ill, you'll have a memorable experience which you will tell about for the rest of your life.
posted by Miko at 7:27 PM on April 12, 2005 [2 favorites]

Oh, and a good hat with a visor, and put a lanyard on it running from the back of your head to attach the the back of your shirt collar. With a pin or button or toggle.

Assume everything you own will blow/roll/fall off into the ocean if you don't attach a lanyard. Because it will.
posted by Miko at 7:33 PM on April 12, 2005

Re: seasickness. I thought I would be fine, having been on many small boats before, but when we got into some rough waters I got sick. So it can't hurt to bring some Bonine. The raspberry flavored stuff. Works wonders.

I'll also second wet naps, which are good to have everywhere. Don't just bring impossible serious literature - you may not always be in the mood. A phone card for calling home from various ports. Chapstick and lots of it. Facial moisturizer. Some sort of after-sun lotion with aloe in case of sunburn.

The charcoal idea is nice but when I'm travelling I always want to capture the colors. Maybe some oil pastels?
posted by mai at 11:47 PM on April 12, 2005

To add further, it is a 45 ft boat which will have five other people on it. I will have my own cabin.

45 foot LOA? With 6 people onboard? I don't know how it'll be laid out, but I'd be astonished if you had your own cabin on a boat that size. I spent 6 months on a 44 foot LOA cutter rig in the Sea of Cortez, and there were a grand total of two cabins, and only the bow one could fit two people in the berth, at a pinch.

I spent a further 4 months after that on a Swan '71, and that one I had my own cabin. But there were only 4 of us onboard.

I know this is off-topic, but have you seen the boat in question? Skepticism about crewing berths is advised.

As far as things to take? A notebook, and simple games you can play with others. You'll get to know them better than you care to, probably, and anything you can use to make the time go faster during long passages would be welcome.

Guidebooks for the places you'll make landfall wouldn't go astray, either.

But on a boat that size, with that many people, you're not going to have room for much of anything, to be honest. Thing small and multifunction.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:08 AM on April 13, 2005

er, think
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:09 AM on April 13, 2005

Also, re: the laptop. Don't. A boat that size may or may not have a generator, but if the captain is worth anything, he won't be running it much, and he won't be wasting fuel while under way, either for the engine or the generator (if there is one), which means the only time you might have access to A/C at all would be when you're tied up to a dock somewhere, but then again if the skipper is anything like all the cruiser skippers I've ever met he or she won't be using the docks and paying for electricity in port, (s)he'll be dropping the hook and using the zodiac to go back and forth to save mooring fees.

Your laptop will very quickly become utterly useless with no way to charge it, and will probably die from the damp not long after.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:16 AM on April 13, 2005

I lied. It was an Ocean '71. My bad. Wish it had been a Swan. They're nice.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:54 PM on April 13, 2005

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