Six Simple Alternatives to Common Cruising Clutter
As we prepare Ganymede to head off on the next and biggest leg of our family cruise, these questions inevitably come up: “What new stuff do we need?” “What needs improving?” and “What can we get rid of?” Being about three and a half years and 7,500 sea miles into this journey, we’ve managed to shake everything pretty well into place, as well as to streamline our list of wants and needs into things we really need and really want. Three things that we really wished for, and had time to think about and wish for some more, were a wind-steering vane, a bigger storm sail, and a proper jib.
Though I had built a self-steering mechanism of my own, it hadn’t worked out (Maybe I’m only good for simple things), and we ended up hand-steering 99% of the way. Gets tiresome, so last summer we purchased and rebuilt a used Sailomat wind vane. We have still to try it out, but in a couple of weeks we’ll get that chance.
A jib also we had made last summer, and found in sea trials that it balanced the mainsail most gloriously, allowing Ganymede to carry the sail full into stronger winds without getting weather helm, which had been a problem before. We liked our jib so much that we also had Jasper and Bailey, the local sailmaker, measure Ganymede for a storm trysail, an extra big one for milder gales, with a deep reef for really heavy weather. Hopefully it will be delivered soon and we can see how it fits before taking off.
One of the nice things about the want/need list is its shortness, which can probably be attributed to our contentment with how things are. Ganymede is characterized less by what it has than by what it doesn’t have, and here’s a short list of things we went without that most boats have as a matter of course, but who’s absence we’ve not really minded.
1). Water tanks. While Ganymede was under construction, we collected scores of plastic gallon and half-gallon juice bottles to carry water in instead of built-in tanks. We’ve been using them now for three + years as our only water supply, and find them durable, clean-able and easy to use. Sure, it takes longer to fill them from a hose than a water tank would, but it’s far easier to fill jugs in remote areas where there is no water dock to tie the big boat up to, and not having to tote 5-gallon water jugs around and empty them into onboard tanks is a mercy. There’s also the comfort of knowing that if bad water gets into some of the jugs, you haven’t contaminated all your water supply and plumbing. Which leads to eschewed item number two:
2). Freshwater plumbing. No big tanks means no hose runs, no pumps to leak and rebuild, no sink drain that needs a through-hull and shutoff valve. Instead of a sink, we keep a plastic tub discreetly under the galley counter where all the dirty dishes go. In the tropics, the tub gets put into the cockpit for dishwashing, where we draw up sea water with a bucket. In colder places, a towel draped over the salon table makes a perfect washing station. We keep a half-dozen of the plastic tubs around, and use them for laundry as well.
3). Inboard engine. Not only could we not afford one financially, we couldn’t afford it space-wise. Where the engine would normally go there is on Ganymede a spacious cabin with seven-foot bunks, and no noise, smell or mess inside the boat (other than what the children make). But we’re not purists enough to do without a motor entirely, so we have an 8-hp, 4-stroke, long-shaft, high-thrust Yamaha outboard on a home-made bracket. Maybe it’s not a powerful as an inboard diesel, but it’s a lot cheaper and easier, and does very well as an auxiliary.
4). 12-volt electrical system. We did without one on Capella, our first sailboat, and found we didn’t miss it in the least, so we’re blissfully free of that again. Though not as bright as electric lights, our five kerosene lamps are most reliable and have a charmingly pleasant glow. Everything necessary, like a GPS, shortwave receiver, VHF and flashlights, runs on AA batteries.
5). Dodger and Bimini. We’ve been told of the impossibility of cruising in the tropics without these, but it’s really quite easy. At anchor a vast awning keeps us shadier than any bimini, and if necessary a dark-colored sheet, creatively rigged with clothespins and twine, does nicely while underway. As for a dodger, I prefer to avoid taking that kind of spray over the bows, but if we sometimes do, isn’t a little salt water part of the seafaring life?
6). Dinghy motor. Not only are they burglar bait, but if I didn’t have a little rowing to do, I’d get frightfully out of shape. The last thing I want to do, when I have to leisure to enjoy a quiet and possibly hard-won anchorage, is to go roaring about with the clatter of an outboard in my ears. There are some places where the tide will dictate your coming and going more than you’d like, but I can count on one hand, and still have fingers left over, the times I’ve really wished for a dinghy motor.
Those six items are the main ones I can think of that most other cruisers have that we’ve left out without suffering too much discomfort. I don’t say threy’re bad to have, just that for us the expense and bother to upkeep wasn’t worth the benefits they may have had. We may change our minds as we cruise this next Northern leg, or who knows? We may throw out yet another needlessly complicated thing. Keep watching and find out!