Joe and I have now experienced the steep learning curve of cruising- including a boat search, purchase, driving across the country to move aboard, then a refit, then back on board, provisioning, outfitting and now setting off. We thought we would post advice we wish someone had given us- or advice we wish we had listened to.
Find the Right Buying Broker– we wasted time and money by not finding the right buyer’s broker for us in the beginning. Red flags we had with our first broker were his not returning phone calls timely, too busy to spend any time with us, and in the middle of a multi-location boat hunting trip, dropping the ball completely, leaving us to locate boats and schedule visits ourselves.
Your broker should care about working for you and provide the level of attention to get the job done. Luckily, our second broker was wonderful, and have highly recommended him to several other buyers. You can read more about our advice to new buyers and the broker we used at this post.
Less is More!- When moving on board your boat, you will have purchased a large variety of items ahead of time, and may make the same mistake we did, which is bringing too much stuff. Unfortunately, we hauled most of it across the country from California to Florida, so had to ship some of it home, or stuff it into suitcases and fly it home as checked baggage.
The reality is that you need less than you think you do. You only need a few clothes, not a suitcase or boxes worth. Instead, move on board and start living. It will become clear which items you cannot live without- or which items are just taking up space.
Your Boat Surveyor Will Miss Things– No matter how experienced your boat surveyor is, he or she will miss items. Some of these items will cost more than you want. Accept that fact ahead of time, then when you discover pricey items that need to be repaired, you will be ahead of the game and not financially traumatized.
Before You Cruise, Learn as Much as You Can about Complex Sailboat Systems– You will be far ahead of the game doing as much of the work yourself as you can. Early on, Joe’s mechanical engineering skills became important when diagnosing and repairing broken air conditioning in the middle of a Florida summer. Later, he got up close and personal with replacing the marine toilets and hoses, and many other items on our repair list.
However, there will come a time when a job is outside of your knowledge and/or comfort zone, or make the decision to hire a local marine professional in order to get out cruising sooner. If so, here is another nugget of wisdom we learned:
Boat Jobs Will Take Longer Than You Want and Cost More Than Anticipated– We found that 90% of the marine professionals we worked with were wonderful. The good ones seemed to be busy, so you would first wait for a schedule slot, then an estimate, then the work would begin. Some would make an appointment and then not show. Not a good sign, keep looking. In the end, the best referrals came from friends.
Marine professional charge a high price, and of course the geographic location of where your boat is at will matter. A place like Fort Lauderdale will cost you more on labor than in La Paz or Ensenada, Mexico.
Many marine workers seem to work on Island time, meaning that maybe the job will get done that day- or maybe not. This can be frustrating for many new cruisers, who are working to a tight deadline or want to get out cruising sooner.
Recognize There Will Be Times When You Feel Disappointed– Early on, when we discovered items missed on the survey, equipment failure, or when things didn’t work out the way we wanted, it was easy to feel discouraged. To realize the cruising “dream,” you must successfully work through your disappointments and frustrations. Everyone does this differently and at their own pace. Don’t lose sight of the overhaul goal.
At a particularly low point for us about 4 months ago, we talked to a sailing friend, Pam, about these feelings. Her response was perfect and just what we needed to hear at the time. She said, “If cruising was easy, everyone would be doing it.” Yes! Hearing that comment turned our focus back on our goal.
Set Off to Cruise as Soon as Possible! There is a lovely journey just waiting for you once you take off. Life slows down, and you get in the cruising groove. It is important to remind yourself that there will be amazing times ahead of you- people to meet, places to see, and rich experiences!
Carla aboard S/V Mahi