It’s a boat owner’s dream—spending uninterrupted days, months, or even weeks on the open water and sailing from port to port to explore new areas. Going on an extended boat trip is exciting, but before you leave your home dock, you’ll need to prepare. While it’s impossible to anticipate every contingency, there are several areas of safety and comfort that you’ll want to address well in advance.
Have Your Boat Inspected
Responsible boat owners will keep their vessels in good shape, but even so, for a long trip, you’ll want to have a thorough inspection to make sure the engine and all other systems are operating at optimal levels and there are no cracks, leaks, excess wear, or signs of water damage. Don’t forget to inspect comfort amenities as well, such as toilets and propane appliances.Mechanical breakdowns are the most common problems, but they can usually be prevented by examining small components like belts and batteries. The navigation and radio systems are also crucial and should be thoroughly checked. Even so, plan to have manual backups as well.
Get Your Emergency Supplies Stocked
A well-stocked first-aid kit is essential, even for short day trips. For longer trips, you’ll want to make sure it’s fully stocked and tailored to the needs of water travel. Remind any passengers with medical issues and prepare with needed medication or supplies. The best way to prepare for boating emergencies is with a Coast Guard safety check.The Coast Guard Auxiliary will conduct a free vessel safety check and alert you to any potential problems or missing or damaged items that may jeopardize passenger safety. On their advice, you can replace or supplement any needed emergency items such as fire extinguishers, signaling lights, or floatation devices.
Make a Food Plan
Nothing will make your passengers grumpier than running out of food before you reach your next port. Figure out how many days you will be on the open water before stopping, and plan at least on a substantial meal for each day. Get some freezer bags and divide meat into meal-size portions.Certain prepared foods also freeze well, such as meat loaf and stew. Also, don’t forget vegetables. Also stock up on grains and starches, such as rice, pasta, and cereals. Remember also to pack salt, pepper, and spices.
Make it Comfortable
A comfortable boat makes for happy passengers. You can add foam toppers to beds for more sleeping comfort. Foam pads also work well beneath cushions of chairs and sofas. Pillows and throw blankets are also cozy touches. If you’re remodeling your older boat’s interior, choose easy-to-clean vinyl surfaces. Although wood furniture is beautiful, most contemporary marine furniture is built on metal or polymer frames. Becausewood furniture is more susceptible to water damage, you should be careful using it on a boat. Many wood items, such as tables, are teak finished with protective coats.
Plan Time for Exploring the Shore
One pleasure of traveling is seeing new places and having new experiences. As you plan your trip, leave space in your itinerary and budget for visiting the local sights. You’ll find beautiful beaches and parks along the coast, and you’ll want to take some time to relax in your natural surroundings and enjoy the scenery. Many marinas have restaurants, but also venture into coastal towns and explore.You’ll find restaurants serving local specialty dishes, shopping, and historical sites to tour. Many towns have public transportation or bicycle rentals available.
Prepare for Bad Weather
Your emergency supplies are ready and your boat’s in tip-top shape. But there are still steps you need to prepare for bad weather along the way. Keeping a watchful eye on the weather goes without saying, but also make alternative plans if you need to change your route.All passengers need to know what to do and where to go in case of a weather emergency. Educate them about stowing away loose items, closing all hatches, and staying clear of any metal if there is lightning. Before leaving, conduct emergency drills so that everyone knows their roles.
Keep in Touch
You’ll want to stay in touch with family and friends while you’re cruising.There are several options for adding Wi Fi or boosting available signals, and your boat may already have one installed. Alternately, your smartphone plan may include portable hotspots, but also consider a MiFi device, which works the same way but also amplifies the available signal for better connection. Another option is a satellite connection. There are a number of choices and price points, but an omnidirectional device might be best because of the boat’s movement and positioning.
Be Flexible and Adapt to Boat Living
Your boat can provide you with many comforts of home, but unless you’ve got a luxury yacht, you’ll have to do without some familiar things on an extended boat trip. Conserving water is important, so long hot showers are out. And, laundry is always an issue, even if you have a marine washer and dryer. Just remember, you’re on vacation—it’s okay to wear your jeans an extra day.
Depending on how many people you’re boating with, you’ll also have to deal with less personal space. Every day you’ll be eating, sleeping, and working in close quarters, and it’s bound to wear on the nerves sooner or later. An untidy boatmate or an extreme neat freak will only worsen the tensions. It’s a good idea to set some “house rules” before leaving and have regular meetings where people can communicate their frustrations. Overall, everyone will need to learn patience.
Whether it’s just a week’s vacation or a dream trip to see the world, an extended boat trip can be an exciting adventure. On the water, you’ll have plenty of time for relaxation and enjoying nature. And, you can experience a new kind of tourism as you dock in new towns. With preparation, it will be a breeze not a storm!
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