Getting a boat ready to go on an extended cruise is a bit like Christmas shopping. Like some people, I start my Christmas shopping in October and regardless of when I’ve crossed everything off my list, I don’t really stop buying until Christmas comes. The difference is that when you’re fitting out your boat, Christmas comes and goes and you’re still shopping. Steve, our knowledgeable guy at the Chandlery, knows now that if he sees Blair in there for anything other than bottom paint he’s to call 911 immediately.
At this point, Strathspey is equipped to handle cold, heat, fog, rain, find her way from port to port, anchor, send emails and make phone calls. We can continue to run up heart-stopping Visa bills to add to this list but at some point, we have to say to ourselves, she’s a fast, strong boat and she’s got enough toys to be our home for the next year. That time has come. Now it’s time to work on making ourselves equal to the task of sailing Strathspey 3,500 miles to the Bahamas and back.
It has been bitterly cold for the past two weeks so neither of us feels much like spending any time in the boat shed. The interior of an unheated boat is a lot like your garage; fine for short periods but not a place for working ungloved and fumbling with screwdrivers and wrenches. So we’re using this time to take some boating courses and also to get some certifications that will be important for us both on the boat and when we return from this year of cruising.
Blair got his Ham operators licence (VE3MSB) so we can talk as well as listen on our single sideband radio (SSB).
This talk and listen stuff is serious business. If you have an SSB without a Ham license, you can download weather maps, you can listen to CBC radio and, best of all, you get to tune in to broadcasts on all the marine networks (nets). You hear other boaters on these nets; their conversations running the gamut from who’s crossing the gulf stream on Friday to “hey I’ve got a 35 pound anchor I’m not using”. If you don’t have a Ham license, you can just sit and listen to your heart’s content. But if you’ve got your license, you get to talk too. I’m so proud of Blair; this was a hard certification requiring many hours of study and best of all, because he persevered, I am reaping the benefits.
I am doing a homestudy of the Advanced Piloting course offered by the Canadian Power Squadron. I’ve forgotten quite a few details of what I learned in the Basic Piloting three years ago. I think using an electronic chart plotter and GPS does that to you. That, and sailing in familiar waters never far from shore, makes us let our guard down a little. I will feel more comfortable having a refresher of all this information when we’re out on the ocean though; I hope to know exactly where we are at all times and where we can expect to be if we follow the piloting rules. Stay tuned on that aspect.
On the social side, we’ve been lunching and dinning with other sailors who’ve been there, done that.
We’ve asked just about every question we can think of; where did you anchor, did you have trouble finding propane, what kind of health insurance did you get and so on. All these people absolutely love talking about their past trips. They’ve offered us their guidebooks, their charts, free moorings and names of people to look up. Best of all, they’ve assured us that this cruise is a good idea and that we’re capable of doing it.