Let's Cruise, but first...

The Prudent Sailor Says

Boat Life Series
   Dancing with Irma
   The Avoidable and Not-So-Much
   Bump Rock and Bang
   Untie Now or Tow Later
   Crappy Business
   Once You're Aware
   Fishing Equipment
   Cultural Norms?
   What Are You Gonna Do?
   Prudent Mariner
   Truth of Your Knowledge
   Old School HUH?
   Are You Paying Attention?
Cruising Gear
   Bilge Pumps
   Emergency Gear
   Spare Engine Parts
Cruising Inventory Lists
   Deck List
   Electrical List
   Engine Parts List
   Rigging List
   Navigation List
   Books List
   Life List
   Tools List
   Ditch Bag List

Copyright ©
2013 to 2018
by Michael A. Barber

All rights reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.


Click to Order
Kindle eBook Edition
Nook eBook

20 Sailors living on thirty to forty-five foot boats tell their Hurricane Irma (2017) stories.
Some survived without a scratch,
Some got beat-up bad,
Some lost their homes,
One was shipwrecked on a deserted Island,
One crew was rescued at sea,
One Died!
Here are their stories for you to learn from.

The proceeds from this book's sales are going to a Hurricane Irma rehab project in Boot Key Harbor to be determined by the author's later this year.

Click to Order

Kindle Edition or Paperback
Nook or Paperback
"Let's Cruise, but first..." is written for those of you who are new to or considering full time cruising. It is intended to point you in the right direction with good information in an entertaining way.

Available NOW on Kindle ebook, Nook ebook and Paperbacks from "Barnes and Nobles" and Amazon. The inventory of things necessary to cruise is lengthy and requires a lot of planning. Here you can download the basic list of necessities in a spreadsheet to manipulate to your own needs.
The Inventory list can be downloaded here for free:
Additionally, these two files are my Food inventory and an Energy Audit sheet:
Food Inventory.xlsx
Energy Audit.xlsx
Have questions? Send me a message!


Life on a Boat Series

The Avoidable and Not-So-Much
Alright it’s two months later and I’m still in the boat yard. As I’ve said before I enjoy my time in the yard communing with the boat and getting her all perfect. One project seems to lead to another one and time just passes. Hurricane season is underway and there have already been three named storms at the time of this writing so I know I have to wrap this up and get mobile again.

Weather dictates much of our activities on the water. There is no such thing as a “hurricane hole”. If you are in the path of a hurricane it will wreak havoc on you no matter where you are. The only sure way to be safe in a hurricane is for you and the boat to not be there. Lightning on the other hand is a little more difficult to avoid. As I’m writing here, I’m watching a lightning storm heading my way from the north. From my view point, I’m in beautiful sunshine as I watch the lightning bolts flash through the sky on there approach.

A single lightning strike will do many thousands of dollars damage to your electronic equipment in seconds. It is a pain in the butt. To combat this, I do a couple of things. First, I constantly fight the urge to have all the electronic gadgets that make life easier. Next, every gadget I have can be easily removed from the electrical circuits on the boat. The only way they will be saved is to be completely un-wired not simply turned off. The induction current from a lightning strike will destroy most solid-state equipment. Last, every conductive metal part of the boat is wired to ground terminating to a long, skinny solid copper plate on the bottom of the hull.

Upon my haul-out this trip I saw hundreds of tiny pin holes in my bottom paint and curiously enough they were all on the port side of the boat. My first theory for this phenomenon was that I may have either gotten a bad batch of paint last time, I mixed it wrong, or maybe there was some wind driven sand in it while putting it on.

It took a while to grind out all the pin holes and epoxy them then fair everything out. Of course, everyone in the yard had their own theories of the cause. Curiosity consumed me so I consulted a Naval Architect to get his opinion. One look and he said it was from lightning. I use a very high copper concentrated paint and he postulated that lightning, not a direct strike, but running across the water hit the boat and caused the copper-based paint to quickly expand causing the pin holes. Who knew?

I don’t think that even the experts fully understand lightning. What is known, is that a bolt carries a billion or so volts. Not much of anything is going help with that except a healthy dose of dumb luck. Be Lucky.


Bump Rock and Bang
After a couple of days cruising the Florida west coat in fantastic weather and a kindly sea I transited the Caloosahatchee River to haul-out and refit before hurricane season arrives. I always look forward to refits as I enjoy working on the boat as much as I do being underway. I’m fond of DIY yards that don’t have any requirements to use the marina staff for anything. Being a fulltime cruiser, I also want to live on the boat while working. Doing the work yourself leaves you in a better position later to effect repairs in an emergency. If you did the work and it fails later down the way, you will be an expert on how to best fix it. I equally enjoy the boatyard culture complete with sunset community meals and ad hoc music jams. Being in the yards is a time when you can relax your self-reliant fervor a little.

However, if you spend any time out here in Waterworld you will have a growing list of things that just piss you off. Any lifestyle has its good and bad points and we all like to think that fulltime cruising is somehow exempt, but of course it is not. I read a cartoon recently; the first frame was a couple screaming expletives at each other from the cockpit to the bow while anchoring; the next frame was the same couple sitting in the cockpit drinking wine acknowledging how great life on a boat is. There is nothing you can do when a couple like this interrupts your peace as they anchor next to you except smile, wave and say “welcome to the harbor”.
Other events make me want to re-write the Jimmy Buffet lyrics from “these three-day tourists are really a bore” to “these three-day tourists are really dangerous”. Case in point; Tourist with more money than seamanship fires up his mega yacht, flies past me doing 15 knots and throwing a four-foot wake in an inlet with restricted maneuverability. Or worse, the same tourist throws the same wake at boats on a dock….bump, rock and bang.

It is a conflicting human dichotomy of wanting to have our way even when we hate that behavior being applied to us. When boaters are underway they want to be unimpeded even if it means waking docked boats. Conversely, the same boater will scream bloody murder to anyone who wakes them while they are at the dock.

The only resolution to this type of conflict is discipline and pride in the “craft of seamanship”. Thoreau taught us long ago that the “undisciplined life is not worth living”. Apply a little reasoning to this and it is an easy step to realize that undisciplined actions are an abject annoyance to everyone. Out here on the water they can also be costly and dangerous. Way before Thoreau we had a thing called the “Golden Rule”, you remember, the one that goes: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.


Untie Now and Tow Later
It´s January, and I love this time of year. Especially when I can get south of …oh say 21°´N. After hurricane season it is almost a rite of passage to beat against the trade winds to destinations as far southeast as possible. The idea of course is to find warm weather, isolated islands with great tiki bars on the beach, and watch the snow on TV. As is usual for this time of year, that´s where I am now. I really like tropical fishing, scantily clad bodies, and cold beer. No matter how far I go or how hard it is to get there, it seems that I always arrive with a variety of folks that I just can´t figure out how they got here in one piece. As I sit here I´m witnessing a fine example of someone practicing utter arrogance. You see, being a prudent sailor I really like anchoring in the lee of an island. That means that the wind and the current are coming from the land. This is really important because if something, anything goes wrong with my ground tackle I will be taken away from land and an unfortunate grounding. Most captains like to be in this position with the “Mother Ship”, but don´t seem to think as much about their tenders.

So I watched this guy take his dinghy to the beach earlier. I have no idea why he needed to be there. Upon trying to return he untied from the small dinghy dock and immediately started drifting to sea. Then he proceeds to start his motor. Yeah, the motor is not starting. I have watched him pull the cord at least fifty times and while he is out of ear shot I can clearly make out his expletives. He has checked his fuel twice; he has checked the breather on the fuel can, and now has the cover off the motor. He is really staring hard at the motor as if the shear will of his desire is going to fix the problem.

Through the binoculars I can see that he does not have an adequate set of oars nor is there any evidence of an anchor. He is more than a hundred yards from the dock at this point and there is no one around. That of course puts the onus on me so I´m going to do what I always do and go help the guy. I´ll start by filling two “to go” cups of coffee (let´s hope he takes his black and bitter). I´ll launch my dink and tow him to his boat or back to the beach where he can get mechanical help. The hard part will be how to ask him why he would ever launch his boat away from any mooring before starting the motor. While you are still attached to the dock or your boat a mechanical failure is a none event. It seems like such a simple idea yet it too often doesn´t happen.


Crappy Business
In a time not long ago, I could readily find anchorages with little or no one in them. The seclusion was always a happy respite from the culturized world. I could drift around fishing from my dinghy for hours on end without interruption. Now-a-days it seems that most anchorages are full to the shoreline and dinghy drifts are social events where throngs of dinghies raft up to have a sundown party. I participated in just such an event last week.

One of the more humorous moments of the evening was the sighting of a turd floating by. Even as full-grown adults, we easily found humor in turds. While the humor in it was sophomoric in nature no one actually wanted to ruin the spirit of the event with a serious discussion about the defilement of the very thing that brought us all here. We all migrate here for the pristine clear water, swimming, diving, fishing and more. But who really wants to get in the water with turds floating by? The rest of the world has not even bothered to think about these issues yet. Many of our favored ports of call have no infrastructure for pump-outs and the water is a veritable cesspool. Even in the Bahamas it is a pump overboard at will situation. The islands have a greater water circulation than most regions, but still the waste goes somewhere.

Here in the USA most marinas have pump-out facilities. Holding tanks are woefully small on most boats which puts even well intended captains in a stinky position. It is simply too easy to turn the Y valve, pump and start fresh.

But there is a better solution both home and abroad for us all. Composting units for boats are more cost effective, easier to maintain, and simplify a traditionally serious plumbing system. A compost head does away with the holding tank and the necessity for a pump-out. The compost product can be safely deposited in any trash can or sprinkled around on existing dirt. The urine is a little different situation. Urine is mostly sterile. I say “mostly” because it does have a cocktail of microbes in it, but they are harmless to large bodies of water. While I would really rather you dump your urine in a toilet in a marina it is far safer to pump overboard than the turds.

The Florida Keys are a No Discharge Zone (NDZ) and a few other locations are seriously considering legislation to the same end. It is amazing to me that this issue is even open for discussion. Is there really enough here to discuss? Why can’t we simply make all waters an NDZ? At the end of the day please ask yourself if you are willing to dive into the water immediately after you dump any of your waste into it. If the answer is not only no but ……. then maybe you should reconsider. And don’t even make me talk about oil, gas, diesel fuel etc. etc.


Dancing with Irma
The hurricanes are coming. It’s early May and decisions must be made. I’m not averse to making decisions, but some are harder than others. Today I’m forced to decide on long term plans that once made cannot easily be undone.

When you live on a boat, especially a sailboat most of your day to day routines are dictated by the weather. We don’t own umbrellas out here. We all own foul weather gear. Cloudy skies and rain mean little or nothing to us other than the inconvenience of it. If your boat is not on a dock that means daily commutes in a dinghy rain or not. Getting your butt wet from the seating is called “dinghy butt” and wet pants are not even worthy of mention. Wind however, is what all of us are hyper tuned to. Wind drives wave heights, our sails, and the forecasts. Any change in the wind is instantly noticed. Changes in direction, intensity, and or temperature of the wind mean a change in weather conditions. So, wind is everything. Hurricanes have the biggest wind, deadly wind. The kind of wind that can make thirty-foot waves appear even in a harbor. They spawn tornados in seemingly every direction. They have the kind of wind that rips equipment off the deck of your boat. They have the kind of wind that snaps anchor and mooring lines and drives one boat into another punching holes in the hulls and sinking them.

Hurricanes are terrible business. They form in the tropics as the ocean gives off its heat. This ocean heat warms the air and causes it to rise in a spiral motion carrying moisture with it. The moisture condenses into clouds. Meanwhile, on the surface where all the air is rising, there is less air causing lower atmospheric pressure that sucks more air into the system. If the ocean water continues to fuel the heat the system will spin faster and create a tropical cyclone which in the Atlantic Ocean is named a hurricane. Officially, the wind must reach 74 mph to be a hurricane. At 96 mph it is a Category 2, at 111 mph a Category 3, at 130 mph a Category 4, and 157 mph or more is a Category 5 which is catastrophic destruction.

Once formed, hurricanes in the Atlantic move along the warm Gulf Stream current and eventually turn northward. Storms that form in the southwest Caribbean Sea will travel with the Gulf Stream in a northern direction veering east with the Coriolis effect. Once over land and no longer fueled by the warm water they expend their energy and die.

Hurricanes are the most violent and destructive weather on planet earth. If you live on a boat, even the smallest hurricane invokes fear. This will be my third continuous year of living on my boat in hurricane alley. More precisely it has been my home port from which Vickie and I have sailed the coastal regions and western Bahamas. The keys are a great central location from which to visit a wide variety of islands and coastal towns. We love Boot Key harbor in Marathon situated in the middle of the keys. From here we have access to the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. It is a veritable paradise. The weather is great year-round. It is the kind of place where you never need long pants or socks and your tan never fades. Boot Key also houses the Marathon City Marina which is, for me one of the greatest marinas on the east coast of the U. S.

Marathon City Marina is not a yachtsman’s marina. It is a working-class environment for cruisers and fulltime live-a-board folks. It is filled with “boats” and only rarely do you see a yacht. I know that defies the dictionary definitions, but if you take one look, the difference between these “boats” and those yachts, it is manifest. The bright work and stainless steel does not gleam as much. Paint needs touching up, sails are often decades old, and the canvas work is frayed. Most everything is functional it’s just not as pretty as on a yacht. Some of the boats here have not moved in years and at this point cannot move without towing assistance. Many of them are sea worthy and disappear over the adventurous horizon for months at a time. It’s a mixed bag of twenty to sixty-foot sailboats and trawlers all with the same agenda; that is a love of living on the water even if your boat is only used as an apartment. Most everyone here must work to keep floating. None of us are rich. Many of us are itinerate workers relying on ad hoc employment or selling crafts made on the boat. The marina has a nice open workshop with storage closets for rent that buzzes all day with any manner of boat work. The staff is amazing and all this is led by Sean, one of the great harbor masters of my time.

You will not find gift shops, fuel docks, exercise rooms, or banquet facilities here. There is an open hall with plastic picnic tables, a few TV’s, a few washers and dryers, Internet connections and rudimentary shower rooms. There are two really nice dinghy docks to accommodate the 226 mooring ball guests and another 75 or so anchored guests. The adjacent canal has room for a dozen boats to tie off and offers those guests electric hookups. But that’s it. There are no frills here. This is paradise on a budget. The harbor is filled with artisans from every discipline. A simple call on the radio will get you any kind of help you need. This help will more often than not come from a person with thirty or more years’ experience in their field be it electrical, HVAC, woodwork, fiberglass, metal work, engine repair, you name it; it’s all here. I love this place.

During the summer of 2015 we had a possible Cat 1 coming our way and decided to tough it out on a mooring ball. Cat 1’s are very lively weather events, but not so much so that I feel the need to run away from. During these, the storm surge is only three to four feet. My lines and the mooring balls can handle much more. But at the last minute the storm turned away from us, we had a beer and quickly forgot the whole thing. Last year none of the hurricanes came anywhere near us. Now I have to make the decision on whether to risk another hurricane season or leave the hurricane belt. The option of staying means there is a lot of work to be done. The boat needs a new engine. My old Perkins 4-107 is on its last leg and mostly unreliable. It’s not that I must have an engine, it is a sailboat after all. The problem is that if I have to leave the harbor “right now” the wind may preclude that from happening so the engine is a convenience. Otherwise, I will need to be towed out. Once out of the harbor the sails do just fine without the engine. If a hurricane is coming you don’t have time to wait on the wind. This means getting the engine running good enough to get out of the harbor on any given day and get a replacement engine ready to go. Replacing the engine will take two weeks at best and I do not want to be a sitting duck for two weeks. I know that NOAA gives us about two weeks lead time on most of these storms, but it is not a risk I’m willing to take. Replacing the engine means disassembling the old engine piece by piece to get it off the boat as there is no way to remove it in one piece. After removal, will be days of cleaning and painting the bilge. Finally, there will be the piece by piece installing of the new engine. So, the replacement will have to wait until at least October. The other option is to spend the season anchored outside the harbor which is a huge inconvenience.

For days Vickie and I discuss the options for staying in the area. Leaving Marathon just yet, does not feel right and the only place we want to go is St. Croix where we have friends and jobs waiting. Right now though, the boat is not ready for a trip like that. So, the decision is made to get some work done. I will fix the 4-107, build a replacement, and immediately replace all the running rigging. The running rigging has taken a real beating in the last six thousand miles or so and needs help. One way or another we must be in the position to “cut and run” within half a day at all times.

At this juncture I don’t know what “cut and run” means. It might mean needing the motor to simply hide in the mangroves for a few days as a small hurricane passes. But it could mean a passage to Mexico or further southwest. A trip like that could mean 1,500 miles in the round, three weeks at sea and enough provisions for another month after returning to a destroyed harbor.

With all this in mind I replaced all the running rigging, built a new foresail, and made sure we had enough staple food onboard for a few months. All this was done by the end of May.

June 1st is the official opening of hurricane season. It was a busy month spent mostly getting the 4-107 running. I spent a lot of time wearing Diesel Don out about fuel delivery problems. Eventually and $965 later I had to have the fuel injector pump rebuilt. This combined with remediating a handful of other issues I got the motor up and going. We were able to drive around the harbor. Every day we would crank her up in a state of amusement mixed with a little disbelief that the ancient thing still worked. Oh, she smoked, bellowed and bucked the whole time, but she ran and I felt like we could depend on her in an emergency. So, by the middle of June I was comfortable that the boat was again well founded and ready to go on a moment’s notice. John Vigor has postulated a “Black Box Theory” for boaters that all your seamanlike actions score points that are saved in an invisible black box. While at sea those points are spent in a way that makes you look lucky. There is no overdraft protection. Once the box is empty you are in the Unlucky zone. The black box accepts an unlimited number of points and I continually try to keep ours as full as possible.

With that mentality I started the process of building a replacement motor. Diesel Don had a head and block for a 4-108 and Pops drove me to the mainland to have them magnafluxed to be sure of their integrity. Once that was confirmed, all new parts were ordered and a new engine was sitting in the closet at the shop ready to go. All this was completed as the hurricane season starts to heat up. June 22nd, Tropical Storm Cindy makes land fall in Louisiana. July 31st Tropical Storm Emily hits Maria Island at Tampa Bay. August 8th Hurricane Franklin makes landfall at near Lechuguillas Mexico. August 17th Hurricane Gert reaches Cat 2 but stays in the Atlantic. August 26th Hurricane Harvey reaches Cat 4 and hits Port O’Connor, Texas. Harvey weakens to a Cat 3 does a loopty loop back into the Gulf and then hits Copano Bay, Texas. Harvey does some more gyrations and makes its third landfall at Cameron Louisiana.

August 30th 2017

Tropical Storm Irma develops 420 miles west of Cabo Verde. Irma skips Cat 1 and immediately becomes a Cat 2. She is 1,845 miles east of the Leeward Islands and by the end of the day she jumps to a Cat 3.

Harold from Sweet Jacob asked me to come look at his motor which is overheating. He said there is no rush just when I have time. I like Harold and told him it would have to be right now because in a day or so I will not have any time to help anyone but myself. After taking care of the motor I asked him what his plans were and he simply said “this boat is all I have, it’s my home, and I haven’t decided yet”.

September 3rd

It has been a long day of talking about Irma. The cone of uncertainty has the Keys as landfall. Irma’s eye is 50 miles in diameter. That means it would cover and destroy half the keys. There are four camps of people; those going to the mangroves, those staying on the mooring and leaving town hoping for the best, those (believe it or not) who are going to ride it out on their boat, and those talking about going into the Everglades.

Then there is Temple. He tells me he is bound for Charleston! Keeping in mind here that it is still a crap shoot whether Irma is going up the east coast or west coast of Florida. The only thing that looks certain is that the Keys are in for it. I asked Temple “why in hell would you sail hard for four or five days only to get run over by Irma in Charleston”? Further, I told him that the only escape, meaning the only place I see that Irma will not go is southwest. The mountains in southwest Cuba would be great protection or push onto Mexico and watch the whole thing on CNN.

I took some time to work with some folks whose boats cannot move on their own or do not have the skill to move them to sea. I caught them up on topics like the expected storm surge and how to use break away lines. I admonished many of them to quickly find nylon lines to replace their current lines that were either too old or made of non-stretch fibers.

Later I talked to Diesel Don and others about their plan to go the mangroves. I warned them that if Irma comes here as a Cat 4 or more you could see as much as a 20-foot storm surge. I don’t think a boat would survive that kind of surge in Sister’s or Whiskey Creeks.

Vickie finally arrived at the boat about 10 pm. After catching her up on all the activity I told her that if the 5 am NOAA report on Tuesday does not change dramatically I was taking the boat and leaving. I told her to get to the mainland and as far north as possible. She said she was going if I go. I went to great lengths to make her understand that this was unlike anything she could imagine. At this point motor sailing the whole way I had just barely enough time to get out of Irma’s way. If anything goes wrong with the boat I could easily be sailing in Cat 5 seas. I told her that 30-foot seas with wind well over 100 miles per hour is ugly business and could well cost me the boat and/or my life. For me it is a risk I’m willing to take, but for her it would be nothing but terror. Her response was resolute; she was going if for no other purpose than to keep coffee and food going. She said that if the boat goes down, we go down together. End of discussion. The boat is a 41’ Gulfstar and I’ve sailed her through some ugly stuff. She is a beefed-up coastal cruiser and island hopper not a serious blue water boat. At 28,000 lbs. (loaded weight) she is in the heavy displacement cruiser category. She is a ketch rig with a modified keel and skegged rudder. All of this means that she is not a performance machine. She is a heavy slow boat that stays on her feet, but is limited. I call her my “old mans” boat. She and I can handle tropical storm force winds, but I’m very uncertain about a hurricane.

Monday, September 4th

Irma closes in on the Leewards to 490 miles and is now a Cat 4.

Irma is the talk of the harbor. Every day the cone of uncertainty easily includes the Florida Keys. I have been glued to the National Hurricane Center website for days and today the news is bad, real bad. Irma now has a new title that I have never heard before; she has the potential to become a “super cell” that is bigger than a Cat 5. Cat 3’s scare the hell out of me so I have no intention of meeting anything called a super cell. Just saying “super cell” out loud in this context sounds ugly. All the spaghetti graphs are in unusual agreement. All show the keys first then up the peninsula.

All the “what if” plans for an imaginary scenario, that we have worked on for months now look like reality. I feel trapped as I look at the chart trying to figure out the best escape route.

I called my brother Brian up in North Carolina and warned him about the possibility of Irma going up the east coast after leaving the Caribbean. He asked me what my plan was and I told him I did not know yet. I’m facing Irma to the east, Jose behind her and another possible storm to the west by Veracruz named Katia. Cuba blocks any run south and it is 300 miles to get around her to the west in a boat that only does 75 to 100 miles per day on average.

In the marina shop everyone is devising plans. Diesel Don is talking about going to the mangroves off Sister’s Creek, a few folks are talking about going into the Shark River up in the Everglades, and some are talking about having their boat hauled and put on the hard. John the mechanic asked what my plans were and I told him the only option I saw was to go southwest around Cuba and possibly onto Isla Mujeres, Cancun, or Cozumel. A few folks simply looked at me like I was over-killing the whole thing. My response to them was that “I don’t stay and fight Cat 3’s let alone a Super Cell”. Call me chicken shit, but if things don’t change drastically, Vickie and I are leaving by noon tomorrow.

Alaina called and wanted to hear my advice for her boat. I shared my personal hierarchy of escape: 1) get the boat as far away as possible by road or sea, 2) haul it out and strap her down then leave, 3) tie down in the mangroves and leave, 4) grab a mooring ball and leave, 5) never stay on the dock or at anchor, and most importantly get yourself out of here after securing the boat the best way you can. She has a cousin with a truck that can haul her boat away and I told her that was her best option. Unfortunately, by now gas prices are $5/gallon in Key West and the highway is packed. All the marinas are overwhelmed and haul outs are now not possible so her best bet was to get a mooring ball. She is new to all this and does not have the experience to run in her boat. It’s really sad and all I can do is wish her luck as I have my own preparations to make. The time for helping others has run out and it is every captain for himself.

I spoke with Bill in North Carolina and shared my float plan with him. I told him that I could be out of touch for ten days maybe two weeks and after that he could worry. I always leave my float plan with Bill and in the event of catastrophe the EPIRB has him listed as a contact.

Tuesday, September 5th

Irma intensifies to a Cat 5 270 miles from the Leewards. Hurricane Jose is 1,300 miles behind her and Katia is now a Hurricane northeast of Veracruz, Mexico heading toward Tampico.

The NOAA Hurricane Center has not changed anything except that Irma is bigger and growing. She is now moving at 15 mph. I gotta go!

At seven I woke Vickie and told her to rig the boat for sea, make a run to Publix for any last-minute stuff, and that I was going to the shop to do what I could to secure my stuff. Even a 10-foot storm surge would flood the shop and I needed to get my tools, sewing machine and other stuff as high as possible. High tide was 10:56 and I wanted to clear the last channel marker by noon. We also needed to catch a cab to the airport to get exit stamps in our passports as required by the Mexicans. But after calling ahead we found out we would have to go all the way to Key West because the local office is not open on Tuesdays. Going to Key West is out of the question so I’m hoping the Mexicans will understand.

Upon arriving at the marina, it was almost chaos. There were dozens of people in line to get whatever mooring ball they could. All the dock carts were in motion. People were hauling important stuff off their boats and others were hauling provisions to their boats. Everyone had a sense of urgency.

Once I secured everything in the shop that I could, I found myself just staring at the new motor. There it sat on the concrete floor on a few layers of cardboard. There is no way to raise her up so I just had to kiss her good bye. Even a small storm surge will surely put her under water. Right now, I just have to put it all out of my mind.

Back on the dock I ran into Pam. I asked if they had made a decision yet and she said they were going to head northwest toward Mississippi. I didn’t even comment. Everything in me wanted to scream NO! All hurricanes eventually go northwest. You can’t outrun it. But her husband Bassy has been on the Gulf much of his life and is a capable seaman. I don’t think he is fully recovered from a recent stroke and multiple brain surgeries. Every Captain for himself and I have to go. Ed and Sally have tied everything down and are heading to the mainland to stay with friends. Jon and Kach from Empress are doing the same and I give Jon two brand new nylon mooring lines as a well-wishing. Temple and Terry from the White Pearl have decided to forget Charleston and go to Mexico. They too are leaving on the tide. Diesel Don is organizing a meeting at 5:30 for everyone going into Sister’s and Whiskey Creeks. Pops is going to get off the island in a day or two. Crazy Larry is undecided, John the mechanic says he staying. Charles is taking their boat to the Shark River while Maresa and Dakota get off the island. Alaina is in line to get a mooring ball after all her other plans fell through. Pirate Chris says he is leaving tomorrow and will wave as he passes us. Happy Cat John says his catamaran can weather anything so he staying, but Linda and the dogs are going north.

Vickie returns from the market and we load the dinghy to head out. Back at the boat we load in the last-minute provisions and hoist the dinghy up onto the foredeck. Everything is then lashed down and sail covers removed. I started the motor to let it come to temperature before letting go of the mooring ball and watched the smoke bellow out. I went below to the engine room, put my hand on her manifold and said “baby just give me 72 hours more, then you can rest in peace”.

Some well-wishers came by in dinghies to say their farewells and we were off. Heading out of the harbor we pass Nick the Russian who wishes us well and says he is going to the Little Shark River tomorrow. I wish him well and pass through the bridge on the west side. After a small delay waiting on Temple to finish at the fuel docks ahead of us we pulled in at Burdines to fill up with water, fuel, ice and a couple Mt. Dew’s. Once out of the harbor and channel we popped the sails and cut the motor. Heading southwest wing-n-wing behind The White Pearl suddenly the quiet overwhelmed us. There is a special kind of stillness sailing with a following current, swell, and wind. Running with the wind you don’t feel much of a breeze like you do on other tacks. Its quiet easy sailing, it’s thinking time. And I’m second guessing everything.

I start to seriously consider whether or not I’m being a Chicken Little. Is the sky really falling? I dismiss this by telling myself that any excuse to go sailing on a day like this is valid. And Vickie, what in hell have I gotten her into? So many things have to go right on this trip. So many things can go wrong! The motor may not make it. Irma may not turn north until Mexico City for all I know. Even if she slightly delays the turn north a little I could wind up in hurricane force wind. On and on it goes and all I can do now is to play the plan and sail the boat.

At 6 pm Vickie takes the watch and I check NOAA again. I’m as worried about Katia and the conditions in the Gulf as I am Irma. Nothing has changed with Irma and luckily Katia is going the other way. As sunset approaches I wish Temple well as he goes over the horizon ahead of us. The White Pearl is a bigger faster rig than us and I’m afraid he will need it.

While we still have cell service I called all the family and informed them what I was doing. I told everyone to give me ten days to two weeks before worrying about us. Vickie did the same with her daughter. Her daughter Jen is also on the EPIRB list so we told her no news is good news and bad news will come from the Coast Guard. After all the calls were dispensed with we turned the phones off as they will be useless until we make port in Mexico.

Wednesday, September 6th

We were waving good bye to the glow of Key West off our starboard quarter. On a fading Internet signal, I got one last NOAA update and after that we were off the grid with nothing more than line of sight VHF radio. The NOAA news is not good. Irma has hit Barbuda as a Cat 5 with sustained 185 mph winds. Then six hours later hits St. Martin with the same force.

Thursday, September 7th

On the mid-watch I turned south from the Marquesas’ toward Cuba. This involves leaving Hawk Channel and crossing the Gulf Stream. I want to get across the Gulf Stream as quickly as possible so I fired up the iron genny (motor) again and headed to Havana. The swell and the wind were both from the east so it was a rolly ride. After twelve hours we finally found the westerly current that runs the length of northern Cuba and cut the motor off again. We wound up 25 miles east of Havana and it feels good to be heading west again.

By the last news we had Irma should be north of the Dominican Republic. We have no evidence of her here yet. Early on the sailing was great. Then around lunch the wind died and the seas went flat. After an hour or so of flopping sails and only doing 1.5 kts thanks to the current I again started the motor. We really need to make 5 kts or else.

Two hours later the motor sounded like someone was taking a jack hammer to it and looked like it would jump off the motor mounts. I hollered to Vickie to cut it off and we were dead in the water again.

I have been in slack or no air before, sometimes for days. These are times to relax, read a book, and cook great meals of fresh Mahi. But this was different. There is a Cat 5 hurricane behind this slack air and its coming my way.

Vickie has questions about what is next. I sit with her and show her diagrams of how storm winds behave. The first wind will come from the north in the case of Irma. This leading frontal wind will only be a breeze of about 5 to 10 kts. Then it will stiffen until the outer bands of the system itself come. These will provide intermittent rain and stronger winds. As the storm over takes us we will experience gale force, then tropical storm force, then hurricane force winds. I expect Irma to turn north well before we start seeing hurricane force winds. I tell her that this is “all the adventure she could ask for”. All we had to do was wait for Irma’s wind and use it to get out of her way. It’s going to be exciting.

As the sun went down a strange cool land breeze came off the Cuban mountains and stayed with us all night.

Friday, September 8th

Irma should be in the vicinity of Great Inagua about now, but I have no way of knowing how the forecast has changed. We heard some chatter on the radio and did a hail to any vessel asking for a weather update. A boat named Argo Novice responded from Bahia Honda where he was anchored. He told us that nothing had changed except that Irma was moving further west than expected. He was a wealth of information on how to duck into Bahia Honda and offered to bring his tender out to assist us when we told him about our motor. In the end I did not feel like we were west enough for comfort and told him we were going to keep moving.

Later vessel Maria Toroa gave us much the same information and said they were heading to the San Felipe Keys, SW Cuba. It is a chain of uninhabited keys and a state park.

The wind was a steady 8 to 10 knots but had not backed to the north yet. There was nothing we could do but sit and wait half drifting, half sailing. But 3 to 3.5 kts was not doing the job I wanted.

Normally, 3 to 5 kts is great sailing for this old boat. Today however it feels so slow. Vickie and I talk about what we think is going on back at the harbor. We talk about where we think Irma is and how rough it might get. All the sails are up. I’m running a 120 genny, main, and mizzen. There is nothing else to do but sail the boat. My last thought as I fell asleep in the cockpit was “so many things have to go right”. It also occurred to me that I might want to go ahead and change to the stormsail now, but lack of sleep and thinking I had plenty of time I put it out of my mind.

Vickie wakes me from a deep sleep. My head feels like I had been out drinking all night and it takes a minute to understand what’s happening. The north wind is here and it is blowing twenty. It came suddenly and out of nowhere she said and the boat will not head up into the wind to dowse the genny. I took the helm just as the wind got bigger and things were getting a little intense. There is an old adage that if the thought occurs to you to reduce sail, that’s the time to do it. I ignored that thought earlier thinking I had more time, it was a mistake. Additionally, when I let the genny out and tied the sheet off to the cleat I did not put full wraps on before making the bite in the knot. It was light air at the time and I was tired is my excuse, but now the line can’t be undone from the cleat. I told Vickie to take the helm again and dropped below to grab the machete. Back topside and still unable to get the boat to round up into the wind I cut the line which parted like a gun shot. This did not happen gracefully and not on the first strike of the machete. To the contrary the first strike buried the machete into the coaming and the next few strikes hit only the steel of the horn cleat.

Once the sheet was loose the boat rounded up and I tried to pull her partially in. The starboard sheet got wrapped under the transom of the dinghy on the foredeck which meant going out to free it. Once on the foredeck I looked up at the eastern sky and had a moment of frozen fear. There on the horizon was the eye wall of Irma! My first thought was “how can this be”! But there it was a perfectly formed layered eye wall with massive clouds spread above it that covered the eastern horizon. It was beautiful in a way and for a moment I simply stared at it. It was a “kiss your ass good bye” moment and I told myself (out loud) “sail the boat”. The sight of it, the thought of it, the adrenaline rush all happen in a flash, but it did not make sense. I freed the sheet to the genny wishing I could swap her out for the storm jib. Then collecting myself before returning to the cockpit I looked at the wall again. The wind is really up; somewhere between 25 and 30 kts., but if that is the eye wall I should be in 120 to 150 kts of wind. It was then I realized that what I was seeing was an outer band and a section of rain. The rain was only partially obscuring the layers of mountains behind it in a translucent way and made it look like a perfectly formed eye wall. I felt like an idiot, but the relief was almost sexual.

I dropped the main to run jib and jigger. Once back on course and trimmed we were now making 6 to 7 kts. For the next few hours the wind continued to increase as the bands overtook us and dropped buckets of rain. It was great sailing. The sails were happy and the boat was like a thoroughbred frolicking in the rain. I did not tell Vickie about my “kiss your ass goodbye” moment as I still felt too foolish about it. I’m sure it will come out later though. For now, we are officially dancing with Irma.

Vickie put a call out on the radio for an update on Irma and was answered by a Cuban fellow on land. He was an official of some sort although I never really understood his capacity. He spoke fluent English and asked for our Lat and Long. He informed us that we were 40 miles inside the outer bands and 169 miles from the center of Irma. He repeatedly admonished us to go west as fast as possible because Irma had not started to turn north yet and was still heading west toward Havana. He told us that she was still a Cat 5 and that she had slowed to 8 kts. This was great news because that meant we were keeping pace with her. I needed this to hold for 24 more hours before we could head due south down the Yucatan Channel and completely out of her way.

A catamaran sailboat appeared off the starboard quarter about six miles out. At first we thought it might be Pirate Chris who had promised to wave as he passed us. It turned out to be Island Flyer from Boot Key Harbor and she was doing 16 kts. We spoke on the radio briefly as she flew past us and disappeared over the western horizon in less than an hour. I have never been interested in fast boats, but today I sort of wish I had one.

Saturday, September 9th,

Irma is supposed to make landfall in Eastern Cuba today. By sunrise Vickie has only been able to take the helm for two hour watches as she is not strong enough to do more in these seas. The boat only has manual steering and she will not balance in these seas no matter how fast I go. This means the helm needs constant undivided devotion. It also means I’ve only had three hours sleep in the last 24. Vickie does keep the coffee flowing and regular hot meals. The seas are a solid 8 to 10 and growing. While it is not spoken about very often, 10-foot seas are measured by the average of the top 1/3 highest waves. The waves are passing under us every 5 seconds or so. About every thousand waves you get a few that are twice as large as the average waves. If you do the math, that means that every 90 minutes or so you can get a couple of 20-foot waves. It only takes a wave height 1/3 the length of your boat to pitch pole it (flip it end over end). In our case that is about a 13.5 foot wave. What happens is the wave coming up behind you lifts the stern of the boat, the boat speeds up trying to surf down the front edge of the wave and can exceed the wave speed there by plowing into the wave in front of you. If the bow of the boat buries into the wave in front, the boat instantly slows and the wave you just surfed raises the stern again as it catches up. So the front of the boat is buried into the bottom of a wave and the back of boat is being lifted. At this point the boat can be pitched “ass over tin cup” as my Dad would say. While the boat and crew can survive being rolled 360° side to side, pitch poling is almost always fatal.

I love this kind of sailing, but you can only take so much. Normally when I’m alone, I would heave to and sleep. The current and the wind are in my favor and if I heave to I would still be making 2+ kts in my favor while I slept. But we are approaching a major shipping lane and Irma is still with us. I must stay with it. By nightfall we are in the Yucatan Channel still riding the westerly current that bends around the sloping western end of Cuba. The seas are now 10 to 12 feet and the wind is easily holding at 40 kts. The current will eventually merge into the north bound Gulf Stream. The good news is we are going to make it. We have decided that crossing the Channel to Mexico is out of the question. I simply will not make another 150 miles in these conditions. It means we will turn east at the light house on the western end and hide under the southwest side of the mountains for a few days. The Cuban mountains are a few thousand feet tall and should provide all the protection we need. It also means we will be out of communication for longer than we thought.

The ride down the Yucatan Channel at night was one adrenaline rush after another. I could only hold a course +/- 25° as the waves slapped me around. I surfed a huge wave at the wrong angle and although it turned out ok, I didn’t need any coffee for an hour. Sailing at night in these conditions with no visual stars and nothing to steer by but the compass is challenging. The good news is I’m doing 10 kts.

Sunday, September 10th

At 3 am I woke Vickie up as we tacked around the light house on Guanahacabebes. Forty-five minutes later we were in calm water and a 5 to 10 kt breeze hidden behind the mountains. Vickie took the helm and continued east and I passed out after 32 hours at the helm. We have made it. We and the boat are all safe.

After six or seven hours sleep I was wide awake. It always amuses me that I can’t sleep more than a few hours after being so exhausted. But I know that tonight I’ll sleep twelve hours easily. Once awake and coffee is poured I asked Vickie for my cigarette lighter. She said it was dead and we are down to the grill lighter. It too would die by the end of the day. We would wind up cutting open emergency MRE’s to get the matches from their accessory pouches. It would be the only provision we would run out of.

During my coffee I finally look around at our new surroundings. It turns out we are not alone. There are a dozen cruise ships, and many more freighters, tankers, and who knows. They are spread out every 2 to 3 miles clear to the horizon. All of them are hiding from Irma. I hailed any vessel for an Irma update and got a response from a very serious sounding fellow with what I think was a ham operator’s call sign. He only identified himself as a US government vessel. He had the regular official questions of how many people onboard, our position, did we have any damage….. I assured him that we were well founded and provisioned. He told us that Irma was 30 miles from the Florida Keys and would make landfall as a Cat 4. I asked for more specific location and he said around Seven Mile bridge.

Seven Mile bridge is Marathon and Boot Key Harbor.

It was at that moment we realized how important all our vigilance was. How important all our efforts to maintain the boat in a state of readiness is. How important it is to maintain our seamanship skills. How important it is to make prudent decisions then follow them through. Then the overwhelming emotion of what kind of damage we would inevitably return to. Who would die and who would lose everything with their boat. Who would we never see again as their life took them elsewhere. We talked in a daze for hours in the disbelief of it all. We hypothesized outcomes for individuals, the harbor and the Keys in general.

Then it hit me. I’ve been here before, but Vickie has not. I steered the conversation around to how to handle the possibility of feeling guilty. How do we return victorious to so much devastation? Such feelings of success on our part will be out of place and can lead to “survivor’s guilt”. We do everything possible to prepare ourselves mentally for our return.

Monday, September 11th

We half drifted, half sailed further east to the San Felipe Keys. Upon arrival we have the whole place to ourselves. Maria Toroa and the others must have gone elsewhere. We can hear Argo Novice being hailed on the radio, but no one can hear us.

Tuesday, September 12th

While the anchorage at San Felipe looks inviting all we are thinking about is getting to Marathon or at least within communications range. So, we set sail against a westerly wind for the lighthouse. Between the westerly wind and the current pushing to land it is slow going.

Thursday, September 14th

At 3 am we rounded the lighthouse and headed northeast.

Around 7 am Vickie jumped to her feet as she heard an American voice hailing us in English. We had not heard English on the radio since last Sunday let alone hailing us so it woke her immediately. It was Temple and Terry on The White Pearl. I turned to look and sure enough he was a few miles back and gaining fast. Although it meant squandering the west wind we decided to go up into Guanahacabebes to anchor for the night.

Once anchored, Temple used his dinghy to ferry us to the Pearl for lunch . He had just caught a Mahi and we grilled it as they caught us up on the news. First off, they had gone across the channel to Isla Mujeres where they had full communications and Internet.

The first news was that Pam and Bassy who headed northwest had to abandon their boat and be plucked up by the Coast Guard. We are more than happy they are alive, but they lost everything. We would later learn that they lost all control of the boat in thirty-foot seas and 100 mph winds. My friend Jesse was in the call center at St. Petersburg when the call came in. He also knows the couple. We got to watch the video of the entire rescue.

Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key just west of Marathon as a Cat 3 out at the reef. The reef slowed Irma down and backed her up to a Cat 2. Temple said the pictures look like Big Pine was hit really hard. He said that the pictures from Boot Key Harbor showed almost total destruction. He said almost all the boats in the harbor are sunk and it was a mess. The harbor took an eight-foot storm surge and flooded the marina building. Fred Hoehn from S/V Curmudgeon, swam to shore after his boat sank out from under him. Once on shore the conditions were so bad that he lashed himself to a pole only to be bludgeoned to death by debris. Happy Cat John’s boat sank as well and he also made it to shore and lived to tell about it.

After that we had a long conversation about the value of going back to Boot Key. We discussed other ports that we knew well and what the work opportunities looked like. Beaufort SC came up as a possible new home, but Terry was adamant that she did not want any cold weather place. Vickie and I decided that before any decisions could be made we all had to go back to Marathon first.

Friday, September 15th

Mid-morning, we weighed anchor and headed back. The wind had returned to the east and we had to cross the westerly current again to reach the Gulf Stream which was going our way. At sunset we again lost The White Pearl over the horizon. We gave them the phone numbers of Vickie’s daughter and my sister Sandy and asked Terry to call them when they got service to let them know we were ok. This was day 10 and if this east wind persists we will not be there for another week or more which is past the time I told everyone not to worry.

Vickie and I spend hours postulating and mourning the losses. Watchstanding, meal prep, dishes, keeping the coffee going, and sleep kept us from going completely crazy. All we focused on was getting back.

Saturday, September 16th

Vickie was sleeping really well for the first time in days so I did not wake her at the end of the mid-watch. The boat was balanced and I really did not have to touch the wheel for hours at a time so life was easy today. I let her sleep. Around 8 am I noticed a new contact on the horizon behind me and it was the Coast Guard Cutter 626. I woke Vickie and had her take the helm as I hailed them for weather information and asked if they could call our family contacts as well. They agreed and took all the information. Vickie was very happy and jumping for joy until…..Her mood suddenly changed and she said “you know in my last conversation with Jen I told her no news is good news and that bad news would come from the Coast Guard. Jen will freak when she first answers the phone”.

Thursday, September 21st

It’s late and it has been ten long agonizing days of tacking first into the westerly’s in SW Cuba then into the easterlies. The rhumb line was about 350 miles, but our running line has been nearly 1,100 miles. The weather was beautiful and the wind was great, but our hearts and minds were not in it. We are now ten miles out from Boot Key and I see what looks like the hull of about a 40-foot boat drifting by. I could have easily hit it and it worries me. Then I start seeing other smaller debris. I heaved to, to wait for day light.

Friday, September 22nd

Early morning brought with it some powerful squalls packing huge winds. I was starting to suspect that there is more weather that I don’t know about. At day break I headed toward Sombrero Light to close land to the five mile mark and start getting Internet and cell phone connection. A few hours later and we are able to text and call family and friends. Vickie did an immediate update on Facebook once we learned that folks here were starting to worry about us. My first thought was of the Pearl. If people are still worried about us where did the Pearl go? She should have been back a day or so ago. The answer to that question would cost me another friend.

The weather is calling for this easterly to continue for a week or more and I learned about Maria. It turns out my suspicions were right and although Maria is north of us already she is spinning off huge squalls. I’m also told not to try to sail into the harbor as the channel has moved southward and is choked up with sunken vessels. Some places are only 15 feet wide and that certainly is not enough room to tack through.

I called Diesel Don who was full of stories and information. First off, he did not go to the mangroves; rather he led a flotilla to Pelican Bay up the west coast of Florida. They all did fine and most have returned to the harbor. He told me that Happy Cat John who survived his boat sinking and swam to shore decided days later to dive on his boat to get personal effects. He nearly drowned, had to be resuscitated and was unconscious on a ventilator in Miami. Then he gave me really good news. My new motor did go under water, but he and Jon from Empress got permission to cut the lock and had completely disassembled and cleaned it. I mean they pulled it completely down, pistons, bearings, valves removed and all laid out on a table waiting to be reassembled. Unfortunately cleaned or not the motor sat underwater for more than a week and the damage probably can’t be fixed. Finally, he arranged for Tow Boat One to come tow us in later in the day.

I closed land by another few miles and heaved to between squalls which were now becoming a nuisance. Bob from Tow Boat One called about 5 pm and asked what the conditions were like and at the time everything was calm. By the time he got to us another squall had set in and was packing 25 to 30 kt. Winds. We had to abort the whole thing and I anchored off the west side of Boot Key to wait until tomorrow to make the harbor.

The west side of Boot Key is devastated. The mangroves are stripped of their foliage and I don’t see any trees standing. Seven Mile Bridge has huge section under construction, but traffic is flowing both ways. Sunset Grill looks like a war scene and there are dead boats everywhere surrounding the channel. The Coast Guard has a barge and is placing new markers on the new channel.

We have also learned that it was Friday after Irma before they opened highway 1 south and let people come home. Those days were spent repairing roads and cleaning hazardous debris. That means that everyone has been here for a week while we were heading back. Everyone we call sounds up-beat in a sad sort of way. Even the survivors have a sad demeanor. A dozen or so boats that went into Sister’s and Whiskey creeks got lucky with the small 8-foot surge and all survived without a scratch. As I said earlier Diesel Don and his flotilla all survived without a scratch. The Pearl is back in the harbor and did tell them we were on our way. They did also call our family contacts as soon as they got signals. Unfortunately, Irma’s destruction was not all physical; emotions and behaviors are running amok. It seems that once Temple and Terry of “The White Pearl” arrived back, the drinking started in earnest and Temple beat Terry into the hospital so badly that he is in jail on attempted murder charges.

The sight of everything is brown. Nearly all the foliage has been stripped from every living plant. All of the tallest trees are gone. Everything looks barren and dead.

Altruism is running at peak performance beside the worst criminal activity imaginable. All day people are helping each other to the limit of their resources. Simultaneously, others are stealing and looting everything they can get their hands on. It’s sad and emotions are high.

Saturday, September 23rd

Day 19 on the boat and it was hard to sleep last night. Bob from “Tow Boat 1” has been incredibly busy marking sunken obstructions in the channel and harbor. Without his towing assistance and local knowledge, the harbor would not be safe for us to enter. He shows up while we are having morning coffee to get us in.

The tow in was uneventful except for the view. The devastation is nearly complete. When we left there were 300 plus boats in the harbor, 54 remain floating and half of them are not habitable. FEMA, the Red Cross, various insurance companies, and other agencies have made makeshift camps everywhere. The dinghy docks are busted up and gone. The edges of the mangroves are littered for miles with broken boats and every sort of human debris. Most of the buildings are still standing, but all were flooded by the storm surge. The marina staff are living in tents and eating MRE’s. There is no water, electricity, or Internet infrastructure left. Everything is running off cell phones and generators. Money is no good as all the stores are closed. We are under a “State of Emergency” and there is a 9pm to sunrise curfew. Despite that the hardest part is sixteen dead (two from the harbor) and all the people that simply evacuated and will not come back. Some of them have turned off their Facebook accounts and others cannot be reached by phone so we simply don’t know.

Tuesday, October 17

The past weeks have been spent helping each other. There is so much destruction; so many broken dreams that cannot be recovered. But we work, we pump out the boats that can be saved. We fix and clean everything in sight. Everyone is working to compile a map and locational information of sunken or beached boats. Many of the boats still floating have been gifted to those who lost their boat by those who will not be coming back to waterworld. The Florida Wildlife Commission, Tow Boat US and others are here with barges and cranes to lift boats from the bottom only to be crushed like so much trash. The trash piles along the highway are literally hundreds of feet long and thirty or more feet tall. Houses, mobile homes, cars, every appliance imaginable, motor homes, plane everyday rubbish, and miles of fallen trees make up the major part of these trash piles. Eighteen wheelers line the highway all day, every day to be loaded with the trash to be hauled to the mainland. The official news is that it will take a year to get the job done.

Live aboard boaters of course are not the only ones who have left for good. Many of the Mom and Pop stores that give the Islands their flavor, have left forever. Most just don’t have the money or energy to start all over again.

The good news is that electric and potable water has been restored. Internet services are still down. Stores and restaurants that have opened are cash only.

Tuesday, November 21

It has now been nine weeks since Irma. The foliage regrowth is overtaking the brown color of the islands, emotions are more settled, and the rebuilding continues. The harbor clean-ups are starting to make a noticeable difference and every day the barge cranes remove a few more sunken or derelict boats. The community meals, complete with music and dancing keep us close and remind us why we are staying here in paradise. The day after tomorrow is Thanksgiving. The full weight of its meaning will be present this year.


Fishing Equipment
I’m not a dedicated fisherman. Yes, I always keep a few fishing poles onboard and I have a small collection of lures. All of it is Simple School. I thoroughly enjoy using a cast net for shrimp and bait fish. And, I’m seriously impressed with how much money some folks invest on fishing equipment and rigging for the boat. I’m more impressed with the items they overlook.

A few weeks back a fellow in the marina was staring up at his new outriggers as I was walking by. I stopped and joined him in his admiration. This of course, led to cold beer and some fish stories.

A week later I saw his boat being docked by another man. I asked about the owner and how their family fishing trip went. I could see large blood spots that had not been washed yet and envisioned huge Mahi. He informed me that the trip turned into their worst nightmare.

It turns out that the owner’s sister-in-law and husband were fishing from different sides of the boat. The sister-in-law did not have very good casting skills and her line wound up going over the boat behind her. Unsure exactly where the line went she started to reel it back in. At this point she felt a tug on the line and she jerked the rod to set the hook thinking she had a fish.

What really happened was that the line went over the T-top behind her and in a pendulum motion hit her husband in the back. He grabbed the line to get it under control which was a tug on her end. Her response to the tug set the hook in his neck puncturing the carotid artery.

Where’s the First Aid Kit?

Thirty some miles off shore there is no one to call. Their first aid kit was an out of date 4 x 6 inch plastic box of brown colored band aids, small ace bandage, and some alcohol wipes. There was nothing to mitigate arterial bleeding.

Now to be honest, we very seldom ever use our first aid kit or the skills we were taught. That means most of us are out of practice. First aid kits are expensive. Not as much as outriggers but, more so than other safety gear such as fire extinguishers, flares, or PFD’s. But when you are beyond immediate medical help and someone is bleeding to death, a well-stocked first aid kit will be a necessity.

I hope you consider spending good money on a robust first aid kit or medi bag. I hope you familiarize yourself with its capacity and practice the basic rudimentary skills. I hope you never have to use it, but still spend more good money to replace its contents as needed.

This story ended well for the crew, but just barely. The husband was in ICU for more than a week as the reduced oxygen supply to his brain has caused some lifelong issues. He will go fishing again.


The Prudent Mariner
It’s midafternoon on a gusty day in the Florida Keys. The seas are 4 to 5 feet and the sunshine is abundant. Yeah, another perfect day in paradise and I’m milling about smartly on the boat dedicated to not getting anything done. Just as my dedication is peaking one of the rental boat office girls comes running down the dock, phone in hand and wearing panic like a bad sunburn. She comes straight to my boat and informs me that they have a lost boat that is in trouble.

Without really asking for my help the office girl hands me the phone. The guy on the other end is freaking out because they’re in “big trouble”. I asked him if they were taking on water and how much. He screamed, “we are not sinking”! Ok sir, does the motor run? To that he screamed, “the motor is fine you’re not listening to me, WE ARE IN TROUBLE”. Sir, is this a medical emergency? No, (expletive) we’re in trouble. Well, sir if you’re not sinking, taking on water, and there is no medical emergency; what is the trouble. To this he answered, “we can’t see land anywhere and we’re lost!”

It took a few minutes to find out what kind of boat he rented, when he left the dock, and whether he was in the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic. Once I had his general location I got him back on the phone and told him to set a course due North and look for a ten story condo unit. The plan was for him to call me back when he could see it.

He calls me back in two minutes and says, “listen, on this compass….. should the big N be facing the front of the boat or me to steer North”? Once I’m sure he is heading North, I headed out to intercept him. Before I can get out of the harbor he calls and says he sees the condo. He sounds like a man that just won the Powerball lottery.

I’m not a fan of incorporating old adages into my writing, but “you can’t make this stuff up”. The rental boat had a Richie Magnetic compass, GPS chart plotter, and a paper chart of the Middle Keys. So the moral of this event should be that being a prudent experienced mariner must include the capacity to look after the idiots. While cruising coastal waters, many of the dangers we encounter are the other less experienced captains. Our historical legacy demands that we take on the responsibility to provide assistance to all vessels in distress that we have the resources to provide without endangering our own crew and vessel. It is a big legacy. It is distasteful because none of us instinctively sympathize with the idiots among us. If you’re reading this I trust that you are one of the prudent mariners and understand this responsibility. Thanks for your help out here.


Once You're Aware
It’s first thing in the morning and I’m topside looking out over Bonefish Bay here in Bimini, Bahamas. Bimini is a short 50 or so miles from the Florida coast and attracts a lot of coastal fishermen from there looking for bonefish. My fly rod has already been loaded with an extra fifty yards of backing in anticipation of their famous hundred plus yards of run. In the middle of all my dreaming and waiting on the tide change I see a Hatteras boat coming up the channel like a drunken sailor. I mean he is all over the place and in danger of hitting docks or running aground.

With a lot of assistance the boat is eventually tied up on the outer dock and I go back to my coffee and anticipating my day. And it was a great day. Mud flat bonefishing is a fantastic sidetrack from off-shore fishing.

Well after dark the owner of the Hatteras is on the dock fuming into his phone. He obviously has mechanical problems that include not being able to steer the boat and has not had a great day. I introduced myself and asked what the problem was. He informed me that he has lost his port side engine and hydraulic steering. This explained his drunken sailor approach to the dock. Manually steering a Hatteras of that size with its twin six foot rudders is a Herculean task.
As I see it the real problem is not the steering, engine, or the fact that things break. The real problem is that this captain owns a boat and has sailed off shore without any of the even rudimentary tools or working knowledge of his shipboard systems needed to get home again. Onboard fires can be put out, holes in a hull can be plugged, motor problems can be dealt with, but loss of steering is the most dangerous event on a boat. If you can’t control the course of the boat you are truly in a fix. Very few boats have an alternative steering system.

Diesel engines are fairly straight forward and problems almost always point to a malfunction in the fuel delivery. I drug my tools over and in short order we found a stuck relay in his emergency fuel cutoff line. Once repaired, the port engine roared to life and his hydraulic steering was restored.

He was irritated that for the money he spent on that boat, it did not have a redundant steering system on the other motor. Correcting that would be his first order of business after getting his picture taken with a huge bonefish on the line.

Having paid a lot of money for your boat will not exempt you from equipment failures out here. I knew an old English teach whose admonishment was “It’s all there once you’re aware”. So the question is how many possible equipment failures are you aware of on your boat? How many possible redundant systems or solutions do you have for trip ending failures?


Presentation to Marathon City Councel

To The Marathon Community,                                 Tuesday, October 25, 2016

My name is Michael Barber. I am presenting to you to make sure (on the record) that you know how well thought of you are in the maritime cruising community. The old saying “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” is alive and well, but what few realize is that the squeaky wheel’s story rarely if ever is an adequate depiction of things. Rather, it is a self-serving need. Again, I’m presenting this to be sure that you get a glimpse of things from us the majority, who have nothing to squawk about.

In my lifetime I have visited many ports. I have sailed from the upper reaches of the Lincoln Sea to southern Brazil, and every ocean the world has to offer except the Antarctic. I am a full time live-aboard cruiser. I live on a nice heavy seaworthy boat not a yacht. I make my living from the boat thanks to all the new technology and as an intenerate worker in the boating industry.

I am not alone out here. There are thousands of us and we meet all over the world. We help each other and share exotic cooking spices and recipes, music and of course our sea stories. These sea stories are our way of disseminating information regarding ocean routes, winds, currents, logistical data, and interesting destination harbors.

Cruising on a boat is a simple and highly disciplined culture with an extremely high quality of life. Sunrise, sunset, wildlife sightings, walking the beach and meal preparations are all events that border on worship service. We are ever-mindful of the environment, energy consumption and water quality.

There is an old adage that says “any port in a storm will do”, but that is not part of our plan. The vast majority of us are destination sailors. When I learn of an “interesting” place I set sail and go. While I love sailing the simple truth is that most cruisers spend ten or more days in port for every day underway.

Destination ports become “interesting” for a variety of reasons. The obvious ones include culture, climate, protected anchorages, and the food. However, just as important is what I call the “local acceptance factor”. I have seen many harbors become off limits to cruisers because of the waterfront landowners monopoly. These monopolies prevent access to land even for provisioning. Making matters worse, marina access by dinghy is becoming more and more restricted and cost prohibitive. Many years ago I sailed into Boot Key Harbor. On my charts it had all the hallmarks of a great destination. When I got here it was nasty. The water was a sewer system. The culture was that of the Wild West on drugs. The last entry in my ship’s log was “hell hole”.

In 2014 I was coming down the east coast of the United States looking for a new home port from which to explore from for a few years. I like having a central port that has access to other ports within a few days reach. Much to my surprise many cruising friends kept trying to get me to go to Marathon. I finally gave in and committed to stopping in for a few days then move on to the Bahamas.

Marathon had completely changed! The water, environment, and culture were all simultaneously welcoming and intriguing. Upon arrival we found off-shore anchorage, nice marinas, harbor anchorage, mooring field and public access for our dinghy. We opted for the mooring field but it was a holiday. We called the phone number for City Marina and were greeted by a fellow who said his name was Sean. He said the marina office was closed for the holiday, asked the basic questions about our boat length and assigned us a ball. He closed by saying to check in the following day.

Now, I don’t know what it is about Harbor Masters, but most of them fall into one of two categories: authority fanatic or anything goes lazy. At the time I had no way of knowing that Sean (Mr. Cannon) was the Harbor Master. He has a quiet unassuming demeanor, but he is unquestionably in-charge. As an example: when he asked about our boat length I tried to do the right thing by asking whether he wanted the hull length or the Over-All length. (our boat is 41 feet on deck but with a pulpit and dinghy davits we are pushing 50 feet) The next day he came to the boat with a tape measure to clear things up and be sure that we would not be playing bumper-boats. For the first two weeks of our stay I thought he was part of the regular staff. I have since then had the opportunity to work with him on a variety of things ranging from holiday events to charity fundraising for local needs, coordinating efforts in the workshop, and yes, a few un- pleasantries. I will tell you what I told him when we left for the Bahamas a year later that Mr. Cannon is one of the great Harbor Masters in the industry.

Every inch of City Marina is clean and welcoming at all times. Additionally, the marina staff run a monthly harbor clean-up program (NOSE). The workshop is a god-send to the harbor and thanks to the staff it is an efficient, reliable resource. The employees are a happy, caring group perpetually on top of things. I have been coming and going for two years now and have never entered the bathroom/showers without smelling disinfectant. Trash and waste removal all run like clockwork. On holidays, the pump-out boats run a day early rather than put us off.

The harbor culture is a reflection of the City Marina. I am every day in the company of world cruisers, artists, best- selling authors, mathematicians, engineers, musicians, top notch mechanics and artisans of every walk. All of them attracted here by the coconut telegraph as a great destination whose only problem is that of the Siren’s call and like Odysseus you may stay longer than you planned.

In closing I would like to communicate to the Marathon community a heartfelt Thank-you! I want to acknowledge that none of this happened by accident. All of us understand that City Marina had to have started with leadership that supplied this wonderful vision and provided adequate funding for construction, managerial procurement, staffing, and the myriad other efforts that quietly go unseen and possibly unappreciated.

We understand what it took to make this happen and keep it alive. We appreciate you. We will do everything possible to help if needed.

Thank you,


Cultural Norms?

My life living full time on a boat is magical. I experience things that most people never really get to pay attention to. So many folks regularly say “you’re living my dream”. They see all the pictures in magazines and on the Internet and think that the cruising lifestyle must be a Nirvana type experience. I am living proof that it can be, if ……you can adjust to the simplicity of it all. But that adjustment is huge and requires a paradigm shift from which there may be no escaping. Making that transition will make you socially unfit in the larger culture and considerably less tolerant regarding popular cultural norms. However, once you relegate all the human rules to the bottom of your list of importance you get to focus on life as it can be.

I will start this series with a seemingly mundane example, the human body. In the typical lifestyle, the human body has complicated rules for interaction. Paramount among them is the rule “you can look, but don’t touch”. We are allowed to look at everyone, but we only get to touch a select few. Even then touching has more associated complications. Handshakes are fairly innocuous, hugs take things a bit further, kisses are edgy and range from the publicly presentable, to intimate, to downright erotic. Coming in contact with other parts gets extremely complicated. Despite the tendency to think along these lines there are even more off-limit body parts. Hair is almost as taboo as drawing blood.

How many times have you actually cut someone’s hair? I’m betting that as a mature adult you have broken through all the other bodily barriers with a partner. But, has she ever trusted you to take a really sharp pair of scissors to her hair? I’m betting the answer is never unless you are a well-trained beautician. Go ahead, leave this for a minute (I won't go anywhere) and ask her if you can cut her hair tonight. Cutting someone’s hair is definitely in the top tier of taboo for the untrained. Out here in waterworld such ego driven ideologies are suspended and full time cruisers readily cut hair. Like most things practice pays off and you can graduate to even more outrageous things like pulling a tooth. Yes, you read that right.

The magic here is in the breaking down of current norms. Notice that I did not say “traditional norms” because for previous generations all these things were normal. Things were slower, more self-reliant, and I think it created a more confident culture. That magic is alive and well out here.


Have you ever heard someone describe someone else as “that guy has never met a stranger”? I want to be described like that. But actually living like that is fraught with uneasiness on land. I like to look people in the eye or nod my head to them and acknowledge their existence. I like to smile at everyone. Other people say they identify with this especially southern folks. Yeah well, don’t go to Atlanta, or Houston, or Miami, or any big city in the south and expect to get away with it. Big city people are as impersonal as the bricks and mortar that define their environment. I’m picking on the south here, but it has been my experience that big cities all have this attribute. Big city folks also carry their bubble with them as they travel.

We decided to winter over in a marina where there were many of these city dwellers. I would pass them on the dock every day and acknowledge them only to be ignored and sometimes rebuffed. I was asked one day “why bother”. My answer was that I have as much right to acknowledge them as they do to ignore me. Further, with enough acknowledgements most everyone becomes friendly.

Living on the water does not lend itself to being a stranger. While the degree of independence is higher than other lifestyles, everyone out here has a certain amount of interdependence. The longer you stay on the water the higher your chances of needing assistance from other boaters. I don’t like needing help. Needing help means that my planning failed, or I have mismanaged my resources, or I have found a void in my education and experience. I like being able to help. More importantly I readily offer my help because I know forcing someone to ask for help is making them pay the highest price. I mean that personally as a matter of human courtesy not entrepreneurship.

The closer you live to the rhythms of the natural world the simpler things become. On a boat, you do not ignore waves, wildlife, sunsets, moon phases, clouds and the wind. How anyone could be so removed from their nature as to ignore another of their own species is beyond me. Acknowledge everyone out of necessity because hermitage is not in our nature either.


What Are You Gonna Do?

It’s 5:00 O’clock here….Captain’s Hour is close at hand. And….the phone rings. All I did was say “hello” and some guy responded at two hundred words per minute. Turns out his boat is sinking and he needs help NOW. He has a 28’ World Cat and the entire stern is underwater. The only things keeping him above water are the mooring lines. Yes you read that right; he is tied to the dock behind the vacation house he is renting for a few weeks.

Sinking is serious business even at a dock. But let’s take a closer look at why he is calling me. First of all if he was underway or anywhere but a dock, the Coast Guard would be on their way with one of those really nice gas powered emergency pumps. But he is on a dock and they responded to his call with “Sir that is outside our mission statement”. He has insurance, but those policies do not cover a sinking vessel or life endangerment situations. Further, if the sun goes down the price rises on the vertical. (I don’t have to name the companies, just pick one and read the fine print) It turns out that the local fire department said they could pump the boat in minutes, but it’s too much liability. The marina that he takes most of his business to is closed for the day. It turns out that Captain’s hour is cherished by land lubbers as well.

So, where do you get help in a situation like this? In his case another guy gave him my number and said “you might as well try”.

At this point he does not have any power because his battery banks are all aft and under the main deck so they are also underwater. He does not have any emergency manual pump system. He does not have any 110 ac pumps that he could run from an extension cord. His twin 250 outboards are toast because he did not isolate the batteries for the few hours he would be at the dock.

I grabbed my tool bag, emergency pump, extension cord and was on my way before he knew he had talked me into it. The boat did not sink that day. We got it on a trailer and parked it in the lot. Afterwards, I was guest of honor at their Captain’s hour where I took the liberty of carefully articulating the lessons that they should have learned from all this. They offered to pay me, but I simply told them that by having to ask for this kind of help, they had already paid the highest price a man can pay.

All of our boats spend more time at the dock than underway. Instinct tells us the dock should be safe, worry free, and you know “all comfy and what not”. But seriously, are you prepared for fire or sinking. Most shore power connections don’t have 110 ac. What are you gonna to do?


Prudent Mariner

The Prudent Mariner

It’s midafternoon on a gusty day in the Florida Keys. The seas are 4 to 5 feet and the sunshine is abundant. Yeah, another perfect day in paradise and I’m milling about smartly on the boat dedicated to not getting anything done. Just as my dedication is peaking one of the rental boat office girls comes running down the dock, phone in hand and wearing panic like a bad sunburn. She comes straight to my boat and informs me that they have a lost boat that is in trouble.

Without really asking for my help the office girl hands me the phone. The guy on the other end is freaking out because they’re in “big trouble”. I asked him if they were taking on water and how much. He screamed, “we are not sinking”! Ok sir, does the motor run? To that he screamed, “the motor is fine you’re not listening to me, WE ARE IN TROUBLE”. Sir, is this a medical emergency? No, (expletive) we’re in trouble. Well, sir if you’re not sinking, taking on water, and there is no medical emergency; what is the trouble. To this he answered, “we can’t see land anywhere and we’re lost!”

It took a few minutes to find out what kind of boat he rented, when he left the dock, and whether he was in the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic. Once I had his general location I got him back on the phone and told him to set a course due North and look for a ten story condo unit. The plan was for him to call me back when he could see it.

He calls me back in two minutes and says, “listen, on this compass….. should the big N be facing the front of the boat or me to steer North”? Once I’m sure he is heading North, I headed out to intercept him. Before I can get out of the harbor he calls and says he sees the condo. He sounds like a man that just won the Powerball lottery.
I’m not a fan of incorporating old adages into my writing, but “you can’t make this stuff up”. The rental boat had a Richie Magnetic compass, GPS chart plotter, and a paper chart of the Middle Keys. So the moral of this event should be that being a prudent experienced mariner must include the capacity to look after the idiots. While cruising coastal waters, many of the dangers we encounter are the other less experienced captains. Our historical legacy demands that we take on the responsibility to provide assistance to all vessels in distress that we have the resources to provide without endangering our own crew and vessel. It is a big legacy. It is distasteful because none of us instinctively sympathize with the idiots among us. If you’re reading this I trust that you are one of the prudent mariners and understand this responsibility. Thanks for your help out here.


What's the Truth of Your Knowledge?

Rarely a day goes by, that someone doesn’t comment on my way of life. They get all starry eyed and distant looking and say “it must be a great way of life” or something to that effect. But just as many days, I meet folks who are out here in water world with me that brought those starry eyes with them. What makes it worse is that they got the horse before the proverbial cart. They read a few books, took a course and viola they think they are world cruisers. Eventually though, despite the money they spent and their intrepid notions they hit real problems. Everywhere I anchor I meet them and I help them. Most of the problems I'’m presented with are completely preventable matters of proper outfitting. I rarely meet sailors that have a proper inventory of repair materials, emergency gear, and tools. 99 percent of all the other problems are a simple matter of inexperience and getting the right information when they need it. This type of experience is not gained from books or in the vacuum of single handing. I have read many of the books out there and am always impressed by circumnavigators who start their book by saying “we knew nothing about sailing when we left”. Well to that I can only say that fools abound. Some of them get lucky and even write a book for other fools to follow and maybe not be so lucky.

Full time cruising, passage making, and voyaging (yes they are three completely different ideas) requires a body of knowledge and experience that takes an extended period of time to acquire. There are no short cuts unless you are so intrepid as to risk your life and treasure. Technology has reduced this extended period of time. However, I will tell you that most technology (especially the electronic kind) is a frill. When it works it will make you look like an expert. If you are a true expert the technology will dull you over time. Great captains have lamented about hiding in the enclosed cockpit watching the GPS and Autopilot do all the work for so long that they started to lose touch with the nature of being a sailor. So the question is when the batteries go dead and they will, what will the truth of your knowledge and experience cost you?


Old School...Huh?

I hail out of the port of Wilmington, NC, but about the time I see holiday stuff in the stores I start thinking of Junkanoo and Coconut Rum. To be honest I just don’t like to wear many clothes. So I set my boat heading SE’ish. Anyone who thinks they can’t get somewhere without knowing where they are going won’t enjoy ten minutes on a boat.

Anyway, all passages of this sort have weather interruptions and you have to find a safe place to hang on the hook for a day or two. The really good hiding spots get crowded so you meet all kinds of folks. The average storm is about thirty hours and I’m always amazed at how quickly you can make life-long connections under these circumstances. It’s part of the magic.

I was in just this situation a little while back when I met a couple that, well, they were having issues. I have learned that sometimes the best way to help folks is to have them over for Captain’s hour and dinner. They accepted our invitation and showed up with contributory libations. It did not take much to get the conversation around to their anchoring problems (the immediate need) and then onto offering some other helpful ideas for them to consider.

In the middle of things the guy is gingerly touching the chart at my nav station, tracing route histories with his finger and inventorying my nav tools. He suddenly looked at me and said “you old school guys really take this stuff serious don’t you”?

I don’t often get thrown off guard in conversations, but his comment put me on the precipice. It hit me then and there that I’m not modern. I’m prudent and experienced enough to not be completely old school either. In a flash my entire personal identity had a title: I’m “Simple School!”

I have spent years endeavoring to simplify, getting rid of one more switch, a yard arm of wire, a through-hull, length of plumbing, and anything else that will consume me with maintenance or repair jobs. Yes, I have electric lights onboard, but every space also still has a brass oil lamp. Yes, I have a small GPS plotter (3x5 inch screen), emergency battery operated GPS, but I also use a sextant, paper charts and bearing compass. I have pressurized water and a hand pump. I have electric bilge pumps and hand pumps. I have a water filtration system, but I carry a manual Survivor 35.

It’s simple, if the water pump fails my response is: “Ok, foot pump still works”. If the GPS fails mid-ocean I still have a course, dead reckoning plot and paper trail so I’ll worry about the GPS when I have a chance. Modern stuff is convenient, much of the old stuff is easy to use and keep up. Having an old school backup for the modern stuff is worry free “simple school”. I like keeping safe and simple, I am Simple School.


Are You Paying Attention?

I don’t know where you are, but it is a great day here on the island. It is partly cloudy, the wind chill is 84° F, and beautiful scantily clad people fill my view from the tiki bar. Paradise is not constant even in paradise though. On the horizon a bank of huge thunder heads is building and it appear to be meandering this way. As they get closer a few people start to take notice.

The harbor is packed with boats and I’m betting that most of them left some or all of their hatches open. I fall into that category. I’m notorious for leaving my hatches open if I’m not absolutely convinced that it will rain while I’m gone. The dinghy dock is full and the overflow boats are simply landing on the beach. If the rain comes this way the mass exodus will be fun to watch.

Whenever I step outside the very first thing my brain registers is the wind. The wind tells me everything I need to know about the weather for the rest of the day. No need to read a forecast or watch the weather channel. I don’t understand how weather patterns have become perceived as beyond the grasp of everyday folks when all it takes is an awareness of the wind and cloud movements.

Then it happens, a lightning bolt flashes followed a few seconds later by a loud clap of thunder. Then the wind stiffens some more and it begins. I’d been chatting with a fellow cruiser at the tiki and he jumps to his feet saying he’d better get out to his boat; he left his hatches open. I replied with a betting offer; “why don’t you keep your seat and if it rains I’ll pick up your tab, if not we are Dutch”.

You don’t think it’s going to rain?

That’s right; it’s not going to rain. The wind has been veering (turning clockwise) for the past few hours which means we are on the dry side of that mess. You might as well relax and enjoy the dinghy races.

After a few seconds of consideration he sat down and ordered a double Lamb’s Navy rum. Previous to my offer he was enjoying much cheaper brands so he must have considered the odds as being much in his favor.

The show was great as it offered a few more lightning bolts and spectacular claps of thunder. The beach exodus with the wind blowing towels, sand, a few chairs and an umbrella were fun to watch. The dinghies playing bumper boats as they all tried to leave together was good for a laugh or two.

Twenty minutes later it was all over without a drop of rain and back to paradise as usual. The rules are simple: if the wind has been veering (changing direction clockwise) it indicates fair weather. If it is backing (going counter clockwise) put your foulies on. If it is steady from the same direction you will get more of the current conditions.


Cruising Gear


Anchors are the most overlooked stowage problem I’ve ever encountered on most boats. They are clunky, heavy and unforgiving to anything they bang against. Inland water sailors may be able to have a single anchor that is suitable for a small geographic region. However, there is no such thing as an anchor that universally works. A cruiser needs one of every anchor category made (remember that these are my opinions based on my experience). I have a CQR and a Danforth hanging off the bow. There is another Danforth hanging off the stern. I have a very large fisherman’s and a Bruce below decks. A simple cruise through the SE coast of the United States will have you anchoring in sand, muck, hard tack, sea grass, gravel, rock and coral. There is not an anchor made that will do all this. To further complicate matters fifty percent of the time you will need to use two anchors at a time to control the boats movement during tide changes, wind shifts or in crowded anchorages. This creates some interesting stowage needs both on deck and below decks.

On the bow plow anchors can rest in rollers on their shanks with the plow end hanging off the boat. This arrangement needs to be accomplished in a way that the plow does not bang against the hull while being deployed, stowed or weighed. Pivoting fluke anchors like the Danforth do not lend themselves to being stowed in the roller and need a hanging bracket on a rail. A fisherman’s anchor which is a necessity for storms, rock and coral usually needs its own locker. Most fishermen’s anchors actually disassemble into three parts which is good for two reasons. First, they need to be much heavier than other types of anchors because of the design. For instance on my 41 foot boat I need a 120 lb. fisherman’s to hold in a storm, rock or coral to get the same holding power of my 55 lb. CQR. (a CQR nor the Danforth will hold in rock or coral). Secondly, stowing a 120 lb. anchor is a chore, but unlike a battery it is an item that can go in bilge so the question is: is there an accessible bilge space with a large enough capacity or is there an alternative space?


Bilge Pumps
My current boat is an “oldy goldy” from 1973. I bought her and have been fixing her up as I travel. Don’t get me wrong I love being in a boat yard working on the boat, but I am prone, like so many owners to never getting to the end of all the things I want to accomplish. I could literally spend a decade rehabbing a boat. I love working on the boat as much as I do sailing it. Following the rule of: “everything in moderation” I only give myself a maximum of 90 days in the yard. This means I have to reduce my “to do” list to only those things that prevent me from staying afloat. This boat has a large bilge pump under the engine that discharges beneath the waterline. I knew it was a design issue that had to be dealt with, but I was at my self-imposed 90 day limit. The fix was to put a check valve in the hose leading from the pump to the through-hull. This solution was easier than replacing the hose with a long enough length to create a vented loop and prevent any siphon action from the sea.

Flash forward a year. Expecting guests the next day we spit shined everything, had dinner and retired at about 10 pm. At 4 am I woke up to the smell of smoke. %#*$. I jumped out of bed. Splash, and I’m knee deep in saltwater. #*&^. I open the engine room door to see the engine and generator completely underwater. *$^##. We were at a dock with shore power, but these are all 30 or 50 amp plugs that will not accommodate a regular extension cord. The batteries have all exploded, the generator is toast, I have no electrical service and the boat is sinking.

We did all the things you plan to do, but hope you never have to do. I closed all the through-hull valves, grabbed the bolt cutters to isolate the battery banks (the Perko switch was a glob of melted red plastic), and opened the hatches to ventilate. But still the water is rising. We manned the manual bilge pump in the cockpit, started putting out cell phone calls to everyone in the harbor that we had numbers for, and continued trying to find out where the water was coming from. Now at four in the morning not many folks are going to answer their phone. Luckily, Ed Robinson (friend and author of “Leap of Faith”, “Poop, Booze and Bikini’s and other titles) who did not get to his phone before we hung up, called us back with a “what the hell is going on”. I told him we needed a generator, quick. He put his portable Honda generator in his dinghy and got to us in 20 minutes flat.

With the generator I was able to deploy two back-up pumps. We were now pumping out faster than we were taking on.

An important sidebar here; during the distress call phase of all this we also called the Coast Guard, local fire department, sheriff’s department, and Sea Tow from which we had insurance. The Coast Guard said they were on their way with one of those mac daddy gas powered pumps. They asked for our position and when we told them we were on a dock they said they could not respond to help. Sorry, vessels at a dock are outside their mission statement. The sheriff’s deputies showed up, but said they did not have any type of generator or pumps to help. The fire department showed up, but said they could not use their pumps to save a boat because of the possible liabilities of the situation. Unbelievable. Sea Tow did show up, but get this: flooding, sinking vessels, or any life at risk issues are not covered by the insurance policy. They charged us $3,000 just to show up. Yes, you read that right. They did deploy another pump, stayed with me until about 9 am when the flooding was under control, and left.

In the end it turns out that the only through hull I did not close was the one to the bilge pump under the engine. You know the one with the brand new check valve. The valve had failed which gave me a 2 inch hole in the hull below the waterline. The rationale behind not closing that valve was that if I got power to the pump it would be very helpful.

Regarding the backup pumps; one of the brand new, in the box 120 vac pumps crapped out within 30 minutes. All this is to say that manual bilge pumps are very important.

Another important lesson here is to be absolutely sure the power supply to the high water bilge alarm is higher than the sensor for the system. When you need a bilge pump it will never be large enough or fast enough in the moment. Moreover, if the circumstances are such that you really need a pump there is a good chance that you don’t have electrical power for it. This means you have to have manual pumps. I highly recommend that boats have two hand operated diaphragm type pumps; one at the helm and a larger one below decks. Once again this can be a huge stowing or mounting issue if there is not a ready place to mount a pump in the cockpit seating. Trying to redesign the under-seat stowage could constitute a major undertaking which will include through-hull fittings. These manual pumps must pump directly overboard.


Emergency Gear
Among the great many things that must be thoughtfully planned on any boat when it comes to stowage is emergency gear. Let’s start with medical bags. Your medibag cannot be comprehensive enough in inventory (which means it will take up more space than a wall mounted first-aid box) and it must be available in an instant. Mine is a medium size dry bag and a pain to keep in a dedicated space. The reason is that I so rarely need it that it tends to get moved temporarily to make space for other things that have my immediate attention. Of course remembering to put it back is a chore. If my crew needs it some days later they will have to hunt for it and that is unacceptable with the possible exception of simply needing an antacid.

If I have to be 100% honest I will tell you that I don’t wear a lifejacket unless I feel like my life is in jeopardy. I’ve been known to go out on deck after dark in rolly seas for whatever needed to be done. It’s not safe, I know it, but my lifejacket and harness live below decks on my current boat. The cockpit stowage is inadequate for lifejackets, they are just in the way everywhere else, and it is something I’m going to remedy the next time I’m in the boat yard.

According to the USCG records 83% of all sailing fatalities are from drowning and 88% of those were not wearing PDF’s. 74% of sailing fatalities happened while at anchor, a mooring or a dock. Only 26% happened while underway. USCG records also show that sail boaters are the largest category of boaters to; take safety courses, have the highest number of swimmers, and are the least likely to wear a PDF. Education just puts stuff in your head, but apparently does not make you any smarter.

If you want to sail off-shore out of sight of land there are three emergency items that must be considered: The first are flairs. They are required on all boats, but they are essential for cruising. The USCG wants you to have three, but if I’m in the position to need flairs, I want to recreate the 4th of July at the Statue of Liberty. I carry a dozen in-date and many more up to 5 years out of date. SOLAS flairs are your only option off-shore. If you cheap out and buy lesser flairs it may cost you your life. Lesser flairs may be fine for some inland waters but have no place being off-shore. OK…where do you put them? They need a dry place with a stable temperature as they are pyrotechnics. They need to be very accessible and probably need to be in the same vicinity as a ditch bag and fully charged flashlight. I keep this inventory under the nav station which is at the bottom of the companionway ladder. Your boat design may provide a different solution, but you must consider it a priority.

Second: If you have to step up off your boat into a life raft you will probably be frightened by how inadequate the raft inventory is. The raft will absolutely be too small, the provisions will absolutely not be enough, and the medikit will be one of those under the car seat plastic boxes with a few Band-Aids. With this knowledge you are going to have a 4 to 6 person raft for a crew of two or three. Your best bet is to buy a raft with a capacity twice your crew size. There is no easy solution, but most owners permanently mount the life raft in a hard case topside, and the ditch bag (if they have one) is stuffed below decks wherever room can be made. This is probably the best solution as, if your boat is damaged to the point of sinking it will probably happen within five minutes of sustaining the damage. That does not give you a lot of reaction time. So when you look at a boat, ask yourself if you need a raft and where it will go.

Third: Even then you will need a ditch bag and it will probably be the same physical dimensions as the packed-up raft to make up for all the stuff you will absolutely need and is not part of the raft inventory. Add to this bulkiness the weight of these items and you have a storage nightmare.

The ditch bag should at minimum have the following: a really good knife, fishing tackle that you can actually catch a fish with, hand operated watermaker, your medibag, flashlight, enough food to feed crew for a week (I pack MRE’s), bag of hard candy, sextant, small scale chart of the area you are sailing in, navigation tools, registered GPIRB, handheld VHS radio, bearing compass, flairs, dye markers, signal mirror, whistle or manual fog horn, 100’ of half inch rope, really good sun screen, loose fitting long sleeved shirt, long pants, wide brimmed hat, polarized sunglasses, back-up pair of prescription glasses, any regularly needed prescription medications, duct tape. If it is in the budget I would have a sat phone.

There are other items that will require thoughtful storage if you are passage-making or voyaging. These categories of sailing will inevitably get caught in storms that an in-land or coastal cruiser does not have much chance of experiencing. That means an inventory of specialized heavy weather sailing equipment that in addition to needing quick access must be stored in the vicinity of use. If you have ever read a description or seen a video of a boat deploying a sea anchor in 12 foot seas you will know what I mean. Sea anchors and drogues do not lend themselves to easy packing, unpacking or stowage in a reasonable space. Hopefully, if you are looking at doing this kind of sailing you have enough experience to know how important this gear is and are reading this article for fun.


Spare Engine Parts
This is another contentious issue throughout our community. If you read some of the articles that recommend a spare parts list you will soon discover a big storage problem not to mention the fact that you will not pay for it all out of your front pocket.

Inland waters sailors have easy direct access to everything, but everyone else will have to carry some spare parts.

Many years ago I was trying to get through Snow’s Cut in Carolina Beach NC. This passage to the Atlantic is shoally and not a straight path. Add to this that the current is tough and I had to start the engine. I made it outside only to have the motor “high temperature alarm” go off. At first I thought I simply got too much sand sucked in and the strainer was clogged. On further inspection though it turned out the seawater pump impeller ate itself. It was not a big deal until I discovered that both of my brand new ones where for a different engine. I was bound for the Outer Banks at the time but Wrightsville Beach and Sea Path marina were only a few miles north so I called them to see if they could supply me with the right impeller. They said sure come on it. This was a bit of a problem as I only had my sails. I did not have any resources to have the thing brought out to me. Under sail I have to travel due west through the jetties, turn north through Banks Channel, then make a squiggly path west to the marina. Of course the wind was out of the west. I hove to for two days waiting for a workable breeze and headed in. It was not a big deal because Mother Ocean was in a good mood and the fishing was good as well.

On the third day I spoke to Sea Path again and asked them to be sure to have space for me on the outer most dock because I had to come in under sail. They assured me they would. A few miles and hours later I had the marina in sight, but the outer dock was bow to stern boats. They directed me to the inner-most slip two docks in. I repeated to them that “I am under SAIL”. The girl on the radio simply said “ok, come on in”. I sailed in by rigging a kedge anchor line first to the stern then to the bow which then went to the anchor. Halfway down between the docks I deployed the kedge and put a bite on it just where I needed to make the 90° turn into the slip. The kedge brought the bow around nicely at which time I released it from the bow, dropped the sail and tightened in the rode from the stern for breaks. I cannot describe the consternation of the other boat owners or dock master at coming into the marina under sail. For the rest of the day I had folks either shake my hand voicing “ata boys” or cursing me for taking such a risk at hitting their boat. All I needed was an $8 impeller that could be easily installed off-shore.

I could write a book of stories on my quest for parts that I did not have on board. Today, I carry one of everything that is externally bolted or attached to the engine. This includes: alternator, freshwater pump, seawater pump, drive belt, fuel lift pump, fuel injector pump, extra injector, heat exchanger, filters, clamps, hoses, and more. I also carry stuff for bigger jobs like a complete head gasket kit. I have to be sure to have enough oil for at least 4 changes. Anti-freeze, transmission fluid, and grease all must be in inventory. And never leave port without extra gland material for the stuffing box.

In today’s sailing world you can get parts to your boat almost everywhere in the world. But consider this; you need to replace a freshwater pump that is leaking all your coolant every 30 minutes and you are in the Bahamas. The chances of finding one locally are slim to none. If you do find one it will cost you two or three times what it would cost in the United States. So you get on the Internet, pay for the part, have it delivered to one of the air freight carriers in Florida who will fly it out to your island or the one nearest you with an air strip, then brought to you by boat to your island. This effectively means that on day one you pay for the part ($75), pay to have it overnight ($65), the air freight company receives it on day two and gets it to the air strip on day five ($55), it is then put on a boat ($15) and finally delivered to your island on day ten because the boats only run once (maybe twice) a week. So you have $210, plus ten days marina fees ($600) that were not in your budget. In the end you can get any part you need, but in this case I had to pay $810 for a $75 part. By the way, in the Bahamas you do not have to pay a duty or VAT on parts you have imported for your boat. This is great but it does not apply to the rest of the world. Value Added Tax (VAT) can easily double your cost of the part itself. I sure wish I had a crystal ball.


I get some really funny looks and inquiries about my boat inventory. It often starts when I’m talking with a fellow sailor that I’m meeting for the first time because he/she has a big problem like a blown out mainsail. The nearest sail loft is two or three days sail away. Once I am apprised of the scope of work that needs to be done I can often tell them: “sure I can repair it tomorrow morning”. Then it hits them and they can’t believe I have a sewing machine, table, bolts of fabric and everything needed to do remote sail work. Then the question about where I stow all this stuff comes up. This is followed up by lengthy conversations about boat storage which is done with coconut rum to give it a philosophical air. After conversations like these I am often amused at how few boat owners consider what their inventory will or should look like when they purchase a boat. It’s on par with renting an apartment that is too small for your existing furniture.

The very first thing to be considered is the type of sailing you intend to do. Where you are sailing will predicate a great many of the characteristics of your boat. How much time you will actually be aboard will take things a bit further. With this in mind it seems logical to me to have an inventory list complete with volume measurements before you even consider shopping for your dream boat.

Where you will be sailing will also dictate stowage needs. By virtue of the fact that you are on a boat will require a higher level of minimalist mentality to begin with, but inadequate stowage for the necessities is not something that is easily remedied. And there are a lot of necessities! Again everything that I am about to share with you comes for years of working on my boats and helping folks with their issues. I am not a yachtsman. I am a “meat and potatoes” sailor. You will not find big screen chart plotters, TV, refrigeration, air conditioning, and such on my boat. There is hardly enough mounting and stowage room on a small boat for the necessary equipment let alone all these modern things. Mariners have made it around the world for a few thousand years without modern stuff and managed to live healthy. I am not negligent by any means. I know what all those “black bows with slanted mast” symbols mean on a chart. I do not sail without my very small GPS, a hand held GPS, 2 VHF mounted radios (one in the cockpit and one at the nav station), 2 handheld VHF radios, an electric autopilot, and a depth finder. (with good up-to-date charts a depth finder is a great navigational aid near shore. Other than that its only purpose is to verify water depth when you run aground.) But that’s it; I’ve never found a need for “life style” electrical equipment on a boat.

If you are a lake sailor going to secluded coves for weekends you can get by with almost no stowage and make room for “life style” conveniences. If you are going coastal cruising, suddenly there is an inventory of things that will require a great deal of thought when it comes to stowage.


Cruising Inventory Lists
The table below is a living document of cruising inventory needs. As Gary Jobson so eloquently says: "The prudent sailor would carry much more gear to sea." This list is highly dependent on your particular cruising behavior. This is my list and represents my requirements to sail on extended passages and the occasional voyage. Your list will be different, but if you are like me you like knowing what other captains are doing.

Anchors CQR 55lb
Anchors Danforth 35 lb
Anchors Danforth 15 lb
Anchors Fisherman 120 lb
backing plate material,
backing plate material, plywood 1/4"
backing plate material, Plywood 1/2"
backing plate material, steel
backpack dry bags,
bucket head,
buckets, 2 3 gallon
buckets, 5 gallon
chafing gear,
deck brush,
dinghy anchor
dinghy motor/sail rig,
dinghy oars,
dinghy bail pump/pale,
dive gear, dive gear, 2 2000 lb bottles
dive gear, BC
dive gear, regulator
dive gear, 3 snorkle gear
dive gear, hooka rig 100'
duck tape,
emergency running lights,
emergency VHF antenna,
fasteners: fasteners: screws,
fasteners: bolts/nuts,
fasteners: zip ties,
fasteners: washers,
fog horn,
fog horn, manual brass
fog horn, conch
foldable beach chair,
generator, emergency
heavy weather gear,
heavy weather gear, harnesses
heavy weather gear, foulies
heavy weather gear, jack lines
heavy weather gear, drogue300'
Jerry cans,
Jumper cables
life jackets,
life raft,
Lighting Luci solar
Lighting Glow sticks break
Lighting Fury SureFire A123
Lighting generator flashlight shake & 3A
Lighting Brass Oil lamps
lines 5 mooring 3/4 x 50'
lines 7 halyards 1/2 x 100'
lines 4 sheets 1/2 x 50'
lines 2 anchor rode 1" x 300'
lines 1 nylon 1" x 100'
Locking cable
Lubricants WD-40
Lubricants Silicone Spray
Paint: painting tape,
Paint: deck paint,
Paint: varnish,
Paint: bottom paint,
Paint: motor paint,
PB Blaster/penetrating
sailing rig for hard dinghy or motor for inflatable,
sanding materials
ship’s bell
shore-power cable,
silicone caulk,
spare batteries,
spare bulbs,
tape Duck
tape painting
tape electrical
triangular tarp for hull punctures,
underwater epoxy,
Zincs 2 1' ovals


antenna, spare emergency VHF
Butt Kit 50 12 gage
Butt Kit 50 14 gage
Butt Kit 50 16 gage
Butt Kit 50 terminal eyes 12 gage
Butt Kit 50 14 gage
Butt Kit 50 16 gage
Butt Kit
Butt Kit (heat shrink type)
grease, electrolytic
shrink wrap tubing,
tape, black electrical
Wire 100’ 16 gage wire red,
Wire 100’ 16 gage wire black
Wire 100’ 14 ga wire red,
Wire 100’ 14 ga wire black,
Wire 100’ 12 ga wire red,
Wire 100’ 12 ga wire black,
Wire 20’ 6 ga wire red,
Wire 20’ 6 ga wire black,


boson’s chair,
marlin spike bag, palm glove
marlin spike bag, wax thread
marlin spike bag, needles straight variety pak
marlin spike bag, needles curved variety pak
marlin spike bag, fid double braid 5/16' to 1/2"
marlin spike bag, fid double braid 3/16" to 3/8"
marlin spike bag, tension gage 3/16" to 9/32"
marlin spike bag, tension gage 1/4" to 3/8"
marlin spike bag, sail tape 4"x 50'
marlin spike bag,
material Dacron 2 oz
material Dacron 4.5 oz.
material Dacron 9.5 oz
material Sunbrella
material Duck canvas 22 oz.
sewing machine,
spare sails, spinnaker
spare sails, storm
spare sails, tri sail
Wire Rope 1x19 Stainless 5/16" 50'
Wire Rope 1x19 Stainless 1/4" 50'
Wire Rope 7x19 Stainless 9/16 100' steering
Wire Rope


Spare engine parts:
anti-freeze (2 gal),
back-up battery charger,
Bilge pumps,
filters, 6 fuel primary
filters, 3 fuel Racor
filters, 6 oil
Pumps fresh water pump,
Pumps fuel injector pump,
Pumps fuel lift pump,
head gasket kit
heat exchanger,
hoses various coolant
hoses fuel
manifold gasket,
oil (four gallons),
oil extraction pump
packing gland material,
raw water impeller,
raw water pump,
ship’s batteries,
spark plugs/injectors
transmission fluid (1 gal),


bearing compass,
charts for everywhere you go,
GPS chart plotter
GPS hand held AA
navigation tools,
navigation tools, dividers straight
navigation tools, dividers one hand
navigation tools, compass 180°
navigation tools, parallel ruler
navigation tools, 3 pencils .05 mech
navigation tools, eraser
pelican case for tools
radio VHF mounted
radio VHF hand held
radio Short wave receiver


“American Practical Navigator”; Bowditch,
“Boat Owners Mechanical and Electrical Manual”; Nigel Calder,
“Chapman Piloting Seamanship & Small Boat Handling”; Elbert S. Maloney,
“Modern Marine Weather”; Tobias Burch
“One Day Celestial Navigation”; Brown,
“Pilot Charts”
“Sail Makers Apprentice”; Marino,
“Ship Captains Medical Guide”
“The Complete Rigger’s Apprentice”; Brian Toss,
Coast Pilots,
HO 249 reduction tables,
Lights List,
Nautical Almanac, current
Navigation Rules of Road,
Pub 229 reduction tables,
Ship’s Log w/papers


Quality of Life:
CD’s and DVD’s,
cell phones and tablets, charging facility for the this battery stuff,
chess board,
cribbage board,
fishing gear,
flip flops,
grill w/accessories,
laptop computer,
musical instruments,


Tools Bag 1 Electrical:
12 vdc probe
AC/DC ampmeter,
12 vdc battery load tester,
wire cutters,
wire cutters, small gage,
wire cutters, large gage,
pliers lineman
pliers needle nose
pliers standard
wire strippers,
crimping tool hand,
hammer lug/cable,
screw driver
screw driver set of spade
screw driver set of Philips
butt kit w/gas heat gun
50’ of red and black wire
electrolytic grease
contact cleaner
box wrenches, set
electrical tape
soldering iron
tape measure
duct tape
tie wraps
wire fish
sharpie pens
tooth brush size wire brushes
Tools Bag 2 General:
screw drivers:
screw drivers set of spade
screw drivers set of Philips
screw drivers jewelers,
screw drivers impact set
Pliers standard,
Pliers lineman,
Pliers needle nose,
Pliers vise grip S/M/L,
Pliers channel lock,
Pliers snap ring,
pick set
Hammers carpenter,
Hammers rubber,
Hammers 3 lb. sledge,
Hammers ball peen,
Saws hack,
Saws 8” sheetrock,
set of Allen wrenches,
spanner wrenches,
filter wrenches,
pipe wrench,
oiler can,
file set,
drill bits, set
crescent wrenches
parts tray, 6”, magnetic
hand break,
tin snips
tape measure,Manual roll-up 25”
parts grabber, 24”
parts grabber magnetic
rivet gun
putty knife
Tools Bag 3 Wrenches & Sockets:
SAE box wrenches,
Metric box wrenches,
¼ inch sockets SAE, standard/deep
¼ inch sockets metric, standard/deep
3/8 inch sockets SAE standard/deep
3/8 inch sockets metric standard/deep
½ inch sockets SAE, standard/deep
½ inch sockets metric,standard/deep
Tool Cabinet:
120 vac Power Tools:
skill saw,
reciprocating saw,
jig saw,
belt sander,
5” rotary sander,
sidewinder grinder,
two bladed fillet knife,
roto tool kit w/attach,
12” buffer,
heat gun,
hot knife
grommet kit
18 vdc cordless tools:
jig saw,
5” skill saw,
reciprocating saw,
hand vacuum,
6 lithium batteries,
bolt cutters,
swaging tool,
MAP gas torch,
lg. staple gun,
grease gun,
pop rivet set,
caulk gun,
4’ level,
various putty knives,
various paint brushes,
C clamps,
tap/die cutting kit,
50’ extension cord,
100’ extension cord,
6 socket power strip,
3’& 5’ cheater bars,
Lg. fuel filter funnel,
Spare prop,


Ditch Bag:
SOLAS flares, Never enough
watermaker, Surviver 35, manual
food,dependent on area
spare battery pack,
medical kit,Separate Inventory List to come
space blankets,
signaling mirror,
several flashlights
fishing kit,
waterproof handheld VHF radio,
plastic sextant,
small scale charts,
nav tools