'Getting out there' - How to break the ties and go cruising

Welcome to Paradise - Island Cruising Style. - ICA Summer Seminar Series
John Martin
John and Lyn Martin, operators of the highly successful Island Cruising Club, will be running special cruising seminars in Australia and New Zealand in the coming months. In the first of a series of articles on cruising, John here questions how to 'get out there' and go cruising and shares some of his own family's comic experiences:

What is it that motivates you? For mountaineer Edmund Hillary it was to stand on top of the world. For me, it was dreaming of a lifestyle where I could 'grow up' with my kids. We succeeded with the lifestyle but my kids would argue they were the only ones to grow up!

Coastal and or Offshore Cruising is a dream for many, but how do you make it happen? There are books, sure but many of these are Cruising Guides, they tell you the location of the great cruising spots and how to get there but not how to get started. Read on for our Guide to Cruising, not a Cruising Guide.

If you put the pick down in any of the popular cruising destinations you are bound to get a fair cross section of those that go cruising. There are all sorts, Launches and yachts of all shapes and sizes and even a few trailer boats thrown into the mix.

Some will be purists and want to sail everywhere, others not and one’s that want to simply blast to the nearest fishing ground or dive spot. But whether it’s Pittwater, the Great Barrier reef, the Northland Coast of New Zealand or a tropical paradise with gently swaying palm trees and azure waters gently lapping at white sand beaches, they all have one thing in common, they’ve gone cruising.

The question is how did they get there? And what was their first step?

Now to some of you that may not sound like a big deal. Many coastal cruisers will have grown up in boating families where it’s second nature to slip the dock lines and head for the far horizon, but for folks that don’t have that advantage it can be daunting, to say the least, to head past the last harbor channel mark.

In our family, we have a little of both. Lyn was brought up boating, there’s a pictures of her in the family album aboard their launch Mahara, swinging gently in a hammock at just one month old while the rest of the family are fishing in the cockpit, salt is in her blood.

My boating life, on the other hand, didn’t start until I was 14. My family emigrated from and my dad had a dream. He wanted to sail. He had a little experience sailing 18 foot river boats on the Clyde but he wanted more than that, he wanted the freedom to go anywhere and stay as long as he wanted.

John and Lyn Martin from the Island Cruising Association - 2013 Sydney International Boat Show


Our transition into a cruising family wasn’t particularly easy. Dad bought a boat, Mandoo an 11.5m Hartley South Seas, not a great sailing boat but one that was big enough to comfortably take the family and it ticked off mum’s main criteria, it had a great galley. Or so we thought. We spent a few weekends mooching around the harbour and stayed a night or two at some of the inner bays or just a few miles out of the harbor. But Dad had bigger dreams and what was over the horizon was one of them.

This became a family event, we got the charts out, chose a destination, planned the whole thing, we were ready. Mum stocked the boat, it seemed to take hours to get everything we needed aboard, I’m not sure but I think I saw the proverbial kitchen sink come aboard. We motored off down the harbor with all the other Friday evening departees, the harbor was a maelstrom of boat and ferry wakes.

Poor Mum, she was sliding around the floor in the galley (a big open galley, absolutely no good in a seaway) trying in vain to store things, yelling 'Stop rocking the boat'. By the time we got to the last harbor mark things had settled down and with a beautiful breeze we drift sailed to our first destination and anchored before sunset, ready for an early start in the morning. Dad had a huge smile on his face, 'This is the life'.

We had a great time that long weekend but Monday dawned with a brisk wind blowing from the east. Dad still hadn’t much experience sailing in heavy breezes so the decision was made to motor home. Oh dear! Looking back on it now we would never make such a basic error but back then faced with mounting winds it seemed like the best approach.

We didn’t get more than a mile out into the open before there was a crash from downstairs and it only got worse. The careful stowing Mum had done; stacking bottles in the galley cupboards, the beautiful cut crystal wine glasses on the shelf, the cans, the pots and pans were all launching themselves like missiles across the cabin and that was just the galley. The books in the main saloon were next but you get the picture, bedlam.

Nowadays we have locks on the cabinet doors, slots and spaces for all the pots, pans, jugs and bottles, lee cloths on the bookshelf and the cut crystal is a thing of the past, replaced with good quality polycarbonate glassware. Isn’t experience wonderful?

LIBERA (ITA) and EOS (GBR) sailing towards the sunset - 2013 Rolex Middle Sea Race


The problem of course, on that fateful trip, was the decision not to put up any sails, as was pointed out by one of Dad’s golfing buddies during their Wednesday match. We had turned the boat around and, with our tails firmly between our legs, headed back to put the boat on a mooring, tidy up and take stock.

No way was Mum going home on the boat so we ended up taking a very expensive taxi ride home. Dad, myself and my brother, plus Dad’s golfing buddy Alan, also a keen sailor, went up and brought the boat back the following weekend.

It was still blowing but with experience aboard we had a great sail back, we all learned volumes on that trip. Alan came sailing with us a number of times until Dad had the confidence and the experience to cajole Mum back aboard. It may not have all been plain sailing from there but Dad had the bug and nothing was going to stop him. That bug was passed to me and since, cruising has been my life’s passion.

The next thing Dad did was to join a Yacht Club, one with a cruising division that held regular cruises in company to different destinations. The social side was as important as the organization of these events as invariably the topic of conversation was centered around boats and boating and experience could be absorbed by osmosis.

Learning the collision rules and how to navigate are not skills you can absorb while at a social, so it was off to Coastguard for night school and a Boat Master certificate. With the experience gained from cruising in company with the club and the knowledge and skills learned at Coastguard it was time to broaden the horizons and a slightly more adventurous destination for Christmas holidays.

So how do you get started? Cruising’s all about expanding your horizons, having fun, exploring and perhaps for some stepping outside their comfort zone. If you just want to get out on the water there are many ways to do that in and around the harbor, from a 12 foot tinny you can zip out for a quick fish or a fizzy to go water skiing or a picnic on a local beach.

But if you want to go a little further the first thing you are going to need is a boat that’s up to the task, one you can sleep on, has a head so the misses doesn’t have to use a bucket and a galley so you can at least have a hot drink.

That’s the basics and from there your choice will depend a great deal on budget.

Just remember that the guy’s in the budget boat next to you at anchor are having just as much fun as those in the gin palace on the other side. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a yacht or a launch, that’s simply personal preference. Next, make sure it ticks the boxes for your partner as well as yourself; an unhappy partner is the fastest way to end a budding cruising lifestyle.

In future articles we will look at some of the skills needed, the resources available and some stories about cruising to help get you out there. In the mean time think about the great fishing spots where it’s just you, a line and the fish. Think of the out of the way dive sites that still have Cray’s large enough to feed a whole family. Remember the camaraderie of friends over a sundowner or two, or simply the thought of watching the sun set from the cockpit of your own boat in a remote location.

Dare to dream, live the dream, but in the meantime here are...

Ten tips to get you going:
1. Make sure your boat is up to the task
2. Be sure your partner is happy with the boat too.
3. Find a Mentor
4. Join a club, one that has cruising on the agenda.
5. Get some education from a recognized provider.
6. Do some cruising in company
7. Start small and workup from there
8. Make sure you have the charts, publications and guides for the area you are going to cruise.
9. Make a TR, or trip report to let people know where you’re going (don’t forget to cancel it when you’re back)
10. Get out there and have fun.


OK, some of you will be saying 'so that all sounds too easy, been there, done that.'

But here’s a challenge for you. If you are an experienced coastal cruiser already, no doubt you will be heading out to your favorite haunts over the summer. Great, but tell the truth, how often do you try somewhere new? Even if you are going to the same favored bays try some new ones, ones that you’ve always passed before while 'on the way'. Some of our favorite spots have been found while 'Gunk Holing' it also gets you looking at the charts and cruising guides with interest again.
If that’s not enough for you try planning bigger. One that really gets you outside that comfort zone and uses all of the resourses and skills we will be talking about in this series. Regardless if you’re a newby or an old hand the same principals apply, we just need to extend ourselves occasionally to see their worth.

John and Lyn Martin run the Island cruising association. Their tag line is 'we make cruising more fun'. The Island cruising Association provide resources, training and events to help you get yourself, your crew and the boat out there safely and having fun.
Over summer the ICA are running a series of Cruising Preparation seminars, right around the coast from Perth to Cairns as well as in New Zealand. For more details on the seminar syllabus and a schedule of events click the link http://www.islandcruising.co.nz/?page_id=1563
www.islandcruising.org
http://www.sail-world.com/117750