Plan Your Cruise
The boat is in perfect shape, and the weather is looking good. Where will you go? What will you do? Why, plan your cruise, of course.
Opt for the kind that you and your crew will enjoy without breaking your budget, then learn how to figure out the cruising time to a destination, and how to decide if a particular harbor or marina is right for you.
CONFIGURE YOUR TRIP If you are planning a simple overnight, cruise planning is pretty much a no brainer. Pack up your provisions and your crew and go when there is a good two day weather forecast. Weekend cruises take a bit more planning, but likely you’ll head for no more than two destinations. The real planning occurs when you decide to take a longer, multi stop cruise. Most folks schedule this around their annual summer vacation, which may be one week or even two or more. When putting together your itinerary, consider these suggestions:
- > Divide your trip into manageable legs. Don’t overextend. If you travel for eight hours one day, make the next day’s cruise a short one.
- > Allow a blend of quiet and natural with the bustle of more commercial harbors.
- > Plan to be at your farthest destination halfway through the trip so your return leg can be just as enjoyable.
- > Factor in layover time to avoid battling bad weather to get home.
INVOLVE THE FAMILY
If you will be traveling solo, you only have to consider your personal needs and wishes. Perhaps you need time away from it all or have plans to visit friends who live near various boating destinations. This doesn’t let you off the hook for planning, mind you. The procedure is the same. Most likely, though, your cruise includes others such as your family or a group of friends. This complicates matters. To set departure and return dates for the cruise and to make the trip enjoyable for all aboard, have a talk with each of your crew members.
DETERMINE TIME CONSTRAINTS
What will your crew members need to give up to go on this cruise, and how willing are they to do so? Say you have a week off from work, and it happens to coincide with your spouse’s work schedule, what about the kids or your friends? Will your son miss playing the final baseball game in his team’s tournament? Will your daughter miss her best friend’s birthday party? Will your wife miss her sister’s wedding? You get the drift. Think compromise. How important is that particular activity to that person? If you carry these individuals off so they miss a special event, will they hate you forever? Likely not, but know if you can’t agree on a middle-of-the-road solution, sulky kids and an upset spouse can make that vacation of yours pretty unpleasant.
WHAT DO THEY WANT TO DO?
This should be an easy question, but sometimes answers can surprise you. You may plan to veg out and enjoy being parked in what I call a cook-aboard harbor reading the latest Baldacci thriller, but what about your wife? This is her vacation, too. Is she looking forward to dining out, shopping, and sightseeing in new places? Is your son into fishing and water sports? Is your daughter whining because she wants to bring a friend? Again, compromise. You can likely please everyone, including yourself. There’s no reason why you can’t hang out on the boat while your husband or wife takes the kids into shore or to the beach or vice versa. Maybe you don’t want to be responsible for taking along another child, but if you think hard, you might find a way to have your daughter in contact with other girls her age while on cruise. Talk to your boating friends. Maybe you can travel together or meet up with them so the kids can get together.
SET DEPARTURE AND RETURN DATES
Once you have settled on a schedule, pencil in the dates on your calendar with an eye to the long-term weather forecast. The beauty of boating is nothing is cast in stone. The various ports of call are not going to go anywhere. If you don’t get there on this trip, there’s always the next one to look forward to. If you plan to depart Friday night and the weather is miserable, why not enjoy the night on board in comfort rather than subject yourselves to a nasty trip? By the next morning, when the sun is shining, it will be a much more pleasant day—and what have you really lost? You’ve enjoyed your boat and your family. To relieve the stress of having to return in foggy or stormy weather, factor in one or two layover days. Plan to arrive home a day in advance if the weather looks iffy for your drop-dead return day. If your cruise includes several stops, take the time to figure out how long it will take, given the average hull speed of your boat, to reach each location, then add an extra hour or so for unexpected sea conditions. A sailboat beating into the wind and traveling against current travels at a slower than normal speed; and a powerboat experiences drag and requires more speed, thus more fuel, to power through such conditions.
The budget never goes away, even on vacation when you wish you had Monopoly money to spend. Anchoring in a pretty cove and barbecuing dinner is less costly than staying at a slip in a touristy area. But don’t be a cheapskate. The best trips are a mix of both. Take a poll of your crew members and do your best to make it fun for everyone (you want them to like the boat and being on it). Don’t make Mom cook every night; it’s her vacation, too. And no matter how you try to avoid it, there will always be a place to shop, whether it’s to buy a T-shirt or an expensive piece of jewelry. Cruising is so much more than plugging into a dock slip and exploring the shore. There’s no need to break the bank trying to show your crew a great time. On a boat, you can pick and choose how you want to spend your money. Consider your primary expenses, and if you freak out at the number, look for places to cut back without sacrificing pleasure. Needless to say, once your boat is equipped with fishing gear, kayaks, and fun water toys, you can easily keep your family entertained without spending an additional dime. Your primary costs will be for fuel, dockage, provisions, shore transportation, restaurant meals, and shore activities.
Try these suggestions for controlling costs without sacrificing fun:
- > Save on fuel. While a sailboat may get by with a few fill-ups a season, a powerboat may require refueling at each destination. If your boat is a fuel hog, limit the distance you travel. Save fuel by motoring at a slower speed, traveling with the tide or currents, and by setting a course where you will not need to deal with wind resistance. And don’t forget fuel for the dinghy. While it may cost a pittance compared to a tankful on your primary boat, if you’ve children who are dinghy crazy, you could easily be filling up that tank a lot unless you’ve taught them to row.
- > Don’t skimp on provisions. Keep aboard plenty of beverages. If you keep your boat stocked with non perishables such as boxed and canned goods, you’ll only need to replenish fresh foods for each trip : meats, vegetables, milk, cheeses. As we all know, crap happens. Your refrigerator could go bust or you may not make it to your destination for that restaurant meal and you’ll be darn glad you had a can of chili aboard.
- > Anchoring is free in most places. With a properly set hook, your boat will be as secure as if it were on a mooring. Obtaining a slip or a mooring will have its price. In a fancy harbor like Dubai Marina , slips are pricy, and even a mooring will cost you plenty. There may be restrictions on how long you must stay, and usually a reservation is needed in advance of your trip.
- > Save on shore transportation. If you are on anchor or on a mooring, your dinghy will be your primary means of reaching shore. Some marinas offer launch service, which can save you a dinghy ride in foggy or stormy weather. If you have chosen a location with not much on shore, you may need to hire a cab or rent a car to get groceries, reach a restaurant, or attend a local event. Some marinas loan out courtesy cars for short jaunts, which is very nice, or offer shuttle service into town.
- > Balance the dine-in/dine-out situation. No one wants to be on vacation and have to worry about providing three meals a day for the entire trip. It’s always nice not only to be served, but to pick choices from a menu—someone else’s—and to have the dirty dishes whisked away, never to be seen again. Give the cook a break order pizza or Chinese food. If you have lunch in town, you won’t mind dining aboard that night. During your trip, try to hit at least one nice restaurant so your cook will feel appreciated.
- > Find free shore activities. Depending on where you go and the activities available, you could be paying for tickets to an amusement park, a movie, or a tour. If you have four people, this could add up. Before you depart, check out websites for the local tourist bureau or visitors’ center for a wealth of information about special events, activities, and sightseeing in the area.
CHART YOUR COURSE
Suppose you are making three stops in the course of a week’s vacation. First stop, a quiet cove; next stop, a charming seaside village; last stop, a busy shore town. In- stead of guessing the amount of time it will take to reach each stop, be exact. That trip your boating buddy says takes three hours, in reality may take six hours. You need to know this information, and so does your crew, for planning provisions and making dockage reservations. Chart a course to each stop. This may mean adding waypoints into your GPS or drawing lines on a paper chart. Either way, your goal is to determine the distance you must travel to reach a particular harbor, and if you can make it in a single day without angst. A GPS should give you mileage and time to the destination based on a conser- vative estimate of your boat speed. On a paper chart, the distance in nautical miles for many of the legs of your journey may already be marked. If it’s not, measure and record the distance from marker to marker using the scale on the chart and a protractor. Add all the measurements to arrive at total distance. Don’t forget to include the mileage from the harbor entrance to the marina, especially if it is a long channel. Next, do this mathematical calculation: travel hours = nautical miles per hour /average boat speed Take the number of miles you have arrived at and divide by your average boat speed. For example, if a sailboat’s average speed is 5 knots and it needs to travel 20 miles, it will take about 4 hours to get there. Once you have arrived at an average travel time, pad it. For a day trip, factor in an extra hour or two to compensate for delays caused by sea and wind conditions. If you calculate four hours, plan for five. If you come up with twelve hours or more, decide if you want to travel after dark or tuck in overnight elsewhere and reach your final destination the next day.
- > Keep it simple. Plan meals requiring little preparation and using as few ingredients (and cooking pots) as possible. Choose versatile foods that can be cooked and served several ways. If it’s pouring rain or too blustery to dare grill off the stern, can that piece of chicken, fish, or steak be prepared in your galley? If plans change and you decide to dine off the boat, can those shrimp keep another day?
Send us your comment and your way to plan your boat trips.
I would like to publish some detailed boat trip experience in a while and i will be glad if you will share your experience with us.