Sunday, January 13, 2008

Things I learned on this trip

We rented 3 kayaks --- one tandem and 2 singles. One of the singles never got used. We discovered that the tandem kayak was a major pain to deploy and stow, so next time the right thing to do is to have 2 singles. We did not bring enough snorkels, flippers, and masks. Snorkeling is by far the most fun thing you can do on a regular basis in the virgin islands (I never got sick of it!), so I think it's important to have a full complement of snorkeling gear for everyone on board.

We either need longer boat hooks, or more practice picking up mooring buoys. One possibility is for me to train crew to drive the boat while I pick up mooring buoys. But the big thing is more time maneuvering the boat under power, and more practice. Anchoring, by contrast, where I've had lots of practice, posed no such problems, especially in the virgin islands where diving to check your anchor is so easy to do.

Equalization is a useful diving skill. Even when snorkeling I would frequently equalize. This is a great technique --- previously, I'd always just bore the pain.

Speaking of diving, it's a horribly expensive sport. Horribly horribly expensive. Maybe if I rent gear and put it on the boat and use the boat as a dive platform, it becomes a bit cheaper, since I only then have to pay for air and rental gear and no guides. But then there's the problem with everyone else on the boat who's not a diver. Maybe I need to run a divers only trip if that's the case. I'm not sure what to do about this. Perhaps dive vacations are incompatible with sailing vacations, and I should keep them separate, the way I keep photography vacations separate from cycling vacations.

Clearing customs is a major pain (it costs money too, but that's mostly because of the cruising permit). On the one hand, I half-wished I had listened to Matt Romain's advise to charter out of the BVIs directly --- I would have done so if 40 foot boats with 3 cabins weren't such a rare commodity. On the other hand, St. John was really truly beautiful. I'm not a party animal --- I don't enjoy loud parties, and to a large extent, it felt many times like the BVIs were one big party. St. John, by contrast, was a place where you could pick up a mooring buoy and not hear any boats next to you all night. I wish I had more time to explore it.

A 40 foot boat sounded big to me, since my last cruise was on a 29.5 footer. But now that I've had the experience of putting 6 people on one, I'm not sure I would do it again. First of all, you run out of water quickly, especially if people feel the need to take showers, and on a boat where you're sharing cabins, a shower might not be optional. Secondly, it is a bit tight. Perhaps a catamaran or 4 people on the same 40 foot boat (with 2 cabins) might work out better.

We brought board games but were always too tired or had too much going on to play. Maybe I need to run a board gamer oriented cruise one of these days.

Larry once wrote that For me, skippering a boat would not be a vacation, but I'd long since figured out that Piaw was not wired in the same way I was. Ten years hence, I'm feeling a bit older, and the burdens of being a skipper feel a bit more pronounced than they used to. Perhaps a crewed charter might be in order just to see what it's like (or maybe I can just go along on somebody else's trip, so it's not my name on the charter), but more likely, I just need to get better at delegating, and do it often enough to have confidence in what I do on the boat. Bottom line: cruising more often than once a decade is probably what I need to keep my skills sharp.

Oh, and before I forget --- warm water is really really nice. Really nice. In fact, after this, I'm not sure I can tolerate sailing in cold water ever again. Definitely, a cold water cruise will not get my heart beating the way a warm water cruise would.
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