Taking time out to do some serious long distance sailing is many people’s dream, but it’s a big challenge to attempt a journey like this. You need to be well prepared and really know your stuff. These tips are designed to give you a start.
The right boat
Long distance sailing is not like taking short trips along the coast. You’ll need a boat that can handle seriously rough water and that’s comfortable enough to be your home for weeks or months, as well as having room to store your supplies. It will need to be a manageable size for your crew but not too large to get into the ports you plan to visit. Other features to prioritise include a sheltered watch keeping position, good engine room access and an autopilot you can rely on at time when conditions are good enough to allow you a break.
It’s impossible to list everything you might need here but you should start by thinking about repair kits (for both boats and people) and also make sure you have sufficient engineering and electrical spare parts. You’ll need good tools for every eventuality (including things like alum keys that you might not think of at home where they’re easy to borrow) and you’ll need suitable containers to keep everything dry and in good condition. You can never have too many re-sealable plastic bags!
A long distance sailing trip will often take you across different territorial waters, so you’ll need to plan ahead to work out where it is an isn’t a good idea to go, and where you’ll need a visa. This is a good stage at which to think about your insurance policy and related documents too.
Once the long distance sailing bug has bitten them, many people find they just can’t quit. Former rally driver and Conservative Party donor Lord Laidlaw, is set to make £17m from selling his car collection, and is putting almost all his money into boats. His yachts have competed in several international races and made a big impression.
When you embark on a trip like this you really are setting off into the unknown – and not just in terms of your physical surroundings. No matter how well you plan, you’ll find that you can never be sure how long different stages of the journey will take you, because weather patterns and currents can sometimes shift unpredictably and it’s neither safe nor sensible to try and battle them all the way. This means that you’ll need to make sure you have plenty of food, fresh water and other consumables.
The unpredictability of sailing is, of course, part of its charm, and a voyage like this is always an adventure. There will be good times and times when you feel overwhelmed, but in the end, you’ll be thrilled that you did it and eagerly looking forward to the next time.