Lessons Learnt

Will update as and when I get time and learn the hard way. The * items are things I have not yet learnt that’s just opinions, which may be wrong.

  • Stock up where it’s cheap. Portugal lidl is the cheapest for everything before the Canaries, everything except wine! Buy lots of tins from the UK especially M&S, bring spices with you, will be hard to find unless you go to Morocco.
  • Fans – lots of them, buy twice as many as you will need, it gets HOT.
  • I don’t have a fridge and I really really miss one.
  • Learn to make biltong, store cheese in jars with olive oil, for added wow add garlic and imagination – it lasts forever! – correction – don’t add garlic it’s disgusting!!!! And not all cheese like olive oil. UpdateII – Biltong is now 3 months old and still works great in stews, doubles up as a truncheon.
  • Save all those glass jars with beans in them for the above, can even make a dry stew, top the jar with a layer of oil and you are set. Even better buy the expensive sterilisation / seal jars which will keep the food for 10+ years.
  • You need a pressure cooker, halves cooking time and thus gas.
  • If possible when in a marina ask for no electricity and water, usually cheaper and gas is so cheap. One marina charge me 2.5eu a day for a hookup which was not needed.
  • Buy a metal dog collar with a bungee away from the hot end to strap down the pots to the cooker, yes you have a gimbled cooker but it will NOT always hold the pot.
  • Double your battery requirements, I had 160 AH, I had a dud battery and now only get 40AH before the remaining 80AH battery hits 10.8v. – (link)
  • Make sure your boat is water tight, even the smallest leak will wreck havoc.
  • Have 100% faith in your self steering mechanism.
  • Buy lots of good cheap wine from the Canaries – it’s the global currency, a French couple bought 300 @ 74c (45′ mind you).
  • Prepare your grab bag every time you head off. I have two grab bags, one in the cockpit locker one under the nav table with a string that attaches to 2 5litre water bottles (depending on how much time I have). I have a rope knife attached on the transom by a piece of bungee to cut the liferaft lose if needed or close at hand to any other line intent on removing an arm. *
  • Pack your portable VHF into the grab bag when you clear land. *
  • Spend a long time looking for a boat, a better deal is usually round the corner.
  • Don’t buy too cheap, you will just end up spending more money on it.
  • Alway get it surveyed, unless you know 100% what you are doing.
  • Have a disaster recovery plan for slowing the boat (drogue and sheets to hand).
  • Always brush your teeth, not later, now. Tooth ache will kill you.
  • Have drugs on board, I bought three types of antibiotics, Valium, super pain killer all from the chemist in Portugal you can also get it in Las Palmas without a prescription, just tell them what you are doing. If you fail at one go to another.
  • Print out little business card with your boat name and email address, seems to be the thing to do.
  • Keep a little notapad on you at all time to record prices, new words, quotes of awesomesauce.
  • Buy corn, nothing better and easier than making popcorn onboard with olive oil, pepper, salt, paprika, chilly and sugar.
  • Pinch all the sugar sachets you can.
  • Have a drink you can make for others that they wouldn’t normally try, be it coffee beans in rum, white russians or mint tea bag lemonade and rum – yummm (poor mans mohito).
  • Keep a journal, and hide it, especially don’t drop it in the sea.
  • Chafing is bad, especially when it’s in the nether regions and your sail, cover the lower aft stay in plumbers pipe or cheap plastic found at all chandleries. As for the former lubricate, speaking of which make sure you apply the same attention to the gromits (correct terminology be unknown) for your main sail track. Silicon is the way forward so I heard, I double the role of a large container of Vaseline.
  • Have spare gromits and the bits that attach the sail to the gromits in the track, I used 6 zip ties having a gust rip them out.
  • Know how to heave too. – should be the most important along with your self steering.
  • Have lots of spare batteries for all the torches.
  • Have LOTS of torches.
  • Create a sun awning for when underway, following the shadow of your sail round the deck only works so long and gets tiresome.
  • If solo have 80 meters of line behind the boat, attached to the windvane to trip it. Nobody plans on falling over .. especially when the sun is shining and seas appear predictable. Not just that but you might trip.
  • Walk across the deck on all fours, better safe than sorry, who you trying to impress?
  • Why use the toilet when solo, I lost my favorite bucket but found another as I dropped my rubbish in the skip. Good quality buckets are hard to get, treasure them and stick grippy non skid stuff to the bottom … just in case..
  • Night watch … this is different for everyone. I sleep solidly when in the middle of nowhere, if a drug runner or container is going to hit me .. so be it, tis fate in the face of a silent predator, being awake would haven’t have helped. Where fishing vessels could reside I stand watch. Some sailors call me irresponsible, what if we were on the same track as you. Well it’s the roll of nine dice I am prepared to accept 300 miles from the nearest land. With crew it’s a completley different story. * I must point out a guy who does the atlantic circuit every year for 14 years followed the same ethos, till this year he got hit, but he didn’t have AIS, but then a vessel could have a problem with AIS and not broadcast. My stance may well change, when it’s too late.
  • Have all the tools onboard that you need. I really miss a jig saw.
  • Group up tools for important items, i.e. tape all the allen keys / spanners for your windvane together so you can get them fast.
  • Have a way of locking your tiller, not a problem if you use electric self steering.
  • Always have a cockroach poison trap onboard.
  • Make sure you have a sun awning that allows wind to pass through it.
  • Don’t spill anything on your teak deck, I had some olive oil spill on the deck and it dissolved the black rubber.
  • Learn the local’s, if you can’t speak the lingo hug them, smile, flirt you never know what you might get or need their help.
  • Try and adopt a monkey and teach it to catch mice, cockroaches and above all train it to keep the boat clean and wash up. Give it a big machete and throw it at an invading army of miscreants, attach a leash to it so you can get it back on board.