27. Tips for Distance Cruising to Remote ...

By Tom Neale, 4/21/2005

Tips for Distance Cruising to Remote Areas in Planing Boats
By Tom Neale

1. Many fast planing boats have mechanical systems set up with the assumption that most service work will be done by a yard during down time. If something breaks while you’re far out in paradise, you may have to fix it yourself while the boat is being used and you’re living on it. (One common characteristic of “paradise” is that often there are very few yards, mechanics, and parts.) This means you’ll need the part and you’ll need to be able to get to the component to be fixed. “Getting to it” means more than just seeing and touching it. It means getting tools to it and getting an old part out and a new one in. Many fast planing boats have less space to carry spare parts and less space in which to work than do many displacement hulls.

2. Before going to the islands (or other remote areas) have a good yard go over your boat to look for and fix problems.

3. Check out your boat to see what you might need to fix while out there and whether you can fix it yourself. Have a mechanic come aboard and advise you as to any special tools you may need or maintenance/repair issues you may encounter on your boat. Examples of typical problem areas are the fresh water circulating pump on the front of an engine which may be very close to a bulkhead or a starter which is crammed between the engine and the hull or fuel tank.

4. Make an educated guess as to what vital parts you might need and whether you can carry them. Give special consideration to parts or components that are likely to break with little advance warning and that are vital to safety, the boat’s running, and your comfort. Examples include the pump that delivers fresh water from your tanks to your sinks and shower, the fresh water circulating pump for your engines, V belts, voltage regulator for your generator, fuel lift pump on some boats, raw water pump impellers, starter solenoid for each engine including generator, light bulbs for running and anchor lights, and repair kit for head and/or macerator pump.

5. Carry good safety equipment and back ups. For example, carry a flare gun and many extra flares. There may not be many people around to see the first few you shoot. Have spare VHF radio and a handheld. Take a 406 MHz EPIRB such as those made by ACR. You can rent EPIRBs for the trip from BoatUS (888 66 EPIRB [37472]). These are very important to have aboard. Carry Type 1 life jackets. Life rafts are also very important and can be rented for the trip.

6. You may not normally carry a dinghy because you may have less need for one during local cruising. If your boat has room to safely carry one aboard, a dinghy will add much to your trip. It’ll take you exploring, let you snorkel over reef, and visit other boats at the anchorages. While you’re anchored it can be your “car” into town for shopping or dining, or your OTR vehicle for access to deserted beaches. But you may need to travel for miles over open water in the dinghy, so it and its outboard should be as large as practical and it should be fully equipped with safety equipment, including a hand held VHF with extra batteries, emergency rations, flare gun, lights, good anchor and rode and more.

7. Excellent seamanship and boat handling skills are critical. The safety net that we often assume will help out in times of trouble in the US is frequently non existent in “paradise.” Cruising to remote areas is vastly different from a weekend cruise in familiar protected waters.

8. Don’t rely exclusively on the GPS and chart plotter for navigation. We love our C-Maps, and GPS has made cruising a lot safer. But systems can go down, GPS can be compromised, and you can be in big trouble if you haven’t been plotting your course also on paper, if you haven’t been visually noting landmarks ashore, and if you haven’t learned other navigational skills such as, for example, reading the water.

9. Getting the weather on the VHF radio may not work where you go. You may need alternate sources such as a SSB receiver, HAM set, or satellite receiver. The same applies for communication. Depending upon where you go, how long you want to stay, and how important it is to get email and call home, you may need to install better communications equipment. For example, you can rent satellite phones for a trip from companies such as Ocens (800 746 1462) which also has email and compression programs and detailed weather products via satellite and other media.

10. These tips are just a beginning. Attend seminars, read, and take courses that deal with the subject. Some of these can be very helpful IF the speakers have in-depth experience.

11. If it’s your first trip it may be helpful to go with another experienced boat or two. There are group trips organized by entities such as boat dealers and manufacturers. When going in a group however, you still should be able to handle your boat and situations that may arise, on your own.

Go to www.tomneale.com for other tips and information

Copyright 2004-2005 Tom Neale