20 June 2014

Shakedown Cruise Review: Wish List For Our Next Boat (Pt 1/4)

Background - When we decided to become full-time cruisers, rather than buy our "forever" boat and set off around the world, we took a different approach and moved aboard our "for now" boat in New Zealand for the 2013/14 season. We used it as an opportunity to do a shakedown cruise to discover what works and what doesn't for us in terms of the cruising lifestyle before we buy our next boat. This is the third in a series of posts on how it all went.

One of the biggest benefits of doing a "shakedown cruise" on our "for now" boat was that it gave us a really good idea of what we want on our next boat - both the must haves and the nice to haves. If you've read some of my earlier posts, then it will probably come as no surprise that a fridge is a must have for our next boat. But as Scott keeps reminding me, there is a lot more to a boat then its galley. We kept a running list in the back of our logbook and recently took it out to do a little review. It seems pretty comprehensive and we think we've captured the big items, but we thought we would share it so that we can get your thoughts and feedback. 

Our wish list is pretty big, so we'll start off in this post with some of the stuff that makes life easier.

1. Windlass

Our Rocna anchor which Scott picked up with his bare hands.
Our last boat was relatively small (26') and our Rocna anchor only weighed 7 kgs (15 lbs), so it was easy enough for Scott to pick up the anchor himself. Well, "easy" might be an overstatement as there were times when it took a little bit of effort to convince the anchor that it really did want to dislodge itself from the seabed and come join us up top. But that's what biceps are for - convincing anchors to do what you want them to do. I tried to avoid pulling up the anchor as I'm not a big fan of hard work. I could do it, but much preferred to be at the helm cheering Scott on.

As we'll be getting a bigger boat with a bigger anchor, a windlass will probably be an essential. A windlass is basically a gizmo that makes pulling up heavy things easier. The anchor chain is wrapped around a cylinder and you use a crank to lower and raise the chain. It is kind of like pulling up a bucket of water from a well. Not that I've ever done that, but I've seen the movies where Lassie barks, "Johnny has fallen in the well! Come help him! Follow me!" And when you follow Lassie to the well, you see a cute little windlass with a bucket attached. If only Johnny had bothered to use the windlass instead of trying to haul a bucket of water up himself, maybe things wouldn't have ended so badly.

Although you can get electric windlasses, we probably want some sort of manual/electric hybrid one. There are enough systems and equipment that can break on your boat, why take your chances adding a windlass that can only be run with electricity. Seems much more sensible to have a hybrid version so that we can always fall back on the manual option if needed.

2. Lazy Jacks

Jack the Cat
I'm not sure who Jack is and why he is so lazy, but we want him on our next boat. My mom had an orange cat named Jack. He was needy and greedy, as well as a little bit lazy (like most cats). I think he would have made a fine boat cat. But since we can't have a boat cat named Jack, we'll get the next best thing and get some lazy jacks instead.

Lazy jacks are basically a spiderweb like contraption of lines that are attached to your mast and boom which make furling your mainsail much easier. The mainsail is trapped inside the lines which means that it doesn't tumble down all over the deck in an untidy manner. I hated it when it was windy and I had to try to flake the mainsail on top of the boom and get it tied down. Inevitably, I would get one section done, go to tie it and then it would slip off onto the deck. And I would have to start all over again while Scott shook his head at me in the cockpit. Bring on the lazy jacks.

3. Roller Reefing

You can see the Reef Rite set up without the headsail on it.
If the next boat we buy doesn't have roller reefing for the headsail already, trust me, we will spend the money to get it installed. I've experienced what it is like to make my way out to the bow, clutching the headsail, hank it on manually and hoist it. I've also experienced what it is like to sit in the cockpit and pull on the lines which magically unfurl the headsail. It really is a no brainer. We had a Reef Rite roller furling system on our last boat. Reef Rite is a Kiwi product and considered one of the best set-ups out there. The great thing about it is that you can reef your headsail. Some set-ups only allow you to fully furl or unfurl your headsail. So much better to have the option to reef the headsail when needed. I never really understood how it worked, but I loved it. Scott did try to explain it to me, but I didn't understand so I gave him my patented cat-like disinterested stare. You can read more about it here.

4. Self Tailing Winches

You can see one of our non-self tailing winches. Imagine the contortions as one person cranks the winch, while the other tails and helms the boat at the same time.

Winches are another one of those gizmos that make life easier. Your lines are wrapped around a spool which has a crank which you turn to pull in and let out your lines. And for my mom and others out there, when I say "lines", I really mean "ropes", but apparently you can't say "ropes" if you want to be accepted into the sailing community. That would be too easy. You are required to learn to speak Nauticalese and acquire lots of bruises on your legs. And know how to use a winch.

Our winches on our last boat weren't self-tailing which meant that while I cranked the winch, Scott had to hold the line and pull on it. We had some interesting gymnastic moves going on in our cockpit with me contorted in some sort of strange position to get enough leverage to turn the crank, Scott steering the boat with the tiller with one hand and tailing the line with the other. Why go to all that trouble when you can get winches that do half the work for you. They cost more money, but it seems like it would be worth it. If our next boat doesn't come with self tailing winches, it isn't something we would probably invest in right away, but they would definitely go on the wish list for Santa.

So what do you think? Do you have any of these items on your boat? Are they fabulous or could you live without them?


  1. Got them all and wouldn't do without . . . a good list to start with. Another that I'd add (maybe you have it on your for-now boat . . .) is a good-sized battery bank and sufficient charging. Lack of electricity makes for a very poor lifestyle -- it sounds romantic, until you live without lights to read by in the evening, no computer time (to post blog updates), etc. We just bought a new-to-us boat and upgrading the electrical system is at the top of our priority list.

    1. Completely agree - a good battery setup is a must have on our next boat. We got by on our last boat with minimal energy usage but that was because it was the "for now" boat and we didn't have any appliances like a fridge etc. And it stayed light enough quite late that we didn't need to put the cabin lights on too often. But I found it to be a real pain that we didn't have a way to charge our computers while on the boat. That will definitely have to change on the next boat :-)

      I've been reading about your new boat. I'm really intrigued by the Gemini cats. I love that they are small enough to fit in a standard slip but big enough for a couple. Who knows maybe our next boat will be a cat.

  2. Great list. I think it pretty much matched ours back when we were looking, although I have never had roller reefing. Would be nice, especially if you are going off shore.

  3. Great list so far. All of these were on our wish list. We got them all except the lazy jacks. Our boat came with a Dutchman system instead. It's ok but would have preferred lazy jacks. Or to be more accurate, lazy jacks built into a stack pack setup. Having a windless is nice but ours doesn't have a chain gypsy. Make sure you get one that can do chain and rope. Roller reefing is nice but you don't get that great of sail shape. I have read that you can add a foam piece to help with that but haven't priced it yet. You can also get reef points put in your headsail for tying off at specific points. We may add some to our head sail, a 135 genny, at 100% and maybe 50% as a storm sail. And YES! on the self tailing winches. What a difference.

    Another item we had on the list of stuff that will make life easier (I am presuming that other lists will come on safety, systems, electronics, etc.) is a walk-through transom with a good swim ladder. We have our dog with us all the time so this was a must for us. But when loading and unloading from the dinghy it is a really big help. You can step right up and you pass things back and forth so much easier. And putting the engine from the dinghy onto the stern rail is so much easier. We see our friends struggle with this while we are done in under 2 minutes. Even our friends with hoists have a tougher time them us.

    Can't wait to see the rest of the lists.

    Fair winds,


    1. Thanks for the great tips Jesse! You're right, I have some more lists coming. I would love a walk through transom and a great swim ladder/platform. It was such a pain to have to climb over while clutching bags and try not to fall in the water. I would also like a dog :-) But that's a whole separate list!

  4. Things to have? It depends in part on your cruising expectations.
    Let's say your plan to do the Caribbean,cross thru the canal and do the South Pacific

    Warning .... this amount of stuff is costly

    --3 good anchors at minimum (2 bow one stern) (plus a small one for the dinghy). Make the main anchor as heavy as you can live with.
    --250 minimum chain rode (300+ better if you can take the weight) use on the main anchor. Nylon can chafe and you could lose your boat.
    Windlass of course
    --Auto steering (both electric and wind vane is best ... they each have their strengths) Wind vanes really excel in the trades where electric motor autopilots have to work ever so hard ... but then, a wind vane is unless in calms and light airs.
    --you mentioned roller furling, but there is a downside. It's a bitch to change sails. One sail alone would have a difficult time handling a wide range of wind strengths (because of cloth weight). Most serious cruisers have and inner forestay to handle additional sails (I prefer a detachable one and use regular hanked on sails for it). Its for heavier winds. Smaller sails/heavier cloth/flatter cut.
    --A dodger and bimini. (I have a "hard" dodger. Had it made in NZ as a replacement for my worn cloth one. I would no sooner sail without a dodger than drive a car without a windshield). The dodger has opening windows, A bimini can be a godsend under a tropical sun.
    -- Solar panels (note: semi superfluous in NZ) the trick is finding space for them. Even better if they rotate to face the sun.
    --Wind generator... if its quiet. Solar only charges during the day and the largest energy draw is at night what with lights on and entertainment on the computer. Caveat though in that the wind in many places dies away at night (not so much in the Caribbean and So Pac)
    -- I use a composting toilet (Airhead brand) and it works for me. Switched to it after I tired of the yearly rebuild of manual pump toilets and replacing hoses, holding tanks,thru hulls etc.
    -- Water maker --- not really a necessity in some places e.g. NZ, but nice in many regions. Depends alot on if you use much for washing bodies/boat/dishes. For just drinking, tanks alone would probably suffice.
    -- A good dinghy and OB. (Although, I carry a kayak and actually use it more than the dinghy).
    -- GPS chartplotter or equivalent (via a laptop). I prefer having chartplotter as its mounted in the cockpit where I can view it as I sail.
    --Spare GPS or two.
    -- An external cell phone amplifier can come in handy for boosting reception range for the ubiquitous Internet USB dongles most countries sell.
    -- Either SSB with pactor email or one of the newer satellite receivers. There's a range of those, from small handheld units that just send/receive texts .... to full fledged capability. In general air time is too expensive for other than brief text messsages. Note that some countries e.g. Fiji and Oz require 48 hours or more advance notice of arrival and I don't believe they accept SSB voice. P.S. some commerical wx service providers offer location specific text weather and GRID files.

    Distressing isn't it when you start to total up what this gear costs.
    Best bet is to find someone who did it before you and is bailing out (usually because of health or relationship issues).
    That sort of thing is not uncommon.

    1. Wow - such great comments and things t think about. You've hit the nail on the head in terms of looking for a boat that's already kitted out. Exactl what we're doing, otherwise we'd never be able to afford it! I'm really interested in the idea of a composting toilet.

      Are you a Kiwi? Do you


We LOVE when people leave comments. It's so much more fun hearing what you have to say. If you have a blog, make sure you leave a link and I'll be sure to pop on by.