We took too much stuff last time.

First published in Living Aboard. Read, print for your friends, share it, but please don't publish it without written permission.


Gene Gruender
Austin.sailor at yahoo.com

Preparing to Leave
By Gene Gruender
Copyright 1998


Last July I optimistically expected to be cruising by November or so. Well, November came and went. Are we gone? Not yet. Did we cancel our cruising? No way! We've been up in Missouri framing up a house we will live in some day.It's taken a bit longer than we expected, but we're moving forward. Rainbow Chaser is patiently waiting in Rockport, Texas. I have about 2 weeks work to get her ready and then we plan to take off.

Nellie has already stocked a station wagon full of canned goods and other food on Rainbow Chaser. Last time we found that canned goods were about $1.50 a can in the Bahamas and Jamaica. Since we can find them here in a discount grocery for around 30 cents a can, it was certainly worth it to take a lot. We also loaded up on country cured hams, a real treat and on sale at Christmas time. They are not even available in the islands.

We have stuff coming via the UPS man about every day. The watermaker has been rebuilt, we've got new power cords for all the GPS units since most failed last time. Our Fujinon binoculars are being serviced, charts are ordered. We're getting eager.

We've added an arch with a wind generator and 4 solar panels to generate power. I have a bit more work to do on that, but it seems to work quite well. Our new propane stove with an oven is great. It'll be a lot better than the kerosene stove that gave us fits last time.

Our other big change is we've UNLOADED a ton of stuff that we thought we needed but never did. One mistake we made was to take many things that we never used. For those of you who are planning to cruise, here are the things I found we could live without:

-My Banjo. I had serious hopes of learning to play it, but after sleeping with it in the side of the v-berth for 6 months, I had it out twice. I had to admit I just wasn't going to make the effort. It's now in storage, along with several books of banjo music.

-Extra wire. I thought since I had a lot of wire I should take it. I might need a little, others may need some. The end result was that I used a little off of two spools, one red 12 gauge, one black 12 gauge. The other 10 LARGE rolls just took up space and added weight. My feeling now is, don't take anything because someone else might need it.

-Unfinished Projects. I plan to make new lifeline stanchions. I want them to be 3' high instead of the current 2' ones. I have the pipe cut and it was stored in the bilge. 8 - 3' pieces of 1" stainless pipe just took up space that could have been 20 cans of food. I need to be realistic about what I will work on when we're gone.

-Lead. I had a bunch of lead, several hundred pounds. I probably had 150 pounds, maybe a bit more, on the boat, along with 30 or more large fishing sinkers. We're talking about 1 pound or bigger sinkers. I also had a pot in which to melt the lead. I ended up using about 20 lb. for scuba weights, and a few fishing sinkers. We've off-loaded over 100 lb. of lead. I can't imagine how many cans of food that represents.

-An extra prop shaft. Well, it was 4" too short for our boat, but I though maybe it could be used in an emergency or sold. Neither happened, and, even though we did end up needing a new shaft, it didn't help because we also needed a new coupler. Anyone need a 4' long 1" prop shaft in bronze? I'll make you a deal.

-Extra canvas. No, not sails, but a piece of canvas about 4' by 12 feet. This thing was heavy stuff, took a lot of space when folded. Never did need anything like that, probably never will. It's in storage now.

-Sewing machine. Nellie took a sewing machine. We'd gone to some effort to get the machine, a very old cast iron Singer in excellent shape. We expected to use it for many things, including sail repair. In reality, we didn't use it. When we did need sail repairs, we were underway and didn't have room to use it. I ended up repairing the sails by hand. The decision isn't final, but I doubt we'll take it.

-A generator. I took my 650 watt Honda generator, the plan being that if everything else went dead, I'd still have that to get going again. The reality is, we never needed it for that reason. We did use it once, and that was because our inverter was not working properly. It would cut out after some amount of time. Nellie was trying to make bread. (Yes, we did take a bread maker, we will take it again this time, and I have no comment on the subject. You might say I know where my bread is buttered!) At any rate, the inverter would cut out before the bread was done. So we dug out the little Honda. Thinking that there was a lot of wasted electricity there, I hooked my shore power cord into the generator. The bread cycle took something like 2 hours. I figured I'd use the battery charger to get the batteries up as well as make bread. About an hour into the cycle, there was a bad smell. The voltage regulator part of the generator went haywire and started putting out about 240 volts. The power surge-protected cord I'd taken from the computer to reach the bread maker went up in smoke, but the $100 bread maker was fine. The $350 battery charger was not so lucky. It was fried. In the whole trip we never had a real need for the generator. Our dual alternator and totally isolated dual battery bank setup protected us from being left without power just fine. The generator will stay home this time - even if it did work.

-Books. We took books - lots of books. All the cruising literature says take books. Books to read, books to trade. We put all the paperbacks we had in baggies and took them. Filled a whole compartment. We figured we'd trade a lot along the way. In reality, the ones we put on the shelves before we left to read, we read. We traded a dozen or so. The other hundred or more that we stored away to trade were still in the baggies when we got back. If we'd put bags of taco chips in that compartment we would have enjoyed them a lot more.

We aren't leaving with an empty boat, however and here is a partial list of various stuff we will keep on the boat or add before leaving:

-extra exhaust hose, enough to run from the engine completely over the transom.

-fuel filters, and we'll get a lot more before we leave. We have used 2 in one day with dirty fuel. I don't think you can take too many.

-outboard parts, including seals for the lower unit, an extra impeller, a complete extra water pump assembly, many shear pins (not available outside the US) and an extra head gasket. Plus several sets of spark plugs. We'll also have extra lower unit grease. And a couple extra fuel filters for the outboard. What, yours doesn't have one? Cut the rubber fuel line under the engine cover between the plug where the fuel enters the cover and the fuel pump. Insert one of the disposable inline fuel filters, using two small all-stainless hose clamps It'll catch the sand, dust and other crud that will most certainly get in your outboard gasoline. Take spares.

-Extra prop for the main engine.

-Extra prop for the outboard

-Lots of spare fuses (don't forget the ones inside of the inverter and other electronics)

-About 50 feet of 5/8 heater hose. I can make a complete set of new hoses for my main engine from this raw stock.

-Extra sockets for the bulbs in the running lights. We've had several occasions where the actual socket was corroded beyond use. A new socket for our Aqua Signal lamps costs about $6. The same socket fits all the running lights, including the tri-color at the top of the mast. The rest of the lamp lasts nearly forever.

-Extra reading glasses. I started with several pair of cheap dime store glasses. I lost one pair overboard, stepped on one pair, then one lens fell out of the last pair. We searched in each port in four countries but couldn't find any more. When it first fell out I epoxied the loose lens in. It lasted a few weeks, then the epoxy let loose. I re-epoxied it. Then the other lens fell out. After a couple months the repairs weighed much more than the original glasses and the lenses were about half covered with epoxy. Talk about a nerdy look! Although I could read, my nose took a beating from the 2 lb. glasses that Nellie still says she is going to frame.

-Sur-gel. Yes, the stuff you make jelly with. We found that jelly was very expensive. We also found that the natives in some places, like Jamaica, nearly survive on free fruits. They also would bring us large amounts of fruit as gifts. Combine the two, the jelly problem is solved.

-Automatic Transmission fluid. Probably a case of it. Most people don't change their transmission oil often - if at all. We didn't either. That directly caused our transmission to wear out early, which caused our cruise to end early. $10 worth of transmission oil, changed regularly, would have saved both our transmission, costing $3000 in repairs, and our cruise, which was priceless. If this sounds a bit like a sermon, that's because it is. I will now change the transmission oil each time I change the engine oil.

-A small bottle jack and a prybar. No, not for flats, but to re-align the motor.

-A glass bottom bucket. We learned why you need it after we were in the Bahamas. (You can use it to check your anchor, look at fish, look at coral - you can see anything underwater that is normally distorted by the waves or ripples.) We couldn't find one to buy, so I spent half a day walking around Nassau, Bahamas searching for a suitable plastic bucket to cut the bottom out of, and a place to buy clear plexiglas to glue into it. It would have been much cheaper and quicker to just buy one before leaving.

-Lots of extra fishing hooks, fishing line and steel leader material. It is hard to imagine, but in the land of the sea and fish, they are nearly impossible to find.

-A good sharpening stone. I used mine all the time to sharpen knives, fish hooks, drill bits, most everything. I'll make sure I have 2 this time, just in case.

-A couple forms from our great Uncle Sam. Last time we were gone, tax time came and went. We requested and didn't receive the forms we needed. We won't make that mistake again. If no other forms are aboard Rainbow Chaser, we'll have the forms to file for an extension.

Gene Gruender
Copyright 1999
All rights reserved

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