Where Will We Cruise First – Boat Condition and Refit Plans

This is the second in a series of posts on our thoughts about where we will cruise first and the factors impacting that decision. The last post can be found here.

It is likely that we will not undertake a complete refit at the time of purchase. If this is the case, the extent of our refit and our plans for further work on the boat will have an impact on where we cruise first.

At this point, you might be wondering why we would not undertake a total refit right after we buy the boat. After all, if we are already going to do some work on the boat, why would we not do it all at once as it would surely be more efficient and less aggravating than turning the boat into a work zone for weeks on end more than once? Moreover, if we are buying a boat that needs work – as nearly every boat we might purchase will – why would we not want to get all the work out of the way at once and enjoy a fully outfitted vessel from the beginning? The answers to these questions come down to saving money and ensuring we do not waste our time, effort, and resources on outfitting our boat with unnecessary equipment or gear that we find might later regret having selected. Furthermore, there is no such thing as ever being done tearing apart a boat. Systems constantly need repair and tweaking, equipment is always breaking and being replaced, and routine maintenance needs to be completed, well, routinely. So, the boat is going to be completely disheveled and out of the water all too frequently whether we do the refit in stages or not.

While we have a sense of the equipment – everything from electronics to the type of head – we would like to have on our boat, we have mainly come to these conclusions by reading and talking with other cruisers, perusing cruising magazines and catalogs, attending seminars, watching videos, and the like. It would certainly be nice to have more actual experience informing our choices.

We recognize that the boat we buy will likely have serviceable versions of many things we will want to replace – such as an oven or autopilot – fairly early on. Consequently, we can sail for a season or two without immediately replacing it all. In that time, we can gain hands on experience with the equipment that is already on the boat, get additional advice about different makes and models from other cruisers we meet, and familiarize ourselves with our particular boat. All of this might confirm our predilections for one brand or another, or completely upend them. So, holding off purchasing and installing some items might save us considerable cost and aggravation in the long run.

Similarly, there is other equipment that we consider necessities for serious offshore cruising such as an Automated Identification System (AIS), windvane steering, and Single Side Band (SSB) radio. However, we recognize that we could get by without them while traveling down the intercoastal waterway or even spending time in the Bahamas. So, it might help our financial situation if we spread out these purchases and, more importantly, not drop all the money on them until we are certain we want to cruise long term.

There is also other equipment that we are not sure we need or cannot decide what type we want. For instance, radar can be extremely useful. In foggy weather or inshore it could give us some piece of mind; in squally weather, radar could help the person on watch avoid storm cells. But does the system really justify its relatively high costs? We might never be able to answer that with complete certainty, but I think we might be better able to come to a decision about it after spending a few months or even years cruising. Likewise, I am certain we will have solar power on the boat, but I am uncertain of exactly how many watts we ultimately need (which will depend on how much electronic gear we end up putting on) and whether we will rely solely on solar or will also have a wind and/or water generator. For these decisions, nothing but talking to more folks, gaining more experience, and fully assessing our own needs after we cruise for a while will help us arrive at an answer. So, in both cases, waiting until after we head out will probably be the prudent way to proceed on these purchases.

In addition to deciding exactly what equipment we want and need, and possibly holding off on other purchases until we really need them, dividing our refit into two might be wise for another reason as well. As everyone knows, a lot of work can be completed more cheaply in many locations outside the United States. With this in mind, it might be that we head off with the intention of spending our first hurricane season in a place like Grenada or Colombia where they have good yards and skilled workers at a more inexpensive price. Such a decision would allow us to complete our refit at a fraction of the US cost while getting to know a culture in more depth as we live in a foreign country rather than Fort Lauderdale for those months.

By now, it should be clear why we might delay some aspects of our refit and how that can significantly impact our initial cruising plans. As I said at the beginning of this post, we currently imagine that we will hold off overhauling the boat at least in part until we have cruised for a while. However, this does not necessarily mean that we are limited to the East Coast and the Bahamas until the refit is totally complete. For instance, we could change out the rigging, install a windvane, purchase a few electronics, and save the rest for later then immediately, and safely, cross the Atlantic. So, while the condition of our boat at purchase and our timeframe for the refit will impact our cruising plans, our cruising plans will probably dictate the refit plans rather than the other way around.

Next time I will continue the discussion of our initial cruising plans by looking at how the season of departure could influence our choice of itinerary.

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