24 April 2016

Preparing for an Extended Sailing Trip: The Three Year Plan


Captain Linda Perry Riera
The Three Year Plan = Bigger Sailboat + Smaller House + Take Off Sailing for a Year

The inception of The Three Year Plan came towards the end of a particularly tumultuous year and perhaps the difficulties experienced played in to the development of The Plan. Many sailors have embarked on travels much more extensive therefore this is not a particularly groundbreaking story but just the journey of one sailing couple.

We are late in life sailors with neither of us hoisting a sail, furling a jib, grabbing a mooring or cleaning a bilge until just 10 years ago when we were in our early/mid 40’s. But as soon as we took our first lessons at Boston Sailing Center we were both hooked. Our equal levels of naivete and enthusiasm proved to be a great formula for learning quickly as neither of us dominated but rather we leaned on each other and fumbled through challening situations together.

Learning the basics and then some on sweetly responsive open keelboat Solings

Racing in Boston Harbor

A little too much heeling on a C&C 30
We spent a few summers sailing very weathered club boats graduating from Solings to J24’s to C&C 30 class, and spent winters in navigation seminars and Caribbean coastal cruising classes including with Black Rock Sailing School.

ASA104 class with Black Rock Sailing School in the British Virgin Islands on a Hunter 52
Then we took the plunge and purchased a lovely Pearson 34, Fujin, sailing her hard and learning a tremendous amount about boat maintenance and repairs for four years as our passion for sailing grew.

Our first boat:  Fujin - Pearson 34 MKII

Tremendous learning about sailboat ownership, maintenance and handling with Fujin

Fujin on one of our many return trips in to Boston Harbor

Then the Three Year Plan was born: 
Step 1:  Bigger Sailboat... Added 6 Feet and a Zero 

We adored our Pearson 34. But as we considered the real possibility of serious, long term sailing and began talking about The Plan in earnest, we realized that we should move up in size.  And other major additions would be needed to allow true open ocean / blue water sailing in the future.

I had four criteria in mind as we tackled the very serious job of evaluating and deciding on what boat would replace Fujin:
  1. Strength - Overall quality and strength had to be high so that there would be no limitation on where we might go, including across an ocean. 
  2. Performance - We like to always try to sail well.
  3. Comfort - For extended cruising (and, unknown originally, to accommodate living aboard for more than a year before the trip).
  4. Pizzaz!  - Yes, she should be a head turner.
Tartan 4000
Although originally targeting and searching for gently used vessels, I quickly became fixated on the new Tartan 4000 at the Newport Boat Show fall of 2013.  After test sailing a few weeks later in Annapolis, crunching numbers, ruminating on future plans, and developing internal justification, the specs were finalized and production began in December 2013.  The price differential between Fujin and the new vessel would simply be an added zero. Cha-ching!!  A visit to the Tartan factory in Fairport, Ohio mid build in January further illuminated the precision and craftsmanship that goes in to this vessel.
Copious stringers and bulkhead mountings for extra hull strength
Vacuum infusion process for the fiberglass hull
No deck yet; all innards revealed
This eventually becomes the galley
Future living room
She's looking like a boat now
Dozens of stations at the factory work on components of hull #18

Argon is hull #18 of the Tartan 4000 line.  Our broker, Bill Shaw of New England Yacht Partners, was fantastic in hand-holding us all along the way including through some unanticipated complexities during the commissioning at Stanley's Boat Yard in Barrington, RI April 2014, only five months after finalizing specs.
Argon is commissioned at Stanley's Boat Yard in RI April 2014
We have completed two full sailing seasons on Argon logging more than 3000 nm via only northeast US coastal cruising and amidst busy career lives and can confirm that there are no regrets.  She is a fantastic sailboat.
Logging our first 1000nm off Provincetown Cape Cod several months after launching Argon.  We now have more than 3000nm after our fist two full seasons!!
 Smaller House: Subtracted a Zero

We sold our 3000+ square foot home spring 2014 but changed the equation a bit by not buying a smaller house, or any house at all, and instead moving on to Argon to immerse ourselves in to getting ready for the big trip.  This involved a dramatic downsize to about 300 square feet. Guess we took away a zero here so perhaps the bigger boat getting a zero and smaller house loosing a zero evens out??

Good bye lovely home on Knowles Farm Road
Downsized from 3000 sq ft to 300 sq ft
Bob retains a seriously truncated studio
The downsizing process was in full gear for 6 months prior to even putting the house on the market as each weekend was spent purging a closet or a room giving away, donating, selling, and throwing away. We now have one small storage unit nearby and realize that we could have done with saving even less stuff. Moving on to the boat enables us to not only adjust to living aboard in preparation for our trip, but also to focus on getting the boat ready for offshore and long voyages whilst still allowing us time for pleasure sailing amidst our very busy day jobs.

Take Off Sailing for a Year (or more): T Minus 5 Months

Preparing one's boat and life to truly throw off the lines and take off is a project management endeavor for sure.  Our multi-tab spreadsheet outlining "to do / boat projects", "to buy", "to learn", and "life logistics" has been instrumental in keeping us focused, organized and moving forward.

Multi tab spreadsheet forms the basis of our project management
We are following most of the extensive safety preparations dictated for the Newport Bermuda Race Safety Requirements which is a version of the US Sailing's Safety Equipment Requirements (USSER).  This includes taking a series of workshops one recent weekend in Newport as part of the Safety at Sea seminar by the US Sailing Association.  Most of what we practiced we hope to never need!!

PFD and life raft practice in the pool
Flares, smoke signals, fire fighting on the beach
Damage control in the USCG trailer
Drogue options
In July, we initiate a test launch of The Plan as we head off to Nova Scotia.  This will provide important practice for double-handing our first off-shore voyage together.  After returning to Boston in August for family events and final preparations, we will take off in September likely beginning with some coastal cruising before shooting across the Gulf Stream to Bermuda in October.  Then onward to the Caribbean windward islands after hurricane season.  That is as definite as our itinerary gets at this point.

The proximity of departure is getting palpable with me preparing to leave my fantastic position as of July 1st and Bob having arranged a 25% remote schedule with his employer starting in September. Our return plans are open-ended including where exactly we will return to.

Transforming Argon from Coastal Cruiser to Blue Water Vessel

Many of our friends have been puzzled as to why we always seem to be doing one boat project or another.  "Your boat is brand new... what else could it possibly need?"  We have spent this past year upgrading Argon from a lovely coastal sailboat to a true off shore prepared cruiser.

Some of the projects and boat parts added this past year include:
Now, as our spreadsheet gets more complete with fewer pending items and Boston weather warms, the proximity of our departure is tantalizingly near.

Unknown Variables:  Joshua, Christian and Jon

We have known since the initial discussions that one or more of our three young adult sons could have needs or situations that might impact The Plan. The boys will be 28, 23 and 21 years old when we depart and are on forward paths of their own. And they all seem to be realizing that their parents are serious about this crazy adventure and looking forward to connecting with us on exotic islands next winter.
Looking forward to meeting up with our boys, Jon, Josh, and Christian, at exotic islands next winter

1 comment:

  1. So excited for you both! See you when you get back or I'll come hunting for you in 2018 with a Mai Tai in hand.

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