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Tip Extras

There are many tips in A Sail of Two Idiots, but I still managed to forget a few. Like:

Plotting: We had both paper and digital charts. Initially, I'd plot all our upcoming routes using my various cruising guides on the paper copy and then enter my waypoints on the digital chartplotter. This worked as sort of a double check. Eventually (getting more confident, or cocky depending on how you want to look at it), I relied solely on the digital charts and plotted everything on my laptop, and then transferred the info via a chip to my charplotter and via cables to my backup handheld GPS. I started scribbling information from our sailing guides (like Chris Doyle's) on little sticky notes and posting them on the paper charts. I'd make notes about the holding or "must-see's" in each anchorage like blue holes we should snorkel into or around. Sometimes just seeing it plotted on a larger map helped put things in perspective and helped us decide on one anchorage over another.

Pets: Pets and docks are an interesting mix. We very rarely went up to a dock, but we did have to get fuel and water occasionally, so it did happen. Our kitty found it just too irresistible not to leap off the boat and disappear and always found the nearest boat full of sailors who were the least cat-friendly to hang with. This would be kind of funny except that there were times we'd be trying to tie up to the dock in some crazy winds or currents and we'd realize that Shaka was getting ready to leap. The boat could have pulled away and he could have fallen in and been crushed between the two, drowned, eaten by sharks (really), etc. Plus, we're on a limited schedule, do we really want to be dealing with a missing animal? I suggest you make sure your pet(s) is locked up before you approach a dock. To the right is KitKat, formerly of s/v Whisper. Our boats were rafted (tied together) and KitKat was debating coming for a visit. The grass is always greener.

Hiking backpacks: If you'll be touring an island, you might want to have a backpack always stocked with the same things and ready to go. Feel free to add to this (and suggest more in the comments), but here's a good list of things to have:

Bug spray
Extra clothing (among other reasons - taxi's/buses may not pick you up if you're dirty)
Suntan lotion
Flashlight and/or headlamp light
A few wrapped munchies
A tarp and/or space blanket. You'd be surprised at how cold it gets when you're wet, it's humid, and the wind is blowing.
Duct tape. It can tie together shoes that are falling apart, ripped items, and all kinds of other things you can't comprehend right now.
Extra shoes. You might want to have an extra set of shoes to get out of your wet/muddy ones or to replace others that have split apart.
Plastic bags. A plastic bag might work to insert your muddy shoes on or off (again taxis/buses would appreciate it). It's always good for trash (yours or others who aren't as considerate as you).
Ropes/retractable walking sticks. Trails can get very muddy/wet. You can fall into ravines or need to climb up/down things and both items can make it easier to negotiate such areas.
First Aid kit
Bathing suit. How many times we unexpectedly came upon a pool and wished we could have jumped in.
Quick-dry towel
A disposable camera (just in case you forget your usual one or something happens to it)/extra charged camera battery.
Moist Handwipes/paper towels
Hand-held GPS (we had two of these on board). This is probably overkill, but we appreciated ours.
Long-sleeve quick-dry shirt/knee socks. This won't be your most attractive look, but if you end up going through razor grass or thorny places you won't care.
Bottle/wine opener: You may or may not bring bottles of booze, but if you do and forget to bring an opener, you know you have your fallback in the bag.
Knife. Some people actually hike with a machete, which isn't a bad idea if you have one and don't mind carrying it. A decent knife can do too.
Walkie Talkie. You can have your hand-held VHF too, but you'd be less likely to want to keep that in the bag all the time. If you have a cell phone, I wouldn't count on a signal in far-flung places. If you have a walkie talkie set, you can keep you in touch with whoever you're hiking/shopping with and might enjoy a signal farther away. Keep an extra set of batteries too.

Bus It: The best (and cheapest) way to see an island is to hop on the bus. If it won't make a loop, find out what you have to do to get back and just sit there and enjoy the view. You'll get an idea for how the locals treat each other and visitors, and can make notes of places you want to return to later (or don't).  I do have to say the island with the worst bus system is St. Kitts. If you're going to the countryside (to the north/west) no problem. But if you're trying to get to the south/east side of the island you're on your own unless you want to flag down a taxi or rent a moped/car. Just make sure the license plate starts with an H and not a T or you've been picked up by the wrong van and will pay for it (literally). You can easily pick up a bus in the capital's terminal, but outside of that buses race past anyone who doesn't throw him/herself into the van's path. Few white people hop buses on the island, so most drivers don't think to ask if you want a lift even if you're waving at them. This was night and day from Grenada where drivers and their helpers stopped to ask everyone if they wanted a lift. Constantly. They understood, the more people, the more $, and filled those buses to the brim. Buses in Dominica were the fastest on the planet and were not for the faint of heart. Buses (or guaguas) in the Dominican Republic were likely to include animals. See what fun you're missing if you don't take the bus?

Safety: We were "lucky" to be off the boat when Jacumba was robbed in the Dominican Republic, but it still wasn't fun and people have been boarded while they themselves were aboard. We had left the door open a crack so our cat, Shaka, could go in and out. We hadn't always been locking our hatches either. We did start locking things up when we left (we had lots of small portholes we could leave open), but when we slept always had the hatches open for air and took our chances. Had we had the opportunity, we would have installed an alarm system. We could have used motion sensors in areas that weren't latched. This is not ideal if you have pets, but after the Dominican Republic, that was no longer an issue (sniffle), so we could have done it. Other people have put bars in the larger portholes/latches, but you'd want to ensure you can release them from the inside in case of emergency. Guns/Ammo tend to be confiscated upon country check-in and given back to you upon your departure, so other than when undersail, I'm not sure how useful they are. We did load our flare gun a couple of times (well, I did). A machete or knife could be useful, so could a golf club. Dogs are best - few will approach a boat with a dog on board - even a little yippy one.

Most piracy is aimed at commercial freighters and occurs in the Gulf of Aden. That said stay alert on the route between Grenada and Trinidad. Other than that, I think I'd focus on petty theft of $, electronics, and jewelry. You can read about piracy and safety here, but don't do it if you're likely to use it as an excuse not to go sailing. Read it to learn what you can do to make sure it doesn't happen to you and then prepare properly (not paranoidly - no that's not a word, but I'm using it anyway)

With regard to the dinghy, some people chained/locked theirs to the boat as they slept, most locked theirs to the dinghy docks when onshore. We did both, depending on where we were. See what others are doing and then decide for yourself. On beaches, we took our chances and I'm not aware of anyone having an incident in such a place (other than waves taking the small boat offshore).  I would suggest that you focus on locking your dinghy's fuel tank, since that's more likely to be siphoned while you're away. If you do use a lock at the dock, make sure it's on a looooong rust-proof chain and have lots of spare keys. On board, just know that thieves come with wire cutters. Get the best chain/lock you can to counter that and maybe an alarm. The only place we heard of prevalent dinghy theft was Samana, Dominican Republic and Trinidad. We didn't go to either of those places (well not with Jacumba).  I wouldn't suggest you put your big boat name on your dinghy either. It makes it too obvious which boat is now unoccupied and ripe for shopping.

SunDowners: I would say the majority of boaters drink, and while rum is usually the mix of choice and readily available, what people drink runs the gamut. Plus, while rum may be cheap, many mixers are not (or can be hard to find if you like something specific). Everyone is on some kind of budget (some larger than others), but all worry about expected and unexpected boat repairs so can be quite frugal. Certain groceries, including beverages, can be hard to find or expensive, so a barrel of pretzels or a certain beer can be quite a big deal (and a privilege). When people invite you over, you want to be conscious of these factors. Bring your own drinks (and ice if you have it) and bring over a dish. If you're really chums with someone, you might just hang on one boat one night (with them hosting it all) and then return the favor the next night, but be aware of the etiquette here and pay attention to what you're eating/drinking when you're socializing.

What else?


  1. After enjoying the refreshingly honest account of your sailing adventure through the eastern Caribbean, I'm glad I found this blog. I'm sure you have lots of good tips from your experience. Specially because you do not come from a long sailing background, but can have a fresh outlook and maybe learned ways of managing that more experienced sailors hadn't thought of.

    Thanks for this place to share your thoughts.

    1. Thanks Philip! Newbies we were - but no longer!


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