Q: What level of experience is needed to take an overnight/weekend cruise?
A: Assuming that you are just sailing during the day and sleeping at night aboard, you only need to be practiced in basic navigation, anchoring and/or docking, and have experience in safe sailing under good conditions.
Q: What types of charts are needed?
A: Be sure to have charts that cover the whole journey, not just intended stops. You need a large scale chart of any harbor along the way that you may need to use as safe refuge if weather conditions deteriorate.
Q: How far in advance must you plan, and what considerations should you review in the planning process?
A: This really depends upon whether you have sailed to the proposed destination before, or if it is completely new to you. If you are preparing a first-time trip, don’t be overly aggressive regarding distances to sail. Choose the number of hours a day you would like to sail and multiply by a modest speed in case of light winds, headwinds or the need to power. That way, even in a worst case scenario, you will make it to your destination before dark. Planning must include meals, topping off water and fuel and, most important, the weather prognosis.
Q: How far in advance can you book transient slips?
A: Unfortunately, there is no standard answer to this question. It depends on the marinas you have available to you, the time of year and how crowded they become. It is to your advantage to book out as far as possible to ensure you can have accommodations when and where you want them.
Q: How can you find out about local amenities and destination options to the area in which you plan to travel?
A: That’s easy! Buy a cruising guide for your cruising area from the local marine supply store. Another good source is to ask other sailors who have traveled in these areas.
Q: What is the best source of weather, wind and current info for a 1-2 day trip?
A: Check out the Weather Channel, NOAA radio on your VHF radio telephone, cruising guides, charts, U.S. Government Tide and Current tables, and weather maps in local newspapers.
Q: Is it necessary to file a “float plan” for such a short trip?
A: Just make sure a friend or family knows your plans including where you are going and phone numbers, estimated time of arrival at your overnight destination and ETA for the return to your home base.
Q: What should a sailor know about anchorage etiquette?
A: The sailor who anchors last, moves first if they turn out to be too close to other boats. Tie off halyards so they don’t slap the mast in the night. Observe the peace and quiet of other boats in the anchorage.
Q: How should you plan provisions?
A: A wonderful meal aboard a boat in a quiet anchorage is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Don’t skimp! Analyze your ability to store food and beverages, and plan accordingly.
Q: What types of safety equipment are important for an overnight versus a day sail?
A: On the premise that you are only sailing during the daylight hours, about the only additional safety equipment (above and beyond Coast Guard requirements) needed may be an anchor light. Make sure your safety equipment is in good order, including running lights, flares, strobe for man-overboard, etc. just in case you get caught out after dark.
Q: What type of navigation equipment should be considered when overnighting or weekending?
A: The standard basics such as charts, dividers, protractors and/or parallel rulers, fathometer, speed/log indicator and usually a GPS unit.
Q: How do I take the next step?
A: You just DO it! Make your plans and go for it! You’ll have wonderful fun, but make sure you do it in the best of weather. Bad weather and low visibility can add a great deal of stress to an otherwise pleasant and personally rewarding trip. If you think you need a little more guidance, go with another sailor or take a cruising course. Once you’ve mastered the overnight or weekend cruising adventure, you’ll be ready for the whole new world of extended passagemaking!