How to Cross an Ocean: Bringing Ranger Home
An owner and cruiser assesses his options for crossing that one last ocean, and in the end, he decides to find a ride for his boat. Hands-On Sailor from our December 2012 issue.
|Though it appears Ranger is tied alongside a European canal, this is actually a view of the 508-foot by 101-foot Yacht Express cargo bay. After divers position stanchions under the boats, water is pumped out for the transatlantic journey.|
Sail It Yourself
For the vast majority of transatlantic sailors, sailing home is the only choice. Cruising funds may be running low, but while living aboard, they’ve likely kept the boat in working order. Provisions, dock fees, and a couple of months of their time are the primary costs.
A survey by the World Cruising Club of participants in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers shows that on average, boats spent around $2,500 for provisions and $1,400 for fuel during their three- to four-week crossing from Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands, to St. Lucia.
Joining the ARC costs $1,000 or more, but the rally’s care and safety requirements—tougher than ones that independent sailors might choose themselves—are designed to produce successful crossings.
When I took a sober look at Ranger, I estimated that upgrades, crew travel, and food costs would top $7,000. Having done the crossing, I knew that a few thousand dollars more should be in an overdraft account just in case. Clearly, my cheapest alternative was to sail home myself with a couple of volunteer crew.
On March 1, 2012, I flew to Genoa, Italy, bought a reconditioned life raft for $500, and carried it on a ferry to Tunisia. After two weeks of work on Ranger, first mate Wally Wallace and I departed for Sicily. I’d rendezvous with Dockwise in Genoa during the first week of May.
Ultimately, my decision came down to time, money, and a large X factor. Crossing the ocean to Europe in my little old boat was an achievement, a costly, exhausting journey of a lifetime. Ranger and I were now 10 years older. With “transatlantic sailor” inscribed on my heart, I had neither the need nor the desire to sail home.
When my father died, my share of the sale of his house yielded enough to buy a ride. I decided to turn the 1,000-mile sail up the Italian coast into a shared vacation with friends and family, likely my last great offshore adventure aboard Ranger. Having made the decision, I ordered charts for the Keys and the Chesapeake.
Ranger arrived in Fort Lauderdale on May 23 looking like a floating peanut in the vast hold of Dockwise’s Yacht Express. I climbed aboard and motored into a Florida sunrise.
The next morning, at Bahia Mar, the bilge pump died.
If You Go It Yourself
Before setting out on a transatlantic crossing—or on any bluewater adventure, for that matter—a prudent skipper makes sure that the boat is well equipped. The equipment list below is based on recommendations from the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers and The Moorings. The gear requirements for the Newport-Bermuda Race and ISAF race recommendations are both other good sources for the gear you’ll need.
• Offshore life raft large enough to carry all crew
• Life jackets with harnesses
• Abandon-ship bag with flares, water, food, and survival tools
• Offshore first-aid kit
• Rescue lines
• Signaling equipment
• Satellite phone or SSB radio
• Automatic Identification System receiver, preferably with transponder
• Electronic tracking device similar to SPOT or to DeLorme’s InReach
• VHF radio
• Handheld VHF
• Navigation lights
• LED flashlights
For the Boat
• Navigation tools and charts
• Sextant and tables
• Depth sounder
• Fog horn
• Radar reflector
• Fire extinguishers (3 of them, all up to date)
• Fire blanket
• Companionway washboards
• Through-hull plugs
• Emergency tiller
• Hacksaw and blades
• Dinghy and oars
• Storm jib and trysail
• Second manual bilge pump
• Sea anchor
Jim Carrier is a CW contributing editor. Ranger now lies on the hard at Glades Boat Storage, west of Lake Okeechobee, Florida. Her to-do list remains a work in progress.