Second Thoughts on the Ideal Cruising Boat
"It's interesting to pay attention to what one does differently the second time," writer Kevin Patterson recently observed before an audience at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts. As first-time voyagers outfit their boats, said the author of The Water in Between, they're focused on storm sails in preparation for the two days in 40 when they might see heavy weather. But second-time voyagers have other concerns; they want light-air sails to keep the boat moving through those 20 days in 40 when the wind's otherwise too whispery to move the boat. "Despite my neophyte's preoccupation with imagining heavy weather and my responses to it," he said, "I never once used the storm canvas I brought on my first trip."
When it comes to second-guessing his first-timer's choices, Kevin's not alone. Over the last several months, I've held a series of conversations with cruisers, exploring the decisions they'd made before they first set off and the ways they've changed their minds about their boats and all they carry.
In March 2003, several crews in Chaguaramas, Trinidad, gathered to talk about their notions of the ideal boat and how those notions had changed in the course of their years aboard. While those discussions served as the baseline for this article, I've included the results of interviews with other seasoned cruisers as well. Everybody I spoke to has been living aboard in the Caribbean for five seasons or more; some have been sailing for well over a decade.