THE TOP TEN CRUISING DISASTERS I
WAS AFRAID OF .....THAT NEVER HAPPENED
Before we left Florida to embark on our circumnavigation,
I talked to everyone I met who had cruising experience at length and
asked a myriad of questions. I read books and articles about what it
was like to cruise. We had done a lot of sailing, but we were not blue
water cruisers. We are grateful to those people who took time to share
their experiences with us and encourage us then. Now, I would like to
join their ranks and be a source of information and one of the
“encouragers” to everyone who is contemplating going cruising.
To those of you who are making plans to go cruising on your own boat, I
want to assure you that I was afraid of everything you are afraid of
today and I worried about everything you are worried about today. I
could list 50 things I was afraid of, but will limit myself to talking
about the top 10 things I was afraid of and tell you what really
happened. Here is my list in no particular order:
#1) I WAS
would forget to buy and stock something important, then we would find
ourselves at sea without something we needed.
WHAT DID WE DO?
I made lists and
more lists, categorizing all the things I could think of that a family
of four would be using in the next few months. Every nook and cranny
aboard EXIT ONLY was filled with something I was sure we would need and
I wasn’t sure we could buy “out there”.
are people living almost everywhere you go when you are cruising. Those
people eat and use the basic necessities of life everyday. We found
food was available everywhere. We found daily basics available
everywhere. Now, it may not be the kind of food you are used to eating
or choose to eat, but food is available. The basics may not be your
favorite brand or exactly what you wish you had, but there is a wide
variety of supplies available everywhere you go.
Make your lists and stock your boat with items and food you will use.
If there is a particular shampoo or food you feel is important in your
life, be sure and take a good supply with you. For instance, we always
carried several jars of peanut butter because we all like it and never
wanted to be without it. I prefer one brand of moisturizer, so I stocked
up in Florida because I wanted to be sure I would have enough to use it
daily. Otherwise, you will be able to buy supplies along the way. I
subscribed to the “when you see something you use often on your boat,
buy it” approach and it worked for us. For more information check out
Anytime, Anywhere Provisioning List ala EXIT ONLY”.
#2) I WAS
was going to steal everything from our boat.
WHAT DID WE DO?
We kept loose things picked up and put away. We went snorkeling, rinsed
the gear, dried it in the sun while someone was on board the boat, then
put the gear away out of sight before leaving the boat. We closed and
locked all of the hatches and doors when we all went off the boat. We
ran a long metal cable in our dinghy to the gas container and engine,
then locked our dinghy to the dock when we went ashore. We pulled our
dinghy up onto the davits every night when we were at anchor.
Nothing was ever stolen from our boat or dinghy. One morning we did
find muddy footprints on our stern in the lagoon at St. George’s,
Grenada. Someone came aboard in the night, but our dinghy was tied up
on the davits securely and the doors to the inside of the boat were
locked. Nothing was lying loose in the cockpit or on deck. Nothing was
taken. Later that morning, we learned someone had recently been
boarding boats in the night, entering through open doors or
companionways, and stealing whatever was easy to grab without waking up
the crew. They were taking things that were lying about like money,
wallets, jewelry, cameras, computers, etc.
Lock your boat. Lock your boat when no one is aboard. Lock your boat
when the crew is asleep at night. Keep all loose gear put away out of
sight. If you must leave your companionway open for ventilation at
night, design and construct an alarm using bells, empty tin cans, or
anything that will make noise if it is disturbed. One boat we saw put
screen cloth with bells attached to the edges of the cloth over their
companionway at night. Moving that screen cloth without making noise
#3) I WAS
boys would surround the boat everywhere we went and effectively, “put us
WHAT DID WE DO?
I worried about how we were going to deal with boat boys, because I
“just knew” there were going to be lots of them everywhere we were
going. Aggressive boat boys were often included in stories about
anchorages cruisers did not want to return to. We talked about what we
could do when we were surrounded by boat boys. I wondered if we should
carry t-shirts, cigarettes (we are not smokers), etc. to bribe them to
leave us alone. The rest of the crew said “No” to carrying items for
were not bothered by aggressive boat boys and we were certainly never
surrounded by them. We did have people (men, boys, women, and girls)
paddle out to our boat in many anchorages. Almost always they had
something to sell…fruits and vegetables, fresh bread, lobster or fish,
t-shirts or sarongs, etc. Some men came by asking if we wanted to have
any boat work done or if we wanted to take a tour of the island. We
would either decide to deal with them and buy something or say “No,
thank you” and that would be the end of it. We asked these people not
to let their boats rub against our hulls and they were careful. We did
not invite them aboard. Our encounters with boat boys were good
Be friendly, but business-like when these people approach your boat. If
you want to buy what they are selling, you can conduct the business with
them in their boat and you in your boat. Do not feel pressured to buy
what they are selling, to give them things, or to have them come
aboard. We found saying “No, thank you” or “Thanks, but we are well
supplied for today” with a smile was the best way to talk to the boat
boys. As usual, it wasn’t so much what we said, but how we said it.
#4) I WAS
to buy food supplies would be few and far between.
WHAT DID WE DO?
Before we left Florida, I started keeping track of what we ate and what
ingredients I used to prepare meals for one month. I kept my grocery
receipts for that month to show me what I was buying and using. From
these two lists, I started making my provisioning lists. I designed my
own shopping list by dividing grocery items into 16 general categories
that include most items found in a large grocery store. For more
information about the EXIT ONLY shopping list and how I used it, please
see the separate article entitled
Anytime, Anywhere Provisioning List ala EXIT ONLY”.
was food for sale everywhere we went. Some of our best adventures were
going to local markets or shopping in grocery stores where we did not
speak the language. In Turkey, we discovered that paper towels were
sold folded flat in plastic bags and potato chips were outside on the
sidewalk on a stand next to the pop machine instead of on a shelf inside
Long before you are ready to start cruising, start keeping track of what
groceries (food and household items) you buy. Collect your grocery
lists and grocery receipts for at least one month. Buy a ring binder
with loose pages you can add or remove. Make lists of the items on
your grocery lists and receipts and organize the lists in a way that
makes sense to you. If you would like to see my master shopping list,
look at my article entitled “The Anytime, Anywhere Shopping List ala
EXIT ONLY”. Only provision with foods your crew will eat. If they do
not like a particular food on shore, they will not like it at sea
either. For example, I stored three kinds of lentils aboard because
they are easy to store, keep well, and are loaded with protein. I love
lentils, but no one else in the crew liked them. I ended up trading
them away for peanut butter in the Marquesas Islands!
#5) I WAS
would be sea-sick during all of the passages.
WHAT DID WE DO?
I do/did get seasick at the beginning of every passage. I have tried
several “cures” for seasickness including Sturgeron Forte, the
Scopolomine patch, Pahia Bombs from Pahia, New Zealand, the “watch” with
electrical pulses, etc.
out of four of our crew members had some sea-sickness at the beginning
of every passage. Two found some relief using Sturgeron Forte. I used
half of a patch behind my ear and felt some relief. I also wore a
“watch” and it seemed to help. However bad the sea-sickness, everyone
was better by day three and cured by day four every time. Knowing that
day three was coming helped on days one and two. We also noted that
reading on days one and two seemed to make the sea-sickness worse.
Before we left on a passage, I would prepare food that could easily be
eaten by anyone who wanted to eat during the first three days of the
passage. I was not able to cook for the first three days, but by day
four, hot food sounded good to everyone. Potato soup became a welcome
tradition on day four. Potato soup for lunch meant that once again, we
had survived the first three days of being seasick!
If you suffer from seasickness, you belong to a very large club.
Seasickness and its cures are always a hot topic when cruisers gather
together. Try to discover what medication or cure works best for each
person in your crew and stock up on these items. Prepare some food
before you leave on a passage, so no one needs to cook for the first few
days. Have bland foods like crackers available. Drinking ginger tea or
sucking on ginger candies often helps settle your stomach. Do not read
or write until you are feeling 100%.
#6) I WAS
would be scared on night watch when it was pitch black dark.
WHAT DID WE DO?
Some of our crew members liked being up in the middle of the night more
than others did. I preferred the early evening or early morning watch,
but all of us had to take our turn in the middle of the night. At
first, I dreaded being on watch by myself in the middle of the night,
but as my confidence grew, I became more comfortable with the idea. I
came to appreciate the moon and stars in a new way.
always had someone on watch and we used a flexible watch schedule. You
had to take at least three hours of watch, then could take more watch
if you felt like it. If the person on watch thought there was a big
change in the wind or weather, that person would wake another crew
member up and assess what needed to be done. Dave was always available
if the person on watch thought he should be awakened and told about
something that was happening (wind was up, ships lights near-by, etc.)
Surprisingly, all of us came to appreciate night watch. Seeing the moon
rising over the water, a full moon shining down on the waves,
constellations moving across the sky, and the stars in the Milky Way
lighting our path all became special memories. Seeing the
phosphorescence in the water moving as it outlined fish swimming along
with us was amazing. The phosphorescent glow on our stern waves
reflected our path through the water. The sea at night has its own
We bought night-vision binoculars before we left Florida. We kept those
binoculars handy on night watch. On a pitch black night, the smallest
light in the distance on a ship or fishing boat was magnified by the
binoculars. We could easily see the port and starboard lights of other
vessels at a greater distance using the binoculars. This gave us more
time to make any adjustments we needed to our course.
#7) I WAS
wouldn’t be able to keep in touch with friends and family.
WHAT DID WE DO?
When we left Florida in 1995, we did not have e-mail, Sailmail, Airmail,
Skype, etc. We got a booklet that listed all of the American Express
offices in the world and arranged to have our mail drops at these
offices. We would use public phones to notify our family that we had
arrived at a destination immediately after checking in with officials.
evolved with the cyber world. As soon as e-mail became available, we
installed the equipment we needed to access Sailmail, Airmail, and Skype.
Whether we were at anchor or at sea, we found ourselves communicating
daily with family and friends and literally sharing our adventure with
them almost as it happened. We would e-mail our latitude and longitude
to our kids and parents when we were on passage. They enjoyed following
our progress on globes at their houses in Kentucky and Florida.
Buy the equipment needed to access Sailmail, Airmail (if you have a ham
radio license), and Skype. Cruisers everywhere are using these services
and will be happy to share their expertise and experiences with you.
#8) I WAS
children’s education would suffer.
WHAT DID WE DO?
When we left on
our circumnavigation, Wendy was 16 and had two years of high school left
to complete. David was 15 and had three years of high school left to
complete. We registered with the University of Nebraska High School
Correspondence School in Lincoln, Nebraska. The school sent each
student a syllabus of each course with all the materials needed to
complete the work. The lesson directions were written to the student.
Our kids only needed help from us for Junior-level English (complex
grammar, I helped) and Chemistry (Dave helped). Remember, this was
before e-mail, so we depended on the postal systems around the world to
send and return their assignments. Today, the class work is sent both
ways by e-mail. We left with a full semester of class supplies. We
purchased the next semester’s materials and had them sent to American
Samoa using the U.S. Postal System.
of our kids did very well with their course work. I am a teacher and it
was obvious to me the lessons were well-written and the directions were
straight-forward and easy to follow. The hardest part of the schooling
was having the self-discipline needed to stick to doing school work when
the adventure of being in a new and different location was waiting a
dinghy ride away.
Do your research before you leave and find the correspondence school
that suits your child’s needs. We were very pleased with the school we
chose. On board EXIT ONLY, we planned “school time” in the mornings
until noon. We all stayed on the boat in the mornings. Dave and I did
boat work while the kids did school work. After lunch, we would all
“play”. We found this schedule was a good balance between school/boat
work and adventure.
#9)I WAS AFRAID…I
wasn’t a good enough sailor when it came to running the electronics,
plotting on charts, reading the sea, wind, clouds, etc.
WHAT DID WE DO?
When we left Florida, Dave was an extremely competent and knowledgeable
captain. The kids and I were good crew who did everything we were told
to do. We had the big picture, but didn’t know much about the details.
As a family, we attended a Safety at Sea Seminar in Ft. Lauderdale
before we left. The main impact of that seminar was the realization
that we all needed to know the basics of running the boat, what to do
in an emergency, and how to start and stop the boat. We did not know
all of these things when we left, but we immediately started learning
and practicing them as we headed west from Florida.
Everyday, we all were involved in all of the aspects of making the boat
move. Dave explained how to use the electronic equipment and each of us
slowly, but surely, became proficient at using the electronics, plotting
our course, reading charts, reading the sea, reading the wind, and
reading the clouds. At first, Dave would tell us where we were going
and we all agreed. As our skills grew, we wanted to be more involved in
the process of deciding what our destination would be and wanted to
Everyone on the boat should have basic sailing skills. Everyone should
know how to start and stop the boat. Everyone should know how to use
the radio. There are sailing classes for every level of ability, so
finding one that suits you should be easy. Successfully completing a
sailing class goes a long way toward instilling self-confidence. Get as
much offshore experience as you can before you head out on your own. I
would also recommend that the whole crew attends a Safety At Sea
#10) I WAS
…that everyone knew more than me and I would never be a “real” sailor.
WHAT DID WE DO?
I participated in every aspect of preparing the boat to leave. I asked
questions about everything. I made notes about things I wanted to
remember. We attended a Safety at Sea Seminar as a family. We made
every effort to include safety equipment aboard. I read seamanship
books and talked to experienced cruisers.
As we sailed off on our adventure, each crew member made an effort to
participate in all phases of the journey. We all learned skills that
were needed to keep the boat moving efficiently. On passages, our
watches would keep us busy. We kept a ship’s log of every passage. We
made an entry in the log on the hour that included local time, compass
heading, average speed, distance log, helmsman, sky, wind, barometric
pressure, latitude, longitude, and pertinent comments. Having to fill
in the log made us aware of what was really happening with the boat and
Take an active roll in keeping the boat moving. Take an active interest
is what is going on both on the boat and outside the boat. If learning
aboard is difficult, consider taking a sailing course on a boat that is
similar to yours. You will enjoy your time on your boat if you are an
active part of the crew and if you feel confident that you have the
basic skills to control the boat in an emergency.
So, if you are thinking that you are the only one who is afraid to go to
sea, now you know you are not alone. Hopefully, sharing my fears and
how I dealt with them has helped you face your own fears. Start making
plans to do things that will help you become a confident, competent crew
member. Don’t let fear rob you of your dreams!
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tell your friends about "Top Ten Cruising Disasters That
IT'S SAFER TO SAIL AROUND THE WORLD ON A YACHT
THAN IT IS TO KISS A KING COBRA
I’m not afraid of
snakes...I respect them. In the same way, I’m not afraid of the ocean,
but I respect it. When you respect something that is potentially
dangerous, you increase the odds of survival if problems happen.
At the Siam Snake
Show in Phuket, Thailand, I watched a snake handler place his index
finger into the mouth of a non-venomous snake. He didn’t get bitten and
the snake didn’t seem to mind. I mustered my courage and placed my
index finger in the same snake’s mouth. I must admit, putting a finger
in the snake’s mouth took me far outside my comfort zone.
Later in the show,
the snake handler kissed a lethal King Cobra. This was definitely a
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not experience. Not in a thousand years would I
have ever expected to see anyone kiss a King Cobra. To me it seemed
impossibly dangerous and foolish, but to the cobra handler, it was all
in a days work.
Now if I had asked
the Cobra Kisser to sail my yacht across the Indian Ocean, he probably
would have said, “No way mate. It’s simply too dangerous to sail in a
small boat across such a big ocean. I’ll stay here at the snake farm
where I have financial security and I know that I’ll be safe.” People
who kiss cobras don’t know anything about sailing across oceans, and to
them sailing the seven seas seems far too dangerous.
Kissing cobras and
sailing across oceans are both exercises in risk management. If you
manage risk properly, usually you don’t get hurt. If you don’t take
risks seriously, you put yourself in harms way and problems occur.
they say everyone has a price, no amount of money could induce me to
kiss a King Cobra. Sailing across the Indian Ocean is a completely
different matter. You don’t need to pay me anything to sail the seven
seas; I will do it for free once I have done my risk management.
Risk management is
mostly common sense. Take storms for an example. Only a fool totally
ignores the weather and sails directly into the jaws of a tropical
just appear out of the blue. They take time to form, and after they
form, they send warning signals to tell you they are there. A cyclone
creates large ocean swells that travel hundreds of miles in every
direction. If you experience a large ocean swell that is not explained
by prevailing wind and weather conditions, you know that there is a big
storm in the direction from which the swells originate. The cyclone is
sending a warning for five hundred miles in all directions, and if you
pay attention to the warning, you will stay out of harms way. That’s
the way mariners have avoided tropical cyclones for the past five
hundred years. That’s how they did risk management before they had
satellite photos and weather fax.
We use a lot of
technology to do our risk management. Before we make an ocean passage,
we check out weather satellite photos of the region where we are
heading. If the satellite photo shows bad weather, we don’t go. For
the Indian Ocean we go to the internet at
www.fnmoc.navy.mil and we look at the infrared satellite photos of
the Indian Ocean. Web sites also show wind speed and direction,
significant wave height, and weather maps. We don’t rely on a single
source of weather information because they may get it wrong. We always
consult multiple sources to make sure we are on the right track.
Once we head
offshore, we contact other boats by high frequency radio to see what the
weather is in their area. We also listen to Richard who runs the
Southeast Asia Maritime Mobile Net at 0800 at 14323Mhz. Every morning
Richard gives the weather for all of Southeast Asia and the North and
South Indian Oceans, all the way to the Red Sea. He gives us real time
information on the weather in our location so that we know what to
expect, and he warns us that we need to head in a different direction
when bad weather is ahead. Once a day, Richard sends us an email giving
the significant weather in the Indian Ocean. He has grouped all of the
boats heading across the Indian Ocean into what he calls, “The Red Sea
Gang”, and he supplies everyone with weather by email all the way up the
Here in Thailand
and Northern Malaysia, there are about a thousand cruising yachts.
Several hundred of them will cross the Indian Ocean as soon as Richard
gives the green light. When the green light comes on, there will be a
mass exodus. Some yachts will do the southern route to South Africa,
and others will do the northern route up the Red Sea and into the
No matter which direction they head, all of them will
tell you that they would rather sail across the Indian Ocean than kiss a
cobra any day. They understand the risks, they manage the risks, and
they are willing to do whatever it takes and live with the
consequences. That’s as it should be. After all, they are living their
TAKE THE PLUNGE AND
THE RED SEA
CHRONICLES. DIVE INTO A GREAT
CRUISING DVD. YOU WILL BE GLAD THAT YOU DID!
A FIRST CLASS SAILING ADVENTURE
A FIRST CLASS CHRISTMAS GIFT
and his family spent eleven years sailing around the world on their
Privilege 39 catamaran, Exit Only. During the trip, the crew of Exit
Only shot 200 hours of video with professional cameras to show people
what it's like to sail on a small boat around the world.
The Red Sea Chronicles is a one hour and twenty-two minute feature
film showing their adventures as Exit Only sails through Pirate
Alley in the Gulf of Aden and up the Red Sea. The professional footage
documents their experiences in Oman, Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, and
the Suez Canal. It chronicles the rigors of traveling in a remote
section of the world rarely visited by cruisers. Exit Only dodges
Yemeni pirates, fights a gale and sand storms in the Bab al Mandeb at
the southern entrance to the Red Sea. The crew explores deserted
islands on the western shores of the Red Sea, and learns to check the
cruising guides for land mines before venturing ashore.
The Red Sea Chronicles also has outstanding Special Features
including an Instructional Video on Storm Management that
tells sailors how to deal with storms at sea.
The Red Sea Chronicles is a first class adventure that stokes the
sailing dreams of both experienced and wannabe sailors alike. Order
your copy of the Red Sea Chronicles and experience the adventures of
Exit Only as they sail around the world and up the Red Sea.
Meet The Crew
Dave Abbott - Captain
Captain Dave always dreamed of sailing around the world on his
own sailboat, and his eleven year circumnavigation with his
family made his dream come true.
Donna Abbott - First Mate
Donna earned her stripes the REALLY old fashioned way...by
enduring the rigors of passage making for the thrill of
exploring exotic ports across the globe.
Sarah Abbott - Deck Swab
Sarah is the newest member of the family and crew. Despite her
limited sailing experience, she jumped right in to life on the
high seas. Her fresh and enthusiastic perspective on cruising
help make the Red Sea Chronicles so special.
David Abbott - Cameraman/Director/Editor/Narrator/Composer
David shot over 170 hours of footage on the voyage from
Australia to Florida. He then spent a year and a half on dry
land editing and producing the Red Sea Chronicles DVD. In
addition to the narrating the film, David also scored,
performed, and recorded the entire soundtrack for the project.
Wendy Abbott - Voice of Ninja Crab
Wendy is the daughter of Capt Dave and Donna. She sailed on Exit
Only from Florida to New Zealand. Wendy guest stars as the voice
of a Ninja Hermit Crab in the Red Sea
TOP TEN REASONS TO BUY THE RED SEA
The Red Sea Chronicles is an
affordable CHRISTMAS gift for the sailor in my life. Where else can I get
a totally awesome gift for only twenty bucks?
9. I work hard for a living, and I
deserve to reward myself with the Red Sea Chronicles.
8. My Dream Machine could use a
shot in the arm, and the Red Sea Chronicles will give it the
boost that it needs.
7. Every minute spent watching The
Red Sea Chronicles extends my life by a full year.
6. I want to see what it's like to
cruise on a catamaran before I spend a bazillion dollars
5. I want to see how a catamaran
handles in heavy weather.
4. I want to see the Storm
Management video so I understand what I need to do when I get in
a storm at sea.
3. If I buy The Red Sea Chronicles,
then Maxing Out Media will start production on two new DVD's -
Australia to the Red Sea, and Med Sea to the Caribbean.
2. I like the Maxing Out web site,
and I would like to support the website by purchasing their DVD.
1. After watching the Red Sea
Chronicles, I can finally see myself sailing on the ocean of my
quality, music, people, boat... Just excellent."
got the DVD yesterday and watched it last night (we had no problem
with the different format at all), what a great adventure and well
put together DVD it was entertaining as well as informative and
funny at times, a great combination. Well done you guys are natural
movie stars, Laura and I watched the DVD twice and I am sure we will
watch it many more times in the future."
hope you guys are going to make more DVD’s of your previous sailing
trips for us to enjoy."
"Amazing...Just watched your dvd The Red Sea Chronicles for the
third time today...I called my boss at home and turned in my
notice...I'm going sailing!"
"The best cruising video to date
from any source and should be on the shelf of every one who shares
the cruising spirit even if only in dreams."
"...a great video that transported
me from a damp, cold day in Wales to cruising aboard Maxing Out in
the Red Sea - pure nectar."
"The only "problem" is that this has left me wanting more of the
same stuff, just from some of the other places Maxing Out has
"Thumbs up. I also wish the entire circumnavigation was documented,
but this small portion in the Red Sea is excellent. Well done."
"I just watched the
Red Sea Chronicles and second what all the others have said. I'd
love to see a whole series of Maxing Out DVDs...Good job!"
Red Sea Chronicles DVD Previews
The Red Sea Chronicles is now available!
We are attacked by flying fish as we cross the Indian Ocean on
our way to Salalah, Oman. When we make landfall, the local suq
(market) helps us regain our land legs.
The riskier side of world cruising. In this episode we prepare
to sail through "Pirate Alley" in the Gulf of Aden
We arrive in Aden with a damaged alternator and are delighted to
find a superb local machine shop. As we prepare to leave, fellow
cruisers are attacked by pirates.
We must sail through the notorious Bab el Mandeb (Gate of
Sorrows) to enter the Red Sea. 50 knot winds and relentless
sandstorms are ready and waiting on the other side
$19.95 + $5 shipping/handling
$19.95 + $10 shipping/handling