It’s possible to make small improvements to almost any boat, but it’s important to avoid the temptation to spend too much time and energy chasing small gains.
When preparing for an ocean crossing it’s disconcertingly easy to allow the jobs list to escalate and become almost self perpetuating. The key problem is that on any boat, however newly built, recently refitted, or comprehensively equipped, there will always be things that can be made more comfortable, safer or more efficient before departure.
Nevertheless, it’s important to be able to make a clear distinction between essential equipment and tasks that impact the safety and well being of the boat and crew, and niceties or even luxuries that can safely be ignored. The challenge of keeping the tasks list under control is perhaps the biggest single explanation as to why so many owners never get to embark on the voyages that in many cases they have dreamed of for half a lifetime or more.
In one sense today’s complex boats and systems have opened up the possibilities of long-distance passage making to a wider audience. However, these very factors make preparing for a voyage much more onerous than it was in the days when all that was needed was a strong rig, reliable windvane steering, a bulletproof suit of sails and a decent sextant.
Today’s long distance cruising yachts are complex entities that can absorb enough time spent on maintenance to curtail their owners’ sailing.
The best approach is to have a clear policy at the outset that will help to define whether any new task that crops up fits an important objective. Even then, most fitting out projects go significantly over their initial estimates of time and equipment costs. As well as making a big dent in budgets, this can also have a knock on effect making it difficult to maintain a cruising schedule that keeps the boat in the right geographical area for each season.
A second challenge is one of lead times, both for work to be completed and for equipment to be delivered. Many marine items are manufactured in small scale batch processes, which explains both high prices and hiccups with availability. Add to that the fact that much work on boats takes place outdoors in less than perfect conditions and it’s not surprising that the schedule of even the best tradesmen can slip.