Lessons learned

As we end this thousand mile voyage down the pacific coast here are some lessons learned for anyone thinking about a similar voyage or refit project on an old boat.   Please note the Western Flyer is a 25 year old boat.   All of the systems that are essential to safety,  navigation and house creature comforts were updated during this refit.

1. Don’t do it unless you have the time to throw at it. By this I am referring to the purchase of a boat in a far away land and the trip to move it.

2. Sweat equity is a great thing when it comes to boats because an owner needs to be knowledgeable about every system on board. My hands have probably touched every square foot of this 25 year old classic. Sometimes not because I wanted to but because I needed to. Specialization does not work on boats. You need to be a jack of all trades.

3. Simple products you can buy to keep things from sliding all over the boat.  Also, Patti had on board two large candles that are battery powered – I used these every night while underway to give us a sense of where things were in the cabin.  Easier on the eyes than going with red lights.


4. Don’t go cheap on an auto pilot or not purchasing a chartplotter. Getting 10, 15 or 25 years out of a system on board makes for great bragging but, not a good thing when it goes on a trip of a lifetime.  Turning back is not an option – running out of time for crew members can be a nightmare for the boat owner.

5. Vacuum gauges – peace of mind where you can see it.


Put them where you can see them.   The port engine shot up to 4 psi on the trip down and it turned out that I installed 2 micron filters vs 10 micron filters.  This was based on advice received some time ago.

As of today, (August 28, 2014) we have done a complete turn over of 400 gallons of diesel that was on board and was fast approaching two years old.  When we purchased the boat, the first major project done was at the boat yard to open, clean and polish our tank and fuel.  Then kill anything remaining with bioguard and reflush.

6. Cooking – Healthy is better but costs more. Prepackaged meals suck.  Don’t irradicate your food. I threw out the microwave in Portland and will never ever allow a microwave on board.

Try foreign dishes like you do at home, thai, asian, pizza, Mexican, etc.  Substitute anything you have on board you just might like it; I baked muffins for the crew but couldn’t find mollases so I used Aunt Jemima pancake syrup instead.  Guys are easy, they will eat most anything while at sea; and it tastes good too!


I found split pea in the cubbard.


7. Assign sleeping locations – give up the owners cabin to those less capable of moving about or say, larger in girth.  Besides, as an owner you should try sleeping anywhere on the boat you would expect others to do so – let’s you see if anything needs improvement (cushions, lighting, decor, access to heads, etc) .

8. Safety – don’t scrimp here, nothing worse than having crew members talk behind your back about how this Skipper skimped on this or that; to just get her done!


9. Not too many rules please!!!

Most adults are responsible individuals and don’t need to be treated like partial or complete idiots.  Many are even responsible members of society.   When I go out on a good friends boat,  who shall remain nameless,  even though I have boated most of my life; taken every course possible, have my USCG Captains license,  his actions on board as a skipper leave me always feeling like he has trust issues.  This guy does not trust anyone on board to do anything – he needs to do it all.  This is not a good thing on board – people want to feel like they are contributing (other than say financially) to the overall expedition, no matter how small.

10. Water – Bring bottled water for drinking and feel free to use the rest without concern.  Take baths or showers on board.  If your bathtub or shower is not up to the task, then work on it, to make it so.  Nothing worse than stinking crew members.

11. Know your fuel burn rate – always try to top it off if the fuel has been sitting for some period of time.  Newer fuel is a good thing.

12. Clean up daily and don’t run out of plastic garbage bags, toilet paper, paper towels, or cleaning supplies including dishwashing soap. Use only liquid soap.

13. 36 hours at sea takes its toll so celebrate happy hour daily

14. Fans – great for hot and cold weather

15. Fluids – don’t fall short or check your engine while running every 12 hours.

16. Tools – carry every tool a mechanic, carpenter or hardware store does

17. Dinghy – we use ours as the life raft, garbage dump, keeper and holder of all junk along the way.

18. Bar b que – the weather can never be bad enough to bbq, if it is you screwed up some where in reading a future forecast. You can always make sandwiches so what is the big deal about people thinking they have to stock up on ready made meals.

19. ON Crew – Some crew members are easier on a boat than others. The easier ones have an idea of how to spend time aboard. Some just won’t stop talking. What they are doing is destressing.   On a 41 ft boat it is fairly easy to pick up and move to another level when the endless, did I say endless, continual stories from decades of living begin eeking out like a firehose.

Know what a conversation is, usually a two way exchange between people, teach them if you can get a word in.   When one crew member begins dominating the entire conversation for hours on end it CAN and DOES get old fast.

20. Keep pushing the envelope to increase your comfort level. Sail, cruise at night, your boat can take way more than you can

21. And finally. Don’t overreact to anything, it really does frighten the crew!!


About trawlercat

Retired and now moving on from the cruising life jeeps, adventure bike, gardening, and travel. Always in search of the next great adventure!
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