Years ago Teresa and I decided to buy a boat. At that time, preparation for picking up the boat, such as making flight arrangements, buying gear, achieving all training goals, seemed like distant activities easily fit into a wide-open calendar. Then time kept marching on . . . . Then COVID . . . .
And now the delivery (fingers crossed) is just 6 months away. The speed with which our “abundance of time” has compressed into “holy crap, we don’t have very much time” is sobering. Suddenly, the need to decide where to buy stuff, what stuff to buy, and getting the stuff to the boat is a hair-on-fire rush.
And the “madness takes its toll.” (Nah, not really, this is just a throwback to the Rocky Horror for you Rocky Horror nerds like me [I’m looking right at you Elaine!!])
What Stuff Do We Need?
When you buy a new boat, there are related purchases you (okay, I) didn’t really consider before. For example, if you will sleep on board, you need sheets and pillows. If you shower on board, you probably want some towels. If you are prudent and prepare for an offshore passage, you’ll need a host of tools, both power and hand tools, as well as first aid supplies. Oh, and if you plan on eating well, the galley needs to be supplied with pots, pans, etc.
If your new boat is being delivered to your state and you will primarily be a day sailor, your shopping is somewhat simpler and the pace more relaxed.
Why Not Just Buy It All In South Africa
Wild Rumpus is being picked up in Capetown. Immediately upon the crew’s arrival, we begin factory training, go on a shakedown cruise around the Cape of Good Hope, and sail 6,000 nautical miles. So, we could factor in the need to shop and spend more time in Capetown, which for me means an unacceptable amount of additional time away from family. Shopping in Capetown would also mean locating appropriate stores, paying retail, and familiarizing myself with different brands of everything. Also, Wild Rumpus is a 110-volt onboard boat, so electrical appliances and electronic gear must be purchased in the U.S. Rather than flying to Capetown and wasting time shopping in unfamiliar stores for unfamiliar brands with unfamiliar money, I am shopping in the U.S.
Upsides Of Shopping In The U.S.
Before making the decision to buy most items in the U.S., I did some comparison shopping. Shopping in the U.S. using retail prices turned out to be about, on average, almost ten percent less expensive than Capetown. And, as any good New Yorker knows, no self-respecting shopper pays retail!! So, I registered at West Marine for a Pro account, which entitles Wild Rumpus to a fairly substantial discount (often making West Marine less expensive than many online options). I also set reminders near major holidays to scope out sales and created a boat show shopping list! I think I should save enough on the cost of the items upfront to pay for most of the shipping costs.
Shipping a box to Capetown from California is not as simple as dropping it off at your local UPS or FedEx store. Also, the delivery times are a lot less predictable, and the actual delivery is questionable. With some help from sailing friends, I found a shipping agent in South Africa that works with a counterpart in the U.S. to solve this problem. Once I found the right folks, the logistics are relatively easy (or appear to be on the front end). I will have pallet(s) ready for pickup by early January, and they will be put on a cargo ship to South Africa. In theory, they will be delivered to Capetown by late February and then transported directly to the boat. Each pallet (hopefully, we can fit our purchases on just 1) will run about $850.
So, What’s So Important That You Need To Ship It?
This is not intended to be a complete inventory list. Rather, here are some items I focused on and thought were worth buying in the U.S. Also, some emergency items were pure necessities, and I got them despite the lack of a deal on price.
I travel a lot for work. Indeed, my hatred of hotels started us on the path that resulted in a boat purchase. I have three pet peeves at hotels: 1– uncomfortable mattresses, 2– uncomfortable pillows, and 3– sheets that come untucked. Sure, this makes me a bit of a princess bothered by a pea (by the way, the story is nuts! What sane person wants to marry only somebody so sensitive that she could detect a pea through several mattresses??), but I do want Wild Rumpus’s crew to be well-rested and any future charter guests to be happy. So, I can rationalize my bedding mania with altruistic and capitalistic goals.
I reviewed numerous reviews and read a few blogs about bedding for boats. For those non-boat folks, the mattresses are different shapes and sizes than your standard store mattress. I eventually settled on Quahog Bay Bedding, which specializes in boat bedding. The sheets have cinch bottoms to keep them on the odd-shaped mattresses. I also opted for the memory foam temperature control toppers, which should help bolster overall comfort. Pillows I am leaving for Capetown so every member of the crew can pick their own.
I love to cook and am a picky prick about things in my kitchen. Just ask the kids about putting away a spatula in the wrong spot when unloading the dishwasher or –worse yet– putting one of my good knives that I hand sharpen in the dishwasher. As a result, I watched for sales and got a great set of All-Clad for the boat (plus some other pots/pans). In addition, I added a pressure cooker purchased with a discount code, cooking and eating utensils, and a few small electric appliances like a Vitamix and food processor, all below standard retail. (Confession: I am also taking the opportunity to send my fairly nice knife collection to Wild Rumpus and equip the home kitchen with a serious set of handmade Japanese knives.)
First aid should not be a last-minute task, nor should it be left to chance in a foreign country (though some meds will be easier to obtain, and we may supplement our supply in Capetown). After reading numerous reviews, renewing my Red Cross First Aid and CPR, and taking a NOLS Wilderness First Aid course, I selected an AdventureMedical 2500 Marine First Aid Kit. I then supplemented the already extensive kit with products/meds derived from my first-aid class notes, numerous sailing resources, and conversations with several doctors. At some point, I will do a deep dive blog post on the kit itself.
Tools are fairly fundamental to being able to fix things or do basic preventative maintenance. Crap tools make for a crap experience when doing the work, which makes for crap work. And, like many somewhat handy guys — I really LOVE tools. But, since these tools will live on a boat, I didn’t completely splurge, which required some real restraint on my part. Instead, I opted for a good set of basic hand and power tools purchased at various stores having sales. I cobbled together a pretty decent kit that ought to carry Wild Rumpus through most basic needs. I packed almost all of it into an Atlas tool roll (power tools excluded), which I kind of love. If there is interest, I’ll try to do a post on this at some point.
I don’t anticipate any emergency situations during the shakedown or passage, but I am preparing for them. The big four items on this list are an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), a storm jib, a Jordan drogue, and a high-capacity manual pump. All of these items are expensive and require research before purchase. Not something to be done under a time crunch in a foreign country.
The AED is there to restart a heart in the event of a heart attack or electrocution. Although not a long-term solution to a heart attack, an AED is significantly more effective than CPR and could extend a crew member’s life long enough to get help from a ship with a medical officer or a rescue service. Also, once Wild Rumpus is in use closer to civilization, it becomes even more useful as a life-saving device. I haven’t pulled the trigger on this item just yet, but this is the one I am leaning toward. If you have any information on AEDs, please share.
For heavy weather, we need to reduce our sails, but a small and very strong sail could help keep us moving and give us steerage. After speaking to a lot of sailors and checking out various options, I decided that a storm jib should be help on Wild Rumpus. I chose an appropriately sized Gail Sail, which is strong, doesn’t have much draft (curvature that holds the wind), and is easy to hoist. Wild Rumpus will have three reefs in the main and a furling genoa. So, the storm jib is really overkill. But, even a partially furled genoa has a lot more draft than a storm jib, so if the weather is really bad, we can opt for the storm jib (which will fit over the genoa) and drop the main completely.
Even a boat occasionally needs an emergency brake, which is called a drogue. If you need to slow the boat one could throw over a bunch of fenders or the least popular crew member attached to a line. But, Wild Rumpus is a big boat and will do more than just one ocean passage. So, I opted for the real deal – a Jordan drogue, which is essentially a series of graduated super tuff parachutes that you can attach to the stern and throw overboard. Jordan drogues are the gold standard in drogue design. I opted to have Ace Sailmakers craft a custom drogue for Wild Rumpus. I also confirmed with the builder that the stern cleats are all fully backed and capable of handling the load from a drogue.
Finally, every sailor’s nightmare is a big hole in the boat with water gushing through it. The odds of this happening are incredibly small, but it is not impossible.
The only bigger nightmare for sailors is to be made to sit through All is Lost, especially with their non-sailor friends and family.
Again, I spoke to numerous sailors and read reviews before I landed on an Edson portable manual bilge pump. The Edson is a beast and pumps 30 gallons PER MINUTE. The pump is manual, so we don’t rely on the electrical system to make it work. And, it is portable so we can move it as needed, even to neighboring boats that might need a hand. So if we are taking on water (a true “oh shit” moment), we ought to be able to move it off the boat while we repair the problem.
More to Come
This list is not at all comprehensive. I’ll update it with items of interest as the packing continues.