Safe and Economic Long-Distance Cruising

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Cruising long distances isn’t a viable option for many, as footing the fuel bill is no small matter. When crossing an ocean especially, one needs to be prepared – not only in terms of safety aspects and weather forecasts – but also with regards to fuel economy and how to get the best range out of your boat and engine setup.

Safety first
With the astounding new technology available in satellite navigation, communication and weather predictability as well as the increased dependability on boats and engines nowadays, crossing large tracts of water isn’t as daunting a prospect as it used be. However, careful preparation and planning are still a necessity before embarking on any kind of long-distance voyage.

Firstly one would need to ensure that all the safety gear onboard your boat is present, up to date, and up to scratch to handle any number of potential emergencies. These include sufficient life jackets that are in good condition with all the required bells and whistles (ideally one should always wear a lifejacket when underway and nowadays you get comfortable life vests that inflate automatically in water); regulatory fire extinguishers that are primed and ready to use; an extensive medical kit with supplies to treat any type of injury or possible illness until proper care can be administered; and a life raft(s) with all the supplies one would need to survive in case of capsizing.

Furthermore, it is advisable to prepare an emergency pack of sorts in the event of capsizing or ending up in the water unexpectedly. This pack should be waterproof and carry survival essentials such as foul weather gear, water, crackers, flares, a waterproof torch, a handheld VHF radio, and a small signal mirror to call for help.

A vital step in preparing for a long voyage is drawing up a float plan. This ensures that others know your plans and what to expect. Leave a copy of your float plan with your marina, boat club or loved one with instructions to notify emergency services if you do not reach your intended destination within a reasonable timeframe (take bad weather into account and allocate extra time for possible weather related delays). A float plan should include a full description of the boat, the passengers and crew, the safety gear on board, where you expect to land and when. When you reach your intended destination, notify whoever is holding your float plan of your safe arrival so they don’t become concerned and raise a false alarm.

Another good idea before embarking on any extended ocean passage would be to have your boat serviced properly to make sure everything is in mint condition. Also, obtain all the necessary spare parts to take along in case of any breakages or equipment failure, including items such as extra spark plugs, oil, a fuel/water separator, a spare propeller and installation kit, and all the requisite tools.

Engine Economy
A long distance cruise, and particularly crossing an ocean, will require an astonishing amount of fuel – and you wouldn’t want to spend a cent more than you have to. It is therefore important to determine how to get the best range from your particular combination of hull and motor(s).

Firstly, do a few practice runs and load your boat with the same number of crew that you intend taking on the trip as well as a similar load to equal the weight of the fuel, equipment, water and other provisions you would be taking on your crossing. Then, purchase and fit a fuel flow meter to your engine or make meticulous notes of your fuel tank gauges when trying to determine the most economic way of operating your engine combinations in relation to your type of hull.

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