People who have sailed are familiar with the usual preparations required to take the boat out for a (day) sail. You make sure there’s enough fuel, food and water and check all the safety gear, you take the sail bag off, start the engine(s), check the VHF radio and cast off by undoing and storing dock lines or by picking up and securing the anchor. You raise the sails and there you go, ready for some enjoyment on the lake, the bay or the ocean.
Ready to go! © Liesbet Collaert
Even though Mark and I have been living and cruising on Irie for over four years, our routines before leaving a harbor include some preparation as well, each and every time. We haul the dinghy and strap it tight, check the engines for any leakage, know the diesel level, write a log entry upon departure and arrival, go over the charts, plot a course, untie the boom, center the main, take the sail bag off, tidy the interior and exterior, secure loose items, close all hatches and the thru-hull of the toilet, take off instrument covers, install the handheld VHF outside, push all the cabinet knobs, take off the snubber and get ready to lift anchor and go. This process takes less than half an hour and we go through it religiously and simultaneously, as a well-oiled machine and perfect team.
10 gallons of extra diesel to add to our small tank if needed
For a longer trip, however, more precautions are taken and preparations are made. These trips could be a night or multiple day sail, a voyage to remote islands without stores and services or to an “unknown” region where we plan to be for a while. In areas without internet, Mark listens to Chris Parker for weather forecasts on our SSB radio receiver.
Listening to Chris Parker, our only way to "get weather", on SSB © Liesbet Collaert
Not only do we check both engines on our cat for leaks, but we make sure all the necessary maintenance is done, spare parts are at hand, thru holes open and close properly, the oil level is on par and everything runs smoothly and soundly. We fill up a few jerry cans with spare diesel, because our tank is relatively small (33 gallons).
Thorough check-up of the engines is needed before longer trips © Liesbet Collaert
Usually we would “check the rigging” twice a year, but before a long trip, we would go over all the standing rigging (vertical parts/wires) to make sure everything looks and feels right. We might tighten or loosen the shrouds a bit and I pull Mark up the mast. He checks the connections, spreaders, blocks, sheaves on the way up and makes sure everything at the top of the mast is still in place and secure. Once back on deck, we look whether all the lights work.
Mark aloft for a rig inspection © Liesbet Collaert
The dinghy is hauled onto the davits and securely tightened like on any other trip (which involves more lines and strapping than lifting it for the night), but we take the 8HP outboard engine off for longer (and bumpier) sails. This process is a bit tricky on Irie, because we don’t have a lifting strap or suitable halyards. It requires pretty flat seas and a healthy back for Mark or perfect guidance from me, but we stick to the precaution. The engine is stored and locked on our starboard rail mount to cause less stress on our lightweight davits.
Strapping the dinghy (without engine) in as tight as possible © Liesbet Collaert
Extra Safety on Board
Before a longer trip in the ocean, we tie jacklines on each side of the catamaran. These two tight lines (ropes) run from a cleat at the stern (back) through a block near the mast to a cleat on the bow (front) and provide safety when walking on deck to handle the sails or deal with problems. We clip ourselves onto these lines when moving around, so we stay attached to the boat. Our rule is that whoever leaves the cockpit and whoever is on watch at night (or descends the back steps to “net” a fish), wears a life jacket with tether and clips on. A person is only allowed on deck, when the other is present at the helm and for an important sail change or maneuver, we require our partner’s help. The logbook is filled out every hour and the ditch bag has all the essentials and is ready to be grabbed in an emergency.
The outboard rests on a mount, the jacklines are tight and a tether is ready to clip on © Liesbet Collaert