What’s in my sea bag? Part II
Welcome to the second installment of “What’s in my sea bag?” We are going to share with you what kind of things we would pack depending on what kind of trip and the location. Up next, Jahn Tihansky, as many of you know Jahn has a formidable sailing resume but this time around packing was a new experience. How do you pack for your first ocean crossing? So Jahn, What’s in the bag?
I am preparing to embark on a trans-Atlantic passage from Portimao on the south coast of Portugal to St. Maarten in the Caribbean via Tenerife in the Canary Islands.
The boat is a mid-70s Swan 44 owned by Annapolitan sailing friend Bill Kardash, who has kept the boat in the Med the past 9 years for both cruising and racing. I did two Swan Cup regattas in Sardinia with him and his crew, as well as some previous events back in the States.
There will be a total of five of us onboard including Bill, only one of whom I haven’t sailed with before. All are quite experienced and should be good shipmates.
This will be by far the longest sailing passage I have made as I have never completely crossed an ocean before. My longest previous trip was a windless race from Annapolis to Bermuda, approximately 760 miles which took us nearly 7 days.
To complicate matters for this trip, I preceded it with a week’s vacation in northern Spain with my wife and will follow it by going to Florida for Christmas immediately after without stopping at home.
Our trip across the ocean is expected to be in mostly temperate conditions where we should have tailwinds to the Canaries and south to the tropics, then following tradewinds the rest of the way. However, we had to also prepare for the week in Barcelona where we had 3 days of rainy cold weather with daytime highs in the low 50s.
Figuring out the right combination of clothing for each trip segment (while attempting to keep it light) was a formidable challenge.
The first consideration is, of course, the bag. My wife kindly gave me an L.L. Bean roller duffle for Christmas last year. Although I have never used it before, it seemed perfect for this trip. I needed the volume to accommodate the wide range of traveling clothes plus my sailing gear. The fact that it has wheels has made transiting with it easy so far. The soft nature of a duffle bag will hopefully allow it to pack into a tight space once aboard the boat.
For any extended passage on the ocean, self sufficiency is a key element. Additionally, although we expect it to not be terribly cold, nighttime temperatures particularly out of Portugal will likely be chilly so fleece is a must. I also packed poly pro long underwear top and bottom which are very light, take up no space, and provide significant thermal warmth. I also packed a fleece vest and long sleeve fleece with wind block. Hope I don’t need them…
On the advice of friends with experience with this crossing, I packed only light foul weather gear. My fingers are crossed that this is not a mistake. I do know that rugged ocean grade gear is nice when you expect to get wet but is very bulky and inconvenient to get in and out of quickly, and typically is not the best for warmer conditions. I brought my lightweight Henri Lloyd waist high pants that have proven themselves to be plenty waterproof. I also have a light Goretex jacket with hood that I hope will be adequate for the expected occasional rain squall. I also brought my Henri Lloyd waterproof shorts which are great for sitting on a wet deck while keeping your bum dry. A key component of the shorts is the gel padded inserts for the seat! These inserts are removable and also fit my Gill quick dry shorts (also packed) and are highly recommended.
I brought a couple of long sleeve tech t-shirts plus two short sleeve tech Ts, and a quick dry hat with sun protection for my neck. I also brought a couple pairs of expedition type underwear bottoms which I’ve been promised can be worn for long periods without compromising hygiene terribly. Although I was brought up on cotton, my experience has taught me that it has no place in a wet, salty environment like I’m going to see.
Fortunately the boat has a water maker so we expect to be able to take a few baths along the way and also to wash clothes as necessary. With that in mind I probably brought too much.
In terms of other gear, particularly personal safety gear, I brought along my inflatable pfd with integrated harness and double tether. To that I have attached a personal strobe light and a McMurdo FastFind personal GPIRB should I have the misfortune of losing the boat. I bought this 3 years ago for the Bermuda Race and have ensured that it tests out satisfactory before I take off on a trip with it. With a battery life of 5 years I should be good for at least 2 more years.
Okay, so last few items. I packed 2 waterproof head lamps (one is a spare) which I have found invaluable both on deck and while operating below. These have multiple modes depending on your needs including bright white, low intensity white, as well as red for night use that won’t blind others. In addition they can be set to flash should I go overboard with it. I always used to think people with these were dorky but they are so effective that I will happily be a dork no problem.
I have a pair of quick dry deck shoes which are easy to get on and off. I am a big fan of wearing shoes most of the time while underway but may risk foot injury and go barefoot to work on my tan at least part of the time.
We expect the entire trip from Portugal to St. Maarten to take around 3 weeks so we’ll make sure we have plenty of sunscreen on board. I brought along my iPod which I figure will get pretty of use as well as 3 books.
I am looking forward to no cell phones and no email for a while. After I complete the trip, I will review my list of items and provide an update of recommendations. This list is geared towards a tropics passage and by no means should be considered for a passage in the more northern latitudes.