I left L.A. January 3rd of this year and sailed south to Mexico - spent about 5 months sailing on
my 32 ft. 1971 Islander.
A couple of thoughts:
- it will be bitter cold sailing South from Canada along the West Coast in January - be sure you have a
propane cabin heater to get you warmed-up when you take your breaks from staying on watch. Invest in 3 layers
of good thermal clothing. I bought a cheap camping heater - and used the 16 ounce propane bottles. Something I
was grateful for when I was freezing cold.
- Just my opinion - but a good EPRIB with built-in GPS is worth the cost.
- All chain for your anchoring systems is worth the peace of mind when you are swinging on the hook
over a questionable bottom.
- It can be rough coming down the coast from Canada during that time of year (from the stories I
heard talking with two other cruisers who left Vancouver and Oregon during the same time frame).
- After a recent trip to Westport Washington - and seeing the kind of trees/logs that can wash out
to sea along that strip of coastline - I would definitely want a reliable liferaft aboard.
- I didn't have the following on board during my trip - but would want it - if I was planning any
trips across an ocean: Wind Generator, Wind Vane self-steering, SSB radio. Radar if your budget
will allow it. Here's why:
Wind Generator: Would have let me run the auto-pilot without having to run the engine
every few hours during the night. My solar panels handled the load during they day just
fine (two 50 watt panels)....but I rarely ran the refrigerator.
Wind Vane: I really would have felt more comfortable taking on longer passages if I had installed
one of these. For a good bit of my voyage - I was singlehanding - and if the electric auto-pilot
had failed - I would have had to jury rig some kind of self-steering arrangement with sheets-to-tiller.
SSB Radio: I took a SSB receiver with me (small $149 Yacht Boy model from West Marine). I would
HIGHLY recommend getting a full SSB radio. There were many times when I sailed blind into some
marginal weather. Being able to receive a weather fax - or just call ahead - or to reliably get
any weather forecast would have been a comfort. In a pinch - being able to send out a distress call
would be critical.
Radar: I spent a few anxious hours Northwest of San Diego one night - peering into the darkness trying to
figure out what the hell that large looming shadow was...as it moved around my position. It didn't
help that they would turn out their running lights at times. Only after a few hours did I get a good
look at the profile of the shp: an aircraft carrier.
One final thought. if you are single-handing - I found that a kitchet timer set for 30 minutes allowed
me to reach a deep enough REM sleep cycle that I usually arrived very rested. 15 minutes was too short. On such
coastal passages - I always tried to stay about 20 miles offshore...to avoid local coastal traffic.