updated 9/11/16

Our Cruising Philosophy

Our guiding principles have evolved over time and are based more on what we have and what we want to experience and accomplish rather than what material goods or wealth we want to accumulate.  We think of our philosophy as “Richly minimalist”.


We have a small boat, an Albin Vega 27.  I have lived aboard and sailed this boat since 1990.  Laura joined me in 1996.  We have never seen a boat that better meets our needs.  Our thinking on equipment is to go with only what is necessary and nothing more.  Of course this would be subject to individual interpretation and budget but here is how we see it -


I don't believe that a pressure water system or shower has any place on a serious voyaging boat. 


I think refrigeration adds unnecessary complication and draws too much electricity.

edit 3/11/15 Given the current state of solar and battery technology.  This is changing rapidly.

I think that a "Light and airy, spacious cabin" is dangerous in a sea boat.


Boat size: 

  • As big as one of us can handle alone without any mechanical or power assist.  Can the smallest, weakest adult crew member raise the anchor without using the windlass or set the sails without using a winch?


  • Big enough to be comfortable living aboard and to hold enough gear and supplies for an extended voyage.  Lealea easily holds six months provisions without spilling out of the lockers.  We have a water maker, a Power Survivor 40E by Katadyn.


  • Big enough to entertain? Our boat sleeps two, feeds four and drinks six. Big enough for us.


Boat size and safety:

To those who suggest that big equals safe let me just mention "Titanic" and "Edmund Fitzgerald".


Dealing with it:


Safety equipment:

First let me say that we believe that no amount of money can buy safety.  The most important piece of safety equipment is between your ears.  It is paramount that all crew members maintain a safety first mindset at all times. 


We have heard of some sailors who eschew PFDs and even lifelines.  Not us. 


           Rule #1 is:    "Don't fall off the boat"


  • We rig additional lifelines and jack lines at sea.
  • We always wear our inflatable pfd/harnesses on deck.
  • We always tether at night or when going forward and never go forward unless the other crew member is in the cockpit.


  • We carry an EPIRB, man-overboard strobe and a heaving line.


  • Hand-holds:  You can't have too many, inside or out.


We keep our flares, flare gun, parachute flares and smoke markers in a valise screwed to the underside of the lazarette hatch.  Also in the valise are two US Navy die markers and a distress marker panel.  There is a type III pfd secured to the underside of each of the two cockpit seat locker hatches with stretch cord. (Opening the three hatches with the flare valise and PFDs always impresses the Coasties)


We carry six fire extinguishers, two in the forward cabin where we sleep when in port or at anchor, three in the main cabin and one in the cockpit.

Our First aid kit is a US Navy item, very complete and well stocked. We have both had extensive first aid training and have a comprehensive first aid book for reference. Every crew member should be able to deal with compound fractures, burns, severe cuts, poisoning and any known medical conditions such as heart problems, diabetes or allergies among the crew.

We both wear a sharp knife on a lanyard at all times while at sea plus we keep a dive knife in a sheath attached to the base of the mast on deck and another on the aft anchor bracket. 

We have three manual bilge pumps, all hose connections are double clamped with ss clamps with tapered soft wood plugs handy.

We include ground tackle as safety equipment. We carry two 10kg Bruce anchors, one 25 lb Danforth and one 10kg Delta. Each has its own rode of 50 feet of chain and 250 feet of 1/2 inch three strand nylon rope. Two boat hooks also come in handy

We carry basic liability and towing insurance through Boat US.


VHF radio with AIS receiver and depth sounder. That’s all folks. When radar systems get smaller and less expensive I may invest in one but for now we’ll do without.

Navigation: Best quality compasses possible, two bulkhead mounted and two hand-bearing. Two pairs of good quality 7X50 binoculars. Complete set of paper charts for the planned cruising area plus plotting tools (I like the Jeppesen plotter because I am a pilot. I also use a US Army Artillery plotting square, a steel ruler and traditional dividers. I don't like parallel rulers but you should use what ever tools you are comfortable with). I think you need an almanac but doubt the necessity of a sextant and HO249 tables (Although we do carry them). We carry four hand-held GPS receivers and plenty of batteries. Also tide and current tables and cruising guides like Charlie's Charts etc. The more information we can get about our destination the better. We also use a laptop computer with OpenCPN software and electronic charts and Google Earth for planning.

Self steering: We carry two Raymarine ST2000T Tiller Pilots so we always have a spare. They come in handy while motoring but Lealea has been known to steer herself under sail for up to three days, maintaining her course within ten degrees with just a piece of shock cord (see $3.00 Self Steering) from the tiller to a windward cleat. We are asked frequently why we don't have a wind vane and the short answer is that we are cheap and don't really see the need.

Spares: We carry enough new rope to replace the running rigging two or three times plus several blocks of various types and a handy billy. I used to carry a spare stay but have come to believe that standing rig failure can be dealt with using rope sufficiently well to reach port where more permanent repairs can be affected. We carry two water pump impellers for the engine and spare filter elements for engine and water maker.

While the above may look like just another equipment list, it is actually an expression of our philosophy of self-sufficiency and minimalist cruising in terms of nuts and bolts. I am talking of actual voyaging as a lifestyle as opposed to life in the marina; exploring remote places and avoiding the crowds. A suitable boat could be bought and fitted out as described above for fifteen thousand dollars (ca 2015). As a couple, cruising and anchoring out, we could manage quite well on six or seven hundred dollars a month without sacrificing comfort or safety.

A more common view of “Cruising” involves traveling by boat from one marina to the next, perhaps with an occasional sojourn in an anchorage, entertaining aboard, cocktails at the yacht club and dinner at waterfront restaurants. You may want to bring guests or children along. If that is your style, our way won’t work for you. That’s fine, it’s a big tent. In fact, we are doing a little of both. We like restaurants and cocktails too. 

How much or how little you spend or budget for cruising depends completely on you and your priorities. Don't get caught up in buying a bunch of unnecessary items that other
folks think you need to go cruising.  Be smart, be safe.  Live the Dream!