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Summer cruising guide

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Planning the perfect pocket cruise

Planning the perfect pocket cruise

My secret for a successful weekend cruise in my Sailmaster 22 is to keep it secret and go alone, ready to adjust to the wind to avoid excessive motoring, and able to change course and destination at a whim with no discussion or obligation to get anywhere for anyone at any particular time.

I write this just before the Memorial Day weekend, which usually targets the season’s first short Chesapeake Bay cruise for me to Oxford on Maryand’s Eastern Shore. I have cruised there many times but never tire of it.

Being confined aboard a pocket cruiser with almost any human for many hours on end just doesn’t cut it for me, and it might not be so appealing to would-be guests, either. Maybe it’s me, but people and their gear seem to get in the way of a satisfactory cruise on a small boat, even within a 50-mile radius.

For one thing, there’s not enough room in my cabin for me to sleep in comfort because things have to be pulled out of stowage and moved about to place bunk inserts to support an occupied air mattress, along with other organizational drills before retiring for the night. And in the morning everything has to be stowed again before getting under way.

In the past I have occasionally made arrangements to rendezvous with fellow humans, often somewhere on the Eastern Shore and, ideally, when they are aboard their own boat. But come morning, I prefer to be on my way to somewhere else and not necessarily to meet someone there, unless it’s a fellow cruiser.

Maybe if I had a larger sailboat I wouldn’t be such a nautical loner and could put a younger human to work in the galley, to lower and raise the anchor, or as needed winch beef. But then I would be unable to keep such a boat at a free private slip with a 3-foot depth and might grow dependent on a crew when I really enjoy sailing alone. Boating is full of compromises.

Packing an already packed pocket cruiser for a weekend means limiting large objects and many smaller ones, too. But I’ll find room for my stainless-steel Coleman cooler in the starboard quarter berth to store block ice and food in watertight Tupperware trays. Space for a designated cooler for beverages is already fixed in place under the removable, folding companionway step.

Spare fuel is carried in a 5-gallon jerry jug secured on deck at the starboard shrouds to back up the 6-

gallon tank in the lazarette that feeds my older 5-hp Mercury outboard, hidden in a well. With the price of dockside gas hitting $2.65 a gallon as of late May and rising, I may stow a second jerry jug at the port shrouds. I’ll also bring along the outboard oil mix and mixing container.

I already stow a chart-plotting tabletop kit from Weems & Plath of Annapolis that is large enough to display a MapTech ChartKit. I haven’t reached the GPS stage of paperless chart plotting, but I have progressed to owning a cell phone and a hand-held Icom IC-M3A VHF marine transceiver.

Also on board are Tahiti 7-by-50 center-focus waterproof binoculars with an internal compass from West Marine, rated as a “best-buy” last year by Practical Sailor. That aids in finding and identifying marks, and gives me a quick compass heading if I’m not bouncing around too much.

An air mattress that inflates with a battery-powered air pump is stowed in the port quarter-berth behind my portable seat box, which has folding armrests and provides sitting headroom. Four pillows and a light cotton blanket will go into a small sail bag stored in the V-berth forward.

I am very hard on sunglasses, occasionally sitting on them and losing lenses, so I use affordable wrap-arounds. But after seeing an ad for Oakley’s way-cool polarized Monster Dog sunglasses ($145), it’s time to upgrade without appearing to make a substantial fashion statement. (I must remember to be careful with them because, after all, they are way cool.)

After spending hundreds of dollars on a West Marine stereo/CD system with four remote speakers (two outside, two inside) and hundreds more to install and connect the entire rig and new running lights, I find that I don’t use it much while under way because of a lot of back-and-forth, in and out of the cabin. So I’ve returned to using a Sony portable in the cockpit, where I can easily pop in CDs and zap radio commercials. That requires carrying along extra batteries.

I will ask a friend, Gibson Island yachtsman J.P. Watson, to select a few loaner CDs from his vast collection because I don’t have the slightest idea of what’s going on in the music world today.

Any cooking will be done on a Forespar Mini-Galley 2000, a gimballed, one-burner propane stove with one mounting bracket in the cockpit and another inside the cabin at the companionway. It comes with one pot and one frying pan, so there will be no elaborate dishes, unless I can find fresh softshell crabs to pan-fry in butter or add a substantial amount of red wine to a can of Dinty Moore beef stew.

Evenings at anchor in the cockpit relaxing in my adjustable Sport-a-Seat must offer some sun-downer rewards, and for me this means good cigars and Gosling’s Black Seal rum mixed with fresh orange juice. For these special occasions, I rig a varnished cockpit table kept stowed in the cabin to add some class to the end of the day.

As night falls, I’ll light my oil lamps and drag out my seat box, flip out the armrests, and transfer the Sport-a-Seat to its cozy alternate location. Sitting against the mast compression post on the V-berth inset provides sitting headroom and a view outside looking through the companionway opening at the oil anchor lamp.

I’ll bring along something to read by the light of a headlamp, but once my tired arms are at rest and I am planted comfortably in the seat box with a rum in one hand and cigar in the other, it will not be long before the air mattress is in place and I am in place on it.