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Summer cruising guide

11 steps to your best cruise yet

A great cruise is one in which everyone on board enjoys the experience. This can be hard to achieve because of different personalities, levels of experience and expectations. Counter indicators of a successful cruise include, “Are we there yet?” “When will we get there?” “I’m bored.” “Just let me read my book.”

Everyone wants to have a great cruise. Most of us think we know what it takes. So why do so many overnighters turn out less than great? Here are 11 tips for a successful summer cruise.

1. Have a compatible crew (not always possible with family).

2. Don’t rush into it. Spend some time on board before getting under way to allow you and the crew to acclimate to the boat’s motion. My wife, who could get seasick in a bathtub, always does better if we spend the first night at the dock or on a mooring.

3. Plan a route and establish alternate stops for emergencies, bad weather and the like. Don’t try to keep to a schedule that’s cast in concrete. If you’re going to meet friends and you’re a bit late, the world won’t end. Cruises are supposed be fun and relaxing, not frenetic.

4. Don’t get too ambitious. More cruises end up in unpleasant (read: white-knuckle) situations because the skipper has traveled too far out, made no allowance for inclement weather, and now has to get back in.

5. If there are kids on board let them be participants, especially in the actual trip out and back. Come up with activities for them while under way, such as fishing or steering the boat. And explain things in passing: aids to navigation and their significance, landmarks, the boat’s electronics, etc. This is true for adults, as well. For many — wives and husbands included — being on board is to be tolerated but not enjoyed. Passive aggressive behavior often is demonstrated because they don’t really know what’s happening or are afraid of the boat. See if you can get them interested in some of the same activities I suggested for the kids. Teach them something about boat handling and navigation. The key is to get them involved; let them be more than passengers simply reading a book to pass the time more rapidly.

6. Make the first meals light. Snack while under way, but be wary of foods that are greasy or highly seasoned. Prepared meals that merely need reheating are great. We used to precook and freeze meals for several days. Without a freezer on the boat the frozen meals serve as ice for the cooler. There are food-packaging systems that make preparation even easier. A microwave oven on board helps tremendously, if your boat’s energy budget can handle it. We actually cook on the boat only when my wife chooses. Unless a boat is air-conditioned, time in the galley on a warm evening doesn’t make for the most pleasant of cruising memories.

7. If the crew includes people who aren’t part of your immediate family, learn about any allergies or potential health risks before you cast off. Anyone who requires medicine should be sure to bring it.

8. Have the crew take seasickness preventatives — prescription or otherwise — at an appropriate time before leaving. It’s easier to prevent mal de mer than to cure it. Accupressure bands work for some, and gingersnaps or flat Coca-Cola also can help. Not all remedies are effective for everyone; be sure your crew bring those that work for them.

9. Everyone should have foul-weather gear, as well as an insulating layer in case the weather gets chilly — something that will keep you warm even when wet. Cotton won’t keep you warm when it’s wet or damp, but microfiber fleece or wool will do the job.

10. Everyone brings their belongings in a duffel or other soft-sided bag. Have receptacles on board for wet or soiled clothing. On boats without hanging lockers or storage, dressier going-ashore clothes can be neatly laid out beneath the mattress to help keep them wrinkle-free. The old saying “a place for everything and everything in its place” is an excellent proverb for a cruise.

11. Carry at least two different types of anchor.