Unheeded advice a.k.a. Things that didn’t happen

We’ve been given a lot of unasked for advice since we began preparing to cruise. In fact, so much that we made a pact when we got to San Francisco that we would not give advice, unless it was related to immediate danger (e.g., there is an uncharted rock there) or to a close friend that we knew their preferences/likes well (e.g., you will love the brewery – it’s worth trying to make it there if you can), unless that advice was specifically requested of us. The blog is exempt from the rule because it is by definition our opinion and experience and people can skip over it if they find it annoying.

I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder when I hear the word “should” as in “you should buy this gadget” or “you shouldn’t go into Mexico before November 1”. I hate being told what to do. I, like most people, respond much better to either statements of personal experience like “I loved this gadget” or statements about consequences as in “the hurricane risk is much higher on the Baja in October than November”. In both cases the person is providing information rather than instructions.

A good friend of ours brought up the point that for her, finding out what to do is part of the adventure and being told all of the details ad nauseum before she arrived in a new place killed the newness and excitement of the landfall. Since then I have kept in mind that not everyone wants demystification and if I am tempted to do so I ask “Do you want to know how we found X?” or something similar.

The following is a list of things that did not happen. I’m not saying these things don’t happen commonly, or that they aren’t usually true, just that they did not happen to us (yet). YMMV. Some of these points were told to use by single people but most were told to use by multiple individuals.

None of the bodies of water or points of land that we have been warned of were problematic. We were told horror stories of Cape Scott (“the Cape Horn of the PNW” is a ridiculous title for Cape Scott by the way because it is in Canada and Vancouver Island isn’t in the NW of Canada I like the idea of going with the worldwide convention of calling areas by their location of the ocean, making WA/BC the “NE Pacific”), of Hecate Strait, of Cape Mendocino,  and Point Conception (“the Cape Horn of the Pacific” – another weird title because Cape Horn divides the Pacific and the Atlantic so Cape Horn is the Cape Horn of the Pacific) . We were told that if we didn’t see any other boats around Point Conception that we were going at the wrong time because people waited North of it in groups and scooted around (we didn’t see much small boat traffic). In a sense, we heeded the advice about these bodies very carefully. So carefully, that we learned when not to go and didn’t go then. So in each case, we found that if we chose our weather, that these bodies of water were non-events.

You should only go under the Golden Gate bridge on a flood. Well, again, if you understand why people say this, you can break the rule. Wind over tide around there usually means strong Westerly wind over swiftly ebbing tides which means bad news. However, strong flooding tide is also a bummer way to try to get out of the Bay. So, we went on a medium ebb with light wind. No problem.

No one put dye in our holding tank in California including at Avalon. This one is a bit unfair because they were going to put dye in our tank at Avalon but they caught us already in our kayak and told us they would come back but they never did. Other than Avalon, the issue never came up.

The Dutchman system has not sawed our sails into pieces. One of the discs came off in strong weather and the monofilament did not saw a hole in the sail. Our sail is in relatively good condition so perhaps a weaker cloth would have split, but ours didn’t.

Electrical bonding. Our boat, like many European boats, is not electrically bonded. We, like most of the thousands of European boats built like this, have not imploded or otherwise caught on fire.

You have to line your boat with copper to get good SSB signal. We use copper to a single thru hull. Good voice, good email, all good so far.

Leaving BC/WA in August is “too early”. I still don’t understand this one completely but we left in late July and had a nice passage. When to make the passage depends so much on the weather systems in a given year or even a given month that I don’t see how you can make generic statements about what month is early.  We left ourselves a month long window in which to watch the weather. The weather was right at the very beginning of our window so we went but we would have waited for a month and enjoyed the W Coast of Vancouver Island until it was right.

25 gallons is too little built-in tankage for a cruising boat. I guess this has yet to be seriously tested—as in, with the Pacific crossing. Still, we fueled in late July (we carry 40 with our jerry cans included) in British Columbia and did not refill until two months later, after passage, after 7 weeks in San Francisco and several ports after, in mid-September near LA and that was with regular diesel furnace usage.

Canadians need to register their dinghy for the US or they will get hassled. Our dinghy did not need to be registered in Canada. We did not register it before coming to the US. No one mentioned it.

((To be continued: Carol and I thought of so many of these that I’m saving some for later. Also, we thought of a few pieces of advice people gave us that we didn’t heed that DID happen and I’ll mention those later too.))


  1. I really appreciate the knowledge and experience of others but...it is crazy making to get so much conflicting, dogmatic unsolicited advice.

    We just got back from the sailboat show at Annapolis. Met a lot of nice folks but the experienced cruisers are definitely an opinionated lot.

    I guess my take on it is that I might seek counsel, but ultimately I have to make up my own mind...and experience the consequences of my decision-good or bad.

    Thanks for this thought provoking post.

  2. Great post and great sentiment. I am probably guilty of occasional "shoulds" though after hanging with you guys and a couple of other very cool cruisers I think I'm weened of it. Personally I insta-translate those shoulds to less directive statements when I hear them. I don't like to be told what to do either but recognize that quite a few (otherwise cool) sailors tend to bond this way.

  3. Love this post. It's funny how whenever a project comes up that everyone is an expert. The hard part is when people actually get offended that you didn't take their advice. Always a tricky situation.

  4. Well said.

    Keep em' coming and good luck with that Pacific Crossing.

  5. You really shouldn't post my comments, they are sooooooooo inane. Oh, here is a really good one. You should never sail out of sight of land. That's just crazy, Columbus was lucky.



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