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[Yacht Selection] [Equipping] [Career Status] [Shake-down] [Mail] [Finances]
Setting off to sail around the world has required a lot of boat and personal preparations - we will try to share some of the more important ones below.

Yacht selection

Besides preparing our own skills, this was the most important step, since the boat has affected our cruising experiences in many ways.  Our most important criteria were:

  • A good reputation
  • Big enough for us to feel comfortable 
  • Small enough for us to feel we could handle comfortably
  • Affordable (around $80,000 in 1988)

Based on that, we found a 1975 Shannon 38' ketch that, with the addition of various items, satisfied all of our criteria. Look at Lessons Learned to see what else we should have considered!


Having read many of the cruising guides and books available at the time we insisted on installation of several items when we bought the boat, and then added equipment as we got ready to leave the US. Getting Ready summarizes how our trusty yacht was equipped when we left the USA in 1992.

Career status/ plans

Bob had reached a plateau as a Senior Engineer with IBM and was offered an early-out package as part of their early 90's downsizing - he took it.  It meant no income for 5 years, and then retirement pension payments.

Judi was at the peak of her earning power as a Consultant with a defense contractor.  She resigned, but they gave her a year's leave of absence in case she changed her mind.

So, we left with no steady income and adequate savings for 3 years of cruising.

Preparatory cruising, shake-down cruise

Besides preparing the boat, we attempted to prepare ourselves, in terms of knowledge and skills.  What we did and how worthwhile it was includes:

  • Shake-down cruise to Bermuda - Judi sailed to Bermuda as crew in the Marion-Bermuda race and Bob followed, on Long Passages, with crew.  We returned with 3 additional crew members.  We practiced heavy weather tactics in 30-40 knots in the Gulf Stream, learned to NOT try to motor into strong winds, and countless other factoids.
very worthwhile trip for people contemplating extended off-shore cruising.
  • Shake-down Cruise Around DelMarVa - 1 year before leaving the US we joined a 4-day 'race' from Annapolis to the C&D Canal, down the Delaware river, around to the south end of the Chesapeake and back to Annapolis.
very worthwhile  This was our first 2-handed trip in the ocean
  • PADI training - We both obtained our PADI scuba diving certificates from Sea Colony in Annapolis
very worthwhile for pleasure and boat chores
  • Coast Guard License - Bob obtained his 10-ton '6-pack' license from Coast Guard Baltimore.  This has proved of marginal utility, and based on expense and value
Not necessary unless a person plans to operate charter craft.
  • Off-shore Course - John Neal and Mahina Productions offers a 2-day course which covers all topics from equipment purchases to first aid.
very worthwhile
The notebook they provided has become dog-eared from use.
  • Safety-at-Sea - These seminars offered at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis were great for raising awareness of safety issues and equipment.

Mail service

We would never have believed the amount of time, energy, and money we would spend on receiving and sending mail while cruising.  We signed up with St Brendan's Isle in Florida and have been very happy with their service, with only an occasional hiccup.  Based on discussions with other cruisers we believe that using a professional outfit is the way to go, unless one is going for a very short period.  This is a typical monthly haul, recently received in Singapore. We pay $US14/month plus shipping costs, which typically is $25-40 for a monthly batch of mail in the Americas, $50-80 in Europe/Asia, see lessons learned.


We prepared ourselves by leaving completely debt-free and with enough in the bank for 3 years of cruising at $US25,000/year.  Take a peek at our cruising costs to see what it REALLY cost.


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