A Mindset for Long Passages

Preparing for a long passage isn't just provisioning, topping up the fuel and checking out boat systems. Part of the preparation is in our heads. We need to prepare mentally for a long passage. An overnight or a couple of days isn't usually a big deal, but planning to be at sea for weeks or even months is a whole different story. long passage ahead

The differences between living at sea on passage versus hanging out in a marina are huge. I'm not talking about the conveniences of the marina, I'm talking more about the social interaction, the proximity to help if you need it and our general mindset about heading off across an ocean. Nine of Cups always seems so big when we're trying to maneuver her in a tight marina. When we're at sea, Cups seems so tiny and insignificant in the middle of a vast ocean. We're totally alone … just we two and Nine of Cups. Sometimes it makes us gulp; other times we've never felt so free.

Having crossed a few oceans now, we're more prepared for what to expect … the good, the bad and the ugly. Though ocean passages are pretty unpredictable, we've at least dealt with the day-to-day issues and know that they can be handled. Part of becoming comfortable with long passages is getting into the swing of things. For the first few days, we might be seasick and we always seem tired. That passes quickly. Soon, we're in sync with the rock and roll and pitch of the boat and we take it in stride. We get into a schedule of short, usually restful, naps. We cook, read, do chores, chat and life aboard becomes “normal”. Having experienced all this makes the upcoming passage all the easier to handle. And of course, now that we're convinced the world is actually round and we won't fall off the edge, there's a little less angst about leaving.

flat earth

So, how do we get into a long passage mindset? We know some folks who come in for a week and decide to take off immediately and just go. For us, it's a process. Part of the process is the ritual of provisioning and fueling up and making sure the boat is shipshape. We set a departure date a week or so out and then work towards that date getting both the boat and the crew prepared to take off.


Our longest non-stop passage to date was in 2007 – Ascension Island in the South Atlantic to Charleston, South Carolina on a diagonal route. It spanned 42 days and about 4,200 nautical miles. It was a long, long passage. Yet, as we neared the “C” buoy off the entrance to the Ashley-Cooper Rivers leading to Charleston, we felt a certain amount of reluctance and regret. Our passage had the usual ups and downs, but in general, life aboard was good and now we were back in port. Surprisingly, we found we needed a similar mindset transition to re-enter civilization. Who would have thunk it?

Now that the chainplates are completed and the new rigging is being installed, we're hoping for a reasonable weather window soon. With a little help from Neptune, we're hoping to leave Cape Town within the next week. We're in our “getting ready to leave” countdown mode as I write and looking forward to a new adventure.