by Doug O'Heir
(from the Ultimatum, volume 3, number 2, Spring, 1998)
Using an Ultimate 20 as a cruising sailboat may seem a bit Spartan, but when you start out originally as a canoeist and sea kayaker, or cruising in smaller sailboats, the space in a U20 seems almost luxurious. My home waters (the Penobscot Bay of midcoast Maine) have an abundance of harbors and islands that are ideal for small boat cruising, and my goal each summer is to explore as many of them as possible.
The advantage of a U20 over heavier cruising sailboats is that you can sail most places rather than resorting to a motor, an unfortunately not uncommon occurrence in a fully loaded cruising sailboat. A lighter sport boat will not handle heavy weather as well as a full keel cruiser, but you can keep an eye on the weather forecast and head for a secure harbor in strong winds.
In a habit learned from sea kayaking, I have stuck with the plan of packing gear into small compartmented dry bags or storage bins that can be easily stowed in the Ultimate 20. I also find that having portable gear gives me a continuing reason to reduce the number of unnecessary items, especially if I have to move them from boat to truck and back again. A U20 can also be quickly stripped of portable gear in preparation for racing. Several alternatives are available for packing gear on the U20, and a few are homemade since I own an industrial sewing machine that can handle heavy cloth and vinyl:
• Laundry Baskets. Use a similar size as came with the U20 for beneath-the-cockpit storage. Bins that are slightly smaller and taller fit well when pushed down the quarter berths.
• Grocery carry bags (made from synthetic mesh or vinyl) available at any chain supermarket, usually costing $3.99. Check a few stores to see which brand suits your needs best.
• Sea kayaking dry bags available from marine stores or camping stores. Clear vinyl ones allow you to see the contents of a bag.
• Clear plastic barrels, available at a wholesale club for $5.99 and filled with Utz’s or Snyder’s Pretzels. Once the pretzels are gone, they have a screw-on lid and clear walls to allow you to see the contents.
• Pillow bags made with Sunbrella and a Velcro closure (homemade). They can do double duty as clothing storage and as cushions and backrests about the boat.
• Flat bags made with clear vinyl and a Velcro closure (homemade). I sewed these up and found the 10" x 14" size very handy for carrying books, tools, spare parts, etc. because I could see the contents easily.
Despite trying to keep weight and equipment to a minimum, there are a few items that I consider important, if not essential:
• A boom tent greatly adds to the livability of a small cabin. A simple one can be constructed with a blue Poly tarp that goes over the boom and is attached to the sides of the hull with suction cups. A local canvas shop can also sew up a nicer piece constructed out of Sunbrella or some other UV resistant acrylic.
• Mosquito netting for the hatch door is another necessity since salt water mosquitoes have a voracious bite. Netting for the ends of the boom tent would be a nice touch, but I don’t feel like going to the trouble of sewing it on.
• Ground tackle. My inventory includes 3 anchors, reflecting my mistrust of relying solely on one anchor. Given our rocky coastline, 10 foot tidal range, anchorages in narrow creeks, and foggy nights which can take away any sense of position, I usually set up two anchors in a Bahamian moor. I sometimes additionally use Rode Riders with a sentinel weight to improve the apparent scope on the rode.
• An inflatable kayak to serve as a dinghy. We have few docks or slips in Maine, and a dinghy is a necessity to reach shore from an anchor or mooring site. Rather than towing a dinghy, I opted to carry an inflatable kayak and paddle in a bag (Seyvlor Tahiti). The kayak is fairly small for two adults, but serviceable. It folds into a large nylon bag that I constructed.
• Nylon or synthetic clothing is preferred for the ease in drying. It is not so crucial for a day or overnight trip, but cotton clothing takes forever to dry on a small boat in inclement weather. Camping catalogues now are filled with shirts, shorts, and pants that are suitable for this purpose.
Lighting and electronics
Lighting on a small boat is problematic. I carry oil and propane lamps for anchor lights and for using in the boom tent where there is plenty of ventilation. I will occasionally use them in the cabin, but I have a healthy respect for carbon monoxide and the fumes from kerosene and propane lamps in small, enclosed spaces. A good alternative is using battery headlamps which allow for reading at night.
Note that I carry only battery navigation lights which are quite small and generally inadequate. I would only sail at night in a dire emergency.
All my electronic gear stays in a plastic container with a tight fitting, gasketed screw lid, and I am fastidious about keeping it dry. So far, I haven’t had any failures or corrosion with these items.
Corrosion and dampness
All items need to be examined for their ability to withstand marine corrosion and dampness. I am impressed by the persistence of rust and mildew in attacking almost everything on board, and that’s probably another reason to put most of your gear in portable bags that can be removed from the boat. My worst damage has occurred with items stashed in a remote hatch and retrieved many months later...covered with mildew and crud.
Stick to the essentials
I read a comment somewhere which rings true: "Every trailerable boat needs to be put on a diet now and then." Portable gear also gives you the opportunity to review your equipment and weed out the unessential items. I am sometimes astounded at the end of the summer when I start clearing out nooks and crannies of the boat after a few long cruises and find a small mountain of gear that is both musty and unused.
The following list (organized by bags, naturally) may serve as a good starter for your packing, but the contents are adjusted to the waters of Maine where summer water temperatures rarely climb above 55°. Clothing amounts often are calculated for two sailors on board, so make adjustments accordingly. Also, the food list is incomplete and reflects my bland Irish palate. I’d be disappointed if others didn’t bring along more exciting fare.
COCKPIT / LAZARETTE
LUNCH & SNACK BAG