It’s difficult to get out on the water this time of year. Small boat advisories are the rule, rather than the exception, and besides that, it’s cold!

So most boat owners in New England are sentenced to being armchair captains until the spring arrives. But this is the best time of year to begin planning where you want to go this summer. 

Is this going to be the summer you take the family over to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard for a long weekend? Maybe you want to motor out to Provincetown for some great seafood on the docks? Or how about a week’s voyage along the Maine seacoast, stopping in at Damariscotta or Boothbay or Bar Harbor?

While the cold winds blow and the snow flies during February and March, you can stay warm and toasty inside while planning a summer trip to a destination near or far.

But your cruising plans should begin with a safety audit of your boat and its gear. Is your vessel ready for a long trip? Now’s the time to begin planning.

Hopefully, your boat is already oriented to safety. Do you have the appropriate Personal Floatation Devices for all aboard? A throw-ring in case someone goes overboard? How about a working flare gun? If you are planning any kind of extended trip longer than a few hours in duration, you need all three in case of emergency. Along with a good knife and a roll of duck tape.

For ocean cruising, your electronics need to be in order. Your helm might be connected to a Garmin GPS system, but do you have a backup? Your smart phone ought to have some basic GPS capabilities in case your boat’s systems conk out. A charged sell phone is also good back up if your marine VHF radio goes on the blink. 

You’ll need these connections with the outside world to keep track of changing weather conditions, marine alerts, to contact and book marina slips and moorings, and much more. 

Planning for any kind of extended cruise also means calling up the Department of Redundancy Department.  Think of all the little parts that make your boat run smoothly that might need replacement: belts, plugs, wires and any other mechanical parts. You should have these and more stowed on board, just in case.

Going cruising means making sure you have ample supplies of food, water and fuel on board. Sure, your cruising plan might call for overnighting at a different marina slip every night, but people get hungry and thirsty all day long. You need to anticipate and plan for any occasion.

And leaving your comfortable home port for several days means venturing out into unknown weather conditions. Is your boat stocked with enough blankets, rain gear and extra clothes to comfortably protect all your passengers? 

Right now, while the cold winds blow and your boat is safely stored in port, is the time to begin planning your summer cruises, and jotting down the things you’ll need to ensure the upcoming boating season is both enjoyable … and safe … for your family and passengers.

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