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What’s your plan?
No plan can turn out to be a bad plan
January 2022

uccessful boating depends on a good plan. Better said, successful boating requires many plans. Even though boating is a fun recreational activity, planning is still required to reduce risk and harvest as much enjoyment as possible. Sir Ernest Shackleton said, “excitement is caused by a lack of planning”. So, here are some thoughts to keep your sailing excitement at an appropriate level.

What do you want to do?
The absolute first plan should have been formulated before you purchased your boat. Meaning, what are you going to do/use your boat for? The boat for weekends in the Neuse differs greatly from the boat for a Bermuda trip. A floating condo differs from an Oriental Dingy Club racer.


How big? Sail or power? Lack of forethought might beget you the wrong boat. Know thyself and have a plan before you buy. The right-for-you boat will provide the recreation you want and deserve.

Who is taking care of your boat?
What is the plan for preventative maintenance? Who is changing the engine oil every 300 hours? Who is washing the boat every month?

Some boaters hire someone to do this. Some do it themselves (and even enjoy it). Some do it once a decade, maybe.

Where is the maintenance logbook? Preventative maintenance is a long distance race. And, failing to keep up can be expensive and frustrating. Owners must keep pace and look after their investment. Owners who stay ahead, reap the rewards of trouble free sailing.

How are we getting underway?
When leaving the dock, get the most upwind line last. The second to last line removed should be the one keeping the boat straight in the slip. Or, to get the lazy lines, are you going to idle forward against a spring line aft to pin the boat against a wharf? A poor plan well executed is often better than a fumbled up perfect plan. Check out the Towndock’s Captain’s Blog, April 2019, Getting Underway.

What are we doing today?
“We are just going out to have a sail.” If the plan is to just sail around, your plan lacks detail. Become a better sailor by challenging yourself and your crew. Sail some circles around a day mark or buoy. Work on your sail trim by sailing a course: AC 1, Garbacon and back to Oriental 1 (SC 1). Try a figure 8. A few crew overboard maneuvers would be good. Switch positions on the boat. Gather some self discipline and have a plan to push your skills forward. The investment will be rewarding and worthwhile.

Are you going somewhere big?
Better have a really good plan. Check out the Captain’s Blog for June 2020, Stubby Pencil Planning.


How are we coming back?
Think ahead of your boat. Check out Returning to your slip, Captain’s Blog, Oct 2019.

Headed back to the house; how are we leaving the boat?
What is the switchology plan? Is the battery charger on? Household outlets on or off? Is your shore power cord dangling in the water? Are your boat poles below? Are you happy with the fenders?

A working automatic bilge pump can make life more pleasant.

I recommend a walk-away checklist to ensure everything gets proper attention. Contact me for a copy of all my checklists.

The ending
My favorite quote is from my wife Julie (flexibility advocate). “There is Plan A, Plan B and what really happens”.

This observation is absolutely true in most phases of boat planning.

Fair Winds
Captain John Rahm

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Captain's Blog on TownDock.net is all about making your time on the water enjoyable. Captain John Rahm teaches sailing and boat handling at Third Wave Sailing.