Lessons from the First Five Days on the Water

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On July 7th we left Brunswick, Georgia. We were bound for Savannah along the Intracoastal Waterway.

When we left the dock there were a lot of unknowns. Would we have enough water? Would we survive the heat? How would Augustus adjust? Would we struggle with anchoring?

Well, we made it to Savannah, but not without acquiring new knowledge and a few surprises. Here are our takeaways from those days on the water and nights on the hook.


Heat on a Boat

Going into this trip we were definitely concerned about the high temps. First off, here is how we manage heat at dock versus off the grid.

Cooling the Boat at Dock

We have a portable 8,000 BTU air conditioner on the boat. We run this when connected to shower power at the dock. Although it doesn’t seem like much, everyone takes notice when it’s not running (even the cat).

Cooling the Boat Off the Grid

We have a decent battery bank, but not the kind of power you need to continuously run an air conditioner. Off the grid we rely on the breeze and 12-volt fans to keep the air moving.

The Reality of Staying Cool Without AC

To our surprise, the waterway in Georgia in the middle of July wasn’t unbearable.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s hot. But instead of feeling like I was on hell’s doorstep, I felt more like I was down the street.

The sun was shining, but the breeze was plentiful. The shade in the cockpit kept us cool, along with some decent headwear.

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The nights were even better. As the sun sank each evening, we were met with a lovely land breeze.

The breeze catchers over our hatches pushed the cool air down and through the boat. I couldn’t believe when I had to reach for my blanket one night (gasp!)


Boat Wardrobe Choices

After the first day on the water, my cotton clothes were sweaty, stinky and covered in sunscreen. One look at them and I decided to bring out a swimsuit top and swim leggings for the rest of the trip.

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I rinsed out my swimsuit top in the shower leaving less stinky clothes. Swim leggings cut down on the sunscreen usage.

I also grabbed the coolest, breathable tank I could find for when I was getting a little too much sun.

After day two, Ross opted to not even worry with a shirt until the afternoon sun came around.

I’m still looking for the best alternatives for less stinky clothes so feel free to offer tips in the comments!


Conserving Water

Water on a boat is gold. And I will be the first to admit I am terrible at water conservation.

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In five days we used 70 gallons of water. Oops.

That’s an average of 14 gallons a day, twice my daily goal for us.

Our Main Uses of Water

  • drinking/making iced tea

  • making ice

  • cooking and cleaning

  • showering

  • flushing the toilets

  • watering the cat (he gets thirsty too!)

Adjustments to Save Water

After a couple of days we made some changes.

1. Saltwater rinse the dishes on the sugar scoop. (Meaning I had to quit being lazy!)

2. Consider water needs when strategizing meals (cooking and clean up).

3. Use seawater to flush the toilet.

4. I only washed my hair every other day.

We used roughly 16 gallons the first and second day on the water. Then we reduced to about 12 gallons. Definitely an improvement.

I’m sure water will be a challenge for us without a water maker. Here’s hoping we are up for the challenge!


A Cruising Life is a Healthier Life

At least when it comes to eating! I can’t believe how much better (and how much less) we ate while on the water.

Here are a few things that contributed to this welcome change.

Limited Resources

If you don’t feel like cooking you can’t run out and grab a pizza. So if you want a decent meal, that's motivation to plan ahead.

Breakfast featured our usual morning oatmeal (with all the fixings).

For lunch and dinner, I thought about our fresh ingredients on hand and built a meal from there.

Staying Busy

Being occupied most of the day leads to less time snacking. When it was meal time we ate, and only snacked when we were actually hungry.

Looking Forward to Dinner

I was encouraged to make dinner an exciting part of the trip. Sort of a celebration of cooler temps and a successful anchoring at the end of each day.

I aimed for tasty meals that were still light on water usage.

This included a veggie/herb blend with couscous one night and a quinoa Mexican salad another. Yummy!

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Early to Bed

Being in the sun and on the water left us exhausted at the end of the day. Instead of watching a movie, snacking, and reaching for another glass of wine, we would shower and head to bed.

I’m starting to understand why ‘Cruiser’s Midnight’ (which I think is 9pm) is a thing.


Things Break

Our second to last evening before reaching Savannah, Ross realized our starboard engine didn’t have any propulsion. We discovered this while trying to drop anchor for the third time. Perplexed about why the boat was turning when in reverse.

This was a frustrating point, as we had just started to dial in our anchoring communication.

What We Learned

Things are going to happen out on the water and we need to be able to stay calm, breathe, and deal with them.

The next day, things went much smoother anchoring.

Being short an engine was a challenge, but it was manageable once we understood the problem.

Hats off to Captain Ross for docking us and getting us in the travel lift in Savannah on one engine!


Preparation is Key

Whether you’re crossing an ocean or going a few nautical miles down the ICW, it’s important to do your research.

I'm thankful we live in an age where resources like Active Captain and the Waterway Guide exist. We use this software to read up on our route, anchorages, and marinas before a trip.

Real-Life Planning

We had to transit a shallow, narrow area of the waterway so encouragingly named “Hell Gate”.

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Ross did a lot of reading to prepare us for this. He read boater comments and downloaded Bob423’s route*.

He also researched the current, weather and tides to make sure we could enter at the best time. With one engine we would need the current with us as long as possible.

With his gained knowledge, it was a piece of cake, but without it, we could have easily run aground.


Nature Rocks

The best part of being on the anchor is finding lovely little anchorages to drop the hook for the night. No one around, just the sound of the birds, and maybe a dolphin's blowhole.

Connecting with nature this way is both calming and healing to the soul.

Even the storm clouds, though ominous, were beautiful over the Georgia marshes.

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This trip gave us just a taste of why a lot of people we meet say the 999 problems with owning a boat are worth it.

We can’t wait to experience more of those moments.


What were your biggest surprises and challenges the first time you headed out on your boat?

If you’re considering this lifestyle, what are some things you are concerned or excited about?

*Bob423 is a downloadable ICW route by an experienced boater that you can overlay on your chartpotter or other marine charting application.