Ideal Boat Features
The purpose of this section is to answer, in a systemmatic way, the most
often asked questions that we receive from readers as we travel along.
Specifically: what are the boat features that we find most valuable to our
cruise, or that we would add to our boat to make the adventure better.
These features have been divided into several sections to make access
Not every boat or boater needs everything we've listed below. Remember,
we're on a 70' power boat.
- Cockpit. By the time the trip is complete, we will
have docked (and undocked) more than 100 times. It is critical to have
easy line handling. If two people are handing the boat, one is
at the helm, and the other probably first handled the bow line, then one of
the two people need to scamper to the stern to secure a second line.
With crosswinds, or currents, the stern can drift and it is critical to have
easy line handling. The cockpit design allows open areas for passing
lines or snagging of pilings or cleats.
- Walk-around Decks. Again, so much of this trip is
docking and undocking. Walk-around decks would make this easier for
us, since now we have only a catwalk which is a little precarious,
especially if there is much boat motion. Walk-around decks would
enable easy placement and removal of fenders and lines in perfect safety.
- Comfortable and Functional Helmseat. We have a
slightly strange helmseat arrangement that provides a place for both of us
to sit, but not to sit and reach the controls. A good helmseat should
accommodate two people (could be two separate seats), provide excellent
visibility, easy access to normal and heavily used controls, and provide
- Bug-Free Outdoor Area. We're salt-water boaters for
the most part, and the Great Lakes caught us by surprise with regard to
bugs. They're here by the billions. Often we've not been able to be
outside because we have no screened area. For day-to-day living
that would be a big plus. In addition, screens for every port are a
- Bow Thruster. Almost as valuable as having another
- Shaft Spurs. Spurs are special
heavy duty cutters on each shaft located near the props. If a line or
rope is about to become wrapped around a shaft, the cutters will reduce it
to short and harmless pieces. Very useful, and saves a diving trip
with an axe.
- Cleats. Pleanty of large and
strong cleats spaced at intervals along the fill length of both sides of the
yacht. We're adding four more cleats to the Interlude, two on each
- Winch on the stern rail.
We're adding one as soon as we get back, probably a two speed manual
winch. Often we need a little more leverage than we have without some
- External compressed Air Jacks.
Many boats have air compressors. I suggest having a quick-release
fitting on the starboard and port sides so that an airhose can be used on
the dock for filling bike tires, fenders, etc.
- Dual fuel filters on each engine. There is nothing
worse than loosing an engine while underway. Loosing an engine because
of a clogged fuel filter is only a semi-avoidable problem. You can
have an acceptably clean fuel filter when you leave and pull a lot of dirt,
algae, etc. through it, and clog it while underway (We have not had that
problem). More likely this is a problem that creeps up on
you. Gradually the filter clogs, then the engine stops.
Having a second filter in parallel with the first is a great solution.
Even if an engine starts to starve for fuel, I have enough time to go below
and switch fuel filters and restore the engine before it fails
completely. Then at the next port, I change the dirty filter, and a
new backup is ready for a future use. I also have vacuum gauges on
each fuel line. If the vacuum exceeds 30psi, it's time to change
the filter. That gives me some notice and as a result, we've had no
problems on this boat. Talk to be about our former boat which did not
have these features!
- Parallel Battery Switch for Each Engine. We have
four batteries grouped in twos. One battery in each group is for an
engine start, the second is for one of the generator starters and as a house
battery. Our starting procedure is (1) generator, (2) starboard
engine, (3) port engine, in that order. On cold mornings the huge Detroit
Diesel 12V92s start hard, and I can parallel two batteries to the starter
circuit by holding a momentary switch on the helm. This added capacity
makes starting a snap.
- Oil Management System. Interlude requires about 42
gallons of oil in its engines and generators. An oil management system
enables oil to be pumped out of and into each of these motors through a
central oil plumbing system. Ours even has a 25 gallon reservoir for
fresh oil so that as oil is required it is simply pumped where it is needed.
This is a lot less messy and very functional since oil is an every day
concern while aboard passagemaking.
- Chart Plotter tied to the GPS. If there is one
thing that has reduced uncertainty on this trip, it is the continual display
of our precise location on a suitably scaled chart of the area. At any
given minute we know where we are. Each day we plot our course
for the next day, and then when we leave we have a roadmap to follow.
In unfamiliar waters, where inlets are difficult to spot, channels not well
marked, and depths difficult to estimate, the ability to place the ship on a
chart is invaluable. We have an onboard computer with CRTs at both
helms and they are tied to the Northstar DGPS. Charts are supplied on CDs
and loaded in the computer. It is a fabulous combination.
As a backup we have the same software loaded on a laptop that is connected
to a battery operated Magellan GPS. It is totally portable, and
operates independently of ship's power. We've used it a couple of
times. also use the laptop to do our planning, that's a convenience,
because I can move it into the salon and be part of the action while I'm
working. The software we use is Nobletec's Navigation Suite.
- Radar. We don't use radar primarily to find our way
in the fog or dark. We use radar to (1) spot and track weather, and
(2) for ranging--how far are we from shore, from another boat, etc.
Good radar adds substantially to the comfort factor aboard ship.
- Day-to-Day Telephone. I wish we had a good
suggestion here. We have handheld cell phones (AT&T's
one-rate plan) which conceptually is the way to go. Unfortunately,
they work less than half the time eventhough they are supposed to switch
from digital to analog automatically and eventhough AT&T assured us of
virtually 100% coverage of the U.S.. At the fringes, they don't work
at all well. We also have a 5 watt analog cellphone with an
antenna mounted very high on the radar arch. It works much better but it is
expensive to use. We also have a Westinghouse direct-to-satellite
phone that always works, but it is prohibitively expensive for day-to-day
- Day-to-Day Fax. The Westinghouse Wavetalk telephone
link works very well with their proprietary software for transmission of
short faxes (three pages or less).
- Day-to-Day Data Link. No suggestions. We beg,
borrow or rent any access to landside telephone lines we can since wireless
doesn't work well. Perhaps half the time you can talk the
dockmaster into using his credit card phone line, or his fax line to upload
or download e-mail. There is almost never the opportunity for more
extensive net browsing.
- ISP. We have been surprised to learn that AOL,
Microsoft Network, Compuserve, etc. don't have toll-free lines serving many
of the more remote locations we've visited. Further, some marinas will
allow you to use their phone lines only for 800 or local calls. We,
luckily, anticipated this, and worked with our ISP (Internet Service
Provider) to get a toll-free number that will work everywhere. We use
Verio, and they're OK but we were notified late in the summer that they are
dropping their 800 access. So much for Verio.
- Don't Bring Too Much. If you have a washer and
dryer on board, you'll be able to wash when needed. If not, almost
every marina has a laundry. Too many clothes and shoes
just get in the way.
- Layers. We have cool mornings that gradually
warm. The pilot house is cool in the morning, but when all the systems
are brought up it creates heat--most of the time we end up in shorts and
- Marinized Refrigerator. We have a standard
refrigerator but hooks have been added to keep the doors shut while underway
in rough seas, and there have been shelf retainers added to keep stuff on
shelves. Its made a big difference when we open a door after a rough
- Crock Pot. Great for
"fixing" dinner while you cruise. Jan has made some
outstanding dinners in the crock pot.
- Washer and Dryer. We have the stacking kind;
they're not big, but we can run a load any time and often do so while we're
- Comfortable Bed. There is enough going against a
good night sleep without fighting the bed, too. Buy the best mattress
you can get.
- Cable Master. Have you ever tried to lug 50 or 75
feet of 50 amp cable. It's a load. Cable Masters are a wonderful
luxury. They electrically dispense power cable at the touch of a switch (I
even have a fob so I can run it from the dock). You dispense just as
much cable as you need, then it retrieves it as well.
- Power Cables. If your boat utilizes 50A, 240V service,
plan to separate your breakers into two banks, and separate critical
functions. Often we've had only 30A 110V service. We have a
splitter adaptor so that we can still use our Cable Masters and the 50A
cable, but our loads are separated so that we can get by on the 30A
service. We have separated salon AC from the water heater and the
range so we can have both on at the same time. Also, have some
additional adaptors available--one night we needed a dryer-type plug with a
ground pigtail--fortunately we had such an adaptor. We also carry two
50 foot, 50A/240V extension cords, and two 50 foot 30A/110V
extensions. One combination or another has gotten us through almost
- Water Filter and Softener. We have a sediment
filter and a water softener that we setup on the dock to supply the boat
with soft water for wash down and for use on the boat. The boat ends
up looking a lot better, we use less soap, and clothes are cleaner, too.
- Mini Blinds. Mini blinds aren't the most beautiful,
but they're functional at the larger ports and windows since they allow you
to control privacy and sun/heat.
- Water Pressure Regulator. We burst a couple of hoses
before I rigged a water pressure regulator for use at dock side. It
reduces water pressure to 40psi and saves hoses. We put the parts
together at a local plumbing store.
- Ozonator. Boats seem to smell. We
purchased an ozonator which generates ozone and it does a wonderful job of
controlling the musty smell on the boat. A great addition for not a
lot of money.