Why we make lists

Guest perspectve/Marilyn Brigham

I make lists – shopping lists, birthday lists, Christmas lists, to-do lists. They keep me organized and focused, and I enjoy a feeling of some accomplishment when the task has been completed and all the items have been crossed off. But, early-on in our cruising, I’d drawn the line when it comes to boating – no lists, no to-dos. Boating is about relaxing and having fun, I decided: You can forget your cares and obligations, and isn’t that wonderful?

Food for the dog is definitely on the list.

Well, it’s more complicated than that. A boat is a big responsibility, whether a small craft or a cruising vessel. Leave the mooring line unsecured, a hatch open, the sails uncovered, or the engine batteries in the “on” position, and the consequences, discovered next time you’re onboard, can be severe or, at the very least, inconvenient. A weekend cruise on your yacht can be wonderful, but less so if you’ve forgotten the water, your favorite condiment, or, worse yet, the key ingredient of your favorite cocktail.

I can’t imagine there’s a boat owner who hasn’t forgotten to do something on the boat before leaving the harbor. More times than I can count – after we’re well on our way home from the harbor – my husband or I have asked, “Did you remember to close the forward hatch?” Or, “Did you turn the batteries off?” Neither one of us seemed to have a clear recollection.

Did we return to the dinghy, crank up the engine, ride out to the boat to check, or do we chance it that all will be well when we return to the boat the next time we went aboard? More often than not, we went back to check. Yes, we had closed the hatch cover and turned off the batteries, but we had neglected to secure the boom – and I’d left my reading glasses aboard.

Enough! I decided I’d better create a couple of lists. I’ve made a Cruising Check List of all the things we’d need to do to secure the boat after taking it out, and a Provisioning List, with all the ingredients required to eat well.

The Cruising Check List is a comprehensive list of everything that should be done on our boat before leaving. It’s enclosed in a protective plastic sleeve and is stowed in the navigation table. We’ve developed the habit of reviewing the Check List before we leave the boat after every cruise, no matter its duration. We read it aloud to one another and wait for verbal confirmation.

  • Secure to mooring,  Check
  • Portholes/hatches closed and locked,  Check
  • Sails tied and covered,  Check
  • “Wheel and winch covers affixed” , Check

And so it goes, through the list to “All personal items removed” and “Weatherboard in place and locked, ” the last item on the List.

We don’t have a power source while we’re not on the boat, so all food must be removed after each cruise. So each time we cruise, all food gets packed up from home and then unpacked and stored in the galley. More than once I’ve forgotten to bring the mustard for the ham-and-cheese sandwiches; worse, I’ve forgotten to buy ice cubes for the happy hour. A friend told us that he was responsible for provisioning for a cruise and forgot to bring any bottled water. That was the last time he was charged with that task.

So, though I’d prefer not to, I resorted to developing another list, my Provisioning List. I have this as an Excel spreadsheet, and I can print off as many copies as we have cruises. The list has a box at each item as to whether the item needs to be purchased or taken from my refrigerator or kitchen shelves. The item also has a box next to it to insure that once purchased or identified, it’s been packed for the cruise.

The Provisioning List starts with mandatory foods to have onboard: two gallons fresh water, snack items, soda, etc. Then each meal is planned out and broken down to its component parts. The items that must either be purchased, or those that come from my pantry, are isolated. A dinner of shish kebabs on the grill, with rice pilaf, salad, fruit and cookies, wine and coffee, breaks down as:

  • Beef
  • Peppers: red & green
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Red onion
  • Rice pilaf
  • Olive oil
  • Water
  • Packaged lettuce
  • Salad dressing double-duty as a meat marinade
  • Blueberries
  • Cookies
  • Red zinfandel
  • Coffee
  • Water

We’ve found the lists to be liberating in their own right. If I go through my Provisioning List properly, it assures me I have all the food I need to keep my crew and guests fed and happy. That’s very reassuring when you’re spending the night on the hook in Tarpaulin Cove in the Elizabeth Islands, where the closest store is in Woods Hole or Falmouth on the mainland.

And we no longer have to query one another about the possibility of an open hatch when we’ve completed our cruise and are homeward bound. The lists provide the peace-of-mind that makes cruising that much more enjoyable. When they have our backs, we can just concentrate on how much fun we’re having.

Marilyn Brigham, along with her co-captain/spouse Paul, sails Selkie, a Catalina 445, out of Quissett Harbor, Falmouth, Mass. She is a lifelong sailor and a current member of both the Quissett and Cottage Park yacht clubs. We hope she tells us about the 2017 sailing season in upcoming issues of Points East.