Bluewater voyaging demands a level of self-sufficiency that requires not only having the necessary replacement hardware and spares but also being able to locate them quickly in the event of an emergency. Organizing and storing the separate categories (tools, spare parts and hardware) is only part of the solution. Remembering where you stored them is another problem altogether, particularly if you are fatigued.
Associated with this is the necessity to get to all the boat’s systems quickly (plumbing, junction boxes, through-hulls, etc.) in the event of an emergency, which can limit the useful stowage areas considerably. While there may be no such thing as a one-hour boat job, it is possible to prevent the search for the proper tool or part from becoming an archeological dig. Unlike humans, computers have such excellent memories (most of the time) that their use has become common even on small voyaging craft, making it possible to create excellent printed stowage, system and emergency plans for any vessel. By locating these in a suitably visible location (I chose the inside of a food locker door) and covering them with a piece of clear acrylic to prevent damage, the time spent creating them can repay itself manyfold, and the process will make you much more familiar with all your boat’s systems.
For my boat Infinity, I obtained one of the original sales brochures for the model, showing the interior layout, and along with the boat’s paperwork, I received a specification sheet that included a top view of the deck plan. These are available for all boats from the dealer, builder, nautical architect or off the Internet (in the case of older vessels) in one form or another. For sailboats, there is always a detailed deck plan, as the nautical architect must determine winch and hardware layouts to prevent gear conflicts.
If you scan these plans into a digital format, you can view them on a computer, add labels and print out a hard copy. If plans are available via the Internet, then they are already in digital format. While the procedure explained here is for PC format computers, it will be much the same for Macintosh users. If you are familiar with the graphics tools in Microsoft Word, creating stowage and emergency plans for your boat will only take a short review of the procedure.
Scanning the original plans
Using a scanner and medium-resolution (720 dpi, same as the maximum resolution of my printer), I scanned the printed interior plan, the deck plan, the profile (side view of the hull), and sail plans. Sail plans can be valuable when new sails or modifications need to be ordered.
I made three stowage and emergency plans: a small abovedecks plan that showed labeled locations of gear and emergency equipment, including the sail areas and inventory, and anchor rode lengths for the bow and stern anchor. A more detailed interior diagram has the locations of boat systems (shutoffs, breaker panels, seacocks), emergency gear (flares, flashlights, EPIRB, bilge pumps, medical kit), tools and spares, stowage of permanent nature (sails, charts, etc.), including the location and capacity of the water and fuel tanks.
Added to this are the general boat specifications, including the builder’s identification number (usually found in a stern locker), LOA, beam, draft, height of the mast above the waterline (including the VHF antenna), displacement, and total water and fuel capacities. I have found that all of this information is a great aid to the crew (particularly in the case of an emergency), and it has become a valuable set of reminders for me as well. I use a different text color for each major category so it is easy to locate any particular item. These plans, combined with the stowage of like items together close to where they are used (tools and engine spares close to the engine, emergency gear grouped near the companionway, etc.), have made life more convenient. A third replaceable belowdecks cruising-stores diagram with food, drinks and supply locations penciled in functions well for coastal or offshore passages. This is posted in on a bulkhead in the galley.
Making up these diagrams takes an evening or two but saves hours of frustration digging through lockers. An offshoot of these plans has been that they provide a quicker way to familiarize crewmembers to the boat. Special thanks goes to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s research vessel Western Flyer for the concept of using simple colored shapes to denote emergency gear (created with the drawing tool shapes in Word). After I was done, I decided to make up a couple of short laminated pages of text explaining how to use the heads (Infinity has two and they operate slightly differently) at least in theory reducing that duty of the captain. Parts is parts, but with sailboats no two parts seem to be alike, and being able to find the right one can be a lifesaver.