Before you cast off, plan your cruise carefully with a detailed itinerary and a well-researched location.
Where to go
Your first decision will be choosing a cruising destination. Start building a cruise file—either an electronic folder, loose-leaf binder or both—for places you want to visit.
Once you’ve collected a considerable amount of information about your chosen destination, talk to someone who’s been there. You’ll gain valuable knowledge from others’ first-hand accounts. Cruising clubs, yacht clubs and boating organizations can provide a wealth of information.
Next, study several cruising guides for your target area. Guides will help you choose marinas, anchorages and interesting stops along the way. You’ll find a host of information on where to find fuel, laundries, groceries, restaurants, museums and other attractions as well as a list of required charts.
If you are planning to cruise outside the U.S., become familiar with entry and exit costs and procedures as well as what cruising and length-of-stay permits are required. For more information, check out the US Department of State website.
What to do
Planning your itinerary can be as enjoyable as cruising itself. After digesting your chosen cruising guides, make a list of places and things you’d like to see. Get local advice when possible.
Be aware that although many marinas operate on a first-come first-served basis, others take reservations, so plan accordingly, especially for popular destinations. Busy marinas may take call-ahead reservations, but if you don’t have a reservation, plan on docking early to secure space. For longer accommodations, you’ll want to make your reservations months in advance, especially during the busy season.
When preparing an itinerary, time constraints take primary importance. Most of us don’t have unlimited cruising time, so we must match our cruise itinerary to our timetable. When planning your time, use a cruising speed that’s 70 percent of your typical cruising speed. If your powerboat typically cruises at 15 knots, plan on an average speed of 10.5 knots. When making nonstop passage on a sailboat, plan on 100 nautical miles in 24 hours to allow for adverse current and winds.
Allow for bad weather days, perhaps one a week, in your cruise schedule. If you don’t need the extra days, you can use them to extend your stay in a favorite spot.
Give yourself at least a full day of rest and reflection at the end of your cruise, so you don’t return to your regular life exhausted from your travels.
To learn more about planning a cruise, take the USPS Cruise Planning Course at a squadron near you.