We're in Annapolis.  Preparing for the largest sailboat show in the US.  'Preparing' for most boaters means readying shopping lists, checking seminar schedules and scheduling calendars for social events.

If anyone is like us, before we started cruising we didn't have a clear vision of what we needed.  Now, we have a better idea, and hope to provide some 20/20 clarity to some of our 'boat show' decisions.

Sarah and I were at the Miami boat show where we were bitten hard by the sailing bug - and bought a boat.  We've attended every boat show in Annapolis, one in California and two in Miami since that first trip.

This time, it's different.  We actually 'have' our boat - in Annapolis - and can now shop and look with more discerning eyes on 'boat stuff'.  After 8,700 nautical miles, countless trial and error evaluations of our decisions made, in some cases years ago - I will now tick off an abbreviated report card - most of which you can investigate at a boat show.

Biggest Decision

Antares 44i - A+.  By far, the biggest choice anyone can make is which boat to buy.  I've covered this at length on our blog.  We've made the right choice, and have reconfirmed that by the support of Jeff and Rob post delivery.  No boat is perfect.  Responding to problems is key, and we're pleased.  s/v Escapade will be in the Annapolis boat show this week - and we can't wait to meet other owners.

Big Decisions

Furling vs. Slab Reef - A.  You can get into analysis paralysis on boats.  After 8,700 NM, I can report we are very pleased with our slab reef mainsail.  In our opinion, the biggest difference in 'work' is taking off and putting on the sail cover.  Literally adds 5 mins to deploy and 5 mins to store vs in-mast furling.  For the performance gain, in our opinion it's insignificant.  Our observations:


It's easy - after practice - to reef quickly - single handed.  Steps for us aboard Field Trip are:
  • Ease boat to about 30deg off wind
  • Release main halyard to mark on line
  • Tighten reef to mark on line
  • Resume course

We always raise our main - unless we are sailing dead into the wind.  Short sail, long sail, we have the main up.  Key lesson learned, we unzip our sail cover on the SB side, and then 'roll up' the cover from the aft, keeping the zippers on the Port side.  It's fast, and works great in taking sail cover off and putting it back on.  
Downhaul for Mainsail


We've added 12 more tell tales, 6 on each side of mainsail to better read the wind.  Keeps us busy and it's a blast to maximize performance of our boat.

Solar Panel Shadow.

I learned this from a seasoned (16 year) live aboard.  When at anchor, we always swing our boom out to prevent shadows on solar panels.  While probably not making a huge difference, it does prevent any boom shadows.


The best addition to our mainsail setup was our downhaul.  It works GREAT.  The addition of this line allows us to completely douse the mainsail without going onto the deck to pull down the last 1/4 of the sail by hand.  Key point, you MUST not use this line to force the sail down.  You MUST make sure to keep your track system well lubricated.  Otherwise, you could damage to the cars.

Dinghy Outboard - B.  The Yamaha 2-stroke, 25hp is excellent.  However, I would suggest getting an electric starter.  It can sometimes be a bear to start for Sarah.  We plan on investigating a starter while in Annapolis.

Ground Tackle - A.  The Rocna hasn't let us down - yet.  We've almost entirely been at anchor since owning the boat.  We've never dragged - cross our fingers - in a variety of bottom conditions, winds and large tides.  The Ultra anchor is similar in design and probably as good, if not better (s/v Alberta Crewed has the Ultra).

V3 Satellite Communications - B.  This is a big decision because of cost ($17k+).  We use the V3 all the time when offshore and in remote areas.  The data plans are reasonable.  However, you would have to burn a lot of Globalstar to hit $17k in communication costs.  Is it worth it? - maybe.  For us the answer is 'yes'.  The one caveat... if you don't plan on doing a lot of remote sailing - with no access to cellular signals, it's probably not worth the cost.

Recommendation.  Make sure the V3 is on the inverter.  You don't want to rely on genset for email, internet, or telephone.

Fun Decisions

Dive Gear - B-.  To scuba or snuba.  Unless you have kids aboard or are not a certified diver, I would recommend scuba tanks and a portable gas or electric compressor.  We have our Brownie (bought at Miami boat show) snuba and like it.  The kids love using it, and it's good for friends visiting to experience breathing underwater.  It is essentially a floating compressor with long hoses attached.  You can go down as far as 60 feet.  Elizabeth has tried it (just below the water surface) and loves it, because she can do flips like a real mermaid and not come up for air!

If you are certified, though, you just can't beat tanks.

Kayaking in Sea Eagle with Friends
Sea Eagle Kayak - A.  We love our Sea Kayak.  It's inflatable, and easily holds our whole family.  The kids love to paddle and it's fun.  Highly recommended if you like to kayak.

Ice Maker - A.  It probably sounds 'over the top' for most sailors.  The fact is, we love our ice maker.  There is nothing like cold ice for drinks on a sunny day or for slushies made with our VitaMix.  

Sport a Seat - B.  We actually bought these a long time ago after seeing them in Annapolis.  In fact, we still don't have the two we bought on the boat - yet.  Our friends in MA had a West Marine version, and we liked it so much we bought it from them (thanks guys).  It's great for the front deck.  We're having our other two shipped from Denver to our next prolonged stopping spot.

Titanium Plated Cookware - A.  I was in Annapolis at a previous boat show and was 'sold' (after having several Pusser's Painkillers) on a new set of pots and pans.  They are heavy duty, made in Germany and coated with Titanium for non stick.  They work great, and we've only seen them at the boat show.

Sodastream - B.  We bought one after visiting a boat in Annapolis a couple of years ago for use at our home in Denver.  We used it some there, but not a lot.  In fact, we didn't even put it on our boat until a month ago.  We use it daily.  The kids love (as do I) aqua con gas.  After our time in Argentina, we really like this with dinner.  So, we now make our own - daily.  We also mix it with fruit juice to make 'sundowner' drinks for kids at new anchorages.  They LOVE it.

Tweak Decisions

Thermostat Installation
Digital Thermostat for Freezer/Fridge - A+.  We've upgraded our thermostat to a digital setup.  It's far better IMO than the standard offering.  We can view & set exact temperature, schedule deviation alarms, and set compressor start thresholds.  It is in theory also more efficient.

Carpet Inside - B. - I used to cringe at the thought.  That is until I spent time on two boats (s/v Escapade put us over the top) with carpet. With kids in particular (or pets), having carpet is actually nice and creates a warmer 'feel' to the boat.  We were measured yesterday, and expect to have our carpet by Friday this week. 

Redo Decisions

KVH M5 - C.  When we bought Field Trip, we thought we would want to have some access to TV.  So, we added the M5 satellite dish.  We've never even turned it on - until last week.  As a family, we have used the time away on the boat to unplug from 'most' stuff.  It's nice, but we don't plan on using it much.

Two More Sheet Winches.  In hindsight, I candidly should have listened to another Antares owner who told me I should add an extra winch on each side.  Why?  Primarily for ease of use when flying symmetrical spinnakers (guy on one, sheet on another).  In most cases, you have load on 3 of the 4 lines when trimming sail.  We've done a lot of downwind sailing, and plan on lots more.  It's great.

Secondarily, I would have the sheets for both Genoa and Screecher rigged - so I could easily switch between the two.  This is something we still may do, even though refitting boat for extra winches is not a small task.

While there are clearly a lot more decisions we've made, and have a lot more to add in other areas, like galley, storage, provisioning, etc - I'll cut off here....for now.


  1. great blog and very nice post. it is fun watching the updates. also insightful to see the details in decision making.

  2. Had a nice laugh at the 'painkiller' comment.


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