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Cruising Your Racing J/30

by Nancy Jorch, Stark Terror

Last update: January 3, 1997 (Copied from old J/30 website)


Bill and I have been cruising our J/30 Stark Terror since 1984, when our son Billy was just two. After six years of intense racing on our J/24, we wanted a larger boat that we could continue to race, but one offering a little more comfort for our family. Enter our J/30. Since then, we have developed many techniques to make cruising fun and easy for everyone – without compromising the racing!

Creature comforts

When we add cruising equipment to the boat, it is always done with an eye on racing. Everything either serves a purpose when racing, or is easily removed. The first thing we added was an auto pilot. It is indispensable on those long days when there is no wind, and we use it so that both Bill and I can work on sail changes. We also added a sunshade – again for the long, hot windless days under power, and also for relief from the sun while at anchor. We spend a lot of our time during the day in the cockpit, so a set of cockpit cushions have added to our comfort.
… the basic principal has remained the same: make the boat feel like home!

The first Stark Terror did not have hot or pressure water. We quickly discovered sun showers and began to improve them. We carried two on the cabin top for hot water, and a third for cold water so we could regulate the shower temperature. Clear vinyl tubing and garden hose fittings added length to pass down through the hatch in the head; a Y fitting with adjustable shutoffs in each branch regulated the amount of hot and cold water; and finally, a pistol-type garden hose spray fitting gave instant shutoff and a real shower-like spray. Hoisting the sun showers aloft on a halyard generates enough pressure to provide a real shower. A large-mouth funnel took care of cloudy days – we could make hot water on the stove and pour it into the sun shower.

This situation sufficed until we had the summer cruise with no sun. The next winter, we finally bit the bullet and added pressure hot water to the boat. The installation is a good winter project and costs about $1,000 if you do the work yourself. We also added a 20-gal. collapsible water tank under the V-berth to give us enough water to take plentiful showers and have enough water for 3-4 days.

Other essentials

We bought a small Avon dinghy which fits on the foredeck when inflated, and a 2-horsepower engine. This gives us the flexibility to stay on anchor and still go ashore or beachcombing, and serves as a convenient swimming platform. The engine fits nicely on the stern rail, and is light enough to handle quite easily.

For three years in a row, we went from Western Long Island Sound to Block Island and Nantucket and experienced days of fog surrounded by unseen ferries, ships and high speed power boats. The hours of intense vigilance resulted in uneventful passages (not to mention Excedrin headaches), but also convinced us that there must be a better way. We ended up with a small radar mounted on an aluminum pole that bolts to the deck and stern rail. It can be removed for racing by one person in 20 minutes. We now travel – fog or no fog – in a more relaxed frame of mind.

Including children

Our cruises in early J/30 days were quite different from the ones we do today. They were shorter, covered less distance and ran only a little over a week. It seemed we had to take so much “stuff” with us when Billy was little, but the extras essentially made the cruise work for us. Now the extras are not quite so overwhelming, and we have changed the format somewhat, but the basic principal has remained the same: make the boat feel like home.

The use of a storage bin (under the settees) as a toy box has been an important feature in keeping Billy entertained – from toddler days through now. When Billy was younger, we carried a lot of Sesame Street books and tapes (the tapes read the book to the child). When both Bill and I had to be on deck (anchoring or foggy weather in pre-radar days), it was great for Billy to be below decks listening to one of his stories without us having to read to him. Crayons, coloring books and drawing pads were also very useful, and we still carry many art supplies today (minus the coloring books).

To help make cruising a special time for Billy as a toddler, we had “presents” for him to unwrap on a daily basis. This took planning, but it was always worth it. Today, some of the essential items for a pre-teen seem to be books, tapes, a deck of cards and electronic games.

Watching our child grow up on the boat, teaching him to swim and sail and navigate, sharing his excitement in seeing new lighthouses or submarines or wildlife – all are experiences we wouldn’t have missed for the world.

As I’m listing these, I know it sounds as if all a child is supposed to do is sit below and play with toys. Au contraire. There are days on end when the sun is shining, the sea is calling, the beach beckons, and the waves are all perfect. However, let’s face it folks, there is also rain, fog, cold and days when the last thing you want to do is get in the dinghy and go to the beach. You simply need to be prepared for all conditions.

Safe, secure

We had a strict, simple safety rule when Billy was younger: he could not come up on deck without his life jacket. This sometimes kept him below just because he didn’t feel like putting on his life jacket, but we stood firm. When he was quite little, we’d also have him in a harness with a line attached. Before he became a strong swimmer, he swam in his life jacket (with a line tied to the back in Edgartown and other anchorages with strong currents). This allowed him to swim, but made a secure situation for all of us. Even today when we swim off the boat, we tie a line to a flotation cushion and toss it off the stern. It’s there to rest on or to hold onto in a strong current.

First aid extras

Your first aid kit is a top priority. Yes, we all buy one, but have you looked carefully at its contents? I doubt that you’ll find children’s Tylenol. My point is that you need to supplement the standard first aid kit or make up your own when cruising with children. Make sure you have hydrogen peroxide, ointment, band-aids of all sizes, gauze pads, and personal vitamins.

You’ll also need sunscreen of SPF 15 or above. Don’t wait until the cruise to try out a new brand of sunscreen. You can have an allergic reaction to some, and then you’re in big trouble. I speak from experience on this one! (A brand marketed specifically for children and people with sensitive skin caused my skin to burn with nightmarish intensity.)

Finally, don’t forget the Avon Skin-so-Soft for the no-seeums and mosquitos, and Witch Hazel to kill the sting of jellyfish stings.

Plan to eat well

Bring what you like to eat. Always have snacks – fresh fruits, pretzels, veggies, chips or whatever. People just eat more on the water. (At least that’s what I tell them at Weight Watchers after the cruise!) Frozen dinners (homemade or store-bought) keep in the icebox for days and help keep the icebox cold at the same time. We also carry frozen containers of milk so we don’t have to buy it as often, and to help as ice. A cooked turkey, chicken or canned ham serves as a meal, and then as sandwiches or other meals. We have an oven on our second Stark Terror (we lost our first J/30 to Hurricane Bob), and I am just beginning to realize its possibilities. In addition to cooking real meals, we’ve made brownies and other treats. (In fact, brownies served as dinner one very late night in Nantucket … but that’s another story.)

More than great racing

The list could go on, but I think I have hit the high points. We found that cruises with a small child were quite do-able with planning, and were an enormous amount of fun for the entire family. Watching our child grow up on the boat, teaching him to swim and sail and navigate, sharing his excitement in seeing new lighthouses or submarines or wildlife – all are experiences we wouldn’t have missed for the world. Our J/30 has given us more than we could have imagined when we first looked for a step up from our J/24 11 years ago. We know it can do the same for you!

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