The idea of suddenly dropping everything and going someplace on your boat might be romantic and appealing, but the reality of doing that is often very different. The truth is, if you quickly head out on your boat without thinking it through, you’ll often realize you’ve forgotten some important items or you aren’t prepared for unforeseen problems.

Good planning is an important part of many boating activities. It’s especially important when cruising. Once you leave your home port, it can be hard to replace anything you forgot to bring. You can also be surprised to discover problems like your destination has no open slips or bad weather is bearing down.

If you’re planning to go cruising, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Take time to study the details of traveling to and from any destinations you are considering. Consider your boat’s fuel usage, if there are places to refuel along the way, and your estimated travel time. You should also look for any potential navigational hazards or problems you might run into.
  • Find out if your destination has the marine services and amenities you need. In many places, available transient slips can be tough to come by. Does your destination have plenty of dockage? Do you need to make reservations? Are there alternatives nearby? Also, is fuel available, and is there a place to get food and drinks?
  •  Think about the condition of your boat and if you need to make any repairs before going. Consider if your boat needs any mechanical tune-ups and if your electrical instruments are working right.
  • Make sure to pack all necessary gear. That should include PFDs, a well-stocked first-aid kit, ropes and charts. Depending on the length of the cruise, you should have appropriate clothes for a variety of conditions, as well as a change of clothes. You should also have plenty of food and water.
  • Always remember to check the weather before leaving the dock. New England coastal weather is notoriously volatile. A forecast that looked good the night before can suddenly look menacing moments before your planned departure. After you leave the dock, continue to monitor the weather in case anything changes.