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Skipper’s Tips

Take a Wipe  –  For a certain type of sailor, the lure of an ocean crossing is irresistible. A couple of weeks bouncing around in the spray and swell—if you're lucky—and a landfall somewhere you've never been before sounds pretty good after a few months of lazing around a boatyard waiting for a bit of work. Or squatting on a barstool, for that matter.

For the first-timer, maybe a last-minute addition to an established crew or a lucky duck standing in the right spot at the right bar, it can be a bit overwhelming. There are a lot of items to consider, from getting the appropriate visa to packing appropriate kit.

A few years ago, I got a phone call from a fellow whose working life was spent in an air-conditioned splendour in front of a computer, making deals and dreaming of adventure. Somehow adventure found him, and he was offered a spot on an Oyster heading from the islands to Europe. He had done a bit of competitive sailing and had been on a couple overnight trips, so he had a decent idea of the conditions he might expect. Foulies, a handheld GPS, a well-stocked iPod—he knew the drill. His call to me was to ask this question: “What's the one thing I'm going to need that I haven't thought of?”

I know he expected me to answer with something technical or esoteric. A sextant, perhaps, or a set of Pilot Charts. When I did give my answer, he was sorely disappointed. “Baby Wipes?!” he shouted at me. “You must be kidding.”

But I was serious. There's no item of personal comfort that's handier than a box of moist wipes. When it's time to come on watch after a night in the fetid bunk, a quick wipe sets you straight.

Moist wipes will help you avoid all those salt-inflicted rots, fungi, itches and moulds that can make three hours of lookout feel like a week rolling around in a prickly bush. And they especially come in handy when you have to polish the poop deck.

Showering at sea is rarely a fun activity, particularly if the little ship is kicking butt. Better to deodorize and disinfect with a handy, compact little square of comfort, but don't let the other crew know you have them at hand. Oh, they might kid you a bit but, believe me, they'll soon be begging for a chance to dip into your squishy stash.



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