"Offshore sailing can mean any passage that takes you out of sight of land or more than 12 miles offshore and lasts for more than 12 hours"(Google's definition of offshore sailing)

Crossing an ocean clearly falls into the broader category of deep-sea sailing, or offshore sailing to put it in English, but clearly a boat that can be considered suitable for deep-sea sailing is not necessarily equally ready to cross an ocean. Why? Because it changes the length of the route, the days we spend at sea and the fact that in the middle of an ocean we are really alone and therefore have to be self-sufficient and autonomous.
These thoughts, trivial if they may be, bring with them a number of other considerations that must be placed at the basis of the preparation of a boat and its crew for long crossings.

We start with the vastness of the expanse of sea we are going to cross. The first call we feel is that of solitude, of being alone in the middle of nowhere, a very pleasant feeling for me, but one that must necessarily lead us to reflect on autonomy, crew awareness and boat preparation.
When we cross an ocean, we are clearly far from rescue, ports, mechanics and any other kind of service, so we need to make the boat and crew a self-sufficient system for the days we are supposed to spend at sea (mind you! not for the estimated 'scheduled' days, but for the total days we might have to spend at sea due to a breakdown or bad weather).
A blue water cruiser should have tanks, stowage space for water, food, safety equipment, a well-equipped calavel, in short be designed to be able to sail long distances without the need for modifications, but in reality you very seldom see boats that leave the yard ready to cross an ocean. The good news is that with a little experience, commitment and dedication (and of course money) we can adapt our boat for this purpose

The question of weights.
In preparing a boat for long crossings we will have to manage delicate balances between what we consider necessary to have on board and the weights the boat can support, without losing too much in performance or even safety.

If we stick to what is stated in the data that the yards provide on the CE plates, we will not always be able to set sail within the maximum weight declared by the manufacturer, but even if these weights are usually exceeded, the boats still cross the oceans safely. We have to make an effort to remain reasonably light. A boat that sails on its own water lines performs better, generates less stress on the rig and is safer than one that sails weighted down. A light boat also moves nimbly in breezes, so it doesn't need to carry so much diesel with it when the wind drops. I put a lot of emphasis on the weight argument, because in my experience there is a tendency, which is absolutely natural, to overload boats: over time we tend to accumulate everything we consider necessary, the years pass and we end up getting used to the now 'dormant' performance, the boat sinks and instead of unloading unnecessary weight we redesign the waterline a little higher.

The sailing kit.
To sail effectively, in addition to keeping our weights under control, we must have a sail rig appropriate to the type of sailing: mainsail with three reefs, jib, foresail, zero tails and at least one gennaker.
This set of sails makes it possible to sail nimbly in all wind conditions, because at all latitudes we can encounter bonanzas as well as gales, and having the opportunity to sail efficiently saves engine and diesel hours, but above all it allows us to shorten the time of crossings and, consequently, reduce the chances of encountering bad weather.
Experience teaches us that having sails on board is no guarantee that they will actually be used, and if they remain in their sacks they are unlikely to help speed ahead. Unfortunately, in the age of easy sailing, boats are not always really easy to sail on the high seas; this causes laziness to get the upper hand and the engine to rev for most of the miles sailed. To avoid this, we must equip ourselves with a deck plan that makes using the sails, even the large bow sails, a real pleasure. The crew must also be 'trained' so that whoever is on the watch deck is autonomous in the use of the sails and does not have to wake up those resting below deck for every change of sail, hoisting or lowering; only in this way will we have the joy of sailing day and night safe and fast instead of being at the mercy of the sea and under sail.

The approach, the attitude, the awareness.
Here are three more key words.
Being far from land must bring with it the knowledge that we do not have all the facilities and means of rescue available to us as we do when we sail close to the marinas; this entails a change of mindset in the approach both to sailing and to day-to-day operations. In a coastal race, it may be productive to make a thousand tacking tackes below the coast to take advantage of the thermals, but in an ocean crossing we can spare ourselves a few tacking turns.
Our approach to health must also change; we must always bear in mind that an illness, or worse still an injury, however trivial it may be, significantly affects not only ourselves, but the whole crew.
The knowledge that we are far away and that everything can break, must lead us towards a responsible use of all resources. Even if a desalinator is installed on board, I will never go so far as to have empty tanks; on the contrary, I will keep them as full as possible, so that, faced with a possible breakdown, I will have the ability to ration resources.
The attitude must be to use everything to the best advantage, to get the most out of it with the least effort for crew and equipment. Doing this means knowing intimately how each piece of equipment works, being able to visualise the strain on sails and equipment to avoid misusing them. How many boats with broken booms arrive in the Caribbean? Too many, and many of these breakages could have been avoided with more conscious use of vang and restraint.

Point zero.
It starts with a thorough and 'reasoned' check to understand what is there, what works and what needs to be implemented. This first check will allow us to get to know the boat thoroughly; I recommend doing it together with a sailor with a lot of experience and many crossings "in his wake", because this first check is the zero point from which all the subsequent and necessary reflections will arise to guide us in the preparation of our boat.
Once this phase is completed, the sea trials phase will begin, where it will be assessed whether what has been done has solved the problems highlighted.

Checks: always!
But the checks never end! Checks are done not only before departure, but also on arrival of every long voyage, and above all, they must be done while sailing; my personal rule, which I share with my fellow travellers, is to perform a check every three hours and it involves a rig check, an engine room check, a bilge check, a battery check and a wheelhouse check. Only then does the whole crew take responsibility and become aware of what is happening on board.
Checks must become a mindset, the boat talks to us and gives us signals, it is up to us to catch them in time to be able to sail safely. The more we get into the habit of checking, the more we become masters of the boat.

Spare parts and tools.
How many spare parts and tools should I take on board? Difficult to give an answer or even worse to draw up a list that applies to everyone! Each situation must be carefully assessed. As a general rule we can say that everything that is considered indispensable for sailing should be 'redundant' or have the parts to repair it. To give an example, if I am sailing solo it is desirable to have two autopilots (or even a wind pilot and an autopilot) already installed and the respective spare parts in case of failure. If, on the other hand, I am in a small crew, I can choose to install only one pilot and have all the spare parts, so that I am able to repair the pilot while sailing (while one of the crew steers). If, on the other hand, I am in racing trim with shifts at the helm then the autopilot will not be a priority and so it will probably not be necessary to carry the weight of spares.
A special note for the toolbox: here too it is difficult to compile a list a priori, when compiling it you have to make an assessment based on what is installed on board, because there are particular situations in which I may need a specific tool or even modified in the workshop. I recommend doing all the maintenance with the tools we have on board, only then can we understand whether our toolbox, in view of the long journey, will need to be implemented.

Communications and GMDSS.
Staying in touch is a priority, as is being able to receive weather updates.
VHF, HF radios, Pactor modems, VARA, satellite equipment, that would require a separate treatise, again the important thing is to have redundancy; in case a system breaks down we must be able to communicate with the mainland, at least to warn that the silence is due to the equipment breaking down and that everything is fine on board.
Given the ease and economy of use of Starlink o IridiumGo it can be interesting to have someone from home help with weather choices.

Security, emergency, grab bag.
Another topic that is very time-consuming to deal with, but often underestimated.
Preparing the boat well, doing the checks, behaving consciously, training one's crew all contribute to safe navigation. But we must also prepare ourselves to handle an emergency. We have to choose the right safety equipment, know how to install it in the optimum way. It is good practice, at every crew change or at the departure of every important crossing, to have a safety briefing, where we will go through all the emergency procedures developed for each scenario and where we will explain the use of the safety equipment on board.

Preparing the boat is a very complex phase, requiring time, energy and attention, what we wanted to provide you with are the thoughts that helped us and still guide us.
We hope they can guide you too.
Good wind and happy 2024

Andrea Giorgetti


On the subject of communications and security, we would like to point out the article "Who to call in an emergency? "by Dave Proctor appeared on the Global Solo Challenge website. Link