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Sunday, February 28, 2010

What Families Spend on Food Around The World

As we continue to validate what it will cost us to sail around the world, I found a very interesting series of photos and articles on how much families spend on food per week in different places around the world. The information is pulled from a book titled Hungry Planet: What The World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio.

The weekly food spend runs quite a gamut: $1.23 USD to $500.07 USD. From bags of lentils and rice for a week, to big steak packages and bottles of beer for a week.

The photos in the book are outstanding. You see families with their entire weekly food outlay right in front of them, in their homes, in their place of eating. Some have live chickens, some have defiant teenagers, some have TVs in their dining rooms, some have 3 generations living off the weekly food, and more. None of which we have, yet.

Flipping through the pictures, it is neat to see so many cans and bottles of Coca-Cola in the photos .... a product from right here in Atlanta, Ga.

The amount of fresh vegetables, from family to family, was also neat. It is encouraging to see how many had good, raw foods.

As you might guess, the more first world the nation of the family, the more that packaged food showed up in the photos.

The family food favorites is fun to peruse too. You find Polar Bear, Pig's Knuckles, Mutton Dumplings, Marge Brown's Quandong, Sheep Soup, and other neat stuff.

Here is a summary of the spend data for 1 week of food per family (family size varies starting at 4 people and going up) in USD:
  • $1.23 Chad, Breidjing Camp
  • $5.03 Bhutan, Shingkhey Village
  • $26.39 Mali, Kouakourou
  • $31.55 Ecuador, Tingo
  • $39.27 India, Ujjain
  • $40.02 Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar
  • $68.53 Egypt, Cairo
  • $75.70 Guatemala, Todos Santos
  • $145.88 Turkey, Istanbul
  • $151.27 Poland, Konstancin-Jeziorna
  • $155.06 China, Beijing
  • $189.09 Mexico, Cuernavaca
  • $221.45 Kuwait, Kuwait City
  • $253.15 Great Britain, Cllingbourne Ducis
  • $260.11 Italy, Sicily
  • $277.12 Greenland, Cap Hope
  • $317.25 Japan, Kondaira City
  • $341.98 USA, North Carolina
  • $345.00 Canada, Iqaluit-Nunavut Territory
  • $376.45 Australia, River View
  • $419.95 France, Montreuil
  • $465.84 Luxembourge, Erpeldange
  • $500.07 Germany, Bargteheide

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Boating Europe's Canals and Rivers

One of the reasons we bought Ariel, our Gemini 3200, is her size. We talked long and hard about the right size boat for us. We wanted her big enough for us to be comfortable for years at a time, but small enough to allow us to navigate tight waterways, such as those that comprise Europe.

Our plan is to sail from East to West, leaving from the East Coast of the USA. This places Europe in the final leg of our round the world odyssey. At a high-level, our plan is to spend at least 2 years wandering the canals of Europe once we finally arrive.

Europe has a fantastic network of waterways. The canals, originally built for goods transport, are now a highway of opportunity for tourists. They make the innards of Europe easily accessible, if one has the right sized boat.

Ariel's draft is a mere 18 inches, and her beam 14 feet. This beam figure is about a foot or 2 short of the maximum you would want for traversing the canals. Our mast will have to be stepped of course, so down it will go. We will most likely carry the mast with us, versus shipping it to a known end destination.

Many of the canals have captain operated manual locks ... that is, we will have to get off the boat, and work the locks ourselves. That is an exciting proposition!

The pace on the canals is around 4 knots .... a nice leisurely pace, one to take in Europe's offerings. Germany, Holland, France, Sweden, Spain, and more are all at our boats disposal.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Complete Raymarine Super System Pack Plus for $2,065

With our recent win of a Radome, we've managed to create a fantastic boat electron super system for only $2,065. This is what we have:
  1. C70 Multi-Function Display (MSRP $1455)
  2. DSM30 Digital Sounder Module (MSRP $550)
  3. Raystar 125 GPS Sensor (MSRP $365)
  4. RD218 Radome (MSRP $1415)
  5. SeaTalk Cables (MSRP $35)
  6. P66 High Speed Transom Mount Transducer (MSRP $152)
  7. Navionics Gold East Coast and Bahamas electronic maps (MSRP $169.99)
All for about $2K!

Pulling this stuff together only took patience. We lurked on craigslist, ebay, and marina bulletin boards and executed when the prices were right.

Our original budget for the Radar system was $2,500. This was to buy only a multi-function display and a radar. We spend $2,065 and got much more.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How Much Money Do You Have, Foreigner?

As we work through all the places we want to see, a common visa acquisition requirement we've come across relates to our net worth.

A number of countries want you to have a certain amount of self financial capability before they will grant you the privilege of entering their country. This makes sense, these countries don't want people coming in and tapping their national resources. In New Zealand, for example, if you want a 6 month visa, you must be able to show you have $700 USD per month you want to stay. This can be demonstrated via bank statement.

We suspect that the formality around demonstrating the net worth part of the immigration policy is often left to the discretion of the local immigration official. That is, if we come in looking like we are financially sound (e.g. not coming in wearing tattered rags and appearing emaciated), we will be fine in most places. In policy driven environments, however, some form of proof must be on hand. This means that we will have to carry on our boat some proof of our financial soundness.

The trick will be to carry enough proof of financial self sufficiency to get in, but not so much as to then be susceptible to being taken advantage of (mysterious new fees). While we are modest in our means, everything is relative so modest in the US is wealthy in most parts of the world.

Our approach will be to have different bank statements. Since we have multiple accounts across multiple banks, we will simply keep the levels of money in each one different enough that we can produce the bank statement that sufficiently gets us into a place and no more.

Will this be a major issue? Probably not. However, we are thinking ahead and it is an issue one may face when taking a trip like this.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

We Are But A Speck!

A colorful world map adorns our living room. You may have seen it in the background of some of the pictures on past blogs. Our family spends a lot of time looking at this map, dreaming of places to visit.

While staring at it, I imagined our boat making its way down the coast of the USA on our journey to see the world. Mentally tracing our progress, I began to wonder just how big we would be on this map.

Our boat is 32 feet long. The Earth's equator is 131,480,184 feet all the way around. Our boat, therefore, is 0.000024 % of the Earth's equator!

Another way to appreciate the magnitude would be to consider this: we would have to place 4 million, 108 thousand, 756 Gemini 3200 catamarans end to end to equal the distance around the Earth. That's a lot of boats!

Back to the original question, how big would we be on the map?

The map is 3 feet across, and factoring in a bit of the overlap that occurs on the map (e.g. a flat map depicting a near spherical shape with each side having some duplication of landmasses like Alaska), we are looking at about 30 inches of an equator on our map.

That means our boat, on the map, will be 0.000024% of 30 inches. Or, 0.0000072 inches!!! That is smaller than the diameter of a human hair!

Quite a small boat .... we are but a speck!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sailing to the Great Blue Hole in Belize

There are so many amazing places on the ocean. While in Honduras, we took a boat trip to SCUBA dive a seamount ... a mountain rising from the sea floor that doesn't quite reach the surface to make an island. It was beautiful. As we traveled to Truk Lagoon, we saw a few atolls ... a reef structure that creates, and encloses, a lagoon. One really cool ocean landscape phenomenon we have not yet enjoyed, however, is a blue hole .... an underwater sink hole.

On our journey, we want to experience a blue hole first hand. The one we expect to enjoy first is the Great Blue Hole in Belize. Good ole Jacque Cousteau made it famous when he declared it a top 10 must SCUBA dive spot.

The Great Blue Hole is part of a large, partially collapsed, deep, limestone cave system. Attached to the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, this oceanic wonderland is 60 miles off the coast of Belize city. Something easily accessible by our boat! :)

Ahh, the thoughts of such beautiful places is perfect as we sit in our tiny apartment with winter cold right outside.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Vaccinations Needed For A Trip Around The World

The world is full of diseases. In the USA, as in most developed nations, the common population eliminators such as Yellow Fever and Typhoid are no longer an issue. However, our family isn't staying in the United States, we are adventuring abroad ... into places that haven't yet wrestled down these killers. So, what do we do?

Please keep in mind that we are not physicians or experts on vaccinations. We are simply sharing what we've learned about vaccinations and our current strategy. If you are considering a trip around the world, you should seek expert advice before you make your decision.

At a recent wellness check up for our girls, Val talked with their pediatrician about what vaccinations we should get. Our girl's doctor has been aware of our trip for 3 years now, so she wasn't surprised when Val asked. After their dialog, plus lots of research, we've decided that we should all get vaccinations beyond the normal childhood ones.

The first major vaccination we will get is for Yellow Fever. KJ, Dy, and Val will receive this in the next few months. Fortunately, I've already had this one due to my worldly travels. To help stem the spread of this killer, some countries, many in South America and Sub-Saharan Africa, require proof that you've had this immunization.

The second major vaccination that we've decided to go forward with is for Rabies. This treatment doesn't really stop you from being infected, but it does increase the time needed between getting Rabies and being treated for it. Given that we will be in some very small towns way out from major civilization centers, it is prudent to go forward with this.

The final major vaccination we will be taking care of is for Typhoid. This one, however, we are going to delay as long as possible. We've agreed that when we enter the Pacific, we will begin taking the Typhoid pills. Vaccinations are tough enough on a grown body, but little maturing ones can be risky. The odds of having a deleterious effect from this particular vaccination seems to go down as physical size and bodily maturity increases.

An often over looked part of getting vaccinations is that many of them require multiple treatments over months of time. This has to be baked into any trip being planned. We've backed into a departure date of December 2010 the vaccinations visits we need.

Vaccinations of kids is a turbulent subject. In our family, given the potential exposures we will have, we've decided to go forward with a few more.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Too Aggressive On Money Savings

At the start of the year, I shared that we were being very aggressive on our spending levels in 2010, and that I was worried we were pushing it too far. It is turning out that we have indeed found the boundary of what we can live off of comfortably. By comfortably, I mean without altering our lifestyle any further. Any more adjustments at this time would result in us being unhappy, something I won't allow to happen.

So, 2010 won't see us reducing our spend any further than we did in 2009. Does that mean we can't go? Heck no! It just means that our sailing kitty funding won't fill at a faster rate due to reduced spending. We wanted to pull in our possible sailing date even further, but that won't happen from a money savings perspective. There are other ways, however ..... ;)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Boat Transporter Selected

A chariot to carry Ariel, our Gemini 3200, from Atlanta GA to Savannah GA has been selected! The company's name is First Choice, and it is run by Ken Andrews. His transportation business is out of North Carolina and he has been transporting boats all over the south east for more than 20 years. We found Ken when we starting calling the transporters recommended by our destination marina Sail Harbor Marina.

To pick whom would carry our baby, we created a list of attributes that we would want the transporter to posses. Using this list, it allowed me to discern within minutes of talking to the transporter whether they were a contender or not. While all of the transporters we contacted were professional, it was clear that some just didn't know their own systems as well as others. For example, some said that they would have to go out and measure their trailer, while others said they were not quite sure of clearance requirements along the way. Those that "knew" their stuff were easy to pick out.

After contacting First Choice, and talking with Ken, I knew that we had found our transporter. Once Ken had received the particulars of our boat and locations, he immediately began demonstrating his knowledge of both marinas and the route. He knew clearances, he knew the personalities at the marinas at both ends, he knew our type of boat, and more. After talking a little more, Ken gave me a price. This price he said was not an estimate, but the final cost.

I asked how he could give me a final price before shipping was completed, while others simply gave ballparks or were sure to emphasize that the prices were estimates. His reply was that he had been transporting for so long that he had all of his rates down. He knew the route, the boat, the source and destination marina, and how much per mile it cost him.

I inquired about insurance to cover the boat. We didn't just want cargo insurance, the type most transporters have where you only get so much per pound. He said that his insurance covered up to $250,000 on damage or loss of the boat and that this insurance was included in the price. Just when I thought the call was done, Ken offered up some tips regarding the marinas that would save us money and aid in the shipping process. All I thought was... WOW! He doesn't have our business yet and he is sharing with me information none of the other 20 some odd carriers could or would.

Nothing boost a customer's confidence in a provider like a demonstration of knowledge. We had driven the route that the boat would take. We also talked at length with each marina's owners/managers. Ken clearly showed he had knowledge of the particulars that only first hand knowledge would provide in the route and the marinas. This, coupled with his extra info that saved us money, made him an easy choice. Plus, he is a nice guy.

We know that First Choice-Ken will take great care of Ariel. This is our home, our family member. We've bonded with Ariel personally. We want to be sure we put her in the most capable, competent hands we can find. We believe we've done that.

Ken isn't on the Internet, he is only found via word of mouth and by marina's who use him. So, if you are moving your boat in the South East, be sure to ask your marina if they use First Choice and Ken.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Radome RD218 Purchased on Ebay!

We found our Radome!! We had the winning bid on eBay for a "nearly new" RD218. We paid $835, and this includes shipping and the 15 meters of cable! After watching for months, we finally got the one we wanted.

While this unit's MSRP runs at $1,415 with the 15 meter cable., but have found it new for $1,059.99 without the cable.

We picked the RD218 for a few different reasons:
  • Our boat's multifunction display is Raymarine
  • Our desired scanning distance is only 7 miles, and this units maximum is 24 nautical miles
  • Our low power consumption needs must be adhered to and this unit draws only 2.3 amps per hour in active mode and 0.75 amps per hour in passive mode
Major win for us! Our Radar system is now complete!

Now all we need to do is install it. :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Attributes for Selecting a Boat Transporter

Several months ago we started calling various boat transporters, trying to determine who much it was going to cost to transport our Gemini 3200, to the coast. The information that we received gave us an idea of how much to budget. Without knowing exactly where we were going, we put the cart before the horse.

Now that we have picked a marina, it's time to get serious about finding the right transporter for our boat. This is extremely important to us, because Ariel is a member of our family. This is not like shipping a sewing machine or a chair. Based on this, here is a list of attributes, for a transporter, that we thought were important.
  1. Explicit operating knowledge of source and destination marinas
  2. Explicit knowledge of route between source and destination marinas
  3. Demonstrated ability to transport 32 foot catamaran with a 14 foot beam or larger
  4. Offers insurance to cover the boat, in case of damage or loss (beyond basic cargo insurance)
  5. Reliable
  6. Personable

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sailing to New Zealand

Many hours are spent thinking about where we will sail to. Of late, the discussions have been around sailing to New Zealand.

With all the horrible things we read about regarding sailing into Australia (permits, aggressiveness of Australian authorities (simply read the SlapDash account to get an idea, and their account is hardly the first), etc.), and the wonderful things we read about New Zealand, we've decided that we will make New Zealand our base of operations after we've left Easter Island.

New Zealand not only has cruiser friendly maritime laws, but the visa policies for foreigners are perfect for our family. If we stay 90 days or less, we don't even need a visa! If we elect to stay for 6 months, then we do need one and the processing is simple and affordable.

New Zealand has fantastic ship yards with reasonable prices. We expect, after the long passage, we will need to make some sort of repairs.

New Zealand is also a very bike friendly country. Quick Internet searches reveals miles and miles of bike ways, and after having made the ocean crossing, maybe a month or 2 on a bike will be exactly what we need.

With New Zealand's proximity to Australia, we plan to make a week long type trip into Australia. The flight would be short, and we can then tour the country as a regular tourist without all the hassle one has when visiting by boat.

New Zealand looks absolutely beautiful. We can bust out our small 3 person tent, scramble up a mountain or 2, and sleep with the trees. Heck, one of Val's favorite movie sagas is the Lord of the Rings .... and it was filmed in New Zealand. Maybe we will find Mordor; that would be cool!

Then, of course, there are the indigenous Maori people, with their tattooed faces. Exposing our girls to such cultures is fundamental to the education of this trip.

What better place to anchor up in than New Zealand?

New Zealand, here we come!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How Much Does It Cost To Sail Around The World?

It has been awhile since we've posted on the financial funding side of the trip. Money topics are often taboo; as a taboo buster, let's spill some more beans. This will help those whom are looking to take such a trip.

From all of the resources we've been able to find, plus analyzing our own spending habits, we are budgeting $20,600 per year for the trip. This amount of money, short of a major catastrophe, will supply us enough funds for boat maintenance, food, clothing, education, and other life necessities and conveniences that we are accustomed to.

To arrive at our number, we took the per year average of what we have spent for living over the the past 3 years and subtracted out 2 components: our monthly rent payment and the boat acquisition cost. This average came out to around $14,000 USD. We then tacked on 40% (a nearly arbitrary number) to arrive at our $20,600 target.

Our family of 4 lives quite comfortably on $14,000 per year, or $1,166 per month, before housing costs. This figure is everything we spend to live our life: food, clothing, health care, gifts, entertainment, car stuff (insurance, maintenance, tags, gas), electricity, etc.

$20,600, per year, will enable us to sail around the world. If the journey takes 3 years, we are looking at $61,800 not including boat acquisition.

Here are some assumptions and notables you must consider when constructing your numbers:
  1. Our cost of living is based on Atlanta Georgia, USA figures. In most places around the world, we assume, it is cheaper to live. In some places, we assume, it is more expensive.
  2. We have zero debt.
  3. We assume that our lifestyle expectations on land will translate to the water. For example, we eat in a lot, we assume we will eat on the boat a lot.
  4. We assume that the upkeep costs for our 2 cars per year will apply in great measure to our boat (gas, maintenance, insurance, etc.).
  5. We assume that we will be able to fix most of the boat issues we will face ourselves.
  6. We will have our boat in super shape the first day of the voyage.
  7. We are assuming the amount of inflation we will face will be negligible over the years of our journey.
So, how much does it cost to sail around the world? In the end, it really depends upon you. Study your land behavior, and use that as your guide. We believe it is an error to assume everything is either cheaper, or more expensive, to live on the boat sailing around the world.

Our conjecture is that the cost to sail around the world will turn out to mirror your daily land life. If you eat and drink out a lot, own all brand name things, one up your neighbor, pay for services, etc. you will carry that with you and you will live accordingly. Should someone reading this think I'm implying otherwise, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with such a lifestyle. If it is you, then be you. If you want to move aboard a boat and sail around the world, you be you and budget accordingly.

In the final analysis, the most powerful message that this posting can give you is that financially, whatever it is your doing on land is what you will do on the water. This means, financially, it is simply a matter of choice to be on land or on the water.

Monday, February 15, 2010

How We Selected A Marina

From day 1 of owning our boat, we have been casually looking at marinas on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. Our plan was to move Ariel, to the nearby coast, in the Fall 2010. Recently, we decided to accelerate this part of our plan and move the boat this April. The marina that we have chosen is Sail Harbor Marina in Savannah, GA.

How did we arrive at this decision given the thousands of marinas on the Atlanta and Gulf coasts of the United States? Since we are list people, the first thing we did was to make a list of the characteristics that would make up our idea marina.

These characteristics include the following:
  1. Within 6 hour driving distance to Atlanta
  2. Reputable marina with personal recommendations
  3. Fair prices
  4. Full service boat yard
  5. Laundry facilities
  6. Shower facilities

Characteristic 1 meant placing Gemini 3200 in the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic ocean. It also meant the marina had to be in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Alabama.

Characteristic 2 was accomplished by seeking recommendations from the various boating forums we frequent (such as the Yahoo Gemini Users). From the recommendations that we received, we narrowed our search by getting a feel of the marinas via phone conversations with owners/managers. If the owners/managers didn't take time to talk to us or we didn't receive a call back, we marked the marina off the list.

Finally, we visited the remaining marinas. These visits were unannounced; we wanted to see what the marinas were really like on any given day and get a final gut check. The visits also gave us an opportunity to see a majority of the route that a transporter would have to navigate.

We feel very confident in the marina that we selected.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentines Day - Here Is An Engine For Your Dinghy

Nothing says, "I love you" quite like a dinghy engine! How do I know? Val bought me a dinghy engine! At first, I wasn't sure how to take the line, "Your dinghy needs a long shaft engine", but with the smile on her face, I figured it out.

Back in October, the quest for our dinghy was over. Named Flounder, this 9.5 tender became our water station-wagon. It didn't take too many trips back and forth for the romantic notion of a svelte bronze body built by rowing the boat to dissolve. Rowing it certainly is a great workout, but having to row each time just plain sucked.... and we are currently on a lake with very little current. We talked about what we would do if we were anchored in current and we needed to get supplies via the dinghy. Ugh, that thought wasn't pleasant at all. This started our quest, the quest for a dinghy engine.

We agreed that we should stick with Honda outboards since we were building a familiarity with them. Recall that our Gemini 3200 has a Honda a F40. I also wanted a 4 stroke. I'm not big into gas/oil mixing. Flounder, our dinghy, is rated up to a 5 hp engine. We also needed to be sure the weight of the engine wouldn't be so much that the engine would be cumbersome. Sure, we have pulleys, but there will be moments of just picking the engine up. Having these requirements meant buying a 5 hp Honda. In the Honda lineup, for the 4 strokes, the hp ratings go from 2 to 5 to 8. From some quick math, 2 hp wouldn't be enough. 8 hp, would be fun, but way over kill and result in a heavier engine (about 40 lbs heavier than the 5 hp).

Over the past several months, Val has been keeping her eye out for a Honda 5hp outboard engine. She trolled the usual places, ebay and craigslist. After a number of false starts, a local craigslist offering looked promising. Alas, after a call to the seller, there was already a buyer. Val let the seller know that if their other buyer fell through, we would drive out with cash in hand the next morning. I guess the "1 in the hand" type mentality took over. The seller called the other potential buyer, and after some conversation, the seller and original buyer decided to part ways. Talk about surprised when Val got a call within 30 minutes of hanging up from the first conversation asking if she was still interested!

The next morning, Val, KJ, and Dy headed out to acquire the motor. The seller was a grand father whom had used the engine for 12 hours, and ended up not needing the engine for his little fishing boat. 12 hours! And it looks like it has only been used for 2!

We ended up paying $800 for a 12 hour old, 5hp, 4 stroke long shaft Honda outboard plus hoses and gas tank! New, just the engine is $1350. Great buy Val!

Happy Valentines day Val. Thank you. I love you.

Now what Nautical item should I have bought her for Valentines day ......

Saturday, February 13, 2010

High Level Boat Moving Tasks

Below is the high level boat moving task list that Bill and I pulled together. Since this is the first time that we have ever moved a boat, the list may not be complete. We welcome any comments or suggestions to improve the list.

4. Remove all personal items off boat
5. Drain water tanks
6. Take down sails and lines
7. Prepare/mark/remove rigging for stepping the mast
8. Remove bimini
9. Determine if we need to take down the radar arch.
10. Drain gas tanks
11. Obtain insurance to cover boat during transport
12. Tape all hatches
13. Remove the propane tanks

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Birthday Val!

Today is Val's birthday!!! Happy Birthday Val!!

In our family, ones birthday is the most important day of the year. It marks the day you started existing. Without Val's existence, the amazing course of life that KJ, Dy, and I enjoy would not be. For this alone, we are grateful to Val.

On this day, 39 years ago, Valerie Annette Ford Peer came into the world. The world is a better place for it.

Happy Birthday Val.

I love you.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Moving our Sailboat to Savannah in April!

After lots of discussions with Bill, marina owners, and people in the Yahoo Gemini Users forum, we have decided to move our Gemini 3200 to Sail Harbor Marina in Savannah, GA. Further, we've made the decision to move our boat to the Atlantic in April! This is a full 6 months ahead of our original plans.

Our decision to put the boat in sooner is based on the timing of our slip lease expiring here in Atlanta. The Lake Lanier lease ends in March. From April forward, we would have to pay transient slip rates until our boat moves out. The cost of the Lake Lanier transient rates is very close to the slip rates we would pay at Sail Harbor Marina.

Now the pressure is really on. Instead of having 7 months to get everything ready, we have only 1 1/2 months. To make this happen quickly, Bill and I need to sit down ASAP and make a list of all of the things that we need to do before the transporter comes to pick up the boat. Good thing we LOVE making lists ;)!

An additional benefit of moving the boat in April is that we have the opportunity to take weekend sails, on the ocean, a full 6 month earlier than the previous plan.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Under 300!

Wow. Yesterday I said to Val, "you know, we are almost under 300 days until we can set sail if we want to." She said, "We already are under 300." "really?! No way!" came bursting forth from me.

Sure enough, I looked at the count down clock and we are under 300 days until we can simply sail off into the sunset and start the next chapter in our lives.

Time is flying by. January 2010 is gone. We are 1/3rd done with February. The question to ask yourself is, are you progressing towards your goals? Are you working towards something big? Time not only flies fast when you are working towards your goal, but time flies fast when you are not. Each day you don't act is a day lost to never be recovered.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dell Hell Drama and Saga - A Working Laptop, Finally

Last November, we made the decision to buy a new laptop for me for the voyage. After sharing the decision, about a week later we went online to Dell computers and ordered a custom built machine. This isn't your daddys machine, this is an i7 with 8 gigs of RAM, 1 TB Harddrive, a separate video driver with 1 gig, an HD screen, Bluray, etc. etc. About 10 days after ordering it, the machine arrived.

That night, our little apartment was energized with excitement and wonder. KJ helped unpack the box, the new machine smell permeated the living room, bits and bytes were flying as software was purchased on line and installed. It was a geeks nirvana ... a glorious night.

As Roman soldiers after a mighty conquest, we headed to bed with computing dreams. Oh, the power!

After returning home from work the next day, KJ asked if we could start the new machine. Why sure. Even grandpa had come over from Alabama and he wanted to see the new digital wonder.

Chest high, chin up, I depressed the on button with my nose of superiority perched high.

"Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!"

Eye brows now dropped down.

"Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!"

Oh f*!k.

"Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!"

Being sure KJ must have had her tiny hand on some key, I asked her to step back (because somehow that would make a difference).


"Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!"

"Leave me be everyone" I said.

Into geek mode I went. I've spent the past 20 years as an IT professional and I will be damned if this machine from Dell computers is going to die on me. Hell, I build and architect systems for $20+ billion dollar companies.

Grandpa and KJ went off to play dolls, while I began my job. Diagnosis.

Quick search on Google. Hmmm, someone else on this very same day posted that they also had the exact same issue. The first day their computer work, the second day it beeped 7 times. Ugh.
Checking the bios codes, 7 beeps means the CPU died. Oh crap.

I went on line and engaged the Dell chat line. After a few minutes, the chat window opened and I was engaged. I explained the situation, and even shared what I found on line. That meant nothing to the help desk chat person as it wasn't part of their pre-arranged script.

Knowing full well that my machine was royally hosed and that the binary gods have taken the computers soul, I obligingly did what the mystery chat person said to do. I removed the hard drives, replaced them. I removed the wifi card, and replaced it. I removed the memory, and replaced them. "Try it now sir", the text came across.

"Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!"

Imagine that. So, I asked the chat person if I should start to cry. Humor doesn't translate well. He replied I should call in. I did. Ugh. This begat hours and hours and hours of pain.

After 5 transfers and 72 minutes on line, someone finally said, "You should send the machine back." Really? Well, these people were just doing their job and I knew it. I know plenty about call centers (again, professionally I've designed contact center technical systems). I was told that a new machine would be out right away.

5 days later, a call came in .... the new machine was on its way. Wahoo!!

5 days later, no new machine. Ugh.

Call back in, 30 minutes of hold, guess what, the new machine wasn't on the way. It wasn't even built yet. But don't worry, it will be.

Calls, more calls, more days, more calls. The Dell voice system and auto dialing system really stinks by the way. It would call us, and within 1 ring, hang up!

days turned into weeks. More calls. More being put off.

Okay, now I'm thinking about using my connections and contacting the COO of Dell.

Then a email comes in asking me to provide a survey of my experience with Dell. Ahh, talk about an opportunity. I filled out the form and used words of theft by false advertising, etc.

Well well well .... now the phone rings from a different center. Alas, we still had the 1 ring hang up, but Val called this new number back.

After talking with whomever, we were assured that the new machine would be on its way. I've heard that before.

A few days later, the new machine arrived!! Wahooo! 45 days of saga. Dell had my money, I didn't have a working machine, but now I do.

With shaking fingers, I loaded 1 piece of software that first night. KJ helping as always. Only 1 piece. No more investing time.

The next day, the family gathered around for the big moment. Will this machine work after 1 day? Everyone's chest filled with air, and expectation mounted as I pressed the button.

No beeps!!

Praise the binary digital gods! We have a computer that works more than a day.

But the saga still didn't end.

Dell gave me 10 days to return the non-working one, otherwise they were going to charge us for it too.

After 5 days of proving the new machine worked, Val took the machine to an authorized FedEx center for drop off. Val gave them the machine on a Tuesday.

Wednesday, Val checked. The machine wasn't in FedEx's system. Hmmm.
Thursday, Val checked. The machine wasn't in FedEx's system. Hmmm.
Friday, Val checked. The machine wasn't in FedEx's system. Hmmm.
Call to the authorized center. "Oh, yeah, we have your package here... FedEx hasn't picked it up yet" What?

Not wanting to get stuck into another Dell washing machine cycle, lost into process ambiguity land due to violating the 10 day thing, Saturday we resolved to go pick up the package from the Authorized center and physically take it to a FedEx hub.

According to the voice system at the Authorized center, they would be open at 10AM. So, Saturday morning we headed over to the center to find that they are closed on Saturday.

Sunday Val emails Dell the situation.

Monday, we're now at the 10 day threshold, a Dell rep calls Val and collects our story. They say that they need to see it in the system today, but acknowledged the extenuating circumstances and provisions can be made. Wow. How nice.

Val goes over to the Authorized center and retrieves the package. According to the Authorized centers owner, "The package was in the UPS pile, so neither FedEx or UPS would pick it up." Val's response, "So how is that my fault?" Val and I owned one of these centers for 3 years, so we know the deal. In any case, she got the package, took it to the hub and the damned computer made its way back to its home.

Whew! I feel better now. :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Car Ride To The Atlantic Ocean and Our New Hailing Port

Last weekend we headed out for the Atlantic ocean, and our potential new hailing port, Savannah, GA. The purpose of the road trip was 2 fold, test out how the family would fare and to pop in on a boatyard/marina that we've been thinking about moving our boat to.

The ride took 3.75 hours and that included 3 different stops: a gas stop, breakfast stop, and a rest area stop. The ride was 98% 4+ lane interstate and state highways. The ride is 272.8 miles each way.

We don't have an on-board DVD player or anything like that for them. It was conversation all the way down (no radio playing). The little ones did fantastic!

Once in Savannah area, we easily made our way to the marina/boatyard we are considering. The place felt perfect. We walked the grounds, checked out the boats in the marina, and inspected the boatyard. It was exactly what we were looking for. The place is run by a husband and wife. The vibe was clearly one of an "every sailors" marina. The folks in the marina were doing
their thing, not trying to be this or that. We took a picture of the boat sling that would be used to put Ariel in the ocean.

Val has begun conversations with the marina owners, and we are currently discussing having the yard prep our boat and then putting it in right at their marina. We may be sending the boat out as early as April. :) This would allow us, minimally, 6+ months of potential weekend ocean time before we would go on the voyage.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Hits From Around The World!

One of the powerful capabilities of the Internet is the global reach a family, such as ours, can have. This is a graphic depicting the location from where visitors, during a 2 hour period yesterday, came from that visited our website. Our average visit time is currently 4 minutes, 23 seconds. We are thrilled that so many people are watching us transform and are supporting us. Thank you everyone. You help us with our momentum!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Should We Sweat the Small Money Stuff?

Over the years, as we've studied this magic called finance, we've run across the notion of not worrying about how much one spends if the amount being spent is below a certain threshold. One famous author says to never worry about a spend of less than $10. Another shared that his threshold changed upward as his net worth increased (it was at $100 at the time of his writing).

I've been puzzled by this approach. I understand the general concept... it isn't worth spending time thinking about saving pennies, but so many times it is easy to make an informed decision quickly that it seems foolish to not do it.

For example, let's say I want to buy a can of Coke. If I buy it at a convenience store, it will cost $1.49 and that is well below a $10 threshold so these experts claim I shouldn't worry about it. But I know that I can buy that very same can of Coke at the grocery store, which I will be happening to visit anyway, for $0.89 and if I buy a 6 pack it will cost me $0.59 per can. But going with the $0.89 price, that is a differential of $0.60!

In a given year, I would conservatively estimate that I make 100 similar decisions. At $0.60, that is $60!

The authors that share the $10 rule should also add one more part to it, time. In the 2 seconds it takes me to decide to buy my can of Coke at the grocery store rather than the convenience store, I've saved $0.60. Time well spent.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Water Strategy and Needs, Jerrycans, and Sailboat Voyaging

There are 3 basic survival needs: shelter, food, and water; water provides the largest challenge in our upcoming lifestyle.

As the official Water Buffalo, Water Master, and Water Transporter for our family, all watering needs and ensuring we are adequately stocked is my responsibility. As such, I've broken down the water concerns into 2: quantity and quality.

On the quantity front, our Gemini 3200 is equipped with two 30 gallon holding tanks making for a total of 60 gallons. These are plumbed into the boat such that we have water from the tap on the sinks (kitchen and bathroom) and a shower head.

Based on our usage patterns from the summer, it looks we are averaging about 12 gallons of water per day (coming out to 3 gallons of water per person per day). This is an all inclusive number to include water ingested, used for cooking, and washing things like dishes as well as our bodies.

This rate of consumption implies that the holding tanks give us a total of 5 days before replenishing is required. As the water master, that isn't a comfortable number for me. I want at least 8 days of water for the entire family. With 8 days of water, I feel comfortable that we would be able to find a suitable water source for refilling. Consequently, we plan on adding supplemental stores for water, and we will do so in the form of water Jerrycans.

There are 2 reasons for taking the Jerrycan approach, as opposed to installing more, or larger, plumbed in holding tanks. First, water acquisition will be easier. Second, cross contamination will be less likely.

At 8.3 lbs per gallon of water, identifying the right size and easy to carry Jerrycan will be important (remember, I'm the water transporter). The current working plan is to acquire six 5 gallon Jerrycans. Fully topped off, this implies 250 lbs of water, plus the weight of the container itself. This is a figure that must be carefully considered with respect to our load capacity.

Our plan is to use Jerrycans as our source for daily drinking water. That is, a Jerrycan will be out and easily accessible so that anyone can tap into it throughout the day to get some water for drinking. If we allocate Jerrycans as the daily drinking source, and we are completely topped off, at 1 gallon of water per day per person for drinking, we can make our 8 days. Clearly, if we suspect that we are running low on water, and the odds of finding any are low, we can also use water out of our main holding tanks for drinking. If we used all water sources (holding tanks plus Jerrycans) exclusively for drinking, we could make 22 days.

In addition to the static mode of being topped off with water from public sources along our journey, we plan on leveraging 2 other sources for refilling: rain and seawater.

We plan on taking advantage of what falls from the sky whenever we can. We will be adjusting our Bimini such that it is optimal for catching rain water. It will be fitted with an elephant trunk so that the rain water pooled on the Bimini can be routed to our holding tanks. It will be KJ's job to make this connection once it starts to rain.

We will also have a mechanical (as opposed to electric) water maker that will desalinate and purify sea water. Since it is mechanical in nature, it doesn't create mass volumes of water without tremendous effort so its usage will be mainly for generating drinking water.

The last commentary to offer on water quantity is that we plan on acquiring a water bladder for the dingy. This is basically a large balloon that can be pumped full of water. The idea is that we can bring the dingy laden bladder to a water source, fill it up, then dingy back to the boat and pump out from the bladder into the boat.

When obtaining water from untried sources, especially in third world countries, one must be very careful. We will be using the Clorox Bleach method of water purification. In general, you use 8 drops of Clorox per gallon of water, or 1/2 a teaspoon per 5 gallons of water. There are some other particulars about this, and if your interested I encourage you to do some research.

The mechanical water maker we will be using on the boat will have both a 10 micron filter and a 5 micron filter. These filters provide filtration capabilities on par, or better than, most water treatment plants in the USA.

As you can probably tell, we are giving water a lot of thought. It is back to the basic needs: shelter, food, and water. If we can keep these 3 covered, we can go indefinitely. Water appears to be the most tricky of the group.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Safety At Sea and Kids

When we started our knowledge acquisition about safety at sea with kids and the living aboard lifestyle, we invested large amounts of time learning and thinking. We wondered about which boat was right, how young is too young, should we make our girls wear PFDs (personal flotation devices) 24x7, do sea harnesses exist for kids under 2, do we buy a Raymarine LifeTag system, and so much more.

Our study resulted in finding just about as many ways to address the issue as there were families sailing and living aboard. This implied no obvious best way. To share our current thinking on the matter with others who have inquired, we've summarized our views here.

Our strategy has boiled down to setting a good example. Both our girls emulate our behavior to the nth degree. If we demonstrate safe boating behaviors, they will too. Every single instance Val or I elect to take an unnecessary risk, we've just shown our daughters that is the way. So we must be diligent in this matter at all times.

We are working hard to teach our daughters to respect the awesome power of water, but not to fear it.

We will focus foremost on not falling overboard:
  1. We teach climbing up and down the boat using our hands and feet, like a monkey
  2. We teach climbing over the center of the boat, not on its edges
  3. We teach clipping into the sea harness whenever we are underway, and outside of the cabin
  4. We teach clipping into the sea harness whenever there is weather about, and outside of the cabin
We openly discuss the pros and cons of a given safety situation. We will ensure both girls hear the dialog and are encouraged to join in.

We are ensuring they know how to swim (one has been through drown proofing, and other will be going through the course soon), but also know that staying on the boat is more critical.

We practice Man Over Board drills. Each person becomes the MOB, spotter, and note taker.

For those who are new to this lifestyle and concerned about children, we offer the following:

Is the sea dangerous? Absolutely yes. Is it more dangerous than the rest of life's contexts? No.

In a land life, you wear your seat belt, but you focus on not crashing. You avoid traveling when it is icy out. You steer clear of bad parts of town. You lock your doors to avoid the happenstance thief. You move your family to a protected area when a tornado springs up. You don't smoke while pumping gas. You build your house to withstand earthquakes, but you still talk about what to do when one happens. You learn who your neighbors are, but you still pay attention to their activities. All of these are normal life things to be dealt with rationally. Same goes with life on a boat.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Goal Granularity

One of the keys to being successful at accomplishing something is having the right goals. The right goals are ones that fit together like a puzzle to assemble the bigger mission being accomplished. Our transformation from the typical family of 4 living in a subdivision to world voyagers on a sailboat full time is an example of a big mission that is being supported by many goals.

Accomplishing the various goals along our journey has provided a fantastic test lab to study the best ways to set goals. One of the key points often missed by those offering goal advice is around Goal Granularity. Sure, you will read statements about being attainable, realistic, and feasible. You will read about goals being measurable and being put on fixed timelines but rarely will you read about the concept Goal Granularity.

Goal Granularity is the identification of exactly what size goal you should attack. Coarse grained goals are goals that have longer time spans to complete, while fine grained goals are ones that have shorter time spans to complete.

To establish the right goal granularity for you, you must identify the maximum amount of time you can wait to accomplish a goal before you give up.

If you wait too long, you will lose focus. If you set your granularity too fine, however, you will accomplish goals so frequently that the joyous feeling that accompanies goal completion vanishes and goals become nearly meaningless.

In our process of transforming our lives, we've found that mixing our goal granularities suits us best. Some goals are coarse grained, and others are fine grained.

How do you find which granularity sizes work best for you? Study your history, and experiment. Mentally pick out an audacious granularity (one too small and one too large), and then try them out in parallel. Note how it feels, and then adjust accordingly.

Think about the right granularity for you, and then either dissolve goals into finer grains if needed, or make composite goals out of smaller goals to increase their size. Focusing on this aspect, in addition to the usual others, will help you set the right goals for your bigger mission.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Chili Mac Recipe

I came across this recipe last week. It's a one pan recipe that is tasty, easy, cheap and boat-able. Everyone in my family found the food delicious. Total cost was $5.80 and we had plenty for leftovers the next day.


1lbs Ground Beef
1 Green Bell Pepper - Chopped
1 Large Onion - Chopped
4 Garlic Cloves - Chopped
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Pepper
5 Tablespoons Kikomans Soy Sauce
2 cans Tomato Soup (10 3/4 ounce Campbell Soup)
2 cups of Water
1 1/2 cup of Elbow Macaroni
Cheese (Velveeta or shredded cheese)

1. Brown beef and drain off the fat.
2. Add bell pepper, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper and Cook for 2 minutes.
3. Add tomato soup, water, and soy sauce.
4. Bring to a boil; Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
5. Add macaroni and a little more water if needed; Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
6. Add cheese, lightly cover (to taste); Cover till cheese has melted; Serve

Monday, February 1, 2010

Seimens Solar Panels On Gemini 3200 Rear Arch

A previous owner installed 2 Seimens 75 Watt Solar panels (Seimens SP75) on the rear arch on our Gemini 3200. Based on the documentation, we believe the panels were installed in 2005.

All wires are routed through the arch and into the main cabin, where they are attached to a Seimens Solar Controller located on the electrical panel. The controller is then connected directly to the batteries.

When we add the D-400 Wind Generator, we will have an issue of multiple controllers and balancing battery top-off
levels. We will also have a problem with ghost loads appearing and we will need to put in a charge divert. This will be fun!

The photos are provided for others interested in Solar Panel configurations and installation approaches.