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Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day - Remembering Sailors

Today is Memorial Day; a day to remember the American service members whom died in the service of the United States of America. This day is a no work day for many American's, including all federal workers.

Sitting here, sipping my coffee, visions of an American cemetery in the Philippines floods my mind. Back in 2006, my job had me visit Manila and Cebu. While in Manila, I went to pay my respects to the fallen American military members buried there. I was unprepared for what I experienced.

What hit me was the magnitude of the number of crosses that marked each American entombed within the soil. There are over 17,000 of them, most sailors, whom lost their lives during World War II in and around the Philippines. When you see row after row after row of white crosses, you are struck by the savagery of war and the appreciation for how much is given for a cause.

Thank you to all service members, and their families, whom gave all to help secure the freedoms I now enjoy. I will not disrespect what you've given up by wasting a single moment of my freedom.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Plastiki Expedition - Voyages of a Bottled Catamaran

So, um, where does one begin ...

In about 3 weeks, a catamaran made of 12,500 used plastic bottles will arrive in Sydney Australia after traveling 11,000 some odd miles! It departed from San Francisco California USA 72 days ago.

The odyssey is called The Plastiki Expedition. The people involved are raising awareness about being eco-friendly, especially towards the ocean. They have a blog and a number of interesting facts on their site.

You can track their "real time" position on their Track The Voyage page.

Here are some quickie tidbits regarding the boat and the expedition:
  • length is 60 feet
  • beam is 23 feet
  • usage of a urine-to-water recovery system (does that make it pee bottle?)
  • voyage to take about 3 months
  • there are 6 crew members
  • used organic glue made from cashews and sugar cane to hold it together
Go Plastiki!

(Yes, the name Plastiki is a reference to Kon-Tiki voyage back in the late 40s by the amazing Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl.)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Living On Purpose

I have a purpose, a reason for being, a goal and aim in life. It is a purpose that helps guide my every action.

My formal purpose statement is: To Remain Awake, and to Awaken The Remaining.

This statement summarizes how I feel about life.

Too many things in society are hypnotic and we become entranced by it, forgetting that we own our lives and can live it on our terms. Thus, I must remain awake.

There are not only parts of myself that still need to be awakened, but I receive tremendous joy in awakening others, and watching how their "awakenedness" manifests and cascades back through all of life. Thus, I will awaken the remaining ... not only in my self, but in all those I can touch.

This living with a purpose has manifested into the public sharing of SailboatFamily. This site keeps me awake, and allows me to awaken the remaining.

Thank you to everyone whom reads this blog; you allow me to live my purpose.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Trojan 6v T-145 In Hand

Yesterday, I picked up the four new Trojan T-145 batteries we had ordered through Specialty Car Company, Stone Mountain, GA. I feel fortunate to have found the batteries and a company that provided me with excellent customer service, especially since I was an one-off customer. All of the other Trojan dealers in Georgia and South Carolina, that I talked to (which was everyone listed on the Trojan web site), told me that they did not carry the T-145 and ended the conversation. Jim at Specialty Car Company did the opposite, he told me when he could have the batteries and the price. How refreshing!

Our total cost for 4 new house bank batteries was $633. A great price and less than we had budgeted!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lifeline Netting Installation

Last weekend, while in Savannah, we installed the lifeline netting purchased from On Deck Sports. The installation took approximately 2 hours. This short installation time is directly attributed to the construction of the netting. As mentioned in a previous post about the lifeline netting, it is trimmed with rope and has 2 stainless steel spring clips on each end. This made the installation easier, as we could see how the netting was going to fall before we started tying it to the stanchions and lifelines.

Our Gemini 3200 is 31'6" long. We purchased two 2'x40' nets, because we wanted the bow and most of the stern to be covered.

Installation began on the aft starboard side. We secured the netting to the lifelines and stanchions with a UV protected, poly twine and some simple to tie, but hard to untie knots. We melted the ends of the cut twine with a lighter. This will keep the twine from fraying. If we ever need to take down the netting, we can cut the twine.

The first 40' of netting ended almost in the middle of the bow. We clipped the second lifeline netting via the spring clips to the first and continued the netting down the port side to the stern. When it's time to anchor, we simply have to unclip the netting, anchor, and reclip the netting.

The deck of the boat is now 95% encapsulated by the lifeline netting. The only portion of the boat that is not covered, is the stern were our Honda outboard is located.

I now feel more comfortable with Dy being on deck. Before, I was afraid that she would slip through the lifelines and off the boat. The peace of mind is worth a ton more than the $100 for the netting and the 2 hours to install it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sailing to Easter Island - The BIG Heads

Back in 2007, Val and I made a conscious choice about our mode of travel as we meander around the planet. One of the drivers to the choice of using a sailboat was our desire to make our way to Easter Island. It holds a special place of enchantment for both of us.

The Polynesian name for Easter Island is Rapa Nui or Big Rapa. It rests some 2,200 miles off the coast of Chile and it will serve as our farthest reaching ocean run. We estimate that it will take us some 25 days to make the journey from Chile. Nearly a month! The Easter Island run will be a true test.

Easter Island is one of the worlds most isolated inhabited islands. It is also home to the massive stone statues called Moai. We think so much of these Big Heads that we have a nice, small, 150 pound one in our apartment to greet guests. His name is Fred ... Fred's Head. In the winter time, Fred's head serves as the place for our hats.

From what we can gather, when we visit the island, the best place to tie up is in a small harbor called Hanga Pikio, on the west coast. However, to get inside, we will need to hire a local pilot to help guide us in. In 2008, the harbor usage fee was $150.00 (US). It should also be noted that due to the conditions inside the harbor, it is truly a choreographed effort to get in and out when other boats are anchored up in the harbor. It get's worse, only monohulls less than 36 feet are allowed in, so we will have to anchor around the island! This means shifting locations as the wind shifts. Here is an excellent Easter Island anchorage guide: Easter Island Anchor Guide by Bruce Balan and Alene D. Rice of Cross 46 trimaran "Migration."

The calmest seas, and lightest winds, occur from mid-November to mid-February. That will be the window we will be aiming for.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Arctic Solo Sail

A couple of weeks ago, I became aware of a blog about a guy, Captain Tommy D. Cook, whom is setting out to brave the Northwest passage alone! His website, Arctic Solo Sail, details much of his preparation and journey. How does a 64 year old man prepare for the rigors of such an adventure?

After reading his blog post "A Minor Set Back", I decided to reach out to Captain Tommy. His blend of wisdom, philosophy, and attitude about life resonated. Add to all this his vast experience in boating, 44 years, and I just had to introduce myself.

When I checked on the Sailboat family email box later in the day, I was surprised to have a reply from Captain Tommy! Captain Tommy's email was very kind, and he shared the following with me:

"I sailed on a research vessel to the Antarctic in 1991 and on the mess deck was a poster with this saying: THE COURSE OF YOUR LIFE IS NOT DETERMINED BY THE WAY YOU WISH THINGS WERE BUT BY HOW YOU DEAL WITH THE WAY THINGS ARE I adopted that as my life motto. It has held me in good stead a long way."

Right on Captain Tommy! Right ON!

I was in for one more surprise ... Captain Tommy bought us a round of ice cream! Thank you Captain Tommy!

You can bet our discussion during the ice cream indulgence will be around Captain Tommy and his adventure.

The world is full of amazing people. With each connection our family makes, the beautiful part of all of humankind becomes even more obvious to us. We are all connected.

Fair Winds Captain Tommy!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Productive Weekend in Savannah

Hi Everyone! We had a very productive weekend in Savannah. The visit was to inspect the work of Sail Harbor Marina and Boatyard on our Gemini 3200, install the vinyl lettering, install the lifeline netting, and about 15 other boat related tasks.

We are very happy with Sail Harbor Marina and Boatyard. They have, so far, done excellent work on our Gemini 3200. The bottom of Ariel has been completely transformed from a void ridden gel coat to a smooth, protected surface. The picture on the top was taken after the old bottom paint was removed. Notice all of the small voids in the gel coat. Sail Harbor Boatyard faired out the surface, thus filling in the void with a fiberglass fairing compound. They then painted the bottom with 4 coats of Interprotect 2000E and 2 coats Pettit Ultima SR-60. There is now a noticeable difference, in thickness, between the side of the hulls and where the bottom paint begins. The picture on the bottom shows smooth, protected hulls.

The boatyard also installed 3 Nicro Day/Night Plus Solar Vents, that we had previously purchased. Two of the vents are for cabin ventilation and the last vent, for composting toilet exhaust. Upon inspection, we noticed that one of the vents was not working. After a little trouble-shooting, we were able to determine that the rechargeable battery that came with the unit was no good. We simply removed the battery and the fan started immediately. A rechargeable battery for the unit is now on our need to purchase list.

The mast is almost ready to be stepped. The boatyard has installed the new LED tri/anchor light, steaming/deck light, and windex wind instrument. All of the standing rigging had been inspected, using a liquid that highlight any cracks/fractures. All of the rigging checked out okay. Yeah, because it would have been expensive to replace and a big hit to our budget.

Bill and I were able to install the vinyl lettering and the lifeline netting. We also completed several of the other tasks on our list and got to spend some time with the girls at Tybee Island Beach. What a GREAT weekend!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Build a Boat or Buy a Boat? The Plans

The recent Living Abroad forum discussions on the topic of build vs buy, along with Tony's email, has prompted me to post my views on SailboatFamily for completeness.

The question at hand is, should you buy a boat or should you build a boat?

In the end it all depends on your goal. Is your goal to get on a boat and go? Or is your goal to build a boat? Sure, the latter can feed the former, but you are better off focusing on your numero uno priority.

The subtlety lies on the desire to build. Is your life transformation contingent upon building the boat?

If the building part isn't your goal, don't be seduced into building your boat. Don't let it creep in unless you're damn sure that is what you really what.

When we first entered into the lifestyle, Val and I talked long and hard about the building it ourselves approach. We reviewed lots of boat plans, talked about which ones to buy, which materials suited our needs, how the various layouts supported a family, how we would lease space to allow us to build the boat, how we would spend our weekends as a family working on it together, how we might have friends help out too, and then the glorious parade of the conveyance to the ocean once complete.

I have no doubt we could have done it, but then we would have missed 30 months of being on a boat. [This is assuming we could have put in 20 hours a week working on the boats construction, and completing the boat in about 2400 actual hours. This number, 2400 hours, is based on the build of a 50 foot catamaran by someone whom had done such things before. Actually, at 2400 hours, this example boat wasn't fully done. The boat still needed a few months more of work.]

Reflecting on what drove our thoughts around building, we imagined that by building we could feel the dream as it went along. We could feel it as we got our other life items in order. It would be the physical connection to the dream that would continue to pull us forward. It also appeared financially easier. We would pay as we go. If we needed timber, we would buy that piece of timber. If we couldn't afford to, then that piece of work would wait until we could.

From spending almost 3 years studying how best to enter into boating, it is our opinion that you are better off buying a used boat versus building one. Even if the boat isn't your perfect end state boat, getting a decent used one will get you on the water faster than building the equivalently sized boat. You can go out and learn, learn about you, boating, as well as the key features you will need for your style of boating.

We also surmise that the on ramp is cheaper with a used boat. When building your own, it isn't just the time you spend swinging the hammer, but the time spent in scouring materials and the cost of all the materials that must be factored in. When you buy a used boat, all the materials are there, and in place.

While it isn't as tangible, nor maybe as fun, we believe you are better off working some side part time job (in a boat yard if at all possible), collecting money for buying your boat rather than using your spare time to build a boat.

So unless your dream is building, don't do it. Friends don't let friends build.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Savannah Bound!

Good morning! Today we are on the road to Savannah. This may be the last weekend that Ariel rests on the hard in 2010!

We are meeting with the boatyard operator, Dick Long, to go over the work we asked him to do. He handled a number of tasks for us like replacing one of the chain plates, replacing a protective cover in the splash well, stripping and painting the bottom, and more. If it all looks good, Mr. Long will be putting Ariel back on the water next week after a long 2 months of dry time!

The task list of what has to be done before Ariel is ready for a sail is still quite long however. Most of the remaining work consists of lots of small tasks (e.g. less than 2 hours per task), and runs the gamut. To get a sense of the range, here are a few of work pieces Val and I will be attacking: installing the new batteries, putting the lettering on the side of the boat, installing the lifeline netting, adding Stabil to the fuel system, and posting the Coast Guard required sewage dumping stickers.

There is a lot of stuff we are carrying out to the boat today. In the photo you can see some of the stuff we are driving out. We have the main sail, head sail, the bimini, a stuffed animal (KJ's dachshund :) ), and so much more with us.

This will be a very very busy weekend. It is unlikely that we will get everything done we need to so that we can go sailing next weekend, but we will try!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Boat Building and Connections Across The Internet Ocean

Last week I received a very nice email from a Living with a Purpose type guy named Tony Bigras. Some folks may recognize his name as he has a good internet presence, documenting his journey constructing boats and selling them.

Tony has constructed a handful of boats, and literally invested tens of thousands of hours thinking about them and creating them. Truly a remarkable guy, marching to his own drum. For a hint at what this guy is all about, his website is: www.IdeaIntegrator.com. The story of why Tony reached out to me is neat and shows the power of the Internet as a way to connect.

On my favorite boating forum, LivingAboard, I was publicly sharing my opinions about the merits of building your own boat versus buying. One of the example cases under discussion happened to be one of Tony's efforts, his 50 foot catamaran named Osram VII. Tony had seen the Internet traffic to his website from the LivingAboard forum, so he came and checked out the forum thread. Therein he saw my posts about my stance on build versus buy and he then came over to www.SailboatFamily.com!

Tony reviewed enough of our site to offer me some advice about the boat we have. From his perspective, it isn't the right type of boat for anything more than coastal cruising and that it isn't right for the around the world voyage we plan to make. He also noted things like load capacity, stuff we've blogged about before.

Tony's email was gracious and genuine. I'm grateful he took the time to send us an email, make the contact, and offer his take on things. What a cool guy.

We still plan on our slow meander along the coasts and make a few of the long, multi-day jumps as required. As I shared with Tony, if we suspect a boat integrity problem we will course correct.

Thank you, Tony, for reaching out.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lanier Sailing Academy/ Pensacola Yacht Charter

Recently I took a coastal cruising and bareboat charter certifications through American Sailing Association. Both certifications were part of a 6 day/5 night class, held in Pensacola, FL by Lanier Sailing Academy. The Pensacola branch of Lanier Sailing Academy is co-owned and operated by Kathy and John Struchen, who are wonderful people. In 2007, 2008, and 2009, John was named as one of American Sailing Association's Outstanding Instructors (award was based on student evaluations submitted to ASA). Kathy and John also co-own Pensacola Yacht Charters and I can tell you from first-hand experience that these yachts are meticulously maintained.

If you are going to be in the Pensacola area and want to take a sailing class, do bareboat charter, charter a captained yacht, or take an ecological tour, then contact Kathy and John. They will take great care of you and your family.

If you stop by and see Kathy, John, or Tony, please tell them that Val says, HI!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Coastal Cruising and Bareboat Charter Certifications Part 3 of 3

Part 3 of Coastal Cruising and Bareboat Charter Certifications is a continuation of the blogs from Monday and Tuesday, of this week.

First thing Friday morning, we had our Bareboat Charter exam. After the exam and a short discussion with Kathy, we were out sailing. This time Kathy (the instructor) was just along for the ride. Since I was navigator today, she had given me a couple of points that we needed to visit and times ranges for the visits. It was up to me to get us there. This was our opportunity to demonstrate how much we had learned over the week and Kathy was not disappointed! Kathy had a couple of surprises for us along the way (i.e. man-overboard drills). We also got hands on experience filling the fuel tank and pumping out the holding tanks. Once we were back at the home marina, we packed up the left-over provisions, consolidated the dirty linens, and cleaned the inside of the boat (just like we would have to had done if we had charted the boat for the week).
That was it. We all said our goodbyes and I drove home to my family. What a great week and a great class! I felt comfortable in my sailing skills before the class, but now I feel like we can go coastal cruising anywhere! This class not only taught me new skills like weather, navigation, but it also honed my point-of-sail, sail trim, and man-overboard skills. I would recommend the class to anyone who wants to go coastal cruising.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Coastal Cruising and Bareboat Charter Certifications Part 2 of 3

Coastal Cruising and Bareboat Charter Certification Part 2, is a continuation of the blog posted yesterday.

Wednesday morning I awoke to the roar of the waves on the other side of the island, calm water at our anchorage, and a beautiful sunrise. The morning's anchoring lesson was interrupted by Blue Angels' practice (in the picture below, the small looking diamond in the sky in the center of the photo just above the horizon is actually 4 Blue Angles jets!) After the impromptu air show and completion of anchoring practice, we piloted our way through the Inter-Coastal Waterway (ICW) to Perdido Bay. Once in the bay, we practiced a different type of man-overboard maneuver, heaving-to, points-of-sail, and sail trim. That night, we docked at Bear Point Marina, Orange Beach, AL. Dinner was at Flippers, a restaurant at the marina, where we enjoyed Royal Reds (shrimp) and dizzy Dolphins (rum drink). I was responsible for running rigging (1) all day, which was basically making sure that all of the sails were trimmed properly with the help of the other person on running rigging (2). I got a great, all day, bicep and back workout.

Thursday was my day at the helm! That morning Kathy informed us that conditions in the Gulf of Mexico were good, if we wanted to go out. Of course we wanted to sail in the Gulf of Mexico!! After safely leaving Bear Point Marina, we motored through the ICW to Bayou St. John and onto Perdido Pass. Navigating the channel was a little nerve racking because on both sides of the channel were shallows. If the boat had gotten outside of the channel, by just a little bit, we would have run-a-ground. Kathy, in fact, shared that this has happened to her students in the past. The last hurdle, before reaching the open water of the Gulf of Mexico, was the 54' bridge over Perdido Pass. Now some might say, "big deal a 54' bridge," but the top of our boat's mast was 53' off the water. I had to steer the boat just right, so that the mast and instruments on top of the mast did not hit the navigation light hanging below the bridge. This was another exciting and nerve racking moment. After we cleared the channel and bridge, I was given a heading and off we sailed back toward Pensacola Bay. Sailing in the Gulf was a nice respite to piloting the channels. It was so relaxing and calming, just sailing (I can't wait until my family takes off on our adventure!!). The day ended with us practicing the Run point-of-sail, more sailing to a given heading, and me docking the boat back at its home marina. That night we had dinner with Kathy's husband John, at a local restaurant. John also happens to be an instructor.

Tomorrow's post, Part 3 will complete the blogs of my experience while obtaining my Coastal Cruising and Bareboat Charter Certifications.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Coastal Cruising and Bareboat Charter Certifications Part 1 of 3

The week of May 2nd, I was in Pensacola, FL in a 6 day/5 night class to obtain my Coastal Cruising and Bareboat Charter certifications, through American Sailing Association. The class was held on a Beneteau 39' sailboat named "Splendid Adventures." My class consisted of 4 students and 1 instructor. Besides myself, the other students were a couple, Bob and Biana, from Warner Robins, GA and a guy named Gary from Alpharetta, GA. The instructor was Kathy Struchen.

Success! I completed both certifications with above 90% competency.

The class started on a Sunday afternoon, with a review of the boat and boat systems as well as duty roster sign-up. The duties were helmsman/safety officer, running rigging (1), running rigging (2)/dinghy captain/anchor, and galley officer/communications/navigator. Duties rotated so that everyone had a full day at each of the positions. The first day also included obtaining provisions for the week. The first night was spent on the boat at the marina. :)

Monday saw a low pressure system move into the area accompanied with rain, high winds, thunder, and lighting (this was the same system that flood Nashville.) We spent the day learning about weather, navigation, reviewing Basic Keelboat knowledge, and we took the written portion of the Coastal Cruising certification exam. That night we had a great seafood dinner, made by Kathy.

On Tuesday, the sky was beginning to clear. We departed from the marina, taking turns at the helm to get a feel for the boat's handling and maneuverability. Afterwards, we practiced mooring ball pickup, docking, man-overboard maneuvers, and points-of-sail. The busy morning was followed by playing catch up on the Monday activities that were rained out. We sailed to our anchorage at Redfish anchorage in Big Lagoon. This was my first experience with a windlass. I see the advantages of having a windlass, but I also see the draw backs (too easy to lose little fingers). After anchoring, we took a dinghy ride over to Gulf Island National Seashore where we walked on beaches. There weren't just any beaches .... these were the types only accessible by boat. It was so beautiful. We capped off the day with a gorgeous sunset and wonderful grilled chicken dinner, with caribbean rice. My primary duties for this day were running rigging (2)/dinghy captain/anchor. I was really busy for most of the day.

Come back tomorrow for part 2...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

1 Yr Old Blog!

WOW! It is hard to believe that it was 1 year ago today that this blog was born.

While our journey towards this life has been posted publicly on the Internet since November 2007, it wasn't until we started to receive a fairly continuous stream of emails asking for more gory details that we decided we should jump in with both feet and do a daily blog. So last year Val and I said, "What the heck!" Since then, we've not missed a single day of posting about our transformation.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Holy Smokes!!! Today is 199! 199 days until we hit what we call Gold Zone. It is the zone wherein a number of life's tethers, like the apartment lease, naturally dissolve. 199 days until we can very easily step aboard Ariel and sail away.

It is remarkable how fast time is dripping away. It seems like it wasn't long ago that we were at 1,000 days until we hit the Gold Zone, and being less than 200 days away is almost surreal.

Next stop, 99 days! A double digit midget!


Oh, and at the moment we are discussing a quick drive to Savannah to see Ariel ... to celebrate 199!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hooka Dive System - Hookamax

To say Val and I are avid SCUBA divers would be an understatement. In addition to having dived in waters all over the world (including Truk Lagoon, the Mediterranean, Roatan Honduras, etc.) Val and I are both Master Scuba divers, with ratings from both NAUI and PADI. It gets even more extreme. 8 years ago, I took a 1 year sabbatical from consulting, obtained a mixed gas card from IANTD and became a PADI certified Divemaster. With the professional rating, I worked aboard boats in Florida taking tourists down (and up!). It was an awesome year to say the least.

When we make the boat our full time home, sailing around the world, our basement will be the environment we love so much. It will be temping to strap a tank onto our backs, and go in .... everyday. Alas, SCUBA gear, tanks, refill compressors, and all the maintenance that comes with the equipment just doesn't fit into our KISS principle. Plus, our boat is simply too small for all the stuff.

Being on the ocean and not diving won't work, and taking all the equipment needed to dive won't work. Our solution is to get a Hooka dive system.

A hooka diving system is a surface supplied air system. Hoses from a compressor, resting above the water, carry air down to a diver. Hooka systems have been used for a long time. You can get gasoline compressors, you can get 120V/240V systems, and you can even get 12VDC ones. Each with varying diver capacity. The obvious limitation is that the diver is always tethered to the air source above the water.

Some of the systems can provide air down to a diver at 100 feet! Others are only good to 20 feet. Some can support two divers, and others four.

With our particular boat configuration, we've decided a solid 12V DC system would be best. They are light weight and can run right off of our batteries. This implies the time under water is limited by the capacity of our batteries (and other physiological constraints). However, 12V DC systems are typically the most limited in terms of diver capacity and depth. 2 divers, 20 feet deep, is about all one system can handle at a time. We suspect, though, that such limitations will not impede our enjoyment. Much of the oceans brilliance happens in less than 20 feet due to the penetration depth of sunlight. Will there be those times that Val and I want to go deeper? Yes, but we simply won't be able to go deeper short of a free dive or renting some SCUBA gear from a local SCUBA shop. It is a trade off.

After reviewing all I can on the Internet, including the potential of building my own Hooka system (plenty of DIY plans out there), the system we are interested in buying is the Hookamax Dive System, the E2005C-12V 2X50 model. It seems rugged, fairly priced, fully featured, and the photos on the site are great!

In addition to just exploring reefs, Hookah systems are also great for staying down to clean the underside of the boat and for spear fishing as you can just hang under the water for hours.

Underwater world, here comes our family!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lessons from Cheap Vandwellers

Studying other niches of life can provide excellent information for the life you're in, or intending to be in. Previously I shared the concept of Microcrusing. There is another group of folks whom live in very confined spaces that we can learn from, those living cheaply in vans, small campers, cars, and such. To this end, I offer you the best website I've ever found on this topic: Cheaprvliving.com.

I had become a fan of this site when Val and I first started talking about dumping the hamster race and seeing the world. The folks on the Cheaprvliving.com site really know how to live in small spaces cheaply! They cover all the neat stuff like living without refrigeration, how to shower when you don't have one, and using solar ovens.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gulf Coast Preparation for Oil Spill

The Deepwater Horizon's oil spill about 2 weeks ago almost caused my class to be postponed. There was talk from local officials about closing off the water ways to all but essential needs. Fortunately, the class went forward and the timing afforded me an interesting opportunity. I was able to observe, first hand, how folks prepare for such disasters as a floating oil slick.

In Pensacola, FL area, I observed the place ment of floating booms to help keep the oil from touching the shore. In the photo, you will see all the yellow booms all strung together.

I saw floating booms put into place at both ends of Big Lagoon, along the Gulf Island National Seashore, wetlands on Johnson Beach, and around various oyster beds in the immediate area.

In the second photo, you can see what these booms look like when placed in the water.

There is a lot of concern about the potential environmental effects this oil spill will have on the area and the Gulf. When talking with local folks, local small business people shared with me that they are already feeling the economic effects of the disaster. Most immediately impacted were the commercial and sport fishing businesses. The marinas, charter companies, and marine rental businesses are keeping a close eye on the oil spill too, not only in terms of revenue impact, but they are also watching the oil because it is extremely damaging to boats and equipment.

Our thoughts and well wishes go out to everyone and everything effected by this oil spill.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Back from Coastal Cruising School

Hello Everyone, I'm back from my Coastal Cruising class!

I had a wonderful time and learned a lot. I will blog in-depth, in the coming days.

My class was held on a 39' Beneteau sailboat. It took a day for me to acclimate myself to a monohull, after sailing on our Gemini 3200 catamaran for almost a year. Ninety percent of the class was held in the waterway from Pensacola, FL to Perdido Bay, AL and in the Gulf of Mexico. I met some very nice people and had some awesome local seafood.

The mental break was nice, too. When not sailing, I found tons of time to read, meditate, listen to the waves, and just relax. Now, I'm back into the grove of home life and boat modifications.

Like I said above, I had a wonderful time, but I'm happy to be back home with my family.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Propane and Propane Accessories

Our boat uses propane for the refrigerator, hot water heater, and stove. It has 2 tanks in a locker (pictured), with only one at a time actually hooked up to the system. We plan on using the refrigerator in ice box mode, unless we are in a marina and have electric hook ups (the frig can run on propane or electricity), and we don't plan on using the hot water heater very often. This implies that the 2 tanks of propane will be used mainly for cooking.

Based on our estimates, if used solely for cooking, the 2 tanks will give us about 4 months of usage. This means that every 3 to 4 months, we will have to get our tanks refilled. Therein lies a challenge to overcome. There is no propane tank fitting that is universal. That is, there is no tank fitting that works everywhere around the globe.

We don't have a solution to the problem yet, but others are sailing around the world just fine and they are getting their propane tanks filled somehow. I'm wondering if there is some kind of adapter pack I could buy, like I have for when I'm traveling around the world and need electrical power.

This challenge is a gas!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Tune Ups For The Trip and The Ironman Triathlon

Today we are in South Carolina, near Newberry. I'm competing in a Sprint triathlon, the shortest distance of all the triathlon races. I'm using this race as a tune up for the Ironman race I'm competing in, in July. Races like these are great for working on the mechanics of transitions (from swim to bike, and from bike to run).

Such races are analogous to the weekends we will begin taking in Savannah to practice for sailing around the world. The Sprint triathlon provides a way to experience all the same actions as the Ironman race, but compressed into a 2 hour period. This is exactly how our weekends in Savannah will become. 3 days out on the boat will micro tastes of the trip to come. As August rolls around, we will start taking week long trips on the boat, adding even more to the tune up experiences.

Going for the full distance, even if one has done them before as I have with my past Ironman races, without some tune ups increases the odds of encountering problems. Lower the odds, practice in small containable periods. Plus, you get all the joy of doing what you love.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Life Is Full Of Donut Choices

Val is due back today. Yeah! It has been one heck of a week without her; she is truly the energy of our family. How does this daddy celebrate her return? By taking his daughters out for one final "mommy's away at sailing class" food outing .... to our local donut shop!

As I watched KJ point out the donuts to her sister, and listened to KJ provide an assessment of each donut in the case ("That one has blue sprinkles and tastes really good", "But that one has pink sprinkles and it is really good"), my mind took a step back and focused on the choices Val and I face today.

Each day, Val and I make a conscious choice about me continuing to work. From a financial perspective, we now have the option of sailing away any day we want. However, I have an amazing job, I work with amazing people, and there is still some professional growth to be had. Plus, more money in the sailing kitty is always good.

When we go sail, I will have a blue sprinklely donut. While working in my current job, I have a pink sprinklely donut. It is true win win scenario.

The trick is to enjoy the pink donut just long enough to still enjoy the flavor while not letting the blue donut get moldy before eating it too. That is the balance point Val and I find ourselves on right now ... judging how best to have both donuts.

This reflects the wonderful position we are in. We are not picking from a trash can full of rotten apples, we are picking from fresh donuts in the bakers case.

In life, there is far more control about where you eat from than most will admit. If they did admit it, then they would have no one to blame but themselves for the crap they eat.

You are the baker of your life. Pick your ingredients and get to work. It is time to make the donuts.

Oh, KJ and Dy both ended up with the pink sprinklely donut.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Entertainment - Sailing The Stars

There is no doubt about it, we are a Science Fiction family. Val is a Star Wars person, and I'm a Trekker. Val likes magic (The Force) and I like the science (Warp Drives!). Either way, both of our daughters are inundated with science fiction. We own all of the Star Wars and Star Trek movies on DVD. Alas, that isn't enough.

About 2 weeks ago we received our order for a collection of EVERY single Star Trek TV episode ever made! This includes all the original series, TNG (The Next Generation), Voyager, Deep Space 9, and Enterprise! Hours and hours, weeks and weeks, months and months, and years and years of Star Trek!!! While we are out sailing around the world, these DVDs will provide us our video entertainment sans commercials.

For the record: Picard over Kirk
Best to worst series: DS9, TNG, Original Series, Voyager, Enterprise
Best 2 Movies: The Original Motion Picture, The Wrath of Khan
Worst Movie: The Voyage Home (this movie should never have been made)
Greatest Female Character: Seven of Nine

We will boldly go where no man (one) has ever gone before!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Jellyfish On Beach At Hilton Head

While visiting Ariel, we made our base of operation the Crowne Plaza resort on Hilton Head Island. This resort is our favorite in Hilton Head. It is reasonably priced, in a good location with lots of bike paths, clean, has 2 nice pools (one a kiddie pool), and has a nice beach right on the ocean.

The girls really enjoyed running up and down the beach, screaming and chasing seagulls. And then, this mystery creature was spied

This beautiful creature stopped KJ right in her tracks! "What is it?" KJ asked. Ahh, the mighty Jellyfish! It became a topic of conversation for a few moments ... until a wave came up and washed it back to the sea.

As we explained to KJ, a Jellyfish isn't really a fish at all and there is a big movement to rename them Jellies. The movement has the same passion and fervor as the efforts to return Pluto to planet status. Anyway, we talked to KJ about not touching Jellies as they have stinging capabilities (nematocysts).

Even though they can sting some people eat Jellyfish. In fact, there is such a thing as a Jellyfish Master whom processes these creatures to make them edible. KJ liked the idea of a Jellyfish Master.

Ah, the wonderful factoids one learns when becoming a dive master (such information is entertaining to tourists as well as kids! :))

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Mayo! Learning Spanish

Hola! Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Running low here on the Spanish vocabulary. Given that our sailing plan puts us in Mexican waters, Central America, and South America for a year, we believe it is a good idea to learn Spanish. As a family, how best do we do that? We have a 4 year old and a 2 year old. Videos! While Dora the Explorer is fun for the girls, it really doesn't provide enough Spanish vocabulary building for us to actually operate in Latin America.

At the moment, we are in the throws of teaching Dy how to talk. How are we doing that? Using picture books and kiddie videos, so that is what we will be doing for our Spanish lessons. We will obtain the materials used by Spanish speaking families to teach their own children, and use them to teach all of us.

I've been out to EBay and I see a number of such tools for $5 or less. This should be fun!

Oh, and Cinco de Mayo is the day used to observe the Mexican army's victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Baking Soda

A couple of days ago, Val shared one of her favorite, simple living, boat voyaging friendly substances, White Vinegar. Today is my turn. I nominate Baking Soda as the stuff. It is a natural mineral that has whatever number of uses White Vinegar has plus 1!

Baking soda can be used for cleaning, fire extinguishing, and deodorizing because of its chemical composition (blending of carbonic acid and sodium hydroxide) and its physical properties.

In the case of deodorizing, it doesn't just mask odors, it neutralizes them chemically. It is for this reason that you will find baking soda in deodorant body powers and bath salts.

Of all the uses, here are 10 to show the variety of ways baking soda can be used:

  1. Toothpaste (always a classic use of baking soda)
  2. Underarm deodorant (can be patted onto the skin)
  3. Helps relieve sunburn sting and insect bite pain
  4. Antacid (1 teaspoon plus 10 oz of water mixed ... great for heartburn)
  5. Cleans fruits and vegetables well
  6. Put in as laundry detergent in our clothes washing bucket
  7. Stainless steel polish (when mixed with water the resulting paste is super)
  8. Battery terminal cleaner (super when slightly corroded)
  9. Shampoo (1 tablespoon to 20 oz of water)
  10. Grease remover
Take that, Vinegar pusher! Heck, between Baking Soda, Vinegar, Hydrogren Peroxide, and Super Glue, we should have everything covered!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Picking A 6V Trojan Battery For The Boat

2 weeks ago I faced a decision regarding the batteries on our Gemini, do I continue the current configuration of 2 six volt batteries per bank or go with a single twelve volt battery per bank. Based on all the reading I had done, I was pretty certain I could go with the single 12 V without issue. However, I elected to ask fellow forum members at the Living Aboard Forums their experienced opinions. After reading all the responses, I'm glad I did.

It seems the best bet is to go with the multiple 6V batteries as I'm more likely to get true deep cycle behavior I need from the batteries.

If the materials were guaranteed to be the same (actual metal on plates, their proportional thicknesses, the distances of the plates, etc.), then from a discharge perspective there should be no real difference between two 6V batteries and one 12V battery. Alas, marketing hype and the dissolution of the meaning “deep cycle” make this tough to guarantee short of taking the batteries apart and looking inside.

Other factors that are in favor of the 6V include being easier to lift 4 individual heavy blocks one at a time versus 2 heavier blocks one at a time. Additionally, if a cell fries then a smaller unit replacement is possible (e.g. just one 6V versus an entire 12V battery).

I'm also going after a true Golf Cart battery, and in this case it will be a Trojan T-145 6V Deep Cycle. It provides 215 Amp Hours at a 5 hour rate, and 260 Amp Hours at a 20 hour rate. Each battery weighs 72 pounds (eating nicely into our load capacity) and its dimensions match what we have space for.

With the configuration we have, two banks, with each bank consisting of two 6 volt batteries, we will have between 430 and 520 Amp Hours! With our switch out to LED lights, a low consumption electronic devices, and our election to use muscle power everywhere we can (e.g. I'm the windlass) means that we will have plenty of power capacity for our needs between charges.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Coastal Cruising Class

This afternoon at 2:00pm, I will be in Pensacola, FL starting my Coastal Cruising class. The 6 day class is composed of 5 days living-aboard a 39' monohull sailboat and 1 day for examinations. I will be learning about tides, anchoring, navigation, and honing my sailing skills. I will be taking this class solo. The girls will be hanging out with Bill and their Aunts and I will have a learning vacation. I'm so excited! See y'all in a week!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Statue Of Liberty

This week was a business travel week for me. I spent 3 days in Manhattan. One of the business meetings I had was in an office that looked out to the Statue Of Liberty. All through the meeting I watched ships go by. About every 8th vessel was a private boat making its way towards the Hudson river. Ahh, how nice it would be to sail past the Statue Of Liberty on our own boat. It is because of all the statue represents that our family has the opportunity to take this trip of a life time. Thank you Statue Of Liberty, and all you represent.