Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wishin' I was Knee Deep in the Water Somewhere...

...other than in the middle of our street, of course.

While Hurricane Sandy spared southern Florida of her wrath, we still felt her wake as she barreled through.  Literally.  Her storm surge, plus a full moon, combined with the fact that tides in October are (for some reason unbeknownst to me) higher than usual made for some crazy record water levels here in Ft.  Lauderdale, or at the very least here on Hendricks Isle.  The managers of our building, who have been running our little shangri-la for over seven years, have seen nothing like it.
Normal high tide and not normal high tide, for comparison.  Water was about a foot over our dock.
Only today have the water levels gone back to "normal", but for the past few days during high-tide, we had to wade though calf-deep water to get to our car.  In the middle of the street, it was nearly knee deep.  Knee deep!  Some poor fellow down the street had just bought a brand new corvette last week, only to find eight inches of water in it the morning after Sandy passed to our East.  Pretty insane considering she was hundreds of miles from us at her closest point.  I'm no real-estate guru nor am I an environmental scientist - but I'm guessing that you'll be able to buy property in low-lying Florida for real cheap in the next couple of decades and mountain property is going to be pretty primo.  My heart goes out to the folks up North who were and continue to be seriously affected by Sandy's rage.  What we got was nothing compared to what they are dealing with.

In other news, the new name has been applied to the boat!  It looks fantastic and I'll post pictures as soon as we can get a nice shot from the water.  Scott's been working on a mega yacht the past few days and Isla and I have been driving all over town running errands so that work does not completely seize while Scott is away.  We have new incentive to get our butts in gear: we just got word that we MUST leave Florida by January 21st or else we have to pay a large chunk of change (of the three zero variety) to the state of Florida for sales tax.  We'll take our money and run, thank you very much.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Tragic Demise of the HMS Bounty

Image of the Bounty via the Bounty Facebook Page
For obvious reasons, tragedies at sea strike close to my heart.  Really close.  They always have, in fact.  I remember being a young girl and being completely and utterly obsessed with the Titanic.  I read every book I could get my twelve year old hands on about it.  It broke my little heart to imagine this beautiful, "unsinkable", behemoth of a ship going down with all her passengers, changing lives and destinies for eternity.  Images from those books are forever etched into my mind's eye: a woman laying in her bunk, clutching her baby as the ship goes down.  A husband and wife waiting on the rail, holding hands in solidarity as they neared their fate.  The band bravely playing their music until the very end.  I was deeply moved by these haunting images and their suspects who were no longer of this world; they represented the fragility of life and the uncertainty of the sea.

This depth of feeling I had as a child has not abated.  For better or worse, I feel it all and I am completely gutted by the loss of the H.M.S. Bounty.  When I opened my twitter feed yesterday morning and saw the news she had been abandoned by her crew, my heart dropped.  As the morning went on and details emerged that two crew members were missing and the majestic ship had surrendered to the raging waters of the Atlantic, my heart sank further.  Having been at sea in less than ideal conditions (but never in anything remotely close to a hurricane) I can only imagine what the captain and his crew were dealing with.  The emotions they felt.  The fear and adrenaline that pulsed through their veins.  The uncertainty of what lay ahead.  When raw nature bears her teeth at you, it's scary.  I have been in two life and death situations in my life, and I can tell you two things: 1) it's surreal and 2) you think very, very clearly.  You are wide-eyed and you will never be more present than in those moments.  That's my experience anyway.

Image taken by the Coast Guard of the sinking Bounty.
I think this loss strikes me particularly hard because Scott is the captain of a tall ship who could very easily be faced with a similar situation.  While it is easy to get all puffed up and lay blame on the Captain and say careless things about the fateful decision he made, it must be said that he was a very respected seaman with many ocean miles beneath him.  He obviously felt that what he was doing was best for his crew and his ship.  In life there are times when we must take calculated risks.  Each and every one of us has done it.  Sometimes those risks pay off, sometimes they don't.  I am reminded of the ill-fated final voyage of the Albatross and the tragedy of the Fantome.  Both are cautionary tales of incredible ships who met their fates at the hands of nature with capable men at their helm.  Both stories break my heart into a million little pieces each time I read about them.

At the time of writing this, fourteen of sixteen crew members are safe ashore.  One of the missing crew members, Claudine Christian, was found unresponsive and pronounced dead shortly after.  The captain, Mr. Robin Walbridge, is still lost at sea.  While the loss of these two sailors is devastating, this tragedy could have been a total catastrophe if not for the heroics of the men and women of the US Coast Guard who rescued the fourteen survivors.  It is an incredibly brave feat to routinely risk your life to save the life of a stranger and this is exactly what they do, day in and day out.  These men and women are true heros.

My heart and prayers go out to the entire Bounty family.  She was a majestic ship who's site I'm sure ignited a thousand dreams and let loose countless imaginations.  The seas are a little less beautiful without her sailing on them.  May she rest in peace.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show

"Yeah, Joe?  Can you move a few million for me...there's a boat here I want to buy"...
If you are mega rich, it's only natural that you should own a mega yacht.  Yesterday, Scott, Isla and I took in the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show and holy MONEY...  Judging by this show I would say that life in the world of the filthy rich is...well, filthy rich.  I don't know about you, but I cannot even fathom having the kind of coin that would allow me to drop a cool six million on a boat.  Six million.  The expense doesn't stop there either - the yearly operating costs of these mega-yachts is enough to pull a small island nation out of poverty.  It's mind boggling.  Scott and I walked lazily along the docks (Isla was on my back) and were mesmerized by perfectly polished stainless steel, glossy hulls buffed to a mirror finish, and teak varnished to an impeccable lacquer.  Many a loafer was worn without socks and there was a lot of Louis Vuitton going on.  At one point as we were walking I stopped Scott's and said, "There are people actually shopping for boats here.  People are actually buying these boats!".  It's pretty hard to imagine.

What is also hard to imagine are the logistics required to pull a show like this off.  It is impressive.  Keep in mind, the average boat is probably - oh, I don't know - one hundred feet in length...and they pack these puppies in like sardines.  Like they're dinghies.  There must have been at least four hundred boats in an area that was smaller than a square mile.  BIG boats.  Some were no more than a foot or two apart.  They then brought in temporary floating docks to surround all these boats creating a veritable maze of opulence that was, admittedly, a little hard to navigate.

We had a great day wandering semi-aimlessly among the boats and imagining the lives of the people who were clearly shopping and not just ogling.  The tents that housed the vendors were interesting as well - particularly if you are in the market for a personal submarine, a jet-propelled water toy, and/or luxury bedding.  Unlike Strictly Sail , this show (obviously) caters more towards the mega yacht crowd and there's not much to offer the budget conscious cruiser.  Even so, we did manage to meet a few vendors and got some interesting contacts.  We even splurged and spent $60 bucks on new 16 piece set of Galleyware dishes while some other sucker out there spent $6 million on a mega yacht. Psh.

BIG thanks to our friend Dominik of UMT Marine for getting us tickets to the show! You're the best buddy!

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Isla was crawling around the cockpit the other day in her new harness. She has a life jacket too of course, but for times when we're in the cockpit, we'll just tether her to the steering pedestal with this thing.  That way, she will be free to explore and stretch her growing legs unencumbered by a bulky, hot life jacket, but will only be able to go so far.  Did I mention she's a crawling machine and is pulling herself to standing and inching along tables already?!  She's not even seven months yet!  This girl is one determined little cookie.  She's chatty too; full of "nanana's" and "dadada's".  She laughs, giggles, interacts and is even developing bonafide opinions.  So far her favorite food is sweet potatoes and she despises (and I mean despises) prunes and peas.  Trying to feed her a food she does not like is no fun and results in a mess of epic proportions.  This child is barely seven months old and headstrong. If you are into astrology, she's an Aries Water Dragon which basically means she is lucky and powerful.  Aye, aye, aye...Aside from the unpleasantness of expanding her palette, she is a total joy.  Just awesome to be around.  I should know, I am around her a lot!

In other news:  Scott unpacked most of our boxes on the boat.  Out of thirty-four, we have only twelve to go.  Asante is starting to feel like home and the more we explore and discover new things - the more we love her.  We will probably be out of this apartment and onto the boat full-time in the next week or two.  Should be interesting!  Luckily a boat is pretty baby proof as it is; all the cabinets lock (and are tricky even for some adults) and there are no freestanding items she can accidentally pull over herself (like a television or something).  That said, I'm sure we'll learn about all the ways the boat is NOT baby proof soon enough!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Moving onto a Boat

These two palettes contain pretty much all of Scott and my worldly possessions.  Exactly two months ago, Scott packed up all of our belongings from Rasmus and left them in the trust of a Trini shipping company.  It took a littler longer than anticipated (okay, it took a lot longer than anticipated) but they have arrived.  All thirty-four of them.  Sigh.  We've got our work cut out for us unpacking these beasts, that's for sure...

Moving into a house is one thing, but moving into a boat?  That's a whole new animal.  There are about a million different locations to tuck things away, and none are as straight-forward (or roomy) as a linen closet or a pantry.  There are storage spaces below floorboards, under seat cushions, behind seat cushions, and under mattresses.  Some spaces are logical, some are not.  Then there are the considerations one must make while unpacking: Will this item be something I need readily?  Can it be stowed more permanently?  Is it heat sensitive or will it need a cool place?  Will it break, rock or roll if we heel over?  Does this need to be in a place that is guaranteed to stay dry? Can it be stored near the instruments or must it be isolated?  Is it to heavy to stow high?  To fragile to stow low?  So many things to think about.  There is no rhyme or reason as to where you might find a little nook in which to stow something and very few cubbyholes are in a nice simple shape like say, a square.  Oh no!  They're full of slopes and bulwarks, pipes and hoses.  To further complicate the ordeal, every little triangle and misshapen void must be used to the utmost efficiency because on a boat, no matter the size, space is always at a premium.

Scott and I are pretty organized when it comes to stowing our boat.  We like everything to have a specific place so I made my first run to the Container Store yesterday.  Let me just say that I LOVE the Container Store.  If organization excites you as much as it does me, trust me when I tell you that you will breath a sigh of organized relief in this place.  The pretty boxes, perfectly appointed displays, towers of organizational goodness and super-handy impuse buys* placed just-so will make you believe that all is right in the world.  Until you get the bill, of course.  That stuff is not cheap.  Note I said I made my first run...this is a trial and error sort of deal.  Hold on to those receipts!

So yeah - we're going to be unpacking for a while, tucking things away like squirrels.  I just hope we remember where we put everything.  There is a LOT more storage on this boat and we never did end up finding that replacement mast head light that we bought for Rasmus back on the Erie Canal...hmmmm...

* Finally got that perfect e-reader light I have been looking for!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Convertin' to a Cutter...or is it a Slutter?

One thing Scott and I dreamed of on Rasmus was having an inner forestay or "baby stay" that would house a small jib or stays'l for heavy weather.  While we were pretty diligent about checking weather and only moving in good windows, we were caught in a few nasty squalls that left us wishing for more options (and less sail area).  We were never comfortable rolling in our genoa to "reef" it, and furling it completely while sailing with only a reefed main was not ideal either.  Enter the 'cutter rig'.

While I'm not sure if our Brewer 44 is a "true" cutter rig, we know that a) it is already set up for a baby stay b) the mast is farther aft than on other Brewer 44's and c) there is an extra set of shrouds that add strength to the mast, eliminating (or at least reducing) the need for running backstays (if you look at the diagram of our boat at the bottom of this page, you will see it's designed with an inner stay).   Knowing these three things, we - after consulting with our sailmaker buddy and a professional rigger -  have made the decision to add a baby stay.  This seemingly small change will thus turn our sloop into a cutter, or, if you want to get really technical - a slutter.  Yes, that is a real term.  Which means when people ask us what kind of rig we have we can say in all seriousness, "She's a slutter".  Pretty awesome.

Like anything on a boat, there are plusses and minuses to having two headsails and, for us, obviously the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.  The main advantages we see are having more sail options, particularly in a blow.  To be able to roll in our genoa and roll out our storm sail when conditions call for it will make our lives much easier and safer.  In addition, the dual headsails will provide us with more options in almost all points of sail and opportunity to better balance the helm of our boat in various conditions.  The overwhelming negative of this configuration is the fact that tacking the genoa becomes difficult at best because the inner stay gets in the way.  To that we say:  good thing we're cruisers who don't tack much!

To solve the tacking issue, some people install a "quick-release" baby stay that can be removed and stowed at the mast when not in use.  We strongly considered this but have opted to rig our baby stay permanently on a roller furling.  Our foredeck has PLENTY of room for this, and the whole point of the inner stay - for us, anyway - is to have a stays'l ready for action at a moment's notice.  If you're interested in learning more about cutters and staysl's, here's a thourough article on the subject.

Do we have any fellow cutters or slutters out there?  Care to weigh in?  What's your optimal sail plan/configuration?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Sea Chest

As would be expected when you buy a new boat, there are several things that are new to us on this one: we have refrigeration, air conditioning, a second head, room to actually swing a cat and a sea chest, to name a few.

A sea chest, despite what it's moniker might suggest, is not filled with gold and silver.  It is not intricately carved out of mahogany.  It is not, in fact, a place to store treasures.  What it is, is a box (or chest, if you will) integrated into the hull of a boat that contains water pulled from a single sea cock (ours is 1.5").  The idea is that systems that require raw water to run (in our case, the "non-essentials" like refrigeration, AC, watermaker, head...etc. our engine and generator are on their own seacocks) can be lead to the box instead of to their own respective sea cocks, thus eliminating the need for more holes in the bottom of the boat.  Instead of having a thru-hull for each system or having a bunch of systems tee'd off one another, you run each system separately off the water collected in this magical chest.

"Sea chests" are very common on large work boats, less so on cruising boats.  There are advantages and disadvantages, of course; the main advantage being that we have significantly less holes in our boat and the disadvantages being that they are famously tricky to clean and hose runs are a lot longer.  I'm sure there are more, but those are the top from either camp as far as I can tell.
Our sea chest is right below the galley floor and does not, unfortunately, hold treasure.
Scott has spent the past two days installing isolation valves on our sea chest so that we can turn off any given system if need be.  Right now, we have our watermaker, air conditioning, refrigerator, freezer, both heads, and our salt water wash down pump run to our sea chest.  If that sounds like a lot, it is.  Isolation valves (the grey pipes with the red knobs pictured above*) will allow us to turn off the water going to any given system to either service it or close it off, because running all of those at once would certainly run our sea chest dry.

Any of you out there have sea chests and care to share any tips/tricks/wisdom with us?  We'd love to hear it!

Now if only we had somewhere to store our boo-tay...

*Before you jump on us for installing plastic isolation valves, keep in mind Scott considered bronze and went back and forth about this.  Because the actual sea cock that feeds the sea chest is bronze, he decided the plastic valves would suffice (they are about $30 less a piece than their bronze brethren, fyi).  From now on, however, he'll always go bronze because of the headache the back and forth has caused him.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Work: The Double Edged Sword

When Scott got his USCG Captain's license, we new that it would open up a whole new world for him in terms of work.  And it did.  It allows him gainful employment as a captain with Island Windjammers and opens up a bunch of other opportunities from doing deliveries to helping out on mega yachts here in Ft. Lauderdale (he's got a five day gig next week with our buddy Travis!).  You never know what the future leads, but I am pretty certain the sea is where his life's work will be, no more going to an office for him.

This is fantastic for us because a) he can potentially find work wherever in the world we are and b) these jobs will allow us to cruise indefinitely.  The down sides, of course, are a) we will not be able cruise while he works and b) we spend weeks apart at a time.  Yep, even when you live like wayward nomads in cool places,  it's difficult to have your cake and eat it too.

Scott reports to Grenada for an eight week rotation at the end of November and he is really scrambling to get all of our major projects completed before he departs.  Our goal is to be - more or less - ready to go when he returns mid-January.  At the moment he's working solo on the boat from 8am to 8pm, stopping for few breaks in between.  I bring him his lunch, steal little moments to help him here and there while Isla is napping, but for the most part - we pass like ships in the night.  Not ideal, but it is what it is.

Projects underway:
  • The addition of an inner stay with a roller furling staysail (the boat is already set-up for this, but does not have one) in progress with a local rigging company
  • The modification of our bimini and solar panels so that the two can zip together in progress with local canvas company
  • Installation of our new watermaker
  • Installation of isolation valves on our sea chest (more on this later)
  • Installation of dinghy davits by UMT Marine
  • Addition of our dinghy motor hoist to our instrument pole
  • Mounting of our new Viking life raft canister to the deck
Those are the big ones, there are countless more "little" projects that must be completed as well.  While we might have more money to pay for these projects, we have less time to complete them.  And therein lies the double-edged sword.  We'll get there.  At the moment progress is slow, but slow and steady wins the race, right?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

D.A.N is the Man

Screen shot from
We get lots of questions from readers.  One of the ones that I field the most is "do you have insurance?".  The short answer is yes and no.  Isla and I are insured through Blue Cross Blue Shield,  Scott is uninsured.  I was insured just before I got pregnant so that I could be covered just in case (phew...having a baby stateside is expensive. We almost opted to have our baby in Grenada which, incidentally, would have cost about $3,000 out of pocket).  When we left on this journey, both Scott and I went uninsured.  This is a gamble when you're in the U S of A where an aspirin from hospital costs $15.  Abroad however, I have found the odds of finding affordable care much higher so we opted to risk it.

Before I continue on I would like to direct everyone to my DISCLAIMER.  Please read it before you read the rest of my post.  I'll wait...

(elevator music)


When I lived in Africa (3 years), I went uninsured.  While I was there, I was tested for malaria three times (never got it), suffered a horrible case of shell-fish food poisoning (the worst kind) and I battled one super nasty bout of dysentery (want to lose twenty pounds?  That'll do it!).  The malaria tests each cost me a whopping $1 USD (at the time) and - had I tested positive for malaria - the medicine would have cost something like $2 USD.  That's it.  When I got food poisoning I went on a drip for fluid and was given some sort of treatment (exactly what it was has since left my brain).  Whole thing cost me maybe $15.  When I got dysentery (a thoroughly unpleasant experience, I might add) I ended up in the hospital for two nights and received a bunch of IV's of fluid and a few handfulls of pills the size of cockroaches.  Granted, the hospital's only toilet was a hole in the ground (again - thoroughly unpleasant whilst suffering dysentery and attached to an IV) but the whole ordeal cost me something like $100 bucks give or take.  While I don't remember the exact dollars and cents, I do recall I had the money in my pocket to cover it all and I've never been one to walk around with too much money in my pocket.

What's my point you ask?  Well, two things:
1) Tropical places are the experts in diagnosing/treating tropical disease and
2) Health care in many other countries is suuuuuper affordable.

The little stuff like bumps, bruises, cuts, infections, tropical disease and probably even a broken bone, I'll happily pay a local doctor to treat.  The big stuff like transplants, transfusions, and anything that involves vital organs and/or your life hanging precariously on percentage points, well, I might want to be elsewhere.

One thing I heard a lot about throughout our travels was Divers Alert Network (D.A.N) membership and the subsequent Travelassist insurance that comes with it.  Many cruisers we met carry the membership and now that we're responsible parents, I thought we should too.  The particulars of the plan can be found HERE, but basically, in the event of a serious emergency in some remote locale (and it does not have to be dive-related), D.A.N will pay to transport you to a more developed locale that can treat your problems.  This is a pretty big deal and we paid a whopping $55 for our family membership.  There are other insurance plans D.A.N offers that you might want to consider depending on your situation, but the basic package will cover you for the evacuation.
While this is not health insurance, it does offer some peace of mind to know that if tragedy were to strike, we'd be able to get to somewhere where we will get better care.  Like they say, "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye!"

What do you readers who cruise do for insurance?  Do you take the gamble or are you fully covered?  Anyone have any personal stories where D.A.N has helped out?  Please share your thoughts and experience in our comments so we ALL can learn!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Settee Conversion Part Deux!

A little over a month ago, I wrote how we were converting the starboard side of our salon from a two seat to a settee layout.  I am happy to report that the job is complete (aside from a couple cushions) and we could not be happier.  The two seat layout was great for a cruising couple, but we think the settee is MUCH better suited for an offshore cruising boat and growing family.  Doesn't it look fantastic?
We are so pleased with the results...not only does this afford us another place to sleep, but it actually gives us a little more storage as well.  We had to recess our air conditioning unit a bit but our awesome carpenter, Juan, made the whole thing look original.  In addition, Scott and I requested a hinged top so if when we need to access the air conditioner to fix and/or service it, it will be much, much easier.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Evolution of a New Nav Station Panel...and Love

The before and after of our new nav station panel
The boat has been a complete disaster area for the past two weeks.  Just a total mess.  My OCD tendencies were kept at bay because we are in an apartment at the moment, but our boat literally looked like someone picked her up, turned her upside down and shook her around a bit.  Crap. Was. Everywhere.  Until yesterday...

My uncle and cousins were down for the day with our broker-cum-friend Allen Schiller checking out potential sailboats and planned on stopping by for a late lunch/early dinner.  As I was feeding Isla breakfast, Scott announced that he was going to the boat to "clean it up a bit" for their visit.  (Yeah, he's handy and he cleans.  Hands off ladies, he's mine).  I'm not sure if he sang a little tune to summon a small brigade of peppy chameleons, egrets, and iguanas to help him get the job done, but the boat looks like new.  Like little lizards swept all the mess away with their tails.  You'd never know the tornado that is Walt Genske came through (and I mean that in the most respectful way, if you want to get stuff done on a boat, you gotta tear it up to do it).

One of the things he did to renew order and eliminate part of the mess was mount the new nav station panels that he and Walt made.  They're beautiful.  Here's it's evolution, in a photo montage:

While the pictures might make this look easy, I assure you, for the average joe, this would be tricky.  Because there are no 90ยบ angles on a boat, taking measurements to fit something exactly involves math that I, admittedly, do not know.  Luckily, I married an engineer who not only knows the complex geometry to figure out those tricky slants and slopes, but has the patience to craft them with perfection.  Perfection I tell you.  He is nothing if not an artist.
Before and after, one more time just for fun.
Yesterday also marked the first day when I came aboard Asante and said out loud with giddy excitement "I love our boat"!  Somewhere between digging around in all the cupboards and cabinets while making a mental schematic in my head I fell completely and utterly in love with our new boat.  The layout.  The storage.  The room.  The look.  Suddenly, it felt like home.  What an awesome feeling.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Dockwalk Party

If I would have known at, say, 20 years old that there was a whole industry where you could travel the world by boat on someone else's dime while making money and partying with some of the best looking folks in some of the most exotic places on the on the globe, well, my life might have turned out differently...

I'm talking about the yachting industry, where (mostly) young (mostly good-looking) folks take a couple of courses in order to qualify to work on mega-yachts as "stews" (stewards, stewardesses), bosuns, deck hands, engineers, mates, chefs and a slew of other positions catering to the rich and famous.  While we've definitely crossed paths with many mega-yachts in our travels, typically the "yachtie" set and cruiser set don't mix...not because of any sort of acrimony, but because we cruisers are (usually) cheap and the yachties tend to have a) more money to play with and b) are working.  There are negatives to this seemingly awesome job, of course (it is a job, after all): sometimes the owners of the yachts are jerks, you typically share a bunk room the size of a closet with one or two other people, and drama can ensue (as it does when you coop up young, hormonal people)... For the most part, however, it seems like a pretty sweet gig for a twenty-something; you have almost no expenses, travel the world, and make a decent salary doing it.

One of the "industry" publications that Scott and I have been reading since we started traveling is Dockwalk.  While it caters to the yacthie set more than the cruiser, it's a pretty interesting read and we usually have a copy or two lying around our boat at any given time.  As you can imagine, Ft. Lauderdale (being one of the yachting industry capitals) is full of yachties and because we are a week away from the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show, Dockwalk decided to throw a little mixer for the industry folk.  Our friend Travis, a mega-yacht captain, invited us along and because grandma is here, Scott and I enjoyed a night out sans baby.  It was fun.  The place was packed and looked like an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog exploded.  No shortage of eye candy, but I think Emily and I had the best of the bunch and we owned that dance floor (wink).
Our Ft. Lauderdale friends, Captain Travis and his wife Emily.
If you're looking to travel the world by boat but can't seem to figure out how to do it on your own boat, perhaps you should try to work on someone else's?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Marine Electrical Engineering 101

We said goodbye to Walt today.  We got a TON done over the past ten days and this wave of forward momentum we're riding has us in great spirits.   It's hard to believe that this is refit number two with him.  We've come a long way... heck, we're practically family now.

Here's what was accomplished:
  • Mounted the new instrument pole
  • Got AIS up and running
  • Wired the new ICOM 802 SSB, up and running
  • Relocated chartplotter and autopilot
  • Aft deck flood light up and running
  • Installed new VHF
  • New Fusion stereo up and running
  • New Victron battery monitor up and running
  • Began installation of our Cruise RO Watermaker
  • Ran spare VHF antenna to the pole
  • General clean up of existing wiring (labeling, zip-tying, removing dead wire..etc)
  • Made new nav station panels and mounted all gear on it (more on this later!)
  • Ran a crap ton of wires to make it all work
The best part of all this?  Scott now knows the boat like the back of his hand and he has become incredibly proficient with boat electronics.  He's learned the proper technique for soldering, labeling, splicing and running electrical wire (fyi, wire nuts have no place on a boat!) and has become so competent that Walt is seriously considering bringing him along on jobs!  Tip: If you want to cruise indefinitely, gain skills in any boat related field.  It will help you tremendously.

We've come across few professionals who are as meticulous as Walt, and we've benefitted tremendously from him setting the bar high for us.  Last night during dinner Walt said, "You know what I love most about working with you guys?" he paused with a smile as he tousled his mop of thick, grey hair, "We're a great team."  And we are.  Unlike most of the jobs that Walt goes on, we work side by side with him and it's a win/win for all of us:  we learn from his genius, and he gets more accomplished by delegating.  We also tend to have a lot of fun in between.  Thank you Walt for your expertise, friendship and total dedication to our dreams!
In other news:  today we had a rigger come look at our rig.  We're going be adding a permanent inner stay in the next couple weeks so that we can have a stays'l on deck at all times.  While there are plusses and minuses to everything; having a "cutter" rig has been at the top of our list of "wants" since we began cruising.  We'll tell you more about it when we get there...for now, we're going to relax poolside!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Catching the Sun

Our new panels are just itching to ditch the bubble wrap and lay out in the sun!
For many wayward sailors, to "cruise" is to live "off the grid".  Living "off the grid" is to supposedly avoid the complex web of power lines and pipelines that are (literally) sucking and pulling the energy out of the earth.  The term implies self-sufficiency and a life free from utility bills (sigh).  When people hear "off the grid" they might think of any number of things: Amish communities, the Matrix, but most likely, they think renewable energy...

Most cruising boats you will see haves some form of renewable energy on board.  It might be wind or solar or both, and the power they draw from those methods can either completely cover their energy demands (not common) or supplement them (more common).  We considered both wind and solar for our new boat but ultimately decided to start only with solar power and add wind later if/when we thought it necessary.

On Rasmus, we had one 65 watt rigid solar panel that was mounted to our radar arch.  This little panel kept our batteries topped off at anchor (unless it was cloudy/rainy) but did not, however, keep up with our energy demands under sail when we'd run our chartplotter, radar and running lights, etc.  This time around, we're doing things a little differently.  Actually, we're doing things a LOT differently.  For our new boat, Asante, we bought two 125 Watt Solbianflex panels.  Keyword being "flex".  Because we opted to skip the instrument arch this time around, we're planning on zipping these pretty babies directly into our bimini top.  Boo-yah!

Flexible panels are slightly less efficient, don't last as long and are significantly more expensive than their rigid counterparts.  So why the heck did we go this way? A couple of reasons:
  • We have a semi-rigid bimini that we plan on keeping up all the time (shade is a necessity in the tropics!)
  • We want to mount our solar panels on the bimini but don't want to add a bunch of additional, bulky and costly superstructure for those panels (which would offset the savings of rigid panels )
Not gonna lie, these panels are pretty sweet.  They can be picked up with two fingers, are no thicker than a triscuit, and measure about 4 1/2 by 2 1/2 feet.  We plan on modifying our bimini top so that we can zip both of these panels into it lengthwise, with one panel on either side of the boom.   This will mean that no matter what tack we are sailing on, there will be at least one panel that is fully exposed to the sun and free from any boom or sail shadow*.  This is the idea anyway.  Everything works swimmingly in theory, right? 

We hope to have these up and running in the next few weeks.  Though I know there are people out there who have gone this route, it is definitely not the "norm" (we've actually never seen it) which leads me to believe we are either innovative or stupid.  This remains to be seen.  We'll keep you posted on the progress and output of these slick solar suckers once we know it.  

Though we don't have enough experience/information to advise anyone on our new solar set-up, if you are curious/interested in a flexible solar panel array, feel free to contact Walt Genske of C&E Marine and he can set you up.

*Efficiency of a solar panel goes down tremendously if there is any portion of the panel in the shade.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Visit From Grandma

I don't know if there are many types of love as strong as that which a Grandma has for her grandbabies.  When we had our tearful goodbye in Chicago, I urged my mom to come visit us soon.  "Oh no," she replied through a strong exterior and choked-back tears, "You guys get settled, we'll see you at Christmas".  We hopped in our hoop dee, waved goodbye and off we went.

I don't think we got to Indiana before my mom (who is a travel agent) called and said in her adorable, peppy northern British accent: "Darling, I found a cheap ticket to Lauderdale on October 17!  How about I come down for four days?"  she was excited, "...of course, make sure it's okay with Scott!  I don't want to impose, but I could watch Isla while you work on the boat and babysit and help you out however I can..." she trailed off.

And so it was.  Grandma is coming today.  She is going to have her mind BLOWN by how much this child has changed and grown in the last few weeks.  When we left, she was meerly rolling both ways.  Psh.  Now, she sits up on her own, crawls across the room, pulls herself to standing, drinks by herself with a sippy cup and has the dexterity to pick up something as tiny as a raisin off the floor and shove it in her mouth!!  As tiny as a raisin I tell you! Ground bugs and slow lizards*: BEWARE!!

I don't know who is going to be more excited, Isla or Grandma.  It's going to be a fun couple of days!

*Scott found a half-squished, half-alive baby lizard on the floor of the apartment the other day.  All fingers are pointing to Isla as the perp.  Scott put the poor thing out of it's misery.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Water Baby

While Scott and Walt work on the boat like dogs from dawn till dusk (and beyond), Isla and I have fallen into a nice little routine. We begin our day around 7am, have breakfast with the boys (we're on mushy "solids" now), play a bit and then Isla goes down for her first nap at 9am.  By 11am she's up an at 'em again and (weather permitting) we take a nice long walk down Las Olas Boulevard or to the beach.  We come back, have lunch, play some more and then, around 1pm Isla goes down for nap numero dos.  She wakes from that nap around 2:30, we visit daddy on the boat and then it's pool time.  We looooove our pool time.  Then we take a bath, play some more with our blocks and toys ("toys" being a loose term because some do not consider an empty bag of chips a toy, but Isla does), and between 6 and 7pm it's lights out and mama gets herself a beer.

Yeah.  It's a rough life, I know.  I realize that those of you who hated me before probably hate me more now.  Sorry.

Back to the pool time though.  I'm doing serious work there!  I'm trying to get Isla comfortable in the water so that learning to swim is easier.  Did some 'net surfing and found out about one program that actually teaches babies to swim, er...float, rather.  It's called ISR or Infant Swim Resource.  As in all things "child rearing" it wouldn't be legit if there wasn't a little controversy around it (i.e. it's cruel, creates anxiety, counter-productive..etc) but this video (albeit kind of creepy in a "that baby is floating" kind of way) is pretty convincing.  Thoughts?  Experience?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Radar Arch or Instrument Pole?

Most cruising boats today have lots of gadgets; chart plotters, GPS units, radars, wifi boosters and more.  With these gadgets come antennae.  Unlike a house where you just stick them on the roof, a cruising boat needs a dedicated place to mount these things.  On Rasmus, we opted for an instrument arch.  Arches are great in that they are a one stop shop; they can house the dinghy davits, antennae, an outboard motor hoist and solar panels in one spot which can be very convenient.  The downsides are:  they are heavy (especially if made of stainless steel like ours was), are often very expensive and can affect the lines of the boat (some arches look downright ugly).

With this new boat, Scott and I decided to scratch the arch and go with a simple instrument pole.  Several factors played into this decision: 1) Use - our radar is already mounted on the mast 2) Need -we'll be using flexible solar panels zipped into our bimini top so don't need a framework* 3) Cost - a custom arch would have been 10K or more and 4) Look -we think the lines on this boat are so pretty and perfect, we'd like to keep them as streamlined and clean as we can.

Scott and Walt got to work running the wires and prepping the new pole for installation with some help from little miss Isla.  This new pole will hold our two GPS antennae, our Rogue Wave Pro antenna, our stern light, an aft deck light as well as our outboard motor hoist.  In addition we will have stainless davits custom made for us by UMT Marine.  We think it's going to look pretty slick.

How do you manage the antennae aboard your boat?  Do you have a preference for arch vs. pole?  We'd love to hear your thoughts!

*More on this when we get to that point.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dry-Fit of our Cruise RO Watermaker

One of the tasks to accomplish in the next couple weeks is to install our new Cruise RO Watermaker. A large part of why we selected this watermaker was due to the comparatively low cost of the high-output unit (among other things).  One of the ways they are able to keep their costs down is due to the fact that it's "cruiser installed", meaning we'd install the unit as opposed to paying someone else to do it.

As promised, our pretty new watermaker and all it's parts were waiting for us when we arrived in Florida.  Scott dug right in, busted out the instruction manual and laid out the various parts that we were working with.  While we do have quite a bit more room on this new boat, that does not mean we want to waste space.  Finding locations for components is always a challenge in spatial reasoning.  Simply finding a spot where these items fit would have been easy, but we needed to find a place where made the most sense.  Bang for the spatial buck, so to speak.  Luckily, Scott is an expert in this field.  The man knows how to efficiently store things so that we make the most out of an area!
The Cruise RO flow chart.  Literally.  Image courtesy of Cruise RO Water & Power.
The unit is modular, meaning we can mount each of the individual pieces in different locations.  While it might seem easiest to mount, say, the large RO membranes under a settee or put the high-pressure pump and motor on the floor of a large hanging locker - we did not want to lose or make void all that space in what we call "prime real estate" areas.  When Scott goes hunting for locations for things, he looks for places that meet the following criteria:
  1. Easy access 
  2. Can be "filled" (i.e little to no wasted space)
  3. As little modification as possible (i.e not having to make excessive brackets and shelves)
  4. Protected from getting bumped and/or hit by putting things away/taking things out
After a day of digging around the boat, Scott found a small compartment to fit both pumps and all the filters.  It's low on the boat, the primary motor/pump assembly will be mounted to the hull (tip: you should try to avoid mounting anything with quickly moving and/or vibrating parts on shelves or boards as they will create a ruckus!) and makes the most out of a little space that is not what we consider "primo real estate".  Check it out:
The main pump, pre-filters, carbon filter and boost pump will all be located in this one small locker located in our walk-through.  The pump will be mounted evenly on a bracket that will be glassed into the hull.
The two RO membranes are mounted vertically on the forward bulkhead of our aft hanging locker, still leaving us plenty of room to hang our clothes and providing us plenty of "floor" room for shoes, bins, etc.
We're hoping to do the final install and connect all the dots in the next couple of weeks, we'll tell you abou the final installation and show you pics when we get there!

Interested in our watermaker? Here are some more posts:
* Full disclosure:  we are sponsored by Cruise RO Water and Power

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Put on a Pedestal

Note the chart plotter pretty much blocking the forward view.
There seems to be a trend these days on cruising boats: piling crap on the steering pedestal*.  First of all, for those who don't know, the steering pedestal is where the wheel of the boat is.  It is where you steer. There is usually a stainless steel upside-down "U" shape and the wheel (and whatever else) is attached to that.  It's much more complex, of course, but that's not the point of this post.

The point is: many, many people turn the steering pedestal into a gadget collector and we're not fans of this. There is logic for why people do this; the pedestal is right by the helmsperson, aka, the driver.  By piling all the gadgets and their gauges on said pedestal, the "driver" can easily adjust and tinker with the autopilot, chartplotter, stereo, flux capacitor and whatever else they decide to mount up there.  I guess it makes sense, but it doesn't mean that we like it.  One of the very first things Scott and I whispered to one another when we boarded Asante was "we're moving that chartplotter!" (what can I say? We think alike).  You may or may not be able to tell from the above picture, but that sucker is huge.  15 x 12 inches huge.  We like a clear view ahead.  Many boating accidents actually occur because people are staring at their chartplotters and not at the water around them.  We did not like the placement of our chart plotter one bit.

So... we removed and remounted it.
Here you can see the hole we cut, the flush mounted chartplotter, and the cabinetry behind it (in the galley)
We cut a giant hole in our boat and flush mounted the unit (which is slightly smaller than the 15 x12 box it was in before) on the port side of the companionway where it will still be visible by the helmsperson, but not too close that it will disrupt the driver's focus and night vision.  What makes it even more perfect is the fact that there is a pre-existing tiny cupboard behind it so if we need to access the wires, all we have to do is open the cupboard.  We were concerned it wouldn't be deep enough but you know what?  It fit like a dream.  Like it was made to go there.  It's not every day that you can say that on a boat!

I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who would say we were totally nuts and/or stupid to cut a hole that large in our boat (and trust me, it's not easy to do - mentally and physically!), but we think this is a much cleaner, nicer set-up.  Our pretty pedestal is clutter free now, just how we like it.

*Boats with tillers do not have this problem.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Another Hallberg Rassy Rasmus For Sale

Image courtesy of Swedish Snowbird
If you were interested in our Rasmus, but 'missed the boat' so to speak...Fear not! There is another beautiful, well-maintained Hallberg Rassy Rasmus for sale!  Our friends, Johanna and Martin, have put their beautiful Swedish Snobird on the market in Grenada for about $52,000 USD ($350,000 Swedish Kroner).  She's ready for new adventures in the Caribbean and beyond!  I don't think you need to ask us how great we think these boats are...

Take a look at their site to learn more about this fantastic boat.  The page is in Swedish, but you can use the "translate" button at the top of the page and read it in any language you chose. Pass it along!

Fair winds Snobirds! We'll miss you on the water!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Car Trouble and Boat Work

The other day I took the car out for the first time since we've been here.  I ran to Target, got a few things and returned so that Scott could pick up Walt from the airport.  Fifteen minutes after we changed hands on the wheel, I got a phone call from a frustrated Scott, "Was the car acting funny for you in any way?" he asked.  I replied that, no, it had not been acting funny.  "Did anything happen Brittany?" he urged accusingly, "Did you hit a curb?  Slam on the breaks? Anything?"  I pleaded my innocence and asked him what was happening.  It seemed the car was smoking profusely (among other things), and needed to go to the shop, stat.  Innocent or not, this scenario did not bode well for me considering my driving history is bad at best; my vehicular "rock bottom" being pulled over for "driving with intent to kill" back in college (no, I was not in fact, "driving with intent to kill", but I was driving fast.  Very fast).  My record has gotten much better the last ten years (not a single ticket!), but I'm still what many would consider a "white knuckle" driver.  There was no way around it, this recent bout of car trouble was my fault.  I was in the dog house.  Lucky for me, Scott is easily appeased with food and the delicious sandwich I made him for lunch seemed to smooth things over.  Phew.  The car should be fixed some time this afternoon.

In the meantime, as evidenced in the photos above, Scott and Walt have been well underway pulling and running wires, doing prep-work for our new systems and making a general mess of the boat.  Isla and I, on the other hand, have been working on much more complex tasks like crawling.  Have you ever watched a child learn to crawl/walk/sit up..etc?  It is incredible to observe.  I cannot help but think that  if we retained a tenth the determination we had as babies, we'd all accomplish so much more.  Failure is just not an option for a baby.  No matter how many times they fall, bump their heads, or scream with frustration - they just keep going at it.  Pretty incredible and awesome if you ask me.

Brittany, Scott & Isla

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Don't Spend a Boat Load

Image source.
When working on fixing up, refitting and/or outfitting a boat, it's really easy to spend a veritable boat load of money.  Add the word "marine"to anything and watch how quickly the price goes up.  The cost of a refit adds up FAST (which we learned with our first boat) so this time around, we decided to spend considerably more money upfront on the boat, with the hope of curbing the hemorrhaging of cash that happens after (we'll let you know how this goes).  While the projects we have to accomplish are not major, they are many and the dollars add up quickly.  Here's how we save a little money here and there when buying stuff for our boat because those dollars add up too! - this site is the bomb-diggity.  They have some of the best prices for all things boat on the web.  They ship quickly and have great customer service.  If we need something, we'll usually look here first.  This is probably my favorite website for boat supplies.

Craigslist - if there was ever such a thing as an "expert" Craigslister, it would be Scott.  The man loves a deal and when we lived in Chicago he bought and sold items on it all the time.  This site a little less reliable than the more marine-specific shops and websites because it sells just about everything, but if you make it a habit to check Craigslist for what you are looking for, you might find some gems.  Beware, however, because lots of stolen items end up on Craigslist.  If you buy a motor or a boat, check the serial number and do a search on it to see if you'll end up with a "hot" item.

ebay - we actually know people who have bought their boats on ebay!   When we're looking for things, we usually search ebay as well.

West Marine Port Supply - I'm not sure the best way to get one of these but if you can get a Port Supply account, it might be worth it.  Usually reserved for people who work in the "industry", this is a wholesale site that caters to folks who will purchase a lot thus saving you a ton on certain items (some items don't get any discount for whatever reason).  These accounts, however, are tricky to get but I thought it'd be worth mentioning if you can swing it.  If you cannot get your hands on one - fear not!  You'll probably do as good or better with West Marine's price matching outlined below.

West Marine Price Matching - A lot of people know this little secret, but it's worth mentioning because it can save you a ton in the long run. Say you're looking for a Jabsco fresh water pump.  You see it on the shelf at your local West Marine for $129, but then you find that same water pump on Defender for $100.  If you print out that listing from Defender and follow the protocol of West Marine's price match policy  you'll get that pump for 100 bucks!  Pretty awesome.

Coupons -  As someone who shops online a lot, I've always found this little trick to be helpful.  Simply Google coupons and/or coupon codes for the company/product you're looking for.  You can either find coupons that you can print and bring into a store, or you can find a coupon code that can be applied to an online purchase.  Definitely worth a Google search anyway.  The one that I linked to above was a quick search for a "West Marine Coupon" and lo and behold, there is one for $15 off a $100 (or more) purchase.

Boat swaps/Used Good Chandlery's -  Most marinas will have "boat swaps" from time to time where people will bring things they don't want/need anymore to buy/sell/trade with other boaters.  Scott and I went to a great boat swap in Buffalo, New York many moons ago and acquired our Edson drink holder there.  It might not sound like much, but that puppy new is $164!! We bought it for under $25!  Similarly, used boating supply shops like Sailor's Exchange in St. Augustine and Sailorman here in Lauderdale can be havens for finding boat treasures.  You'll have to dig a little, but it's fun to do because there is usually SO much cool stuff in these places.  It's like digging around in Popeye's attic!

Shop Hardware Stores -  many of us are bamboozled into thinking that if it doesn't say "marine", it won't work on a boat.  While this might be true for some items, it's not true for all.  On Rasmus, we installed a cheap, in-line water filter intended for home-use and purchased from Home Depot in order to remove the inevitable "tank taste" from our water.  I can't remember exactly, but I think the whole thing cost us $30.  If we went with a system that was intended for boats, I'm sure we could have doubled or tripled that number.  You can save a lot of money if you take your shopping list to a local hardware store and not a boat chandlery.  Use good judgement though because certain things, like household wires, aren't safe on a boat.

Other sites we like are Jamestown Distributers and Landfall Navigation.

What did we miss?  Are there any other great ways to save money on any and all things nautical?  Let us know in the comments so that our readers can learn from you too!

Brittany, Scott & Isla

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Kicking it up a Notch

Our pal Walt arrives today.  He'll be staying with us for ten days to help install our new instrument antenna pole and some new systems such as our new Rogue Wave wifi booster*, the AIS system and a few other things.  He will also work side by side with Scott to do a general clean up of our wiring and help us to determine things like what size our battery bank should be and how much solar power we should start off with.  We're super happy he's coming to help us because he is a genius when it comes to boat electronics and wiring (no, really, an actual genius - I'll bet he still has the wiring schematic of Rasmus memorized).  I know this is a family-friendly blog, so excuse me when I say:


In order to make the most of Walt's limited time, it's going to be a burnin' the midnight oil sort of week.  Well, for Scott and Walt anyway.  Isla and I will be fine-tuning our large motor skills and working on not wearing our food.  Something tells me the food will continue to be worn (we secretly like it that way!), but at least we'll have AIS in ten days!

Brittany, Scott & Isla

* A couple people asked us how we liked this system when I mentioned it in an earlier post.  We have no experience with it, as we have not installed it yet.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Getting out of a Slump

"...and when you're in a slump, you're not in for much fun, un-slumping yourself is not easily done!"
Dr. Seuss Oh The Places You'll Go

You may or may not have picked up on it, but we had a tough introduction to Ft. Lauderdale.  Between the crazies, sleeping in a new place every other night, and the reality of project overload, morale was low for a day or two here in the Meyers camp.  It wasn't entirely obvious if you saw us on the street;  but both of us were in a bit of a slump.

As much as I respect the the Seuss-man, it turns out he was wrong about that last line.  For us, all it took to un-slump ourselves was to meet a couple of super awesome people and find a place to live for more than two days.  Now, we're pretty much burping rainbows and farting sunshine!

On Thursday night I got an email from a guy who had recently stumbled upon our blog.  He wrote that he  lived here in Lauderdale, was the skipper for a private mega-yacht, and might be able to help us source things for our boat. "If you guys are up for it, we could meet up" he wrote, "In any case I'd love to hear your plans to convince my wife & I that we should be doing the same thing you are."

And meet up we did!  Long story short, Travis and his wife Emily met us at the boat on Saturday to help us move Asante from the boat yard to the live-aboard slip Scott had sourced before we left.  There was an instant connection and an immediate familiarity.  From the minute Travis (who is Australian which means he is automatically cool) and his wife Emily (who is a fellow midwesterner which means she is nice by default) boarded Asante, I don't think the four of us stopped talking.  It was great and oh so refreshing.  Travis and Scott (both professional captains and fix-it enthusiasts) drove the boat from the yard to the slip, while Emily and I (both avid travelers and fans of sarcasm) drove our cars to the new apartment to put Isla down for a nap and wait for the boat to arrive.  In our respective twosomes, friendships were forged and it's entirely possible sparks flew.

Which brings me to our new place... We got a great deal on a three week rental of a super cute and cozy one bedroom apartment in the building that's renting us our slip.  This is fantastic for five big reasons:
  1. We can sleep in the same place for more than two days in a row. 
  2. Our boat is about 100 feet from where I type.  
  3. We have a kitchen and can stop eating cheap Mexican food and/or pizza every day.
  4. We don't need to live in a construction zone (aka the boat).
  5. We have a walk-in closet which doubles perfectly as Isla's private bedroom.
A few pics I snapped of the place.  Who wouldn't want to live here?!
The building is run by a very nice French Canadian couple,  has a pool in the courtyard surrounded by tropical foliage, a nice outdoor dining space with a communal grill, and a distinct "Melrose Place" feel.  We dig it.

So now - with new digs and new friends - we are officially un-slumped!  It's amazing how these two small changes have entirely refocused our perspective.  Until, that is, we find that next big problem on the boat we didn't foresee.

Brittany, Scott & Isla

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Boat Baby & New Digs

She hasn't been on the boat long, but the first thing she did when she got aboard Asante was grab the helm.   We think that's a pretty good sign.

In other news: yesterday, Scott and our new friend, Travis, brought Asante to her live-aboard slip while Travis's wife, Emily, and I moved a few things into our new (temporary) one bedroom apartment which is right in front of the new slip.  It is absolutely adorable and in a great part of town, off Las Olas Boulevard where there are lots of great little shops and restaurants.  I'll show you pics of our new digs soon, but first - we need to go grocery shopping!  We're looking very forward to having a kitchen and not eating take-out every night!  We'll be living ashore here for at least three weeks while we make Asante more comfortable and baby-safe.

Happy Sunday,
Brittany, Scott & Isla
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...