Thursday, June 20, 2013

You Asked, We're Telling: More Common Questions (in no particular order)


How are your solar panels working for you?
We first introduced our solar panels here.  And did a follow-up here.  Basically, we love our flexible solar panels.  When we are at anchor on a clear, sunny day they more than keep up with our power needs and we see anywhere from 8-16 amps going in.  Underway with the chart-plotter, autopilot and instruments on or if it's been cloudy we need to charge the batteries with the generator, but this has not been a problem or hindrance for us.  We would like to add one more 125 watt panel and once we do that, I think we'll be gravy.

What do you do about diapers for Isla?
Sigh.  I had every intention of being a super green mama.  I would make all her baby food from organic produce (not a smidgen of sugar!), swath her in organic (dye-free!) clothes, and diaper her bottom with non-toxic (bleach free!) cloth diapers.  None of these things occurred.  Call me lazy, call me "real", call me what you will - but this is the truth.  To be honest, I devote pretty much all of my time to Isla and her well-being, so the sliver of time that is left over for me is spent doing things I want to do, and those things do not include mashing up organic produce or hand-washing dirty diapers.  We use disposables.  We're never more than two days away from a dumpster so our dirty diaper situation has never gotten out of hand and they are so good at holding in junk these days that our boat never smells like dirty diapers despite our lack of fancy diaper-thrower-outer thing.  Like kermit sings, it's not easy being green, but it is relatively easy to buy disposable diapers.

How do you always seem so on top of things?
While I would love to perpetuate the illusion that we are a perfect, happy family that is always prepared for whatever might come our way, it would be just that - an illusion - and eventually, you'd see through it.  We are far from perfect.  Our blog is kind of like a Hollywood movie, and you're getting mostly the highlights because I don't believe in airing dirty laundry online.  Despite our flaws (of which there are many), we actually are pretty on top of things because a) we are very well researched in boats and babies and therefore semi-prepared b) we possess, for the most part, go-with-the-flow attitudes so that when things that aren't expected come up we deal with them accordingly and c) we drink Ovaltine every morning.  Okay, that last one is a lie.  But really, I am flattered you see us in such a positive light and while I do think we're doing an O.K job of cruising and baby-raising, we are human and we have our (very) imperfect moments.  Small example to wet your whistle: I swear like a sailor, which you might not be able to pick up on from the blog.  I'm working on this so that Isla doesn't start dropping F-bombs each time she trips/stubs her toe/can't find what she wants/is annoyed/can't reach something...etc.  Baby steps.

Do you ever get seasick?
Scott gets seasick but usually only on the first rough passage of a season while he gets his sea legs.  I have never puked from seasickness but have been known to get nauseas at which point I usually refrain from going down below and declare things like "we will only be eating saltines and blow-pops on this passage" (that was exactly what happened when we crossed the Mona.  Saltines and generic blow-pops for 40 hours).  For our last big passage we all put the Scopaderm patches on and no one got sick.  No heros on this boat.  I have now stocked up on those patches and we're going to wear them any time we think a trip will be rougher-than-usual.  Especially now since I am down below a lot more with Isla and Scott is doing most of the sailing single-handed.  On Rasmus we never used any seasickness medication.

How often do you apply sunscreen?
For anyone sitting there at their desk and tapping their pencils as they gaze out the window wistfully wondering: "What sort of product can I create that will make me rich?"  I have a million-dollar idea for you:  create a sunscreen that is a little pill that will protect you for, say, twelve hours.  You are welcome for this genius idea.  I don't even need a cut.  Just please for the love of God someone create this product!  I despise sunscreen; the application, the stickiness, the fact that mixed with sweat it makes you feel like a greased pig... BUT, lest I look like a 100 year old Cherokee Indian circa 1850, I wear it every day.  I put SPF 50 on my face and SPF 30 on my body at least once a day.  Isla gets coated in SPF 50 from head to toe daily - sometimes twice a day.  I am sick and tired of nagging Scott to put it on so he wears it every now and then when it strikes his fancy.  Luckily we are a family that tans though, and does not burn.  The sun just sticks to us despite our efforts.

The best part of your lifestyle?  The most challenging?
Jeeze.  This is hard.  I probably should dedicate a whole blog post to this one and perhaps I will another time.  For now, I will try to sum up for you...
  • Best part:  The travel.  Exposing Isla to new faces and places, being exposed to new cultures.  The  constant education.  Meeting incredibly inspiring people and collecting awesome stories for my grandchildren.  Living more simply in a cosy, floating home that goes with us wherever we go.  Being in nature almost all the time.  The sailing (on the rare occasion it's pleasant and conditions are favorable).  Getting to spend so much time with my little family.  New foods, new smells, new everything... These things are awesome.
  • Most challenging:  For me, it's managing my worry (what if we hit a floating container?  What if the engine dies?  What if our rig comes down? What if we get slammed by a white squall, a rogue wave, an undiscovered sea monster?) and the fact that Scott is pretty insensitive to this worry.  It is also hard on our relationship from time to time as living 24/7 with someone who's stubborn nature rivals your own can be tough.  Missing friends and family is tough.  I long for quality time with good girlfriends and the ability to get a decent New Zealand sauvignon blanc for under $10.  I think it goes without saying that the maintenance issue is a trifle annoying as well.  We have a never-ending list of projects and things to fix from heat exchangers to leaky portholes.  Luckily, I am married to a bonafide handy-man but this doesn't mean we love the constant work.  Crappy passages are no fun either.  Oh yeah, and we have cockroaches.  They have proven...challenging.
How do you stay so disciplined to blog?  What are the challenges of this?
I love to write.  I love to collect and tell stories.  Love, love, love it.  I am constantly observing the world around me and there is always an interesting story to tell if you just pay close attention to your surroundings - no matter where you are.  I feel incredibly honored and flattered that there are so many of you that are reading what I write and smellin' what I am steppin' in, so to speak.  Discipline to write is not a problem for me, as I could easily tuck myself away and write on the computer all day long.  Unfortunately, this does not bode well for my husband who is constantly tapping me on my shoulder and saying "pay attention to me" each time I sit down at the computer, so I need to find a balance.  Dealing with very slow internet connections can be a pain as well, but this is to be expected.  A more unexpected downside is the fact that I have "haters" but, funnily enough, the most animosity and opposition has been from other bloggers.  In this way the blog world, unfortunately, can seem very much like high school.  I just ignore and delete.  Lots of power in that.  After all, "haters gonna hate".

What is your anchoring technique?
We have a very solid anchor set up with an electric windlass, a 73 pound Rocna and 275 feet of 3/8 high-test chain.  While this is probably worthy of another blog post, I'll sum it up in a few steps:
  1. The most important part is selecting a good spot to anchor, this means taking into account things like: swing room, proximity to other boats, depth, bottom (sand is best), and weather conditions (wind strength, wind shifts, approaching storms..etc).  
  2. When we have found our spot, Scott points the boat into the wind, stops almost all forward motion and I begin to lower the anchor from the bow while Scott slowly reverses.  Usually, we let out 4:1 scope (four feet of chain to one foot of water - don't forget to add the distance from the bow roller to the water!) first to see how the boat settles out and then... 
  3. We back down good and hard to set the anchor.  When backing down I take a site on land - lining up something in the foreground with something in the background to make sure we're not dragging.  
  4. Once the anchor is firmly set, I let out the rest of the chain (5:1 in normal conditions, 7:1 in gale force or storms) and then snub it off with our Mantus Anchor chain hook.  Sometimes Scott will dive the anchor to make sure it's dug in, but not always.  We have - knock on wood - never dragged and have sat at anchor in 40 knots of wind.
What are your sailing plans/destinations?
Right now, we're going to stay based in the Caribbean for the foreseeable future.  We have plans for more kids and think it best to stay on this side of the Pacific for now.  There is talk about basing ourselves in the British Virgin Islands for a while, possibly going to Costa Rica for a few months and getting our surf on, hitting up South America and also the San Blas Islands of Panama.  I'd love to sail to Cuba and possibly Mexico.  Who knows?  Our plans change frequently.  Scott is also less enthused with the cruising life than I...he enjoys too many things, like biking and skiing to name a couple, to put his eggs in one basket (or boat as it is) and would like us to be land-based again at some point.  I could live on a boat forever, never see a land-home again and travel the world endlessly.  So we must compromise.

What is your biggest homemaking issue?
My friggin' hair.  Seriously, it falls out like crazy and is everywhere despite the fact that I wear a ponytail 90% of the time and only brush it on the aft deck.  If I thought I could pull off the bald look I would have shaved my head a while back.  I threaten to cut all my hair off every other day.  Scott, not being a "hair guy" could care less, but then I have visceral flashbacks of the famous "butchered bangs incident" of 2009 whence I cried (literally, cried) every day for a month and then I get very nervous about chopping it off lest we have a repeat. (No, despite what they said, living on a boat has not completely rid me of my vanity - see my post Hygiene on the High Seas for more info).

Also - optimal organization and storage.  We're always trying to maximize space and find the best locations for stuff.  Plastic snap-tight bins are our friends, we have about a hundred on board and they keep things nice.  The other issue is making this boat feel like a home and not just a boat.  I am currently in re-decorating mode and will share more on this in a later post.

Where do you store all your water toys (SUP, kayak..etc)?
We do love our toys, don't we? Asante has a big cockpit locker (often called a lazarette) that goes all the way down to our engine room and this is where the SUP goes.  The Kayak lives under the v-berth which is less ideal for ease of use but a good fit.  Scott's kiteboard stuff is tucked away all over the place, under floorboards, in the back of cupboards.  We make it work.

Can you tell us about your watermaker?
Sure.  We love it.  You can find all the posts about it through the links below.  It is one of the best pieces of gear we installed on this boat.
Where does Isla sleep?
Isla sleeps in the v-berth in a Phil and Teds travel bed that we purchased off Craigslist.  We mounted the bed to the underside of the berth using eyestraps and line (the feet of the bed have holes in them) and so it's a very secure and safe place for her underway.  We love it.  For more about it you can see these posts:
What sorts of boats to you see cruising?
We have seen ALL sorts of boats cruising.  I would say most are in the 35-45 foot range, but we have definitely seen people cruising on smaller boats in the 25-30 foot range.  We've seen people happily cruising, full time, on full-blown, rugged "round the world" blue water boats and seen people happily cruising on the most generic, flimsy production boats.  We've seen people with every single piece of gear you can imagine, and people with hardly more than a handheld GPS and a hurricane lantern and of course we've seen everything in between.  There's no rules.  People work with what they've got and make it happen.

Any weapons on board?
Besides these guns? (*Flexes arm muscles*). Nope.  There are strong arguments for and against having guns on board but, in our opinion, we don't need them at this juncture.  I don't really know the rules involved with having them and what not as far as customs go - but I know the logistics of carrying weapons can be a real pain in the butt.  Perhaps we'll change our tune if and when we get further afield  but for now - we just have Bear Spray.  Man, that story still cracks me up.

What about laundry?
When we lived at a marina and had lots and lots of fresh water I washed by hand almost exclusively.  Now, we take it ashore once every two weeks or so.  No matter where you travel I am certain that there will either a) be a laundromat or b) someone who will wash your laundry for you.  In these parts, it's the latter.  For anywhere from $10-$20 our heaping bag of laundry is washed, dried and perfectly folded for us.  Finding a coin laundromat down here is like seeing a giant octopus in the wild - possible, I am sure, but definitely not easy.

Annual cruising budget?
Ah.  Money.  I knew it would come up!  We don't track numbers so this is a total stab in the dark - but I'm guessing we spend about $1200 a month.  Sometimes less, sometimes more.  We don't live as frugally as some because Scott has a job with reliable income and my online musings and kickbacks from this blog have been known to buy a beer or two.  If you are planning to live aboard, probably best to budget on at least $1000 - $1500 a month (this is just a guestimated average - there are people doing it on less, for sure!).

How do you get internet aboard?
We almost always patch in to a local unlocked WIFI signal.  To do this we have a Rogue Wave WIFI antenna which amplifies signals that are picked up from land.  Relying on wifi is getting a little trickier now as people have gotten wise and started making passwords.  To get these it is helpful to a) be creative and b) have a cute baby.  The WIFI we used for the past ten days was from a hotel.  We saw the signal, recognized the hotel at which point Scott walked right in - armed with a smiling Isla (babies have a way of throwing people off your scent) - and flat out asked the front desk what the WIFI password was.  They gave it to him.  We surfed happy.  Other times you might have to go grab lunch or a drink somewhere to get it.  Either way, internet - in the Caribbean at least - is not very hard to come by.  But it is important to note that it will almost never be the speeds you are used to, so don't plan on downloading Game of Thrones (whatever that is) from your boat.  That will not happen.

What happens if you get sick and need a doctor?
Thankfully, life at sea is a pretty healthy and free from the flus, streps, and colds of the temperate climates.  Ironically, Scott is sick right now for the first time in two years and we're almost certain he got it from the doctor's office (he had to get a physical for work).  We carry a very large offshore medical kit (never used it) as well as just about every over-the-counter remedy you can imagine from Ibuprofen to Benadryl   Dayquil to Nyquil.  In the event that we need to see a doctor, we go local.  I've written about this before when I talked about insurance - you can see my post on the subject here.

***********

Phew.  That's all I've got right now!  I know you had more questions - but this took a heck of a lot longer than I thought it would...

If you have more questions, go on over to our Facebook Page, give us a "like" and ask us over there.  I interact more regularly on that platform and you'll see lots of extras like up-to-date happenings and pictures that you won't see on the blog.

11 comments:

Melody s/v Vacilando said...

I just read the "Bear Spray" story for the first time and almost spit out my drink. I can TOTALLY hear your laugh and I literally cracked up out loud reading it. HIL. AR. I. OUS.

Tess said...

I loved this post and in particular your bear spray story and have one of my own to share with you. I lived in Northern Canada for a while, where there are a LOT of bears, and tourists. I heard this story while living there more than once. Sounds a little like urban legend but…

Two European tourists were going on an inland hike and were dropped off by a helicopter at the top of a mountain. As the pilot was flying away he noticed the two waving frantically at him so he decided to check with them before flying off. Apparently when the hikers got out of the helicopter they proceeded to use the bear spray like insect spray, and sprayed themselves all over, thinking it would ward off the bears.

They did not hike the mountain.
6/20/13, 12:20 PM

Betsy James said...

The amount of money I would pay for a sunscreen pill is absurd and we are just weekend dingy sailors. I can't image how you must dream of it!! Love the blog!!

Mid-Life Cruising! said...

Although I've been following your blog for a few years now (already?!), I'm always glad to hear a recap of your thoughts. Glad to hear you're still able to keep the budget pretty low, right about where we hope ours to be.

I don't burn near as easily as most redheads, but gotta have my sunscreen. A pill would be amazing wouldn't it?

The hair! I know I'm gonna have it everywhere .. it's already all over our house no matter how often I sweep. But, like you, I've had my experience of crying for months until my hair grew out so guess I'm not ready to make things easy and cut it.

Have a great weekend! You do know it's Friday right .. LOL! Can't wait till I can't remember what day it is ...

B.J. Porter said...

The hair! Holy mackerel, we have two long haired women on board. After then first couple of months on board when I kept finding hairballs in everything (how do they get in breakfast cereal?) I think I might have lost it a bit.

Now hair brushing is done in the cockpit, under the dodger. My suggestions that the swim platform would work too were not well received! Something about wind...

Matt said...

Great bog-
But yikes, be careful with transderm scop... thats a wicked drug and if you have a reaction it is BRUTAL. I had a withdrawal episode that was terrible and its not at all uncommon.

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