'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch


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March – the month in Numbers

Yes friends, it’s time for everybody’s favorite game show, “Where did it all go?” And where the heck are they, anyway?
We spent most of March on a mooring in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida. It’s a pretty nice place if you like company – LOTS of company – and if you enjoy having continuous excuses for spending money. 

As planned, we dropped the mooring on the 25th (Well, one day late, but that’s as close to a plan as we get these days…) and headed west. We stopped at a number of lovely island anchorages, got hoisted up the mast to recover a broken halyard shackle, chilled briefly in Key West (City slogan: “You Can’t Afford It.”), then jumped off for the 26 hour passage to Fort Myers Beach before mostly motoring north to the Bradenton area – which is where we are now! 

So with March well behind us, let’s take a peek at the events (and expenses) that kept the crew and the boat happy and mobile during our month’s travels.

Here, presented in no particular order, are some numbers that I found interesting from March, 2017 or – where so noted – since we left Rockland In August. Enjoy!
By The Way: If you want to see where we are at each stop, look us up on Farkwar. It costs nothing and won’t try to sell you anything – it just lets your know when I post a new location. Follow along!
1 – Significant equipment breakages (Main halyard shackle. I had a spare)

27 – Nights in port(mooring) in March

225- Days since leaving Rockland

4 – Days underway in March

93- Days underway since leaving Rockland 

26.5 nm (nautical miles) (30.5 statute) – Average miles covered per day underway

Current Location – Manatee River, FL. (N27 31.8208/W82 37.8887)

188 nm (216 sm)- Miles covered in a straight line in March

327 nm (376 sm) – Miles actually sailed in March

1188 nm (1366 sm) – Miles from Rockland in a straight line.

2461 nm (2830 sm) Miles actually sailed/motored from Rockland
22.4 gal. – Diesel fuel purchased in March

163.4 gal – Diesel fuel purchased since leaving Rockland

*819 amp/hours – solar electricity produced in March
**$426.77 – Provisions purchased

$89.97 – Personal care. Haircuts, replace a skirt or shirt, etc.

***$40.00 – Cash/Misc.

$18.00 – Laundry ($6.00/load!)

$0.00 – Coffee/pastries purchased (There are NO good coffee shops until Sarasota)

$126.76 – Dining out. 

$0.00 – Propane for cooking purchased in March

$31.12 – Propane since leaving Rockland

$0.00 – charcoal for heating the cabin (It’s been warm!!)

$20.67 – Boat parts (spare belts, filters, etc)

$65.00 – boat maintenance (Diver to clean bottom)

$321.43 – Mooring/dinghy dockage fees for March

$393.06 – Diesel purchased since leaving Rockland

* 28% increase over February!

**Includes food, toiletries, paper products, booze, etc. 

***That “dark money” category. Who knows where it went?

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Working – the search for Cruising Chips

“So how can you afford to go cruising?”

We’ve heard this question, in one form or another, several times since we started out on this little adventure. Actually we started hearing it before we started out, back when we were still planning and dreaming.  

And the truth of the matter is that we can’t.

Not that we haven’t managed to make it happen, but it isn’t like we’re just blithely rolling along, never a worry or care about money. We’re scrimping and saving and giving up things like a permanent land-home (sold the house and gave up the lease on our rental), and we’ve not been able to do many of the restaurants, museums, tours and sights we’d once hoped to enjoy. Those things all cost money, and with all my medical B.S. this last year, money is scarce. Read about The Eye Thing Here.

The good news is that Nicki and I are not without saleable skills. We once owned a business called “Handy-Hands Home Maintenance & Repair”, which we closed in order to go cruising, but we still have the skills…

So when we got an email a couple weeks ago from a friend back in Maine, asking if we were interested in picking up a little extra cash, it didn’t take too long for Nicki to say “Well yeah!”, and for me (who lives in a constant state of financial denial) to be convinced that we should take the opportunity presented.

So with Sionna safely tied to a mooring in Marathon and watched over by friends and fellow cruisers, we rented a car and drove the 7 hours from the Keys to St. Petersburg Florida. There, a friend we’d worked for back in Rockland had just purchased a condo that desperately needed some sprucing up – and we became her helpers.


Repair and paint three rooms, replace all the switch plates and outlet covers, replace both bathroom light fixtures, adjust numerous closet doors, install kitchen cabinet knobs, replace the fridge water filter, repair the ice maker…. The list gets longer as you work, much as it does for a boat. Unlike boats, however, in a house you do reach a point where you can say you’re “done”.

The before shot – quite a color!


And after! Same wall…

So that’s been our last week. But not constantly working, no. We also fit in some family visits (Nicki’s brother and family were down for several days from Vermont), as well as a get-together with Lisa & Tim, a Facebook-friend couple we’d not seen in person before. Turns out they’re neat people, and she makes very decent homemade wine – and shares it too! Plus they have two aging but very sweet bulldogs, so we got a little “doggy-time”, too.  

AND we made almost enough cash on this job to put the boat in storage for the summer!  

Now, if I can just avoid the medical industry…


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January – The Month in Numbers

It’s that time once more!  

We’re tucked (tightly!) into the anchorage in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida now. The weather here in the Keys is sublime; upper 60’s at night, upper 70’s to low 80’s in the day and horrifyingly sunny, with more boats and cool folks than you can wrap your head around. With that in mind, we’re staying put for a few weeks, it looks like. We may even get a mooring in another week or so – there’s a waiting list 41 boats long!  
Now that January is behind us, we take a peek at the events (and expenses) that kept the crew and the boat happy during our month’s travels.

Here, presented in no particular order, are some numbers that I found interesting from the month of January, 2017 or – where so noted – since we left Rockland In August. Enjoy!
1 – Number of refrigeration system “failures” – corrected by a good cleaning of the condenser coil!

*5 – New species of wildlife we’ve seen this month

4 – the number of locks Sionna rode (14’ up, 13.5’ down) while crossing the Okeechobee Waterway from Stuart to Fort Myers Florida.

2 – sets of cheap new snorkel gear purchased. We’re in the Keys, Mon!

8- Nights in port in January

23 – Nights at anchor (free!) in January

166 – Days since leaving Rockland

89- Days underway since leaving Rockland

10- Days underway in January

24 nm (nautical miles) (27.6 statute) – Average miles covered per day underway
1303 nm (1498 sm) – Miles from Rockland in a straight line.

156 nm (179 sm)- Miles covered in a straight line in January

2134 nm (2454 sm) Miles actually sailed/motored from Rockland

**184nm (211 sm) – Miles actually sailed in January
13.5 gal. – Diesel fuel purchased in January

141 gal – Diesel fuel purchased since leaving Rockland

***13.6 nmpg (15.6 smpg) – Sionna’s average fuel consumption in January

15.1 nmpg (17.4 smpg) – Sionna’s average fuel consumption since leaving Rockland


****$578.70 – Provisions purchased (Now includes booze, as separating that out was embarrassing. The Keys are EXPENSIVE!)

$19.12 – Coffee/pastries purchased (which comes with Wifi!)

$225.29 – Dining out. Sometimes… you need to.

$15.91 – Propane for cooking since leaving Rockland

$0.00 – charcoal for heating the cabin (It’s been warm!!)

$91.77 – Boat parts purchased in January

$16.01 – boat maintenance supplies

$153.38 – Mooring/slip/dinghy dockage fees for January

$325.77 – Diesel purchased since leaving Rockland

282 amp/hours – amount of solar electricity produced in January

*Tarpon, Rosette Spoonbill, Sea Turtle, Frigate Bird, White Ibis, Catfish(caught & released!)

** This is about ½ the mileage we clocked in December. We’ve arrived!

*** Down slightly – less help from the wind.

**** Includes food, toiletries, paper products, booze, etc. 
Want to know what it would cost YOU to live this glamourous lifestyle?  

The answer is – “It depends”!


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December – The Month in Numbers

It’s that time again!  We’re snuggled into the anchorage in Fort Myers, Florida, the weather is generally warm (though today it’s 60 degrees and blowing stink), and we’re staying put for a few days. Now that December is history, let’s look back at the milestones and expenses – both routine and non – that marked Sionna’s progress toward warmth and sun. 

Here, presented in no particular order, are some numbers that I found interesting from the month of December, 2016 or – where so noted – since we left Rockland In August. Enjoy!


1 – Number of collisions with errant boats suffered by Sionna, causing significant but easily repaired damage to her mizzen boom. (Hint: Avoid marinas!)

1 – Number of mechanical breakdowns that required quick thinking, nerves of steel, and anchoring in the MIDDLE of the channel on the Intracoastal Waterway.

14 – Nights in port in December

17 – Nights at anchor (free!) in December

135 – Days since leaving Rockland

79- Days underway since leaving Rockland

22 – Days underway in December

24.7 nm (nautical miles) (28.4 statute) – Average miles covered per day underway


1216 nm (1398 sm) – Miles from Rockland in a straight line.
331nm (381 sm)- Miles covered in a straight line in December

1950 nm (2243 sm) Miles actually sailed/motored from Rockland

*493nm (567 sm) – Miles actually sailed in December
40.1 gal. – Diesel fuel purchased in December

127.5 gal – Diesel fuel purchased since leaving Rockland

**15.3 nmpg (17.6 smpg) – Sionna’s average fuel consumption in December

13.9 nmpg (16.0 smpg) – Sionna’s average fuel consumption since leaving Rockland


***$376.77 – Provisions purchased (Now includes booze, as separating that out was embarrasing)

$40.50 – Coffee/pastries purchased (which comes with Wifi!)

$260.00 – Dining out. It was a rough month.

$15.91 – Propane for cooking since leaving Rockland

$0.00 – charcoal for heating the cabin (It’s been warm!!)

$321.50 – Boat parts purchased in December

$345.05 – Mooring/slip fees for December (when we can’t anchor)

$294.04 – Diesel purchased since leaving Rockland

374amp/hours – amount of solar electricity produced in December

* This is more than twice the mileage we clocked in November.

** A 6 mpg improvement from November. We had better winds to help the engine.

*** Includes food, toiletries, paper products, booze, etc.


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Roll, roll, roll your boat…

We love our boat. She’s strong, capable, amazingly roomy for her 32 feet, well built and well equipped. Sionna is the perfect boat for us. But she does have one vice.

She likes to roll.
Any time the wake of a boat or a sea comes along at anything close to broadside to our old fat boat, she sets up a motion that’s like riding a round-barreled pony who’s determined to roll in the grass. Baaack and forth, Baaack and forth…. Every boat around us is gently riding to the swell, and Sionna is tossing dishes across the cabin while Nicki and I hold on for dear life. And sleeping? I don’t think so.

Hence my latest project – creating a “flopper stopper” – a device to catch hold of the water next to the hull and use its weight to reduce and dampen the roll.


The idea isn’t new, and it isn’t original. I’ve read several articles over the years about various designs, and a couple of fellow cruisers have shared ideas as well. The one I made is based pretty closely on a recent article in “Good Old Boat” magazine, so here’s a shoutout to a truly excellent publication!  

Materials are all found items: An old milk crate Nicki’s had since childhood is the base, the fabric is an old sail from the boat we didn’t restore (thank you Renaissance!) the weight was in Sionna’s bilge when we got her, and the line and clips were repurposed from various corners of the boat.


Once deployed, the flopper-stopper is below the waters surface, but it acts like a weighted bucket with a one-way valve in the bottom. Water can come up into the bottom easily, but is slowed significantly in escaping, using the weight of the water to slow the roll of the boat side-to-side.


The horizontal pole just holds the unit at a distance from the hull, creating leverage, and the two lower lines keep the whole works out perpendicular to the hull. The support is a halyard from the top of the mast.


Does it work? Certainly it helps, but there hasn’t been a huge amount of wake or swell this afternoon to test it. Mostly we seem to be riding up and down on the swells, with only a little roll thrown in.

 Cautious optimism reigns until proven unfounded!


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“Emergency Equipment” – the A to Z Challenge

 

A2Z-BADGE 2016-smaller_zpslstazvib

“But what about storms?”

Non-sailors are like children, sometimes.  They always want to focus on the worst-case scenario, the one-in-a-million chance, the bad stuff.

Which isn’t to suggest that emergencies never happen aboard – they certainly do, and could, and only a fool leaves the dock thinking “It won’t happen to me.”  (IWHTM)

The important thing to keep in mind is that emergencies and accidents happen. Life is a risky business.  What matters is how you manage risks and prepare for emergencies, giving fate a fighting chance for a happy outcome. Which brings me to today’s topic – “Emergency equipment” – and also to my favorite pet peeve – the over-selling of technology as a “guarantee” of safety.

No matter where you look in the world of cruising writing, you’ll be bombarded with stories of potential disaster, descriptions of equipment that “would have prevented…”, and lists of all the gear each trusting cruiser has decided they must have on their boat before they can cast off the lines and go.
Now in one way I think that’s good. At least these folks aren’t in the ICHTM camp with their heads in the proverbial sand, counting on the Coast Guard to come bail them out if the poop hits the sails.  On the other hand, unless you have an unlimited budget there’s a very real risk that you’ll discover you never feel “ready”.
Boats are expensive even in their simplest form. Not to buy, necessarily (though that can be very expensive too if you insist on new and improved), but certainly maintaining a boat takes a great deal of time and energy and – even for a simple boat – a fair amount of money. Add complexity and size (which the industry and fear-mongers would have you believe equates to “safety”) and the expense factor goes up logarithmically. Really – that’s not an exaggeration. I’ve seen data showing that going from a 30′ boat to a 40′ vessel can easily double both the acquisition and upkeep costs.

So how do you keep things under control?  I believe you re-think your definition of what safety means, and change your relationship to “Emergency Equipment”.

Here’s a quick pop quiz to get you thinking:
Question: What is the single most important item of safety equipment on any boat?
   Answer: A fit, well-trained crew.

Bear with me for a moment while I tangent.

I was an airline pilot in my former life, flying passengers around the north eastern US. The airlines really, really want to run a safe operation, because the result of any incident is a firestorm of media attention, even if the actual risk to the safety of operation was nil. So how do the airlines spend most of their safety budgets?

They spend it on training. Thousands and thousands of hours a year and many millions of dollars are spent on crew training; drilling and practicing procedures and techniques that – chances are – will NEVER be applied in the real world. Why? Because if that one-in-a-million event happens, the chances are high that it’s  something the crew has already seen and practiced.  They pull out the checklist, run the procedure, and land the plane. No drama, no story. Just a few disappointed reporters.
And in fact, even if the issue they face isn’t something that was foreseen and trained for ahead of time, good training also improves a crew’s ability to improvise, to think on their feet.

For example: On January 15th, 2009, USAirways Flight 1549 departed LaGuardia airport in New York City, and lost power  in both engines due to ingesting birds shortly after takeoff. For the record, pilots practice (in a simulator) the sudden loss of power on ONE engine so much that we could pretty much do the procedure in our sleep. The airplane flies fine and the incident is routine.  What we DON’T practice is the sudden and unrecoverable loss of ALL engines, because the odds of that happening are miniscule. Yet it happened.  The crew in that situation has just seconds to make the determination that they can’t recover power, that they must land the airplane somewhere in the next minute or two, then pick that spot and configure the aircraft for that landing,taking into account everything that could possibly affect the outcome of the landing/crash.
Here’s how the article on Wikipedia (link above) summed up the event:
“The incident came to be known as the “Miracle on the Hudson“, and Captain Sullenberger and the crew were hailed as heroes.

Folks, it wasn’t a miracle. “Miracle” suggests that something outside the aircraft – some element of luck or good Karma or an other-worldly force – was responsible for the safe (there were injuries, but only a handful serious, and no deaths) outcome of an unforeseeable, untrainable set of failures.

No, I believe what saved that flight was an exceptionally able, well trained crew who used their skill, experience and knowledge to shape events in a favorable way. Heros, yes, but let’s leave the credit where it belongs – with the crew.

So back to boats.  All the fancy emergency gizmos, electronic signaling devices, emergency rafts and all won’t matter a bunch of fetid dingo’s kidneys* if the crew doesn’t have the skills and attitude to thrive and survive, and the ability to improvise and make the most of their resources. Maintain a strong boat and a well trained crew, and you can leave most of the expensive toys on the dock.

SleepingRay

Which leaves you a lot more money to enjoy the other 99.997% of what cruising has to offer.

*with apologies to Douglas Adams


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What’s for Dinner?

Or breakfast? Or lunch?

There’s something about a nice meal. It just settles the mind and eases the stresses of a day. But the opposite is true as well.  A lousy meal can take a hard day and just make it harder.

Eating ashore is one answer, but with what money? Once in awhile, absolutely, but all the time? This cruise would last about three weeks. The answer is to cook.

I think it’s relatively easy to eat well on shore, particularly if you have some basic cooking skills and the time to use them. (Don’t have time to cook? Here’s a great opportunity to work out your priorities!)  And when I say “Eat Well”, I’m not saying fancy, overly expensive, huge preparation times and $5000 8-burner gas ranges that would launch a hot-air balloon in 3 minutes on a cold day.

No, I’m thinking simple with high-quality ingredients. A fresh salad (lettuce, avocado, tomato, maybe some peppers, a balsamic vinaigrette), a loaf of fresh bread, and two lightly seasoned pork chops on the grill for five minutes a side. Add a glass of Merlot if you wish, and relax: This is that good life.  Can you do that on a boat? Of course.

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But it’s a choice.  Like so many things in cruising, you choose where to spend your energies and time.  You can have a boat with every possible advanced and convenient feature, but you’ll work full time to pay for it or work full time yourself maintaining it if you do. For us, part of the fun of cruising is the two-fold process of hunting/gathering the raw materials for meals, and then experimenting to see what we can create with the relatively limited space and equipment we have available aboard.

(As a reference, I’ve got to put in a plug for a blog and book called The Boat Galley.  Carolyn does the blog, and she co-authored the book (available HERE) with Jan, who also has a blog of her own called Commuter Cruiser.  I can’t say enough good things about these two ladies, who are savvy, charming and helpful to a tee! Check ’em out.)

Mind you, our options will be expanding by a factor of many x 10 when we next take to the water.  2016 will be the first time we’ve had a boat with an actual, honest-to-God gimballed marine stove, the first time we’ve had an oven aboard, and the first time with refrigeration.  Previously it’s been a portable cooler and a Coleman camp stove, plus the propane grill on the rail.  Are we excited? You bet!

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Maine Mussels, al la Keith & Nicki

So where do you get ingredients? Granted you can’t always eat from the bounty of the sea (and no, I’m not telling you where I gathered 25 pounds of fresh mussels in less than 10 minutes without even getting out of the dinghy) but when you can, you learn about “Fresh”.  As in, “it’s-been-ten-minutes-since-these-mussels-left-the-sea-floor” fresh, and “They don’t even know they’ve been harvested yet” fresh.  Difficult prep?  Yeah, it was rough: knock off the barnacles, rinse in salt water, put in a pot and add 3 cups of water, steam 8-10 minutes-just til they open. Eat.

No, feast. Dip in a little melted butter if you’re addicted to butter like I am, or not. If you’ve got some bread to go with, even better.

There seems to be a conception among many folks just considering cruising that you’ll be eating out of cans the whole time, or you’ll be stuck with camp-food the whole time. If that were true I wouldn’t be going cruising.
The reality is that you’re most likely to continue eating – or trying to eat – about the way you do ashore, with a few adjustments. That could be great, but it could also be unfortunate if Haute Cuisine for you has always been a package of pop tarts and a coke. After all, your home is now a traveling kitchen, and every country, region and town has its own culinary speciality.  Why wouldn’t you branch out and explore all those opportunities?

Except chicken-fried anything.  I’m not sure exactly what “chicken-fried” is, but I do know that deep frying is usually what you do to disguise something that isn’t really edible otherwise. Except french fries – I love good french fries.100_4262

Perhaps what I’m really saying here is this: Don’t let the fact that your kitchen (galley) is tiny scare you off from cooking. Wherever you cruise, every single person you meet eats, and most of them cook. Yes, you’ll need to make adjustments for the limitations of storage space and tools (my Kitchenaid mixer stays in the RV while we’re aboard!), but you can cook. You can create amazingly sumptuous meals from the provisions you find along the way in stores, road-side stands and farmers markets, and the simpler and closer to the source you provision, the happier and healthier you’ll be.

And yes, that lobster roll above was the 5th lobster meal in 3 days, when a charter crew handed us a plastic bag with nearly 4 pounds of picked Maine lobster in it, saying “our guests didn’t eat lobster.”  Wow – Pity that. Twist my arm a little…

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Bon Appetite!