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So Much To Do

Posted on Mar 9, 2015 | 4 comments

And this is after a year on board!

And this is after a year on board!

We are now finally in the final stages of prepping the boat and ourselves for our trip to the Bahamas. I would do a sigh of relief here, but there is so much work to be done that in fact it has been the busiest time that we have been aboard. We’ve made our list and checked it about one hundred times a day trying to find at least one more item to check off before bed. Dan even printed us some blank calendar pages that we filled in with all of our tasks to make sure they were getting done with the right time margins.

Our most time consuming project was repainting our non skid on the deck and cabin top. Previously, the deck was extremely slick anytime it got a little bit wet (I’m talking dew in the morning) and was a real safety hazard for walking, let alone going sailing. We decided to go with Interlux Interdeck paint as we thought it would provide the most value for our dollar and time. We also added some additional Interlux Intergrip dust to the deck paint after we did the cabin top a little more grip on the crucial areas. It cost a total of about $250 all supplies and paint included so we figure that justified giving it a try before shelling out a couple thousand on cutting out the old non-skid and replacing it with matting material. We are very happy with the results and feel much more secure on deck now that it is finished.

A big box of things we don't want to use.

A big box of things we don’t want to use.

Another major task was going for physicals, dental appointments, and assembling a thorough medical kit. While we were nervous about asking new doctors for prescription medications to have on board, they were actually very understanding about the situation. We brought a complete list that we compiled from OceanMedix.com prescription kit and the doctors prescribed for us the medications they thought would be appropriate for our situation. We are now properly stocked for an emergency in the case where we might be many hours (or sometimes a day or two) from advanced medical care. Our top concerns were treatment for burns, bacterial infections, and severe allergic reactions, all of which we feel sufficiently well stocked for now. Bandages, splints, and other supplies were ordered from Amazon and have all come in now other than the skin stapler. Please God let me never be called upon to use that thing! 

Somehow my ID pictures always turn out the worst.  Don't worry, it will only be 10 years until the next one.

Somehow my ID pictures always turn out the worst.
Don’t worry, it will only be 10 years until the next one.

Let’s not forget the good old government paperwork. Because we have dogs, we needed to apply for pet permits and get them vaccinated at least a month before entry into the Bahamas. Carter and I both had to get new passports, the first in his case and mine updated with my married name. Dan still had about 3 years remaining on his, but we decided to renew it anyway so that we would be on the same renewal timeline in the future. Interestingly, the only stamp that both of us had in our old passports was from our last trip to the Bahamas when Dan proposed to me while we were there for my brother’s wedding. The Bahamas certainly have a lot of meaning for our family!

We also decided to apply for the Customs and Border Patrol program called the Small Vessel Reporting System. This will allow us (as US citizens) to have a much easier clearing in process when we return home after our trip. To apply, you have to go to the SVRS website and fill out applications for the captain (with vessel information) and all passengers on your ship. Then you have to go in for a short interview with a customs agent at the nearest port. The paperwork process is a bit tedious to get through, but for anyone who does a lot of cruising between the US and other nearby countries like the Bahamas, Mexico, or between the USVI and BVI, it is probably worth your time to not have to clear into customs in person each time.

We still have a lot to do before leaving, but we are in high energy mode eagerly anticipating casting off. We are so mentally ready to go that it is hard to concentrate on getting our supplies to the same level. Just a few more weeks until we can be counted among the cruisers!

Fun Family Time

Posted on Feb 18, 2015 | 2 comments

The shows at the Miami Seaquarium were very fun!

The shows at the Miami Seaquarium were very fun!

Carter insisted that he wanted to get soaked by the orca!

Carter insisted that he wanted to get soaked by the orca!

Over the last few weeks in the midst of our preparations for leaving (getting so close!) both sets of our parents were able to come down and visit us. Having family around was great for all of us and taking a break out from our work was a much needed relief. My parents came down first at the end of January and took us to some of the more popular attractions in this area that we hadn’t gone to visit ourselves.

A beautiful day

A beautiful day

Our favorite one by far was an Everglades Air-boat ride. We took a one hour tour through the ‘glades and it was truly stunning. We spotted a few large alligators fairly early on the trip which Carter loved, but my favorite part was simply the feeling of solitude out on the water. With the wind rushing in my ears and the total feeling of gliding over the water, it was almost as if we were seeing a part of nature that had been preserved just for us in that moment. It was one of those moments in life when you get just a small glimpse of the majesty all around us.

The ship had characters from the Dreamworks movies that Carter got to meet.

The ship had characters from the Dreamworks movies that Carter got to meet.

Dan’s parents came down the week following mine and had the grand distinction of being the first overnight guests on the boat. We cleared out the aft head (aka storage closet), got a couple of blankets ready for Carter to be able to sleep in the main salon, and made up Carter’s bed in the aft cabin and we were ready to go. Overall, I think it went pretty well though 5 of us on the boat would have felt a lot tighter at anchor than it was on the dock. They slept on Horizon for 3 nights since the other 4 that they were hear, we all went on a cruise to Cozumel.

I think we'll be installing an ice rink on Horizon next...

I think we’ll be installing an ice rink on Horizon next…

Carter and Dan had a blast in the pools and hot tubs.

Carter and Dan had a blast in the pools and hot tubs.

Being on the Liberty of the Seas (2nd largest commercial cruise ship in the world) was quite the experience. Dan and I just kept talking about what their water makers must look like, how much electricity their generators had to produce, and what kind of galley storage they would need to supply us all with first and second breakfast, lunch, tea time, first and second dinner, and of course dessert. Let’s just say we spent a significant portion of our time at sea eating. Carter loved the kids area so much we practically had to bribe him to stay with us! We all had a great time and debated whether we should all just try hiding on the ship until they set sail again but in the end decided we should probably get off.

The kids all dressed up as pirates and paraded through the "Royal Promenade"

The kids all dressed up as pirates and paraded through the “Royal Promenade”

The hardest part of visits from the family is always the good-byes and this time was no different. It’s always heart breaking for us to hold Carter as he is crying about his grandparents leaving, wondering if we are really doing the right thing for him. We hope that the benefits of traveling as a family will outweigh the negatives, but these are the times that it is the hardest to convince ourselves of that. We’re hoping that the upcoming trip to the Bahamas and subsequent visit home will help us to have a little more clarity about the pros and cons.

A good lesson that we learned from our tourist time (and something that most cruising books talk about) is it really is worth it to go to a select few attractions in the areas you are visiting, even if you are on a budget. We probably never would have gone on an air-boat ride had my parents not taken us, but it was a fantastic experience that you can not have any where else. It is worth it to enhance your trip with the more iconic experiences of an area, so it is important to make space for those times in your budget. Hopefully we’ll be having more of the same in the near future!

How Not to Use a Marine Refrigerator

Posted on Jan 29, 2015 | 0 comments

Sometimes you just need a little fresh air before tackling a smelly job!

Sometimes you just need a little fresh air before tackling a smelly job!

Warning: this post is about a fairly disgusting event on the boat. Read at your own risk!

Living on a boat really stinks sometimes. And by that I mean makes you want to wretch and go get some fresh air kind of stink. Small spaces with minimal air flow can turn into some seriously horrendous smells if not fixed quickly. Any combination of diesel fuel, oil, gray water, black water, or delightfully unreliable marine refrigeration problems can turn a good day into a very, very bad one. Luckily, both of us have fairly strong stomachs but they have certainly been pushed to the limit more than we had thought before buying our boat.

Our galley when we bought the boat. The deep freezer is in the cabinet on the right.

Our galley when we bought the boat. The deep freezer is in the cabinet on the right.

Our first such experience happened only in the second week we were on board (welcome to cruising!) On the trip down from Illinois, we had brought our remaining stash of venison from last year’s hunting season, knowing that we had both our 120V freezer and our 12V marine refrigerator/freezer on board. One of the first things we did upon arrival was fire up both of them to ensure that they were in fact cooling well and then loaded up both freezers with whatever meat still looked in good condition after the trip, about 30 pounds in all. I loaded up the fridge/freezer with the items I’d want to use first as the 120V chest freezer was a bit of a pain to get into.

For the next week, we did not check the new freezer again since we had a lot of other things on our minds at the time, one of which being our first move from Indiantown to Stuart. We knew that the 120v wouldn’t be on during the trip but figured that 5 hours inside of a fully frozen freezer would be no problem to keep our meat frozen. That probably would have been true…if it had ever turned back on. Three days later we started to notice a slightly sour smell when we walked into the boat, but I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Two days after that, it was strong enough for me to find it.

Let me just say that there is nothing I have thus far encountered, even after making it through potty training with a little boy, that smelled quite as horrible as when I opened up that freezer. Twenty pounds of bloated meat sitting in its own juices was a total nightmare to clean up, especially since it was in the bottom of a deep chest freezer that I had to dive in to reach the bottom. Two hours of holding my breath to try to keep from gagging was not a great way to spend an afternoon. Even after cleaning it with bleach, baking soda, and vinegar I still wasn’t able to completely get rid of the smell of rotten meat. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to eat venison again.

We are still trying to find the perfect temperature to defrost time ratio.

We are still trying to find the perfect temperature to defrost time ratio.

A few lessons we learned from this experience:

  1. If something smells bad, find it now. Do not wait for it to get worse or you will regret it.
  2. When dealing with a new refrigeration system, check it multiple times before you trust it. We’re still not sure if the freezer was working fully to begin with or not. In the end we decided to get rid of it anyway due to the smell and not wanting to get used to using the 120V freezer since we wouldn’t be running it at anchor.
  3. It takes a while to get used to using a marine refrigerator even when it works correctly. Multiple items have thawed out on me that I thought would stay frozen at the top of the freezer and others have burst from sitting too close to the cooling coils. Finding random ooze at the bottom of your fridge that is now somewhere down the drain into the bilge is never a good thing.
  4. Consider installing a separate sump for your refrigeration (and shower water). We haven’t yet done this but are planning to in the future. If this same story had happened with the drain plug opened, we probably never would have gotten rid of the rotten meat smell out of our boat which would have really been a damper on living conditions. Any bacteria that gets into the bilge is probably going to stay in the bilge for a long, long time especially if yours is very deep and hard to clean completely like ours is.
  5. 120V refrigeration on a boat doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you are planning on running a generator or being plugged into shore power full time. Even then I think we would prefer a 120/12v option for those times when you are moving or even just want to go out for a weekend.

Take it from me, you do not want to be spending an otherwise lovely day draining rotten juice one paper towel at a time.