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Posted on Apr 20, 2015 | 1 comment

10 Lessons Learned

Carter says, "Listen up, foo'!"

Carter says, “Listen up, foo’!”

Everyone in cruising talks about the steep learning curve involved when you first start. Dan and I can certainly attest to that and the stress that goes along with the uncertainty of moving your house and all your worldly possessions across an expanse of water. While we are definitely not what we would call seasoned, we have gotten into more of a rhythm after a few weeks of traveling thanks in part to some first-hand lessons we’d like to share:            

  1. Take seasickness medicine as soon as you feel sick (some even say beforehand if you are prone to bad bouts). Trying to tough it out only makes you miserable, it doesn’t go away without dry land under your feet.
  2. Weather forecasts aren’t always right. This might seem like an obvious one, but there’s something about paying money for forecasts that makes it seem like they should be more accurate and more frustrating when they aren’t.
  3. Paper charts are worth the cost but not only for a back-up to electronics. Our Explorer charts of the Bahamas have been invaluable in planning our routes, something that is significantly harder to do on a chart-plotter or other small screen. It is also nice to have two different sources of chart information.
  4. If your charts and instruments (including your eyes) disagree, trust your instruments and proceed with caution. Charts aren’t always accurate and if the visibility is bad, it’s always better to err on the conservative side to avoid problems.
  5. Once you get used to the sounds and reactions of your boat, be wary of believing your gauges if they are telling you something that doesn’t seem to jive with how your boat is acting. We lost significant time on our trip to Nassau because an electrical short was telling us that the engine was running hotter than it really was. If we would have tested the gauges sooner, we wouldn’t have lost those (very uncomfortable) hours.
  6. Calling a boat by name (thank you AIS!) usually produces a response from the captain. No name, forget about it.
  7. Moving around in an anchorage can produce dramatically different results in comfort levels. This is especially true if you can get tucked in slightly farther behind wave obstacles or get out of the typical line of traffic coming in.
  8. Fix the annoying noises your boat makes at anchor, it’s worth it! Rocking at night we can handle, creaking all night we can’t.
  9. Salt + inside of the boat = bad. Rinsing off with fresh water in the cockpit is worth the price of a gallon or two here and there.
  10. If glitter is the bane of the craft world, sand is the bane of the cruising world. Once it sticks, it is impossible to get rid of.

What lessons did you have to learn the hard way?

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Posted on Apr 3, 2015 | 0 comments

Welcome to Cruising!

Our first night at anchor was beautiful!

Our first night at anchor was beautiful!

As of April 1, we have officially joined the ranks of full-time cruisers! (And no this is not an April Fool’s joke.) Dan finished off his last few days at work and brought home an awesome cruising gift from his boss David that will be a great addition to our interior. We also off-loaded our remaining car to some friends of our marina neighbors who were kind enough to let us use it all the way up to our departure. With all of our last minute tasks wrapped up, we were ready to go!

This beautiful anchor light now has a place of honor in our main salon.

This beautiful anchor light now has a place of honor in our main salon.

The only problem is how much mud the anchor brings back up with it!

The only problem is how much mud the anchor brings back up with it!

Though we had never anchored over night before, our first couple of nights have gone smoothly thanks to our over-sized Mantus* anchor. It was important to us to have an anchor that we could trust and after many hours of online research and talking to other cruisers, we think we have made the right choice. The ease with which our anchor has set these first few nights has been very important for our confidence in anchoring, which is a must if we want to keep marina expenses to a minimum. We’ll do an update on our anchoring experience after the first couple of months, but thus far we are very happy with the performance.

The opening was a little too close for comfort...

The opening was a little too close for comfort…

After a full 4 hours of ICW bridges on Thursday (and 11 hours from Lantana to Hollywood in July), I’m happy to report that we are free of the drawbridge prison that is South Florida. Hopefully, the next time we come through the area we’ll be able to do more of that time on the ocean side, but at least it was mostly uneventful. The Broad Causeway bridge in Miami was having construction done on it when we went through, which meant that only one side was opening. Talk about a tight squeeze! We also made it through the Julia Tuttle bridge which the the only fixed bridge under 65 feet along the entire East Coast ICW. The story goes that the architect accidentally made the plans for 56′ instead of 65′ and now a good percentage of larger sailboats can’t fit through.

That's 95 feet to the top!

That’s 95 feet to the top!

Thursday afternoon and night were spent checking out South Beach Miami, where there are certainly a lot of interesting people, to say the least. One night was enough for us though and we are now anchored just outside of No Name Harbor on Biscayne Bay. We got to tour the old lighthouse on the island and even Carter made it up the 109 steps to the top! It was a beautiful view from the top, though Dan wasn’t too happy about the swaying old staircase as we came to the end of our 95 foot climb. Then back to the boat to finish preparations for our Gulf Stream crossing tomorrow! To Bimini we go!

Carter loved the view

Carter loved the view

 

*Mantus gave us a generous discount on the purchase of our anchor and bridle in exchange for honest reviews of their products. While this a factor in choosing to go with them, we would not have agreed to the arrangement if they were not already on our top choices list.

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Posted on Mar 9, 2015 | 4 comments

So Much To Do

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!

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Posted on Jan 16, 2015 | 0 comments

Laundry On-Board: Scrubba Wash Bag Review

“How would you carry a laundry machine up a mountain?” This intriguing question was part of a Scrubba Washbag commercial that made me take a closer look. I had been looking for a solution for laundry on board, but hadn’t made up my mind on what I wanted to try as my first manual washing experience. Our friends on Cool Beans showed us their preferred method, essentially a modified plunger in a bucket, which probably would have been what I tried first if I hadn’t seen the Scrubba on a facebook group called Women Who Sail. I liked the idea of the smaller footprint of the Scrubba bag and thought it might be better for us due to our limited space. When Dan spotted it on a Woot.com sale, I decided to take the plunge.

The bag folds up quite small when you aren't using it.

The bag folds up quite small when you aren’t using it.

First of all, let me say that the price point is a bit high in my opinion. At $55 for what is essentially a 3 gallon dry bag with some bumps inside, it took me some serious consideration before I decided to buy it. Even after using it, I’d still say the price could have been a bit cheaper but it is fairly new so it may go down in price in the future, especially since it has already come down $10 since I first looked at buying it. Since I ordered it from Woot.com, I can’t say much about the customer service directly from the company or their shipping time, though they do offer free shipping to anywhere in the United States and internationally I believe.

It was easy to tell how full to fill the bag.

It was easy to tell how full to fill the bag.

The packaging was totally rage free and user friendly, which is always nice. My first impression was that the material was a bit thinner than I had expected but it still seemed pretty sturdy. After using it for multiple large loads, it held up with no problems though I was still careful not to use my fingernails too much when massaging/washing the clothes. The overall appearance is pleasant and I especially liked the clear window on the side with water-fill suggestions for load size. I will say that the air vent (very similar to one on a beach ball) was almost impossible for me to function but Dan had no problem getting it to work, so it’s either a hand strength issue or a brain issue I’m not quite sure at this point.

Let's just say I will never do this much laundry at one time again!

Let’s just say I will never do this much laundry at one time again!

The actual washing process was pretty straight forward. I had a full week and a half of laundry to do (3 people with Dan’s work and casual clothes) and I will say that I would not under any circumstances recommend doing that much with the Scrubba at one time. On the up side, I was able to get a very good handle on how much of different kinds of clothes could fit in one washing load. It really could fit more than I had anticipated and should not take too long for a normal wash load of a few days at a time. Here is a sample of some of the loads that I did:

The Scrubba could hold a decent amount at one time while still getting everything clean.

The Scrubba could hold a decent amount at one time while still getting everything clean.

  • 5 of Dan’s medium men’s polo shirts or 8 of my small women’s shirts (cotton and high-performance fabrics)
  • The entire supply of Carter’s size 3T clothes for the week including t-shirts, shorts, socks, underwear, and a pair of jeans
  • a pair of Dan’s jeans, one maxi-dress, one pair of men’s cargo shorts and one pair of women’s Bermuda shorts

The dirty water from just one load. It certainly is getting the clothes clean!

The dirty water from just one load. It certainly is getting the clothes clean!

Here is the inside of the bag. You can see how the wash board would be different than a normal dry bag.

Here is the inside of the bag. You can see how the wash board would be different than a normal dry bag.

The cleaning power of having the washboard inside the bag was also very helpful. At least of few of the pieces I washed had visible dirt/stains on them before washing but afterwards came out clean (I did spray them with a bit of Spray n’ Wash first). If you had anything that was heavy soiled, it would probably be better to do a pre-rinse of that item first just to reduce the transfer of oil or other junk onto your other clothes or the inside of the bag. The official recommendation for soap used is basically any washing liquid (as opposed to powders) and even shampoo or body wash would work in a pinch. I chose to use a dye and chemical free liquid that I got at Costco since I figured that some of the soap would be staying in our clothes without an intense rinse and spin cycle like you would have in a washing machine. You only need a very small amount for each load and I found that putting in the detergent before the water worked best for getting it to suds quickly.

This is our salon table after washing a load. Not a lot of water left over, but enough that I wouldn't do it on the bed or carpet.

This is our salon table after washing a load. Not a lot of water left over, but enough that I wouldn’t do it on the bed or carpet.

All-in-all I’d say that the Scrubba was easy to use, well made, and good for use on a boat (or other traveling) due to its compact size and only using about 1.5-2 gallons of water per load.

There are a few caveats, however. First, due to there being a lot of water transfer going on, I would not recommend doing your washing on top of a bed or carpet area as there is some water that will get on your work surface. Nothing too drastic but just something to know ahead of time. Also, even with hand wringing the clothes are still very wet compared to an electric machine. The guys at Scrubba sell a microfiber towel to roll/squeeze the water out in and I would highly recommend using something similar if you want your clothes to dry in any reasonable amount of time. Or you can do your own version of a spin cycle by doing the windmill on the back of your boat, your choice.

 

Have you had any experience with a manual clothes washing system that you would recommend? Tips or tricks for us? Let us know in the comments!

 

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Posted on Dec 31, 2014 | 0 comments

Our First Year Aboard 2014

The year 2014 will go undoubtedly be ranked among the most significant of our lives. This was the year that all of our planning and saving culminated in moving 1,000 miles onto our own Irwin 37. Though at times we experienced incredible stress and frustration, there were far more moments of joy, excitement, and true wonder at our new life. We look back on this year with a great feeling of accomplishment, knowing that so many have never reached such a tangible realization of their dreams.

It is with that knowledge that we head into 2015, having faith that what is to come will be greater still. We hope that you will join us as we continue to Follow the Horizon.

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