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Posted on Oct 24, 2014 | 0 comments

How To Defeat the Leak

Nothing better than spending a rainy day snuggling in a warm, dry bed

Nothing better than spending a rainy day snuggling in a warm, dry bed

At some point or another, most of us have had to deal with having a small leak in our home or business. A window or even a roof dripping a bit during a flooding spell in springtime is cause for a check up and a few buckets, but not any real concern for most people. Not so on a boat. A primal fear is awakened when you find yourself on a leaking boat in bad weather, even if you clearly are in no danger of sinking or drowning or in fact any horrible fate at all other than a few sopping beach towels lying around and some wrinkled book pages.

Our first big rainstorm on the boat happened just a week or so after moving aboard. Dan was working and I was attempting to turn a very foreign space into our home. As the heavy rain started to fall and the boat began to sway on our dock lines, I started to hear the tell-tale sound of dripping, something I had (naively) never considered when moving aboard. My heart started to beat faster but I decided that the most logical thing to do was to find the leak and write it down so that I could tell Dan about it when he got home in an hour or two. And thus began the hunt, me with my flashlight and notebook scouring every inch of cabinet, hatch and window, all the while becoming more and more panicked as 1 leak become 2, and then 3, and then 10. After my final count of around 15 of so separate dripping areas, I finally sat down on our settee with my face in my hands and sobbed. What had I gotten myself into?

Luckily, Dan had no such fears of our leaking boat and went immediately to work checking out the problem once he had assured me that our boat was, of course, not in danger of sinking. Nearly 6 months later, I’m quite dry while writing this post during a lovely wet spell to say that we’ve finally located and eliminated all of those leaks (for now at least), though we weren’t able to completely accomplish that feat until just a week or two ago. It is amazing how difficult it can be to locate the source of a leak on a rolling object, especially one in which you can rarely see the direct underside of the deck.  Now that we are leak free however, the boat feels like a totally different place in a storm; a cozy refuge for our family rather than a derelict tent.

A few things that we have learned through the process of finding our many water intrusions:

  1. Start with any leaks that are at risk of affecting the integrity of your hull or decks. Luckily we didn’t have any majors so we moved onto the leaks that were easily assessed and fixed, followed closely by those that were the most negatively affecting our comfort. A small leak in the galley is a lot easier to live with than one directly above your bed or bookcase.
  2. Many times 1 leak can manifest in many different areas of the boat. One of the first and easiest fixes that we found was intrusion where a cable/phone hookup had been removed and not properly covered again. A couple of pieces of duct tape (and replacing the hook-up a few days later) completely eliminated at least 4 different spots that I had marked in one shot.
  3. Check which way your boat is leaning. To go along with #2, one of our leaks would find its way port or starboard depending on which way the wind was coming from, causing us to think we had separate leaks to fix when there was really only one.
  4. If you are having trouble locating a leak, you can try using a hose directly on suspected spots. Always check for leaks from the highest point first and make your way down. We started with the cockpit hardware mountings, then moved to the cabin top, etc. before finally getting down to the deck. A word of warning though: make sure that you give enough time for the water to potentially get through before moving on and test it with your boat leaning in different ways otherwise you could miss your leaks if the water is pooling somewhere first (see #3).
  5. Finally, make sure that when you do find the leak, you fix it properly to avoid any (further) damage, especially in the case of cored decks or hulls. You do not want your leaky hatch bedding turning into a soggy deck!

Hopefully, you’ll find that you look forward to getting out of the rain when you get home, rather than spending the night in it!

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Posted on Apr 9, 2014 | 2 comments

Introducing Horizon: Our Irwin 37

Horizon under sailLet me start by saying that I never expected our 100th post to include the introduction of our boat. When we first started almost three years ago, we didn’t really know where to begin. We Learned to Sail the Hard Way and then decided it would be better to just take some lessons. Dan got certified as a Dive Master then Instructor, and we also learned that it’s better to just pretend to be a Rescue Victim. The Search was on for a boat this year but some days it felt like we might never get to this point, especially when we received the call from our broker that the Cabot 36 had sold. With a little luck and a lot of prayer, we’ve made it to the next stage of our journey.

We spent nearly 8 hours in the boatyard this last Saturday looking at boat after boat, but none of them felt like home. That is until we looked at the last one on our list: the Irwin 37 center cockpit. To be completely honest, we had all but written off this boat during our search. Generally, they are known for being a mid-range quality production boat from the 70s and 80s and frankly didn’t have the best online reputation. When our broker mentioned that he had one he would like us to look at, Dan and I basically just did a bit of an eye-roll and shrug “might as well look at it”. Little did we know.

Let me stop here to say that we had a fantastic experience with the broker we used but by request have not listed his name, since he would like to go cruising eventually as well and would prefer not to be known as the “broker guy”. He was extremely professional, very easy to get a hold of, and has a true passion to help people get into boats that they are going to love. His listings are some of the most thorough that we have seen throughout the country. If you are looking for a boat or thinking of selling yours in South Florida,  just shoot us an email through the Contact Us page and we would be happy to recommend him.

As the broker described Tortuga (current name until we can close the deal), the one word he kept using was anomaly. This boat may be nearly 40 years old, but every major system on the boat had been completely redone in the last 3-4 years. New rigging, new masts (its ketch-rigged), new staysail (make that cutter-ketch), brand new full suite of sails, top-of-the-line electronics, new beefy windlass, dodger and bimini, and the list goes on. Over $100k of upgrades and renovations really sweetens the honeypot when our total budget for boat and outfit is only $50k.

What’s the ketch you ask? Okay that was bad. Well, the person who did all of these upgrades (the owner of a major sail maker company we found out later) decided after pouring in all of the money that he actually wanted a bigger boat. So he dumped it before the interior was completely spruced up. Some of the cabinets need to be rehung, the headliner needs old holes filled and painted, the wiring needs to be organized, and some of the plumbing needs help. Luckily, everything that needs to be done are fairly easy and cheap fixes but they currently make the interior somewhat less than desirable to most buyers, especially when compared to what you expect to find after seeing the immaculate exterior. Bad news for the seller, great news for us.

Some people might be wondering right now what happened to our Blue Water Boat criteria? Well, the fact of the matter is, we’ve come to realize like so many others that every boat is a compromise. After seeing what types of boats were available in our price-range we quickly came to the conclusion that the heavily built offshore cruisers just were not going to work for our family. With our short to mid-range plans being to cruise the Bahamas and Caribbean, we believe the Irwin will be a safe and functional home for the three of us. If in the future we decide to head offshore, we will meet that challenge head-on as we always do.

We hope you will continue to Follow the Horizon with us as we continue into the next exciting stage of our journey.

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Posted on Jan 31, 2014 | 0 comments

Strictly Sail Chicago 2014

Frozen Lake Michigan at Sunrise

Welcome to Chicago! Looks like those boats will have to be trucked in!

As part of a much needed vacation from house hunting and work, Dan and I spent last weekend at Strictly Sail Chicago. Our 3rd year attending, we were really looking forward to the show as we had saved the more “in-depth” seminars until we would be close to leaving. We figured that we would want the very practical information still fresh in our minds when the time came to actually start cruising. I’m glad we did because the classes we attended this year felt like they were tailor made for us!

View of the main exhibition hall

It took us 2 days to get through all of the booths

Everyone has a different view about cruising, especially those who have been doing it for many years. The more seminars we attend and individuals we talk to, the more we realize there is no “right” way to cruise. While much of the speakers’ experiences were similar, many times they gave contradictory advice! We have quickly learned that we find the best value in listening to people that we respect and adapting their lessons to our own budget, knowledge, and comfort level.  No matter how well a particular tactic has performed for another person, it may be completely useless to us.

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Learning to splice

An unexpected benefit of this year’s show was the networking with other bloggers and editor’s from sailing magazines. In fact, a big thank you to Kevin over at SailFarLiveFree.com for a set of free tickets to the show!  Everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming and we are hoping to be able to work with many of them in the future. Lin Pardey herself introduced us to Herb McCormick, the editor of Cruising World, saying “These guys will certainly make some good pictures, don’t you think?” I couldn’t agree more, Lin!

Carter and Dan sanding a toy boat

Now if we could just get him to stop making this face when we tell him to smile!

Now that the show is over, I can tell that both Dan and I are really starting to feel the excitement build. We’ve been sitting on the tarmac for a long time, but we are finally taxiing towards take-off. And let me tell you, it feels pretty good.

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Dan and Carter on inflatable slide

Mom and Dad weren’t the only ones having fun!

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Posted on Aug 14, 2013 | 0 comments

Good Things Happen at Night

Though we didn't take this picture, we did see this meteor ourselves. It was stunning!

Though we didn’t take this picture, we did see this meteor ourselves. It was stunning!

As a teenager I remember hearing a statement by well-meaning adults that went something like “Nothing good ever happens after 10:00 PM.” Well, no offense to those people but this last weekend was yet another example of how there are always exceptions to every rule. (I’ve never really understood why adults feel the need to impart statements that only serve to elicit eye rolls and intentional contradictions from teenagers but that’s another issue entirely.) Last Friday and Saturday night were late ones for us but very rewarding in that we were able to spend some real quality time with Dan’s brother Kyle and his wife Becca.

Partially due to our influence Kyle and Becca have been putting a lot of thought into moving somewhere warmer with a better quality of life. Kyle has recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and has quickly come to the realization that the promises made by college recruiters a few years ago weren’t all that they were cracked up to be. Friday night at around 10, he called us up and they came over to get some advice on budgeting and planning for their future goals. (After we got out of bed… yes we are the 20-something, old people who are in bed on Friday night at 9:30.) We talked with them at our kitchen table until 1:30 in the morning about dreams and goals that they have and how to figure out where to start. They left with plans to come back the next night and start by finding their baseline…where are they now? where do they want to be? and what to they need to do to get there?

After dinner together on Saturday night of the fabulous grouper that Kyle speared in Panama City (remember the Most Beautiful Beaches?) we jumped right in and started sorting through the last six months of bills, bank statements, and credit card purchases to find a complete understanding of their current spending and to build a good budget that will let them save the kind of money that they hope will get them where they want to go. For anyone who has never done this before, you should because it can be eye opening to see how just rearranging your spending a bit can significantly impact your goals. I have no doubts that if Dan and I hadn’t done the exact same thing 2 years ago at the start of all of this that we would be nowhere close to the financial situation we are now in. It was immensely gratifying for both of us to see Kyle and Becca getting that same kind of focus and understanding together that we have shared.

After working hard and getting to a good stopping point, we decided to reward ourselves with a night of spectacular star gazing. Every year at the beginning of August is the Perseids meteor shower, the most active one of the year. We bundled up the sleeping baby into the car with the four of us and plenty of blankets to lay on and headed out of town to a camp about half an hour away. The sky was free of so much light pollution and with no moon to hide them, the stars were out in force. We trekked down to a small valley with just the five of us in the large prairie and spread our blankets out to watch the show. Nothing can compare to watching shooting stars with people you love.

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Posted on Apr 12, 2013 | 0 comments

Digging a Little Deeper

Sure it can eat through mud and snow...and your wallet.

Sure it can eat through mud and snow…and your wallet.

Now that we’ve taken care of most of our “big-ticket” items to improve our savings, Dan and I are trying to tackle the smaller ways that we can find extra dollars in our budget. Not only is this important for increasing our savings to maximum levels but it also is helping to prepare us for living more frugally while cruising. If we want to have any kind of decent chance at living on $1000-$1500 a month than we have to get serious about knowing where each of our dollars goes and how to cut that down as much as possible.

The tracking part is made much easier by the online financial website that we use: Mint.com. We have all of our bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investment accounts tied in so they automatically update whenever you long in. We’ve used this program for a few years and we’re pretty happy with it, though it can be a lengthy process to set everything up and figure out what budgets you want to set for yourself. Once you have been using it for a couple of months, it can really help to show you where your money is going every month. For some time now, it has been giving us a pretty clear indication that we have been spending too much in the Food and Gas departments, so we’ve finally decided to get those under control.

Food was first and it was somewhat daunting to me to be honest. Not to play the martyr working mom bit, but it is really hard to provide home cooked meals during a working week. There’s just not enough time to be able to figure out what to make every day and go pick things up from the store so I had to find a different approach. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that we have purchased a subscription to 5meals1hour.com for five dollars a month. Well, we’ve completed the first months’ worth of recipes and I can honestly say that we are way ahead of where we were last month, but I can’t give all the credit to the menus. We only used about 1/3 of the recipes on the menus, but we have still been eating at home on average of 5 days a week, which is a huge deal for us. I think just the change in mindset about grocery shopping every two weeks for actual planned meals has been the biggest positive change that 5dinners1hour has made for us. We can still improve a lot in this area, especially because I’m not a very experienced grocery shopper yet so I think we’re paying too much for our groceries, but we’re seeing a definite change in attitude and habits.

Gas spending is our other cash hog. Like a lot of people we know, it’s just something that we haven’t taken seriously before. But looking at our accounts, we have spent almost $1300 in gas alone since February 1! That’s averaging $18.50 per day, yikes! Here are a few strategies we are implementing to help us cut down this silent killer.

  1. Drive less…obviously. Eating meals at home isn’t just saving us money in the food department, it means less driving too.
  2. Walk and Ride Bikes, and not just for leisure riding. Dan has started riding his bike to work most days and we are planning to use our bikes for trips to the grocery store, library, and other close to home errands.
  3. Get rid of the gas guzzler in the driveway. We’re still working on this one, but the goal is to eliminate one of our 15 mpg SUV’s for a 30+ mpg compact car. Even if we have to spend some money over the sale of our Jeep, we should get most of it back in the end when we sell it in a year. This one has the potential to save us in the realm of $250/month!

Hopefully, we’ll find some good success using these strategies and find others to help us keep our everyday spending in check. If you have any suggestions, let us know in the comments!

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