Cruising and living aboard my 1995 Catalina 42 MK II (wing keel) sailboat with my cat XO, the places we visit and the people we meet. The good, the bad, and the ugly of the open ocean world cruising life.
Back in the early days of mainframe computing we used to run the big batch job of the night called "merge - purge."This was in the day when there were few or no random access devices (read disk drives) and everything was done on tape. Essentially we would run the day's transactions through the edit software. Then it would be "merged" with the database. Then all the deleted records would be "purged" It was possible to mark a record as deleted on a tape but the normal process was to copy the tape to another tape dropping all the deleted records. This batch job was the "big deal" for two reasons: it was the "eye of the needle" that every other job needed to pass through; and it usually ran for several hours. If it crashed the result was no computer reports the next morning.
I was reminded of this because I spent the better part of today on a merge purge. I have a number of storage boxes on Reboot and over time they have gotten filled with a random assortment of things. As a result whenever I need something I have to go through all of the boxes. So today I did the big sort (usually done twice or three times in every merge purge batch job) and merged all the tools into one box, the parts into another box, etc. In the process I purged about 300 lbs of stuff: sold some, put some on the free table, and put some in the trash (like my HP calculator I used in school back in the day.) My back is a bit sore but I got a lot done. I am feeling accomplished.
Like many boat owners I frequently offer my boat to people who would like to crew. I primary use "Find-a-crew". This is a web site specializing in crew exchange. As a result of several years using crew exchange services - sometimes successfully, sometimes not, I have a few observations to offer:
Web sites ask what role - watch stander, competent crew, inexperienced passenger you intend to fill. I am amazed at the disconnect between desired roles and the people posting. When I see a woman in her 40's posting as a steward/stewardess I don't know what to think. First, stewardesses on megayachts are inevitably "hot" and between 18 and 25 years old. The Captain's of megayachts are not looking on Find-a-Crew for crew either. The Captain/Owner of a sailboat isn't looking for a cook, diver, steward/stewardess, photographer etc. The only roles are: watch stander, crew, and nanny/childcare. We are talking about boats with maybe 4 people on board. There is not a lot of room for specialization.
Understand the benefits you bring:
Most cruisers can do all the things that you think will be reasons to bring you on board. We know how to fix things. Most of us dive - it is a lot cheaper than paying someone each month to scrub the bottom. We know how to take pictures - we spend our life surrounded by beauty. On most ships with a female significant other they can do a pretty good job cooking too. (We solo guys don't do a lot of cooking - at least I don't.) What we need are people who can stay awake, understand if the weather is changing, and apply brute force when necessary to handle the sails. We also need people who don't freak out when the weather turns to poo. Most of us bring crew on board for companionship and to make it possible to get a little bit of sleep.
Understand speed and destinations:
Right now (March) there are a lot of people looking to crew to the Caribbean. No boats are going to the Caribbean, its almost hurricane season! All the boats are going the other way. The second disconnect is people who have a couple of weeks and want to sail thousands of miles. Sailboats don't go that fast!
Expect to pay, but not a lot:
There is a quid pro quo to crewing on a sailboat. Expect to pay for your own food and entertainment. Most boats will set $10 to $15 per day for food. There are lots of people who want to crew. Don't expect me to take you aboard and pay your bills. Also, if someone is asking for a lot of money they are trying to make money on you. Find someone else.
Quite a few young people want to crew. I think they are put off by the fact that most boats are captained by someone in their late 50's to 70's. The fact is that it costs a lot of money to purchase and outfit a boat. Most cruisers are retired - they are fulfilling a lifelong dream to go sailing. Most Captains in their 30's and 40's are weekend sailors with family. They are not normally looking for crew.
Good Captains are first and foremost concerned about the safety of the crew and boat - in that order. Ocean sailing is an experience like no other. No Captain concerned about safety is going to take someone who has never sailed several hundred or thousand miles offshore on a long offshore passage. At a minimum one should have significant experience sailing in coastal conditions. It is actually easy to get experience - every local yacht or boat club has learn to sail opportunities. Most also run sailboat races. Usually there are several racers looking for crew.
Most of us have had bad experiences with teams. It is human nature for a team to take the other team member's side in a dispute. This is not something any Captain wants to deal with.
These are pictures of my new keel cooler installation. This is a device that circulates the refrigerant for the ice box and refrigerator into a heat transfer device that cools the refrigerant by using the water the boat is sitting in. In the past there have been two ways to cool the refrigerant: using an air cooled coil or pumping water through a heat exchanger. (This is, by the way, how marine engines are cooled. This keeps the salt water out of the engine cooling system. In recent years Frigoboat has pioneered the use of a "keel cooler" as the heat exchanger.
I have had a Waeco-Adler Barbour refrigeration system for my refrigerator since I purchased the boat. It has been nothing but trouble. (Maybe now that Waeco has taken over it might be better.) It is acting up again. I decided it was time for a new brand. The only way to install a Keel Cooler is with the boat out of the water so this was a good time to get it installed. Unfortunately the rest of the parts are a little out of my current budget so it will take a couple of months before the system is operational. (As an aside I was stunned when an Adler-Barbour tech told me that their systems were not waterproof. And this for a boat!)
One of the annoying things about installing things on boats is that you always have to move and disconnect all sorts of things to get to the place you want to do the installation. This was no different. I had to remove most of the battery system to get to the hull. In the process I discovered that there was water leaking into the area. So as is also typical one simple project has lead to another. Oh well.
On boats, and sailboats in particular, the bottom is coated with either an ablative (slowly shucks off with the marine grown attachment) or a hard (discourages marine growth attachment) paint. At the moment Reboot's bottom is painted with Trinidad PRO. This is a high copper load hard bottom paint. (They used to put tin in the paint, it worked much better but it has been banned in the US. It is the anti-fouling chemical of choice in every other country in the world because it works!
The problem with this is that the propeller shaft and propeller get gooked up with growth. I decided to try an anit-fouling paint specifically designed for propeller shafts. It is a three coat processes. Above you see the first coat going on the shaft. I will see how it works out.
I use these quick release shackles in a lot of places on Reboot. The problem is that the string that releases the shackle rots out. Of course you would expect that things made for a sailboat would take into account sun and salt. It never ceases to amaze me how many products don't.
After several months of frustration trying to find a replacement cord (the broken one is visible in the upper right corner of the shackle, it looks dirty brown. It is at the swivel) and not finding them in several marine stores I realized that I was trying to replace a hunk of cord (duh.) I went into my sail repair kit, got out some waxed heavy thread and fashioned replacement pull cords. Total cost - zip. Total time - 30 minutes.
BTW the replacement cords (the wrong ones) available in the stores cost about $6.00 for three.
You made it through the sea trial. The bank loves you. You are still with your significant other (or not.) You are about to (or have) taken delivery. You are ready to move on. What do you take?
Viewpoint: My blog is written from the standpoint of a world cruiser. If you are going to buy a boat, keep it at a local marina near your home, and store your cleaning stuff in your dock box this post really isn't relevant.
Post Cruise Cleaning: After a cruise of any duration a deep cleaning is required. One normally also has to open every cabinet and drawer and air it out. Most clothing will have absorbed moisture and need to be dried. Having completed the major exterior projects on Reboot it was time to focus some attention to bringing the interior back in shape.As a result I have been sorting and tossing as I go through each part of the boat.
How many people are on board?: As I sorted I noticed that the quantity of several items did not match the expected number of people on board. For example, I have (had - they are gone now) 21 coffee cups. My first reaction was to store 19 of them. Then as I thought about it I realized two truths about sailboats: 1) Storage space is at a premium for all the stuff you really need; 2) Everything you store adds weight. The more weight (any racer will tell you) the more your boat sinks into the water and the slower you go. Off they go to the "free table." (I will not bore you with the large quantity of various kinds of stuff I found in excess that got carted off to the free table.)
[Small but important aside] The "Free Table:" In the days before E-Bay cruisers created the "free table." In every marina there was a spot where cruisers could leave things they no longer needed to be collected by other cruisers that could put them to use. Some items were taken to marine consignment stores and now some are sold on E-Bay and Craig's list. But the tradition still holds of putting out your spare gear for other cruiser's benefit.
[/Small but important aside]
Paper vs. Plastic: Or in the instant case, paper vs. china. If you are a member of my generation (old) you most likely have a collection of real china, crystal, and sterling silver. It is carefully wrapped an brought out for holiday and family gatherings. At the boat shows the salon table is set with place mats, tableware, flowers, wine glasses, etc. None of these things have any place on a sailboat (you need space for the golf clubs, umbrella, and wheelbarrow!) On Reboot I do have one set (for four) of "guest china.") It is normally packed away and brought out for special occasions. For day to day living I depend on paper. There are several reasons:
One of the most critical resources on a boat is water. Water is for drinking and occasional sponge baths, not for washing dishes.
Water is heavy.
Paper is quiet. Sailboats are not quiet. The sound of the wind, the banging of the waves against the hull, these are things one learns to appreciate (except when the wind exceeds 30 knots or the waves 5 feet.) Everything else is a distraction. In a storm the clinking of the china and glassware is enough to drive one crazy if one is not already in this state.
Paper (not plastic coated) can be disposed of overboard when at sea. This greatly reduces the amount of garbage one is carrying around.
Pots and Pans: What do you cook? How many pots and pans do you really need? After consideration about 80% of my stock headed for the free table.
Kitchenware: (or gadgets.) Do you really need a lettuce dryer? A garlic press? 45 different kinds of spices (that will all get moist and ruined?) By the same token you need two of the critical things that might rust or break (like a can opener and a wand lighter.) Some things are small and easy to store (like a cheese grater.) Some are important (like measuring cups (get plastic.)) Cast a critical eye. Dump the excess.
Clothing: A somewhat counter intuitive problem. Above I keep saying get along with less. Here I say make sure you have enough. Clothing that has been soaked by salt water does not dry unless the salt is washed out first. Even in warm climes it gets cold on the deck at night. In fact I have "winter gear" (long underwear, gloves, ski mask, watch cap, insulated boots) that get an amazing amount of use even in temperate climates. Forget anything that needs dry cleaning, it will be hard to come by and expensive. A couple of nice outfits for dinners out are appropriate. They are also what you wear when you check in and out to show respect for the officials. Remember, a lot of cultures you will visit are much more modest than the United States (a very few are much less modest. Cherchez la femme!) Pretty much anything you bring on board is going to get wet (or damp) and beaten up. Things you need:
Everyday wear: I live in T'shirts and shorts or jeans,
Wind breaker - a lightweight shell,
A warmer coat for mild evenings,
Offshore foulies - top, pants, and boots. Most of the time you will be in the cabin in bad weather but when you need to go out you need to be properly equipped,
Cold weather gear - see above,
Nice easy to maintain outfits for nights out and "official" visits,
Boating clothing: If you visit West Marine you will find a large quantity of "soft goods." They are following the lead of Harley Davidson who found they could make more money selling clothing than motorcycles in their stores. Most of it is overpriced junk. (I once visited the Madison Avenue Calvin Kline store with a very attractive young lady - they though I was her sugar daddy but I am actually just a friend. They showed her some "boating wear" that started at $3,500 for a pair of shorts and $4,500 for the matching top! What a joke! The stuff was so over designed that one would be laughed off the dock!) Any decent quality clothing is going to be fine. Plus you want a bunch of cheap junk - trashing a $!5 T-shirt from Walmart is a lot easier than a $90 shirt from the department store.
Tools: By far my largest storage problem on Reboot is tools. When I lived in a house I had a very complete shop. I lent (for an indeterminate period of time) most of my big tools to a friend - table saw, router, drill press, etc. (I needed the space to store the wheelbarrow.) I still brought a lot of tools with me since when I moved on Reboot I left nothing behind on shore. Over the years I have ended up using most of them but there is a small core of tools (for drilling, fixing electrical problems, etc.) that I use over and over. If either of my sons ever purchases a home I will fob off some of the large and infrequently used tools (like my sawzall) But even that has come in handy when padlocks have corroded and I needed to cut them off. Somewhat out of the ordinary things that you might consider having on board include:
Loos & Co. tension gauge for tuning the rig,
Blowtorch for "butane backsplicing" in windy environments,
"Fish rods" for running cables for new equipment behind the surface areas of the boat.
Engine oil changing device (most marine engines don't have a drain plug. You change the oil by sucking it out of the dip stick tube with a vacuum device.
Over time you will figure out what you use all the time (things like screwdrivers, wrenches, etc.) and they will get stored in an easy to use place. The rest you will either pack carefully (to protect them from corrosion) or take off the boat.
Spares (Absolute necessities:)
Some things you just don't "leave home without it!" They include:
Fuel filters: At least two of each type on the boat. If you clog a filter chances are the replacement will clog quickly hence the need for at least two. I always keep five (5) spares on the boat. I have had friends who have gone through all five in one incident.
Impellers: At least two (the impeller is the thing that keeps the water circulating in the engine. Broken impeller, no engine.
Fan belts: Again, at least two spares
Fuel treatment (biocide) Diesel fuel, particularly in hot climates gets full of growth that clogs the fuel filters.
Spares (Good to have:)
Some things you will just use over time. This is not a complete list but things to consider:
Oil filters and oil
Batteries, lots of them - AAA, AA, D, etc.
My only note here is pay attention to the "active ingredients." Usually they are cheaper to purchase (like oxalic acid) then the formulated products. White vinegar is cheap and as good a head treatment as the expensive stuff you buy at the boat store.
Back to work on Reboot. Fair winds and following seas :)
Following is from Sally aboard Seaquel, anchored this morning off Boqueron PR. It explains the emergency and the head injury, as well as the trip to PR afterwards.
The short version is that we are fine,the boat is good and we are sitting in Boqueron PR at anchor waiting for the mechanic!
Thank you all for your concern yesterday! We know this is a small world when so many of you heard about our problem. So here is the long version...
On Wednesday at 0600 we left the anchorage at San Juan for the Turks and Caicos. The distance is 360 miles. For us averaging 5.5 knots it would be a 60 hour trip...a two nighter! We were making great time averaging over 6 knots when I noticed that the bilge pump was on. It was 3 AM (naturally) and we were 120 miles from the Dominican Republic and from Puerto Rico! We tried to find the source of water and deal with pumping it out with a shop vac since the bilge pump was not keeping up. Andy decided that the best thing to do was call the coast guard, but our VHF would never get through so he interrupted a ham net and asked for someone to call the U.S. Coast Guard in PR. Bless those hams! He called the coast guard and we went back to our problem. We found that the Dripless stuffing box that goes between the shaft and the transmission had worked loose and by jamming a screw driver in place immobilizing the shaft from turning kept the water from coming in. About this time the Coast Guard arrived in a helicopter and called us on VHF. They wanted to know how we were doing and how they could help. They had a pump with them which they offered but we decided we did not need it. We had stopped the leak and gotten rid of the water. We told them that we would be returning to P R under sail because we could not use the engine without the shaft turning! As the CG is getting ready to leave Andy takes a bad fall,cutting his head about 4 inches above the ear. Suddenly there is another problem! The cut is bleeding profusely and Andy is dazed and feeling sick. I called the CG who are still hovering and tell them what has just happened. We decide their on board medic should take a look at him. You can imagine the thoughts that are now going through my head! Andy is able to help me take the sails down so the boat is DIW. Dead in the water! The medic is lowered into the water and comes aboard to help Andy. After cleaning his wound he does not feel that Andy needs to be med evaced. YEW! In the mean time the helo has had to return to P R to refuel. After stabilizing Andy the Medic and I raise the sails and plot a position for the west coast of PR and off we go. When the helicopter returns they bring a sat phone for me to have to make future contacts and they have me try a call back to the station! What a wonderful psychological boast that was for us! The medic jumps in the water and we are on our own feeling that we have been fortunate to have averted two potentially dangerous situations. Are we ever lucky to have such professional people in our Coast Guard! As the CG left the sun is coming up and we sail until 11:30 pm when we are taken under tow just outside of Boqueron PR. The sat phone was so helpful in arranging for SeaTow as well. They got us settled on the anchor. They also were very professional! Today hopefully we will have the mechanic fix our problem and we can plan to start again! During all this our Grandaughter Katie who is a LTJG (P) in the Coast Guard and a class mate of the helo pilot kept the family calm! We are so proud that she is a part of the CG. So that's the long story...we are tired, but blessed that we have so many that were thinking about us yesterday! Thank you all for your concerns and to all a good day!
Sally & Andy on board Seaquel
Sent from my iPad
I spent 30 years in the Navy and Navy Reserve starting in 1969 (the Vietnam Error whoops Era) and retired in 2000. Since I moved onto Reboot in 2009 I have spent a great deal of time in military marinas in the United States and have visited military installations overseas. Every time I hear the political blather about how the US Military is the best equipped best trained best military in the world I cringe. Rules of engagement that let terrorists live while killing our own people Drink one drink and get cashiered out of the service. Look too long at a woman and get cashiered out of the service. Every month we hear about pay cuts, benefit cuts, troop reductions to pay for the "important" programs in the minds of the President and many members of Congress. How do the 'troops" feel? You might find this article both enlightening and frightening.