Monthly Archives: June 2009

FAQ: How do you get rid of your stuff?

Little by little. That’s the short answer. Here’s a shorter one: arson. For a few days after returning from the month-long live-aboard experiment, I felt completely overwhelmed. It seemed an impossible task—I was surrounded by so much STUFF, and I had to actually deal with each object. For about a week I had this niggling thought that it would be a relief if the house caught fire and I wouldn’t have to think about what to do with everything. When I vented to Jay, he basically said he didn’t want to join my stress fest and he wasn’t too worried about it. He has bigger fish to fry.

Emotionally, I started to let go of my stuff about a year ago. I started with my tea-pot collection because it means the most to me and I can’t take it; besides, tea-pots and cups make the best gifts to friends and family with whom I have shared a cuppa’ over the years. We can still share a cup of tea halfway across the world from each other if they think of me while pouring.

I now have lengthy lists of every item in every room, with a little mark next to each item indicating where it goes: B for boat, S for storage and D/S for donate/sell. I packed up all the home-school stuff once we finished our year, getting rid of all excess packaging and making everything fit into small bins. Clothes are easy: everyone gets 10 changes and the rest get donated. That allows for a week’s worth of laundry to build up, which is a lot, and usually laundry day comes every four days, and has to be done by hand until we do a renovation of the navigation table and put a compact electric washer/dryer beneath it. We’re not that fond of any of our furniture, so it will be sold. Kitchen gadgets are a toughie, because I’m really attached to things like my Italian pasta-maker, waffle iron, and vacuum sealer. Kids’ toys might be tough, as they will have to say good-by to their stuff, too. Some of the toys will go to cousins, but the smaller, more versatile toys get to come with us: Eli and Aaron need little besides their bin of Legos, Sarah has some magnet dolls (like paper dolls), a baby and a small horse barn, and Sam is happy with a few train tracks and Duplos. They spend a lot of time in and around the water, collecting and observing interesting specimens from the sea, and inside reading, playing games, or doing puzzles and art projects, so I’m not too worried about keeping them busy when we’re not doing school. Besides, there’s always laundry they can help with if they get bored!

Book sorting was actually the hardest task, as Jay and I are both avid readers and book-lovers. I donated 8 boxes to the local Friends of the Library Book Store, 3 boxes to various friends, and a box to the marina laundry-room book swap. Photo albums will go into storage, and we’ll just have to enjoy the occasional digital trip down memory lane. Several boxes of leather-bound books will go into storage, and several boxes of books I deem necessary for boat-schooling will—hopefully—fit on the boat. I guess I’ll pack in as many books and kitchen gadgets as I can and whatever doesn’t fit will go into storage.

Of course, I keep remembering how little I seem to need when we are afloat. There’s just no way to squeeze our land-life onto the boat, so why try? It’s almost better to pack it all into a storage unit, empty the boat, and then only bring aboard what is absolutely necessary. Start from scratch. I’ll let you know how it goes.

FAQ: How much fuel do you use?

Depends on our usage.  The boat carries 200 gallons of diesel.  Between what was in the tanks when I bought her a year ago and what I’ve put in, I think I’ve burned about 100 gallons to date.  In theory, each 29HP propulsion engine burns .75 gal/hr and the 12KW generator about 1.25 gal/hr.  

If we’re taking daysails or overnights from the dock, the generator doesn’t see much use since the batteries will hold us for a couple days  and we’ll recharge when we get back on shore power.  Sailing is generally faster and more enjoyable than motoring, so unless the wind is against us and/or we’re in a tight channel we try to sail whenever we can.  

If we’re on a trip the generator is the primary user since we would get to a place and then stay anchored there for awhile.  On most boats, generator usage is determined solely by power replacement needs but we’re a little different because our oven/stovetop are electric instead of the usual propane.  We have big inverters to provide AC power from the batteries, but heavy loads aren’t practical on battery power.  We try to use the more battery-friendly toaster oven, electric skillet, and electric kettle whenever we can.  If only for charging batteries we could get away with running the generator an hour every other day, but for heavy-duty cooking it runs more irregularly.  Thanksgiving required a 4-hour run.  

After the batteries are charged to 80% capacity their acceptance rate drops, thus the load on the generator drops, and it becomes very inefficient.  It runs a constant 1800RPM to produce power at 60Hz.  If we have to run it for cooking, this is a good time to use the extra capacity for something else like vacuuming the boat or running the air conditioners.  We have a dishwasher but don’t use it.  Instead we’ll be replacing that with a clothes washer/dryer that would be another good free power user.  We would probably be better off with two smaller generators sized to individual appliances instead of the one big one.  Someday we’ll get solar panels that should reduce our need for bulk charging.

I had previously estimated that we could live for a year in conservation-mode on 200 gallons in our current configuration.  That may not be accurate because based on my understanding of our usage I really can’t account for the 100g of usage cited above.  We have propulsion problems and it may be that those engines are wasting fuel.

FAQ: How fast is it?

Fast enough.  8-10 knots is pretty comfortable and a nice cruising speed.  Going over that can be fun for short periods, but it isn't relaxing.  I've been 13 knots in the middle of the night and didn't like it much.  I'm more interested in keeping the boat moving in Florida's typical light air than I am setting speed records.

My information indicates that previous owners have had her up to 18 knots.  Speed stories are sometimes like fish stories, but it does give me an idea of what happened to the first mast.

FAQ: Will the boat lift a hull out of the water?

With enough wind the boat will heel a little bit, but it should never lift a hull.  She weighs about 14 tons and if we did experience enough wind pressure to lift a hull, I expect (and hope) that the mast would break first.  I have no interest in pushing Take Two that hard.  Interestingly, the boat is on her second mast.  I haven't yet determined what happend to the first one.

FAQ: Do the kids have to wear life jackets all the time?

The kids wear life jackets if they want to come out of the boat when we’re underway.  I only require they go below during docking or anchoring or other stressful situations.  Otherwise they can be in the cockpit or go on deck with permission.  They aren’t much into the joy of sailing and usually spend most of their time below reading or playing.  We could be having a glorious sail and they’d be pestering me to stop at a beach so they could swim and catch crabs.

We like the term “free range kids” and take it to mean letting them have a larger degree of freedom than most parents are comfortable with.  I was a free range kid and could be gone from the house all day without my mother giving a thought to the trouble I might be getting into.  And I did get into trouble.  Unfortunately times are different and we have to worry about things our parents didn’t, so we try to create the feeling of freedom without actually letting them too far off the leash.  My seven-year-old can’t operate a computer mouse, but he can free climb our 65-foot mast, is learning to operate the dinghy, and has caught what my information indicates is a record-setting seahorse.

I preface that to say that the kids do occasionally fall in the water.  None have gone off the moving boat, thank God.  Instead they fall off of the stationary dock.  Usually reaching too far for a crab or some other specimen for their observation bucket.  The aforementioned 7-year-old has been in three times (not counting the time I knocked him in on purpose).  The docks float so they don’t fall far, and somebody is always near enough to hear the splash and fish them out if they don’t climb out on their own. 

FAQ: Do you feel cramped living in such a small space?

I estimate the interior living space is about 900 square feet.  If it were a house it would probably feel cramped.  I don’t have headroom over the kitchen sink (dang!) and a few other places, and I frequently have to ask small people to move out of my way in narrow passages.  But it isn’t a house, and by boat standards it has an immense amount of space.  As Tanya has written elsewhere, we have far less "stuff" aboard which is necessary for weight consideration and also helps alot for preserving the spaciousness.

Strangely, we feel more cramped in our house than we do on the boat.  On the boat we can usually see for miles in at least three directions.  Even when we’re tied up at the dock we have an unobstructed view of the sun setting over the water, and we’re constantly aware of the sky, the breeze, and the tide.  At the house when we look out the window we can’t even see a 100 yards before our vision is blocked by houses, trees, or fences, and can only see the sky by walking outside and looking up.

Fish Out Of Water

We pulled Take Two out today to do some work below the waterline.  It is always a little bit of an ordeal because of her 26' beam.  On the Florida West Coast our haulout options are few and far between.  The yards here that can handle our width use marine railways instead of lifts.  I'd never seen it done and was a little nervous about the process. 

They use a large sled sitting on rails and controlled by cables from a large winch.

They lower it down the rails and into the water.

The boat is carefully positioned over blocks on the sled.

Then they pull it back up the rails and Voila! we're out.