Monthly Archives: July 2009

FAQ: What do your children think about moving aboard?

Our family, unlike many we see in our culture these days, is a together family. That means we do everything together—school, work, play, church, outings, meals, happiness, misery—you name it, and we do it together. When we went to meet Take Two for the first time, we drove the five hours to Fort Lauderdale together. The kids were aged 6, 5, 4 and almost 1. Although we’re not running a democracy (it’s more like a monarchy), we wanted their input. If everyone looked at the boat and said, “No way!” that would have figured into our decision-making. We want happy subjects in our little kingdom. But everyone thought it would be a great adventure, and the boys thought the boat would be their own personal playground, complete with climbing apparatus and trampolines. They still think so.

Now, since that time, a bit of the romanticism of that first day has disappeared. We’ve had rainy, leaky weekends, uncomfortable conditions at sea, cabin fever, loneliness, malfunctions, mischief, broken toilets, spills, frustration, and a toddler.  But life is life wherever you are, with good and bad all mixed together. So we all feel ambivalent. Sometimes moving aboard seems like a great idea, and at others, we pine for our stable life on dirt.

Although we won’t have to yank our kids out of school, they are still leaving an established group of friends among neighbors and other home-school families we see regularly. That part is hard, because we can’t promise them a stable social environment where we’re going. Do they have cub scouts in the Caribbean? We will meet other families afloat, but to call it “regular” would be misleading. It makes us happy we have four—they are an established social group in and of themselves.

They express nervousness about all the normal things: shipwreck, storms, sharks, seasickness, boredom (hahaha), and discomfort. They look forward to visiting places we read about, to exploring and climbing and snorkeling and finding interesting creatures. Sometimes they miss being at the house, but they are the first to brag to people we meet that they are moving onto our boat. I think I know how they feel.


Sailing Around a Hurricane

Something interesting turned up during my research of Take Two.  Her original owner's name was David Brockman and I believe he commissioned her construction and had some degree of input on the design.  (David, if you're out there, please get in touch!)  I found an account that he wrote
here of sailing Take Two around Category 2 hurricane Marilyn in 1995.  They say a boat is safest at sea during a storm…

David writes:

Anchored in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas with hurricane "Marilyn" fast approaching (she traveled from Barbados to southeast of St. Croix in just 24 hours) the question of what to do in the little time available arose!

To cripple a perfectly safe seagoing vessel by tying her into the mangroves of a hurricane hole with a dozen lines and anchors, as we did for hurricane "Luis" just over a week before … and hoping the storm wouldn't come too close — just didn't appeal to us any longer. We have seen the damage that can result from just one vessel coming loose in a hurricane hole, not to mention the damage resulting from "Luis" in Antigua and St. Maarten.

Our catamaran "Take Two" can cruise at about 10 Knots (12 mph) and with a top speed of about 18 Knots (21 mph). She is faster than the average hurricane, so this time we decided to sail around the storm!

Armed with a short wave radio to receive the position of the storm at all times, we sailed south in front of her. "Marilyn" was heading northwest. On the northwest hemisphere the winds blow counter clockwise around the eye of a hurricane, so theoretically one can go for a "nice" downwind sail all the way around without getting too close to the dangerous center.

And it worked! On Sept. 15, at 11 am we were at the same latitude as Marilyn, just 78 miles west of her center. The seas were high (we didn't even try to estimate their height), but the wind speed didn't go over 30 Knots… a good sailing wind for "Take Two". Everything is down hill now… we've made it… we thought.

As the wind came around we changed course as well. The seas were confused by the change in the wind direction and the winds became stronger and stronger. With 55 Knots of wind and sailing 15 Knots under a heavily reefed Genoa we waited for the next update from the Hurricane Center in Miami.

This gave us the clue: "Marilyn" had slowed down significantly while she whipped St. Croix and St. Thomas, and we were actually catching up with her! This was the first time we had ever wanted Take Two to slow down. More reefing didn't help at all and in torrential rain.

Fatigued from being in the storm for 30 hours, we remembered the old tales of sailors — who used to "heave to" in a hurricane. We decided to try this maneuver and experienced sudden quietness, as if somebody had turned off the storm. We were drifting sideways at about 2 Knots riding softly over the long high waves and old swells. After having slept for about 5 hours, the wind speed had fallen to a comfortable 25 Knots, the sun rose, the seas were still high, but the breaking crests were no more.

Having circumnavigated "Marilyn" we sailed home, expecting the worst, but were glad to discover that the crew charted fleet had survived Marilyn without any major damage and all of our friends were safe and sound aboard their yachts.

Book Review: First You Have to Row a Little Boat

You know you’re reading a good book if the first sentence chokes you up. Richard Bode’s memoir of his youth spent learning to sail does just that. “When I was a young man I made a solemn vow. I swore I would teach my children to sail. It was a promise I never kept.” So begins First You Have to Row a Little Boat, a series of life lessons recorded by a father to his grown children, his attempt to atone for “sins of omission.” Not only does he pass on the beautiful metaphor of sailing for navigating life to his children, but to the grateful reader as well.

Though an expanded metaphor could become tedious or sentimental, Bode usually avoids this temptation by couching his lessons in stories both honest and poignant. Orphaned at a young age and raised by an aunt and uncle, Bode finds his security in a self-sufficiency learned sailing a boat in a shallow bay. It is to some degree a coming-of-age tale, but also serves as reflection and advice from a seasoned sailor. Chapter titles include “The Shortest Distance Between Two Points is a Zigzag Line,” “Unfounded Fears”, “Fogbound,” and “Like a Boat Without a Rudder”. My favorite chapter was possibly “Of Knots, Loops, Bends, and Hitches” in which knot-tying becomes a metaphor for romantic relationships.

The best part, probably, is that you don’t have to be a sailor or be familiar with sailing terms to enjoy the book. You might learn some of the lingo, but it is not a prerequisite. All of us have to learn how to enter uncharted waters, go with the flow, and stay afloat because life isn’t always smooth sailing.

FAQ: What do you eat on the boat?

People always ask me this, but I’m not sure why. Um, we eat…food, just like you. That may be a bit sarcastic, but, seriously, we cook on the boat just like we do at home. If you have been aboard, or seen interior pictures, you know that I have a gargantuan galley. For a boat “kitchen” it is unbelievably large and well-stocked. I mean, it has a dishwasher. I’ve never used it, and it’s going bye-bye to make space for a clothes washer someday, but still, who ever heard of a dishwasher on a boat?

Cooking over the last year or so has been its own adventure. The ancient electric BOSCH stovetop and oven are power hogs, and require running the generator. The stovetop does not work properly—it only works on the “high” setting and only one burner at a time. For “low” or “medium” heat, you just manually switch it on and off a few dozen times, and pray you don’t get distracted.  I’ve almost mastered it. The oven is fine, but it heats the whole boat up and seems to be very inefficient, taking forever to warm up and forever to cool down. To compensate, I use a toaster oven for warming things up, and an electric skillet or crock-pot for cooking off of battery power. (I’m the anti-microwave oven type.) We also have a great little gas grill which is perfect for cooking al fresco.

We are in the process of replacing old and broken fridge and freezer units, which forced us, for awhile, to use a cooler for a refrigerator. That works okay for weekends, but not long-term.  Food storage is a subject of its own, but that is definitely a challenge for a family of six. My friends have jokingly called me the Little Red Hen, since I started grinding grain and baking bread a few years ago, but it’s a skill that will serve me well on the boat. Whole grains, if kept dry and well-sealed will store for several years. We can carry a few hundred pounds of grain and I can make bread, tortillas, pancakes, breakfast cereals, pasta—you name it. Beans and brown rice are also easily stored and easily prepared, but meats have to be frozen or dried, fish have to be caught, and things like dairy, eggs and fresh produce have short life-spans. Canned goods are the old stand-by, but I try to use them as a last resort. Basically, we are very old-fashioned, and make everything from scratch. That doesn’t mean we don’t eat pizzas or hamburgers, it just means that we made the crust and the buns!
We’ll carry as much food as we can, to be self-sufficient for several months, if necessary, but everywhere we go in the world, people have to eat, so although we may not have as many (or the same) choices, we will still be able to find food. We are trying to raise kids that are not picky eaters, knowing that one day they may have to eat octopus and be thankful for it!

Tools of the trade:

Vita-Mix Super Blender, dry blade for grinding, wet blade for juicing
Family Grain Mill, manual grain grinder and oat roller
KT Oil-Core 12” Stainless Electric Skillet (makes great popcorn, too)
Rival Crockpot
Bodum Stainless Steel Coffee Press
Toaster Oven with convection
Marcato Atlas 150 Pasta Machine, manual crank
Electric tea kettle

Favorite Cook Books:

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer
Gourmet Under Way by Robbie Johnson
The Care and Feeding of a Sailing Crew by Lin and Larry Pardy

Some Favorite Ingredients:

Rapadura sugar (a truly raw and unrefined sugar from Rapunzel)
Bronze Chief and Prairie Gold Wheat Berries, whole oat groats (Wheat Montana)
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (Tropical Traditions)
“Really Raw Honey” (expensive, so used sparingly)
Bulk Herbs, Teas, Essential Oils (