Category Archives: Product Review

Product Review: Indestructible Vinyl Flooring

We celebrated our 13th Take Two Anniversary in April, which simply amazes me. For more than half of our married life, we have lived in this floating home. Two of our children spent their whole lives aboard, and others are beginning their own adventures as adults. So much has changed in the last dozen years or so, but one constant remains: our “Lonwood” vinyl teak-and-holly flooring by Lonseal.


It has survived the raising of five children, who tracked saltwater and sand across it, spilled beverages of all colors on it, “decorated” it with paint and glitter-glue, raced Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars across it, and generally abused it and took it for granted.


And yet, with an occasional deep-clean with a scrub brush and Eco-Orange solution, it looks as good as new.

Lonseal scrubbing day

It is beautiful, non-skid, easy to install, and, needless to say, durable. I looked it up recently, not because it needs replacing, but just out of curiosity, and it is expensive! To replace the flooring in our main salon would be close to $5000. Similar products like Plasteak and Aquatread also run between $6 and $8 per square foot. But if you amortize that over 13+ years, the cost is definitely worth it. If you are looking to replace the flooring on your kid-friendly boat and you have the money to spend, I highly recommend these products. They are practically indestructible. Unlike so many other projects on our circular list, replacing flooring has never been at the top!

Lonseal product review

The Whole Nine Yards

How do you keep an energetic nine-year-old happy on a boat? The answer may surprise you: nine yards of purple fabric!

silks 4

In November, we purchased some aerial silks for Rachel. She had been asking for some time, but we were not sure where we could hang the hardware. After brainstorming and researching, we decided to move the cockpit table indoors and try hanging them from the aluminum frame that supports our hard-top. Needless to say, Rachel was delighted.

silks 3
Unicorn Pose

They have been a source of fun and exercise and I am completely impressed with her core strength and flexibility. She also uses them like a hammock, swing, or chair–though they move quite a lot when underway.

silks 5

We mounted the Aerial Silks using dyneema soft shackles, the 8-hook that came with the silks, and a locking carabiner.

silks 2

She would love to take a class, but for now, she’s using YouTube videos to help her learn new poses. The ones we purchased can be found here. Jay says that “getting children’s energy out” is a myth, but giving them active things to do really helps!

Mermaid Pose

Atlas Pasta Machine

Atlas Pasta Machine

We love this Italian-made pasta maker. It is made of high-quality stainless steel, durable, and easy to use and clean. We have several attachments; pictured is the combo spaghetti-fettuccine cutter. The secret is to use Durum-Semolina flour and to knead the dough well by sending it through the rollers (set to #1) a couple dozen times, folding after each roll, then rolling it successively thinner (#2, #3, #4, etc.). A basic recipe can be found below.


Pasta for Eight:

• 3 cups Durum-Semolina flour
• 1-2 cups white flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 egg
• 1 ½ cups water
• 2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix 3 cups of Durum-Semolina with salt. Make a well in the center of the flour. Crack egg into the water, add oil, and whisk. Add the liquid ingredients to the well in the center of the flour. Stir well, mixing until a dough ball forms. Knead several times with hands, adding flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Dough will be firm, but not dry. It should not stick to the hands. Break off small balls of dough and begin to send it through the pasta roller to knead, folding each time it goes through. When stretchy and smooth, roll it thinner and thinner, until it is ready to go through the cutter. Send it once through the cutter, separate the pasta strands and dry slightly before cooking. Drop into boiling water and cook for 5 minutes, or until it reaches desired doneness.

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

It’s the little things that count—especially on a boat, and especially when they save water or space, and keep things cleaner and drier. I have four product recommendations to make more efficient use of a galley sink. Depending on your boat, the size and shape of your basin(s), and the configuration of your counter tops/cabinetry, you may not be able to implement all of these products, but they might give you some new ideas to try in your galley.

  1. Dri-Dek in the bottom of the sink.  We have a standard, stainless-steel, double-basin kitchen sink that Jay purchased at Home Depot or Lowe’s several years ago and mounted to our custom counters (plywood with teak veneer, coated with polyurethane). I like having separate places to wash and rinse/drain. Dri-Dek, which we also have in our cockpit, water-maker locker, food/drink lockers, and under our mattresses in the cabins, does an admirable job of creating airflow. It lasts forever and cleans up well with a spritz of bleach and a scrub brush. Made in Florida, interlocking tiles can be purchased directly from Dri-Dek or from Amazon ($4.76 per tile at Dri-Dek, with a minimum purchase of 12 tiles or $78.59/dozen at Amazon). They can be cut to whatever size you need.
  2. Water faucet with a pause button. We love our Ambassador Marine Trinidad Head/Shower Combo Faucet with Classic Sprayer (about $200 from Defender). It is expensive, but incredibly well-made, durable, and water-saving. We have three on our catamaran: one in the galley, one in the small port head (used mostly for hand-washing), and one in the large starboard forward head (providing daily showers for a crew of seven). We’ve had to order some replacement parts for repairs, but they have survived heavy use for about ten years.
Faucet with pause button
  1. Liquid soap dispenser. We added LDR 501 6520SS Deluxe Soap/Lotion Dispensers ($21 each at Amazon) to our galley sink and to the heads. They can be filled from the top and help keep the area around the sink tidy and dry. To save soap, we often water it down (2 parts soap to 1 part water).
  2. Filtered drinking water faucet. Whatever your water source or storage tank material, this faucet, along with an accompanying under-sink charcoal filter, improves the taste and purity of your drinking water. This is a stainless steel, lead-free ESOW Kitchen Water Filter Faucet ($36.90 at Amazon), and what I love about it is the shape of the swivel-spout and the single-lever handle. Its high profile and variable pressure control make it so I can quickly fill a stock pot sitting on the counter or slowly fill an ice cube tray without splashing and wasting water.
Drinking water faucet and liquid soap dispenser

We provide a harsh testing environment for all sorts of home and boat products. Take Two has seen a lot of different household solutions implemented in the 12 years we’ve been aboard, and our testing team has ranged in age from newborn to adult. It is not made up of gentle, mild-mannered, careful people, either. One thing we’ve learned is that it’s better to spend a little more to get a quality product instead of wasting resources and leaving cheap, broken junk in our wake.

Code Zero

When we bought Take Two, she was a lean, mean sailing machine. We tacked back and forth toward the mouth of the Manatee River and sailed across Tampa Bay on weekends and learned how to make her go fast. We used our spinnaker on calm days for a downwind run. We outran afternoon thunderstorms.

Sailing in 20 knots

And then we moved aboard.

We brought tools, spare parts, books, cast iron skillets, 5-gallon buckets of grain, scuba tanks—and, how could I forget? —five kids and all their clothes, toys, sporting equipment, and sundry items. “And sundry items” raised our water line 6 inches over time, and now our sleek sailboat is a fat cat. It takes a lot of wind to get her going. On passages, we don’t even bother to raise the main unless it’s blowing a steady 15 knots. Sure, we might be motor sailing with the jib out, but when the wind drops to 10 knots? Fuhgeddaboudit.

That all changed when we commissioned a Code Zero from Calvert Sails before we left for the Caribbean. We had added a crane to the top of the mast and a bowsprit to accommodate the new sail when we refurbished the rig in Fort Pierce (Spring 2015).


We hoisted it for the first time on New Year’s Day 2016, and as it rolled out in all its glorious enormity, I heard angel choirs. We were hoping it would turn Take Two back into a sailboat, and we have not been disappointed. It is a reaching sail that fills the gap between our foresail (a genoa) and our spinnaker. We intended to use it for light upwind sailing and heavier downwind reaches.

Code Zero

We sailed across the Bahama banks in March in 15-20 knots of wind and fairly flew along the leeward coast of New Providence, seeing 10-11 knots of boat speed. When the wind started to pick up, we swapped it for the genny, not wanting to be overpowered. Good thing, too, because we saw nearly 40 knots on the banks that afternoon as we approached the anchorage at Highbourne Cay.

After that day, we wrestled it down into a locker (to protect it from the sun) and didn’t see it again for a long, long time as we bashed eastward toward the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands. Once we reached the Windwards, we discovered that the trade winds were too strong or too southerly to fly the Zero, so it stayed coiled away for another day while we sailed with reefed main and jib.

That all changed as we began the next leg of our Caribbean circle. Heading north from Grenada, we sailed fast beam reaches to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia, rolling out the Zero when the wind grew light, sometimes ghosting along at half-windspeed in 10 knots of breeze. Heading west from St. Lucia, it’s all downwind, so we expected to use the Zero a lot.

On our way to Bonaire in November 2016, we learned something important about that sail. We had raised, and then subsequently lowered, the mainsail after sloppy seas caused it to bang around too much. We hoisted the Zero without the main and seemed to have a lot of success. Until we hit some squally weather one night during my watch, when I decided to wake Jay to help me furl it. Without the main to blanket the huge sail, all the pressure of 25-30 knots of wind made it nearly impossible to furl. I was easing the sail as Jay furled the continuous line, but as the top and bottom of the sail rolled tightly, the middle caught the wind and bagged and ballooned. Jay was pulling as fast and hard as he could, but if he paused for even a moment, all ground was lost. Of course, it was night-time, he had been awakened from a dead sleep, and had never considered how hard the job would be, so he wasn’t even wearing gloves. We eventually got it sloppily rolled, and then dropped it onto the trampolines. As his hands blistered and bled, we learned a hard lesson—the Code Zero never goes up without the main (and, sailing gloves are not just for race crew).

We used the sail again heading west from San Blas during a period of light wind in January 2018, and, most recently, to sail from Guanaja to Roatan, Bay Islands of Honduras. The wind was directly behind us at about 10 knots. We considered using the spinnaker, but it shares a halyard with the Zero, which was still rigged since our sail from Grand Cayman. Though we swore never to fly the Zero without the main up, it seemed like the perfect light wind day to try it. And it was lovely—quietly swishing through indigo seas instead of listening to the drone of a motor or worrying about the spinnaker folding in on itself as it sometimes does in ocean swells. I went with the kids and lay on the trampolines in the shade and echo of that great sail and enjoyed a gorgeous day on the water. Though we’re still straightening out the proverbial (and sometimes literal) wrinkles, we have grown to love the Code Zero.

Sun Dog

New Family Vehicle

One of the many things we decided prior to departure was to replace our old dinghy, a twelve-foot fiberglass-bottom inflatable AB, with a 2001 Mercury two-stroke 25hp. We were finding leaks and having to pump it up every few days. Because its days were numbered, we opted to buy a new one before leaving for an extended voyage. We eventually decided to go with the thirteen-foot aluminum AB, and bought a fuel-injected four-stroke Suzuki 30hp to power it.

Some of the differences are that the Suzuki has a lever shifter instead of the Mercury’s twist-shift, it doesn’t have a tiller extension, and you don’t have to mix the gas with the oil. Our motor is one of the newer models, with a built-in computer that tells us when to change the oil, and when it is getting too hot. It doesn’t get on a plane as easily with the whole family aboard (even with a hydro-foil), probably because the old dinghy had a custom prop. The new dinghy has more internal volume, and can carry all the necessary groceries, laundry, or snorkel gear wherever it needs to go. It can go at greater speeds through rougher seas than the old dinghy could, and instead of slamming, the deeper V-shape of the hull helps cut through the waves and makes the ride more comfortable. We have yet to try taking the hookah in the dinghy, but so far, it has proven itself worthy of the crew of Take Two.

Dive Boat

Little Red Wagon

I’ve got a new little red wagon, but it isn’t a Radio Flyer. I borrowed a Mac Sports Folding Utility Wagon from a fellow boater in St. Augustine (thank you, Tiki Trek!) to fetch provisions one day and knew I had found the perfect vehicle. For years I have carted laundry and groceries in a folding and rusting metal cart (the granny kind) that never holds enough stuff and is just the perfect size and shape to always be in the way wherever you try to store it.
The FUW, on the other hand, folds into a neat little square which fits into its own bag and stows nicely in one of our aft lazarettes. We ordered ours from Dick’, for about $70. It can carry up to 150 pounds—that’s a lot of groceries—and it folds and unfolds in the blink of an eye. The fabric is a sturdy synthetic canvas and the frame is steel. The oval-shaped handle telescopes and snaps into place, and there are even two pockets on the front for water bottles or small items. The wheels are hard rubber, and with the front two articulating, turning sharp corners with a heavy load is not a problem.
The only drawbacks I have discovered are that it’s heavy (the tradeoff for durability, I guess), and that the wheels don’t have locking brakes, which makes it a little tricky if you stop on a slope or when you fold it to put on the cover. The instructions state multiple times that the wagon is not to be used as a conveyance for small people, but my small person has already climbed in on top of the laundry for a ride with no ill effects. The metal frame makes it seem uncomfortable, and the warnings make it clear that you can’t sue Mac Sports if your tot falls out of the wagon or gets his little fingers pinched in the folding mechanism. Aside from these minor concerns, the wagon is a new favorite and draws compliments wherever I take it.

Into the Rabbit Hole

Oh, how I look forward to long, boring passages. Really. Time seems to telescope as the instruments count the tenths of nautical miles to the destination. And what shall we do with all this time? Eat very slowly? Talk? Read aloud by the hour? Fish? Watch the fabric of the ocean for the interruption of flying fish or the dolphins of Happiness—or, maybe, if we’re lucky, a whale? Stare lovingly into the deep-blue water and wonder, "what are those specks floating all over the place?" This morning, as we glided over the glassy surface of the Gulf Stream, for lack of anything better to do, I grabbed a bucketful of water, dug the microscope out of the science bin, found some slides, a petri dish, and an eyedropper and opened the Ocean Lab.


This morning’s victim was what I might call a “Floating Puffball from Inner Space.” I suspected it to be algae of some sort. It was a globe of greenish-brown with fine hair sticking out in all directions, about the size of a poppy seed. I sucked it up into the eyedropper and deposited it on a slide in a drop of water. At 40X, it looked like a mass of very fine tangled hair. At 100X, I began to see other, smaller things moving in and out among the hairs, and at 400X, the thing looked like a forest with small animals running in and out of the trees, changing direction mid-stream, diving and flying between the foliage. Each tree trunk was a hair—it was only a few cells thick, and it was clear from the cellular structure that it was plant-kind, but there was movement within each stalk and each moved like a tree waving slowly in a breeze. The tiny one-celled creatures within the forest of algal stems moved with incredible speed and energy. I felt like I was looking at Horton’s Whos down in Whoville. It was mesmerizing.

Once, at a local farmer’s market, I bought a head of heirloom broccoli, not because I wanted to eat it, but because I wanted to look at it up close: its stalk was a perfect spiral staircase of florets, with each floret a perfect spiral of buds, and each bud, in turn, a spiral. It was a perfect fractal repeating to the microscopic level. We have, for school and for fun, looked at inner cheek skin cells (animal), onion skin (vegetable), salt crystals (mineral), a honey bee’s stinger (barbs on barbs!), tiny brine shrimp (with compound eyes), the statue of Lincoln inside his Washington D.C. Memorial (on a penny), no-see-ums (look at those jaws!), hairy spider legs, fleas, and anything else we could capture and study. The C & A Scientific “My First Lab” Duo-Scope portable microscope with battery-operated LED bulbs (allowing you to look at both opaque and translucent objects) is probably the best science purchase we have ever made. It is so easy to use that even the youngest of our children has been able to view the tiny things on the slide—with the instant reward of discovering something strange and new.

The more I stare at that bright circle at the bottom of the dark tube into the magical world of the unseen things, the more I wonder how deep the rabbit hole goes. If a tiny alga can be home to animals as numerous as squirrels in the woods, what else can be possible? I read that we are, by genetic material, only one percent human. That makes me a planet-home to microbes more numerous than the population of humans on earth. Is everything a microcosm—a world inside a world? I feel like a peeping Tom peering in at a Creation too great for my limited intellect. This is usually the point at which I have to put the microscope away and look at the horizon because I suddenly feel a bit dizzy.


The Best Ice Cube Trays

This may seem like a frivolous thing to write about, but when freezer space is so limited and ice cube trays prove to be just one more piece of plastic here today and on a trash heap tomorrow—and for the next hundred years—it becomes meaningful. After doing some research at Amazon and reading lots of reviews, finding people who did even more ridiculous amounts of research, we concluded that OXO makes the best ice cube trays around. I’m not surprised, as we have several “best” kitchen gadgets from OXO.  We’ve used the trays for a couple of months and I would have to agree that they are the best I have ever had. I bought five stacking trays, which provide enough ice for cold drinks and a daily smoothie.

Perhaps at this point you are wondering, what could be so special about an ice cube tray? (Or, even, who knew you could make ice on a sailboat?) Well, let me tell you! The OXO Good Grips No Spill Ice Cube Tray has a revolutionary shape which makes getting the cubes out of the tray very easy. My old Rubbermaid trays were very sturdy and lasted a long time, but eventually the bending and flexing necessary to get the square cubes out caused the plastic to crack and break. Not so with the Oxo—simply twist lightly and the half-moon shaped ice cubes pop right out.

Cruiser Diamonds

The trays have a silicone cover, which is a unique and never-before-seen feature. You fill the tray, lay the cover over the top and lightly press while tilting to pour off any excess water and seal the tray. A vacuum effect results, and the covered cubes can now be placed inside the freezer, and will not leak or spill, even if they are tilted or placed on an uneven surface. This proves to be especially helpful on a boat. When we are on a passage, we tend to use a lot of ice in drinks, and I usually can’t make more because of the motion of the boat. With these trays, the rocking and rolling doesn’t affect the outcome.

Granted, this whole discussion of the best ice cube trays becomes moot if you live on the average small cruising boat. We’ve met lots of people out cruising who live without refrigeration at all and for whom a cold drink is a special treat, and a frozen beverage something you pay $8 for in a restaurant. For us this question of refrigeration highlights a difference between living comfortably and camping. When we make decisions about our boat, they are decisions about our home and our lives for the foreseeable future, so although we like the idea of traveling light and living simply, we balance that with long-term comfort. And a daily smoothie is part of our healthy lifestyle, so big inverters for the fancy blender and plenty of ice cubes are a must. We had lots of fun opportunities in the Bahamas to invite friends from other boats over and serve them icy drinks and frozen concoctions, much to their amazement and delight. That’s what it’s all about! Now if only I could get one of my crafty kids to make some tiny paper umbrellas…

Still Thriving

A quick update on our experiment with freeze dried Thrive foods: they’re even better than I had hoped. We’ve been gone one month now; the freezer is almost empty, the fresh food we bought in Marathon is long gone, we have some canned beans and tomatoes, but we are still eating like kings! Between the freeze dried food and the whole grains we carry, we have an incredible variety of menu options. We are now nearer to civilization, so we have access to island markets (supplies limited between mail boats), but normally at this point in a trip we’d be stuck with simpler options like oatmeal with raisins for breakfast, PBJs for lunch, and rice and beans or spaghetti for dinner. I feel an unspeakable joy to serve a dish with all the colors and aromas of fresh fruits and veggies when I’m hundreds of miles from the closest farmer’s market.

Some of the dishes in which I have used Thrive foods (in parentheses) include: BBQ chicken pizza (chicken), spaghetti with meat sauce (beef crumbles), pepperoni pizza appetizers  (mozzarella), baked potato soup (potatoes, celery, broccoli, onions and cheddar cheese, milk and sour cream), baked oatmeal (green apples, eggs, milk), minestrone soup (corn, peas, spinach, green beans, carrots, onions, bell peppers), pancakes with berry compote (eggs, milk, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries), sausage and cheese griddle bread (sausage crumbles, cheddar), frittata (sausage crumbles, spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, bell peppers, onions, cheddar), chili (bell peppers, onions, beef crumbles) and chicken and dumplings (celery, onions, carrots, peas, green beans). 

Where they excel is in one-dish dinners—simply throw in a handful of this and a handful of that and voilá! Gourmet meals in minutes. Limitations might be that I didn’t carry enough fruit (we could have been drinking smoothies this whole time!), and that the vegetables and meats are best used as ingredients and not served as a side dish (for example, it would be better to put the green beans in a casserole than to cook and eat them alone). One reason may be that when you rehydrate veggies or meats in some kind of broth, they take on the flavor of the dish and taste that much better. The only exception is butter powder: I wouldn’t sauté anything in it, but reconstituted with a little bit of water and expeller-pressed coconut oil, it becomes the most wonderful spread for fresh-baked bread or pancakes. A quick survey of the crew of Take Two would find them very satisfied with dishes coming out of our galley, with my Thrive substitutions virtually indistinguishable from fresh ingredients in favorite recipes.