Categories
home page progressions

steps to becoming a cruiser

I’ve met several awesome folks on my travels who dream of sailing around on their own boat one day. I can be somewhat of a dream crusher when discussing these plans, as starry eyed dreamers don’t realize what some channels put out there on YouTube isn’t telling the entire story. I’d like to give some realistic advice to following this dream, if it is what you want for your future.

Step 1: Buy a Small Boat
This may seem counterintuitive, however if you plan on being a boat owner one day I recommend to start off with something simple. Get familiar with how marinas function, the types of crowds at marinas, if you have the energy to maintain a boat, and if you have any desire to actually leave the slip. It could be a 10′ dinghy, a Cal 20′, a Columbia 26′. Anything small and simple to get your feet wet, literally and figuratively. I would not recomend a first time boat owner and non sailor to purchase a 30′-45′ boat. I’m not saying it can’t work, but it will be much more of a struggle to understand the bigger picture. If you end up not liking it, you’ll waste a lot of money for nothing.

It’s okay to not know everything. Everyone starts somewhere, and nobody was born knowing everything. It will feel like you’re learning a new language, because you are. Chandlery? What’s that. Cabin sole? Say what now? Brightwork? What needs to be made brighter?

Step 2: Do Necessary Repairs 
Whatever boat you’ve got, just make it work! Running rigging all tattered and frayed? Get new lines. Standing rigging no good? Replace it. Need a small fiberglass repair done? Go ahead and scope out some of the ever so helpful DIY channels and give it a go. My favorite aspect of small boats is they’re a breeze to maintain and fairly inexpensive to repair. $5,000 should get a neglected boat back out onto the water and safe for sailing.

The most important factor in this is that you are becoming familiar with the vessel. Should something go wrong, you’ll know where to look or how to troubleshoot. You should absolutely get familiar with materials, processes, etc. Otherwise, someone may suggest a costly repair when it is not necessary. Be wise to this and you will be a more knowledgeable boat owner. I’ve seen many people blindly agree to unecessary repairs simply because someone said it needed to be done. I guess if you have deep pockets, what does it matter? If three people who don’t know eachother all suggest the same repair / method / product, then maybe they’re right. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to seek out second, third, and fourth opinions.

Step 3: Go Sailing!
Yes, get away from that dock! By now you’ve probably made friends with your dock neighbors and can buddy boat around the bay, lake, or whatever waterway you fancy. If the repairs to your boat are keeping you at the dock or out of the water, go sailing with anyone and everyone who invites you. I’ve learned so much just from seeing how different boats are set up. Everyone has their own creative solutions to problems, some you may be able to implement on your own, others maybe not but at least give you food for thought on how to problem solve.

The more you get out on the water, the more you become exposed to different situations. No two days are the same, the more you learn the better Captain you will become! There is always something to learn, and learning first hand is a better way to learn than by reading about it. You will make mistakes, everyone does. You learn from them and become smarter and hopefully can laugh about it later!

Step 4: Start Thinking of Your Next Boat
By now you’ve hopefully spent at least 6 months to a year with your dinghy / boat and have been on many other people’s boats in the process. This will give you the best idea for what you may want in your future forever boat. You will be more confident in what kind of maintenance you can handle and what features you want. Know that if you talk to weekly racers at the yacht club, they will probably prefer a racing boat. Something lightweight, not meant to have a lot of supplies on board. If you don’t plan on racing across the ocean, do you really need a racing boat then? Many cruisers prefer heavier boats that can withstand a storm. No matter what you do, you will get stuck in a storm and for me personally, I’d rather be comfortable. Take everyone elses opinions with a grain of salt. You hopefully know what is best for your situation, so go with that!

Also know that there is no perfect boat. There are things about my boat that I can’t stand, but the benefits outweigh the downsides. For instance, Coconut’s cockpit is ridiculously small. However, this is a godsend in rough seas. It’s not like I entertain aboard often anyways, so in the end it doesn’t really matter. Write a list of wants and stalk Yacht World for all your boat porn needs. I like this site because it includes a lot of interior photos, you get to see different setups and can get a better idea of what boats look like on the insides. For instance, I really love center cockpits because the layouts down below are incredibly spacious. The tradeoff is that the cockpit is tiny.

Important Details to Understand
Newer boats doesn’t equal less maintenance! I met the owner of a 2014 Beneteau Oceanis whose prop looked as bad as Coconut’s previous 40 year old prop! The builder installed it incorrectly and the salt water corroded giant chunks out of the blades. This shouldn’t happen and is a fairly expensive repair. If I’d paid six figures for a boat, I would expect it to not have problems like this, but it is unfortunately common.

I am completely biased and prefer 70’s era boats because the hulls are so thick. It can survive a reef hit much better than the thinner newer fancier boats can by a long shot. The woodwork on my boat is so well constructed I feel safe. This to me is very important.

Multiple cruisers have done a cost breakdown, it seems to be $750 is the lowest end for one person actively cruising and anchoring out with absolutely *no frills*. I’ve only met one gentleman who claimed he was cruising for $500/month. He was emaciated, only had 15 watts of solar power, and didn’t have enough water to last him and his 2 crewmembers for more than a couple of days. We all have our limits to what we can deal with, but putting yourself and your crew in danger for the sake of sailing is not worth it to me.

Here’s where I crush your dreams. Know all those YouTube channels with these young couples who just seem to be frolicking around fancy islands on nice boats who are always clean wearing pristine clothing and conveniently never have a break in their videos because they’ve not had to stop and work? Those are most likely trust fund babies. They make big deals about $3 repairs and $2 beers, yet fail to mention the new $3k navigation system and $15k engine they’re installing.

There are several channels I can’t watch anymore because they’re not being honest about the money they’ve put into their lifestyle. It makes me feel inadequate, when in fact they are the ones who aren’t being truthful. I don’t like sugar coating things, and what a shock many must face when they realize they were following someones footsteps who started higher up on the mountaintop rather than at the bottom where everyone else started. Ignore these people on social media and YouTube all together, they’re on a different playing field and don’t understand the struggles most of us face in terms of reaching our own personal goals.

Categories
maintenance progressions

sprucing up the stanchions: part 1

I had a friend with the same boat as Coconut. He wanted to sell his boat, and offered me the handrails to switch out my lifelines. Being that hard handrails are so much sturdier, I quickly said yes and took off my stanchions. It took two weeks! Those bolts are not easy to get to. He said he’d come down with everything before I left for Antarctica, but realized his passport was expired and we’d do it when I came back. But when I came back, after ignoring me for several days he finally sent me a message saying that he’d sold the boat and didn’t take off any of the handrails (besides the aft portion that I already picked up). This put me in a bind for heading south. I didn’t want to do the 1,000 mile leg with no lifelines. The dogs need to go to the bathroom up there. I’m not sure why  he even asked if I wanted them. Flake all you want but leave me out of it please and thank you.

thumbnail-2

I was already freshening up the wooden blocks that go between the deck and stanchion base, so I decided to continue with that and figure out a plan. His stanchion bases were much nicer than mine, as some of mine were completely cracked and all of them were so rusty no amount of metal polish could clean them up. I’d seen you could get new bases for $15 a pop at a chandlery in San Diego, so all I needed to order were a couple of t-bar connectors and end caps to fit onto an imaginary stainless steel handrail to go forward one day in the future. I can’t afford those right now, so I am fine putting the forward lifelines back on. Those are in good condition, with new bases it’ll be just like new. Thankfully I was able to purchase exactly what I needed from calendar sales as well as a very kind donation from a dear friend. Thank you!!! <3

While I was gone, I had the toe rail worked on because there was nothing in it’s way and it would be the only shot to clean that baby up. Basically, this has turned into one of those projects that just snowballs into a million other things when you’re already tight on cash. I’m glad I’m doing it though, because I’ve stopped a couple of leaks and will be a helluva lot safer out at sea with new bases. And the teak looking nice and fresh doesn’t hurt. But I decided to paint it because I loathe brightwork and don’t have the patience for  maintaining it.

Besides the pain of getting the nuts and bolts off, what takes the longest is prepping the wood bases. Sanding the old paint off, getting the gunky caulking off the bottoms, drilling out the holes, filling them and other cracks with thickened epoxy, filling them again because air bubbles, sanding them down, putting two coats of epoxy on, and three coats of paint before they are ready to be caulked on and drilled through.

Because my original stanchion bases were welded on, I had the yard break the welds. The “newer” stanchion bases were easy to remove and put onto my stanchions with set screws instead of welding. After that, all I had to do was saw off the eye at the top and the handrail connector could go right over that. This way I wouldn’t have to completely change the location of some of the bases. The aft handrail was much longer for some reason, extending way past the pulpit, but I didn’t want to cut that down until I had the stanchions back in place so I could tell where to cut it to get the correct curvature of the boat.

So far, this is a work in progress and not complete yet….

 

 

Categories
maintenance progressions

prepping for a safe passage

I had some pretty wild good luck on my way down the coast, and suddenly when I was due to take off again every test sail I went on had problems. Nothing major, but enough to let me know I needed to go back to the dock to fix something. I started looking into pre-departure checklists as some of this stuff could have been caught before I left the dock had I made it a habit to inspect it. Below is what I’ve come up with for prepping for a safe passage. I have made this into an actual checklist and put it into my binder titled “Everything Coconut” so it is easy to reference. (To note, this is everything besides the obvious items like topping off water, fuel, provisions, laundry, lifejackets, etc.) I couldn’t find any pre-made detailed checklists so I made my own!

Have a Float Plan

I wasn’t sure what this was, but upon seeing some examples like this one from the Coast Guard, I definitely need one of these. I have a couple of friends I regularly let know I am leaving and the city where I am headed to. They do not know the details of my boat, the Documentation Number, type of engine, type of sailboat, marina or anchorage I plan on staying in, etc. I am not always good at letting them know I got in either, which I definitely need to get better about. Even though my passages are around 70 miles each, at least giving my friends a copy of this to hold on to is a good idea should anything go wrong.

Engine Pre-Departure Checklist

I’ve learned a lot about maintaining a diesel engine, but at the same time I am still learning the more I work with it. For example, checking the oil and coolant level is easy. However, I am not good about inspecting the sea strainer, the tension on the belts, or checking for leaks.

  • Check oil level and color (if black, time to change it)
  • Check coolant level
  • Check Alternator Belt and Water Pump Belt tension, inspect for black dust
  • Check for cracked hoses, oil leaks, loose hose clamps
  • Empty water from bilge compartment
  • Clear out Sea Water Strainer
  • Check water flow exiting the boat
  • Check Gear Shifter to ensure bolt fastened properly

 

Check Steering System

Check hydraulic steering for leaks from the pump at the wheel all the way down to the ram at the rudder. Check for loose hose clamps, leaks, and missing cotter pins.

 

Check Standing and Running Rigging

On my first failed sail, I turned around because the lower shrouds on both port and starboard were loose and shaking. It was very windy, so the side opposite of the wind direction was the one flailing a bit too much for comfort. I don’t have the money for a Loos Tensioning Gauge, but decided to tighten the offending shrouds more than what I thought necessary. I’ve already lubed them, so I probably should have marked the spot where the turnbuckles were before removing them. Lastly, make sure everything’s got a cotter pin and that it is properly bent and covered so it doesn’t catch on anything!

For running rigging, check for chafe. If you can see what the line is chafing on, see about covering that area with white electrical tape. My roller furling line always gets caught on the cotter pins where the rigging is attached to the chainplate. I used to stuff an old washcloth between here, but this only allows dirt and dog hair to collect and not go through the deck scuppers.

I also check the spare lines I have on the stern pulpit. I drape them over the pulpit and it always comes in handy if I need to throw a line to someone. Make sure the lines are secured tightly and will not fall off or foul in the prop.

 

Secure the Anchor

If the anchor is not secured, it can possibly jump off the gibsea and puncture a hole in the hull. No bueno! I’ve simply attached a line through the end of the anchor to an eye bolt on the toe rail.

 

Check Electronics

I’ve got a handheld GPS and InReach with satellite GPS. Both of these seem to receive updates maybe 2x a year, so it is always good to connect those to the internet and make sure everything is up to date.

Make sure all navigation lights are working. Another failed sail of mine the front red and green nav lights on the pulpit were mysteriously dark. Turn on all equipment and ensure function, even if you don’t need it at that time. The depth sounder, AutoPilot, VHF/AIS radio, etc.

 

Check the Weather

When I was hopping down the coast I would leave as long as there was no wind. This was very helpful in getting me comfortable with single handing, and when a line got snagged on something the sail or jib sheet was fairly easy to un-foul. Even though there was “no wind” predicted, there is always at least enough wind to keep the main up.

Upon reading more about this, one site (can’t remember which) recommended to start keeping track of the weather in a journal. This will help you see patterns, and start to understand weather in general. I thought this was a great idea. I was gifted a PDF of reading the weather, which I plan to familiarize myself with.

It can also be good to keep track as I am not yet familiar with what conditions are favorable and unfavorable (mostly wave height). I know 20-30 knots will be a more cumbersome sail, but I tend to forget about wave height and tides/currents since I am no longer in San Francisco (which has notoriously strong currents). NOAA has good and reliable information for this.

 

Organize Tools

Sounds silly, but I am bad at this. Having a shop means I tend to toss tools back in the shop without making sure it’s secure or in the right spot. When I had pulled into a marina to tighten the alternator belt I couldn’t find the right sized socket and of course I couldn’t get a box wrench in the space. I knew I had it on board, but it set me back just trying to find it.

I’ve gone through my shop and gotten rid of things I hadn’t used in a while (like my 5 gallon vacuum) and moved things that didn’t need to be in there. I also found some treasures I forgot I had! Zita was hiding from a big bad scary fly in the first picture, but the shop now has a floor! And their bike trailer is secured! And so is the net! And last but not least I finally put the door handle back on. The handles are all pretty corroded and ugly looking, so I took them off. (Four years ago.) I was going to spray paint them and never did until a few days ago. Not crazy about the chunky clear coat finish, I will have to buy a matte finish before finishing the rest of them! At least I know where my tools are, they are more secure than before, and I should be able to access them quickly should I need to.

thumbnail-22thumbnail-20thumbnail-21

 

 

 

 

Categories
progressions THE KIDS

living on a boat with dogs

I get a lot of questions regarding living on a boat with my pups, so I figured I’d write out how I manage. I’ve already written a post about sailing and traveling with them, you can read about it here.

When I first moved aboard my little Columbia 26′, it was the dog hair that drove me absolutely insane. It was everywhere. All of my energy went to showing up for my office job looking like a normal person! Keep in mind there are a lot of weird things I have to do just to combat their hair, and to keep Zita from permanently scarring any random people on the docks.

 

Hair Control

Initially, brushing the dogs every day didn’t seem to help. It was such a small space inside my first boat, and there was no closed off storage. Everything I needed on a daily basis was out in the open. I cut up a shower curtain I’d gotten on sale, added velcro and draped it alongside the port and starboard areas to keep hair off my dishes and whatnot. I used to wash their bedding once a week thinking that was helping control the situation. Looking back, that is absolutely ridiculous as I only wash it once a month now.

20130901-132228.jpg

Seven years later I realize the first mistake I made was using a “furminator” brush. I know the brush is specifically for dogs with long hair that sheds, but it seemed to create more hair because I could brush them for an hour every day and still get hair everywhere. I only brush with a wire brush now. This has drastically cut back on the amount of time I spend brushing them, which means it isn’t a chore I actively avoid anymore. Dogs with short hair could benefit from daily brushing as well, even if it doesn’t seem like it’s doing anything. I hear plenty of complaints from short-haired dog owners. For me, when Thing 1 and Thing 2 are shaved (aka when it’s hot enough), I feel like I am on vacation from dog hair duty.

In the mornings, I brush the pupperinos outside after we return from our morning walk. It only takes a few minutes and leaves them super smiley! Then I go inside and remove any item they sleep on along with the floor rug. I shake them out up on the deck over the side, in whichever way the wind will blow the hairs away from the boat. Before putting these items back inside, I sweep down below. Then I put everything back in place and voila, I have a clean boat for the rest of the day. There are other things I do that non dog owners don’t quite understand:

  • Switching out fabric cushions for vinyl can raise your quality of life. They are much easier to wipe down once a week, and dog hair can’t weave itself into vinyl
  • Any time you’re trying to get dog hair off your clothes, go up to the deck to do it and let the wind blow it away. Otherwise it will just swirl around down below and won’t help the situation
  • Cleaning up a mess of lines (sheets, halyards) and getting them off the deck is now habit! Getting them out of the way lessens the chance for dog hair to settle on them

When it is hot enough, I do shave them with this awesome trimmer. When I started shaving them years ago while living in Arizona, I had a huge honking thing that overheated quite a bit and was heavy, meaning it took a while to finish one haircut. This new trimmer is cordless, quiet, smaller, lighter, and came with a ton of attachments. I can even charge it via USB! The battery lasts long enough to where I don’t have to charge it mid-shave either. The attachments mean I can leave some hair so they don’t get sunburnt, or trim around their cute little faces to even the fade out.

 

Leaving Them on the Boat

People are for some reason so shocked I leave the dogs on the boat when I go places. Like to work when I had an office job, or to an appointment I can’t bring the dogs to. When I had an apartment, I left them at home like many millions of pet owners do every day. Why would it be any different on the boat? Their beds are there, their water is there, they eat / sleep / get pets there, I am not sure what is so surprising about this.

Things I do before I leave: I always make sure Little Miss Piggy and Kermit the Dog get a walk to go potty before I leave if I am going to be gone for a couple of hours or more. I make sure they have water. I leave a pee pad for Zita if I may be gone longer. She’s usually okay, but I just want to give her an option other than the rug or floor. She is terrified of noisy flies  when they get inside the boat, and for some reason this makes her piddle .

I also ignore them for 10 minutes or more, however long it takes for them to ignore every movement I make. Many dogs have separation anxiety, and if I make a big deal about leaving / coming home, this further proves to them they simply can not live without me and makes my absence harder for them to deal with. My little one, Zita, is overall a very anxious dog so I mainly do this for her. She still barks in protest when I leave, but after 20 minutes (as reported by many neighbors over the years) they quiet down. Bear usually joins her barking by singing / howling and it is very funny to hear if I’ve forgotten something shortly after leaving!

Speaking of anxious dogs, I had a really tough time dealing with Zita after moving aboard. She was used to being crated in our past apartments. The crate was her safe space, she liked it and knew she needed it. I couldn’t crate her on the first boat, there was simply NO ROOM for one. Initially, I left her to her devices when gone and ho-ly sh$*, it was a bad idea. She’d pee, poop, vomit, knock stuff into said bodily fluids and knock over anything else she could get to. It took me a while to realize she was trying to see out the windows, along with having a full blown panic attack. She’d hear a noise, and want to see who it was outside. She also has no idea what to do with her freedom or how to handle stress. I love her, but she is nuts.

The only thing I could think to do, other than give her up for adoption, was to leave her on a leash while I was away. Honestly, it worked beautifully. I just had to be careful what was within her “radius” of what she could get to and usually I’d come back to the boat the same way I left it. The leash was wrapped around and secured to somewhere she already liked to hide (see below for her favorite hiding spot aboard our first boat). Meanwhile, Bear just curls up and waits for his mommy to come home.

013

hiding in her cave

I don’t know when I stopped leashing Captain Z, but it was definitely last year at some point. I started testing her, leaving for short periods to take the trash out or go to the bathroom, and I guess in her old age she is finally being a good girl! I do close the door to any cabin not containing a bed, currently the shop and aft cabin. Less space for her to pace / freak out is better.

 

Projects

When I am working on projects, there are a few things I do to “prep the dogs” if you will. First off, Bear is very cuddly and needs a lot of attention. Quite frankly, he gets annoying when I am trying to focus. Before I get into any project that will take several hours, I sit down with both of them and give them solid quality individual attention (about 20 minutes each). They are surprisingly polite about it, patiently waiting for their turn. After doing this, the fluff monsters will likely fall asleep and let me be.

If I am working down below with a toxic chemical or creating a lot of dust, I put Mama and Papa Ganoush up in the cockpit and move their beds and water dish out there. This can get annoying if I am at the docks, because Zita looooves to bark at everyone walking by. If I am working outside, I will bring them up with me as they love inspecting what I do while sunbathing, napping, and letting the wind flow through their hair.

Other Helpful Tips

I got new name tags made for Papa Smurf and his Smurfette. When I was stationary at the same marina, I added my slip number to their tag. Now that I’m overseas and bouncing around, I’ve replaced that with my email address and boat name. They shouldn’t get lost because I keep them on a tight leash, but we also house sit quite a bit and Zita has escaped from a backyard before.

I used to let them get off the boat first and then I’d wrangle them onto their leashes, but Zita is a jerk and can’t be trusted. She likes to run up to people minding their own business and bark at them. Sometimes, people legitimately get scared of her and start flailing their limbs thus egging her on. It creates a lot of chaos and is embarrassing. So I now get off the boat first. Then I get Bear off, and put him on the leash. Then I get Zita, and put her on the leash. I do the same in reverse when getting them back onto the boat. I say to Zita, “Bad Girls First” as I put her onboard. This ensures the least amount of apologizing on Zita’s behalf. I also ditched the dock stairs, as the dogs always seemed too nervous to jump and some are slippery thus waiting for me to just grab them anyways. They’re light, so I can do this easily.

Also, keep track of how long a bag of food lasts. I buy the smaller bags of dog food, so it has no chance of going stale after being opened and it’s easier to store. Knowing how much they eat helps when provisioning, or leaving them with a dog sitter to know they’ll have enough food for the trip.

As Mr. & Mrs. Smith age, these chews were recommended by a vet to help their joints. You do need to start with Step 2 before moving up to Step 3. The pups are now 13 years old and I started giving them the chews when I noticed Bear becoming a little stiff, around age 9-10. I ran out / forgot to resupply for several months and noticed a huge difference when we started up again.

I don’t leave any electrical systems “on” when leaving them on the boat, other than the bilge pump and fridge. After cooking, the propane solenoid is turned off and the propane empties out of the lines. I move the nob of the burner back to “off” and I then close the valve for the propane tank I’m currently using. I drilled another hole in the propane box to be able to turn off the valve easily. These steps give me peace of mind they will be safe while I am gone. While at anchor, especially if I have just dropped the hook, I absolutely take them with me ashore. First, they probably need to go to the bathroom. Second, if the boat drifts away I want them with me.

 

I hadn’t realized how many things I do differently, but honestly it’s 2nd nature and I don’t even think about it (other than the hair, it’s hard to forget about that!). If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask below. If you have a dog and want to move on board with them, I hope this has been helpful. You know your animal better than anyone, for the most part dogs are very adaptable and just want to be close to you. Best of luck to other future and current boaters with dogs!

Categories
bla-bla-bla progressions

the hydrovane

I usually post every other Friday, but I recently received an email from Hydrovane outlining Golden Globe Race participants’ along with their respective winvanes detailing any issues they’ve had during the race. They proudly highlighted the participants who had Hydrovanes, and surprisingly every single one of them had no issues with their wind vanes! Two of the top three finishers have a Hydrovane. I found it pretty interesting, and it made me feel more confident in the investment in adding one to Coconut! The third participant just finished early this morning and it’s pretty exciting to follow.

I will be honest and say I have not yet figured out how to use the windvane, they’re apparently better for ocean passages rather than coastal cruising. Wind vanes have a slight variation in direction as they go off the wind, and an autopilot keeps a tighter and more reliable course. I had mostly light winds hopping down the coast and you need at least 10 knots I’m guessing to have enough wind to keep it steering.

I’ve also not yet found a way to keep my wheel in place (step #1 to using the hydrovane) but even when I had a friend on board messing with the vane while I kept the wheel straight, the boat kept rounding up. I’ve talked to some people in passing who say the trick is to balance the sails, which I could really see being key. Another confession, I do not know how to balance the sails properly! After searching online, it seems there are several books on how to trim sails. If anyone has any recommendations feel free to enlighten me!

 

 

 

 

Categories
progressions

sailing abroad with dogs

Travelling Internationally

There are a lot of factors to consider when taking your pooch sailing. I thought long and hard about any possible scenario, from how they would go to the bathroom at sea to getting them into another country.

I had stalked noonsite.com for info on what I needed to do to get the dogs into Mexico. True to my nature, I didn’t do any of what they said pet owners should do. Logistically, it was too difficult to work out in San Diego while anchored out. I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. As it turns out, absolutely nothing was needed! No special shots, no vet health certificate less than 72 hrs old, none of it. Don’t waste your time!

For everything else I worried about, like veterinary care, I have not had any issues. The pups have gotten their shots updated and I was given a pamphlet for each pup to have a written record of when their shots are due. I can’t keep track of paperwork to save my life, so this is a welcome addition to know when the shots are due without relying on a vet to send me postcard reminders.

The pups are 12 years old now and getting fatty tumors. Any time sedation is required in the US its automatically at least a $500 procedure. Not in Mexico! It was ~$50 to remove a lump on Zita’s chest. Testing the mass is almost as much as the surgery, although it is still much cheaper! Speaking of old pups, they used to get acupuncture in San Fran (go ahead, laugh away) but there are places here to get veterinary acupuncture care as well! Soo stoked about this, I feel better about taking them hiking with me.

I thought I’d need to stock up on flea and tick medicines, however, I think its best to work with what the region has to offer. The fleas and ticks in the US can be different than what is found in Central America, therefore the agents probably won’t work as effectively. Trust that they have the correct products to care for your pet.

Most dogs here aren’t neutered or spayed. That means they incessantly flirt with Zita, or Bear, and if its a boy Bear will get super agro. Most of them are younger too, and boy does Bear like to parent actual puppies!

sailing with dogs-1

I walk with the pups pretty much everywhere. There are some stores I can’t go in because there is either nowhere to tie the dogs up or it is way too crowded of an area. I was used to tying them up to bike racks or parking signs, but I’m lucky if I can find a railing for shopping carts and somewhere people aren’t walking by (Zita hates people and she’s very vocal about it). Early morning walkies to the grocery store in less crowded areas is how we do it.

Another thing I hadn’t anticipated was that there are no water bowls left out for dogs on their walkies. Not many people walk their dogs here, so its not a common practice to leave water dishes out. I bring a water bottle with us and a collapsible water bowl to keep them hydrated.

Speaking of locals not walking dogs, most dogs here are guard dogs. They live in the front or back yard and likely never leave. They aren’t socialized and have probably never met another dog before. We have had some pretty funny reactions from local pups! It also makes it a little difficult finding a pet sitter, because I have different standards. People are confused as to why I walk the dogs so often, and haven’t ever heard of dogs being allowed to stay in the house. I’m absolutely not okay leaving them in the front or back yard for 24 hours unattended, but I am happy to report that there ARE people out there who welcome dogs inside and walk them (but it takes some time to meet the right people).

That being said, these two fluffy butts are very popular in their new home! Bear loves all the attention, Zita could do without it. There are several people who ask “where are your dogs???!” if I happen to leave them back on the boat. It’s really cute. I also have to tell people that they bite. Lots of kids will come running up and ask if they bite or if they can pet them, and I have to say “they bite, sorry” because when it’s busy on the walkway I simply would not get anywhere if I stopped for every person who asked.

 

Sailing

As far as actually sailing with the pups, they have done really well. They prefer to nap in the middle of the cockpit, closest to me of course. I don’t feed them before a passage, incase the swells are a little rolly I don’t want to upset their bellies. I have them in their life jackets all the time, and so far I have only had to secure them once because it was sooo rough getting out the Golden Gate Bridge. They panted for a couple of hours and eventually relaxed once they realized they weren’t going to die.

sailing with dogs-3

thumbnail-5

The grass pad up at the bow is now a permanent fixture on Coconut. I put some brass grommets in it and tied some dynema to the cletes so it can’t fly away. Zita has always had a harder time holding it than Bear, and pooping is her favorite activity second to eating. Now that she knows the grass pad is where she can relieve herself, she happily does it! I sometimes find little turds up there even when at the dock when they are getting regular walkies. One time while right in front of me she just waltzed up there and pee’d on the pad! I praised her like crazy. I know a lot of people prefer to put a long line on the grass pad to dip into the ocean, but because there’s already pee all over the deck I prefer to just fill up my canvas bucket and wash it off that way. I can’t imagine washing off a grass pad in the ocean and just leaving the urine all over the deck. Gross.

Bear is going to take a little more coaxing, as it took a couple of days for him to drop a deuce on our first long passage. He also needs something to pee on (like an actual object). I could see his brain trying to work out “How am I supposed to poop or lift my leg when the boat is bouncing around?!” We haven’t quite worked that out yet, but he has gone #1 and #2 once enough time passed. If we are anchored out and he can see land, he doesn’t understand why he needs to do the yucky stuff on the boat. I hope to continue praising him to where he understands if he needs to go, he can and should go. Of course, while sailing I leash them one by one and take them up to the bow to do their business. I haven’t installed netting yet and absolutely don’t want them going up there unattended when we are underway.

I hope this helps anyone with pups!

Categories
progressions

a newish hanging locker

thumbnail-2It has been a while since I tackled a small project. Engine work, reinsulating the fridge area, haul outs for depth sounder…. I wanted a small project costing me zero dolares por favor. I also genuinely like writing and documenting this stuff, I guess because that’s mostly what I was doing for so long before Coconut could sail! Way back when the hatches were being redone I had some boards made to size so I could at least keep the draft out of my boat. I’ve kept the boards, but really they were just getting in my way and constantly falling over in the shop.

I was in the mood to shred up some wood and cover the contents of my boat in sawdust, so I grabbed the measuring tape, a sharpie, and the jigsaw and cut out a template to create a shelf in the hanging locker. I wasn’t sure how many shelves I would need, so I started with two. (Three was enough.) I am not great at getting a straight cut with the jigsaw, but I was planning on sanding down the edges and painting the shelves and the locker itself anyways. I like this locker because it has runoff access to the bilge, so it’s a legit wet locker.

thumbnail

One thing I have realized is having the shelves at a slight angle will help the contents stay put and not slide out whenever I open it underway. To keep the shelves in place, I grabbed a few tiny planks that used to be my interior fridge rack. I had dismantled them and will one day get plexiglass, as the wood gets saturated with condensation and is tough to clean if something spills on them. I used some thickened epoxy and painters tape to hold them in place.

It’s amazing how much space I have in here now! I originally tried putting the PFD’s and foulies on hangers, but the life vests are so bulky it didn’t work well. This is what led to me just stuffing everything in there. After the shelves were in, I had my foulies, PFD’s doggie PFD’s/jacklines/tether all organized and easily accessible. I even had space for my shoes at the bottom! Whoop. And yes, those are all the shoes I own.

thumbnail-3

thumbnail-4

Categories
maintenance progressions

upgrading the battery banks

When I first bought Coconut there were three batteries on board, not connected and hanging out in the shop waiting to be installed. I later learned they were purchased in 2009, so in 2014 they were already old. Because I knew nothing about battery banks, I had an electrician install them. They were 12V led/acid batteries, size D27 and of the Powerstride brand. I thought you only had to water them once a year, but it turns out it’s once a month. Oops. I didn’t learn this until the batteries had been in use for five years and due for replacement anyways. They still were holding a charge just fine during the day with the solar panels, but at night the voltage would drop dramatically. I didn’t want to have to worry about JaLos the autopilot draining the batteries on a night passage. Hell, just being able to leave my cabin lights and radio on after dark would be nice!

Plenty of people told me to look into golf cart batteries. They are only 6 volt but have more amp hours. It sounded great, until I saw how big they were. Because they are 6V you need 2x as many (I think?) than you would if you only went with 12V. I don’t think I could fit even one golf cart battery where the current batteries are, they are too tall. Relocating the battery bank is absolutely not an idea I was interested in entertaining. Another important tidbit I learned was to go with an AGM battery. AGM’s do not require maintenance, so there is need to go on a treasure hunt to find distilled water as most countries outside the US do not carry it. Also, the battery for the engine bank absolutely must be rated a “starting battery” (or at least dual purpose). Mine previously was not.

I went ahead and splurged on Powerstride AGM’s, and got a Lifeline Starting Battery. I made space for two more batteries, which was the perfect amount! I just had to have an electrician come to make new battery connectors to run the now four house bank batteries in parallel. The only thing I would need to check was to make sure the solar charge controller was compatible for AGM’s, as well as the battery charger. I honestly never use the battery charger because I am rarely connected to shore power, but it could definitely ruin the batteries if it’s not compatible.

The one chart that has helped me understand how my batteries are doing is below. Looking at the percentage on the battery monitor wasn’t entirely helping me understand what was going on. For example, it would show the batteries were at 85% but be at 12.20 volts, which as you can see is actually 60%. I am happy to say the voltage so far hasn’t gone below 12.5, and that was when I was charging my laptop after dark (whaaaat!). I think four batteries will be plenty sufficient for my minimal usage, the only appliance I am missing is the fridge/freezer unit. Once the area gets re-insulated, I am curious to see how much power it draws.

battery-state.jpg

Categories
adventures progressions

10 ways you can loose steering, or propulsion, or jack up your rudder

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 8.35.58 AM

I feel like there are a million ways to loose steering or propulsion. I didn’t feel this way before I set out on my journey, but I feel that way now. I’ve experienced a few of them, and it seems like there are way more systems and little seemingly insignificant pieces to look that than I could have imagined. Coconut has hydraulic steering, so here are some things you should triple check before leaving the dock.

1. Make sure the system has been recently serviced and doesn’t have ANY leaks. Keep at least a gallon of hydraulic fluid on hand incase you need to bleed the system. Also have a bleeding setup you can do yourself if you need to. It’s a two person job, but when you’re alone you’ve got to figure out something.

2. Check the clevis pins and make sure they all have cotter pins. Yes, mine was missing cotter pins and we made it 48 hours offshore before finding out. Overall a stupid problem to have, and would have been much more frightening had we been closer to shore.

3. Inspect the bracket holding on the hydraulic steering. Mine snapped off when I tacked going the fastest so far we’ve gone, around 6 knots steady, all because it was only welded on one side (not both) all over. Have a backup of the bracket just incase and make sure the area it’s bolted on to is structurally sound.

steering

IMG_20180414_121519_523

4. Make sure your emergency rudder can work if the main rudder is no longer working. When the bracket snapped, the rudder was flopping around for several hours as I got towed. This not only resulted in damage to the rudder, but because the main rudder was still moving, the emergency rudder couldn’t out perform it.

IMG_20180816_145830_355

5. Emergency Tiller: Coconut came with an emergency tiller as well as shaft to put on the rudder post. The only piece missing was the part to secure the tiller post to the rudder post. I now have this piece, although I could have (and should have) used it when I lost steering! Test it out while underway, several times. I will time myself doing everything from removing the mounted tiller and metal post to moving bedding out of the way to having it working. It’s good to know how much time it will take you to set this system up just incase something happens. By the 3rd or 4th time of doing something, you figure out a system that works. Write it down if you need to, with maps of where parts are!

6. Your wheel might have a “key” on it. When I had the hydraulic system serviced, I had a new key made. If this key snaps off, you have no way to steer with the wheel anymore.

7. Check your gear shifter and make sure all the nuts and bolts are tight! Mine rattled loose, thankfully I was already in an anchorage and ready to drop the hook anyways. Timing has never been my specialty, but damn, I couldn’t have asked for it to happen at a better moment! Had it been 10 minutes earlier I’d have been on the rocks of the jetty. My buddy James saved the day on this one, he came out in his boat to diagnose the issue. You can watch the YouTube video here!

8. When trying to diagnose what the issue was with the gear shifter, having a line wrapped around the prop was mentioned. I had of course heard of this happening before, but never knew what the signs were. What happens is the engine runs, but turns off as soon as you put it in gear. Now I know! And if you do accidentally run over a line, put the engine in neutral as soon as you notice, and wait to put it in gear again until you are sure you are past the line. That way the prop won’t suck the line in. The only way to remedy this issue is to jump in the water, so having a wetsuit is pretty important if you aren’t in warm waters.

9. Your rudder is supposed to have a “stopper” on it to prevent it from going too far in either direction while in reverse. I didn’t know this until I had the Autopilot installed, but apparently because I have hydraulic steering it can’t go too far in either direction anyways.

and last but not least…

10. If your wheel is suddenly turning and turning and turning and you’re thinking “dammit, not again!!!” Make sure the autopilot isn’t still on…. 😊

Overall, I’m glad these things happened or that I learned they could happen. A couple of things, like the clevis pin / cotter pin issue, several people had looked at and didn’t notice the pins were missing. Sh*# happens, it’s nobody’s fault in particular, but in the end it is your responsibility as the boat owner and Captain to keep your boat safe. Coconut hasn’t sailed since the late 80’s, I have to cut her a little slack as I shake her down and rattle things loose.

I am also eternally grateful for the mishaps I did have, as I did a lot of things right. I was not only several miles offshore (giving me time to figure out a plan) or in a safe anchorage, but I was fortunate enough to have received help when I made the call. I even got towed by a company who specifically does. not. tow. people. For all my friends reading who are scared for me, please don’t worry. I am one lucky lady, and with everything that goes wrong the boat gets better, and I get wiser.

HAPPY SAILING EVERYONE!!

Categories
progressions

coconut: before and after

This is my boat, Coconut. I took a photo at the anchorage in Drakes Bay (north of San Francisco) in February of 2015. At the time all I had done was gotten anchor chain and attempted to make the boat liveable such as getting the water tanks to hold water and get the stove working, etc. Exactly three years and a LOT of work later, we had sailed down to the mooring fields of Catalina Island. What a difference three years makes!

Can you spot all of the differences in the vessel? Finally, after 30 years of neglect she can safely sail!

28238693_1966868806973617_807719144530096327_o

28423003_1966868893640275_2724361949828934399_o