29 February 2016

Is This Internet Worthy?

A friend and I were talking earlier today about our daily lives at the marina. What’s really worthy of being posted on Facebook or blogged about? Isn’t much of what we do really, really, really boring? Sure, we live on boats, but, still, it can be pretty dull at times.

Or is it? Maybe people do find our daily happenings interesting.

Well, let’s put that to the test. Here’s what I got up to over the past few days. You be the judge – is this really worthy the internet? By the way, my mom gets the deciding vote.

1 – I’ve been cleaning all of the teak in the interior of our boat and applying lemon oil to it. This is taking a lot longer than I thought. I should have known better. Doing anything on a boat involves moving stuff from one section over to another section and then back again. When you live in a place with around 300 sq ft of room, there aren’t a lot of places to pile stuff. It’s chaos. But, the good news is that it’s a lovely smelling form of chaos. The lemon oil is doing an admirable job of camouflaging the fact that my holding tank needs to be emptied.

2 – I talked to Scott every day, as I always do. We discussed a whole range of exciting things like the fact that he made some spaghetti sauce with venison sausage, recycling in Scotland and this article on the polluted water that they’re draining from Lake Okeechobee out to the coasts of Florida. The sugar farmers are getting heat because the chemicals and fertilizers they use drain into the lake which then affects the coastal environment. It doesn’t sound good. I feel very conflicted about my love of sugary treats vs. the impact of sugar cane farming on our waters.

3 – I bought yet more plastic storage containers. I’m not sure you can have too many plastic storage containers on a boat. I found a few items getting some mold and mildew growing on them, so I’m trying to encase as much as I can in plastic to keep the moisture out.

4 – I scoured the internet for info on LED bulbs so that we can change ours out. They seem expensive.

5 – I ate some chocolate that my mom sent me.

6 – I thought about what a great mom I have and how much I miss her.

7 – I bought waterproof Gorilla Glue to fix the teak shower mat floor thingy in our head/bathroom which is falling apart. Some people suggested I use epoxy, but that seems too hard. So, I’m going to give Gorilla Glue a try instead. I thought about getting this boat project started. I didn’t.

8 – I thought about doing laundry. I didn’t.

9 – I read a few articles on the US election that a friend of mine in New Zealand posted on his Facebook account. I’m amazed at how much interest Kiwis have in our election.

10 – I took pictures of illustrations in an old book on South America that we picked up somewhere. We really don’t have room to be carrying this book around with us, so I decided to take pictures as a keepsake and donate it to the marina book exchange instead.

11 – I took a picture of my computer keyboard and turned it into the graphic that you see at the top of this post. Procrastination at its finest.

12 – I made a list of projects to accomplish this week.That was an accomplishment in and of itself. I think I deserve a nap.

What mundane things have you been up to lately? What's the most boring thing you've done lately?

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26 February 2016

Boat Insurance {Or Silencing Your Inner Worry Wart}

Yes, I admit it, I can be a bit of a worry wart at times. I used to worry about pretty mundane things – like if my jeans made my bum look big or if I had enough change for the bus. Now that I live on a boat I worry about the really important stuff – like a lightening strike, getting smashed to smithereens in a hurricane and an alligator climbing into the cockpit of my boat and refusing to leave until I give him all of my chocolate. {Did anyone else just have a flashback to Elvis from Miami Vice?}

Lately, I’ve also been worrying about insurance for our boat and what kind of coverage we should get when our current policy expires in April.

When we bought our boat last year, we took out full insurance, which is known as hull coverage in nautical speak. We were under time pressures to get insurance in place before the sale closed, so I didn’t do much research on boat insurance in general or get a lot of quotes. I basically let my inner worry wart take over and got full coverage through a broker which had been recommended by fellow cruisers (IMIS). After transferring a relatively large sum of money into an escrow account, all I could think about was who was going to pay if we sunk our new-to-us boat the following week. My inner worry wart shouted out, Get insurance! As much of it as you can! So we did.

When we had our last boat in New Zealand, we only had liability insurance. I was totally fine with that as she was an older boat that wasn’t worth all that much money and we planned on selling her on in a couple of years anyway. If she sank, she sank. So be it, I told my inner worry wart. My inner worry wart shrugged her shoulders and went on to worry about more important things – like the fact that there was a distinct lack of paychecks coming into our bank account and the shortage of storage on our boat for adequate supplies of cookies and wine.

This time around, I’m beginning to think taking a liability only approach to insurance may be the way to go for two reasons: (1) our boat isn’t worth all that much in the grand scheme of things and (2) we’re cheapskates.

Our boat, Tickety Boo, is a 1987 Moody 346, a British blue water cruiser more commonly found in Europe. Moody 346s are older boats and are priced accordingly. So, when I started doing calculations on the the percentage of our insurance costs vs. what we would get back for the agreed hull value if Tickety Boo sank, it wasn’t all that encouraging. I was beginning to think that maybe it was worth the gamble to go without hull coverage. Strangely, my inner wart agreed. In fact, she was the one that reminded me that we still don’t have regular paychecks coming into our bank account, so maybe we should limit how much money goes out of our account.

When I told Scott I thought we should just get liability insurance this time around, he sounded surprised given my worry wart tendencies. He was all for it. After all, he might have opted not to get health insurance (you can read more about that here), so not getting full hull coverage for Tickety Boo seemed like a no brainer to him. {By the way, we did get health insurance. We could probably buy a lot of sailboats for what it would cost us to get a serious illness in the States if we were uninsured. Sad but true.}

So, for all of you boaters reading this (and let’s be honest, it probably only is boatie types that are still reading a post on boat insurance by this point), tell me what you know about liability insurance. What should I look for in a policy (like coverage amounts for fuel spill liability in the States)? Any recommendations on who I should get quotes from? And, have any of you decided to just go with liability only and why?

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24 February 2016

Going For A Walk In Search Of Wild Pigs | St Lucie Lock, Florida

I used to do a lot of "Going for a Walk" posts, but lately my walks have been kind of blah. When I do manage to get the motivation to put real shoes on (you know the ones with closed toes and laces which are so confining when you pretty much spend every day barefoot or in flip-flops) and go for a walk, it’s usually up the road from the marina and either left into an industrial park or right across the railroad tracks and to the store. Neither route is really worthy of a "Going for a Walk" post.

But, now I’ve been for a proper walk for the first time in a long time. The kind that gets your shoes muddy and has the thrilling possibility of getting trampled on by wild pigs. I bet you’re asking yourself, where can all this excitement be had? Well, all you have to do is head over to the St Lucie Lock National Recreation Area on the Okeechobee Waterway in Florida.

Scott and I checked out the St Lucie Lock last year when we were looking for places to camp during our USA road trip. There are two campgrounds there – Phipps Park is run by the county and the St Lucie South Campground is run by the US Corp of Engineers. They both have pretty box standard RV sites, but the St Lucie South Campground has something you don’t often find – camp sites for boats. It’s kind of neat to see a place where nomads of the water and land can meet and mingle.

There are a few walks you can do at the St Lucie Lock. There’s a nature trail on the south side near the campground or you can cross the lock and dam and try out the two trails on the north side. My friend let me decide – the north or the south. The volunteer at the visitor center (where you can score free Wi-Fi) told us there were wild pigs on the north side. That made the choice easy – who wouldn’t want to see wild pigs and possibly get trampled on by them when they’re out walking?

Okay, if my friend was here right now, she’d probably interject and say that we never discussed wild pigs when deciding where to go for our walk. I hate to admit it, but she’s right - wild pigs were not discussed. But, in my defense, and as many highly respected writers and editors will tell you (like the fine folks over at the National Enquirer), why let the truth get in the way of a good story. Wild pigs sounds so much more exciting than mosquitoes, which was about all the wildlife we encountered while out walking. Don’t you agree?

So, off we went excitedly skipping across the lock in anticipation of our wild pig encounter.

When Scott and I were originally at the St Lucie Lock, our focus was on camping. Little did we know that just a few months later, we would be going through the lock ourselves on our very own sailboat when we made our way from Indiantown to the Bahamas. I had never been through a lock before and didn’t have a clue how it worked. So, imagine how much fun it was to come back months later and watch boats go through the lock and say to myself in sort of a blase tone reminiscent of thirteen year old teenagers, Yeah, been there, done that.

See that boat in the lock? It had been at Indiantown Marina and was making its way eastwards towards Stuart. Also, notice how the US flag is at half-mast? That was for the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Here’s what the view looks like to the north from on top of the dam. By the way, the water smelled really bad standing on top of the dam. Even the lizards scurried across quickly to get away from the smell. Maybe it has something to do with all of that toxic run-off from the sugar cane fields that they’re spilling out of Lake Okeechobee. Which is surprising as sugar tastes good - why wouldn’t its toxic run-off smell good too?

Here's what the dam looks like from the other side.

On the other side of the dam is a picnic area near this old tree. It looks spooky. Kind of like a warning sign to be wary of the wild pigs roaming through the brush in search of unsuspecting humans with a backpack full of Snicker’s bars. Wild pigs like Snicker’s bars. The peanuts mingled with all that chocolate and caramel nougaty goodness make them feel like they’re having a healthy snack. You know, because peanuts are like little protein pellets and protein is good for you. (#funpigfacts)

At the trail head, you have a choice of the yellow trail or the red trail. The visitor center had a map of the trails, but for some reason I didn’t pick up a copy so it was time for a completely uninformed decision. Often, they’re the best kind. We chose yellow. It’s a good color.

I didn’t take any pictures of the yellow trail as I was too busy keeping a lookout for wild pigs. It was about what you would expect - palm trees, sandy soil and shells scattered about. Turns out it was pretty short. So, we decided to do the red trail too. This time, I took pictures. We hadn’t seen any wild pigs, so I figured they must be napping off their Snicker's bars and we would be safe.

Parts of the trail were kind of muddy, which you don’t really expect in the dry season in southern Florida. But, there has been a lot of rain this winter. Crazy amounts of rain. Although there appeared to be hoof prints from wild pigs in the mud, I summoned my courage to keep walking forward on the trail, taking pictures to document our perilous adventures in the jungle. (#slightexaggeration)

We came across a little bridge. I love bridges. They make great photo ops. I tried to convince my friend to stand on the bridge so I could take her picture, but she refused and pointed at the water. It was gross. She was right. Definitely not a nice photo op.

Mosquitoes love this kind of thing. Give them a pool of gross, stagnant water and they’re happy as can be. But, give them a pool of gross, stagnant water with two humans standing next to it and they’re in heaven. Mosquitoes love human blood like wild pigs love Snicker’s bars. (#noexaggeration)

Fortunately, the red trail was even shorter than the yellow trail, so we managed to get back out to the picnic area quickly and away from the evil, blood-sucking mosquitoes. The good thing about going for a walk is that you have no guilt afterwards for eating a Snicker's bar. After all, what's the point in burning off all those calories if you're not going to replace them? (#wastenotwantnot)

Have you ever been trampled on by wild pigs or had another exciting wildlife encounter?

If you want to see more of our Going for a Walk posts, click on Walk on the right hand side under the Labels section. 

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22 February 2016

Life Is Short

We had a reminder this weekend about how short life is. It doesn’t really matter what this particular reminder was. We all get them. Every. Single. Day.

Sometimes, they’re subtle and we don’t notice them.

Sometimes, we’re in a rush and we don’t pay attention.

Other times, they’re loud and unmistakable. They stop you in your tracks and you remember -  life is short. So very, very short.

One of the reasons that Scott and I wanted to go off adventuring before "normal" retirement age is that we know life is short. We know health is a gift that can be quickly taken away from you. We want to have adventures that make us smile now while we still have our teeth. {Flossing every day would probably help with that as well.}

As many of you probably know, I'm a bit of a blog junkie. I read all kinds of blogs, but the ones that really resonate with me are those written by people living life a bit differently. Often, it's because they know life is a one time offer and they want to use it well.

Sometimes, they've had a loud and unmistakable reminder that life is short which caused them to re-examine what's really important to them (like this chap who is fulfilling his sailing dream after experiencing health issues). Others have been touched by the loss of a loved one which inspires them and others to live their life fully now, rather than later (like these folks who named their boat after someone they lost).

There's lots of examples out there to remind us that life is short. Do you have one? Have you changed how you live your life as a result? I'd love to hear it and I bet other folks would too.

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19 February 2016

A Different Kind Of Bathroom {Or Boat Living Is Weird}

Living on a boat is weird. Sometimes, you forget how weird it is until non-boatie friends come to visit. But, when you see your home through the eyes of a landlubber, then you remember how truly weird it all is.

A month or so ago, I wrote a post about how strange a friend of mine found it to knock on our front door and come through the doorway of our boat for a visit (you can read it here). Of course, by knocking, I mean tapping on the hull, and by coming through the doorway, I mean climbing over things and doing impossible yoga moves as you make your way through the companionway and acquire bruises climbing down the ladder. Surprisingly, this turned out to be one of our more popular posts. Which just goes to show you that when it comes to blogging, you never know what’s going to resonate with your readers.

So, I thought I would do a follow-up post – this time, how different bathrooms on a boat seem to landlubbers.


After having a few beers, eventually you’re going to have to use the bathroom. Unless of course, you’re in your twenties and you can go through a case of beer without every needing to take a pee or worry about getting a beer belly. For the rest of us middle-aged folks, after a couple of cups of coffee or a few beers, we’re going to need to heed nature’s call. On land, it’s pretty simple. The bathrooms are straightforward. They look something like this.

So, when you say to your hosts, Hey, can I use the bathroom?, the last thing you’re expecting is to be told that (1) it isn’t a bathroom, it’s a “head” and (2) you need training before you can operate the toilet.

Training? Are you kidding? It’s just a bathroom. You’ve been doing this ever since you graduated from potty training and started wearing big kid pants. And what’s this nonsense about calling the bathroom a head? Clearly, your hosts started drinking long before you came over for a visit because now they’re calling rooms in their boat after body parts. What’s next, calling the kitchen the digestive tract?
You have a peek inside the bathroom (you’re refusing to call it a head, no need to reinforce your hosts' crazy talk). Looks pretty normal. There’s a sink and a toilet. So far so good. For some reason though, the soap seems to be attached to the counter with velcro. That’s kind of weird.

Then you look around a bit more and notice there isn’t a shower in the bathroom. Maybe there’s one in the other bathroom.

Nope, your hosts inform you, this is the one an only head on board. If you want to take a shower, you have to hang a curtain up to protect the sink and toilet from water spray and then you hose yourself down.

Okay, this is crazy talk. How much did these people drink before you came over? Who takes a shower standing in the middle of the bathroom? And why do they keep calling it a head? You look up to see if you can see the shower head – nothing. Your hosts shows you how the faucet in the sink can pull out and be used to shower with. This is the kind of thing you see in kitchens to wash dishes with. This is not how people shower. These boat people are really weird.

Then they tell you that’s it’s all theoretical anyway because the pump for the shower is disconnected and you can’t take a shower in the head anyways. When they want to take a shower, they go to the shower block at a marina or take a solar shower in the cockpit. Sounds like a hassle. How often do they shower anyway? Is that why they smell a bit funky? You're definitely not staying overnight on this boat.

By this time, you really have to pee so you ask what the deal is with the toilet and this training they talked about.

Your hosts start blabbering on about how you have to flip a switch one way to flush the toilet and the other way to empty the toilet into the PPB. Then they start having a heated discussion about whether you’re allowed to flush toilet paper down the head. {Again, with that head nonsense.} One of them says you have to dispose of it in a bag so the system doesn’t get clogged up, the other says you can flush three sheets down at a time.

You offer not to use any toilet paper just so that you can shut them up and get on with it. By now, it’s been a long time since that last beer.

Okay, you’re feeling much better now. You remember that your hosts talked about a PPB and you foolishly ask them about it. Apparently, it stands for Pee & Poo Box and doesn’t have anything to do with PB&J sandwiches. They explain that’s how they refer to their holding tank.

Whoa. Back up a minute. Their holding tank? You mean they carry around pee and boo in a box in their boat? Gross! Definitely never buying a boat. Oh, how you wish you had never brought the topic up. Now, they want to show you how the whole pee and poo system works. They take you up into the cockpit and open up the lazarette.

Looks like an untidy storage cupboard to you. But underneath all of that stuff are a lot of hoses and the infamous PPB. They point at something called a y-valve and explain how this is the control center of the pee and poo disposal operation on board. Turn it one way, everything goes directly overboard. Turn it another way and everything goes into the PPB. Way too much information.

It’s all so confusing. So many hoses going in and out of the lazarette. One of your hosts shows you the labels they made so they know exactly which way their pee and poo is going. Wow, seriously, who gets that excited about a label maker?

After showing you the lazarette, your hosts offer you another beer. You gladly accept. Anything to help your forget about the whole PPB thing and how weird the bathroom is on their boat. Not to mention how weird your hosts are for living on a boat, let alone making a label for their PPB.

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17 February 2016

Instagram #98

I've experienced a tremendous amount of growth in the past few years. Mind you, it isn't any sort of deeply personal spiritual growth earned through good works, meditation and fasting. No, my growth is more of the shallow and superficial kind earned through having way too many social media accounts.

From someone who didn't even have a Facebook account until about two years ago, I find it astonishing that I've grown my social media presence and also have Pinterest, Google+ and YouTube accounts. So far, I've resisted Twitter. For some reason, it just doesn't appeal to me. Probably because there aren't any pictures.

I like pictures. Sometimes, words can get in the way of your imagination - they try to funnel you down a predetermined linear path. Pictures are far more relaxed about life. They're happy for you to just look at them and think about whatever you want. Go ahead, they say, get lost in us and daydream.

Maybe that's why I'm loving Instagram now. It's my latest social media obsession. What could be better than just getting lost looking at pretty pictures all day on your phone. Well, I'll tell you what could be better - having unlimited cellular data so that you can stare at pretty pictures all day long on your phone without worrying about how much it's going to cost you in extra data. {Sorry, one of my dock neighbors was telling me about his unlimited plan. I'm a wee bit jealous.}

I actually started an Instagram account last year, but I got distracted with other things. My friend, Jessica, got me back into it a couple of months ago. {By the way, she's got an amazing Instagram account, you can spend hours daydreaming while you're looking at her pictures.} I just realized that I've been so obsessed with Instagram that I've got 98 pictures posted up there as of today and should be on track to hit 100 this Friday.

Yes, that's shallow and superficial growth in a nutshell - I'm excited because we hit #98 on Instagram.

I know some of you follow our Instagram account (thank you!), but not everyone hangs out there, so I thought I'd share a few of our favorite Instagram pictures so far. Sit back, grab an iced tea or a cup of coffee, have a look and do some daydreaming of your own.

If you have an Instagram account and I'm not already following you, please leave the details in the comments so that I can get lost daydreaming in your pictures too.


National Parks

By far and away, pictures from our travels to our amazing National Parks are some of our most popular. {And, yes, I'm a latergram kind of gal.} The one on the left is from Joshua Tree National Park in California. I love the giant boulders and cacti throughout the park. The one on the right is from Arches National Park in Utah. The contrast between the mountains in the background and the crazy rock formations in the foreground is a good reminder of how awesome Mother Nature is.

The Water

It probably comes as no surprise that we've got some beach, seascapes and other water related pictures on Instagram. The one on the left is from the Florida Keys and the one on the right is from Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos, Bahamas.

Sunset & Moonrise

Everybody loves a good sunset shot, like the one on the right from Shell Mound in Florida. But, moonrises are pretty spectacular too, like the one on the left from Death Valley National Park.

Critters & Wee Beasties

I love when animals pose for the camera. Like this rooster from Key West and this armadillo from Manatee Springs State Park in Florida.

Crazy Cat Ladies

For some reason our pictures of cats aren't super popular. Where are all the crazy cat ladies on Instagram? The adorable kittens on the left are feral boatyard cats. They're now all grown up, but they're still darn cute. The cat on the right is Francesca, my sister's cat. She was my very first Instagram picture. Sadly, Francesca has now crossed the rainbow bridge. She was a good cat. If you have a cat, dog, hedgehog or other kind of pet, go give them an extra cuddle and plenty of treats.

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15 February 2016

4 Marginally Interesting Tidbits About Indiantown, Florida

Who would have thought I’d have spent so many months living on a sailboat in Indiantown, Florida. I know I certainly didn’t. If you had asked me a few years ago if I ever thought I’d live on a sailboat, let alone a sailboat in rural Florida, I’d have stared at you like you were a bit daft in the head.

If you’ve never heard of Indiantown, I’m not surprised. Until we stumbled across it in our boat search last year, I’d never heard of if either. Indiantown is a small town located to the east of Lake Okeechobee in southern Florida smack dab in the middle of sugar cane fields and alligator-infested waters. Still don’t know where it is? Have a look at the map below.

Indiantown isn't exactly a tourist destination. Most visitors to Florida stick to the coasts, where all the action is. If they do go inland, it’s usually to Orlando to say hi to Mickey Mouse. So, it’s no wonder that Indiantown gets overlooked and no one knows much about it. But, I’m here to change all of that. After you read the marginally interesting tidbits I’ve found out about Indiantown, you’ll be chomping at the bit to get here on your next holiday. Lucky for you there actually happens to be a hotel in town – the Seminole Inn. It’s conveniently located right next to the brand-spanking new Dunkin’ Donuts. See, how can you go wrong – a bed to sleep in and donuts in the morning. 

Tidbit #1 – 6,083 people live in Indiantown.

All right, that tidbit isn’t even marginally interesting, I’ll grant you that. But, what is interesting is the fact that the majority of the population is Hispanic (65%). Okay, you’re right, that isn’t that interesting either. You can point to lots of towns in the States which are predominantly Hispanic.

But, what is interesting (to me at least) is that some of that population is made up of Guatemalans who speak Kanjobal. I had no idea what Kanjobal was until I saw a poster about social services programs at the doctor’s office and it was in English, Spanish and a third mystery language. Turns out it was Kanjobal – a Mayan language. Wouldn’t it be fun to learn some Kanjobal! It even has retroflex consanants - the ones where you curl your tongue in the back of your throat. So much fun to pronounce!

If you’re one of those nerdy types who likes stats, pie charts and graphs, you can find out all sorts of demographic information on Indiantown here, including the unpleasant fact that there are 13 registered sex offenders living here.

Tidbit #2 – Davy Jones died here.

If you don’t know who Davy Jones is, then you’re way too young to be reading this blog. Davy Jones was part of the Monkees, a band from the 1960s who had dodgy haircuts and their own TV show. Those of you who remember the show are probably humming this little tune in your head just now…”Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees. And people say we monkey around. But we’re too busy singing to put anybody down.”

When he wasn’t busy being a teen idol, Davy Jones was obsessed with horses. Later in life, he moved to Indiantown where he kept a bunch of race horses. If you’re interested in horse racing, Indiantown is home to Payson Park, which folks will tell you is one of the top thoroughbred horse racing places in the States.

In 2012, Davy Jones died of a heart attack after riding one of his horses. You don’t have to spend too much time in Indiantown before someone will say to you, “Hey, did you know Davy Jones died here?” So, if you want to blend in while you're here on holiday, just answer back, “Sure did. Weren’t the services held at Holy Cross?” If you can say that in Kanjobal, all the better.

Tidbit #3 – The drive through at the Indiantown Burger King is only meant for fast food orders.

Yes, that’s right, if you want to order multiple orders of Oreo shakes and hot French fries, don’t go through the drive through. That’s not a fast food order. That’s a slow food order. Making a lot of Oreo shakes takes time and having to cook a fresh batch of French fries just for you is a real hassle. Time moves slowly when there are Oreo shakes and French fries involved. Don’t hold up the drive through line with slow food orders. Come inside, place your order, have a seat and wait. There’s free Wi-Fi to keep you occupied while you wait.

Anyway, that was the advice that one of the employees at the local Burger King gave us. Makes sense, I guess. I used to go there to get hot fudge sundaes with some friends and, when it isn’t busy, the employees would stop and have a chat with us. We learned a lot about how they train new staff and what a pain it is when people order lots of shakes. Personally, I’ve never ordered an Oreo shake, but if I ever get the hankering for say ten of them, I’ll be sure to go inside to place my order.

Okay, probably not so much a tidbit as some local color. But, this Burger King does have some of the friendliest employees you'll ever run across in a fast food joint. See, another reason to make your way to Indiantown.

Tidbit #4 – Fire is a good thing. Especially when it comes to coke.

Are you one of those people who prefers Mexican coke to American coke because it’s made with cane sugar as opposed to high-fructose corn syrup? Personally, I can’t tell the difference, but I know some people swear that it tastes so much better. They’ll go out of their way to track down bottles of the stuff in the grocery store and stockpile it just in case Donald Trump does build that wall and the supply chain across the border gets shut down.

They grow sugar cane in fields all around Indiantown. One of the quirky things about sugar cane growing is that when they’re ready to harvest the stuff, they burn the fields. Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it. Burn the crop you want to harvest – how odd. Apparently, the fire burns hot and quickly and takes off just the dead leaves and some of the waxy coating before it goes out, making it all that much easier to get the cane and its sugary goodness inside.

The downside is that when they burn the fields, the ash ends up everywhere. Just washed your boat? Well, then you can be sure that the wind direction is going to clock around and scatter that ash all over your sparkly decks. Going out for a walk? Don’t breathe through your mouth or you’ll end up choking on ash.


Wasn’t that fun? Don’t you feel like you know so much more about Indiantown? Sure, maybe it’s more than you ever wanted to know, but look how much time you’ve managed to waste reading this and how many boring chores and projects you’ve managed to put off for just a little longer. Totally worth it, wasn’t it?

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12 February 2016

Flashback Friday

Yesterday, for #ThrowbackThursday, I posted a link on our Facebook page to an old post I wrote in the early days of our blog. But, I realized that a number of our blog followers aren't on Facebook and missed out on my little blast from the past. So, I thought since it's Friday, why not make it a #FlashbackFriday and share links to a few other of our earlier posts that folks who haven't been with us from the beginning may have missed.

Sure, it's kind of a lazy idea for a blog post, but it's also been a lot of fun going back and reminiscing about what was on my mind back when I was first starting to learn how to sail back in New Zealand on our Raven 26. Hopefully, you'll find it kind of fun too. 

The Hauraki Gulf - our old stomping ground back in New Zealand.
Via Department of Conservation (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 New Zealand License)
One of the things that strikes me is how scared I was of pretty much everything having to do with sailing. Things like accidentally gybing the boat, decapitating Scott and trying to explain to the police why I had a headless corpse on my boat. Or, having the propane tanks explode while trying to make pasta. Of course, the upside of a propane explosion is that you don't have to explain anything to the police, because you've been blown into a million smithereens.

But, probably one of my greatest fears (and it still is) is the boat being knocked down and going underwater. Everyone assured me if that happened, the boat would eventually right itself. The key is to be able to hold your breath underwater until it does so. Worrying about how long I could hold my breath was top of my list for a while - you can have a read about it here. What about you? How long can you hold your breath for?

Rainbow's End - our old boat in New Zealand. Fortunately, she always stayed right side up while we had her.

New Zealand is home to Lin and Larry Pardey, rock stars of the sailing world. We spent quite a bit of time cruising at Kawau Island, where they live. We kept hoping we'd run into them, but I guess it wasn't meant to be. I even wrote them a "letter" on our blog - you can read it here

One of the wallabies we ran into on Kawau Island. Surprisingly, they proved to be less elusive than the Pardeys.

Scott learned how to sail before me and has a lot more experience, so I was constantly in catch-up mode, trying to build up my knowledge base. I boned up on all sorts of things like how to tie knots, points of sail, boat equipment etc. And in the course of my reading and research, I found myself wandering down lots of rabbit holes, which really don't have too much to do with the practical aspects of sailing and boat ownership, but which were a lot more interesting. Like why boats are girls, at least in the English language. 

Probably the most exciting thing that happened in those early days sailing in New Zealand was being right there on the scene when  the 2013 America's Cup boats were being built in Auckland and then watching Emirates Team New Zealand and others out testing and training on them in the Haruaki Gulf. There were a number of times when we would be out on the water watching them fly past us at these incredible speeds. It was even more exciting to be living in New Zealand when the America's Cup was on. Sadly, Emirates Team New Zealand lost. It was heartbreaking. What a bugger. You can read my thoughts about it here. 

View of Westhaven Marina and the Auckland skyline. The start of many fun adventures while in New Zealand.

So, there you go - a few #FridayFlashback memories from a few years ago. If you want to read more about our adventures in New Zealand, you can find links to all our posts on this page.

What did you get up to a few years ago? What's your favorite #FridayFlashback memory?

10 February 2016

Monetizing Your Blog {Or Stop Sending Me Form Letters}

I don’t know about you, but I like to be made to feel special. To feel unique. To feel cherished. To feel like someone has spent the time really getting to know me.

No, I’m not talking about what I expect from Scott on Valentine’s Day (he makes me feel special year-round). I’m talking about what I expect from people who want to partner with us at The Cynical Sailor.

From time to time, I get emails from companies wanting me to flog their products and services on our blog and Facebook page. Usually they want me to do it for free. Yes, free. My time and effort is apparently worth…nothing. So much for feeling special.

What’s even more annoying is when they email form letters. It’s so obvious that they replace “Dear So-and-So” with your name and replace “Blog Name” with the name of your site. You just know that they’ve sent the exact same email to 671 other blogs that day. So much for feeling unique.

Usually, I politely reply to these inquiries, despite not being made to feel unique and special. I let them know that we don’t do sponsored posts, product reviews etc. I might even suggest other bloggers who could be a better fit for their product or service. I rarely hear back with a thank you. I’d be happy with even a form thank you letter. But, alas, I hear nothing back. So much for feeling cherished.

Occasionally, I get an email that does make me feel special, unique and cherished. The company will ask me what my rates are for sponsored posts and partnerships (they understand my time and effort is worth something), they mention a particular post I’ve written that they enjoyed (they’ve taken the time to actually read our blog, rather than just plug in our blog name into their form letter) and they say thank you when I reply and decline their offer and explain that we don’t monetize our blog. Obviously, their mothers raised them right.


Some of you may be wondering what I mean by monetizing a blog. Simply put, it means making money (or trying to) from blogging and other forms of social media. There are different ways to go about trying to earn some dosh – here’s just a few to give you an idea.

Sponsored Advertisements By Fellow Bloggers

Basically, fellow bloggers pay you to promote their blog, often through a banner on your sidebar, post(s) about them and their blog and/or guest posts (as in someone pays you to write a post for your blog). In effect, they’re “sponsoring” your blog and in return you advertise theirs. I see this a lot with lifestyle bloggers, for example this one and this one. The Bloggess also uses this approach. (By the way, I love her blog – weird and quirky, just my cup of tea.) I haven’t really seen sponsored ads used too much in sailing and cruising blogs, with the exception of The Boat Galley (a great go-to site for tips and tricks on boat life).

Rates vary quite a bit depending upon the reach and impact of your blog – for example, how many page views do you get a day, what’s your popularity ranking, what’s your target audience demographics etc. If you’re thinking about offering sponsored advertisement opportunities, then you should make sure you know what your stats are and be prepared to make them available on your site or email them upon request. After all, why would folks want to spend their hard earned money with you if they’re not going to get the right kind of bang for their buck?

To give you an idea of monthly rates, The Bloggess charges between $100-$750 (her blog is huge), advertising on The Boat Galley starts at $11 and some of the lifestyle bloggers I’ve seen charge rates between $8-$200 (check out Passionfruit, a popular advertising website, to see what kind of rates are out there).

Charging For Your Content

While many people blog with the intention of freely sharing their content with their target audience (friends, families and others who share the same interests) and see it more as a “diary” of their daily life and adventures, other bloggers work hard to create content that they feel people might be interested in paying for, like you would with a book, magazine or DVD. One example of this is The Minimalist Sailor where you can access their video blog and photo gallery for a monthly fee.


Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular way to offset the time and effort put into blogging and other forms of social media, not to mention the costs associated with hosting a website etc. Patreon is a well-known way of going about this. You establish a goal, set a financial target associated with that goal and then ask for pledges from their patrons to achieve your goal. In exchange, you offer rewards to your patrons.

If you want to see an example of how this works, check out Bumfuzzle’s Patreon page – they want to buy a sailboat in 2018 and need $2,288 a month in pledges to achieve that. In exchange, they offer rewards ranging from personalized postcards to mentoring sessions on financial trading. Everyone can still access Bumfuzzle’s content, but those who want to support their efforts financially can do so through Patreon.

Product & Service Reviews

Reviewing products and services is a pretty straightforward way to get some cool stuff and experiences in exchange for a review. The key thing is that your review needs to be honest and the product and service needs to fit with you and your blog in an authentic way. Otherwise, people are going to stop believing you and trusting in your judgment. I see way too many blogs gushing over the latest snack food and how they used it to make a casserole for dinner which totally transformed their lives and made their marriages stronger. Yeah, totally believable. But, I get it. Free snacks sound awesome.

Okay, it’s not all like that. Most people are selective about what they review. And they’re upfront with the companies they’re partnering with that their review will be totally honest and upfront. Want to see some good examples? Check out MJ Sailing’s post on styling while sailing and Sail Far Live Free’s gear reviews.

Sponsored Posts 

Quite a few of the emails we get are from folks wanting us to write sponsored posts. They want us to mention their product or service on our blog or Facebook page without actually using the product or service. My favorite is when they ask us to promote it on Twitter (we don't have a Twitter account). Actually, they really aren’t sponsored posts as much as they’re un-sponsored posts. They run along the lines of, “Hey, we just released this awesome new product that your followers would be interested in. Here’s a press release so that you can share it on your blog. And don't expect a dime from us. You should just feel honored that you're among the 671 blogs we contacted about this.” Often, they’re products and services that I wouldn’t be interested in, nor do I think anyone who reads this blog would be. Clearly, they haven’t done their homework before they hit the send button on their form letter email.

To be fair, I have seen some decent sponsored post opportunities which seem to take a genuine partnership approach. One example is from last year when an insurance company asked bloggers to write about their favorite cruising destinations and link to their survey on sailing superstitions. There were a lot of fun blog posts on the subject, the insurance company got some PR and referral traffic back and, from what I hear, they paid fairly and promptly. Astrolabe Sailing’s post is an example of the types of posts people wrote.

Donate Button

Having a donate button on your site is one of the simplest ways to monetize your blog. You straight out ask people to chip in some money via PayPal in appreciation for your content. It isn’t usually a large amount – enough to maybe buy a cold beer or a nice dinner out. You can see an example of this on Sailing with Terrapin’s site – look for the picture of Homer Simpson on the sidebar.

Amazon Affiliate Links

Another simple and (generally) unobtrusive way to monetize your blog is through Amazon affiliate links. Say there’s a great product that you talk about in a blog post – why not make a few pennies on it by linking back to the item on Amazon. If your readers end up buying that product (or something else on Amazon) within a certain timeframe, then you make a small commission and it doesn’t cost your readers anything extra. When you mention the item in your blog post, you just link back to Amazon. Another way to do this is by highlighting items available on Amazon which aren’t necessarily related to your blog post topic, but which your readers might be interested in. Travels with Kevin and Ruth is a great example of this.

Those are just some examples of how people make money from blogging. There are many other ways to go about it.


A Side Note About Disclosures For You Americanos Out There

Something I found out about recently that I thought I should share is that if you’re a blogger in the States and you’re receiving compensation in any form (including free or discounted products and services), then you must disclose this fact to your blog readers. If you don’t, you could be in hot water with the FTC. You’re required to have a clear and conspicuous disclosure on your blog. Here are a couple of examples that I’ve seen (note, I have no idea if they’re FTC-compliant) – (1) check out the box on the sidebar of Oak & Oats which states that it is a “for-profit blog…which features products we truly love” and (2) this one where Living in Another Language state at the bottom of their post that they were “guests of MedSailors in exchange for an open and honest review.” I haven’t always seen disclosures on sailing and cruising blogs and Facebook, which might be food for thought for some of you out there. (If you want to know more, here’s a helpful write up on the subject.)


So, Why Don’t We Monetize Our Blog?

When we started this blog a few years ago, Scott and I talked about whether we wanted to monetize it. It was a pretty short conversation. Neither of us were interested in trying to make money from blogging for a few reasons.

1 – We’re lazy.

To do it properly, monetizing a blog takes time and effort. You’ve got to work to build up your followers, constantly stay on top of your stats, tailor your content to what you think your target audience wants to read (rather than what you want to write about), write endless emails to potential sponsors, develop your social media presence etc. Ugh. I’d rather read books and eat chocolate. Besides, unless you have a pretty decent following, the return on investment isn’t that great.

2 – We don’t want to be Prom Queen.
We started off blogging, like many people, to keep a record of our adventures for our family, friends and like-minded folks out there. Things haven’t really changed too much. We didn’t set out to create content that had some sort of market value (and we still don’t). We don’t want to have to worry about what we look like, if we’re popular and fret about whether we’re wearing the trendiest clothes just so people will vote for us and make us the Prom Queen of Blogoverse High School. I like how Bumfuzzle puts it on their Patreon site – “We never capitalized on bumfuzzle.com because to do so requires selling yourself – your site, your content – to marketers.”

On the flipside, there are some great blogs out there which aren't trying to be Prom Queen, they're true to themselves so to speak, and they make monetizing their blog work for them. I think people can tell that they're being authentic and are therefore totally supportive of the fact that they want to try to make a few bucks from blogging (or at least recoup some of their costs associated with their website, making videos etc.). Folks enjoy their content and the hard work they put into blogging and want to help out in return.

3 – We don’t need the money.

Sure, we’d like the money, but we don’t need the money. We’re funding our adventures through savings, with occasional work gigs along the way. To be honest, we’d feel kind of weird asking for money from strangers, when we have enough to cover our expenses in the bank. So we don’t.


Disclaimer Time

Reading about all that FTC disclaimer stuff makes me want to have a disclaimer of my own. And here it is...who knows, maybe someday we’ll change our mind and try to make some bucks off the blog. Maybe not, maybe yes, maybe so, who knows. If someone sent me a t-shirt or some leggings with cute kittens on them, I might be tempted to review them in exchange for the free Crazy Cat Lady clothes. Basically, I’m a sucker for anything having to do with cats. Chocolate is another thing I’d sell my bloggy soul to the devil for. Hey, you Whittaker’s, I'm talking to you – send me a large box of Dark Ghana chocolate bars from New Zealand and I’ll be happy to write a review for you.

But, now over to you. What are your thought on monetizing blogs? Do you like it? Do you hate it? Do you make money off your blog? It can be a controversial subject - let's hear what you have to think.

You can find links to other posts on blogging tips & tricks on here.
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