29 June 2016

Wordless Wednesday | The Road Less Traveled

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - Adventure. It's out there.

2 - If you're open to it, you can find beauty anywhere. Even on desolate roads, like this one in eastern Washington.

3 - If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there. ~Lewis Carroll~ 

What words does this picture bring to your mind when you look at it?

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27 June 2016

Safety Tethers | Save Money By Making Your Own. Maybe.

A word of warning. If you’re not into boating, then you’ll find this blog post extremely boring. You’d be better off shutting down your computer and doing something more fun like sharpening pencils with an emery board. Even if you’re into boating, you may find this dull beyond belief. I know my eyes always glaze over and I start to search for pencils in need of sharpening when I read detailed blog posts and articles about boat equipment.

But, as safety tethers are designed to save your life (at least that’s the theory and even that’s up for debate), this might be worth a read if getting a new tether is on your list of “extremely dull but important things” to do and you’re pondering what kind to get and whether you should make it yourself.

If you do decide to carry on and read this, go get a snack first. It’s long. Really, really long.

A Safety Tether Could Save Your Life. Maybe.

So here’s the deal – sailing can be dangerous in far too many ways. I try not to think about it too much because dwelling on my fears causes me to eat too many chocolate chip cookies. But, occasionally I have to put the cookies down and think about dreadful stuff - like one of us falling off of the boat, floating away and drowning.

One of the ways to prevent this is to be tethered to your boat. A tether is basically a leash which is attached to a harness that you wear (either integrated into a PFD, aka personal flotation device, or separate) and then attached to the boat. If you fall off the boat, you’re still attached to it which makes it easier to get you back on the boat. After an ordeal like that, you’ll definitely be needing a whole bag of chocolate chip cookies.
The key takeaway is that a tether can save your life. Except when it doesn’t.

The Controversy Over Tethers. Fortunately, Not As Controversial As Gun Control.

In 2011, Christopher Reddish, a well known sailboat racer went overboard during a nighttime sail change and drowned before he was retrieved. He had been wearing an integrated PFD/harness and a tether. One of the contributing factors to his death was the length of his tether which allowed him to be washed overboard where he was dragged along the side the boat while his head slid underwater.

Since this accident, some people have argued that if you go overboard, you’re more likely to survive if you aren’t tethered to the boat. Personally, I still think tethers are a critical piece of safety equipment. What’s important is to use a short tether to ideally keep you in the boat or if you do go overboard to keep you out of the water as much as possible.

Dissecting A Tether. Much Less Messy Than Dissecting A Frog.

Okay, enough controversy. How does a tether work anyway? Let’s dissect one and see. We’ll use the one our boat came with as an example - a 6’ (2m) long West Marine Standard Safety Tether.

Here’s what to look for:

1 – The end that clips to the boat – snap or double action safety?

Snap hooks are easy to attach, but can be difficult to detach when under load. They can also accidentally release. Double action safety hooks/carabiners are easy to attach and detach and they won’t release accidentally. I’ll take double action safety over an ordinary snap any day of the week.

2 – How many legs – one or two?

I like having two legs attached to my body and I’d prefer if my harness came with two as well. The beauty of having two legs is that you’re always attached to the boat. One leg stays clipped to the boat while you move about and clip the other leg to another point on the boat. The other advantage of having two legs is that one can be longer than the other (obviously not ideal when it comes to human legs, but we’re talking tethers here). It’s safer if you use the shortest length possible. You can use the shorter leg when you’re up on the foredeck or attached to something stationary and the longer leg when you’re moving about the boat.

3 – The end that clips to your harness – snap shackle or cow-hitch?

Some tethers are clipped onto your harness with a snap shackle which you pull open by the lanyard. Others are tied on with a cow-hitch, which can only be released under load by cutting it with a knife. I’m sure there are advantages to using a cow-hitch, but if I fell overboard I don’t think I’d have the presence of mind to cut the tether, assuming I had a knife with me (although our Spinlock PFDs have integrated harnesses and an emergency knife).

It’s Time For A New Tether, Don’t Take It Personally.

While our West Marine Standard Safety Tether is a lovely shade of blue, it has some issues. In addition to using a snap hook to attach to the boat, only having one leg and not being retractable, it also isn’t compliant with the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) standards due to the lack of a built-in stress indicator. When your harness is stressed to the point of needing a replacement, a flag is exposed so that you know you need to get a new one. This isn’t the kind of stress that comes from working long hours and then coming home to crying children. It’s what happens when there's too much load placed on the tether which will cause it to break. There wouldn't be enough chocolate chip cookies in the world to make that situation any better.

Geez Louise. These Things Are Expensive.

Okay. So, we all agree. A new tether is needed. Ideally, two new tethers are needed – one for each of us. We do have another tether that we brought back with us from New Zealand which is better than our West Marine one, but it only has one leg and I'd prefer to have two two-legged ones. But, goodness gracious, some of these tethers are so expensive! To give you an idea, here are some of the ones I looked at:

West Marine Standard Safety Tether

This is the one we currently have which sells at West Marine for $114.99. It doesn’t have the features we want and isn’t ISAF compliant, so we won’t be buying another one of these, but it’s a good reference point in terms of cost.

West Marine ISAF Specification Double Safety Tether

Another West Marine product, this one will set you back $179.99. It ticks the right boxes – ISAF compliant, two legs (one short and one long, both of which are retractable), a snap shackle at the harness end and double action safety hooks at the boat end.

Wichard Dual Safety Tether

This retails for $339.30, but you can pick it up for $190.99 at Defender. It’s ISAF compliant, has two legs (one fixed 3’ (1m) line and one retractable 6’ (2m) line), a snap shackle at the harness end and fluorescent double action safety hooks at the boat end. Wichard has a good reputation for their marine hardware, which is reflected in the cost of this tether.

Kong ISAF Double Safety Harness Tether

After looking at the prices of the Wichard tether, I was feeling a bit faint. Then I read about the Kong tethers, which are based on mountain climbing technology. These are a lot cheaper – you can pick up a Kong harness with two retractable legs (one short and one long) for $81.55 at Jamestown Distributors. It’s ISAF compliant, has a snap shackle at the harness end and double action Kong Tango carabiners at the boat end. Anytime you add marine to the front of any product name, the price goes sky high. Could the Kong tethers be cheaper because they didn’t start out as marine products?

Sailrite Tether Expandable Kit with Double Leg

Rather than buy a ready made harness, I thought I could save some money by making my own. So when I saw that I could get a kit from Sailrite for tether for only $66.95, I got excited. But is it too good to be true? This kit comes with the webbing and elastic you need (one leg is retractable and one is fixed), plus one Suncor snap shackle for the harness end and two Suncor carabiner hooks for the boat end. Because it uses carabiner hooks instead of double action safety hooks/carabiners, I’ve scratched this off my list as an option as the carabiner hooks can accidentally release. The quality of the Suncor hardware is also a question mark as it is cast as opposed to forged, like Wichard. Forged stainless steel is stronger and will deform before it breaks.

But, I Can Still Get Crafty With My Sailrite.

Making your own tether looks dead easy – check out this Sailrite video to get an idea of what’s involved. I don’t need a kit to make my own – all I need to do is source the components separately. The 2” tubular webbing, 1” white elastic and 2” tape are straightforward buys. The real challenge is around what hardware to use and this is where the costs start to mount up.

I priced out two options – one based on the Wichard tether and one based on the Kong tether – and compared the cost of making my own to buying a ready-made tether.

Here’s the numbers for all you nerds out there. (Note: I already have tape, thread and needles so they’re not included in the pricing.)


2” Tubular Webbing – 11 feet @ $1.10 foot from Sailrite = $12.10
1” White Elastic – 6 feet @ $0.35 foot from Sailrite = $2.10
Wichard Double Action Safety Hook Florescent (#2454) 2 @ $53.51 from Mauri Pro = $106.62
Wichard Quick Opening Snap Shackle (#2471) 1 @ $41.15 from Mauri Pro = $41.15

TOTAL to make = $161.97
COST to buy ready made from Defender = $190.99
SAVINGS = $29.09

THE SCOOP…It would be worth making my own to save $30. I don’t think the project would take long and I have the time to get crafty with tether making. But, is going with Wichard hardware worth it?


2” Tubular Webbing – 11 feet @ $1.10 foot from Sailrite = $12.10
1” White Elastic – 6 feet @ $0.35 foot from Sailrite = $2.10
Kong Tango Carabiner Red – 2 @ $25.90 from Jamestown Distributors = $51.80
Suncor 2-5/8” Snap Shackle – 1 @ $12.99 from Defender = $12.99

TOTAL to make = $78.99
COST to buy ready made from Jamestown Distributors = $81.55
SAVINGS = $2.56

THE SCOOP…I’m not sure what type of shackle they use for the Kong tether, but it has to be a relatively inexpensive one to be able to sell a ready made tether for $81.55. They could be using a Kong 57mm snap shackle, but I couldn't easily find a US dealer of this. I priced this out using a Suncor snap shackle, which enabled me to get the cost down to less than it would cost to buy a ready made one – but, only by $2.56. Given the fact that there would be shipping costs for both the Kong Carabiners and the Suncor Snap Shackle and the fact that the price I got for the snap shackle is a closeout price at Defender and they might sell out, the savings isn’t really there. It would be cheaper to buy a ready made one. But, what’s the quality of the Kong hardware like? Are there any safety issues? Why is it cheaper than the Wichard stuff? These are the types of questions that keep me up at night.

So, What Do You Think?

What kind of safety tether do you have (or are thinking of getting?) Have you made your own? What do you think about the Kong vs. Wichard tethers? What would you do? Have you had any chocolate chip cookies or brownies today? If not, why?


If you just can’t get enough technical talk about tethers, here are some articles you might want to check out.

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24 June 2016

Flashback Friday | Is It Dolphin Snot Or Dolphin Spit?

Today is the Flashback Friday blog hop over at A Life Examined. The idea is to republish an old post of yours that maybe didn't get enough attention, or that you're really proud of, or you think is still relevant etc. We started this blog almost three years ago and have many more followers now then we did back then. I figure that there are probably a number of our earlier blog posts that some of you haven't seen before which might be of interest.

Like this one about our time cruising in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand on our 26' sailboat. We had a fabulous dolphin encounter on one of our sails, but it did raise a serious point of discussion about what it is that dolphins spray. Is it dolphin snot or dolphin spit?  

This blog post is a good example of the ones I used to do chronicling what we got up to when we were out cruising - kind of a day by day recap. If you're not a sailor or boating type, you still might find it interesting to get some insight into what it's like living on a boat out there on the water. 

{This post originally appeared in April 2014 - you can find the original post and comments here.}


Is the spray you see on the camera lens dolphin snot or dolphin spit?

I'm hoping you can settle a little argument Scott and I have been having. When the dolphin pictured above was swimming alongside our boat in the Bay of Islands, it sprayed us with something. I think it was dolphin spit and Scott thinks it was dolphin snot. Scott's theory is that because the liquid in question came out of the dolphin's blowhole, it has to be snot. But I would much prefer to think the dolphin spit on us - it seems marginally better than having a dolphin blow his nose all over you. Has this ever happened to you and was it snot or spit?

This dolphin was one of very large group that came up and started swimming and playing around our boat as we were leaving the Bay of Islands. There must have been at least 30 of them and I even saw a little baby dolphin among them. It was a fantastic send-off and the most amazing dolphin encounter we have had. They were incredibly close to our boat and at times we couldn't move the rudder as the dolphins were swimming right up against it. We were both jumping up and down with excitement and Scott was madly trying to capture all the action with his camera. And then, just like that, it was over and they all turned and headed off in another direction. We hadn't seen too many dolphins this year and especially not up this close and personal - it was incredible experience that I won't soon forget. 

Here's the rest of the scoop on our time up in the Bay of Islands. We've chartered up there previously (which you can read about here and here), but we focused more on sailing on those trips. This time we got a chance to do more exploring of the islands and had some great walks.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Paradise Bay, Urupukapuka Island

We left Whangamumu at 9:30 am and anchored at Paradise Bay, Urupukapuka Island in the beautiful Bay of Islands at 1:30 pm. Right after we dropped the hook, the local gang of kingfish came around to pay us a visit. I wonder if kingfish wish they were dolphins as they always seem to "play" around our boat. Except their form of "play" seems to involve smashing into the hull and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Scott tried to get one of them, but they seemed less interested in his lure and more interested in our boat. Eventually they left and we dinghied over to the island and went for a hike. Urupukapuka is probably one of the nicest islands I have been to in New Zealand and they have some fantastic trails. Highly recommended if you are ever out this way! 

We rarely swim in New Zealand as we find the water way too cold, but after our long and sweaty hike, we had a nice swim before heading back to our boat. Strangely, we were the only boat in the anchorage that night which was a pleasant surprise as we're so used to having other boats around, many of whom like to anchor way to close to us for comfort. Unfortunately, the wind kicked up during the night and the bay ended up getting quite roly-poly over night, so it wasn't the most restful sleep. You would think I would be used to that by now - I'm not.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Parorenui Bay

The next day we focused on some sail training running through our tacking routine but then the winds got to be too much of a nuisance to practice anything else. So, we took the sails down and headed into Parorenui Bay around lunchtime and anchored there for the night. I needed a shower pretty badly by this point, but I decided that it was too windy and cold to be stripping down and washing up in the cockpit. I'm setting a new standard of personal hygiene and it is getting to be a pretty low one. 

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Waiwhapuku Bay, Moturua Island

On Tuesday, we planned to do some more sail training, but we were only able to get in a short session of tacking and man overboard drills before we got hit by a squall and decided to call it a day. We anchored at Waiwhapuku Bay, Moturua Island and then went for a nice walk on the island after lunch.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Waipiro Bay

It was another wind warning day with gusts of 35+ forecast, so we moved over to Waipiro Bay where we would get better protection. We had planned to head up to Whangaroa, but the weather kind of ruled that out for us. So instead, we dinghied over to the mainland to try to find the trail to Whangamumu where we had anchored a couple of nights ago. We walked along the road for a while but eventually gave up and headed back. If you've ever walked along roads in New Zealand, you'll know that sidewalks are rare, there are often blind curves and you always wonder if a car is going to hit you. It was one of those days where the walk along the road didn't seem worth it.  So instead, we headed back to the boat and got ready for an early start the next day to continue our adventures up north. 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Dolphins, dolphins, dolphins! This was the day of the great dolphin send-off as we left the Bay of Islands and, as if the up close and personal encounter wasn't enough, we also got to see a group of dolphins a bit further out once we left the Bay of Islands and started heading up north. I think it was the dolphins way of trying to make it up to us for the bad weather we had while visiting their playground.  

  • Total nautical miles = 27
  • Number of dolphins playing around our boat = 30+ (plus another group later on!)
  • Number of walks = 3
  • Number of days impacted by the wind = 3 (damn you wind, damn you!)

Chart of Bay of Islands showing the bays where we anchored. Sourced from LINZ. Crown Copyright reserved.

So, what do you think? Was it dolphin snot or dolphin spit? Have you ever had any close encounters with dolphins or other wildlife?

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You can find more Flashback Friday fun at A Life Examined.

22 June 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Soylent Green


Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - Yes, the water has really been that green at Indiantown Marina thanks to Algal bloom. Ick.

2 - Reminds me of the 1973 dystopian movie Soylent Green which depicted what the world would be like in the far off future of 2022. Maybe this isn't algal bloom, but something far more sinister.

3 - The alligators have to be loving it. Perfect camouflage.

What words does this picture bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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20 June 2016

Around The World In 80 Books | Update #8

I've just finished up another month of the Around the World in 80 Books challenge. The idea of the challenge is to read books set in 80 different countries, effectively exploring the world from the comfort of your armchair. Since my last update, I've read books set in five more countries –
Czech Republic, Djibouti, Estonia, France and Jamaica.

That makes a total of 40 books since I started the challenge. I'm at the halfway mark - only 40 more to go!

You can read more about the challenge here, as well as check out Update #1, Update #2, Update #3, Update #4, Update #5, Update #6 and Update #7.


KEEPING BEDLAM AT BAY IN THE PRAGUE CAFE by M. Henderson Ellis | Czech Republic (2013)

Keeping Bedlam at Bay in the Prague Cafe is a bizarre book, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The main character, John Shirting, moved from Chicago, where he worked as a barista at the Capo Coffee Family, to Prague, where he dreams of expanding Capo's footprint into the post-communist Czech Republic. There's a couple of problems with his plan - he was fired by his beloved Capo Coffee and he's a bit of a nutcase who regularly self-medicates. The book has some truly hilarious moments and is chock full of strange and amusing characters. One of the moments I laughed out loud was this description of writing advice. It's good to know someone is looking out for the much maligned adverbs.
"Most writing manuals discourage the use of adverbs, so perhaps I'll edit out that 'precariously'" said Abe, scratching the word from his notebook. "No, retain them and catalogue them. I'll build a castle of adverbs and watch them try to knock it down with their bombastic manuals. Girish Patel bows to no style maven. I love my adverbs like children and will put out the call to collect orphaned, unwanted adverbs from across the world. There is no such thing as an unwanted adverb in God's eyes, do you comprehend? I won't stand for this abuse."

You can find out more about Keeping Bedlam at Bay in the Prague Cafe on Goodreads and find a copy on Amazon.

DJIBOUTI by Elmore Leonard | Djibouti (2010)

Let's just cut to the chase - I didn't like Djibouti. I was pretty excited to read it as I had never read anything by Elmore Leonard before. Leonard wrote the books that the movies Get Shorty and Jackie Brown and the TV series Justified were based on. I loved those, so this had to be good, didn't it? Nope, not for me. Djibouti is about a documentary filmmaker who heads to Djibouti to film Somali pirates hijacking ships. It's an interesting idea for a book, but the characters didn't grab me and I found how the book was structured to be a bit confusing. I didn't really learn much about Djibouti itself, but apparently the nightlife is great.
They followed the Rue de Paris to the Place Menelik to sit at a street cafe. "Have a cup of coffee and watch Djibouti nightlife," Xavier said. "Cup of coffee and sip some cognac. Watch the tourists cuttin up. Off a cruise ship come down from the Suez. They sayin, 'Ain't Africa fun?' They could be in Marseilles doin the same thing."

You can find out more about Djibouti on Goodreads and find a copy on Amazon.

PURGE by Sofi Oksanen | Estonia (2010)

This was a great book. An extremely disturbing book at times, but a great book. Purge tells the story of Aliide, an old woman living in rural Estonia, and Zara, a woman who fell victim to a Russian sex trafficking ring, is on the run from her captors and ends up at Aliide's house. The book flashes back and forth between the 1990s when Estonia gained its independence from Russia and the 1940s and 1950s when Estonia was under the control of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Both of their stories and secrets are slowly revealed through fragments, but eventually intertwine as the truth of what happened to Aliide and her family is pieced together.

The author brings Estonian culture to life throughout the book, with rich descriptions of things like food, cooking, courtship, weddings, farming practices, clothing and even superstitions.

It was a shimmering morning, the moving truck rocked back and forth, and Aliide had done everything possible to make sure that nothing would go wrong, careful in her every movement to be sure that she didn't mess anything up. She woke up and put her right foot on the floor first, stepped over the threshold with her right foot, opened doors with her right hand, hurrying to open them before Martin's left hand spoiled their luck. And as soon as they got to the house, she rushed to be the first to take hold of the gate with her right hand, and the door, and to step into the house with her right foot. Everything went well.

You can find out more about Purge on Goodreads and find a copy on Amazon.

DEPTHS OF GLORY by Irving Stone | France (1985)

Depths of Glory is a fictional biography of the Impressionist painter Camille Pissaro. Born to a family of French merchants on St. Thomas in the Caribbean, Pissaro developed an appreciation for art during his time at boarding school in Paris. Upon his return to St. Thomas, Pissaro worked in the family business, but chucked it all in when he came of age and decided to become a full-time painter. He went back to France after spending time in Venezuela. Depths of Glory describes Pissaro's artistic career, including the artists he interacted with, such as Gustave Corbet and Georges Seurat, and his personal and family life.

If you're interested in art, this is a fascinating book to read as it gives you some insight into what goes on in an artist's head and how his circumstances shape his work. I also found the descriptions of Paris during the 1800s intriguing, especially when it showed a less glamorous side of the city.
Learning that the poorest of Paris lived in the Faubourg St. Marcel, he wore his oldest boots, avoiding the cesspools of the ragged alleys, inconspicuously putting on paper the falling hovels. The few inhabitants at the dead ends were pale and haggard of face, dressed in tatters: people between hunger and death. He worked all day. When night fell the remainder of the unfortunates came out of their caves, hunched over the pale lanterns to forage among the discards and alluvial garbage of better neighborhoods...He wondered how such a majestic city as Paris could allow such dehumanizing misery to exist.

You can find out more about Depths of Glory on Goodreads. I believe Depths of Glory is out of print, so look in secondhand bookstores if you want a copy or pop by and say hi and I'll loan you ours.

DON'T GET MAD, GET EVEN by J.L. Campbell | Jamaica (2011)

I discovered J.L. Campbell through the Insecure Writer's Support Group. She, along with the other administrators, do a great job with the group, offering support and encouragement to writers at all levels, including newbies like me. When I saw that she lives in and writes about Jamaica, I thought reading one of her books would be ideal for this challenge.

Don't Get Mad, Get Even is a collection of short stories about what happens when someone is wronged, often in horrifying ways, and how they get even. The stories offer interesting insights into Jamaican culture and there's even a glossary at the end with Jamaican terms. My favorite story was "Entrapment," which describes the practice of obeah, a form of sorcery which was brought to the Caribbean by slaves from West Africa. In the story, Kyle dates and then marries a woman his mother doesn't approve due to her background. Turns out, he should have listened to his mother as the marriage quickly turned sour and then things went from bad to worse.

But what concerned her more than anything was Miriam's roots. According to Mummy, nothing good came from Clarendon. Her prejudices ran deep because she had several bad experiences with people who originated from that parish, including my father. She wouldn't discuss her aversion to Miriam, but stuck to her conviction that Clarendonians were a bunch of obeah workers. Nothing I said convinced her otherwise.

You can find out more about Don't Get Mad, Get Even on Goodreads and get a copy on Amazon. At the time of writing, it's free on Amazon, which is a great way to check out Campbell's work and learn a little bit about Jamaica.


If you're participating in the challenge too, I'd love to hear what you've been reading. Even if you're not doing the challenge, let us know what books you've been enjoying lately.

COUNTRIES READ TO DATE: Algeria, Australia, Azerbaijan, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Czech Republic, Djibouti, England, Estonia, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Haiti, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Russia, Samoa, Scotland, Slovenia, Sweden, United States, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

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17 June 2016

5 Frugal Things & The Cruising Kitty

I typed this with my free word processing software.

One of the blogs I follow regularly is the Non-Consumer Advocate because it inspires me to embrace frugality. Every penny we don't spend is a penny that stays in our savings, which will allow us to cruise on our sailboat longer before we have to worry about topping the cruising kitty up again. (Don't you just love it that sailing type people call savings a cruising kitty? So cute.)

Leading a frugal life is multi-faceted. It can be about not buying things and doing without, doing something yourself instead of paying someone else to do it or going with a free or cheaper alternative to a product or service. Sometimes the savings are huge, other times it just pocket change. But, it all adds up.

While we regularly share how much we spend, I thought I'd share some of the things we've done recently to save money and keep our cruising kitty happy. Some of the things might seem insignificant in the scheme of things (like not eating fast food), but as Katy at the Non-Consumer Advocate says, "Just like you can nickel and dime yourself into the poorhouse, you can also nickel and dime yourself into financial freedom."

1 - Free OpenOffice Software

When I got my new laptop last month, it came with a 30 day trial version of Microsoft Office 365, after which it would cost $69.99 a year to keep processing my words, crunching numbers in my spreadsheets and making pretty presentations. That's $69.99 each year, not a one-off cost like it used to be.

I needed a better solution. Preferably a free one. Thankfully a friend told me about the open source Apache OpenOffice. It has the same programs, pretty much the same functionality and you can convert files so that they're usable in Microsoft. Sure, it doesn't looks as slick as the Microsoft version, but it's free. By going with OpenOffice, we're saving $69.99 a year which is a decent chunk of change.

2 - Filtering Water For Less

One of the things we need on our boat is a way to filter and purify our water to get rid of the nasties and make it taste better. This will be especially important once we're back out there cruising and filling up our water tanks from possibly questionable sources in other countries.

When I did some research on what system to get, I saw the Purest One and Seagull systems mentioned as being top of the line. They both sound like great systems, but they're really pricey. We're talking hundreds and hundreds of dollars for the system, plus the relatively expensive cost of replacement filters.

I just couldn't wrap my head around spending that much money, so I decided to go with a cheap and cheerful solution using a household water filter housing for less than $50. Filters are also a lot less expensive. (If you want to know more about water filtration on boats, check out The Boat Galley.)

3 - Canceling My Audible Membership

Amazon likes to tell you about all the exciting things you're missing out on - like audio books. They tantalized me with a free 30 day trial of their Audible Gold Membership. During the trial, you get to download two free audio books. If you decide to continue your membership, it will cost you $14.95 a month, which includes one free audio book of your choice each month.

I enjoyed listening to the books while working on sewing projects, but $14.95 seemed like a bit much to pay each month for one audio book, especially considering how many unread books I have lying around my boat. But, that's the great thing about free trials - you get to try a product or service out before you commit. Plus, I got to keep my two audio books which I can listen to again on long, boring passages.

4 - Eating Free Soup

When the lovely Vicky and Ed from Catching the Horizon were at Indiantown Marina storing their sailboat for hurricane season, they gifted me with a lot of food that they didn't want to leave on their boat. I'm not too proud to accept free food that would otherwise go to waste. It's saved me some money and every time I have some of the soup they left me I think of how much fun it was to meet them.

5 - Saying No To Fast Food

Did you ever have one of those days where you didn't want to cook and Burger King was calling your name? A Whopper Jr and fries sounded so good, but I resisted the temptation and ate leftovers instead. Not only did I save money, but I also did my heart a favor. Win-win all around.

What do you do to save money? Any frugal tips you want to share?

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15 June 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Naptime

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - Some people can sleep anywhere.

2 - He might actually be more comfortable than folks trying to sleep in cramped economy seats on a long-haul flight. 

3 - I like to take naps, but I'm often groggier when I wake up than I was before I closed my eyes.

What words does this picture bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here
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13 June 2016

14 Reasons Why The Amish Were Right About Blogging

Sorry. I’m afraid this has nothing to do with the Amish. I’ve lured you here under false pretenses. I’m not really sure that the Amish know all that much about blogging considering they don’t make a habit of using computers, but they sure do make a mean shoofly pie.

I had planned about doing an update on the Fair Maiden’s quest to awaken the Great Machine on the blog today, but it all got a bit too depressing to write about as the Fair Maiden still hasn’t been able to get it sorted. She’s off in Las Vegas just now hoping she can make enough money at the craps table to buy a new diesel engine for her sailboat in the event that the Great Machine never wakens. Either that or she’s going to become a show girl.

While the Fair Maiden is off guzzling down cosmopolitans as she blows on the dice for good luck, I sat here a bit stumped. What should I blog about today? Being at a loss for ideas, I turned off the computer and got some chicken curry cooking away in my Wonderbag for dinner tonight. Next, I thought about doing some boat projects outside but the forecast is for a real feel temp of 111F today. Yep, not going outside today if I can help it.

Then, I remembered this great post by Megan Morgan about blog idea generators so I thought to myself, “Aha! Problem solved. The internet will come to the rescue, providing blogging inspiration, along with other time wasters, like adorable videos of cats using sign language to get food from their humans.”

So, I thought I would share a few of these fun blog idea generators with you. Fellow bloggers might be interested for those times when they get stumped and the rest of you might find their suggestions amusing. Plus, if you stick around all the way to the end of this post, I do have some thoughts on why the Amish were right about blogging.

Portent’s Content Idea Generator

Portent’s Content Idea Generator gave me today’s awesome blog post title. All you do is enter a subject, like blogging or sailing, press the magic button and you get brilliant suggestions like, “Why Blogging is More Tempting than a Cinnabon” and “8 Things Spock Would Say about Sailing.”

Answer the Public

On Answer the Public, you enter a keyword and the Seeker gives you all sorts of blogging prompts like, “Who invented sailing” and “Blogging without showing your face.” The Seeker looks around impatiently if you take to long too ask him a question. It’s pretty funny.

Blog About

Blog About gives you ideas for blog post titles into which you enter your own keywords. I turned “Why [blank] is more about [blank] than [blank]” into “Why blogging is more about procrastinating dull but important boat projects than contributing anything meaningful to the universe.

Reasons Why The Amish Were Right About Blogging

It’s not strictly true that the Amish don’t use computers. They don’t actually reject all new technology, but, if they do adopt new technology, it’s only after they’ve carefully considered it. There probably aren’t a lot of Amish bloggers out there, although I have discovered Lovina’s Amish Kitchen (delicious sounding recipes and glimpses into Amish life), and I really have no idea what the Amish think about blogging, or sailing for that matter, but I imagine the Amish could give us some food for thought.

The Amish are selective about what technology they adopt, not wanting to become slaves to it. Does blogging, social media, surfing the internet for cute catz videos take over our lives at times? Could we survive for a week without our computers or cell phones? Is our technology in control of us or the other way around?

If you’re interested in learning more about the Amish, check out the Amish Studies site.

Have you ever been to Amish country and had shoofly pie? What do you do when you get stuck on what to write or blog about? And, one final question, what do you think about new technology? 

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10 June 2016

Thank You!

We marked a big milestone this week on our Facebook page - over 1,000 likes! Who would have thought so many people would be interested in what we get up to? Not us, that's for sure.

When we started this blog, the intent was to document our crazy journey to quit the rat race, get rid of most of our stuff and lead a life a bit less normal on a sailboat. We did it primarily for ourselves - to capture our adventures so that we would have something to look back on one day when our memories aren't as sharp - as well as to keep our families in the loop.

But, somehow, along the way, all of you joined us for our journey. And, it's been all the more fun because of it! We've loved getting to know so many of you virtually and having the good fortune to even meet some of you in real life too.

It seemed like a good time to say thank you to all of you for following along with us - so, thank you! We're so very glad to have you along for the ride.

08 June 2016

Wordless Wednesday | The Wonderbag

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 -  This is the Wonderbag - a non-electric, portable slow cooker. Bring food up to the boil on the stove and pop it inside the bag where it continues to cook without additional electricity or fuel. 

2 - Brilliant idea for living on a boat - keeps the boat cooler and uses less propane.

3 - It's gigantic, like a pumpkin.

What words does this picture bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here
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06 June 2016

Cost Of Living Aboard Our Boat | April & May 2016

It’s time for our regular cost of living update, which I do every two months. We've been tracking how much it costs to live aboard our Moody 346 sailboat, S/V Tickety Boo, at Indiantown Marina in southern Florida, where we were initially laid up during last hurricane season and where I'm now living while Scott is working overseas. While Scott has been in Scotland, I've been staying on our boat and slowly ticking things off of our project list. So, our live aboard costs are pretty much just that - cost of my daily living aboard our boat and occasionally buying stuff for Tickety Boo to keep her happy.

You can find links to other cost updates from ourselves and others on this page, as well as on The Monkey's Fist. If you want to know how much we spent over the past two months, have a look below.

Cost of Living Aboard | April & May 2016

Overall, we spent $3,672 during April and May which is up around $1,222 from the previous two months, primarily due to boat insurance renewal and the purchase of a new laptop.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of what we spent, here are a few things to note:

1 - All costs are in US dollars.

2 - Not all expenses are included - here's what we've left out:
(a) We don't report how much we spend on alcohol. I remember reading some horrible, judgy comments in a blog post a few years back about how much someone spent on booze, so I left it out when we first started tracking our cruising costs back in New Zealand. For consistency's sake, I've continued to leave it out when tracking our cruising and RV costs.
(b) We haven't included costs related to storing our Scamp travel trailer ($21 per month) because we track the cost of our RV and cruising adventures separately.
(c) We've also left out our costs for medical insurance. We didn't think it made sense to include insurance costs as they can vary so widely depending upon your nationality, where you cruise, what level of coverage you want and can afford etc. In case you are curious, while we're back in the States, we do have insurance through the health insurance marketplace (aka ACA/Obamacare), primarily to protect our assets and cover us in case of a catastrophic medical condition. After spending a pretty big chunk of change for health insurance during 2015, we were in a bit of a quandary about whether we should go ahead and get coverage for 2016 or take the risk and pay the tax penalty for being uninsured. In the end, after weighing up the potential tax penalty, possible tax credits and risk of being uninsured, we ended up getting insurance for 2016. If you want to know more about our health insurance options and quandary for 2016, check this post out.
3 - Scott has been in Scotland taking care of some work projects and tending to some other matters, so grocery and entertainment costs are less than they would be normally.

4 - I've included any shipping and taxes we've paid in what we report. Florida has a 6% sales tax. Boo.

GROCERIES | Total = $384.38

This category includes everything we put in our bodies in terms of food and drink (excluding booze) that we prepare ourselves. It doesn't include things like paper towels and ziploc bags, which I know some people would classify as groceries. Sure, you could probably eat them, but they wouldn't taste very good.

PERSONAL & HOUSEHOLD | Total = $33.21

This is the category where we include household things (like paper towels and ziploc bags) and personal hygiene items (like soap and shampoo). We also capture items for the "home" here - like ant traps.

ENTERTAINMENT | Total = $138.47

One of the great things about hanging out in Indiantown is that there really isn't all that much to spend your entertainment dollars on. It's a pretty small town and things are really quiet at the marina, so there's not a lot of temptation.

In terms of drinks and eating out, this includes everything we don't prepare ourselves, even if we get something to go and eat it back on the boat. We also track how much we spend on books, magazines, movies etc. in this category, as well as the occasional Powerball lottery ticket ($2).


Our cell phone is actually one of our biggest non-boat related expenses. I have a $60 monthly GoPhone plan with AT&T which includes 5GB of data and unlimited calls and texts. Normally, 5GB of data isn't enough for us, but we have a WiFi adapter/antenna gizmo which helps us get the marina Wi-Fi at our boat and minimizes the use of our cellular data. Lately though it's been hard to access the marina Wi-Fi as there are so many people here, so sometimes I end up buying additional data. While Scott is away, I've also added on a $10 monthly international call plan so that we do our daily phone call.

BOAT FUEL | Total = Nil

Because our boat hasn't left the slip, we haven't needed to spend anything on diesel or gas.

LPG | Total = Nil

I've been primarily using our microwave and crock pot for cooking, so haven't needed to top up the LPG tanks.

MARINA COSTS | Total = $1,166.00

Keeping Tickety Boo in a slip is one of our biggest expenses. The monthly cost of a slip with electricity at Indiantown Marina for a 34.5' boat is $572.40. The guys at the marina will also come pump out our holding tank on demand - $5.30 for each visit.

BOAT STUFF | Total = $712.09

This category is for all the stuff we've been buying for the boat. We've got a long list of stuff we need to get for Tickety Boo - some upgrades, some maintenance related items, equipment etc. I'm trying to spread the costs out because I simply find it too painful to spend so much money all at once.

Boat insurance was our big expense here during April. We opted to get liability only insurance this year, along with tow insurance. You can read about our insurance dilemma here. I also bought a new fuel filter and strap wrench in the hopes that changing the fuel filter would sort out our engine.

TRANSPORT | Total = $27.77

This category is for costs related to our vehicle, mostly for gas to keep it going and drive into the nearby "big city" of Stuart for errands. Gas is so cheap these days that I've really been able to keep these costs down.

MEDICAL EXPENSES | Total = $157.02

This category includes medical expenses outside of our monthly insurance premium (which aren't included here - see section on exclusions above), like over the counter medications, prescriptions and things for our medical kit. It also includes the costs of doctors visits and medical tests which aren't covered by our insurance. I had been expecting some rather large medical bills to come due during the past two months, but it looks like insurance companies take their time processing claims. I'm guessing this will be a painful update next time.

OTHER | Total = $878.33

In this category, we break out how much we spend on clothes and travel expenses. We also include a catch-all miscellaneous group for stuff that doesn't fit neatly anywhere else - things like laundry ($3.25 for a wash and dry at Indiantown Marina). The costs in this category sky rocketed from the previous two months due to the purchase of a new laptop computer. After trying to revive my old one several times, it finally decided it had had enough and died once and for all. Hopefully, this new one lasts longer.

Do you budget and/or track your expenses? If so, do you find it helps you manage your money better?

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03 June 2016

May In Numbers

Clockwise from upper left hand corner: (1) I desperately wanted this My Little Pony pinata, but I resisted; (2) Some friends left a can of their local beer from Stevens Point Brewery in Wisconsin for me to try. Delish!; (3) Turning a t-shirt into a tank top; (4) My new computer. Life is better with a working computer; and (5) Birthday donuts. Yum!

Every month, I do a random sort of recap in numbers with miscellaneous facts and figures that happen to pop into my head. So, without further ado, here's what happened last month, by the numbers.

  • 49 – Number of nautical charts I scored from the free table at our marina. From what I can tell, they’re worth around $300. Our cost – $0. I love the free table!
  • 7 – Number of hours I spent inventorying our free nautical charts and daydreaming about places we can sail to one day.
  • 50 – How many years I’ve now spent on Planet Earth. I think my mom may be more stunned by this than me. After all, now she has a 50 year old daughter. Hah!
  • 2 – Number of times I visited a sick friend at the VA hospital in West Palm Beach during the past month.  If you’re ever feeling a bit down about your life, spending some time at a VA facility is a sure fired way to put things in perspective. Talking to veterans about their experiences is eye opening and very humbling. (Non-American readers might not be familiar with the VA, which stands for Veteran’s Affairs. They provide medical care and federal benefits to veterans and their dependents.) 
  • 2 – Number of potlucks we had at the marina. One of the things I love about potlucks is trying new dishes. One of the ladies made the most amazing pineapple salsa and banana pudding. I had never had banana pudding before and neither had the others. Turns out it’s a southern dish and us northerners have been missing out. This stuff is seriously delicious. Of course, I’m not sure you can go wrong with bananas, custard and nilla wafers.
  • 980+ – Number of followers on our Facebook page as of the end of May. I’m actually blown away that we have so many people like our Facebook page. Wouldn’t it be cool to get to 1,000? Oh my goodness, I’ve become one of those people that gets excited about reaching Facebook milestones. What’s happened to me?
  • 8 – Number of meatless days I had. Do you ever have meatless days? 
  • 12 – The number of books I read during May. Some were for the Around the World in 80 Books challenge, others were mysteries set in the States and sci-fi set in galaxies far, far away.

We hope you had a wonderful May full of good food, good company and good books and that this month is off to a great start and gets even better as the month goes on.

In case you missed them, here are some of our favorite blog posts from last month:

Boat Cat Adventures: Tales from the Crazy Cat Lady
A Fair Maiden’s Quest for a Filter of Fuel & Magical Boat Spells
The Well Traveled Can Opener

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - we'd love for you to pop by and say hi!  

01 June 2016

3 Things Kids & Writers Worry About | IWSG

For a few months during this past school year, I volunteered as part of an after school Y-Reads! program at the local elementary school in Indiantown, Florida. The program is designed to improve reading skills in K-3rd grade students in low-income areas. I helped out by reading books to small groups of students and engaging them in activities to broaden their understanding of the stories and motivate them to want to read.

I'm sure the students learned heaps through the program and had fun doing so, but I also learned a few things as well. In particular, I got to know what kids worry about, as seen through children's literature, some of which seems eerily similar to what I worry about as a writer. Seemed like the perfect thing to share with the folks at the Insecure Writer's Support Group this month, highlighting three of the books I read to the kids. However, even if you're not a writer, I think many of the rest of you can relate too. After all, we were all kids at one point, some of us have kids and many of us are (hopefully) still kids at heart.


"I'm worried that I'll never be grown up (experienced) enough to deserve what all the older kids (authors) have!"

BINTOU'S BRAIDS by Sylviane A. Diouf & illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Image Source: Bintou's Braids on Amazon.

THE STORY - Bintou desperately wants long, beautiful braids like her older sister and the other women in her village in West Africa. But, as she's too young for braids, all she has are four little tufts of hair which are cornrowed. Her grandmother explains to her that tradition means that she has to wait until she's older to get braids in order to avoid vanity.

THE WORRY - Let's face it, it sucks to have to wait until you're old enough to get something like braids or a bike. Will you ever grow up? Will you have to wait forever? Writing can be kind of like that at times. Will I ever get enough experience to be able to write a decent novel worthy of publication? Or, will I be stuck being a novice writer forever?

SPOILER ALERT - Bintou saves the day and as a reward gets her very own braids before most girls her age do.

You can find Bintou's Braids on Amazon.

"I'm worried that no one is going to like me and they'll think my name (book) is stupid!"

THE NAME JAR by Yangsook Choi

Image Source: The Name Jar on Amazon.

THE STORY - Unhei has just moved to the States from Korea with her family. Her classmates have trouble pronouncing her name and she worries that they won't like her. She decides to pick another name from the suggestions that the other kids put in a jar for her - like Miranda, Suzy and Laura.

THE WORRY - Childhood is utterly fraught with worry about what other kids think of you. Wait a minute, adulthood can be full of that too. Do I look fat in this? springs to mind. Writers worry about what other people think of them too. Does everyone hate my book? Do they think I'm a butcher of the English language? I bet even my mom won't buy a copy!

SPOILER ALERT - Unhei sticks with her own name in the end and stops worrying about what the other kids think.

You can find The Name Jar on Amazon.

"I've taken on a big challenge. Am I up for it? Will I let my family and friends down?"

FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN by Jane Kurtz & illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Image Source: Fire on the Mountain on Amazon.

THE STORY - Hoping to secure his and his sister's future, an Ethiopian boy bets his rich master that he can spend a bitterly cold night alone on a mountain. With only the sight of a distant fire to warm his spirit, but not his body, he survives the night. But, his master refuses to honor the bet arguing that the boy cheated because he saw a distant fire, which was as good as a real fire, even though it didn't keep him warm.

THE WORRY - Part of growing up is taking on new challenges, learning new skills and taking risks, like spending the night alone on a mountain or going away for the first time to sleep-away camp. Trying to write your first novel can be daunting. Heck, even telling people you're going to try to write a novel can be daunting, let alone doing it. You might feel like you're never going to finish the darn thing, you'll disappoint everyone and prove to all that you are indeed a failure.

SPOILER ALERT - The boy turns the tables on his master, beating him at his own game.

You can find Fire on the Mountain on Amazon.

What lessons have you learned from children's literature and kids themselves when it comes to worrying about writing and life's other challenges? Do you do any volunteer work?

Linked up with the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

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