27 February 2017

What The Heck Have You Been Up To? Boat Project Roundup, Pt 1

When I was moaning about the fact that it seems like we'll never make it over to the Bahamas this season because we're constantly doing boat projects, someone asked in the comments:

"Does it normally take months to get a boat ready to go on the water?"

Obviously, the person who asked the question isn't a boat owner. A boat owner shudders when you ask that kind of question because no one knows the answer. Actually, that's not true. They do know the answer:

"It depends and, no matter how long it takes, it will cost you a lot of money. Partway through, you'll seriously consider setting fire to your boat and walking away."

In case you were wondering what the heck we've been doing and why it's taking so long, here's a roundup of some of the boat projects we've been doing since the end of December. If you want to know how much it's costing us, we detail almost every penny we spend on this page.

If you're into boats, you may find this update fascinating. You might also find it somewhat depressing because you have some of the same issues on your boat or you're bound to at some point.

If you're not into boats, you may find this update utterly boring. Honestly, I wouldn't blame you if you tuned out now and went to find a blog that posts about kittens wearing tiny, adorable hats instead. But, if you do stick around, I'll throw in a random picture of a dinosaur to liven things up. Plus, it might be marginally interesting to read about what crazy boat owners get themselves into. It'll make you feel better about your own life.


Thorny, The Beast That Consumes Oil & Diesel

The alternator on our Thornycroft diesel engine

We affectionately call our Thoryncroft T80D diesel engine, Thorny. He's a cantankerous sort of British chap who we make live in a small cupboard underneath our cockpit. Kind of like Harry Potter, but without the magic. Magic would have made things so much easier. But no, we had to deal with things the old-fashioned Muggle way, using screwdrivers, wrenches, multi-meters and the like.

Thorny took up a huge amount of our time. First of all, we had to find out why he wouldn't run. Once we were feeling all smug with ourselves that Thorny was purring like a kitten, then we went and hydrolocked him. That was a huge drama, which you can read more about here. Fingers crossed that it's all sorted.

In the end, Thorny got a new exhaust elbow (complete with new bolts as we had to cut the old ones off), expansion hose, shiny hose clamps, end cap and glow plugs. We changed the impeller (easier said than done). We realigned the alternator (three times) so we could tighten the belt. We adjusted the idle and Thorny had the usual transmission fluid and oil changes.

Goodbye Leaks! Hatches & Portlights

Tickety Boo's trailer trash look - plastic sheeting taped over the leaky hatches

For quite some time, Tickety Boo has looked a little bit like trailer trash in the marina due to the plastic sheeting I had duct taped over two of our hatches. While it wasn't a good look, it did keep the water out of the boat. Remember, if you own a boat, you always want water on the outside of your boat, not the inside.

One of the big projects on our list to tackle when Scott got back was to replace and rebed the acrylic in the hatches, along with fixing the leaking handles. Our friend Matt from MJ Sailing was a huge help with this project, helping to cut the acrylic to size and recommending what sealant to use (Dow Corning 795). 

Cleaning up the hatch frames

A supposedly straightforward job that wasn't due to having to drill out old, broken rivets, not being able to re-rivet and having to go with screws instead which required tapping the holes and grinding down the heads. One of the arms broke requiring redrilling, retapping and putting a new bolt in. The frames and handles were a nightmare to clean up because one of the previous owners used a lot of caulk and sealants to try to address the issue.

And then there were the many emails to Lewmar to try to find out the size of the O-rings in the handles. You'd think they'd have this information on file and readily to hand. They don't.

Now we've traded in the trailer trash look for bright, shiny hatches that you can actually see through.

While we were at it, we also sorted out the leaking portlights in our aft cabin/bedroom by removing the gaskets. We replaced some of them and cleaned and re-purposed others. It took ages to prep the frames for the gaskets due to one of the previous owner's love of, you guessed it, caulk and sealants.

Lewmar portlight in our aft cabin.

We also bought two very expensive Lewmar screens (honestly, do they need to cost that much?) so that we can keep the portlights open at night and get a cross-breeze, minus any pesky biting insects.

Sew, Sew, Sew Your Boat

Repairing the headsail on our Sailrite sewing machine

I did a number of sewing projects (which I'll post more about at some point). Two of the big ones were restitching the bimini and dodger and fixing our headsail (huge thanks to Behan and Jamie from Sailing Totem for their advice). While I was at it, I also whipped up covers for our water jerry cans to protect them from UV damage, a cover for our barbeque, a cover for our new generator, a mosquito net for our companionway, two harnesses (using the Sailrite kits) and one jackline.

Electrical Systems: The Case of the Disappearing Amps

The insides of our current solar charge controller

At the time of writing this post, we're currently investigating <<The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Amps>>. A case certainly worthy of Nancy Drew (remember her investigation of <<The Case of the Missing Anchor>> last year?) One problem, Nancy had some sort of breakdown, dumped her beau, Ned Nickerson, and ran off with some shady dude in a motorcycle gang and is now living in a beat-up old trailer somewhere in the Southwest.

Without Nancy around, it's been a lot harder to solve this case, but we think it's the solar charge controller. Hopefully, by the time this post is published, we've cracked the case, installed a new controller and are in the Bahamas basking in all of the energy produced by our solar panels.

We tackled some other electrical system related projects. We removed an obsolete CD changer from under the chart table and pulled out tons of wiring that led to nowhere. We replaced our lightbulbs with LED ones (much more energy efficient). We installed two Caframo marine fans (super duper energy efficient). I think we're really going to love these fans when we disconnect from shore power and don't have AC anymore.

We also had an issue with our navigation lights - neither the stern nor the bicolor on the bow were working. The stern light was a simple fix - new bulb. But the bicolor was a bit trickier to troubleshoot until we found a wire that looked like it had been chewed through and needed to be sorted out.

Could this dinosaur be responsible for chewing up the wire to the bicolor navigation light?

Along with <<The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Amps>>, we still have one other electrical issue we're working through which involves our stereo speakers in the cockpit. No matter what we do, we can't seem to get them to work. Yes, we've tried it all - rewiring, new switch, offerings to the gods - you name it.

In addition to our solar array, we also have a new generator which will be great for providing power on those cloudy days. We spent some time marinizing it per Sailing Totem's helpful tips so that it will hold up longer in a marine environment.


Are you still here? I don't know about you but I need a bathroom break and a snack. I just read the draft of this post and it's way too long. So I've decided to stop here and we'll be back next week with Part 2. I bet you can't wait. There'll be some scintillating stuff about our galley, anchoring set-up, rigging, safety stuff, our potion box and more.

Have you ever had a boat project or DIY project go wrong? Have you ever wanted to burn your house or boat down in frustration?

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

24 February 2017

Flashback Friday | 10 Steps To Becoming A Full-Time Cruiser

Today is Michael d’Agostino’s Flashback Friday. 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 three years ago and have lots more followers now then we did back then (thank you all!) so many folks may not have seen some of our earlier blog posts. 

I wrote this post when we we were about to move onto our first sailboat in New Zealand and embrace a lifestyle of full-time cruising. Overall, our experience living on our boat and cruising in New Zealand was successful and, although life got in the way with family and other matters and delayed our plans, we decided to continue to pursue the cruising lifestyle. 

It was interesting to look back at the steps we took to transition to this way of life. Overall, I think the approach we took worked for us and prepared us reasonably well for our insane adventure. But that doesn't mean they would work for others. This form of insanity certainly isn't one size fits all and everyone needs to find their own path.

{This post was originally published in December 2013. You can find it here.}


The clock is ticking down and we're just weeks away from becoming "official" full-time cruisers. I was chatting with someone recently about what's involved in making the transition from land to boat and thought it was a good prompt to jot down our 10 steps to becoming full-time cruisers. It is always good to document your moments of insanity.

1.  Get yourself some passion (and brainwash your partner).

For us, the passion started with Scott when he helped a friend move a boat in the Mediterranean years ago. He fell in love with this whole sailing thing on that trip. After that he began his brainwashing campaign to convince me that this sailing thing is even better than sliced bread. Often the sailing dream starts with one partner and then the other person embraces the madness later. The important thing is to make sure it is something you both want to do and be clear why each of you wants to do it. For Scott it is the sailing and the traveling. For me, it is more the traveling and the chance to do something completely bonkers.

2.  Learn how to sail (and keep learning). 

This seems like a no brainer, but everyone has different ideas about what level of sailing experience and knowledge you need to get out there and start cruising. Scott has much more experience than I do. He has probably sailed close to 9,000 nautical miles (both cruising and racing) in New Zealand and Europe, has taken the Yachtmaster Offshore Theory course and has his VHF certificate. And he has been thinking and reading about sailing for years. But Scott would be the first one to say that there is so much to learn and he is far from an expert and much more in the beginner camp. And that's what is great about sailing, there is always something new to learn. You won't get bored and your brain won't shrivel up from lack of stimulus. 

Next to Scott, I know nothing about sailing. Next to experienced cruisers, I know even less. Early on, before we first started chartering boats, I took a four day practical sailing class which gave me basic knowledge about sailing and enough confidence to be the crew to Skipper Scott. But I still have lots and lots to learn and I'm currently putting together a list of specific skills that I want to develop and practice this summer when we're out cruising. Any suggestions on what I should have on my list would be warmly welcomed.

3.  Buy a boat (it doesn't have to be your forever boat).

For us the next big step was to buy our very own boat. We bought a small, older boat in New Zealand which we used to sail around the Hauraki Gulf last summer whenever we could get away. We know she won't be our forever boat, but she has been a great boat to cut our teeth on. She was relatively inexpensive (a lot of people might spend more on a car) so we didn't think we could go too far wrong buying her. However, when we buy our next boat, we'll be spending a lot more money (well a lot of money for us), so we've been doing a lot of research on boat buying and different types of boats. Frankly it is overwhelming and we do worry we'll get it wrong. So maybe our next boat won't be a forever boat either, but just a bigger boat. Lots and lot more research and thinking to be done.

4.  Figure out what your high-level plan is (don't worry, it isn't set in concrete).

You need some sort of plan, but for us, I think it should be a high-level kind of plan. Because things change. And they change again. If your plan is too detailed and fixed then you might get hung up on the detail and not be able to go with the flow when things change and new opportunities present themselves.

At the very least you need to figure out when and where you're going to start cruising. For us, we're starting off cruising full-time in New Zealand because that's where we live and where our boat it. We'll spend 3 to 3-1/2 months sailing here on kind of an extended shake-down cruise to figure out what works for us and learn lots and lots of stuff about boats, sailing and ourselves. After that, our plan is to head back to the States, buy a bigger boat and then start cruising again. The current plan is to buy a boat on the East Coast and then head down to the Caribbean, but maybe we'll start on the West Coast or in the Great Lakes instead. All we know is that we'll start cruising again in North America, everything else is still up in the air.

It also helps to have a "get out" card. We've been talking about trying this out for a couple of years and seeing how it goes. I think you need to do something crazy like this for at least a couple of years so that you can experience all of the highs and lows and make an informed decision about whether you want to carry on. I imagine the first year of cruising is one of the most challenging ones, so I think calling it a day after just one year probably isn't sensible. And even if you just do it for two years, what an incredible two years of adventure that would be.

5.  Share your plan with the whānau (family), your friends and colleagues (and then quietly freak out).

I recently read a post on Wright Away Sails Away which talked about how they just "spilled the beans" about their cruising plans with their work colleagues. It is such a turning point when you tell people about your crazy plans. It makes it real and in some ways there is no going back. We started telling folks earlier this year and it was a strange feeling. Our family is really supportive and not really too surprised about it. But I guess when you take a job in New Zealand and move there, having never actually been to New Zealand before, then you might get a reputation for doing strange things. But my mom worries - about the tsunamis, the boat capsizing, pirates, hurricanes etc. I don't think it helped when she saw All Is Lost and Captain Phillips in the space of week. Heck, I worry about those things too! But she hasn't tried to talk us out of it and it has been fun sharing our plans and preparation with her. She always has some good advice and/or thought provoking questions.

When it comes to friends, some of them think it is fantastic and wish they could convince their partner to do something like this (these are generally the people Scott races with). Some people think we're weird, but they probably thought that before. I can't think of any negative reaction that we've gotten from anyone. Or at least they haven't said so to our face. So, telling people went well for us. It just made it really, really real. And it is okay to freak out quietly from time to time once you realize what you're about to do. Because only a truly crazy person wouldn't occasionally think they were crazy.

6.  Figure out the money side of things (because this is the one thing everyone asks you about).

Unfortunately, cruising costs money so you do need to get your financial house in order. While we were definitely impacted by the global financial crisis aka "GFC" (like so many people), we're more fortunate than others and have some savings which we can use to fund our cruising. If you had asked me a couple of years ago, I might have really hesitated about chucking in the job in corporate la-la land with its regular pay checks due to our current post-GFC financial position, but I've recently realized that we're middle aged and we're only getting to get older. So, why not do it now while we can. Because, it could all go to hell again anyways with another GFC or worse.

We don't know how much cruising will cost us, but we've certainly read everything we can find about how much it costs others. It is so much fun to be nosey that way! We've been tracking how much we spend at a very detailed level for the past several months to get a handle on where our money goes and where we can cut back. We'll keep doing that, try to live a frugal cruising lifestyle and see how it goes.

On a related note, I like this post on This Rat Sailed which talks about money being "freedom chips". He talks about how many of us trade money away for a new car, nice clothes etc. all to keep up with the Joneses. But if you turn things around and think of money as "freedom chips" then you are much clearer about why you are earning money and what you are spending it on - in this case "freedom" from the rat race and all of its materialism. (Interestingly, they don't give any personal details on their blog as their family doesn't know about their plans yet. Not sure if they have done Step 5 yet?)

7.  Get rid of everything (well almost everything).

You can only fit so much on a 26' boat, so I've been on a mission to get rid of everything in New Zealand. I really don't have too much here to begin with (most of our stuff is still in Scotland which is a really long story), but it has still taken me a while to go through it and pare down to the essentials. The things I have found the hardest are getting rid of my books and clothes. I love books, but I have millions. They're heavy and they take up room so they have to go. I've also found it hard to get rid of the last of my work clothes. I think somewhere in the back of my head I've been thinking, "What if this doesn't work out and I have to go back to work?" What a depressing thought. But the clothes are gone now and I won't be going back to work anytime soon unless it is the type of place where you can wear shorts, t-shirts and jandals.

8.  Prepare and prepare some more (and then realize you can never fully prepare).

Oh my goodness, there is so much to think through when it comes to getting ready to live on a boat from provisioning (how much food storage do we really need), storage (where is everything really going to fit), water (how much water do we need for drinking and cooking and how bad will we start to smell without a shower), medical kits (what do we need to stock up when we leave New Zealand), how would you anchor under sail if your engine died (and how do you fix an engine)...and the list goes on and on and on. Too much to think about, let's move on.

9.  Figure out how you're going to work and play together as a cruising couple.

Scott and I have been married for coming up to 22 years, but we've never really worked together professionally or lived together 24/7. So moving onto a 26' sailboat and cruising together full-time may take some adjustments. Personally, I think we'll do fine as the basis of our relationship is humor and fun and we get along really well. But, even if you've been with your partner for ages and you like him/her, you still really need to figure out how you're going to work and play together as a cruising couple. And talk about it some more. Because, let's face it this is the biggest team-building course you'll ever do together. You can read some more on our thoughts on cruising couples here.

10.  Just do it!

This isn't a Nike advert. We used to live in Portland and some of the folks in that town had drunk way too much of the company Koolaid and had little swoosh tattoos on their ankles. I thought that was just plain crazy, but you have to admit their slogan "Just do it!" makes sense. So that's the final step in the plan - just get out there and do it. Things will go wrong, things will go right and there will be surprises and adventures along the way. But you do have a blog to update, so unless you get out there and do it, things will get pretty boring in blogland.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about living and cruising on a sailboat? What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

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

22 February 2017

Wordless Wednesday | A Love Affair With Caulk

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 - This is the top of our bi-color navigation light on the bow of our Moody 346 sailboat.

2 - One of the previous owners of our boat must have had a love affair with caulk. The stuff is everywhere.

3 - Caulk is not always a good thing.

4 - Caulk is definitely not a good thing on your nav lights. It makes it really hard to get the fixture apart to check the light bulb. 
What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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

20 February 2017

Canadians: They'll Restore Your Faith In Humanity

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

During the winter season at Indiantown Marina, Canadians probably outnumber Americans by a sizable margin. It's quite a popular place for Canadians to store their boats during hurricane season. Once the snow starts to fly, they make their way down south to Indiantown and get their boats ready to head out cruising or just hang out here at the marina for the season enjoying the sunshine and palm trees.

You've heard all of the stereotypes about Canadians before. They say "eh" a lot (true for some), they have unibrows (no comment), they say "a-boot" and not "about" (yes, and it's adorable), they live off a diet of maple syrup and Tim Horton's donuts (sounds good to me), they're all lumberjacks (uh, no) and they're super nice (very true).

I can't emphasize how much that last one is true. Canadians are some of the nicest, helpful and most generous people you'll ever meet. They're all around good eggs. Okay, maybe there's some bad Canadians out there, but you won't find them at Indiantown Marina.

Honestly, they've restored my faith in humanity. After a bruising and divisive election cycle (no matter what side you were on), I kind of started to lose hope in the basic goodness in humanity. You know, the "do unto others, as you would have them do unto you" way of approaching each other. It seemed like it was becoming more of a "who cares about you, it's all about me" kind of a place.

Then along came the Canadians with their help, support and "pay it forward" mentality. Don't get me wrong, the Americans here are wonderful too and we'd be lost without the support and help of our dear Yankee friends (not to mention their "tool shed" and acrylic expertise). That just goes without saying.

But this is about the Canadians and how much they've been instrumental in getting our boat ready to go cruising. (I should say "somewhat ready to go cruising" just in case I jinx things and more stuff breaks.) These guys might not be lumberjacks, but they sure are geniuses when it comes to electrical systems, engines, solar arrays, you name it. And they share their knowledge freely. They even come poke around in the murky depths of our engine room or in the confines of the lazarette to help us chase down issues and sort out problems.

And when you apologize for taking up so much of their time and pestering them with annoying questions, they just shrug their shoulders and say, "Don't worry. Just pay it forward."

I always knew I loved Canadians. But now I love them even more because they've reminded me that humans (at least most of them) are good at heart and genuinely want to do unto others as they would have them do unto them.

What's your favorite things about Canada or Canadians? And for a more controversial question - only 100% genuine maple syrup on your pancakes or will Mrs. Butterworth's do?

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

17 February 2017

Going For A Walk | Anna Maria Island, Florida

It's been ages since I've done a <<Going for a Walk>> post. Probably because it's been ages since I've gone on anything which even remotely resembles an interesting walk.

When we do go for a walk these days, it's here in Indiantown, which is interesting the first few times you do it, but after that it's more of the same old, ho-hum kind of walk. Except when we're walking to Taco Tuesday or to the bakery for Guatemalan cookies. Tacos and cookies are never ho-hum. The best kind of walks are those in search of food.

But I digress. Thinking about food does that to me. I completely lose my train of thought until my belly is full.

So, what was I talking about? Oh, yeah. Interesting walks. We had some great ones when were were on vacation at Anna Maria Island on the Gulf Coast of Florida, which seems way too long ago now. The kind of walks that are so full of interesting things that you almost forget that your stomach is growling.

Like the funky and retro Pines Trailer Court all decorated for the holidays.

We walked through there on our way to the Bridge Street Pier at Bradenton Beach.

It's fascinating to watch the fisher folk in action with their nets.

The birds seemed interested in what the guys were fishing for too.

It's an island, so there's boats everywhere. This is the way sailboats should look.

This isn't how you want your sailboat to look - derelict and sinking into the water.

Some people even turn boats into bars.

We managed to work in some nautical history on our walk when we stopped off at the Florida Maritime Museum in nearby Cortez. It's a fascinating little museum with some really knowledgeable and friendly volunteers. And best of all, it's free. We like free.

After the museum, it was time to look at more nautical stuff - this time at the commercial fisher folk bringing in their haul.

And of course the best way to end a day - a sunset stroll on the beach.

What about you - have you been on any interesting walks lately?

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

15 February 2017

Wordless Wednesday | Salvaging Old Sails


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 - The headsail on our Moody 346 sailboat is probably the original one. That makes it 30 years old. 

2 - We need to buy a new one, but we're putting off the purchase until next season. They're expensive.

3 - The previous owners had the headsail repaired before, but it needs some more help. Time to break out my trusty Sailrite sewing machine and do some restitching.  

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

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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

10 February 2017

Is It 2020 Yet? Our Cruising Plan

Tickety Boo happy at anchor in the Bahamas

My friends, Matt and Lucy from The Larks of Independence, and I had been joking that, given our respective boat issues and projects, we'd see each other in the Bahamas in 2020. Scott and I certainly haven't been feeling like we'll ever make it out of Indiantown Marina this year before hurricane season starts up again. 2020 was starting to seem like a sadly realistic target.

But at least we were in good company. Matt and Lucy were stuck here in Florida too.

Then I saw on their Facebook page that they had broken free from the Sunshine State and made it to Bimini.

My first thought was:

"Yay! Way to go Matt and Lucy!"

My second thought was:

"I hate you guys. Why are we stuck in Florida and you're in the Bahamas?"

My third thought was:

"Ellen, you're a terrible person for thinking such things. You should be happy for them." 

Then I punished myself by not eating any chocolate for a full 20 minutes. Yes, I went without chocolate for 20 whole minutes. I know, hard to believe. But I deserved it.

After I had some chocolate, I felt much better about things. After all, we've only been working on boat projects for less than seven weeks. We've got friends that have been stuck here at Indiantown Marina for way longer than that working on their boats.

And we've actually ticked a number of things off of the list. Like new hatches.

We've also dealt with a number of things that weren't on the list. Like hydrolocking our engine.

All in all, we're not doing too bad. {She says frantically stuffing chocolate in her mouth in an effort to feel better about the rate of progress.}

The whole situation got me thinking about cruising plans. There's a saying among cruisers that plans are written in sand at low tide. When the tide comes in, your plans just wash away as though they never existed.

It was all a good reminder not to have too firm of plans and to just go with the flow. Easy to say, sometimes it's hard to do.

So while we do have a cruising plan of a sort, we're trying to keep it kind of vague because life has a way of keeping you on your toes. Sometimes, it seems like life is just getting in your way. Usually though, it's just presenting you with new opportunities that are cleverly disguised as boat projects.

If you are curious what our vague cruising plan is, it's to go to the Bahamas for the rest of this season, then bring the boat back to Indiantown where we'll haul out and work on some major boat projects. We'll probably head off to the Western Caribbean next season (November 2017) and putter around over there for a couple of years. After that who knows - although we are toying with the idea of crossing the Atlantic in a few years. But we'll see what life brings us.

What about you? What are your plans for the next few years?

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

08 February 2017

Wordless Wednesday | Murder Is Everywhere!

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 - When we were on holiday at Anna Maria Island, we went out for a walk to the beach one morning. Along the way, we saw a large knife.

2 - Then we stumbled across this scene. Clearly it was the scene of a murder. A fight over a skateboard, perhaps? The murderer must have run away and dropped the knife.

3 - I'm not sure what they did with the body. Maybe it washed out to sea.  

4 - It's possible I have an overactive imagination. 

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

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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

06 February 2017

Cost Of Living Aboard Tickety Boo | December 2016 & January 2017

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 we're currently living while we finish up some boat projects before we head off to the Bahamas for the season.

 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 the details of how much we spent over the past two months, have a look below.

Cost of Living Aboard | December 2016 & January 2017

Overall, we spent $9,983.39 during December and January which is a lot of money, but isn't all that surprising given our long list of boat projects.

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. We renewed our policy for 2017, but as things are up in the air following the election, we'll have to wait and see what happens with coverage this year.
 3 - I've included any shipping and taxes we've paid in what we report. Florida has a 6% sales tax. Boo.

GROCERIES | Total = $1,206.36

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.

Our costs have been a little higher over the past couple of months due to provisioning for our trip to the Bahamas. We found groceries to be really expensive last time we were there, so we're trying to stock up on as much as we can.

PERSONAL & HOUSEHOLD | Total = $100.06

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 bug spray.

ENTERTAINMENT | Total = $209.36

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.

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, DVD rentals and going to the movies in this category, as well as the occasional lottery ticket.


Our cell phone is actually one of our biggest non-boat related expenses. We have a $60 monthly GoPhone plan with AT&T which includes 8GB of data and unlimited calls and texts.

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, an electric burner and crock pot for cooking, so haven't needed to top up the LPG tanks. Electricity is included in the slip fee so it makes sense to use that for cooking.

MARINA COSTS | Total = $1,176.60

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 = $3,940.53

This category is for all the stuff we've been buying for the boat. And we've bought a lot of stuff over the past couple of months including a generator, LED light bulbs, engine parts (exhaust elbows, impellers, end caps, gaskets, glow plugs etc.), US customs decal, propane cooktop, cup holders for the cockpit, joker valves, PFD re-arming kit, new PFDs for the dinghy, airhorn, used auto-pilot wheel, acrylic for our hatches, screens for our portlights and lots of other miscellaneous bits and bobs.

TRANSPORT | Total = $196.18

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. We spent more over the past couple of months than normal due in part to picking up Scott at the airport in Orlando and our holiday on the Gulf Coast.

MEDICAL EXPENSES | Total = $1,887.59

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 finally got the final bill for my hospital stay way back in March of last year, which accounts for the bulk of the expense over the past two months.

OTHER | Total = $1,316.71

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 big expense in this category was for our week-long holiday cottage rental on the Gulf Coast ($700). We also bought beach chairs, an Aeropress, salad dressing container, storage containers, dragonfly lights for our cockpit and a computer mouse.

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

03 February 2017

January In Numbers

Clockwise from upper left: (1) Our new Caframo fan in the aft cabin; (2) Our alternator; (3) Stubby the Screwdriver; (4) Winches badly in need of servicing; (5) Redoing the hatch lenses; and (6) Scott hard at work on the engine.

It's time for the monthly recap in numbers - an assortment of odd tidbits and random thoughts that popped into my head when I was reflecting back on the month. January was all about boat projects. Endless boat projects. Boat projects without end. Boat projects which take far longer than you think they will. Boat projects that never cease. Boat projects which cause other things to break, requiring more boat projects. You get the idea.

  • 0.24 - Number of amps that our new Caframo fan in our aft cabin draws at high speed. We have to monitor our energy usage carefully when we're away from the dock. This fan works great without having a huge energy draw. It will be essential once we're no longer plugged into A/C.
  • 2 - Number of exhaust elbows we bought for our Thornycroft engine and had shipped over from England.
  • $150 - How much each exhaust elbow costs. 
  • 10 - Number of times we changed the oil after we hydrolocked our engine.
  • 6 - How many cans of tomatoes we ate. 
  • 2 - Number of times we went to Taco Tuesday at JR's Saloon. They raised the price of tostadas from $1.50 to $2.00, but it's still great value and a tasty treat. Theyalso  raised the price of happy hour beer from $1.00 to $1.50. Boo.
  • 2 - Number of times we took the wires off of our alternator and put them back on. Once to tighten the belt and once to get access to the impeller. After each time, something went wrong the engine which was completely unrelated to the alternator. It's like a strange little metal harbinger of doom.
  • 6 - Number of Beddar with Cheddar brats we ate. I've really fallen off the healthy eating wagon lately. They are better with cheddar, but not as good as I remembered.
  • 2+ - Number of weeks Stubby the Screwdriver was trapped inside of a cupboard wall. Scott finally rescued him and we stuck him in some vise grips and put him straight to work on changing out the impeller. 
  • 3/8" - The thickness of the plexiglass we bought to replace the old, cracked plexiglass in our hatches. 
  • 2018 - The year when our flares expire. Yay, they're still good! One less thing to spend money on.
  • 7 - Number of packs of chorizo we bought at Aldi. This stuff doesn't need refrigeration until opened, making it a perfect provisioning choice as we get ready to sail to the Bahamas.
  • ? - Number of days until we finish our boat project list and head off to the Bahamas. Your guess is as good as ours. 
  • 0 - Number of books I read during January. Considering that I usually read 10+ books a month, this will give you an idea of how busy and exhausting things have been.

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

Running Water is for Sissy Babies
Five Frugal Things | The Gorilla Tape Edition
Back from the Brink | Hyrdolocking Our Thornycroft Engine

How was your January? What are you looking forward to in February?

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

01 February 2017

Looking For Heroes In The Library | IWSG

The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It's a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there's an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they're struggling with what to say.

This month's question prompt is:

"How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?"

Check out how people have answered this month's question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list here

Before we get to how I answered the question, I wanted to share our new website for >>Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life<<, the IWSG anthology in which my short story, The Silvering, will be published in. You can find it here. Pop by, check it out and follow along. We'll be adding new content to it in the run up to publication on May 2nd and afterwards.


I was relaxing in the cockpit of our sailboat one afternoon, reading a book on my Kindle and sipping on some iced tea, when I heard a loud thunk. I turned and saw a man wearing a blue spandex outfit standing on the deck. To be honest, it was a pretty unflattering outfit. Not that spandex really looks good on anyone, but a middle-aged man with a beer belly, now that's really not a good look.

He spun dramatically with his red cape swirling around him. Did I forget to mention he was wearing a cape? Yep, there was a cape. He also had the letter "H" emblazoned across his chest in silver sequins.

You have to give him points. He exuded confidence. In fact, I think his outfit gave him confidence. Perhaps I should rethink this whole spandex-cape-sequin thing. Maybe if I wore something like that I'd be more comfortable with public speaking.

He strode towards me and proclaimed loudly, "I am Hugo, your local community hero!"

"Local community hero. Hmm...I didn't know we had one of those," I said. "What exactly do you do? Use your super powers to rescue kittens from trees? Help little old ladies across the street? Bring chocolate chip cookies to those in need?"

"Uh, no. I don't do any of those kind of things," he stammered. "I help people when they're struggling with questions. Like what the population of Ray, North Dakota is and what's written on Carl Jung's tombstone."

"So, you're basically a reference librarian then?"

His shoulders slumped as he wrapped his cape around him with a sigh. "I guess."

"Not that there's anything wrong with reference librarians," I quickly added. "The world needs librarians. Especially those that are such snappy dressers, like you."

"Really? You think I'm a snappy dresser?" He smiled. "Maybe you have a question I can help you with?"

I put my sunglasses on. The sun was bouncing off of his sequins and blinding me. "Sure, I could use your help. Here's my question - how has being a writer changed my experience as a reader?"

"Oh, that's easy peasy. I bet you read more carefully now  and try to dissect how different writers structure their stories."

As he started to pace the deck animatedly, I noticed that he was wearing blue, spandex booties. Who knew you could get shoes made out of spandex?

While I was thinking about getting cowboy boots made out of spandex and sequins, he sat down next to me. "I bet you even look at how different writers explore the same theme."

"You're right!" I said. "How did you know that? That's what I was just doing. Reading a copy of the Hero Lost anthology on my Kindle to see how my co-authors explored the theme of lost heroes. Maybe you do have super powers after all."

"Well, I don't know about super powers, but I do know a thing or two about writers and readers, given my line of work as a superhero reference librarian." He peered over my shoulder at my Kindle. "That sounds like a great book."

"It's right up your alley. Maybe you should make sure the local library orders a copy."

"I'll be happy to do that ma'am." He pointed towards the horizon. "Now, I must be off. There are other people out there in desperate need of information."

"It was nice to meet you, Hugo. Thanks for the help." I watched him walk across the parking lot and get into a beat-up old minivan. I guess folks don't go into the superhero business for the money. I shouted after him, "Come back soon! Next time, I'll have some questions about chocolate chip cookies for you."

What questions would you ask your local superhero reference librarian? What makes someone a shero? Have you ever worn spandex?

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