Thursday, October 23, 2014

Installing Solar Panels - 840 more watts of Freedom

We knew we needed more solar power when we bought the boat - it only had four small 46 watt panels that equaled 184 watts total.  But how much is too much?  The only restriction is money - although having the space to put them does start to creep in as the number 1 restriction, because you can run out of room to put them pretty quickly. 

I had two options:  1.  Put them on the fiberglass hardtop or 2. Install them on the solar rack above my dinghy in place of the smaller panels.  I would then have to relocate the small panels to the hard top or elsewhere. 

The top of the solar rack is actually about 17' off the ground
We went back and forth on the location weighing the pros and cons of each decision - and for some reason or another, I ended on making a new (and gargantuan) solar rack for above the dinghy.  It will measure 120" x 77" and I had it all figured out - down to the sixteenth of an inch.  We'll make a new slide adjustment for the starboard side, we'll have supports front and back/and side to side.  It will be awesome!!  and so I thought.  

Some "dry runs" to see what the possibilities were
Maybe it won't be too bad after all
We went down to the local metal shop and purchased about $200 worth of 1 1/2" aluminium angle stock and delivered it to the metal shop right next door to my boat.  He said he'd have it done lickidy-split - about 2 weeks later, we got the finished product (I wasn't in that big of a hurry anyway.)  

We brought it home and quickly hoisted it up into place.  And it was big - but I was prepared for that.  I had done drawings and photo-shopping to get an idea of how big is was going to be.  But to back up for just a bit, why did we opt for the solar rack and not the hard top?  I really don't know other than to not take up our entire hardtop with solar panels - my sons might want to use it as a launch pad into the water; we might want to store stuff up there; I don't really know - but the decision was made to make a massive solar rack and put it above the dinghy.

And it was good - it fit right into place, and soon we were test fitting our solar panels into the rack to see what we'd gotten ourselves into.  And they fit perfectly; one right after the other - the measurements I'd given the fabricator were spot-on!  But soon after the panels were in place, a quick movement of one corner up and down and I started to get that sinking feeling.....the one where you just might have wasted a few hundred dollars and a few days of work kind of feeling.  So I tugged on it again - and this massive wave of movement rippled over the entire three panels - and if that wasn't enough, the entire solar rack moved about 2 inches from side to side - it moved so much, that it even moved the massive dinghy davits that bolt through the back of the boat.  And I slowly convinced myself that this was a bad idea.  

Tami....you remember that solar rack I had built...well...
Now, I just had to convince my son and my wife that this was a bad idea and that the panels now needed to go on the hardtop where I knew in my gut that they needed to go from the beginning.  

The next day, we had the old panels back in place but with a couple extra side-to-side supports and an additional slide support - and then it was time to wait on the Z brackets to install on the preferred location.  I also bought 80' of 6 awg wire to run to the control panel that will be located under my berth, right next to the battery bank along with a 50 amp shut-off switch.  

Four days later, we were installing the Z brackets on the panels and putting them into place.  The only thing we had to watch for is how close the boom came to the panels - my boom will actually hit the hardtop if let out enough - and so if I have solar panels that stick up another 3" then the boom will hit it even sooner.  So we cheated all the panels as far back on the top that we could - and it was an easy install.  A little dab of 5200 and six screws each and we had the panel installed.  We then wired each one together in parallel and attached it to the wire we had previously installed while we were waiting on the brackets.  

Justin wiring up 3 panels with 6 AWG 
1024 watts of solar power kickin' ass!
In the end, the panels look right at home on the hardtop and I don't have to worry about them ripping off my boat in a stiff breeze.  And what about all the added power I have to run all my shit?  ....well, that's priceless my friend.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

New Video: A Sailboat Refit - Part 4 - Seatalk Hs Cable, 12 volt Panel, and more Rigging

Here's our latest installment of our on-going "Refit" series.  Only one more after this, and it will be time for the "launch" episode.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Painting Bilgekote in the Engine Rooms

It wasn't fun, it wasn't comfortable, and it was pretty much the equivalent of getting bitch-slapped  - but painting the engine rooms with BilgeKote was definitely worth the trouble.  Its something that I've put off for awhile, and for good reason.  To begin with, there is barely enough room to turn around, and forget about squatting.  But to make matters worse, the curvature of the boat on both sides of the engine slant upward - so there's not even a comfortable spot to stand.  But when your back begins to get those deep aches from leaning over a Yanmar engine and you do try and stand upright for just a minute, you inevitably hit your head on some goddamn piece of boat that comes out of nowhere.

Justin started the project by cleaning and scrubbing everywhere he could reach - wash, rinse, wash repeat.  And I kinda felt bad looking down from the deck - I kept wanting to tell him to, "Put ze lotion on ze skin" but stopped myself - didn't feel like being such a smart-ass that early in the morning.  After an hour of scrubbing, rinsing, and repeating, it was my turn.  We tried to suck out as much water as we could, but I still had to use a towel to dry places that the shop-vac couldn't reach.  I then placed a towel on top of the engine so it could avoid any accidental drips of paint - but there are so many lines in an engine room - fuel lines, water lines, and push-pull cables - and trying not to get paint on them was a trick.  I did have a spare work rag to wipe away any drips that did find their way where they weren't supposed to be - and I used it quite a bit.

This is what it looked like when we bought the boat.


I got a brilliant idea: lets put disintegrating foam everywhere in the engine compartment.  Sure it showers the entire area with non-stop shit, but think of how well it will deaden the sound!
There was some God-awful foam insulation that was close to 2" thick and was stuck everywhere.  I understand the thought behind it, but this stuff was completely non-user-friendly.  It would be impossible to service these engines without giant pieces of foam breaking away and down onto the engine and into the bilge.  So a few months ago, the first step to this process was to scrape the lids and side walls of all the insulation and suck it out with a shop vac - my sons were not happy.  The following picture was the after shot.



But now, months later, it was time to finally paint them.  And to reiterate, I can't stress how horrible this job really was, and the buzz I was getting from the fumes wasn't strong enough to make it any better.  Although I did have a work-fan blowing into the area, it didn't quite makeup for the limited space to work and move around in - my feet, legs, and back were all pretty spent.  The only thing I can think of that would make somebody feel like this was if I exercised - yeah, that's it - it's like I exercised or something.  The final results speak for themselves and I would totally do it all again, but on second thought, next time I'll just let my sons get some OJT on painting BilgeKote.


Port engine room
Starboard engine room

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lobster Hunting with s/v Saltrun

Our new friends at s/v Saltrun - Chris and Joyce were kind enough to invite us for our first ever lobster hunt.  After purchasing a Florida fishing license with a lobster stamp, we set off with a boat full of scuba equipment.  Chris ventured off about 30 minuets from the boat-ramp to one of his favorite spots and we dropped anchor.  


Captain Chris at the helm
We decided that the easiest thing to do was to dive in teams so Saltrun went first.   After suiting up, they dove the anchor to make sure it was set, and away they went into the current as Justin snorkeled above to learn how its done.  The trick to it (other than avoiding all the jellyfish that kept drifting by) was to keep up with everything needed to catch them - a tickler (encourages them out of their hiding hole), a net (to trap the buggas), and another net to contain the keepers.


Time to suit up
Fortunately for us, Saltrun came back with six beautiful keepers - now it was our turn.  And although it had been about 7 years since either Justin or I have strapped on a tank, it was literally like riding a bike (and diving in 12 feet of water, if anything should go wrong, you can just drop your weights and go to the surface.)  We descended to the bottom and off we went.  You look for any formations where the sand is - basically anywhere there isn't grass. And then you look for their tentacles sticking out - and they were everywhere.  Each place that you see that looks like a lobster should be, they were there.  Justin was the "encourager" as he tickled them out of their home and I was the "netter" - snatching them up as they try and back into their hiding hole.  But unfortunately for us, they were all too small - but catching them was a blast.  Its amazing how fast they are - I'd even have them back straight into my net - but if I wasn't fast enough, they'd swim right out of it.  

Gettin' my grove back


One of the lobsters we had to let go due to size

Sometimes, its good to be under-sized 
Other than the gorgeous weather and good company, the best part about the day was just being on the water.  It was just another beautiful Key West day - sunny and warm with a great ocean breeze.  But it was time to go back to the boat ramp and back to Catchin' Rays.  Chris was nice enough to let us keep their catch, but we didn't really know how to clean them or prepare them - so once again, they were generous enough to invite us over for dinner where they would show us how to prepare the lobster.  We posed for the picture with the 6 lobsters and told everybody on Facebook that it was "our" catch - Chris said he didn't mind. 
   
We'll still take credit for them
We then practiced pulling off the tails while trying to get as much meat as we could to stay with it, and Joyce showed us a great way to de-vein them.  The meal was great, and once again, so was the company and conversation.  Preparing and cooking lobster (well, Chris does the cooking) in their back yard that backs up to a gorgeous canal - it just doesn't get much better than that.  We can't thank them enough for being so generous with their time and for giving us a much needed day off.  Now its time to get back to boat work. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Never-ending Projects and Making new Friends

Part of the problem with refitting an older boat is finding space to add new electronics in the 12 volt panel.  And while its possible to use the existing power that ran the old equipment, there comes a time when there are only so many slots to tap into.  Maybe there's a way to install a bus bar behind the panel, but we don't know enough about how much we can continue to power through what's already there.  On top of it, the way this boat is designed, there is 2 foot channel that measures 3"x 5" directly behind the navigation desk by which all wires must pass in order to get to the panel - and its a bitch to access.  But having ran so many wires through this area previously and the fact that the area is already taken up by the original wiring, there's not even enough room to run fish-tape through it any longer.  

My solution to this on-going issue was to install a new panel that has easy access, and at the same time allows much more room for expansion.  I have a Sirius weather receiver to power, a 12 volt ethernet switch, and another chartplotter, not to mention any future expansion that may include 12 volt televisions in the cabins.   So I ordered a new Panel-tronics that came with five breakers pre-installed.

The new 12 volt PanelTronics
But cutting holes and running wires through all the nooks and crannies of a sailboat is never an easy task.  And you've never really appreciated the usefulness of fish-tape until you've used it on a boat.  We've ran it through so many tight spots that would never be possible with any other method - we've almost worn out the two reels that came with the boat.  But to make things worse, the battery bank is located under the back section of the berth where I sleep.  Bedding, clothes, mattresses, and support racks had to be removed in order to access this area. The final product powers up well and will be a snap to run any present and future power needs.  Now I have an easy spot to power my new cockpit chartplotter that we've just finished mounting a couple of days ago - hopefully the location proves to be ideal and the Navpod stands up to the harsh environment.

We ran the wires as professionally as we could

My modified NavPod for the Raymarine E90W
We've also made new sailing friends - Chris and Joyce own a 38' Manta catamaran named Salt Run and stopped by the other day.  He and his wife have a house down here in the Keys and just moved their Manta down from Jacksonville to the marina next door to us.  They found me through my blog and recognized the boatyard where we work and live and was nice enough to come by and say hi.  They are some of the nicest people that I've ever met - in Florida or Texas - and even offered us a truck to use, a place to spend the night, and a lobster/mahi-mahi dinner - all of which were much more than generous.  But we did take them up on the dinner.  They have a nice place that backs up to a canal just a few miles down the highway, and needless to say, the conversation was great and it was some of the best seafood we've ever had.  They've also just produced their own sailing blog, and you can find it here If we meet other cruisers in the sailing community that are anywhere near as hospitable and kind as Chris and Joyce, this will be an awesome adventure.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Busting Out Another Thousand....f-ing BOATs!

All things being said, our little ship was in pretty good shape upon arrival.  Nothing was taken from the area, not even the old pillows that sit off to the port side between us and the building.  And the inside didn't smell like an unplugged refrigerator so I consider that pretty good seeing as how its been sealed up tight, baking in the Florida sun and drowning in the tropical rain for well over 90 days - but it always makes for such a nice and clean deck.  But nothing was disturbed on the inside either, which was my biggest worry.  

Our 1:00 am late-night arrival

After doing a quick inspection, it was time to get it back to a livaboard.  But It felt like we were breaking in to our own boat - when you arrive at 1:00 am and start making a ruckus around an extremely quite boat yard, there' the possibility of drawing some attention.  But just as if we'd never left, we were back in, lights on, fans turning, and hot water heating - now I can start worrying about everything else.  

We decided that getting the engines running was a good place to begin - its been months since I last heard their little putter-putt (or rumble if I want to embellish at bit) and its been even longer for Justin.  After attaching the batteries, the port engine started up like it had been ran just yesterday, and so did the starboard engine.  But high-fives turned to head-scratching when we realized that the starboard engine didn't seem to be pumping enough water (or sea water if we were in the ocean) through the system, and was confirmed after a quick check.  In fact, it totally stopped pumping as Justin was tinkering with the feed line.  The thought was to do the standard impeller change and we'd be back in business.   But unfortunately, that's not what happened.  Even after the new impeller was back in, still no water - so I'm probably about to bite the bullet and buy a new assembly and actually thought about buying a spare at the same time - silly me.  At $489 retail, I think we'll limp along on 1 engine if another one goes out again.  

Shredded impeller and a bad water pump - not good

We also got to lower the old and dilapidated (and that's being nice) Caribe dinghy to the ground for the last time.  Having fulfilled her duties, she was dragged off to the side with honor to make room for the new inflatable performance catamaran.  We had to install new eye hooks and a new access point, which sounds much easier than it actually was.  The work isn't that bad, its the going back up and down the stairs to do another trial run to see if she's up high enough to avoid anything bad that may wash down between the hulls - mainly waves.  We got her close and stopped for the day - we needed a fresh set of legs to do a little more tweaking.  And at the end of the day, I'm not sure she's exactly where I want her but she's good for now.  

Looking complete with an actually inflated dinghy
Perfect size dinghy - clears by just a couple inches

But to end the day today, just when you think you got things by the cojons, seems that our portable freezer doesn't like running on only 12 1/2 volts - it shuts off anytime below 14 volts.  Justin had researched his settings on the Xantrex invertor,  and realized the float setting was set too high, so he adjusted it down to manufacture's settings.  Just so happens that the CoolMatic Freezer doesn't really appreciate it,.. and would kick the compressor every time.  So if he can't figure it out tomorrow, may have to bust out another $650 for a replacement.....I know, you don't really have to have one of these either, but they're so nice to have.  Of course with all the "unexpected's" we've been experiencing lately, we might have to put off that in-motion satellite system I've been eye-balling.  Yeah, getting in the water and sailing should probably take priority over next season's Survivor  - but damn, I love that show.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Getting down to the Nitty-Gritty

The final moves have been made this week as Justin and I ready ourselves to go back to the boat to tie all the loose ends together as we target November for the big splash.  I've alerted my current place of employment that I will be emailing my resignation letter the first week in October (no need to submit sooner than I have to - I like back-up plans and security blankets.)  We've moved two cars into storage along with the RV.  Forwarded my mail to.....oh shit, I don't even care.  And the closer it gets to our flight, the more nervous I seem to be as these are not decisions for the faint of heart - quitting your job and downsizing your life to two suitcases isn't that easy.

Sure, it all sounds great when its next year, next month, or next week, but when its Wednesday, it becomes a little more real - this is final - we're moving onto our boat full-time - shit's gettin' real and it can be a little overwhelming at times.  But one of the hardest parts of this go-around is leaving Tami...... again - although her flight has at least been purchased for the end of next month, it means 5 weeks without her.  In addition, we've once again left our boat for 3 months and I worry about her.  Did she leak and take on any rain water?  Has somebody broken in and stolen anything?  And I won't feel better about it until I get back and make sure everything is in its place.  To top it off, it seems to be an endless forecast of rain - 80% chance for the 3 days following our arrival and I'm not sure if we'll be able to get anything done for the first couple of weeks. 

But its exciting too.  As I tell my co-workers about the plan, I realize that all of the planning that has gone into this, and all the changes my family as endured, has come down to this moment in our lives.  Over the years, when you have a plan in place that takes this much maneuvering in your life, you wonder if you'll ever get to  see it through to fruition - and now we're here - its surreal.   But am I overly excited?  I try not to be.  Its kind of like when I got the call to interview for my first (and present) nursing job.  Although it had taken over 10 months to get the first call for an interview - I had all but given up on the idea that I'd ever get the opportunity to utilize my degree - and I was ok with it.  But after the call, a huge sinking feeling came over me because I knew what I was in for - I had heard all of the horror stories.  Some nurses have reported crying on their way home for the first 6  months because the stress is so intense.  

But now after almost 3 years on the job, I can honestly say that it was the smartest thing I've done in my life aside from buying real estate. And I feel that it's the same way with owning and living on a sailboat - it can be the best decision we've ever made, but that doesn't mean it won't stress me out at times and make me want to quit everything.  Somebody once told me that a smart man has a natural fear of owning a sailboat much the same as a normal man has a fear of alligators - you just know the potential it has to make your life real shitty.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The only bad thing about Boobs - Mammograms

Here lately, we've been trucking along by taking it easy and not doing much of anything except seeing doctors, home health for dressing changes, and a physical therapist 2 to 3 times per week.  But during the drudgery of the rehabbing schedule, Tami was due for her mammogram.  She has been pretty diligent about getting her exams and she figured while we were available to get it done, that we might as well get it done now.  So I took her down last week for her appointment.

The back history of these exams with Tami is that about 5 years ago she had her first examination.  Even though she was really getting this done before the age that they recommend, (if I remember correctly, its because the results are not as reliable due to the density of the breast tissue before the age of 40 - I think that's right) she has such a strong history of it in her family, she thought she would be a little bit more proactive in this area of her medical wellness.  Well 5 years ago, they found an area of calcification that required a biopsy (yeah, we were freakin' out just a little.)  It turned out to be nothing to worry about and of course we both could breathe a little better.  Seems like whenever there is a medical scare like this, every aspect of your lives gets put on hold until somebody tells you there's nothing to worry about, then its life as normal.


But her latest examination was this past Thursday - and when it was over, you just hope they don't call again - no news is good news.  But that changed on Friday.  I was taking her to the dentist when she got a call from the mammography office that she needed to come in for additional pictures and a sonogram - they had found an area of granulation tissue that needed a closer look.  So then the worry sets in.  From the small bit of information I could gather off the internet (while Tami wasn't looking), they can't really tell the difference between a cyst and cancer, so they take additional pictures and order a sonogram to distinguish between the two.  The next appointment available was this past Monday - so we got to spend the weekend not talking about it and hoping Monday didn't get here too soon (in fact, Tami didn't even know I was worried about it like I was.)  But it seems that the "worst case scenario" kept running through my mind - "ya know, she's young, even if there is something there, she'll get through it, and besides, this would still be in an early stage because she gets her exams pretty regularly."  

But soon after the call on Friday, Tami admits that "cancer is the last thing I need right now."  But I really didn't want to alarm our boys - because there was really nothing to tell anyway, no sense in worrying for no reason - so I didn't tell them.  

But sure as shit, Monday did quickly arrive and we found ourselves back at the breast office.  I tried to keep myself busy surfing the internet on my phone, but its easy to get distracted.  To make matters worse, about 45 min after Tami went back, I was called to the back also.  That's when bad things really started to enter my brain at break-neck speeds and promises and prayers quickly come to the defense.  

In the end, the areas of concern were nothing but harmless cysts and there is nothing to worry about.  But the reason for this post is to let you know how good God is.  He answered this prayer with a "yes."   And to keep my promise that I made to him over this past weekend, here is my post officially thanking him for it.

Now we can get back to this sailing plan we have - life needs to quit getting in our way, we're ready to go.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fold up Bicycle and Bruce Van Sant


"Where'd I find this?  Some kid back in town..... traded the van for it straight up.  I can get 70 mpg on this hog."

Actually, I gave $75 to a college girl up around the University of North Texas.  These usually go for around $170-$200 depending on location and shipping, so I couldn't pass it up.  But I'm not quite sure how I'm getting it to Key West.  

Brandon tearin' it up

After we fold it all up, we're hoping it fits in a checked bag, but our bags are already getting full from the other stuff I plan on taking - I've got to stop accumulating boat stuff here in Texas.  Although it looks a little awkward with the little wheels and tall handle bars, it really rides pretty much like anything else - it won't set any speed records, but it should do exactly what it is designed to.  But I have no idea why somebody in North Texas needs a fold up bicycle (we were not expecting one to be 30 min from our current location) although I guess folded up is how I got it home.  But the demand for them here is not as great as it is in Key West - a quick search generated more people looking to buy a fold-up bike than were selling them.

Also this week, the postman delivered our homework for the next month (how long does it take to read a book?)  Its The Gentleman's Guide to Passages South and have heard about this book off and on for a few years now - I just wish I would have purchased it the first time it came into my consciousness.  It's just packed full of everything you ever wanted to know about island-hopping from Florida to South America and seems to be the perfect guide for doing exactly what we are planning.  

Should've have invested in this book sooner
Time to get back to the guide and my lazy Sunday.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Anatomy of a T-shirt

Ok, so I may have my priorities all screwed up, but when you've been working so hard for so long and waiting so patiently for what seems like forever, I tend to go overboard on unimportant things.  So when I bumped the idea off my wife about doing some boat t-shirts I was a little nervous.  Its not that she didn't want "crew" t-shirts, she just hates spending money on nonessential items. But when you think about it, everybody needs t-shirts and I go through them very quickly - mine get dirty and messed up very quickly because its all I wear.  Of course when it came right down to it, I couldn't just order different sizes of white t-shirts, my wife insisted on pink ones for herself.


Perfect location

So when it came time to designing t-shirts with our boat name and logo on it, I couldn't wait to get started.  First of all I needed something to go on the front pocket area.  I at least needed the name of the boat and probably the word "crew" in that area.  I figured every shirt can be labeled "crew" because that's what we all are - and plus, it just keeps the cost down.  But when it came to a picture of our boat, I really wanted something simple, but not necessarily two dimensional.  I've seen some t-shirts that use a simple profile with lines that gives the impression of a sailboat, and those look cool.  But I wanted something that was a little different and that showed the double hulls of a catamaran.  I began by running through all of my pictures of sailing Venezia's  that I had saved on my computer (since ours is still on hard ground next to a building.)   I decided on one I thought would look good for the purpose, and began cropping and modifying.  


The picture I began with
After cropping


Final rendering after tracing it, removing the original imagery, and adding my hardtop and solar rack - simple but effective.  I also use this image for my blog's favicon

From here, you just add in your text and save the file.  But for the back-side, I wanted our logo and our web address.  The only question is whether or not we'd go with black and white or color.  This sounds like a no-brainer, but when the t-shirt company charges for each color in the picture, charges can start adding up quick.  In the end, we decided on b/w, but after receiving the t-shirts, the end product didn't come out enough like what was approved.  After notifying the company (we used the guys over at www.Rushordertees.com - awesome to work with) they quickly offered us a great price to re-do the t-shirts in color with only a modest increase in cost - basically giving us the first order for free.  The final t-shirts done in color are awesome and we couldn't be happier.


Tami assumes the position and displays the back-side

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

New Toys - its lookin' like Christmas around here!

The list of things we need to finish the refit that we started at the end of last year is beginning to shrink.  After another nationwide search from Ebay to Craigslist, I finally found a great deal on a second Raymarine E90W that will mount in the cockpit.  It was used but never installed and got it shipped here lickitty-split in perfect condition.  


I love opening FedEx boxes these days!

I was also able to snag a NavPod from Ebay for a fraction of the original price.  I used my wait-till-the-last-second Ninja bidding skills in order to swipe it away from the previous high bidder - oh I love winning items on Ebay that way, makes me all tachycardic and shit.  Only thing about the NavPod though, I'll have to modify it just a bit - it was originally for a Raymarine C80 - which is just a bit taller and a bit narrower than my E90W is, but it looks like it will be damn near a perfect overall size.  


What it should look like once mounted

One of the other items I've had my eyes on was a Sirius XM weather receiver for the Raymarine network.  It wasn't at the top of the list, but something I've considered after doing a bit of research.  It would hook right up to my existing backbone and offers weather forecasts, wind, sea, and of course the XM radio channels.  During another one of my Craigslist searches I came across somebody upgrading to another electronics system and had one for a really good price.  I sent him the funds via Paypal, and he promptly delivered the parts to my boatyard.  Damn, I love Craigslist.


Raymarine SR100 XM Receiver

This next item is one I haven't bought yet but will right before we head to Florida.  I can buy it brand new from Bed Bath and Beyond and have it shipped to my boat at no cost.  But finding it has solved a space issue that is hard to come by in a boat.  Currently, we have an old microwave and a toaster oven, and while you don't really have to have either on a boat, we like the convenience that each offers.  But that's two items, and while they are both small, they do take up double the real estate.  But then along comes Cuisinart.  Its a combination microwave, convection oven, and can also be used as a grill.  And to top it off, its small.  Can't wait to throw the old units in the trash and to start using this work of "Cuisin"-art (thank you, I'll be here all week.)



I've also have been looking for a replacement dinghy for months now.  We've spent tons of hours searching Craigslist - everywhere from Fort Lauderdale to Key West.  There have been times when both my wife and I have been on two different laptops doing daily searches.  I've seen tons of boats, but everything was usually too new and expensive, too old, or too heavy - we could never find that perfect size, condition, and price.  I'd love to have one of those solid inflatables - some are either aluminum or fiberglass, but they are few and far between and above my price limit.  But then I came across these high performance inflatable catamarans.  The two biggest brand names are Thundercat and Hammerhead.  They make a casual version and a performance one.  I'd passed up on a couple of them already because they were too far away to look at and I wasn't in the area at the time.  But then I also discovered that the "normal" size Dux Hammerhead was 13'6" - too big to fit between my hulls as I only have 12' on the nose, and no more.  In fact, we measured that distance about 4 different times because I couldn't believe that I didn't have at least that much to fit one of those boats there.  I became very frustrated.  

But then, I found it.  It was like finding the Lost Ark of the Covenant.  Could it really be the one - this has got to be the one!  It was a Dux Hammerhead Performance version and it was listed as an 11 footer.  "How can that be?" I asked myself.  Eleven feet?  That's not possible, these boats are over 13 feet long.  So I called the owner of the listing and he assured me that this was indeed an 11 foot Hammerhead.  In fact, he said it was specially requested to be that specific length, and actually the title said it was 11 foot 6 inches - even better!! 

A very kick-ass 2009 11'6" Dux Hammerhead



So is this the perfect dinghy?  My wife is having her doubts.  Its got an open transom (its the performance version remember) and they're known to be a little rough and a little "splashy."  But they hold a shit ton of weight for when we have it loaded with scuba equipment and anything else.  And it could not be more of the perfect size even if I had ordered it myself.  These boats are also supposed to be fun as hell to play around with - some even use these in place of a personal watercraft - my crew should have a good time on this thing.  Plus (and this is the best part) how cool will it look to have a performance inflatable catamaran hanging off the davits of my sailing catamaran??  Sounds completely bad-ass to me!  And hey, if it doesn't work out, I really don't have that much invested in it.  It would have cost me more to get my 10' Caribe re-tubed than this cost total.  

All this will start coming together soon when we head back to Florida to begin the last phase of the refit.....and we can't wait!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Leibster Award Recipients


My "Sexy" pose on the bow
Here is a treat for you: a rare posting from me, Tami - the better half to my husband who normally posts to this blog.  I was asked to try out my skills and reply to us being acknowledged for the Leibster Award.   We've seen this award being passed around to other bloggers we read and now have the fortune of being nominated for the award ourselves by the good people at Diving into Cruising.  At this time, we're only blogging friends but hope to someday meet them in person and share stories.  They have been hard at work for some time now on their own project boat down in Florida and wish them best of luck and want to thank them for the nomination.  

So what is The Leibster Award Its an award given from one blogger to another in hopes to recognize and spotlight hard working bloggers.  To accept the award, the nominee must link back to the nominating blogger, answer 10 questions that they asked, and nominate other bloggers to receive the award. 



The questions that we are to answer are as follows:

1. Introduce us to your crew. Who are they and what role do they play in your operation?

We are a crew of 4, myself 43, my husband 45 and 2 boys (grown boys, but still my boys) they are 20 and 25. We have always been a very close family and this is just another adventure that we are going to embark on.  The roles each of us play in the operation are still being decided as we continue to work some of that out since none of us have really sailed.  As of now my son Justin 25, is going to be the mechanic and help with maintenance of the boat, he also wants to get his captain license. My son Brandon 20, will be helping with the everyday maintenance and cleaning of the boat and cooking, he also wants to be a dive master. My husband Kevin 45, says he will be perfectly happy as the navigator for us. Tami 43, (thats me) do not have much of a role at this time. I am still recovering from the accident I had on 2/6/14, (check out the blog) and the outcome of my foot is still to be determined, but I am great at telling everyone else what to do and how they should do it - I guess that means I'll be captain :)


2. What sort of boat do you have and would you recommend it for other adventurers hoping to live aboard?

We have a 42' catamaran, it has four double cabins, two heads, and 2 singles in the nose of the hulls. The single berths are currently being used for storage and for the A/C units.  But in the main cabin and berths, there is plenty of room for family and guests alike.  My recommendation for any other adventurer hoping to live aboard is to find the best boat you can for the best price (not really new information here) and we had our hearts set on a catamaran.  This fit the bill for us in size, engine location, condition, and price and I would most definitely recommend it for others.

3. Where are you now and what are your sailing plans, if you have any, for the future?


We are currently in Irving, TX waiting for November 1st and the 2014 hurricane season to be over-with. We currently have a few things we are talking about - but the plan right now is to get it in the water in November and hang around Key West for a bit until we get a few shake-down sails under our belt.  When we're comfortable with that, we'll start moving her up the coast of Florida and making our way to Miami.  From there, if all is going ok with the boat, we'll cross over to Bimini and make our way to Nassau. Then from there, we have no idea.  


The catch of it all is that we will be needing a licensed Captain (and/or a husband/wife team) to come aboard with us until we know the ropes and until he/she/they are convinced we can competently handle our own boat - any volunteers?? The Captain or the Captain Team would be able to live aboard while we're in Key West and would have the opportunity to travel along with us to who knows where.  They'd also be offered their own private cabin during this journey although they might have to share the head with one of my sons. So if you or if you know somebody that wants to help us out, tell them to contact us - we should be needing services sometime toward the end of November.  In the meantime, we'll be finishing up the refit in September and October and be hitting the Captain schools and the yacht clubs in search of our volunteers.

4. How do you support your lifestyle while sailing and cruising?

We have been planning this for about 8 yrs now and have been setting up for this adventure this whole time. Kevin went to nursing school to become an RN as this would allow him to work in different places or be a traveling nurse during hurricane season. He has been a nurse for almost 3 yrs now and just went PRN (as needed). The hospital he works at requires PRN nurses to work at lease 3 days a month so he tries to work his 3 days at the end of one month and at the beginning of the next one.  This allows him to have 6 weeks off at a time during which is spent down in Key West working on the boat for extended periods of time.  But our main source of income is our five rental properties. We plan to store the boat during the off season and stay in our motor home at which time Kevin can go back to work to build up the cruising kitty a bit before we take off again.

5. What’s the best experience you’ve had while living aboard?

The best experience/adventure I've had so far was when my son Justin and I originally drove from Texas to Florida without stopping (except for gas and food).  It was the first time we saw the boat after the purchase was completed and we knew we needed lots of tools and also a vehicle in Florida to complete the refit - so we loaded up our trailer with everything we could, and headed east.  We pulled up to the boat just after dark having no idea about how a boat worked. We went aboard found a power cord and plugged in.  Then we started turning on breakers and wallah! after some looking around and pushing buttons, we had lights. We threw some sleeping bags on the beds and went to sleep on some nasty mattresses.  It was definitely a weird experience  - how many times do you get to pull up to a 42' catamaran that's been sitting for years and say, "That's our home now."  It was quite the mini adventure but I still have to rank it as the best experience so far - at least until we put this puppy back in the water that is.

6. Name the most challenging experience you have had while living aboard and what did you do to overcome it?

The most challenging experience that I've had since the purchase is obviously falling off a ladder and breaking my heel.  But that should have only kept me away from the boat about 2 months max - then I could have rehabbed back on the boat.  But the allergic reaction that necrotized my skin is what has been the most challenging thing for me to overcome in my life.  If you've kept up with this blog you know its been quite a challenge for me and my family.  I still don't have skin on some of my foot and I'm not sure I'll ever have complete use of it again - but whatever the degree of use it ends up having, or no matter how much of the constant pain still exists after my wound has healed, I will be doing the best I can aboard Catchin' Rays.  My family has been extremely encouraging during this whole ordeal and we've never really focused on the negatives too much. We're all still alive and still pretty capable of operating a sailboat - and then you do the best you can.

7. Is living aboard and sailing an alternative way of life for you, an escape from the system, or is it just a temporary adventure?


This is a hard one to answer because the truth is we have no idea if this is a temporary adventure or not.  On one hand, we have a tendency to be realistic and know that most sailing adventures last between 2-5 years - we hope to get about 4 years out of it, but it could be longer or it could be shorter.  It really just depends on if we enjoy it and if we can afford it.  Its definitely not an escape from the system - we don't really have a problem with the system its much more about going on an adventure while we are still able to do so and while the opportunity presents itself.

8. Any big mistakes you have learned from that others may learn from too?

The biggest mistake that we've made so far is not using scaffolding while working on the hard.  I was working on the boat at the top of the ladder when I fell and broke my heel and then all the complications ensued.  We vowed to only work from scaffolding from that point on and are a little disappointed in ourselves for not making this decision prior to the accident.  The truth is, we've worked on numerous rent houses and renovations and have always worked from ladders of all sizes - at heights much taller than when I fell, and we took for granted that nothing ever went wrong.  But you learn that it only takes a second to change your life permanently.  So for those out there doing their own work on the hard, don't be afraid to ask somebody in the yard if you can borrow some scaffolding and if not, worst case scenario you have to go buy some yourself.  If it keeps you from having an accident like I had, you'll be glad you spent the money.

9. What advice would you give to youngsters just finding their place in the world? College, skill/trade, world travel on the graces of good luck?

We've always  been advocates for young people going to college.  When my husband and I were making our way in our early 20's, a degree didn't seem as necessary back then as it does now - it was a different time.  My husband had a good job straight our of high school that his father helped him get and I always did clerical work at mortgage companies and such.  It made enough to build a good life for ourselves and our children.  But we learned later in life that the truly successful people in this world are the ones that went and got a degree and we also learned that the degrees in the medical field were the most flexible and secure ones out there.  Although neither of our children have gone to college or plan to go to college (they don't listen to us very well) they've also been waiting on the "adventure".   But as far as the young people making their way:  go get a medical degree of some kind - you'll always have it, its flexible, and it will always be able to fund any kind of adventure you'll ever want to do.


10. What motivates you to blog and what tips can you offer fellow yachty bloggers?


Actually my husband is the one who created this blog - he asked me to do this one because he is starting to enjoy making the YouTube videos much more and wanted to get my perspective on the answers. But what motivated him in doing this blog is that he has always enjoyed writing even though he doesn't consider himself a good writer.  But I asked him this question and his answer was that ever since he read Bumfuzzle's journal, it motivated him to try and follow through with this sailing adventure, but it also inspired him to write down his own story if we ever made it to this point.  Even if people don't read it, it's something that the kids or grandchildren may be able to look back on and get a kick out of it.  It's telling a story - and my husband has always liked telling stories (even if nobody was listening.)

For other bloggers out there:  make the blog easy to navigate, make it easy to read, and have enough pictures to tell the story.

Now for our own nominations, but to be honest, most of the bloggers that my husband and I read have already been nominated/awarded the Leibster Award.  So I had to refer to my husband on this list as he reads more of them than do I. 

Here are the ones we would nominate for this award:

This Rat Sailed  (previously nominated)
Cream Puff
The Nomad Trip 

The questions we have for the ones we've nominated are the following:

1.  Who's on board, how old is each of the crew, and how much sailing experience do each of you have?
2.  Do you sail full time or part time and how do you afford to sail? 
3.  How long do you plan to sail?  And if the answer isn't "forever" what are your plans after you get done sailing?
4.  What's the best method you use to make people aware of your blog?
5.  What gave you the idea to sail in the first place?
6.  What made you decide on the type and brand of the boat you own?
7.  This one is for the guys and the girls to answer:  if you had to pick one crush or man-crush, who would you choose?  Brad Pitt, Zach Efron, Leonardo DiCaprio, or Johnny Depp
8.  What are your favorite meals to cook while sailing?
9.  Do you or have you sailed with dogs?  and if so, where do they potty?
10.  What method do you use to track and forecast weather?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

So, what does the foot look like now?

Its been awhile since my last post but that's because there really hasn't been much to say.  We've prepared the boat as best we can for the hurricane season and now we wait for it to be over and for skin to continue to grow on Tami's foot.  Progress is slow - its worse than watching grass grow - and the pain associated with it is unrelenting.  

But also in the meantime, I've began another long list of things we need in order to make the final push towards splashing in November.  I've got another....

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Monday, June 9, 2014

Some repairs Worked, some Didn't

After 22 days at the boat, once again, a lot of things got marked of the list - the shut off cable for the port engine worked like a charm, the ocean hatch locking lever was a quick fix, and the fabrication and installation of the acrylic window wasn't too difficult at all.  Simple things like getting hot water on board only took a quick flip of the breaker to "on" (who would've thought, huh?)  And replacing one of the access covers to the fresh water tank was just a 5 minute install with a new one.  I had also wanted to replace all the old light bulbs with more efficient LED ones, and it didn't even take an hour.  But some fixes took a bit more time....

Thursday, May 29, 2014

New Video - A Catamaran Refit Part 2

Here is the new video of some of the projects we've been able to complete during our latest "vacation".  Was able to gather over 50 gigs of video and time lapse pictures during this latest visit - sifted through thousands of pictures and tons of videos, edited it all down to bite-sized clips, and then narrated it in my cabin and put it all together before we leave for Texas....enjoy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Closet Puzzle, Engine Rooms, and OTA Antenna

Now that we've had the antenna in use for over a week, I thought I'd give a small update in that regards.  The over-the-air antenna was mounted on the mast because I wanted a reliable way to get the best reception without hanging rabbit ears outside my window.  It is a small powered HD antenna that I've also seen installed on other boats.....

Monday, May 26, 2014

Bilge pump upgrade and Step Scraping

Over the weekend, we've been able to knock a few more things off the list.   Although we still have the starboard side to do, we were able to switch the port hull bilge to automatic pumping.  Originally, there was one strainer on each side of the rib attached to one main pump that was located under the sink in the head.  There was also a valve located under the sink that would switch from one strainer or the other, prior to the discharge leaving the boat, through a shared through-hull....

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Making a huge dent in the list - May 13th - 24th

Since our arrival on May 13, we have yet to stop working.  Most days start somewhere around 10:30am (I am on still on vacation mind you) and end when the "noseeums" come out - usually around 5:00pm if the wind isn't blowing - but we still seem to get a lot accomplished....