Saturday, June 18, 2011

Our Life Aquatic

Up until now, I've only been writing about the technical aspects of Moitessier and have yet to mention what living aboard a boat is really like.  I'm sure you've read my rantings and ravings about things going wrong, but I've never mentioned the emotional aspect of being afloat.  I've found that since I've moved down here, life has taken a much slower, more peaceful pace.  I'm much more in touch with nature and all that's going on around me, and find that I'm much more introspective.  I wake up everyday to the sun rise, and even as I write, there is a squall outside and I can feel every movement the storm is making on our boat.  I can hear the wind howling through our rigging, the raindrops smacking on our decks, our halyards banging on the mast, and Moitessier is bobbing around like a bottle.  If I were in a house or at my apartment, I wouldn't be aware of any of this.  It's a bit frightening but it makes me feel alive.

Wall cloud coming to get us...


The greatest thing about living on a boat is I'm around animals all the time. Dolphins come by every morning and evening to fish, turtles swim around the boat, manatees play in the water, pelicans and cranes hang out at our docs and you can watch them hunt.  We're surrounded by edible fish, and most evenings Frank fishes for dinner.  Every evening we watch the sun set from our cockpit, casting pink and orange light all around us, and though it's been 2 months, it's still breathtaking.  Some nights, there are phosphorescence, and it's fun to stir the water and watch them glow.  Other nights, I love seeing the flat calm water mirror the lights of the other liveaboards around us.  And every night, we fall asleep to the sound of shrimp crackling under water, it sounds a little like rice crispies.

Sheephead for dinner

There's a level of self sufficiency that I can't explain, and you become hyperaware of your surroundings.  I find that I spend a lot of my time cleaning up after myself, checking filters, checking our bilges, watching our water consumption, making sure I don't leave the fridge door open, making sure our AC and fridge pump water, tying down the boat, making sure our propane tanks are off, checking that we don't leave lights on that drain our batteries, etc etc.  These are the trade offs and I don't find them too compromising considering how much its taught me about myself.  On land, your garbage disappears as fast as it's produced, your electricity and water is unlimited, and your shit goes away when you flush it.  You don't think about how much you consume and waste, and how much unnecessary packaging you use.  We have become very aware of this, as we find ourselves taking off as much packaging as we can in the car, so that we don't have to transport it to the boat, back into the car, and then to the dumpster. It's really put into perspective how wasteful we are and just how much crap we have.  Not that I'm getting all green, but I think extremes are never good, both for the environment and for our state of mind.

Another thing that you don't think about with living on a boat is just how much your surroundings affect you.  We recently moved our boat to an end slip (only 30 yards away) and I tell you, what a difference it made.  Initially we had a neighbor who liked to party late into the night and we could hear his Jimmy Buffett CD on repeat almost every night.  It drove us crazy so we moved.  Now, we can't hear a thing, and our relationship with him is far better (as we're not sitting around hating on him and his loud music).  That's the cool thing about boats, you can move them, if you don't like where you are...just pull up your dock lines and go, the view is always waterfront....

Friday, June 17, 2011

Don's Marine Salvage

Today, we went into St. Petersburg to check out Don's Marine Salvage.  It's basically this huge space with every used part you can think of for a boat.  Everything from used engine parts, props, rope, shackles, anchor chain, galley stuff, to used teak...the list goes on.  The prices are very reasonable and you can haggle.  It's set up on a couple of acres with different buildings sectioned off into specific categories...It's an overwhelmingly huge place, so I recommend if you visit to write down a list of stuff you'd need before you go, wear a hat, and tons of sunscreen.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Attention Mosquitos...No Trespassing!

Just thought I'd share another piece of Frank's ingenuity.  Up until now, we haven't been able to keep our hatches open at night due to overzealous mosquitos and No-See-Ums (tiny evil little bugs that bite and leave itchy little bumps all over you...they're so small that you can barely see them, hence the name) and mosquitos.  Well, Frank decided that enough was enough, and built these clever screens to go over all of our hatches.  We bought all the material from Home Depot and he hand-cut them to size and rounded the edges to fit into our hatches.  They are held in place with dowels set into some drilled holes.  They look great, as if they came with the boat.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chainplates-Part 1 1/2 (not quite 2)

We got our chainplates from the machine shop and, of course, the new ones don't fit at all.  Yup, we are cursed when it comes to all things related to fixing this boat.  Things never go as planned or as smoothly as you hope and as much as I'd like to believe that it's some paranormal force going against us, I hear that it is not unusual for things to be this tough.  We hear from other sailors that in terms of anything boat related that there is a Rule of Three's. The Rule of Three's states that, "Any project an owner attempts on a boat will cost three times as much and take three times as long to complete as the original estimate. In the course of working on the project three other projects will be added to the ‘thing to do’ list each having its own Rule of Three’s. Any attempt to incorporate the Rule of Three’s into your project’s estimates will result in a further tripling of your original estimate. .  I used to believe that this was all some pessimists' joke, but the jokes on me, it's actually true.  So, anyway, we got our chainplates back and measurements were off by over 4" and the holes drilled out were also off by at least an 1/8" to 1/4".  We had to go back to the machine shop today and ask for our money back because it was just unacceptable.  I had been dreading the confrontation all weekend because the guy we were working with was just so damn nice that it felt like I was kicking a puppy.  He was so sweet and apologetic, and didn't give us a hard time at all about refunding the money, but business is business.  So now, we're once again on a mad search for a new machine shop.  At this point, I think we may be going through our shop in upstate NY because we know they can do good work.  Doesn't seem to be a lot of competent shops down here with a press brake (a machine that bends metal) and at this point, we simply don't want to wait another 2 weeks before we can get our plates back to find out that they are inaccurate.  

The original ones are on the left and
the new ones are on the right,
 can you see the difference? 

We finally sent in our staysail stay, so they're in the process of being replaced.  Yay!  Taking it down was a real pain in the ass (literally!).  It involved me climbing up the mast and removing the stay where it attaches to the mast.  I thought it would be a piece of cake, but it took about 1/2 an hour for me to get the cotter pin out of the the clevis pin.  It was leg numbing and when I finally got down, I found huge bruises covering the insides of my legs where the harness was wrapped.  Ouch. In order for us to get the stay out of the roller furler we had to disassemble it.  In doing this, we discovered that it was broken.  Apparently the bearing in it exploded and chewed into the lower unit.  Wait it gets better, not only that but since the furler is such an old unit, we are unable to find replacement parts for it (Rule of 3s, I curse thee!)  We decided to just go with a hank on sail, since we needed to replace that sail anyway, and instead of spending $2000 on a new roller furler, we'll be using that money towards a new sail.  Problem solved.

Disassembling roller furler
Worn bearing at furler 

On a lighter note, Frank finally fixed our refrigerator...AGAIN.  It used to be that we had to turn it on twice a day for about an hour and a half.  We thought it didn't make sense to have to manually turn it on and off twice a day, so he finally took it apart and problem solved it.  The problem was that it was wired improperly.  The thermostats were wired up in such a way that they were being bypassed, rendering them useless.  Switching a few wires here and there solved the problem and our refrigerator and freezer now self-regulates using the thermostats.  We are no longer slaves to our food (well, I still am :).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Chainplates-Part One

We finally found a machine shop that is going to make our chainplates.  Depending on the quality of their work, we're going to pull all our chainplates one-by-one and have them done through them.  We spent all morning yesterday removing the two staysail stay plates because they are the ones with the most severe cracks.    Frank, last week, had removed the brass chafe guard for the anchor chain and the wood framing underneath to gain full access to the chainplates.   These are to be screwed back in after the chainplates have been replaced.  The process was relatively painless with a few hiccups, including trouble with the pin that was holding the stay.  Apparently, it had seized and warped, from being on there for so long, so Frank had to sit there and file away at the end of the pin so that it would fit through the hole to remove the stay.  I also screwed up pretty badly and accidentally stripped the threads on the swage terminal.  This happened when I was holding it in place with pliers while Frank loosened the turnbuckle to remove the tension off the stay.  Now, because of my carelessness, we have to prioritize replacing that stay first so as to not ruin a perfectly good turnbuckle. We had originally planned on replacing that stay last since it was one of the more difficult ones as it involves disassembling the roller furler.  Oops...consequences for not paying attention!

Brass chafe guard plates

Down to fiberglass
Removing the bolts

Notice the stress cracks

As for the rigging, we're also going to replace it all (same time as the chainplates) removing them one at a time and bringing them to  either a local shop called Sailors' Exchange, to have them send it out for a good discount, or through a surveyor we just met that lives a couple of boats away.  He says he would do us a favor and get it for us at cost.  Did I mention that people down here are so nice and helpful?  All in all, the lead time on each shroud/stay is going to be about 2 weeks, so this whole process is going to take a couple months.  We're debating whether to send out each wire one-by-one, or just measure them all and have them all done at the same time so as to cut down the lead time....not sure yet.