Women & Cruising

I recently wrote a short tongue-in-cheek guest post on the Women & Cruising site about why I don't like being called an Admiral. I didn't delve into the issue as much as I would have liked to but my time right now is limited. Perhaps later.

However it originated, the term "Admiral" has become similar in connotation to "the Wife" or "the Boss" (when referring to the wife) or for pilots "ATC" with all of the associated baggage - for some positive and loving, for others negative and resentful.

You might also be interested in this discussion on Cruiser's Forum about what it means to be called an Admiral.

If you haven't already seen it, the Women & Cruising site is an impressive free resource. Founded and run by women who are movers and shakers in the cruising world. They've each agreed to be interviewed for the IWAC project as well.

Their resources page contains a ton of information for cruisers of all genders. I recommend a look.

Hot marinas

So, there are these zinc anodes that protect the metal underwater from getting eaten up.

At Port of Sidney out on G-dock, we went 12 or more months between changing our zincs.

Here are what the zincs look like when new:

Max prop on sail drive

Here are our zincs after 3 months at Fisherman's Wharf:


The split in half zinc (it is supposed to be split, it is a cuff style) is only 4 months old. This is normal for a lot of people and a lot of boats but our boat is very electrical neutral (or at least has been so in the past) and we have had great luck with low galvanic corrosion. Our zincs get eaten enough that we know they are working but not so quickly that we are afraid for our boat.

I'm glad we are leaving here in a few weeks. At least I know that our fresh zincs won't be consumed before we leave and the nice thing about anchoring is less stray current to worry about.

Bedwell Harbor, Pender Island

We forgot to take any anchor photos but our friends took this shot while waiting for us to get in the dinghy and meet them on the beach.

Bedwell Harbor, Pender Island, near Medicine beach

We are actually at the head of the bay. The bay is about 2 nm long. At various points there were 2 or 3 boats where we were while there was a big Bluewater Cruising Association meet up by Poet's Cove.

Pender Island

Just what the Doctor ordered - a long weekend at Pender Island. I have my groove back.

We slept in, socialized, cooked elaborate meals, played 18 holes of disque golf at a really cool free course in the woods and roasted franks over our friends' campfire. We had a sunny motor to Pender and a lovely sail (beating down Haro) for 75% of the way back. For folks on a schedule, with a specific destination, this is as good as it gets. The only way to sail a lot is to not make timing or locational plans or at most make location goals and wait for the right wind direction.

Pender Island is special for us because we married there. In fact, on Friday as we motored through the sun into Bedwell Harbor, we passed our very own grassy knoll:

Our grassy knoll

Which looked like this during the ceremony from up top:

Speaking of weather differences, the light house on Trial Island was much sunnier than the last time you saw it on this blog.

Trial Island

A common sight in the Strait of Juan de Fuca:

Strait of Juan de Fuca

And a couple of shots of the lighthouse on Stewart Island. Light houses are just cool.

Stewart Island

Stewart Island

Bedwell Harbor is an easy anchorage. Huge, mostly 40 foot or shallower, good mud bottom. There is a fancy schmancy resort and other stores in walking distance depending on where you anchor. The kayaking around Skull Islet is good although we didn't do any this time and we've yet to do any hiking in the marine park. It is a bit bigger and more populated than we generally prefer but we end up there regularly because it was convenient from Sidney, has great holding in windy conditions, and we get to visit our ceremony location. Poet's Cove resort will let you pay something like $10 to use the larger on-the-water pool and showers which  we found a little overrated. The pub at Poet's Cove is a great place to have a beer and you can dinghy to their docks to get to it.

Speed Seal Impeller Cover

You guessed it. It's HAUL OUT MONDAY!

I can tell that you are excited.

Underneath our cockpit is our 29HP diesel engine, a Volvo MD2030D.

Volvo MD2030D

Our impeller is what moves sea water through our engine which passes around tubes of coolant and cools the coolant so it, in turn, can cool the engine. This is called a heat exchanger and works the same as your radiator in your car except your radiator uses air.

The impeller lives inside the raw water pump and should be checked regularly. The housing for it is not terrible to open but not exactly a "pre-sail" check. Plus, we generally would have to replace a paper gasket because it tears AND you have to shut off the sea water intake (raw water = sea water) so you don't flood your boat.

Raw water pump

The impeller itself looks like a black rubber asterisk. Ours had one blade torn in half and two others cracking. They can still move a fair amount of water when damaged but if they stop, you overheat and when they blow up into bits, those bits get into your heat exchanger and plug it and generally become a PITA. If you look closely you can see the torn blade (clicking on the photo might help if you want a larger size).

Cracked impeller and speed seal

What you can also see in the photo above is a new pump cover with an o-ring instead of a paper gasket. After inserting a new impeller (or after checking an old one) there are two guide screws that are left inside the pump.

Impeller and guide screws

After sliding the cover onto the guide screws and hand tightening those, you insert two other screws, also hand tightened with etched sides that make them easy to handle even when wet.

Speed seal

We can now check our impeller as easily as we can reach the raw water shut off...which is still a wee pain, but much, much less of a pain now. And if I have learned anything about maintenance it is that easy tasks get done and annoying tasks are easy to push off.

Now, complete honesty. We are right on time with all of our other engine maintenance, but we have *never* checked our impeller before this haul out. And, after reading the detailed log kept by the previous owner, I don't know if he ever checked it either. This would mean that the impeller inside was original, from 2004 and had 730 engine hours...and it was cracking...and the gasket was completely decomposed.

The Big Push

You know my semi-self-satisfied words about balance and fun-to-suck ratio?

I eat those words...with a big helping of crow on the side.

We had an intense 2 week haulout with a surprise rudder repair -- the two weeks were more than 50% suck. More about that later.

We're exhausted and needing to remind ourselves why we like this whole thing so we are off to spend the long weekend at anchor in the harbour we got married in (Bedwell on Pender Island) with friends who are camping nearby on land.

- Livia

Line drawings

There is something very beautiful about line drawings of anything and sailboats in particular.

Here is a set of possible storm sails drawn onto a Pretorien sail plan by the famous sailmaker Carol Hasse:
Pretorien sail plan with storm sails drawn in

A line drawing of the Pretorien from the side:
Pretorien Exterior

And from an older post of ours you've seen the interior:
Pretorien Interior

13 months in the PNW

If you had 13 months in the Pacific Northwest...

Where to go? How long to stay? What seasons for what areas?

One could spend a decade cruising between WA, BC & Alaska. In our current "plan" we have 13 months. We could stay longer but we aren't sure how long we want to resist the lure of warm waters and sandy beaches.

I know, I know. We have high class problems.

I posted on an online forum asking what other people would do with that same amount time and the responses were as varied as the responders.

Up the West coast of Vancouver Island as fast as we can to the Haida Gwaii? Up the more protected inside passage? Gunkhole the first summer on the West Coast? Spend a long time in a few places? Visit more places for less time?

Although we go back and forth about the decision, right now we've decided to not decide where we are going until the day Carol's mother leaves and we listen to the weather forecast. We have the charts and guidebooks as far north as the Haida Gwaii and as far South as Tacoma.

Not making the decision is the hardest decision for me, but also this cool freeing move. It's not a space I normally inhabit and it is one I'm enjoying getting used to.

- L

Estrellita can FLY!

Welcome to our newest blog feature series: ALL NEW Haul Out Mondays!

We have never been hauled out by a crane and it was a bit harrowing. Our sailing club rents a crane and has a good sized group of very experienced club volunteers who unload the boats that are currently on the hard and then haul out the waiting boats.

First we had to remove the backstay (the wire from the back of the mast that supports the mast) and lower the boom to the deck so our Dutchman system would also be out of the way. We drove the boat to the dock where the men with hard hats waited.

Then, the men with hard hats used a weighted line to slide slings underneath the boat.


And up, up, up she goes

Crane haul out

We fly


Flying boat

And on the ground to be put on stilts.

TOO Close!

We managed to get a sling on our speed transducer wheel which pokes out of the hull but it appears to be undamaged. Note to self: on a crane, the slings do not end up straight below where they meet the deck. *sigh*

SSB Install: Mounting the transceiver

You'll remember that our SSB features prominently in our internet and weather/safety plans and the reason I had to get my HAM licence.

The SSB install was a multiple step process for us. Step 1 was to mount the transceiver (the radio) at the nav station, run wires to the antenna tuner which is mounted in the very back of the boat in a lazarette near the stern, run power to the radio and connect it to the modem.

Here is the finished product so you can get a sense of the goal:

Nav station with SSB

Our radio is big and unlike some other big radios it doesn't have a remote front plate which would allow us to mount the bulky part somewhere out of the way and put the front plate at the nav station. This wasn't much of an issue for us as we would have ended up putting the bulky part at the nav station anyways. I can tell you for certain that having a smaller radio would have made it a lot easier.

The other issue is that the plugs on the back of any SSB are big and you have to take into account their size before mounting the radio. Here is the back of the SSB and the modem with all of the various connections:

Connections between transceiver and modem

The wires that connect the radio to the power and the antenna tuner are run through the ceiling (as are most wires in our boat, this keeps them out of the way and less likely to be sitting in standing water). Thus, the first step was to pull out our stereo, VHF radio and the woodwork that was added to mount those.

SHelf with no radios

Then I disconnected the wires from the transceiver, removed all of the ceiling panels in the aft cabin, removed all of the stuff in the back lazarette and then ran the wires from the nav station all of the way to the back of the boat. After 30 minutes of collecting fiberglass splinters it occurred to me to wear gloves.

There is a standard mounting bracket for our radio which, of course, does not work in the space we have for the radio. We bought some metal shelf brackets which were the perfect height to bolt to the shelf underneath the radio and screw into the mounting holes already built into the side of the radio. Of course, the brackets were too long to fit underneath the radio so Carol cut a section off of each bracket. I painted these with black rust paint. I also took three pieces of marine grade plywood, glued them together and painted them to use as a block to provide support for the back of the radio.

SSB Mounting

Now, another fun part. How do you drill holes in the shelf? The drill won't fit on the top and will only kind of fit underneath the shelf. After some choice swear words I managed and was able to bolt the brackets through the shelf (with washers to distribute the weight on the wood).

Finally, I wedged the radio into position. It barely fits which is perfect because it has no where to wiggle to. It is wedged up to the ceiling at the back with the block and is bolted on each side to the brackets which are bolted to the shelf and the front of the radio rests on the shelf front. It is solid. Even if we get rolled, it should stay put.

Radio mounting brackets

And voila - it's mounted. Well, that is, after getting everything back together, realizing I had knocked a connection on the CD player loose, fixing that, and putting everything back together again.

Next stop, the tuner.

Kill Dr. Lucky

Our favorite game aboard SV Estrellita 5.10b is "Kill Doctor Lucky".

Imagine Clue, except rather than solving the murder, your goal is to get Dr. Lucky in a room, alone, with a murder weapon and kill him.

It is not an ideal game to store and play on a boat. There is a big box and a board and little pieces, making it bulky and difficult to play in a unsettled anchorage but it's worth it.

In college I was a fan of Cheap Ass games which I think was a Seattle based outfit. Originally they didn't have any color board games or pieces, you would order the game and it would come with just a booklet and cards and you would make player pieces out of whatever you had at hand. I think they were photocopying them in their garage and the games were...cheap. Now the games are slicker and marketed differently but the premises are still good.

In addition to Kill Dr Lucky, we have "The Totally Renamed Spy Game" which, prior to threat of lawsuit, was called "Before I Kill You Mr Bond". In this game you are an evil supervillian and your goal is to build a lair and kill spies but not have them blow up your lair. When a spy comes into your lair you have the option of killing him or her or taunting them at which point they are worth double points but might blow up your lair. The game is best if the players are willing to bust out some very good villian voices. It's funny and worth a twirl but doesn't have the staying power of Kill Dr Lucky.

Sail Repair Seminar

Last Fall I took Carol Hasse's excellent two day sail repair seminar. For my own reference I wanted to photodocument a few of the things I did in the course. One of the most valuable things we did in the course was hands on practice. The second most valuable thing for me was the hour we spent pulling sails out of bags and evaluating them under her guidance. I learned a lot about what makes a sturdy sail and how to check my own sails.

Here are the two pieces of dacron we worked on. The top is all machine stitching repairs any of which can also be done by hand. On that piece we reinforced the edge of a sail as if it had been chafed or damaged and repaired holes in the sail with either more dacron or a dacron sail patch. The piece underneath is all hand sewing.

Carol Hasse sail repair seminar

In the hand sewing section of the course we sewed on a ring such as you might sew a hank onto (a hank is used to clip a sail onto the wire that it is hoisted up on) and then in another pressed ring we sewed on our own hank:

Sewn in ring and sewn on hank

Sewn in ring and sewn on hank

A hand sewn sail slide:

Sewn on sail slide

Leather chafe protection:

Leather chafe gear

And a hand sewn reefing point inside of a hydraulically pressed ring:

Mini reefing point

We also reinforced an imaginary ring:

Reinforcing and imaginary ring

I have a number of repairs to make on our own sails including resewing the sun protection strip on the two headsails, installing chafe gear on both of those sail pennants and perhaps adding some metal sail slides at the stop and bottom of the mainsail.

- L

Boat Yoga

In our house boat home, boat yoga means something entirely different than yoga on a boat.

Instead of a regenerating, powerful, exhausting hour of power yoga which left me feeling like I simultaneously worked out and had a deep tissue massage, boat yoga is the process of contorting oneself into various degenerating, awkward and exhausting poses while trying not to drop something critical somewhere you can't reach during a boat project.

I need to do yoga to straighten my spine after boat yoga. And there is the problem. Where can I do yoga on the boat?

Instructors of mine used to say there is no excuse for not doing yoga, everyone has enough room to lay down a yoga mat somewhere and that is all the room you need.

Except I don't.

There is no where on the floor inside the boat the size of a yoga mat, and nowhere flat outside the boat the size of a yoga mat. I do a lot of basic sun salutations and even into chattarongas, and I'm trying to figure out what else I can do in the main salon without breaking myself or the boat. I'm nothing if not stubborn goal oriented.

And let me tell you, try doing any part of a balancing series on a moving platform!! Burly.

When I have it figured out, I'll let you know.

- Livia

Other Interview Projects

I'm going to pimp these two interview projects on the Interview With A Cruiser site as well but you get it first here.

First, there is a great set of video interviews done by the folks at Get Her Onboard with 4 couples including Pat & Ali of Bumfuzzle who were interviewed on the IWAC site. I had an excellent time watching and highly recommend you take a peek.

Second, the women over at Women and Cruising have asked 15 women what they like most about cruising -- a very diverse set of cruisers and consequently responses to the question that I found fascinating.

Finally, in IWAC news, for those that know them, I am delighted to say that an interview with Beth & Evans aboard Hawk will be coming out on May 31.
- L

Prescriptions for the Offshore Medical Kit

I recently had the bulk of the prescriptions filled. We had been delaying because some expire less than 2 years after you get them and so every month delayed was an additional month of usefulness. However, we have great extended health care coverage right now so we definitely wanted to get them while we were only going to pay 20% of the cost.

Prescription meds

The next time we need to refill we should be in Mexico and buying even cheaper drugs.

For those new to the blog, we've already discussed finding a knowledgeable doctor-cruiser, what we put into our offshore medical kit including a prescription list, and which vaccinations I was given. 

Two weeks in a HOUSE ((gasp))

A haul out is when they take your boat out of the water with a big crane-like-thingy and put it on stilts on land. This allows us to do a number of things that we can't do while the boat is in the water.

1) We can paint the bottom with paint that inhibits the growth of slimy, seaweed-y, barnacle-y grossness.
2) We can change the transmission oil. Actually, this can be done in the water by pumping it out from the top but it is a royal pain and it doesn't have to be done very often so we can wait.
3) Change the zincs on the saildrive (our transmission - see the link below to our last haul out) that protect it and protect the prop from stray electrical currents that make a battery and eat up your exterior metal. The zincs are sacrificial and die a slow death protecting the important bits. Very noble of them, huh?

In addition, during this haul out we will do a few things that can be done in the water but are scary to do so like replace hoses that are connected to the ocean (which can be shut off from the ocean, but still) and to replace bits of our engine's sea water cooling system (which also can be shut off from the ocean, but again, freaky).

Our last haul out was 13 months ago which is long enough to make us a little nervous. We had a friend who is a diver check our zincs earlier this year and they looked good (thanks Donna!) as did the prop and saildrive. We know our poor underbelly is slimy but a little pressure wash will make it as good as new. Still, the moment she comes out of the water is a little nerve wracking.

Were we bad boat owners like last time when we found out that our delay combined with the delay during the boat sale had caused our poor sail drive to need some serious attention?

We will be out of the water for a whopping 2 weeks. Our previous haul outs have been only a few days. And at this place we can't live aboard during the process which we usually do, on stilts. We are staying at our good friends...in a house. I'm going to enjoy the house by taking a bath, doing yoga and baking something that requires a big oven.

And then afterwards you, dear reader, will be deluged with step by step photographic narration of more boat projects. Aren't you excited?

New Site: Making Life Aboard Easier

I think Small Boat Projects is a great idea for a site.

The premise is a consolidated resource composed of solutions that readers have come up with for problems/inconveniences on their own boats that might be useful to others. Contributors can have their blogs linked to the post as they wish.

I submitted our shelving project.

It's new and it will only be as good as the contributions it gets. Consider submitting something!

Boat Cards - Take 2

I accidentally posted about the boat cards instead of saving that draft and I had intended to post a visual. Two posts in a day and so why not AGAIN! Crazy talk.

To the left are the Moo mini-cards and to the right the full sized. I made the mini cards before we had any good photos of the boat and if I do it again I will use photos for the front. We've given out probably two dozen of the mini-cards so far, but as I said in the original post, the website on that card is incorrect.

The photos on the full sized cards are the aerial photo of me single handing which as you know is at the top of our blog, two photos from our 35 day January sail and two photos from our Thailand honeymoon trip. These have the Moo logo because they are the free sample pack of 10 cards you can order.

I love the fact that on the back of the Moo full sized card (bottom right) you can have another image and on the back of the original Moo mini card I went "arrr!"

I went to Vista Print and as far as I can tell I can't use my own photos on any of the free cards. They seem like a great option for fully functional boat cards that cost only shipping.

I'm going to wait, use what we have and decide later what to do even though I ♥ Moo cards.

Boat Cards

We originally had some cute MOO mini-cards made as our boat cards.

Then we decided to ditch the paid website and go free blog only and so I have to remember to write in ".blogspot" on cards as I'm giving them out. Obviously not a big deal but it ruins some of the fun for me.

I had some MOO normal sized boat cards printed out and they are gorgeous. They will send you a sample pack of 10 free cards - I highly recommend you take advantage of that. The quality is great. However, they are 50 cents each which is silly and combined with the fact that I have a pack of mini-cards that are serviceable if annoying, means I haven't splurged.


The interior of our boat was varnished with a beeswax finish from the factory. When we purchased the boat the kitchen, bathroom, navigation table and main salon had sections where the finish was gone and the underlying teak had started to turn silver as it does when exposed to the elements.

In order to get our boat back to a factory finish we would have had to spend time stripping to bare wood and sanding that we simply didn't feel like we had. Part of the reason that it is a difficult task is that this is a very thin teak veneer and so sanding has to be delicate if done at all and a chemical stripper is probably needed. In addition, as a cruising boat we felt that we were not going to be able to keep the finish in that pristine state anyways so it would be wasted effort.

Instead, our goal was primarily to prevent any further damage to the wood and secondarily to improve the general look of the interior. As long as the wood is protected and sealed we can always come back and do a more vigorous refinish.

Just this abbreviated task took me somewhere in the vicinity of 60 hours of work in gloves and a paint ventilator spread out over several time periods. I used Epifanes Rubbed Effect varnish in clear with Epifanes thinner to match the existing matte look and I used foam brushes. I varnished the entire interior of the boat except for the salon table (to which we applied a wax treatment which has sealed the wood until we can, someday, choose to strip it) and the cabin sole.

I don't have any before pictures but here are the after ones.

Here is a section of finish that was in reasonably good condition to begin with (no bare wood) and to which I simply lightly sanded and applied a single coat of varnish:

Foreward salon wall

Here is a section (post my coat of varnish) that also had no visible bare spots but which had thin enough varnish that it was absorbing humidity:

Midships hanging locker

Here is a section that had dappled bare spots - this would have come out perfectly with more effort invested:

Head door exterior

Here is a section in the head (where the shower water hits the most) that had large bare sections. I'm not certain if there is enough veneer to actually get this to factory finish. I did just a touch of light sanding:

Head interior

And a section of the nav table with the same:

Nav table

Not ideal but even so, the boat does look a lot better than before and  now I don't have to worry about it getting worse and being damaged further. I no longer wince at any water I splash, on what used to be bare teak, when I shower or do dishes.

Boat Stamp

A long time ago, someone somewhere wrote that cruisers needed boat stamps to please local officials. Everyone rushed out to buy one. Then those who did never needed them and are understandably a bit bitter about the original suggestion.

We bought one, knowing we wouldn't need it, but because they are FUN.

We have a boat. *Clearly* we need a boat stamp.

We are now stamp-crazy. I've stamped our log book on the front page, our maintenance log, Carol stamped his favorite Don Casey book and I even stamped a paper bag just for you.

SV Estrellita 5.10b Boat Stamp


Click on the dollar and buy Livia and Carol a cold frosty one:


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