28 February 2010

Perfect poached eggs

We interrupt the regularly scheduled sailing blog so that I can brag about how Carol makes perfect poached eggs. Look at these! Look at those perfect whites!

Poached eggs

And poached medium yolks!

Poached eggs

That was the Saturday morning breakfast that he made for me. What a husband.

Life is rough on SV Estrellita 5.10b - Livia

27 February 2010

FAQ #4: How do you make energy?

Sometimes also, how do you power your electronics?

We have a small battery bank and in a few months we are upgrading to a big battery bank. For the boaters reading, we are planning to buy Sears Diehard Platinum batteries which are AGMs and are made by Odyssey. For non-boaters, you should know that choice of battery is one of those instant fight topics on boating forums. It's like style wars in swing dancing or trad/sport/bouldering wars in climbing.

Most of the appliances on a boat run on 12V DC and so draw their power from our battery bank directly. For those few electronics that we run on AC power (like the laptops or power tools), we have an AC-to-DC inverter.

We have five main ways of putting power back into our battery bank organized from "least desirable" to "most desirable".
1) Plugging into shore while at a marina. This is mainly what we do right now but will become infrequent in the future.
2) Running our diesel engine. When we turn on the motor to drive in and out of a bay, prior to, hopefully, sailing, our alternator is set up to charge our battery bank. Carol just installed our new fancy alternator which does this more quickly and more efficiently. Charging while already motoring is very desirable, but turning on the big diesel engine while at anchor to charge batteries is not desirable which is why we have...
3) A small portable Honda 2000 gas generator. It still burns fossil fuels that we have to find a way to carry but it works without sun and without wind and (relatively) quickly charges us back to 100%.
4) Solar power. We are installing a 215W solar panel on top of the bimini. This is the best, not only because it is green, but because solar panels tend to work for 15+ years without breaking.
5) This is kind of trick answer: not taking energy out. Conservation is key on a boat - insulate the fridge, installation of LED lights in high use areas like the light on top of the mast that is on all night, and LED the lights on the sides of the boats that are on when we are sailing or motoring at night, turn down or turn off the fridge when you have run out of perishables and only have beer left in it, etc.

- Livia

26 February 2010

FAQ #3: How do you keep food cold/cook food/store enough food?

We use our igloo for perishables, just like any good Canadian.

OK, I jest. We have a fridge.

I took a picture of our galley and resisted the urge to clean up first. This is what it looks like on a normal day when standing just inside the boat facing the starboard side of the boat (right).

Galley

The fridge is on the right which is towards the back end of the boat. It is a top loader and we have taken out all but one of the annoying wire shelves and used dry bags from MEC for storage. We *love* the dry bags - such a big improvement. Now things don't fall to the bottom of the deep fridge (as often as before), we can find things because the bags are color coded, and if something does explode it is contained inside an easily cleanable dry bag. The fridge is soooo deep that I have to put my shoulder inside the fridge, with my feet off the ground, to brush my fingertips on the bottom to retrieve an escaped item (invariably the last beer) and I am 5'8" with relatively long arms.

Fridge with dry bags

Fridges take a lot of power, especially when you get to the tropics and the surrounding water is warm so we are going to need to add insulation which will decrease the size of the fridge. This is fine because we are only two and there is plenty of room for fresh food.

We cook food over a driftwood fire, just like any good Canadian would...OK, OK, we cook on the stove. It works just like any two burner gas stove/oven except it burns propane which we have in a locker outside the boat so we don't explode and the oven on the stove is small. Otherwise, the stove is normal. We even have a broiler.

There are storage areas everywhere on our boat and most of food is stored in nice dry areas underneath or behind the seating amidships. We could store enough dry and canned food for a very, very long time.

Under seating storage

25 February 2010

FAQ #2: Is it cramped for 2 people?

We have a 35' sailboat with a 11'6" beam. This means that the fattest part of our boat is 11'6" wide but most of it is narrower. As you can see from the aerial shot at the top of our blog, there is the pointy bit at the front and after her wide "hips" her butt is a little narrower.

As an aside, a sailing saying that tickles me is: sailing is simple, just keep the pointy end forward and the stick side up.

For us, the answer is no, it isn't cramped for living except when we are both trying to get ready to get out the door or when we are tearing the boat up for a boat project/renovation and we have things piled everywhere.

If you are over 6' tall you would have to hunch in our boat, but we aren't. We can see each other in almost any place on the boat from almost any place on the boat except the bathroom. Strangely enough, we like this.

This is a schematic of the interior of our boat. You can click on it to go to the larger size if it is easier to see.

Pretorien Interior

We sleep in the pointy end which is 6' wide at the top and "feet are touching" at the bottom but also 6' deep. If you take a king sized bed and cut it into a V, you have our bed.

The middle section is a small bathroom (head) and a good sized (for a boat) sitting area. We can easily feed 6 for dinner and could squeeze 8 in if they were friendly.

Then we have the kitchen (galley) and the navigation table/desk.

The back of the boat is mostly outdoors storage and the interior stops except on the port side (the left side) there is a cave like guest cabin. Something like a three person tent that you have to crawl into. This is where our guests get to stay when they come visit. Let's just say that it is a good thing we spend most of our time outdoors for their sake.

The time that it does feel cramped is when we are trying to get something out of a storage area that is buried beneath something else. See "boat moments". Because we have to be so efficient about storage, things are stored in layers from the most often needed on top to the least often needed below or in a difficult to reach space. This is when we miss big closets and garages most.

24 February 2010

FAQ #1: Is it cold?

The top 5 questions I've been asked about living on a boat are, in no particular order:
- Is it cold?
- Is it cramped for 2 people in there?
- How do you keep food cold/cook food/store enough food?
- How do you make energy?
- Where are you storing your stuff? OR Was it freeing to get rid of so much stuff?

I think the last of those questions is a tribute to how cool our friends and family are.

Let's start with "Is it cold in the winter?"

Mostly no, but sometimes yes.

While at the dock we have two space heaters. They keep the boat toasty until it gets about to freezing and then we often turn on our forced air diesel furnace for a bit in the evening before we go to bed.

In the past while "on vacation" and in the future while "in our normal life", we were/will not be not at a dock and thus not mainlined to the power grid. At those times, while sailing or at anchor we keep the diesel heat on when it is cold. It takes a small flow of diesel from our main diesel tank (usually used for the engine) and has a fan that blows the hot air out into the boat from two outlets, one foreward and one aft. The fan takes electricity which comes from our battery banks. Usually this keeps us nice and toasty and we find ourselves turning it down. However, when it is below freezing, this is just barely enough and we resort to layers.

Also, a boat is drafty. It is sitting in cold water with watertight hatches but lots of ventilation. When it is below freezing, you can be warm but then a draft of cold air will blow across you and you shiver.

I like to prepare guest for visiting by describing living on our boat as high end luxury camping. We have all of the amenities but there are definitely elements of roughing it.

22 February 2010

Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

Not having tickets, we decided at the last moment to give up a beautiful sunny sailing weekend to have a very long travel day involving a car, a ferry, a bus and a skytrain each way in order to participate in the Olympic madness that is downtown Vancouver, British Columbia

It was totally worth it.

Olympic Flame

We saw the flame, ate great food, cheered with the crowds in front of the big screens placed in the middle of a pavillion and generally were swept up by an upwelling of Canadian pride.

Chapters

Prior to going we bought some Olympic gear (toque for Carol, mittens for me) which we pimped shamelessly.

Robson St

As a lifelong US citizen only recently become a Canadian, perhaps I overdid it?

Robson St

- Livia

21 February 2010

Online on a boat

I am regularly asked by friends and family how we are going to manage online access on the boat, or if we are going to have any. In my experience it is much more important for the voyager to have connections back home than it is for the people being left. Every email received or call connected becomes a lifeline back to “home” for the traveler even when the concept of “home” has become more ambiguous. When you step out of the cell phone-email-facebook link nowadays it is easy to drop out of your friends’ consciousness. People are becoming less and less used to checking in with their friends individually. So, for us, having some level of online access to make it easier for our friends to reach out to us was emotionally important.

Near land – option 1 – wireless:

When we are near land, somewhere with wireless internet being broadcast we will use pay or free wireless when we can get a signal. At our marina we have an account with a company called BBX which has the advantage of offering wireless in many marinas in our area and we can use our account anywhere they broadcast. We also have invested in a long distance wireless antenna which can, supposedly, increase our wireless range to up to 5 miles with a more realistic estimate being 1-2 miles. We bought a package called the Wirie which is an Alpha unit in a waterproof box with an 8.5dBi omnidirectional antenna. We have much faster internet connection at the marina with the Wirie and we can see many more wireless access points with it on.

Near land – option 2 – internet cafe:

No explanation needed, right? Almost everywhere there are travelers there are internet cafes.

On the water or near land but isolated – SSB:

Can you believe we are going to use a RADIO to EMAIL? It’s like the stone age…um…except with diodes. We purchased a used single sideband radio (SSB), an antenna tuner, and a modem. The wire that goes from the top of our mast to the back of the boat (i.e., the backstay) is the antenna. We have yet to install this set up but it, along with our HAM licenses, will allow us to send and receive weather files (most important), text emails, and even wee pictures while at sea or bobbing around at anchor. We have set up our blog so that we can email-to-blog and thus update the blog from the SSB.

Offline composition:

*Clearly* we won’t be online as often. For this post I am testing out Windows Live Writer which allows me to compose blog entries while offline, with images, and upload the images and the post in one click when I am connected.  I am including this not very exciting picture of this post in Windows Live Writer to test the image upload.

image

We will also be using an offline email program (probably Mozilla Thunderbird, suggestions?) so that we can upload previously composed emails and download all new emails quickly for later reading and responding.

18 February 2010

Offshore Medical Kit

Offshore Medical Kit

A .pdf copy of the Offshore Medical Kit we keep on board SV Estrellita 5.10b can be found here*.

We keep the kit in three places: the BIG kit (shown) in the aft cabin, a small red bag for cuts and scrapes (shown) easily available at the nav desk by the flares and odds and ends in the bathroom.

Rather than go with a commercial kit I decided to make our own because we would be more familiar with the contents and could be more choosy about what went inside. We had a sturdy cooler bag and we used ziplocs with a boat-proof marker to organize the contents into easy to find sections.

A brief overview of how we came up with this list is here. We used a large number of sources but want to give particular credit to Mahina's Offshore Cruising companion and Beth & Evan's Medical List as .pdf. All mistakes and deviations from their lists are, of course, our own.

A free online copy of Where There Is No Doctor can be found here and Where There Is No Dentist here. On both of those pages you can either download individual chapters or the entire book at the bottom of the page.

Caveats: Of course, consult your own medical professional especially with regard to the prescriptions. What works for us may not work for you and/or we may have written something down incorrectly.

*If you want to send someone a link to this list, please send them directly to this post rather than directly to the link because we may change the file location.

15 February 2010

4 months to go

Wasn't it just yesterday that I posted 6 months to go?

Yikes!

We made a huge to do list, prioritized it into "want to do before June", and "will do next Spring on our big haul-out prior to heading South" and then sorted the items from the first list into the remaining months. Really, other than a new battery bank, there is nothing on the list that we must do before leaving the dock. Our big push last summer to add gear is paying off.

We are 1/2 way through February and more than 1/2 way through the February list. For the boat folks, I'll post more on the gear and upgrades when they are each finished.

Generally, besides gear, we have been:

Thinning. We have shed even more belongings by eliminating our dock box storage at the old marina, items at Carol's work and at our friend's house. At this point everything is either on the boat, in our car still needing to be dealt with, or in 3 small filing boxes at my parents. I'm about to sort through our climbing and camping gear and continue posting items online.

Nesting. We have been building new shelving and storing items into bags and cubes so things are easy to find and stay clean. I took 3 days last week when the weather was reasonable and worked hard on our interior re-varnishing. I'm putting up some pictures on the walls in the next few weeks.

Playing. We are still finding time to play. We are climbing once a week indoors, I ran twice last week (the first and second time since the Royal Victoria Marathon), had our first 6 person dinner party last night, and have been enjoying our urban access by walking to stuff downtown.

13 February 2010

Alternators and Pancakes

Carol spent the weekend putting our new alternator onto the boat engine. More on that later.

Instead, you, dear reader, get pictures of pancakes.

While Carol was cramming his body into the engine compartment and dealing with the electrical system, I headed down to visit my parents and entertain my nephew with food dye and pancake batter.

I *did* think about the boat:



Happy boat thoughts:



- Livia

11 February 2010

MAYDAY

Your nautical factoid of the day (or as Jon Stewart would say "Your moment of Zen") relates to the term MAYDAY.

Never say MAYDAY on the radio unless you are in serious danger but I imagine it's OK to post as the title to a blog entry. Presumably if I'm updating this blog, I'm doing juuuust fine and if you are reading this at your computer you aren't in a position to pull me out of the frigid waters up here anyway.

Carol and I were discussing the French origins of the term. It is popularly stated on the interwebs that the English term MAYDAY comes from the French phrase for help me "M'aidez".

My husband and native Francophone Carol said that if you needed help, you would yell "aidez-moi" not "m'aidez". "M'aidez" just doesn't sound right.

The Canadian Amateur Radio study materials state that the English phrase is taken from the longer French phrase for "Come help me!" which is "Venez m'aider!" and thus shortened and anglicized into MAYDAY.

I know you were wondering. I learned this while studying for my HAM test today.

10 February 2010

Why Estrellita 5.10b?

In 2006 we spent Thanksgiving rock climbing in El Potrero Chico, Mexico. We had spent weeks going over descriptions of the area and dreaming about which routes we wanted to climb.

In particular, we wanted to climb to the famous palm tree at the summit of the rock climb Estrellita which is on a fin of rock called Las Estrellas.

Here is Las Estrellas with the palm tree circled:



This is the backside of the same fin of rock with the route Estrellita as closely as I can remember it:



And the famous palm tree:



At the summit, near the palm tree is a log book for people to record their ascent and a collection of "treasures" left by previous climbers:



At approximately 1200 feet, Carol picked up the log book, wrote and handed it to Livia to write. She opened it to see "Today is the day that I ask Livia, will you marry me?".

Obviously, she said yes or they would not have survived the 1200 foot rappel to tell this tale.

When we named the boat, Estrellita was the name that rose to the top of the list.

However, when Estrellita was registered in Victoria, the Coast Guard allows only one vessel to have a name in all of Canada and Estrellita was already registered. After much discussion between ourselves and with friends we decided that if we were going to have to add numbers to the name, we might as well make them meaningful and so we added the grade (difficulty) of the climb - 5.10b.

And this is how we came to have a boat named SV Estrellita 5.10b.

07 February 2010

I am a human pincushion

One of the things I've been working on is our medical kit. I searched online forums, read Mahina's Offshore Cruising companion, and talked to my Mom*.

I created a preliminary list of supplies and we've purchased most of them. A few of the more exotic items (airway kit? suture kit?) we are waiting to buy until after advanced first aid courses. I've ziploc'd all of the items into organized bunches and they are in a cooler bag. Now we have a good excuse to keep the cooler bag which we can always empty and use briefly when we "need" to bring cold beer on shore.

Then, I had a surprisingly good visit to the local travel medicine center where I found my last source of wisdom for the medical kit.

I was explaining our story to the doctor so that she would understand why I wasn't completely sure where I was going but that it would definitely be isolated, rural, and all along the tropical zone of every-kind-of-disease-imaginable and she said "Oh yes, I understand. I've crewed on boats as far as Vanuatu".

I was speaking to a doctor who was also a cruiser. How perfect is that?!

After she ordered a list of vaccines that would make my shoulder hurt for a week and require several follow up visits with even more shots, we went over my medical kit list item by item during which she made fear inducing comments like "oh you'll definitely want something stronger than that for skin fungus."

Then she gave me her schedule so I can come back in a few weeks after looking into a bunch of issues and items she had brought up and get our prescription meds. Sweet!

It is completely legal for a ship's captain to obtain prescriptions for medicines that will not leave the ship, but try telling that to a pharmacist while asking for injectable pain killers and antibiotics. Sounds fishy.

It's easy to remember the "easy" tasks that go south and so I wanted to publicly record one potentially difficult task that went much easier than planned - finding someone willing to give us prescriptions.

EDIT: Added for posterity. The books Where There is No Doctor and Where There is No Dentist are available for free online.

*Although many mothers are wise, mine also happens to be a nurse.

06 February 2010

The Plan

Our plan is to cruise as long as it is fun. Our definition of fun is at least 80%-20% on the fun-to-suck ratio with an ideal fun-to-suck ratio of 90%-10%.

Of course, fun is in the eye of the beholder and we've been told a number of times that people are looking forward to our travelogue because they would rather watch it than live it. It's good to know yourself!


On June 16, 2010 we cut the docklines and headed North up the inside of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. We weren't certain where we would go but had some hopes of sailing to the Queen Charlottes. The summer Pacific high had set in solidly so instead of battling headwinds we turned down the West coast of Vancouver Island and spent 3 months enjoying it before being chased off the outside by a series of low pressure systems in late September.

Winter of 2010 was half-time at the dock for part time employment (for Carol) and boatwork (for Livia & Carol) and half-time having other types of adventures (land, air and sea) followed by a month long boat project intensive.

In mid-April 2011 we began full-time boat travel again. We went up the inside passage to the Haida Gwaii and headed down the West Coast of Vancouver Island. In late July 2011 we sailed from Tofino to San Francisco. We spent 7 weeks in San Francisco and continued down the coast of California before crossing into Mexico in mid-October.

Here is where things get really hazy. Do we stay in Mexico for a long time? Do we cruise Central & South America? Do we head West that first April (2012) for the Galapagos and then the S. Pacific or wait another year? Do we completely change our mind and head East through the Panama Canal?

After one season (6 months) we left Mexico for the South Pacific. In March 2012 we sailed several thousand miles from Mexico to the Marquesas in a 26 day passage.


South Pacific - here we come. We're heading West in the Spring of 2012. Can we work it to stay multiple seasons in the S Pacific? Will we want to? Where will we go after that?

We left French Polynesia reluctantly (after falling in love with the country) for the Cook Islands. After visiting several Cook Islands we made the decision to sail against the tradewinds and return to French Polynesia. At the end of the non-cyclone season we put our boat on the hard in the Tuamotus and flew back to N America to apply for a long stay visa in order to spend a year cruising in French Polynesia before continuing West.

We returned to French Polynesia in March of 2013 and are currently cruising in the country. We plan to leave French Polynesia in July of 2014. Where next? First, come join us in the future-me-challenge for your own guesses. Our current plan is to make our way West, ending up in the Marshall Islands for hurricane season. After that, we're really guessing.

Stay tuned...

05 February 2010

Recent Photos

This entry will update itself with our recent photos.

Click to start. You can navigate with the bar at the bottom and view the slideshow full screen by clicking on the bottom right.

If you would prefer to go directly to our flickr page instead of viewing a slideshow, click here instead.

Our route

This map will be updated irregularly when we have time to kill. We want to keep it to provide a record of our voyage for ourselves.



View SV Estrellita 5.10b in a larger map

Our good friend Ryan has offered to update the map for us when we are unable to do so ourselves. Now I've made that public and he can't back out ;)

We are geotagging our posts as we go and haven't settled on how to view those yet. For now, you can try this link to see our tagged posts on a map.

03 February 2010

Awash in a Sea of Charts

Last summer we bought over 300 used charts from a circumnavigation. We knew that we would only use a portion of them and also that they would be old (circa 1970s primarily).



I was unprepared, first, for how heavy those suckers would be and, second, how long it would take us to sort them into oceans and drop some basic info into an excel sheet. The process spanned one half day of me struggling alone and then most of a day of Carol and I working together.

With the charts organized into oceans and double bagged into huge ziplocs, we were able to slide them between the hull and the hull liner on the port side of the boat and so, it is miraculously like this huge pile of charts simply disappeared.

The charts still in their packing material and the huge ziplocs:


We will primarily be using electronic charts but want paper charts as backups. We will use our electronic charts and guide books to annotate the paper charts where there are differences. Electronic charts are simply electronic versions of the current paper chart and so there is no guarantee that the snazzy colorful electronic chart is based on any newer survey data than our 1970s charts. In fact, in less developed areas, they are probably the same. Still, we'll cross-reference all of the sources before each new region.

I can see why people's boats get so low in the water. We are trying to be careful of weight but the "necessary" gear still weighs a lot.

01 February 2010

Feeding the Dream

(For a more recent list, try this post)

When you start surfing online you realize how many people are either getting ready to cruise the world, are cruising the world, or have cruised the world. As someone in the getting ready stage, reading those blogs reminds us of why we are working so hard to get ready to head out.

For us, blog consumption is feeding the dream.

I know, based on the number of people viewing this site or the site feed, that there are a number of sailors reading this. In fact, we have recently made the links page of some fellow cruisers-in-training who are cutting their docklines at about the same time as us. Ooh la la, famous!

What are your favorite sailing or other adventure travel blogs to read?

We have dozens on our google reader but my current top 3 are:

1) Bumfuzzle's sailing trip in which a couple with little sailing experience set out to circumnavigate on a catamaran and learned en route - trip completed. I've linked to the beginning of the trip in 2003.

2) Syzygy who are getting ready to leave this week. Three friends bought a project boat and this is a story that makes one glad one didn't buy a project boat! I'm excited to keep following them as they take off.

3) Narrated still photos in video format from Stinky Feet's completed circumnavigation. Beautiful, exciting, inspiring.