28 December 2010

Apparently, I like this

Since we left our winter dock at Victoria one week ago, we have had a transmission scare requiring an emergency haul-out with expenses and several days of work outdoors in the cold and rain, an engine scare requiring 4 hours of work in a bumpy anchorage after a tiring 12 hour sailing day, bracingly cold weather, winds and currents against us, and a lamb roast taken (and returned) by a customs official.

While eating the aforementioned lamb roast with Carol tonight, I realized that my overwhelming feeling is...I don't want to go back to the dock in mid-January.

Apparently, I like this.

27 December 2010

Video from yesterday

Carol took a few minutes of video on his watch yesterday. Salty. *arrr*

26 December 2010

Rain hurts

New realization: With winds above 30 knots, rain hurts.

We left Port Ludlow to head South in forecast winds of 10-20 knots SE increasing to 20-30 South. Actual winds by 13:00 were sustained SE winds of 25-30 true with periods of sustained true winds above 35 knots with gusts close to 40. This meant we were seeing apparent winds while beating mostly of 35. They amended the forecast while we were sailing to 25-35 knots.

Translation for non-boaters: Strong wind, and in the wrong direction.

Did I mention that all of the daylight hours right now are on an ebbing current (not good for heading South)? And that with the extreme tides and storms that the Puget Sound is a mine field of telephone pole sized logs?

We returned to Port Ludlow to mull this over.

25 December 2010

Merry Christmas from the Salish Sea

Your Christmas tongue twister: How much down does a Salish* Sea sailor don, if a Salish Sea sailor does don down?

Merry Christmas!

I can't wait to contrast this photo with next year's, and yes, those are down booties. Can you even tell which one of us this is??!

*pronounced: SAY-lish

22 December 2010

Sunrise on Strait of Juan de Fuca

A beautiful start to the winter cruise. A crisp winter day, blue skies, full sails and a sunrise. Here we are heading to Port Angeles from Victoria in order to clear US Customs and then continue on to Port Townsend.





((Video settings were a little too low - we're still working out which settings on the new camera. It can take HD super high quality video, and thus too huge of a file size for vagabonds depending on sketchy wifi, so we are trying to decide what is a good middle ground for uploading.))

21 December 2010

Christmas Party 2010


Christmas party 2010
Originally uploaded by Livia

Carol's goal is to get down to owning only two sets of swim shorts (definitely no ties) but last Friday evening we dressed up and went to the Empress Hotel in downtown Victoria for drinks at the Bengal Lounge and a fancy holiday party.

We intended to leave for our winter cruise the next day but high winds kept us at dock and instead we spent the day baking holiday treats and having a nice dinner with good friends.

On Sunday we slipped and set sail at sunrise.

16 December 2010

Sears Diehard battery update

You might remember our debate about which batteries to buy and our ultimate decision to buy 600 amps of Sears Diehard Platinum batteries (500 house plus 100 starter) which are repackaged Odyssey batteries (and the installation of that mass in our wee Pretorien). I should mention again that not all Sears batteries are Odysseys, the Diehard Platinum marine batteries are - I called Odyssey.

One major reason we chose them was that they can accept higher charge rates closer to 100% than other batteries. We had cruised on shorter trips for 3 years with only a 150 amp hour battery bank and long drawn out engine charging. That painful experience was a significant motivator in our desire to reduce the frequency and length of our charging sessions. In addition, if we can use our battery bank from 50% to nearly 100%, instead of only from 50% to 80%, the same battery bank will effectively be larger. How did that work out for us?

Well, honestly, the first answer is that we didn't really get to test out that theory very often because our solar panels worked so well. It wasn't until the last week or so of September that we had enough rain and clouds to need our Honda 2000 generator. This makes me wonder if high charge acceptance beyond 80% will ever really be a benefit for us because even though I expect our amp usage to increase as we head South, I also expect our solar panels to perform better.

The second answer is that during those couple of generator sessions we were struggling with how to get our charger to continue giving higher charge to the batteries.


The charger is a 3-stage charger and during bulk charging, it increases the incoming amps until it forces the voltage of the batteries to a certain level and then it adjusts the incoming amps (slowly declining) in the absorption phase while it maintains that voltage (chart from Magnum manual). The key here is that it is the target voltage of the battery in each case that is used to decide the incoming charging amps.

So if you have Odyssey batteries and want to follow their charging specs you set that voltage at 14.7 (chart from the Odyssey tech book). If we follow their charging procedure, we set 14.7 and the amps are adjusted to keep the batteries at 14.7. We can trick the charger into increasing the absorption charge time by telling it we have a larger battery bank than we do, but this just means that it will charge at whatever low amperage it needs to maintain 14.7 volts...not behaving like the thirsty camel we believed they could be. Nigel Calder was doing some tests showing that they could take a higher voltage but there is no way we are going to increase the voltage and risk a battery deformation or explosion until we hear some firm statements from the manufacturer about that.

The other reasons we chose them are:
- maintenance free (all AGMs - check)
- can be installed on their side (all AGMs - check)
- longevity (purportedly great quality - to be determined)

For now, everything works and any installed gear that works and doesn't need to be maintained is a winner. However, we will have to give them a few years before we can say if they were the right choice.

15 December 2010

I'm a tropical woman

Two nights ago we had another stormy night at the docks (not as bad as the last one). Remember, Westerly wind = blowing right into Victoria Harbor. Both Carol and I woke up grumpy, lacking sleep, and questioning our sanity.

I think the trip to Bahrain screwed up my internal thermostat. It is convinced that I'm a tropical woman.

We have two space heaters on at the dock and sometimes a diesel heater as well. And baking (i.e., lighting the nice hot oven) is suddenly sounding attractive.

Can you sail South in December?

Just kidding...mostly. El winter, el sucko.

14 December 2010

Underwater camera

Just before we headed off to Bahrain, we purchased a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2. It is waterproof (to 33 feet), sand resistant and can purportedly be dropped from 6 feet. We're not planning to test the dropping part, but you never know. Here it is soaking in fresh water after a day at the beach.

We were interested in the Lumix for a few reasons:
  • We wanted a camera that could take a little sand. I destroyed our beloved Canon SD800* by dropping it into sand which ate up the wee motor.
  • We wanted a camera that could take a little salt water. We had always avoided taking the Canon SD800 with us when we kayaked, instead taking our very old digital Pentax. With at least a splash-proof camera, we could take the camera kayaking/in the dinghy.
  • We wanted a camera that could take a lot of salt water. Ideally, we wanted a camera we could dive/snorkel with. The Lumix goes to 33 feet which means one camera that we can take everywhere. Also, we use underwater photos to check our zincs in the frigid waters up here which is a big cost savings over having a diver check them (of course, we would still need a diver if we need to change the zincs between haul outs).
After two weeks of usage at a beach, in the water, my initial impressions of the camera are that it takes very good pictures but not as great as our Canon SD800. The video is better than anything we need. We are only planning to use it for "youtube" quality video so we haven't tested it at higher quality. Sand cannot get past the gaskets (as long as you care for them) but can work its way into crevices that are near the gaskets meaning you have to be careful when you open the gaskets not to brush sand into the battery/card slot from outside the protective gasket.

Initial impressions are very good but we have yet to try the photo and video while snorkeling and also are curious as to how durable it will be. It feels and looks durable.

*anyone want to buy an underwater case for the Canon SD800. They seem to only fit the designated model of Canon.

13 December 2010

Spicy

Just to show you the kind of inane details I'm working on right now, I thought I would share this:



We wanted to keep our spices above the stove where we could see them and thus, use them. In the event of a major shake down of the boat (like tilting over so much that our mast smacks the water), we thought it was a bad idea to have glass missiles bottles flying everywhere. We considered a retaining line or cloth and, although those would work, ultimately decided to change over to plastic shaker bottles.

Something you can find easily at a container, dollar or kitchen store, right? Of course not. At least not in Victoria.

After wasting too much time visiting stores refusing to admit that I couldn't find them locally, I ended up ordering a bunch online. Then we busted out the label maker and voila, non-deadly spices. Just in time to house the collection of yummy spices we bought in Bahrain. Sometime, over beers, I should tell you the story of what it is like to carry a very large bag of fragrant powder in your carry-on bag from Bahrain, through Kuwait, into Washington DC and Seattle and then across the border into Canada.

 I have some velcro that I was going to put on the bottom of the jars to keep them from sliding around but I haven't figured that out yet. Another thing you think would be simple, right?

10 December 2010

Not Cruisers?

I'm working on some new stuff for the IWAC project and one of the new questions that I generated based on reader feedback was about mistakes made in the first year of cruising.

A few weeks ago, I was struggling with how to re-word the days countdown (or count up I suppose) on the upper right of this blog. I felt weird about counting the days cruising when we aren't cruising right now. When we changed the title of the box to "vagabonding for X days" both Carol and I felt a sense of relief out of proportion to the importance of the task.

As freeing as the label "cruising" may sound to people at a desk, we've realized that to us it feels limiting. And not just limiting in some esoteric, soul-searching, identity crisis kind of way.

Calling ourselves cruisers and calling Carol's retirement the "beginning of cruising" affected our decisions for this winter. If we had been thinking of ourselves as vagabonds instead, I think there is a good chance we would have parked the boat somewhere cheap and safe, and rented a thatched hut somewhere very cheap and very tropical. Or maybe a succession of huts in a region, spending a month in each. We could have come back refreshed, sun-kissed, and ready to do a month push on boatwork together and continue vagabonding-by-boat.

Even though land travel is a big part of many "cruisers" lives, somehow long term land travel didn't occur to us an option after only 4 months of cruising. I think that was a mistake. Nothing grave, nothing serious, but something I would do differently. We've had some great fun this winter...but we could have had more. I like to think about things like this, not to beat myself up, but to learn for the future.

At this point, we will choose to continue as we've been doing (playing in between work breaks) because we choose to honor our commitments and because we're a few short months from another major haul-out and being on our way again.

09 December 2010

Upcoming Puget Sound Trip

We are tentatively planning to leave next weekend to make our way to the Puget Sound for a few weeks. Our itinerary will be influenced by weather (of course), our whim (of course) and also the free dockage (reciprocals) we have access to through our sailing club.

Anything else we should hit up while we are there? Or shoot us an email for a meet-up (s.v.estrellita@gmail.com).

Spares & Insurance

It's not very exciting around here in Livia's Land of Boatwork.

Spares: I'm spending my days tracking down model numbers on equipment on our boat that is up to 27 years old so I can buy whatever spares we need for them. Then, I track down the best price for the spares and then we hemorrhage money.

Insurance: I'm also trying to sort through the mess that is yacht insurance. We have local insurance which is fine but now we want liability only coverage for "the world" which our current carrier doesn't provide. Current thoughts are Pantaenius (we are a Canadian boat so we can use their European vendor), Jackline, and Markel.

I'm looking forward to the next interlude between bouts of part-time work for Carol so we can cruise...even in the freezing cold it will be nice to be on the hook again.

08 December 2010

Water, water, everywhere

We use just under 5 gallons of fresh water per day for 2 people. This is in relatively cold average temperatures, with infrequent swimming and doesn't count: laundry, hosing down the boat and foul weather gear which we do when we take on water. It does include showering - we rarely use marina facilities...just because we rarely are at a marina and when we do dock long-term we don't choose to pay every day to shower on land.

From what I can tell, on average a US household uses about 65 gallons per day (1 2) although that number varies widely. You can use this worksheet to roughly estimate your household's usage. Leaks not included of course. We carry 66 gallons in our normal tankage and it lasts us approximately 2 weeks.

We do not use salt water regularly for washing dishes or bathing. We will rinse large pots or very messy pots with salt water in the cockpit occasionally and we will shampoo if we are already swimming before a fresh water rinse.

We use pressure water for everything. We don't even have a foot pump yet although we plan to install one this winter.

How much water do you use? I'm wondering if our usage will go up when we get to warmer weather and if so by how much.

07 December 2010

Bahrain: Miscl

Christmas decorations at Bahrain International Airport:
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Carol racing at the go-kart track next to the Bahrain Grand Prix:
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Stand up paddle boarding:
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06 December 2010

Bahrain at sunset

The only land you see when out fishing from where we stayed was Bahrain. You, the ocean, and one island. I dreamt of making landfalls in the future…

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The kitesurfing beach is near where tankers anchor:

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Re-entering the locks to the Floating Island:

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05 December 2010

Bahrain: Eat, drink, camel

Let’s take those in reverse order and start with camel.

We went to a “zoo” with our host’s wife Kitti, adorable baby and the grandparents. Although this camel photo is funny, the visit was extraordinarily sad. Animals tethered, manacled, fly ridden and unhappy. I couldn’t take pictures.
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Next we have our market experiences. We went to a souk (market area, half indoor-half outdoor), a huge warehouse sized fish market, and a mega-grocery store. Now, when I say “mega” remember that I am American. This store was stupendously large, like a super Walmart mated with a Costco and then fed that love child only McDonalds. Not being certain of the cultural rules I didn’t take any photos at the souk. These first three are from the mega-grocery.
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Next we have the fish market. Each individual fisherman had his own stall with his catch. We bought a big bag of tasty prawns and what Kitti said were called “sea cockroaches” in Thai which look like a variation of rock lobster and were very tasty. I could wax on poetically about the Thai sauces she made to go with many of our meals and once I master the one recipe she wrote down for me I promise to share. So. Delicious.
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Here is a meat and fish platter, including the sea cockroaches (closest to your viewpoint) and a Greek salad made with ingredients brought back from Greece that day by our host the airline pilot who flew there during his work day. Mmmmm…
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Finally, Al Shoala is a restaurant we ate at 4 times. Four people overate for $15 and took back leftovers. I am trying to recreate their tabbouleh recipe which, unlike the N American versions, had no or very, very little grain and was almost entirely parsley. We loved it. Finally, I am shameless (and not very attractive) in my love of Strawberry Fanta. I refused to buy a six-pack for fear of drinking it all.

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04 December 2010

Bahrain Fort

P1010175Bahrain Fort (Qal`at al-Bahrain) is one of a few forts on the island. Bahrain has a natural water source and was fought over a number of times prior to the discovery of oil – thus the forts. Like many of the areas in the region, Bahrain has been continuously settled for a long, long time. The ruins being carefully uncovered near Bahrain Fort are in the ballpark of 4000 years old and are evidence of a lost pre-Sumerian civilization called the Dilmun.

P1010211After getting a bit lost we ended up entering through the back gate. The bummer of that is that we missed entering through the museum where we think we could have purchased an audio tour. Instead we marveled at the fort and ruins and looked longingly at the audio tour guide numbered posts as we wondered what each room was for. Because of being lost we were there at sunset which was accidentally wonderful timing. The light was gorgeous and also we were able to see the lights come up on the building as darkness fell.

Some photos of the Fort:
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03 December 2010

Winter Trip #2: Bahrain

P1010003 We are trying to find a sport that we can do regularly while traveling by boat and a sport that doesn’t hurt Carol’s battered knees. We had an opportunity to fly at a deep discount to Bahrain and stay with a friend of Carol’s who would teach us to kiteboard. More on the learning process later. Here Carol is with our full bottle of wine given to us by a flight attendant while we relaxed in Economy Plus. There was almost a bit of trouble when another flight attendant thought we had brought the wine with us in our baggage. We were sitting next to some Quebec dudes who were on contract for Cirque de Soleil and we shared the wine across our aisle.

P1010161 I had never been to the Middle East and it was my first exposure to an Arab culture. Bahrain is jokingly referred to in guidebooks as training wheels for visiting an Arab culture because it is not strict and because almost half the population of the country is non-Bahraini so they are accustomed to a variety of outsiders in their midst. It is increasingly tolerant of those differences and my experience of the country, admittedly limited, was that the guidebooks overemphasize the suggested conservativeness of dress. It seemed to me that travelers who do not look Arab ran around in sleeveless tops and shorts without garnering stares. Visitors who look Arab might have a rougher time. I wore at least short sleeves and skirts that hit the knee and capris which is mostly what  I wear while traveling anyways but I could have packed some sleeveless tops if we were there when it was hotter. Bikinis were fine at the beach. Also, Arab men had no problem talking to me as far as I could tell.

P1010201 A few things that my naive eyes noticed:
- It was strange for me to be in so many public places with so few women. On the street, at the go kart track, at the souk, at a restaurant, I would see 90% or more males. At the mall and grocery the shoppers were easily 75% male. In fact, I can safely say that nowhere I visited had even 50% women.
- Of the few women I saw, I don’t think I saw an Arab woman without her head covered. However, almost all women I saw who didn’t look Arab had their heads bared. I saw relatively few burka women. So few that they always caught our eye. Most of the burka women I saw were either walking with a man or 3-4 of them were driving around in a car.
- Men holding hands while walking who were not (presumably) a couple.
- I rarely heard the call to prayer which is reportedly pervasive in other countries. I heard it at the mall and the airport.
- Bahrain is all concrete on sand. It felt very unnatural to my eyes. It has been shaped by man into a large flat sandy plot suitable for building skyscrapers and concrete mansions. Island-style extensions have been added to the natural island. All greenery is planted and tended and the sand itself is fill dirt dug from other places and has chunks of building materials in it.

P1020765 Our lodging was fantastic. We were basically adopted by a Quebec-Thai extended family and shuttled around as a party of 7 people all around the island. We stayed on Amwaj Islands (a island-style man made extension) in a very cool section called The Floating Island which is concrete villas built on man-made waterways that look like Venetian canals. We had the 3rd floor penthouse with our own bathroom and our square footage was probably 4 times the interior of our boat. This is the view from the back deck. Notice that each villa has its own mooring balls.
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P1020758 The height of the canal is regulated at no more than 50cm variance and serviced by a small lock system. Our host had a paddle boat, a stand up paddle board, a boat for wakeboarding and an inflatable hot tub in the back. His villa was a 5 minute drive to the kiteboarding beach. The air temperature was in the high 70s (F) and the water temp in the low 70s (F). Cold for the locals, warm for us.

As our host’s father handed us icy cold beers while we were floating around in the hot tub, I thought to myself “yes, I could get used to this”. Of course, we *could* but the cost is full-time work…too high :)

01 December 2010

Wireless hotspots and the boater

Do you use unsecured wifi spots to access email or facebook? Most cruisers do. Even if you are a land lubber and use a "secured" wifi spot, do you trust everyone else on that network enough to know that they wouldn't read your email or check your facebook messages?

You might want to take a moment to read this article or google "Firesheep".

Someone recently used Firesheep to log into my Facebook account and try to chat with my friends. Thankfully they did not change my password and thankfully I have my gmail accounts set to use https already so I don't believe they could access anything else I was using.

I am by no means a tech expert but after reading a bit, here is what I've done:
- Installed the HTTPS Everywhere plug in to the Firefox browser on both of our computers (Firefox is our primary browser) and changed the setting of that plug in to include Facebook. From their site "Turn on the "Facebook+" rule. You can do that in the Tools-->Add Ons-->HTTPS Everywhere-->Preferences menu"
- Installed Adblock Plus on both computers.
- Verified that all 4 of our gmail accounts are set to use https (Settings-->General-->check "always use https")

Anyone else know more? Please weigh in if so.