Friday, January 31, 2014

Boat Show Seminars

We managed to make it to five seminars this year.  We got some great tips, pointers and info and heard just as many great stories by those who have been out cruising, living the life we're after.  Some spoke directly to us, others not so much, but they were all entertaining to say the least.  'Cruising the North Channel' and 'Cost Control While Cruising' topped our list of most entertaining and most useful.

Cruising the North Channel
The North Channel of Lake Huron is at THE top of our cruising destination list for the Great Lakes, and within the top five of destinations for our entire cruise.  As we plan to spend anywhere from 4-6 weeks there when we leave next summer, we thought it would be a good idea to get some pointers from a couple that has been cruising this area for over 25 years.

What we learned:

  • You can literally spend years cruising this area and not see it all
  • With a 5' 6" draft, we will be somewhat limited in places to anchor (compared to drafts 5' or less)
  • Most areas are quite remote 
  • Towns are small but friendly 
  • This area is BEAUTIFUL (well, we knew that) and a top 10 cruising destination in the world
  • We cannot wait to see this place (okay, we knew this too)

Cost Control While You Cruise
Okay, I have to admit, I have a new cruising crush.  Lin Pardey has stolen my heart.  She is half of the Lin and Larry Pardey duo, also known as cruising royalty.  They've published a plethora of cruising related articles, books, videos, you name it.  Up until this point I really hadn't paid much attention to their materials, and I have a feeling I was really missing out!  Lin and Larry have been cruising for over forty years, so they certainly know they're stuff and have a cruising resume that is second to none.  As if that weren't enough, they even cruise on an engine-less boat.  Mad skills right there.  They also coined the phrase, "Go small, go now", an idea that pertains to much more than just the size of your cruising vessel.    
Lin and Larry
Let me tell you, Ron and I LOVED this seminar, we walked away feeling like not only was cruising truly possible for us, but that the whole process really didn't have to be that complicated.  I tend to get bogged down in the details of cruising prep, and while I've learned that much of what people say you need and can't leave the dock without is massively exaggerated, being reassured of this fact directly from a forty-some year cruising veteran did my heart (and mind) a load of good.

I just love Lin's outlook on cruising, she really knows how to balance the fun:work ratio, something that I think is easy to get mixed up.  But let's be honest, she really stole my heart when I heard her say, "Don't take the adventure out of it by learning too much".  I think I have a new favorite quote to add to my very short list of favorites!  I needed to hear this.  Because it is so true.  And so simple.

Another new favorite quote by Lin (see why she's my latest crush?!?), "Cruising is NOT fixing boats in exotic places", despite how the original, and popular, saying goes.  So often it seems that people spend a crazy amount of time fixing things on their boat.  Not that things don't break, and often, on a boat, but many repairs aren't emergencies and can wait until you get somewhere where parts are available, available at a much cheaper price or until you feel like setting aside a specific time to tackle needed upgrades/repairs.  No need to miss out on any fun just because something isn't working right.  What's the point of cruising if you're not having fun?!?

What we learned:
  • The first year of cruising is the cheapest (all new gear, few repairs needed)
  • Americans generally spend more money staying in contact with family (flights, internet, etc.) than non-Americans
  • A sewing machine aboard is not required to fix/care for sails
  • Learning to do sail maintenance by hand is a must
  • Get gear you're comfortable with to avoid needing to 'splurge' in marinas/on shore
  • Social costs/buddy boating* 
    • costs DOUBLE when buddy boating
    • social hours, eating out, alcohol
    • buying food/gear others have that you may not really need/use
    • missing ports you wanted to see when traveling with others and their agendas
    • harder to meet locals-->best places to see, prices on goods, etc.
  • CRUISING IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN! Don't miss the forest for the trees
*I'm sure at some point we'll enjoy traveling with other boats, but understanding what implications that may mean for our budget and overall experience is also important.  
Trying to keep things in perspective as we prepare to cruise


Monday, January 27, 2014

Boat Show Buys

Given the current trend in winter weather we've been having (hello, coldest winter in a century with record snowfall), it shouldn't be a surprise that the trip to Chicago and back weren't ideal, but we made it without any incidents.

What we bought:
  • 1 1/4" stainless steel davits from Garhauer - We chose to go with the larger size after our friends experienced a bit of an issue with their 1" versions.  We're really impressed with the Garhauer people.  The guy who makes the davits was on hand to help us figure out what exactly we want/need in our davits.  For no extra charge we're going to email him pictures of our transom so we can decide if we want our davits larger than the standard size (36" X 36").  We would still like the option to use the ladder on the transom but at the same time don't want to compromise the strength of the davits; something Garhauer is working with us on, and at no extra charge.  And all this even while giving us the boat show price.  Pretty impressive.
  • Chute Scoop - After a summer of using the spinnaker, and having some minor difficulties bringing it down when the wind picks up, we knew that this item would be something we'd like to have.  We saw it last year at the boat show but decided it wasn't in the budget at that time and we weren't making the same mistake twice.  Great minds think alike and our friends over at Sail Far Live Free had the same idea.  Unfortunately for them, we snagged the last one in the size we both needed.  We offered to sell them ours for a slightly higher amount, but they declined ;)
Deploying a similar style sock

  • Rescue Tape - This stuff is better than duct tape for a boat, and you know how much we like our duct tape.  It isn't a tape in that it sticks to various surfaces but it does stick to itself.  It makes a watertight seal that can sustain 950psi of pressure making it useful for patching any leaks that might occur, even in fluid-containing, pressurized hoses/lines and can withstand -85 to 500 degree (F) temps.  But this stuff doesn't stop there; it can also be used to repair electrical lines as it insulates 8,000 volts per layer.  We were further sold when a Coastie standing next to us said he uses it all the time and thought it was a great product for boat applications.  While it doesn't necessarily provide a permanent fix to a problem, it'll come in handy until we can get around to getting one.
A million and one
We were a bit surprised that there weren't any representatives from any solar energy or anchor manufacturers in the mass of vendors, we would have liked to pick their brains a bit.  But we did get to talk with Frigoboat about their refridgeration set-up and are seriously considering installing a keel cooled system for its energy efficiency and low noise output when running.

While we talked to a lot of people and had a lot of questions answered, I sometimes wonder if these boat shows don't send you on your way with more questions than you came with!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Boat Show Bound
Tomorrow morning we're heading to the Strictly Sail show in Chicago.  Unlike last year, we'll be spending 2 days there chatting up some professionals, attending some seminars and buying some gear. 

Number one on our list of gear to get is davits.  Although we've heard differing opinions about davits, we still would like to have them.  We'll use them to hold the dinghy while on short, easy sails and to secure it at night, but we mostly want it to hold a larger solar panel.

Davits on a sailboat

Getting davits is also the start of a series of projects we need to do as well; we need the davits to put the solar panel on (we'll put a couple more smaller ones on the bimini for a total of about 300-350watts) and we need solar power to feed all systems on the boat, but mainly for the refridgeration unit we plan on putting in the ice box currently on the boat.  Getting davits now gives us plenty of time to get these others done without being in a frantic rush, at least that's our line of thinking.  Plus, a special boat show price doesn't hurt either.

Line organizers

We also want to do some recon work on anchors, refridgeration systems, solar panels, a spinnaker sock, line/sheet organizers for the cockpit and whatever else we see that could be useful on our trip.

On top of that, our good friends Jerm and Angie are coming to Chicago for the weekend and are going to come check out the boat show on Saturday with us.  Looking forward to catching up with them over a few drinks!

If we can't actually be out sailing, we might as well be talking/preping/dreaming about it!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Drinking on a Boat

No, no, no.  Not just drinking booze on a boat.  Drinking anything on a boat.  Believe it or not, we drink a lot of water on the boat too ;)

We try to adhere to the 'no glass on board' rule.  Although this rule (obviously) doesn't apply to our liquor/wine cabinet.  We're not that hardcore.

We pretty much only use Tervis Tumblers, aboard Hullabaloo, they're an all-purpose, multi-purpose kinda glass that comes in handy for just about all of our beverage needs.  Actually, we mostly use them at home too.  As their slogan goes they, "Keep warm drinks warm and cold drinks cold".  Or something like that.  Afterall, who wants to burn their hands on a hot cup of coffee or have their nice, cold beverage get warm before it can be enjoyed? Not us.  Enter the Tervis Tumbler.

They aren't necessarily cheap, but they come with a lifetime guarantee and if something goes wrong with one, you just send it in and get a new one, making them a great investment.  We've had a couple loose the airtight seal between layers and have exchanged them with no issues.  Besides that little hiccup, we really love how tough and long-lasting these glasses really are, they can really take a beating.  Ours may have a couple small scratches on them from rolling around the boat and getting used but that just adds a bit of character.

They also come in a wide range of sizes from kiddy cups to coffee cups to sports bottles, and are available in a gazillion design options, including custom designs.  In fact, we include a different 'model' of Tervis Tumbler for all participants in the golf outing we help put on every year and we always hear how much people like them/use them later.
Kate's Kup 2013: Sports bottle
Our custom Kate's Kup logo
Cup selection on Hullabaloo
One of my favorite parts about using these glasses on the boat is that they come with a lid that you can slide closed...comes in handy on the boat for those times when they get accidentally knocked over by one of many possible environmental hazards that come with being on a boat.

We also have four plastic wine glasses for those rare instance where we feel like being classy.  I think they've only been used three or four times.  Who wants to risk spilling all their wine when we've got perfectly good Tervis Tumblers that hold a half bottle of wine with lids that can keep my moscoto safe and chilled?  Anyway, spilling wine isn't very budget friendly, and we're on a budget.

No contest right?  We love our Tervis Tumblers!

I-spy, Tervis style

Monday, January 13, 2014

Ronnie's on a Roll: Grill Cover

We bought a Magma Chefsmate propane grill for the boat last year when we were at the Strictly Sail show in Chicago.  And we use it...a lot.  This past summer we always took it of the rail mount and stowed it in the lazarette (cockpit storage locker) when we were gone.  No big deal, but as we get further along in our preparations to go cruising, space is going to become a real issue and we won't always be taking it down when we leave the boat. 

Our lovely, large grill
We use this thing for 90% of our lunches and dinners on the boat so it's well broken in.  The inside has a nice protective layer of grease on it (yuk) and although the inside is well protected, the outside isn't.  We had some extra Sunbrella canvas from making our winch covers and there was just enough left over to make a nice, color coordinated cover to hide our greasy grill  protect our nice grill.  These covers run about $60 retail.  That's absurd!  Especially when we have canvas laying around. 

This was suposed to be my turn to work on my sewing skillz, but Ron got into the zone and had his design figured out, the measurements taken and the shell sewn in a couple hours.  He always says "you have to be in the mood to sew"...I guess he was that day.  Who am I to argue with him?!? ;)

$60??? I think not! Ours won't say Magma, but we'll still be classy.
Or klassy. Whatever.

FYI: Construction tools also work great for domestic sewing projects

What better to do than sew on a nice frigid, snowy day?
The drawstring has been added, now we just wait on the weather

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Snow Day(s)

I know winter is cold in Michigan, but the last few days have been ridiculous!  We've been stuck in the house for the last 3 1/2 days due to single digit temps, -20 to -30 degree windchills and winds from 15-30mph.  Not to mention the accumulation of about a foot of snow.  This.Is.Miserable.

Pure ridiculousness
Every school and most nonessential service businesses are closed up.  Not just because it's so cold but because many of the roads are near impassible within an hour of being plowed because of drifting from high winds.  In fact multiple counties have deliberately had to stop plowing at certain times because it wasn't doing any good.

Usually snow days are fun; playing in the snow, skiing/snowboarding, snowmobiling...well not this time.  This time people are pretty much stuck in doors.  Unless, that is, you don't mind getting brain freezes from the wind, being blinded by snow, or being unable to feel your extremities after a couple minutes.  I seriously considered wearing my snowmobile helmet just to shovel off part of the back deck (so Lexie could get out). But I didn't.  It hurt.  Ron heard about it.
Cold and gray

Our view for the last four days
Believe it or not, we have actually been somewhat productive while being stuck inside.  Ron started yet another project on our list: replacing the rotted transom on our dinghy.  He removed the rotted piece of wood, which gave us an excuse to venture out and test our luck on the roads to get supplies to replace it.  

I can't believe the dink wasn't leaking more after seeing this!
All of this being stuck inside is really giving me some major cabin fever.  If this weather keeps up, this might end up being a local news headline, not just a couple song lyrics.
Just a sample of  some of Jimmy's many relevant lyrics

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Sail Scoop

Whelp, we took the sails in to be looked over by the sailmaker and the news was not that good...

Firstly, he told us (nicely) flat out that our spare genoa and main are maybe worth a couple hundred bucks...together.  And we shouldn't plan on using them.  Ouch.

Then he told us what we already expected; the UV strip on the outside of the headsail was failing.  Luckily the sun hadn't gotten through the fabric to breakdown the sail, but the strip needed to be replaced if we wanted to get more than another year out of the sail.  Replacing the strip would give us about 4-5 more years (I'm going to assume this means actual years and not 'Michigan sailing seasons' makes me feel better).  Darn right we want to replace that strip, where do we sign up?!?  But he did mention that the sail was in pretty good condition for its age.  That's...something....right?  Plus, Ron's a little excited that we get to put on the same blue fabric that we have on the rest of our canvas on the boat.  No more boring white.

Similar to what ours will look like
Same goes for our main.  It's old but still in pretty good shape.  Although the sailmaker recommended a full batten main for our trip, he also said that because our boat predominantly relies on the headsail for propulsion that it might be a good idea to get a new (to us) headsail before the trip and use our current headsail as the backup.  He then mentioned that getting a reef point put into the headsail would be a good idea if we wanted another larger sized sail like our current 150.  We like the size of the current headsail, especially considering the mainsail alone will barely push us along and the headsail really gets us scooting.

Since we have a furler for the head sail (the thing that wraps the sail up), a reef point in that sail would help us decrease sail size without having to switch out sails and, more importantly, without putting too much stress on the shoe-string size furler line.  A snapped furler line would mean a great big sail that is hard to get down.  And in windy conditions, that wouldn't be my idea of fun.  We're also replacing this sad looking line this year, but I'd still be more comfortable with a reef point that can take the pressure off the furler line.  I know that some people choose to partially roll up the sail without reef points, and honestly, I'm not sure why that wouldn't really work for us.  There's a couple different systems/ways to reef a headsail so don't ask me how it works or what it looks like, I haven't got a clue!  But we'll be looking into it.  Whether or not we do it is another question.  Anyone have any experience with this?

Our headsail will look something like this, just blue not black.
And we won't be rockin' a nice matching Stack Pack on the main.
It sounds like we'll be keeping our eyes peeled for a genoa before we take off.  A back-up main might also be in the cards if we can do it, but at least we know our sails are 'good enough' for now.  Good enough for me.  Plus, they're getting a good cleaning as well.  They were awfully dirtly and quite nasty.  Come springtime we'll look like a whole new boat!
The sails look okay from a distance but, like our cushions, up close they're a bit of a mess ;)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Swearing and Stitching: Operation 'Reupholster' Complete!

In the last week there has been a lot of both going on in our house.  But we finally finished (if you don't count those two little pillows we need to do).  The piping is done, the velcro is on and the stripes are straight!  By far the most frustrating part of sewing (for Ron of course) was sewing the velcro.  The loop half kept getting caught in the machine, causing an immense amount of nonsensical swearing rampages.  But, despite a few hang-ups here and there, we were able to complete the whole project in just over a week.  That's got to be some sort of record right?  What do we win?

So what did we buy and what did it cost?
8yds Solarium Halliwell Caribbean Indoor/Outdoor fabric (striped) - $99
12yds Royal Blue Duck Canvas - $126
5 spools of thread - $20
Velcro - $30
1yd Solarium Skywalk Caribbean Indoor/Outdoor fabric - $12

For under $300 we replaced all the upholstery on the boat except for the v-berth, which we'll probably do this summer sometime once we find some additional padding to add to it.  Not bad considering paying a professional to do this job would have been somewhere between $1500 and $2000.  Ron likes to think that his time is more valuable than that.  I beg to differ.

Ripping the seams on the old nasties
We're not very tidy reupholsterers
We needed all the help we could get
Sewing piping
Seats almost done, just need some velcro

Woohoo! The stripes are straight!
Velcro bottom

All the backrests also got some velcro on the back to keep them in place
Ready to go on the boat!!

It feels good to have our biggest winter project done, but we've still got plenty more to keep us busy until it warms up around here!

Oh, and...
May 2014 be your best year yet!!