Monday, October 12, 2015

Three Months In: Living by the Four W's

The Benjamins, North Channel of Lake Huron
It just dawned on me the other day that last week marked 3 months of cruising for us. In some ways it seems like we just left a couple weeks ago and in others maybe a few years. Through the ups, the downs, the friends and the sites it's been a wild ride but one that I can honestly say I don't regret overall.

But with this new lifestyle I find that what we deal with now is a bit different than when we lived on land. On land we had no limit to our power, water and utility use but that is so not the case living on a boat. Instead of mowing our lawn we polish stainless steal that seems to rust over night, instead of cleaning out the garage we are constantly rearranging and purging our lazarette, instead of reaching into the pantry I have to remove no less than three items to access our food stores and stuff my upper half into a locker to locate and retrieve the necessary items. Oh, and we have to watch every ounce of water and amp of power used too, see, it's markedly different.
Bae Finne Fjiord, North Channel
Over the last 3 months our lives have been ruled by 4 things: Waste, Water, Weather and Watts.

Waste: Not the most pleasant topic, I admit, but something that we still have to deal with and plan for. In the Great Lakes, Erie Canal and up until we made our first ocean passage we had to get our 'black water' pumped out at marinas, usually for a pretty nominal fee, because using our on board system to pump it overboard is illegal in these waters. We can usually make our 35 gallon holding tank last us about 2 1/2 weeks but we don't like to push it that close. Trust me, it's not pleasant. Once we get 3 miles offshore in the ocean we can legally pump it overboard which is a bit odd (and equally gross) the first few times you do it. And then there is the dog to consider, she has to go too. Although she's a little easier to deal with; if we're somewhere that we're a) required to or b) feel like we should, we'll bag and properly dispose of...materials. It's no small amount of time and effort this lifestyle requires for maintaining, planning and disposing of waste. Good times!
Flower Pot Island, Georgian Bay
Water: We hold 80 gallons of water on the boat, and that's usually enough to last us around a month if we're really careful with our water use. When we were in fresh water we could do things like wash down the boat, shower and do laundry with lake water, saving our precious water on board for drinking and cooking but now that we're in salt water our options are more limited and we go through our supply faster. When we go to a dock we always fill up, but we can go for some time without hitting up a dock or marina. To help keep our supply up we keep our jerry jug in the dinghy and fill it up when we go to shore where there's a place to fill it. Or, we get sneaky and hit up the rich guys hose on his dock. It's only five gallons at a time but it can add up pretty quick and save us a stop at a dock.
Old aqueducts on the Erie Canal
Weather: Probably the most obvious on the list, the weather dictates where we go and when - in case you missed it, we were held up for 3 weeks in the last month due to various weather systems. We're now accustomed to checking the weather  first thing in the morning, before going to bed at night, and usually various times throughout the day. And even then, the odds of the forecast being right is pretty hit and miss and we have to be ready for a wide array of actual sailing conditions. The forecasts, like the weather, are always changing and therefore, as you may have seen, so are our plans.
Beautiful upstate NY along the Hudson River
Watts: Okay, it's really about batteries. But since I'm sticking with a 'W' theme here we're calling it watts. As I've said, I don't know, or care, about the details of amps, watts, ohms and whatever other energy measurements go along with the extremely complex system that is a solar/battery set-up on a boat so you're safe from the eye-crossing boredom of that topic here. You're welcome. All I know is that we've got 255 watts of solar power and a 440 amp hour battery bank, and I don't really know what that means in the big picture, but I do know that we have a handy display that shows us the charge in the batteries and when it starts getting down near 12 we have to start the engine to charge the batteries and/or reduce the use of items that use the battery until the sun can charge them back up again. We watch this number pretty religiously and most of the time we don't really have to cut back on our power use but as days get shorter or when we have a cloudy day (or days) we need to be a little more careful. Being careful is a pain, especially when you have a cloudy, rainy day (or days) and you're stuck inside. I don't know about you, but on rainy days I like to hunker down and watch movies, which takes....power. We also plan to invest in a small generator so we don't have to rely on the engine when we need a little boost. We like versatility. And apparently power.
The Big Apple!
Perhaps most surprising to us in these first three months is finding out what our true cruising style is and what we want and find important now that we're actually out here. And I can tell you, it is vastly different from the kind of cruisers we thought we'd be, but more on that a little later. For now, we continue chasing warmer weather south and learning more about ourselves and cruising as we go...and it's all good!


  1. Hey Jackie & Ron...Following your travels from "someday I'll" in Windsor Ontario !!! Fair Winds !!!

  2. Goodness, what I thought I'd like/do turned out to be soo different from what I actually like/do when sailing! But, figuring it all out sure was an adventure :)

    1. I know! You get all these ideas in your head when planning THEN you live it and all that planning goes out the window. I don't think I could be any further from what I thought I'd want to what I actually want!

  3. I love that you've balanced poop stories with gorgeous photos.
    Can't wait to see your new insight on what type of cruisers you guys are becoming.
    It's still mostly warm and sunny down here. See you when you get here!
    - Jennifer

    1. You like that?? I thought the pics might distract a little from the topic at hand ;) Keep that warm sunshine around for us if you can, we're on our way (at a snail's pace)!