Transition

Ah, what a great word. I’ve had several notable transitions in my life, each one with their unique challenges.

1993: Transition from grade-schooler in Rhode Island to high-schooler in Western Pennsylvania. Begin realizing “Wicked awesome” should not be used in every sentence.

1998: Transition from farm kid mucking out the family barns to midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy. Realize city-living isn’t the worst thing out there, but appreciate coming home more and more.

2002: Transition from midshipman to liveaboard sailor & now Ensign in the U.S. Navy. Sail from Baltimore, MD to Charleston, SC and later Fernandina Beach, FL. Realize what it’s like being a real adult on my own!

2005: Transition from solo to couple. Realize how little I know about relationships now that I’m married!

2009: Transition from active-duty military overseas to unemployment to my first “real” job stateside. Realize how challenging juggling multiple priorities can be. Double down on being a good husband.

2013: Transition from cozy DC-based civilian life to deployment in Africa with the Navy Reserve. Realize how resilient our family is.

2015: Transition from DC suburb and Federal job to rural country living while working from home for a CA-based start-up. Realize I’m losing control of too many spinning plates.

I didn’t check the stats, but I don’t believe I wrote any blog posts last year. Not for lack of material or commentary, but for differing priorities. I tell folks 2015 was “The Year of Too Much” for us. Buying a house, selling, a house, four international trips, changing jobs, sick family, blah blah blah. All the normal things that happen to a person.

Also, my creative focus has been on getting my first novella out the door. I just finished the first draft after stalling for two years. And I really want to see it through.

I’ve also spent time thinking of “what do I want this to be?” Frankly, let’s call a spade a spade. I’m out of this game for the time being. I was out in 2009 when I stopped living aboard. I have no intention of being a full-time, or even part-time, live aboard in the near future. There’s a new generation of entries into the field, and the mediums have changed. I love watching the videos of SV Teleport on YouTube. And reading the great dialogue being put out there by Bob at Boatbits and Volkscruiser and Teresa & Ben at Sailing Simplicity. They are out there living it today, and have a much closer relationship to many of these topics.

So as I can, I’ll continue to tell my story here. It’s one perspective in the bigger swimming pool of available thoughts. And I won’t lose sleep over how frequently I post! I’ll call this a noble experiment. And do my best to leave my content up and available for everyone in the years to come.

Transitions are great opportunities to reflect, to take stock, to cut things away, or add news things in. I know I’ve done all of those.

Happy sailing friends!

Commentary: Triloboats talks about Hermit Crabbing

I’ve been swamped lately, by my own choice to some extent, with selling a place, buying a place, moving, and travel for my two careers. If anyone ever questions a “normal” life with the typical U.S. dreams and aspirations… I’m a case study in why you should think otherwise. But as they say, happy wife, happy life.

I’ve had the opportunity to be over in Stavanger, Norway, and took the following photograph of the harbor near my hotel. Live aboards… they’re everywhere!

Always someone around

Always someone around

The following article, detailed with further correspondence by Dave Z over at Triloboat, was a fascinating read this week:

Hermit Crabbing: Another Way to Go

While the original author, Michaela Popperton, has a more finely tuned “system”, this was effectively how we changed over from a Cal28 that I originally lived aboard out of college for three years to a Tartan 37 in 2007, followed by a move back stateside in 2009. I was sad to leave Persephone behind in Guam, but at the same time I didn’t feel like I was completely starting over again; I simply had to find a new shell to put my sailing kit.

The interesting part of this article is the two-part nature: there is a piece of philosophy in how she chose, deliberately, to live this particular lifestyle, and a second piece that is practical in nature.

There’s no reason one would have to consider every purchase in light of moving from boat-to-boat over the years, but certainly there is something to be said for buying a few things of high quality, high usefulness, and high return-on-use, and saying “These are mine, and will continue with me wherever I go, no matter what.”

Some things I still have, effectively in my kit bag (so I can always take them sailing with whoever):
– Handheld GPS
– SPOT man-overboard personal beacon
– Onyx kayaking PFD
– Gill sailing gloves
– Prescription sunglasses w/ polarization and strap
– Wide bottom coffee cup
– Carabiner’d water bottle

I also have a galley kit which has changed boat-to-boat, as well as a pretty decent sailboat tool bag. No need to change what works.

I also took advantage of one of her points on trailer-sailors. The Ruby Doobie is actually a combination of two hulls: an original Aquarius 23 that I stripped down extensively to outfit a better condition Balboa 23 that came my way for free.

One could do worse than this philosophy on sailing. An intentional move, say for one-to-three years, with the idea of building a good usable kit and saying “Hey, I can punch at any time and still walk away with something for my time” is something to consider.

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Here’s to hoping for a little bit of slack in my future. I have a few articles in the hopper about our Tartan 37 purchase, my galley kit, and some odds and ends. If you’re still reading, cheers! Hopefully there’s something valuable here, even if it’s not consistency!

Commentary: Volkscruisers Talks Maryland Sailboats

A quick combination commentary / Sailboat Sunday…

Bob over at Volkscruiser (I promise, I do have variety in the works), points out some of the advantages of living in the times. 

What struck me is the selling price of this particular Columbia 36. In 2002 I paid $8500 for my first sailboat, a Cal 28. $8000 still feels like a lot of money, relatively speaking, but I tend to agree that the benchmark prices have steadily dropped over time. Partly due to inflation, partly with these vintages of sailboats aging further.

I believe this is the Columbia in question. Nothing too fancy, but more than needful.

For those in the market, it is a good time.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/39908901@N06/8639261528/in/photolist-fL51Jk-eaqtsY-6w7Yab-8wvHQS-3hvoKE-7LUJ8Q-6Xou8x-8mut36-644EgT-6w7WcS-8dmkFQ-8sYy1B-644DXi-2hUfvk-6Xouat-T45yL-efST6G-2fCRbj-5KsYDd-5WuDCE-7QhXUk-7QhYRn-gFwEes-dGNGJV-6w7Xaq-6w7Ws5-6w7Vyf-gqD48w-6EhnS7-6EhnLf-dKJJgk-d5nGRW-gqCqYL-2fCLZE-2fxXYk-2fCjLA-dKZMRZ-5b5jkx-68cfgP-nji4NX-3hvqiA-8ad4z5-2fCGXA-6XowL4-6Xsx5N-6Xowfr-86Ku9P-22k9C6-ah35qF-6w3Jux

An Annapolis marina waits for spring.

Coming up….

I’ve got a few things in the hopper. A post on risk assessment, sailboat head options, galley considerations, the story of purchasing our Tartan 37 in 2007, and more. I’ll try to continue our structure of a Sailboat Sunday analysis and Commentary as I can.

Thank you to all who have commented. Great to see others with experience on those particular models adding to the collective knowledge base out there. It was also a good reminder to clarify the intent behind the Sailboat Sunday posts. While I’m not looking to buy at this time, someone may be, and these analyses are a good exercise in “What if?” assessments. And who doesn’t like talking about boats?

I’ve missed my mark for the past two weeks now! Bad Travis. Unfortunately we’ve been occupied with getting a move set-up on top of a full spring. Hopefully my intentions can met real life head on, and I’ll be diligent in posting once again!

Photo credit: m01229

Many Voices: Here’s What I’m Reading

“I have not always chosen the safest path. I’ve made my mistakes, plenty of them. I sometimes jump too soon and fail to appreciate the consequences. But I’ve learned something important along the way: I’ve learned to heed the call of my heart. I’ve learned that the safest path is not always the best path and I’ve learned that the voice of fear is not always to be trusted.”
― Steve Goodier

Two days from landfall in Yap, 2009. A busy skipper communicating via Ham radio. Twitter? What?

Two days from landfall in Yap, 2009. A busy skipper communicating via Ham radio. Twitter? What?

Listening to those around you…

When the idea of living aboard a sailboat first came to me, it was early 2002. The internet was alive, but just beginning to grow. WordPress, as a content engine, wasn’t even on the horizon. “Blogs” were not around, although the first beginnings were present. So where did one turn to for information? The library had some books, mostly written in the days when sextants were the only navigation tool available. Various sailing periodicals were in distribution, but you had to spend $20-40 a year for a subscription, followed by 30-50% of the pages being filled with advertisements.

In the years since, the information revolution washed over all things, including the sailing community. With tools like Blogger, WordPress, and others, everyone now has a voice. Which is great, on the one hand, because the conversation has more depth and breadth. It’s also more challenging to find the “right” answers because it’s a sea of voices, and easy to get overwhelmed with analysis paralysis.

Over the last twelve years I’ve fine tuned my intake stream for information. And many of the books I’ve collected over the years have found varied use; some are well-worn, some only read once through. Below are some of the resources I’ve used at various times, with a piece of context with each. Many are free. Some are available at modest cost (and in the case of print books, maybe a used copy or previous edition would yield most of the same value). If I were starting over again, fresh out of college, looking to live another adventure, I’d consider:

Motivation

Dove: I read this at age thirteen and knew I’d be living on a sailboat someday. Excellent story of a young man finding his way by sailing around the world. A movie was made later on; not sure of the quality.

Voyaging on a Small Income (Annie Hill): I’ll chock this up to both motivation and technical knowledge. Once I was already living aboard, Annie’s way of conveying information through stories had a profound impact on my life. And the technical knowledge (especially for someone just starting out) was excellent.

Blog of S/V Estrellita 5.10b: Great log of their on-going voyage. There are many (MANY) voyaging blogs of various quality. Some folks are great about sharing their adventures. Some use a blog as a continuous letter home. The content varies. Estrellita is one of the few sailboats I actually keep up with; they have great things to say.

Blog of Webb Chiles: Let’s all hope we’re still sailing with the same vigor as Webb at his age. Excellent lifetime of sailing behind him and more ahead. Many different boats.

YouTube series of Yacht Teleport: If this doesn’t get yo motivated, I don’t know what will. Great to see a pair of professionals using their skills to inform others about the live aboard lifestyle.

Sailing Simplicity: Ben and Teresa have lived (and continue to live) and fantastic adventure, sailing solo (together) and now together-together. Both a source of motivation, great technical content, and for me (at least) a flash-back to ten years ago and the carefree life of simple living. If you are a female reader, I can’t recommend Teresa’s work enough. Excellent.

Technical Knowledge

Cruising Handbook (Nigel Caldwell): As a senior at the Naval Academy I bought this book at the local Barnes and Noble as a way to indoctrinate myself into the idea of living aboard. I knew I wanted to; just needed to find the requisite knowledge to back up my sailing experiences till then. This book has always had a place on my shelf. Not necessarily comprehensive in every subject, but a great broad brush stroke of most all major skills necessary to bring a boat from point A to B.

This Old Boat (Don Casey): Again, one that I’ve always kept on my shelf. One of the greatest gifts living aboard taught me was a wide range of necessary skills to repair goods. There was always an opportunity waiting. Don’s book gives excellent advice on a variety of skills, and each chapter typically includes an example project to hone those skills with. I can’t think of many things you wouldn’t learn enough to started with via this book. Obviously the internets have added a great deal of specific examples of folks doing many repairs/upgrades/improvements. But Don’s book forms a solid basis to begin from.

Attainable Adventures: John and Phyllis have been experimenting with a different model for their information exchange (much of their site is now via paid subscription), but for many the price is well worth it. The group of writers providing content at Attainable Adventures is phenomenal. And for me, the draw (initially) was information about high-latitudes cruising. They provide sound information and experiences for others to consider when cruising in a challenging environment. Recognize they are in a different place than most starting out (relatively expensive, purpose-built sailboats for the cruising envelope they are in), but the information is applicable to most every sailor.

Volkscruiser: At the other end of the spectrum, maybe, is Bob’s purpose-driven site on ideas for minimalist cruising. And I use minimalist in a good way, and maybe because “budget” feels icky. It’s not bad at all; it’s exactly how I started and would continue to advice folks getting into the game to go. Great considerations on boat selection, skills, and general musings. I also read his original blog, BoatBits, which provides some interesting commentary. I love Bob for the fact that he’s one of those folks acting as the thirteenth man: “Everybody is moving in this direction; why? Something may be wrong.”

Pardey’s: What list wouldn’t be complete without something from Lin and Larry Pardey? I have several of their books, mostly used, that are both excellent motivation, great real-world, first-hand information, and timeless. My favorite thus far is The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew. They recently posted a short post on buying a first sailboat; I intend to provide some commentary later.

Great Sea Stories

Voyages of Ming Ming: As a proud down-sizer to a 23 footer, Roger’s travels on Ming Ming (and now Ming Ming II) are phenomenal. Consider this also a technical information website; his upgrades/refits to bring older Corribee designs up to speed for high latitude cruising are amazing.

Atom Voyages: Also a technical information site, but one with significant sea-story vibe. James Baldwin is still living the life.

Keep Turning Left: If you want to while away the time watching YouTube, I can’t recommend Dillan’s video series enough. He is doing a slow, deliberate circumnavigation of Great Britain, in several boats thus far. As a professional, his editing is amazing. And the length of the show lends itself to a good lunch-time break.

Hal Roth’s Seafaring Trilogy: There are other books from Roth that are excellent. I reread this one every few years.

Ideas for Life Style Design

Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Work Week and Four Hour Chef: Not only would 4HC be a great book to have aboard for the cooking lessons, but the idea of deliberately managing time and other resources, and purposeful learning, were great influences on me and my successes. He also has a great podcast with some phenomenal guests.

Zenhabits: If you know Leo Babauta, and take only one thing away which is necessary for living aboard a sailboat: Clutterfree.

Ideas for “Work”

When I was first living aboard it was as a working professional. You can imagine a Naval officer has some commitments to keep, like showing up for work in uniform. So my lifestyle was framed around this aspect of my life. That said, there are many who mold their sailing lifestyle around their work. A few resources that come to mind:

Ramit Sethi: He’s a thought-leader in today’s online economy, but his advice is pretty sound. I can imagine several business ventures working out from a mobile platform like a sailboat, even with connectivity being a challenge to overcome.

Fizzle.co: The guys here provide some great advice on getting online businesses up and going. In my imagination I can see a productive 20-something on his or her Columbia 29, sitting at a laptop, pulling wifi from a shoreside establishment, and working on their business. Completely within the realm of possibility.

And several others. One thing I’ve changed over the years is recommendations for magazines. Frankly, that market has not done well. Most of the big names you’ll see on the shelves at West Marine are becoming more and more… well, worthless. Lots of advertisements, lots of product placement, little of value. The occasional cruising story to give some inspiration, but a lot of it is focused on chartering or buying the latest-greatest production boats on the market. I have enjoyed Good Old Boat and Practical Sailor at various times, but with so much online, I’d rather just save my money.

I know many of you came from some of these blogs, but I hope there’s something to spark some inspiration this week. Or keep the spark going. Or reminiscence about days of old. Or just put a smile on your face.

What are you reading? Give a shout out to your favorite resources in the comments.

 

Commentary: Volkscruiser Discusses Philosophy

Bob runs a handful of sailing-related blogs, one of which is Volkscruiser. Earlier in February he posted a short article about some cruising philosophy titled: Volkscruiser: the question you need to ask yourself… 

In general, and at this time, I don’t intend to go into a lot of the philosophy one might have going into a liveaboard situation. There are plenty of places you can find that for yourself. Various cruiser forums abound with people’s thoughts on the matter, both the high level “for or against” and the very detailed “I’m thinking about this specific situation and want some opinions” variety. There is a mindset among those who chose to make a floating hunk of fiberglass (or other material) their dwelling place. The world will also have opinions about that choice, ranging from “Oh my goodness I wish I could do that” to “Oh my goodness your a full-time bum”.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/91829349@N00/1848665150/in/photolist-f5sijQ-7R5zzE-3PmTK5-83FaDe-fNALnB/

I especially appreciated those who said (or implied) that I was obviously too poor to afford a different living arrangement. Regardless of income or anything else, how do you explain to someone that you “chose” to follow a path less traveled?

As I read Bob’s words above, I reflected on the importance of understanding why I chose to live aboard. My personal belief is that intention matters in everything we do. I’m less likely to feel critical about someone’s stupid decisions (or the outcome of stupid decisions) as long as they are intentional in nature. Who do you feel worse for: the gal who invests it all trying to prove a hypothesis about cancer research, or the guy who foolishly loses all his money at a casino? Both are risks. One is calculated.

For myself, getting into sailing and living aboard while I was young (22) was intentional. I wanted to learn new skills, challenge myself, and live an interesting life. It paid off in spades down the line. During all of my subsequent job interviews, I never once heard “Oh my goodness, you took time off of the rat race to go sailing? We don’t want folks like that.” Instead, it was almost always “Holy cow, you did that? That’s amazing.”

The family that purposefully trades the 9-5 for a two year sailing excursion to spend time with their kids, exposing them to new adventures, is doing something intentional.

The couple who retire and then take their sailboat, lovingly maintained over the years, on an excursion to points south, are doing something intentional.

Just like we’re seeing in the tiny house movement, these kind of intentional stories abound. Even so-called circumstances, if approached in the right manner, can be decisions of intention. So what if your life situation changed due to events out of your control? What are you going to do about it?

Live a life of intention. You’ll be happier for it.

Photo: Credit of rjones0856

Serenity or the Millennium Falcon: Choosing My First Sailboat

What did Malcolm Reynolds of the hit TV series Firefly and Han Solo have in common? Well, I’d venture to say they both loved their ships. And that is a very important part of owning your floating home; if you don’t love her, she’ll be worth less than that dollar menu hamburger.  After all, love keeps her afloat…or in the air.

That said, there are several factors which influence the decision of which sailboat to buy. The most important thing to remember is this: there is no perfect boat. I repeat, there is no perfect boat. Every boat is a compromise between these factors. The key is to know where you’ll compromise, how much you’ll let those factors change, and your will power to let that be OK.

  • Money: Let’s get this out of the way. A sailboat will cost you money. The question is, how much up front, and how much to keep her? We’ll continue to delve into the holistic finances of sailboat living over the lifetime of this site, but looking from 10,000 feet, you need to think through:
  • How much will my purchase cost be, including any taxes, registration fees, and broker/dealer commission? You need to know the immediate cost if you agree to buy.
  • What are the average operating costs going to be? It’s usually best to think of these in terms of per-foot costs. Slips are typically priced on a per-foot basis, as are hauling out fees to get her on land for repairs, some insurance products, and others. This is also the place to think through the totality of your live aboard experience. If you don’t know where you’ll keep a boat, you’ll have a harder time making a rational decision, especially on size.
  • What are the estimate costs to complete necessary and desired improvements? There’s going to be something, it should be prioritized, and you’ll most likely be 50% off. But these are real costs too.

This post was previously setup as a high-level synopsis of all of our sailboat purchases, but I’m re-purposing it into a detailed look at my 2002 decision to buy my first live aboard, a Cal 28 flat-top named SeaWitch.

My new bride and I while I was moving off.

My new bride and I while I was moving off.

A Bored College Student

Well, maybe not bored, but unsatisfied. March of 2002 I took off with my girlfriend for spring break in London. A topic of conversation was my plans after graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. Like my classmates, I would soon graduate and gain a commission as a naval officer, specifically a submarine officer. My next duty station would be Charleston, SC, to attend nuclear power training. Many of my friends were looking into various living situations: apartment complexes, buying a starter home, the decision of living alone versus roommates. Decisions every college grad will face. In my head, these seemed like perfectly fine things, but I really wanted to do something different.

A project mentor planted the seed in my head about living aboard a sailboat. His girlfriend and he were doing the same thing. He had many good things to say about it. Thus, after returning from England, I got to work doing my research. A guy in my unit grew up on the Chesapeake Bay and had a small 19 footer. I could take a look and maybe even spend a weekend aboard just to trial run things. I began checking out sailing books from the library, and spent hours searching through the limited online offerings from fledgling websites of cruising. My roommate was on the sailing team and had some thoughts as well, and my previous summers sailing for professional training helped frame some of my thoughts.

Fundamentally, I worried about the following things:

1) How big or small of a sailboat did I really need?

2)  How much boat could I afford (both initially and on-going)?

3) What hurdles existed between sitting in my dorm room and being a “successful” live aboard?

The Challenges

At the time, several significant challenges existed which have largely been mitigated over time. Things such as:

  • How do you find sailboats for sale? The local classified ads in newspapers and the beginnings of some online brokerage sites were all that I had available. In the end, it was foot work and driving which led me to the Maryland Marina in Essex, MD, where I did my first surveys and eventually bought Seawitch.
  • How to purchase a sailboat? Thankfully my person bank had several options for boat loans, and my personal savings helped to supplement.
  •  How do I figure out all of the unknowns? I made a few “blind” purchases of recommended cruising books, hoping to gain the knowledge necessary to answer my unknown questions, and relied heavily on the experiences of others gained through conversations and the internet’s early forums. Much of it was valuable, much of it was suspect. I had to sort out a lot of chaff.

Finding My New Home

In April of 2002 I arrived at the Maryland Marina on a reasonably warm Saturday. In hand were color printouts of several boats they had for sale via their business webpage, a small toolkit with tape measure and flashlight, and a notebook. Sadly, digital cameras were not really as available, and I may have brought my super awesome Canon ELPH with drop-in film.

I asked the manager if I could spend a few hours looking over the sailboats in question. No worries, he said, and tossed me keys to each of them. The entire afternoon was spent crawling over each of three offerings, probing the recesses of bilges and under lockers. I learned a bunch that day, including:

  • Finding a sailboat under 30 feet with headroom for a tall guy was practically impossible.
  • Finding a sailboat in my price range over 30 feet was also unlikely.
  • The smell of musk in a locker would be ingrained in my mind forevermore.
  • While it would eventually feel much smaller, a 28 foot sailboat on stands looks huge.

After noting as many of the features as I could during my personal survey, I returned the keys and asked for contact information for two vessels. The Cal 28 had risen to the top of my short list.

A Cal 28 on the hard; similar to the one I found in Maryland

A Cal 28 on the hard; similar to the one I found in Maryland

cal 28 (4)

The Cal 28 sailing (note the dodger over the companionway; something I always wanted but never got around to)

 

After two phone calls and another afternoon going over the boat with the owner, I made the decision to buy SeaWitch for the sum of $8500 (2002 dollars).

Resources for those interested:
Stirling Law’s Cal 28 webpage; still the most comprehensive of any on this model

The Next Step of My Future

Back to the factors listed above, I financed my first liveaboard, so thought of things in terms of both monthly and total costs. SeaWitch was sold to me for $8500. Taxes and registration came out to around $400. I was responsible for the launch fee, since I would liveaboard on land for several months due to my work schedule. $400 for launch and getting the mast back up. The seller paid the seller broker fee, and I was not represented by a buyer’s broker, so no fee there. Total initial outlay: $9300. My note was for slightly more, with a monthly payment of $230.

At 28 feet, my per-foot costs remained pretty reasonable. My slip in Charleston, SC, was around $10/ft plus metered electricity. This averaged $30-40 per month. Cable TV was included (although I’m a proponent of doing without that burden), and for internet I needed a telephone line for dial-up, adding another $30/mo. Total cost to have a slip, parking spot for my car, electricity, water, phone and cable: $350/mo. This is $4200/yr

My plan was to haul out every other year to do maintenance on the bottom and tackle any odd jobs. Asking around the marina, I reasoned the total cost for haul out, storage on land for a week, and launch, would be around $500. There was a yard I could do my own work at (becoming rarer these days), which would have saved me some money. Including bottom paint, total bi-annual cost: ~$1000.
If you amortize that, I needed to save about $40/month for that cost.

Lastly, upgrades. All the normal items came with the boat: sails, engine, safety gear to pass a USCG inspection, and some interior accouterments. But to make her a liveaboard, I needed a number of “home” items, including dishes and kitchen ware, bedding, painting the interior, some rugs, and several small pictures and knickknacks to call it a home. I was also moving to the South, and I quickly realized living without A/C there was trouble. Then it turned to winter, and I needed to buy a couple of heaters. These small costs can add up quickly; like several hundred dollars in the first couple of months. I also had a running list of marine upgrades to better the boat itself: changing out from a portapotti to a marine head, adding better sail controls, and the worst offender: maintaining, and then replacing, the Atomic 4 inboard engine.

By the end of the first year aboard, I had spent an average of $300/mo on these kind of “extras” that ballooned out of control. Again, I hope to cover some of my “lessons learned” in future posts to discuss items I purchased, why they did or did not work, and the actual value of them.

One of the Best Decisions of My Life

Ultimately, the decision to move aboard was probably one of the best in my life. Some of the reasons were tangible, but most were related to those influential experiences a young man or woman can have.

  • I learned very quickly what a spending plan was and why I needed to keep to it. Owning your own home has costs and they must be managed.
  • I learned to become more self-sufficient and a generalist. You can’t call the landlord and complain about a broken water pipe; you need to fix that quickly or else you’ll sink! Living aboard provided many opportunities to learn new skills, practice new abilities, and make decisions that had significant consequences.
  • I learned to ask for help. While I tried to do as much as possible on my own, I also had a community of sailors surrounding me who were readily available for help and advice. I learned more that first year from them than anyone could possibly gain through reading magazines, books, or articles online.
  • I learned about myself. During a handful of significant experiences, such as grounding the boat, a fire aboard, several near-sinkings, and facing the choice of sending my delivery crew home and continuing on solo, I had more opportunities to grow and learn about who I was than every before. These seminal experiences ultimately helped shape who I am today, and continue to be a source of positive influence on my life.

In a future post I’ll detail the same process that led to shifting resources away from the Cal 28 and towards a new future with our Tartan 37, Persephone, over on the island of Guam.

Note: Due to the poor timing of technology, most of my pictures of SeaWitch were either on film or my first digital camera, which were destroyed during several events later in life. I hope to recover some photos from friends or otherwise and add to this post later if possible. The glory of having a camera on every phone these days; one forgets how convenient that really is.

Photo credit: From the Stirling Law Cal 28 website, SailTexas advertisement, and my own collection

Sailboat Saturday: Columbia 29

While I’ve been delayed in writing this, the post on Craigslist continued to be available. Perusing the internets for a fun sailboat to highlight I found this ad for a Columbia 29.  The basic specifications:

$1500 o.b.o.
1964 Columbia Sailboat Model C-29
1997 15 hp Honda Outboard – runs great
Presently on the hard
Includes five jack stands

Columbia 29 sailing


Columbia 29 on the hard

Columbia 29 interior

Columbia 29 settee

What makes this a good potential liveaboard?

Well, a few things stand out to me. First, at 29 feet, this is slightly larger than the Cal 28 I lived aboard, making me just a little bit size jealous. It’s a good length for single-handing, and the layout down below appears to be usable in the same capacity.

Also, the hull form is something you won’t find being used much in newer vessels. A decently long keep with a protected rudder. See the layout drawings found at one of the Columbia 29’s owner websites here.

Some of the data on this model:

Length Overall 28′ 6″
Length Waterline 22′ 6″
Beam 8′ 0″
Draft 4′ 0″
Displacement early 7400, late and MkII 8400 lbs.
Ballast (lead) early 3120, late and MkII 4100/4120 lbs.
Fuel Capacity (with inboard) 12 gal.
Fresh Water Capacity 35 gal.
Sail Area 382 sq. ft.
Head Room 6′ 0″
Power – Concealed outboard well (standard), Inboard 8 HP Palmer (optional)

Note that last point, a big seller for me: an outboard well. In this case the specific boat had an outboard mounted on an external bracket. Not bad, but not great either. In my estimation the outboard well is one of the most unappreciated features in these 1960-1970’s era sailboats. Check out James Baldwin’s excellent builds over at Atom Voyages for examples of this feature being added in after market.

Factors to consider:

Certainly lots of things to wonder about with this specific boat, such as:

1) Price: given the low selling price ($1500 at the time I’m posting this) my spidy-sense is kicking in. Part of the price is due to a desire to sell quickly, but this also likely means there’s equipment missing or in need of replacement. Much like the Watkins 27 we looked at early, I’d look into what basic equipment is already provided and the state/health of these things. If I had a fictional budget of $8000-$10,000, there’s probably a lot that could be done. Such as:

– Buy a good gallon of epoxy and fillers to tackle any fiberglass projects that would crop up. It’s easy to learn to use, and given the vessel’s age there’s likely a number of holes and areas which could benefit from some structural loving.

– Electronics: I’d like to think I’d be cautious, but given the age and potential budget, there’s probably a lot that could be done to add some modern conveniences where they are absent. A good depth sounder, compass, and maybe a small chart plotter wouldn’t break the budget and could be found used on eBay or with further Craigslist searching.

– Propulsion: given the low price, I might consider changing out the engine. The 15hp would likely fetch something when sold, but a newer model high efficiency/high thrust long shaft would be a nice-to-have feature and probably better mileage. Brand new with controls and such it may run into the $3000 range, but is worth the money.

– Liveability: Much like the Watkins we covered, some self-sustaining gear to provide a better liveaboard situation, such as solar or wind power, possibly an additional deep cycle battery or two for house loads, and maybe a DC-powered freezer/fridge unit.

Of course, the trouble with low-price fixer-uppers is being honest about the need-want decisions. A diligent owner could really stretch their dollar and get a lot of boat for their money. At the same time, it’d be easy to sink a bunch of cheddar into low-priority fixes or conveniences which don’t improve the value or utility of the vessel.

In closing, there are a few other Columbia 29 resources I found. Given this one is on the hard, in a perfect setting to give it a good survey and dig into any problem areas, there’s a lot of potential for this particular vessel and this model in general. Sta y tuned for the next installment.

Sailboat Data basic coverage

Write-up at Bluewater Boats

The Zen of Arrival: Sailing for Mindfulness

Anchored out

One important concept in the practice of Zen (a school of Buddhism) is “mindfulness”.  This state of being can be described as an increased awareness of the activity at hand and the world around oneself.  So often in life we bustle through an activity without really thinking about what, exactly, it is we are accomplishing. That’s not always a bad thing; in his short book called Godliness Through Discipline, Jay E. Adams describes the ability of all humans to develop habits.  He uses an example of a man going through his morning routine to drive this point home. If you had to think through each and every action to accomplish your daily tasks, you’d hardly finish getting out the door before night fell. “First, I pick up the toothpaste tube. Then I reach up to grasp the cap. Now I turn it counter-clockwise…”

On the other hand, sometimes we rush through activities without giving them any thought. While I’m glad I don’t brush my teeth as just described, I am grateful I have teeth, that they are straight, that my parents ponied up no small amount of their income to get them that way, and that I can enjoy corn on the cob with them.

Certain boating skills can become this way, and one of my personal favorites is anchoring.  You will hopefully practice anchoring enough that many of the actions will be habit.  You will also train your mind to be constantly assessing any given anchoring situation, looking for danger, aware of your surroundings.  But hopefully you’ll be able to incorporate a sense of mindfulness in this activity.  It builds connection between yourself, the boat, the harbor, the ocean, and the world.  And that’s no small thing!

“I’ve spotted the entrance channel I intend to come in through. Track looks good, depth looks good.  Depth sounder is on and we’re safe.  How is that wind?  Ah… gentle breeze on the beam.  Feel the wind brush my cheek, rustle the sail, ripple the water.  Deep breath in, hold, slow exhale.  I grab the railing and get up from the cockpit, walking up the port side to the bow.  Feel the motion of the boat as we move together.  Feel her strength in my hands as I make my way forward.  Loving, diligent hands made her many years ago. Did they expect her to be sailing at this time?  Into this harbor?  I reach the foredeck and kneel down.  The anchor is lashed down with good strong rope.  I untie it, getting it ready to plunge into the darkness beneath us.  From some unknown mine, maybe in Asia, maybe here in the United States, we delved deep for the ore that birthed this instrument.  Who were they? What price did they pay to deliver the material to create this thing?  I look out at the surrounding water, seeing the small wavelets, listening to the sounds.  The image of the chart is in my mind, and I look around me to verify, yes, I’m still on course.  Some engineers created the magic that keeps my boat slowly moving forward, guided by a small electric motor, slowly left, slowly right.  I remember the number on the chart.  I need ten fathoms of line.  I reach down and pull out the anchor line stopper, unhooking the bitter end from the plug.  I stretch my arms out; one fathom, two fathoms… I feel the twisted strands brush across my hands as I pull more and more out.  This line has served me well.  How many anchorages has it kept me safely in? How many times has Zephyr or Boreas tried to blow us out to sea, or onto shore, and this line kept us safe? I check the markers on the line; yes, that will do.  I shackle the anchor and chain and line together.  I test each connection to make sure my mind and hands worked together, that each shackle is moused, that each connection is true.  I fake out the line on deck.  I see each length in my mind as it will slip over the bow and into the water, no bights, no kinks.  I look up again, see that I’m getting close.  I walk back to the cockpit.  I check my chart, and bump the throttle just a touch to get us in faster.  The electric motor hums a little louder, but still silent.  The ripples as Ruby cuts through the waves grow a touch louder.  We are close now, and I cut the throttle back altogether.  Now it is just the sound of the water around me, close, natural, real.  I realize this will be my home for tonight.  I will break my bread, rest my body, relieve my mind, here in this place.  One harbor among hundreds, among thousands, nay, tens of thousands.  Who has been here before me? I step lightly up onto the deck and make my way forward again.  I slow count in my head, one…two…three… and release that last pin holding the steel hook in its cradle. Splash goes the water, and the line is paying out. We drift past it all, and I watch the line slowly descend into the blackness.  At last the coils grow smaller, and I tie off the rest to the great cleat on the bow.  With a groan of protest, the line goes taunt, gripping the horns, transferring power to the ocean floor.  I am here.  For the moment.  For the night.  Forever.”

(photo credit: Richard Hurd)

How to Sell a Dream

http://boatbits.blogspot.com/2013/12/how-to-sell-boat.html

Bob links over to this guy’s sailboat ad. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

http://losangeles.craigslist.org/wst/boa/4234040827.html

What does captian kurt, popeye, captain hook and tommy lee have in common? They are all bad ass people. Why? Because they were all in command of ships. You should be in command of a ship. You should buy my boat.

I can offer you the opportunity to be in command of this Catalina 27 sailing ship for about the cost of a lot of the stupid stuff you bought, buy or are thinking about buying. I present the following:

Malls & Nipple Milk
I can tell you this; the boat I am selling is less than the cost of that couch you bought at Pottery Barn* after spending 3 weeks researching it on Google**. I don’t care if your favorite mall doesn’t have a roof on it and has a theme. You should be ashamed of half of the mall things you spent hard earned cash money and time on. None of it will take you across oceans and it will not get you a buffaloes milk at Two Harbors (or a nimby cup). Not even close. Do you want your only source of alcohol laden milk to be your pregnant girlfriends nipple because I guarantee it doesn’t have 8 types of rum and 4 types of artificial sweetener in it. If it does muchacho then you should be hanging out with jcvd on a regular basis and won’t be needing this said boat. Back to your mall things.. If you add up the cost of your bed frame, mattress, headboard, box spring, stupid fancy pillows from Target, decorative duvet cover with a cool pattern from ikea and your designer pajamas it probably costs as much as I’m asking and you can have a f*$king BOAT of which can sleep 5 people and will guarantee you more bidness. You won’t find that guarantee in the bedding department at Macy’s. Note: your lame duvet made from rare dead birds is always on sale, you did not hit the Macy’s Bed Bath and Beyond jackpot and score a 300 feather count for 35% off, everyone did and just because you laughed at some actor making fun of Bed, Bath and Beyond doesn’t give you a pass for going there or not going there. And are you really spending your miniscule amount of free time on Earth counting feathers or laughing at jokes about retail stores? And by the way, if you are the type of person who covers your bed with any amount of (especially more than two) decorative pillows, please do not call about my Boat. I am not interested in selling this to a decorative pillow type which is too bad because you my friend are the type that needs this boat more than anyone.

Recreation, Drinking and Sea Monkeys
I understand you have many options on how to spend your free time. How you choose to recreate says a lot about a human being. What I am offering you is the open Pacific Ocean, fishing, going to islands, breathing salty air at sea, breathing atomic four gas powered exhaust fumes, drinking rum, drinking whiskey, drinking cheap beer, drinking expensive beer, drinking the dead sea monkeys floating in the drink that your friend backwashed, spear fishing anything that moves, endless supply of gold colored fish to make into tacos, trapping crabs, getting crabs, free membership to hbyc, a money pit, a fist pumping teeth grinding laser eating dance platform, a new kitchen, a boom that might hit you in the head, a $270 slip fee, the ability to t-bone a stand up paddle boarder, the ability to bbq a t-bone steak, the ability to bone in the v-birth, the chance to see whales, the improved chance to bring a whale out of najas and tying knots. These are fine things. These are gentlemanly things. They certainly beat sitting in car traffic towing your sand rail or three wheeler past a bunch of meth labs to glamis or driving a boat in circles in the std filled cess pool commonly referred to as “the river” or any other so called lake. Does a real man or woman want to recreate in a standing pool of “fresh water” or in a hot desert with a bunch of drunk yahoos with engines strapped to their backs?

Fast Transport
This boat travels as fast as your Audi on the 405. 6 knots at best. And you spent over $30K. Way more than a domestic car just because of the cool logo, neat ads and foreignness of it. Not to mention the way it makes you feel when you look at it after you park it. You could have got a Ford, a 3 wheeler, a sand rail and this boats for the same price. Enough said.

360 Degree Ocean View and the Mexican Navy
Always wanted an ocean view? See above description of how lucky you are. This boat comes with an ocean view of your damn choosing! Imagine a house that could do that. Those creepy realtor types would be drooling all the way to the bank. (Please no inquiries if your picture is on your business card). For the price of a ocean front strand house you could buy a boat like this every month of the year. In fact for $3,000,000 (reasonable price for a strand house) you could buy 600 boats like this. That’s more than the entire navy of Mexico. What would you do with that many boats? You could tie them together end to end and stretch them from Manhattan Beach pier to Hermosa Beach pier 1.7 times. Toss in a few more and you could have a two way sailboat highway spanning the two piers. This would be enough to move the annual 6 man party to sea and save the fun in a town loosing its charm faster than antartica is loosing glacial ice. Everyone would be happy because the kids could again dress up, beam each other with volleyballs and drink booze in the open sun on a WEEKEND. You would be the damn Kevin Bacon of the beach area. People would make movies of how you returned the joy to such an under privileged area of LA. (Math: 1.8 miles between piers = 9504′ / 27′ boat length = 352 boats required for a one way span.)

Screen World or Water World?
Each day the average person spends ?? hours staring at a computer screen, ?? watching a television screen, and ?? hours looking at a smart phone screen. (You do the math). The hope is that eventually there will be enough devices “invented” whereby 24 hours of your day is spent looking at a radiation emitting electronic display screens. These devices with clever names starting with i will range in size to span every increment of that Home Depot tape measure you never use. This will be toped by the inevitable invention of a gigantic screen that allows up to three people to be imbedded in, is only 2 microns thick, is named after a fruit and hurtles through outer space endlessly. I have good news for you my screen collecting swollen eyeball friend. This boat comes with an lcd tv screen and there is cell service all the way to Catalina Island! So you don’t have to skip the pirate dress up wine mixer because you are worried about missing all those great things happening on social media and on dvd.

Boat Includes
— 4 sails
— Atomic four engine
— Mast
— Boom
— Hull
— Rudder
— Tiller
— The book sailing for Dummies (You must have an IQ of at least 30 to learn how to sail)
— A bow with no arrows
— A bunch of life vests

Attention Doomsday Preppers
If you are a doomsday prepper then you have just hit the powerball lottery scratch off confetti falls out of the sky jackpot. Feel free to go into one of those evangelist religious on stage convulsions right now because when shit hits the fan in L.A. (and it will) do you want to be on the roof of your liqour store with a high powered riffle or in the open ocean reading moby dick with a milky rum drink in your skilled knot tieing hands?

In Summary
This boat is cheap, it gives you access to buffaloes milk, it is more fun than your current hobbies, it is fast enough, it has an ocean view, it comes with a TV, comes with everything you need and it might be helpful in case of a disaster. Most importantly it puts you in command of a ship. Go ahead break a bottle of Champagne over the bow, leave your mall things on land and grab the tiller.

$5,000 OBO / trade offers accepted

*ARE YOU F$##KING KIDDING ME. A STORE NAMED “POTTERY” “BARN”? WHOEVER USED THIS TERRIBLE NAME TO DUPE PEOPLE OUT OF HARD EARNED MONEY INTO BUYING EVERYTHING BUT POTTERY OUT OF ANYTHING BUT A BARN AND SELLING SHIT ALL MADE IN CHINA BUT DESIGNED TO LOOK ANYTHING BUT CHINESE AND I STILL HAVENT SOLD THIS BOAT IS BEYOND ME.

** Google = Best slot machine ever invented. Insert letters instead of coins. Output hyperlinks instead of cash. Google is paid by 3rd party XYZ business for the participants pleasure of playing this terrible slot machine for “free”. But participants pay end up paying in dead brain cells instead of cash and XYZ business trades cash for a snowflakes chance in hell of converting a mouse click to a sale. Only benefit of all this is it finally puts bad newspapers out of business.

*** If you happened to buy a mattress from that old white guy who shrieks “if you find a mattress for a lower price your mattress is free!!!” please, please, please, please don’t f$@king contact me. Did you really think that A-Hole is going to give away a free mattress if you found one for a lower price? Have you heard of anyone getting a free mattress from that damn place? How can our government allow such a thing. I will not give you my boat for free if you find one for less. In fact you will probably be more likely to sink would be my guess. And if you are the type that needs the government to protect you or wastes time complaining about the government also don’t contact me.

Living Aboard Vs. Living Abroad

sailboat dodger spray beneteau

Definitely abroad… spray covered dodger from a recent trip of mine

The difference is in placement of that ole “R”

For many years I’ve pondered the nature of of living aboard in contrast to cruising. Starting in 2002 when I first began my research into the lifestyle, I met with significant confusion. The internet was a small place back then, but there were still a number of resources available. I figured that a simple “Excite” search of “Living aboard a sailboat” would immediately bring me to a page or two that detailed a systematic process to analyze the life. The overwhelming amount of information was all focused on sailing across oceans. While interesting, and useful to a great extent, it didn’t help one bit in finding a marina, managing services, and finding out what to expect at the dock. Frankly, even these days that’s not too far from the internet truth: most sailing magazines are focused on getting away from shore as fast as possible.

With that in mind, what makes a person a live aboard versus a cruiser?

Cruising: As a verb, cruising implies movement. Cruise ships are often places of leisure and relaxation. A warship goes on cruise, and it means a steady pace to accomplish some mission. In sailing parlance, it probably denotes someone (or someones) who reside solely (or predominantly) aboard their vessel for substantial periods of time, with an intended purpose of traveling to different locations via the water. The reason for this travel may be intrigue, work, family, safety, curiosity, or even boredom. But the fundamental verb is moving. Cruisers may stay in an single port, or even a region, for a lengthy period of time, but they are in a state of near-readiness to leave, if they choose. By the nature of their housing arrangement, they do “live aboard”.

Living Aboard: As a verb, implies staying. It describes the choice of home, as opposed to living on land. As mentioned, cruisers live aboard, but so do folks who are quite happy to stay in one location while aboard their vessel. The narrow boats of London, barges of the Netherlands, and that old relic floating in the harbor with the weirdo on board could all be classified as liveaboards.

For myself, I always believed I was a live aboard more than anything else. While I tried to maintain a sailboat capable of cruising, I recognized my primary goal was comfortable living aboard my boat while living a “typical” livelihood. This meant having easy access to shore to pursue my career (as a military officer), as well as access for my social activities like church, dinners, and exercise. A marina was a convenient platform to accomplish these things from. While it certainly seemed like a transient lifestyle to my peers, in many ways it was anything but. While I didn’t own a house, or rent an apartment, it was easy to be lulled into the mindset of permanency that shore living induced. I had a small storage unit for those things that wouldn’t easily fit aboard, but were so “essential” to my life that I chose to keep them nearby. Many of my tools fit aboard, but why not keep a few sheets of plywood available for a rainy day up the road?

The perfect cruising boat (which is a unicorn – imaginary) would have plenty of margin aboard for activities like construction and repair, exercise, and other hobbies. But in reality, the boat gets put into “cruising mode” before leaving port, which means things are less available, less convenient sometimes, and the purpose of the sailboat is now two-fold: both safe travel and tolerable living conditions.

On the other hand, the live aboard sailboat is focused on comfortable living and convenience. And in my view, there’s nothing wrong with that. So don’t let the popular magazines sway you: it’s OK to be comfortable as a working guy or gal, with the unique living arrangement, knowing you can prepare and pull lines at your leisure.

What do you think? Are liveaboards mischaracterized?