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

Sailboat Saturday: The Watkins 27

In an effort to become more consistent with posting, I’ve wanted to get into a rhythm with a basic post format. One that stuck in my head was to write about the most enjoyable time waster I know; trolling Craigslist for new sailboats!  I can’t explain the pleasure that exists in researching all of the “What if?” thoughts that come with finding a diamond in the rough.  Sometimes the sailboats are in great shape and could sail away today.  More often, they need some love and tenderness to be brought back to their full potential.  And in those cases, there’re many examples where a frank discussion on prioritizing could be beneficial.

The structure of these posts will attempt to do a few things:
1) Describe the “avatar,” or situation and person who might be looking at this particular style of sailboat.
2) Describe why the particular sailboat in question could make a good potential live aboard for that situation.
3) Key factors to consider for the person looking into the sailboat.
4) And lastly, a few recommendations for first steps after the sailboat was purchased.
So, let’s talk about the Watkins 27
I’m a 23 year old college graduate, just out of a computer science program and moving to coastal North Carolina for my first job.  I’m just about 6′ tall, like to run, and enjoy playing video games on the side.  I learned to sail while in college, but haven’t ever owned a boat before. I’m looking for an adventure post-college, and figure this may be a good way to spend a few years before moving on to my next gig.
A Classic Coastal Cruiser
The Watkins 27 first came to my attention in 2009.  I was in the process of selling our Tartan 37 over in Guam, but sitting around in Maryland waiting for my new job to start. It was killing me.  The thought train circling my head kept saying “Well you could just buy a sailboat now, mooring it out in the Chesapeake, and enjoy unemployment for a bit.”  I knew I wanted something smaller than the Tartan 37, and the 27-30 foot range was ideal.  Then a Watkins came up.

Watkins 27 Under Sail

This week, another Watkins popped up on Craigslist. Basic information includes the following:
Price: $6000
Year: 1979
Size: 27′ long, 10′ beam, 3’8″ draft, and 6’2″ headroom
Equipment: All the standard sailboat gear (head, alcohol stove, fridge/cooler, 2 way VHF radio, AM/FM/CD player…)
Engine: Yanmar YSM12 with some recent work completed
Sails: Main sail, storm jib, genoa
Bonuses: Garmin GPS 2006C with navigation cards; wheel steering
What makes this a good potential liveaboard?
1) Headroom: When analyzing a sailboat purchase, consider all of your decision factors with this criteria: what can I change after I purchase the boat, and what am I going to be stuck with?  Two in particular are headroom and draft.  Without substantial modification, these will be fixed and unchangeable.  The Watkins is one of the few sailboats under 30′ that boasts this kind of headroom.  And as a 6′ guy who lived aboard a 5’10” Cal 28, I can tell you how enjoyable having that kind of flexibility is.
2) Draft: Along the same lines as headroom, this boat draws just less than 4′.  Perfect for cruising the barrier islands of North Carolina and more than capable of cruising up or down the East coast of the U.S.
3) Equipment: For $6K you’d get a Yanmar diesel engine.  In the end, if a sailboat has a working diesel engine, you are probably better off keeping it and maintaining it in good condition than changing it out.  I personally subscribe to the philosophy of Yves Gelinas’ Jean de Sud and James Baldwin, and enjoyed several sailboats converted from gasoline inboards to gasoline outboards.  I wouldn’t consider a replacement diesel unless it was a great deal, for this particular size and age of sailboat.  After all, you could likely spend over $10K in a new installation, more than the cost of this boat in the first place.  But, with a working diesel you could consider some well thought out upgrades to make sure it lasts you a good long time.
4) Build/Layout: The Watkins is a pretty solid coastal cruiser.  It has a wider-than-average cabin, good coamings in the cockpit, and (to me) appealing lines.  One of the nice conveniences to sailing, wheel steering, is included in this model. And the arrangement below decks would support having a computer station in the settee, using the table.

Watkins 27 Layout

Factors to consider:
Other than the typical survey checklist, a few items I’d be concerned about during my in-person inspection:
  • Engine condition: Again, one of the appeal factors is a good condition diesel engine. I’d want to know how it was used, maintained, and what the state of the entire system is (fuel tank, hoses, exhaust, cooling, etc.) When in doubt, have a mechanic come by to assist.
  • Steering cables: Duck into the cockpit locker with a flashlight to inspect the condition of the steering system. While steering by wheel is convenient, replacing the cables is not. That said, it’s completely within the realm of the do-it-yourselfer to replace these cables if necessary.  Keep an eye out for cable wear, broken strands, and corrosion on the turning blocks and quadrant.
  • Sails: The listing didn’t specify, but this is a pretty stock set of sails.  Check for wear and tear, fit (raise them up to verify the size is accurate), and for versatility: how many reef points does the main have? What condition are the batten pockets in?
Most of the equipment list is pretty stock for a boat of this vintage.  One should expect to see the typical boat gear necessary to get out and about safely. This post isn’t meant to be exhaustive of a pre-purchase survey, and a well informed buyer will do a thorough job of inspecting the entire boat.
Next steps:
A few things I’d consider:
  • First, ensure the top five priorities are met. See Attainable Adventures for more detail, but until confident of these, I’d forego any significant modifications.
  • Power: Depending on the context, being self-sufficient in power production is the next step I’d make. Solar panels on the stern or sides of the pushpit railing, or on deck, would make a big difference.  A wind generating system may also be valuable depending on the intended location.
  • Dodger: In this case the boat came with no additional covering, and I’d posit that a dodger should be the first item on the list. At anchor or in port a simple boom tent could be rigged to reduce heat from sun glare, but a dodger would allow full headroom and movement even in increment weather. And be a luxury when sailing out of Cape Fear into the rolling surf!
 These are my thoughts, not gospel. Each person’s situation is unique, and each sailboat is different. Just because something is possible to do, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the only way to do things or even the best way!  Consider these good entry points and thought-drivers.
So… any other sailboats you re interested in? Shoot me a note in the comments and I’ll keep my eye out in the Craigslist listings.  Stay tuned for the next installment in two weeks.


One Year in Djibouti: What the Desert Taught Me About Living Aboard

That big dreams are hard to chase, but everything worth doing is going to be hard work.  And that’s an understatement.

In July 2013 I departed my typical East Coast lifestyle for a one-year deployment to Djibouti, Africa, with the U.S. Navy Reserves. Initially I had high hopes for compartmentalizing my life; work hard at my duties, but also focus on getting this sailing resource up and going. Build some discipline about posting regularly, maybe front-load some products. Of course I’m Superman and can do everything, right?

In the end, I spent an inordinate amount of time doing my primary duties. And that’s not bad; I was assigned a mission and we accomplished it. My responsibility was to the American tax payer, and they got their money’s worth out of this guy.

And so I begin what we affectionately call fiscal year 2015 back here in the states. Two years of web hosting in the hole. Time to buckle down and determine some direction.

Which led me to think of the subject topic. Like many people I try to deliberately take time to reflect on where I’ve been, where I’m heading, and how the in-between worked out. While living aboard my Cal 28, and while cruising on my Tartan 37, I often practiced the same analysis. What kinds of lessons were learned during the previous period? This provides invaluable support in making solid, reality-based, and challenging decisions which have a high likelihood of success.

Lessons Learned

1) This Isn’t Kiddie Soccer: One of my favorite bits of advice started that way: “This isn’t kiddie soccer; you can’t just try hard and mean well.” In our case, lives were legitimately at stake, so decision-making in an uncertain environment was a vital skillset. When I think on my sailing skills, the same thing applies. The decision to stay out and buckle down through a weather system has real consequences. The choice of type and manufacturer of essential pieces of kit are likely to become critical when truly pressed into service at the worst possible moment. And when solo-sailing, each decision provides the foundation for whether you return to shore or not. Not to say these are impossible situations, but I gained a deeper appreciation for how real the real world is.

2) Dry Your Eyes Cupcake: I worked with a great British chap who shared this statement: “That’s why I say: Dry your eye’s cupcake and soldier on.” Rather harsh response to the particular topic, but the line was catchy when tossed around with an accent. When our Cal 28 sank due to a catastrophic failure of the rudder bearing, we didn’t have time to mope around and feel bad. Time mattered, and we quickly got the boat into a safe location and promptly got a salvage crew to assist in raising her before she became a navigation hazard. When the shaft gland cover sheared off enroute from Annapolis to Charleston, in the middle of a tight schedule, and with crew who had to leave me to continue solo for half the trip, I couldn’t just sit around feeling bad for myself. Emotions will certainly happen, and grief, fear, and anxiety have the capacity to overcome us. The best thing we can do is stop, assess the situation, determine what the next action is, and get on with it.

3) If You Want To Go Far: A common African proverb we heard was “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” I believe there’s much to be said for that. Not at face value necessarily.  Certainly a well prepared solo sailor may chock up more miles than a family with more shore-side baggage (not necessarily a bad thing either.) We all need help from someone. It may be words of encouragement, a helping hand with a project, or a spare set of eyes during a passage. My favorite memories of living aboard SeaWitch, and later at the marina in Guam on Persephone, was the friends I had and relationships we shared.

A year on the dark continent was certainly more than I expected to achieve in my life. It was a tough tour, and while I managed to get a stand-alone site up and going, was unable to spend the time necessary to reach my goals last year. But I hope the lessons I took away from Djibouti will continue to shape my actions and goal-setting for years to come, and be a positive influence on how I sail.


Freecycling: Should I Even Consider A Project Boat?

Boat Graveyard

Bob over at BoatBits has a short note this week that struck a chord with me.

Every boat I’ve owned was used. My most recent one, a Balboa 23, was “free.” The thought process for me was rather simple.

1) The Balboa, while free, would have some initial expense. This came in the form of sweat equity to get it out of the water, a small ramp fee to do so, and the cost of discarding the hull of my Aquarius 23.

2) Sweat equity and lost sailing time from removing every piece of kit from the Aquarius 23 to later be installed on the Balboa 23 (same model boat, just slightly upgraded interior.)

3) The typical friction inherent to any project, where lots of decisions need to be made, time sucks, learning curves, etc.

The reward was practical: for little initial expense, I was getting a significant boost in interior renovation. The Balboa, while lacking many items, had a great interior that was much farther along than my Aquarius. I knew I’d sink a lot more time and money into the Aquarius interior before it would be up to my desired standard. I figured I could short cut a little bit of the process.

That said, it wasn’t easy to get everything in order to go sailing that season. I only made it out once in 2012, and it was over Veteran’s Day. In Maryland, the daytime might have been comfortable, but the nights are quite chilly. So much for opportunity.

Every once in a while on Craigslist there will be a “diamond in the rough”. That potentially great deal, which like a siren calls to a mariner. “Of course you can have this 40 foot world-girdler for the low price of $1000,” while the reality is there’s a significant outlay to be made to get her in good condition.

Then again, a patient person, with the right plan, and a large degree of self-restraint, could pick up such a boat with the intent of doing things slowly over time.

Frankly, that was the plan for our Tartan 37. A sailboat we could keep as long as possible, and just keep doing small upgrades over time while maintaining the basics. I can say from experience it’s a tough position to be in. If you are considering a project sailboat (a significant project sailboat; they all need something), then please heed Bob’s words.

(Photo Credit: Clicksy)

Consumerism and Sailing: An Almost Impossible Match

Buy Krap

Today’s thought comes from viewing a great video over at Doryman (and here), who links over from Annie Leonard’s site. The discussion is on consumerism, and it got my creative juices going. Not that I have an “audience”, but I suppose I have a platform.  If you find yourself with twenty minutes, grab a snack, a coffee, a whatever, and watch.

I was initially turned onto these types of short documentaries by the 35 minute film There’s No Tomorrow.  Since we don’t have cable, I don’t get to watch a ton of Discovery or Learning Channel, and these Youtube-style versions are filling the gap.

When I think on what consumerism is, I’m reminded of lessons learned from living aboard.  The plain fact is, there’s only a finite amount of room aboard any sailboat. It will be filled, in some way.  Maybe it’s chock full of foodstuffs, chock full of friends, chock full of junk, but it will be full of something. As a liveaboard, this is your environment, so you must learn to make wise choices on what comes in, what stays, and what goes.  Since your environment is small, and ever close, you quickly learn this lesson.

– You purchased the boat and it came with a typical assortment of 1970’s era life jackets.  Do you replace them out of concerns for safety, or because they smell musty, or because they look awful?

– You graduated college with your old 13″ tube-style TV.  Do you give up cubic feet on the boat to keep the TV or pitch it and get a flat screen?

– You want to refresh the look in the main cabin, but do you throw away the old cushions and replace, or recover what you’ve got.

It’s easy to think that these questions revolve solely around money. If I can afford to replace the life jackets with newer, safer models, I should. The TV probably uses more power than I can spare, and the cushions are full of evil chemicals; replace them all.

As a sailing consumer, we need to think about the other aspects of those decisions.  What is the impact of getting this _____ onto the boat, and what is the impact of taking _____ off the boat.


The Decision Two-Step

For things coming on:

  • Does this item serve a necessary purpose?
  • Will this item serve multiple purposes?
  • Where will this item live? Is there a space aboard for it?
  • What is this item replacing?
  • What additional work will having this item bring on me?
  • Will I get a substantial relative value from having this product aboard?

For things going off the boat:

  • Where is this item going to?
  • Can this item be reused aboard my boat?
  • Can this item be used aboard someone else boat?
  • Can it be recycled? (And where will I do that?)

Here’s an example from my Tartan 37.  The head was vintage 1980, with a substantial amount of plumbing missing.  I was overseas and getting parts would be problematic.  I wanted a bulletproof system, and went with a camper potty.  For the inbound toilet:

  • I had to “go” somewhere, so it was very necessary
  • It had its own water tank, holding tank, and seat, so I didn’t need to buy multiple pieces to create a system
  • It would be in the head, exactly where the old toilet bowl was and was measured to fit
  • It replaced the non-functioning marine head
  • I would have to purchase holding tank treatment and a spray bottle of cleaning solution, and later chose to keep some air freshener in the space. These were consumable goods that needed a life cycle decision of their own
  • Compared to ordering, shipping, installing, and maintaining a marine head system, this would allow me to do less work and have a lower potential for system failures, therefore provided substantial value

For the outbound toilet

  • The toilet had a number of copper fittings which could be recycled: off to the metal scrap yard
  • Sadly no, and what plumbing was left was of no value to me
  • In this case, no, because the head wasn’t rebuildable
  • Yes: at least the fixtures were and went to the local scrap yard

Most of your purchases should get this level of questioning before coming aboard. Protect your space, because many folks out there want to take it from you.

(Photo credit: Miz_ginevra)

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

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

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


** 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.

This Fire Is Out of Control: That Time My Sailboat Caught Fire…


Sailboat Fire


A sad sight…

 First, a story of stupidity

In 2004 my sailboat was in Charleston, SC while my job had moved to Kings Bay, GA. I was planning to live aboard SeaWitch, my 1970 Cal 28, in the quiet city marina in Fernandina Beach, FL. Unfortunately, I continued to run into problems delivering my home. Between finding the time, a good weather window, and my cranky inboard Atomic 4 engine, everything seemed to be against me. After doing maintenance one day, I decided I’d give the old engine a paint job to complement all of the mechanical work I’d performed.

I figured it wouldn’t take too long, as many parts were already off and being reassembled. They could be spray painted with high-temp before assembly. I could quickly tape off the block and touch up the spots I wanted to. This baby would be a beautiful fire engine red. Women would be attracted to its raw marine power, and likely drape themselves over it while professional photographers made SeaWitch’s engine compartment the next cover page for Hot Rod magazine.

I probably dumped about four cans of spray paint into this job. I had my engine blower running as well as several fans. Since SeaWitch used petrol gasoline for fuel, the blower was an easy mitigation against fume built up. That’s right: a sailboat is a giant Tupperware container, keeping water out and gases inside. Like, paint fume gases…

Later that afternoon, as I was preparing dinner, I decided to light a candle for dinner to help mask the lingering scent of the paint. Hatches were open and the fans were doing good, but it was still evident. I dropped the match, and a half second later heard the loud “POOF”, watched the cabinetry fly open, and saw through every opening in the sailboat’s cast interior the flash of light caused by the flames. I had just set my boat on fire.

General Quarters, Action Stations!

The first thought that went through my head was “I’m highly embarrassed I just set my boat on fire. I hope no one notices my stupidity.” Hey, what can I say?

That thought quickly changed to assessing the situation. I could see orange light in the bilge areas around the engine. This was from some loose paper towels used in the project. I grabbed the nearest fire extinguisher (in the settee) and got to work. Pin pulled, canister aimed, and a couple of short bursts at each flame. Once the visible flames were out, I rapidly opened all lockers that hadn’t blown open and did a search for any remaining flames. Once done, I was in consequence management mode.

The first problem was not smoke but fire extinguisher agent. The typical extinguishing agent aboard a boat is powder driven by compressed gas. It’s possible to have small sized CO2 or liquid extinguishers, but powder is pretty common. It works on a number of fire types, can be maintained relatively easily, and packages well compared to its firefighting capability [i.e. bang for the buck.]

This powder was everywhere. It’s fine and spreads rapidly when touched. Thankfully I had my particulate mask nearby and was able to throw it on while finishing my search for flames. Once the search was complete, I began the process of airing out the cabin. First I ran the bilge blower for about ten minutes to completely evacuate gases or anything heavy out of the bilge area. Then I ran a box fan from the forward hatch to drive smoke and powder out of the main cabin. At sea, I would have used both the 12VDC cabin fans and opening the forward hatch to catch the wind.

As the atmosphere got better, I began the detailed search and battle damage assessment. Was anything still warm, indicating flames behind it? Any smoldering bits in dark corners? On the submarine we had a thermal detector to assist us in this effort, but on SeaWitch I had to rely on my eyes watching for wisps of smoke or changes in color in the darkness.

I ventilated the cabin for a good hour. My smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors were reset and indicated everything was tolerable. It took several days of part-time cleaning to vacuum up the known powder, and months later I still found spots where it collected. A vacuum with HE filtration helped immensely.

What went well

1) Knowing where the extinguishers were, and how to operate one.

2) Keeping a level head and fighting one thing at a time (one fire at a time, then ventilating).

3) Conducting a thorough deep search and staying aboard for several hours after to ensure things were safe.

What didn’t go well

1) Should have ran the bilge blower the entire time I was working. On shore power, there was little reason not to. The cabin fans were unable to lift enough gases from the bilge.

2) Bravado: while I still don’t think firetrucks were necessary, it was poor of me to think “This is my problem.” It could have easily changed into everyone’s problem. Thankfully the fire was extinguished quickly. If it took more than a minute though, getting help would have been the next major thing to do.

Attainable Adventures has a great article covering fire safety aboard sailboats. Well worth the read as it treats the details with ease.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user Peter Robinett)

Setting sail!

Here in Djibouti Africa, I felt it was time to go big or go home. I intend to do both eventually. In the meantime, I’m putting some hard earned cheddar where my mouth is: I bought the domain for The Young Liveaboard. Now it’s time to transfer my content from Blogger to this new site and begin the slow process of building something worth while, of value, that will last.

Here’s to sails set and prows pointed to the horizon.

Decisions Decisions: Factors in Sailboat Upgrades and Improvements

 I’ve long been a fan of Bob’s writing, having enjoyed almost 7 years of daily (practically) posts from the Caribbean. He switched off of “BoatBits” for a while now, but started up a blog known as “Volkscruiser”, the implied meaning being a cruiser for the masses.

 I didn’t know it at the time, but I was joining the Volk when I purchased SeaWitch in 2002. An aged Cal28, she was one of the thousands of reasonably priced fiberglass production boats of the 70’s available in the U.S. These “classic plastics” are an ideal choice for the young, or beginning, liveaboard. If one sticks with a firm understanding of ROI.

Return on Investment

As a financial phrase, ROI means the ratio of profit to the amount invested. In life, ROI is a flexible term with a subjective meaning. Investment could mean time, money, attention, or effort. But harder to measure is “return”.

 In 2004, while on patrol with my first submarine, USS Rhode Island, I made the choice of bringing out the latest Defender catalog. Based in New England, Defender is a well-known source of all things marine. I spent several evenings flipping through the pages with a notebook next to me, jotting down ideas for upgrades to SeaWitch’s systems. Sometimes the pictures would remind of a part I knew needed replacing. Sometimes it was an improved product that promised additional utility or efficiency. Sometimes it was a whole new concept that I “knew” I needed to incorporate, i.e. solar charging for my batteries.

 I don’t regret spending the time day dreaming, but such behavior can become destructive with an older boat.


 When doing an initial survey or taking stock of what you’ve got, there are a few important things to keep in mind.

 1) No boat will ever be perfect: Even if you had unlimited resources, there’s always “something” else that could be improved. And use will always cause systems to fail, given enough time. The state of a sailboat is constantly changing. In that way, it’s really a living thing.

 2) You must understand the minimum effective state for your vessel: Call it whatever you want, but there’s a minimal amount of equipment or capability that a sailboat must have to sail properly and safely, and to carry you (and others) from point A to B. Any future purchase should be married to one of these things.

 3) Define what success looks like ahead of time: Measuring return is tough unless you know what it is you’re looking for. If I spent $1000 on a solar charging system, but always stayed at marinas, what was my return? I charge on shore power at every opportunity, maybe my engine charges, and I have a large capacity battery bank. Those solar panels aren’t doing anything other than making me look like a “real cruiser”. Vanity may be an appropriate measure, but just understand what it is ahead of time. Do you want to look like a cruising boat, or be a boat that cruises?

 Your Money or Your Life

 Most upgrades will not provide a financial benefit to the resale value of your sailboat. That’s just facts. It’s not much different than doing home makeover and improvements; most won’t pay for themselves, but some are more valuable than others. You should try to ensure that any effort made at improving your sailboat adds real value, in the form of convenience, safety, performance, or comfort, and if it does those things, then it will likely add to the “real” value of the vessel as well. If those $1000 solar panels leave my batteries topped off at all times, no need for shore power, and I spend a significant amount of time away from other sources, then I won’t mind if the resale value of my boat doesn’t go up by the total cost of installation. But, all things equal, a sailboat with good working systems will outsell one without, especially if marketed correctly.

As Bob mentions, a good filter to test purchases is the traditional advice: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

What systems do you look at first when deciding to upgrade or replace gear? Are traditional areas of concern still valid?