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.


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!

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:


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. 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”.

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

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)