Thursday, February 9, 2012

So ya want to go Cruising.............

It's been about a month since our last blog and I promised that Dwayne would give the technical side of stuff... So... here goes Dwayne!
We often are asked, what is it like and can we do it?? I can't answer that question but I can ask a few questions....
Are you mechanically handy?
Do you enjoy new and unusual experiences?
Does living in confined spaces that could sink concern you?
Would you call yourself adventurous?
How about meeting like minded people form all walks of life?

I know, dumb questions, but should make you think because that's what the cruising life style is all about, to copy a quote from (ESCAPE) "Cruisers are people taking a very expensive trip and not getting anywhere". Think about it as I
give you my take on the technical aspects of our life on board, as Linda has given you hers...
Let me start by saying that we were fortunate to have SeaVeyor dropped in our laps after a 7 year search for the right vessel. ( Thanks Barry!!) I have been running around the country searching on our own dime and as a Marine Surveyor getting paid to inspect vessels for others. This was my plan: To get on as many vessels as possible for two reasons. One: acknowledge the good bad and ugly and Two: to be able to qualify the right vessel if and when it came along. Brief note on intended purpose. Once you establish "your" intended purpose.. such as Great Loop, Bahamas, or the Med etc.. only then can you determine the right vessel for you. Ours came in the form of a custom built Catamaran. It was built and cruised by a very knowledgeable couple ( thanks Don and Janice ) who knew what was needed for long range/time cruising (safely with comfort). So here we are going on 3 years of living aboard and passed the 7,000 mile mark last month, on a now 12 year old vessel that has seen the west side of South America and back ( not by us) As with any vessel, what you have is a network of systems. You have electrical, AC and DC , mechanical mains and generator, sanitation heads and pumps and holding, fuel tankage, water tankage, solar charging systems with battery banks, hydraulic steering system, electric windlass with ground tackle, LP systems for both indoor and outdoor cooking, 12 volt DC system for refrigerator and freezer, TOO many pumps to count ( OK, 9 bilge/sump pumps, 5 fresh and salt water systems with strainers, 3 raw water cooling systems with strainers, 2 hot water heaters, 5 charging alternators, 3 heat and air systems, 1 water maker with 3 filters and pumps, one dinghy with a 15horse outboard, AND the brains behind the whole thing.. THE TRACE INVERTER.....almost forgot 3 VHFs, 1 SSB , 3 chart plotters with radar,depth, temp and auto pilot, and not to mention all the toys needed to fish dive and hunt,etc. . I am sure I left a few things out from the above list, but ya get the drift! All the above systems require maintenance and repairs or replacement somewhere during your travels. So here is my take on all of this. Depending on how all of this equipment was installed and the quality of the equipment and it's installation can make or break your cruising experience. If you get nothing out of what I post today, when you are hunting your next vessel, keep this in mind. You MUST be able to access all systems. The easier the access, the better your life will be. OK, all that said the next is spare parts and tools, more spares and the knowledge of how to put these together. When we took possession of SeaVeyor, Don had left a huge amount of spares and we added more and just replenish as we go. Linda has always commented on " where did that part come from"??? Many cruisers build a spread sheet on the PC to inventory spares and their location on their vessel. I will not list our spares here, but the list is LONG.
So, you have bought your dream vessel.. had a prepurchase survery done by a reputable surveyor, addressed all the findings. You have a fresh bottom job with zincs and tuned your wheels ( and spare wheels) and call Adam Meyer at Charter Lakes Insurance to confirm your coverage area... Add fuel, food and you are off!!.....
And the fun begins!!! We often here cruisers complain about not getting enough exercise.. WRONG... We will be the first to tell you that we are in better shape than when back on land. The running joke on SeaVeyor is "If it was easy, anyone could do it"... That might sound harsh, but cruising is a lot of work. However, the lifestyle and the friends you make are well worth it. This blog site will remind us when we are old and feeble that we did what most only dream of. And, I'm with the crowd that says "Go Now" with whatever you have. Life is too short! Too many folks are tied to the docks (family, money, jobs, etc ) Work it out and DO IT!

So now you are out there somewhere warm and sunny ( mid 80's today here for us!) Most of the time you will be on the hook or on a ball, unless your pockets are deep, as dockage costs are rarely in a cruisers budget. Food and water will need replacing along with the occasional fuel fills, add some parts you may have forgotten . So, here comes your daily exercise with a dinghy trip to shore and a hike or bike to town. This trip we have really enjoyed our bikes and has allowed increased range and speed ...I have to dinghy into to a local marina for generator fuel and dinghy fuel, and the local town docks for our water source. We normally carry in 4 jerry cans to fill with water . ( our daily consumption of water is between 10-15 gallons of water.) The water maker is not an option at this particular location, due to water quality/clarity. So, we just dinghy in for 20-40 gallons of water every few days. We do have a water collection system and during heavy rains we can fill our tanks. ( Linda put 80 gallons in the other night , compliments of Mother Nature)
This method is obviously dependent on rain, but we have found that the trace minerals that are found in rain water are beneficial ( highly recommend a Seagull filtration system for pottable water )
We have been known to take advantage of rain showers by scrubbing the boat during the storms,,letting Mother Nature do the rinse , and heck we killed two birds with one stone by washing the boat and us too! While we are speaking of water, your holding tanks need to give you as much range as you feel comfortable with. (hint...don't head to the Jumentos or the Dry Tortugas with water for only a week.)

Linda does metal and glass weekly, and I do the bottom monthly ( just did this last week, with Shay's help (ESCAPE) it took two hours using two hooka rigs)
Speaking of maintenance, the more systems you have, obviously it's more work and costs. While some would say that SeaVeyor is complex, and I agree, she is full of equipment, but she is easy to service , due to the fact of her builder ( Don P. ) he made all systems easily accessible ( what I was getting at earlier) Still, it is time consuming and you can't get behind.

One of the most talked about subjects for cruisers is heads ( toilets for you land lubbers) This subject has been known to end marriages. All joking aside, the head system on SeaVeyor has cost me more loss of sleep and hair , then any other system. While the system was and still is state of art, she has been a nightmare for me. I will say the folks at Headhunter have supported me after a rocky start. They have bent over backwards to keep us working. As we speak, we have 3 spare Excaliber pumps (at a cost of $1200.00 per unit) with two more waiting for us back at Morehead and two Shur-flow pumps provided by Headhunter while they waited for a shipment from Italy. ( Sorry, but Italians should stick to making Pasta!) It would never fail that we would lose a pump during a visit from our friends. 9 failed pumps in 2 and a half years is unacceptable. As is turns out, Headhunter had a massive amount of failed pumps that has taken them 2 years to resolve. With that said, knock on wood, we are good to go!

Next is the ability to make power and your consumption of it. With today's advancement in solar and wind technology, you can't leave the dock without some form of solar system. Redundancy in all systems is crucial, with your energy system at the top of the list. I was amazed to find many vessels relying on only one or two sources for power. Often, it was there main alternator and a generator set. No longer can one use the excuse that you lack real estate to mount sufficient panels. As today's panels are far more advanced than what was available 3 years ago. We currently have 6 panels putting out 450 watts and a house bank of 1,000 ah. , two 160 amp charging alternators, and two 110 amp mains used while running with a 5.5kw gen set as back up. I plan on replacing the old Siemens 75watt with newer and larger panels, if SeaVeyor has not been sold. With new LED lights available, you need to replace those old halogen power and heat monsters. We have replaced over 30 and it makes a huge difference ( including spreader and cockpit lights )

All of the above systems (and the ones not mentioned) will require servicing at some point and time, that's a known. It's the surprises that can get expensive. Speaking of surprises, there is a creature(s) that are often found on boats who are related to his land based cousin "Murphy". When GREMLINS are discovered on your vessel you MUST destroy them quickly before they have a chance to reproduce. Gremlins favorite hideing areas are often found in your electric panel or inverter once there they will loosen or break connections..............90% of failed systems can be traced to Gremlins.............:)

Ok, I'm done, off to change oil in the mains and gen-set (100hr intervals).

Linda is going to fuss at me for sounding too negative, but I'm not really. All of the above is part of cruising. The more that you can do with parts and tools on board , the better and often longer your cruising experience will be. The great part is that your next door neighbor might be a retired electrical engineer or a helicopter mechanic or a heart surgeon and willing to jump on board and assist you with your projects. In all anchorages, there is a wealth of information just waiting for you to ask.

This has been our experience and has led to what we know will be lifelong friendships. The quality of people that you meet along the journey, the quality of lifelong memories you experience, is why we are cruising. "It's all good".

See what happens when you get the Captain started??? OK, now for just an update on what and where we are... We've been back in Marathon for the past month and are really enjoying it... All of our cruising neighbors are nice. We listen to the Cruisers Net every 9am for all the local announcements and such. They have a weekly get together for meets and greets, weekly get togethers under the Tiki hut on Saturdays and usually show a movie up at the marina on Thursdays...Having our bikes has made a great difference. You can get local fresh seafood within walking distance, frest veggies etc... and bike to several stores. Having the "gotta be doing something" personality that I have, well, I've found some new hobbies... I've made 6 crochet scarves, more jewelry, and just completed my first pine needle basket! It won't win any prizes, but I made the bugger from start to finish.
I guess this blog is long enough, catch ya later... Dwayne, Linda and the Cats.