Category: Boat Stuff

Wanna buy a boat?

Wow, did I just say that?!   Apparently!

When we retired nearly 3 years ago to move aboard Stormy Monday and go cruising we had dreams of taking her as far we wanted to travel.  I am reminded “Man plans, God laughs” – Yiddish proverb

We had an amazing time cruising for months in the Bahamas, and truly it was worth all the planning and hard work to get Stormy ready to go cruising.  But when we returned many variables took over our life including my health issues and our elderly parents needing support.  We aborted a trip to the Bahamas in March 2014 because my blood pressure dropped and George Sr. went into the hospital.  Again we tried, we staged the boat in West Palm Beach, FL December 2014 while we came home for the holidays.  With great sadness we said goodbye to George Sr. over the holidays and needed to stay in town to take care of his estate.

While all this was going on, George could only sit back and watch and provide care where needed.  Our boat was our entire life, and it wasn’t going anywhere.  He felt trapped and bored, so he found other passions to enjoy.  He bought his dream car and spent time racing around the Sebring race track and taking road trips.  He has put > 10k miles on that car since he bought it 9 months ago!  He also started getting serious about his guitar playing, and has put together a “band” that he practices with out in the Red Barn on the property here at the farm.  George has never been a good multi-tasker!  LOL  It seems he has moved on, and no longer has the passion to give all our resources to a big boat.

So she is for sale…  And that’s ok.  I made up my own saying “Glorious experiences may lie in the ruin of our previous plans.”

Will we buy another big boat?  Who knows!  We tinker with the idea of buying a trawler to travel the Great Loop.  For now I think we will take a break from the time, expense, and responsibility that a big boat requires and do a little travel on planes, trains and automobiles.  But don’t be surprised if you see us on the river on a small sailboat, we might be able to say goodbye to Stormy but not to sailing!

If you would like to see pictures and specs regarding Stormy Monday, please click here.

Grateful for it all…

Underway at last!

We did it!  After 8 months at the dock, we finally left.  We were dockside waaaay longer than we planned due to my illness last summer, beloved elderly parent’s health issues and finally solving some diesel engine health issues.  I swear there was a sucking sound as we pulled away…  like we were so attached to the dock we couldn’t get free… then pop!  Free!

leaving telemar 2

leaving Telemar

 

We had a uneventful ~6hr motor down the ICW.  We did a lot of upgrades and maintenance while we were dockside, so we are watchful on all the systems to see if everything is working.  The bilge pump was the last thing worked on, it cycled > 30 times on our way down, so it will need to be fixed.  Also our head is not pumping water back into the bowl, so George will need to look at that.  And we need to re-activate our weather radar.

We passed s/v Freedom as they were headed north.  I met Chris while doing laundry last year on Green Turtle in the Abacos.  We had a good laugh when I realized I had washed a handful of Bounce sheets.  What a mess!

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When we pick up a mooring I drive the boat and George picks up the mooring ball and secures it.  First try no problem picking it up, but I didn’t stop the boat fast enough so George had to drop it.  We got it on the next try.  Note to self:  use more reverse before my husband breaks his arm.

Once settled in we started the process of remembering how to be un-tethered to electricity and water.  First all 110 volt cords get stowed and the 12 volt cords come out.  We turned on our long range Wi-Fi and voilà! we can see Wi-Fi… but we need the password.  We hoped into the dinghy and went into the marina office to get the passwords.  We were headed back to the boat when George decided he wanted a hamburger, so we diverted to the Riverside Café.  What is it about being on the water all day that makes you so hungry?  I don’t know, but I am totally down with it.

Back at the boat we figured we would need to use the companionway screens (it can get very buggy here) so I went in search of them.  During our dockside time I had rearranged a few things and forgot to update our spreadsheet of where things are.  It took awhile to find the screens.  2nd note to self:  if you move something, note it in the spreadsheet, duh!

Time for a shower.  For the entire life of this boat, we have never been able to generate hot water off the engine.  That was fixed while we were dockside when we found an amazing engine mechanic that was very familiar with our engine type.  As soon as he looked at it he said “I see the problem!  You have the wrong water pump!”.  Huh?  We ordered the “right” water pump from Europe and we now have hot water of the engine!  Yay, a hot shower!  We might not ever need to use the sun shower bags again?!

Time for a sip of champagne while we watch the sunset.  We made it… adventures begin with the first step.

Grateful for it all

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Sailing on Mer Soliel

The mainsail for Jeff’s 44ft PDQ Anteres Catamaran Mer Soliel has been mended and it is time to try it out!  Perfect conditions yesterday in the Sea of Abaco, winds ~10-15kts.  Example of Jeff’s Boat

Barry (S/V Beach Cruiser) and Nuel from Man-O-War joined us and we sailed all day!  The guys figured out how to rig the mainsail correctly, tried the jib, and rigged the screetcher to work correctly.  It was an awesome sail, and we were doing 4.5-8kts.

I was taking pictures of everyone and my hat blew off!  Someone yelled “Man Over Board” and everyone went into action… jib rolled in, main centered, everyone on deck searching, me pointing at the hat.  But unfortunately, since the hat was so flat, I lost sight of it.  We searched for a while, but finally gave up.

Time for lunch, we set out a feast of meats, chesses, fruit, nuts and sangria.  You couldn’t do this on a monohull, it would be heeling too much.

What a beautiful day!  Sailing on  Mer Soliel Pctures

Random thoughts: When did I become the Queen of the Fridge?  Our fridge is a very tight fit… things are placed like a puzzle in order to fit.  But that means that one person has to take charge of the fridge.  Guess that’s me!

Grateful for it all…

Hello from Lynyard Cay and Little Harbour

We motored down to Lynyard Cay (from Lubber’s Quarters) since the wind was on our nose, but it was a nice ride down, only ~2 hours.  Lynyard Cay is the last Cay on the Atlantic side of the Sea of Abaco.  There is a small beach on the Sea of Abaco side you can walk on… but the Atlantic side of the island is wild and rocky.

We spent the night at Lynyard Cay (June 14), then left Mer Soleil in the anchorage and took Stormy Monday over to Little Harbour to day anchor (June 15).  We didn’t want to spend the night at Little Harbour because the surge coming in from the ocean makes for a very rolly anchorage.

The main attraction in Little Harbour is Pete’s Pub and Gallery.  We had lunch at Pete’s Pub and waited out a squall that went by.  Pete’s is a fun place with typical Bahamian fare on the menu.  After lunch we walked to the Gallery. It is a little surprising to find a Gallery this far south in the Abacos.  The Johnson family has been sculpting for 3 generations and showing and selling their work from the gallery.  My Dad said he bought a belt buckle there about 30 years ago and I bet he still has it.

So happy we made it south to Little Harbour, but this is as far south as we plan on going on this trip.

Unfortunately, we started to have refrigerator issues, it just kept running, which was sucking the energy out of our batteries (so no charged PC to write blogs!).  Also the dinghy outboard was running very rough.  Mer Soleil was also having charging issues and his sail was torn.  So back to Marsh Harbour where we were able to take care of all of the issues.  We sailed all the way back to Marsh Harbour ~4 hours… it was awesome!  The fastest we saw was 7.1 knots, it was a glorious sail!  I said to George, the one thing that would make it a perfect day would be a Bloody Mary!  George got right on the radio and told Mer Soleil that once we anchored we had to go find me a Bloody.

While we were sailing back into Marsh Harbour we passed a couple of boats that hailed us and said they were from the Melbourne/Vero area.  Once we all got settled in we all decided to meet at Snappas (only place open on Sunday) for Happy Hour (Bloody Marys!) which morphed into us all having dinner together.  So much fun to get to know cruisers, talk about where they have been and where they are going.  Discuss “boat issues” and get new ideas for taking care of them.  Cruisers rock!

Once in Marsh Harbour (June 16), Capt’n Bob came over and tightened the stuffing box, so it wasn’t letting water in anymore, which reduced the number of times the bilge pump had to run, which helped with the power issues.  George was able to get the fridge working again, and we had help from Ally at the Moorings with the dinghy.  Everyone pitched in to remove Mer Solei’s main sail.

After a wonderful lunch at a new Jamaican restaurant in town, we had a nice sail to Man-O-War (June 19) where the master sail maker lives.

We are now back at one of my favorite anchorages, the “Low Place”, which is the north anchorage at Man-O-War.  This time when Jeff went in the water to dive on his anchor, he came up with a starfish! We will take the sail in tomorrow for repair and decide our next move based on the estimated time to repair the sail.

We are having very hot days here… head index up to ~97 on most days… we might start heading home within the next couple of weeks.

Lynyard Cay Pictures

Little Harbour Pictures

Lynyard Cay & Little Harbour

Jeff finds a star fish!

Random thoughts…    Boating is the ultimate equalizer.  When we meet new people we all ask “What kind of boat do you have?”, “What is your draft?”, “Where are you from?”, “Where have you been?”, “Where are you headed?”…   We often never find out what folks did/do for a living “in the real world.”  They could axe murders for all we know!

Grateful for it all…

Phone and WiFi in the Abacos, Bahamas

Since we will be here for ~3 months we have been investigating and experimenting with the communication options here.

Phone:  You can purchase a SIM card for an unlocked GMA phone from Batelco for $14.95.  You can purchase GMA phones from them also (~$20-$40 for a non-smartphone.)  We went to the Batelco office in Marsh Harbour.  You can add airtime (voice calls) and data (internet & email) to your phone.  You can buy airtime cards (voice calls only) in $20 denominations and 1Gig data cards (email and internet) for $30 (the day we were there we got the $30 1Gig data cards for $20, they were on sale).  To load the airtime or data, you just dial a # from your smartphone (once the Bahamian SIM card is installed), then enter the unique # on the card, and the balance on your phone is updated.

Update 6/21/13:  You can add airtime to your phone on the Batelco website if you have registered your SIM card with them.

If you bring a GMA phone that is not unlocked, we hear you can get it unlocked in Marsh Harbour for ~$60.  We opted to have ours unlocked by Cellcorner.com for ~$30.  They will email you a unlock code.

We did not see any options from Batelco to make your phone a hotspot.  But while we were in Lake Worth I found this Android app PDANet that will allow you to tether your phone to your computer OR make your phone a hotspot.  We tried it on both our phones, the wireless hotspot and tethering (USB connected) worked on my AT&T Samsung Galaxy II, but the tethering was all we could get to work on George’s Boost Mobile Samsung Galaxy II phone.   So in theory, you could buy data for your phone and then use an app to tether it to your computer so you could get on the internet on your computer.   However, we are finding that 1Gig doesn’t go very far!  See *

Having a phone has already come in handy.  We have used it a few times to call home and to call locally here in the Bahamas.  Roaming rates on your US phone can cost up to $2-3 a minute, while the rates here to the states (depending on when you call) are closer to .50c a minute.

WiFi:  There are 2 main providers of WiFi here in the Abacos, Out Island Internet (OII) and Bahamas WiMax.  Their rates are very similar (~$15 a day, ~$100 a month, ~$200 3 months).

The key is to get a good connection to their hotspots on the islands.  In December we purchased an “IslandTime System” (high gain antenna) from Island Time PC at the SSCA Gam in Melbourne.  We purchased our own router, but you can purchase one from them also.  The router allows us to use all of our devices on board (2 computers, 2 phones & 1 Ipad.)  We can easily see hotspots from > a mile away.  We occasionally find unlocked hotspots, but it seems these days, most folks have theirs secured.

We are experimenting with an AT&T hotspot mobile MiFi box that I bought on Amazon.  I thought it was unlocked, but it wasn’t, so we paid ~$26 to have it unlocked by Cellcorner.com.  To get it to access Batelco services, you have to purchase SIM Card for $14.95, then purchase 1Gig Data Cards ($30).  In order to get the data applied to the SIM Card, you have to put the SIM card in a phone, load the data card, then put the SIM card back into the box.  * But it turns out this may not be a good option for us.  We have been using it for 3 days now and have already used .5Gig.  This could get pricey! We use the internet a lot for email, blog posting, uploading photos, surfing the internet, checking weather, etc.  What we may do is go ahead and purchase 2-3 months from OII or WiMax and use the MiFi box as a backup.

Update 5/25/13:

  • We anchored in Red Bay at Water Cay.  We were between Marsh  Harbour and Treasure Cay and could physically see both of them, but could not get OII or WiMax, but we were able to use the MiFi Box because we could get cell service.
  • Once we hit 100% on the first Gigabyte on the Mifi Box, we received a message from Batelco on the box that we had hit 100% and that they would be slowing down the service.  The service definitely slowed down, almost unusable!  I added another 1 Gigabyte and it did not speed back up!  We didn’t try to fix it since we think this isn’t a good solution for us.

Here is what worked for us…

First know where you are going to go and verify that Batelco, OII and WiMax will offer service there.  If the services will be available:

  • Phone:
    • Bring a unlocked GSM phone
    • Purchase a Batelco SIM Card $14.95, then add air time
    • Optionally add data time (email & internet)
    • Optionally try a “app” for your smartphone (i.e. Android app PDANet) to make your phone a hotspot (note:  we have not tried this in the Bahamas, but it worked in Lake Worth)
  • WiFi:
    • Get a high gain antenna and router (i.e. Island Time PC)
    • Purchase OII or WiMax WiFi (the longer the duration, the more cost effective) Updated 5/25/13:  In the future we would select WiMax over OII…  OII requires us to continually re-login and WiMax didn’t.

Grateful for it all…

 

Hello from Vero Beach…

We are still in Vero!  A few things cropped up for us to deal with… the sink faucet in the galley was leaking, but George was able to fix it with new valves.  We noticed we were still listing to Port so we are still rearranging provisions on the boat to better balance the load.  We also noticed that the fridge/freezer is not as cold as it should be, we are waiting on someone to come and look at it for us.

We are also going through some of the new systems on board.  We installed a new Furuno navigation suite which includes a chart plotter, integrated radar, satellite weather and radio.  We also purchased the MaxSea software to communicate with the chart plotter.  MaxSea allows us to do route planning on the computer and send the route to the chart plotter.  It will also (the manual says) allow us to input weather GRIB files and help us plot routes that will get us to our destination in the fastest possible time given the wind conditions forecast.  Cool!  Now we just need to figure out how to do that…

We have started a list of things we want to change on the boat, and at the top of the list is to have the energy from the solar panels divert to the water heater once they have topped off the batteries.  We haven’t needed to run the engine since we got here on Monday, so we don’t have hot water, which translates to cold showers.

Each morning we dinghy into the marina and I go for a walk.  As I have been walking I have reflected on our journey to this point.  George and I met in Apirl 2001, which was the same week he bought Stormy Monday.  Our first date was on Stormy.  We talked about our mutual dreams to retire and cruise on a sailboat.  Stormy was a “fixer upper” and need a lot of work, so as our relationship developed we also worked on Stormy to make her a safe and comfortable cruising boat.  In 2007 we set a date for retirement of Nov 2010… but there were a lot of setbacks (Hurricane Wilma, the economy, unemployment, etc.).  Finally, in 2012 it became a reality.  We feel very blessed to be able to live our dream.

We are already adjusting to the lifestyle.  If someone asks “Are you going to go to so-and-so?” we just answer “Not today!.”  We are in no hurry and are just taking our time and enjoying ourselves.

Grateful for it all…