Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Blackout? Not on a boat.

We have spent a lot of time discussing how we are going to cope with, compared to a house, the disadvantages of living on a boat, reduced space being the primary one.  I hope we have convinced you that we will be able to overcome those disadvantages, but simply being capable of making do presents a rather poor case for living on a boat.  It is therefore time to explain some of the advantages of living on a boat, as compared to a house, condo, or whatever you landlubbers are residing in.

Earlier this week, we had a power outage in our area that lasted just over 23 hours.  As a result, I had to shower without hot water, some of our food had to be thrown out, our house became hot and humid, and we were without the various electronic devices that we have become accustomed to.  Certainly not the end of the world, but the blackout was definitely an inconvenience, and we are fortunate that it did not last longer.

In the summer of 2003, when I was living in Michigan, I was without power for over 48 hours during the Northeast Blackout.  Power was out in the whole area, I couldn't get gas for my car to leave, and once my cold food that didn't require cooking expired, I had little more than potato chips to eat.  That was much more of an inconvenience, but again, not the end of the world.

Blackouts can last for much longer than 48 hours, however.  After Hurricane Wilma in 2005, for example, the power was out for over a week in many parts of the Miami area.  We were not in Miami at the time, but it is clear that, at some point in our future, we are due for an extended power outage that will cause serious problems...

...for suckers living in houses.  You see, cruising sailboats are designed to operate off the grid for extended periods of time and ours will be no exception.  All of the boats we are looking at have both diesel generators and engines with large alternators, and most of them have solar panels and/or wind generators as well.  With solar and wind power alone, we can run the refrigerator, freezer, lights, fans, and all of our electronics indefinitely.  With occasional use of the engine, we can have as much hot water as we need, too, with enough fuel to last at least three months.  Throw in the diesel generator, and we can even run the A/C if necessary, and still have enough fuel for at least a week or two.  And we will carry at least enough propane on board for two months of cooking.  At bottom, we will hardly notice the difference aboard our boat when the power goes out.

But surely, when there is an area-wide blackout, we will still be without phone and internet access like everyone else, you note.  Well, not really.  With our antennas mounted high and boosted by electricity (which, again, we will still have), we will be in a much better position than house-dwellers to pick up whatever signals might be out there.  And, even when we are without cell-phone or internet access, our marine radios will keep on working, so we will always have a means of emergency communication no matter what situation.  And, more significantly, if power is out in the entire area such that the entire city is shut down, we'll just sail our house somewhere else.  No packing, no fighting traffic, no dirty motels, no stress--we'll just cast away the dock lines and take a vacation (in our house) until the city turns back on again.

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