Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Great Equalizer

Sea Gem is a fantastic boat.  But like any boat, she is forged in compromise.  She is wide, which makes for a roomy interior but hurts sailing ability.  She is heavy, which makes for a comfortable motion but hurts sailing ability.  She has short masts, which permits her to clear low bridges but hurts sailing ability.  She has a shallow keel, which permits her to explore shallow areas in the Keys and Bahamas but hurts sailing ability.

Getting the point?  Sea Gem is not the best sailing boat out there.  We knew that going in, of course.  Sea Gem is designed for comfort and flexibility, at the expense of sailing speed.  Because Sea Gem has small sails for her size, she sails particularly poorly when the wind is light.  When the wind really picks up, so does our speed, and we don't have to reduce sail as quickly as other boats.  In fact, we hit 10 knots in a real blow (45-knot gusts), so Sea Gem can definitely move with the proper motivation.  But in light air, Sea Gem barely gets by and, more often than not, we need to fire up an engine (or two) to make any decent headway.

This past weekend, we sailed to Key Largo from Miami.  The wind was blowing about 8 to 10 knots.  Normally, we would expect to make no more than 3 knots in wind that light--slow enough to require some "iron wind" (engine) if we want to get anywhere at any particular time.

This time, however, we tried out the cruising spinnaker that came with Sea Gem.  We never got around to trying it before, but we will certainly be using it again at the earliest opportunity.  For non-sailors, a spinnaker is the giant, colorful sail in the front of a boat that puffs up like a balloon.  It is lightweight and is designed to achieve top performance in light winds.  In our case, the spinnaker made Sea Gem forget altogether that she is heavy and slow.

With the spinnaker, we made half the wind speed in light air.  At 10 knots of wind, we did 5 knots.  When the wind picked up to 14 knots, we did 7 knots.  Compared to our regular light-air performance, we nearly doubled our speed, which, in sailing, is nothing short of phenomenal. 

Speed aside, the spinnaker has its pros and cons.  On the downside, it is much more difficult to handle than our regular, roller-furling headsail.  First, it must be organized on deck:

Then, it must be hoisted manually in its sock:

Then, it needs to be untangled:

Then, the sock must be hoisted:

Finally, the sail needs to brought under control:

Handling the spinnaker is definitely more complex than our regular headsail, which requires little more than pushing a button.  But, on the plus side the spinnaker sure looks incredible (the "SG" stands for Sea Gem):

Sad Sod

This past Memorial Day weekend, Eric, Eric's parents, Moishe, and I set sail for Key Largo. Although I was excited for the trip, one thing weighed on my mind: Moishe's inability to master the art of peeing while at sea.

Prior to setting sail for the first time, Eric and I did everything we could to prepare Moishe for "doing his business" on the boat. Despite our best efforts, Moishe showed little interest in cooperating, and the one success we had in the past was beginning to look unrepeatable.

I wasn't the only one concerned with Moishe's bladder woes. Eric's Mom was also worried about how Moishe would fare during our 3-day sail. Hoping something more organic might spark Moishe's enthusiasm for peeing at sea, Eric's Mom bought a piece of sod to serve as Moishe's temporary bathroom:

We placed the piece of turf on the deck and set sail for the Keys:

On our way down to Key Largo, we took Moishe "outside" several times, but each time, he refused to use the sod. Frustrated, we resorted to plan B: ferry Moishe to land once we were at anchor.

Armed with poop bags, Eric, his mother, and Moishe made their way to land in our dinghy. Unfortunately, the only land near our anchorage was a small private island, which was patrolled by a security guard with an abnormally speedy golf cart. The security detail was less than sympathetic to Moishe's condition, and sadly, Moishe and crew were turned away before they ever made it to shore.

Although plan B was unsuccessful, I remained (semi) optimistic that the botched excursion might still result in success. During our last trip to Key Largo, we experienced a similar scenario. Just like this time, our attempt to take Moishe ashore failed (miserably, I might add); however, upon returning to the boat, Moishe finally gave in and used his artificial turf. I hoped history might repeat itself this time around...

...and thankfully, it did. Upon hoisting Moishe aboard, I immediately escorted him to the sod and instructed him to "go outside." After several moments of reluctantly sniffing the grass, he finally went to the bathroom. Unfortunately, this was a lone victory. Subsequent visits to the sod resulted in the usual: Moishe sat down on the grass, refused to pee, and we exchanged mutual looks of confusion and frustration:

Pee pad training resumes, yet again...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Resisting the Urge to Purge

Even before moving onto a boat, Eric and I were fairly strict when it came to buying clothes. If we bought something new, something old had to go, and anything we hadn't worn in 6 months was donated (or tossed depending on the condition). Although these rules may seem strange to some, following them produces a calming effect (for us anyway).

Now that my waistline is in growth-mode, I've found it rather difficult to maintain balance within my closet. In order to accommodate my growing belly, I've had to buy all sorts of maternity clothes. Since these clothes are only meant to address a short-term need, I haven't parted ways with any of my pre-pregnancy clothes. As such, I have accumulated an entire new sub-wardrobe.

I store all of my maternity clothes in--what will be--the baby's room. In my mind, if I physically separate my secondary wardrobe from my primary wardrobe, then somehow it is OK for me to have two wardrobes. Old habits are hard to break though...I find myself making routine visits to my closet in search of items to purge. Nearly all of my pre-pregnancy clothes now fall into the "haven't worn in 6-mos" category, and it takes a tremendous amount of discipline not to toss these items (not visiting my closet at all during pregnancy takes even more discipline, which I clearly don't have).

Although my instinct is to get ride of my entire pre-pregnancy clothing collection is strong, I have turned my focus on getting rid of only those items in my wardrobe that are hideous. The items I'm talking about are my go-to frump clothes: my 10-year old khaki pants that sag in the butt area, my $5 sundress with a rip in the side, my shapeless, bleach-stained tank tops, etc. You'd think that someone who is so strict about their wardrobe size wouldn't have a closet filled with such embarrassing items, yet I do. And I don't just keep these items for sentimental reasons - I actually wear them with frequency!

So, I've said goodbye to some of my grungy favorites over the last few weeks, and it feels good...for now. I'm sure I'll be upset with myself in a few months when I reach for one of my tattered favorites and discover it is no longer there, but hopefully I'll forgive myself.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Happy 100th!

Exactly one year to the day, we published our first post on Our House has an Anchor! The motivation for starting our blog came from the reactions we got after telling people we were planning on selling our belongings and moving aboard a sailboat. Upon sharing this news with others, Eric and I were bombarded with questions, concerns, and a bouquet of mixed emotions about the whole situation. It was eye-opening. What seemed like a fairly normal decision for the two of us was clearly a topic of intrigue, curiosity, confusion, worry, and horror for nearly everyone else we talked to. We thought that having a blog about what we were up to might be interesting for other people, and it would give our friends and family a bit of insight into what we were thinking, in order to assure them we hadn't (totally) lost our minds. Additionally, we were amassing a lot of knowledge about nearly every boat-related topic under the sun, as well as discovering great ways to simplify our lives. We figured someone else might benefit from everything we were learning, so why not share what we know with others?

One year ago, we were still in the early stages of finding a boat and were just starting to rid ourselves of our belongings. 100 posts later, we are blogging about our boat Sea Gem, what it’s like to live aboard, and how our soon-to-be-born baby fits into the sailing equation.  

And, just in time for our 100th post, we reached another blogging milestone--we got hits from Morocco, Saint Lucia, and the Cayman Islands, which means Our House has an Anchor has had visitors from over 100 countries!

Thank you for reading our blog--we’re looking forward to the next 100 posts!

Sea Gem's Crew

Thursday, May 3, 2012

But what about child-proofing?

The question of child-proofing is one we are asked quite frequently these days. People seem genuinely concerned and a bit confused about how a boat could possibly be made safe for a child.

In the short term, we won’t be doing any special child-proofing. This is because infants are completely dependent upon their parents. Outside of eating, pooping, sleeping, and crying, they really don’t do much of anything. So, whether we live in a house, a boat, a car, or a box, as long as the baby is cared for, it is just fine.

The issue of child-proofing really doesn’t come into play until the child is able to get itself into trouble (i.e., becomes mobile). One of the advantages of living on a boat is that, unlike a house, boats come child-proofed. How is this possible? Because unlike homes, boats are made to move and are therefore designed to keep people (even small ones) safe and injury-free even under the most violent of conditions.

Unlike a house, one thing you won’t find on a boat is a sharp edge. At sea, you tend to get tossed around a bit, and if you are down below in rough water, you usually bump into...everything. This is why the interior wood found aboard Sea Gem features soft, curved corners, instead of sharp, eye-gouging, edges.

Navigation Desk Top
Kitchen Counter Top
Even Sea Gem's ceiling is designed for impact. In the highly unlikely scenario of being rolled by a wave (360 degree flip), our ceiling's soft, padded cover would protect our noggins from serious injury (although we'd likely have bigger problems than bumped heads given the weather conditions that would lead to this scenario):

Padded Ceiling
Another thing you don’t have to worry about on a boat is a child opening a cabinet filled with toxic cleaners or breakable objects. Why? Because all of our cabinets, cupboards, and closets have special latches that would be quite challenging for a tiny hands to navigate (most adults have trouble): 

Closet Latches
Cupboard Latches
These types of locks and latches are necessary on a boat. Imagine what would happen if our cupboards and cabinets didn't shut securely. Every time we sailed, they’d swing open and spill their contents onto the floor.

The obvious child-proofing concern is, of course, the water surrounding our boat. People really seem to freak out about this, which I totally get. Well, have no fear, like all (safe) sailboats, Sea Gem has lifelines surrounding the deck:

These sturdy wires are made for holding onto while walking on deck, and also serve as an obstacle between you and the water. Don’t get me wrong--even with lifelines in place, it is entirely possible to fall into the water (we know from experience). The wires are a simple barrier, not an impenetrable wall. Once the baby starts crawling, we’ll enhance the security of our lifelines by adding nets, similar to what our neighbor has: 

Lifeline Nets
Now don't panic--I'm not suggesting that the addition of these nets will make the exterior of our boat child-proof. Nets or not, a strong-willed child could still find their way into the water. In order to ensure the boat is as safe as a house, we'll need to rely on one of the oldest forms of security known to man--a set of parents with watchful eyes! Just as a house-dweller wouldn’t let their child play outside, unattended near a car-filled street, we have no intention of letting ours play on deck, unattended, near a water-filled ocean. Just like our dog, Moishe, our daughter won't be allowed on deck without supervision, and she'll always wear a life jacket while at sea. Most importantly, however, unlike Moishe, our little girl is going to learn to swim. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I love a good beer.  Back when I was a landlubber, I even brewed my own beer, a hobby that clashes with living on a boat about as much as anything I can think of (not only does brewing beer require a lot of space, but it needs stable temperatures and no movement--none of those things are found on a boat).  I have no problem with buying my own beer, of course, but store-bought beer brings its own problems.

Most quality beer unfortunately comes in glass bottles, which are less than ideal for boats.  Glass bottles take up a considerable amount of space, they tip over easily, and they break.  All major inconveniences when living (and drinking beer) on a boat.

It is easy to conclude that bottles preserve beer better than cans, but in fact, the opposite is true.  Glass bottles may be cheaper to produce and package than aluminum cans (especially for small breweries), but they do a worse job at keeping beer fresh.  Glass bottles let in light, an enemy of freshness, and are more likely than cans to let in air, an even greater enemy of freshness.  Glass is also heavier and bulkier, making glass-packaged beer more expensive to ship.  So, not only are bottles worse than cans on boats, but they are worse than cans in general.

Fortunately, many qualities breweries are starting to sell beer in cans.  Some of the breweries whose canned beers are now in our fridge include Ska, Butternuts, Avery, and Anderson Valley:

Sea Gem's Current Selection
Some breweries, such as Guinness, have been selling beer in cans for awhile, but the diversity in quality, canned beer is growing rapidly.  That is good for beer drinkers everywhere, whether on land or at sea.