Friday, May 31, 2013

Paranoia Part 1

The line between preparedness and paranoia is fine, and I walk it well and often. Although we normally keep our boat securely locked in the evening hours (and most all other times), sometimes when we're at anchor--away form land and other people--we leave our hatches open (but screened in), including the companionway and the back door (leading to/from the master stateroom and the aft-cockpit).

Normally, I'm OK with this set-up, but given that we now have a baby on-board, I am, of course,  paranoid that someone would somehow board our boat (although this in and of itself would prove extremely difficult, if not impossible without our ladders down). Logically, I know this scenario is nearly implausible, but regardless, during our most recent overnight trip, I felt the need to beef up our existing security.

So, I booby trapped the boat...with Nespresso pods.

While it is true that Nespresso pods are harmless (although Nespresso withdrawal can be quite vicious), my booby trap wasn't meant to cause injury. You see, I'm not worried about what to do if an unwelcome visitor were to enter our boat (we have lots of tricks up our sleeves, which are much more dangerous than these pods). What I worry about is not hearing an intruder enter in the first place. My booby trap wasn't so much a trap as it was a delightfully beautiful looking alarm.

As you can see in the picture above, I placed the pods in such a way that stepping on one would be unavoidable if you didn't know they were there. Inevitably, the intruder would come into contact with at least one pod, which would set off a chain reaction, causing multiple pods to cascade loudly down the ladder, and wake us from our slumber.

After I laid my trap, Eric turned to me and discouragingly said, "You know, it is much more likely that we'd need to escape from the boat than it is that someone would enter it, right?"

As it turned out, Eric was right.

To be continued...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dinghy Envy

When we were first looking for a boat, we wrote about the difficulty we were having selecting a dinghy.  Fortunately, Sea Gem came with an older inflatable dinghy, which we figured we could use for a couple of years while we decided on what kind of dinghy we really wanted.  Well, those two years are up, and it is time to move on.

Sea Gem's Current Tender 
The inflatable dinghy is appealing since it can be deflated, folded up, and stored in a very small space on deck. It is also extremely stable and can carry a lot of people and cargo.  After using it for a couple of years, however, we have found that it really does not meet our needs.

Because the floor is inflatable, the dinghy flexes over waves rather than cuts through them, and because it has so much wetted surface (surface in contact with the water), it needs a lot of power (heavy outboard engines) to move even slowly, and any efforts to row or paddle it are inevitably graceless and futile.  So, big outboard engines are the only means of propulsion, and we have come to detest big outboard engines.  We don't like having to carry around an extra type of fuel (Sea Gem's engines run on diesel fuel and outboards use gas), they are a hassle to lower into the dinghy, and they require more maintenance than they are worth.  We'd love to row the dinghy or use a small electric outboard, but neither method works with the inflatable, which is just too power hungry.

Our Current Dinghy's Outboard Engines
Many people use rigid-bottomed inflatables (RIBs), which provide the efficiency of a regular boat with the stability and load-carrying of an inflatable.  With envy, we watched many RIBs zipping around the keys this past weekend at a speed we can only dream of, but to reach those speeds, RIBs still require large outboards, they can't be rowed efficiently, and because the bottom is rigid, they can't be folded up and stored in a compact space.  Although we have the space on Sea Gem to store an inflated RIB, we'd rather have something that we can keep out of the way when not in use.

One feature we saw on many of the RIBs that we will definitely be adding to our next dinghy is a folding bimini top.  Because our dinghy offers no shade, we bake in the sun while going from place to place, a problem that is exacerbated by the fact that our dinghy is slow.  Watching people in RIBs zip around in the shade with smiling faces was enough for us to quickly conclude that it is time for a new dinghy.  But if not a RIB, then what?  More to come.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Day 1 Recap

At approximately 10 AM this past Saturday, Helina gave us the green light to depart Miami for the Keys!

And...we're off!
The winds were in our favor as we headed south.

As I explained before we left, I was a bit worried about how Helina was going to do on the trip. While we are at dock, the cockpit is a free-play zone, but when we’re out sailing, it is a play-free zone, and Helina isn't accustomed to being restricted in this area of the boat.

Overall she did well on the way down to The Keys. We affixed her little highchair to the table in the cockpit, which kept her in one place, yet she still got to feel like she was a part of the action.

Because her usual cockpit toys were off-limits, we kept her entertained with a few actual baby toys, our camera case, as well as a cockpit staple usually hidden while we’re docked: a cartoon-like fly swatter.

High Five!
At first, I was a bit disgusted that she was playing with a fly swatter (although I don’t remember the last time it did any dirty work). Normally, I wouldn't have let her play with such a filthy little thing, but it was keeping her entertained, so I was willing to look the other way. Then our friend, who was sailing with us, told me about a recent report that said American’s should eat more bugs. Armed with this new knowledge, I decided it was in Helina's best interest to continue playing with the swatter. In addition to the potential health benefits, I also saw it as good training. We could use someone on-board who is designated to control the mosquito population—always a plus in Florida!

Helina spent a good chunk of the sail down in her little seat, eating/reading books, throwing toys on the ground, and swatting at the air…

Busy Girl
We even converted the captain's seat's cup holder into a snack dish, so Helina had something to occupy her hands and mouth:

Captain Crunch
Unfortunately, Helina had a bit of trouble napping on the journey south. She was (and is) battling yet another daycare-induced mystery sickness, so she was a bit off in terms of her routine and disposition. As we approached our destination, I put an over-tired Helina down for a nap, but instead of sleeping, she decided to scream bloody murder. It was awesome. So, I shirked my boating responsibilities (my job is to put the anchor down) and comforted poor sobbing Helina. Thankfully, our friend (the one who told us to eat bugs), was able to help Eric anchor without too much trouble.

We spent the rest of the day at anchor getting settled, preparing the dinghy, napping in the hammock, and battling the humidity (a battle that Helina clearly lost):

Some Like it Hot
Given the fact that Helina was suffering from a cold (after having just recovered from a vicious cold the previous week), she did very well on the sail down (the sail back is a different story, but more on that later...). While much of the weekend was enjoyable, it was not without incident. More on that later, too...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cockpit Saavy

Sea Gem's main cockpit serves as a second living room (of sorts) for our family. Even when we aren't sailing, we spend a good amount of time in it lounging, playing, reading, working, talking, napping, and eating.

Much like the rest of our boat, the main cockpit also contains a lot of non-toys that Helina enjoys playing with. However, unlike the non-toys located down below that, if tampered with, could spell disaster, the non-toys in the cockpit are usually turned off (thanks to our control panel). This means that Helina can touch and play with just about anything in the cockpit without me worrying that she is going to sink the boat or cause vast amounts of destruction. Since before Helina could support her body, the cockpit has served as her playpen and she has had free reign to play with whatever she desired.

The metal bars guarding the buttons that control our sails were used as a teething ring when her first teeth appeared:

Avant-garde Teething (7 months)
The lines were perfect for tiny hands to grab and tug:

Learning the Ropes (7 months)
And the cockpits' endless supply of latches have intrigued Helina for quite some time:

Fun with Hardware (8 months)
Inspecting the Hardware (9 months)
At 10-months old, Helina is now quite comfortable and well-versed in all things cockpit:

Helina at the Helm
Unfortunately, when we go for our sail this weekend, Helina's playland will be "turned on," and all of the cockpits' non-toys, which now lay dormant, will be connected to power. Touching lines and pushing buttons while they are "live" could result in trouble. Teaching Helina that she could play with everything in the cockpit probably wasn't good parenting on my part, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. How will she fare in her soon-to-be off-limits playland? We shall find out...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

But What About Sailing?

When people discover we live on a boat, they usually have a lot of questions for us. To feed their curiosity, Eric and I often direct them to our blog, since many of our posts are about frequently asked questions. That being said, the answer to one of the questions we are most frequently asked--"How often do you go sailing?"-- is one you'd have trouble determining based solely on the content of our blog. That's because despite the fact that we have a blog about living on sailboat, we don't often write posts about sailing. While this fact might lead one to conclude that we don't do a whole lot of sailing, that isn't actually the case. Pre-baby, we went sailing about every two weeks. Post-baby, we go sailing about once every 4-5 weeks.

Usually, when we take the boat out, we are on the water for a good chunk of the day--somewhere between 4 and 6 hours. However, whenever we get the chance, we like to go on an overnight journey. Unfortunately, since both Eric and I work full-time jobs, there aren't a whole lot of opportunities to go sailing for days at a time.

Thankfully, we've have a long weekend coming up--Memorial Day! And just like last year, we're taking full advantage of the holiday by sailing to The Keys.

Technically, this won't be Helina's first sail to The Keys. She was with us last year when we went, too:

Barefoot & Pregnant in the Cockpit
However, this will be her first overnight sail that she experiences from outside of the womb.

I'm both excited and nervous to see how Helina does. At 10 months old, our little babe is now extremely active (and quite opinionated), and I'm not exactly sure how she's going to react to being trapped on a boat for 3 days. Granted, we'll be able to go ashore at some point (pending any dinghy/prop malfunctions, of course), but for the most part, we'll be lounging off-shore aboard Sea Gem.

Eric and I are very curious to see how Helina does on her first multi-day trip because, soon, we'll be taking a much longer one! More on that later...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Captain is 10 Months Old!

Nine months seems to have marked the point at which Helina decided she was no longer willing to pose wearing (or sitting upon) the commander's hat. At least last month, I was able to get a few cute(ish) photos, but not this month. At ten months old, the mighty captain made her authority and feelings known to her crew when she flexed her muscles and ripped the hat from her head.

Hats Off
With the hat out of the picture (literally), Helina was happy to produce a smile:

Happy Babe
Helina's head is the perfect size and shape for pulling off hats (figuratively, of course), but for the time being, she seems unwilling to sport them. Perhaps 11 months will prove to be the magical age when Helina once again enjoys accessorizing.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

TV Come Home

We recently explained that we were having some issues with our KVH DirecTV antenna, which permits us to watch DirecTV from anywhere in North America without adjusting the antenna with the movement of the boat.  Really, there was just a single issue: the antenna stopped working.

Sea Gem has a KVH model designed for cars, not boats, which has a couple advantages.  First, the auto model is much shorter in height, which permits us to place it beneath our boom as well as reduce windage, as compared to the spherical marine model.  Second, because everything with "boat" or "marine" in the name for some reason costs two to three times as much to repair than the exact same product without those magic words, repairs to the auto model are much more reasonably priced.  When our antenna broke, however, we began to doubt the wisdom of the auto model.  Maybe it just isn't built to be exposed to the elements 24/7?

Fortunately, there is nothing wrong with the auto model, even when installed on a boat.  The antenna was broken, for sure, but that was our fault, not the antenna's.  As it turns out, we were omitting a key step in the operation of a KVH antenna--turning it off when we aren't using it.

KVH explained that they are able to determine how many hours of operation an antenna has.  The most they had seen was about 5,000 hours, which of course corresponds to a lot of television.  Our antenna, however, had logged 12,000 hours before it stopped working (due to excess wear and tear on the moving parts).  We didn't watch 12,000 hours of TV, of course.  But the antenna didn't know the difference because we left it on all the time.  A minor oversight that we won't repeat in the future.

The Antenna is Off!
In any case, our antenna has been repaired and reinstalled and is now better than new (they upgraded it while they were at it).  Our only hope that it lasts another 12,000 hours--and that it takes us a little longer to long those 12,000 hours than 12,000 hours from now. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Missed Opportunity to Celebrate

We just passed our 2-year blog anniversary (May 4th) and we totally forgot about it! Well, sort of. At the end of April, we recognized that it was coming and noted that we should do a post about it, but then we didn't. On the day of our blog anniversary, we were busy upping our boat's exterior safety and then we went to Key Largo for the day, so our minds were elsewhere.

The OCD portion of my brain is quite upset about the whole thing. You see, I love it when things work out perfectly. I don't mean perfectly as in a Hollywood ending (although, in general, I have no objection to those); but perfectly as in I determine that there should be a connection between two unrelated things and then feel happy if/when they come together (and when they do come together, it is usually because I spent a significant amount of time orchestrating their pairing). An example of my version of "perfect" would be last year when our 1-year anniversary coincided with our 100th post. Although 365 days and the number 100 have no direct mathematical connection, in my head, they did, and it was perfect. An example of something I would term "not perfect" would be when, at a gas station, you top off in order to make the total some nice "perfect" number, but accidentally end up with a number that is horribly unbalanced, like $55.56. (And the possibility of this negative outcome is the precise reason why I no longer top off, in addition to it being unsafe, of course.)

So, we are a few days late for our anniversary and a few posts short of 200, but there is always next year... (fingers crossed for 300 posts at 3 years).

Thank you for reading our blog!

Thanks from aboard Sea Gem!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Krissy has previously written about the various noises on the boat that are not found in houses.  It takes awhile to get used to these noises, but they eventually fade into the background like all familiar sounds.

Except for one noise--the deafening, grating sound of our sump pumps.  When we use the shower or the sink (not the toilet though), the water goes down the drain into a little tank (the "sump"), and when the water reaches a certain level inside the tank, it is pumped overboard (by the "sump pump").  Sea Gem has two sumps, one for each bathroom, and each sump has its own sump pump.

Sea Gem came fitted with macerator pumps as sump pumps.  Macerator pumps have little blades in them and are designed to liquefy anything that passes through them so that nothing gets stuck.  They are typically used to pump out holding tanks, where a blockage could get ugly very quickly.  Macerator pumps, especially 20-year-old macerator pumps, are very powerful and extremely loud.  The result is that, whenever someone used the shower or sink in the bathroom, or at random times when the A/C drain (for condensation) filled the sump, Sea Gem would fill with this miserable deep rumbling sound:  bgrrrraaaaaa! Every ten or fifteen seconds until the shower or sink was turned off: bggrrrraaaa! . . . bggrraaaaa . . . bggrraaaa!

The pumps were always loud enough to wake up everyone in the boat whenever the earliest riser took a shower. 

We have always talked about replacing the pumps with something quieter, but it is hard to justify replacing something that is perfectly functional, even if it is irritating.  Fortunately, one of the pumps developed a leak recently, so we figured it was time to replace it.  And when replacing one, why not replace both?

Out with the Old
And so we bought two Johnson sump pumps fitted in their own little sumps:

In with the New
They don't have the spinning blades to prevent clogs, but they do have easy-to-clean filters to trap hair, etc., and they are whisper-quiet, easy to repair, and use less than a fifth of the electricity of the old pumps.

Newly Installed Pump 1 of 2
Newly Installed Pump 2 of 2 (can you see it?)
So, while there are still plenty of noises for our guests to get used to--the sound of water splashing against the hull, ropes slapping against the mast, the refrigerator compressor, etc--no longer will anyone have to suffer through bbgggrrraaaa bbbggggrraaaa every time someone uses the sink or shower or at random times of day.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Reunited (and it feels so good)

Our missing cushion is back! As I explained in an earlier post, about a year ago, one of our aft-cockpit cushions was swept away by the wind, and its absence made me very sad. However, we recently located our missing cushion--aboard another boat in our marina.

After trying to coordinate with the marina to obtain our cushion, we decided to make arrangements for getting our cushion back by going directly to the source--the owner of the other boat.

A mutual friend & neighbor introduced us to the owner of the boat where we saw our long-lost cushion, but when we asked him about the cushion-in-question, he said he was sorry, but he didn't have it. We were speechless! The cushion that we saw on his boat looked exactly like the one we were missing!

It all worked out though. After telling the owner that we lost our cushion a year ago, something clicked for him and he realized that perhaps he was in possession of our missing accessory (he thought we were asking if he had recently found a cockpit cushion, which he had not). Turns out, he rescued our cushion from the water so long ago that he had forgotten all about it.

The owner was very happy that he was able to reunite us with our missing cushion. In fact, he told us that he had given up collecting passing debris because he was never able to find out who owned any of it. We're just thankful he was still rescuing things back when our cushion floated by.

For the last year, I have been using our cushion-less seat as a potting station for my plants:

Boat Potting Station
OK, so it isn't really a "potting station" so much as it is a barren cockpit seat with potted plants on top of it; however, by telling myself that the exposed seat served some sort of purpose, as opposed to simply being a glaring reminder of our loss, I felt better about the cushion being gone (yes, that's right, I lie to myself in order to make myself feel better about things I shouldn't be upset about in the first place).

So all is well. Our aft-cockpit is whole once again and my plants are back on the floor where they belong:

Balance Restored

Sunday, May 5, 2013


I've attempted to play peekaboo with Helina many times, but she never seemed that interested in the game. She'd humor me at times by laughing here and there, but I could tell she was secretly offended at my attempt to trick her into thinking I had disappeared when clearly I was only hiding my face.

Last night, however, as we sat in the cockpit, Helina and I stumbled into a game of peekaboo.

Most evenings, we head to the cockpit and let Helina burn off any extra energy she has, so she is nice and tired for bed. Usually this involves her pounding on our cockpit coaming (the thing her left hand is on top of in the picture below) and shouting--what I like to pretend are obscenities--towards the sky:

Helina, The Great Miami Orator
The other night, however, instead of providing her usual evening commentary, Helina quietly leaned forward, gazed to her right...

What's this?
...curiously peered around the frame of our bimini...

Curious Baby
...and discovered her mother looking back at her from the other side! The look on her face was priceless:

Peekaboo! I see you!
After meeting her gaze, I quickly bobbed my head back into the cockpit. Helina followed suit. Then, while giggling, she poked her head back around the frame, as if to verify I was no longer on the other side, only to find I had reemerged! She squealed! An intense game of peekaboo ensued, and a new element to our evening routine was added.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Baby Safety

We have discussed baby safety on a number of occasions, and we continue to be asked about the topic frequently.  In short, the inside of the boat is very safe, as compared to a house, and the outside/deck of the boat is not as safe.  Accordingly, we are careful to hold onto Helina at all times when we are in the cockpit or on deck, much as a parent would be extra vigilant when with a child near a swimming pool.  Still, we continue to work to make the deck of the boat as safe as it can possibly be.  A recent example is the improvements we made to our boarding situation.

The perimeter of Sea Gem's deck is, like most sailboats, surrounded by a wire safety fence ("life lines"), composed of two horizontal wires, one approximately 12" off the deck and the second approximately 24" off the deck.  The life lines make the deck feel more secure, provide something to hold on to to balance yourself, and if you were to fall of the boat, provide something to hang on to.

Life Lines Before
Life lines do not, however, retain wandering babies.  The 12" gap between the deck and the lowest life line poses no problem for adults, but a baby could easily slip through.  The solution is to install netting over the lifelines to close the gaps.

Life Lines After
For now, we installed the netting over the most dangerous areas, adjacent to the cockpit and the cockpit door.  Since we have the boarding gate, which creates a gap in the lifelines, we can't install netting around the entire perimeter, but as Helina grows and continues to move, we will assess if any addition netting should be installed.  In any case, we continue to make Sea Gem a safer and better place for Helina to grow up, one step at a time.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Return of the Mystery Foam

We previously wrote about a little water problem--how, instead of clean water, foamy and fizzy water flowed from our tap.  Really, more than a little problem.  The problem, it appeared was our water hose.  Apparently, they build up algae and break down, causing the water to turn to foam.  And so we bought and new hose and fixed the problem.  So we thought.

A few months later, the foam returned.  We were expected the hose to last at least 6 months, but so it goes on a boat.  And so we bought a new water hose yet again.

Then, the foam returned only one month after buying the new hose.  The hose, admittedly, was cheap, so we assumed (hoped?) it was just a cheap hose.  And we bought another hose--our third hose in less than 6 months--and this time, we bought a good hose.  Indeed, we bought the best hose we could find, a one hundred dollar water hose.  Surely, this super hose would fix the problem!

It did not.  A couple weeks after installing the super hose, the foam returned.  Clearly, the hose was not the culprit.  But what was?  It couldn't be the hoses inside the boat, we reasoned, because we did not have foam when running off the tank, which runs through the same hoses inside the boat as when we are hooked up to the dock.  It had to be something to do with our connection to the dock...but what?

As it turns out, there is a single, 4-foot piece of water hose inside the boat that water flows through only when we are connected to the dock and not when you are using our water tanks.  As it turns out, that is the only piece of hose in the entire boat that had not been recently replaced when we bought the boat.  It was in a size they don't make anymore and it looked, well...crusty.

Old crusty water hose
And so I got to work removed the old hose and installing the new one.

Removing the old hose.
The new hose is larger in diameter, which should reduce the pressure in the hose, and is overall nice and clean. 

New, clean water hose.
Installing the new hose involved a fair amount of acrobatics, but it overall went as planned.

The result?  No foam.  Have I fixed the problem for good?  I haven't a clue.