Thursday, June 27, 2013


Since starting our blog, we have treated our readers to several posts about our washing machine, including two over the past week.  Here is one more, third in the trilogy of posts related to replacing our old, jackhammer-loud Comb-o-matic.

The new machine, the Splendide 2100XC (the direct replacement for our 27-year-old machine) went into place without too much effort or drama.  Its dimensions are nearly identical to that of our old machine, and it is lighter in weight.  After hoisting it into the boat with our spinnaker halyard, Krissy and I together pulled/carried/shoved it into place, where I fairly easily made the necessary connections (water, power, vent, and drain).  And that was it--installed.  Fairly anti-climactic after the hours spent disassembling the old machine and carrying it out, piece by piece.

The important test of the new machine, however, was not how easily it could installed (a one-time affair), but how well it washes and dries our clothes (a multiple-times-a-week affair).  We reasonably hoped for an improvement over our old machine.  Our old machine worked, but it was deafening in the spin cycle.  Helina--somehow--learned to sleep through it, but it was so loud that you literally could not hear someone speak right next to you.  And, for some reason, there were four or five spin cycles per load.  That machine was, by far, the loudest and most disturbing device on Sea Gem.  To help with the dry cycle, combination washer/dryer machines have an extra-high-speed spin cycle, which tends to make them loud.  We researched our unit, and it turns out that its operation was perfectly normal--many other owners complained online of the deafening spin cycle.  Because our new machine uses the same basic technology, we figured it would also be loud, and simply hoped that it would not be as loud.

Which is why, during the machine's maiden load of laundry, we thought it was broken when we didn't hear the jackhammer sound.  Or, for that matter, any sound at all.  The new machine is completely silent.  We repeatedly checked on the machine, thinking it had turned itself off for some reason, only to find it quietly working away.  So it may have taken them 27 years to do it, but Splendide finally figured out how to make a quiet machine.  I'm just glad our old machine hung on long enough for us to make the upgrade, which would have been worth it even had our old machine not given out--it is, after all, hard to put a price on hearing.

As an added bonus, the new machine also has 20% greater capacity than the old machine, enabling us to get by with running fewer loads.  Perhaps, then, the new machine will last 20% longer--check back in 32 years for an update.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Heavy Lifting

Thank goodness we got the old washer/dryer off of the boat when we did because, immediately following its exit, our new machine--the Splendide 2100XC (the XC stands for extra capacity!)--arrived...about 3 weeks earlier than expected! Originally, we had intended to force ask our visiting friends to help us bring the washer/dryer on board, but since the box was delivered much earlier than their visit, we needed to get the new washer/dryer onto the boat by ourselves.

Moving the new machine onto the boat was nerve wracking. The box containing the new washer/dryer was heavy, the gap between our dock and the boat was wide, and the water underneath was deep:

Point A to Point B
Eric and I knew that we only had one option for moving our splendid little Splendide onto the boat--we needed to hoist it (just like how we get our dinghy on and off the boat). To make things a bit easier, we removed the machine from its box. Then, Eric rigged a bridle to cradle the washer/dryer, and we attached it to a halyard (a long rope with a hook that is attached to a winch):

Ready for Liftoff
I don't have a picture of us lifting the machine aboard because I was forbidden from taking pictures during the process (we've gone through three cameras in the last 4.5 years and I am responsible for destroying each one them). My job was to hoist the washer/dryer (with the use of a winch) and Eric's job was to safely guide the machine from the dock onto the boat and into the cockpit (without having it fall into the water or smash into our boat).

Our teamwork paid off. Soon, the washer/dryer was in the cockpit:

Phase 1 Complete
Next, we needed to get it inside the boat via the hatch. Unfortunately, this thing weighs a ton (148 lbs to be exact) and because it is an enormous, smooth-sided box with no handles, it isn't exactly easy to lift. Thankfully, we're on a boat, so there is usually a halyard in the vicinity to help us hoist objects. Eric dropped one down our cockpit's hatch/sunroof and attached it to the bridle:

Preparing for Phase 2
As was the case before, I don't have any action shots of us bringing the machine inside, as I was once again on-deck, camera-less, working the winch; however, Eric was able to guide it down the companionway ladder and into our salon, as evident by this picture of the washer/dryer in our main salon: 

Phase 2 Complete
Moving it from this spot in the salon to its designated space requires heavy lifting. As such, Eric thought it would be a good idea if we left the washer/dryer in the middle of our salon until our friends visited in a few weeks (so they could help us move it to its final location). He said it would be like having an extra coffee table.

Turns out he was right. Who knew we needed a table at the base of our companionway ladder. It was the perfect spot for putting our mail. Sadly, Helina kept sticking her hand in the open vent and tinkering with its parts, so we thought perhaps we should get it out of the way. Once again, our friends' visit couldn't wait--we had to do it on our own. More on that later...

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Inevitable Goodbye

Since moving aboard Sea Gem, we knew the day would come when we'd need to get a new washer/dryer. The on-board Comb-o-matic that Sea Gem came equipped with was as old as the boat (26 years), so it was only a matter of time before it spun its last cycle. And, given the vast amount of laundry we now do thanks to our babe, that day is now upon us. Our well-used Comb-o-matic is no more. We considered repairing the unit, as opposed to buying a new one, but unfortunately, they stopped making parts for our particular model back when I was a teenager, so replacing it was our only option.

Of course, before a new machine could be installed, the broken one needed to be removed from the boat. Eric and I have, for a long time, suspected that the our boat was constructed around the Comb-o-matic, and this suspicion was reaffirmed as we hauled it out of the boat.

The passageway that leads to the Comb-o-matic is just a hair wider than the unit itself, as is the hatch leading in and out of the boat. In addition to the spacial logistics of removing the machine, we also needed to contend with its weight. Our old Comb-o-matic is insanely heavy. This is because it contains concrete. Yes, concrete. I was not aware that appliances contained concrete; however, after finding out that ours did, I immediately understood why it was so freakishly heavy and loud. 

So, a bit of disassembling was required in order to make the task of removing our old machine a bit easier:

Bit by bit, the machine was taken apart...

...and hauled off to the dumpster:

Farewell, old friend
Our "laundry room" now sits empty, awaiting the arrival of the new appliance:

Will the new Comb-o-matico fit in the old machine's spot? We are 99% sure that it will, but installing it will be a challenge. Getting the new unit onto the boat, down the hatch, through the passageway, and into the space is going to require a bit of brawn because, unlike removing the old Comb-o-matic, we can't dismantle the new one. Thankfully, we have friends visiting around the time when our new Comb-o-matic arrives, which means they'll be able to join in the fun of helping us install our new machine. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

We've Got a Climber!

When you think about the stages of baby development (or at least when I do--or did, rather), milestones like rolling over, sitting, crawling, standing, and walking all come to mind. However, a stage that I was not anticipating, nor was I aware of, is the climbing stage. All I've heard since having a baby was "Just wait until she starts crawling" or "It all changes once they are up and walking." I don't recall anyone saying "Just wait until she climbs all over everything like some sort of crazed mountain goat with no sense of boundaries." Although we received no forewarning about this stage of development, which happens sometime between crawling and walking, Eric and I are now well acquainted with the climbing stage.

And...She's Up!
Helina has found her inner monkey and has turned the boat into her own personal jungle gym. It is actually quite funny to watch. She is a very strong and extremely determined little thing!

Climbing Her Way to the Top
Her main motivator to climb? Tiny buttons. In the picture above she is heading toward our Sirius radio, which she is obsessed with (it has glowing blue buttons), and below is a picture of her making her way to our stereo (which has even more glowing blue buttons):

Although Helina isn't walking just yet, she is most certainly mobile. I'm sure that in no time at all, she'll be hanging from the ceiling and climbing the mast.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Since having a baby, I've become extremely sensitive to how gender is portrayed in nearly everything I buy for my daughter--clothing, shoes, toys, etc. It is actually quite horrifying how much gender programming takes place--literally--from day one. Nearly all of Helina's clothes contain some shade of pink and are adorned with some sort of frilly accent. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the color pink (I'm actually wearing a bit of it now), nor to I hate bows or frilly accessories (I own plenty of that stuff, too, and it is a known fact that I LOVE sequins and velvet), but as with all things, I strive for moderation.

I am very aware that the world my daughter lives in is trying to facilitate her developing into a well-behaved, young lady, who likes dolls, the color pink, and being super sweet, so I try very hard to provide her with a balanced perspective. I buy a good mix of toys, clothes, and books that run the spectrum in terms of gender messaging (i.e., fairy princesses to cars & trucks), but it is very difficult to find things that aren't overly "girl" or "boy." Take a walk through the girl's section of a department store and notice how many things read "Diva," "Princess," and "Born to Shop," while the boy's section features clothing and toys that center around activities like fishing, sailing, and being mechanical. Even worse, boys' clothing and shoes are much more practical than the girl equivalents. It is as if from the moment females are born, they are being stuffed into uncomfortable shoes and made to wear outfits that don't allow them to do much more than sit around and have people comment on how they look.

Even more disturbing to me though, is that despite my awareness to this phenomenon, I find myself extremely responsive to (perhaps even dependent upon) the gender programming I've been inundated with since I was little. Heaven help me if I see a baby wearing gender neutral clothing. Much like a neutered dog, if I don't have a clear visual clue that indicates someone's gender, I have no idea what it is. I even find myself thinking Helina looks like a boy when I dress her in boy clothes:

So what does this have to do with sailing? Well, I will tell you what this has to do with sailing... it is extremely difficult to buy sailing-themed clothing for baby girls (yes, that's right, this is a post about shopping--I was born to shop after all). You see, apparently girls don't like sailing--they only like mermaids (duh!). Now, I'm not going to lie, Helina has several nautical-themed outfits; however, most of them are dresses (not practical for crawling) or are so fancy that I don't want her to wear them. (I kid you not, as I watched Eric sloppily feed Helina the other day, all I could think was "Be careful! She's wearing Ralph Lauren!!" Then, I hated myself for being the kind of person who exclaims things like, "It's Ralph Lauren!") Had Helina been a boy (or had I been inclined to dress her mostly in boy clothing), her nautical wardrobe would be much more practical and three times its current size. Boys just make out better when it comes to sailboats.

The other week, while buying father's day cards for my dad and Eric, I caught yet another glimpse of how these gender stereotypes follow us throughout our lives. I was overwhelmed by the number of cards that featured sailboats. Just one month earlier, when I perused cards for my mom, I saw a grand total of 0 cards that featured sailboats, yet an endless number of cards that were pink and centered around shopping. (In addition to sailing, the other top subjects for father's day cards were fishing, beer, and sandwiches--what a simple little existence we've carved out for men.)

In general, I find these gender stereotypes a bit tired and look forward to the day when the world is a bit less predictable. Until then, I know that--at least for the foreseeable future--I'll be able to find Eric a fitting father's day card, even if I can't find Helina suitable sailing attire.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Going Electric, Part II (The New Dinghy)

I explained in my previous post that, for a variety of reasons, we decided to sell our gas-powered outboard motors and instead use a new, electric trolling motor.  Although our new trolling motor is the most powerful 12-volt model we could find (55 pounds of thrust), it does not have nearly the power of our old 15-horsepower gas outboard and will not be able to adequately power our inflatable dinghy, which rather gracelessly plows through the water.

And so we purchased a new (actually used, via craigslist) Porta-Bote, which is a dinghy that folds flat for storage but, when assembled, is rigid enough to efficiently move through the water with a small outboard (or even oars). Sea Gem's former owners used to have a Porta-Bote for rowing (attempting to row an inflatable dinghy is more stationary exercise than a means of propulsion), but unfortunately lost it in the Red Sea during a storm.  Sea Gem still has the mounting brackets, however, which enables us to securely (but apparently not securely enough for a Red Sea storm) store the Porta-Bote flat against the lifelines, out of the way.  We settled on the 12-foot model (Porta-Botes come in 8-, 10-, 12-, and 14-foot models), which seemed to be the best compromise of capacity and size.

When assembling the Porta-Bote, I briefly regretted the decision to buy it.  It was really no easier to assemble than the inflatable boat.  Although it doesn't need to be inflated with air, it needs to be held open (I accomplished this by awkwardly standing in it), and each of the three seats need to be inserted and secured into place with locking pins.  Then, the transom needs to be inserted and bolted into place with 4 bolts and wingnuts.  There are several small parts that need to be retained for this purpose, and it is overall a cumbersome process.  Although certainly no worse than the inflatable boat it replaces, the assembly process was nonetheless a disappointment.

More significantly, the Porta-Bote made a mess of the deck.  The seams of the boat are protected by black plastic rub rails that leave black scuff marks all over the deck.

Not Non-Marking
The scuff marks can be scrubbed off, but scrubbing the deck is not a task I look forward to.  In addition, the Porta-Bote has black foam flotation on the seats and the inside of the hull that sheds little black flecks when touched.

Just when I was ready to fold the Porta-Bote back up and list it on Craigslist, Krissy thought to remove the foam from the seats, which both solves the problem of black specks getting on our clothing and and also makes the seats, which are now a fraction of the thickness, much easier to store.  A filet knife made quick work of the foam.  Although the boat will no longer float as high in the unlikely event that it becomes swamped (fills with water), we will carry a bailer (a bucket to remove any water that gets inside), and that downside is more than outweighed by the more compact stowage, the additional safety of sitting lower in the boat, and the lack of black specks getting everywhere.

Our New, Used, Cushion-less, 12-Foot Porta-Bote
And so, scuff marks and all, we decided to give the Porta-Bote a try.  And we loved it. 

With the new, lightweight trolling motor, I was able to get the boat in the water and set up myself (whereas the heavy gas outboards required at least two people and a hoist).  The motor pushes the Porta-Bote at a reasonable speed without noise, smoke, pull-cords, or fanfare.  You twist the throttle and it goes.  It is that simple.  We ran the motor for about 90 minutes, going much further than any ordinary shore trip, and had battery power to spare.  We also found the Porta-Bote to be much more comfortable and dry than our inflatable dinghy, and it is also surprisingly stable.  I can stand on one side of the floor without compromising stability, which I wouldn't dare do in an ordinary rigid dinghy.  Overall, it is hard to imagine the Porta-Bote fulfilling its core mission--being a boat--any better. 

Beached Boat
And so, although the dinghy isn't perfect, it certainly beats our old one.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Captain is 11 Months Old!

I was hopefully that 11 months would be the magical age when Helina would once again enjoy posing with my dad's old commander's hat, but I think the thrill is gone. I did get her to sit in that hat and smile, but she wasn't interested in looking at the camera:

11 Months!
That's OK. These photos are about showing how much she's grown since she was born, and they certainly do that, even if she isn't smiling ear-to-ear.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Going Electric

It is becoming more and more common for cruising sailboats to replace their diesel engines with electric motors.  Electric motors are compact, reliable, and low-maintenance, although their range is limited by the size of the battery bank, which can get very heavy and very expensive very quickly.  In any case, we are not moving in that direction with Sea Gem.  Sea Gem's two inboard diesels start every time and, with a nearly 400-gallon fuel tank, can run for days.

We did, however, make the leap from internal combustion engines to an electric motor on a much smaller scale: our dinghy.  Sea Gem came equipped with two gasoline outboard engines for the dinghy, a 15 horsepower and a 6 horsepower model, both two-strokes.  We quickly came to hate them for several reasons.  They are heavy, which makes setting them up in the dinghy and storing them a real production involving at least two people.  They require that we lug around tanks of gasoline, which takes up space and is explosive. If we don't use them frequently, the gas goes bad and the motors needs to be disassembled and the carburetors cleaned. They need to be maintained--oil, filters, etc. And, finally, between bad gas and finicky, complex operation (flooded engines, starter cords to pull, switches that need to be flipped, and so on), they often didn't work when we needed them to, and when they did work, they were loud, smelly, and smokey.  For all of these reasons, we hated them.

And so we sold both outboards and bought a new, electric motor, a Minn Kota Riptide 55 trolling motor (the saltwater model):

Minn Kota Riptide 55
It isn't nearly as powerful as either outboard, especially the 15-horsepower model, but we are perfectly happy trading speed for the many advantages of the new motor.  It is lightweight, only about 20 pounds (versus around 80 for the gas outboards).  It is whisper-quiet.  It requires no maintenance--no oil, no filters, nothing.  It does not require gas.  No gas to carry around with us, and no gas to go bad (and no carburetors to rebuild).  It is simple to operate.  No pull cords, no switches--you just twist the handle, and it runs:

Twist on, twist off
It is hard to imagine a motor being any easier to operate, store, and maintain.

We have heard, repeatedly, that a trolling motor won't be strong enough to use as a dinghy outboard.  Our motor, however, produces 55 pounds of thrust, which is the most powerful 12-volt trolling motor we could find, which is comparable thrust to a 2 horsepower gas outboard.  I suspect that most doubters are thinking of older, smaller trolling motors, and not the more powerful models such as ours.  Matched to a new, easily driven folding dinghy, I have no doubt that it will be more than sufficient to move us along at a comfortable 4 knots. But time will tell.

More soon.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Cockpit Cocktail

When I first met Eric, I was impressed by his appreciation for and knowledge about wine. When Eric first met me, he was not impressed by my wine prowess. In fact, I think he was a bit disappointed that I only drank white wine, and for the most part, I didn't even drink that because it tasted too alcohol-y for my liking. I think my parents were also a bit disappointed by my lack of worldliness in the wine department because they were always pouring me glasses of different types of wine, thinking that eventually I'd find one that I liked (that or they prefer my company when I'm slightly tipsy). Shortly after Eric and I began dating, my parents poured me a glass of 1986 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which they had been saving for quite sometime, and much to my surprise (and probably theirs), I LOVED it. I describe it as drinking velvet. When I shared this news with Eric, he was not pleased. Although he was hopeful I'd one day learn to appreciate wine, he most certainly didn't want me to only like the pricey kind. From that day forward, I compared every sip of wine to the Châteauneuf-du-Pape my parents shared with me, and--surprise--nothing ever tasted as good.

Then, one day, Eric and I attended a Shabbat service, in which wine was passed around. As I sipped from my cup, I turned to Eric and said, "This is delicious! What kind of wine is this? It is at least as good as the '86 Châteauneuf-du-Pape." Horrified, Eric said, "You're kidding, right?! It's Manischewitz!!"

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this type of wine, go pour yourself a glass of red wine, dump a cup of sugar in it, and consume. Alternatively, you could drink a glass of slightly fermented Welch's grape juice. Either way, you'll have the culinary equivalent of Manischewitz.

My appreciation for Manischewitz is all the proof I need to confirm that my conversion to Judaism was authentic.

So what does all of this have to do with sailing? Not much; however, during our recent trip, I decided to try out a new cocktail, which was featured in the New York Times. The ingredients? Wine and cola.

Obviously, I wasn't going to mix even a drop of Châteauneuf-du-Pape-quality wine with a Coke, so I went with the next best thing--Manischewitz.

Wine and Cola
So how was this most magical concoction? Awful--just awful. It was sickeningly sweet and completely undrinkable (unless you are Eric--he didn't want to waste a Coke Zero).

After returning to land and connecting to the Internet, I consulted the recipe for this drink and realized it called for dry wine (as in the complete opposite of Manischewitz), which might explain the reason it was undrinkable (well, that and also that it was wine mixed with cola).    

Will I try making this drink again? No, probably not. But, it was worth trying once, and on the bright side, I now have a nearly full bottle of Manischewitz in the fridge, which I can enjoy at any hour of the day or night (so long as it isn't mixed with cola).

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Return Home (Day 3 Recap)

Although Helina did fairly well on the sail down to The Keys, the sail back was a different story. The day started out well enough. We plopped Helina in her highchair, fed her breakfast, then pulled up the anchor to head back to Miami. Almost immediately, Helina became upset. She refused to play with her toys and demanded to be let out of her highchair. Our normally cheery babe was distraught.

Sad Sailor
This type of behavior is not the norm for Helina, and we knew what was wrong. She slept poorly the night before and as a result, was overtired. On top of all of this, she also had an awful cold (which was the root cause of her restless night).

I knew Helina was extremely tired and just needed to rest, but putting her in her crib was not an option--she was completely inconsolable. So, I held her, and eventually, she fell asleep in my arms.

Poor Baby :(
This type of behavior (the one in the picture directly above), is also not the norm for Helina. She is usually not interested in napping in people's arms. She is a good sleeper, who prefers the comfort of a bed (well, crib), like the rest of us. The fact that she only wanted to be held by her mother is a clear indicator that she was truly miserable.

As much as I love holding my little baby in my arms, sailing with a baby tethered to you is not ideal. I felt like I spent the majority of the return sail home in the position pictured above. It may look peaceful, but I can assure you, the trip back was quite stressful and down right unenjoyable--for Helina in particular. 

Hours later, as we approached our marina, I put Helina down for a nap in her crib, so I could help dock. Surprisingly, she feel asleep long enough for us to bring the boat in and get settled back in our slip.

As I alluded to in a previous post, we're planning to go on a much longer sail in a few weeks; however, if our recent trip is any indication of how future trips may unfold, it may be awhile before we brave the seas and head out for another overnight sail. 

Tentatively, the trip is still on, but we also have a plan B just in case. If Helina is cold-free on our scheduled departure date, we'll likely go through with the trip, but if there is so much a sniffle in sight, we aren't going to risk it--for both her sake and ours.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Paranoia Part 2

Although mostly relaxing, being at anchor can, at times, be nerve-wracking. The anxiety I feel while anchored is usually a result of worrying about our boat coming loose and drifting out to sea--or worse--into another boat or shallow water.

Since there isn't too much to do while at anchor (that's the relaxing part of it), we spend a lot of time looking at and commenting on the other boats in the area. As evening fell our second night at anchor, we noticed that an Oyster had pulled into the bay and anchored west of our boat, off our port side. We had a significant conversation about the Oyster (as they are a favorite of mine and this specific Oyster used to be docked in our marina).

This is the view we had at sunset from the port side of our boat. Obviously, you'll need to squint to make out the details, but the dot to the far left is the Oyster and the dot just right of the center is a powerboat directly in line with our boat:

Oyster to west (left), powerboat front and (almost) center
During the middle of the night, the wind shifted and began to blow hard from the east. The water got rough. As a result, the boat was bobbing around quite a bit, which caused me to wake. Even though it was the wee hours of the morning, I decided to investigate the situation. I looked out from the port in our stateroom and was fairly shocked to see that the Oyster, which at sunset was to the west of our boat, was now directly off our port side (although still a safe distance from our boat). In my groggy state, I determined that either the Oyster had become "unhooked" and blown east (although given the direction of the wind, that didn't make any sense) or we had come unhooked and were blowing west, toward land!

Naturally, I woke Eric, so we could continue the investigation together. After consulting our GPS, which shows our boat's path, it was apparent that Sea Gem hadn't moved. The Oyster had simply moved closer east--probably intentionally.

False alarm.

We went back to sleep.

About an hour later, Eric jumped out of bed and dashed toward the salon. As I came to, I realized that the beeping sound I had been dreaming about wasn't an illusion--there was an actual alarm going off inside our boat! With the earlier drifting concern still fresh in my sleepy mind, I hurried into cockpit to turn on the engines because I thought the alarm meant we were floating away.

From the helm, I shouted to Eric something about turning on the engines. Confused (and concerned), Eric rushed into the cockpit to stop me. And then I heard it--the distinct sound of Nespresso pods falling to the ground. Suddenly, I was wide awake.

Calmly (yet clearly annoyed), Eric said, "You don't need to turn on the engines. The alarm went off because the batteries drained. I just turned on the generator to charge them. It is fine."

Embarrassed, I said "So, I guess I'll go put away those Nespresso pods now."

And so I did.

So, Eric was right. As it turns out, we were more likely to be booby trapped by the pods than a stranger. I'm just thankful that I went with the Nespresso pods and not the sharp wooden skewers I had originally planned to use.