Thursday, August 29, 2013

Change in Status

After two years of living aboard Sea Gem, our living situation has officially changed.  We are now officially liveaboards.  It's a nice feeling.

As a practical matter, nothing has really changed.  We were living on Sea Gem before, and we are living on Sea Gem now.  But our official, legal status now reflects that fact.

Our old marina, like many marinas, permits people to stay on their boat, but does not permit the boat to be their official residence.  Some marinas have a certain time limitation, such as a maximum of 20 days per month, 6 months per year, etc., that you can stay on the boat, others have no time limitation, and still others have time limitations that they don't enforce.  At our old marina, we we permitted to stay on Sea Gem, but as "crew" - not as residents.  For the most part, the distinction is just a formality, but it is an issue when it comes time to enroll Helina in school, vote, etc.

Our new marina does permit liveaboards, but only a limited number.  For the past two years, long before we moved to the new marina, we've been on the liveaboard waiting list.  When we moved here earlier this month, we were still on the list (and thus still lowly "crew," I suppose).

We knew that there was a chance we could be on the waiting list for another two years (or longer--when we first signed up for the waiting list, we were told we would "never" get a slip), so we were surprised (and elated) when we found out that we were elevated to full liveaboard status after only three weeks.  So, effective September 1, we are liveaboards!

At our new marina, the change in status is actually more than a formality.  Our rent is reduced substantially, and we get some exciting new benefits that we'll explain in a future post (or more).

Monday, August 26, 2013


Our boat has two flood lights situated high above our deck on each one of our masts. Not long ago, the light on our main mast burned out and we had to climb the mast in order to change the bulb. This may sound like a simple (albeit inconvenient) chore, but it wasn't. It took us multiple trips up the mast before both deck lights were once again shining brightly.

During the drawn out process of changing the bulb on our main mast, a question lingered in the back of our minds: When would the other mast light bulb need replacing?

Well, the day both Eric and I knew would eventually arrive is upon us--we need to go back up the mast to change a light bulb (notice the lack of light on the back mast):

The Brightest Bulb
Thankfully, our mizzen mast isn't quite as high as our main mast, which means we won't need to climb nearly as high as last time in order to reach the burnt out bulb (and hopefully won't need to climb as many times):

The Mizzen Mast
So how many sailors does it take to change a light bulb? I have no idea. Last time it took two sailors (and numerous spectators) over the course of a month, so anything is possible. We'll keep you posted. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bubble Girl

We're in the midst of rainy season in Miami, which means an abundance of beautiful sunsets and, well, rain. Now that our walk from boat to car is much longer than it used to be, there is a greater chance of getting caught in a storm. At our old marina, unexpected downpours weren't a big deal. Since we didn't have far to go, we'd simply wait for a clearing in the rain and then make a run for it. Now, we must either wait for the storm to pass completely or bare the elements and get a little (or a lot) wet.

To make boarding in slippery conditions a bit safer and the walk down our dock a bit easier, I got a clear umbrella:

Clear View
It has a massive span--52 inches in diameter, which means I am able to keep both me and Helina dry (Eric, too, I suppose), while still being able to see everything that is in front of me:

Clear View
The material of this umbrella is much different than our other umbrellas. The canopy is a thin plastic sheet, as opposed to a durable woven fabric. I'm not sure how it will fare in serious winds, but it held up just fine in the heavy rain I experienced today.

Although most docks are wide enough that a misstep won't leave you treading water, I've never liked walking down them with a traditional umbrella (Am I going to run into someone?). Having full visibility is a nice change of pace--especially when hopping on and off the boat. 

I still searching for a full-body, clear umbrella, but for the time being, this one will do. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A New Captain's Chair

We've gotten a lot of use out of Helina's compact clamp-on highchair; however, not in the way we anticipated. Originally, we opted for the clamp-on chair over a more traditional highchair for safety reasons. We worried that a traditional highchair might tip over if the boat were to move abruptly, and we thought a clamp-on chair was the perfect solution. Because this type of chair is also compact, we pictured ourselves easily clipping the chair onto our table, then folding it up after each use and stowing it out of the way.

Well, as it turns out, our concerns about the possibility of the highchair tipping over were unfounded. We failed to predict that at least one of us would always be sitting near the chair while Helina was in it (a benefit of living in a small space).

As it also turns out, both Eric and I are much lazier than we like to admit, and we soon grew tired of taking the highchair on and off the table multiple times a day. Eventually, we fully succumbed to our laziness and began leaving the little chair clamped to our table throughout the week. Of course, this meant that we had to keep our table in its dining table configuration, which essentially erased the living room feel from our salon. It felt like we were always sitting around the kitchen table (because we were).

So, we invested in an actual highchair:

Helina's New Seat
Just like the clamp-on highchair, Helina's new chair folds completely flat and can be stored out of sight:

Tucked Away - Cosco Folding Chair
Helina loves her new vantage point (and we love having our living room back):

Sitting Pretty
The little chair is still serving a purpose, though, so don't worry. We bring it with us to restaurants and when we travel to visit grandparents. Most importantly, however, we use it as a secure seat for Helina to sit in when we sail.

Bon app├ętit!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mystery Spot

The floors found throughout our boat are a classic mix of teak and holly:

Sea Gem's Main Salon
The dark wood is Burmese teak and the thin, light wood is holly. Topping it all off is a thick, clear varnish, which gives the floor a mirror-like finish. 

If I were to divide the amount of time I spend cleaning various parts of the boat, without a doubt, I can safely say that I spend a disproportionate amount of time crawling around on my hands and knees tediously polishing the floor. I guess you could say I'm a bit particular about how it looks. 

Each time Helina drops/throws a toy on the floor (or Eric or I accidentally drop something on it), my muscles cease up and I crazily begin chanting "Please no, not the floor, not my precious floor." God forbid we chip the varnish--or worse, hurt the wood beneath. 

Much to my horror, as I glanced across the room the other day, I noticed a dark spot on the floor in front of our ice maker/freezer! Helina had been sitting in the general vicinity of the mystery spot moments before I saw it, so my initial thought was that her diaper had leaked and there was a puddle of pee on the floor (lovely, I know). When I went to clean up the mess, I discovered that there was no mess--the wood itself was discolored: 

The Spot
This is not good. The color of the wood implies it is wet. As you might suspect, I freaked out.

The spot-in-question is found directly in front of an appliance that requires water. Logic dictates that the two are connected; however, when we inspected the floor, we found that the wood was completely firm, which isn't what you'd expect if it were saturated with water (it would be soft). And, even after dissembling the ice maker, we still couldn't locate a leak.

Although it is hard for us to imagine that the spot on the floor is not water damage, I began tossing out a few alternate (and creative) theories to explain the mystery spot.

Theory 1: The floor had been burned by our port-side engine (which is located underneath the floor in our engine room). We had been sailing on the day the spot appeared (well, on the day we noticed it), so I thought perhaps our engine had caught fire (or something) and burned through the ceiling of the engine room, charring the wood floor above. I sent Eric to the engine room to investigate, but my theory--while creative--didn't pan out. In addition to the fact that we would have noticed if one of our engines had caught fire, neither engine is located directly underneath the spot--just in the vicinity.

Theory 2: An ice cube (or more likely cubes) fell out of the ice maker, melted, and the water leaked through a crack in the varnish and soaked the wood. This theory isn't as dramatic as my engine-catching-fire theory, but it's an idea. So far, no cracks in the varnish have been identified.

Theory 3: There is a slow leak underneath the floor (yet above the engine room's ceiling).

Theory 4: An Ebola-like virus that only affects wood.

The current status is that the wood is still discolored (although not getting any worse), the floor is still hard, the ice maker still works, and nothing is burning. Will Eric and I get to the bottom of the mystery spot? I certainly hope so. For the sake of both our teak and my sanity. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Poop Hose

We've written about the joys of marine toilets and sanitation systems more than a couple times.  But the topic never seems to grow old, so here's one more.

Probably the biggest difference between a toilet on a boat and a toilet in a house is that, on a boat, you need to think about the toilet all the time.  Is the tank getting full?  Are the valves leakingDid that flush sound right?  You absolutely can't take anything for granted with a marine toilet.  And, unlike a house, where after you flush the toilet, you never have to worry about its contents, on a boat, you carry the contents around in a big tank, waiting until there is an opportunity (or dire need) to empty the tank.

At our old marina, when the time came, we would need to go sailing a few miles offshore, where it is legal to dump our tank of former toilet contents.  Since going sailing is a production, the procedure was overall more than a little inconvenient.

At our new marina, however, we have a pumpout facility right on our finger pier, next to the boat.  We can connect a hose to our boat, push a button, and--whoosh!--a giant vacuum sucks everything out of the tank and sends it to the sewer system where it belongs.

The Whoosh in Progress
The "whoosh" is actually more like a continuous whoosh for ten minutes than a single, toilet-flush-type whoosh, but it is in any case far more convenient than sailing three miles offshore.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Long Haul

At our old marina, the walk from our boat's hatch to our car's door was extremely short. Our new marina is much bigger than our old marina, and as a result, the piers are significantly longer than what we're used to. In fact, I'd say our new pier is more than double the length of our old one, and unlike at our previous marina, we're docked at the far end of the pier. Needless to say, the walk to and from our cars is quite the trek:

The Road is Long
In general, we're not bothered by a little stroll, but we anticipate "the commute" to and from our boat will be a bit burdensome with a baby in tow.

Thankfully, the marina has dock carts for us to use to help us haul large things (and people) back and forth between our boat and our cars:

Baby Carriage
For smaller items, like groceries (and the occasional baby), we purchased a collapsible cart that can easily be stored in the trunk of our cars or on-board the boat:

Collapsible Aluminum Shopping Cart 
Even better--the liner of the cart is removable, which makes transporting its contents onto the boat easy:

Cart Liner
Don't worry though, we don't use this same method to transport Helina aboard.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Walking on Water

In addition to all of the obvious safety concerns we had when it came to raising a child aboard a boat, I was also concerned about how the actual environment might affect Helina's development--specifically, her ability to walk. Although the movement of the boat while docked is usually subtle, the boat is constantly moving, and considering that children are less than stable when they first start walking, the motion--however slight--was something Helina would need to contend with and master in order to become a mobile, bipedal baby.

Well, the day I wasn't sure would come (at least for awhile) has arrived. Two weeks ago, our little babe took her first (clumsy) steps, and now, Helina can walk all over the place:

As I watch Helina walking around the boat, I'm amazed by her ability to respond to the movement of the water. She pauses when the boat begins to sway and then cautiously takes a few more steps, all the while maintaining steady footing. 

She stumbles every now and then, of course, but given the fact she is walking on unstable ground, I'd say she's doing pretty well given the unique challenges of her environment.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Settling In

It's official--we no longer live on the beach. As Eric mentioned in a previous post, although this move was longer than our last (both in time and distance), it was just as easy as the first time. We're now docked at our new marina, just south of downtown Miami:

Sea Gem's New Home
Although we're actually closer to downtown than we were before (can you see the skyline below?), our new location doesn't feel nearly as urban as our former South Beach neighborhood.

View of Downtown
Just like the last time we moved, our home has remained the same, but the sensation that we're in a different place is overwhelming. After returning from work today, both Eric and I commented on how much it felt like we were on vacation. The neighborhood is more laid back, the drivers seem friendlier--even the water is calmer.

Our view has improved as well! From our aft-cockpit, we have a view of a small island and a mooring field full of sailboats:

Peaceful View
And the sunsets aren't too shabby either:

Evening Sky

Monday, August 12, 2013

We've Moved! (Again)

A few months ago, we moved from one slip to another in the same marina.  Total distance away--maybe 100 yards.  Although the move was simple, the difference the new slip made was considerable.  Different neighbors, different view, sun rose and set on the opposite side of the boat, etc.

This weekend, we moved again.  This time, we moved to a completely different marina located across Biscayne Bay in the City of Miami.  Nobody seems to believe it, but this move was much more substantial.  No, we didn't have to pack boxes, rent a U-Haul, buy furniture, etc.  But between moving the boat, moving the cars, and getting settled in, this move took an entire day.  And now, not only do we have different neighbors, but we are in a completely different neighborhood.

So far, we are pleased with the new location.  We'll save most of the details for future posts, but I will explain a couple characteristics of the marina that we feel makes it a better marina than the old one.  When we first went marina shopping over two years ago, we were attracted to marinas that didn't feel like marinas.  We had been living amongst the landlubbers for our entire lives, and we were most drawn to the marina that felt most like a condominium.  Our old marina, in fact, shared several amenities with adjacent condominiums and was very much integrated into the immediate neighborhood.  After two years living aboard, however, our list of priorities radically changed.

A parking garage is nice, as is a neighborhood feeling, but we have come to understand that those are not the most important criteria, let alone the sole ones.  Above all else, a marina needs to do two things well.  First, it needs to be well protected from wind, waves, etc., to keep the boat safe and comfortable.  Second, it needs to be designed so that you can navigate the marina and dock your boat without damaging it or others.  There are several other factors that can make one marina a better or worse place to keep your boat, but protection and navigability are the top two.

Unfortunately, those were not factors that we knew to look for when we were first looking for a marina.  As a result, we ended up in a marina that provided little protection from waves generated by passing boats and northerly winds. This was what the water was like during a storm last year:

Combined with a vicious tidal flow--often five knots--the boat had a lot of motion while docking, and dealing with the tide when docking was difficult unless we waited until slack tide to depart and return.  Even without the tide, however, we had to worry about waverunner renters without a clue as to how to navigate a marina or maneuvering between 150-foot megayachts docked on either side of us:

Billionaires' Alley
Fortunately, navigating and docking Sea Gem at the new marina couldn't be easier, and we have so little motion that it often feels like we aren't on a boat at all.  So, on the most important two criteria, our new marina wins by a mile.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Books and Nooks

Before moving aboard Sea Gem, Eric and I got rid of nearly all of our books. We now use Kindles for the majority of our reading.

In some ways, Eric and I over prepared for our move from land to sea, and I'd say that getting rid of our massive book collection was one such way. This isn't to suggest that we're upset by our decision (we're not)--it's just that Sea Gem has more book storage space than we anticipated (although not enough that we could have kept all of our books).

Eric and I keep the majority of our current modest book collection above our navigation station (we keep two smaller collections in both the aft and forward staterooms):

The Office
While Eric and I were more than happy to give up the experience of reading from traditional, bound books in order to enjoy the space-saving advantage of Kindles, we weren't willing to deprive Helina of the joy of reading from an actual book.

Helina's room has a small bookshelf, which is filled with her very own collection of tiny favorites:

Helina's Recommendations
Obviously, the bookshelf in her room has limited space, but thankfully Sea Gem has other spots for books. Helina's smaller books are stored on the top shelves of a small cubby located next to our ice-maker (the bottom shelves hold our hammock):

Book Nook
Unlike the bookshelf in her room, Helina can directly access the books in this cubby whenever she wants (which isn't always a good thing):

Little Reader
The remainder of Helina's books are stored in the cabinet that houses her toys (there is a surprising amount of space within the toy storage cabinet) or hidden in random spots throughout the boat.

So, despite our best efforts, plenty of books have made their way aboard the boat. To maintain balance, we'll rotate many of Helina's current collection off of the boat as new, age-appropriate books make their way aboard, and eventually we'll wean her off of real books and get her hooked on a Kindle (or whatever they have by the time she's ready for one). But don't worry, our new marina is just steps away from a library, so Helina (and Eric and I) will never be too far from actual books, should we ever want one.