Thursday, March 27, 2014

New Nighttime Routine

Helina's room contains built-in bunk beds. Voilà:

Quarter Cabin
Despite having two beds at her disposal, Helina sleeps on a fold-out floor bed (a baby futon of sorts). We settled on this transitional "bed" because she was getting too big for her crib, yet was still too small for the bottom bunk.  

The other night, hours after Helina went to bed, I poked my head into her room before heading to bed myself. As I entered the room, Helina, who should have been sleeping peacefully on the floor, was nowhere to be found. Because the room was pitch black, I reached for the light-up turtle normally situated on the top bunk (see above) to shed some light on the situation. Much to my surprise, the turtle was also nowhere to be found. Panicked, I began blindly feeling around the bottom bunk and discovered Helina fast asleep hugging several stuffed animals--including the missing turtle. 

I had some ideas about how she managed to leverage her way into bottom bunk, but I wanted confirmation. So, I asked her how she did it, and she happily demonstrated her feat:

Needless to say, our evening bedtime routine has become much more complicated. In the past, when we told Helina it was time for bed, she'd stop what she was doing, escort herself into her room, plop down on her floor mattress, and announce "night-night" before promptly slamming the door in our face and instantly falling asleep. It was like she was some sort of perfectly programmed baby robot. Now, we spend at least an hour trying to get her to stay in one place--either on the floor or on the bottom bunk. Helina's preference would be to climb between the two until sunrise. Our robot is no more--we now have a full-blown monkey on our hands. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Curbing Helina

As Eric and I become more experienced "parent sailors," our approach to child sailing safety has evolved. Before Helina was born, we bought her a special life jacket to "keep her safe." Our belief was that if she could float, she was safe. However, after spending a significant amount of time sailing with our tot, I can, with confidence, say that while we're on the water, seeing Helina in a life jacket provides absolutely no assurance that she is safe. While neither Eric nor I would ever suggest that a life jacket isn't important, we would both agree that a life jacket is only helpful after you've fallen into the water--it does nothing to prevent you from actually falling in, and falling in is what we're trying to avoid here aboard Sea Gem. To help us achieve our goal of keeping Helina dry, we invested in a (pint-sized) sailing harness, which is quite an improvement over her previous "harness."

West Marine Child's Safety Harness
This past weekend, we had a chance to test Helina's new hardware during an afternoon sail aboard my parents' boat, Bull's Eye:

Shushing while Harnessed
"Helping" while Harnessed
Grooming while Harnessed
Napping while Harnessed
As you can see, the addition of a leash didn't cramp Helina's style. I, on the other hand, felt like I was curbing a pet. I even caught myself attempting to get Helina's attention via whistle (√† la dog). That bit of awkwardness aside, I'd say the sailing harness is working out rather well. Don't worry though--we keep her life jacket on hand, which--surprisingly--makes me feel safe. 

Monday, March 24, 2014


One of Sea Gem's most unique features is the aft cockpit (pictures can be found here and here). Like the name implies, this type of cockpit is located at the rear of the boat, which in our case, happens to be directly off the master stateroom. It is the boat equivalent of a balcony.

Recently, I've been feeling as though Eric and I aren't taking full advantage of the relaxing potential that living on a boat affords. So, in that vein, I decided to amp up the aft cockpit's comfort level and create a more usable space to lounge.

I started by buying an outdoor rug:

Loloi Ventura Aqua Rug
Unlike the outdoor rugs I recall from my youth (burlap-like and bland), this one actually looks and feels like a regular (indoor) rug. Will its colors hold up in the brutal Florida sun? Only time will tell. For now, it looks great.

In addition to the rug, I purchased a few more of the outdoor pillows I bought for our main cockpit, along with a matching poof (the cube seen below), which serves as either an ottoman or table. Having a place to properly rest your feet (and place a drink)  is a crucial component to relaxing. The final product is exactly as I had hoped:

Happy Place
Since making these minor upgrades, we've already been using the aft cockpit more than usual, and I anticipate many more mornings, afternoons, and evenings being spent sprawled out back.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Oh, Canada

Although more commonly associated with snowmobiles than sailboats, our neighbors to the north have, quite surprisingly, proven themselves to be a reliable source of some great boating products.  We previously mentioned Helina's Canadian lifejacket, which we found to be far superior to the infant lifejackets from the U.S.  (The lifejacket, by the way, has held up quite well, but Helina has just about grown out of it.)

Our Hella fans?  Not Canadian.  They used to be German, but they are now made in China, and the Hella fans we recently purchased simply don't compare to their predecessors, which lasted for over 20 years.  The new Hella fans rattle, have flimsy switches, and are in general undeserving of the Hella name.  But back to Canada.

After our disappointing experience with the new Hella fans, we tried out the Canadian-built competitor--the Caframo Bora, and the Boras are fantastic--whisper quiet, no rattles, and overall a high-quality product.  They also install in the same mounts as the Hella fans, so a very easy upgrade.  And, after our positive experience with the Bora fans, we went ahead and bought two waterproof Caframo Kona fans for the cockpit.  We are now Caframo converts.

Our newest Canadian addition is a new holding-tank vent filter.  Only our most dedicated readers will remember this post, which describes our new (at the time) holding-tank vent filter.  As it turned out, that particular filter (from the U.S.) wasn't as great as expected.  The entire filter needed to be replaced every year (and they are expensive), and the filters easily clogged, which can damage the holding tank (and there is no boat problem I fear more than a broken holding tank.)  After a few of those, I decided to find something better...enter Canada's own Big Orange Holding Tank "Odour" Filter.

Big Orange Filter
The Big Orange filter is refillable at a very reasonable cost and has a special bypass valve that protects the holding tank if the filter ever becomes clogged.  It costs slightly more than the American filter it replaced, but it will pay for itself the first time it needs to be refilled.  Another win for Canada.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


A few days ago, after returning home from work, my parents informed me that Helina said her first sentence. And what did our mighty Captain have to say? "Off the boat!" Yes, that's right, as soon as she had the ability, our seafaring daughter asked to leave!

Off the boat!
I am extremely proud of Helina for stringing together a sentence, but I'm not entirely sure what to make of her request. I assume she was just mimicking us (each time we leave the boat we announce "Off the boat"), but what if she wasn't?! What if she actually wants to leave?! I don't know, but I've got my eye on her.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Slow Leak

Remember that nonexistent leak (aka "sweaty pipes") we found before leaving for our working vacation? Yeah, it came back (really, it never left).

The subtle water damage I observed before our departure quickly morphed into a much more substantial stain:

Water Damage
Then, it got even worse:

Stained Floor
Thankfully, we (Eric) were able to rip apart the bathroom shower and surrounding area, access the nearly inaccessible access door, and fix the leak (which turned out to be a drippy pipe--much more severe than a mere sweaty pipe).

Currently, the floor looks as bad as in the picture above. I am monitoring the situation closely and am hopeful that this stain, like the last stain that appeared on our floor, will eventually fade from view.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

When in Rome

We lived aboard Sea Gem for two years in Miami Beach before moving this past August to a new marina in the City of Miami (on the other side of Biscayne Bay).  After two years of experimenting with chafe guards, docking techniques, etc., we had it all figured out.

When we moved to our new marina, we soon came to realize that more had changed that just the neighborhood.  We immediately noticed two clear differences in how people keep their boats at our new marina.  

First, at Miami Beach, everyone used oversized dock lines attached to chains and other anti-chafe gear.  This was a necessity--due to the strong current and motion at that marina, dock lines would quickly wear away if not adequately protected.  At our new marina, everyone uses tiny little dock lines and no chafe gear at all.  That difference was easy to figure out: no current.  There is simply no need for chafe guards and oversized dock lines here.  (Of course, it can't hurt, so we are still using our extra-strength dock lines and chafe gear.)

The second difference was more puzzling.  On sailboats with furling headsails (the front sail twists for storage, which makes setting and dousing the sail much easier), the sheets (the ropes that control the sail) normally remain led back to the cockpit.  That way, when it is time to go sailing, you just pull the right sheet and the sail unfurls.  Very easy.  At our new marina, however, all of the sailboats had their headsail sheets tied up at the bow.  

That didn't make any sense to us.  Coiling and attaching the sheets at the bow adds a time-consuming step both after and before sailing.  Instead of just pulling a rope, you need to uncoil the sheets and lead them back through multiple pullies ("blocks") to the cockpit.  Then after sailing, you need to pull them forward, untangle, coil, and secure them to the bow pulpit.  Why go through all the trouble?  

And so we did not do what every other sailboat at our new marina was doing.  We kept our sheets led to the cockpit, as we always had.  

Fast forward a few months, though, and it became clear why everyone was going through the trouble of securing their sheets to the bow.  Our sheets turned green.  And black.  And shades of brown.  There is apparently something about the air/environment here that is very different than the environment a few miles away in Miami Beach.  Something that makes ropes on the deck turn moldy quickly.  Just as everyone at Miami Beach learned to use extra heavy duty dock lines and chafe gear to adapt to the environment, everyone in Miami learned to tie their sheets to the bow pulpit.


We learned our lesson.  We no longer think twice about going through the hassle of hauling our sheets to and from the bow, and they fortunately returned to their previous color within a few weeks of making the change.

Our New Look
The bigger lesson?  Do what everybody else does--there is probably a good reason for it.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Helina has officially mastered her favorite toy--our manual bilge pump. Using the manual bilge pump isn't as easy as it might appear. It requires some muscle and a bit of oomph to make it work. Although Helina exudes oomph, she lacks the upper body strength needed to operate the device by herself. This morning, after realizing her arm strength wasn't cutting it, she instinctively switched to something more powerful--her legs:

And after completing the task, she celebrated:

Who knew chores were so much fun?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


We're so close to having our teak-refinishing project complete! All that remains is a bit more work in our main cockpit. So far, the cockpit's teak has been stripped, sanded, and varnished (a few times):

We're just a couple sandings, varnishes, and clear coats away from a finished, gleaming product. Pictures to come!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Open Door

Our teak refresh continues to progress. This year, our project involved stripping and varnishing the door to our boat's aft-cockpit. Unlike the rest of our exterior teak, the aft-cockpit's door connects directly to the inside of the boat--specifically, the master stateroom. In order for the door to be sanded and varnished, it first had to be removed from the frame:

Of course, refinishing the door didn't happen over night--it was more like two weeks, and during this time, we didn't have a back door: 

Plywood Placeholder
What we did have was a sheet of plywood and a few drop boards jammed in the doorway, which proved to be ineffective both as a door and also as a barrier to the elements. As you can see, sunlight passed easily through the thin plywood placeholder: 

Let the Sunshine In
What you can't see is how cold (by Miami standards) our room was during this time.

To conceal the fact that a flimsy piece of plywood was the only thing standing in between a potential intruder and our bedroom, we draped a plastic tarp over the doorway. Then, to further secure the situation, we placed one of my potted plants on top of the tarp:

It was genius.

Thankfully, our door has been returned to its proper place--shiny and new:

Newly Varnished Door