Life Aboard | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Problems in Paradise - Turning Frustrations into Adventure

Green Turtle Cay05 (copy)

It's been a busy week in the boat yard at Abaco Yacht Services in Green Turtle Cay but on Friday I had to take most of the day off to send out a part needing repair by courier.

Yes. A day.

Sheryl and I like cruising in out-of-the-way places but there is no courier office on Green Turtle Cay so to get to the nearest FedEx office, which is in Marsh Harbour on the main island in the Abacos, I had to catch a ferry ($19 return fare), rent a car ($60 a day) since there are no buses and a taxi ride would be $80 EACH WAY, drive half an hour to town from the Treasure Cay ferry dock to get to the FedEx office in time for the 12 noon cut-off.


It was a pretty straight forward drive to town down the main highway but when I got to the FedEx office in Marsh Harbour they told me I had to go to the customs office at the airport to fill out Re-importation Papers. Good thing I'd left lots of time and had a car.


It was quite a process filling out the paperwork for re-importation and I was conscious that the clock was ticking but the customs officer was a real sweetheart as well as efficient and patient.

A highlight of my airport visit was to be recognized by Bahamian fans of the Distant Shores sailing TV series that Sheryl and I host and produce. Distant Shores airs in the Bahamas on AWE TV every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night on channel 267 and during our time in the islands we've met a lot of enthusiastic viewers at events we've attended and most recently at the phone centre when we went to top up our phone. It makes all the work worthwhile knowing that people enjoy the show!


After my visit to customs I had to do some repacking of my package but I got to the FedEx in time for the deadline with the package ready to go. The part is now winging it's way to overseas and launch of Distant Shores II is delayed for another few days.

Since by now it was lunchtime I rewarded myself with lunch of stewed grouper with peas and rice and coleslaw, a Bahamian favourite, at a recommended local family restaurant. Might as well make the best of things :-)


And since I was in town I made a few other stops for supplies I couldn't get on Green Turtle Cay spreading the cost of my trip to the couriers.

People often ask us, “What do you do all day lazing around on your boat?” Well, this is an example of how things that are simple at home or in major centres can be a whole day exercise when you’re exploring small paradisiacal places.


It's just part of the cruising life and sometimes the price of paradise. But approaching these occurrences with a sense of fun can turn an unexpected frustration into an interesting adventure and make for an entertaining day out.


How to Find a Good Boatyard while Cruising

The boatyard at Abaco Yacht Services, Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas

Recently Paul and I made a change to our cruising plans for the summer. The freedom to be flexible and completely change your plans while cruising is one of the appeals of the sailing lifestyle. “Make a plan and stick to it” doesn't always serve you when cruising. You may be held up by weather or break-downs, friends may recommend a great destination you hadn't considered but that now you want to sail to or perhaps you realize you want to spend more time in the place that you already are. Maybe a work opportunity comes along that you want to take advantage of.

Our original plan for this summer had been to sail north from the Bahamas to explore more of the east coast of the U.S., but for various reasons we decided to extend our time in the Bahamas and store the boat there for a few weeks while we flew home to complete a work project. Once the decision had been made, we then had to find a place to safely store the boat in the Bahamas for a few weeks during July and August while we were back in Canada.

The Bahamas are located in the hurricane belt and July and August are smack in the middle of the hurricane season (June to November). We needed a really secure way to store the boat that met the criteria for hurricane coverage by our yacht insurance, Pantaenius Yacht Insurance who we have insured with for many years. We also needed to have easy access to an airport since we were flying home.

We were in George Town, Great Exuma, when we made the decision to leave the boat in the Bahamas. There is an international airport there plus good hurricane holes nearby on Stocking Island where you can rent a hurricane mooring from Kevali House Marina or St. Francis Marina. However all the hurricane moorings were fully booked.

Boatyard_1 (copy)
Stocking Island showing the hurricane holes to the right

The next option was to leave the boat in the water at Marina Emerald Bay, part of the Sandals resort on Great Exuma just north of George Town, but although this marina is a great place to stay short-term it doesn't offer full protection from surge. Many of our friends store their boats there but we just didn't feel confident leaving Distant Shores II there during hurricane season. We depend on our boat for our livelihood so any damage or loss would seriously affect us. Generally when we leave the boat for more than a couple of weeks, we prefer to haul the boat out of the water and dry-store it. That way we're not worrying about it taking on water and sinking, lines possibly chafing or some other boat hitting it.

So now we had to find a good boat yard that met our requirements.

First we put out a call on VHF radio asking for recommendations on the George Town Cruisers Net, a gathering of cruisers via VHF radio that meet every morning to share information on weather, boating topics and local events. Since we were there is low season, most of the cruisers in the area were visiting from Florida so didn't have experience storing their boats in the Bahamas but general knowledge seemed to be that the only reliable yards for dry-storage during hurricane season in the Bahamas were in the Abacos, the most northern group of the Bahamas, although no one could provide specifics.

We then went to the internet to do some research, asking for recommendations on Facebook groups and cruisers forums. We also searched on “boatyards in the Bahamas” and found many references to a couple of yards in the Abacos. I also found several cruisers blogs that discussed dry-storing their boats in the Bahamas. The consensus seemed to be Abaco Yacht Services on Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos was a good choice.

Checking our cruising guides, this yard was mentioned and recommended.

We then took a look at the location via Google Earth as well as our charts and verified that the yard was situated in a secure protected location. In fact, we realized that we had seen the yard on a previous cruise through the Abacos and had been impressed by the cleanliness and orderliness of this yard.

We called for rates and availability and booked a haul-out conditional on approval by visual inspection when we arrived. I had a few additional questions and when I had to leave voicemail my call was always answered promptly. The receptionist also gave me good advice on booking our flights home. Very helpful.

Abaco Yacht Services also met a few of our other criteria – we could stay on our boat while working on it in the yard (although they did have air conditioned accommodation available on site which we decided to take advantage of), we could do our own work on the boat (bottom paint needed to be done when we returned) and the boat yard was close to two airports – Treasure Cay and Marsh Harbour.

So in early July we sailed north through the Exumas to Abacos and anchored off the town of New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay. It was an easy dinghy ride over to the yard and when we headed up to the office one of the yard staff immediately came over to see if they could help us. This showed friendliness and customer service but also attention to security. Both good.

Distant Shores II preparing for haul-out at Abaco Yacht Services

As we recalled, the yard was spotless and well organized. There was a locked gate, shower facilities, no derelict boats. Work was being done on well-blocked boats. We spoke to a couple of cruisers who were working on their own boats there and they all who had good things to say about their experiences keeping their boats there.

We quickly confirmed our booking and proceeded to book our flights home. Haul-out went smoothly and efficiently and we left feeling confident our boat was in good hands while we were away.

There are many reasons you might want to find a good boat yard when you're out cruising – to have maintenance or repair work done to your boat; to haul-out to check the hull, propellor or to clean the bottom or, like us, to dry-store the boat while you fly home for a few weeks or months are examples.

Distant Shores II with keel retracted moving through the boat yard

Here are the steps we recommend to find a good boat yard.

1. Clarify Your Criteria
Before you begin your research get clear on the reasons and criteria for needing a boatyard. In our case it was location, the cost, the ability to liveaboard in the yard and work on the boat ourselves, a secure place to store for hurricane season and proximity to airports. Other things to consider are does the yard have the ability to lift your boat? In France when we needed to have our mast taken down to travel through the canals we discovered that the two popular yards offering this service couldn't handle a mast our size. If you are planning to have work done do they have the proper qualifications to carry it out? If yes, will there be a language barrier that may cause problems. Get really clear on what you need and want to avoid disappointment and frustration.

2. Ask for Recommendations by Friends or from the Cruising Community
This is the best place to start for first-hand experience whether you do it in person via email , VHF net or other method.

3.Check Online
Blogs, articles, forums/groups, and wiki sites are great sources of information. Post your questions and follow up on the info provided.

4. See What Cruising Guides for the Area Recommend
Cruising guides are written by experts. See what they recommend to cross-reference your other research on boatyards available. Email them with your questions, if possible.

5. Contact the Yard(s)
Once you have narrowed down the options, contact the yard(s) you are considering based on your initial research and confirm that they can meet your criteria. Take this opportunity to ask your questions and clarity any concerns.

6. Ask for Rates or a Quote
It's good to get information on rates in writing and be sure there are no unexpected additional charges. Check on methods of payment accepted, whether a deposit is needed or if payment is required up-front.

6. Do a Visual Check
Before committing to a boat yard, do a visual check if possible. Is the yard, clean, tidy, and well-organized? Is their attention to security? If you're having work done check for certificates showing qualifications of the technicians. Are their tools organized or rusty and disorganized? Talk to boaters who have their boats in the yard at the time for their opinions on the boat yard.

7. Make a Reservation

Once you feel confident that the boatyard in question meets all your criteria, book your reservation and prepare your boat for haul-out.


What does Christmas Cost?

So many boats down here in the Caribbean have been hanging up Christmas lights, occasionally up the mast but more often in nice arrangements around the cockpit. They look very cheery and bright, but how much power do they consume? What will this cost the power conscious cruiser who is hanging at anchor and must generate all their power to run everything?
We went out to the local ACE hardware in Grenada to get some lights and find out!

We got two strings of outdoor lights - important if you plan on hanging them outside!! Strangely in Grenada which is a 220V country - they only seem to sell 110V Christmas lights. This means that anyone like us with a 220V boat will also need a transformer to step down the 220 to 110....

Purchased - 2 X strings of 50 LED bulbs (each 12 feet long) = 24 feet long by with 100 bulbs. + 1 small transformer

The lights cost $26 and the transformer was $19 (US$)

Testing - sadly our first test didn’t work - the bulbs lit for just a couple of seconds and went out. A test with my voltmeter showed the transformer was defective and output 220V when its supposed to output 110 - it blew the bulbs...

Back to ACE hardware in Grenada where the very friendly staff replaced the transformer as well as the lights and tested the new transformer to see worked properly.

Back on board again for a test.
We string the lights and plug in. Perfect.

But what does it COST us in power to run this.

Checking the ship’s main power monitor - the MasterVolt Shunt display indicates the whole setup is using just about 6 watts - thats half an amp at 12V. Whoa!! That is great!

Comparing it another way - our old anchor light used a 10W bulb and we ran it every night at anchor - but all these 100 christmas lights together are just 6watts and that even includes the transformer. One of our old reading lights on Two-Step used more power than this!

So what does it cost to decorate the cruising boat with Christmas lights? Not as much as you might think!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Crew Harmony - Keeping the cruising spouse happy!

By Paul Shard, copyright 2013. All Rights Reserved

I am sure many sailors would like to introduce their spouse (or potential spouse), friends and family to the rewarding sport of sailing and cruising. But for some reason this doesn't always go the way we hope and new crew are often not keen to continue sailing. But have no fear! It is possible by carefully planning cruises and managing the sailing experience, to encourage that commitment to the sport in the novice or even the unwilling crew.


As much as I would like to take credit for these ideas, I am afraid they are almost all credited to other cruisers we have met over the years who I am certain are still happily cruising!

So here are some time-tested hints for the skipper who wants to keep a happy crew.
  • Plan departure times and stick rigidly to these plans. Discipline is important on board and small items like strong headwinds, stormy weather, and imposed deadlines build character as well as crew morale.
  • Don't involve the crew or your spouse in destination and passage plans. It will be a fun surprise when you announce you are now ready to achieve your lifelong goal of crossing an ocean to your tentative crew. They will appreciate your confidence in them and will overcome their worries and love it!
  • Plan as many tough ocean passages as possible. Nothing like "Offshore, Ocean, Overnight" sailing to get the beginner sailor up to speed quickly!
  • Install a loudspeaker on deck and use it to urge your crew on while you are coming in to dock "Susan, hurry up and get that dock line on" and "You could use a bit of practice tossing that line Honey" are a couple of suggested comments. This allows other boats in the marina to appreciate your crew's level of teamwork!
  • Assign the crew some jobs on deck as their skills build. For instance, in the event you slightly misjudge a docking approach, a crew member can help push the boat away from the dock. At sea commands such as "Ease off the port spinnaker pole topping lift" can be happily given without worrying they might be misunderstood by new crew. Better they get right in and learn these things.
  • Polishing stainless is another good job for building confidence, but be careful about letting the crew think they are getting ahead of themselves. After all, you know who the captain is!!
  • Don't help with galley chores. The galley is small compared to the spouse's larger home kitchen so there isn't much room anyway. As skipper you can stay up on deck in the fresh air, doing the hard work steering and tweaking the sails. Heeling the boat over while the chef is working increases their sense of accomplishment. When they come up for air you can call them the "galley slave" to show how much you appreciate the job they have done.
  • Landlubbers are not that familiar with water use on a sailboat. Simple exercises like offering the crew 1 litre of water to shower in can build this skill. Soon the sailing spouse will happily be showering in a teacup of water!
  • Laundry facilities in various islands are somewhat limited and can be expensive. Why spend money needlessly that could be better spent on extra boat-parts! Learning to do laundry in a bucket will give the spouse a new life skill. No need for the skipper to help out here as we don't want to impinge on that special feeling of nautical accomplishment.
  • Carefully squash any plans for extraneous activities such as sightseeing, historical visits, or shopping in exotic foreign markets. This time can be better employed (especially after a tough passage) by servicing the head pumps or changing the oil in the engine. Spouses appreciate the opportunity to learn these jobs! And the lighter crew can also overcome their fear of heights by being winched up the mast to do work aloft.

I am sure you will come up with many more ways to improve crew morale and keep the cruising spouse happy! ;-)

And if these methods seem unlikely to work with your particular spouse or potential crew - watching a nice episode of Distant Shores might be a better idea... Sheryl and I have cruised together happily for 24 years by keeping it fun, respecting each other’s fears, and taking things gradually. Romance and charm works wonders. And I insist Sheryl does everything I tell her to... :-)

Comments Welcome!


Hot-Hot-Hot here in Grenada.

Generally a breeze makes it so much more comfortable, but the last few days we’ve had much lighter winds. Add in a few moquitos in the evening and I haven’t been able to get any sleep the past few nights...

I do have a couple of fans that blow air around in the fwd cabin, but these calm night there isn’t the outside breeze blowing in the hatch. Its just the same old air getting stale and warm throughout the night! Yuck!

The problem is that the cool night air is staying outside - we need that air in the cabin. So yesterday I hung up this Caframo Fan designed for just this purpose.
It attaches to the hatch with suction cups and plugs into a 12Volt socket.
Talk about a world of difference. With this fan on the cabin becomes cool breezy and comfortable!! The grill on the bottom there appears to be designed to spread the air around and it works great. Best nights sleep I have had in the marina!

Installing the fan was as simple as sticking on the suction cups, but I should still have read the manual first. As I was sweltering and the fan looked like a simple device I just jumped right in and started pressing buttons... suddenly the fan spun up like an Airbus 320 on takeoff - and produced a gale in the cabin of similar proportions. If I had been reading the manual it would have been blown out of my hands :-)

In the calm light of next morning I read the manual to find that this is feature! Press the small fan button and it accellerates to "Air Blast Exchange Mode" for 5 minutes before reverting to the previous set mode. RTFM - read the frickin manual Paul!!
Note the large fan button adjusts the speed - the smaller button activates TURBO mode. There is even a Cabin light built in.

Current use is minimal - less than 1 amp which is difficult to measure on my monitor so I will quote from the manual again.

Speed 1 - 0.2 amps
Speed 2 - 0.5 amps
Speed 3 - 0.95 amps
AirBlast - 4.3 amps (but just for 5 minutes)

The fan also turns to act as an exhaust if desired.

Hot nights!! Bring them on!!

Spare Parts - If you Bring Your Umbrella...

It always seemed to me if I actually did remember to bring my umbrella it wouldn’t rain... but if I forgot it then it would rain for sure!

It sometimes seems to be the same with spare parts on a cruising sailboat. Try to bring along the spares you think you might need and it’s actually something else you find broken.

Electric Heads
I know... many people "poo-poo" electric heads (warning.... there may be more head-related humour within) but we have been having a very positive experience with our Tecma electric heads on Distant Shores II. I cannot speak for other electric heads, but I have admired the simple design, solid workmanship and easy operation. And so far they have been reliable... right up until a few days ago when I began to suspect something was up with the aft heads.
Everything looked fine, and sounded fine when the button was pushed... however, something smelled funny...

I quick check of the bilge revealed the worst. A leak from the heads, and it wasn’t pretty.

Rather than start disassembling immediately I dove into the parts locker to find all the parts I had bought for these heads. Since I had not owned a Tecma until we bought this boat, a Southerly 49, (3 years ago) I hadn’t known what might need fixing. So I basically bought one of everything as a spare part.
On the right is the large and heavy-duty macerator pump that sits in the bottom of the toilet. On the top of the picture (in a small bag) is the water injector fitting and a few other gaskets etc. Then there are the two very creatively shaped hoses that move the content/effluent/poo around. Note that all this actually fits inside the body of the toilet. Cunning engineering! In fact the design of this toilet is very beautifully shown here in what must be the sexiest toilet video ever made...

Anyway, here I am admiring the large pile of expensive spare parts, confident that one of these hoses was likely to be the odiferous cause of my woes, and proud that I had the parts.
Besides, playing with nice clean spare parts beats playing in the ....

So, time to roll up the sleeves and get to work. I will gloss over the first part of the project where I had to bail out the bilge, rinse it down and sterilize all... anyway that was done with no more than a smattering of "poo-jokes" some swearing and a nice long shower afterwards. There certainly was an incremental (or excremental?) increase in toilet references during this whole procedure :-)

Now to get to the actual repair. At this point I seem to have lost my enthusiasm for photography and did not record any more pictures.

1) Detach toilet - this entailed cutting the silicone sealing the whole unit in place, and removing the 4 screws holding it down.

2) Carefully lift toilet up - extra long hoses allow it to come up somewhat until you can undo the hose clamps

3) Disconnect hoses - I removed the saltwater intake hose, but the outflow hose had already come off!!

Problem Found. the hose clamp was not tightened down enough and the outflow fitting has slipped right out.

Result - direct discharge into the bilge whenever the toilet was operated! Yikes!!

Solution - re-assemble and tighten to insure the fitting doesn’t come off again!

During the disassembly procedure I carefully inspected all the hoses and the macerator. All appeared to be in top shape. No sign of age or any problems, so I did not actually need any of the spare parts.

Looking for the "silver-lining" in a generally "s__t" day, I can say it felt good to start the project knowing I had all the parts that could possibly be needed. I would not be faced with a long delay trying to get spare parts to get the head back in action.

Just like carrying an umbrella and not worrying that it might rain.

Sailing South - Keeping Cool

Now that we have got to the south of France we are having the hottest weather we have experienced on this boat to date. So we are making sure Distant Shores II will be keeping cool for the tropical sailing ahead.

Air Conditioning?
Before you make a big investment in air-conditioning it pays to make the boat as cool as possible with simpler methods. Check out all the possible easy and environmentally friendly options... before going to AC.

It’s curtains for you now...
Our saloon has big lovely windows for great views in exotic locations, but when the sun is shining in directly it does get hot. Keeping the sun out is the first thing to do. But traditional curtains don’t work on boats. We have added these nifty boat blinds that have slide easily up and down on guide lines so they don’t sway around at sea. This one is over our forward windows - probably the biggest heat absorber as they are nearly horizontal.

These are made by Breeze-blinds in the UK. You can see they have to be custom made since most boat windows are odd shapes. These are cunningly made so they conform to the non-square space. They can be left partially up as well (see below)

Now that we have reduced the sun coming in on a hot day we tackled the heat with some quality marine fans.
These units use VERY little power and are a great way to move air and keep cool. I have installed this lovely Caframo Fan in the galley.
It turns and tilts so you can aim it anywhere. It has 3 speeds and even a timer so it can turn off automatically after a number of hours. But I think its best feature is its very clever folding and directional ability. It can tun any which way to get air into the galley or across into the saloon. Beautifully built and nice and quiet too!

Fans for all Sleeping Cabins
On a hot night it’s luxury to turn on the fan and feel that cool air! I installed two fans over our main double berth and one in each guest cabin. One over each bedside lamp. These are Caframo 3 speed units. Very sturdy and quiet. They also adjust to almost any angle.

Economical to Run
Even if we have all 5 fans up and running at full speed we are using very little power. It would be a infinitesimal amount compared to running an Air-Con unit. So at anchor or in a marina where you can pay quite a lot for power - fans and curtains are the best option for us!

Budget for Cruising

sailboat cost of cruising

Monthly Expenses - This is the first question most people ask when trying to plan a long term cruise. What might it cost per month? The answer, as one might expect, varies dramatically! Cruising Style and Type of Boat are two factors... and then add in other more occasional expenses below.

Cruising Style
  • Beans and Rice cruising used to be more popular - minimal food, no marina stays, no car rentals, maintaining the boat yourself without all the options - it was possible to cruise for $500-800 - perhaps thats risen a little recently so figure $800-1000. But not many people are doing that anymore in our experience.
  • Budget Cruising - Anchor most of the time, occasional marina visits, a few frills and the occasional meal ashore - $1000-1500 depending on boat size. This is easier in the Caribbean or someplace where you want to anchor all the time anyway. Groceries and boat repairs take much of the budget but you eat better than Beans and Rice ;-)
  • Comfortable Cruising - $1500-2500 - Rent a car occasionally, stay in marinas more often and eat ashore to get the flavour of the area you are cruising.
  • Sky’s the limit - There is no limit to what you COULD spend - fly home occasionally - eat out "like a power-boater" ;-) it is possible to spend well over $5000 a month
  • On the Move - If you are planning a fast round trip cruise it will cost more than a relaxed winter in the Bahamas. Doing an Atlantic Circle trip in 1-2 years will mean more things break and you are in unfamiliar territory more often. Similarly a quick trip down the intracoastal means you spend more than a relaxed trip when you find the more affordable options up the side creeks. Add $500/month if you are in a hurry.

Type of Boat
  • Pocket/Small Cruiser - 25-32 foot - We don’t see many cruisers less than 32 feet on extended cruising these days. But if they are they can be doing it for less money. But it is not a good idea to try to cram all the available upgrades on a small boat. We have seen 30 footers with davits, air-con, large dinghy and outboards and stern arches. A small boat can be seriously overloaded and might be dangerous at sea. But a small sailboat is the least expensive option and can be a very seaworthy and fun way to get out cruising. Less time/money spent on maintenance if you keep it simple!
  • Mid-size Cruiser - 35-42 - most popular size cruiser. By the time you get to 42 feet the budget for fuel and maintenance is getting higher but the boat is well able to handle a couple in relative comfort. There is room to store what you need and most 42 footers can handle a dinghy on a stern arch, upgraded battery capacity etc. Add $300-400/month for DIY maintenance - more to have someone do the work for you.
  • Larger Cruiser - 44-54 foot - this is the limit for most cruisers we see out there. Budget for dockage, fuel and maintenance is naturally higher than the smaller boats. In the Caribbean the 50 footer is more common than here in Europe but you don’t need to go to the dock that often - and dockage can be a very expensive budget item. Add $400-600 to the monthly budget above for the larger boat.
  • Catamaran - Cats in the 38-45 foot range are similar to the Large Cruiser - dockage and repairs will be in the same range as well as the interior space being similar. A 45 foot cat is a BIG boat. It has 2 engines to maintain and is usually charged 50% more for dockage than a 45 foot monohull.

Yearly repair and major expenses
Rigging, sails, engine repairs, a new outboard, a new dinghy... these are all in the occasional category and can be hard to budget. When you have a new boat, most of these items will not appear in the budget for a few years, but if you have an older boat you might well be facing a major repair in the short term. Most dramatic might be new standing rigging or a new engine, either could be around $10K depending on the boat. These are the most difficult to predict but a good survey before heading out on a major cruise could be a good investment. But for boats over 10-15 years old it would be good to budget in perhaps $5000-8000 per year for bigger repairs/upgrades. Boats larger than 40 feet will naturally have larger budgets for these things.



Can you work onboard?

Many cruisers dream of making that big cruise when they retire - heading off into the sunset for an indefinite period. Others plan a sabbatical from work planning to return after the big adventure. But nowadays with the improved technology for keeping plugged in while out there - it may be possible to move one’s business out of the house and onto the water. We have seen a number of people trying this over the last few years and I thought it might be of interest to examine the possibilities. Could this be your office?

Keeping in Touch - Internet Access
Internet is obviously the most important factor in staying in touch. Over the last year we have been in range of high speed internet for almost all our cruising. So anyone sending us emails need have waited no more than a day of two for a response (if it was urgent!). We do not use any form of satellite or HF radio as I think these are too slow. We use data access through the phone networks, getting a local data plan in each country. Here in Ireland I got a pay-as-you-go data plan for my iPhone 4 as soon as we arrived. We pay 10Euro for 2GB of data over one week. The SIM was just 10Euro as well. Not all countries are as accommodating however so it pays to check where you plan to cruise. Denmark would not let us have a data sim for some reason. The iPhone has been brilliant. Using "data tethering" I have set it up to provide data access to our two laptops. This means both our computers are on the internet all the time for just 10Euro per week here.

In the event that you can’t get data through the mobile phone then you will be using wifi. This is ok as well but less convenient since you generally need to get a new access at each port. This can be a reasonable deal if you stay put in one marina for a while as they often charge a sensible price per week/month. Daily access can be quite costly. Gone are the days of picking up someone’s unlocked wifi. We haven’t seen a free unlocked wifi for some months. And if you do find one you might wonder about wonder about the security risk. Stick with legitimate wifi or a 3G data plan through a mobile phone network.

Keeping in Touch - Phone
4 words... pay-as-you-go. Assuming you travel on a boat sailing (or powering) from country to country at leisurely pace you will be in a country long enough to set up a local phone access by getting a local SIM card. To do this you need an "unlocked phone" otherwise it will not accept different SIM cards. With your new local number you will have free incoming calls and reasonable calls both locally and to countries around the world. Your definition of reasonable may vary - but as we come from Canada with notoriously high phone rates everything looks reasonable to me! If you need to make very long calls there are usually deals to be had for particular countries.
The one problem of getting a new local SIM at each country is the fact that people might not know which number to call you on. There a number of solutions for this depending on our needs. Skype offers an incoming number which I know numerous people have made use of. This year we just kept our UK mobile number active - roaming as we visit other countries. Then when we receive a long call we just ask if we can call back using our local number.

Getting mail/courier
Sending parcels and post out is obviously no problem. But receiving is a bit trickier as we keep on the move. We generally wait until we are certain we are going to be visiting a specific marina - then call them and ask if we can have them receive mail or a package. People at home are generally thrilled to receive a package or mail with foreign stamps. So unless you are trying to pretend you are still sitting in an office tower, the occasional difficulty of forwarding a package will not likely be an issue.

Flying back to do business
If your business requires trips home or to clients that has also got easier in our experience. We book flights online and often return for a few weeks up to few months - leaving the boat in a marina or hauled out. Many marinas around the world are set up to handle people hauling out or leaving the boat temporarily. Check with other cruisers in your intended area. Seven Seas news letters have also been a good source of info for places to lay-up the boat.

Business Office Afloat
Nowadays there are so many improvements to electronics and computers it is easy to keep an office afloat. We have made a few improvements in the boat - and in our business procedures. A bigger battery bank means we can sit at anchor and run computers on a rainy day. We have a small built-in diesel generator (Mastervolt whisper 3.5). A small printer can connect by wifi to both our computers. And because we are on a boat we are extra careful to backup our computers and data! Backup disks are small and cheap these days.

So there you are - sailing with your business. Nowadays there are many business people who might be able to move their office on board. And get out cruising before retirement.

Equipment Roundup

Having the new boat has been a great opportunity to get that new gear I always thought would be a good idea. I thought I would do a round-up of the equipment now that we have had a year to try it out. So here goes... in no particular order

Electric heads - Tecma - they have been brilliant! No breakages and no servicing required yet. I had thoroughly disliked our Jabsco heads previously. They needed constant maintenance, required way too much pumping to operate and frequently seemed to malfunction. There had to be a better way and the Tecma electric head is perfect for us. I have ordered a spares kit for them (not cheap!) but it is well worth it. I know purists will suggest an electric toilet is somehow “not proper” but if all fails we always have a bucket...

Forced Air Heating System - Espar - Wonderful! Nothing beats coming down below to a toasty warm boat after a cold/wet sailing day. The Espar has just worked flawlessly. It does have a small and slightly bizarre control panel that does theoretically allow it to be turned on and off at preprogrammed intervals but we haven’t used that option. We just turn it on and set it for 1-3 hours as needed. Great!

Plotters - Raymarine’s new E90Wide X 2 units. These are the new touchscreen hybrids that have full control either with touch or buttons. The plotter is the heart of the boats navigation system and the E-wides are excellent. I really like the touch screen ability including a popup onscreen keyboard to name waypoints etc. These units also come with a huge number of built-in charts - another big savings over the old style. But adding the Navionics charts is great also since it gives you harbour info, tides and currents plus aerial shots of harbours if you don’t have a cruising guide. The picture above was shot leaving Amsterdam at night. The plotter up on deck working perfectly as usual. Bright enough to be easily read on the brightest day, it also goes right down for night use. With the radar and AIS overlaid we can see ships that might otherwise be hard to spot against the lights of the city.

Electric winch - Lewmar conversion - This was a lifesaver! We sailed a couple of months then added the electric winch so we can compare before/after. The 49 means everything is 20-30% bigger and raising the mainsail was a tough slog. On the 42 I pulled the main up to just 1 meter from the masthead then put it on the winch. With the bigger 49-footer the same effort means I can pull it with 4-5 meters left to go. So I have to winch the sail 4-5 times as far. The electric winch handles it easily. It also meant we had no trouble going up the mast. Sheryl can easily pull me up and that meant we could get more shots from the masthead!! Depending on your boat, an electric winch could make sense. Even just adding one as I did could change your sailing a lot.

LED Lighting - Imtra - A revelation! Finally LED lighting that works and lasts! We can now afford to turn on any lights we light. On the darker winter days we can run all the lights we want. Using perhaps 1/4 the power of the old lights. The lights are designed from the ground up as LED lights rather than adding replacement bulbs to conventional fixtures. This means they can build in a nice heat sink for the power circuits. I am sure they will last for many years giving us a cozy well lit boat!

This is just the start... now I am rolling I want to go through more tomorrow - anchor, engine etc...

Planning your trip

One of the best things about our “job” (sailing and telling about it on television) is that we get to hear from others who have been inspired to set off on journeys of their own!

Many of the notes we get are from people planning a 1-2 year (or more) trip down to warmer climes. We are happy to think we have helped a number of these people to start off on their big adventure! And often it is just a bit of extra confidence to know that regular people are making the trips on a regular basis. Often one partner has some doubts and a bit of reassurance is all that’s needed. Can we stay in touch with family and friends? Are there Pirates? How do you deal with storms?

Certainly it is easier than ever now to get information to plan your voyage. Weather info is getting better and better! Storms can be avoided in many instances thanks to vastly improved access to forecasts at sea. Although pirates seem to be getting more airtime than ever, the truth is they are mainly confined to specific areas which are mostly avoidable. As to being in touch with family and friends... cruising has never been better than right now. There are a bewildering array of options for being in touch that didn’t exist even 15 years ago. Wifi, email cell phone and video Skype, sat phone, blogging sms, you can Tweet your family with up to the minute news!! (ok maybe thats being TOO in touch)

One of the nicest comments we have heard about our television show “Distant Shores” is from other cruisers who have used it to reassure family and friends about the cruising lifestyle. It isn’t all storms, high seas adventure and pirates. There are great people in foreign ports, interesting cultures to be discovered and new friends waiting to be made!

We hope to see you out their!



Christmas Special

Buy the Special Super Pack including ALL DISTANT SHORES episodes - Season 1 though 6 for just US$120 / C$124 (PAL $135) - 14 DVDs in all


Weighing in on the MOVE!

Two-Step has been sold here in Malta! We are very happy about this since Malta is one of our favourite places – now we will have an excuse to come back and visit. The buyers are planning to sail her here and around Greece, an probably further afield in the future. Sheryl and I will be doing one more short cruise on her over the next two weeks – then packing up our gear and shipping it up to the UK, where we pick up the new boat in September!!


I started this project by trying to work out how much weight we might be adding to the new boat as we put gear on her. I was trying to figure how much impact all our stuff would have on the waterline and trim of the new boat. Although I am keen on many of the new gadgets and comforts available to sailors, I do believe there is a limit to how much equipment you can safely add before the boats handling is impaired. So my project started off by noting the weights for everything we were proposing to add to the new boat. This project is ongoing as we add and subtract gear from the plan. I will post a list with weights in a few weeks.

Meanwhile I realized that the general accumulated gear that were planning to move from Two-Step to the new boat would weight substantially more than all the toys I had been worrying about. So I have created a spreadsheet and am in the middle of systematically weighing the contents of every locker, itemising the contents and putting them in a spreadsheet. Rather than list each item I sometimes group a few and list the bunch and where they are such as “Port Bookshelf : cookbooks – 4.4Kilograms” (10 pounds). At this point the list has almost 300 entries, total weight is 571Kg and I am just 2/3 of the way done!!

The fun part of putting it on the computer is that I can find such interesting trivia as...

  • All gear stored in or forward sleeping cabin weighs 135Kg and in the Saloon (not including Galley and Quarterberth) weighs 213Kg.
  • Together all three cockpit lockers contain 200Kg of gear.
  • Books weigh a startling 69Kg and that doesn't yet include the paperbacks we keep in the Quarterberth
  • The category of “food” has a number of entries totalling 59Kg and we are quite low on provisions at the moment. Wine alone weighs 21Kg and we usually have at least 2-3 times as much. (Hey – we're in the Med!)
  • All the ropes stored in lockers total 28Kg and doesn't include any running rigging – mainly dock lines and a spare 60 meter anchor rode - 10Kg.
  • I have everything in a category such as food, electronics, books, clothes, and NGATI (Never Got Around To It) Items I bought but haven't installed. This is actually at it's lowest in years but we still carry 5Kg of stuff I never installed!
  • Clothing totals 69Kg and in the interests of political correctness I an not going to reveal whether “pink or blue” clothes are heavier ;-)

I guess the key here is that our boat is just 37 feet long and we do try to keep an eye on total weight on board – but still we will likely have more than 800Kg (almost 1800 pounds) which is heavier than a Smart Car (Smart Fortwo weighs 730Kg). So the next time you are thinking of stocking up on cheap beer just to save a few dollars – consider that 4 cases of 24 cans would add almost 40Kg. And you can forget taking up rock collecting!!

I am also working on a weight distribution plan for the new boat. Over the years we have repainted the waterline on Two-Step to cover her overweightness. I am hoping the new boat will not suffer the same fate! See you next time...

Easter in Malta & Water Systems

Back on board Two-Step in time for Easter! Malta celebrates Easter in a big way with processions in the streets and it was excellent!! Against a great backdrop of the most amazing fortified city of Valletta we filmed men carrying very heavy statues and dressed in costumes from the Easter story – quite moving!

Now we are working on Two-Step – getting her ready for sale – or sail! Two-Step is up for sale of course (see web link where I have added more pictures showing the cabins in more detail). The plan is to sail her up to England leaving in 2 weeks (first of May) since that is where our new boat is being built. So anyone interested in a Med Cruise and looking for a super cruising boat handily prelocated in the Med and ready to go – should let us know immediately. Otherwise we will be sailing her further west.

SOOOO – if you want to turn your dreams of a Mediterranean Summer cruise into reality!! Come on over to Malta and hop aboard Two-Step – fully equipped and ready to go – we will spend a week or two with you as you like to get familiar with her and even help reposition her to Greece or Turkey – our personal recommendations for the some of the best cruising in the world!! Contact us for more information!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled blog...

Water Budget and Systems – Continued

Actually I have never seen anyone attempt to do an actual budget for water use. I do remember years ago ready cruising books recommending average use for a boat in a long passage and saying to allow 4 litres per person per day. But I think modern boats tend to use more (or much more!!) so designing a system to allow us to safely cross oceans is going to take into account more than that simple rule of thumb.


1. We will have a watermaker
2. The watermaker might stop working partway through a passage
3. Pressure water system might also either stop working, or use too much water
4. We will have a system that safely crosses oceans even assuming 1,2 & 3.

Watermaker – In order to be able to run the watermaker in the most different situations I believe the 12 volt ones are the best. Then even if the inverter/generators pack up, you can still run it from the battery or solar panel. We are looking at Spectra watermakers at this point.

Pressure Water – In my experience a pressure water system encourages sailors to use too much water. If there was ever a problem with the watermaker, it would be extremely difficult to conserve water, so I am planning to install the ubiquitous Whale foot pumps in the heads and galley. This way if the pressure system goes down we can still get at our water, and on passage we can conserve water easily. And for anyone who hasn't used a Whale footpump – they really are excellent. Did I mention that I have known cruisers who retired ashore and were planning to install these footpumps in their houses?!

Water tanks – The Southerly 42 has two water tanks. Total capacity is actually slightly less than Two-Steps water tanks – although you can order an optional tank to increase it. It think we will stick with the original tankage plan, add the watermaker and try to keep the tanks filled up on passages.

Water safety on Passage – My plan is to regularly refill the tanks from the watermaker whenever we are in a remote cruising ground or are on passage. For instance, plan to run the watermaker when we have used one third of our water. That way if the watermaker stops working one day, we will still have a 2/3 full tanks. It will not be a disaster! We will immediately switch into conservation mode – no more showers, use footpumps etc and the 2/3 capacity will be plenty to allow us to reach port safely or fix whatever the problem is.

Watermaker usage – One of the changes I have noticed in the years we have been cruising is that more and more cruisers use their watermakers all the time. Originally when we met a cruiser with a watermaker they used it primarily on passages or in remote areas like the Bahamas where water is expensive. But in port where water was easily available on the dock, they would use that to fill their tanks. Now more people seem to run them all the time. And in many cases I understand the rationale. For instance, here in Malta, the municipal water is quite safe to drink, but a little brackish (salty). So tea tastes a bit crumby, and we choose to drink bottled water. So cruisers who have a watermaker, will often choose to run that when they need to fill their tanks. The issue is that you have to be very careful about the filters you have in the system. It is often an option to have a water/oil separator as a preliminary filter before it is safe to take in harbour water. The other option is to run the municipal tap water as the input to the watermaker – in this case you would need more plumbing to connect the hose, and a very good chlorine filter to make sure the chlorine in the city water didn't damage the membrane in the watermaker. I would like more information on this option and will ask around here to find someone who has it all sorted out.

Well, thats it for today, for the past couple of weeks I have been working on designs for a stern arch to act as dinghy davits/solar panel mount and a bimini. I will see if I can post these drawings for the next blog entry this week!


Water Budget and Planning

What a wonderful 3 weeks we have had in the Virgin Islands!!! First 2 weeks cruising on our friends “Diesel Duck” - a 42 foot motor sailor immaculately fitted out in Cherry with all the best equipment. Benno and Marlene have been cruising before on a 37 foot steel sloop and decided for their next cruise they would like a power boat. So they built the Diesel Duck and have now sailed from Canada down to the Caribbean as far as Venezuela. We met them in St Thomas USVI and had a great 2 weeks cruising the USVI, over to Culebra and then back upwind to the BVI. It was especially nice to have a chance to try out and live with modern hi-tech equipment, some of which we are planning on installing on the new boat. With an 800amp-hour battery bank, and large inverter, watermaker, washer-dryer and a diesel generator, Diesel Duck gave us first hand experience of managing water and electricity on a modern well equipped cruiser. We were filming for “Distant Shores” of course, and the weather was great. Thanks guys!!

Water Budget

The first thing I learned was just how much water a modern cruising boat could use. On Two-Step we have only foot-pumps for the water – no pressurised system. And no real shower. So our four 80 litre water tanks will last us 2 weeks or more with the two of us on board. But a modern boat with pressure water tends to use more. It is just not possible to wash your hands of brush your teeth with as little water as we use with our foot pump. Similarly washing dishes tends to use more when you have a regular tap. One of the biggest factors is water supply. On Two-Step, we do not have a watermaker. So an ocean crossing passage of 21 days (our longest to date) means we have to make our 320 litres last that long. For anyone planning ocean passages, note that you must budget your water for as long as you might be out there. We usually add a 50 percent safety factor to our voyage planning when we are provisioning. So our Atlantic Crossing to Brazil of 2200 miles was planned to be at sea for an entire month. We had enough food for that, and planned the water for that as well. Since we have four tanks, we know we shouldn't finish more than one per week.

Anyway, the net result of this is that long ago we learnt we could make do with just 80 litres of water a week for the two of us. Sun shower and sponge baths, washing dishes in salt water, and using foot pumps to help conserve.

Enter the modern cruising boat!! I read in a cruising magazine not so long ago that you could budget 25 gallons per person per day!!!! Are they talking about life on a cruising boat of on the QE2 I thought? Well, it turns out that if you have all the gadgets you just might (although 25 gallons might still be too much even for those who leave the water running while they brush their teeth).

Water Budget Factors

* Toilets – some modern marine toilets hook up to the fresh water to flush. If you have these on your boat then factor in 3 litres per flush. Possibly 20 litres per person per day.
* Showers – a modern shower can use quite a lot of water. Its a great luxury to have a shower on board, and many cruisers have them. If used frugally they may use just 10 litres per shower or even less if you instruct crew to turn it off while soaping up. I haven't done clinical tests but I imagine a wasteful shower head just left on all the time would use more than 20 litres in a long shower.
* Pressure water syndrome – probably the most insidious – PWS (pressure water syndrome) affects people by encouraging them to just leave the water running. Where campers and old-time sailors know its easy to brush your teeth in just 1 cup of water, modern city dwellers afflicted with PWS can use 10-20 times as much. Choosing a faucet that is easy to turn on and off can help somewhat. And instructing the crew can help too.
* Watermakers – For the new boat I am looking at a watermaker that will produce 24 litres per hour. To supply our modest needs on Two-Step, this would only need to run one hour every two days. Even when we are more careless and use water more casually we would still only need to use it for 1 hour a day. The factor seems to be you will use more since you know you have it! Cruisers I have spoken with who have watermakers, all said they wanted one so they wouldn't have to worry about water use. So add a factor of 2-times if you are in this category. Just remember that nothing is free. Running a watermaker for twice as long as you need, will use twice the power. It also might be noisy. Check out the sound of a potential watermaker before you buy. Many people recommend you plan a watermaker to supply your water needs by running in the time you will be running your engine or generator to charge the batteries. The rational here is that watermakers use a fair bit of power, so you will want to run the generator or engine at the same time. So a watermaker that is too small will need to run for hours. The alternative is a smaller watermaker that you might be able to run during times your solar or wind generator is producing surplus power. But more on power generation later...

See you next time – in the Med when we are back aboard Two-Step in Malta for Easter.