27 August 2012

from sailor to non-sailor

I recently spoke to my dear friend Mary on Skype (what would we do without Skype anyway?!). We became friends literally in the desert namely when we used to live in Dubai. Even though she likes to swim her element is the earth and not the water (sea). So far I know she has never been sailing and doesn't know a lot about it.
She asked me how I feel to live on board a boat since nine months, how I did adapt to that life and how it was to be around my husband 24/7?

So, how can you as a sailor answer those questions to a non-sailor?
I might better ask: What is the DIFFERENCE of this two lifestyles?

Mmh, first of all - we sailors travel with our HOME, a complete house with all its technical and personal stuff on it. Water piping, electrical wiring, sanitary installations, kitchen appliances, a motor, water maker, communications system and so on. All those systems need to be maintained, daily, weekly, monthly or by the hour. When a problem pops up there is usually nobody else around who could fix it, so my man has to be a plumber, electrician, carpenter, communication specialist and a mechanic. My job is to act as the "nurse" as I'm supposed to hand him the right tool at the right time. Do you have this on land? I doubt it. You pick up the phone and call a specialist whenever a problem occurs. Unless you're married to a handyman of course...

When it comes to STORAGE, this is limited - but in comparison to other boats we learned that we're still on the good side on Habibi! What makes it even worse to find all the stuff again... I guess, that's not such a big issue in an apartment or a house. You have a cellar or a storage room and you have lots of closets. There might be the problem with accumulating things you don't need anymore - that's not going to happen on a boat: What's not used gets off! You'll have to live with a limited wardrobe, what might cause a serious fight in some marriages... But even I had to learn that spares are more important than shoes ;-)

I think we live quite an ECOLOGICAL life on our boat (as anyone living on land should or could do as well): we make our own power with solar panels and our own water with our water maker. We don't throw any garbage over board (except some biological one) and collect it instead till we hit land for the next time. When we store food or anything else we take it usually out of its packing and keep it in containers or boxes. A sailboat of course can benefit from the wind and we try as much as possible to avoid using the motor. While on anchor we don't turn on the water heater. As we both like a warm if not hot shower we have solar shower bags.
When it comes to water we anyway started to reduce our consumption. In comparison to other cruisers we are still using far-above-average amount of water, as we like COMFORT. We both don't like camping therefore try to live a comfortable life as much as possible. We want to take a shower at least once a day, wash dishes with sweet water, work on our laptops, charge our devices, drink cold beer and switch on lights and fans. This doesn't sound at all as we had to compromise to a non-sailors life, doesn't it?
OK, I have to confess that I'm still dreaming of a washing machine and a vacuum flush toilet...

Sailors (usually) stopped working to travel fulltime while non-sailors work fulltime to travel occasionally. As cruisers we have to plan our TRAVELS, to study guide books and charts of our next destination, prepare the papers for immigration, make decision like what course to sail and when to set off according to the weather forecast. And most of us have a chart plotter to navigate. Once arrived at our DESTINATION we of course enjoy it! We can drop anchor in beautiful bays and discover the country on land and on sea, meet new people, eat local food, speak foreign languages (at least we try!) and struggle with different currencies. So traveling for a sailor means to shift his "home" with him while he's exploring the world. That's pretty neat! Non-sailors on the contrary always should travel as light as possible as you have to carry your baggage and it can get expensive if you exceed the limit on a plane!

We are moving around constantly. So how do we make FRIENDS? The cruiser's community is quite special. If you are just a little open minded you can meet people on every island, in every anchorage or any port. People announce potlucks (which I don't like), cocktails on the beach or happy hours over the radio (VHF) or from mouth to mouth. This community is very helpful and likes to socialise. I guess it's easier for the guys to hook up as they can talk about boat stuff or fishing forever. For me it's sometimes more difficult as I'm an introvert person and need some time to open up. I've always prefered to have just a few but trustworthy and long-lasting rather than many but shallow friends. When I finally connect to someone it's usually time to move on again...

But I'd like to point out here: our LIFE does not only consist of sipping cocktails on the beach while watching the sunset - well, sometimes we do and we have fun, but reality looks different! It's not all romantic and rose-tinted. But hey, this isn't the case on land either, right?
There might be one big DIFFERENCE though: we are not directed by others. Nobody tells us what, when or how to do! Only the weather has the power to stop or guide us (and maybe the insurance company during hurricane season). We make our own decisions, every day! We've chosen this lifestyle to gain freedom and self determination. Consequently we don't have an income and have to live on a budget, this is our limit ;-)

Marco and I literally "are in the same boat". We make decisions, plan, sweat, swear, solve problems, argue, laugh together almost 24/7. What's the secret then, that we aren't at each other's throat? Either of us has its tasks on board and we give each other a lot of space. Is this different to a non-sailor's life? Honestly, I hope not!

With love from paradise

24 August 2012

Windlass Replacement Part 2 - Finishing the Mess

our brand-new windlass

After all the preparation and wood work was done I could finally start adapting the electrical stuff. Which meant pulling another 18 feet of heavy wires into the boat. A few hours and 200 Dollars later the wires have been placed. Just changing the main breaker itself took more than an hour due to the very limited space - and I was confident to get it done in 20 minutes or so... Just tightening a few screws, right?!

pulling heavy wires into the boat

changing the main breaker...

new main breaker

Every windlass has a solenoid, basically a remote switch to turn the windlass on and change the direction. And of course the new solenoid didn't fit into the existing space! So I had to construct an additional panel to mount it on which then had to fit on the existing wood bracket which was glassed on to the hull of Habibi. I used some Corian out of a scrap box since it's superior to wood as it can't rot away.

new solenoid on Corian panel

electrical wiring connected but not yet in place

I was almost two days working in that damn anchor locker. Mounting cables and making new connections - a nightmare. Don't ask me about the heat, I used constantly a towel to prevent sweat running into my eyes...or maybe tears?

for sure there are nicer and cooler places on a boat...

But the heat outdoors was almost as unbearable as the one inside the locker! I screwed the three 12Volt wires with each 50mm2 to the windlass - easy. To close the damn thing with the cover - almost impossible!! Only that took me 30 minutes under a lot of swearing, sweating and almost breaking either a wire or a screw - in the last moment Rahel could prevent me from throwing the whole windlass into the sea...

12V wires mounted on windlass

impressive sized wires - 50mm2!

now "just" put the cover back on again...

Phew, somehow I managed it and then I only had to seal everything. 

cover back on windlass, preparation done for sealing


The new windlass passed the first test and it seems to be working as it should. We wait now for some stainless welding to get the anchor stopper higher....promised to get it tomorrow 3pm GMT -  (Grenada maybe time)...

23 August 2012

never too hot to bake

When we prepared for our sailing trip we had a shopping list of essential things to buy for the boat. Useful stuff to make life easier and safer while under way. And I'm not speaking of all the technical additions like solar panels or water maker. Want some examples?
Ditch bag (or abandon ship bag), of course tools and spares of all kinds, self assembled first-aid kit, satphone, printer, epilator (No, not vibrator!) and kitchen stuff. Marco kept asking if I wanted a bread machine as many cruiser's recommended it. I wasn't sure... When we then stumbled upon the shiny, elegant and reasonable "Breadman" that just seemed to be waiting for me on its shelve I gave it a try.

And hardly used it... Why is that? The Breadman needs a hell of power. Before we arrived in Grenada we spent most time at anchor. You don't wanna waste precious power on a silly baking machine!
I have to admit that I could have baked a lot under way while bashing against the trade winds as many times we had to use the motor. It's easy: motoring=enough power. But most of the time I forgot to prepare the ingredients and I didn't feel like doing it under way in a shaky galley!

Now we're docked, connected to shore power and nothing is shaking. But it is hot, very hot right now! That's why I started to remember one of the benefits Marco once mentioned to "sell" to me the bread machine: it's not heating up the cabin like an oven!

So I started using it - and love it! You might ask why is she baking her own bread as there is fresh bread available on vitually every street corner? It's so simple: my homemade bread lasts longer without getting moldy, nothing is better than the smell of baked bread, to taste a bread when it is still hot AND I can bake what ever bread we feel like eating at that moment - White, Wholemeal, Pumpernickel, French or Banana, you just name it and I bake it!

What are my Pros and Cons for having a bread machine on board?
- with just a few basic ingredients you're able to bake a variety of tasty breads
- a freshly baked bread is a nice present when you're invited on someone's boat
- your husband LOVES you even a bit more when the boat smells of freshly baked bread
- it's not heating up the cabin

- a bread machine uses a lot of power
- you need to have the space to store it
- you have to think of prepare the ingredients BEFORE your husband is starving
- the bread has always the same shape

From paradise with love

19 August 2012

Project: Fridge/Freezer Upgrade

Have you ever had an issue with your freezer/fridge at home? Probably not. They just work and once every generation you replace them - maybe earlier if you're remodelling the kitchen every 20 years or so. Not on boats: Talk to cruisers in a hot climate and they all had or have fridge problems. This units are air, keel and water cooled with several other options just promising to keep your beer cold without emptying  the batteries. Of course, since it's made for boats, this small units cost a little fortune: for the same price of a marine unit you would easily get one of this closet sized fridges with built in TV, ice and water dispenser and five years warranty. They may even include a free refill contract from your local brewery good for one year for that price!

But back to the boat, even though we have a great keel cooled unit we faced some challenges: Our unit was working, but from time to time it was just not starting anymore - usually right after we'd stocked the freezer up. Since we just had one compressor cooling the fridge AND freezer that meant perishing food and worse, warm beer!

old compressor

I then learned the thermostat was broken. So I replaced it, twice in the meantime. The problem was persistent. The local "expert" said I have just to top up the compressor with r134a coolant or whatever is appropriate today. Done, paid, not working.

He then changed the electric controller. Same result...
So, obviously I needed a new compressor - damn, 900 bucks... just to keep that damn beer cold? Since the guy promised to weld the right connection early the next morning I disconnected the old compressor and went off to buy that new unit. Not happy at all. 

I was later chatting, or better whining  in a cruiser's forum about my bad fridge day when another guy in the US said he didn't believe the compressor was dead - I should try something else. So, by then it was midnight, I re-installed the old unit, got poor Rahel out of bed as you need four hands for this task. Together we worked through some kind of elaborate test procedure to find the failure. What should I say, the "defective" compressor was running again another 30 minutes later. Gosh, a half drunk and his sleepy wife can proof that the damn compressor is not defect when two paid experts are not able to do so in two hours???? It's unbelievable, in particular since I had now a new 900 USD compressor for nothing... I was really ready to kill!

Of course, we just proved that the compressor was not defective, but the problem was persistent. We vacuumed the whole unit and refilled it to be sure there was no water or dirt trapped in the system. And after dozens of emails with a very helpful team at Frigoboat US (the producer), we have been able to keep the system now running for two weeks. And you know what - a new compressor would not have solved the issue...

vaccuming the unit

Of course the whole thing just started: Since it's hard to return everything to a store over here (you may have to pay up to 20% "fine") I decided instead to use the new compressor, meaning splitting the freezer and fridge to have two independent units in place. Great plan, instead of fixing something I had now a whole new project on my list!
new compressor before mounting

I exchanged the compressor (that's for free) to a smaller unit, bought a new evaporator and then installed the whole unit into the fridge. The new evaporator has a ventilator system so it cools down the fridge real fast, and new for us, even in the corners. Before my single compressor was running almost 24/7 full throttle and even the freezer was ice cold, the fridge was not always perfectly chilly. The project was pretty straight forward (I love when it sounds so easy): I mounted the new compressor in the locker, of course that needed some new electric wiring. Then I had to fit the new evaporator into the fridge and connect the copper lines with the compressor through a very small hole in the back of the deep fridge. Which involved a lot of swearing, believe me! The only thing I needed to do now was to divide the fridge from the freezer with some wood, epoxy and new seals - peanuts, right?

old and new compressor mounted

And since it was so much fun, I decided to add two more reliable electronic thermostats. They will show the inside temperature of each box and have an alarm in case the temp is rising above normal. Quick job: You just need to make a new teak housing for the thermostats, cut some holes in the fiberglass and crawl through the boat to connect 25 meters (!!) of wiring.

in the box on the right: two thermostats

Not sure if I like the outcome. I planned to hire a guy to get finally rid of the problems we had from time to time, with minimal costs and efforts of course. Based on this guy's wrong advice (and he is doing that for a living!!) it turned out complete different. Yes, I may have got a more reliable system but rather unplanned and out of our budget. And I really hate to become an expert in everything on this damn boat just because it looks as all the paid advice you get is actually worthless. Yes, I like the new digital thermostat and the two independent units. Should that compressor stall the next time I will not just know how to fix it, I will still have cold beer while working on it. There is nothing worse than boat fixing with warm beer - except of course with no beer at all...

14 August 2012

Colors of Carnival 2012

You can't escape Carnival while in Grenada - almost.

We skipped J'Ouvert which started early Monday morning at 5am. In previous times blackened with stale molasses, tar, grease or mud the modern times masqueraders mutated into colorful "devils" dancing through the streets to the rhythms of the accompanying drums, steel bands and calypsos from huge DJ trucks and try to dab a bit of their body paint onto unsuspecting bystanders - No thanks, we prefered to sleep in a bit. Here a glance of what we "missed".

We then went to see Peasant Mas, the traditional and fancy Mas Bands in the Monday afternoon parade gyrating to the beats of the year's most popular calypsos. Since we arrived beginning of June we had to listen to the same ten or so beats day (in the bus, gym) and night (nearby Pre Carnival party). We deeply hope they will either change their repertoire after Carnival or stop at all... But I guess that's wishful thinking ;-)

Here a selection of some pictures taken at Peasant Mas. A mixture of beautiful & happy people, different age groups and colorful costumes:



As always, much more pictures on our facebook page habibisails!

With love from paradise

13 August 2012

Project: Cockpit doors

To close the boat we have the usual boards - they're very robust but a hassle to put in and out. In a marina or at anchor that's not nice. Additionally we had a mosquito screen to put in to let air and light come in while down below. The problem was that you could not close the boat with the screen and even if so, it would've been easy to break that tiny wooden frame.

So we decided to mount custom-made, removable doors. We fitted the massive door frames with mosquito screens and added some bars as well to protect against unwanted visitors. For us that's a real added value as we're now able to close Habibi within seconds. And closed doors while sitting for a sundowner in the cockpit means less mosquitoes down below. Yes, it will not be as strong as the boards, that's why some folks fit a heavy steel frame. But this is much more convenient, and let's face it: If a burglar really wanted to break in even framed steel bars would not stop him.

Habibi has now real doors - a bit like a house, right?

09 August 2012

If you think you saw it all...

Although I should be doing more work on Habibi I took the "refreshment" to help a friend with the electric of his new to him boat. I could tell you now how bad it was: But a picture is worth a thousand words:

This was the positive "general connection" for most of the positive wires. Please note the nice soldering and the black thick cable (for non DC guys: it should be RED). We found that all over the boat - wrong colors, bad connections and 4 (four!) double battery switches for two battery banks. It will remain a mystery to me why this boat did never burn the last few years...