Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cruiser Notes II

Only the second time to make use of my Ebay westsuit to clean the bottom of the boat, I wonder what these colors look like to a shark?

My homemade  Hooka system overloaded the circuit so I had to put the snorkel to work. 

Cruiser Notes II


Before coming to Marathon we had never been away from shore Power for more than 4 days in a row. Most cruisers take advantage of the low rates for mooring balls once they get to the East coast if they are available. The Marina fees jump substantially on the east coast and can really eat into the cruising and fun budget. A slip in Marathon during High Season will exceed $1000 a month for a vessel our size and in certain areas like Key West, and around the Miami Ft. Lauderdale area can get closer to $3000 a month. Hence the popularity of the Mooring fields and here in Marathon there are 240 mooring balls plus a sizable anchorage. The Mooring Balls are $30 per day $120 a week or $300 a month. That is pretty typical on the East Coast of Florida. Anyone new to being Moored to a mooring ball or anchored out for an extended period learns in the first week how good their on board power systems are. If you stay plugged in at a dock then your batteries always appear excellent since your latest technology 3 stage charger keeps them perfectly maintained which can make aging batteries more than adequate. Take that full time nursemaid away and you quickly find that if your batteries are truly in the health condition they appeared to be. So one of the questions most often heard from new cruisers to Marathon on the morning Cruisers Net is “Where can I buy new batteries?”. Along with that comes a search for alternative means of providing power rather than running your engine or generator daily to charge the house bank of batteries. The local Solar and Wind power sales here in Marathon do a great business here outfitting vessels with one or both. We first bought a new set of House batteries and then started researching Solar Power. Solar Power has improved greatly over the last 5 years due to more efficient panels and Smart MPPT Charge Controllers that manage the power and your batteries. Marathon is a great place to learn about all this as most vessels have solar power so there are plenty of sailors to talk to about it. The ones I was most interested in talking to though are those who have added solar within the past year as just as in any technology you want the latest innovations since 3 years from now….well you know. We now have two 245 Watt Panels sitting on our deck waiting to be installed: http://www.recgroup.com/PageFiles/2422/REC%20PE%20Series%20IEC%20ENG.pdf .  I am in the process of building a frame for them now and after they are secure over our dingy davits I will then begin the next phase of choosing a proper charge controller and wiring the system in.Seriously considering the Outback Flex 60 MPPT  http://www.outbackpower.com/products/charge_controllers/flexmax/


Navigation Technology improves tri-monthly, thank goodness it is in the form of Apps for the IPAD and IPHONE. This provides  portable Navigation system backups and the latest is the New Garmin Bluechart.It replaces at least 5 other apps we have been using and adds real time weather overlays!


Hatch wind chutes have become our primary means of getting some extra ventilation down below, on the ward days we will put two out. Dorades are a good alternative but if your boat is not built with them that means cutting the holes in the deck and either constructing or buying the Dorades. I have a few friends that have either built their own or had them professionally installed, the advantage to Dorads is that they can be used in a seaway without worry about getting water down below. We will not be doing any long ocean voyages so the expense of Dorades did not seem practicle to us. We did install several of Seaworthy Goods PortVisors. This allows us to keep open our port windows even if it is raining outside to keep the ventilation going when the deck hatched are closed.
Good ventilation is important in tropical areas to keep the Mildew away. When the winds are out of the South you can bet the Humidity will build to levels so high that the sheets are damp, the cabin floor is damp, and everything else is damp. Eventually you have to wipe down the interior to stop the mildew and the following formula is one I got from a sailing magazine years ago that works great Mildew cleaning Formula: 1 cup distilled Water, 1 tablespoon Ammonia, ¼ cup Hydrogen peroxide. Just put it in a spray bottle spray down anything let it sit about 10 minutes then wipe with dry towel.

The Full Cockpit Enclosure

We thought that when we got to Florida we could stow all but the dodger and just enjoy the sea breeze. Due again to tropical climates rain can happen anytime so the enclosure is always up so if we need to drop any part of it we can to prevent the cockpit (Our deck level living room) from getting soaked.


Can’t say enough about Amazon. We paid the $100 to get the Amazon Prime membership. It has more than paid for itself with all the free 2 day shipping. Almost everything I need for the boat is available now on Amazon so I do not even bother with West Marine or Defender much anymore. It is great if you are just going to be somewhere for a few days,

Good Wifi Antenna

Definitely need a good wifi antenna for receiving wifi signals from long distance. This is something I did before we left and Marathon is the first place we have been where we could not reach a source for free wifi. I am considering installing a Antenna on the top of the mast just for that reason.

Jerry Cans

We have always had two Diesel Jerry cans and they have come in very handy since we rarely use more than 10 gallons in a day. If there is no Marina with diesel where we happen to be there is usually a gas station just a block or two away where diesel is available. I would always take the time to use our handy fold up dolly and walk the short distance to keep the tanks topped up. We just recently bought 2 water Jerry cans. Never really needed them till we got here to Marathon. I wondered why all these cruisers were always filling up their water cans and lugging them to their boat. Then it hit me, the day your tanks run dry would be the week it blows 30 knots for days and it would be difficult coming into the dock to fill the tanks. We always hook the water hose to a water filter and we have another on board water filter that serves every faucet.
Those going to the islands are either carrying lots of them or they have installed a water maker on board. Water is expensive in the islands and the quality is often questionable.  


1. Space Saver Bags

I wanted to get some of these before we departed on this trip but the Admiral had enough to deal with so we just packed it all on. Once we got to Marathon she talked to some other Admirals and was ready to give them a try. We bought several and I can tell you that they are Fantastic. All the winter clothes, bedding, towels and other stuff that we carry more than we need compresses and takes up much less Space now.
2.Something on the boat Something off
If we want to add stuff to the boat then we look for stuff to jettison, anything that has not been used for a year exits.

Go Yanmar

Sailing is Zen but take care of your engine, belts, strainers, hose clamps. Cruising is not sailing. It is getting from one destination to the next in the best weather window as possible. Rarely do the winds and the direction you are traveling work in your favor. So take excellent care or the engine. Before we used our engine so much it was not uncommon to have to change out a belt within a year. The reason why is that the pulley’s on your engine will rust over (especially in a salt environment) and the next time you run your engine the v-belts wear down a bit by polishing the pulley’s clean again. This occurs over and over again for people who only use there boats on weekends. Hence the belts wear out frequently. We have not had to change out a belt yet with lots more hours on the engine than we ever put on before when we were just sailing once or twice a month. The same goes for your impellers.

Sail Far Away

Sail far enough away that you can no longer pick up any TV stations on your Air antenna.
Picking up TV stations with our Air antenna no longer works in Marathon. We hardly ever hear a news report anymore. We do not even care! Weather is the only interest and we now have several sources without TV. What do we do in the evenings especially since we can’t even get a wifi signal to the boat here. We talk, listen to music, enjoy the evening air, the stars and we go to bed early so we can enjoy all the daylight.


If there is a Lightening Storm, Put your electronics in the stove to protect them. 

1 comment:

  1. Steve, great article and very useful for T. and I. We are still on course for leaving this summer.