Friday, December 5, 2014

BVI Charter

Our BVI Charter on a 34' Beneateau
May 14
We flew into St. Thom and took the ferry over to Tortola from there. We met up with Adam's friend Megan and her boyfriend Drew on St Thom. We visited some local bar spots (Tickles and Betsy's Bar) for some drinks.  Megan has a beautiful view and they are growing pineapples. I love growing things to eat so this intrigues me!
May 15
Took the ferry to Tortola. It was about an hour and pretty choppy due to a rain storm. Went through customs and then took a taxi to Conch Charters. It was possibly the shortest taxi ride ever!  Dropped our bags off and got lunch at a little place right near the charter dock. Then walked to the grocery store, if we would have known, we probably would have taken a taxi to the grocery store instead of to Conch Charters. We bought a lot of groceries, then took a cab back to the boat. We were able to get on the boat and unpack. Two groups gave us their left over food and drink from their charter. We we able to meet up with an old college friend of mine in the evening. He is a reporter on Tortola and seems to know everyone!
May 16
We got up early and waited on our check out. Checked out with our boat guy and headed for the Indians. Did some snorkeling at the Indians then went to night mooring at Willy T's. We went snorkeling at the caves and of course had to visit the famous floating bar, Willy T's. It was as advertised and most (if not all) of the clientele where 3 sheets to the wind!
May 17
Sailed to Salt Island and the Wreck of the Rhone, didn't see a whole lot of fish at this site, but the sunken boat was pretty cool. We tried to go ashore on Salt Island, but couldn't find a good spot to beach the dinghy. Only when we decided to head for Cooper Island did we see the beach and dock area, apparently we had headed the wrong way around the island. We picked up a mooring ball at
Manchioneel Bay. The water was crystal clear with sand and sea grass on the bottom. We saw a sea turtle and large barracuda that liked to hang out under the boat. We went to beach and had a drink and did some regular old swimming. We came back did some grilling for dinner with a beautiful sunset behind us.Put up hammock and called it an early night.

May 18
Snorkeled on Cistern Point and then around boat mooring, saw another sea turtle (!!) and barracuda under boat. Sailed to the Baths and hiked to Devils Bay. The Baths are a place you have to visit at least once. Definitely make the effort to go to Devils Bay. Make sure you bring your amphibious footwear for the hike! It is as ideal a Caribbean scene as you could ask for! Then we sailed to Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor. Got a slip for the night. We walked around the area a little only to discover that the only bar was the beach front bar. I think we both agree if we had to do it differently we would not have stayed at the marina. It was very calm and still in the marina, which meant no wind to cool it down, it was a warm night! We were able to refill fuel, water and food stores while we were here.

May 19
We checked out of the Marina and headed toward North Gorda Sound. The wind was blowing pretty good so we had a very fast sail! We discovered the Beneateau was not as good under strong wind as we were used to! We caught a mooring ball and then enjoyed a very empty beach. We grilled dinner on the boat and then headed to Saba Rock for the famous Pain Killers. When we came back to the boat it was pitch black and our boat was a bit farther away than normal. That was a bit stressful for me! Thankfully Adam navigated us back to the boat with no problem.

May 20
Crazy rain and wind overnight. Need to dry everything out today. We made a long downwind sail to Muskmelon Bay, which turned out to be an empty mooring field (and free!). We snorkeled around the boat a little and made an attempt to take the dinghy to Monkey point, but quickly realized our dinghy was not up to that challenge. Settled in and cooked some dinner and relaxed in the hammock.

May 21
Went to Monkey Point and snorkeled, probably the best yet. The National Park moorings fill up quick at this site, it worked out well for us that we had stayed just around the bend overnight. We then sailed to Cane Garden Bay. Another day with plenty of wind, even had the boat leaning over (which of course tossed all of our belongings everywhere!) . There was A LOT of wind in the bay, which thankfully did not effect us grabbing a mooring ball, but we watched plenty of others struggling! It calmed down in the evening. We went to the beach bars Tonys and.. another one which the name escapes me. We grilled dinner on the boat. We were next to two boats from Switzerland . We met up with my friend Jason, again,  for drinks at Quitos

May 22
Left Cane Garden Bay and had a short down wind sail to Sandy Cay where we picked up a NP mooring. We took the dinghy to shore and beached it. Walked on beach and then walked path around the whole island. We saw lots of birds, lizards and really interesting trees. Beautiful views all along. Then we headed to bubbly pool mooring. We went to dinghy dock by Foxy's Taboo and walked to bubbly pool. It was a beautiful hike, we saw lots of signs warning of poisonous trees. This would be the Manchioneel tree, which we were aware of, but we read up on more when we returned to internet.  Bubby pool was very pretty and was fun when the waves would push up through the rocks. It started to rain storm so we headed back. We had drinks at Foxy's bar and met Sandy and Ray who are cruisers on their Beneateau.We talked to them for a long time and eventually headed to the boat to fix some food.

Sailed to White Bay and waited around for a mooring but none were available. After a little while of weighing our options we went to Great Bay and moored there. Took the dinghy to White Bay and got lunch at Soggy Dollar Bar.  We then set up and relaxed in front of Ivans. Met a couple from Charleston who helped us launch our dinghy(we found out later is was full of water- making it far heavier than it should have been). Went to Foxy's (the original one!) looked around and then went to dinner at Ali Babas, Adam had Anagada lobster and said it was worth the extra effort (and $$) to try it!

May 24
Left Great Bay and motor sailed to Peter Island Great Harbor. All the mooring balls had life jackets on them. We picked up a ball and went in and paid later we found out they were reserved for MIT boats. We hid the life jacket and were able to stay. The longer we were there the more MIT boats kept coming in! In the end there had to be about 30 of them! It appeared to be their first night, they had all the extras on their boats- kayaks, paddle boards, and all sorts of floats. Adam made sangria (yum!). We did some snorkeling and saw our first ray. The snorkeling in this bay was surprisingly good! We saw so much here it was overwhelming!
May 25
Motored to Road Town. It was very choppy and busy because of a poker run. Went back met a couple who owned restaurants in Baltimore. Gave them our left overs. We packed up and took a cab to the ferry. Once in our hotel in St. Thomas, we walked down to the Green Room (the only place open on a Sunday!) and had some food and drinks. We hung out at the hotel pool and relaxed for most of the evening. We eventually got hungry and ordered a delivery pizza for dinner. Seemed out of place for the islands, but we didn't feel like paying a lot or venturing out again.
May 26
Our very last day! So sad. We got up had breakfast at hotel. During breakfast we met women from Ohio and Oregon, one of which was there to do a group charter. We then met up with Megan and Drew for lunch at Gringos. After lunch they were nice enough to deliver us back to the airport for our trip home.

We barely made it back due to some issues with our flights, but we did eventually make it home! It was sad to leave, but good to be back home with our dog and cat (Morgan and Johnny). The idea is that next time we go it will be on our boat and they will come too! 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Its the little things

Sometimes its the little things that can make a big difference when living on a boat.  Things like being able to drink out of the sink in the head because we now have a water filtration system instead of walking to the galley in the middle of the night to get a drink.  We have a TV at the foot of our bed so we can watch movies and we now have a 12 volt freezer for long term storage.  I am a firm believer that if there are things you can do to make life easier or more comfortable then it is something worth doing. 
Ashley and I are both outdoorsman.  We like camping, backpacking and spending time in nature.  I have spent weeks at a time backpacking through both the Rocky and Appalachian mountains. Ashley spent her summers as a youth driving cattle on horseback in South Dakota on her family's cattle ranch.  We each don't mind roughing it and living without basic comforts, but if given the option,  why not have some of those comforts? Especially since we plan to be on our boat for many years to come.
I have never quite understood this theory that living on a boat means you have to give up basic comforts.  I see those who preach that refrigeration is a waste,  stoves and ovens are needless, TVs have no place on boats and Air conditioning is a wasteful luxury.  Why?  So you can claim to be closer to nature? You're on a boat, likely anchored in paradise that you reached by harnessing the wind and few to no humans as far as the eye can see.  I think that even with luxuries, you're still close to nature.  Now I totally understand if you decide that there are things you don't want. There is added maintenance, larger battery banks and more systems to fail. Also there is the cost of extra things on board. Then there really are the people that want to keep things as simple as possible. Good for them I say. It just seems there is a large group who preach their superiority because they rough it.
Well off of my soap box.  We decided to cough up the money and have a custom mattress made.  I was shocked at how much the cost was even though it was done at a local mattress factory. Before we just had 5 inch foam cushions,  now we have a real mattress.  So long achy back! I also recently found a shower curtain rod at the RV store that is hinged so that it swings out to give more room.  I had to modify it to fit on the boat but the difference it makes is huge! If you feel cramped in your shower, I suggest you check one of these out.
We are now having a custom dodger,  bimini and full cockpit enclosure made. I cannot express my excitement at having this done. Right now we have no protection in the cockpit and we want to have a comfortable place to sit outside, protection from wind and seas and so the dog and cat can go out as well. The bimini will also allow us to mount our solar panels so we can work towards being energy independent.  I will be sure to update as this project moves along.
I hope I did not offend anyone on this post,  these are just my random thoughts written down. Everyone has their theory on living aboard and cruising and what is needed on board.  I just like to have comforts. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A New Adventure Begins!!

So many big and exciting things happened the month of November!! Our wonderful boat was finally operational again and Ashley and I were able to take her out on a beautiful sail.  November also marks three years that we have been together and almost three years of owning "Wild Swan".   Ashley walked into a whole different world when she met me and the Sailing lifestyle and she has not missed a beat. Spending every last dollar we have on the boat and every spare minute as well. Dealing with furniture slowly disappearing from the house and countless surprises as we find major items needing repaired on the boat. She has been right there willing to help and changing her way of life to adjust and all so that we can be together and share our lives. 

Ashley has been a wonderful change in my life and I couldn't do any of it without her, So I wanted to make sure she stuck around! After our first sail in so long I proposed to her in the boat that has brought us so close and so now it's official! We're Engaged!! WOOO!!! Happy Dances all around!!  Not sure what she is thinking but I sure am glad she is thinking it!!  So November has been a good month for sure! 

After saying Yes!
Looks Pretty Good on her I'd Say!

In other news, we finally moved out of the house completely! So far so good with things on the boat. It was not a good week for moving aboard as a cold front moved through and it got down into the teens at night!! That just doesn't happen in SC! It made for a cold walk up to the shore to walk the dog every couple of hours, but we made it! It was a little chilly in the mornings on the boat, but the Propane heater warmed it up pretty quickly.

The last load of furniture out of the house! Only Lawn-chairs now!
We had a new custom mattress made at a local mattress factory that has greatly improved our comfort. I recently replaced the entire pressurized water system. The boat had all copper lines  and the original fixtures which I believe were designed to empty your water tanks as quickly as possible. The copper was replaced with all new PEX and shut off valves were installed at every fixture. With help from my brother who works in plumbing, we were able to get very nice high end fixtures that will greatly reduce our water consumption.  I also got tired of using a stupid little drinking water spigot and I installed a three stage water filtration system with UV light into the main water supply. Now we can drink the water right out of our tanks at all faucets!! It even gets rid of that funky boat tank taste! Definitely  a worthwhile investment. 

New Brass Fixture in Galley
Three Stage Filtration just after pressure tank. All New PEX Lines. 

New Bronze Fixture in the head.

We are now working on getting a new Dodger, Bimini, Stack Pack all made for the boat. All new frames and totally enclosing the cockpit if needed. We hope to have the boat ready for a trip back to the Florida Coast at the beginning of the year. Yikes!! I have some work to do!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Engine struggles and the march forward.

The ever ongoing troubles of preparing a boat for long term ocean cruising have continued as expected.  I like to think that the more love and attention I give to the boat the more love and respect she will have for us. Hopefully this relationship will allow her to provide for us and protect us on our journey. I buy her the best there is and I hope she will keep us safe in storms and far off lands. I tell myself that the more things I find broken or in poor condition is just a chance for me to better learn the inner workings of all the systems and allow me to have a greater understanding when things actually do go wrong. We will see years from now how true this holds!

It has a been a sad and long eleven months of "Wild Swan" sitting stationary in her slip not feeling the wind fill her beautiful dark sails. This period of rest is not due to a lack of love or attention from us but due to the lack of said things from previous care takers. Slowly she grew tentacles into the bottom below her and if given the chance, Mother Earth would have taken her back.

 Last January while doing an oil change on the engine I found myself standing on my head to look at things as we all typically do. It was to my great dismay I noticed an engine mount completely broken in half! Upon further inspection I found another one broken as well!! How could this be?! I paid a surveyor!! I'll wait while you finish chuckling...... So apparently those low idle vibrations were not due to it being a Yanmar, but being a Yanmar with no feet. At this point I tightened her lines and settled in for a long repair.

The initial discovery of the Broken Mount. YIKES!

Not completely broken in half, but delaminated! There was a second one that was broken in half.

With the help of my good friend Greg, I got a good deal on some R&D engine mounts. Friends at the Hans Christian Forum gave advice on how to change out the mounts in the boat and my friend Alex loaned his time and strength. Of course the "direct replacement" mounts did not fit and I found myself on the phone with tech help at R&D and ended up at a machine shop for the alterations to be made. Three removals of the engine later the mounts were in, but this was only the beginning.  I found the flex coupling was bad as well which required a fourth removal of the engine to get out. More help from Greg and a new coupling was bought and now for the alignment.

The lifting device from the boom to lift the engine up.

Engine alignment in  my mind is perfectly logical and I understand how to do it, but when my hands are on the wrench and the feeler gauges were out, I was at a lost. I finally caved and paid good money to have it professionally done. This was a costly decision but one I'm glad I made.  Now why did this take 11 months you ask? Well with me being gone at work every other month and with the numerous other problems we found with the engine, it took a while. A complete rebuild of the exhaust system was needed and so was a lot of money!! This I will probably discuss later.

Eleven months later after much patience, Ashely and I took her our for a beautiful sail on a cold windy day and what a great day it was. 

First Time Sailing in 11 Months!!! WoHoo!

Monday, May 5, 2014

From the beginning

I was thinking that maybe this blog could use a little back information. Ashley started this blog to document and share our journey of moving form our very comfortable house to life aboard a boat and eventually cruising on our boat in the Islands.  Why we didn't think to start this blog at the beginning I'm not sure, but better late than never! 

Ever since college, it has always been my dream to live on a sailboat and go sailing around the islands of the Caribbean.  I was planning on working on commercial ships for a few months a year and sailing on my own for the rest. Well, as life often goes, events happened, plans got altered and eight years after getting out of college I was nowhere closer to that dream than I was when I was in school.  I therefore made a decision to set in place a goal to be where I wanted to be, on a boat in the islands.  It was also at this time that I met Ashley. We met when a friend asked if she could come sailing with us, something she had never even thought of trying before. It was then that she found her love of sailing and we found the start of our lives together.  At the time, I had a great little lake boat, a Helms 24. It was a fantastic weekend boat. Comfortable and fun to sail, but by no means an offshore boat.  I told Ashley of my plans and she hopped right on board with them and our search started for the perfect boat. And we never looked back
One of our first times out sailing together! She was a natural.

Anyone that knows me or any of my immediate family knows and often makes fun of the extent we plan and research everything we do.   For 6 months I spent hours and hours reading blogs and boat listings about cruising sailboats looking for the perfect boat. Then a friend of mine told me about Hans Christians. I had never heard of them before, but I checked them out. The second I hit "Enter" on that Google search set in motion my long delayed plans. I fell in love with these boats immediately. From the double end design, the classic lines and the Old Ship feel from the beautiful teak joinery down below. I knew we needed one of these boats.  Unfortunately, they are hard to find and quite expensive. 

I was sure we needed a 38 to fit our needs and in fact looked at one. There was a 33T for sale not too far from us, but really, a 33 ft boat?? That surely is too small!  While on a camping trip down in Edisto, SC, we decided last minute to call up the broker and ask if we could look at the 33 anyways, just to see what it looked like. So we met the broker and went to look at the boat. Now up to this point we had looked at many, many boats. Most were all very nice, but we just didn't think they felt right for us. When we stepped aboard "Wild Swan" that day, we looked at each other and knew right there that this boat would soon become our home. Four months later, "Wild Swan" was loaded up on a truck and probably for the first time ever, moved from salt water to fresh water to our home on Lake Murray, in SC. Our plan was for the next two years, refit her for comfortable cruising and meanwhile, clearing out the house to prepare to move out. 

New Boat Owners! Just after signing the papers.

Loaded up to head to her new home on Lake Murray

Now we are two years in, our house is almost empty, the boat has undergone a major refit that is still ongoing and we are starting our lives living on a boat. Our plan is a four year plan. We hope to have her back in the Salt in a year and by 2016, be on our way to wherever the wind blows.  Hopefully, this blog will help document our experience and so we can share with family, friends and anyone else who might have similar aspirations.   We still have some catching up to do with the blog, so for a while, things might be out of order, like this post! 

Home in her new slip for the next two years. Let the Refit Begin!

I have learned that sometimes, the best things in life take time and you must have patience. Though I wanted to start this dream after college, I see now that I'm better off.  We have a boat we love, a steady foundation to start off from and we found each other along the way.  I am excited to see where this takes us. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Stove and Propane System

When we bought the boat, it had a kerosene Stove and heater.  When we looked at the boat, we fired up one burner and it all worked fine, but once we got the boat in our possession, we learned that was about all that worked.  Only one burner worked and it smoked to high heaven, even with store bought clean kerosene. The heater we found worked well as in indoor campfire, but we figured that it wasn't the best option.  We therefore decided that it would all be replaced and propane was the way to go. The boat came with a built in Propane locker under the cockpit, though it is very oddly shaped and proved to be a hurdle.  After much research, we decided to go with the Mediterranean made by Dickinson out of Vancouver, Can.  Our heater was a Force 10 which is now owned by Sig marine. They no longer support the Kerosene model, but sell a Propane burner unit that can be attached to the old upper body. 

 Original Kerosene Stove and oven. Made a better smoker than a stove and pressurizing the pressure tank required gymnastic maneuvering under the cockpit. 

Original Kerosene Stove and oven. Made a better smoker than a stove and pressurizing the pressure tank required gymnastic maneuvering under the cockpit. 

Stove Gone!! 

Fitting the system together. Had to go with a 5lb tank as it is the only size that will fit in the locker. 

 Fit test of the tank, regulator, gauge, solenoid and shut off valves. 

New stove installed. The trickery involved in lowering this 100 lb unit down through the hatch and into place was a marvel of human maneuvering and lots of luck. Thanks to my friend Alex for risking his back and fingers to help. 

 Old kerosene heater. Made a great fire with lots of heat, but we were concerned for the wood panels surrounding it within 10 ft. 

New Cozy Cabin Propane attachment on old Force 10 heater. 

We also installed a propane detection system that monitors the bilges and the low point under the stove. We love the new set up and it was worth all the frustration and costs. 

Water systems and Travelers

Well, as Ashley has said, there have been some delays in our move from House life to boat life. As any boat owner knows, there it seems there is no way to do a project on a boat without eventually tearing apart the whole boat! The plumbing issue was resolved, though not exactly sure what the issue was.  Air was getting into the pump and causing it to lose prime, but I could not trace the air. I finally replaced every bit of plumbing from the water tanks to the pump and rebuilt the pump. I also added a pressure tanks which helps lessen the load on the pump. 
I built a new manifold for the fresh water system. Above is the old one and below is the new one. I'm sure there are better designs and ideas, but I went with this and I feel it helps. From what I can determine, the old one was original to the boat, so I am sure the brass was stressed and possibly cracked. The new valves most likely seal much better than the old as well. After replacing all the hose and fittings, water system works fine. The next step is to replace the pressure side which is all copper tubing. The faucets also are all original. Although very nice looking being all solid brass, they are not very functional and are also not low-flow. Hate to get rid of the brass, but the amount of water they put out is not acceptable for water conservation.
Old Faucet to be Replaced. 

                                                   Old Manifold and the new one. I went with the same design.
Water Pump with New Pressure Tank

I was able to fall upon some good luck for once in the refit of the boat. The Fico Traveler Cart was on it's last legs. The brass pin-block on top was paper thin from years of friction, the wheels were barely functional and there was a lot of corrosion. A search online showed that a re-built one cost upwards of 600 dollars! Garhauer would build me a new one for that much with new track!! I decided the new set up was the way to go.  Problem..... Aluminum track, Bronze Arch, stainless screws and 30 years of corrosion. The trio was inseparable.  To my luck I found out that Catalina 30's from the early 80s have the same traveler!! AND I just happened to come upon a guy parting out an old Catalina that had sunk! 50 dollars later I had a practically brand new condition cart for the boat! A 45 dollar bill from a friend's machine shop covered removal of the black at the end of the track allowing the old cart to be removed and the new once installed. Heck of a deal! 
Said arch with Fico cart and X-type track. Removal of track would prove expensive and possibly damaging. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Boat Units

As usual, nothing goes quite how you would like it. Due to a traveler cart on it's last legs and multiple broken engine mounts Wild Swan is officially dockside for the extended future. Add to that preparing for a crazy month of May, it appears our move out of the house project will be extended. The traveler cart makes sailing dangerous and soon to be impossible and the broken engine mounts make motoring not possible. We also can't really live on the boat AND repair the engine. So in the house we stay, for now. Those are top priority to get fixed. Only a few boat units, right?
We also have had a trip planned for about 6 months to charter a boat in the BVI . We weren't sure if we would even be able to go, but went ahead and reserved the boat. Now it's looking like we will be able to go! So begin the mad dash to be sure we have everything planned! How do you put together a grocery list for 10 days?? I'm not a meal planner by any means. I've looked over what other people have stocked for their charters and gotten a few ideas, but still overwhelming. In addition I am a vegetarian, so the hot dogs and hamburgers every night doesn't work. Need to buy a floppy hat, sun shirt and oodles of sunscreen. How many bathing suits do you need? Some say 4-5 others say 2. I am picturing us living in bathing suits mostly every day.
That is half of our travel plans for May. My brother's wedding in NYC is another. Well 2 weddings! His fiance is Chinese so one Americanized version and one Chinese version. Which means I need two dresses. And neither can have black of white on them (bad luck). Let the shopping begin! I hate shopping and I hate spending money on clothes, but I am determined to do my best, for my brothers sake!
Boat Unit= $1,000
We have been saving for all of these things (well not the cart and engine mounts), knowing that they were coming. Now that small chunk sitting in savings seems pretty well drained.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Moving Day 1

This is, or will be, the story of how we moved on to our Hans Christian 33' from a large house. We finally broke down and rented a 10'X15' storage unit. Will this be enough to hold a 3 bed 3 bath house worth of stuff? They tell us it will. We moved the first flat bed trailer's load of furniture and boxes out of the house. The house does seem slightly emptier, but the storage unit seems WAY more crowded.. I have never packed a storage unit before, and to me, it looks impossible! How do you decide what is worth storing for years? I'm not a pack rat, so I usually just get rid of everything- literally! I have no excess 'stuff', I have a cat and a dog and they have stuff. Adam has enough stuff for the both of us.
The boat is in progress too. We just updated the cushions, which was purely aesthetic, but it looks so much more like home. Now of course, the water pump has decided to malfunction. Clearly this will be no easy change out as we suspect there is a leak somewhere in the plumbing.
With summer just around the corner it will be harder to actually work on the house and boat and so much more tempting to just hang out at the boat. Hopefully we can stay motivated to keep making some progress!