Monday, November 18, 2013

Shift to the Big Time!

I made the big move to my own domain. Slowly shifting my previous work over and creating new content there. Hopefully it's a fulfilling experience and worthwhile.


- Travis

Monday, October 29, 2012

Spice Storage

I saw this over at savvy-living today and immediately thought of it's usefulness on a boat.

Spice Storage

The pro's:
- sturdy, spill-proof storage
- use the manufacturer's containers (no need to buy something else)
- can be mounted in multiple locations

I'd consider mounting this inside a cabinet door, over on a bulkhead in the galley. Depending on your preferences, you could spray paint this to get a better color-match inside as well. Available at many dollar stores, WalMart, etc. One idea, to trial run this, would be to mount it with Velcro first, or double-sided tape, to determine if the location works, then mount with screws later.

The con's:
- being made of mild steel, it is prone to rust over time
- elegance factor is low(er) if you're mounting this in the open
- Possibly considered overkill for spices; these clamps will hold a lot of weight

If in a protected environment, these should last a while. Again, consider using an overcoat of spray paint to help increase the longevity. Thanks Kayla!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Getting off my ass

I've been spending a lot of time on the road recently (and at sea on the Portuguese submarine NRP Tridente), but have some post shells in the wings. A couple of my favorite blogs have also been challenging me to get serious about posting.

Live Your Legend

Corbett Barr

Tim Ferriss' 4 Hour Work Week

Zen Habits

Scott Young

These folks keep me going, in all areas of my life. I've considered what a paid business model might look like for a site like mine and the content, but haven't really made any firm commitments there. I'm still in the "I need to practice posting, regularly, frequently" stage. Someday ahead though, who knows!

Thanks for the 60 page views. Can I simply say, I never though anyone would be reading.

For anyone interested, here's my current boat (or at least the model)



Thursday, March 8, 2012

Serenity or the Millenium Falcon?: How to Choose a Sailboat for You (Part 2)

When I left off, I had described some of the decision points in choosing a Cal 28 as my first liveaboard. A 28 foot boat is not everyone's cup of tea, but was a great platform for me to learn about this livestyle, to test the waters in a practical and financially feasible way, and to just get out there.

Fast forward to 2007. The SeaWitch was on the hard in Florida, gutted out and undergoing a significant refit (I'll share how we sank her in another post. The story is too good to be true). My wife and I had relocated to the island of Guam for work. My wife happened upon a classified ad for a 1978 Tartan 37 going up for sealed bid auction on the naval base. I took the chance to survey her and submitted a bid for $6000. Most people, rightly, would have turned away at first sight. She had sat on a mooring buoy for the last ten years neglected. The marina just wanted her gone. Little did they expect a hustling lieutenant would win the bid and ask to keep her in the same marina. Ha!

Underneath the grime and reef growing beneath her, this boat was great. Here's what caught my attention:
1) Proven circumnavigator. Two times in fact. With a deep lead keel (7 foot draft), she was made for bluewater travel. And the brand reputation was strong. My survey showed all the major components were in good shape structurally. I had a significant amount of equipment I could bring over to outfit her. While the SeaWitch's anchors were undersized, the cabin stuff wouldn't be. A stove is a stove.

2) Size: At 37 feet, she is probably nowadays considered a "small cruiser", but she didn't feel like it. Just the right amount of space for store kit for long periods of travel, easy access to goods for convenient living aboard, and for me, head room. A full six feet throughout. The layout was also pleasurable to be in. I had a comfy quarter berth to myself for singlehanding, the V-berth was comfortable at anchor for us as a couple. There was a great navigation station which could double as an office. The settee was roomy enough for socializing, but small enough for safety. And the cockpit proved the perfect size for friends.

3) Circumstance: No one knew the pedigree of the Perkins engine, as it hadn't been turned over, and the starting circuit was out. I was OK with this, as my plan was to power her with my Yamaha 9.9 long-shaft dropped from a special bracket. Later, I wanted to convert to electric propulsion. The boat needed sweat equity, but I had two years while stationed on the island to put that in.

So in this case, I feel like I found a diamond in the rough. A great quality boat at the fraction of the price. Most were selling at $50K stateside. What conclusions could we draw from this?

- It pays to troll the classifieds. I see plenty of great boats come up on Craigslist all the time. It's a matter of being ready when the opportunity strikes. That's how I got my current boat for free!

- If you are going to pay a small price, there's probably a reason. Refits cost money and time. More time than anything. But, you have a necessary period of learning all of the boat's inner workings and systems in an intimate way as you go through these processes.

- Be prepared for skepticism. No one believed I'd actually complete the work I outlined. Every weekend at the marina was one of passer's by stopping to say how unrealistic the plan was. While my plan changed, I did get her out of the marina and spent one of the best spring's of my life cruising Micronesia.

- Sometimes its simply fate. We still question how we came to make this decision, and I feel there is a big "chance" factor in here. We were in the right place, right time, right offer, and boom, we had a big boat. Sometimes though, you jump on a deal and immediately something "better" comes up. This "new" find is cheaper, better condition, has a better feature, etc. It's hard to not have buyer's remorse, but I think the most important thing any boat owner can do is make sure you love her before you purchase, then be a good husband or wife and make the marriage last! There will always be other boats, there will always be that latest great feature. Remember Capt. Mal Reynolds: Love keeps her afloat...or in the air, but you understand.

Be happy with what you have; contentment is a hard fought, but worthy, state to be in.

Since I've got lots of topics on my mind, and wish I had tons of content here, my next post will be about something more practical. More to come, and thank you for reading!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Serenity or the Millennium Falcon?: How to Choose a Sailboat for You

What did Malcolm Reynolds of the hit TV series Firefly and Han Solo have in common? Well, I'd venture to say they both loved their ships. And that is a very important part of owning your floating home; if you don't love her, she'll be worth less than that dollar menu hamburger.

That said, there are several factors that will influence the decision of which boat to buy. The most important thing to remember is this: there is no perfect boat. I repeat, there is no perfect boat. Every boat is a compromise between these factors. The key is to know where you'll compromise, how much you'll let that factor change, and your will power to let that be OK.

Money: Let's get this out of the way. A sailboat will cost you money. The question is, how much up front, and how much to keep her? I'll continue to delve into the holistic finances of sailboat living, but looking from 10,000 feet, you need to think through:
  • How much will my purchase cost be, including any taxes, registration fees, and broker/dealer commission? You need to know the immediate cost if you agree to buy.
  • What are the average operating costs going to be? It's usually best to think of these in terms of per-foot costs. Slips are typically priced on a per-foot basis, as are hauling out fees to get her on land for repairs, some insurance products, and others. This is also the place to think through the totality of your live aboard experience. If you don't know where you'll keep a boat, you'll have a harder time making a rational decision, especially on size.
  • What are the estimate costs to complete necessary and desired improvements? There's going to be something, it should be prioritized, and you'll most likely be 50% off. But these are real costs too.
Let me walk through my three examples, an some pitfalls I ran into.

2002 Cal 28 in Baltimore, MD
I financed my first liveaboard, so thought of things in terms of both monthly and total costs. SeaWitch was sold to me for $8500. Taxes and registration came out to around $400. I was responsible for the launch fee, since I would liveaboard on land for several months due to my work schedule. $400 for launch and getting the mast back up. The seller paid the broker fee, and I was not represented by one, so no fee there. Total initial outlay: $9300. My note was for slightly more, with a monthly payment of $230.

At 28 feet, my per-foot costs remained pretty reasonable. My slip in Charleston, SC, was around $10/ft plus metered electricity. This averaged $30-40 per month. Cable TV was included (although I'm a proponent of doing without that burden), and for internet I needed a telephone line for dial-up, adding another $30/mo. Total cost to have a slip, parking spot for my car, electricity, water, phone and cable: $350/mo. This is $4200/yr

My plan was to haul out every other year to do maintenance on the bottom and tackle any odd jobs. Asking around the marina, I reasoned the total cost for haul out, storage on land for a week, and launch, would be around $500. There was a yard I could do my own work at (becoming rarer these days), which would have saved me some money. Including bottom paint, total bi-annual cost: ~$1000.
If you amortize that, I needed to save about $40/mo for that cost.

Lastly, upgrades. All the normal items came with the boat: sails, engine, safety gear to pass a USCG inspection, and some interior accoutrements. But to make her a liveaboard, I needed a number of home items, including dishes and kitchen ware, bedding, painting the interior, some rugs, and several small pictures and knickknacks to call it a home. I was also moving to the South, and I quickly realized living without AC there was trouble. Then it turned to winter, and I needed to buy a couple of heaters. These small costs can add up quickly; like several hundred dollars in the first couple of months. I also had a running list of marine upgrades to better the boat itself: changing out from a portapotti to a marine head, adding better sail controls, and the worst offender: maintaining, and then replacing, the Atomic 4 inboard engine.

By the end of the first year aboard, I had spent an average of $300/mo on these kind of "extras" that ballooned out of control. Again, I hope to cover some of my "lessons learned" in future posts to discuss items I purchased, why they did or did not work, and the actual value of them.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I discuss this exercise for my Tartan 37 in 2007.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Decision

In the spring of 2002, I was faced with a dilemma. Getting ready to graduate from college, I was listening to all of my friends discussing their plans for where to live after we left Maryland. Most were looking through apartment rental ads, and a few were thinking hard about buying their first house. Remember, this was the era of loose mortgages. I caught a different sort of bug though.
I bought a sailboat.

I can't exactly pinpoint a single idea that led me to make this decision, but some thoughts come to mind. I know I believed living on a sailboat would provide me four distinct opportunities:

1) Independence

In order to afford a nice apartment where we were going (Charleston, SC) most of my friends had to live together with at least one other roommate. While the idea of a roommate isn't bad at all, I personally prefer being able to do as I please, when I please. And where I please. Living of a sailboat would provide me the opportunity to live by myself. It would be my home, so I could decorate and equip as I felt led to, and most likely never have to worry about painting my room white again when a year lease was up.

2) Mobility

I realize this seems simple, but there's something to said for having a home that is mobile. Since I was just entering service in the Navy, the reality of moving from duty station to station was looming. A sailboat would mean simply letting go of the dock lines and pointing the right direction. By keeping my lifestyle minimalist and simple, these moves would be easier to tackle.

3) Affordability

I'm not sure how I convinced myself of this, but I think some spreadsheet magic showed me that by living on a sailboat, at a marina, I be saving money of my peers, both by socking some away into the boat as well as reduced total expenses. This was partially true. One purpose of this blog is to describe some changes in the world that would have benefited me when I undertook this path, as well as describe some of the things that did work and how they saved me money.

4) Adventure

Ok, I'll admit it. I figured if I lived on a sailboat, I mean, "Yacht", that women would flock to my vessel and the life of Jack Sparrow would be mine. Well, that was partially true. I did have a number of adventures. In the end, I'd say my time living aboard was a key aspect of the successes I've had. Employers were often more impressed by the fact I'd taken a chance and lived this lifestyle than any professional accomplishments I had. And I had both a head full of memories and a couple folders worth of great pictures from places I've been and experiences I've had.

Everyone has unique reasons for making the decision to live board a boat. Heck, everyone has unique reasons for every decision they make. But if the four themes above stir something deep in your heart, maybe it's a direction you'd be interested in pursuing?