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Interconnected: a One Word Description of Life on a Boat.

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If I had to use one word to describe life on a sailboat, it would be interconnected.  This word applies to our boat, our marital relationship and our friends.  I find life on LIB forces me to understand and acknowledge how much Frank and I need each other to accomplish everyday tasks that require coordinated effort by two people, or at least are much easier with two. 

We rely on our friends to share their experience and knowledge about everything from anchorages to weather to boat repairs and spare parts. They rely on us to do the same.

Finally, the systems on our boat are intertwined and enmeshed such that if something happens to one facet, it is likely to affect other parts.  LIB is a tiny city. We must produce our own energy and water and we must regulate how quickly we expend them.  On land, these things were automatic and inexhaustible as long as we paid our bills.

Plus most of the systems in our land home were independent of each other.  Suppose you walk out to the garage and the door opener has quit working.  You check the fuses and all is fine. Assuming you have paid your electric bill, you probably need a garage door repair person, but for now, open it manually. 

That system is independent of the rest of your house.  Everything else in your home continues to work and is unaffected.

Now suppose on our sailboat, I turn on a light and it doesn’t work.  I check the fuse and the fuse is fine.  The light is not burned out.  Well, if this light doesn’t work because it isn’t getting energy, then on our interconnected boat, other parts on board are probably not getting energy.

Since we generate/maintain our own power, we have to determine immediately where the issue lies because if the lights are not receiving power then our refrigeration, freezer, bilge pumps and other things probably aren’t getting power either.

As a result of the interdependency of systems, when there is a problem on the boat, it cannot be neglected until its source is detected and we understand the repercussions of the problem. I know it sounds overly dramatic, but if we neglect to diagnose a system problem, it could lead to some extreme issues.

Take the example of the lights not working. We know we have a little problem with our energy but we don’t really want to worry about fixing it right now.  We decide the refrigeration will stay cold for a while and we will determine the problem later.  Well, what if the boat also has a leak and water is slowly entering the bilge? Our bilge pump is designed to detect the water, sound an alarm and pump the water out of the boat.  But the bilge pump is electric.  No power, no bilge pump, no alarm.  I guess the water will continue to accumulate until we fix our electrical issue or we see water in the boat.

This example demonstrates how one problem on a boat can have a domino effect and lead to some serious problems.

Living on the small city of Let It Be requires us to learn and understand all the electronics, engines, charging systems, etc and be able to diagnose and fix problems.  Essentially we must become our own engineers, repair people and hardware supply store.

This leads me to the second word I would use to describe life on our sailboat: Balance. 

No, I don’t mean learning how to stay upright on a shifting platform.  I mean finding the balance of having enough spare parts, tools, reference manuals, etc and living in a relatively small space where we don’t have a ton of extra room to store those parts, tools and manuals.

We have to balance the work required to keep our little city functioning well and having time to play and explore the new places we drop our anchor.  AND we have to balance our toy to tool ratio ~ which can be difficult for us!!    😉

For these reasons and others, when friends ask; “Don’t you get bored out there?” or “What do you do all day?”

The resounding answer is no, we are not bored and we have plenty to do.  We are challenged both mentally and physically in this lifestyle.  Everyday tasks, maintaining balance and making sure our interconnected systems are in order require extra effort and time compared to life on land.  We keep detailed records of maintenance done to all systems/engines and we have a calendar of when things like oil changes, water filter changes, etc are due, and we have an inventory of supplies for maintenance.

Additionally, everyday tasks on land become time consuming events on our boat. Please read about our grocery adventures here.

So for us, for now, we are far from bored and we find the challenges, the learning and the skill building suits us.

Perhaps in time we will long for the simplicity and convenience of land life, but currently we are happy with our boat life choice.

Do you agree with my one word description of living on a sailboat? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Gratuitous photo of Let It Be in the fabulous blue Bahamian water!

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Hard to believe these colors are real!

  

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Barbuda has been described as a large version of Anegada in the British Virgin Islands.  At first glance this appears to be true. But I found the two islands very, very different.

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First view of Barbuda

Anegada has a lot to offer visitors and certainly caters to tourists in the usual BVI way, which I very much enjoy.

Barbuda seems to have chosen to remain staunchly independent of visitors and prefers to retain its’ local flavor.  My understanding is that the island is owned by the residents and if a company wants to build something, say a resort, the whole town votes to accept or decline the plan. So far it appears few, if any, outsiders have managed to develop Barbuda. The result is that Barbuda is unspoiled and beautiful, but it is also difficult to find services or restaurants.

When we walked through Codrington Village, few of the stores had signs so it was difficult to tell what was available. The grocery was pretty well stocked, but because there was no sign, I would have walked past it if a woman had not walked out with bags of food.

The children here have the freedom of roaming a hometown where everyone knows each other and they are safe to explore. I watched one boy upright a bike much too big for him and serpentine up the road; another child skipped into the grocery and asked for clothes pins for her mom; two young boys were gently scolded by a lady sitting on her porch as she reminded them their mothers expected them to go straight home from school. I felt like I was looking back to a time when computers and smart phones and stranger danger didn’t exist.

The water clarity and colors of Barbuda are beyond belief. Our first anchorage was Gravenor Bay. Navigating into this bay is tricky because there are a lot of reefs. It is very important to only enter when the sun is high and the visibility excellent, but once through the maze of reefs, the settled anchorage and amazingly clear water is worth the effort.

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Watching a storm from Gravenor Bay

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Another dramatic storm that passed beyond us

I tried to get a picture of how clear the water is by taking a picture while standing on the bow of LIB. You can see the coral and sand!

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The water is about 15 feet deep in this photo

We decided to move to Low Bay to see the NW side of the island and get close to Codrington Village.  We motored around Coco Point before raising the sails. To our delight, a few dolphins came to say hello! They didn’t stay very long, but we sure enjoyed seeing them.

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Dolphins swim under the bow of Let It Be

The 11 mile expanse from Palmetto Point to Low Bay is a beautiful beach where the sand is so fine you sink as you walk. We certainly didn’t walk the whole length but we did enjoy hanging out appreciating its’ beauty.

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Sand so fine you sink as you walk

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Captain is always up for a roll in the sand

As you can see, Captain dives right in to the beach scene. The more sand she can dig in and roll in and generally grind into her fur, the happier she is!

Moving to Low Bay allowed us hire a guide to take us on a tour of the Frigate Bird Sanctuary.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of this tour but ended up thoroughly enjoying it. . Our tour guide, Clifford, took us to the sanctuary via his long boat, then he walked the boat through the area so we had an excellent view of the birds. Ornithologists estimate that there are 5,000 birds in this colony which makes it one of the largest in the world.  The pictures offer more than I can describe.

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The male Frigate enlarges his gular pouch to attract females.

In addition to inflating the gular pouch, the male Frigate rapidly taps the pouch to create a drumming sound which adds to his attraction.

Come on, lady readers, you think those pouches are pretty sexy, right?

Females do not have pouches but instead have a white chest.

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Young Frigates are downy white

When born, the babies have downy, white feathers which are gradually replaced by the black plumage. In the picture above you can see two very young Frigates. Toward the back you can see a Frigate that is a few months old; it has begun to grow some of its’ black feathers but still has a good deal of baby down on the chest.

Wind forecasts were beginning to pick up so we lifted anchor and headed back to Green Island, Antigua  to be in place for kiting should the predicted winds materialize.

Happily, the winds did blow and we arrived at Green Island with plenty of time to get in an afternoon kiteboarding set.

For the kiters out there, here are two pics…..

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Frank chilling as he heads back toward the beach

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Hunter boosts off the back of LIB to start his session

Next stop Guadeloupe.

Jolly Harbour, Antigua – Take Two or is it Three?

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Jolly Harbour feels like the treasure at the end of a rainbow.

Jolly Harbour has been a very welcome anchorage after both of our passages from St. Martin. This time I was ready to return to Jolly because the surge in Nelson’s Dockyard made our lines squeak at night which made sleep a little difficult. Even though I really like English Harbour, I am such a light sleeper that the squeak kept me awake so I was ready for the quiet of Jolly Harbour.

Last June we visited Jolly Harbour, so we knew what to expect this time and we were not disappointed. The folks in Jolly Harbour Marina are very nice and always have a smile. Jenn was in the marina office again this visit and her warm welcome was appreciated.

One really nice change in JH is the upgrade to their internet signal. Jenn told us that in the past the marina had complaints about the wifi, so they upgraded the system.  Since then she said they have not had any complaints. We were on a mooring ball and had excellent wifi on LIB. Thanks for the upgrade Jolly Harbour!!

As you can see from the picture above, there are a lot of private homes with boat docks along the edges of JH which offers a different view and feeling from many anchorages. These quiet fingers are perfect for paddle boarding.

Last year we wrote about our visit to Sha Sade where Frank had his hair cut. This year I visited Shamone who gave me a manicure/ pedicure and even dyed my eyebrows for me. It was like a regular spa day!

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Shamone and Sadie’s store front.

The salon is in the building right next to the dinghy dock so the location is perfect for boaters. I will certainly go back the next time I’m in Jolly Harbour.

As most boaters know, Jolly has an excellent grocery and it is pretty easy to find familiar products. We were able to stock up on some essentials like M&Ms. 😉

Near the mooring balls their is a neighborhood with an open field and quiet streets which makes a perfect place for us to throw the frisbee for Captain.

She apparently thinks we should have gone there more often as she decided she would sleep in the dinghy between visits! She has only done this in Jolly Harbour, so I’m guessing this is one of her favorite anchorages.

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Yes, that black ball of fluff is Cap waiting for another trip to shore!

This time we left Jolly Harbour to head to Shell Beach where we picked up our older son, Hunter. What a great reason to head out.

The focus of Hunter’s visit is kiteboarding. Frank has been anxiously waiting for this opportunity to kite with Hunter right off of LIB.

Let’s hope these crazy winds keep blowing…

 

Sailboat Guideline – Only Multiple Use Items Allowed

Since space is a premium when living on a boat, sailors try to find multiple use items to save precious storage. This mantra can lead to some fairly creative multi-purposing of standard items.

Case in point; the ice chest.

As part of her standard charter packaging, LIB was outfitted with a large ice chest which hangs out in the cockpit.  When it is only two of us on board, the ice chest is rarely used for cold storage. But it serves many purposes such as holding fresh water to rinse scuba or snorkeling gear. It can act as a dry container in the dinghy when transporting laundered clothing from shore or perhaps provisions from the local grocery. It is an extra place to sit or a place to store gallons of water.

Sometimes we use the ice chest as a large container to wash clothes because we do not have a washer/dryer on LIB, nor do we have plans to add one.

Now that we will be living on LIB and will use our ice chest more often to wash clothes, Frank decided to modify it to try to make it a bit more self agitating and hopefully create less human agitation. IMG_0596

Plastic cut-outs ready to glue inside the ice chest.

The hope is that when we put clothing, water and soap in the modified ice chest, the plastic edges will act as bumpers and increase the movement of the clothing inside the ice chest thus allowing the clothing to agitate/clean itself while we sail.

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Here is a picture of the inserts actually glued into the ice chest.

The modifications to the ice chest are fairly small and will not significantly affect our ability to use the ice chest for other purposes, so this could be an excellent way to improve the washing machine function of our ice chest while retaining its other functionality.

I have some concerns that since our boat is a catamaran and does not heel like a monohull, the agitation inside the ice chest/washer will be insufficient to clean the clothing.  However, if we find that is the case, we could put the ice chest in the dinghy and tow the dinghy for a while when we are sailing.

Surely the bumping and movement of the dinghy, combined with the modifications Frank has made, will be sufficient to bump and clean the clothing….

This may not be the perfect solution to our laundry needs, but in this case, my laziness is the mother of Frank’s invention.

Thanks, honey, for working on making laundry on LIB easier. I sure hope it works!

The Results Are In…. and We Won!

Okay, so we weren’t actually entered in any contests, but we feel like we won anyway.

Why? What did we win?

Well, we just completed an in water and out of water survey on LIB to see how she is doing now that her charter life is completed.

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LIB, the day she arrived at TMM from France

I am thrilled to report that the “Deficiency” list did not have any big items!  TMM has done a fantastic job of keeping up with the maintenance of LIB and making sure any problems were addressed properly.

As a result of their admirable care and good judgement on who could or could not captain the boat, LIB remains in excellent condition.

Now that isn’t to say we don’t have any issues to address, but thankfully they are minor and mostly related to maintenance that is expected after two plus years of charter.

The list included 31 items, so initially I sort of gasped thinking there were problems. However the report was very detailed and several items are cosmetic or were already on our list.

Seven points were superficial like “Emergency fire extinguisher ports in both aft cabins should be marked.” “Topside Gelcoat shows scrapes and scuffs and should be buffed.”   “The scuffs and scrapes at the galley surfaces are consistent with regular use and would benefit from a clean and polish.” These are to be expected.

I was surprised to read that a few items were not up to “ABYC H 27 standards” since they pertained to factory installed parts. But I didn’t really know what ABYC H 27 standards were, so I had to do a tad bit of research. (Some of you must be shaking your head at me and others are probably saying you don’t know either.)

ABYC is the American Boat and Yacht Council. The link will take you to their mission statement, but in essence they are “the essential source of technical information for the international marine industry.”

At first I thought, “oh, well this is the American standard” and LIB was built in France.  But then I read that ABYC considers themselves the international standard…. I guess Fountaine Pajot either doesn’t agree with the ABYC standards or perhaps many boats don’t quite meet up to the “standard” when built.

SO, having said all of that, what didn’t meet up?

Well some of our factory installed through hulls, made by Randex, are molded plastic.  Our surveyor recommends we replace any below the waterline through hulls with marine grade bronze or Marelon.

The fuel tank hoses are type B1 and the surveyor recommends changing those to A1 or A2 to meet the ABYC standard. Ditto for the related fittings and connections.

Apparently our 110V AC outlets are not fitted with GFCIs, and I think we should probably add those.  Shocking right?! – OKAY, I know that was a really poor pun.

Some items the surveyor listed were already on our list:  anchor chair needs to be cleaned and proven, zinc anodes at the prop hubs need to be replaced, sliding door into salon needs attention (again) and the bottom could use a scrubbing and fresh antifouling.

There were two items I did not expect though. One was that the air conditioning duct in the generator has heavy condensation above the generator battery. A drip pan is suggested to protect the batteries. That seems pretty sensible to me.

The bigger of the two concerned the exhaust system for the generator. While the generator has worked great and we have had no issues with harmful fumes in the boat, apparently the exhaust flows toward the bridgedeck and has made a sooty mark. The surveyor does not see damage from this but suggested we alter the exhaust so concentrated heat from the exhaust doesn’t harm the gelcoat or the hull.  Glad to know about this before it is a problem.

General maintenance items include gasket washers on the gooseneck that show compression, the saildrives show minor movement and need to be serviced and the bearings on the rudder stocks need to be serviced.

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Spinnaker flying on LIB

An issue caught by the surveyor and a known problem on LIB concerns the spinnaker halyard. Here is the verbatim remark: “The Spinnaker halyard is chafed, and the block at deck level is cracked. Both should be replaced or the line retained as spare gash line only. There is distinct chafe and abrasion at the line below the mast cap sheave adjacent to the main halyard that should be end-for-ended and trimmed, or replaced. The cause of the abrasion is unknown, and the line reportedly replaced recently. We recommend the cause be should be sourced by a rigger and measures taken to prevent future chafe, and all lines replaced as needed per the currently maintenance schedule.”

This has been a bit of an ongoing problem and is a focus of our energy. We definitely need to determine why we are having the chafe problem and fix it. Believe me, we will figure it out!

That about sums up the survey report.  We are pleased our Helia has held up so well to the myriad of skippers she has had over this 30 months of charter.

We are especially grateful to TMM for taking care of LIB and us.  It is with sadness and excitement that we leave the safe haven of TMM.  We will certainly look back with fondness and gratitude to everyone there who has made our experience so positive as well as helped us improve as sailors.

Let me know if you have any questions about the survey for LIB.  I don’t have enough experience to know how most surveys go, but I am pleased with the results of this one.

From Charter to Live Aboard – Scheduled to Change – Part I

Now that LIB is finished with her charter life, we are implementing some changes to make her a bit more specific for our use.  Some of the changes will be made immediately while still at TMM and others will be made when we are in Puerto Del Ray Marina in Puerto Rico.

My sailing friends can probably imagine several of the items on the list.  My land loving friends will probably shake their heads at the items needed. But anyone who knows Frank can imagine the detail and thought put into the list…. Would you wager it is well organized?

I am fortunate to have such a capable captain; and no, I don’t mean the dog!

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PDR is a very large marina.

Frank has put together a spreadsheet of changes that includes everything from important functions to pure luxuries. The list includes 66 items that range from maintenance to extravagance; from a one hour DIY to a 3 week contractor job. We will not complete all of the items on our list because we are not sure we truly want all of them and the costs would be prohibitive. Below are some we know we will complete before we leave PR.

Steering on the Helia:

Let It Be is Helia hull #4 and was built with the original specifications. On later hulls, some changes were made to improve the Helia. One major revision was to the steering system which was underrated for the early Helias. We have already had to replace the steering cable on LIB twice. Fountaine Pajot has changed the steering on later Helia models from a teleflex push pull rod system to a hydraulic one.   We have reviewed a couple of steering options and decided to install the warrantied system FP is now using. Some people dislike the lack of feedback on hydraulic steering, but we are willing to loose some “feel” in our steering to insure it will hold up to the weight and size of the boat.

Anchor Windless:

Our windless has been extremely reliable and the size is sufficient.  However,  the whole windless was installed a little too close to the starboard side of the anchor compartment.  We cannot fit the manual lever handle onto the gypsy cogs because the handle hits the fiberglass frame of the compartment. This means that if our windless failed, we would have to pull the anchor chain up by hand.

The plan is to move the windless slightly to port so the lever handle can fit onto the gypsy in case we have to use it manually.  When we adjust the windless, we will also reinforce the platform of the windless to make it a bit more substantial. While the platform is adequate, we think it would be better if it was stronger.

Finally, we will install a windless remote at the helm station which will deploy and retrieve the anchor as well as count the amount of chain released.

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We anticipate using this Lofrans Remote

Water Maker:

We found that the most limiting factor in our six week trip this summer was water.  It is very possible to live without a water maker, but I found water was a focus of my thoughts whenever we ran low. In other words, running low on fresh water made me nervous. In my opinion, there are many things that require attention while sailing and I don’t want water to be one of them on Let It Be.

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RO 30 GPH Watermaker Pre-filter.

Dive Compressor:

We have decided to add a Coltri MCH6 110V compressor to LIB. The convenience of refilling tanks on board and avoiding transporting them in the dinghy every time we need to refill is worth it to us. Plus this allows us to have a total of only 4 tanks on board which reduces the weight on LIB and means we need to find a storage place for fewer tanks.

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Coltri MCH6 Dive Compressor

Cushions:

The cushions on LIB have always been an issue with me. They were ordered in a neutral color for a charter situation, but they are BLAND and hard. We will replace all of the outdoor cushions while in Puerto Rico. This is a major investment, but it is also the best way to make the boat unique to us and add some color. I have been wrestling with the cushion material for months now and I am so tired of thinking about it that I am ready to just pull the trigger and order the fabric. I just pray that I like the final product because the cushions will need to last a loooooong time to get our money’s worth!

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A combination of this stripe and the solid blue will be used for our new cushions.

These are the big ticket items on our spreadsheet that we know we will install.  Other expensive additions we are considering are an enclosure for the helm, a sun shade for the aft side of the cockpit, additional solar panels and new sails. But we are not sure what we want or if these items are necessary, so we will probably put them off until the end of our first full season aboard.

We do have plans to upgrade our communications options, but I will cover that after we have fleshed out our decisions a bit better.

Tortola Marine Management has done an excellent job of maintaining Let It Be, but we want to be sure she is in tiptop shape when we depart.  To that end, we have a very long list of maintenance items on the spreadsheet.  Frank has done a tremendous job of listing each task along with the supplies, parts and tools required for each one.  He has also assigned particular jobs to each of us.

I see a good amount of learning in my near future as I tackle some jobs I never imagined myself taking on.  I both look forward to and dread the challenge. I am sure I will have some embarrassing  interesting stories to share. It’s a little daunting to know I will be doing the maintenance on parts we will rely on every single day!

Care to share any tasks you have taken on that you never expected to tackle?  I could use the encouragement!

Trading “Security” for Life on a Sailboat?

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In 1955, Hunter S. Thompson wrote an interesting piece entitled Security” asking at the outset, “… (security) means safety and freedom from worry. It is said to be the end that all men strive for; but is security a utopian goal or is it another word for rut?”
I will not say that I have found the security within our life a rut, but rather it has offered us the freedom to focus on family or seek out new interests; to pursue new hobbies or increase knowledge.
This freedom to learn and expose ourselves to new things led us to sailing.
Together, Frank and I earned a few sailing certifications and began to immerse ourselves in learning about sailing and the lifestyle of living on a boat full-time.
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Our forays have sparked a desire to live more simply, to be guided more directly by the rhythms of nature and to learn first hand about countries we have yet to see.
The decision to change our lifestyle is not designed to free ourselves from some “rut” but rather a desire to explore and learn new things by living a little differently.
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We look forward to the challenge of using the wind as our major form of propulsion.
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We anticipate buying foods from local markets and figuring out how to prepare them.
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We hope to snorkel and dive some beautiful and remote places.
But I admit, sometimes I fear the idea of navigating without references like “the McDonalds on the corner!”
Learning how to thrive in a sailing environment and working as a team to reach our destinations are goals Frank and I are equally exited about.
As we prepare to uproot ourselves, I admit there is some anxiety about leaving our familiar and secure lifestyle.  But there is also anticipation of learning a huge variety of new skills, expanding our knowledge base and discovering lesser known places.
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We foresee some amazing experiences, yet we sincerely hope family and friends will come to visit because our journey will be deeper and more beautiful by sharing it with those we love.
Thompson concluded Security” this way,  “…who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?”
We are not UNhappy in our security, nor do we know if we will be happier when we leave the comforts of shore; but we definitely know we will be more greatly challenged!
Hunter S. Thomas (1937-2005) was an American journalist.

Boat Show Wrap Up ~ Part 1

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We had another excellent visit to Annapolis. I think this is the first time we had a whole day that was sunny and beautiful! The weather this year was much better than last year but the show felt less crowded this time.

We successfully gathered information on several systems including water makers, top down furlers and fuel polishing systems.  We have not bought any of these pricey little numbers yet, but we have a much better idea of what is on our wish list.

We were impressed by the FilterBOSS fuel polishing system. The owner, who spends about six months a year living on his sailboat, was very patient and thorough in explaining the system and our options.  Because LIB has one fuel tank, two engines and a generator, we agreed that the best option for our purposes would be a combination polishing/filter unit to supply fuel to the port engine and genset. This would allow us to clean the fuel and return it to the tank and filter the fuel before it enters those two engines.  On the starboard engine we would use the fuel filter system only. By spending a few extra dollars, we can add a water alarm to the polishing/filter unit.

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FilterBOSS

We are very close to buying this system because it would help prevent any fuel problems and assure our charter guests that LIB’s engines run smoothly. Anyone who has been around marine engines knows the troubles bad fuel creates and we would like to prevent those issues for our guests.

One item we did order is a beefier anchor.  While no one has reported any trouble with our current anchor, we think this one will improve guest confidence:

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Spade Anchor

Spade anchors routinely come out at the top of Practical Sailor reviews and the physics of this anchor makes sense to us. The current anchor on LIB has worked well, but we wanted to step up our confidence on the hook.  For us, Spade was the answer.  This upgraded anchor will allow guests to feel more secure at anchor and increase their confidence when sleeping on the hook. Thankfully, Spade is shipping our new anchor as it is surely over the maximum suitcase weight allowed on the airplane.

We have not finalized our thoughts on water makers, but currently RO is at the top of our list. We both like the idea of replacement parts that are easy to find and the people we have spoken with are very happy with their ROs.

Top down furlers were interesting and I was glad to talk with a few dealers and compare the products but we have not decided if we will invest in one.  Several times when flying our spinnaker, we have used it as a dead downwind sail and have flown it attached to the windward forepeak instead of to the bow sprit. A furler would remove this option and we are not ready to accept that limitation yet.

Since a water maker and a top-down furler wouldn’t affect charter guests, they are not a priority at the moment.

We did buy a few other things, but I’ll cover those in a separate post.

Happy sailing!

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