Archive for November, 2007

Behold: The 33-Week Belly

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Getting bigger. Literally every morning I catch sight of myself en route to the bathroom for the first of my daily 587636 trips and just have to say, “DAMN!!” Ironically, I “measure small” from the outside; however, an ultrasound at 31.5 weeks decided that the baby was actually just over average for gestational size (4lbs 3oz) and everything was just peachy in there. Where the baby is keeping herself is anyone’s guess but I definitely feel squiggly movement all over in every part of my abdominal cavity, including inside of my iliac crests. It makes me wonder what was there before? And where the hell is it now?!

One thing that the ultrasound lady did was a bit of gratuitous zooming in and out of the face (the ultrasound is a planar view so you either see cheeks/chin/forehead but a cut-off nose and blank eyesockets, or eyelids and freaky skeletal facial structure, etc.). That was a trip; she’s definitely human—no doubt about it—as opposed to say, cephalopod. Her face looked like an old-fashioned doll in a fuzzy old black and white photograph.

In other exciting pregnancy-related news, I finally broke down and bought ‘real’ maternity pants. The rubber band through the buttonhole thing was simply not cutting it anymore. They are super hot (perhaps you can tell from the photo) and come only in size Too Big or Too Short. The elastic waistband is the kicker—if you are so inclined, you can actually wear it pulled up to your ribcage. Major nerdery, I’m telling you.

How much did it cost?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

pelicans at the puerto balandra anchorage , near La Paz, Mexico

[Puerto Balandra, Mexico 2005]

We were often asked, “How do you afford it?” In fact, that’s probably the most common question we got when we met a land tourist or cruise line passenger on the beach. Usually the people asking the question obviously spent more on their 10 day vacation then we did all year. It can’t be answered in any meaningful way because every person has a unique economic situation and different priorities. However, since we bought the boat, went cruising, then sold it all in a relatively short period of time we can answer the more quantifiable question: “Hom much did it cost you?”

Neither of us are accountants but due to the wonder of internet banking records I can come up with a pretty good estimate. The following table lists all the major expenses we encountered from buying the boat, storing it for a year, cruising for a year and a half, then selling it. We owned the TimeMachine for almost exactly 3 years and lived exclusively aboard for 18 months.

Buying the TimeMachine
Asking Price $32000
Survey value $30000
Purchase Price $27000
Taxes1 $300
Sold included trailer -$100
Sold included 9.9 hp outboard -$250
New Tohatsu 6hp Outboard $1200
Outboard parts (kits and spares) $300
Inflatable Kayak $400
Used 10′ Porta-bote $850
Hand held GPS, VHF, Binoculars $350
Portable Generator6 $400
Cruising guides and charts $300
EPIRB $800
Paint, Epoxy and supplies $600
Fabric and hardware for trampolines and other miscellaneous projects $1100
Coyote Point Slip 1yr $200/month $2400
Boat US Insurance (1st year only)3 $300/yr $300
Mexican Liability Insurance (1 year)4 $200/yr $200
Mexican Fishing Licenses $230
Storage unit in Foster City $70/month $1680
Health Insurance2 varied $2240
6 week trip to US in summer ’06 $3000
Santos watching boat/cleaning bottom $50/month $150
Panama Canal Transit $650
New Tohatsu 15hp outboard $2000
Sold EPIRB -$600
Sold Porta-bote -$750
Sold 6hp Tohatsu Outboard -$750
General Expenses5 $23000
Selling the TimeMachine
Survey Value $28000
Asking Price $25000
Selling Price -$22000
Broker Fee $1500
Total $46500
 1 We were able to successfully avoid most of the sales taxes with some paperwork hokey pokey.
 2We were initially paying $70/month/person but they dropped us after a year due to a payment mix up. We then found international medical coverage that was only $300/year/person excluding treatment in the US. In the end this was a mistake because those laws which guarantee coverage of pre-existing conditions when you have continous coverage don’t apply if the coverage is through a foreign company.
 3Liability insurance is required to rent a slip at nearly any marina in the US. Boat US doesn’t offer insurance south of Ensenada so we allowed the policy to lapse as we were leaving.
 4We were only asked for this a couple of times. I think we could have gotten away without it. After leaving Mexico we were completely uninsured.
 5This estimate is based on our bank statements and does not included US income taxes paid during this period. It includes all other incidental expenses like groceries, eating out, fuel, booze, and beer. There are probably things in here that deserve to be line items but I forgot (or just got tired of revising the table).
 6The portable generator was a total luxury and it’s primary use was to keep the camera and laptop batteries charged. We also used it to run power tools. One disadvantage to using an outboard for power is that they aren’t very efficient at charging your batteries.

I may have missed a few things but the error is no more than a couple thousand. I can confidently say that the entire experience cost no more than $50k. The cost of ownership of the boat itself (discounting living expenses, fuel costs, etc.) was only about $6000 per year. I expect that this would be an extremely low number by industry standards.

Looking over the numbers a few obvious things jump out. Keeping the boat at the dock, even at the bargain price (for the SF Bay) of $200 per month, ads up quickly. Dock fees and insurance represented %10 of the purchase price of the boat per year. After leaving California, we didn’t pay marina fees of any kind. This is important because marina fees are almost always more expensive than we are accustomed to in the US. Remember that most of the world doesn’t have a large middle class and marinas are built for the rich.

Since we were able to store the boat at my Dad’s place in Texas for free, it may have been tempting to hold out for a higher selling price. However, we felt lucky to have sold it so quickly. A boat is almost never an investment and a neglected boat is probably the worst investment of all. Had we planned to stay in Texas or if we weren’t expecting a baby we may have made different decisions.

The TimeMachine was expensive for the amount of living space provided. An equally capable boat could be found for under $20k and maybe as low as $10k. Do a quick search on yacht world if you don’t believe it. Having a small and humble looking boat will save you money in many ways. The officials are much less likely to gouge you and/or ask for bribes and the local people will treat you better.

Buying a fixer upper can be tempting but is probably false economy. The extra cost of fixing the boat up, storage, and insurance will probably quickly eat up any initial savings even if you consider your own time to be free. The same thing goes for purchasing your boat too far in advance. You’re better off keeping a small day sailer until you are almost ready to go. That goes double if, like me, you aren’t much of a day sailor (Over the horizon or nothing!). Unless you live aboard, 5-10 years upkeep on your 40′ dreamboat will cost years of a cruising budget.

There are lots of people out there right now doing it for just a fraction of what it cost us. A practical minimum budget is probably around $800 per month for 2 people not counting the initial expense of the boat. You don’t need most of the crap in the west marine catalog. Our navigation electronics consisted of a hikers model hand held gps, a VHF radio, and a depth sounder. These are essentials but we met people without radios and at least one couple without a depth sounder. GPSs are so cheap these days that going without is silly, but I’m sure there are people who eschew those as well. We later bought a SSB/short wave receiver for listing to weather.

I’m not sure who said it but you’ve probably heard the maxim: “go cheap, go now!” That’s probably the best advice you’ll get. Ignore everyone (and it is nearly everyone) whose advice consists solely of things to buy. Whatever it is, chances are you don’t need it.


Monday, November 26th, 2007

[In lieu of some real foul weather, here’s a photo from Cape Foulweather on the Oregon coast. (800×600)]

We got up the other morning—or rather, I got up and Joshua followed three hours later—to the trees bashing against the side of the building and the windows sounding all ghost-mansion with the wind sucking in and out of the house. Outside was gray and the trees across the street were violently shedding the remainder of their fall leaves. Idly, I thought to just check the marine forecast because, well, wonder if it is windy out there if it’s windy over here. The offshore weather for N Oregon/S Washington was this: 45kt wind and increasing with gusts to 60, 25-foot seas with a 14-second period increasing to 30 feet later in the afternoon.

Oh my hell.

Not that small boat folk like us would be likely to be caught in such weather but it really drove home the fact that I was sitting comfortably (and still) in my robe on the couch with a cup of steaming coffee (decaf!) balanced precariously on the couch arm, and not freezing my ass off in my foulies on a lurching boat.

When I was growing up—well, actually always until getting on a boat—I always thought extreme weather was terribly exciting. Record freezes, heat waves, blustery wind, violent thunderstorms, even earthquakes… Clearly I led a very sedate life. I guess growing up in an area where extreme weather just did not really exist (non-coastal Oregon and Humboldt, but I always missed the really big earthquakes) made it all seem so exceptional and interesting.

All that changed of course the minute we started sailing. Suddenly wind was a two-timing, back-stabbing friend. You depended upon it and it could be brilliantly beautiful at times but there was a fine line between good and suddenly rather… unpleasant. That line was around 19 knots. (Or 29 knots if going downwind.) Of course other friends could gang up on you to make things difficult as well: wave height/period and temperature. If it was cold, that fine line hovered more around 9 knots for me. I have a low tolerance for unrelenting, damp, bone-crushingly cold wind. I know, such a wuss. They have yet to invent long underwear that would allow me to merrily cope with the above conditions. They have, however, invented duct tape, so at least any forced coping may be done without any bitter and vociferous complaints.

Naturally, we (cough, I) became neurotic weather checkers, never failing to listen to VHF weather in the US, then SSB and internet weather south of the US. No trips anywhere were ever planned without first convincing ourselves that the weather would not do anything… unpleasant. In hindsight, I feel we did pretty well, really, with only a couple unfortunate situations. At the time, of course, I was not a happy camper and Joshua was probably wishing we had duct tape on board.

Of course, the moment we landed in Texas, we stopped listening to the weather. A norther headed this way? “Ho hum.” Massive black flickering storms on the horizon? “Hey! Look at all that lightning!” A far cry from the liveaboard battlecry: “Batten the hatches and put the GPS in the pressure cooker!” Then we’d spring into action and neurotically pace the perimeter of the boat making sure everything was tied down. Afterwards, I would sit tensely below, gnawing at my cuticles and gazing up at the hatch counting seconds between flash and crash. If we were at sea, I tended to pester Joshua ala: “Tell me again the story about the little trimaran who didn’t get struck by lightning because it was MOVING…”

There are a lot of differences between living at sea versus living on land, the more obvious include the following: industrial-strength plumbing vs. porta-potty, refrigeration vs. tepid beer, or dinette/nav. station/bed-all-in-one vs. hell, a whole ROOM for each of those things. It is perhaps the more subtle differences that really make all the difference. Like which way the wind is blowing.

And while I feel you are at the mercy of your surroundings no matter where you live, you take for granted a sense of control over them when you are a land-dweller (even if it is a false sense in many ways). At sea, you take it for granted that you don’t have any control over the surroundings and you simply learn to not fight it, to just move with it and pay attention to things. You learn to appreciate simple things, like a cold beer, calm weather, clear seas, and duct tape.

Squash Pie

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Celedon Squash

Larry made a couple of delicious pies from this beautiful squash.

Trimaran Rudders

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Readers will remember that we had trouble with the rudder on the TimeMachine. I’ve been collecting rudder designs in my head for an eventual redesign for the rudder on the TimeMachine. Of course, that’s not my responsibility anymore, but I thought I’d post details of all the designs I’ve examined for other people who face the same dilemma. Also notice the various outboard motor mounts.

searunner 31 trimaran TimeMachine kickup rudder

searunner 31 trimaran TimeMachine kickup rudder

[Searunner 31, TimeMachine]

The plans for the searunner 31 included 3 rudder designs. The skeg rudder, the break away rudder, and the kickup rudder. The skeg rudder would have a fixed skeg permanently attached to the hull with the rudder surface at the trailing edge. The break away rudder design is very similar to the kickup rudder. The difference being that instead of kicking up in a box, the pintles would break free but still be repairable at sea.

As it turns out the kickup rudder box design included in the plans is simply not strong enough to handle the large surface area of the rudder. Our experience was that if the rudder kicks up while underway in a heavy sea, the forces involved simply destroy the rudder box.

If I were to build a new Searunner 31 from plans I would definitly choose the skeg rudder. It will give better control at high speeds and is shallower than the minikeel so you won’t have to worry so much about groundings. Unfortunately, retrofitting a skeg rudder would be a pretty big job.

Corsair F31 trimaran rudder Gimme Samoa

Corsair F31 trimaran rudder Gimme Samoa

[Corsair F-31, Gimme Samoa]

The Corsair F-31 design is functionally the same as the searunner kick up design. However, there are a couple important differences. The rudder kicks up all the way completely clear of the water. The surface area is comparatively small, the pintles are much closer together, and the construction is sturdier.

Corsair F31 trimaran rudder Quetzal

Corsair F31 trimaran rudder Quetzal

[Condor 30, Quetzal]

The Condor 30 utilizes a similar kick up design. I especially like the additional line for hoisting it clear. We could have used a system like this on the TimeMachine to prevent our rudder from being fouled. Again, the pintles are close together and the construction is very sturdy.

Custom 30 trimaran rudder Wing & a Prayer

[Custom 30, Wing & a Prayer]

This unique design on Bill’s custom trimaran uses a dagger board in sleeve. There is no kickup ability but the depth can easily be adjusted for current conditions. Note the forward rake that provides balance as the rudder is pushed deeper.

This type of solution would be very workable on the Searunner. It has the ability to provide a very large control surface when needed, but still allow you to operate in shallow water. This is the only design I’ve seen which can be adjusted in this way. None of the kickup designs can be used half deployed. They must be fully down while underway.

Kurt Hughes 30 trimaran rudder Side Effects

[Kurt Hughes 30, Side Effects]

The interesting thing about this Kurt Hughes design is the split lower control surface.

genesis 32 trimaran rudder Tri Harder

[Genesis 32, Tri Harder]

I don’t know much about this boat, but the rudder looks very similar to Jim Brown’s break away design.

Update: Two followup posts include photos of Jim Brown’s skeg rudder design and a custom Searunner 31 rudder based on Bill’s design above.

Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell