Archive for 2007

Mountain Stream

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

moutain stream, columbia gorge, oregon

One of the many mountain streams that flow into the Columbia Gorge. The dark under the trees and the bright off the water make it hard to get a good exposure of the whole scene. Instead, I made this HDR composite from several photos with different exposure settings. Click the image for a higher res version.

Baby Quilt

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

Baby Quilt

I finished my baby quilt and it looks pretty damned good I think. I started out with an old robe that has a somewhat Japanesey print thinking I would just supplement with a few other patterns. I ordered a few pieces of material from a cool site in Japan that has all these neat kimono fabrics and then decided that my robe didn’t really match after all. Another time. The shiny greenish fabric border is Vietnamese silk, the edging and back are navy-colored flannel, dimensions are 42×52 inches.

[Just some close-ups so you can see the fabric patterns better.]

I started out also with a “simple” sketch of randomly sized blocks that I thought would make things easy and give me a wide margin of error. But somehow it ended up involving all sorts of math and precise measurements and a LOT of little rectangles. Here is the original sketch and subsequent notation as I progressed.

The Insanity


Saturday, December 1st, 2007

Columbia Gorge, Oregon Spider

Columbia Gorge, Oregon (800×600)

Sorry mom. Objects in lens are smaller than they appear.

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.

Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell