Boat Maintenance Feed

A Silly Little Millimeter Longer

People are wonderful. People are funny. Cruisers are wonderful in funny ways. We like to think —because we are doing something so incredibly special and rare—that the cruisers we meet are also special and rare. Well, we are, and they are, but only because people are special and rare. This is a tale of people.

When we finally got back to the Guna Yala  in September (remember, those in the know spell it “Guna” but pronounce it “Kuna”) we anchored in the area known as “The Swimming Pool” to be near Jaime and IMG_2123Keith. They have since sailed east, but we remained, surrounded by pretty islands, great snorkeling, and new friends. Tate and Dani on S/V Sundowner are two of those friends. For similarities we can list: the cruising life, being social, love of food, love of music and card games, love of spousal unit, and a sense of humor. That’s it. We are far apart in age (20+ to 30+ years), education, and careers (they are scary smart, and I suspect Tate has a nearly photographic memory); and our Popular Culture meshes in strange ways.

As wonderful and funny cruisers, we are all willing to assist others, though EW and I are still far behind on the debits and credits list with S/V Sundowner. They loaned us their dongle so I could get online, Tate has given us many fillets from fish he has harvested, and Dani provided Tea Tree Oil that has been instrumental in helping heal EW’s shingles.

Also, Dani’s mom worked as a canvas maker for boats for a number of years, and helped Dani re-do all of the cushions and canvas on Sundowner. While EW was recuperating I began the interior cushion project, and Dani offered to help. I am not a fool and accepted with alacrity. We knew going into the project that the so-called professional’s patterning had been shoddy and that some of the cushions were not shaped correctly. I was determined to create new patterns and check them against the imperfect cushions. It’s a slow process, requiring patience, which is not one of my strengths. Enter Dani.

I had patterned the chart table seat, and the settee along the port side. (My “bible” for the project is Julie Gifford’s Canvas for Cruisers, the Complete Guide. I love this book and highly recommend it.) I made each pattern in the shape and size of the ideal finished cushion, and marked 1/2 inch around it for the cut line, just as Julie said to do. She also said that the edge pieces should be 1/2 inch wider than the depth of the cushion, and that the edge side with the zipper should be cut 1 1/2 inches wider than the cushion’s depth. Here we ran into….challenges.

The cushions were manufactured in Europe and are 8 and 10 centimeters in depth, not 3 and 4 inches. The wise cushion maker cuts the fabric the same size as the raw foam, with a 1/2 inch seam allowance on each side, creating a cushion exactly to fit the space and, packed into the fabric for a nice tight seat or back. While I have been uncharacteristically precise on this project, I was more characteristically  unconcerned about cutting the side panels and planned on “pretending” the foam was 3 and 4 inches, adding my half inch for the seam allowance to that.

Dani has an economics degree. Dani’s most recent position was as Budget Manager for the engineering firm that managed the construction on New Orleans's newest hospital. Can you say “Big Project”? Can you say “Detail Oriented?” Can you say “Number Cruncher?”

No kidding we had a 45 minute conversation about the silly little millimeters between 10 centimeters and 4 inches. We used conversion charts, one standard tape measure, and one metric tape measure. Dani computed and talked it through, “My mom said there’s always shrinkage in sewing, so if we go too small that could be a problem.” And later, “You know, if there’s too much fabric, the foam won’t compress to the right shape.”

It’s a puzzlement. (She probably has no idea where that quote’s from.)

IMG_2091In my new, patient, detail-oriented (“If I’m going to make the dang cushions myself, I am going to do it right”) persona I hung in there, assisted Dani in taking new measurements and cheerfully discussed the issues and millimeters involved. I was with her every step of the way. She was providing great insight and has become a friend; she’s helping me and I am grateful. I. Exuded. Patience. I was with her right up until she told me I’d have to cut the fabric at the 16th’s or 32nds. It just seemed to me that marking 3 and 9/16 is much more challenging that marking things 3 1/2. The lines on the tape are bigger at the 1/2 points. Furthermore, as the discussion continued, Dani showed me that she had computed we were talking about  0.07 and 0.055 inches in difference. This is not a chasm. This is a toothpick, admittedly the really good round toothpicks made in Maine, but still, we are talking the width of a toothpick, people.

We ended up agreeing that (1) I would cut the fabric for just a few cushions to start, and (2) I’d cut them on the half inch, and (3) if they were too loose I’d take that silly millimeter off, re-stitch that cushion and cut all others on the 16th of an inch.

Later that IMG_2113evening as all four of us got together in the cockpit, it came as no surprise to either of our spousal units that Dani is very numbers and detail oriented and that I am not. We are OK with that. Further discussions, ranging over a few days, reminded us that we are of different generations. My guess is that they won’t recognized the “Silly Millimeter Longer” phrase, either. We were surprised that they knew “Coneheads”. Tate reeled off at least six Conehead phrases, including “parental units”, “spousal units”, and “charred consumables”. We were stunned. Clearly they are too young to have stayed up for Saturday Night Live.  “The Coneheads were big in the 90’s,” said Tate. “No,” we wise older folk replied, “the Coneheads were definitely from the 70’s.

After some back and forth we learned that they had watched the Coneheadsmovie which came out in 1993, and they are too young to have seen the original sketches which aired from ‘77-‘79. 

The photo above is a perfectly “charred consumable” harvested and cooked by Tate. A couple of weeks prior Tate had made up a batch of Louisiana Red Beans and Rice, his version of Chicken Soup, for the ailing EW. I’m sure that helped his shingles heal more quickly. (See what I mean about the debits and credits? We cannot keep up with these people.)

Dani came over three times to help me pattern the cushions. On her last visit, we got brave and actually cut the foam to the correct size. She also, bless her darling heart, contacted her mom about sewing a curve into the back of the dinette cushions and her mom sent an email with detailed instructions.

We will sail back to Florida for a while, and Dani and Tate will go through the canal next spring to continue their circumnavigation. Like many other cruisers we’ve been privileged to meet, they are special and rare and wonderful and funny and we will miss them and look forward to seeing them again somewhere along the way.

Postscript. I almost forgot. When Dani worked with her mom, she used a software created for making flow charts in order to help her lay out the fabric. OK. First of all, the have a program just for making flow charts? Evidently they have more than one. While anchored in the San Blas, Dani found a free one on-line, downloaded it to a thumb drive and taught me to use it. It’s fun, and beats the heck out of using graph paper. Every cushion has a unique color so I can make sure that I have four pieces—top, bottom, and two side panels—for each cushion. I’m not going to finish this project until we get back to Florida, but I know I have at least 4 extra yards of fabric. Thanks to Dani and DIA Portable. (I have no idea how to make a flow chart, but I rock at creating colors.)

layout program one

Our Six Weeks In Linton Bay Marina

IMG_1768It’s been so long since I’ve posted regularly that I think we need a date line. I know I do.

June 22. We arrived in Guna Yala, and spent 10 days with Keith and Jaime on Kookabura. (You can read about our trip to Panama in the September edition of All at Sea, Caribbean and read about our week with Jaime and Keith in the October edition. My articles show up on line around the 20th of each month.)

July 1. Kookaburra left for Linton to leave the boat and fly back to New England. We stayed to enjoy the Guna Yala, and work on the boat.

July 24. Left Guna Yala for Linton Bay Marina, where we stayed on the dock for almost three weeks. Working on the boat.

August 6. Moved to the anchorage to finish up boat projects and prepare to leave.

September 20. After one abortive attempt to leave Linton Bay area, finally made it back to Guna Yala on a windless, clear, Sunday. The days blurred together. As EW says, “The projects were all-consuming.”

When we met up with Keith and Jaime on Kookaburra in June we had great hopes of spending time together, sailing, snorkeling, fishing, eating, drinking and playing Euchre before we both headed off in different directions. We did all of those things in Guna Yala and many of them while in Linton. Unfortunately, while in Guna Yala, a lot of their time was spent much like the golfer whose buddy died on the course: hitting the ball and dragging Harry. In their case, lifting anchor and waiting for La Luna.

Just as we arrived to greet them outside of Porvenir in June, our engine overheated. During that first wonderful week of sailing together we had to go very slowly when we motored. Once we anchored,  EW would try yet another fix but when we set off the engine would overheat again. This continued when they went back to the states and while we stayed in Guna Yala working on the boat, and enjoying the region.  The Monday Morning Quarterback in me  now says we should have followed them to Linton in July and worked on the boat during their visit home.

Here is what EW has done since we arrived in Panama (none of which was on the To-Do list):

First, while we were in Guna Yala he:

  • Replaced our fresh water pump with Kook’s salt water pump so we could access our water
  • Replaced the impeller and doing any number of other projects to fix the over-heating issue. None of which worked.

IMG_1816Later, when Keith and Jaime returned we sailed to Linton Bay Marina to meet them, and stayed on the dock for nearly three weeks. Thankfully the marina is under construction, so no amenities, but they only charged $10.00 a night. In July, no amenities meant no ramp to the docks and we could only fill our water tanks after the work crews had left for the day. It was rather surreal to see cruisers going up and down the docks with flashlights moving the hose from one boat to another. (We used to do the same thing during the day in very cold weather as we wintered on the dock in Maine, using one hose to fill everyone’s water tank).

While on the dock in Linton EW:IMG_1934

  • Returned Kook’s water pump  and replaced it with our new one—in a different location, requiring much angst and running new hose. (This should result in a pump that doesn’t need repair every couple of years.)
  • Cleaned and serviced the starboard jib sheet winch and the mainsheet winch.
  • Tore apart the engine, removed the heat exchanger and cleaned it. This was a massive project. So massive that things start to blur in my mind. Somewhere along the way the starting alternator died and he worked on both issues.
  • He found a great Alternator Guy in Colon, but that sentence does not begin to address the alternator issues, the fact that we had other electrical issues that kept frying the diode in the new starting alternator, and the fact that there is no such thing as a quick trip to Colon from Linton Bay Marina. (Of course with electrical issues, we weren’t moving the boat closer to Colon, either.)
  • Ultimately, the large alternator for the house bank died, too, and Isaac our Alternator Guy repaired it. All told, EW made 6 trips to Colon just to see Isaac the Alternator Guy.

In the meantime, Keith and Jaime hung with us on the dock, where the women beat the men at Euchre a few nights. (The men beat the women on a few other nights.) After a while, they decided to visit the Chargres river, a trip EW and I will make later in the year. They returned and anchored near the marina, by which time we had a starting alternator and were pumping big water, so we left the dock and anchored out as well.

But things weren’t all fixed, so finally, Kookaburra left to head back to Guna Yala, where we planned to join them in a few days. We hauled anchor on schedule, discovered the large house bank alternator wasn’t charging the batteries and reset the anchor back in Linton Bay within three hours of leaving.

(There’s really no way to make this funny.)

Now Issac is a great guy and he really likes us, but his English is only a bit better than our Spanish. We asked the Marina Manager, Adam, to translate for us. Adam and Issac went above and beyond, as Adam came out to the boat and Issac spent time on the phone with him and EW walking them through various tests, proving that the alternator was fine, and that it must be a wiring issue.

A thorough examination of the wires proved him right, and scared us to death. The good news is the boat didn’t burn down. Wires were melted in at least three locations. EW turned white, and spent weeks rewiring the engine, alternators, starter—all that jazz.

This of course, required trips to Colon for parts. Remember, there is no such thing as a quick trip to Colon. There will be a post about that. It may be funny.

I kept  trying to get back into writing mode, and to work on the few projects while EW had all access ports to the engine opened, and tools, boat bits, and wires scattered throughout the main salon, pilot berth, cockpit, and (occasionally) the galley. He appropriated  one end of the dining table to use as an electrician's workbench. The aft stateroom and head were untouched; in the forward cabin and head  various parts and boat things were stashed to make room for EW to work. There was not a lot of space left for me.

Heck, I’d have left us for Guna Yala..

We missed celebrating Jaime and Keith’s 30th wedding anniversary, and I was determined to get back to Guna Yala before they head East. EW completed the wiring job, but things still weren’t working correctly. He emailed and called the maker of our external controller.. We tried to find a marine electrician we could pay to come down to the end of the line, to no avail. We sought the wisdom of other cruisers. This was an incredibly stressful few weeks. Part of me kept trying to support and encourage EW who was struggling to work way outside his comfort zone. Part of me kept trying to keep positive: “This too, shall pass. This will be funny someday.” Part of me lost it some days.

It didn’t help that while Digicel is the best cell phone/data option in Guna Yala, it is not the best in Puerto Lindo. Like Florida, Panama is prone to lots of rain and pretty amazing thunderstorms. Evidently Claro’s towers can withstand this, but Digicel’s cannot. We often had two days of no coverage at all, followed by a day or two with only enough for a phone call, but no Facebook, emails, or ability to search the net for assistance.

Now that we’ve been back in Guna Yala for a few days, what can I say about the moral or lesson or atmosphere aboard La Luna?

  • The moral is a reminder that this cruising life is like every other life choice—you have to accept and the good with the bad. It helps if you can accept it with some humor. It helps even more if you have the skills to fix it. The best help of all is if there are two of you working in tandem, boosting each other’s morale, laughing with each other, and hugging at night (if it isn’t too hot to hug).
  • The lesson is that cruising plans are cast in sand. While we continued to miss Keith and Jaime and while I fret over time lost with them, and while this wasn’t  the ideal place to deal with these issues, it was a safe place and most things were available to us—even though they may require all day in Colon with a two hour bus ride on both ends.
  • The atmosphere aboard La Luna was mostly good. We didn’t getting enough exercise, but we gradually got things done, ate well, watched movies to relax, and worked together. We met wonderful people, cruisers, locals, and folks at the new marina, and since Jim and Christine on S/V Ullr were still around EW had someone to play music with a couple of days a week.

All is not lost. All isn’t anywhere near lost.

Updating the Chart Table

IMG_1041Chart tables are beautiful things. Ours is teak with a heavy lid and amazing hinges. Of course our chart table was created for La Luna when she was built 30 years ago. Before we bought her in 2002, various accoutrements had been installed that made it difficult to raise the lid past coiled microphone cords. In addition – well, charts.

Chart tables of yore (and maybe of today) are designed to hold charts for storage, and to allow space for working with charts and plotters and dividers and parallel rules on the slightly angled top. When EW and I took the Power Squadron’s Advanced Navigation Class, we more often spread the charts on the table because it’s bigger. The charts in storage were kept under the table with the tools mentioned above, and all were difficult to retrieve due to the cords mentioned above above. When we sailed in Maine, and all the way down the coast, through the Bahamas and to the Caribbean we used both electronic navigation and charts. The chart in use is usually on deck in a plastic cover, not on the chart table. The laptop, running navigation software, is on the chart table.

A chart table isn’t usually an optimum place for a laptop. In our case, it was a bit  too high to be ergonomically correct when seating and much too low for standing. When we lived aboard in Maine and I worked from home, my “office” was my seat at the dinette, because it was just too uncomfortable to use the laptop at the chart table. In addition, the large top and 1.5” fiddles caused us to worry that the laptop wasn’t secure in rough seas.

IMG_0545On our way to the Azores last spring, I had one of those epiphanies EW has come to dread: the kind that means A New Project! A New Project he had never considered! Knowing that he would have to do most of the actual work for this project, I presented it softly (for me), but I sold it very well. While we were on the dock in Horta, our first port of call, I convinced him to remove the heavy teak lid. (Sometimes I surprise myself with my powers.) We had no idea how marvelous the hinges were until we had to remove them. One of us held the lid, while the other worked on un-screwing many tiny-headed, long screws. Part way through the process we wondered if we’d be able to actually remove the table without destroying something.

So, now that we had removed this lovely, heavy piece of teak? What to do?  We knew that this project would not be completed for months, and we wanted to field test it, so the lid and hinges, charts, and tools were stored in a safe place, and I went in search of something about 2” tall that would serve as an interim base for the laptop. I found a cheap ugly green silverware drawer liner. Hey, it worked.

Here’s what I knew from the start:

  1. if we doubled the height of the seat cushion, we could sit comfortably and be at the right height for the laptop…
  2. if we  set the laptop inside the table, but raised 2 inches so that it was almost even with the front edge of the table everything would be at an ergonomically correct and comfortable height;
  3. plus the laptop would be set down inside the table, which would reduce it’s propensity to slide off the table top.

It worked great, and gave us an accessible place to store all the power cords for charging two cameras, a Kindle, an iPad, and an iPod.


So, that brings us to this time of puttering and “fun” boat projects in St. Thomas. (DEFINITION: “Fun” projects may not actually be fun to do, but are projects mainly dealing with the beautification of the boat, or to enhance our enjoyment of the living space. The person or persons undertaking the projects may not consider them fun in process.) I’ve been constructing cardboard models of laptop bases – ones that would allow us to raise it up 2 inches, have a place for a mouse pad, and provide the ability to tie the laptop down for really rough seas (seas that I never want to experience, but still).  I also wanted better storage for that charging gear, and other things frequently used in this location.

And note, we had to work around big honkin’ bolts that hold the Pactor Modem in place under the chart table. (Fortunately placed far enough outboard to still allow room for our legs under the table.) My first prototype (after the ugly green silverware compartment) was a bit elaborate, including the construction of multiple boxes. I knew he’d never go for it, so I set the idea aside and moved on to thinking of other projects, particularly one I’m contemplating using material from the old jib in order to make various open top fabric “boxes for open storage.

Image result for free light bulb clip artBrilliant Idea! Instead of asking EW to make wooden boxes or have me go from store to store to find bins or baskets to exactly fit the space, I could make small sail cloth boxes, to corral the stuff. On a passage, most of the stuff will be moved to a cupboard, so I don’t have to worry about it flying around. But cruising sailors spend more time at anchor than at sea, so that’s no biggie. This week, I planned the laptop pad, and presented the finished idea to EW, who promptly improved it. IMG_0502-001

Instead of a strong shelf supported by three braces running along the length, EW took two sheets of 1” PVC board, cut a rectangular hole out of one to allow the bolts from the modem, and  screwed them together from the bottom. At my suggestion, the top board is 1” wider than the bottom with the overhang at the back to allow for the cords to run to that side of the laptop. (One power, one USB for AIS.) One of the challenges I’d discovered during 9 months of using the prototype is that we had to protect the cords going into the laptop. The wide shelf will prevent the baskets from pushing onto the cords and memory sticks.

IMG_0530And the piece de resistance for the whole project: a little bridge to go over the USB connection on the starboard side of the laptop. It protects that port from damage, and provides an excellent rest for one’s wrist. Double Sweet!





IMG_0542This is still a work in progress.

  • Before our next passage, EW will screw the laptop support to the bottom of the chart table. He’ll be inserting the screws up from underneath the table just so he doesn’t hit the Pactor Modem. That would be a bad thing. Very bad.
  • I will make the sail cloth open boxes.
  • EW wants to replace the rough teak surrounding the instruments just behind the laptop with a piece of black starboard. When he does that, the far end (now an ugly hole) will also be covered in black but with an access port to the important wires back there.
  • At some point in time, we’ll install a little LED light, because the only illumination here is one of the high-powered 30-year old lights still on-board.
  • We’ll varnish the teak.

But in the meantime this works much better than it did when we had a chart table and lid, and it looks much better than it did with an ugly green silverware holder under the laptop.

AND! I love writing here. I’m writing more and now I can work without moving the laptop to the table, and we can eat dinner without moving everything back to the navigation zone.

I am a happy sailor. We are an outstanding team. Seriously. We each have different areas of expertise, and we each come up with ideas for all areas of the boat. He will have a sewing project for me, and I’ll have a power tool project for EW. It all works. And it looks wicked good!


Spring Cleaning


The act of … I don’t know, cleaning spring? I’ve never understood “spring cleaning”, though my parents certainly did. My dad used to clean the barn and attics twice a year, meticulously moving every box in both attics, from one side to the other, sweeping and discarding six months of dust, debris, the occasional animal droppings, and any items finally deemed to be unworthy or unneeded.

When I moved in with EW, Daddy saw it as his opportunity to finally get rid of my stuff. Of course, he had found and tagged every item and box before we arrived. Two tightly taped boxes were particularly heavy, and I questioned their provenance. “Say’s Barb’s Box,” said my dad. And they did, in large clear letters. I borrowed his knife and opened one to find that for the last ten year or so he had been dusting and moving – from one side of the barn attic to the other --- two hefty boxes containing my eighth grade rock collection. Trust me, the collection wasn’t worth it. He could have tossed both boxes with the spring or fall cleaning at any time and I’d never have missed it. Dad looked at EW and said, “She’s all yours now.” I was never really sure whether he meant me or the boxes of rocks. (Mainahs tend assign gender to inanimate objects in strange and wondrous ways.) He did make EW take both me and the rocks back to Portland.

To me, “spring cleaning” is the time for opening up the home, taking off the storm windows and putting on the screens; or for taking the winter cover off the boat and putting the dodger back on it. Sure, cleaning is involved but only as part of a greater process. So I was a bit flip in answer to a question posed by one of my Facebook friends back home in Maine:


Of course I offered a comment:

my comment

That isn’t precisely true, and it implies some disrespect of the friend and her post. In truth, I have a great deal of respect for her. She’s talented, very nice, cooks unbelievable meals and shares recipes, and even cooks interesting meals for herself when her husband is away. She’s impressive, and I am in awe of her, so I was  sorry for being flip, but I will probably never look at spring cleaning as she does, nor will my abode, whether on sea or land, ever meet the standards she sets for herself.

IMG_0482That’s OK. But it occurred to me that perhaps “spring cleaning” is a natural human instinct, more finely honed in some than in others, but still present. Because, really, I have been spring cleaning. In the past week, I’ve cleaned the oven and stove top, “deep cleaned” the galley counters, sink, and cupboards, created new containers for flavored salts we had purchased in the Canaries, designed a new configuration for our chart table to make it laptop friendly, and completed all of my regular weekly cleaning.

IMG_0504Furthermore, I’ve been happy about it. Joyful. I’ve been cleaning with glee, gazing up on the newly organized spice rack with pride and a sense of accomplishment. Face it, this is a psych. I don’t do “spring cleaning”, I do projects. I do projects in the spring. I do projects in the spring that require me to clean. I don’t like “spring cleaning, but I do like projects.

EW got caught up in the ritual, He is so delighted with how his varnish work is turning out that he decided to polish our old  light fixtures and the Cheoy Lee sign. He does the sign every few months or so whether it needs it or not. (Of course it does.) But we figured the lights hadn’t been polished for eight years. That’s what I meant by saying “I don’t do spring cleaning.” Over the past eight years I’ve dusted and cleaned those lights, but it never occurred to me to polish them. “M” would have done that at least once a year during her spring cleaning with a special non-toxic metal polish. I have a lot of respect for that.

We are delighted with how the lights look. So much so that EW said, “Note to Self and Spousal Unit: we should polish these again in five years or so.”

That’s probably tongue in cheek and we (he) will probably clean them again in three years.  I love the way they look and would like to say that I’ll keep them in Bristol condition, with regular seasonal cleaning. We all know that isn’t going to happen  Daddy would not be proud of this, nor would he be surprised. Sometimes I want to be more like my parents, my cousins, and “M”.

Ah well. as that great sailor, Popeye would say, “I yam what I yam”.


Rockin' the Boat Projects

Since we arrived in the Caribbean, EW and I have been either working on boat projects that are both Urgent and Important or worrying about boat projects that are both Urgent and Important. If you remember the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People  by Steven Covey, then you may remember the difference between “Important” tasks and “Urgent” tasks.

On a boat, “Urgent and Important” tasks are those that jump up and down and say, “Fix me! Fix me! Or you won’t be able to sail/run the engine/pump the head/keep yourself from sinking.” “Important” but not Urgent  tasks may nor may not be more fun/creative/satisfying, but they need to be done, sometimes only so they don’t become Urgent. Important tasks can be ugly such as servicing the head or the engine, or creative like making new cushion covers or curtains, or both ugly and creative such as varnishing teak or cleaning the oven.  

This month, EW and I have taken the time to set aside some of the Urgent and Important items to work on those that are Important. I’m still working on getting the laptop up and running, and I still had to submit our taxes to the IRS, but it was time to take a break from the corner office; similarly, EW is somewhat patiently waiting for the new jib, and will have to go up the mast soon to attach the new mid-stay, and his Urgent and Important things are still calling, “Me! Me! Me!”– but this past weekend, we started moving away from Urgent and Important, to the Important.

And we found that working on Important is much more empowering. Even if it’s drudgery, such as cleaning the oven. (Cleaning the oven is only urgent if it lights on fire due to the mess. That hasn't happened to me in a long time.)


IMG_0460EW chose to start The Varnish Job. This will be a Big Important Job as pretty much the whole interior needs to be brought to life. La Luna will be 30 years old this year; she deserves to be babied. I’ve been dreading this job, thinking we’d have to move off in order to sand and strip the wood, but EW has been thinking about it, evaluating the wood, and identifying the problem areas. He wisely opted to work on problems areas first, in little bites. A week ago he began his first project: the forward head, with just a bit of Project Creep to include the hatch surround just outside the head, and he has since expanded the job to include the dining table and a small shelf along the back of the dinette.

There will be more discussion about some aspects of this job as we go along, but let me pause to reveal his superior project segmenting idea. Some teak areas, such as the hatch surrounds, and the dining table, will need to be varnished with poly that provides UV protection. Other areas, such as interior trim and the teak cabinets will not need to be stripped and will receive satin varnish. (This may change as EW learned of and found a satin poly that has UV – something he didn’t know existed.) In any case, the special areas that will need stripping and UV poly can each be easily tackled in a few days. The plan is to identify such areas and work on a few at a time at a time, sandwiching in Urgent and Important tasks, such as moving the boat to the San Blas before hurricane season, and saving the cabinetry for later.

I have  a lot of writing to do, and need to tackle a number of on-line Urgent and Important tasks while we have Wi-Fi, so while sewing is on my list, I’m waiting until we are settled for hurricane season to begin major projects. Still, I have a long list of Important To-Do’s and this weekend I opted to clean the stove and oven. We each assembled our tools and protected the surrounding areas, and EW put on some tunes, choosing to play our rather extensive “60’s Mix.” 

As EW stripped and sanded the teak, and as I disassembled the stove top and began to clean, we listened to Chuck Berry, Patsy Cline, Duane Eddy, the Everly Brothers, a IMG_0325number of Motown acts, Elvis, and the IMG_0309early Beatles. The Beatles were followed by early Dylan, then more Beatles, who were followed by Peter Paul and Mary. And then I was delighted to hear The Monkees. It should surprise no one that I could sing along with the Beatles and the Monkees, while EW knows nearly every Bob Dylan Song.

And that’s how it went: the scritch of sand paper, the scrub of a good brush on stainless steel, and our off-key rendition of “When I’m 64”; or me dancing and singing, “Then I saw her face. Now I’m a believer.”  Peter Bonta, our friend, EW’s guitar mentor, and excellent musician, has said that he has a lot of respect for Michael Nesmith, and I reminded EW of this as I sang along with the Monkees. Of course, I didn’t remember every song, and a couple of lines surprised me. In particular one segment from “She” (written by Michael Dewolf, David Gavurin, Stephen Richards, Jarrod Montague, Philip Lipscomb, and Harriet Wheeler.)

And now I know just why she
Keeps me hangin' 'round.
She needs someone to walk on,
So her feet don't touch the ground.


So we worked and we sang along with more of the Beatles, and a lot more Dylan, and Tom Rush, and Booker T and the MGs, and Joni Mitchell; and we laughed and he made fun of “Bubblegum music” and I told him Dylan couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket but that his lyrics were poetry; and we did good work. Important work. Work that wasn’t required because something broke, but because we love the boat.

It was a good day.

Why La Luna Doesn't Have a Composting Head (And Why I Want One)


This post has been “stopped up” for over a year. Seriously, I felt that it had to be written for the edification of other boaters and because … well because s*!t happens. But I didn’t want to relive the moment and I hesitated to actually post this front and center on the blog. 

So, today’s actual post “Barbara Does Do Gooky” can be found on a page in the column at right. If you want a frank discussion about a head disaster aboard a cruising vessel, then click on the link above, or simply go to the page and open it. However this extra post is not recommend for the following readers

· Those who are eating

· Those who are squeamish

· Those who do not need to know how a marine toilet works

· Those who do not want to know what happens if a marine toilet doesn’t work

· Anyone who has never changed a diaper and gets sick thinking about it

You have been warned. Read, cringe and learn at your own risk. For the rest of you, the information below is much easier to take.

Why La Luna Still Doesn’t Have a Composting Head

If you choose not to head to the dark or gooky side, let’s discuss heads in a more oblique fashion. When we purchased La Luna 2002 there was a tiny, old holding tank under the chart table. We don’t think anyone had used it. More importantly, the boat wasn’t in compliance with Maine and US laws. EW liked Lectra San electronic marine sanitation devices, and had installed one in our SeaFarer-26 in 1987. Neither of us like holding tanks, and while in 2002 composting heads were presented at the local boat show, neither of us wanted to be the first on our block to try one. They were still a novelty among cruising sailors in Maine.

So we bought and installed a Lectra San in the aft head. A few years later, use of these devices was (we believe unfairly) made illegal in our location and we once again were not in compliance. By then, composting heads were more prominent and I suggested we look into it. EW was not interested and, since I don’t like “gooky” and didn’t know anyone who had a compositing head I didn’t press and I’ve regretted it. Instead, we kept the Lectra San in the aft head, and installed a holding tank in former storage space in the forward cabin, connecting that to the forward head. We should have purchased a composting head.

The Lectra San gave us problems every other year or so and  fixing it was messy and expensive. (Think a box of ick with electronics in it.) When it died in the Bahamas I vetoed spending more money on it, and we eventually pulled it, later using the at space for the new inverter.

As for my aversion to “gooky” I talked with a lot of people who have composting heads -- both Air Head and Nature's Head --  and knew that I can handle it – even if the inevitable issuess. I came this close (holds thumb and pointing figure ½ inch apart)] to buying one from a friend who had purchased a new cruising boat and found a brand new composting head in a box in the forward cabin. She would have sold it for a song. To me. I said yes, but then I had to ruin it by being honest. “Are you really sure you don’t want this?” “Oh yes. I think it would be gross!” And I replied (dammit) “You better talk with Boater A and to Boater B before you sell it to me. You may want to keep it.” She thanked me later. She was delighted with her composting head. I like being right, but that’s only a small consolation.

And that is why La Luna still doesn’t have a composting head, despite the universe giving me three opportunities to get one. So here we are with a hated holding tank, and two working marine heads, requiring four thru hulls and a deck port. (For a blast from the past about emptying the holding tank in Fort Lauderdale, check out this post.) While EW will continue to undertake necessary maintenance on both heads, when one of these goes, we will finally install a composting head and get rid of the hated holding tank.

This completes today’s normal blog post. For the informative yet gooky post, go to the link for the page. If you can handle the truth. No shame if you can’t (I couldn’t for years.)

The only time I’ve envied Cruise Ship Passengers: They visit Sint Maarten and get to play. I dealt with Gooky.



And that sunset at top? That's today's "pretty" and my apology for posting about heads and gooky. Sunset on April 12th at Honeymoon Beach, Water Island, St. Thomas.

The Dawning of Facebook and Other Recipes

This week's posts are fall in the category of fix-it/clean-it/cook-it. Fixing, cleaning, and cooking take up much of our "spare" time on the boat. We had Fix-it Monday, so here's Clean-it Wednesday.

Now that we are back in St. Thomas and have unlimited Wi-Fi (not necessarily a good thing for productivity) I’ve had the opportunity to notice number of cleaning recipes posted that use Dawn dish detergent as a primary ingredient. In fact, at least among my friends, it’s rare to see a posted cleaning recipe that doesn’t include Dawn.

Dawn ArticleIf one simply Googles “Dawn cleaning recipe”, one finds that a whole lot of bloggers post recipes that include Dawn as a major ingredient. No wonder it shows up on Facebook all the time. Since we and a number of our friends are cheap cruisers, and since Dawn is the most expensive regular brand on the shelves here in the Caribbean, I wondered whether Dawn was really required in these recipes. In fact, I wondered whether Dawn just had better press than the other leading brands of dish detergent and whether it wasn’t truly appreciably better. Guess it depends on your definition of “appreciably”. This post by Home Sweet Home, indicates that Dawn Ultra is one of the best dish detergents, though they recommend Seventh Generation higher because it also is a good dish detergent and because they conduct no animal testing. I have to confess, I skimmed most of this article because it was so long, but I do appreciate their attention to detail. Really. <Yawn>

Here’s the thing: There are a number of recipes for home cleaning products available in the Internet, many of which list Dawn as a major ingredient, though you can others which call for castile soap as well. This all started for me because of how friends and family and evidently the entire Facebook community posts recipes. A savvy blogger posts a recipe and tells you to “repost this so you can find it on your timeline”, then all of you (not me!) repost it without trying it out, essentially endorsing a recipe you haven’t used. I don’t do that. When a recipe for cleaning products, dinner, or dessert looks good, I copy it and paste it into Word. If I like it, I may remember to let you know, though it’s more likely that you’ll hear about it in a cockpit discussion than on Facebook. As for a cleaning recipe, whether with Dawn or castile soap, they all seem to use water and vinegar. Some add tea tree oil, and others add lemon juice. My general cleaner spray bottle currently has a mixture made up of 10 ounces of water, eight ounces of vinegar, and  2 ounces of Joy, because it was cheaper than Dawn. I may look for Seventh Generation and I always have castile soap on board, so I may switch to that the next time.

As for Dawn, when I was in a St. Thomas warehouse store this week (Thanks to Barb Hart the First for taking me.) there was a display of large bottles of both Dawn and Joy. The Dawn cost several dollars more than the Joy. Two ladies were standing near me and I asked them, “Do you think Dawn is worth that much more?” They answered in the Caribbean version of a Maine “Da-ow!” which is a polite way of saying “Hell, no!” And followed up with, “But the Joy is finished.” That is the Caribbean version of “all gone”. Indeed, while the shelf had signs for both detergents, the savvy Caribbean shoppers had purchased all of the Joy, leaving cases of Dawn for the rest of us.

IMG_0165I’m currently using one of the household cleaning recipes and have a spray bottle of the stuff made up with the following: 10 ounces water, 8 ounces white vinegar, 4 ounces of lemon juice and 2 ounces of dish detergent (Of course the original recipe called for Dawn.)  I use this in the heads, on the galley counters, and on the bane-of-my-existence companionway steps.




IMG_0167Spray liberally with the stuff, let is sit for a bit, scrub, rinse with fresh water. Works as good as any of the more expensive and abrasive cleaners, is cheaper, and is better for the environment. If something is severely stained, I sprinkle the area with baking soda, spray with the home-made cleaner, swirl it around a bit with my fingers and let it bubble before scrubbing.




Finally, just today one of my FB friends posted something from “Northern Belle” (I didn’t know there were northern belles) with instructions on getting oily stains out of clothing. I’ve saved it to Word, but haven’t tried it, yet. (I did include the link so you can find it if you want to try it). Of course, one of the ingredients is Dawn.

Procter and Gamble have a powerful marketing department.

Wicked powerful.

Happy Anniversary to La Luna. Thirteen years ago, we signed the papers and closed on the boat, and that is no April Fool story. 

Posting At Sea

Lately, I’ve had a few phone, on-line, and Facebook conversations about posting blogs while cruising. Since I am still organizing the new laptop and haven’t tackled photos yet, this is a good time to post one final essay that doesn’t require pretty photos of Caribbean harbors and sights.  And honestly, if you aren’t planning to cruise on a boat, you really don’t need to read this post. It’s all about boat stuff and isn’t funny.

While back in Maine, with help from our dear friend Lynnelle, I opted to move my cruising blog from Blogger to  the Typepad platform. I wanted more control over it and thought that I wanted the option to make money on the blog in the future. Typepad seemed easier than Wordpress, and I was very pleased with an on-line course they offered. At the time, we were living on the boat in a slip with Time Warner cable wired in, so I had excellent Internet access.

I would write a post and post it.

I would write a post on-line, send up photos one by one, and post it.

Those were the days.

Once we started cruising in 2010, I learned that all Internet access isn’t equal and that it’s difficult to get on-line when one wants to. Connectivity was a challenge as we sailed down the eastern seaboard. I rarely had Wi-Fi on the boat, but usually found bars, laundry mats, and other places where I could gain access to the Internet. Still, writing posts on-line in real time was no longer feasible.

Somewhere along the way I was introduced to Windows Live Writer. It is my favorite Windows program and it’s free. When we first met, Windows Live Writer was a stand-alone program. Now, it’s bundled with Windows Live Esssentials, but you an opt to download only this one portion of the bundle. Windows Live Writer allows me (and you) to write posts, complete with formatting and photos, while off line. In Grenada I would write three or four posts a week, usually on Sunday morning, and post them from the bar on Sunday afternoon during the music jam. Windows Live lets me post them to the blog as drafts, and then I open each draft, check for formatting, add keywords and categories, and post  it. Typepad lets me post immediately or schedule it for later. When I’m doing things right (writing three or four wildly inventive posts with photos, sending them up all at once as drafts, and scheduling them) I can have a week’s worth of posts up with less than an hour of actually time on-line. Windows Live Writer works with Wordpress, Typepad, and other blogging platforms. Seriously. Don’t leave home without it.

But none of that works when we are truly At Sea. For that, I use the SSB, a Pactor Modem, and Sailmail.

The SSB radio was one of the items that was “in the box” when we left Maine. As in, folks would ask, “Do you have a wind generator?” We would reply, “Yes, it’s in the box.” Same thing for the SSB, the Pactor Modem, and a myriad of other important boat items EW honestly didn’t have time to install before we left. The Wind Generator, AKA Gramps, became one with La Luna while we were in Hampton, Virginia. The SSB/Pactor Modem did not truly become a part of our life until EW got help with the final part of the installation in Georgetown, the Bahamas.

Prior to that, we were largely unconnected in the Bahamas, a problem that caused me to panic a bit while in Berry Islands in the Bahamas.

While we used the SSB/Pactor/SailMail combination for weather, emailing, and the occasional blog post prior to our Atlantic Crossing, the system truly became the heart of La Luna while we were really at sea and at anchor across the Atlantic.

The SSB and Pactor Modem are units one (such as EW) purchases, installs, and connects on the boat.

Sailmail is our chosen hub, because we don’t have HAM licenses and we sometimes must email for business.  Many folks who have their license and don’t need to email editors opt for Winlink.

In either case, post no photos, keep the emails short, and try to teach friends and family to forget that there is a “reply” button on their email page. Typepad provided my blog with an email address for posting, so I simply have that address in my contacts list on the installed Sailmail software and write posts while at sea. The subject line becomes the title of the post. Easy-peasy. Family and friends are given our Sailmail address so we can receive email – something that is very important to me – and we can order daily weather reports and Grib files.

If we had installed the SSB/Pactor combination prior to getting stuck in the Berry Islands, I might not have panicked.

I like being connected.

Next on my list here in St. Thomas: 1. Making photos happen on the new laptop.  2. Editing posts from the crossing. 3. Editing posts when I was without laptop.

Staying connected takes work.

Fortunately We Are On the Dock in Tenerife

IMG_8366Unfortunately, we may be here longer than anticipated. The past four days have been interesting – mostly in a good way, and when not in exactly a “good” way we can resort to “Thank Goodness it Happened Here!”

Fortunately, we had a great sail for the first 24 hours from Graciosa, and we and our sailing friends (and extra weather support) believed that we had a shot of making our way west and south to beat the nasty front moving in.

Unfortunately, the front came early, and the winds shifted two days sooner than had been predicted by all sources. On Wednesday morning, we found ourselves beating north of Tenerife, which should have been a clue, especially when we had to tack to avoid getting too close to the island. Shortly after noon  I was able to get the day’s GRIB files and realized that we were skunked.

Fortunately, we were only 40 miles from Marina Santa Cruz in Tenerife.

Unfortunately, the wind and waves increased  immediately after we had tacked to our new course, and we found ourselves beating in 20-35 knot winds and 6-8 foot seas.

Fortunately, we main and jib were already reefed.

Unfortunately, Casey, the auto-pilot does not like (is not set up to like) handling a beat in strong seas, so we had to hand steer. EW took the first shift and I worried about being able to handle it when he tired. We had to prepare for 4-5 hours of this.

Fortunately, EW dumped the main (let out the mainsheet so that sail wasn’t pulling – much) and we were still able to sail at 5.5 – 6.5 knots though it was much easier to steer the boat. When my turn came, I held her just fine for over an hour and a half until we had gone far enough past the point of the island for the waves to diminish. At that point we used the autopilot again and tootled along for another hour or more. (It all runs together.) At some point I opened two cans of chili and served it up with butter bread. We felt better.

Unfortunately, we would have to motor the last 12 miles as we had not been able to hug the coast on the way south. We took in the jib and turned to the west in 40 knot gusts. The winds come off the mountains and do strange and amazing things in the Canaries.

Fortunately, we were close enough for cell coverage and I was able to call the marine before they closed at 1900 (7:00 PM) and confirm they had a slip.

Unfortunately, EW realized on our way in that the alternator wasn’t charging the batteries. We are once again on a European dock with no access to local power.

Fortunately, locals told us about Jose, the alternator expert who is amazing.

Unfortunately, he may not be able to find the needed part on the island.

Fortunately, all of our neighbors are OK with us using the generator in the afternoon because ..

Unfortunately, while we are in the midst of a storm and very glad not to be outside, there is no sun and the wind swings from 8 knots to over 30. The wind generator doesn’t charge the boat with fewer than 15 knots and it cuts out when the winds top 30.

Fortunately, all Spanish, French, and German sailors – most of whom hardly hear the generator over the wind – were very forgiving.

Even more fortunately, of the two boats we would bother most, one is not living aboard and we’ve already made friends with and broken bread with the captain and crew of the other boat.IMG_8415

IMG_8421Most fortunately of all … on Thursday morning, I scooted to one of the most wonderful food markets we’ve seen and purchased everything needed to create a Thanksgiving for two: grande pollo, butterflied by the butcher, potatoes, squash, apples, fresh herbs, and white wine. I made a small feast, the first Thanksgiving I’ve commanded since the year we moved aboard. We shared two pieces of pie for Jose to take home to his wife, and invited our new best Irish friends, Kevin and Irene over for pie and wine after dinner. I’m going to keep feeding them because they are closest to the generator.




So on this day after Thanksgiving, I am grateful for many things:

  • The opportunity to seen many parts of this side of the world on our boat with the love of my life.
  • La Luna once again offered up a broken part where we were safe and able to get a repair or replacement – someday.
  • Tenerife is a lovely island, with public art, some greenery, and  if we lived here we would have a dog.
  • In fact, we have a neighbor dog, Canello who is a beautiful, multi-lingual, 9-year-old Golden. He likes to have his ears scratched. I like doing it.IMG_8368
  • We are tied to the dock in a protected marina. (We heard one sail boat battled 30 foot waves off of Lanzarote and called for assistance. They were safely towed into the harbor.)
  • Family and friends who love us from far away, and keep us up to date on what’s going on in Maine, Florida, Buffalo, Boston, California (hint, Favorite), the Caribbean, and the Pacific.
  • Someday … someday … we’ll actually leave the Canaries and sail west to the Caribbean.

IMG_8394In the meantime, we wait to hear about the availability of parts, make new friends, and – once the weather clears – visit a bit of this island. This town has a tram! How cool is that?

POST SCRIPT: Yes, you will note that we have not moved the bed back. We thought it was too much work to remove the dinghy motor from the master stateroom, and move the mattress, and put it back in four days. We take turns. Last night I had the lovely sea bunk and EW had the settee. Tonight we swap. We occasionally meet each morning for a cuddle in the sea bunk. (Once again with the oversharing.)


POST-POST SCRIPT – Finally getting this up on Sunday morning here (0940 my time, 0440 your time). Storm, rain after the storm and spotty Wi-Fi as a result prevented getting on-line at the marina. The alternator is working perfectly. Jose is brilliant! We plan to leave for Guadeloupe on Tuesday, December 2. Today, we are sight-seeing in two cities (One just a tram ride away.). Won’t get to the mountains as they are horribly clouded over still. Next time. If we visit the Azores again as planned, we will head straight for Tenerife after Santa Maria –despite the ridiculous tax.

What Would You Have Done?

Here are some multiple choice questions for you sailors and cruisers out there.

1. If you need to repair the dinghy, using various forms of toxic substances and goop would you..

A. Wear quality shorts – the kind that have zip off legs and become pants?

B. Change into work shorts that have been stained and torn?

2. If you opted for B and gotten white 5200 Fast Cure on both legs of the shorts, would you?

A. Ball them up and place them in the sun in the cockpit in a manner that does not allow the 5200 from adhering to the wood?

B. Tell the half of the crew that is adept at removing stains so that she may work on them?

Note, in both cases, B is the right answer.

As you may have surmised, EW opted for A. In both cases. At least he prevented anything else from getting gooped.

I was nearing the end of my laundry morning, and was heading up to put the final load into the drier, when I discovered the shorts. Truthfully, EW had mentioned that he’d gotten stuff on his shorts and “should have changed before starting this job.”


He also said that he was planning on throwing out those shorts on his next trip ashore. First, he was going to make and eat his lunch.

I, being the consummate sailing partner stopped everything, got out some work gloves and towels, and used toluene (proffered by EW between bites), to get almost all of the goop off the shorts. (In fact, if he had been able to answer “B” in question 2. I might have been able to remove all of the goop. Then I put them in my small bucket to soak in a lot of water and a bit of Amazing Roll-Off.

I am reminded of when Favorite lived with us. Early in his high school years he opted for the low-hanging, three- sizes-too-big, and six-inches-too-long pants. As girls became more important, he developed a desire to not look like an idiot and chose a great pair of jeans that actually fit. (His three parental units were thrilled.) Unfortunately he wore them to work at the chandlery (not a bad choice) and spilled a can of bottom paint on them (An accident, but not a good move), went home and called me immediately. (Excellent choice.)

I directed him in soaking the pants until I got home from work. It took three washings and a huge amount of an organic cleaner we had on hand, but those jeans looked like new when I was done. Favorite did it right.  EW knew all about it, but apparently didn’t learn from Favorite’s example.

Good thing I love him.

There are three reasons I wrote this post:

1.  It seems on this cruise that we have been getting along so well and acting so in tune that I find little to complain about in my usual funny manner. I miss that – and I can think of a few friends who miss it, too.

2. When I nominated Neil Strenge and his blog Mishaps and Memories for the Liebster Award he was very kind in mentioning my book and blog, saying: Barbara is living the dream, and set off from Maine for  life aboard. Barbara writes with a witty, easily read style that will have you laughing our loud!.. and has a book, Harts at sea, that I highly recommend. Her descriptions of the obviously, ever so patient, EW are entertainment in their own right!

That “ever so patient” description of EW is a lie. EW is loving, talented, and good-looking; he has a great sense of humor, has only once ever complained about a blog post, and is resigned to being “the topic.’ He is not patient. (Neither am I but I haven’t been described as such in a popular blog.)

3. I forget the third reason – guess only two were important.

I’m not sure whether the shorts will be entirely 5200-free, but they will be wearable in public and will not yet become boat project only shorts. That’s the important thing.

Well, that and I still love EW.