Back on the Water and into the Wild (The Cruising Life has Begun):

Haul out to do some big maintenance-Check (May)!  Sea trials to ensure the work was done well-Check (June)!  Get out of the haul-out marina and into our cruising prep-stage area-Check (July)!  Update insurance coverage for cruising plan-Check!  

Now it’s time to ease into an “on the hook” lifestyle.  Although it sounds like we now have it made…the changes to this rhythm actually gets busier!  Mutual adjustments that each of us have to make (in addition to our work and personal routines) include:  weather & tide watching (constant), power usage habits and going ashore (versus just getting in the car and running our errands).  My role (as Captain, Chief Mechanic, Carpenter and Handy-Man …plus I consult on the side) adds more to my day when at sea or anchor.  Kimberly is a busy professional (consulting with clients as well…and doing doctoral research for her next book).  David (Crewman & Photographer) is very busy as we tighten up our new inventory system and ready the boat for sea duty.   A little about each of these and why it’s now different for us.

Weather & tides:  Where We position the boat is dependent upon these if we hope to be safe and comfortable.  I got lazy in Italy and on the hard in May and June…weather watching/research is an extra daily/hourly task.  Keeping all aboard informed as to how nature affects us is important as changing conditions impact what and how we each perform our crew roles.  We use a variety of tools to keep our eye on Mother Nature.  Our internet/App  favorites are NOAA’s National Weather Service, Predict Wind (App) and local news.  Our satellite favorite is Sirius XM Weather on our plotter. Our radar helps out to 48 miles when needed.  Our radio favorites are the WX bands on VHF, SSB Grib download frequencies and the variety of SSB cruisers nets that support conditions updates in their net formats. Chris Parker is our go-to resource.  The old fashioned tools include our barometer, thermometer and wind and cloud reading.  It’s a lot of info to deal with and it takes time to gather, analyze and make predictions for decisions on where, when and how long we stay or move to the safest anchorage based on predicted conditions.

Power Usage:  We have a robust setup aboard SV Take Me There.  1200ah of house bank supported by a 540W solar array, 460W of wind generator and a big 16KW diesel generator.  We are good stewards of green energy and strive to get better every day.  When on the hook we trim our usage way back and plan for genny run time to do things that require AC electricity like heating water for showers, canning food, making bread, washing clothes, making water and charging device batteries.  Our house bank easily supports sailing instruments and radio operations, lighting, charging phones, computers, fans, flushing toilets, Lectra-Sans, running pumps for water, ice maker, music entertainment and even a TV or movie period nightly.  What we don’t know yet is how much we will need to run the genny (daily, every other day, 3-times a week)?  That’s what we will find out this week as we are in our off-grid test/learn period.  More to follow as data is realized.

At the completion of our 5-day house bank performance test we are quite pleased.  We ran all systems necessary to be comfortable (minus Air Cond) which includes the following:

  • 2 x Fridges (110v)
  • Ice maker (110v)
  • Cabin lights & fans (12v)
  • Shower drains (12v)
  • On demand fresh water pump (12v)
  • Battery chargers for Thruster, Tools, device batteries
  • Anchor light (12v)
  • USB charging ports for phones and iPad (Drag Queen anchor watch)

As you might guess, we don’t live “spartan” at night.  We easily get through the night with a waking SOC averaging above 12.3 keeping us at or above 50% on the house bank by the time we run the genny around 8 AM.  By 10 AM, sun angle and wind are cranking up our solar and wind generator systems to do battery “finish” work after generator bulk charging.  During generator run-time (about 2 hrs) – we do a lot to maximize the “power moment” opportunities:

  • Water maker runs (60 gph)
  • A/C comes on to cool the interior (if needed)
  • Hot water is heated (26 gal unit)
  • Cooking for the day (electric tools) – includes coffee!
  • Washing a load of clothes (machine)

We had very little cloud cover and no rain during the 5-day test but it was HOT…averaging 96 during the day and low 80’s at night.  A great (but uncomfortable) opportunity to do the off-grid test.  Lots of above deck work & activities (shaded).  Keeping cool was the biggest issue!  The ice-maker struggled with cabin temps in the 90s but the fridges Rocked!

Before we decide to add more solar and swallow that expense we will do a bit more coastal cruising/sailing and collect more data.  We have space for 6 more panels on the new hard top but main boom shading is a consideration with up to 60% loss of panel efficiency.  Another consideration is a solar hot water setup – heating water being our biggest power demand.  More on that later.

Going ashore: This will likely be the biggest “planning” endeavor.  Our only “car” is now the RIB tender and two folding bikes…The adventure begins!  Lots of conversations circle around when we will next be in a location to “get stuff” we need.  Groceries, medications, project materials, parts…the list seems endless.  Going ashore is also dependent on location and weather which takes planning as well.  What used to be a 20 min trip to town can transform into an entire day’s affair!…If weather cooperates and “location” permits us to reach needed resources.  There is most often no free lunch – landing a tender could cost you something.  $$$ if someone owns the dock; time – if a free landing is a bit farther from the “spot for pay.”  Bringing the mother ship in for fuel or a pump out may afford you some limited free dockage but time may be slim – and coming off anchor and moving is another exercise in planning.

The Inventory System:  Why is an inventory of stuff aboard important?…so you can find what you are looking for!  There are so many small distributed storage areas aboard – we need every cubic inch.  David has tirelessly captured our parts, spares, tools, gear, stores and stuff in a free iPhone app that looks like a winner to us!  Contact us if you’d like details on what app we use and why.  This handy system has already saved me time and headaches and I am finding is very useful!

So – we are now officially on the cruising path!  I am writing from our newest location in Solomon Islands, MD on the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the Patuxent River.  Learning something new each day.  We are adjusting well and YES – we love it!  What the “old salts” say is right.  Get off the dock and go do it!…or you will spend all of your time preparing and never getting there!  I forced myself to provision for doing projects afloat.  More sailing than sitting still is on the agenda for the rest of the summer on the Chesapeake as soon as the hard top project is done (another 4-weeks of making custom trim and beauty pieces to finish the outer shell and trim out the interior).