Bottom Job

“Bottom Jobs” have to be done at least once every two years.  Every single year, if you listen to the folks who do the work!  Candide gets hauled out of the water about every 18 months so that a new coat of toxic paint can be applied under the waterline.  The paint is toxic enough to kill certain varmints (like barnacles and other growth) that interfere with the boat’s performance.  This page will explain exactly what’s involved with a bottom job.  Pay attention, because if you live aboard and ever plan on taking your boat out of the marina for a Sunday afternoon cruise, you’ll wind up doing this ever so often…

 

These guys (Paul and Geoff) are working hard to break loose a stubborn turnbuckle.
bullet Step 1: Remove the Stuff in the Way.  I imagine that yard workers much prefer to deal with powerboats.  To get a stink pot on the lift, all that has to be done is to move the boat to the travel lift, move the straps under it, and lift it out of the water.  Not so with a blow boat.  Candide has not just one, but two (jib and stay) “wires” that must be removed so that the boat can fit under the travel lift to be hauled out of the water.  Unfortunately, Candide’s forward stay had completely frozen since the last time she had a bottom job. Get More Information about forex robots on top 10 binary options demo as the website will have complete information about various forex robots and time taken for signing up with these robots is just 2 minutes, this system can be used by both novices and experienced people as they are very flexible.

The only way to free the turnbuckle was to literally destroy it with a huge crowbar.  Eventually, the guys got it free…and I had to order a new turnbuckle to the tune of $130.00!  Such is the first step…

Candide emerges from the water.
bullet Step 2: Haul the Boat from the Water.  Here we see the awesome sight of Candide being lifted clear out of the water.  Awesome because she weighs nearly 30,000 pounds!  All of that weight is supported by two straps.  Yep, two straps!   Trust me when I tell you that it’s nerve-racking to watch your love and joy be hauled clear out of the water with only two nylon straps supporting the entire vessel!  Nonetheless, this procedure has been done thousands and thousands of time on boats much heavier than Candide.  Never once have I heard about a boat slipping during a haul out!  Knowing this, though, doesn’t necessarily help when you’re standing there watching it being done…
Fouled propeller!
bullet Step 3: Inspect the Varmints.  The picture to the left is absolutely shameful.  Candide’s propeller is so fouled that it can barely churn the water.  It’s disgusting, gross, and pitiful even.  This propeller was so useless, in fact, that it took nearly six hours to move to my new marina…a trip that should have taken only two!  As you can see from the picture, there’s an impressive build-up of those cursed creatures called “barnacles” that have attached themselves completely around the propeller.  This action seriously inhibits the forward “thrust” that the propeller normally provides.  Considering that the entire bottom is covered with the same critters, it doesn’t matter whether the engine is used or not.  Even under sail, as fouled as it was, wouldn’t have made my six-hour trip any shorter!
Sprayed down!
bullet Step 4: Water Jet and Scrape.  Water at a billion p.s.i. can do some wonderful things for removing the growth under your boat’s waterline.  Here, we see a yard worker using a high-pressure hose to remove the barnacles and other growth from Candide’s hull.  Note that the boat is still on the travel lift.  In fact, she’s only a few feet away from the “service slip” from which she was hauled.  For environmental reasons, this is standard practice the the U.S.  All of those barnacles, weeds, slime, etc., will be carefully removed and properly disposed of from this particular location.  Maintaining a “Clean Marina” is very important to most service yards! 
On the hard!
bullet Step 5: Block up the Boat.  Now the boat is put “on the hard.”  The yard workers will place heavy blocks of wood on the ground and lower the boat on top of them.  These blocks will support the vast majority of the boat’s weight.  They’ll use metal stands to hold the boat in an upright position.  When everything’s all set, the straps will be removed and the travel lift will be moved.  When you click the picture on the left, you’ll see in detail how much better the hull looks after being pressure sprayed.  While it’s a bit hard to tell from this photo, the gunwhales (the wooden trim around the hull) is some 10 feet above the ground!  This means that you’ll have to use a fairly tall ladder to get onto the boat.  Believe me when I say that it’s a bit nerve-wracking to step onto the deck when you’re thinking that the entire boat is supported by a few flimsy metal stands! 
If you forget something, you’ll have to be creative in how you remove it from the boat!
bullet Step 6: Adjusting to Life on the Hard.  Trying to live aboard a boat that’s out of the water can be very difficult.  First, you’ll have to climb a ladder to board the vessel.  In the picture to the left (click to enlarge), you can see the top of an eight-foot ladder!  As you can see, it doesn’t reach to the gunwhales…you’ll have to step down about two feet to reach the top step (the one that has warnings that read, “This is NOT a step!  Do NOT use this as a step unless you have balance like the performers in Cirque del Sol.  Danger!  Warning Will Rogers!  Danger!”).  Because Candide’s A/C uses river water to cool itself, it can’t be used when the boat is on the hard.  This means that it gets very hot down below.  To top it all off, you’ll have to be very creative when moving heavy object on or off the boat.  This picture shows me lowering a suitcase full of business clothes down to the ground (I had an out of town trip that week).  It would have been a LOT easier if I had removed the suitcase while the boat was still in the water!
This worker is wearing a “moon suit” for protection as he sands the old bottom paint from Candide’s hull.
bullet Step 7: Sanding.  In this picture, you see a yard worker wearing a “moon suit.”  He’s covered from head to toe in a protective, disposable costume.  He’s also wearing gloves and a respirator.  No doubt he’s sweating profusely under all this garb and can’t wait until the job is done (I don’t think he can go to the bathroom wearing that stuff).  All of these protections are designed to keep the worker safe from the highly toxic paint that he’s sanding off in preparation for a new coat.  You definitely don’t want to breath that old paint or get it on your skin!  By the way, a lot of liveaboards do their own “bottom jobs.”  Virtually every marina in this country will require them to wear similar outfits, which costs about $300 or so.  The outfits can be used for several years, but they’ll have to find a place to store it on board.  At this point in my life, I’d rather pay someone to do this nasty job for me.
Apply the new paint!
bullet Step 8: Apply the New Paint.  It’s now time to start painting.  As you can see, there’s no need to wear an uncomfortable “moon suit” to do this job.  Simply grab a roller and start applying the stuff!  I chose to have Trinidad Bottom Paint applied to Candide.  The stuff costs about $160 per gallon and comes in a variety of colors…red, green, blue, or black.  Unfortunately, my marina was out of green…so I had them apply black rather than wait for a shipment of green.  It should also be noted that some marinas will only apply a single coat with their basic “bottom job,” while others will apply two.  At my current marina, they apply two coats as standard fare.  It definitely pays to shop around for you bottom job…two coats are always better than one!
Ready to go back into the water!
bullet Step 9: Splash Back into the Water.  Finally, the boat is ready to go back into the water.  Here, we see that the travel lift has been moved into place.  The hull under the waterline is jet black with brand-new bottom paint and a new sacrificial zinc anode has been placed around the propeller shaft.  “So what’s the big deal?” you may be asking.  Well, it took over five hours to sail Candide 11 miles from her old marina to the new one.  Today, I sailed her from the new marina to the old one…and it took only two hours!  Keeping the bottom clean and freshly painted is extremely important when it comes to the speed of your boat! 

Temperature Control

Question:  How do on-board air-conditioners / heaters work? Should I be on the lookout for anything in particular when looking for a boat with air conditioning? 


The Lillie Family wrote: 

Why on earth would you want air conditioning when you have all that fresh air? Make ‘wind tunnels’ that capture the air/breezes and funnel them below deck.

Doug Abbott wrote:

Very_ poorly, very_ expensively, and very_ noisily! You need lots of amps to run the AC. Most boat AC’s only run when the generator or engine is on. Kind of kills the peace and quiet and beauty of an anchorage, doesn’t it?

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You won’t need it; you only think you will. Sure, there will be days when it’s popcorn hot. You just do something else – go to the pool, go snorkeling or diving, go work on your tan, go do nothing, go sailing and work on your technique, go to the mall, go to the movies, go somewhere where you can cool off. You’ll acclimate quickly and learn to do things in the early morning and late afternoon or at night.

Buy lots of 12V fans. Those will be used far more than the AC.

Tracy Watkins wrote:

Built in A/C units work essentially the same way your heat pump does at home. The main difference being that the marine system picks up raw water and circulates it through a heat exchanger to reduce temp.

Stuart Jantzen wrote:

There are on board ac units that work off an inverter (110V converted from 12 V). They can be very effective. We have a regular window air conditioning unit (110V) that I have installed in the forward hatch. While at the dock, it works great!


What I decided (1998):


The last weekend in July, I visited approximately 30 boats spread all over the eastern coast of Florida. Every boat we visited was absolutely stifling hot! There is NO WAY I’d live on one of these boats without air conditioning–for fear I might drown in my own sweat! So, I’ve decided that air conditioning is an absolute must.

I did learn there are two types of marine air conditioners…window (hatch) units, and central units. I was advised by several people that the hatch units won’t efficiently cool a large boat, so I decided on a central unit.

(22,000 BTU) was about $1,600, and it cost $1,400 to have it installed. It works absolutely great! In fact, I let it run all night on full-speed just to see how cold it would get. Imagine my surprise when I woke at 4:00 in the morning, shivering, because the temperature inside the boat had dropped to 62 degrees (this is practically freezing by Florida standards)! Even during the day, the unit keeps the boat nice and cool.


Thoughts from 2000:

There are three ways to keep a boat cool in the Florida sun. The first is to create an awning, which is a fabric covering that is installed over the top of the boat. Typically, these awnings allow about 3′ of space between the covering and the deck. They have to be custom-made, are relatively expensive, and certainly hamper the sailing experience!

The second way is to install a “hatch unit” air conditioner. The problem with these units is that they allow a lot of the cold air to “escape” because they’re notoriously difficult to seal. Some people (insane, mostly), install these units in their companionway hatch. This makes it VERY difficult to enter / exit the boat!

The third way is to do what I did…have central air professionally installed. Quite frankly, having central air on a liveaboard boat in Florida is an absolute dream! I don’t have to worry about awnings. The system has a computer that is identical to the control units that one might purchase at Home Depot for central air. It’s smart enough to know what day it is and how cool I want things in the morning versus afternoon.

Perhaps the wisest purchase I’ve made since moving aboard is this central air conditioner. It does not interfere at all with my sailing activities (i.e, I don’t have to take apart an awning or remove a hatch unit), and it keeps the boat very, VERY cool during the summer. In fact, one of my liveaboard friends recently referred to Candide as a “meat locker” because of its climate controlled nature.

Central air is a great investment!

Thoughts from 2003:

One thing I failed to mention in the past five years is that the A/C unit aboard Candide is reverse-cycle.  That is, it produces both cold air during the summer and hot air during the winter.  I think I’ve already made the case for having cold air during the summer, but it’s winter now and I’m enjoying hot air to heat the cabin.  Last night, in fact, it dipped into the mid-30’s.  Quite cold for Florida this time of year!  Quite frankly, I didn’t know that the temperature had dropped so low until this morning when my fellow liveaboards were complaining about how cold they’d been aboard their boats!  During the winter, while Candide is docked (I have to draw shore power to run the heater), she stays quite warm.  The trick to keeping warm is three-fold:

bullet Reverse-cycle air conditioner.  If you’re going to purchase an air conditioner to keep your boat cool during the summer, it’s my opinion that you should spend a few extra bucks to buy one that can also produce heat during the winter.  Aboard Candide, it’s a simple task to throw a switch (“heat” and “cool,” they’re labeled on the thermostat) twice a year to keep the boat at a comfortable temperature year-round.  22,000 BTU’s of heat is a LOT of warmth!
bullet Ceramic space heater.  When it gets really cold in the dead of winter, I use a $30 ceramic space heater that I purchased from Wal-Mart.  It’s a simple device that plugs into a normal 120V outlet.  During the day, it keeps the saloon nice and cozy warm.  At night, I put it on the floor in the vee-berth to keep that cabin nice and toasty.  
bullet Electric blanket.  I don’t know why more of my liveaboard friends haven’t thought of this one.  They usually act surprised when I tell them that I have an electric blanket in the vee-berth.  I usually turn it on an hour before I go to bed.  When I crawl under those sheets, it reminds me of my college days when I had a waterbed with a built-in heater.  It’s so…warm!  The heat usually puts me to sleep in just a few minutes.  

“Why does one need so many sources of heat while living in Florida?” you may be asking.  Well, the primary culprit is the water temperature of the St. John’s River.  As we all learned in Thermodynamics 101, a dense, cold body of water will suck heat right out of the air.  Immerse a boat (filled with air) into cold water, and you’ll soon discover that that the water is stealing your warmth!  Hell, just in the past two weeks I’ve noticed that the boat’s tap water is much, much colder than it is during the summer!  The St. Johns is even sucking the warmth from the water tanks (not that I’m complaining…I like to drink cold water throughout the day…only now, I don’t have to put a jug of it in the refrigerator…it’s quite cold enough directly from the faucet)!

Perhaps now you’re thinking, “Well, gee, isn’t it expensive to pay for the electricity to keep a boat well-heated during the winter?”  The answer is (the environmentalists will hate this)…I pay the same amount for electricity no matter how much or how little of it I use!  There’s simply no incentive for me to “conserve” electricity because the marina charges $35 per month regardless of how much juice I consume!  So, my attitude is that if I’m paying one rate, no matter what, well…I might as well be warm during the winter!  Aboard Candide, you’ll find a primary heater, a space heater, and an electric blanket…all running at the same time during freezing weather!  This is one of the huge advantages of living in a marina that doesn’t meter the electricity consumed by each boat!

 

Seaworthiness

Question:  What type of things make a sailboat capable of long sea voyages? I’d like to have the option one day of sailing to Europe or perhaps beyond (this dream is YEARS away). What things should I look for NOW in a boat so that when I am ready, my boat will be, too?

Doug Abbott wrote:

The answer to that is two words: blue-water. A blue-water designed or constructed sailboat is many things. Most of all it is strong and conservatively rigged. No carbon fiber masts. No paper thin hull. No water ballast. No trick rigging. A blue water boat will seldom sail as fast as a weekend or coastal cruiser. Look for a sail plan and control that makes it easy to trim and control the boat. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

Did I mention simplify? The more the masts, the more the rigging and the more sails you have to carry. The thinner the hull, the poorer the deck to hull joining, the cheaper the hatches and ports, the more *stuff* that isn’t necessary, the less reliable the boat is. Fact: The greater the number of systems you have on a boat, the greater the chance (exponentially) of something important breaking.

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Time to cruise the docks, attend boating/sailing meetings, join SSCA, talk to boaters, and do some homework. You’ll get an idea pretty quickly as to what is considered a blue water boat. Fact: The overwhelming number of boats you’ll look at are not blue water designed and make no pretense of being so.

Tracy Watkins wrote:

Modern construction techniques and materials make for boats that are extremely seaworthy. This is and always will be a controversial subject. All of the new boats we sell meet the European Certification Standards for unlimited offshore cruising. This subject is complex and something that is better discussed in person or on the phone, as I am sure you will have a number of questions.

Stuart L. Jantzen wrote:

A well built boat is like a well built car. It will serve you for years if properly maintained. I suggest you read magazines like “Cruising” and “Sail”. Read what others have to say about what makes a good boat. The more information you gather the better decision you will make when the time comes. “Jantzen’s Joy” is a Dickerson. Dickerson is rated as one of the world finest sailboats in a book titled “World Finest Sailboats”.

What I decided (1998):

I think that Stuart is quite right; boats are built like cars. If you want to purchase a Rolls-Royce boat, buy a Hinkley. It’s built like a tank! The shrouds, for example, are solid steel–rather than the braided type found on most sailboats. Not unlike Rolls-Royce automobiles, Hinkleys are very, very expensive. It is not uncommon for used ones, built in the early 1980’s, to fetch a quarter of a million dollars.

So Hinkley is not for me. Yet at the same time, I want a boat that is well made and is as beautiful as a well-designed car. The fist time I laid eyes on the Hans Christian, I knew I had found my boat!

I suppose that the Hans Christian could be equated to a Mercedes. She’s solidly built, proud of her engineering, and has a certain regal, classic design (think “Marilyn Monroe;” a bit overweight by today’s standards, but a true classic beauty!). The deck of the boat is “dipped” in the middle–rather than having straight lines that are found on other boats. It is my understanding that this design encourages large waves to wash over the deck. The decks, by the way, are all teak–difficult to properly maintain, but they provide sure footing on a rough sea. The portals are solid brass, and the glass is three plates thick. The hull is exceptionally thick—from under the waterline to the top of the deck. She displaces 26,500 pounds with a 38’ LOA and 12’6″ beam. Quite heavy for a boat of her size. She’s equipped with RADAR and GPS. I wouldn’t be surprised to find SONAR somewhere below! The point is, this boat is made to sail anywhere in the world I might wish to go—and she’ll look damn sexy doing it!

The Hans Christian also has a teak deck. Not only does it look really cool, but it also provides unparalleled traction (much better than a fiberglass deck). This is important for me…as I will be sailing alone quite a bit and would like to remain ON the boat.

The Hans Christian doesn’t have a lot of room in the interior, which will take a bit of adjustment on my part. She does have an average amount of hanging closet space and tons of drawers. Unfortunately, the head and shower area is very small.


Thoughts from 2000: 

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been living aboard for nearly two years. I wrote “What I Decided” when I had first purchased the vessel and was used to large living spaces. When I re-read what I originally wrote, I had to laugh that I actually thought, “doesn’t have a lot of room in the interior.”

Quite frankly, I am the envy of many liveaboards at my marina. I have TONS of space on Candide! Sure, there’s no room for a 52″ television, walk-in refrigerator, or Jacuzzi. But, my God! I’m not living in a house! I live on a sailboat!

To quote Hamlet, “I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count my self a King of infinite space.” Quite frankly, I still have drawer space that is completely…now get this…completely EMPTY! I just don’t have enough stuff to put in them!

No…I have PLENTY of room on Candide. Lots of cabin space to put things. Lots of overhead space so that I don’t bang my head on the ceiling. A big salon that can comfortably accommodate 4-6 friends. Enough food locker room to store 4-5 weeks’ worth of groceries. What more do I need?

Thoughts from 2003:

Well, now that I’ve got over four years’ experience playing around on boats, I’ve come to learn what separates a well-founded ocean-going sailboat from a coastal-cruising weekend boat.  Besides a difference in habitat amenities (as described on the Types of Boats page), there are some things that any true blue-water sailing vessel should have as standard equipment and features that will typically be lacking on a coastal cruiser.   Some of these include:

Candide is a heavy displacement vessel at nearly 30,000 lbs with a 33′ waterline.
bullet Heavy Displacement.  The “displacement” of a vessel is a fancy way to refer to her “weight.”  It has been my experience that blue-water cruisers are generally much, much heavier than their coastal counter-parts.  Consider that most coastal boats at my marina that are actually longer than Candide often have less than half of the weight my boat has.   What difference does this make?  Well, in rough weather (like on my recent trip to Cuba), Candide managed to stay relatively comfortable compared to some acquaintances who found religion in making the same crossing aboard their 40′ Hunter.  The crew actually said, “We thought we were going to die!  Everybody except the captain was seasick, and we could feel the hull flexing in the waves!”  Basically, they bobbed around like a cork for over twenty hours, while Candide remained relatively more stable.  In general, heavier is better for an ocean-going boat.
This is a fin keel.  It is a little, tiny bit of metal that doesn’t provide enough weight for an ocean-crossing vessel.
bullet Full Keel.  The keel is the part of a sailboat that is filled with ballast (weight, usually from iron or lead) to counteract the forces on the sails.  Some boats have keels that are more or less bolted onto the bottom of the hull.  This is fine for coastal cruisers, but not the safest arrangement for heavy-weather sailing.  These keels have been known to literally fall off after striking floating objects at sea or getting caught in very rough weather.  A better alternative for off-shore cruising is a “full keel.”  These keels are built into the hull of the boat.  In fact, on Candide, it’s difficult to determine where the hull ends and the keel begins…as both are constructed from the same continuous mass of fiberglass.  The downsides of having a full keel are that the boat will generally be a bit slower, and the boat may not sail as well into the wind.  A huge advantage is that full keel boats will generally be much more stable at sea.  
 
bullet Thick Skin.  The amount of fiberglass used to form the hull greatly affects its strength.  Generally, the thicker the glass, the stronger the boat.  Back in the 1960’s and 70’s, engineers weren’t quite sure how much fiberglass would be required to keep a hull together.  Boats from this era are often way overbuilt (a good thing!) as a result.  If I had a limited budget, and wanted a blue-water cruiser, I would seriously consider buying an older boat built during this time rather than a more modern one.  Because, eventually, you see, those engineers got “smart.”  As time went on, they were able to figure out exactly how much fiberglass was needed to keep a boat somewhat safe.  This resulted in boat manufacturers using a lot less of the stuff to make their vessels.  So, a lot of modern coastal cruisers have a minimum hull thickness…which is not good if you should run aground on rocks or coral.  Nor is it good if you don’t want to “feel the hull flexing in the waves” as described by our friends above when experiencing rough weather.  
The standing rigging on Candide is 5/8″ stainless steel.  My God!  I’m developing a David Letterman hairstyle!  Ughhh!
bullet Oversized Rigging.  Imaging being at sea in 40 knots of wind.  By this point, you should have already “reefed the sails” by making them smaller.  This reduces pressure on the mast and the rigging.  Nonetheless, there will still be tons and tons of pressure on this vital equipment.  One of the last things you want to happen in these conditions is to break a shroud (i.e., one of the cables supporting the mast).  Should one break, then the pressure on the others will increase.  If another breaks, then you have a potentially life-threatening situation on your hands as you are in great danger of being dismasted.  Blue-water sailing boats will often have extra-thick shrouds (Candide’s are 5/8″ thick), while coastal cruisers will often have considerably thinner shrouds (Hunters often use 3/8″ on boats considerably larger than Candide).
 
bullet Lifeboat.  It surprises me how many coastal cruisers are willing to go to sea, even for just a few miles, with no lifeboat on board.  If you’re thinking of blue-water sailing, a lifeboat should be mandatory!  
The Icom 706MKIIG.  This is the ham radio that I chose to install aboard Candide. 
bullet Ham Radio.  VFH radios (similar to C.B. radios used by truckers), are a fantastic communications tool.  Unfortunately, they only work “in line of sight.”  This means that if you have an antenna at the top of your mast, you’ll only be able to broadcast for several miles away from your intended audience.  Ham radio, which I installed aboard Candide (Icom 706 MK II) can extend your communication range world-wide.  It also allows a lot of functionality not possible with VHF radios.  For example, it’s possible to be several hundred miles off shore (or on some desert island in the Caribbean), and yet be able to make phone calls to the United States for free!  This is possible if you’re able to find a fellow ham operator who is willing to make a telephone patch for you.  This is a LOT cheaper than using satellite phones or calling directly from the islands!  Ham radios also allow you to receive marine weather faxes…which can be downloaded to your laptop or printed directly to paper.  Having access to current weather faxes away from shore can help the captain make critical navigation decisions.  Modern ham technology also allows boats to send and receive e-mail; from virtually anywhere in the world!  Last, but certainly not least, ham radios allow you to talk to folks from all walks of life 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  So let’s say you take the missus to sea and the two of you have a big falling out.  She’s not talking to you.  That’s OK, though!  You can get on that ham radio and have conversations with sympathetic guys from all over the globe!  Of course, using a ham radio requires a license.  You can learn all about the legal requirements, available equipment, etc., by visiting The National Association for Amateur Radio.  Oh, and before any of you send me an e-mail asking the question…no, I do not yet have a call sign.  I only recently got my equipment installed, and I’d be tinkering around with it right now if I weren’t busy updating this website.  Give me a couple of months!
bullet Radar.  Radar is one of the coolest technologies to emerge from WWII.  It tracks Japanese Zero’s, German Focke Wolf’s, as well as destroyers and aircraft carriers.  On a cruising boat, it’s generally used for less exciting activities…like “seeing” though the fog while navigating an unfamiliar channel.  There are few things scarier aboard a boat than trying to enter an unfamiliar inlet in heavy fog at night.  With a radar, though, it becomes somewhat easier as the device will “show” you where the channel markers and shore are located relative to your boat.  It can definitely make you feel more comfortable with the situation!  Plus, you’ll be able to see any pesky Messerschmitt’s before he’s able to see you (that is, assuming he doesn’t have radar).
A passive radar reflector.
bullet Radar Reflector.  Perhaps even more important than having a radar is owning a properly-configured radar reflector.  Radar reflectors help other radar operators to see you more clearly on their screens.  These devices are specifically designed to make your vessel look larger (or at least show up more clearly) on a radar scan!  A standard sailboat mast might appear as a pin-prick on the radar screen of a large ship.  The helmsman of that ship might not pay any attention to just a “blip” on the radar.  But if that blip is big enough (or bright enough), it might get his attention so he can change course or slow down before running you over in the middle of the night!  Most radar reflectors are simple passive devices.  Some are merely aluminum “balls” that are hung from a shroud or halyard.  More expensive “active” reflectors use electronics to sense incoming radar waves.  Through pure magic, they’re able to send that radar an amplified signal…perhaps making that helmsman think he’s about to run into the Saratoga.  In any case, Candide uses a passive reflector and I know it works because I’ve been contacted by ships at sea who were about to run me down.  😉
Candide has small portals by design.  They’re made to withstand violent seas.
bullet Small Portals.  I know I’ve mentioned this in other places on this site, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to have solidly build (preferably small) portals if you plan on extensive ocean cruising.  Huge “windows” that are glued to the hull on weekend cruisers are not acceptable in rough weather at sea.  Small portals good; big portals bad.  If a boat has large portals, there’s a greater chance of them breaking and letting in water during rough weather.  Understand, though, that this is a big trade-off for a liveaboard person.  One thing I don’t like about Candide as a liveaboard boat is that she’s dark on the inside (my friends call her “The Cave.”).  Nonetheless, I can buy extra interior lights and bask in the knowledge that my portals will remain safe in most sea conditions.
A sea anchor may or may not make bad weather more endurable.
bullet Sea Anchors.  A “sea anchor” is a device used to slow down and stabilize your vessel in rough weather.  Most of them look like WWII parachutes made from thick nylon webbing.  Generally, they’re deployed over the bow of the boat when conditions are very rough.  They help keep the bow (the strongest point of the boat) facing into the waves.  This produces a more comfortable, and safer, ride for the crew.  At least, that’s what I’ve heard.  A lot of experienced sailors claim that sea anchors are more trouble (and indeed, more dangerous) than other methods (like heaving to) employed during storms at sea.  Candide doesn’t have a sea anchor, and probably never will.  Nonetheless, you may form the opinion that this is vital survival gear for your boat.  This is one of those things that everybody has an opinion about.
This is Candide’s sextant.  I bought it before I bought the boat as a type of motivation.  It sat on my bookcase for six months before I moved aboard.  It took Charlie Bengal (two time circumnavigator and New Jersey curmudgeon) three weeks to teach me how to use the thing! 
bullet Sextant.  I expect to get some e-mails about listing this as vital blue-water cruising gear!  😉  A sextant is a mechanical navigation device that allows the navigator to use celestial bodies to compute his position.  The sextant has been around for hundreds of years and allowed Columbus to discover the New World (or, to be politically correct, allowed Columbus to spread the evils of Western Civilization to the hapless, go-lucky, peaceful, virtuous and innocent natives who occupied what we now call North and South America).  In this age of the Global Positioning System (GPS), I’m sure that many of my readers are wondering why this old optical device should be considered important equipment.  Well, GPS works only because of electronics.  We all know that electronics are prone to failure (ever had your computer crash?  Spilled salt water on your cell phone?).  A single lightening strike can do a lot towards destroying electrical devices like GPS’s.  Even hand-held GPS’s are subject to battery failure, salt water, being dropped, etc.  To arm myself with as much navigation knowledge as possible, I bought an Astrolab IIIb sextant…and found an old salt who taught me how to use it!  By taking two sun sights (I’m not good enough yet to take star sights on a pitching and rolling deck), I can determine my position to within one nautical mile.  I simply feel better knowing that if GPS should fail while I’m far out to sea, I can grab my sextant and have an idea as to where I’m located.  Plus, it’s a lot of fun to learn the math and cosmology behind the sextant.  Finally, should I ever need to use my life raft, you can bet that I’ll try to grab my Astrolab and sight reduction tables before I abandon ship!
 
bullet Metal Through-hulls.  Most boats have several holes in the hull.  These holes allow the engine to suck up cool ocean water, the toilet to draw in water to flush the bowl clean, and the air conditioner to cool itself.  I’ve noticed that on most modern coastal-cruisers, the through-hulls are made from plastic (oh, I’m sure they’re made from some high-tech polymer with a fancy name, but they’re still basically…plastic).  Candide’s through-hulls are made of either brass or bronze (I’ve never been able to tell the difference).  In any case, they’re metal.  Plastic through-hulls, after exposure to time and the elements, can fail relatively quickly compared to their metal counterparts.  If the through-hull fails, water may enter the boat at an alarming rate…perhaps more so than can be forced over the side by the bilge pumps.  This can result in a sinking feeling, to say the least!  It is my opinion that any through-hull below the water line should be made of metal.  Others may disagree, but that’s OK.  I’m writing about what I personally find safe at sea.   
bullet Spare Sails.  On Candide’s second major trip to sea (Jacksonville to the Bahamas), I was raising the main without first having removed the ties holding the sail to the boom.  I must have really put my back into the job, because I ripped my main in half with the force of the winch!  Well, OK, not in half exactly.  But there was a 12′ hole in the middle of the sail.  This caused us to motor into the next available inlet to hunt down a sail maker who could fix the damage.  Had I had an extra main, I could have deployed it and kept on sailing.  Should I ever cross the Great Pond, you can safely bet that I’ll carry a complete set of extra sails (plus a sewing machine and extra sail cloth to make my own repairs).  The picture to the left shows a typical sailbag.
 
bullet Autopilot.  Does your car have cruise control?  Isn’t that a wonderful invention?  Once you engage cruise control, all you have to do is steer.  It makes long road trips a lot more enjoyable, doesn’t it?  Well, boats can be equipped with the equivalent of cruise control by installing a device called an “autopilot.”  An autopilot does one thing…it steers the boat.  The helmsman tells that autopilot a certain heading, and the device (either belt-driven, hydraulic, or mechanical) moves the ship’s wheel back and forth to make the boat head in that direction.  This means that the helmsman doesn’t have to manually steer the boat for hours on end.  Instead, he or she can sit in the cockpit and read a book while on occasion scanning the horizon for possible danger (e.g., other boats, the shoreline, etc.).  Unlike a car, it’s not possible to “pull over” a boat at sea to take a siesta.  Once the boat is underway, it’s a 24-hour, non-stop commitment.  Even if there are extra crew on board, somebody must steer that boat at all times.  It can be an exhausting experience…unless you install an autopilot.  A year ago, I had a Brooks and Gatehouse hydraulic autopilot installed on Candide (only because my crew threatened mutiny on the way to Cuba if I didn’t).  Until then, I thought that steering the boat was part of the fun…a challenge…traditional, even.  Well, I was an idiot!  It’s a hell of a lot of work to constantly man the helm for days and days on end!  Now, the helmsman aboard Candide simply presses a few buttons and the boat steers herself!  This frees up the crew to read books, cook elaborate meals, and actually get some rest while on watch!  The autopilot is worth its weight in gold!  
Candide has a hard-shelled sailing dinghy which stores very nicely on top of the butterfly hatch, beneath the mainsail boom (along with oars and mast).  Generally, my crew hates this dinghy because she’s so “tender” (i.e., she wobbles around a lot in the water).  Fortunately, I have good balance!  Plus, this dinghy is very easy to row or sail (try doing either one of those in an inflatable dinghy)!
bullet Dinghy.  A “dinghy” is a small boat (often inflatable) that is carried around on a bigger boat.  It is used when the big boat is at anchor, and the crew would like to go ashore.  As Candide is a very traditional boat, I decided on a very traditional dinghy.  No inflatable for me!  I wanted a hard-body dinghy (with matching paint job) that could be sailed or rowed back and forth between the dock and Candide at anchor.  My crew (who somehow wound up doing most of the rowing), eventually convinced me to invest in a small gasoline-powered outboard engine for the “dink.”  My God!  What a difference that little 2.5 h.p. Mercury makes!  I can anchor out a mile or two away from shore.  The crew and I simply hop aboard the dinghy and can be ashore in a matter of minutes!  Because we’re anchored out, I’m not paying any dock fees for the evening when we’re cruising (which, in Florida, would cost between $60 – $90 per night).  The dinghy allows tremendous freedom.  Anchor out, dinghy in.  It’s free!  I tell you, this crew of mine definitely has good ideas every now and then.  Personally, I think that a “tender” is required equipment for any cruising boat.  The cost-savings alone (by not having to stay at a marina) will quickly justify the price of the dinghy and the motor.  As to the hard-dinghy vs. inflatable debate (and there certainly is one), all I can say is that my dinghy is very tender (i.e., if you move around too much, you’ll fill the dink with water).  On the other hand, I don’t have to worry about holes in the hull like I would if I owned an inflatable.  Plus, my dinghy rows very, very easily compared to an inflatable (which is a consideration, if the engine should quit).  
bullet Handrails.  At sea, even in calm weather, Candide moves around a lot.  In rougher weather, she moves around so much that it’s impossible to walk down below without having something to grab a hold on to stabilize your movements (unless, of course, you’re fond of big bruises and/or broken bones).  Secure handrails down below (and above) make movement around the cabin at sea a lot easier.  In my opinion, the more handrails…the better.  In the picture on the left, I can find at least seven handrails.  How many can you spot?  Hint: Click on the picture to enlarge.
Plastic wine “glasses” hold the elixir of the gods just as well as their evil glass counterparts!
bullet Plastic Tableware.  When I first moved aboard Candide, I took my prized ceramic dishes and crystal wine glasses with me.  This mistake wound up costing me dearly.  One evening, some newlywed friends came over, and I poured them some Champaign into my leaded flute glasses.  And then I poured a bit more Champaign…followed by another round.  Eventually, one of the flute glasses fell onto the cabin sole and shattered into a gazillion pieces.  Oh, sure, I pulled out the vacuum cleaner and thought that every last piece was removed from the floor.  The next morning, I rose from my berth and walked towards the campanionway when suddenly, I felt the most excruciating pain in the sole of my right foot.  I couldn’t walk anywhere!  I had stepped on a small piece of broken glass. Every time I tried to dig out the glass with a pair of tweezers, I winced in the most painful expression ever to beset a sailor!  I couldn’t get anywhere near the glass, as the shard had gone clear to the bone and wedged itself directly against a major nerve in the bottom of my foot!  I managed to get help in stepping off the boat, and drove myself (barefoot) to a podiatrist.  Two hours later, and $600 poorer, the glass shard was removed.  Today, there’s a simply policy aboard Candide…NO GLASS, NO CERAMIC.  Period.  I drink my wine from plastic cups.  And you know what?  I really can’t tell the difference in the taste.  Glass is evil on board a cruising boat!

Living Aboard

Question:

What size sailboat makes a comfortable home? This is my largest concern—I want a lot of space, but I also want to make sure that I can sail the boat alone.

Hudson Harrison wrote:There are a lot of boats out there, and you should be able to get something that will do what you want in an older boat in that price range, such as a Whitby 42. One post won’t cover all you need. Books are good, and even Liveaboard Magazine has a web page www.liveaboardmagazine.com, or something. Power Boats have more room, and a trawler has plenty, but I wouldn’t take one of those things far out…it takes lots of fuel, and if the engine goes, well, you got no sail.

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The Lillie Family wrote:

Whitby is a good choice. It allows a lot of headroom. We recently purchased one and are preparing to leave this summer on an extended cruising with a teenage son. We are all looking forward to this. Make sure you have plenty of headroom, you don’t want to be bent over the rest of your life!

Doug Abbott wrote:

You’re thinking like a landowner. The bigger the space the more *stuff* you’ll stuff into it. Just what do you have that requires so much space? Rear projection TV and 5-channel digital sound? Acres of closet space for the suits and clothes you’ll never wear? Closets to store things you’ve probably never touched or can’t remember the last time you used? The need to roast whole oxen? What?

Contrary to TV and commercials – less is more. Tip: Look hard at the *stuff* you own and if you can’t remember the last time you used it, discard it. If you use it once a year, discard it. If you think you might use it, discard it. Need assurance? Move into a small efficiency for a few months before moving aboard. If you feel insecure, rent as many storage units as you need to dump this important *stuff*, the same *stuff* that’s holding you back from your dream, and try living without it. Think hard about what you _really_ need, not what someone tells you you need. Listen to you, not them.

Stuart Jantzen wrote:

41′ makes a nice size. With experience, a 41 footer can be sailed single handed but until you have that experience it would be best to have someone helping you. If you are coming from a house or apartment of house any size boat will seem very small. It is something you have to get used too.

Tracy Watkins wrote:

The size of the boat depends primarily on the design. I live on a 36 footer and am very happy. However, I have seen other 36’s that would not be acceptable. As a general rule, I would say 34-41 feet are in the acceptable range. I single hand my boat all the time, the newer boats make it easy to do this with a large boats. I would say that a modern designed boat in the 36-38 range is most likely to meet your needs.

 

 

No More Talking…Time to Act!

What I decided:

Size DOES matter! I visited plenty of boats that appeared to be fairly large from the specification sheets, but in reality were quite cramped. I went aboard a 36′ Benetau, for example, that barely has enough room to house a hamster…much less my 6’4″ frame!

I found that the CSY models offer a lot of room on the inside…especially since the decking goes clear out to the hull. Unfortunately, these boats are pretty ugly (in my humble opinion).

The Hans Christian that I chose is, of course, the most beautifully crafted vessel ever to set sail! (Ok, perhaps I’m a bit prejudiced, but what with all the teak and holly interior—I mean, come on! She’s gorgeous!). I think that Doug Abbott has it right…most of my stuff is in storage. My 6’ leather couch and matching chair…in a shed. My Harmon Kardon stereo with 4’ tall Infinity speakers…resting in a shack. My hand-crafted Italian bed and intricately carved chest-of-drawers keeps them company (did I mention that these things are for sale?). I honestly don’t miss them. The boat has plenty of places to sit and rest, and tons of storage! I can hang my business suits in the on-board closets, there are plenty of drawers for my underwear, and (get this)…I have built-in cabinets that are totally EMPTY!!! I simply haven’t found any junk to put in them! Room for “stuff” is not really an issue.

As far as my 6’4″ frame, I find that the Hans Christian offers plenty of room. I haven’t hit my head yet! I can even stand up in the head to do my business. I walk around the salon with total comfort. This 38’ home is small by most people’s standards, but it works just fine for me! And, of course, my home is nearly completely self-sufficient. I can move it at any time. If I don’t like my neighbors, I can simply release the lines and sail somewhere else. If the climate turns too cold for my taste, I can be in the tropics in a few days.

In short, I have EVERYTHING I need aboard this boat. It’s a great feeling of freedom that one can’t possibly imaging until it’s experienced first-hand!

Current Thoughts:

The stuff in storage is no longer for sale.  I got rid of it all in December, 1999.  I sold most of it to people who have boats at the yard, but also maintain houses.  My leather couch and matching chair?  At Tom Holland’s new apartment.  He does the painting and rigging at Ortega River Boat Yard.  My hand-crafted Italian bed and chest-of-drawers?  My best friend and First Mate, Bill Hoffman, is enjoying them in his home.  

But that Harman/Kardon stereo?  Well, I found a way to get that aboard!  It’s playing right now (I’m listening to the Pulp Fiction soundtrack).  The trick was to give up my large Infinity speakers and buy those little “cube” Bose speakers.  I cannot even begin to tell you how GOOD my stereo sounds aboard this teak-lined enclosure!  The sound simply reverberates off the wood.  Five Bose speakers and a sub-woofer…WOW!  

I also broke down and bought a 12″ television/VCR unit.  It’s nice to be able to run to Blockbuster’s to rent a movie and watch it aboard.  Several of my neighbors have satellite dishes to receive channels.  Personally, I don’t care much for the T.V., but I definitely like to watch rented movies.

Everything else, though, is gone!  I no longer maintain a storage unit.  There’s a certain liberating feeling that I got when my land-based possessions were sold.  Now, EVERYTHING that I own is either on Candide or in the trunk of my ’92 Grand Am.  

There’s a story behind using the trunk of my car for storage.  When I bought Candide and hired a captain to help sail her to Jacksonville, I helped him move some things from his car.  He popped his trunk and it was absolutely full of…junk!  He noticed my amusement and said to me, “I’ll give you one year of living aboard before YOUR trunk is just as cluttered!”

Well, he was right.  I used to keep an immaculate car.  No more…it’s now full of extra clothes, computer equipment, miscellaneous boat parts, a few books, and possibly a dead cat (I’m sure that smell has to be coming from something that once lived).  Anyway, if you plan on living aboard and having a car, I’ll bet your friends will soon start to make snotty comments about the things you manage to stuff in the trunk!  😉