7 ways to finance your sailing adventure

After an exciting beginning, long term cruising can become a fight for financial survival.

During some time spent cruising I observed some specific behaviors and strategies that people adopt to fuel the sailing dream.

I decided to classify this economical behaviors drawing 7 cruising types. Any attempt to classify individuals in typologies always carry the risk of oversimplification and generalization. In real life cruisers often adopt a cross-pollination approach, suitable case by case.

I originally found 5 categories that I think are classic ones, but then I felt the need to add 2 more, because times are changing, and, believe it or not, we are evolving.

Here are 7 types of cruisers divided into different economical behavior:

1. Harbor rats

A group of very dedicated and skilled cruisers, with budget limitations that enhances creative thinking. I saw some of them floating the hull above the waterline using truck tyre tubes and performing other crazy low cost, low-tech solutions. Their boats are put together with a collection of mad max type dumpster dived items. They soon get skilled enough to perform sketchy boat work for clueless and/or broken sailors that pay in boat parts, favors like car rides, boat sitting or food and shelter. They avoid sailing to countries with expensive cruising fees. If posssible they get to the point of deceiving officials by forging clearance papers themselves if that helps them save some bucks. 

2. Comfy retired or semi retired folks 

Easy spotted by their complex and heavy as hell stern arches and bimini structures that costed not only money but human lives during the fabrication. They usually live off their savings and or investments with different degrees of luxury depending on the case, but generally speaking on the lower end which translates in a very good ability to keep track of expenses. They try to save money nitpicking on contractors’ work and equipment, on food vendors and taxis and they may never leave the comfort of the harbor without a spare alternator but they don’t buy an available one because it’s more expensive than “back home”. They say they will pick up one next time they fly back, which is entirely dependent on the house or financial market returns. Due to all the crap on deck and above, their boats sail poorly and with great effort until they settle, usually in a part of the world which is cheap. Internet, chinese restaurants and booze are the expenses they struggle to keep in check.

3. World charter businessmen/women

They buy a big boat thinking that it will pay itself doing off-the-beaten-track charters and in general having paying guests. They settle in a country with loose regulations and tropical features but with good enough infrastructure for the guests to be able to reach the boat and for them to enjoy their vices with a lower price tag. As there are not many places like this around they compete with other boats over customers. This drives the price down and so the returns. Costs keep raising as they have to keep the boat in good shape because otherwise guests are going to leave bad reviews on the internet. Being in places where locals paddle dugout canoes and can only sell you fish and coconuts, where shipping is either unknown or crazy slow and expensive, and if you need a mechanic you need yo fly one in does not help with boat upkeep. Logistic hassles, booking fever and, sometimes terrible guests totally undermine the healthy lifestyle they were longing for, while their boats fall apart.

4. Technomads

These are the pioneers of the internet revolution, people with a real job they could do anywhere they can be connected, even on a boat. I’ve met editors, skype english teachers, cruising consultants (I know this should not be a “real job”) coders and other tech people, that enjoy few hours of work per day on a computer in exchange of money. Their focus is to keep the infrastructure going, making sure the machines stay out of salt water or anchoring closer to the cell tower even if there the swell is good enough for surfing. Marinas and cruising destinations are chosen and rated by the internet signal quality and other close by amenities like internet cafes and libraries. They sail to nicer places only during weekends or holidays. Usually before any long passage there is a deadline panic that obstuct the passage planning routine. Finally, after the second day on passage they dream about quitting their job and find a different source of income.

5. Part-time cruisers

They are experts in packing/ unpacking the boat for long term storage, and they are a tough cookie for any yard manager. Haul out fees and collaterals are the main expense on their books, together with airfare and unnecessary compulsive shopping items, boat parts and souvenirs that fill the extra check-in bags each way. They are usually able to ratch up quite a sum during their work period that they then spend almost instantly in the first weeks of cruising. By the end of the sailing period they look a lot like the Harbor Rat type, sometimes having to borrow money to get back to work.

6. Girls and dudes with patreon accounts

These new group started to emerge when people decided that Youtube was the perfect place to quench their sailing thirst. This stalking platform is the new stage for the soap operas of the sea, with the most succesful one that even provide income for the creators. The basic idea here is that a group of “angels” (or patrons) pay upfront for a product that involve a lot of work and investment and that once released, anybody else can watch for free on youtube. So far I haven’t met many of those in the real world, just a couple, and not the superstars. Because the videos were not paying off they were also resorting to other forms of hustle to keep the finance in check. The internet makes it a bigger phenomenon than it is in real life and yet, because homo sapiens is mainly here to mimic other homo sapiens, the number of people who attempt this way is increasing. They say commercial fishermen destroy the oceans, but I think people buying and eating fish are the real culprits. Same with the vlogging: blaming the hardworking bluecollars of the camera for our inevitable loss of intelligence and taste is a form of hypocrisy. The odds for financial solvency using this approach seem pretty slim, as at the moment it pays off only to the few who can gather enough views and convince donors to pay for their videos. This challenge sometimes requires to the ones a cost in hours of work and focus on their public image that hinders a little bit the idea of traveling for fun, and to take themselves not too seriously.

7. Grifters and visionaries

It takes guts to be in this group. We are looking at a very small number of individuals that are willing to sail no matter what. To conquer donors and enablers they need a higher purpose or challenge and to look as much as possible as clueless trainwrecks doomed to fail. Stubborness and willingness to go down to the lowest possible points of human dignity seem to help as well. This is only for the very motivated ones, like Rimas and very few others. The good thing is that you don’t have to put any money in it.

Do cruisers out there recognize other type of economical behavior? If so, please let me know in the comments.

The real cost of Cruising

Despite the complicated jargon and the many moving parts involved in sailing, it’s no rocket science, as some may say, and with enough practice and dedication it is possible to quickly become competent in using the wind to move through water, to navigate across oceans and near shore and to keep your vessel in good working order. However very few people seem to be out there enjoying the cruising lifestyle. That stands true even if today we benefit from a lower knowledge barrier than 30 or more years ago.

“Se fosse facile, lo farebbero tutti” says Max, a good friend of mine,talking about sailing and cruising. In English it sounds more or less like this: “If it was easy, everybody would be doing it”. I have been working on sailboats for 8 years now, but only after three years sailing on my own boat I am starting to realize what Max’s words really mean.

Despite what people who push their books, websites and youtube channels tell you, it is not for everybody. Like anything else, sailing and cruising has a cost. What I didn’t know is that is not merely a financial one. It is more complicated than that.

Sailing per se is easy. I say that because, in my humble opinion and personal experience, there is nothing too difficult about it. Despite the complicated jargon and the many moving parts involved in sailing, it’s no rocket science, as some may say, and with enough practice and dedication it is possible to quickly become competent in using the wind to move through water, to navigate across oceans and near shore and to keep your vessel in good working order

However very few people seem to be out there enjoying the cruising lifestyle. That stands true even if today we benefit from a lower knowledge barrier than 30 or more years ago, thanks to the GPS, reliable auxiliary propulsion, step-to-step DIY resources like youtube, to name some technological improvements that make sailing more accessible. It takes effort and dedication to learn how to sail, but that’s the easy, even fun part.

The costs of sailing

A recent article by Fiona McGlynn on BoatUS magazine takes a wide look into this subject while trying to answer the question why the so-called Millenials don’t own sailboats as much as the same age group did in the past. This arbitrary label apparently is stretching its ends and now I fall in this group too.

Like many times when you focus on age groups there is the tendency to fall into stereotypes and prejudice (see ageism), but I think the author did a good job collecting different voices on the matter, drawing a comprehensive picture of the phenomenon, and leaving open questions.

According to the article, the main reason for fewer young boat owners is a financial one. Despite this economical barriers we meet young people on the water that get away with the costs of ownerships adopting a shoestring approach.

This was definitely what we did when we bought Tranquility. We bought the boat that we could afford at the moment, cash, and we slowly put her and ourselves in the water, instead of taking a loan or waiting to save a huge cruising budget.

However there are also other dimensions that are easily overlooked, and those constitute nonetheless a cost that can be as limiting as the financial ones.

PERSONAL SACRIFICE

The workplace is becoming more and more competitive as the adult population increases and work longer in life, while the need for workforce declines. Having a good job today could be a good enough reason to stick with it. Successful careers entice people with status, income and a sense of a higher purpose. Workers without access to good jobs live with the expectation of finally landing one and focus obsessively on their career path and skill set. It makes it unthinkable to “lose ground” joining a more time consuming sailing lifestyle, like cruising your own boat on a sabbatical. The time we pass in school to develop these skills also extended, and an activity like sailing can be hard to justify in the overall picture, especially at a younger age.

FOMO

The Fear Of Missing Out while cruising means much more than losing the last trend or gossip on websites and Social Media because of limited internet access. It means fear of missing the joyful and sad events of one’s closest family and friends. Cruising distant destinations puts more obstacles between family visits, that require expensive airfare and logistic hassles. I sometimes regret not being able to participate to a group vacation, celebrate births, being close to beloved ones in face of deaths or personal needs, attending family celebrations like Thanksgiving or Christmas, or simply reaching out to a friend for a chat and a bite of food. While traveling it is always possible to meet and enjoy the company of interesting like-minded people, but the disconnection from family and friends is definitely an emotional costs of this lifestyle.

RELINQUISHING ASSETS

The assumption that you are able to keep your car, your apartment, health or dental insurance, retirement savings and also take off for a long distance cruise is an illusion for most. Bills ands cruising are mutually exclusive. There is definitely who is able to go sailing and take care of assets as well as a safety net back home, but most of the people we meet cruising don’t have such luxury, and have to risk and sacrifice their security for an endeavor that could end in a hole in the water.
On one side this situation is a gift, because it could bring a reboot of the system, and open up space in life for new and interesting projects. On the other side there is the risk that the “economy of staying afloat” could prevent any future move for lack of funding.

DISCOMFORT

There are good reasons why human beings evolved in the direction of living indoor and on land. Excessive heat or cold, light or dark, avoidance of bugs and parasites and bothersome if not dangerous wildlife, impacts from severe weather are some of the nuisances of outdoor life in general, and cruising in the specific. As you learn cruising, this is still an inescapable reality for many people on earth, and you could learn from their example how to deal with it.

One clear example is the simple act of bathing. What we perform everyday in our home bathrooms mutates when on a boat becoming more similar to what I learned from my grandmother’s stories. From the expectation of having pressurized heated water, you are happy when you find clean, spring water to fill your jugs.

Even if this experience can be eye-opening about the insane consumption typical of our developed societies, you find yourself thinking a lot of times about the long hot shower you can’t have, an air-conditioned room or the full collection of snacks and leftovers in a refrigerator.

CONSTANT PROBLEM SOLVING

Problems are the salt of life, but self-reliance on a boat that visits remote areas means being able to cope with a various number of problems. I learned it the hard way myself, as I watched my hands change look when I started to use them for manual hard work, instead of just for typing on a keyboard and playing basketball. It was a painful process like most of changes in life.

On a positive note, I discovered how rewarding solving problems can be, especially if you have to find creative ways and have limited resources. It enhances self-perceived efficacy and pride. As a downside, the feeling that reality constantly put you under test and challenges generates stress that could provoke avoidance of the problem in the first place and high doses of frustration and procrastination. A boat not able to perform can be a haunting entity and diminish the pleasures of cruising. While you grow in resourcefulness and competence, you definitely go through moments of feeling stuck and unable to progress, as it appears that there is always something unexpected that has to be taken care of.

 

I hope my words don’t sound excessively like a whine or a plead for pity. In this blog I attempt to overcome the solitude of my own thoughts and to help the process of sense making, a process that have to pass necessarily through the difficult parts as well as the good ones.

I can assure you that overall Kate and I are doing great and we feel very fortunate about our decision. I also want to avoid depicting us as martyrs or heroes because we deal with such harsh condition. I feel very privileged for being born in a certain geographical location and family, both of which I did not chose nor I can say that I deserve. I am blessed that because of this special situation I have the opportunity to travel and to gift myself with time and new experiences.

The reason I wrote about the less desirable parts of this lifestyle is because I wanted to be honest about it. There is a tendency to depict the entire thing as an endless vacation, full of awe and unforgettable moments. Worst, there is another assumption that you can only do it if you have the money, but as I hope to have shown in this post there is more than that.

I love sailing, but I would be a liar if I tell that it’s only fun. It is expensive, uncomfortable and demanding. Part of it is fascinating, but another part feels unnecessary and masochistic at times. Everything has a price. The cruising lifestyle has its own way to charge for the experience, but we are happy to pay this price because we really like the rewards. As one of my readers wrote: “once you are hooked, there is nothing like being out there with just the wind and the waves”.

Food on the Sea recipes: Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Some of our cooking tricks while sailing and living aboard may be useful to others that are interested in this lifestyle. Plus they are usually very simple and can be done in every situation, not only on a boat.

The picture of the spaghetti plate from the previous post generated many requests of recipes that I decided to write about it. Thanks to Hubert’s comment I am going to start a new section of this blog with posts about the food we cook aboard Tranquility called Food on the Sea. Some of our cooking tricks while sailing and living aboard may be useful to others that are interested in this lifestyle. Plus they are usually very simple and can be done in every situation, not only on a boat.

Life without a fridge

On Tranquility we don’t have refrigeration. This choice comes from our limited power generation which mainly consists in one 60w solar panel. This still allows us to be totally self sufficient on our electrical power demands. If we are careful we can run lights, fans, radios, pumps, instruments, laptops, tablets and other appliances/devices without need to plug into the grid or to burn fossil fuels to generate electricity.

Refrigeration would take a big toll on our system,and we will be forced to put more solar panels (where? surface on deck is limited) or to find alternative source of power to charge the batteries. As we learned that many people do without refrigeration, we decided to do the same. We also decided to renounce ice and to use the icebox as storage instead. Other cruisers can’t really believe that we are doing it, but the main excuse we hear about having refrigeration onboard is “I have a fridge because I like my beer cold!”. Well, we don’t have alcoholic beverages on our boat, so that solves the problem!

Without refrigeration, we are forced to use the groceries in order of spoilage and to buy groceries more often. We also rely on canned food and other shelf stable goods. Looking for dehydrated cat food for Beta, Kate bumped into a website which is a favorite among “End of times” preppers . Harmony House Foods sells freeze dried and dehydrated food of any kind (broccoli, onions, peppers, berries, literally everything!). We tried them and now we are hooked! For the future we would experiment with drying food ourselves, especially after we fish or bump into a bounty of fresh produce.

 

 

“Spaghetti alla Puttanesca” recipe   

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The ingredients in this recipe are all shelf stable. Of course you can substitute any of those with fresh ingredient, it would only improve the result.

Ingredients for 4 people:

Tomato sauce (1 can)

Pitted black olives (1 can)

6 Anchovies

Capers (1 tablespoon, minced)

Garlic (3 cloves, minced)

Extra virgin olive oil (3 tablespoon)

Dry parsley flakjes

Dry hot chili flakes

Spaghetti (1lbs)

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add the minced garlic, capers, hot chili flakes and anchovies. Stir until the anchovies dissolve into the oil, paying attention not to make the garlic turn brown. 1-2 minutes should be enough. Then add the tomato sauce, bring the heat to low and let the mixture simmer, steering periodically for at least 20minutes. As a final touch add parsley and the black olives chopped to your taste.

Separately bring a pot of water to boil. If we are in the open ocean where the water is cleaner we use half sea water half fresh water to save our water (and salt!). If you use all fresh water add two teaspoon of coarse salt ( a little more if you use fine salt).  Throw the spaghetti in and steer often to avoid they get glued together. Wait for the recommended time on the package but also taste them 1 or 2 minutes earlier to see if you like them. When it pleases your taste drain them in a colander, mix it with the sauce and enjoy it!!

The above recipe is just a guide. The actual pasta pictured above was made by Kate during a day when we were very low on provisions. She was able to literally open cans and in half an hour the magic was done. It was one of the best pasta I have ever tasted. Parola di italiano!

 

 

 

Keep the paint flow

The itch of going back to the ocean has often disturbed my ability to see all the gifts the Golden Isles provided us with, from wonderful friends to work opportunities, all surrounded by beautiful wilderness and by the warmth of a great sailing community.

Two coats of epoxy primer wrap Tranquility’s deck as I walk the dock in the cold morning, the first sunbeams reflects on the pure white forming little drops of dew on the surface. The hard work is slowing paying off and the grey tormented deck is already a memory. One more coat will hide any further mark of underlayer with an immaculate cloak, then the sexy two-part polyhurethane paint will have the perfect stage to play its glossy role.

Painting and sanding punctuate our days. The weather rules our schedule, as we are doing everything in open air, vulnerable to atmospheric change. We look for dry days, the warmer the better, but this time of the year in Coastal Georgia warm means humid and we have to adapt to good enough conditions. It’s always a little too windy or too humid or too cold. We don’t have the luxury to wait for the perfect day and we do the best with what we get. Other events, from family visits to work obligations, decide when we are able to continue working. We keep pushing but we can’t always walk at the pace we would like and our March deadline is getting closer every day.

Kate is also taking the lead in re-organizing our stuff to re-enter the boat with our long discussed PileSystem©. One pile is named Back to the boat, one is For Sale/Donation, one is PermanentStorage and one is Trash. There are more complicated subpiles that I still quite don’t understand, but I have a blind faith in Kate’s skills and I simply make myself available to follow orders, which for today consists in migrating everything we don’t need from inside the boat with the same formula: Store, Give Away or Dump.

As we work to change our mindset and we go through our belongings I am feeling a profound appreciation for the place we have been living for the last two years. The itch of going back to the ocean has often disturbed my ability to see all the gifts the Golden Isles provided us with, from wonderful friends to work opportunities, all surrounded by beautiful wilderness and by the warmth of a great sailing community. We and Tranquility went through a lot during this time, more than we could have possibly hoped for when we first launch from New Bedford, MA.

My parents recently visited us from Italy. It was their first trip to the US and  we showed them around and took them to our favorite spots in this part of Georgia. We weren’t able to see them all, as they are too many. Through their amused eyes I could see once again how wonderful this coast is from many different points of view. There will a be time for goodbye and as we approach it the feelings of gratitude and nostalgia begin to pay us a visit. But it’s not time yet, we are still here and we have to keep the paint flow.

Restoring an old companionway: the sea hood

The sea hood is a curious feature on the deck of a sailboat. You can picture it as the shell of  a turtle and the sliding hatch as its head, coming in and out. When open the hatch slides underneath the sea hood, when closed it comes all the way out.

The sea hood covers and protects the opening between the cabin top and the hatch deflecting waves that otherwise will put the hatch under siege making it a very good feature for a blue water boat. Water is so good in finding its way into things that trying to stop it requires the help of multiple agents, and here the sea hood comes into the game.

On Tranquility, our 50 years old Columbia 29 mki, the sea hood is built in solid teak, like the rest of the companionway. Functioning as partial beams the longitudinal elements of the structure strengthen the deck, which on Tranquility is fiberglass laminate with no core, and so it’s a bit springy. Beside being bulky heavy and complex, a fully restored watertight seahood contributes to the sturdiness of a boat.

The project steps are very similar to the ones I described in the sliding hatch post, with the difference that I had to work on the deck instead this time.

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The old teak of the companionway

At first I worked caulking all the gaps around the sea hood, using Teak Decking Systems product. The effort has the objective to avoid that water running on deck would sip underneath the wood.

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The frame of the sea hood re caulked

After that I proceeded rebuilding the plywood support. Again, I used 1/4 inch plywood because the sea hood has a curve and thicker plywood won’t allow to bend as easily. To reach the desired thickness and strenght I laminated two pieces one on top of the other.

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First plywood board installed and ready for laminating. This time I had to use small screws to set the plywood to the frame as there was no way to use clamps. The second plywood board goes on top of it and it’s coated with at least two coats of clear epoxy resin.

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Teak strips routed
Teak strips routed

To save some expensive caulking and to make the job easier I routed 1/8 inch slot into the teak strips with a table router I borrowed from Fernando. Fernando is a good friend of mine and a talented guitar maker, check out his work on his website.

Teak strips dry-fit
Teak strips dry-fit

I had to shuffle around the teak strips to find the best match. For how hard I tried to get the most precise fit, the curved surface put some challenges to this job.

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New Teak installed and set in place with epoxy resin and thickener

Such an asymmetrical shape required custom ideas to cajole the pieces into shape. In this case some hevy weight and flexible plywood strips did the job.

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Caulking operations underway

I proceeded filling the slots using the same caulk product. After taping the wood to make an easier clean-up, I used a cheap caulking gun (still on a budget…) to fill the slots. Following with a spatula I pressed the caulk hard down into the slots working two strips at the time and removing the tape along with the progress.

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The finished Sea Hood

A final sanding to remove excess caulk left a smooth surface. I then washed the teak thoroughly with a solution of water (75%) and bleach (25%) plus a couple of tablespoon of Sodium Triphosphate and finally applied three coats of Semco Teck Sealer.

I am glad another piece of the companionway is completed. It’s amazing how complicated it is. With components sliding into each others and pieces that have to be reinstalled in the correct sequence it resembles a puzzle game and I am very glad there are less and less pieces to get to the final picture.

Restoring an old companionway: the sliding hatch

This is my first attempt to write a blog post directly from my phone. I am moving around tranquility speaking to my phone and I feel very weird. If somebody was looking at me now would think I’m a total dumbass. Which may be true. Anyway I am here gathering the necessary tools to complete my next task which is to epoxy the top of the sliding hatch.

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The two pieces of 1/4 inch plywood have been laminated together with wood glue and clamped down to the hatch frame for one day to get the curvature. I need a drill and I have to find the right size screws so I open my screw container where I keep all the screws I find on board subdivided by length and type. This time I need 10 screws 3/4 inch long to secure the plywood to the frame. The screws are meant to press the laminate down to the frame while the thickened epoxy  sets. I can then remove them and the epoxy will hold the plywood in place. This way I will have a permanent perfectly sealed joint.

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The borders of the plywood wetted with epoxy

A good practice is to wet the surfaces with resin and let it set for 15 minute before mixing epoxy with filler to the consistency of a thick cream and laying it over the ledger. An easy way to do so is to take a ziplock bag and cut one of the lower corner then fill the bag with the epoxy and use it as if it was a pastry bag. Apply epoxy exactly where you need to squeezing the bag and moving along the edge of the frame.

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Once the plywood is firmly in place held by the screws it’s time to clear coat both sides of the hatch with epoxy resin, to prevent future intrusion of water into the wood.

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After the epoxy cured (12 to 24  hours) the old teak strips can go back in place, having care to number each one to find the better combination. Once the sequence is chosen, we have to work very quickly and mix epoxy and filler to attach the strip to the plywood. I ended up using quite a bit of resin and filler to fit all the pieces.

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The epoxy is cured and the whole hatch can be sanded down with a belt sender and the orbital sander to level any high spot. As you see in the picture old weathered teak can come back to the original color once the superficial layer is sanded off.

The right message at the right time

Mike_Tyson2

I want to thank Sarahbruner (as we spell it) for including this wonderful quote in her departure note. The entire note was rich of insights and mindful riddles, but this particular quote from Iron Mike literally hit me in the face.

In late October 2013 we had a special departure party in Williamsburg, New York (tank you Ashton!) to salute our friends before setting sail, including a special delegation of friends from Italy who travelled just for this special occasion. Every guest had to bring an envelope with a message for us, a sort of fan mail. The idea was to open the notes along the way, when we would feel sad or lonely or remembering our beloved people far away. Today we opened one after a long, long time, and we still have more to open. This means we have a lot of friends, and not so many lonely times.

message in a bottle

The content of the envelopes we have opened so far is various. We found heartwarming messages, poems, drawings, pen-drive with music, maps, jokes, spices, books and even clams (a particular currency you can use on the sea, thanks Nina).

We keep this messages as a special treasure, they contain more than we expected when we launched the idea. They bring us colors when it’s grey, refreshment when it’s hot, warmth when it’s cold. They send us back a positive image when we need it, as a mirror that only enhances our qualities.

We would like to take advantage of this holiday time to say THANK YOU again and again to all our friends and family who supported us and continue to do so. Today we had once again the proof that you are there when we need it.

SEASON’S GREETINGS Y’ALL

Launching sailboat Atom

The past week I had the opportunity to help James Baldwin to launch his Pearson Triton “Atom”, a 28 ft sailboat that James took around the globe twice. Atom got back in the water after an extensive refit. The Columbia 29 and the Pearson Triton are very similar designs, so Atom it’s a an ideal example to see how to fit Tranquility as an offshore cruising yacht. James and Mei made an excellent job with this refit and Atom looks better than ever. The northerly wind offered perfect sailing conditions in the Marshes of Glynn and we made it safely to the dock enjoying the day on the water.

Tranquility Voyage: Leg 2 Block Island RI to Norfolk VA – 385 nm

I believe there are mainly three reason that made this long passage possible: Tranquility, the weather and Roberto.

Starting from Tranquility I can only be happy about her. We purchased her following a positive feeling we had when we stepped onboard for the first time in a random yard (and positive reviews, especially on atom voyages website). We were anxious about testing her offshore, to confirm the accuracy of our intuition and the reputation of the Columbia 29 as capable of offshore sailing. The crew feedback is positive and unanimous: easy sail controls (reefing is a piece of cake), no sprays on deck (and on us), well balanced rig and performing sails (made in China) that allow to reach hull speed with winds of 10-15 kts. We felt safe for the entire trip, even during the most challenging moments.

We picked a very fortunate weather window departing Block Island last Tuesday at 11pm with northwesterlys blowing 20kts. The complicate part was leaving Great Salt Pond with the wind on the nose. We motored our way out the channel at about 1 knot, slow but steady, without pushing the throttle too hard worried about loosing charge and finding ourself stuck in a dangerous situation. As soon as we cleared the channel, we were in full sail on a beam reach passing Montauk and Long Island on our starboard side. The forecast was very accurate and we had costant NW winds with temperatures in 30s and 40s, cold but not too much. We experimented occasional light winds but for most of the passage we had constant favorable wind that made us decide to keep going and leave Cape May and Ocean City behind, aiming for Norfolk VA. A plan that SW winds forced us to abandon in favor of a stop in Wachapreague, 65 miles away from Norfolk. The perspective of having a dinner in a restaurant and a hot shower far outweighted one more night and morning at the helm. Navigating the salt marsh inlet was not a joke and we felt the mud under the keel more than once, but we eventually got there and had a great dinner, a deep sleep and a touristic morning waiting for the next high tide. The last portion of the leg was an easy and happy sail down to Cape Charles and the Chesapeake entrance where the approaching cold front got us and forced us to reduce sails and to a “sporty” cut to Elizabeth River and Norfolk; two long, cold and windy hours till we safely moored in Waterside Marina Sunday Morning at 2am.

The third and very important reason was our temporary help, Roberto. This passage wouldn’t be possible without him. Two crew and no autopilot would have been too extreme for a winter passage in the North Atlantic. We would’t have enough stamina and skills to do it. Plus Roberto is a kind of sailor I admire: even though he is a commercial licensed Superyacht captain with many years of experience he still has the enthusiasm and the feel for adventure to accept and enjoy such an unconventional and challenging trip. One image is representative of his contribution to the trip and Kate had the pleasure and the thrill to witness it: when she emerged from down below after her rest time she saw me and Roberto disassembling and reassembling the tiller while simultaneously steering the boat in choppy seas. His contribution was not only in terms of hands on deck, but he also suggested and performed important upgrades while keeping a joyful presence onboard. A fresh pair of eyes like Roberto’s couldn’t have come at a better time, when Kate and I needed a push and new ideas after the long, tiring and winding summer refit.

Now we are sitting in Norfolk, waiting for better weather, resting and upgrading our little home. We feel cozy in here and we can’t wait to continue our trip south along the Intracostal Waterway, a severe and interesting test for our electric engine as motoring will be crucial.

Liveaboard a self built trimaran

Michele and I share the same dream but follow two very different paths. I chose to refit an old slow monohull. He is building a light and fast trimaran from scratch. In both cases the vessels have the purpose to provide their owners with just enough comfort to sail the seas and live aboard.

In the warehouse

Michele and I were introduced by a common connection and started a conversation online. It’s a great sprint for your motivation when you find  someone with whom discuss your projects. Especially when your dream makes you feel like a weirdo among the people that surround you. That’s why the conversation became so intense and we shared a lot of our ideas and experiences about sailing and living aboard.

Sailing has always been in Michele’s DNA. He moved his first steps on Optimists, then he attended to sailing school. He continued to self-educate himself through a lot of miles sailed with his father on a formula 28 and 36 catamaran, and helping in building those boats.

Recently he thought of make sailing more than a hobby. He intends to  get the necessary licenses and start to work as skipper for charter boats, deliveries and teaching sailing.

Michele began the building of his trimaran three years ago, but it’s just recently that Michele is pushing harder as the project looks closer to an end. The 22ft boat named “Trimaranga” is taking shape in an empty warehouse in Bologna that his uncle decided to make available for the project. He says it’s about 70% completed but remains cautious about the final date. As we know very well, it’s hard to make plans with boats.

One thing is for sure: both Michele and I like to dream.

America's Cup in Newport

For the fair cost of 10$ I enjoyed the 2011-12 AC World Series Championship on the lawn of Fort Adam’s park in Newport RI. It was the Saturday race, with the speed trial and two fleet race, all in the hands of ORACLE Spithill that dominated the event.

Here some pictures taken from the lawn.

Fort Adams Newport RI
Lawn in Fort Adams
Race Course
Race Course, Narragansett Bay
The dominator of the day, ORACLE Team Spithill
Luna Rossa Prada Team Piranha

The importance of being legal

Scam, Ripped off, Trap

The new lesson I learned is if you can go legal, go for it. The attraction of offshore work and informal work relationships are like the siren’s call for people who like to travel around and discover the world, but it’s not risk free.

The question is: are you tough enough?

That is the question you have to ask yourself when joining a possibly illegal business, with a deal made on a handshake, surrounded by words and emails. “Tough” means are you able to protect yourself from scams and arbitrary claims? This doesn’t mean you have to develop the skills of a hitman, but it means indeed take your precautions when dealing with a business where nobody can guarantee legally for you (except for you!). Remember the best recurring villain are polite, smiling and warm.

The first thing is make a contract. Even if the contract is not a standard contract or within a union.  Have both parts agree on a statement, and possibily have it validated from a third neutral party. You can do the same thing going through your records later, (emails or other documentations) to reconstruct the agreement, but that’s a hard job. In a long term work relationship there will be a lot of things taken for granted and spoken agreements that will be hard to document in case of a dispute.

The second thing is trust your instinct. If you feel something weird is going on it probably is. Irregularities can happen but they can’t be the rule. A healthy business finds the way to solve problems quickly. If you notice customers have problems to be reimbursed or your payment is delayed more than once for not clear motivations something bad is going on. Small failures can snowball into a huge mess and without the necessary precautions you can be sucked in.

Third thing is have insurance.

Fourth thing is tell people what’s going on. Having outside opinions about things that involve you very closely is important to open your perspective. If you feel ashamed and isolated that won’t help you anyway. It’s important that you find in your environment people who you can really trust and that can also give precious advice. It helps to have “friends in high places”, and also to have access to specialists who can help you understand your rights and tell you exactly what to do.

Fifth thing stay cool. No matter how it hurts to be attacked and have your self esteem injured, no matter if you feel deceived by people you were counting on for your livelihood, the best thing is to transcend your emotional response and don’t let it drive your actions. Stay cool even if you feel like a dummy that has just been ripped off. Do not react emotionally, it is often the wrong move. Swallow your pride, let people help, and have an audience for your emotions. There will always be time to act wildly later!