Fireboy/Xintex Carbon Monoxide Detectors…

I recently learned something interesting about CO detectors which has prompted me to post this…..

I didn’t realize that newer CO detectors (made in the last decade) have a built in timer, powered by a small lithium battery that counts down the service life of the detector. This service life was recently shortened to five years due to UL standards. This timer starts at the factory when the unit is assembled. A detector I purchased about 18 months ago, that I installed, began malfunctioning and I sent it to the manufacturer for testing. As it turns out it was manufactured over seven years ago and had reached its “timeout time”. I wish I could recall where I purchased it so I could avoid buying from that place again since they are obviously selling units way past their shelf life with very little service life left. I didn’t realize how pricey those things have become ….MSRP of $166 ….ouch…if you buy one be sure to check the circuit board for the manufacture date before you leave the store or install it. Fireboy/Xintex did offer me a unit for $120 but fortunately I can buy one at West Marine for $119 minus the holiday discounts so that’s not much of a deal. Hope this helps someone else avoid this issue….

When you (and you will) hit something…or…things that go “bump” on the water

It seems that a great many aspiring sailors are hesitant to go and do things that might result in a potentially embarrassing but otherwise harmless bump with another marine object. It saps their enjoyment of otherwise glorious experiences. I am here to tell you that it happens, is happening as I type this, has happened and will happen to everyone who spends a significant time on a vessel of any significant size (over 25′) and in any significant wind or current…(sometimes even not so significant).  While there are techniques to minimize these occurrences… happens and is inevitable so don’t stress over it…please.  Is it fun? No….Would you prefer it didn’t happen? Of course….Does it diminish your experience and value as a part of the sailing and boating community? Absolutely not.  Do you think that guy or gal doing 30kph in the no wake zone stays awake at night worrying about when he will do that again?  Haha…they certainly don’t seem don’t stress about it (or even notice) and neither should you.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t continually strive to improve your skills…that will always generate a sense of pride in your accomplishments……just realize that you weren’t (as one of my close friends pointed out after a particularly grueling docking maneuver) “born with a rudder hanging out your rear end, were you?”

Where does this obsession come from and how do you deal with it?

I continually find myself obsessing over when my next “collision” will take place.  My nightmares are filled with images of me crashing into a variety of fixed and mobile obstacles, pilings, shoals, freighters, mermaids…some at speeds our boat could never dream to attain…..doesn’t really matter what it is, I do it in my daydreams, regular dreams and in my visions of landfalls and docking maneuvers.  I’m not really sure what the particular psychology is behind this haunting condition but it is apparently rampant in the sailing and boating community.  I have seen enough forum posts about getting in and out of slips, around marinas and down fairways to fill a fleet of dump trucks if they were all printed out.  I have read about others obsessing over the embarrassment of rebounding from a piling in a marina basin or while leaving a slip with a crowd watching.  Then there’s always that “one guy” (in real life or a forum) who has done it all, seen it all, docked every boat in hurricane force winds and never made contact with anything….anyone know this guy? I am coming to the conclusion that this “guy” and his unidentified cohorts will stand around in a marina relishing their schadenfreude while denying ever having done the same exact thing are the ones responsible for this anxiety.  There are simply some people incapable of admitting their faults or mistakes, who feel the need to bolster themselves by bringing others down just to shore up their own self image.  Don’t listen to, or even worry about, these folks.

By whom is it are we worried about being judged?  Is there anyone out there who hasn’t hit something ? The short answer is NO.  If anyone claims that I’d have to seriously consider that they are either dishonest, inexperienced or just have a boat that never leaves the marina.  I’ve seen sailing instructors with decades of experience bounce off a piling in a slip that is in a marina and on a boat they use EVERY DAY.  I recently saw a video of an 20+ year owner of a sailing magazine with several licensed Captains on board hit a dock with ZERO fenders out.  It is a part of the risk you accept when you venture out onto an ever changing, sometimes unpredictable liquid surface and inject an object that is designed to be moved by the wind and currents with limited means of propulsion or resistance to those forces.

I have certainly been a victim of this particular neurosis.  I originally believed that once I experienced a few bumps and jolts that the contemporaneous and lasting feelings of stress and despair would dissipate…..I was wrong, but I am recovering.

My first experience was in Charleston, SC.  I had enjoyed almost a week of (mostly) very successful docking and un-docking maneuvers, mooring ball arrivals and general navigational successes.  We had purchased our boat about 6 months prior and were attempting our first long distance (460nm) trip to our home slip in North Carolina.  I may have become a little cocky. We had spent the night and were planning to take on some diesel prior to our departure.  The fuel dock was about 400′ down a fairway (some call it the fuel alley) lined with powerboats, …(cue the ominous music).  I pulled away from the transient dock and made a large turn in the channel so I could be centered as I entered the fairway.  It was necessary to move slightly to starboard in order to make the turn and come alongside the fuel dock.  There was only about 60′ open to get our 44′ boat into…I was worried.  I was using the pilings as points of reference for my course.  About halfway down the fairway I began to drift to starboard in preparation for the turn to port. Just as I was starting my turn to port I heard the dock hand call out “watch your stern”.  My heart sank as our dinghy transom caught the bow pulpit of a power boat that was hanging about 5′ beyond the line of the pilings and out of the slip where they were docked. I had been focusing on the pilings hadn’t noticed how far this particular boat extended into the fairway.  There was quite a clang….the dinghy swung violently as I eased the helm to center and then back to port once we cleared the pulpit.  The remainder of the docking was uneventful.  The dock hand went over and inspected the power boat for damage and thankfully reported none.  The woman who owned the boat was on board with her mother and her daughter.  They were very, very nice and understanding.  She also told me it was the fifth time their boat had been struck!!!  She had asked to be moved out of the fuel alley due to the length of their boat and that hopefully this incident would make that move a reality.  She was the polar opposite of what I would have expected from someone jolted awake by a loud clang that wasn’t her fault.  Fortunately, “that guy” wasn’t around.

How do we address this and reduce our stress?

1. Have a plan for each docking and un-docking, discuss it.

2. be familiar with the “pivot point” of your particular boat.

3. We have found that communications is essential so we currently use Motorola waterproof handheld FRS radios with voice activated headsets.  They have been fantastic.  We are considering upgrading to some even nicer ones, these take a second or two to activate the microphone but have proven to be very valuable.

4. Have backup hand signals.

5. Put out too many fenders….put some on the non dock side as well…just in case you have to change your docking plans from port to starboard or vice verse.

6. Control your speed…just enough to maintain steerage will reduce any damage in the event of a collision. About 1kt is all we need. Also, try and stop just after entering any area (basin,marina) to see how the wind and current is affecting your boat in that environment.

7. Have a “roving fender” or boat hook equipped crew member on deck to fend off.

8. Have predetermined and thoroughly understood throttle/rudder descriptions for the amount, direction and duration of their use.

9. Have a “bailout” plan if things go wrong, the wind or current changes, increases or some other unforeseen incident takes place…(boats always seem to arrive and depart unexpectedly when we dock)

This is a great seminar I like to watch regularly as a refresher….(credit to the Maryland School of Sailing)

As always comments, feedback and personal stories are welcome….Don’t forget to follow us!!!  Thanks

Example of our first six months of operating expenses

Occasionally,  I sit down and calculate what the total is for the last six months of owning, operating and maintaining our boat.  At times it is painful…. Keep in mind ours is an older, though upgraded, 44′ sailboat.  There have been a few things we added or upgraded which we probably could have lived without but we decided were essential.

Here’s what last winter cost us, (2014 into 2015) just for the boat and travel, not food or entertainment….

Transient or Seasonal Dockage: $1,700

Insurance: $100/month so $600

Fuel: $500

Equipment replacement or repairs: $5,000  (We had to replace a lot of items that the prior owner wanted to keep and we also added a Garmin 741XS chartplotter which has been fantastic)

Home slip: $150/month…$900

Travel to and from boat: $3,000 ( we have spent a lot of time helping a terminally ill family member over the last year so this will drop significantly)

Radio Licenses: $200

Haulout/Bottom Paint : $1600

Epirb recert: $300

So, we are at $13,700 for a six month period.  ($2,283.00 per month)  Some of these items won’t come around again for three years (bottom job, radio licenses, EPIRB) so the cost can be amortized over a longer period reducing the monthly cost.  Downside is when they need to be done you’d better have had the discipline to save your cash.  The good news is I cleaned our hull in December before we left Oriental, NC and it looked great after a year in the water.  The use of the Petit Ultima SR60 was a good choice.  The bottom looked like it had just been painted except for some growth on the intakes.  I have read a lot of varying opinions on how often to clean the bottom and many claim that the more often you clean it the faster your paint “ablates” and the sooner you have to reapply…this seems to be the case in this instance as ours is holding up very, very well with only two light cleanings a year.

The first six months, granted, will probably be the most expensive of the time periods during which you will own your boat.  Gear, cosmetic changes, upgrades and the inevitable mistakes that break or lose something will be factors that increase this number, so be ready.

This last December (2014), our house batteries decided that they needed to be replaced…(right after our engine starting battery needed replacement $150)…..we have ten….they are Trojan T-105’s that run about $150 a piece (after taxes)…..they typically last five years ….that works out to a manageable $25 per month over the life of the batteries but that sticker shock will keep you awake a few nights when they need replacement….

USCG considers multi year documentation

Many people don’t realize the value of USCG documentation for recreational vessels that travel internationally.

There are many advantages to documenting a pleasure boat, but this has come about mostly because of the Ships Mortgage Act.   Marine lenders will now typically insist on vessel documentation in order to have a preferred vessel mortgage which gives them an optimal security interest.  Boats used for non-skippered bareboat charter are considered as recreational for documentation purposes.  It is especially important to have documentation for offshore cruising as this offers evidence of nationality and certain protections under the U.S. flag.  State registrations are not recognized internationally, where USCG Documented vessels have international recognition.  The further you are from the US, the more important being USCG documented becomes.  Being USCG documented also means that the boat is US flagged and provides you with some legal rights and protections that a state registered boat would not receive when in foreign waters.  Finally, USCG documented vessels are entitled to aid from the US Consulate when in foreign waters, which is not the case with state-registered vessels.

Coast Guard documentation is required when a vessel is used for commercial purposes or a marine lender wishes to record a ship’s mortgage. In order to become documented however, a vessel must measure more than approximately 24′ in length and its owner must be a U.S. Citizen. The vessel must have also been built in the United States to qualify for certain commercial endorsements.   Coast Guard documentation is also considered to be the most conclusive form of vessel ownership. When applying for documentation, applicants must show convincing evidence that they are in fact the rightful owners. This is not always the case with state agencies where such requirements are sometimes quite relaxed. Documentation is further enhanced by an abstract of title which shows a chronological history of  prior ownership. Such an extensive background history is not available in most state jurisdictions.

Recreational vessels, charter vessels or vessels for hire that remain outside the waters of the United States for extended periods must still renew their documentation.  The current yearly renewal fee is $26.  This new fee went into effect in 2014 and was created by legislation (Section 10401 of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 (Pub. L. 101-508, Nov. 5, 1990, 104 Stat. 1388), codified at 46 U.S.C. 2110) requiring that such operations be budget neutral.  It seems that the USCG documentation program was not fully considered when this legislation was enacted.  Currently the USCG is accepting comments about the creation a multi-year documentation.  I, for one, think this is a great idea.  Imagine being in a foreign port when your documentation comes due and you have to depend on what may be a less than reliable postal service to deliver this essential document.  A lot of cruisers spend years away from the U.S. and this extension would be a relief for those on a multi-year cruise.  I have always wondered why the documentation must be renewed in the first place.  Perhaps it would be better and more efficient to allow the documentation to remain in force unless a change in ownership, removal from documentation or other change in the vessel’s status occurs?


Here’s a link to the comment and proposed rule page….the comment period is open until June 1, 2015….!documentDetail;D=USCG-2010-0990-2737

Let’s hope the multi-year documentation becomes a reality…..

What we were looking for in a liveaboard sailboat

During our fifteen plus years of touring, inspecting, researching and eventually selecting our boat we cherry picked a list of design characteristics and features from various boats that we liked.  Once we had our list of preferred details, we were always concerned we might not find a boat with even half of our desired attributes and would have to settle for a boat with the essential basics and then upgrade the rest of the features ourselves, increasing our cost and extending our timeline.  We looked at a LOT of boats.  We seriously considered a couple of very very nice, upgraded, older sailboats.  One (A Gulfstar 50′) had about 75% of what we were looking for but we felt that the overly open design of the interior made it unsuitable for any rough weather crossings and therefore didn’t make the cut.

Here’s the final list that we used to evaluate the boats we looked at…..

40′ to 47′  LOA
6′ or less of draft due to slip depth
ICW suitable mast height
Solid glass hull w full filleted, bulkhead and hull tabbing
Skeg hung rudder
Keel stepped mast
wide side decks uncluttered no lines or tracks in way
Generous engine and/or genset access
Limited, Accessible, all bronze hull bolted through hulls
Center cockpit preferred but not mandatory
Sloop or cutter rigged w furling
Encapsulated lead cutaway keel
Sta-Lok rigging…no rod rigging
Baffled* Plastic/Poly/ Monel water tanks in bilge
Aluminum fuel tank(s) in bilge
Two cabins w convertible settee
Two heads maximum w fresh water flush* and overboard discharge option (Lectrasan or composting heads a plus, We added a Lectrasan)
Separate shower stall in at least one head
Encloseable cockpit and dodger
Large cockpit drains
Anchor windlass
Genset w suitable sound insulation*
Swim platform or transom steps
Transom Deck shower and anchor wash down
Aft arch w solar panels / antenna / radar
Wind generator(s)
S/S framed / Lexan opening ports
Some solar powered vent hatches
Reverse cycle AC/heat*
Solid lifeline rails*
Bow thruster?? Prob only for >45’*
2 or more HP per 1,000lbs of displacement
500 mile cruising range under power alone
NO teak decks

We ended up with all but five of our listed features in Kitty Hawk….the five she didn’t have weren’t crucial items….

*indicates a feature that our boat did not have when we purchased her.

Don’t forget to check out our front page for a list of items with which we can assist you during your search for your new floating home……