Approaching a milestone….of sorts

Offshore Sunrise
Offshore Sunrise


As we approach the end of our first year as an official blog I have become curious about how many visitors we have had to our little site.  As many of you who know me personally are aware, I can be somewhat technologically challenged. This hasn’t been an easy learning curve for me and I’m certain that I am missing out on a lot of blogging shortcuts and probably money making angles in this whole venture.  I had hoped our Google ads program would have been more successful, but maybe that will come in the future.  Kim mentioned that the ads don’t seem to show up in the posts when she views them on her iPhone? If anyone else isn’t seeing them, please let us know and let us know what device you are using.

That was in part, responsible for my curiousity about where we stood visitor-wise.  I had hoped that the ads would have generated more income or maybe the services we offer might have generated more, by this point.  So, I thought “maybe we aren’t getting enough visitors?”.  It took me about an hour but I finally figured out how to wring the numbers out of the tracking programs that watch our blog 24/7.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that we have had……drumroll please….over 1800 visitors to our blog!!!!! 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

Now, before we get too worked up…..a “visitor” can be the same person who visits more than once but, a little more digging, and I learned we have also had 969 unique IP addresses, which means almost 1,000 different people (or at least devices) have seen our blog….and that’s pretty exciting…..or maybe one person who travels…..a lot…or owns a LOT of routers ……haha.

This data has somewhat buoyed my optimism.  Since we don’t spend a lot of time in the same place it can be tough to get repeat marine services business so we are counting on the ads program to a large extent.  Doing the simple things like cleaning boat hulls or replacing zincs in the water is a pretty saturated market anywhere we arrive and advertising outside the blog in each place isn’t feasible.   I have received a few calls for repeat business, but unfortunately, we had moved on when the customer need had arisen again or for a new service.

I’d like to thank everyone who has visited and supported us in this last nine months and I hope we can continue to post things you find interesting…..please feel free to send us suggestions of any topics or photos you’d like to see.  I am considering adding marina reviews to the rotation of posts or maybe even restaurant or location reviews of areas we visit if that might be of interest?

Thanks again for all the support!!!

Upgrades…..then…..Southbound and Down…..

Well, it’s been a pretty eventful month, or so. We took advantage of our time in Oriental to upgrade our battery banks wiring and a few other things.  Some of our battery bank cables were undersized, not properly crimped, our banks lacked a main fuse and our smaller bank had been wired in a slightly less than a fully efficient manner.  We also installed two Bogart/Trimetric (Model TM-2030-RV) battery bank monitors which have made keeping tabs on our charging and battery bank status much, much easier.  That’s one of the things about buying an older boat, she’s been through a few owners and while some were meticulous, some weren’t, and if a system is working one owner may never have had the need to address or investigate the status of the individual components that may not have been exactly “up to snuff” when installed by the prior owner, owners or contractors or the standards have changed over time in favor of better, safer or more efficient methods..

IMG_2049Now that’s a pretty bad crimping job…it was covered by electrical tape……

We also added a Blue Seas electrical master panel to our AC shore power system that has a 30 amp, dual pole, ELCI (Electrical Leak Circuit Interrupter, if your boat happens to develop a leak of AC current into the water while plugged into shore power, which is extraordinarily dangerous, it shuts off the AC power).  The breaker itself has a sensor in it that measures the amount of electricity flowing out and compares it to what returns and if there is a slight difference it trips the breaker.  We discovered once we powered up this new panel that our water heater was wired incorrectly since the new breaker tripped as soon as we energized the circuit.  As it turns out, the wiring for the water heater was a commercial type of wiring (IEEE marine cable, intended for use on Navy and commercial vessels….with this type of wire red is ground, black is hot and white is neutral, so our water heater was basically wired backwards, which still allowed current to flow through the element but the new more sensitive breakers caught the difference in the polarity/voltage returning and shut it down) since the color coding was different it must have confused whoever originally wired it.  It took an extra fifteen minutes to correct this and then things operated perfectly.  We also added a safety cover to the interior of our shore power plug connection which was missing.

I’d like to extend our gratitude to Jim Bonnett, the owner of  Wavetop Technologies in New Bern, NC, for his assistance with the battery and AC upgrades.  He’s been having some website issues but if you need any work he’s an ABYC Master Technician in a lot of fields (maybe all of them, I haven’t counted yet) . His current website is but he may migrate to a new one if his current issues prove to be linked to that web address.  Jim is so educated about AC and DC systems and wiring it can make you dizzy just listening to him talk….he’s a very smart guy. You can also reach him at

We also painted our newly re-plumbed and re-opened forward shower stall…..


IMG_2031     IMG_2053

I also painted new length markers on our anchor chain and replaced the shackles…..

IMG_2061 IMG_2063

I decided to go with Red at 50′, white at 100′, Blue at 150′ Black at 200′ and Orange at 250 just before the chain runs out and the rope rode begins.

We’d also like to give some well deserved praise to Pete Waterson of Seacoast Marine Electronics ( in Oriental, NC.  Pete is the owner and installed our new NMEA 2000 backbone wiring, AIS transceiver, a new Raymarine I70 display, a masthead anemometer and wind direction sensor which is now all tied into our Garmin 741XS chartplotter at the helm.  Pete also installed a new VHF antenna and Windex while he was at the masthead.  Pete also helped me (or maybe I helped him) rewire our binnacle wiring and add a power/ground bus to clean up the connections there and eliminate some voltage loss and an issue with a weak ground.  If you find yourself in Oriental or nearby and need any electronics or assistance be sure to look Pete up.  He’s  a great guy and his office staff (Jill, his wife and Betsy)  are super friendly and helpful.


We were later joined by our good friend, Mike, in Oriental, just in time for the Ol’ Front Porch Music Festival on October 17.  It was a great day, beautiful weather and lots of good music and food.  Apparently, this was a tradition among the old time farmers in the area and on Saturday nights they would come into town and play music on a variety of front porches around town.  Time and progress being what they are, this tradition was slowly lost and has been revived during this once a year festival.  The Carmona Brothers and Laurelyn Dossett were the final performers of the day and if you’ve never heard either of these, I recommend looking them up online. Carmona and his traveling pooch (photo credit to Towne Dock)

We waited for some weather to pass and departed Oriental on October 20th around 8:00am.  It was a nice trip.  We arrived around 11:45am in Morehead City, NC since we wanted to make the first day short and non stressful…then Murphy reared his ugly head.  As we approached Portside Marina in Morehead City a large tugboat that was bow in at the state port abruptly moved astern into our path.  I was forced to throw Kitty Hawk into full reverse to avoid colliding with the tug.  As the dust settled from that encounter we again proceeded toward the Portside Marina face dock.  There was suddenly something very wrong.  It took about five seconds for me to realize that for some reason we were no longer getting any forward propulsion.  I immediately shifted to neutral, then tried reverse and got the same result….no response …I could hear the transmission shifting and assumed we had lost our throttle cable.  After advising Mike and Kim that we were going to be coming into the dock at about 3 knots SOG (speed over ground) I called the marina hands on the dock on our VHF radio to let them know.  We managed to dock pretty easily, all things considered, despite coming in at what felt like warp speed.  Once we got settled, we diagnosed the problem and it was, in fact, the throttle cable that had broken just below the shift lever.  I spoke to the owner of Portside Marina, Denard, who is  a super nice gentleman.  He not only found the part for us, but let his brother in law, who works at the Marina, drive me over to get it.  The cable was replaced two hours and $27 later…..Portside Marina is the only place I’ve ever walked into and been immediately invited to partake in the employee lunch.  They were having fish one of the guys had caught and a local restaurant fried them up for them….talk about hospitality !!!


Our trip South was Kim’s first long distance trip on Kitty Hawk….she got her first experiences in the ICW (and her first grounding, so that’s over and done with), navigated out of the Cape Fear Inlet and made two overnight offshore trips.  One was between Cape Fear, NC and Charleston (a rough one) and the second was between Port Royal, SC and Jacksonville, FL.  During the first hop we even got the wind to cooperate and we sailed for 6 hours.

IMG_2076The Admiral at the helm…..

Next time I’ll detail our stops at Beaufort, SC and St.Augustine, FL and share our ghost video from Facebook if you haven’t seen it yet…..


Common questions we get while at a marina…..

Recently, while staying at a marina that allowed the general public to roam the transient docks…….we had quite a stream of people who were interested in Kitty Hawk and what type of vessel she is.  There were several small children who I overheard asking their parents if she was a “pirate ship”.  A few groups even stopped to take photos in front of her bow.  That’s one of the things I like about the CSY design.  The hull shape, raised aft deck and the unique scrolled “mustache” make them memorable boats.  A lot of the passersby stopped and talked to us.  Several of these short conversations ended with the “How did you afford to do this?” question.  Over the years of being the person asking this question, to now being the person of whom the question is being asked and seeing the number of posts in the forums and other online venues,  I thought a post about this topic was in order.

Most people are obviously uncomfortable asking this question of someone they have met just thirty seconds prior.  You can almost see it in their face right before the words come out of their mouths.  It is generally considered rude or invasive to ask such things, but their desire to form a knowledge base and evaluate their own planning in a short conversation overrides their basic inhibitions about asking.  I don’t mind necessarily, it seems logical enough and I like helping people anyway so, I answer as honestly as I can. I didn’t fully realize it until the first time I was asked this question face to face and I thought “How did we pull this off?”…..I know we had a plan and a goal but after a couple of decades, the logistics of how it happened get fuzzy…..

I have now worked out an answer that seems to satisfy most people who ask and give them a little hope for their own goal…..

We’re not rich….I’m not rich…my wife isn’t rich and we didn’t come from any family money or have any other rich relatives.  There won’t be anyone there to financially “pick up the pieces” should we have a failure that destroys the boat or seriously injures one of us.  We are our own safety net and that idea takes some getting accustomed to.  We didn’t “strike it rich” in the stock, commodities or real estate markets.  We had jobs, worked hard and saved.  We made career and life choices that were, at times, risky and might have ended the dream before it began but we had a plan, evaluated the risks and benefits then acted accordingly.  Neither of us ever made more than $100,000 a year.  What we did do was form a habit of always “paying ourselves first” by contributing to our boat fund and retirement accounts as much as we could and doing so regularly for over 20+ years.  We also limited our expenses and avoided buying new cars, new houses or other things we didn’t absolutely have to buy.  We didn’t always take a vacation.  We always bought used cars, bought the cheapest houses in the best neighborhoods we could afford and after two decades of sweat equity improvements we sold the house, paid cash for the boat, slip and invested the rest to fund our cruise kitty and retirement accounts.  We also didn’t buy a new boat.  We bought, what we believe, is the most solid and capable boat with the best modern amenities and upgrades that we could afford.  There are a vast number of solid, suitable cruising boats out there that have been refitted with modern gear and are available for one third or even one fourth of the price of a new boat with no cruising gear.  That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with a new boat…if you can afford it……but I don’t like to buy new cars either.

There are also different ways to succeed at this dream.  Not everyone needs, or wants, to live on their boat full time.  Not everyone wants or needs to go offshore to feel like, or be, a sailor.  We spent weekends living on our Hunter 23 on a lake for several years and that was a great way to live the dream very, very affordably, while still having a land based life.  Don’t get caught up in the idea that you have to do exactly what we are doing to enjoy the sailing life.



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….