What to Buy a Sailor for Christmas

Buying gifts for a sailor for the holidays is easier than you might think, because they’re always in need of gadgets to make life onboard a little easier or more comfortable. Recently I’ve discovered several low-priced products that have made our life as liveaboards easier. Now it’s hard to imagine we went so long without these things!

Yet, as aspiring minimalists we don’t want to acquire too much stuff – storage is always an issue on a boat. So we try to ensure anything we get has a useful purpose.

Here are a few ideas of items we’ve found useful:

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Oops, We Bought a Project Boat!

It’s winter, and for us that means it’s project season. Nearing 3 years of too many projects to count (but also a lot of sailing), I’ve been asking myself – did we actually end up with a project boat? While shopping for a boat, the one thing I was sure of was we didn’t want a project boat!

I had heard of people buying project boats and spending years working on them without sailing. I have a lot of admiration for people who do that, but for us sailing and cruising was always the number 1 goal. If a project boat meant we couldn’t cruise, we’d be better off continuing to charter and sail in clubs.

I’ve written before that eventually I realized all boats are project boats (“What Exactly is a Project Boat Anyway?“). And even though living aboard has made it easier to work on projects, the project list hasn’t gotten any shorter. For every project finished, we discover one or two new ones.

[Note: I’ve added a Projects page to the site, listing most of the major and minor projects completed]

Haul-out in June 2015

Another reason I didn’t want a project boat was I understood that boats are expensive but not in the initial purchase cost – an old boat is only as much as two new cars, which many middle-class families have (and if you told them two cars are a luxury rather than a necessity, they would probably disagree). The real budget killer is in the carrying costs – yearly moorage and maintenance.

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Managing Moisture as a Liveaboard

Removing moisture from the boat is one of the first challenges for a liveaboard boat in the PNW. Every day, breathing, cooking, and rain drenched clothing add moisture vapor to the air, and that’s on top of a base level of high humidity the outside air is at during our rainy weeks. And let’s hope your boat doesn’t have any leaks, because that’ll just add more moisture to the boat as we get week after week of continuous rain.

We’re now 5 months into living aboard, and it’s going great! The moisture really started turning on about 3 weeks ago, when the night time temperatures became quite chilly. When the outside temp drops to 40 F but your cabin temp is 62 F, that warmer moist air hits a cold surface (hull walls, deck underside, metal deck fills and hatch frames) and quickly condensates.

We really want to prevent mold from forming (when we bought our boat we had a lot of mold to clean off the interior hull and hidden storage spaces: Tackling the Mold Monster (May 2015)) – and keeping the humidity reasonable is the key.

Controls on the EDV-4000

A PNW winter looks like this – day after day of rain

A Good Dehumidifier

The #1 tool for a liveaboard is a good hard-working dehumidifier. We had heard recommendations for the Eva-Dry EDV-4000 from 48 North and other cruisers, so that’s what we tried. And it’s working great! It pulls volumes more water out of the air than our small Eva-Dry EDV-1100 did.

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The Joy of Easy Projects on a Boat

Sailboat maintenance and refitting often involves many difficult, frustrating jobs – diesel engine work, rigging, fiberglassing, boatyard work. So it’s really nice to have some easy, fun ones mixed in sometimes. If you only did hard projects all the time, you’d probably burn out.

Easy projects are short, cheap and rewarding because they quickly make some small improvement to your life. They’re simple enough that unlike most boat projects, there aren’t 10 different things that can go wrong.

Ice Box LED Light

The first one, which I should’ve done a long time ago, is add a light to our fridge / ice box.

You see, our ice box is a great, giant, cavernous hole in which my beers sit at the bottom in the dark. So last summer when I wanted to find a beer, I’d often have to grab my headlamp or handy pocket flashlight. As everyone knows, beer is important to sailors. And often when cruising BC, we had a variety of types to try (Lighthouse IPA, Red Racer, Russell Brewing’s mixer pack, etc), so I couldn’t just grab any blindly.

Finally I realized a cheap solution to this inconvenience: motion activated LED light bars which you can find on Amazon for about $10! And this one came with a 3M adhesive strip on the back, so all I had to do was stick it on a surface inside the icebox.

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Trip Summary: West Coast Vancouver Island

This year’s 1-month cruise took us from Seattle all the way to Nootka Sound, more than half way up Vancouver Island’s west coast.

Starting from Seattle, we had an upwind slog getting out the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria, followed by a relaxing five days exploring Barkley Sound’s quiet anchorages. We next went up to Clayoquot Sound (after one false start due to awful wave conditions). We didn’t stay long in Clayoquot, heading up to Nootka Sound to see how far we could get. We had fun exploring Friendly Cove, but someday will have to come back when we have more time to explore Nootka.

It was time to turn around back south, so we headed to Tofino and picked up an unwelcome stowaway for one night. We stopped in Barkley Sound again, regretting we didn’t have more time to stay in this most epic of sounds, and headed back down the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Fortunately we had some time to relax in Victoria, checking out some anchorages we normally wouldn’t have time for.  Passing through the San Juans they were as beautiful as always, but sadly it was soon time to return to Seattle.


A month sounds like a lot of time, but it’s really not, at least not when you’re trying to cover ground by sail. About 3 weeks in we realized we had packed the schedule a bit too tight, and probably shouldn’t have stretched to go to Nootka Sound. While it was cool to reach our farthest point north on the west coast ever, we had many long and tiring days and not quite enough short days or lay days.

It’s important to have balance in a cruising schedule. I often think of it like a video game – if you always have the difficulty setting on “hard”, you’ll get burnt out. Most days going up the west coast are medium or hard difficulty, so we needed a few more easy days in the mix. Fortunately the last week, in the Victoria area and San Juans, provided some nice easy days.

View of our route with the return leg plotted as well.

Stats:

  • Nights at anchor: 27
  • Nights in a marina: 3
  • # times stern tied: 0
  • Distance Traveled, as the motor boat travels: 600 nautical miles
  • Distance Traveled, as sailed (approximated): 800-900 nautical miles
  • % time spent sailing (approx): 75%
  • % distance spent sailing (approx): 50%

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The End of a Voyage: Sailing Home to Seattle

Sailing home is always bittersweet – it’s the end of a journey, a return to work, and the end of amazing days figuring out how to harness the wind to take us to beautiful anchorages. On the other hand, it’s a return to a bit more normalcy, routine, and the creature comforts of land life. Returning from a long cruise always stuns me with how comfortable modern life is, how few true problems we have in an average day, and how fortunate we are that that’s the case. It’s no wonder that some sailors never manage to leave the dock.

After Victoria, since we had less than a week left to our month long cruise, it was time to start heading back to Seattle.

[This post took place from July 26-30.]

Always amazing sunsets at Sidney Spit

Sidney Spit had lots of birdlife in the morning. We saw at least a dozen blue herons and this group of seagulls was just a splinter group of a couple hundred seagulls.     

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Cruising the Victoria Area

We had a couple extra days in our schedule in the Victoria area, so we spent two nights at Becher Bay (around the corner from Race Rocks), doing some fishing both mornings. The point off Becher Bay is a fishing hotspot, and there were 40 small fishing boats out there with us. Since we were in our dinghy, we were the smallest boat out there, and got some curious looks. We didn’t catch anything (trolling along the 120 to 200 ft lines with a flasher, weight and green/white spoon as the current switched to flood) in the course of an hour and a half, but we only saw one other boat catch something (what looked like a small rockfish).

I’ve been having a difficult time having the patience required for fishing. It seems it involves hours and hours of sitting around not catching anything. As they say, fishing is called fishing, not catching. But why do so many people do it when they’re not getting any fish? I guess they may think the same thing about sailing – why sit there for hours going so slow instead of using a motorboat that can go 15 kts instead?

[This post took place from July 22 – 25]

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Race Passage – Riding the Lazy River to Esquimalt

We left Becher Bay near the start of the flood and caught a 4-5 knot push through Race Passage. We were sailing, because there had been some inflow breeze in Becher Bay, but the wind completely disappeared outside the bay. But since we were going 4-5 kts on current, we figured we’d just keep going like that, with just the main up. It was fun going through lots of tide rips and lines of squaking sea birds competing for position in the swirling waters.

The cool thing about riding current is it looks like you’re not moving (the boat isn’t moving relative to the water, so there are no ripples, no sound and no apparent wind) but looking to shore you can see the land behind rapidly slipping by (called “making trees” in sailor lingo). After Race Passage we had 7-8 kts wind behind us, so we sailed slowly up to the Esquimalt Harbor entrance. Even though it’s only July 22, we seem to be well into August weather now – there was little wind today and the Strait was socked in fog.

Sea birds competing to feed in the swirling waters

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