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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Packed for travel

One thing about travel I’ve observed is that packing for 5 days is about the same as packing for 5 months. A few more bits of clothes and a few more consumables -that’s about it. It doesn’t matter if I’m backpacking, canoing, car camping, or sailing.

With sailing, the packing load for short of long trips is even closer to being the same. The boat can comfortably handle about a week’s worth of water and maybe a month’s worth of food. Last fall, I started keeping some storable food on board. The limiting factor on the sailboat is water. A week’s water for two adults and a dog is about all I care to pack at one time.

After a week on a small boat, it’s time to stop somewhere. Laundry, real hot showers, and fresh food are welcome. In a real emergency, I could probably extend the journey. With a bit of luck, I could catch some rain for drinking water, harvest fish, and forage for other edibles. It could be done, but it would take an emergency to want to try.

Consumables have to be replaced, but outside of that, preps for short or long trips about about the same.

-Sixbears

Monday, February 27, 2012

More sailing soon.

My lovely wife and I will be heading out on the sailboat again soon -depending on the weather. We’ve got a good 30 miles or so of open sailing in the Gulf, so picking our departure conditions is important. After that, we have at least some protection from the open water. We plan about a 5 day trip this time, but will be prepared for more days on the water if necessary.

When this blog stops getting updated for a few days, don’t worry about it. I’ll be beyond wifi signals, so that’s that.

Not much else going on. I’m helping dad with a few projects around his house. We’ve spent a lot of time just hanging out and talking. Dad and I always got along. Even when I was a teenager, we did a lot of things together.

There’s a short wave radio on the boat if I really want to follow the news. Foreign news is one of the few ways to find out what the heck is going on in the US. All the same, I’ll probably keep my news to a bare minimum. It’s good to take a break from the craziness now and then.

-Sixbears

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Some get it, some don’t

Sometimes I can’t believe people. The same guy who complains about the high price of gas then says we should invade Iran. As if that would bring the price of gas down. Let’s see here. War causes huge market instability, which causes volatility. Iran, an oil producer, would most likely be shut out of most world markets. To be spoilsports about it, they could close down the Straights of Hormuz where a goodly portion of the world’s oil is shipped.

Just to make things interesting, the US currency could speed up its collapse. In fact, China could easily shut off US credit, pretty much guaranteeing a financial meltdown. As it is, gas isn’t so much going up in price as the dollar is dropping in value. It takes more of them to buy a given amount of gas.

So . . . gas is up in price, let’s mess up the oil markets, supply and currency . . . that’ll make it all better. Besides, the last two wars have worked out so well.

On the other hand, there are people who have a fair idea what’s going on. The last thing they want is another war, knowing it’s not going to solve problems, but make things worse for the average Joe.

Some people get it, and some people don’t.

-Sixbears

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Wanderlust

My lovely wife and I went to the movies to see “Wanderlust.” The premise is of a New York urban couple losing their income and home. They end up having a series of adventures at a commune named Elysium.

The movie is R rated and not everyone’s cup of tea. However, my wife and I were intrigued by the trailer and had to see it. After all, we do live like a bunch of hippies sometimes, in a dome out in the woods. Over the years, we’ve lived under one roof with friends and/or family. We are familiar with the whole communal living thing.

When anyone thinks “commune” they think “free love.” While some communes experimented with it, not every community did. Some that did gave it up. In the long run, it tends to pull communities apart rather than pull them together. Jealously is a hard thing to ignore. Successful groups know this and don’t mess around with sexual games that complicate a difficult enough living arrangement.

As times get tougher, more people will be sharing a roof. Sometimes it’s the only way to survive. It can be a lot of fun: sharing meals, chores, music, and socializing. It can be challenging. There has to be a few ground rules and open paths of communication.

I’ve a friend of mine living on an old farm. There’s his wife, a couple of his kids and their spouses, plus some of their friends. Income is limited, but with everyone pulling together, nobody misses any meals.

Communal living: not just for hippies anymore.

-Sixbears

Friday, February 24, 2012

Running on solar

I’ve got house sitters this winter. All they really have to pay for is heat and electric. I’d have to pay for the Internet and phone, even if I wasn’t there to use it, so they get that free. My mail’s been forwarded to my dad’s this winter. That includes the bills, of course. To limit confusion, I told them I’d pay the electric bill and they could reimburse me later.

The electric bill just came in, and I’m impressed. It’s a tiny bill. Apparently, they’ve been getting by almost completely on my modest sized solar electric system. I thought it would be possible to handle basic needs on just solar, but they’ve proven it.

That’s a pretty impressive feat for dark and cold northern New Hampshire. Power generation is limited. Storage is an issue too. Cold batteries store less power. The battery bank is in a poorly heated basement. In spite of the challenges, they’ve made it work.

Down here in Florida it’s a different story. The small solar panel on the boat is doing a fine job. It’s only 30 watts, but there’s a lot of sunshine in Florida to work with. It’s kept my battery topped off. Solar is easy in Florida.


-Sixbears

Thursday, February 23, 2012

More tools

My dad gave me a toolbox full of tools today. I gladly accepted. I’ve got a good set of tools at home. There’s a small toolbox in the truck. Even the boat has a fair selection of tools. That being said, I can always use a few more.

Dad does a lot of little jobs for people in his retirement park: carpentry, electrical, plumbing, mechanical work -that sort of thing. Often, people give him tools because he knows what to do with them. Dad has reached the point where he can store only so many back up sets of tools. Now I get them. That’s fine with me.

I’m a tool using animal. My opposable thumbs are put to good use. I’ve got the thumbs, a head full of knowledge, but it’s hard to do anything without tools.

We take tools for granted -until we don’t have them. If you’ve ever been stuck on the side of the road with a disabled car, you know what I mean. There’s nothing worse than knowing how to fix something but lack the tools to do the job. Maybe that new box of tools from my dad will have something in it that will help prevent that in the future.

Imagine being dropped in the woods without a single tool. How much good will all your technical knowledge do you? Ancient man could knap stone, modify wood, bone, and other natural materials into a basic tool kit. It was an impressive kit, as he could start with nothing and end up with everything needed to survive.

We can’t recreate a modern tool kit from scratch. There’s hundreds of years of industrial development behind our tools. It’s nearly impossible for a single person to fashion a single metal tool from scratch.

Fortunately, we don’t have to. There’s an abundance of tools in the world -plus the manufactured materials to make more. All it takes is a bit of forethought to stock up on them while they are still easy to get.

Disruptions in the world’s supply web could make common things hard to get -even if just for a limited time.

Got tools?

-Sixbears

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The longer I go without a real job

The longer I go without a real job, the better I get at living without one. I’ve been on a small disability pension since 1993. As you can well imagine, inflation has eaten the heck out of its value. On the other hand, I’ve gotten much better at living on less and less. Over the years, I’ve developed quite a skill set.

The thought of working a 9 to 5 job is a horrible thing. Now if that’s what you really want to do, then by all means do it. It’s not for me.

I’m not totally opposed to working for money. I’ve even done it a few times since ‘93. The thing is, it was either to help a friend out or to experience something I hadn’t experienced before. New experiences are a big part of life.

Some people spend all their working lives planning to be free at retirement age. That tells me they place a very low value on freedom. How many people die well before they can retire? How many put themselves in a position where they think they can’t afford to retire? Then there are those who have their pensions wiped out before they collect.

I’ve been spending time with my dad in his little retirement village. Most people spend their days sitting in their double wides watching TV. The big parking compound is full of RVs, boats, and other toys that rarely if ever move. These are the people who’ve successfully retired. They have money coming in every month. Sure, some go on little casino cruises, or catch the occasional show, but many do nothing at all.

In the future, most people won’t even have this sort of retirement. Many Baby Boomers expect to work until they die. How does that nourish the spirit? Are their souls dead?

If you want freedom better make a plan and figure out how to get it -soon. The clock is ticking.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Skinny water sailing



In this photo we just landed. Even the sails have yet to be put away. The boat’s in about 2 feet of water near low tide. On the way in, I dropped a heavy stern anchor. The bow is tied off to some mangroves. My dog was desperate for a landfall, so I got her to shore quickly. After taking this photo, and taking care of the dog, my wife and I buttoned up the boat.

With the swing keel lifted and the rudder kicked up, the Oday 19 draws only about a foot of water. The sailboat can be sailed in that condition. The only problem is that it’s impossible to make any headway against the wind without the keel.

The water was shallow and to make it more interesting, pretty weedy. One time with the keel down we actually picked up enough weeds to stop the boat dead in its tracks. Other times, the swing keep was our depth sounder. I discovered that I could deploy the keel about halfway and that allowed some headway against the wind.

With all the playing around, it took a good hour to go where we could have motored in about 15 minutes, but what’s the fun in that? I had a great time, experimenting and practicing shoal draft sailing. A boat with a deep draft is severely limited in the shallow waters of Florida.

My wife and I are thinking seriously about eventually living half the year on a boat. Our sailing grounds would include a lot of the shallow waters of Florida. Something like a Triloboat would be great. They are cheap to build, roomy, shallow draft, and have a huge amount of cargo space. They also look kinda cool, so that’s a consideration.

I can confirm that it can be pretty inexpensive to live on a sailboat. Of course, that depends on the boat, how much time is spent in marinas, how much one motors instead of sailing, and some other factors. Being able to do repairs yourself with inexpensive parts is key. My wife and I are getting some good ideas about what will be required in the future.

Of course, in the here in now, we are having a blast, no matter what the future will bring.

-Sixbears

Monday, February 20, 2012

Picnic Island II




The original plan was to anchor out the first night, then get an early start the next day. The next morning, my wife’s fibromyalgia decided to act up. She didn’t feel like a marathon day of sailing. We hung around the island instead. I’m flexible. There’s worse things than lying on a beach in the sun.

Months ago I had an idea of sailing up the Okeechobee Waterway. Now I was told that nobody sails the waterway. Generally speaking, everyone motors it. Somehow, I thought I might try it. Well, it wasn’t going to happen that day. Between the current, wind conditions and traffic, the only way up would be to motor.




By the afternoon, she felt a lot better. Since the wind was favorable, we sailed up the ICW along the coast of Sanibel Island, rather than motor up the Okeechobee. Boat traffic was heavy, so we were constantly on guard. Outside the channel, the water is shallow, so everyone is jammed in the channel. In spite of that, we were sailing instead of motoring, so it was all good.

Because of our late start, the best anchorage was back at Picnic Island, so we headed back for another night. We were blessed with calm mild weather. Boat traffic disappeared. It was a beautiful night at the anchorage.

My lovely wife loves watching the distant lights reflecting off the water. I even pulled out my guitar and played for a bit. Sure beat the heck out of listening to the news.




-Sixbears

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Picnic Island

Island time is no joke. It’s actually a good thing -if you relax and go with it.

My lovely wife and I decided to get off the water by Saturday afternoon due to predicted thunderstorms. My wife isn’t a fan of being on the water in a boat with a giant lighting rod sticking out of the middle of it.

With our trip scaled back we decided to launch from the Sanibel Causeway Boat ramp - $10/day for up to 72 hours. After a 200 mile drive, we launched Wednesday afternoon. The ramp is in excellent shape, has plenty of temporary dockage, and even has decent restrooms.





Our first stop was just a couple miles away at Picnic Island. That’s where we slipped into island time. It was an impressive little island. There’s a lot of nice looking islands in San Carlos Bay, however, most of them are off-limits to boaters are they are protected wildlife refuges. Picnic Island, on the other hand, is not only open to the public, it’s dog friendly.

During the week, traffic on the island is light. We had it all to ourselves much of the time. By Friday afternoon, however, the place gets busy. That’s understandable considering the number of boats in the area and the few free places to land them.

One side of the island is a shell beach. The other side is a sand beach. There’s plenty of wildlife to watch. It’s a good place to hang out.



-Sixbears

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Interesting times ahead

Anyone who follows the news knows were are for some interesting times ahead. Am I prepared for whatever comes?

Heck no!

I’ve got a few preps, a bunch of skills, some experience, and a weather eye for trouble.

There’s so much stuff going on right now, just about anything can happen -or everything all at once.

I’ve been following Dmitry Orlov He wrote a book about the different stages of collapse a while back. He sticks by his ideas about the different stages, but changed his ideas about the timing. Dmitry thought the different stages would happen one after the other. Now, he thinks about 3 stages of collapse will happen all at once. Don’t take my word for it. Check out his site.

He’s not the only intelligent and informed person expecting big problems in near future. Personally, I think they are on to something.

So why am I not hiding in a bunker somewhere? Why I’m I basically on vacation in Florida?

Why not?

Call it fatalism, but I think when it’s your time, it’s your time. Who knows when or where their card is going to get punched. Maybe I’m supposed to be doing what I’m doing now. My plan is to live life with a bit of zest and deal with whatever comes.

Hiding in a bunker isn’t living.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Still planning instead of sailing

The basic plan of our next sailing trip is to leave on the Gulf side of the Okeechobee waterway, then sail east. When we got tried of that, or got to Lake Okeechobee, we’d turn around and head back.

Way back when I was in NH planning this, the original idea was to get dropped off on the Atlantic side then picked up on the Gulf side. Good plan, except my ride fell though.

The problem I’ve been left with is finding a good boat ramp where I can leave the truck and trailer for a week or more. Florida has a zillion boat ramps and marinas. Most ramps are for day use only. Unfortunately, many marinas either don’t have ramps, or lack truck and trailer storage. One marina was willing to rent me space for the truck, but not the trailer. What good is that?

I did find one nice ramp that allowed overnights, but only for 72 hours -not nearly as long as I’d like. Their web site said they’d make exceptions, but once I got them on the phone, they claimed they never did and never will.

The funny thing is, I know a guy who has a place on the Gulf side, near a nice boat ramp. He has plenty of room to store a truck and trailer. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hit or miss contacting him. Right now it’s a miss -he’s not in Florida right now.

Back to the drawing board. Between a decent Florida boating guide, and the Active Captain website, I’ve a whole new list of places to call. It’ll come together.

The temptation is just go sailing in places where we’ve sailed before. We’ve found some nice places the last two winters, but there’s too much we haven’t seen yet. It’s too early in the process to pick favorites.

Some day I plan on having a larger boat and staying out longer. By then I should have a much better idea of where to go.

-Sixbears

Monday, February 13, 2012

Can’t we skip right to the end?

Everyone has seen videos of old enemies meeting in friendship long after the war is over. After WWII Germans and Americans would get together over a few beers. Vietnam was the war I grew up with. To this day old ‘nam soldiers get together with their counterparts. Recently I saw a video of the American pilot meeting with the Serbian who shot down his stealth fighter during out little Balkan campaign. Old men of war can put aside their animosity and shake hands with their counterparts.

It’s always a heart warming scene. Often they mourn the lost of comrades and shake their heads at the pointless waste of it all.

Let’s skip right to the shaking hands part without all the killing and destruction that goes on before. I don’t have anything against Syrians, Iranians, or anyone else for that matter. It’s the politicians and the businesses who profit that send regular people to kill each other. Joe average certainly doesn’t benefit from any of this. Why should he be the one who suffers and dies? Let’s shove our spear shaking leaders aside so we get right to the meeting fellow human beings in peace part.

-Sixbears

Sunday, February 12, 2012

More trip planning

My lovely wife and I now have a slightly better idea what we’ll be doing next. My wife’s sister in Texas will have a week off in the middle of March, so that’s when we’ll scoot over there.

With that settled, the next trip will be another sailing adventure. We’d like to hit the Okeechobee canal. Exactly where we launch from will depend on locating a place to keep the truck and trailer. Phone calls will have to be made.

Florida is in a bit of a cool snap, (I won’t call it a cold snap) but it’ll warm up in a few days. My lovely wife has come down with a cold, so she’ll want to feel better before we sail.

Not much else going on. Still meeting new people and connecting with old friends.

-Sixbears

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Water torture

My lovely wife and I are staying at my dad’s place in Florida. He pays a monthly fee to the park. Unmetered water is included in the basic fee. When we got here, the toilet in the spare bathroom constantly leaked water down the drain. The water level dropped then the valve would open, filling up the toilet tank again -over and over and over . . .


Dad had it as a pretty low priority. Eventually, he wanted to change the whole toilet. Since the water was free, it didn’t bother him.

The sound of constantly running water drove me nuts. At home, running water like that would be a big problem. A leaky toilet can put too much water into a septic system, causing it to fail. My water comes from a well and is pumped into the house. Constant water flow stresses the well, the pump and the solar electric system that powers the pump.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and went down to the hardware store. Replacing the innards of the toilet took about 15 minutes and 17 dollars. Well worth it for my personal peace of mind.

-Sixbears

Friday, February 10, 2012

The messy fall of empire

The American empire is thrashing around in decline. Failing empires often embark on military exploits. It distracts the people and often there is the chance of acquiring some loot. These days it seems it’s the American people getting looted and the military industrial complex doing the looting. War is an expensive game with a lot of companies with chairs at the table.

Iraq winds down, leaving behind a shaky government, hundreds of thousands of deaths, a landscape drenched in depleted uranium dust, a huge Green Zone of American influence, and forgotten promises. Weapons of mass destruction anyone? Remember how the war would pay for itself?

The US adventure in Afghanistan appears to be coming to an end of sorts -at least as far as Americans are concerned. The turmoil in that country won’t end just because US soldiers will be pulling out. Hard men in the mountains, with a sense of history, are waiting their turn again. Afghanistan is getting more and more untenable for continued US occupation. Supply lines are iffy, Afghanistan government officials are making deals behind the US’s back with those hard men. American policy seems to be based on white washed reports that have little connection to the realities on the ground.

Pakistan has plenty of reasons to be disillusioned with its US partnership ship. Friends don’t kill friends with drone attacks. Pakistani deaths continue to mount. How much longer can they be bought off with inflating dollars? Never forget they are a sovereign nuclear armed nation with political issues of their own.

The US powers that be are now rattling sabers against Syria and Iran -as if military adventures have been a good idea recently. Doesn’t anyone learn anything?

-Sixbears

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Interlude

My lovely wife and I are between things right now. After visiting friends, we are back at my dad’s. That’s fine, because part of the reason for this trip has been to spend time with him. It’s all good.

There are people we haven’t met up with yet so we are trying to set that up. There are friends and relatives to see. We plan on scooting over to East Texas to visit the in-laws, then zip back to Florida.

The boat is ready for more sailing. If we don’t go on another extended trip soon, perhaps a day or overnighter trip might be the thing.

What I’m not doing is shoveling snow and splitting wood for the woodstove. Like I said: it’s all good.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What did we do before the Internet?

I read a lot more books. That’s where the cool and interesting ideas could be found. It was a slow process accessing books. Remember, there was no Amazon where one could “one click” just about any book. I worked across the street from a library, so that helped. However, their selections were a bit limited.

Fortunately, there was a good network of friends who knew each other’s reading habits and readily shared books. Back in high school, my buddy and I had adjoining lockers. We stuffed all our school crap into one shared locker. In the other locker, we installed shelves and turned it into a Science Fiction lending library. We continued sharing books after graduation, but the subject matter expanded beyond S/F.

Living way the heck out in the woods, expeditions to bookstores were a big deal. I’d load up with a many as I could afford.

I also read an awful lot of magazines. Magazines were a significant expense, but at least they were delivered to my door.

In the world before e-mail, I actually wrote letters. In fact, because my handwriting wasn’t as good as I’d like, I owned and used a couple typewriters -manual typewriters. To this day, if I forget myself, I pound on computer keyboards hard enough to break them. Those old typewriters were work.

News? It was tough. There were the same TV news shows everyone watched, or the same radio news programs everyone listed to. Newspapers were a lot more popular. Often I’d pick a conservative and a liberal paper to see how they’d treat the same news. For any “alternative” news, the best I could do was short wave radio. That was pretty good. To this day I still have and use a couple shortwave radios.

Did I talk with people more back in the day? That one I had to think about a bit, but I’d have to say no. It takes an effort, but a lot of face to face time with real people goes on.

The Internet made everything but real face to face meetings easier and cheaper. This is an unusual time in history. Never before has it been so easy to access the world and interact with other people. Lets see how long we can hold onto it.

-Sixbears

Monday, February 6, 2012

Back from friends

My lovely wife and I had a great visit with good friends. Dad volunteered to watch the dog, so we took in some sights that we couldn’t take a dog to.

We went to a Medieval fair. Good fun. Large crowds. Lots of interesting stuff going on.






One other day my lovely wife and I took in the Florida Museum of Natural History. It had been a few years since we’d been there. The displays have been expanded and new ones added.



The connection between the two attractions? Mainly, we were interesting in having fun with good friends. There was a connection of concern to a prepper. At the fair, there were plenty of demos of Medieval living -life before petroleum man. It also became pretty clear that they had plenty of fun back on the day; something we shouldn’t lose sight of.

At the museum they have extensive displays about the native peoples who once lived in Florida. As a canoe enthusiast, it was great to examine cultures who depended so heavily on the canoe.

We did have some great discussions with our friends. They get it. I’m happy to report that unlike many people in today’s economy, they are doing very well. It’s about being flexible and willing to change as conditions change.

-Sixbears

Off to see Friends

Florida has a lot of people, but it’s a big state. Even today, there are some seriously rural places. We are currently visiting friends who live in such an area.

They are very private people so there won’t be any photos from this trip.

Our friends would be considered preppers as they equipped to live a long time with what they have on hand. They have some big gardens and some unusual bug out options should that become necessary.

If I miss a post or two, it’s because there’s no Internet connection where they live.

-Sixbears

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Boat Solar

This small 30 watt solar panel keeps my boat’s battery topped off. Mounting a solar panel on a small boat can be difficult. There are commercially available panel mounts, but they cost a lot more than what I paid for the solar panel. This is my low cost solution.

In this position, I can catch the sun low on the horizon, but the main advantage of is that the panel is totally clear of the cockpit. I have room to run the outboard.



It’s easy to change its position to catch the sun from different angles. Here it’s set to catch the sun from off the bow. It can be flipped over easily should the sun come from the stern.




Looking at the underside of the panel shows my mounting hardware. The aluminum frame comes from discarded golf cart parts. It’s pretty simple. All hardware is either aluminum or stainless steel.




The panel can be completely removed from the boat. This is a fishing rod holder that I installed to hold the short support rod. With the solar panel removed, it could still hold a fishing rod.




The whole solar project cost about $150. The solar panel and charge controller came from Amazon and cost about $120. There’s another $30 or so for the fishing rod holder and the mounting hardware.

-Sixbears

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Being here now

When my lovely wife and I talk about our travels, people often ask us if we worry about leaving our house and things behind.

Short answer: no.

Some winters we drain the plumbing and shut down the heat. We find temporary homes for all the house plants and the guns. The dog comes along for the ride.

Other winters, like this one, we have house sitters. That’s a lot easier as we can leave everything up and running. When we get home, the house is warm and the systems are functioning. It’s very convenient.

People ask me questions like: what if the house burns down? Then it burns down. That’s what insurance is for. It’s a mistake to get too attached to stuff. Don’t get me wrong. I love my house. Built most of it with my own hands. I’m not so much about having things as I am about having experiences.

Our 5 year plan is to eventually sell the house to the kids and build a small yurt on the property across the street. We’ll live there during the warm months and spend the other half of the year on a sailboat.

-Sixbears

Friday, February 3, 2012

6 more weeks of winter

When I was a little kid, I misunderstood the whole Groundhog day thing. I thought if the Groundhog saw its shadow and we had 6 more weeks of winter, that was the good outcome. Image that, I thought, winter being over in the middle of March. In northern NH, April can produce blizzards and subzero temps.

No wonder so many people from my hometown retire to Florida. Winter gets tougher as a person gets older. As for me, I’m a water person. I’d rather be on it in a boat that standing on it ice fishing.

-Sixbears

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Marine Supplies and boat living

Today I stopped in at a marine supply store. It’s the last place I got to for boat parts. One would think it would be the first, but put the word “marine” in front of anything and the price triples. Usually, the huge markup isn’t worth it.

Things like stainless steel bolts, screws, nuts, washers, cotter pins are much cheaper at hardware stores. Best I can tell, it’s the exactly same stuff.

However, there are some bits and bobs that can only be purchased from a marine store. For those, all I can do is take a deep breath and pull out the wallet. It seems there’s an assumption that anyone with a boat can afford to pay through the nose.

That may be true for a some sailors, but that’s a thinning slice of the market. Now I’m running into people who are living on their boats because their house was foreclosed on. I’m sure they are not as free with their wallets as they once were.

Living on a boat can be a great and inexpensive way to live. Boats are efficient and self contained. Now it’s common to have solar and wind electrical power, composting toilets, water collection -they are basically off grid houses. They have an advantage that houses don’t have. It’s possible to raise anchor and bug out.

To make that affordable to the average Joe, the price of entry must come down. If you read the glossy sailing magazines, a cheap boat is $200,000. That ain’t right. To make it a viable cheap lifestyle alternative, the price should be 1/10 of that.

It is possible to buy decent older boats on the cheap. For many people that works. The only problem that older boats need repair. For some of those repairs, a person is stuck doing what I did today. They buy specialized parts from the marine supply store. Now my boat is small and parts are relatively cheap. The boat just doesn’t have all that many parts.

Thanks to Buehler's Backyard Boatbuilding, by George Beuhler, it’s possible to build an inexpensive boat from the ground up. Should a person build such a boat, they’d have a cheap reliable craft that can repaired without going broke. Buehler has some good designs, but they won’t suit everyone’s needs. We need more people like George putting out new designs for the sea hobo. Even if you don’t build a boat from the keel up, there are some good lessons to be learned from books like Beuhler’s.

Boats have to be more than play toys for the rich, expensive working boats, or floating retirement homes. Imagine a small sailboat that’s a home, but maybe well laid out for fishing, light cargo transportation, or even salvage work. My imaginary boat would be able to get into shallow waters, opening up opportunities not available to regular boats designed only as play things. This would be a boat for a working Joe who not only lives on his boat, but uses it to pay the bills.

Such boats won’t be heavily reliant on marine supply stores. Of course, if there are enough “working Joe” boats out there, some clever marine store will begin to cater to them.

Some marine specific equipment can be bought for reasonable prices. Electronics is one area where prices have come down. GPS units, marine radios, and other electronics can be had for reasonable prices. There is no reason to buy top of the line items when the cheap stuff is reliable and does the job. Resist the bells and whistles.

That’s the chain of thought I fall into when I buy a couple small bags of boat bits. It starts out as a small necessary purchase and has me thinking of a whole way of living outside the box.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Shakedown Cruise

A week’s sailing on a small boat has given me some insight on what works and what doesn’t. In general, enough stuff worked most of the time to keep the shiny part up and dark side down. Anything beyond that is bonus.

One thing I learned is to keep closer attention on the boat’s rigging. A trailer sailer is a compromise. It has to be easy enough to set up the mast and rigging for a day sail, but also has to hold up to weeks on the water. The rigging loosened up a bit and that’s something I should have caught earlier. I didn’t notice it until pop rivets snapped out of the base of the mast. Fortunately, a pop rivet gun and rivets are part of the boat’s tool kit. It was only a half hour repair to replace the rivets and tighten the rigging. It never should have gotten to that point.

One very useful thing in our took kit was gorilla tape. It’s duck tape’s stronger cousin. We used it from everything to minor wiring repairs to holding a headlamp over the compass for night sailing.

The new solar panel worked pretty good, but there were a couple of glitches. During a hectic time on the water, the spare anchor got tangled in the solar panel wire and pulled it apart. To prevent that in the future, the wire will run completely inside the boat and clear from cargo in the hold.

During the last night out, the boat’s battery died. Good thing it was the last day. We need that battery to run the anchor light. I have sleep apnea and run my c-pap machine off the battery, so it’s a medical issue too.

That’s about the only things that caused problems -minor stuff in the big scheme of things. Most things went well. Anything that broke could be fixed or worked around.

Now all we have to do is pick out our next sailing destination.

-Sixbears