An Ode to Anne
In my last job, my boss (Anne) was keen on lists of “FAQs” (Frequently Asked Questions) whenever we had to communicate a new service or product to our colleagues. When Captain John and I first started talking about this boat thing, I had a lot of questions related to how we would manage our routine lives from a boat instead of a house. Many of my friends and family are asking the same questions now. So this is my version of an FAQ for Boat Living and is dedicated to Anne.
How big is your boat? If John and I are at opposite ends and want to trade places, it’s too small. If we are coming into the dock after dark, it’s too big. Officially, it is 38.5 feet long and 13.1 feet wide at the widest point. According to the official layout, we have a central salon/galley (the “great room” – living – dining –family and kitchen), one head (bathroom) and two berths (bedrooms) but in reality we have one berth and one storage area.
How do you get mail? While we are in the marina, we have a mail box at the office, similar to the bank of boxes you see in an apartment complex. Once we leave, our mail will go to a mail service in Florida called St. Brendan’s Isle. They will scan the outside of the mail, email that to us, and we tell them whether it should be sent, held or shredded. There will be times when we stay put for a few days/weeks at time (like a vacation, or when we need to do some boat jobs) so we’ll have the mail forwarded to a marina in Mexico (or wherever).
What happens to your sewage? Not a topic for dinner (unless you live on a boat or work in healthcare) but it needs to be addressed. The boat has a 40-gallon holding tank. In the marina, there is a little boat that comes around and pumps out our holding tank every other week. Once moving, we may hold it when we are anchored but once out in deeper water just open it up and let it go. I know you just said “ewwwwww”. But think of this: how big are whales and how much do you think they poop?
Where does your water come from? Nakamal has a 140 gallon water tank. In the marina, we fill the tank using a hose. At sea, we will use the water maker to filter and desalinate sea water at the rate of six gallons/hour and when we can, collect rain water. Water conservation will be important, but we are from the desert so it’s not a new concept to us.
What do you do if there isn’t any wind? Um, a wind chant? Float aimlessly? Actually, we have a 50-horsepower diesel engine, and an 85-gallon fuel tank. Plus, we will have four 5-gallon jerry jugs of diesel fuel strapped on the deck. Nakamal uses about 0.7 gallon of fuel per hour, and we move along at about 6-7 miles / hour under power. The math eludes me, but if we had to motor all the way from Chula Vista to Cabo San Lucas, we should have enough fuel on board to get us there.
Where do you park your car? There is a parking lot at the marina. We’ll sell the car before we leave so it will be someone else’s problem after that. In Mexico, we will use buses or taxis but more likely do a lot of walking.
Can you call home? There are cell phone plans that include calling the U.S. from Mexico. Hooray for the global economy. We will probably have to get Mexican phone numbers.
How will you get power for lights, fridge, etc? At the marina, we will plug into shore power. At sea we have solar panels and a wind generator which charge up house batteries. When necessary, we can also charge the house batteries by running the diesel engine.
Did you see that movie – you know, the one with Robert Redford? Yes – “All is Lost”.
And I’m pretty sure that if we run into a shipping container that puts a big hole in our boat and kills all our electronics our first move will NOT be to climb out of the boat, jump onto the container and crawl to the front to see what the contents were. There were other scenes in it that stretched the limit of reality.
Does the boat rock a lot?
In the marina, the water is very still and the boat only sways a little bit when someone steps on or off, moves from side to side or the wind kicks up.But we live in San Diego where the weather is perfect, so that doesn’t happen often. After we leave and spend more time at anchor, it is likely that the foundation will not be so stable. This is why boats have lots of hand-holds built in.
How do you cook? Electric or propane stove top, oven? Can you bake on the boat? We have a three-burner propane stove with an oven, plus a propane grill attached outside. The thing we will have to learn is how often we need to fill the propane tanks, and where in Mexico to find propane. In the U.S. there is propane at every third gas station. We are thinking it won’t be so easy in Mexico but luckily the Captain is a planner, so I’m not worried.
How will you get money? In the old days, people would have to find banks and have money wired. In this day and age, we just need to find an ATM. We will have to pay a non-home bank fee + a foreign transaction fee but still cheaper and easier than wire transfers.
Where will you do laundry? Here in the marina, there is a laundry room with six washers and six driers. In the cruising life, some places will have public laundromats, in other locations there may be a village washerwoman who takes in laundry. Our challenge will be getting the laundry from the boat to the dinghy, then to shore, then out of the dinghy to wherever (and hopefully we remember to pack the soap too), then reverse the process to get the clean and dried laundry back to the boat still clean and dry. We have also stocked up our wardrobe with lightweight, quick-drying clothing that we (and by “we” I think Captain John means “E”) can wash out by hand and dry on the lifelines.
How do you keep your awesome wine collection chilled to the right temp? We drank most of the awesome wine collection before we moved on the boat, and the rest John sold to private collectors – problem solved! Now we just buy a few bottles at a time and store them in the “pantry” – i.e. under one of the seats in the salon.
Do you have a widescreen mounted somewhere to watch Netflix, local TV, etc. Can you watch TV broadcasts on deck and below deck, and on what screens? When sailing in to the wild blue yonder, can you watch Netflix? How do you get internet in the middle of the ocean? In other words, are you OK and connected? Let’s break this multi-part question down starting with TV:
When we first moved aboard, we brought a small flat screen TV and DVD player from the house. That lasted about two weeks and we realized we needed the space more than we needed the TV. Now we stream (binge watch) TV shows from Netflix on the iPad. It’s cheap – less than $10/month – so I think we’ll keep that service for awhile to see how much we use it when we have connection in Mexico. For live sports, I head up to the marina bar or boaters’ lounge to use the TV there. My cell phone here in the U.S. is Verizon, and I have the NFL network so I get to see whatever game they are showing on the local TV on my cell phone. Right now Green Bay vs. Seattle is on the screen. Sweet, but I’ll stop the Verizon service before we leave.
Here at the marina, we have Cox internet. Needed that for the period of time when we were working from the boat. Cox has cables running to the dock, so we have a box here on the boat and it’s connected to the dock with a cable – just like at your house.
Once we untie, it looks like we’ll get a cell plan in Mexico that turns John’s cell phone into a hot spot. We purchase a certain amount of data and have 30 days to use it up. If we use all the data, we can just buy more that is good for 30 days from the time of purchase. If we don’t use it…we lose it. But this is dependent on a cell signal from the Mexican cell provider so it won’t work 100% of the time – like when we are at anchor in a peaceful, out of the way bay.
In the middle of the ocean, we will use a service called “Sail Mail”. It’s slow (think back to the old days of really slow dial up modems, when we were all impressed just to be able to connect to a computer in another city) and expensive, so we’ll use that sparingly – for example if there is no wind, and we are going to be a couple days late to our next destination, I can email Mom so she doesn’t fret. But not suitable for Facebooking, blogging, or streaming TV shows.
Will you be able to follow U of A sports? As long as I can find an internet connection, I will check in on the Cats. Bear Down!