Let There Be Light! By Mark

We have just made an exciting new addition to our boat in the form of a salvaged solar panel.  After a little soldering and TLC we starting getting power out of the gently used 90 watt panel.  Two aluminum bars from a broken patio umbrella provided the mounting brackets plus some electrical wire from the local hardware and we have completed the best improvement made to the boat since leaving Florida.  Bimini

We have always had to watch our batteries closely so as not to draw them down too much before we ran the engine or generator to charge them back up.  The solar panel has since given us precious watts while we are at anchor so we can continue to run the refrigerator when we need store perishable foods from time to time. Solar 1

Your tools will be some of your best friends when you are cruising and mine are always close at hand.  Unfortunately, it is hard to watch them grow a layer of rust over themselves as they soak in the ever-present salt air.   BracketsSmooth Sailing,


Education Afloat by Mark

Over the year we will be gone, we have been homeschooling our boys on the boat.  The experience has been great so far in that we have had the opportunity to show our kids practical applications to many of the lessons we have been teaching.  For example, a discussion about latitude and longitude is concluded by plotting our position on the chart. We talk about the relationship between degrees, minutes and seconds and they get to take turns reading our position on the chartplotter as well as plotting our position on the chart throughout the day.

Mark and Cole plotting our position.

Mark and Cole plotting our position.

For Christmas the boys received an invention kit from Radio Shack.  The kit included the materials to make simple motors, a radio, a telegraph and a number of other inventions.  We invited some of the other cruising family’s kids onboard to make the telegraph.  We incorporated some of the literature we picked up at a pony express station in Nebraska because it was the invention of the telegraph that made the pony express obsolete after only 18 months of operation.

A successfully built spinning motor.

A successfully built spinning motor.

Our lesson using the telegraph lent itself to learning about Morse Code.  The next day the kids used flashlights to send messages using Morse Code to one another.   The trivia question for the day is, what does SOS stand for?

And so goes learning on a boat.  We learn about radios and then we use them in a practical application.

This week we have been held over at Black Point in the Exumas .  While here, the boys are going to the local school.  The kids in the school have been very friendly and the teachers and principal were open to having any of the cruising kids attend while we are here.

Helping out in Black Point.

Helping out in Black Point.

Christine and I were invited to help out in the school as well.  She has been helping with some of the kid’s reading, while I gave a short lesson to the class about energy and simple machines.  I brought in a chisel/wedge, a pry bar/lever as examples of simple machines and scavenged up a wheelbarrow from one of the locals and a propeller and can opener from our boat as examples of compound machines to demonstrate how simple machines can be combined to make more complex ones.

Recess is fun where ever you are.

Recess is fun where ever you are.

Meeting new friends at school.

Meeting new friends at school.

More importantly than the lessons they are learning in class is the experience they are getting by attending school in another country.  They are making new friends in a different culture and while that isn’t part of the lesson plan it’s all part of the experience.  Who knows if they well ever study abroad, but if they do now they have at least a taste of what they could expect it to be like.  We thank the teachers and kids at Black Point for inviting us into their school.


Adventures in Nassau by Mark



We arrived in Nassau at 11:00AM this morning, our crossing from Bimini took us 21 hours and was about 120 nm.  We fueled up at the Nassau Harbor Club and took on 11 gallons of diesel averaging just over .5 gal/hr.

"Ten Years After" Sailing with us to New Providence  Island.

“Ten Years After” Sailing with us to New Providence Island.

After anchoring east of the fuel docks we all jumped in the water to cool off.  The boys watched eagle rays gliding  along the bottom while I cut away some monofilament line that was wrapped around the prop shaft.


Woke up this morning to a change in the feel of the motion of the boat.  Going up on deck confirmed my suspicions that we had run aground!  Being low tide we were fairly certain that we would float off by morning, but still, it was disconcerting to have run aground and visions of towing bills danced in my head.


Morning came and we were all happy to see that our boat had also risen with the tide.  We hoisted our anchor and wasted no time motoring to the Atlantis Resort.

We spent the day at the water park and were thoroughly exhausted by evening.

Atlantis, sharks  and water slides, who would have thought!

Atlantis, sharks and water slides, who would have thought!

Staying at the Paradise Island Marina turned out to be a good value.  The slip cost us $4/ft and there was a 40ft minimum but for $160 we also received free admission to the water park.


We took showers, checked the weather and did our laundry before checking out of the Marina and relocated to our old anchorage but this time in a little deeper water.

We put out more rode and set the anchor and felt confident that we had picked a better spot for the night.

That evening we invited a boat neighbor over for dinner.  Just seeing the boat that he was sailing was enough to tell me that he would have a few stories to tell.  David’s boat was a Pacific Seacraft Flicka, a 20ft boat capable of crossing oceans.  We listened to David tell stories about crossing the Atlantic ocean in his Flicka “Mist” to the Azores and beyond.  He told us how he used to dive for abalone and his encounters with great white sharks and the seals that would hit you from behind to steal your shells.  If you knew what was good for you the smartest thing to do was to let them have them and get out of there.

David had lost 7 boats to hurricanes and just about the time I started thinking that some of his stories might be a little too fantastic to be completely true a squall blew into the harbor and our anchor started to drag.  David thought that out rode had wrapped around  our keel so I put on my snorkel and fins and dove over the side to clear the keel.  By the time I surfaced David had hopped into his dingy and rowed out to unfoul our anchor which had wrapped around his own anchor line.  He lifted our 70ft of chain and anchor not once but twice into his dingy and reset out anchor before rowing back to our boat and calmly said to my wife. “And that is why I remain so fit!”

David getting ready to row away from "Mist".

David getting ready to row away from “Mist”.

That a 73 year-old man could row out at night, in a squall and rescue our boat was more than a little like watching superman swoop down out of the sky and lift a plane about to crash back to safety.

The worst of the winds passed and we were all eating spaghetti when I noticed a brightly lit boat pass our stern.  We all went up into the cockpit and watched a Christmas parade of boats traveling up and down the eastern channel blasting music and fireworks into the night sky.  Clearly, Toto, we’re not in Kansas or Idaho anymore.


Boat work: posted by Mark


Our friend Lee came out to our boat yesterday and today.  We have been replacing a homemade navpod with the real deal.  Monday when Jason from Nance and Underwood came out to work on our reefing system we discovered one of the supports for the running rigging was missing where it attached to the base of the mast.  It had broken at some point in the past.  Lee welded a new support back in place returning the brace to its former strength.

Lee adding a brace at the base of the mast.

After two days we completed the work on the new navpod.  We relocated the auto pilot to the port side of the cockpit.  I had to have a new bar fabricated to hold the navpod.  The work was done by Stuart at JTL Marine Engineering.  He did a great job bending the new bar for us, it was a prefect fit.  Lee was a big help working on the navpod and moving the autopilot to say the least. It was like the cavalry had shown up when he arrived with a welder and tools in hand.

Relocating the autopilot.


This morning Cole caught a Checkered Puffer Fish at the dock.  He was using a piece of shrimp on a jig head.  The puffer had 4 little bony teeth, 2 on the top and 2 on the bottom and he puffed up when we took the hook out to let him go.  They are very comical looking fish.

Checkered puffer fish.

Christine splicing the anchor line.

Yesterday, Christine finished whipping the anchor line and we started provisioning for the trip.  We bought about $300 worth of canned goods at Wal-Mart.  The boys wrote the names of the contents on all the cans just in case we lose the labels in the bilge.  We completed the task of clamping 2 boards between the stations where we will attach extra fuel and water jugs.


Logan and Cole helping each other on yet another boat project.

I finished the work on our engine hoist yesterday.  Essentially, I mounted an L-shaped bar upside down and next to the outboard on the stern.  The bar rests on a flange that allows it to rotate the outboard over the side of the boat and be lowered to the dinghy using an old mainsheet pulley system that we brought with us from Idaho.  A couple of U bolts keep the bar firmly against the stern rail but not so tight that you can’t rotate the bar.  At $85.00 it was a low-cost, low-tech solution to moving our outboard to and from the dinghy.

Logan tries out the outboard hoist.

Last week we replaced our anchor chain, which was only 27 feet long with 70 feet of new chain.  Christine used her braiding skills to splice the rope rode to the chain.  The combination of 2 boat lengths of chain and our new Rocna anchor will help us rest easier when we are at anchor.

The door of the anchor locker was another project, which took some time to find a solution to.  When we bought the boat, it had a windlass mounted to the locker door but the door wasn’t mounted to the boat.  My solution, was to cut the door in half, hinge one half for access to the locker, then permanently mount the other half with the windlass to the boat. Since the windlass would be putting a great deal of strain on the door, its attachment needed to be robust.  I used 2 stainless steel bars through bolted to the deck and a piece of aluminum angle iron to anchor the door at 3 points on the deck and to keep the door from flexing when you walk on it.

Top if anchor locker.

Inside of locker showing reinforcements.

In all we are pretty close to being done with all the work we need to do in order to go on our cruise.  The projects have taken longer than I expected them to take.  It’s hard to believe that we have been working on the boat for almost 2 months now.  The upside is we have addressed all the areas of greatest concern and we have learned a great deal about our boat in the process.

Fair winds,


Diamonds in the Rough / A Week in Review: posted by Mark

This post is really to all of the people out there that may have dreamt, as we did, of buying a boat and sailing off over the horizon.  There are plenty of great stories out there about the cruising end of it, but I also wanted to tell the story of preparing the boat as well.  For us, the great unknowns were what it would entail to purchase a used boat and fix it up to the point where we could take it cruising.  Of course when one shops for a bargain some work is usually implied.  I think the best way to give you an idea of what you might encounter when seeking out your diamond in the rough would be to give you a recap of the average workweek, more or less, on our boat.

Saturday 10/6/12

Occasionally, we take a pause just to go see something new Florida and get everyone off the boat. Last week we took a needed break and visited the Museum of Discovery in Ft Lauderdale.  We saw horseshoe crabs and learned how Geckos stick to walls.  They had great exhibits on just about everything from exploring Mars to the fossils of Florida. We took in a 3D movie about coral reefs at the IMAX Theater and learned a great deal about our new environment in the process.

Horseshoe crab at the Museum of Discovery & Science.

Oddly enough we learned that for all of the water in Florida dealing with drought is an almost annual occurrence in the state.  It has been raining almost daily for us since we arrived so that is a little hard to imagine but apparently Florida has taken steps to recharge it’s aquifers thru a program called Acceler8.

Sunday 10/7/12

We attached an outboard engine mount to the aft stern rail where our dingy motor will reside when not in use. We may have to add an extra support bar to take some of the added strain on the rail.  One item removed from the list, another added, and so it goes…

This afternoon the boys interviewed Nick and Thea, a couple of live aboards at our docks.   Nick had navigated most of the length of the Amazon River working as the captain of a research vessel in South America for a time.   He also ran a laundry mat before that called Nick’s Soap Opera where his slogan was “Where you can drop your pants anytime”!  Needless to say Nick is a real character with a sense of humor that belies his depth of experience.  Thea is a soft-spoken woman with an English accent who grew up in Africa, England and other parts of the world. At the age of 10 she boarded a plane by herself leaving Libya to attend boarding school in England. No adults were allowed to leave the country at the time because Muammar Gaddafi had just come into power. Thea has been living aboard boats since she was 21 years old.

The boys interviewing Nick and Thea.

Monday 10/8/12

This morning I tackled the job of installing a head gasket rebuild kit.  It appears to have solved the problem we were having with sewage backing up into the head.

Installing head rebuild kit.

We bought an installed a zinc anode over the side of the boat to help reduce the rate of corrosion we observed on our shaft zinc during our last haul out.  With so many boats in the water it is not uncommon to have stray currents of the electrical kind flowing in the canals where our boat is.  Adding another anode should help to protect our new prop and shaft from corrosion.

Putting anode in water.

Tuesday 10/9/12

After our last haul out we knew we needed to replace the coolant in the engine.  With the help of Cole and Logan we drained the coolant, then removed and inspected the heat exchanger.

Working on heat exchanger.

Rather than using a radiator to dissipate the heat from the engine coolant as in a car, a marine engine has a heat exchanger that passes seawater through a series of tubes that similarly removes the heat from the engine coolant water.

We continued working aft and inspected the mixing elbow where seawater enters the exhaust system after passing through the heat exchanger.  Finally, we refilled the heat exchanger and ran the engine to get any air out of the system and checked for leaks.

All hands on engine.

Wednesday 10/10/12

Today is Christine’s Birthday and we are taking a day off to celebrate!  This morning we drive to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center and take a tour of a Florida hammock or forest as they are called.  We see numerous Banana and Crab spiders on our walk and a shell midden left by native Indians when they inhabited the area.  We are in the middle of one of the most developed parts of the Florida coast and the nature center is a welcomed glimpse of what the land used to look like.   Gumbo Limbo, which is actually the name of a tree, is also a sea turtle rehabilitation center for baby turtles that have gone astray and adult turtles that have been injured.  The center is a good reminder of the impact we have on nature.

Learning about the barrier island at Gumbo Limbo.

Crab spider seen on walk.

Big banana spider!

Apparently when sea turtles hatch they head towards the brightest horizon.  The problem is, that with all of the development along the coastline the brightest horizon may now be inland rather than out to sea.  Efforts are in place to reduce the amount of light along the coast when turtles are nesting, but one has to wonder how much of an effect it can have, still, it’s an effort to point the little turtles and us I think in the right direction.

Innovations like Turtle Extruder Devices may be helping to account for increases in Turtle counts in recent years. They also help to reduce the by-catch of U.S. fishermen.  It’s encouraging to see people continue to make efforts to reduce the impact on non-target species.   I mean I truly like sea turtles, but I also like shrimp too, just in another way…

Turtle extruder-turtles swim out of the net but not the shrimp.

Fishing line takes 600 years to decompose, longer than plastic bottles and disposable diapers which take 450 years to decompose.

Thursday 10/11/12

On Tuesday we ran out of compressed natural gas, CNG.  Most boats use liquid propane gas, LPG for cooking.  CNG is great from a safety point of view because it is lighter than air if there is a leak the gas simply flows up and out of the boat.  It is also inexpensive at about $2/gallon.  The problem is it’s difficult to find.  While natural gas is abundant and many people heat their homes with it, it’s not highly pressurized and there in lies the problem.  Finding a station that pressurizes CNG to 2,000psi is difficult in the United States and impossible to find in the Bahamas.  We will likely switch to LPG before we go sailing but for now we just want to fill our bottle.

The person who could fill our bottle wasn’t going to be available to do so until today so it meant cooking on the barbeque for a couple of days.  We had to call for directions after missing the entrance to the station or should I say pump. We drove down a little industrial alley next to a bunch of busses waiting to be reconditioned or just abandoned, we weren’t sure which.  In the corner of the lot was the CNG pump, and the object of our quest.   After a few minutes of waiting and watching my mirrors, the purveyor of the pump arrived and began filling our bottle up.  We had a great conversation about alternate fuels, electric cars and oil companies in general.  He topped off the CNG tanks in his pickup truck and followed us out of the lot shortly after.

Once back at the boat I replaced a couple of marginally working faucets in the V berth and in the head.  Last we checked we had any leaks stopped beneath the waterline, which demanded our haul out, and moved to fixing a couple of leaks above the waterline.  While they don’t threaten the in the same way as they do below the waterline, they do tend to annoy the heck out of you all the same.  I was sealing a leaking port light when Val came out to begin installing our new dodger.

Val does canvas work on all kinds of boats including mega yachts and it’s not uncommon for him to be flown to different countries to work on a yacht so we were glad to be able to catch him to do ours. We had heard that Val had been on the crew of a round the world Whitbread race so we were looking forward to hearing some of his stories.  He told us he would bring a book written about the race tomorrow and he would take us to see the boat he currently races and did I mention, built himself!

Friday 10/12/12

Val returned this morning to measure out the fabric for the dodger.  He brought us the book “Fazizi” the story of his experience in the Whitbread race.  After making measurements we followed him over to his house and shop.

Val working on the dodger template.

When one imagines a homemade boat, the vessel that Val built is not usually what comes to mind.  Where most amateur boat builders use plywood as their material of choice Val has used carbon fiber for an ultra light mast and keel support.  The sailsare Kevlar and that’s a good thing too, because with a hull design that can plane off waves like a sled he enjoys reaching speeds around 17 knots  in a fresh breeze.  Not exactly what I would call sailing for the faint of heart!  I couldn’t imagine a better way to expose our boys to engineering and material science than sitting inside the hull of that boat and seeing it first hand.

Val’s boat Breeze.

On the way back to our boat we stopped at “E marine” to get some ideas for alternative ways to supply the amps we will need to charge our batteries when we are cruising.  It is already evident that we will need to balance power, cost and convenience, but there are many exciting options available.  See them at http://www.emarineinc.com.

Back at the dock our neighbor Burt was in the progress of reinstalling a bracket for his outboard engine.  When it became apparent that the only person able to fit inside the lazarette needed to be small, Logan found his first job as a boat sub-contractor.   He replaced the bolts needed to readjust the bracket while Cole found employment swabbing the decks and washing down the boat, skills I hope he will apply to our boat as well!

Logan turned 11 today, and a surprise birthday party ended our day.  Ross came down to help celebrate on his way to the airport to pick up Astrid, and we all shared cake and ice cream. Who knew there was even a candle app out there! Logan received gifts from several of our new friends and opened a present he received in the mail from Grandma and Grandpa too.

Logan’s 11th birthday party.

Saturday 10/13/12

Every boat is different and so are the repairs but after a quarter of a century one can expect to be making at least a few repairs or replacing parts that have reached the end of their expected lifetime. We have been making great progress with the boat, every day we chisel away a bit more at our to do list, but I now see why people say, work on a boat is never done.

Today I opened up the overhead to discover why the lights on the starboard side of the boat were not working. Even though we won’t use them when we are sailing to conserve power, I really wanted to find the source of the problem.  On the way I found more abandoned speaker wires from the stereo and pulled them out as I went.  I made good progress when our neighbor Randy stopped by and found one end of a wire that had slipped out of its connector.  The setting sun brought a close to the days troubleshooting, but tomorrow I will search out the other end of the wire and with any luck we will have starboard side lighting!

Till next time,

Mark _/)

Blog Log 09/27/2012: posted by Mark

We moved on to the boat this week after five days of cleaning, scrubbing and disinfecting our boat.  Since the time it takes to update our blog has taken a backseat to the necessity of getting our boat ready to move on to, I thought it best to at least update you with our to do list until we get caught up.  There is a Columbus Day regatta in Miami we would like to sail our boat to next weekend, but before we go, we need to haul the boat back out of the water, have a leaking depth finder rebedded and two other thru-hulls replaced.

The thru-hull for the forward sink drain has a slight leak when you move the valve handle, but the real problem has been the head.  A leaking LectraSan unit was making a smell that just could not be ignored.  I removed the unit and the origin of our odors but now we need to replumb the head.  The thru-hull pump out for the holding tank had been capped off, and when I tried to open the valve to check it, the handle fell off in my hand.  This will be the second thru-hull that we need to replace, or, as I like to call it, thru-hull number 2.  There are many items on a boat you can live without, but the head isn’t one of them!

Lectra San job. Note Logan’s creative way to deal with the smell!

A few items we have addressed so far have been mounting new fire extinguishers, burning the ends of any frayed sheets, mounting a new winch handle holder, mapping out and checking all thru hulls, familiarizing ourselves with the battery system, attaching a waterproof boot over our shore power cable. Even hooking up our holding tank pump out required a trip to the hardware store.  We started replacing some of the lights on the boat with LEDs, had a canvas maker come out to measure for a new dodger and made bumper boards for our new liveaboard slip.

Logan, Cole and Christine mapping out the thru-hulls. This took a large part of the day and was the boys homeschool project.

Several other items on our ‘to do soon’ list include replacing a leaky hatch over the V berth, a trip up the mast to replace a couple of lights and attach a radar reflector. Attaching the anchor locker and windlass to the boat which would also be a good idea before a breaking wave addresses the issue for us.

Needless to say the list is long and the time is short.  The good news is, there are people to help; the only problem is they all require money for their services!  But that isn’t exactly true either because there have been so many people already that have helped us with advice and shared information that they acquired over years of boating experience that has been given at no cost to us and has been an invaluable resource as we head up the learning curve.  This is part of the attraction of sailing to us.  The challenges are not particularly easy but camaraderie between cruisers has been a great experience already and we haven’t even ventured beyond the intercostal waterway!

Christine at the helm for the first time on the intercostal waterway with our friend, Ross giving moral support. Logan is helping to watch for traffic.

Till next time,


Heading to Florida: posted by Mark


Greetings all and thanks for checking in on our adventure.  School has officially begun and the crew of Truansea is putting the final touches on packing up the house and making several piles of supplies for our sailing adventure.  How all of those piles of books, bedding and gear are going to fit into our SUV remains to be seen, although I suspect it’s going to be a tight fit!

All the stuff we’re not going to take.

We somehow managed to empty our house into a 12×25 foot storage unit and even filled up the back of our Subaru before parking it in the neighbor’s field.  When you go from an 1800 sq ft house to about 180 sq ft of living space on a boat something has to stay behind.  In this case it’s about 99% of everything we own.

As we head to Florida we will be backtracking portions of the Oregon Trail and the transcontinental railroad.  The opportunity to make history come alive is one we’re not going to miss on this trip and will be a part of our boy’s ongoing year of home or boat schooling.


Knowing that the engine of our SUV and the little diesel engine of our boat will be of great importance in the success of our trip we began teaching the boys early how an engine works by building a working model of a V-8 engine.  Revell makes a great visible V-8 that actually performs all of the functions of a working engine when you turn the crank.  An accompanying guidebook explains some of the finer points even Dads can learn a thing or two from!

Completed model V-8 engine.

Completed model V-8 engine.

Well the sun is up and there is much to do before we go, please come back to check in with us again.