Should We Go Fulltime or Not?

Port-A-Bote on shore

Port-A-Bote on shore

This year while in Florida the discussion of whether to live fulltime in the RV became pretty serious.  Between the fishing, sightseeing, beach walking, shelling, boating (we have a Porta-Bote [portable folding boat] that folds up to the size of a surfboard and works great), sunsets and sunrises, it is just darn relaxing and fun. The knowledge that we are not getting any younger and if we want to do this, we should get going is in the forefront of most discussions. Here’s just some of the debate that drives us both crazy:

Downside: The biggest problem for both of us is that we love Arkansas; Hot Springs Village in particular! We have lots of friends, a great church, Bob has a lucrative handyman business, nine beautiful and affordable golf courses to play within 10 to 15 minutes of the house, beautiful lakes to boat on (we have friends with boats so we don’t need one of our own anymore!), and fabulous motorcycling roads. How can we give all this up?

Upside:  We could rent out the house, buy a lot nearby and use it as a home base for four months during the year, so we would still maintain our friendships. If we rented the house out, we could use that as income in addition to our pensions. Financially, we would probably be much better off.

Downside:  I like to write and read. I need to have a spot that I can have my computer and files and privacy without the blaring noise of the television, which Bob loves to have going even when he is not watching the darn thing!

Upside:  Bob is usually always in motion and either fishing or doing a project outside, which leaves me plenty of time to write and read. We both love each other’s company and if we could combine golf with traveling, it would be fun.

Downside: We need a bigger coach. We need more slides. In fact, we need as many slides as we can get. And, we need more storage space. This coach, even though it is bigger than the 29 footer, does not have much storage. (Can’t even put my pots and pans away!) And, the few drawers it has are very narrow. We have made the decision that a fifth wheel is what we want if we do decide to go full time. So now we need a bigger truck too!

Upside:  We need a new truck anyway.  Our little pickup truck has 123,000 miles on it.

Downside:  Do I really want to do all my laundry in laundry mats???

Upside:  We will buy ALL new underwear and towels as I do not want to be folding “holey” underwear and ratty towels in front of other people. And, hard to admit, but I actually enjoy my laundry mat time. I put all the wash in at once, sit and read or go for coffee. Then I fold it while visiting with someone, and head back to the camp. Done for the week.

DownsideWe have great friends here, what if we end up in a situation where we don’t get along with the people? I love my peace and quiet, what if we end up in an RV park with annoying barking dogs?

Upside: That’s one of the easier ones; we can drive away.

Downside: We have a Harley motorcycle that we are not ready to give up yet. How in the world can we pull that and a fifth-wheel?

Upside:  Bob found a trailer design that actually hooks into the back of a fifth wheel and becomes a part of the trailer. It is a little pricey, so he is thinking of fabricating it himself. (Obviously that will lend itself to a blog on its own!)

Downside:  The cost of fuel. It does not seem to be getting any cheaper.

Upside:  After doing a lot of reading and talking to people, seems that when traveling fuel costs are averaging $125 to $175 a day. Most people say that the cost averages out if you stay in one spot for a month or so before moving on. I would want to do that anyway.

Questions:  Will we get bored after awhile? Should we stay in one spot for two or three months at a time?  Or should we move every month? Every couple of weeks? Should we join an RV Club and go from park to park? What mail service should we use?

Conversation ongoing…..input welcomed!!!

 

Remodeling La Roja

The following is an excerpt from Dolphins Forever On Her Bow describing Bob’s work on La Roja:

Chapter 6: The Work Begins

Once we got La Roja situated on blocks in the boatyard, it was time to get to work.

Stated in the inspection report, “additional trim ballast is noted within the bilge under the diesel engine.” The “additional trim ballast” was sixteen individual 60-pound led ingots. We did not feel comfortable with that much unsecured weight in the bilge. Bob’s thought was that if we could somehow get them out, that maybe he could instead relocate them to the bottom of the keel. That would place all of the weight securely at the bottom of the boat, which would not only serve to further stabilize her, it would be safer. He was not quite sure how he was going to achieve this, but we decided our top priority was to get them off the boat.

Bob covered in engine oil!

Bob covered in engine oil!

The first step was to muscle them out of the bilge, up the stairs and onto the deck. This proved to be not so easy. Bob was able through brute strength to carry each ingot one by one from under the engine to the target. However, the bilge had not been cleaned in many years (maybe even never) and was not only filthy with dust and dirt, but also thick, heavy oil that had leaked from the engine down into the dregs of the bilge. By the time Bob had managed to get all 16 ingots topsides, he was covered in oil. It was a mess.

Once the ingots were on the deck, the next problem was how to get them to the ground, which was about a 20-foot drop. We devised a pulley system. One by one we lowered each ingot. I was at the bottom and my job was to unload and send the pulley back up. Now I, too, became covered in oil. We eventually got all the ingots off the boat, cleaned them up and stacked them next to the boat. On to the next step: attaching them to the bottom of the keel.

After much discussion, Bob came up with a plan to attach the led ingots to the bottom of the boat. Before he began to implement his idea, he decided to drill a small hole at the bottom of the keel. As he was in the process of drilling, liquid began pouring out. He drilled a couple more holes and even more liquid came out. The liquid smelled like acetone, but did not burn the skin. When it hit the pavement, however, it turned orange. When he sprayed water to wash the liquid out of the yard, it became literally a sea of foam. We both began to panic. What the heck was going on? I ran and got the inspection report out as I remembered something said about the keel. Sure enough, there it was: “The keel is fitted with four columns of steel shot for ballast.” But that did not answer any questions. The orange foam was now threatening to seep through the entire boatyard. We began to worry if it was some kind of hazardous material. Luckily it was after hours and no one was around, but if we didn’t clean the mess up we definitely were in danger of not only heavy fines, but being evicted!

In a panic we put in an emergency call to the original builder, Lucas, who came immediately over to check it out. After much head scratching, he remembered that he had poured 50 gallons of resin, mixed with acetone, to fill all the spaces the steel shot had missed. Apparently it had not set up in 15 years. We decided that had to be the case. We let it finish draining, plugged all the holes we had drilled, and washed and scrubbed practically the entire boat yard to clean up any evidence. Unbelievable. Happy Hour was celebrated with gusto that evening.

We made the decision to revisit the “ingot project” at a later date and instead decided to tackle the head (boat talk for toilet) next. We rolled up our sleeves, prepared for hard work but did not anticipate any more disasters. Bob got right to work, the plan being to pull the head out along with all the plumbing. After removing the toilet, he placed the pipe wrench on the main pipe that was connected to a thru-hole. (For the novices, a thru-hole is a hole that goes from the outside of the boat to the inside and is located under water.)  As he began to twist the nut holding the pipe in place, we both looked on in horror as the pipe simply disintegrated in his hands. Bob’s face was white and he managed a whisper: “Oh my God! Had that pipe collapsed while this boat was in water, it would have sunk.” I did not need that explained to me as I could clearly look through the gaping hole that was left and see the boatyard below. Apparently we had an even bigger job ahead of us than originally planned. We decided right then and there that all the plumbing as well as all the electrical in the entire boat would be pulled out and replaced. We were determined that by the time we were done, Bob and I would know virtually every wire, plug, hose, valve and pipe on La Roja and its condition at all times.

Chapter 7: A Little Longer Than Planned

Bob staining mahogany.

Bob staining mahogany.

Our two months turned into nine. We completely gutted the inside. The original mahogany was in good shape so we were able to clean it up and reuse most of it. We modernized the settee by tearing out the square couch and then redesigning it into a horseshoe-shaped sofa. It was a little tricky to design cushions as we needed to follow the lean of the bulkhead, which was exceedingly angled. (After all, it is a boat!) We finally managed after many trials and errors to construct cushions out of thick foam. We took our completed creation along with material to a Mexican family we had met at a flea market who did upholstery and asked them to sew the covers.  When we came to pick up them up the mom had made three big oversized pillows for us as a gift. Those pillows were perfect and completed what was to be a very comfortable and very stylish settee.

We pulled out the antiquated sink and stove from the galley (boat talk for kitchen) and replaced it with a new Force-10 stove with oven and double sink, along with candy-red counter tops. (We had to have some red with the name La Roja!) Bob built a hanging closet for my clothes and pulled out the bunk beds in the main salon. He built in its place a small couch and an entertainment section for the television and stereo.

Designing the steps was a challenge!

Designing the steps was a challenge!

Replacing the original very steep and narrow stairway from the cabin to the deck proved to be a challenge. We began the project thinking it would be easy to design wider and angled steps. We quickly realized that creating the proper angles was not as simple as we believed. After several failed attempts, we took our project outside. We began with cardboard boxes, placing them on top of each other and piling them up to the proper height. The more we tried, the more frustrated we became. Before we knew it, we had at least 20 people from all over the boatyard gathering round with ideas. It quickly became a group project. With the help of the “group,” we finally designed mock steps and made sure they worked before tackling the finished product. The end result was great, but it was not easy!

End product!

End product!

We replaced the entire sole (boat talk for floor) with teak and holly.  We replaced all the thru-hulls and added a couple more. We cleaned up the engine and replaced worn parts.

We threw out the old toilet and bought an elegant new electric marine toilet. We also threw out the bathroom sink and replaced it with a beautiful porcelain sink and brass faucets. We even put smoky glass in the cabinets, which really made the head sparkle. However, no matter how great we made the head look, it was useless without a holding tank, which it did not have. We decided the only place we could possibly put a holding tank in was under the v-birth. We tore apart the v-berth and took measurements. We used large cardboard boxes to make a “dummy” tank. From that point we were able to build the tank out of plywood, which we then fiber glassed over. We added a deck vent and an overboard discharge pump system. When we were done, we had a first-class 50-gallon holding tank along with a fancy head!

Bob with the templates for the freezer boxes.

Bob with the templates for the freezer boxes.

A priority we set for ourselves is that we had to have ability to make ice cubes. I was fast learning that nothing seems impossible to Bob. We decided the best way to accomplish this was to build freezer boxes in the area next to the engine room. Bob ordered the refrigeration system through a supplier and I bought a book on refrigeration. We drew templates from heavy construction paper and laid it all out on plywood on the dock. We then proceeded by following the instructions step-by-step. In the end we had three huge engine-driven freezer boxes, one dedicated exclusively for ice. Now no matter where we ended up, at least we could have boat drinks!

La Roja's Logo

La Roja’s Logo

We buffed out the outside hull and re-stripped it in teal. One day I came home from work (I worked during the day while Bob worked on the boat) and he met me at the car as I drove up. He made me close my eyes and then he led me to La Roja. When I opened my eyes, I gazed for the first time at the logo we had designed in its finished place on the side of the boat. I was speechless. It looked perfect!

Bob surprised me!

Bob surprised me!

We installed a mahogany toe rail completely around the hull. We removed the mast, cleaned and painted it, replacing all worn lines and installed an insulated backstay for the SSB antennae. We installed all new electronics, radar, hydraulic auto pilot, navigation and sailing instruments, computer, 110-volt 2,500 watt Trace inverter.

Bob sprayed expandable foam between the ingots.

Bob sprayed expandable foam between the ingots.

We eventually got the courage to revisit the ingot project. We ended up redesigning the keel and added a thousand pounds of ballast to the bottom using our led ingots. Bob drilled into the keel (fingers crossed; no more seepage!) and then used epoxy to bond the ingots around the base. We filled all the empty spaces between ingots with expandable foam and then sanded the area to a smooth surface. The boat yard lifted the boat off the keel for us and placed it in a hoist.  Bob enclosed the entire bottom surface with a heavy fiberglass. When it was finished it looked like a production bulb keel.

We did most all of the work ourselves, but from time to time we hired professionals for jobs that needed more knowhow and talent than muscle.  We hired Keith, a professional stainless steel man, who did extensive stainless steel work, including a new bow sprit with double bow anchors, an aft pulpit with dingy davits and two seats, two solar panels and an outboard engine hoist. We hired a professional rigger, Dusty, who replaced all the standing rigging and safety lines. And we hired a professional to do extensive canvas work, including a new dodger which enclosed the entire cockpit.

We did a lot of work in nine months. No wonder she was smiling!

She turned out pretty fine!

She turned out pretty fine!

Sold the Sea Breeze

We sold the Sea Breeze on E-Bay. We were pleasantly surprised at the number of calls we got. In fact, in the last seconds there was a bidding war and we ended up selling her for $12,000. We had used it for two years and sold it for a profit. Felt pretty good about that.

Pulled out the old carpet and installed bamboo hardwood floors.

Pulled out the old carpet and installed bamboo hardwood floors.

Bob found the Scenic Cruiser sitting in a RV Repair lot in Hot Springs, Arkansas (where we now live.) It had been for sale for over a year. It was pretty obvious when we looked at it why there was not a lot of interest. It had a leak under the sink and the floor had rotted out. Plus, it had sat for quite a while and the moldy smell was overwhelming. I started to run, but Bob was interested. He is very much the “handyman” and replacing the floor was not a concern to him. He was concerned with the motor and electronics. When he pushed the button for the slide to go out, we both could not believe our eyes as it looked like a dance hall compared to our old motorhome. He spent a lot of time looking it over and decided he could replace the floor and fix whatever was causing the problem under the sink. The rest of it was just a matter of scrubbing as the diesel engine, generator, refrigerator, freezer and electronics all were in good shape. He made a low-ball offer and the owners took it.

Finished floor.

Finished floor.

We spent the next couple of months pulling out the old carpet, fixing the leak under the sink (turned out to be the charcoal filter under the sink that had leaked, causing black, mucky stuff to ooze out and ruin the floor), and installed hardwood bamboo floors throughout the entire coach. We took the handles off all the cabinets, cleaned them up and sprayed them black. Also redid the light fixtures. It looked pretty darn nice when we got done and did not cost much money, just labor on our part.

We spent two months living in our “new” coach on the beach in Florida. We loved it and we met a lot of people who were either living full time in their rigs or living for several months in it. We left for home continuing the talk about whether we should try going twenty-four/seven or not. Seemed like the thing to do when we were in Florida, but kept kicking around the pros and cons all year.

Camped on the beach in Florida.

Camped on the beach in Florida.

We are just now returning from our second winter in Florida. This time we spent three months. Again, we loved it and the idea of going full time is a constant conversation. But, even though the Scenic Cruiser is roomy “people-wise”, it has no storage space. If we are going to go full-time, or on extended trips again, I need more storage space

My Life Has Been Changed With Daily Prayer

Every morning I try and spend time with my Lord.

Living life in prayer is sometime hard. As we grow from childhood to adult, from wearing the hats of daughter/son, sister/brother, teenager/college student, wife/husband, mother/father, grandmother/grandfather, our responsibilities grow. There are times when we get so busy with life’s challenges, we forget to place God first and live our life in and through prayer. It is important not to let that happen. Even during the busiest of our days, we need to make time, even if just a few moments, to talk to our Lord

sunriseColossians 4:2: Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

Being steadfast, or in other words, persistent, in prayer is for most of us, something we have to work at. It does not come easily. We wake up, we have our coffee, and make our list of all the “to do’s” for the day. We get distracted and make the excuse that tomorrow we’ll pray; tomorrow we’ll get up a little earlier so we have time; tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.

Being watchful in prayer with thanksgiving is equally important. It is easy to take for granted all of our blessings. It is easy also for us to personally take credit for our accomplishments. It is easy to have our life of steadfast prayer become a daily selfish pleading for our desires and needs if we forget to give thanks for what we already have been given.  God answers our prayers, both spoken and unspoken. He gives us that promise

 Matthew 21:22:  And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.

 This is God’s promise to us. The introduction for Journey In Prayer, expresses my intent in sharing this journal. I pray that it will help inspire you to dedicate your life to prayer and to realize God’s amazing blessings that He has prepared for you.

 

 

 

Life Is A Journey

Cover for JourneyLife is a journey. Not a trip, not an excursion, not an expedition, nor a jaunt; but a journey. The dictionary defines the word as “an act of traveling from one place to another.” All the above describe traveling, but a journey is different. A trip may be either long or short, for business or for pleasure (a trip to Europe.) It can also be taken at either a rushed or a leisurely pace. An excursion often applies to a brief pleasure trip, often no more than a day or so, and then returns to the place of origin (a morning excursion to the park.) A jaunt is a short, casual trip for fun or for recreation (a jaunt to the shopping mall or to the beach.) However, a journey requires a considerable amount of time and distance that will be covered.

Each morning when I wake up I try and discipline myself to spend time with the Lord. I wish I could say I never miss a day; but that is not true. In fact, sometimes I miss lots of days, even months. It is always a mystery to me when I am in the “zone” of spending time with the Lord on a daily basis, why I ever stray. He never fails me! He is amazing.

It was during one of the periods in my life when I was neglecting my “Lord” time that I picked up a journal I had kept a few years back. I sat down and read the journal and was amazed at how much I had forgotten about that period of time and how God had answered every prayer. (Remember, sometimes those “unanswered prayers” are our greatest blessings!) I also was struck how I was able to remember the journey I had taken through the progression of the pages. I decided to type them up. Just as I had finished typing the journal, my neighbor next door was in her yard crying. Not meaning to pry as she was a very private person, I felt compelled to approach her. She was grateful and shared her sorrows. It seemed she had been pregnant and when she told her boyfriend, he left her. It was a sad story and I had no words for comfort. All of a sudden I thought of my prayer journal. I told her about it and that I had kept it during a particularly lonely time in my life. I told her I would leave it on her doorstep and she could read it if she wanted.

A few days later she appeared at my door with tears in her eyes again. But this time the tears were because she had felt so comforted by the journal that she wanted to thank me. She said she had shared it with her pastor as it touched her heart in many ways.

That’s my inspiration to share this journal. There just might be another Lisa out there that needs to know that life is a journey and if lived through prayer, a blessing.

 

Article Published in Latitude 38, October 2000

Article published in popular sailing rag, “Latitude 38, Changes in Latitudes” October 2000:

Sea of Cortez

We left our homeport of Anacapa Island Marina in Channel Islands Harbor in April of last year and have slowly been making our way south. We arrived in beautiful Costa Rica in June and plan on hanging out here through the end of hurricane season. As with most every other cruiser we’ve been privileged to meet, getting a copy of ‘Latitude 38’ ‘out here‘ is a real treat. And it’s even more fun to read now because so many of the contributors are folks we’ve met along the way. Anyway, we thought it was time for La Roja to add her tales.

Our agenda for the last 18 months has been to take it real slow and enjoy each place as we go. This has proven to be a magical formula. We spent last summer in the Sea of Cortez. The abundance of sea life along with the beauty and tranquility of the area was awesome. Almost every night we fed ourselves as though dining at a smorgasbord of the sea. We often had choices: trigger fish, grouper, mullet, yellow tail, Dorado, sierra, as well as many varieties of rock scallops. We often would discuss what we wanted for dinner before heading out so we could be selective in our kill, and we almost never came back empty handed.

La Roja at anchorWe sailed – yes, sailed, which is what we try to do at every opportunity – as far north as Refugio above Bahia de Los Angeles. All along the way we enjoyed the friendliness and hospitality of the people. In Aqua Verde, we were invited to a ‘Quinceañera,’ which is a party for someone turning fifteen years old. In Santa Rosalia, we sat in the street watching the De La Hoya/Montoyo title fight on a television propped up on a fence. In Bahia de Los Angeles, we attended a pig roast. At Lemona we swam with whale sharks. At Refugio, we delighted in the sights and sounds of huge numbers of sea lions. And throughout the Sea we often sat mesmerized by the beautiful sunsets as manta rays and pelicans played in the background. We reluctantly took our leave in September, promising the locals – and ourselves – that we would return the next summer.

Once we made the crossing to the mainland, however, we found more magic! We spent the next seven months enjoying the beauty of mainland Mexico and the warmth of her people. We stopped at isolated anchorages where we were the only boat, and we also stayed at luxurious marinas where we were totally pampered. When we travelled by bus, we often found ourselves sitting next to chickens or buckets of fish while being serenaded by a guitar-playing singer. We attended many a street party, and marveled at the colorful parades with many simple but well-decorated floats depicting the Christ child – while the masked demons danced alongside. We were invited to local houses for meals, and marveled at the generosity of our hosts. We dined at wonderful restaurants, but also had food from street vendors that was equally delicious. At one cockfight we were the only gringos, and learned how to bet on the different games. We rode a Panga (a “Panga” is a type of modest-sized, open, outboard-powered, fishing boat) through the jungle to a crocodile farm; took local children and their parents sailing; rode in the back of pickup trucks; and laughed and danced at many a fiesta until the early hours of the morning. We were awakened by the music of bands playing on the beaches in small towns, practicing for yet another fiesta. We sat atop fences enjoying rodeos and cheered at many a local soccer game. When we finally left Mexico – after making our way through the dreaded Gulf of Tehuantepec (an area prone to heavy weather; hurricanes often form there) unscathed – we were filled with wonderful memories of incredible people and places – and again vowed to return soon.

When we lowered the Mexican flag and raised the Guatemalan flag, it was almost a year to the day that we had left the United States. Some of the boats leaving Mexican waters elected to head straight for Costa Rica and bypass the “forgotten middle.” In retrospect, we’re so glad that we decided to continue trekking slowly and thus stop at Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. They are not to be missed. In Guatemala, we took the bus from Bahia Naval to Guatemala City, which while very busy, has a number of historical buildings and museums. Our next stop was Antigua, which was like stepping back in time. We stayed there for three days and will visit again from the Caribbean side.

El SalvadorWe add our voices to the cruiser chorus praising the loveliness of Barillas Marina in El Salvador, and the generosity of its owner, Juan Wright. There is only one word to describe our experience there: “Wow!” From even before we arrived, we were treated with love and respect. Somehow word had reached them that that we were experiencing engine trouble, so Ameritas, one of Juan Wright’s employees who speaks fluent English, worked on her day off just to be able to assist us! She did not relax until we were safely tied to one of their moorings. When we rode the dinghy over to meet her, she tearfully welcomed us. I know this will sound overly dramatic, but I feel that Ameritas exemplifies what all of humanity should strive for: unconditional love. She treats each and every cruiser that comes through with the same level of love, concern and graciousness. And she is just one of Juan Wright’s many employees who share that attitude.

We were the first Americans he had ever seen.

We were the first Americans he had ever seen.

Our stay at Barillas Marina lasted a month. We were flown back and forth, along with Jeff and Ann from High Drama, to the capital of San Salvador in Juan Wright’s personal plane; stayed at his condo and were treated to an incredible dinner with five waiters anxiously waiting to fill every cup and plate; and were assigned a personal driver to chauffeur us around town. The driver, Hector, then took us to Juan’s beautiful crater-lake home high in the mountains, where we spent a week. We felt like royalty but protested to Hector that we couldn’t continue to accept all Juan’s generosity. “Do you want me to lose my job?” he responded.  So we sat back and enjoyed ourselves, as to do anything else would have been insulting. We later rode in a caravan through the jungle to watch a man call monkeys out of the trees; we attended a native’s 100th birthday party and were honored to be one of the first Americans the townspeople had ever seen. We also rode in a high speed Panga to a beautiful white sand island, where we basked in the sun and we were also thrilled to meet the President of El Salvador!

When we were finally able to pull ourselves away, we decided to bypass Nicaragua and head straight for Costa Rica. As we set out under perfect sailing conditions, we jokingly Nicaraguaasked each other: ‘Wonder what the traffic is like on the 405 today?‘ Within hours the sailing conditions took a turn for the worse, as we had strong wind and current on the nose with occasional squalls. At times we were down to two knots and less. Two days of battling these conditions wore us out, so we consulted our charts and decided to pull into the “No Name” (that is the name assigned to it on the chart) anchorage in Nicaragua. We hadn’t heard great things about the anchorage, but figured it would at least give us a break. As luck would have it, adverse winds and current were so strong it took us nine hours of tacking to make the final 20 miles! By that time we both agreed that the 405 would have been preferable that day. We finally made it into “No Name” – and were delighted to find a calm and pristine anchorage. We sat on deck that night watching the thunder and lightning in the distance, sipping our boat drinks and repeating over and over again: “Aren’t we lucky not to be out there!” We ended up staying at “No Name” anchorage for three days. There were a few locals fishing, and they were very pleasant. Two teenage boys showed us how to hunt octopus, then gave us one; along with detailed instructions on how to prepare it for dinner.

After heading back out, we decided to stop at San Juan del Sur, the last anchorage in Nicaragua. It was a 20-mile sail to get there, and we had one of our most exhilarating sails to date! With 20-knot winds forward of the port beam and flat seas, we occasionally hit 8.5 knots. Along the way we played tag with the Passage 52 “High Drama,” (another cruising boat) and marveled at the beautiful coastline. We dropped anchor in San Juan del Sur in less than three hours.

 Despite rumors to the contrary, the Port Captain turned out to be most helpful. He told us that if we stayed right in town, he would sign our Zarpes (A Zarpe is what the Spanish-speaking countries call an outbound clearance document, obtained from customs/immigration officials when you depart from a country or in some cases, from any port within a country) from El Salvador as a stopover, and not make us go through the entire check-in process. While the town of San Juan del Sur was charming with colonial architecture and very clean; the water was very rough out on the bay and lots of boats were on questionable moorings. In fact, we watched one sink. So we left after two nights. But we promised that we’d return – by land- as it’s easily accessible from Costa Rica.

Costa RicaWe left Nicaragua on May 31, and while having a beautiful wing-on-wing sail, entered Costa Rica. What a jewel! We stayed in Bahia Elena for a week, enjoying the sounds of monkeys and parrots, and swimming in the beautiful water. Some fishermen came up to the boat and gave us eight lobster tails. When we asked them what they wanted in return, they said a jug of water. When we threw in some baseball caps, their smiles of delight lit up the anchorage – and our hearts. We were hooked!

 We’re now in Playa Panama, Bahia Culebra, anchored off of Hiram and China’s (Her family nicknamed her China because she looks Chinese. She does not know what her given name is!) “Costa Cangrejo” restaurant. Hiram and China operate a poor man’s version of Juan Wright’s Barillas Marina in El Salvador. Not only do they offer wonderful hospitality and fantastic food, but they also arrange different activities, such as horseback riding, trips to the river with catered food, canopy rides and so forth. They also make diesel and gas runs, and have water, showers and laundry facilities. The anchorage is so calm and protected that locals bring their boats here for shelter during “Papagayos.” (The Papagayo wind is a north to northeasterly extremely strong wind and can last up to several days.)  Each morning we’ve been entertained by dolphins, and dorado literally swim around our boats. We haven’t figured out how to catch them yet, but we will! It rains about 40 inches a year here, which is about a fifth as much as it does further south. China gives the cruisers Spanish lessons on Friday mornings for the price of “desayuno” (breakfast) and salsa lessons at night. They also have cable TV, so we get our news fix. There just doesn’t seem to be any reason to hurry along!

 As they say in Costa Rica: Pura Vida! (Pure life.) Thank you for letting us share La Roja’s story.”

Cover for Cruising Book From: Dolphins Forever On Her Bow

 

Buying La Roja (Our Sailboat)

Buying the boat to go cruising in is the most important  investment. It is also the most nerve wracking as it has to be sea worthy but it also must be something you can afford. After much searching for just the right boat at the right price, here is an excerpt from Dolphins Forever On Her Bow describing our purchase :

CHAPTER 3: “WE BOUGHT A BIG-ASS BOAT!”

I cannot believe it was just a year ago that we bought La Roja. We looked for several months, up and down the coast, trying to find a blue water cruising boat within our budget. We had made a pact that if the dream of sailing away was going to work we would have to leave on our journey debt free. Always the ones we would fall love with were way out of our price range and the ones we could afford were junk.

I will never forget the day Bob called me at work and excitedly told me:  “Babe, I found our boat!” I can still feel the thrill I felt when he said those words. I had begun to feel that our dream was always going to stay a dream. How could we possibly afford to buy a cruising boat, give up jobs, property, possessions, and sail away?

The moment Bob said that he had found our boat, I mean the very instant he said the words, I knew we were going to somehow reach our goal. He went on to describe her, telling me how seaworthy and perfect she was. It was when he got to the part about how one needed “vision” to be able to realize her worth, I became nervous. “What do you mean, vision?” I asked. “Well,” he explained, “she’s been neglected for several years. She’s owner built and not quite finished. There’s no holding tank, electricity, instruments, refrigeration, etc. But her hull is hand laid fiberglass, bullet proof. The inside is all mahogany; standup engine room with a Westerbeke 4-108 diesel, a good engine. She’s a Bruce Roberts’ design offshore 45′ cutter, with a beam of 13’3″ and a flush deck. She was built in Santa Cruz, California, and designed for heavy weather sailing. All her standing and running rigging was designed for heavy weather sailing. She has all self-tailing wenches and is rigged to be easily handled by one or two people. I think with a little work she will be not only a beauty, but definitely seaworthy as well. She has been sitting for quite awhile and the salesman seems to think the owner is anxious He’s asking $49,950, but I think we can come in much lower. Do you want to see her?

Of course I wanted to see her! We made arrangements to meet with a yacht broker the following day. Much to Bob’s surprise, I loved her at first sight. Frank, our broker, smilingly told me that there had been a couple of men interested in the boat in the past, but when the “other-half” was brought onboard it was always the same ending, a resounding “NO!”  “One lady,” Frank laughed, “had screamed at her husband for wasting her time and threatened divorce should he make an offer.” 

AlbionWe were sailing aboard Bob’s 33′ Hunter sailboat, Albion, with some friends when the cell phone rang. Bob went below to take the call. Since we had only met three months earlier and Bob was still finishing up a very messy divorce, we had agreed previously to keep our plans secret. When he came topsides he said not a word about the phone call. It was not until our friends had their backs to us that he whispered: “We just bought a boat. A big-ass boat!” My breath was taken away yet it was hard not to shout “Oh My God!” out loud. I had told myself that our low offer would never be accepted. All day we would look at each other when no one was looking and fight back laugher as Bob would mouth: “We just bought a boat! A big-ass boat!” Amazing.

Chapter 4: THE INSPECTION

 Our offer to buy the boat was contingent upon the results of a haul out inspection and survey. The surveyor was Hans J. Andersen in Lompoc, California, who had a reputation of being fairly tough and much respected. His inspection report was pages long, and began:

 “The vessel, OWO, is a home built vessel constructed to the design of Bruce Roberts. She was constructed on a batten mold using C-Flex fiberglass and hand laminated fiberglass built up on heavy scantlings. The vessel hull is heavily constructed and is framed with internal stringers, floors and bulkheads. The keel is fitted with four columns of steel shot for ballast and additional trim ballast is noted within the bilge. The deck is well secured and is found to be in good condition. The superstructure consists of a wooden cabin trunk which is in good condition. Bulkheads are well secured by secondary bonding of fiberglass and the job was done in a better fashion than most production builders. The finish of the vessel is in poor condition with the vessel needing to be cleaned and painted. Below decks the vessel is approximately 85% complete.”

Rotted floorThat wasn’t so bad, so far. But then the report went on to say: “There is a significant amount of rust and corrosion noted on the engine and its accessories. The heat exchanger appears to be corroded and in need of repair or replacement. The exhaust piping from the manifold to the aqua lift muffler is in poor condition and needs to be replaced.” The report continued on listing defect after defect, everything from needing to replace all the hoses, pipes, valves, to replacing all the electrical circuits and wiring. It ended with nineteen Primary Recommendations for Immediate Compliance; eleven Secondary Recommendations for Routine Maintenance, and six Tertiary Recommendations for Regulatory Compliance.”

I was dumbfounded, but Bob was not concerned with the report. In fact, he was pretty pleased. He said the report more or less confirmed what he had originally said, that she was basically very seaworthy, but needed a lot of work.

I was still a little shaken and very much unconvinced. We were having a cup of coffee in a corner of the marina still going over the report when Mr. Anderson found us. I looked on in amazement as he shook Bob’s hand and more or less reinforced Bob’s feelings by confiding to us verbally that even though the boat was not the prettiest boat he had ever seen, her construction was some of the best he ever surveyed and she was built to go anywhere, safely. I was astonished

The really good part about the report was that we were able to reduce our initial offer by $2,000 successfully.

Cover for Cruising BookFrom: Dolphins Forever On Her Bow

How Did We Afford to Sail Away?

La RojaWe lived aboard our sailboat and sailed from Santa Barbara, California, to Panama. We lived the cruising life for over five years before selling our sailboat in Costa Rica and returning to the United States. People frequently make the comment to us that they would love to sail away for a few years, but could not afford it. How did we do it?

The most expensive part about the “cruising” life is the boat and outfitting it before you take off.  With due diligence though, and perseverance, one can find an affordable used blue water cruising boat. (Important tip: A good refrigeration system is a must. Got to be able to make ice!)

Once you actually begin your journey, the expenses tend to be fuel (yes, sometimes you have to turn the engine on), food, alcohol, boat repairs and maintenance. Surprisingly, food was not that big a cost. We got very good at fishing, not only with lines but spear fishing. 1D027847The sea is bountiful. Between spear fishing, line fishing, and clamming, we had a smorgasbord of seafood. Every little village had fresh fruit and vegetables. If you learn to eat where the locals eat and avoid the tourist spots, eating out is even cheap. The most expensive part of our food bill was the alcohol. But with a little ingenuity, we solved that problem. In Mexico we bought a case of bottled beer, for which they charge a deposit fee. Once that fee is paid, the beer is extremely inexpensive. The downside is that we had to lug the beer bottles from the boat to the beer store to trade them in. Some of the cruisers got tired of doing that; but Bob and I bought a little pull wagon which made it a lot easier. Before we left Mexico, we traded them back in and got our money back from the original deposit.

Being self-sufficient is one of the most important assets in the cruising lifestyle. Part of being self-sufficient, is at least being somewhat mechanical. If you are not mechanical, living aboard a sailboat is not something you should consider. There is always something that needs fixing, no matter how fancy and expensive your sailboat is. Before we took off, we had completely remodeled our boat, changing out all the electrical and plumbing. By the time we were finished, we knew every part of her. Bob is extremely handy (retired firefighters are often jack of all trades!) and did most all of the maintenance and repairs that came up. But even so, parts cost money. Bottom paint and varnish cost money, both items you need to keep up on a boat.

Bob and I became very proficient at not spending money. In fact, we went one whole month one time without spending a dime. That being said, we met cruisers who headed out thinking that they would live off the land and did not have any monthly money or savings to cover the cost of living and had to turn back. The moral of this story is that one can live very economically living on a sailboat, but you do need enough money to cover normal expenses, plus an emergency fund.