Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Prepping for the Shakedown cruise

I've been back in Phoenix for the three weeks since buying the boat in Florida. We've been remodeling our kitchen, so we've got quite a mess going. I've spent too much time and money reading sailing articles and prepping for our shakedown cruise. I've decided that we're not refitting the electronics on Istana. They're old, but technology is changing so dramatically that I don't want to buy anything I don't need until I really need it. We're also not 100% committed to the sailing "lifestyle" so I don't want to "invest" in permanent high-cost upgrades. What I've bought is portable and relatively inexpensive. To give you an idea what the sailing press considers "inexpensive"- I just read a Cruising World article about upgrading the electronics on a sailboat and their "inexpensive" package was $5000, their intermediate package- $15,000 and their dream package- sky's the limit, if you have to ask you can't afford it.

It is essential to know where you are (and I don't know how to use a sextant) so I've got three redundant navigation "systems", all of which run on hardware I already have. #1, My MacBook Air with OpenCpn, an open-source software product that is FREE, has FREE chart downloads, can interface with a $20 plug-in GPS puck, and is great for planning trips, getting details about anchorages, etc.
#2, My Samsung Tab 8" tablet, with Navionics Marine, a $49/yr software package that has charts for all the US marine areas, trip planning and real-time navigation using the BUILT-IN GPS in the tablet. Awesome! I input boat specifics, draft, sailing characteristics, fuel consumption, etc. and it will automatically plot a route from where I am to where I want to be! Of course, I can alter the route or do one manually, but it calculates time, speed, fuel costs and lots more stuff. This will be the in-cockpit system when we need help. #3, a handheld GPS that came with the boat. I will tell us where we are and we can plot that on the paper charts that I routinely have for our cruising area. Cost for Navigation $49 plus about $50 for charts and chartplotting tools. Also a hand-bearing compass for $31 (with a light!)

Communications- This is not a necessity, people sailed for millenia without a two-way radio! But radio communication is now ubiquitous. A hand-held VHF unit came with Istana and I had one from previous trips. This is line-of-sight, handhelds will reach out about 2 miles to other boats or 20 miles to Coast Guard high antennae. VHF also is a weather information source (very important). Weather info is now one of the main justifications for multi-$1000 communications. I have bought a SDR radio that plugs into the USB port on my laptop and it will receive weatherfax transmissions, weather maps, warnings, etc. Cost- $25. I have splurged a bit on a satellite phone ($150+$25 for 2nd battery) and an ePIRB- a satellite distress beacon- $50+200 for a new battery (over $400 new).
These are emergency equipment, they will allow us to talk to anyone from anywhere in the world (Sat phone) and ask for rescue (ePIRB). I have mixed feelings about being tethered everywhere we sail, but they're cool. I also bought a long-range wifi antenna ($50) that should give us wifi signals several miles from shore- great for email and running our business from the boat (a dream).

Motive force- I love to sail and the sails are super expensive to replace with new, so taking care of the ones we have is essential. Sail tape, heavy thread, massive needles, a sailing palm. (Cost about $50)
A sailing palm is analagous to a full-hand thimble! You push the needle through several layers if sailcloth with it. This is really old school! We have some leather patches to sew in place where there has been wear on our nice bimini, and our mainsail cover zipper is torn out, but this is an investment in staying sailing when the sails tear. If we decide to commit to the sailing life, we will get a heavy duty sewing machine called a SailRite. It can sew upholstery, canvas, sails and more. This could be a business afloat with Kathleen's careful design and execution skills.

I've also had Tom replace all the halyards (5- Main, Jib, Spinnaker, Mizzen, and Mizzen foresail!) ($350 plus labor) Another sail-related expense is a hand-held anemometer! This little thing was about $80, tells wind speed, direction, humidity, barometric pressure, temperature, wind-chill and more! And it connects to my phone or ipad via bluetooth! Cool.
Part B of motive force is the engine. I have enrolled for a diesel mechanics course, but I don't take this until August. In the meantime, I have bought a couple diesel engine books to "troubleshoot". Cost- $15

Speaking of books- I've bought some. Hard tellin, not knowin' but a few-cruising lifestyle stories, how-to, fixing old boats, coastal navigation, fishing, emergency medicine, etc. Particularly enjoyed Dungda de Island by Charles Dougherty, an author from Maine who also wrote a wonderful book about cruising the Intracoastal Waterway. I have to say- reading about it is WAY cheaper than buying a boat!