We're onto Twice In A Lifetime!

We've got a new boat and a new blog (and a new kid!). Catch up at Twice In A Lifetime.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

the blog continues elsewhere!

I noticed that we continue to add followers here.. you'll be disappointed, since we're no longer posting on this blog!  To reflect the new start that is represented by our switch to a new boat, we've started chronically our life afloat at a new blog, Twice In A Lifetime.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's A Wrap

We're in the water again, living aboard in this second epoch of our lives afloat.  So the Pelagic years, and this blog, are now over.  Please join us at Twice In A Lifetime.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Waiting for the Paint to Dry

That's exactly what we've been doing.  First it was too rainy to paint, then when we did get the paint on it was too cold and wet for the paint to dry.  We painted the last coat of bottom paint on Thursday, and it was finally dry enough for us to go into the travel lift slings today - Tuesday.

Now the painting is done, and the new name is on the hull, and the California "champagne" is cooling in the reefer.  Tomorrow at 0700 the yard guys will lower us into the water.  But before they splash her we'll take a moment for a bit of maritime ritual, and thereby mark and observe this remarkable moment,  the launching of this new boat that we have selected to be the home for our family and the vessel for so many of our hopes.

So tomorrow is a beginning for us, a beginning of things that we cannot yet guess at.

But it is also the end of something, the end of what happened when two people, a bit startled at what they found themselves taking on, sailed away from home with their ten month old son, completely unsure of their ability to carry through on the plans they had set.

Those of you who have been following the blog know that the three years that followed that departure day gave us more than we could have reasonably have hoped for.

This will be a different trip; we are four of us now, and Alisa and I (and Elias) know much more of the sea, and ourselves, than when we left on Pelagic.  And since we know more, we are of course looking for different things with this second incarnation of our life afloat.

So, to mark the transition between boats, and the "ending of the beginning" of our maritime lives, we'll be moving to a new address for the blog - if nothing else, the name of this blog demands the change.  And it's also nice in a way to end this particular blog, to declare a wrap on this particular phase in our lives, and to mark the start of something new.  We'll link to that new blog once we've christened the boat - I hope you'll all come along to the new blog to continue finding out what happens next.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cloth Diapers Afloat

This blog will only apply to the rare (dare I say, mad) sailors who chose to take infants as crew. While I was pregnant with our first son, Elias, our very good friend Debra thankfully informed me how dreadful it is for nonparents to hear about diapers and baby poop. So you have my blessings to skip this blog.
So cute! Elias in 2008. Note the blue swivel lids on diaper buckets. 
That said, I know there must be a few crazy parents out there that can benefit from what I learned sailing with 10-month old Elias… Most families we met with children had kids age 4 and older. In three years we met only one family that sailed with infants, and by the time we met them their children were 4 and 6 – but I was reassured that they were still cruising.  Living at the dock or on a mooring with children is different from cruising with kids; although many issues are the same, there are a few that are specific to cruising families. Cloth diapers is one of these issues, because with a proper landfill or the ability to burn your own dirty diapers ashore with kerosene, you have the option to at least entertain the thought of disposable diapers. But when you find yourself on a 3 week passage from Mexico to the Marqueses, cloth is the only option.  Similarly, when you find that many of the 'landfills' across the Pacific Islands are only a beach on the far end of town, you cannot with clear conscious use anything except cloth.

Jessica (SV Yare) and Marls (SV Sea Dragon) have both asked me for tips about cloth diapers, so I will present what I learned sailing with Elias. The timing is very good, as I am about to repeat the experience with 9-month old Eric this season so I will surely have updates to these methods and I’m hopeful that Jessica and Marls and other sailing parents will share helpful comments and tips as they discover them.

In 1997, months before we left Kodiak , I tried in vain to find a guide for dealing with cloth diapers at sea. So many families have done this very thing, but I could only find one reference to help me (possibly there is one written in French?). Don Street, who I admire as a sailor, wrote something along the lines of 'all you need is 4 diapers, one dragging behind the boat, one hanging on the line to dry, one in waiting, and one on the baby's bottom."  Well, now, that's real helpful isn't it?

Enough dancing around the subject - Here are the supplies you will need: 1) enough diapers for 4 days 2) hemp liners for diapers 3) a mesh bag with line attached for towing diapers 4) two 5-gallon buckets with turn lids 5) rubber gloves 6) bungie cord or shot of line and clothes pins 7) a winning attitude!  
I washed diapers every other day. I washed 2 days of diapers at once, so you need at least 3 days of diapers so the baby can wear something on the day you are washing and the extra day's worth of diapers are there in case the clean diapers take longer than a day to dry (not in the tropics but yes in Alaska), or if you lose a diaper out of the mesh bag (happened  mysteriously to us twice), or if a shark comes and eats the entire mesh bag with diaper (happened to us just outside the pass off Tahiti).  In the tropics your diapers will dry in a few hours of sun or wind or even on a calm day if you rinse them sufficiently.  But in foggy, rainy, coastal Alaska you will have to pray for wind and then after a few hours of wind you will have to move the diapers down below to hang near the diesel heater while you bake bread. I know they are bulky but if you can take 4 days-worth you will be glad you did. I should probably say that I used the old-fashion cloth diaper that is a Chinese prefold with a cloth insert (or 2 at night) and a plastic outer shell. Elias was using about 7-8 diapers a day when he was 10-months, so we had a duffle bag just for diapers that got moved about 20 times from one spot to another around the cabin. I took approximately 32 Chinese prefolds, 25-30 cotton inserts, 10-15 outer plastic shells, and two huge rolls of hemp liners.  Clean Chinese prefolds stack very compactly and they are probably easier to wash than the newer diapers that are on the market…plus, I got them all as hand-me-downs from friends in Kodiak.  I think Eric will be the sixth child to use these diapers, and they have no smell whatsoever and only stains from the zinc diaper-rash ointment that I had to occasionally use. Truly amazing!
             Hemp liners are disposable and will dissolve in seawater, so while they don't catch all the poop they are helpful and can be immediately tipped over the side as you are preparing to drag the diaper. Also, instead of using baby wipes which are not biodegradable, I used hypoallergenic lotion (a cheap brand – nothing fancy) with toilet paper. Get a lotion with a squeeze top and just squirt some right on baby's behind and wipe with toilet paper.  This can then be tossed over the side or flushed down your head, depending how close to shore you are. 
            Dragging diapers works – yes, I know, I was skeptical at first too. I had a great anxiety about getting the diapers exposed to salt water because I worried that it would be impossible to dry them – especially at high latitudes- if I didn't rinse every last salt crystal out of them. Also I was concerned about diaper rash.  When our commercial fishermen friends in Kodiak laughed and said I just had to drag diapers behind the boat to clean them, I would ask 'but have you done this?' and then they would go quiet (very rare reaction for any fisherman and only furthered my anxiety).  But I decided I had to try it to find out, and dragging the diaper for 10-20 minutes flushes out all the pee smell. At anchor it is MUCH harder to wash diapers as I had to use the deck hose and it isn't nearly as effective as dragging diapers at 5 kts.  A heavy duty laundry bag with large mesh or a mesh SCUBA collecting bag will work fine. A draw-string for easy and quick closure is helpful and can be tied to a towing line.
            Once sufficiently dragged, diapers were wrung out to get rid of as much seawater as possible.  Then they soaked in either the pee or poop 5-gallon bucket that adorned the stern of Pelagic. I found swivel lids to be very convenient. I put ½ tablespoon of nappy san detergent in the poop bucket and no detergent in the pee bucket.  Each bucket had 2-2.5 gallons of freshwater.  Cloth diapers that are not rinsed properly will smell, so I used little or no detergent in them.  Pee diapers get cleaned by the sea.  I am not sure, but I think hanging diapers to dry also lets the sun and wind disinfect them.  Initially I boiled water and used that for the poop diapers, but I soon decided I could skip that step. If they smell then they need to be dragged for longer. The poop diapers, after a 2-day soak, would get wrung out and then swooshed around in a bucket with as little water as possible to rinse them. After all the poop diapers were wrung again, they were put with the wrung out pee diapers and then all the diapers were swooshed around in a very small amount of constantly changed fresh water and wrung out.  It is important to really wring out all the water between steps.  We carried 75 gallons of water on Pelagic and while it was enough, there was none to spare. Aside from the water I had in the soaking buckets (which was changed 1-2 times a week), I only allowed myself 4 liters of freshwater to rinse diapers every other day.  Elias got mild diaper rash less than 5 times, and I think the hemp liners probably added a protective layer.
            Hanging the diapers to dry could be the hardest part of the entire process when the trade winds were booming, simply because it takes two hands to hang diapers and that leaves you with none for hanging on! I would harness up and hang a line high up out of the spray and once it was done I would always think that clean diapers hanging in the rigging was a happy sight.  Over time, make it easy on yourself and cut a bungie line to fit your rigging so you can stretch the clothes line fast and move it quickly while leaving all diapers still pegged on. You will be doing this every other day so each small step that makes it easier adds up to a lot of time saved. 

Drying diapers in Mexico.   This is not the best way to tie clothesline, because in order to move the line to a better spot I would first have to remove half the diapers and then untie the line.

Elias eventually started to 'help' me wash his diapers and I would let him play with a clean diaper and some water in the cockpit while I worked. I never once let myself complain about the work involved. It is good, honest work and it is much better than putting plastic in the ocean. And it is just part of what has to be done to reap the benefits of cruising with infants and toddlers as crew.
Happy sailing! 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What We're Doing

Well, such fun - comments from what Alisa and I always like to call "our people", both the Holland and Australia chapters...

So, to answer the question from Miles and Melissa, no, we haven't sailed her yet.  My parents visited this last week, and we had them all lined out to babysit the day before the haulout so that Alisa and I could sail Taiko for the first time without having to worry about the kids, but then the weather turned out to be crappy so we stayed at the dock.  So it looks like all of our sailing on this new boat will be as a family!

And where, you might ask, are we going to be sailing the new ride?

Well, right now we're here, in Alameda, California....

And where we would really like to be is in Iluka, New South Wales...

Iluka is the place that Alisa and I like to think of as our spiritual home within Australia.  And right now Iluka seems particularly attractive,  a great antidote to all the ambition chasing that we've been up to, with our simultaneous child rearing, working, and preparation for world sailing.  It's been a crazy six months or so for the team, and there's no better antidote that we can think of than a few months of beach time in Iluka.

So the plan is to sail to Australia, again.

Please, no comments on how we were just in Australia, and how it might of made more sense to buy a boat there.  Believe me, we know.

With the start of the northern hemisphere hurricane season approaching, we'll be looking to leave in two and a half months or so.  This idea has quite frankly kept me up at night in recent weeks, something that usually never happens.  There's a lot to do to figure out the new boat, and I have significant work commitments to meet.  And of course there are our two darling ones, both keeping us busy and making the idea of less-than-adequate preparation for the crossing unacceptable.  And, I don't want to say anything until it's final, but there appear to be developments with my book manuscript that will require some time from me before we leave.  If everything else wasn't enough.

Stay tuned to see how it all turns out...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Despair, or The Boatyard

Well, the Romantic Period with this new boat is officially over.  Starry-eyed dreams are a thing of the past, and we find ourselves immersed in a sea of inescapable practical details.

We're in the boat yard.

I don't know how other people handle being in the boat yard, but for me it's always been a scorched-earth experience.  I always do the work myself, which means twelve hour days, bashed knuckles, and plenty of time to reflect bitterly on the foolishness of dreaming about palm-fringed anchorages.

This time around is no different.  We've been on the hard since Tuesday.  Every day I work all day but conclusively finish few (or no) jobs.  The beautiful weather that we enjoyed in January has left us, to be replaced by a traditional California winter.  It's been pouring rain for days and the temperature has been topping out around 45/7 and so the boat sits unpainted.  Meanwhile we're staying in a hotel, so every day that we don't get back into the water adds to our boat-related money hemorrhage, and the forecast promises little relief.

And, well, you get the picture.  Luckily I have the experience of the Pelagic years to draw on, and the realization that even the darkest haul-outs eventually end.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What we've got

After a year of looking, this is what we ended up with.

Taiko is a 45-foot steel cutter, one of two hulls built to a design by Gary Noble Curtis.  She has a bit of a history - hull completed in 1989, but the boat not launched until 2005, she's only done one round trip from California to Mexico but has managed to acquire five owners in her brief career (we're owner pair #5).

As expected, we ended up compromising on about half of our boat-buying criteria.  For one thing, she's steel (though corrosion-resistant corten, and well done), rather than the aluminum that I would have preferred.  For another thing she's big - 42 feet was really as big as we wanted to go.  And her engine is quite undersized and, because she hasn't cruised, there's all sorts of gear to add to her (more on that later!).  And (there seem to be a lot of compromises), she is not a production boat.  This means she will be more difficult to sell when the time comes, and she is also a bit of a mystery as far as the design's virtues and vices are concerned.

But, there was a lot of good that came with the package.  We didn't get her for a song, but the price was probably "reasonable" for what she is.  The mast, standing and running rig, mainsail and staysail are all brand new.  Much of the other gear is from 2005.  She has a very non-yacht interior, which is something that Alisa and I always wanted - boat builders put a huge amount of money into making sailboats look like floating bordellos, and we were always keen to skip paying for that sort of nonsense.  Another huge plus is that she appears to fit the bill as an "expedition" yacht - with some modifications, I think she'll take us to whatever icy corner of the globe we care to explore.  And, with all that length, some good things do come...
The "makes me feel like singing" galley.

The "I'm just going to go work on my project" engine room.

The "it's all mine until Eric is out of the crib" forward cabin, complete with roll-away desk for homework.

   The "how long can we get away with living like this?" aft cabin.

So that's the new ride.  Of course, the only point of having any sailboat is to sail, a lot.  We've cooked up a plan for doing just that - details to follow soon.