Sunday, February 26, 2017

Cheapskates on the Move, Washing dishes

(UPDATE:  06/2017 grease & food)
On the boat, we are trying to conserve the fresh water in our tanks.  In Odin the Winnebago, we are trying to slow filling the grey water tank.  Doing dishes is the most wasteful use of water (besides showering--more on that later) and here's our technique, adopted and adapted from other cruiser tips.  It's also earth-friendly (allowing you to afford more expensive dish soap because it lasts longer), saves plastic, and saves money.

Foaming dish soap:
Start with an earth-friendly foaming soap (I like Seven Generation, Method or Dawn).  A little soap goes farther & the squirt of water is built right in!  Then refill the empty bottle with regular dish soap--fill almost to the top with water, then add 2 Tbsp dish soap.  Shake ocassionally to keep mixed.

Dish cloth:
Our favorite is Lunatec (Learned from The Boat Galley).  It comes in a 4-pack and one dish cloth lasted us at least a year!  Just the right amount of scrubby, antibacterial & quick drying (I love the loop for hanging up on the faucet).  Never smells.

Spray bottle:  Finally, a good spray bottle (preferably from the hardware store) filled with water & 1 Tbsp vinegar (breaks up soap suds and is also disinfectant).  Even The Captain was amazed at how clean you can get a dirty dish with a good high-powered squirt bottle!

(WARNING:  My sister should stop reading here.  She will be horrified.  So was I, when I read posts on a sailor's forum.  Boiling water equals CLEAN!  However, open your mind for a second, and read on...)

First, SCRAPE, SCRAPE, SCRAPE the food scraps into the trash.  The water lines in a boat or RV can't tolerate the food scraps you may be used to putting down a normal sink (with a garbage disposal for insurance).  For greasy dishes, the easiest way is to wipe the dishes with a paper towel.  (You lack the abundant hot water to run through the lines & you should avoid the toxic chemicals designed for household plumbing, especially on a boat where it will go overboard).   Some use an old coffee can for food scraps.  Depending on where you are, you may be able to throw some overboard (I only do this in remote anchorages.  There's nothing more disappointing than jumping in for a snorkel and seeing the the former resident's egg shells or overripe potatoes laying on the bottom.

Start with the minimum amount of water.  You only need a few inches, preferably using a dirty bowl or pan instead of filling the sink with water (depending on amount of dishes).  We primarily wash & rinse in cold water.  I know it sounds crazy, but it works fine.  If you NEED hot water (tomato or oil based recipe), you can heat it up in a tea kettle (or put some water in a pot still warm from cooking & put it back on the stove--running water while waiting for it to get hot is WASTEFUL!).  Many of us were taught to use hot water because it leaves less streaks, but see "Rinse" below.

This may sound basic, but washing the least dirty things first will keep your dishwater cleaner.  Glasses first, silverware, then pots & pans last.

For a few items, the foaming soap on the washcloth works great.  Otherwise, it only takes a couple inches of water to wash dishes but using a pot or bowl that needs to be washed as your basin is even better.

Rinse:  This is your biggest water waster.  Try a few squirts from the water bottle.  Even better, don't rinse off the soap OR just rinse off the "eating surface" of bowls or pans.  You don't need to rinse off the outside.  You won't eat off the surface & it's WASTEFUL!  Bonus: soapy water doesn't leave streaks!  Before you say, EWWWWW!, here's food for thought:  the-cultural-divide-on-washing-dishes-brits-vs-americans

Tips:  Do dishes before the food dries (I know.  This is the part I hate).  It will require less water OR, a few squirts from the water bottle OR a quick swish of a wet wash cloth & let it sit a second will loosen difficult stains.

The same foaming concept works for the bathroom:
Foaming hand soap canister
Fill almost to the top with water
2 Tbsp castile soap (unscented or citrus to deter mosquitos)
1 tsp coconut oil or glycerin (moisturizing)
10 drops lavender or tea tree essential oil for disinfecting

Try one or two of the steps above to start.  You'll get used to it.  You may not adopt the whole process, but you may find some things you do out of habit aren't necessary.  Good luck.  Share your tips below.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Settling in, Culebra

Odin anchored in Ensenada Honda, Culebra
With 6 months to cruise the Puerto Rico-Virgin Island-St Maarten area, we are not in a hurry.  Our stop in Culebra was planned to be a month (and ended up being 7 weeks!).  We survived the Christmas winds in the harbor, then decide to switch anchorages for a change of pace.

The most memorable part of our time in Culebra has to be the sailing community.  We caught up with old friends (Dos Libras and Orion), and met more new friends than we can keep track of (Altona II, Rhapsody, Ginnie Mae, Adventure Us 2, Sail Pending, and more).  Last season, we were known to sit on the boat for a several days at a time, without going to shore.  However, in Culebra we got in a new routine of going in at least every other day to grab a few things at the store, the veggie market, grab a jerry can of water or stop for happy hour.  It wasn't unusual to meet friends to run errands.  "I'll show you where the other grocery store is!"  And instead of the normal happy hour, there was a dinghy drift, a hike to Melones or a morning at the beach (and yes, a few happy hours).  With so many friends in one place, the get togethers were frequent and could end up so large that we didn't get to chat with everyone.  We'll be making this a regular stop on our way in & out or Puerto del Rey.  Here's a recap:

It's veggie market day!  I lured El Capitan into town with promise of a danish.  It's the lead up to New Year's Eve.  The policia are already starting to block off streets, SO we also made a quick stop at the grocery.  The town dock is filling up with powerboats from the mainland and the first sailboat arrival of the day has anchored next to us.  We're hearing there is a mass exodus of sailboats from Puerto del Rey, Fajardo.  It's a party!

Slept late and missed the sunrise so here's a rainbow instead
Grocery shopping in the islands has 3 different forms:
1.  Quickly:  In other words, Husband doesn't want to stop OR it looks like rain.  "I'll just grab a few things..."
2.  Price shop:  If it's a nice big store or there is more than one, we'll price shop & buy whatever is the most economical.  
3.  As much as we can carry, ie. #2 or going to be stuck on the boat for a few days without an opportunity to shop OR it's a long walk.

Tonight's dinner is chicken.  We thought.  Turns out it's turkey.

Funny story:  We were trying to catch the ferry (#1).  I couldn't pass up the opportunity to combine #2 with "they have lots of things they don't have in Culebra".  Since we had a car, #3 was on the back burner.  (However, we had to carry the bags from the ferry back to the dinghy, which was a half a block too far for that much beer, juice & soda).  I digress.  

El Capitan is cooking the chicken he picked out tonight, "At least I think it's chicken."  
"I'm sorry.  WHAT?!"  
It said, "Carne de pavo.  Maybe that's breast.  It looks like chicken.  What else could it be?"
{"No, I haven't learned the word "breast" in the Duolingo Learn Spanish app...Maybe we should look it up!"}
Pavo is turkey.  Whew!  We learned a new Spanish word today.

Almost every sunrise over Dos Libras was spectacular

And for this mornings system test:  
Open acetone in master berth (forward starboard hull).
Propane sensor in starboard bilge to goes off 
(scaring the shit out of First Mate!  "WHAT ARE YOU DOING DOWN THERE?!")
Propane sensor in the starboard hull operational.
Test complete.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Heather's Pizza--El Capitan recommends the calzone

My favorite lunch is the fajitas at The Dinghy Dock--it's enough for two!
When you live on a boat with solar panels, the Winter Equinox on Dec 21st (Shortest day of the year) can't go by fast enough!

Our sunsets are blocked by the western end of the island, but occasionally we get this!

"Hey, get the camera & come here!"  Our first squid. A leap to avoid a predator just to expire on our deck. Poor guy. That's gonna leave a stain...

Beach meet up:  Odin, Dos Libras, Ginnie Mae, Altona II

Another great cruiser gathering on Datiles/Tampico beach with Dos Libras, Ginnie Mae & Altona II.  Good times.  Good friends. 
(Sorry. I didn't get many pics because the girls were in the water with our floaties!)

Follow up.  Someone dug out the bicycle!  Kind of...

Odin in Ensenada Honda

A blog stop (internet) at Pan Deli
You know you're a cruiser if, in your former life, you've NEVER uttered the words, "Look, a CUTE sports bra. It will match my TANK TOP!"

Seriously. It's amazing how much more comfortable a tank top is down here. And no one cares what you're wearing!

"Is that what you had on yesterday?"--said no cruiser EVER!

The Puerto Rican Navy

New Years:  (1 of 3) There are lots of power boats in Puerto Rico, and Culebra is a popular destination for New Years Eve.  
SO these guys showed up after dark and drop anchor (right next to us then let out an appropriate amount of chain so they´re safely behind us), then a second boat arrived, dropped anchor & RAFTED UP, then their 20ish ft TENDERS arrived & tied off--IN THE DARK!  Yes, clearly they've been here before but the anchorage filled up today so it couldn´t be easy working their way back here.

We have a new admiration for the Sportfish we've encountered in this area.  They are not amateurs.  This is not their first boat.   #Respect

More of the Puerto Rican Navy anchored behind Odin

More powerboats (2 of 3): These guys must have dropped anchor while we were asleep. Two small powerboats, a dinghy & a pink flamingo!  They threw their Honda generator up on the hard top when they needed it.  When they left, they pulled themselves right up to our stern as they hauled in their chain by hand.  They were friendly, smiled & waved, and were careful to fend of our dinghy so they didn't hit it.  Nice neighbors.  (The only thing funnier than the pink flamingo floating by their boat was the giant pink flamingo riding in the cockpit as they left!)

The Town Dock
(3 of 3). And finally, the town dock on New Years Day.  Rafted three deep!  We've primarily used this as dinghy access to town, but apparently this is tame for a holiday.  Locals have seen them rafted almost all the way across to the Dinghy Dock Restaurant!

Dos Libras, Pepper & Chloe the dog (our AirBnB landlord who sailed over for the holiday), & Adventure Us 2
We've been waiting for FaceBook Women Who Sail friends aboard Adventure Us 2 to arrive from Puerto del Rey.  As they enter the harbor, Dos Libras hands off welcome duties to Odin.  We chat with them on the radio and as they drop anchor, they ask, "Is this the way we usually face?".  Yep, winds are usually out of the east.  And the next thing we know, everyone swings west!  Huh?!  Well at least they know they're clear all around.  (Dos Libras came back after dark and couldn't figure out why they arrived at their stern instead of the bow.  Weird!).  Despite our promise to steer clear of town over the holiday, we head into town for a Zacos Tacos fix.

How to walk to Melones...
Walk to Melones:  While chatting with our new friends on Altona II, we learned they were on a mooring out at Melones Beach.  Curious, I decided to hike out on a reconnaissance mission.  I mention to our anchorage neighbors that I might do this New Year's Day morning, and I'm surprised to have everyone agree!  So it's an early morning walk to Melones beach with friends...

Another Ensenada Honda sunrise over Dos Libras

The Captains of Odin & Adventure Us 2s

The ladies of Dos Libras & Adventure Us 2 

My necklace made by Digna (with Sue K. & Adventure Us 2)
Another adventure:  Our resident cruiser friend, Sue agrees to walk us over to Digna's to see her handmade jewelry.  I've decided I want one of the conch shell necklaces I've seen around the island.  Digna (just back from a circumnavigation and has a house on the island) can tell some stories and showed us some of the things she was working on.

Reanchoring fun

We've been monitoring the weather and texting with sv Altona II.  They confirm swell isn't bad (catamaran!), the snorkeling is excellent and town is still reachable in the dinghy.  After a quick run out in the dinghy, we hear a mooring ball has opened up. 

Reposition!  We got in a nice little sail, hitting 7 kts with just the genoa. We arrived at a mooring ball on Melones Beach (west side of Culebra) just ahead of a squall.  Before El Capitan could tidy up, we were sideways to the two other catamarans. Our ball was dragging towards the reef in the first gust!  We high tail it around the corner to Bahia de Sardinas for the night. That was interesting!  On the flip side, I get to sit outside with my coffee & watch them load the car ferry!  Great people watching...

A simple little propane project...
El Capitan promised me a lunch of hamburgers today.  However, 1) he decided to change out our propane solenoid first.  It turned into a longer job than anticipated.  We have a high-pressure solenoid on our propane bottle but our spare is a low-pressure.  After he figured that out and swapped it around, we're in business.  2) Then he decided to throw on our first swell bridle of the season.  It's a little rolly in our anchorage but watching the monohull anchored next to us bob around is enough to make anyone sea sick!  3) When he went to get the hamburger out, it was frozen.  The section next under the freezer plate that used to keep meat "half-frozen" has only been keeping it "colder".  Suddenly, today--"frozen".  Still waiting on my burger...

The litter pan is getting crowded
I'm awoken by the sound of a train.  My half-awake mind finally realizes we're on an island, not in the midwest & they don't HAVE A TRAIN!  It's the ferry, motoring towards the dock.  El Capitan will be awoken by the 6:30 am horn that announces their departure.

Altona II confirms the mooring ball we tied onto broke off at the metal bracket (there had been boats on it all week, much heavier than us)!  They haul the ball up on the beach so no one else would try to tie on.  After a few days, they decided to come anchor next to us at the ferry dock.  Neighbors!  They invite us over for happy hour.

We've arrived at our friend's boat sv Altona II, just in time for a sunset over Odin
They invite us to join them for a trip to Tamarind just up the coast.  The snorkeling is supposed to be excellent and the turtles abundant.  We're not ready for a mooring ball yet.  (They end up moving back a day early, after the north swell rolls in).

I can't decided which picture I like best

That's something you don't see everyday...
In Puerto Rico, Christmas runs from Thanksgiving to Feliz dia de Reyes (Jan 6th).  This snuck up on us, so we decided to brave town on a holiday.  Would anything be open?  Yes.  Today we saw:
Three Kings riding through town in a golf cart.
A pot belly pig walking down the road.
Two HUGE iguanas sunning themselves in this patch of mangrove in the middle of the canal.
Kind of a slow day on the island...

Because of the geography, this anchorage specializes in sunsets

Cruiser problems:  2/3 of the way into town, someone says "Oops.  I forgot to put on shoes..."

But occasionally, we get a noteworthy sunrise.  Good morning, friends

We got in our first snorkel of the season.  Turns out we have a few tiny barnacles on our NEW BOTTOM PAINT, but nothing else.  No grass or slime.  Nothing above our new water line.  I guess that's what we get for sitting in one place for a month!

Sunset over the ferry

We've had an unusual cold front hit the area (they usually don't get this far south!).  Instead of easterly winds, we've had winds from the NE to the NW resulting in hazardous marine & gale warnings all week.  Even the ferry is on a reduced schedule (which usually only happens during hurricanes).  Our little anchorage is relatively protected (notice no big waves on the water) but we still pivot wildly as the gusts move around 30 degrees or more!  Could be worse.  The low has only been 75 degrees.  Brrr

A view from Krusty Krab down to the runway and Ensenada Honda

One half of Ginnie Mae arrives by ferry for the week.  We quickly assemble a cruiser meet-up at The Dinghy dock then retire to Altona II for dessert (to busy chatting to even get out the Mexican Dominoes).  She has a golf cart and we schedule a girls night out to Krusty Krab.

Krusty Krab--a food truck with a view

Krusty Krab is a big off the grid.  You can't walk up and they're only open for dinner.  Even our Culebra Cruising Ambassador Sue hasn't been but it's supposed to have spectacular sunsets.  We arrive at the top without incident to find a food truck with a beautiful patio!  We quickly claim a table and order before sunset pics begin, only to have a Coast Guard cutter arrive in time for the photo op.  Perfect!  Nice to have some girl time.

Sunset over Luis Pena & the Coast Guard cutter
Yummy!  Crab stew, I think it was

Dinghy clean & snorkel:  DH wants to take the dinghy to the beach for a scrub, so I grab my snorkel gear and jump in.  He drops me off a ways out so I can swim in.  It turns out to be mostly sea grass but after swimming towards Hector I discover a huge starfish, school of 100 fish, a few barracuda.  I swim across the ferry dock to the next beach & discovered a coral reef just off the beach.  It wasn't in good shape but a few little purple and yellow fish let me observe.  I was DH over to pick me up because my mask is leaking & I have salt water in my eye when I spy a good size hole coming up from underwater with cooler water--one of El Capitans favorite places to watch for big fish.  I glance over and see a local sticking a metal stick with a hook down another hole & he pulls out a small octupus!  I'm done!

And the kayak is gone!
I've been meaning to replace the kayak with a SUP since we left.  A SUP is a good core workout, similar to yoga and would take up less space.  I was waiting for the right opportunity 1) to take a SUP for another spin (I've done it once at a hotel in Treasure Cay, Bahamas) 2) Sell the kayak 3). Find a deal on a SUP.  It turns out our neighbors have two iRockers and are huge fans.  They let me go for a quick spin and I'm sold.  They are reasonable priced and even better, INFLATABLE (which means they take up even less space & can be shipped to the RV).  The Capitan agrees if I can sell the kayak.  A quick listing on the FB Culebra Cruisers page has the kayak gone in less than 24 hours & right before we depart the area (last we saw it, it was still tied in front of The Dinghy Dock Restaurant). 

The winds let up and everyone heads into town!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wind Generator Install

Add caption

(Written by the First Mate.  Dictated by The Captain.  Knowledge is his.  Mistakes are mine.)

While doing our wind generator research, we came upon a few forum comments by Behan from s/v Totem, which led us to a blog they wrote about their SilentWind (  Happy with what we saw in the specs (, we ordered one.  

Of course, here comes some cruiser fun.  A phone call to a dealer while we were in Culebra, Puerto Rico advised waiting until we could ship it to St. Thomas.  Two weeks later, we attempt to place an order on their website.  The shipping appears to be $82 until you go to check out, then it's $400!  Uggghhhh.  Now The Captain has to pick up the phone.  "No, that's not correct.  I can take your order over the phone...When it's in stock, we'll ship it."  Huh?  You said they were in stock?  "No, we're out of stock but it should be here in another week then a week to ship."  OK, we've got nothing better to do.  Oh, and they can't ship the mounting pole.  Luckily, we can buy a mounting pole kit from Budget Marine in St. Thomas.  They were very helpful over the phone, had it in stock within a week, and advised to anchor at Christmas Cove (Pizza Pii!) or to take the local Safari bus over and hitchhike back.  Huh?  (Weather wasn't conducive so The Captain took the Safari over and a cab back).

Here is the wind generator install (at a leisurely cruiser pace):

Step mount

Day 1:  Install wind generator mount, 2 hours:  1). Adjust brackets for angled step surface (because it's a "heavy box section with no balsa core"), 2). toe rail using shock mounts from hardware kit, and 3). railing with 1" jaw clamp.

Step mount, slightly modified

Toe rail, forgive the blurry finger

Toe rail to main mount

Jaw clamp to existing boat railing

Second pic to above, boat railing to main mount

The mount is UP

Day 2:  Preliminary wiring 2 hours:  Drilled hole at step (sealed with cable clam), into aft locker, up through second locker, out through old generator conduit to engine well back up to a/c panel in pantry/aft berth.

Wiring run back to our a/c panel

It's here!  I'm in charge of installing the app

Day 3:  Take down mount and run more wiring.  Pick up wind generator at @ 1:30.  Running by sunset.

We saw over 10 amps the first day.  Since, we've seen 28!

Bluetooth capable with iPad app.  Very cool

(Insert video). It was "almost silent" right off the bat.  It seemed to be noisiest through 15 kts then quiet again.  Tinkering with blade spacing made it "silent"!

All done!

Summary after the first week:  Good news?  It's works great!  Bad news?  Light winds most nights in our anchorage.  Apparently, our batteries are toast.  Now part of our day is spent huddled by the charger watching the wind gust vs amps!

Run generator 30 min instead of 60.
12.3 when wake up (we were hoping to keep batts charged overnight)
Average 13.5 by 3:00 pm (combined with solar.  We haven't had a full overcast day yet)
Max 14.0 on the day a cold front passed over!

Our Electrical setup:
Cruiser conversations often come around to electricity.  We need it.  Can't have enough of it.  We live without air conditioning and big screen tv's but most of us must feed an electricity-hungry fridge in 80F heat.  Here's our current set up:

Solar: 4 Renogy solar panels at 100, in series MPPT controller
Battery bank: Trojan T105 660 AH batteries (6 batts x 220 AH) should last 5 years
(Currently 12.7 after gen, 12.3 in AM.  Only 200 AH capacity)

Amp draw:
120 Estimated Amp requirement
75 solar
20 wind
25 deficit/battery bank/generator

Mistakes we've made:  
1). When we first moved on the boat, thinking we had more electricity than we needed, we left the inverter on all day.  We quickly learned that was not necessary or a good idea (uses electricity even when nothing is plugged in).  
2). Not calculating in the shortest day of the year in December.  We should have used the generator sooner as the days got shorter.

We're generally hearing from other cruisers that batteries don't necessarily last 5 years with all the cycles we put them through.  Food for thought.  Still learning.