“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


Basement Purge Part II – Ebay and Craig’s List

This weekend we took advantage of the snowy weather to finally get some items up for sale to continue our purging of all things that won’t fit on Smitty.  We had previously gone through and thrown out what we thought was garbage.  Consolidating our unwanted items into donate and sell piles.

Reading past posts on our friend’s blog, we found the Man vs. Debt blog and his flow chart on where to sell you stuff.

With this knowledge we started to put stuff up for sale.  My Bride took some photos of a few items, put them up on eBay and within 24 hours had a set of 3 snowman figures sold for the “buy it now” price of $10.  Excited by this development, she put more items up for sale, including some larger stuff that went up on Craig’s List.  A second item, an old mountain bike on Craig’s List, looks like it is also sold.

Of course we have barely even touched on the amount of stuff we have to sell.  But it was nice to have some progress right away.

So if you need a wedding or shower gift or a Coach purse or a sailboat weathervane or some decorations for the house or you just want to support our effort to become live aboards and cruisers, please check out our eBay account.  Maybe you will find something worth buying and we can get closer to our dreams.

UPDATE – April 10th

Just thought I would give a quick update.  Things are moving well.  My Bride has been selling a lot of our stuff and so far we have only had one breakable item end up becoming trash in transit. I would guess we are up about $300 at this point.

One of the oddest aspects of this adventure is seeing my Bride sell things I didn’t even know I had.  For instance, a Last Supper Table Cloth.  Neither of us knows where it came from or when it got into the mix of our stuff.  We don’t come from particularly religious families, so it just seems like an odd item for us to even have.



The Right Boat

A recurring theme in my blog, and life, is that I spend too much time readings sailing and cruising forums and blogs. Hey, there is a lot of knowledge out there and the more I gain from reading is one less mistake I’ll make or something broken that I will know how to fix.  (At least this is how I justify my obsession to my Bride.)

One topic that comes up often is what boat should someone choose?  What boat is the “best” boat? Is boat A better than boat B?

The  bottom line answer to all these questions is that no one can answer this for you.  Much of the information that goes into making this decision is personal preference.  Everyone makes this decision in a different way.

Experience is the best thing to teach you what you like and don’t like about boats.  I think it is unrealistic to go into your first boat purchase with the expectation that you will pick your perfect boat.  For one reason, every boat is a series of compromises.  But mainly, it is very difficult to know what’s important to you until you have had some experience in a boat.  So while no one can answer this question for someone else, I will explain how we chose the right boat for us.

We purchased our first boat, Splash, a C&C 24 from my aunt and uncle.  We had been out on the boat and knew it was very well maintained by a good boat yard and knowledgable owners.  They had done some fairly recent work to the boat that included the purchase of new sails and reapolstering the interior.

Splash is a great boat and she taught us a lot about sailing.  She is still the best sailing  boat I have handled.  She had a fin keel and tiller, was very responsive, forgiving and fast for her size.  You could bury the rail almost a foot into the water and still feel safe in her cockpit.  Even without a traveler, she out pointed most boats.  But she also taught us some of the things we didn’t want in our next boat.  Here are some of the things we didn’t like and wanted to change in our next boat:

  • The “head” consisted of a porta-potty under the vee-birth.  Not very convenient in the middle of the night.
  • The vee-birth was too small.  I am a big guy and we couldn’t sleep together in the vee-birth.  One of us would sleep on the settee and the other in the vee-birth.
  • The galley consisted of a hand pump sink with a two gallon tank, a dry storage box, a cooler and a two burner alcohol stove.  When we cooked onboard it was typically on a grill hanging off the back of the boat.  Cleaning dishes was a pain and was usually done at the dock or at home.
  • The cockpit was small and had the main sheet attached in the middle.  With 4 people on board we were pretty much maxed out in the cockpit and we couldn’t easily add shade.
  • The outboard engine would cavitate in anything above 1 foot swell.  In chop or when there was a lot of wake, it was very difficult to make way and we would also lose steerage at times.
  • Folding boat ladders suck.  Getting back onboard with the folding ladders that you store in a locker is almost impossible for a big guy.
  • You had to go to the mast to reef, raise and douse the mainsail.  The chain plates were out near the edges and it was difficult to get there safely in rough weather.  We wanted to be able to manage the sails safely from the cockpit.

So from this, we created a list of wants for our new boat. This is what they were:

  • All lines lead aft to the cockpit and wheel steering
  • Full, separate head
  • Walk-through transom or swim platform with a good boarding ladder or at least a permanent fixed ladder on the stern
  • A large main birth that didn’t require one of us to climb over the other to get in or out of bed
  • An inboard engine, preferably a diesel
  • A large cockpit
  • A full galley with a refer, propane stove and pressure water at the sink

We also had some things that didn’t matter much to us:

  • A large salon.  We spend most of our time in the cockpit
  • A go anywhere bluewater boat.  My Bride has no interest in sailing across oceans.  Coastal cruising was our goal
  • A deep fin keel.  We like to explore areas and didn’t want to be that limited by a 6-9 foot keel.  We were willing to sacrifice some performance for a shallower draft.

So with the above in mind, I went out to find our next boat.

Before we purchased Smitty I spent hours every day on Yacht World and other sites looking at boats.  There are few boats I didn’t look at, at least clicked through the photos to see if there was anything interesting about a particular model.

I went out and looked at boats in person.  Photos can be deceiving and what looks good on the computer, might be totally different.  I was a bit of a schizophrenic boat buyer.  I looked at older boats, newer boats; 28 to 40 feet long; bluewater to coastal cruisers; turnkey boats to complete gut jobs; everything.  I wanted to see as much as I could.

When I found a boat I liked, I than started to try to find out all the problems with that particular model or manufacturer.  If there were common problems with a model I really liked I wanted to know what they were.  Then I could evaluate if the problem was a deal killer or something that could be worked with.  Like I said earlier, boats are a series of compromises.  A large main birth would come at the expense of space somewhere else.  Having a refer means you need to carry a lot of battery capacity.

A really great site for comparing boats is Sail Calculator Pro.  A valuable tool to compare boats.  The website Sailboat Data is also a good place to start getting basic data.  But I do caution that you don’t get too tied up in the number.

Ultimately I narrowed down my list to about 3 boats: Catalina 310; Catalina 320 and; Nonsuch 30 Ultra.  I showed my Bride some good examples of all 3 on Yacht World.  The Catalina 310 immediately appealed to her.  So I set up a time for us to look at the best one I found locally.  Once she stepped on Smitty, then called Norm’s Place, she was sold.  We looked a several other boats just to be sure, but we returned to Norm’s Place and made an offer.  Eventually we negotiated an acceptable price and the survey didn’t turn up any significant items.  On December 20, 2010, Smitty became ours.

So what were some of the key features that made us like this boat so much?

  • Centerline, walk-around birth with a real innerspring mattress
  • Large cockpit with all sail controls on the cabin top
  • Nice galley with all of the wanted equipment
  • Stern rail seats
  • Under 5-foot draft with the wing keel
  • Fairly high displacement for a coastal cruiser
  • More robustly built than many of the competitors (i.e. better backing plates, stronger rigging, build quality than Benetaeu and Hunter)
  • Very large support group with Catalina Owners and the 310 Specific Forum


Overall the boat seemed to be designed exactly for us.  A couple who wants to do extensive coastal cruising in a boat that isn’t too big to fit into the fun spots.  Also, at 31 feet it won’t break the bank in maintenance or marina fees.  With no exterior wood except the hatch boards and other smart design features, we can spend more time enjoying ourselves and less time on maintenance.

Admittedly, after we had Smitty I started to think about going bigger.  After the first year, I was back to spending a lot of time on Yacht World.  I definitely had a case of the two-footitis.  I was worried about the amount of storage, where friends would stay when we went cruising, being able to carry toys like kayaks and padle boards, if a dinghy on davits would put too much weight on the stern.  After all, most of the armchair sailors on the forums argue that you have to be in a 45 to 55 foot boat to have enough space to live aboard and cruise full-time.

After much soul-searching, more reading from those who are actually sailing and most importantly, a charter trip to the BVIs with another couple, I began to really think about the importance of size.  But now I was focused on the smallest boat we would be comfortable in.  Size = Cost!

Our experience and research has shown that supplies can be pretty readily had in our proposed cruising area.  There is little reason to carry more than a months worth of supplies.  Even if I have to pay a little more in places like the Bahamas, that cost is more than offset by the cheaper costs for maintenance, storage and overall purchase price.

What’s the point of this entire  post?  What’s the “right” boat?

It’s the smallest boat you will feel comfortable on without feeling like you are camping.  For us, it’s the Catalina 310.  There will be some modifications to make the boat better suited to our needs, but I believe you would have that with any boat.

Like the Pardey’s say, “Go Small.  Go Now!”


Electrical Charging System Upgrade (Mostly Complete)

So I have been planning (and replanning, and replanning and asking advice of others) an upgrade to the electrical system. The upgrade was sparked by Blue Sea discontinuing the fuse that was in line between my battery charger and my batteries.  Since I was going to be messing around with this system, I decided to make upgrades to add capacity to my system and monitoring to allow me to manage the electrical system better.  In regards to increasing the capacity, it had been bothering me that I had these two giant 4D batteries but was actually limited to the power of one, while the other would be just sitting there in reserve.  This seemed to be a bit of a waste to me.

So, with a huge amount of help from MaineSail (aka Compass Marine) I finally settled on the wiring diagram below.


This weekend my brother-in-law, Jason, and my friend, Tom from Sunshine, spent the weekend with me running wires, designing the law out of the new system, fixing the install of the battery charger I did in 2011 and cutting and replacing more zipties than one could imagine.

Jason is the smallest of the group.  So he got the unpleasant job of being the troll int he back cave, between the water heater and the holding tank.  After a couple of hours of work, he had remounted the charger, disconnected and removed for reuse the 4 gauge red wire that had been for battery #2, added a case ground I had neglected to install in 2011, ran the cable for the remote panel and the batter temperature sensor into the main cabin and reconnected the whole area with zip ties.  Here is final look of the charger (forgot to take a before picture).


While Jason was stuck in the cave, Tom was installing the charger remove, battery monitor control unit and a 12 volt double USB charger at the navigation station.  Here is what he started with at the nav. station.


Tom is a phenomenal craftsman and laid out the area perfectly.  Here is what the area looked like after the installation.


Meanwhile, I was working with the batteries.  I disconnected the batteries, remove the existing fuse blocks and lifted the heavy ass 4Ds out of the battery box.  Here is what the battery box looked like when we started.


After remove the batteries, I figured out that someone, either the previous owner or the deal who commissioned the boat, had added a battery box.  However, when they did this, they put several holes in the box in an attempted to screw it down.  Here is a shot of the empty battery box.


So I patch the wholes and rescrewed down the box, bedding the screws to keep the box water tight.

Next, the three of us pondered how to set up a sheet of starboard to serve as the mounting surface for the components of the new system.  Did I mention Tom is really good a building things?  Well he was able to convert a piece of 3/16-inch by one-inch aluminum bar into a professional looking bracket to hold the starboard at a perfect angle between the battery box and settee.  Here are a couple of photos.


That was a great place to end Saturday.

On Sunday, the three of us spent most of the day just trying to figure out how to layout the board to optimize the space on the starboard.  In the end, I was happy with the layout, it took up a little more space than I had initially thought it would and there is no space for a solar controller that I plan to add later.  Here are a couple of shots.


Obviously I still have to do all of the terminals.  I am borrowing a professional grade crimper for that project but I forgot to get it from my friend John before he left for the Bahamas.  He runs the parts and service department at a local boat dealer and I will be getting the group 24 reserve battery from him as well.  The group 24 reserve battery will be installed in the adjacent settee storage, as suggested by Tom J a fellow C310 owner.

I also will be putting a bus bar near the engine for the grounds instead of stacking up too many connections right to the block.  I started to look at that but no real progress yet to show.

I will post an update with the final photos once complete.

UPDATE – March 5th – Batteries by the Numbers

Thanks to this project my primary bank will now consist of two Interstate Deep Cycle/Cranking 12 volt SRM-4D Batteries.  The batteries are each 21 inches long by 8 1/4 inches wide by 10 3/8 inches high and weigh 119 pounds (ouch).  They can produce 1314 cold cranking amps and have a 190 Ah capacity each.  So the new primary bank should have 380 Ah capacity.

I emailed Interstate and their Engineering and Technical Services Specialist replied within an hour that the Peukert number for these batteries is 1.39.  Very impressed by the quick response and the engineer gave me his cell number incase I have any problems.

With this, I now have what I need to program my battery monitor.

Looking at my charging systems.  I have a 55 amp alternator that was stock with my boat.  That is getting rebuilt as part of this project.  That would take almost 4 hours (assuming 100% efficiency, which is not very likely) to recharge my system from 50% state of charge.  So my current alternator is sized at approximately 14% of the system while 25% is generally recommended.  I don’t like that, so I will have to see how long it takes to bring the bank down to 85% state of charge since that will only take an hour or so to recharge.  Hopefully that can work for now.  Later I plan to add some solar panels which will help with my charging away from the dock.

As far as shore power charging, I have a Xantrex TRUECharge2 40 Amp.  Again assuming 100% efficiency, this should be able to recharge my system from a 50% state of charge in about 5 hours.  In other words the system is sized at about 10% of the system.  This should be OK.  If I want to charge off of a generator I may decide to increase to a 60 amp charger.

UPDATE – March 7th – Cost & Final Wiring Diagram

So here is the final wiring diagram for this project.


And here is the final cost.

Electrical Upgrade Cost Estimate_Final

*I went to the Defender sale this past weekend.  I spent another $25 on this project in some additional red 1/0 gauge wire and fittings.

UPDATE – April 10th – More Complete

The system is working but I haven’t added the reserve battery.  Everything is wired for the reserve battery but I still need to glass in a shelf below the settee for the battery to sit on and then just connect the reserve battery.  Here is a photo of the system completed.


Both the remote for the battery charger and the battery monitor are working great.  I can’t wait to spend some time with this system over the summer and figure out what our electrical budget really is for when we go cruising.