Wintering in an RV

moho2I’m taking a little break from stories about our misadventures in sailing to write about how we’ve spent the last couple of winters. In the fall of 2015, we decided to buy an RV with the plan to live in it during the winter. After a bit of looking, we found ourselves a classic 22 ft. Avion motorhome.

IMG_3409The inside was a little funky, a lot of the systems weren’t working properly and it needed some TLC and LOTS of cleaning. The engine and transmission were solid but we did a full tune up and got it running like a top. It was leaking some antifreeze, had a few squealing belts and the front passenger brake caliper was hanging up. We had water coming in from a couple of windows and out of some places in the freshwater system. The refrigerator needed a new compressor (not cheap) so it made more sense to just buy a nice new one.  The propane system had a couple of leaks as well. We fixed and replaced all of these things, added solar, some LED lights, beefed up the battery bank, reinforced the cab-over bed and bought a new mattress. It has been an amazing home for the last two winters. We took it on a 3000ish mile road trip along the coast from Washington to California and its one of a kind look was a conversation starter everywhere we went. We’ve had a blast travelling in it from day one and over the last two winters, couldn’t be happier to call it home.moho3 (2)

Wintering in an RV can be easy in an RV park with full hookups. However, the RV park here shuts down all winter so we’ve been staying on private property, luckily only having to pay for electricity and propane. Our fresh, black and grey water tanks are exterior and therefore exposed to the harsh winter cold. To avoid freezing, we skirt off the bottom of the motorhome with sheets of insulation board and keep a small space heater underneath to keep everything warm. Due to this method, we are not mobile and since there is no sewage hookup for us here, we’ve had to improvise. Last winter, we built a custom tank on a trailer for our black and grey water. When we’re full, we hook up the trailer and tow it to the dumping station.

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This is not the most carefree method of wintering. We sometimes long for an apartment complex where the snow is shoveled off our walkway for us and the last time we see our black and grey water is when it’s entering the drain, but the amount of money we’ve been able to save on rent has made all of these small hardships well worth it.  Other than the few downsides of wintering, we have LOVED the RV life. It has taken us to some beautiful places and introduced us to some amazing people. However, our ultimate dreams have finally become financially achievable.

photoAll of our work and sacrifices over the last few years have been leading up to this goal and although we’ll be sad to see our little moho go, the feeling will quickly be pushed aside by the MASSIVE list of projects we have to accomplish on the boat this summer and the adventure that lies ahead. If you’d like to hear more about the work we’ve done on our RV, the trip back to Washington we’ll take in April and the boat projects to come, stay on the lookout for Fair Winds Ahead!

 

Salty Dog

 

 

img_2379-2img_2728-2Marina is a small, 4 year old golden dog, who weighs in at about 4 1/2 lbs. Her breed is called a “Pomchi”, a fluffy combo of Pomeranian and Chihuahua.  Although compact in size, she possesses the spirit of a wolf, traversing all terrain from snow to sea.img_1738-2

Her favorite pastimes include naps in the sun, high fives, vacuuming up ground snacks,

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hiking,

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running circles,

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dinghy rides,

 

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and taking trips on the motorcycle.

 Her dislikes consist of being alone, swimming, flies and most children. She has unintentionally entered the water about 5 times and has no plans of making a return visit.3

She has zero tolerance for humans that speak to her in a high pitched manner with their faces inches from hers. The sound that this action evokes is often mistaken for an expression of joy, but is in fact a warning.

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 Since her unexpected arrival into our lives, she has proved to be a low maintenance, faithful companion and has not left our sides since day 1. For more adventures with our best looking crew member, stay on the lookout for Fair Winds Ahead!

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Prop Wrap

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Shortly after our downtown anchoring fiasco, we learned yet another valuable lesson about anchoring and boating in general. Yep, the old line wrapped in the propeller trick. Our dear friends Lynn & Tony had an outside tie at a marina on Hayden Island.  They told us about a calm little anchorage just outside of the marina and suggested we stay there while doing some work on their boat since it’d be a short dinghy ride back and forth. The anchoring went smoothly and we had a great holding, letting out plenty of scope this time.  The next afternoon, we got ready to haul up the anchor and head out.

Since we prefer learning things the hard and stressful way, we pulled up the anchor line until it was taught then, without noticing that the line was not straight up and down as it should have been but instead pulled tight against our hull and headed straight back, put the engine into gear with the intention of driving over the anchor to pull it out. This is a commonly used method of breaking a well-set anchor free but it’s important to make sure your anchor line is clear of your prop and you’ve pulled in as much rode as possible by hand or windlass.

A terrible sound from under our cockpit, followed by a lack of forward momentum told us that our plans had been cut short.  It turns out, the anchor line had slid in between the keel and the rudder and slowly wrapped itself around both as we spun in the calm anchorage. As the engine was put into gear, the line wrapped around our propeller enough times to pull the anchor out of the ground. Now we were adrift, with our poor little prop holding the weight of the anchor, no wind to sail out of it and a slight current pulling us slowly towards some rocks and pilings.

In this scenario, we should have tossed out a backup anchor but being the ill equipped, novice sailors that we were, we did not have another anchor on board. By some miracle, our other friends Chris and Anna, who were headed into the same anchorage in their Cal 33, happened to arrive while this chaos was unfolding. We called them over and explained the predicament so they dropped their anchor and let us raft up to them.

Now that we were secured, we had to assess the damage below. Again finding ourselves ill equipped, we had to dinghy over to Lynn & Tony’s boat to borrow a dive mask from their cockpit. We were able to cut the line from the prop and were happy to see that the shaft had not been bent and the propeller appeared to be undamaged. We were also able to retrieve the anchor, hooray!

By this time, it was dark and we were exhausted so we decided to stay the night there, tied off to Chris and Anna. They had to leave for the night so were happy to have us there to keep an eye on things. Before going below, we stayed in the cockpit for a while to reorganize the anchor lines and tidy up a bit. There were some condos on the hillside overlooking the marina and we noticed a bright light shining at us from that direction.

After a moment, we discovered that a man was standing on the shore flashing “SOS” at us in Morse Code with a giant spotlight. He ignored our attempts to speak to him rationally and continued this absurd display for about 30 minutes. Obviously, this man was paying a lot of money for his view of the marina and did not like the idea of a couple of 20 year old drifters enjoying it for free. He eventually stopped and we went below.

While we were in the cabin eating dinner and unwinding from the day’s excitement, we were interrupted by another spotlight shining into our windows and a voice over a megaphone announcing itself as the police and requesting that we come outside. I went out to see what the problem was. It turns out, somebody (most likely the man from the condo) had been watching our ridiculous mishap unfold. He decided, rather than walking down to shore to talk to us, to call the POLICE and tell them that we had boarded a boat in the marina and stole something off of it.

I explained the whole situation and the officer went to Lynn and Tony’s boat to confirm our story. He was very kind and understanding about it and after clearing things up he told us to have a nice night and went on his way. Needless to say, we left in the morning and never returned to that anchorage.

This was a very worthwhile lesson that taught us to ALWAYS keep at least one backup anchor and NEVER put the engine into gear without checking for lines that can foul the prop.  We were lucky that we had such great friends on the water to help us out and that it didn’t end badly for us or the boat.

We haven’t had another prop incident since (knock on wood) but came to realize, through other boaters’ stories and my work in boat towing, that it is one of the most commonly made mistakes on the water.  To read about more valuable lessons we’ve learned the hard way, stay on the lookout for Fair Winds Ahead!

Lessons in Anchoring

DSC_0597 2.JPGI had only anchored a few times before I met Indigo. Never having anchored overnight, I was excited to take her downtown and have a romantic night anchored off of Waterfront Park. DSC_0906 3.JPGPerfect wind! Too bad we had to drop sail for the bridges.

After waiting patiently for 4 bridges to lift, we made it from the Columbia to the downtown waterfront on the Willamette. In the calmest, most protected spot a sailor could find, I threw down our little danforth. I had read briefly about scope and knew to let out more than the depth of water we planned to anchor in…. but what was that ratio again? Ehh, 10 feet of water, no wind, calm river, 25 ft. should do it, right? WRONG!  Displaying a level of confidence befitting an old salt, I let out 25 ft of rode and reversed on it until I felt we were securely in the ground. After a wonderful dinner and sunset, we headed below for a sound night of sleep. In the morning I awoke to a large wake rocking the boat and hopped out of bed to see a police boat roaring out of sight. After a quick check of our reference points, I was overjoyed to see that our anchor had not moved an inch. Our first night at anchor had been a success! About 10 minutes later, we were interrupted from some morning “activities” by a slow, knocking sound coming from our stern. I leapt up…naked, my heart pounding, and saw, to my horror, that we had drifted into another sailboat and were gently knocking hulls, the sound being magnified throughout our fiberglass shell. Apparently, a 2:1 ratio is not sufficient if the water you’re in plans to move at all.  The wake had lifted our anchor right out of the soft ground and left us adrift until it wrapped into the stern anchor line of our only neighbor in the anchorage. We were just upriver from the Burnside Bridge, who’s height was less than the height of our mast.  If we had not caught on this other boat’s anchor line, we would have surely drifted into the bridge and possibly lost our mast, resulting in a much more terrifying sound than the knocking of two boats.  Hastily putting on pants, I went outside to amend the situation. After an exhausting effort from Indigo and I, we were able to free the anchor and head over to the public dock. Luckily neither of our boats were damaged and we were able to get a hold of the skipper later to explain what happened. Fun fact: that stern anchor that held two boats was a homemade contraption of his, consisting of sections of rebar shoved through a 5 gallon bucket filled with cement. This was a hard way to learn an important lesson but after a lot of research and practice, we are happy to report that we’ve had hundreds of carefree nights at anchor. Other than dragging anchor, there are various things that can go wrong at anchor. To hear about our first hand experiences with some of these less expected incidents, stay on the lookout for Fair Winds Ahead!

Loveaboard

So there I was, having just purchased my first boat, a Columbia 26 mk II, knowing very little about boats beyond the fact that they offered a certain freedom I had never experienced on land. Although I was thrilled to be on the water, I quickly learned that this boat was not going to suit my needs for offshore cruising or living aboard comfortably (the mk I may have been better suited). We love the Pardey school of thought (go small go now) but believe it should be a stout small boat with enough water, food and fuel storage to sustain its crew for extended periods of time offshore. I soon came to learn the importance of these features and that my Columbia 26 mk II did not possess them. After some medical issues that left me believing I may not have long to live (a long story for another time), my plans for circumnavigation and a life of simplicity were kicked into high gear. I sold my car and everything I could. At the time, I was unable to find a suitable pocket cruiser in my price range, so I bought a Newport 28, a very capable coastal cruiser, with the hopes of modifying her for long distance cruising.

newport2Newport 28’s small but functional galley.

I encourage anyone interested in getting on the water/cruising to take their time researching boats before making a purchase. Boats aren’t easy to sell and you can avoid a lot of headache by purchasing the right one the first time. That being said, ALL boats have trade offs and there is no such thing as a perfect boat. You have to really examine the give and take of each design and choose what works best for you personally. We will get into choosing boats in a later post with some better explanations of what we did and didn’t like about a few of the designs we’ve owned and thought seriously about buying. For now, let’s stay on topic. The Newport 28 sailed beautifully, turned on a dime with its fin keel/spade rudder and made me fall in love with sailing more than ever. It was during this time that I met Indigo.

newportIndigo enjoying the downtown Portland waterfront from the cockpit of the Newport.

She had been living in Portland for about a year and had reached a point of restlessness I was all too familiar with. Having sailed only twice in her life, the idea of living on a boat was not something that she had ever viewed as a possibility before meeting me. She grew up between Northern California and Hawaii and had spent a few scattered months backpacking around Costa Rica, Indonesia and New Zealand. Spending much of her childhood swimming in the ocean and recently getting into scuba diving, a life on the water was easy to embrace. She moved out of her apartment, sold most of her belongings and was soon living aboard with me. I equipped the Newport with solar panels, a few away-from-dock comforts and we left my slip on Hayden island to spend time in public moorings and anchored on the Willamette. The following months were filled with mishaps as we got the hang of anchoring, dealt with various engine failures and much more. These adventures would soon lead to yet ANOTHER new boat and the addition of our smallest, furriest crew member, Marina. To read more about our progress, stay on the lookout for Fair Winds Ahead!

Where to Begin?

Ah, to start a blog. It sounds easy enough to just start at the present but I’m not too keen on the idea of throwing readers into the center of our life story without having a general grasp on how we got to be here. How do we pull people in and keep them coming back to follow our journey?  On our most recent trip to Washington, we were explaining this dilemma to our friend and cruising guru, Dave. His sage advice on the matter was, “If you build it, they will come.” So here we are, creating the foundation of what will soon be a Noah’s Ark of hopefully informative ramblings. We will try to summarize from the beginning and be caught up to the present by the time we’re back to Osprey and our summer projects. We hope that you benefit in some way from our experiences and the multitude of snafus we encounter along the way. Most of all, we implore you to bear with us as we get this venture underway. Stay on the lookout for Fair Winds Ahead!

The Path from Land to Sea Started with an RV

I grew up in an untraditional way. I began travelling the country with my parents at about 5 years old, while living in a 30 foot RV. By the time I was 14 we had seen nearly every state in the US but had never left its borders. Being 15 and living in such a tight space, you can imagine I was ready to get out on my own. Being homeschooled, this was actually a realistic goal. I saved up money working as a dishwasher at Chili’s and set off. My parents supported my decision but told me I was on my own financially. For five years I travelled the country trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted in life. Growing up the way I did, there was a need for constant change instilled in me, making it difficult to be content in one place for very long. After a while all of the tall buildings, bright lights, bars and restaurants just didn’t do it for me anymore. I moved all over and worked countless different jobs. No matter how much I liked a place at first, it was only a matter of time before I wanted something new. At 21, I moved to Portland and, you guessed it, eventually became bored again.  I decided it was time to change more than my location, so I sold my car, ended my apartment lease and moved aboard an old Columbia 26.

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After some life altering health scares, I learned firsthand that life is a blessing, not a guarantee. To spend my years working with no end in sight until I could retire (if I was lucky enough to make it that long) seemed like a complete waste. I knew nothing about sailing and started to devote all of my time to learning everything I could with intentions of circumnavigating the world. Although the Columbia 26 wasn’t the right boat and I was far from ready, this shift started a new chapter.It brought me down the path that led to meeting Indigo, 3 more boats and a lifestyle that has proved to be anything but boring. To hear more about how we got to the present, the countless lessons learned along the way and the work and adventures to come, stay on the lookout for Fair Winds Ahead!