How To Install Outboard Stabilizer Fins

Learn how to install outboard stabilizer fins to your outboard motor. Why? Stabilizer fins increase stability, allow for better gas mileage (average of 40%), help the dinghy to quickly plane at lower RPM, increase top-end speed and keep the bow lower at all speeds. (Video at the bottom of article)

The only reason I can think of for an outboard boat owner not to have stabilizer fins might come down to storage. With the fins the unit is wider but overall it seems nuts not to have these fins installed.


Install Outboard Stabilizer Fins

Let me back up and explain how we came to discovering stabilizer fins…

Last year, while in Mustique (Caribbean Island) my husband and I returned to our dinghy at the dinghy dock to find that the starboard side was completely deflated (Read my article on Sailing to Mustique for more information on how it happened and how to prevent it!).


We managed to patch our dinghy but she was ready to retire.

By the time we sailed up to Antigua it was time to get a new one. We were ‘stuck’ in Antigua for almost two months so we had time to order the one we wanted. We had to get our boom goose neck repaired and race in the Oyster Antigua Regatta (we won it! Go Britican!!)

When purchasing our new dinghy we also bought the Doel-Fin Hydrofoil fins. Considering our ignorance about costings and finding deals we probably paid a fortune for them. While researching the product for this article I, however, found them on Amazon for only $25! (View on Amazon here)

Anyhoo…We put the outboard stabilizer fins in our Captain’s Cabin and decided that one day we’d install them.

I find that my husband, Simon, and I tend to avoid doing jobs that we don’t know how to do. And that goes for something simply like these fins through to caulking the heads, how to clean a boat water tank, fixing Gelcoat repairs and more.

Perhaps it’s because our learning curve regarding all the necessary servicing and maintenance has been so difficult for us?

We’re great at servicing the engine/genset and we do everything we need to do to keep our boat in tip-top shape. But when it comes to smaller projects we tend to let them slide until something causes us to take action.

Almost a year after we purchased our outboard stabilizer fins we noticed that our neighbor, Brad from sailing vessel Puffin, had the exact fins we had. While looking at his dinghy outboard we could easily spot them. Simon asked Brad how difficult is was to install them and soon after arrangements were made for Brad to help us install them.


Install Outboard Stabilizer Fins

Whenever someone offers to help us we always graciously accept!

To myself, I thought ‘thank goodness’! I’ve been looking at these darn stabilizer fins for a year knowing that it’s probably a very easy job. It’s so annoying to have ‘projects’ waiting to be done. I move them from one area of the boat to the other for ages… You’d think that having to move them time and time again would make me want to take action!

So…a few days ago, Simon and Brad hoisted the dinghy from our boat down to the jetty. They then proceeded to fit the fins.


Install Outboard Stabilizer Fins

As usual, the fifteen-minute job took several hours!

It quickly became apparent to the guys that the drill wasn’t able to make a clear, straight hole. Due to the outboard shaft, the drill was pushed into an angle – not ideal for making straight holes!

Simon and Brad headed out to the hardware store to purchase a right angle drill bit. Side note: I’m positive that men will come up with ANY reason to stop working and head out to a hardware shop.

Anyway, the guys also acquired some food as I was getting hungry filming and documenting all the activity.


Install Outboard Stabilizer Fins

The aim was to drill four holes in the small built-in outboard fin so that the larger Doel-Fin could be secured by the bolts. It sounds so easy but it did take the guys quite a bit of time using a variety of tactics to get the holes drilled. Through the use of the new drill bit and various other bits and pieces they eventually got the bolt secure with locking nuts.

One of our YouTube viewers (Acmeopinion Factory) suggested that we also liberally coat the bolts with Loctite an anti-seize lubricant so I’ve ordered that and will put that on before we drop the dinghy back into the water. I found the suggestion on Amazon, so here’s the link if you want to grab some for yourself also…

Just yesterday we finally took the outboard with our new fins for a test drive.

Simon, Sienna (our seven-year-old daughter) and I were all extremely happy. Watch the video to see the performance! Previously, Sienna and I had to lean onto the bow to get it to plane. With the new fins it planned instantly. Furthermore we were flying – I mean we were really going fast. For those two reasons alone I’m one satisfied customer.

I will put this product on my ‘must-have’ list as it truly is a keeper. I wish I could say that about so many other things we’ve purchased…

Moral of my story…

If you own an outboard motor you will surely find the Doel-Fin (Get on here) or other similar system beneficial. For $25 you’d be crazy not to get them.

How To Install Outboard Stabilizer Fins Video

Looking for more great tips and tricks about sailing and sailboats?

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Sailing in Storms – Questions Answered

What’s it like sailing in storms? How can you prepare? What do you do when a storm hits you when anchored? What about unexpected storms and squalls? Watch this video and you’ll gain answers to these questions and more…

Sailing in Storms Video – Questions Answered

In our last video, Simon and I answered the most popular questions asked of us during our Charleston, South Carolina Meet & Greet. If you haven’t watched the video or read the associated article, check out: Sailing Questions Answered. We cover health insurance when sailing around the world, our future travel plans, what it’s like to have a child on board, what we do with our trash on long passages and why we paint our anchor yellow.

While recording the video we started to answer the popular question about Sailing in Storms – what are they like and how do you handle them? We quickly discovered that a whole new video would be necessary to contain our thoughts.

Interestingly, Simon and I recored over 40 minutes for our storm video. I cut it back to 25 minutes removing our stories about our three worst storms. Perhaps I’ll use the cut footage later for another video?!

Some take-aways from the Sailing in Storms video

  • Before you buy a boat, if you haven’t already, understand what you have to do to prepare the boat for a storm. Some boats are easier than others…you don’t want to buy a boat that makes life difficult in a storm!
  • Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’ll never go through a storm. Storms pop up from nowhere from time to time. If you own a boat and go out sailing you will eventually have to weather a storm! (So – be prepared).
  • As soon as you have your boat, take it out and practice reefing your sails (reefing is explained in the video above and demonstrated here: Rigging, Sails and Reefing our Oyster 56‘ – a new screen will open with our YouTube video).
  • If a storm is going to hit, make sure to get yourself and your partner/family/crew prepared. Put the right clothes on (waterproofs?), get food/water and take seasickness pills if necessary – do this before the storm hits. Put lifejackets, harnesses and life-lines on for anyone on deck.
  • The saying is, ‘If you have to reef your sails, it’s already too late!’ If you have any indication of a storm or high wind gusts, reef your sails.
  • When at anchor, if a storm is coming the safest place is towards the outside of the bay. When anchoring put out as much chain as possible without risking hitting another boat or land. Consider instigating an anchor watch – every three hours someone is on deck ensuring the anchor is holding.
  • If the storm becomes too much – while sailing or at anchor, and if you can get far enough away from land/objects you can heave-to. By heaving-to you pull your headsail and mainsail in tight and then backfill the head sail. In other words, turn the wrong way so the headsail fills with wind on the wrong side. This will effectively put the boat in the best position for the boat to calm down, level out and slow to a crawl.

What are your sailing in storm tips? Please leave them below. (Note: if you get an error message with the comments form, don’t worry. Your comments come to me and I’ll approve them and if appropriate respond).

Sailing Questions Answered – From Charleston, SC Meet & Greet

Our Charleston, South Carolina Meet & Greet event last weekend was a fantastic event. We had around 30 people join us to talk about sailing/sailing lifestyle at the Charleston Harbor Resort Reel Bar. There were many interesting sailing questions answered.

Overall, however, what made the event special is that everyone mixed easily and effortlessly.

There was an instant common bond – a love for sailing that sent a great vibe across the group.

Sailing Questions Answered

Sailing Questions Answered

It’s great to see people brought together by a common interest. And we had a diverse set of people! Our furthest attendees came from Australia and our closest from just down the street.

Some families are just wait on the sale of their house. Some couples have the boat, have sold the house and are just starting on their voyage. And, of course, there are those that are just getting excited about the prospects of life on the sea.

In an effort to replicate a tiny bit of the event for you, Simon and I recorded a video discussing the most popular questions asked from the event attendees.

At no point throughout the evening did I cross paths with Simon! We mixed and mingled and only later did we have the chance to compare notes on what questions were most popular.

To our surprise, many attendees asked about health insurance.

To date, Simon and I have never come across the topic. It caught us off guard so it was interesting for us to hear our thoughts about it. Some other questions asked were as follows:

  • What are your future travel plans?
  • What’s it like to have a child on board? And what’s it like to homeschool?
  • Is it hard to sail a 56’ sailboat?
  • Why is your anchor painted yellow? (We gave a tour of the boat to those that wanted to see her).
  • How have you handled storms?
  • What do you do with your trash/rubbish on long passages?
  • What are the most common mistakes you see new sailors make?

Interestingly, I think many attendees came to Charleston not so much for having questions answered, but to discuss personal plans. Many families and couples just wanted to talk about where they are in the process and where they’re going. Some also wanted to feel a part of the liveaboard cruising vibe.

I suppose it’s just like finding any ‘family’ where you feel like you fit.

It’s nice to know that your plans aren’t impossible and they’re not crazy. It’s nice to get validation that you’re doing well. And often a bit of support prompting people to ‘keep going’ goes a long way?

In life we’re all trying to get somewhere and when we don’t know the exact steps or are, perhaps, afraid it’s difficult to know how to get things going. Finding a group of like-minded people to bounce things off of seems to create an exciting energy.

Both Simon and I were honored that so many lovely people came to meet with us and share their plans.

I know I’ve said it many times but the sailing community, or people attracted to those that like the sailing lifestyle, are awesome people.

There’s a sense of strong values – kindness, thoughtfulness, caring, sharing, openness, authenticity, closeness, and a desire to live a less cluttered and more fulfilling life.

As for our seven-year-old daughter, Sienna. She had a bad day. Sienna didn’t want to mix with people. She didn’t want to sell her cookies. I attempted to get her to take the other children for a walk but it just wasn’t working. Instead, she sat on a sofa in the bar and played her iPad. Ho-hum. Not what I wanted but it is what it is.

So…without further ado let me present…

Sailing Questions Answered – Charleston Meet & Greet

IMPORTANT: If you’re going to buy a boat soon, make sure to get my free guide, How To Buy A Boat Without Getting Screwed or check out all my freebies here.

Get yourself a Britican T-shirt design

If you liked the T-shirt that Simon is wearing in the video, click the t-shirt here. There’s a wide range of men’s, women’s and children’s t-shirts in addition to sexy sailing sarongs, nautical pillow covers, herb & spice blends for sailors, jewelry and more.

All proceeds go towards enabling us to inspire, educate and entertain people worldwide that are interested in selling up and sailing away.

Thank you for your support 🙂

US Cruising Permit – Our Story

After sailing 18,500 miles around the Mediterranean, crossing the Atlantic Ocean, sailing up the Caribbean and landing in Charleston, South Carolina for about a year it’s finally time to for our family of three to cast off once again! But not before dealing with US Cruising Permit issues.

Our original plan was to leave Charleston for the month of July and sail up the east coast of America with the intention of visiting Annapolis, Boston, New York City and perhaps even making it up to Maine! With several small towns also on the list, we wanted to really take in the sights, sounds and smells of my home country.

Unfortunately, however, US Border Control and Homeland Security will not renew or extend our one-year cruising permit.

US Cruising Permit

US Cruising Permit

Before I carry on with my story, let me give you some necessary background information. Our boat was built in England. My husband, Simon, is British and I’m dual citizenship – American/British. We own the boat jointly.

When sailing in America, if you’re foreign (like my husband), it’s very important to understand that you can only enter the country by boat with a B1/B2 Visa. If you try to enter with any other visa you will be turned away. A B1/B2 Visa gives a visitor a six month window to visit with an option for another six months granted upon another application. B1/B2 Visa’s last for 10 years. Note that B1/B2 Visas are not given out to everyone.

I’ve heard of several stories where people have been flat out denied.

With your B1/B2 Visa in hand, in addition to all the usual paperwork, you can then apply for a cruising permit to sail in American waters for a year (if approved). You can get the permit during or after booking into America by boat. After the year, you have to leave the country for a set time (I’ve been told that two weeks is good) and then you can return. Whether you get accepted back into America or not is at the discretion of the Customs Agent.

Now, back to the story…

Upon arrival to South Carolina we were told (by a US Boarder Control and Homeland Security Official) that since I’m American and also a co-owner of the boat, we would be able to renew the permit without having to leave the country. All winter we have, therefore, been making plans for our east coast trip for July.

Just yesterday, however, when we went to renew our permit Simon and I were told that we were misinformed.

To get a new permit we need to sail out of the country for a couple weeks and then come back. Had the boat been built in America, we would not have had to leave. The fact that I’m American doesn’t play into the rules at all.

The official said that we could, however, sail up the east coast but at every stop we had to get off the boat, take a taxi to the closest Border Control office, book in and then when we left (a day or two later) we had to travel back, in person, and book out. Paying a fee of $19 each time.

And let me tell you about the $19 fee because this trips up quite a few sailors.

When my husband, Simon, called a couple days ago about the permit the official said, ‘the fee is $19 exactly. If you come with a $20 you won’t get change.’ Well, Simon went in with a $20, not expecting change. Can you believe the official said they couldn’t take the extra $1. I think it’s considered bribery or something.

Why did the guy on the phone not say that we needed to pay $19 exact? Why make the comment about not getting change?

Anyway, Simon had to leave the Boarder Control office, located on an industrial complex (nowhere near a restaurant or bank), find an ATM, go buy a coffee to get change and then return.

So…back to traveling up the east coast without a permit.

So, we’re okay to travel but we have to personally book in and book out paying $19 every time we stop.

What do we do when were at an anchorage miles away from a any Border Control office?! It’s not just the $19 that needs to be paid…it’s the potentially hefty taxi bill not to mention the loss in time to see our surroundings.

If we were given a cruising permit, the system is far easier.

Every time we leave a port, Simon has to call the authorities and let them know when we’re leaving, where we intend to go and how long it should take us. Once we get into a new port, Simon then has to call up and say we’ve arrived. Nothing is done in person and no extra fee, other than the original cruising permit, is paid.

So – instead of showing my seven-year-old daughter my home state of New York, we’re going to head to Bermuda for the month of July. We’ll hang there for a while, head back for Charleston from August to November to wait out the hurricane season. In November we’ll then sail down to the Caribbean and slowly make our way to the Panama Canal.

Some other thoughts/points about the US Cruising Permit

  • Before going anywhere near America research what’s required. We’ve recently been told that B1/B2 Visa’s are now being issued from the applicant’s home country only (not a visa that can be acquired at a foreign port).
  • Ask around and find out information from people that have gone before you. We were originally going to get our cruising permit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Someone told us its easier, less expensive and quicker to get it in San Juan, Puerto Rico. So, we got the permit in San Juan.
  • Realize that there’s no certainty about getting a B1/B2 Visa or US Cruising Permit. These things are only given out at the discretion of the Customs Agent. If possible, ask around to find out if an area or agent should be avoided or sought out.

In our Sailing Questions Answered session, we talk about the US Cruising Permit amongst other things. Make sure to watch the video for more information 🙂

How to make port window screens

The one thing that drives me absolutely insane about liveaboard life is mosquitoes. After three years of living on our sailboat and over 18,500 miles of sailing my toleration for bug bites is extremely low. Learning how to make port window screens helps reduce the problem.

For boaters to avoid getting eaten alive, the first line of defense is to ensure that the boat has screens. Within this article I offer step-by-step instructions in written and video format.

Learn how to save over $83 making your own port window screens!

On Britican we have professionally made screens for some of our port windows but not all of them.

Make Port Window Screens

Make Port Window Screens

Our professionally made screens cost around $85 a pop. Being fed up with watching our savings drain down I decided to find an alternative solution – a Do It Yourself (DIY) option.

Each DIY port window screen came out to around $2.00!

Watch the video and below you’ll find the list of products used, step by step instructions and some helpful tips that are not included in the video.

How to make port window screens VIDEO

DIY port window screen materials

Note: that the links open in a new screen and are the exact products I used to make the port window screens.

  • Paper towel or paper (to make a template)
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Sharpie or marker
  • Glue (I used a glue that had a permanent bond, washer dryer safe (in case they got wet) and flexible).
  • Foam sheets
  • Screen

How to make port window screens

Step 1: Make a template

Use either paper towel or a paper thin enough to see through. I use paper towel because a single sheet of paper isn’t large enough. With paper towel, I taped the towel to the widow, folded to size and where I couldn’t fold (around curved corners), I used a maker to sketch the curve.

Once the paper towel is ready, take it down and cut out any pieces to make the master template.

Check that the template works. You’ll want to make sure that the template is larger than the screen area.

The aim is to have the finished screen fit in between the port window frame. There’s a gap and we want to get the screen to squeeze into the gap allowing it to stay in place.

Trim template to get as close as possible. Make sure to make the template too big rather than too small!

Make Port Window Screen

Make Port Window Screen

Step 2: Use the template to cut out the first foam piece.

Once the foam piece is cut out, check that it fits into the window. Trim the foam until you get a good snug fit.

Make Port Window Screens

Make Port Window Screens

Step 3: Use the first foam piece to outline and cut a second foam piece.

Tip: Make sure to keep the foam pieces in line. You might want to put a TL for ‘top left’ on both of them. If they flip over the pieces might not fit perfectly.

Step 4: Cut out the middle section on the first foam piece.

Using a rule, make dots ½” from the edge towards the body of the foam piece all the way around. Connect the dots with a ruler to ensure a nice smooth line.

Cut the middle section out.

Make Port Window Screens

Make Port Window Screens

Step 5: Use the first foam piece as a template for the second foam piece

Draw a line using the first foam piece as a template. Make sure to take your time on this – the foam will move around. You want both foam pieces to match as best as possible. Cut out the second foam piece.

Step 6: Cut out a piece of screen

Tip: I suggest you cut out a piece of screen that’s larger than the foam pieces. When I first tried making a screen I cut the screen using the template. When I laid the screen on the glue it didn’t match correctly, I couldn’t move it easily and I managed to get glue all over the screen!

Make Port Window Screens

Make Port Window Screens

Step 7: Glue both foam pieces to the screen

Before gluing make sure everything lines up. Glue the bottom foam, place the screen on top and then glue the top foam and make a sandwich.

Place a heavy book over the screen and allow to dry. Once dried, cut the excess screen away and discard.

Step 8: Fit screen to port window

Once the screen is dry, fit it into the window. If it doesn’t fit well and/or bubbles towards you, you might need to trip the sides down. Cut tiny pieces away until the screen fits snuggly.

Make Port Window Screens

Make Port Window Screens

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please leave a comment below 🙂

Storage Organization On A Boat

A checklist to help boaters to better protect and organize their clothes, towels, sheets. Here are eight storage organization options and seven tips for using vacuum storage bags.

Grab yourself a variety pack of Ziploc Space Bags or similar vacuum suction bags (click on the image to view on Amazon). These bags are fantastic. They will allow you to:

  • Reduce space used.
  • Provide a waterproof, mold-proof container that can be stored in places that wouldn’t otherwise be acceptable (Putting items in a storage locker or the bilge without vacuuming packing them increases the chances for damp, mold and permanent damaged).
  • Help to organize seasonal or infrequently used items.

Read below to gain an insight as to how we use vacuum bags for our storage organization…

7 Vacuum Storage Bags Uses on a Boat

  1. Winter versus summer clothes. One set is out and the other set is in a vacuum bag in a storage locker, the bilge, etc. Consider one bag for tops and another another for bottoms or, if you want a bag that covers the time between summer and winter, create an autumn bag for cold nights.
  2. Winter bedding versus summer bedding. Comforters, duvet covers and duvets get swapped can be swapped out for vacuumed bags of sheets and light blankets.
  3. Bedding and towels for guests. If space permits, separate each bed section into one vacuum bag housing the sheets, pillowcases, comforter and bed protector. Vacuum pack the towels for guests and store near the guest bedding.
  4. Spare clothes. If you know you’ll need particular clothes in the future and know you won’t be able to find them, buy now and store in a vacuum pack. For example, bathing suits can be very expensive in touristy locations. Buy a few for the future and keep them clean, waterproofed and mold-proof in a vacuum bag.
  5. Fancy/nice clothes for weddings, posh parties. If you have a hanging wardrobe on your boat, consider getting the Ziploc hanging vacuum bag. This will keep your nice clothes in good condition although they might need an iron before wearing 😉
  6. Unneeded Clothes. If you have clothes that you want to keep safe to give for charity or to hand over to others put them in a vacuum bag. Remember to create a reminder in your calendar so that you dig them out to hand them over when the time is right!
  7. Clothes you want to keep but no longer need. When visitors from home visit you can give them the bag to take back for you – perhaps a winter coat no longer needed or an unused blanket that’s just taking up space. You can also use vacuum bags yourself when traveling to and from the boat.

10 Vacuum Storage Bag Tips

  1. If you don’t have a vacuum there are roll-up bags or bags that you can squeeze the air out of. Vacuum bags, however, are much better to use.
  2. If you can’t find vacuum bags, you can use a quality bag and vacuum the air out. Simply fill the bag, create a tight grip around the vacuum suction unit and then twist the bag before pulling the vacuum out. Secure with any means that keeps the bag suctioned.
  3. Clean items before putting them in the bag and ensure they’re completely dry.
  4. Don’t overfill the vacuum bags as they are more likely to fail (e.g. vacuum seal comes undone and air gets in).
  5. Put a dryer sheet in with the clothes to ensure a good smell when you are ready to use the clothes/sheets again. A natural alternative is a cotton pad with a couple drops of an essential oil.
  6. Consider inserting a Silica-Gel moisture pack to ward off any moisture that might be present or gets in due to a hole/leak.
  7. Keep a list; perhaps in excel, on where you store the vacuum bags in the bilge or storage cupboards. By using excel you can use the search function to lookup where you stored items in storage lockers and under floorboards.
  8. Get a variety of sizes of bags to help fill large and small storage and bilge areas.
  9. Never, ever, ever block the passage of water that needs to run through the bilge.
  10. List the items of what’s inside the vacuum bag. Even if you can see everything you’ll need to know if it’s the starboard forward sheets versus the port forward sheets or how many items of one kind are in a bag (e.g. three white sheets). Use a post-it note or a piece of paper and insert it where it’s easy to see.

Links to products used for storage on Britican

Storage Organization Video by Sailing Britican

If you’re interested in more sailing checklists, take a look at…

Can you add any more organization tips?

If yes, please leave a comment below. We’re always looking for ways to better organize Britican 🙂

Storage & Organization

Storage & Organization

Choosing a Marina (How to avoid ‘bad’ marina’s)

When sailing into a marina for a short stay there’s few considerations to make. When making a marina a full-time or long-term hub, however, there’s loads of variables to contemplate. Choosing a marina is not as simple as it might first appear to be. There are good and bad marina’s – read this to make sure you know how to choose a good one!

The considerations for a long-term marina stay all depend on how you plan to use your boat in regards to the marina.

If you’re interested in finding a marina to house your boat full time but want to take the boat out for day trips and the occasional week vacation, there will be a different set of requirements than on plans for living on the boat in a marina full time.

Some boat owners put a boat in a marina and are rarely step foot on it let alone take it out. Others, however, use their boat as a stationary weekend floating vacation home. And there are some that visit the boat as often as possible taking it out as much as possible.

On one hand you have boat owners that just need a place to store the boat and on the other side of the continuum you have boat owners living on the boat!

Choosing A Marina

Choosing A Marina

1. So, step one in choosing a marina is to determine what you’re going to use the marina for.

If you’re just putting the boat in a marina and won’t be staying on it, you won’t care if there’s an overhead flight path, a loud tourist pirate boat exhausting terrible fumes or an annoying smell coming from random directions. However, if you’re going to live on the boat or enjoy the boat (in the marina) those things will be a big issue!

If you’re going to use the boat several times a month to go out and race or explore the area you’ll want a marina that is easy to get in and out of. You might also want quite a few restaurants nearby when the weather is bad and you have to stay put.

And as for liveaboards, there’s a long list of things to find out to ensure that the marina will be suitable. Perhaps there’s the need for clean hot showers, calm waters, quite surroundings, access to close supermarkets and more.

After you know why you’ll be using a marina you can then create a list of questions relevant to your needs.

2. Step two is to research marinas in your preferred area.

The first way to narrow down marinas is to determine what you can and cannot get to. If your keel is deep that might instantly help you to cross a few marina’s off the list. If the conditions to get into the marina are severe – perhaps only at high tide, that might also cause you to scratch it off the list.

Once you narrow down the available marinas then it’s time to get into the nitty gritty and compare and contrast things that are most important to you.

After we purchased our boat in Majorca we sailed her to Gibraltar. When looking for a mooring in Gib we wanted a safe place for our boat for the least cost. Our plan wasn’t to stay on the boat and once we returned we’d be leaving so the ultimate priority was to keep our boat safe and secure.

When we wintered in Marina di Ragusa, Sicily our list of requirements included:

  • a good price
  • walking access to supermarkets and restaurants
  • good showers and facilities
  • a welcoming live aboard community

When finding a location in America for a long-term stay our first priority was good schools for our daughter. After that we wanted clean facilities, a kind live aboard community and quiet surroundings.

3. Step three is to call the marina and ask as many questions as possible so to determine if the marina is the right marina for you…and if you’re able, visit the marina in person!

When we went to Gibraltar and Marina di Ragusa we didn’t have the ability to visit the marina’s ahead of time. We, however, did loads of research by asking the marina staff loads of questions, doing internet searches on cruising bloggers and visited many sailing groups.

For Charleston Harbor Marina, however, we were able to physically inspect the marina before deciding to stay long term. When we went to the marina office we asked our routine set of questions. My husband and I then walked around to check out the things that were important to us. We looked at the laundry area and the showers and bathrooms. We also walked the docks, looked at available slips and determined what would be best for prominent airflow.

While walking around my husband and I also went up to everyone that looked like they might be a live aboard. Doing so allowed us to ask even more questions. We asked what the level of service was with the marina staff. Additionally, how safe the area was. And whether or not the marina cared if you worked on your boat or not. We’d also ask if the electricity stayed on in addition to having ongoing access to running water.

Hands down you’ll get a far better picture about the marina by talking to tenants rather than the marina staff.

Due to the fact that my family and I have been to hundreds of marina’s over the past several years we’ve seen the worst of the worst and the best of the best. Staying at a bad marina for a couple days is okay. But signing a long-term contract and being ‘stuck’ in a bad marina is not a situation you want to find yourself in. Keep reading below the video to find out what I mean by a ‘Bad’ marina…

Choosing a Marina – Video

What makes a bad marina?

We’ve been to marinas where the docks are breaking apart from the marina (unsafe). There’s no electric, no water and no WIFI. A bad marina will have dirty unkept facilities – perhaps no shower curtains, or hot water,  or soap or toilet seats. Syracuse Marina in Sicily comes to mind as I write this list.

Bad marina’s will have major traffic causing waves and massive movement on the boat. Or a bad marina might be one where there’s a constant swell or movement. Movements can cause the boat to make never-ending noises not to mention it’s not good for your rigging!

There are loads of things that can make a marina ‘bad’ in relation to what you want to use the marina for. Make sure to first determine what you want out of a marina. Then research your options and finally do your research.

Here’s over 60 questions to ask a prospective marina…

Would you like to take advantage of our experience on marina’s? Would you like to ask ALL the questions necessary to make an informed choice? If yes, grab a copy of our Boat Owners: Choosing A Marina guide… (Click on the image of the guide below for more information).

Top 5 Lessons Learned Sailing 18,500 miles

Readers of the blog often send us questions and a popular one is, ‘What are your top lessons learned sailing?’ Within this article and video, Simon and I discuss five biggies.

This ‘Questions Answered,’ style article and video is a series of other common questions answered. Make sure to also read/watch:
– How did you get into sailing? (Q&A Video 1)
– Why we sold up and sailed away? (Q&A Video 2)
– What it’s like voyaging with kids – homeschooling? (Q&A Video 3)
– How we sold up and sailed away? (Q&A Video 4)

So, what are our five lessons learned sailing 18,500 miles?

Watch the video and then for more information and stories read the below article.

Lessons Learned Sailing Video

Lesson #1: It’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, it’s best to get comfortable making them.

If you can’t get over making mistakes you’ll find boating very difficult. We’ve met so many would-be-boaters that took their boat out once or twice only to quit boating after a some small mishap.

Sure, it’s embarrassing hitting a dock, anchoring too close to another boat, hitting a boat, failing to understand how to tie your boat to a dock, running aground, motoring on the wrong side of a shipping channel and, and…

The issue is, however, the only boaters out there enjoying the rewards of boating are those that fall off their horse and get back on (over and over again).

It’s often said that you’re not a boater if you haven’t run aground at least once!

Simon and I have sailed well over 18,500…that figure is just what we’ve done in our current boat over the last three years. In that time we’ve messed up quite a bit. Fortunately all our mess-ups have mostly bruised our ego only.

My worst recollection is when we took our old boat, a Moody 345, into Cowes Yacht Haven in the Isle of White. Cowes is the European sailing mecca. I believe it’s where the World Cup started.

Anyhoo, imagine Simon and I motoring into a VERY busy marina that’s full. We managed to get the last spot. Instead of it being a slip, we were instructed to ‘raft’ onto another boat. I yelled out to Simon, ‘how the heck do we raft?’ I had no clue.

Simon entered the marina where there were gin palaces that seemed three stories high – all occupied by upper-class, wealthy, gin and tonic drinkers. The watchers proceeded to look down upon us as Simon navigated into a DEAD END.

We had to somehow manage to back the boat out of the area we went down. And as many Moody owners will attest, ‘Moody 346’s don’t go backwards!’ Well, Simon managed to go backwards and forwards to do a 251 point K-turn.

Back, forward, back, forward, back, forward…

…And with only 6” to spare in the front and back. It was NUTS. I stood on the bow of the boat holding the bow line thinking, ‘God, please get me out of here.’ I was event temped to just jump in the water and end life.

We got out of the situation but we were still in the fire.

Simon managed to get around the correct corner and thankfully at the very last minute someone walked along the jetty to grab my bow line. I was thinking that I’d have to jump off the bow somehow, not realizing that it’s okay to get on another person’s boat when rafting.

And to make the horrifying experience even worse, when all was said and done I realized the front of my skirt was tucked into my knickers. HOW EMBARRASSING!

I shook for a couple hours while drinking a bottle (not a glass!) of wine.

Anyway – these things happen. If you get too shaken up about it you won’t go out sailing…you’ll spend all the time dreaming, getting the boat and then the boat will end up sitting in the marina.

So, get used to making mistakes. Get used to having your ego bruised. It’s part of the game.

Lesson #2: Servicing and repairs are the norm – expect them!

Everyone and anyone will tell you that boats need constant servicing and repairs. It’s 100% true. Not a day goes by where our servicing and repair list gets smaller. Once one thing is fixed two other breaks.

If you are going to get into boating and have the expectation that the lifestyle requires continues fixing/servicing it will make your life much easier.

When we started out we thought that once we fixed X, Y and Z we’d then be able to ‘enjoy’ the boat. Well, we’re still fixing X, Y and Z and the rest of the whole darn alphabet! Simon and I, however, have learned to laugh about our issues now.

We expect things to break and we now enjoy just getting on with it and fixing things.

Lesson #3: Don’t ever commit yourself to being at a particular place at a set date/time.

When we first started sailing we’d tell friends and family that we’d be in Greece by June or France by September. Not once were we correct in our estimations.

A few times we were caught out and had to sail non-stop for days to make sure we’d be where we said we’d be. Each time we took risks by sailing through storms that we should have avoided.

Lesson learned. We no longer tell people we’ll be anywhere. If anyone wants to fly out to us they need to get in touch a week earlier and then fly to the closest airport. From the airport our friends then need to find a ferry to get to the closest town.

It takes us all day to go the tiniest distance. We’ve learned that people need to find a way to get to us AND when we have guests, if we can’t get them to the airport in time we’re not risking a situation where we’ll sail through a storm.

When sailing there is almost never any certainty. Plans change. The weather gets in the way. Things happen. We learned the hard way…perhaps you’ll take this lesson from us and remember the lesson 😉

Lesson #4: There’s ALWAYS someone around to help when you have a problem.

This lesson kind-of makes ‘Lesson #1: It’s okay to make mistakes?’ a bit easier. No matter what country we’re in and what our situation is, someone is always around to help when we need it.

When our engine cut out in the Solent (one of the busiest waterways in Europe) another boat towed us to a marina. When our generator wouldn’t start, countless engineers/boaters helped to get it started (for free). During the scary situation of getting our main sail stuck up, a boatload of newfound Italian friends borrowed a friends boat and came out to help us get it down. This list goes on and on…

And in turn, we also are there to help other boaters all the time. We’re often helping newbies enter and exit a marina slip, help with anchoring or mooring balls. Simon has been known to retrieve countless run-away fenders, kayaks, hats and occasionally a tender or two.

The sailing community is amazing. Sailors help sailors.

But what we’ve also learned is that everyone we come across is happy to help – sailors and land people (landies). We’ve had several situations where we couldn’t communicate in the local language but that never stopped locals from helping us with all sorts of issues.

By sailing around the world we’ve learned that, despite what the media has to say, people are actually very kind and very helpful.

So…yes, you’ll run into issues. Yes, it’s often embarrassing or difficult to deal with when there’s such uncertainty, HOWEVER, in the end you’ll often find a solution AND make a new friend.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the variety of situations and experiences we went through during our 18,500 miles, please read my book, ‘Changing Lifestyles: Trading in the rat race for a sail around the world.’

Lesson #5: People will tell you you’re crazy and that’s okay.

When we first told friends and family about our sailing around the world plans the majority told us we were nuts. Heck, the Daily Mail in Britian published a few stories about us being the most selfish parents in England.

Looking back, I often felt very hurt by not having support. Simon and I truly felt as if we were on our own. We easily could have broken down and listened to our friends/family and stayed on land but instead we covered our hurt feelings and plodded on.

Now, everyone thinks we made the right decision and I oven overhear friends/family say, ‘I supported them all along! I knew they’d make a success of it.’

People are funny. Anyway, we learned a good lesson. When you go out and do things that are different from the norm, people often react in not-so-supportive ways. But that’s okay ☺

So, there you have it! Our five lessons learned sailing 18,500 miles. What lessons have you learned? Please leave a comment below as we love to hear (and learn) from others too!

Lessons Learned Sailing

Lessons Learned Sailing

The Best Dinghy Anchor

What’s the best dinghy anchor? To determine the best dinghy anchor we tested three variations: the folding grapnel anchor, the claw and the Mantus anchor (deemed ‘the best dinghy anchor’).

Allow me show you a picture of each anchor, explain why a sailboat owner would need an anchor for their dinghy, and the results of our anchor tests in dry sand (to show how the anchors worked), wet sand and while in a dinghy anchoring in mud. Towards the end if this blog post you’ll find a video demonstrating our best dinghy anchor tests 😉

The Folding Grapnel Anchor

Folded Grapnel Anchor
Folded Grapnel Anchor

Click to view on West Marine

The Claw Anchor

Steel Claw Anchor
Steel Claw Anchor

Click to view on West Marine

The Mantus Anchor

Mantus Dinghy Anchor
Mantus Dinghy Anchor

Click to view on West Marine

Choosing the best dinghy anchor depends on the type of seabed that you’re going to anchor in – whether it’s sand, mud, grass, rock or a mixture. In actuality, not one anchor can handle all situations. Overall, however, the ultimate aim is to keep your dinghy anchor from dragging and potentially losing your dinghy to Poseidon!

But why do sailing cruisers need an anchor for their dinghy?

You might speculate, as I did, that dinghy’s will presumably be dragged up on the beach and/or tied onto a dinghy dock. It’s not a common scene to see an area where dinghies are actually anchored.

However, there are definite times a dinghy owner will need to use the anchor!

While sailing throughout the Caribbean, we usually tied our dinghy to a dinghy dock (rather than pulling it ashore). In addition, we also threw an anchor off the back of the dinghy, getting it to grab and pulling it tight. We did this to prevent the dinghy from smashing into the dock with oncoming waves. Or worse, it was known to happen that dinghies would get stuck under a dock and get jammed with the rising tide!

When Simon and I anchored in Mustique, a private island in the Caribbean, we successfully used the dinghy dock on several occasions. On one dockage, however, we weren’t so successful!

We returned to our dinghy and the starboard inner tube had popped.

Simon and I clambered onto the floating side, motored back to our boat as fast as possible and then hoisted our outboard up before we lost it! Our dinghy was popped by an exposed nail. With the waves bashing the boat against the dock, it was inevitable that a puncture would result. On that occasion we did not use an anchor! You live and learn – eh?

Aside from helping to keep your dinghy away from the punishment of the waves, dinghy anchors can also be used when you can’t pull the boat ashore or tie it to a dock.

When we anchored in a northern bay off the island of Sardinia, west of Italy, we found ourselves unable to beach our dingy and the private dock refused us use. We were with friends and in total had three children and five adults in addition to picnic boxes, water toys, towels and beach matts. Fortunately the owners of the dock let us unload the children, some adults and all our ‘stuff’.

My friends husband and Simon then took the dinghies to a safe area and anchored them in the sand. It wasn’t ideal and those kind of situations didn’t happen often, but they do happen.

Furthermore, when we were in Grand Turks, an island in Turks and Caicos (Caribbean), we wanted to beach our dinghy however the beach was so long there was nothing to tie it to! Eventually we noticed other dinghies that were anchored and simply followed suit.

And what about going out fishing?!

If you want to get to a location where your sailboat won’t take you, you can take your dinghy, throw an anchor off the bow and put your pole in.

So…what is the best dinghy anchor?

Well, if you’re going to anchor in sand or mud, you’ll want something that is pointy, digs in quickly and has enough area to hold rather than pull up the mud and drag.

If you’re going to anchor in rocks, you’ll want something what spreads out and almost wedges itself behind a rock or rocks.

Ideally, it’s worth having a couple anchors if you’ll find yourself in a variety of seabed conditions.

For the past three years we used a folding grapnel anchor.

It folds up, is easy to store and doesn’t weigh more than 4lbs. For the most part, however, it’s a terrible anchor. From time to time it might work in rocks but almost always Simon had to dive down, strategically position the anchor and then push it into the seabed and/or wedge it behind a rock.

On our previous sailboat, we had a claw anchor and that performed well.

But just last week Simon purchased what is being hailed as the best dinghy anchor ever – the Mantus Anchor.

We wanted to test our new anchor and let you see our findings. To get an idea of how the three anchors dragged along the seabed and eventually dug in, Simon, Sienna and I tested the anchors on the dry sand (just to see how they moved), on wet sand (more realistic to actual anchoring situations) and finally we took the anchors out into the Charleston harbor and anchored them in mud.

When we anchored the anchors in the mud, we let out the exact same scoop for every anchor. So, we were in 7’ of water and therefore let out around 30’ of line. For each anchor, we let the tide pull us back until the rope became tight. Simon then put the dinghy into reverse on ‘tick-over’. We then put the dinghy in reverse under substantial revs.

The results of our best dinghy anchor test?!

In last place came the grapnel anchor. It didn’t dig in and dragged no matter what we did to try and get it to bite.

In second place came the claw anchor. This anchor dug in and held the dinghy when we put it in reverse just ticking over. However, when we increased the revs, the anchor pulled put and we dragged with out biting back down. When Simon pulled up the anchor it was caked with mud and therefore would have no chance of digging back in.

In first place was the Mantus anchor. During our dry and wet sand trials we noted that the Mantus anchor digs in almost instantly with the sharp point and the stronger the pull, the more the anchor bites down.

The Mantus anchor not only dug in upon reverse in tick over, this lightweight nicely designed anchor kept us from moving with increased revs. We were not going to move! (Watch video below and then carry on for more information about pricing…)

The Best Dinghy Anchor Video | Sailing Britican

What about pricing?!

Well, as you would expect, the Mantus comes in at a higher price.  However, it comes with a high quality bag, an anchor shield (fits over the pointy end), and 50’ of rope.

As far as the grapnel and claw go they are less expensive however are sold without the protector, bag and rope.

My husbands verdict is that we’ll keep our folding grapnel as it doesn’t take up much space anyway. Whenever we need to anchor in rocks it might come in hand. Overall, however, we’re extremely pleased with the Mantus anchor. We look forward to testing out waters in the Caribbean, Pacific and wherever else we sail to 😉

And lets remember that in order to anchor a dinghy you first need to have a dinghy!

Why we sold up and sailed away

What makes someone want to say ‘screw it, I’m trading my life in for a sail around the world?’ In the following video you’ll hear what made my husband and I decided to quite our ‘normal’ life, leave our financially secure set-up and head out into the unknown.

If we can do it, so can you!

Directly below you’ll find our video made over three years and 18,500 miles after we set sail. After the video, you’ll be able to read my thoughts/feelings that I jotted down BEFORE we left.

Why we sold up and sailed away video

 October 7th 2013 – before we sold the house, purchased the boat and left land

Have you ever had a situation when things get so bad that you just can’t handle them anymore? You’ve toyed with making a change for years, but never did anything and then one day you feel as if you’re going to burst if something doesn’t change?

Well, I’ve been living like that for years. And ironically, I’ve made massive changes to my life, yet they haven’t been enough. Let me give you a very quick update on where I was, where I am now and how I’m finally saying screw-it. (Keep reading to find out why we sold up and sailed away – perhaps you currently feel similar to how I felt back before the big decision?!)

First I quit my job

In 2011 I quit my job because I was frustrated, exhausted, bored, unchallenged and seriously lacking fulfillment. Furthermore, my health was declining – mentally and physically. Quitting my job was a bit difficult as I owned 50% of the company I worked for, but that’s another story.

Needless to say, I quit my job and decided to find out how to live a more enjoyable journey. Up until then I had controlled, forced, cajoled, and pushed my way through life. If I wanted something I’d go get it regardless to whether the journey or the final destination was enjoyable.

If the journey isn’t good then the destination won’t be rewarding either

Thankfully I woke up and realized that if the journey isn’t good then the destination won’t be rewarding either. This whole idea of working hard until your 65 and then you can relax is a total joke. Everyone I’ve met that worked hard either dies once they retire or loses their sense of purpose and falls into deep depression. And then they wonder why they spent years being miserable!

Not for me. No way. I took a jump off the end of the rat race pier. Are you wondering what happened once I did?

I quit the rat race and then found true happiness – errrrr, not really!

Well, I’d love to say that my life become fun, enjoyable and full of great experiences but it didn’t. Just because you change the scenery YOU don’t change. The grass is not greener anywhere – no matter how hard you look! I thought that if I removed the thing that made me so miserable, my job, that I’d instantly be happy. Not the case.

It took a while, but I eventually realized that I had to change me. I had to change what I thought about me, my life, the world and my relationship with me, my life and the world. What a growth spurt. An emotional journey that lead to some low lows and some high highs. That’s another story too.

I want fulfillment with my life!

After quite some time, I eventually leveled out a bit. I understood more about who I was, what I wanted and how I wanted to go forward through the rest of my life. My main objective was to enjoy the journey – to increase my overall fulfillment of life.

Thankfully, I’ve made quite a bit of progress but it seems like the more I learn about me, the more I realize that I’m not in the right place doing the right things.

Doing the right things for the wrong reasons?

I started my company in 2004 because I wanted to get rich and I also wanted to be a writer. Rather than write a book or take up journalism I instead started my own company. I was told throughout school that I was a good writer but had no clue about grammar or spelling. I mistakenly thought that I could never be a writer. Starting my own company would allow me to write because I’d be the one who ‘okays’ it. Funny way of thinking – isn’t it?

So I end up starting a finance company. Did I mention that I’m not good a math either and as far as finance is concerned I’m really not interested in it (other than having lots of money). So – I go way out of my way to have the ability to write. After 8 years, I find myself burned out and miserable. On the positive side, the company enabled me to write everything – the website, promotional materials, guides and I even published quite a few books! That led to me writing for many popular magazines. By the time I left I’d been published in over 50 publications including the NY Times, Times and loads of magazines.

By now, I figured it all out – errrr, not really!

So you’d think that I’d quite my job and then become a writer – yes? No. I’m not a writer. I can’t really write that well…but I do love writing! So once I left my job I started a couple blogs (for fun) and then offered management consultancy and started a couple more companies. I bombed at the consultancy – couldn’t handle it. It was too much like working at my company. As for the companies I started, they were and still are interesting but there’s no real challenge. I’ve realized that just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean that you need to do it for the rest of your life.

For the past 2 years I’ve bumbled around doing this and that. For the most part, I’ve really worked on getting myself into a better place. I’ve learned so much about me. And I’ve learned to like who I am. Previously I wouldn’t even look in the mirror at myself – I was too ugly and unworthy.

Screw my life

Here comes the screw it part (almost)!

So, as the title suggests, I’ve finally said screw it. The pain has now become too much for me to bare. I’ve lived a life I thought I was suppose to live based on my past conditioning and now that I’ve taken time out to figure out who I am it’s time to really change.

What about sailing? Where’s that fit in?

Just a little bit more background. For fun, I love to sail. I’m not the best sailor in the world and I do get sea sick. However, for the past 15 years I’ve going on a sailing holiday most years and every time we’ve had to return home I’ve cried. In 2011 we purchased a Moody 346 yacht and I would rather be on that then doing anything else.

Stating that, sailing is fun – it’s a hobby. My dream has been to sail around the world but it’s only a dream. It’s what you tell people when they ask you what you’d do if you won the lottery. It’s not something you actually ever do – is it?


So this is where the screw it comes in. For all my life I wanted to be a writer and for a huge chunk of my life, I’ve enjoyed sailing. I’m not attached to my house (or the things in it), I think the amount of commercialism in the world is distracting us from what’s most important and I’m craving homemade food from local sources. So…logically, what should I do?

Yep – I’m selling everything I have, buying the biggest yacht I can afford and setting sail with my husband and 3 year old daughter. And although I’m not a writer, I’m going to write. I’m going to write about my adventures, my doubts, my fears, my successes, my learning lessons and even some practical tips for those that want to say ‘screw-it’ too. YIKES. I’m scared but excited but scared but excited.

I’m very scared. I’m very excited….

To read about the Captain (my husband) our Deck hand (my daughter) and me, go to The Crew.

The next article is: That’s it – I’m selling everything and sailing around the world!

Or…if you’d like to carry on reading all about our journey from selling up and sailing away, you can purchase my book, ‘Changing Lifestyles – Trading the Rat Race in For A Sail Around The World,’ (click the link to find out more…) The book will take you step by step through the blog articles. You can grab a beer, pour yourself a glass of wine or get a nice coffee/tea and curl up with a book or digital version to enjoy all in one go. Otherwise, navigating around to 300 articles can become quite a task!