Buying a sailboat negotiation tactics – our story!

If you told me a few years ago that my husband and I would end up being the proud owner of a 56’ sailboat and would be sailing around the world, I would have said, ‘no way – we could never afford a boat that size and how would we pay for our travels?’ We knew nothing about sailboat negotiation tactics.

Well… as I write this article, we’ve been living on our 56’ Oyster, named Britican, for over almost three years and my family and I have traveled over 18,500 miles in her. We’ve circumnavigated the Mediterranean, crossed the Atlantic Ocean (took 18 days), travelled along the Caribbean and up to the east coast of America.

Sailboat negotiation tactics

Sailboat negotiation tactics

Our story isn’t conventional but it goes to show you what’s possible.

It all started in 2012 when we put our house up for sale. We decided to purchase a house on the coast so that we’d be closer to our sailboat (an old 35’ Moody).

Within days of putting the house on the market it was sold, subject to contract. Unfortunately that contract never came to closure.

A company purchased our house and wanted to turn the house into a foster home for delinquent children. Once the news got out in the neighborhood the whole street boycotted the sale, things got political and after months of trying to fight the neighbors, we gave up.

I thought, ‘perhaps it’s not time to sell our house?’ and ‘maybe we’re not supposed to move to the coast.’

After the dust settled I became more and more frustrated. I was ready for a change, but didn’t know what it needed to be.

One afternoon, while my husband, Simon, was doing a boat delivery job (it’s only the 2nd delivery job he’s ever done), I text him a message saying, ‘why don’t we sell the house, buy a boat and sail around the world for a while.’

When Simon returned home we talked about our idea. It wasn’t a new dream, however it wasn’t a ‘real’ dream either. It was one of those dreams that you do if and when you win the lottery.

For some reason we decided to seriously entertain the idea.

Could we sell our house, buy a boat and find a way earn an income while sailing around the world?! And what will our 3 year old daughter think of all this?

After thinking about things for a week, we put the house back on the market with a new agent. The Sunday before the house sale went public, I decided to walk out the front door to go to the coffee shop. I then remembered that I needed a book, so I went back in the house to grab it.

As I walked out of the house a woman in a car was parked outside. She wasn’t there a few minutes ago when I first left the house – it seemed that I was suppose to have bumped into her.

She introduced herself, explained that she had a viewing booked for Monday to see our house. She was doing a drive by. Apparently, the agent rang her as soon as he saw our house knowing it might be a perfect fit.

I asked the woman to come in and take a look. She felt a bit apprehensive as she didn’t want to bother us on a weekend, but eventually she got out and I gave her a tour of our house.

She agreed to buy the house within two days of seeing it.

I thought, ‘wow – perhaps this is a message that this whole ‘sell the house and buy a boat thing’ is the right path!

Simon then went out and started viewing the type of boat we were interested in – Oysters. He started with a 45’ but couldn’t stand up in the saloon. Then he tried a 49’ and experienced the same issue. Eventually, Simon went on a 56’ Oyster and boat was perfect – he could stand straight up. Simon is 6’4.

His initial reaction, however, was ‘there’s no way we can afford a 56’ Oyster – new or used!’

Well… I’ve been asked to keep the figures to ourselves as the deal we got was unprecedented, but let me explain how things transpired.

One of the Oyster brokers explained to Simon that there was an Oyster 56’ in Spain that had been on the market for a while and the owner would probably take a reduced offer. Simon then went to work and learned everything he could about the boat and how the price was compared to other 56’s. The boat seemed perfect and the price was already extremely attractive, but it was ultimately 25% too high for our budget.

There’s no way we could afford the boat and have enough savings to sail for a while.

Simon then decided to make a ridiculous offer, subject to survey and sea trial. Simon’s offer was around 30% lower than the value of boat listed.

Apparently the boat was reduced by a substantial about in recent weeks so the owner was not impressed.

Discussions went back and forth for over a week.

Eventually the owner explained that he’d consider 22% off the current list price. The boat was already priced to sell – any other Oyster 56’ was much higher.

Simon and I were excited but wondered ‘what’s the catch?’ Will the owner stand by his consideration or does he want us to view the boat and end up loving it so much we pay the full price? Were we all just wasting our time?

We flew out to view the boat and after seeing her, we hired a surveyor to do a professional survey. We also took the boat out for a sea trial. We were totally in love.

The survey came back with a variety of normal issues but nothing that was a deal breaker. Even if we wanted to get the price reduced further I think the owner would have said, ‘you’re already getting the deal of the century…’

The more conventional way for sailboat negotiation tactics is like this:

1. View several boats to narrow down the one you like the most. If you can’t view in person, check out boat sale specs online or from brokers.

2. Make an offer subject to survey and sea trial – most people make an offer below the list price to see if the owner will negotiate a lower price. Sometimes you can find other boats that are the same make/model that are a lower price so to rationalize your lower offer. Sometimes boats are simply priced to sell and the owners won’t budge.

3. View the boat yourself if you haven’t already and if you’re definitely interested…

4. Get a professional surveyor and go for a sea trial

5. Negotiate the price down based on what needs to be fixed as per noted in the survey and/or as per what you find during your walk-around and sea trial.

6. If you and the owner can come to an agreement the contract of sale gets drawn up

Back to my story…when the time came to agree on a final purchase price I got cold feet.

We were talking about big money here.

We would have enough money to buy the boat and sail for a couple years (off savings) if our other boat sold quickly (the Moody 35). The issue I had is that I didn’t know if our other boat would sell in a month or in a year.

Our broker managed to suggest to both the owner and us to set up an option. What happened is we decided to buy the boat less the amount we’d get from selling our other boat. Once our other boat sold, we’d then send the money over to the owner and the option would close.

The deal made me feel good and we proceeded with the sale.

Interestingly, our old boat sold on the exact same day that we signed the contract for the new boat. Coincidence or what?! And this was less than two months after we decided to put the house on the market so to ‘sell up and sail away.’ Oh yeah – we also managed to complete on our house, buy an apartment (fall back property if all else failed), sell our car and offload all our possessions.

Talk about a miracle – eh?

Now that I’ve owned our boat for almost three years, have been living in the sailing world full time and am a lot wiser, how do I reflect on the deal we got?

We were extremely lucky. And…I think the universe was on our side.

Like many newbie boaters we were terribly ignorant. When we looked at the boat ourselves, we just walked around it starry eyed. We didn’t know what to look for when we lifted up the floorboards, how to examine the engine or that we should have asked for previous service records.

We didn’t know that star-type cracks on the gel coat could mean that the boat was in an impact. We had no idea that you can use your fingernail to flake the threads off the sails and halyards to determine if they’ve got much life left in them. We didn’t know that the rigging (big expense!) has to be replaced every 10 years to ensure full insurance coverage in the event of a demasting (and know to ask when the last time the ringing was changed).

We didn’t know that the bolts holding the keel on can be inspected and if there’s rust around them it could mean the keel is rotting off – a deal breaker! We didn’t think to walk around the marina asking neighbors about whether the boat had been sitting there neglected or whether the owner kept on top of things.

We didn’t even think about videoing our viewing with our phone or brining a magnet (magnets shouldn’t stick to marine grade stainless steal. If they do, the steal is inferior and won’t preform as well).

Anyway, Simon and I were like two giddy children – we just looked through the boat imagining being anchored off a sandy beach lined palm trees while sipping our gin and tonic.

What was the worst thing, is that the surveyor we used was recommended by the broker – what a no-no! I mean, what a NO-NO!

If the surveyor is getting work from a broker do you think they’re going to bite off the hand that feeds it? Another terribly stupid mistake. I even overhead the broker say something indicating that the surveyor wouldn’t get future referrals if he complicated issues.

In the end, our boat was in okay shape. Not great, not good, but okay. Heck – we haven’t sunk.

Had we been more intelligent about properly inspecting the boat ourselves we would have spotted various trouble areas. Perhaps we could have negotiated the price down further OR, more importantly, fixed the things that needed fixing before breaking down at sea?!

And if we hired an independent surveyor perhaps he would have been more forthcoming about the serious issues.

Over the past couple years we’ve had to buy new sails, new rigging and have had major engine overhauls. NOT CHEAP but considering the original list price and the prices of other 56’ Oysters we still haven’t spent more than the asking price. (Surely I’m saying that to make myself feel better…the way we rationalize things – eh?!)

Here are my take-away’s (that you can take away or leave)

  • Don’t assume you can’t afford a particular boat. Prices can be negotiated down substantially. I actually have a friend that acquired a boat for free.
  • It does no harm to test the waters with a very low offer. What do you have to lose? The owner is either going to say ‘no’ or consider the offer.
  • If your boat purchase is contingent on something else selling (the house, a car, another boat) consider being creative with an option.
  • Bring a checklist of what to look for. There are serious telltale signs that can be recognizable that will help to negotiate the price down or tell you to flat out walk away. Furthermore, it’s better to find a deal breaker yourself than to pay $600+ for a surveyor to tell you.
  • Find an independent surveyor that has nothing to do with the broker and/or seller. You want someone that has no vested interest in the sale of the boat.

So…the moral of my story?! ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’ and ‘there are no rules’. I’ll have to have those two sayings tattooed on my gravestone – I use them so often.

Anyway, if you want to be more prepared than we were when we first looked at our boat…

…In my guide, ‘Viewing Boats to Buy: A checklist for personal inspections,’ I have a very comprehensive list that provides newbies and even seasoned boat owners with a list of things to take on a viewing, what to look for on the hull, things to look out for on the deck, things to check inside the boat and what to consider during a sea trial when personally viewing a boat. You don’t want to pay $600+ for a surveyor if you can find a deal-breaker ahead of time, now do you? Out of all the guides I’ve created, this one will potentially save you the most…and this is the one that boat sellers and boat brokers don’t want you to see. Click the guide cover now to learn more…

viewing boats to buy
viewing boats to buy

You might also be interested in…

BOAT BROKERS – HOW TO FIND A GOOD ONE! I interviewed a broker to find out what to look for in a good broker. Click the link to find out more 🙂

Sailing and Sightseeing Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina is one of the best cities in the United States to visit. If you are sailing along the east coast it would be a terrible shame to bypass this amazing area. Sailing and sightseeing Charleston is awesome.

Sailing and Sightseeing Charleston – Video

Within my 15-minute video above you’ll enjoy a sail around the harbor in addition to getting a feel for the following:

  • Charleston Harbor Marina
  • Charleston Harbor Resort
  • The pool of the Beach Club (I would have provided more on this but the resort owners only allow marina tenants access to the Charleston Resort and not the Beach Club)
  • The Fish House and Bridge Bar
  • Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge
  • The Water Taxi
  • Patriots Point Museum (one air craft carrier, a destroyer and a submarine in addition to a Vietnam War exhibition)
  • Charleston Old Town
  • The Aquarium
  • Mount Pleasant Fishing Pier
  • Sullivans Island
  • Fort Moultrie
  • Folley Beach
  • Boone Hall Plantation
  • Wild alligators
  • More…

Sightseeing Charleston – the Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge

Sightseeing Charleston

Sightseeing Charleston

When planning a trip up or down the east coast, make arrangements for a berth before arriving in Charleston. Some marina’s fill up and depending on what the weather’s been doing it’s possible that docks and even marinas have been wiped away. During Hurricane Matthew a few docks and marinas were badly damaged. At the Charleston Harbor Marina the full K dock was near destroyed.

Failing a berth in a marina there are several places to anchor in the harbor or up the Cooper River.

ONE MASSIVE WORD OF ADVICE…

The tide in Charleston Harbor is very strong. Never enter a marina when the tide is flowing! Either anchor or tie onto an outside jetty and wait until it’s slack tide…or time your arrival to hit slack tide.

If you want any information about the Charleston Harbor Marina or surrounding area, please email me at Kim@SailingBritican.com and if you’re in the area look us up.

13 reasons why living on a boat in a marina is better than living in a house on land

For almost three years my family and I have been travelling from one location to another. We certainly were not living on a boat in a marina! We started off in the Mediterranean, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, cruised the Caribbean and eventually, after 18,500 miles, have decided to settle down for a long-term stay (1 year?) in Charleston, South Carolina.

Our choice to homeschool our, now 6-year-old daughter, didn’t work as well as expected. After many discussions my husband and I decided that a proper schooling environment would be best. We decided to temporarily curtail our cruising lifestyle and instead enroll our daughter, Sienna, into first grade in America.

Living on a boat in a marina

Living on a boat in a marina

So…we’ll be living on our boat, in a marina, for at least one year – perhaps longer…

Transitioning from full-time cruising to full-time marina life has been interesting. On the one hand I’m sad that our ‘flying-the-the-seat-of-our-pants’ lifestyle has been put on hold. On the other hand, it’s nice to take a break from constant travel, massive uncertainty and having to pay over the odds for many goods and services.

With the prospect of staying in Charleston for at least a year, my husband and I discussed the idea of renting or buying a property. In our minds, having a boat was for the purpose of using the boat. If not sail to around the world; we’d want to at least use our boat to sail when conditions allowed us to do so.

Interestingly, we’ve found ourselves in a rather odd situation – sailing around Charleston on a 56’ sailboat isn’t fun

The marina that we’re in sits right smack in the middle of a tidal river. Coming and going outside of slack tide, when the river is running fast, is almost a certain disaster. Every week a boat gets pinned up against docked boats because the engine isn’t capable of fighting the tide and making it into a slip. A boat enter a pontoon area, lines up to turn into a slip and before the skipper makes the turn, the boat is pushed onto docked boats and has to sit there until the slack tide arrives.

Furthermore, the harbor that we’re in is so small that we have to tack constantly rather than have an enjoyable easygoing sail. When we took my parents out they sat around enjoying the sights while I tacked one way, crossed the boat and prepared to tack the other way…repeat, repeat, repeat.

Living on a boat in a marina

Living on a boat in a marina

Sure, we could sail out into the Atlantic Ocean but usually the conditions are not favorable for an enjoyable ride

Our dream is to still circumnavigate the world but our daughter’s education must come first. She’s been in school for three months and thus far she not only loves the steady routine but she’s making massive strides in her academics. Sienna has made many friends, she participates in everything and it’s a joy to see her in an environment where she’s thriving.

So… we’ve ended up in a situation where we’re living on a boat in a marina where our boat is a static home rather than our originally intended vessel for travel and adventure.

Interestingly, there are many people around us that live on their boat and never leave the marina on purpose

For us, our situation changed but for many people, they’ve made the conscious decision to live in a marina full time. Some marina live aboards work locally and others are retired. One of our neighbors has been in our marina for seven years. He has a lovely 60’ powerboat with no engine!

From my perspective, however, I’ve felt a variety of conflicting feelings. We didn’t consciously set out to live in a marina. For some reason I’ve felt the urge to get a property on land, but when further investigating my thought process I really can’t justify the craving.

As it stands now, I think I’m just feeling the societal pressure of living a ‘normal’ life

As with many things in life, when I find myself conflicted I get out a piece of paper and write down my thoughts. I created a list of reasons about why living on a boat is better than living in a house…

Living on a boat in a marina

Living on a boat in a marina

13 reasons why living on a boat in a marina is better than living in a house on land

  1. If and when we want to move (if we ever want to move) we don’t have to sell our home; we simply untie our lines and move our home to a new location. And considering our home can move with the wind, the costal areas of the whole world are possible future ‘homes’.
  2. We have waterfront property for a fraction of the cost that homeowners are paying. In fact our neighbors on land are paying millions for the same view we have.
  3. The cost of living can be much lower. Boat owners in a marina pay a monthly rent for the boat slip. There’s usually a large discount for taking out a long-term contract (ex. Over 6 months). Other costs include electricity and some marinas charge a live aboard fee.
  4. There’s a community of full-time live aboards all around us. Because of the proximity of the boats and the need to walk along quite a lengthy dock to get out of the marina we chat with our neighbors several times per day. If someone has an issue, everyone helps out. Everyone is always looking out for everyone else. The social setting is fantastic. Almost every evening we all get together and enjoy a chat and drink along the dock or aboard a boat. The friendships made amongst live aboard boaters are meaningful and fulfilling.
  5. Full time live aboards have common values. They all have a love for the water, are not into buying things for the sake of buying them (no space). Most boaters are very interested in conservation, green technology and taking care of the planet. Many work from the boat or are more entrepreneurial in spirit. They value strong friendships and work very hard to make others feel welcomed and wanted. Live aboards give, give and give. Someone is always cooking too much and invites others over. There’s always a last minute decision to have sundowners and appetizers. Live aboards generally don’t have cable/satellite TV so they’re not inundated with negative news. Although conversations about topical news will be had, it certainly doesn’t dominate the time spent together. Stories are shared, jokes are told and food and drink is shared. There’s a deep feeling of respect and community amongst boaters. For me, it’s truly a community where I feel that life is worth living.
  6. With the ebb and flow of transient boaters we meet new friends every week. And considering our marina also has a hotel that provides various conventions and events, we meet interesting people all the time. For example, one week we met a bunch of Veteran’s from the Vietnam War and another week we had very interesting conversations with several Nuclear Physicists.
  7. Keeping up with the Jones isn’t as prevalent with live aboards as it is within a housing community or estate. Most boats are drastically different so you can’t compare them. And due to the lifestyle, the type of people that live on boats are not very interested in material possessions. When a neighbor gets a new tender we celebrate with a ride around the harbor…
  8. There’s a reduced amount of space so the need for filling the boat with unnecessary items is low (In our old house, it took us three months to get rid of all the needless items we had in our attic, cupboards and closets).
  9. If it floods, which this area is known for, our house rides the tide rather than take on water. Or if a hurricane is heading this way, we have an option to move.
  10. Not only do we have dogs in the ‘neighbourhood,’ but every day we’re graced with dolphins, pelicans and a variety of other beautiful creatures that you won’t find on land.
  11. Cleaning the whole boat takes a fraction of the time needed to clean a house and there’s no law maintenance needed.
  12. If we ever want to sell our boat we’re not limited to selling to the local area. Our target market includes the whole world rather than just someone that wants a boat in Charleston, South Carolina. In other words, someone from the UK can buy our boat and move it over to the UK quite easily. You can’t sell your house to someone in the UK!
  13. Crime rates are far lower in marinas than on housing states. People rarely get burgled, murdered or violated in a marina!

Living on a boat in a marina

Living on a boat in a marina

While thinking things over, I also jotted down a few negatives about living on a boat in a marina rather than living in a house on land. But as you’ll see the positives far outweigh the negatives 🙂

5 reasons why living on a boat in a marina is NOT better than living in a house on land

  1. It gets cold and our heaters don’t work as well as central heating does.
  2. The walk from our ‘front door’ to the car takes about 15 minutes, as we have to walk down a long dock.
  3. From time to time people call us ‘boat people’ and I sometimes feel judged. For the most part, however, I take great pride in telling people that we live on a boat. Usually it sparks off a conversation and the people we’re talking to end up wanting to join the community of ‘boat people.’
  4. Living long-term in a marina requires more clothes. When we were cruising around we usually follow the warm weather. Now that we’re staying a full year in one place we’ll have to endure a winter and will need to buy and store more clothes. (Secretly I’m very excited to buy new clothes!!! I’m just not sure where I’m going to store them later…)
  5. It’s hard to be on the water but not have the ability to sail ourselves.
Living on a boat in a marina

What are your thoughts? Any questions? Please leave them in the comments below 🙂

Teak Deck Maintenance using Boracol

After years of asking marine professionals and long term live aboards how to best maintain our teak deck, time after time we’ve been told to use Boracol. Boracol is a chemical that can be used for the management of mold, fungal growth, mildew, slime, dry rot and insect attack.

Before being a boat owner I never realized that teak decks are prone to algae and mold growth.

Teak deck maintenance using Boracol

Teak deck maintenance using Boracol

Algae and mold issues can disfigure a teak deck and make it slippery

After enquiring about the cost of replacing our teak deck (just out of curiosity), I first had to pick myself off the floor and then I became very eager to make sure we had a teak deck maintenance system in place. For our 56’ sailboat with full teak decking the replacement cost to remove, prepare and relay new teak came to around the $95,000 mark. I was told it’s cheaper to get a new teak deck in Thailand but I wonder just how much cheaper it would be?! I also pondered when I’d next be sailing by Thailand with the boat…

When I heard the high cost of replacement I realized the importance of teak deck maintenance

Teak deck maintenance using Boracol

Teak deck maintenance using Boracol

So here is our teak deck maintenance regime:

On a routine basis we hose the deck down with fresh water. When we want to give the deck a nice clean, perhaps once a month or when in a marina, we use a very soft brush and with diluted dish soap we lightly scrub the teak going across the grain as opposed to going with the grain.

We’ve always been advised to avoid pressure washers as they can damage the wood. Furthermore, professionals have indicated that scrubbing with a hard brush or going with the grain can negatively affect the teak deck.

Teak deck maintenance using Boracol

Teak deck maintenance using Boracol

Once a year we treat the whole deck with Boracol using the following process:

1. Check the weather. As long as it’s not going to rain for three to four days, it’s a good time to start. Light drizzle and dew will not impact the treatment. You just don’t want heavy rain to wash the Boracol off the boat before it has time to work.

2. Wash the whole deck with a light stream of hose water, soft brush and diluted dish soap. Always use the brush lightly across the grain.

3. After the deck is clean, wet down the area where you want to start and allow the teak to dry until it’s damp.

4. Working in small sections apply the Boracol with a paintbrush. You want the Boracol to be visably wet but not running off the surface.

5. Allow the teak to dry out until it’s just damp again and apply a second coat of Borocol.

6. The following day, you can spray the deck with a tiny bit of water. This will help the Boracol to penetrate into the teak.

7. After three to seven days wash the teak deck with a soft brush/sponge and diluted dish soap.

The deck might look worse before it looks better. If your deck had signs of algae and mold, after around ten days the deck should start to look better.

Some boat owners treat their deck at the beginning and end of each boating season whereas others do it once a year or as required.

Teak Deck Maintenance using Boracol Video

If you have any comments or questions, please write them below.

Also, we did try out a product called, Teak Wonder, a while back. At first we were happy with the results but the nice appearance didn’t last long. The amount of work required for such a short result wasn’t worth it (in our opinion). Article: TEAK WONDER: HOW TO MAKE THE TEAK DECK ON YOUR SAILBOAT LOOK AMAZING IN 3 STEPS

Moving our boat in preparation for Hurricane Matthew

With less than a week to go before hurricane Matthew hit my husband, Simon, and I discussed our options. We could keep our sailboat, Britican, where she sits in the Charleston Harbor Marina, South Carolina, on pontoon B39. Alternatively, we could move her from the marina to a space more inland by motoring and anchoring up a river. Other options included sailing Britican up to Wilmington, North Carolina (a more inland marina) or heading east to Bermuda. (Watch video below and/or continue reading below to get full story).

Video: Moving our boat in preparation for Hurricane Matthew

The weight of our decision felt heavier than lead upon our shoulders.

We eliminated the idea of moving the boat from the Charleston area due to practicalities and further future uncertainties. Who’s to know if the hurricane will hit Wilmington or Bermuda rather than Charleston? By moving we could actually put ourselves in a worse position.

Simon and I felt that our best bet was to listen to local live aboards that have lived through previous hurricanes. We started asking questions as to what river was best. How far inland could we get? Were there any depth or height restrictions? Did we have to time our travels around bridge openings or tides? Once we made it up the river, where could we anchor? In what depth would we be anchoring? Was there enough room to swing with 200’ of chain out?

When we started asking about moving our boat our intentions were to stay in the marina. Heading up an unknown river, anchoring our boat and leaving her alone freaked us out. We wanted to stay with what we knew.

Moving our boat in preparation for hurricane matthew

Moving our boat in preparation for hurricane matthew

We wanted to have Britican tied down to something.

As the storm grew in strength and rumors of possible devastation circled, our anxiety grew. Local boaties discussed hurricane impacts to marina’s similar to ours saying that they were totally destroyed. In a previous storm, one nearby marina completely broke loose from land, travelled across the water way and smashed to pieces.

The choice to move Britican was quickly becoming a ‘must-do’ rather than an option.

Simon and I decided to leave the marina during slack tide the following day. While preparing the boat I started to pack our things. Instead of packing for a trip off the boat, for the first time ever, I was packing with fear of loss. If the hurricane was anything like Hugo, one that destroyed parts of Charleston in the past, there was a possibility that we’d have no boat to return to.

In a daze I walked around the boat thinking, ‘what’s important to take?’ Aside from a few bits of sentimental jewelry, I grabbed enough clothes for Simon, our daughter, and I to last for a while. I also packed a book that I write in every year about my thoughts about our daughter, Sienna – it’s one of those books you update every year and when she’s 18 I will give it to her.

I thought about taking a few high priced spare parts like an extra alternator and spare starter motor but then decided against it.

The parts are heavy and the amount of money we’d get back from them paled into insignificance when considering the worst. The last things I packed were some of Sienna’s books and toys. I grabbed her prized Lego box in addition to her Shopkins collection.

Around midday an emergency meeting was held on the marina dock.

The marina manager and a local skipper explained that the boats would be safer up the Cooper River. If anyone wanted to go the skipper would take boats up, in convoy, to help anchor in addition to diving on the anchor (to check it was dug in) and provide a boat ride back to the marina if needed. The charge for the service was $500. The convoy was leaving around 3pm that day.

Considering that Simon and I were going up the river the following day, the option to go with the skipper sounded comforting. However, when we heard that around 30 boats were going we then worried about space.

Feeling our anxiety increase further, we decided to get Sienna out of school and leave as soon as possible – hopefully before the convoy. Lucky for us we had friends that had taken their boat up the river the day before so we had contacts in the area we were going.

Our plan was to go up the river, find our friends, anchor near them and have them take us to land with their tender. Once on land we’d call a taxi to get back to the marina, grab our boat and leave the area.

If it was just Simon and I we would perhaps stay on the boat longer but considering our six-year-old daughter we put her safety first.

Simon went to get Sienna, I finalized our bags to take off the boat in addition to throwing out loads of food, emptying our freezer into a cooler and removing any trash. It’s as if I had to shut down our boat in a matter of hours when usually I spent days preparing for a leave.

Just before we exited the marina, a neighboring boat offered to come pick us up, by car, and bring us back to the marina. I felt a bit of anxiety reduce. Knowing that we had a way back to the marina gave me strength.

We prepared to leave the marina with a rushing tide – something that we’d only do in an emergency. The tide is so strong at the Charleston Harbor Marina that it’s not uncommon for boats to be pushed onto other boats or the other docks making an exit impossible until the tide changes.

Friends helped us slip our lines, Simon cleared the pontoon and the boat quickly went sideways heading for the A dock. Using maximum engine and full bow thrusters we avoided hitting A dock by inches. Maneuvering like crazy, Simon backed us up towards to exit getting the boat in a position to navigate out of danger.

I stopped breathing for a few minutes.

Once out of the marina I noticed that there was loads of white smoke coming out of the exhaust. Usually that’s a sign of water in the engine. I notified Simon and then went to work getting all the lines and fenders in order.

To our horror we both noticed the water temperature on our engine rise.

My heart felt like it was being squeezed and my body shook with fear. The first thing I did was head up to the front of the boat to release the pin that holds the anchor in place. It can often take me a few minutes to get it unlatched and knowing how strong the tide was running I felt we might be forced to drop anchor if the engine started to overheat.

While I was getting the anchor ready, Sienna was asking if we could play Uno, a card game. I used all my power to smile and say, ‘sure – we can play Uno but give me a few more minutes to clear up the deck.’ I then put a movie on for her and acted as if everything was normal.

Simon navigated us under the Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge, a massive suspension bridge connecting Charleston to the city of Mount Pleasant. After we made it under the bridge the temperature was still on the rise.

We had to anchor and see if we could find the problem.

Simon moved the boat out of the shipping channel and we looked for a suitable depth to drop anchor. The first thing that popped into my head was, ‘what if we can’t get our anchor up after we drop it?’ I mentioned something to Simon and he said, ‘Kim, that won’t happen.’ We’ve never lost an anchor nor did we ever have an issue pulling ours up…my mind, for some reason, just went into worst case scenarios.

We successfully anchored and while I stood on the bow making sure our anchor held, Simon ran down to the engine and started troubleshooting. Knowing we only had four hours of light left in the day I was anxious to get as far up the river as possible.

Simon cleaned out our raw water strainer, checked our water cooling systems and then said:

‘Okay, I cleaned a lot of gunk out, I’m sure that was the problem.’

The water around Charleston is full of algae and all sorts of grass, seaweed and gunk. We’ve never stayed in an area that’s so full of stuff. We turned on the engine, pulled up the anchor and the temperature seemed good. ‘Yippeee we yelled and carried on up the river.’

Fifteen minutes later Simon looked at me and said, ‘the temperature is rising again.’

My stomach sunk.

Just after Simon told me that bad news a beautiful bottle nose dolphin surfaced on our starboard side. I kept searching for another dolphin and then in my head I said, ‘No…don’t you do that! Don’t you cross my bow!!!’ The dolphin popped his head up, looked right at me as if to say ‘pay attention’, and then crossed our bow.

I’m not a superstitious person. We have umbrellas and bananas on our boat – both things that boaters shouldn’t have! But when it comes to dolphins I’m not sure it’s superstition. These creatures are smart.

While sailing in the Mediterranean a good friend of mine, an ex Italian Naval Admiral, told me that if a single dolphin ever crosses your bow (meaning that it goes from left to right or right to left) that you’re in danger.

The last and only time I had a dolphin pass our boat was on the south coast of Italy.

As were making our way towards a marina a dolphin crossed our bow. I remember my cousin and I looking at each other thinking, ‘Ut-oh!’ Within a few minutes of the passing the bolt holding the main alternator on our engine sheered off. It made a massive ruckus. Thankfully we were close to the marina and you don’t need an alternator to make the engine run. We were fine.

Back to our current situation…

I took the dolphins warning and told Simon we had to stop. Not only did the dolphin freak me out but as we advanced further up the river there were fewer places to anchor.

We were approaching the Cooper River Marina and I said to Simon, let’s see if we can get in the marina and spend more time trying to sort out the problem.

Simon called the marina on the VHF and the guys at Cooper River Marina helped us get in. Luckily there was space on the outside wall. The tide was rushing out so fast – Simon pulled up the marina wall, I handed the bow line to an attendant and within seconds we were all tied down. It’s scary when you have such a strong tide to work against but Simon is amazing with his boat handling skills.

The marina said we could stay on the wall as long as we needed to get the engine fixed.

They even offered us space overnight if we needed it – free of charge. Simon started taking pieces off the engine – he wanted to check that the impeller was okay. That’s usually the reason for an engine overheat. The impeller was fine.

While Simon was at the marina office determining options two off duty fire fighters walked by to ask if we were going up river. I said that we’re trying to but our engine is overheating. Without delay, the fire fighters explained that our problem was growth along the grate of our raw water intake. The firemen had a research boat at the marina and just paid a diver to clean off their intakes so they could travel up river to anchor.

Knowing the problem made things better but we didn’t have time to have our intake area cleaned.

The tide, however, was about to change. We decided to leave the marina, barely idle the engine and just flow up river with the tide doing around 5 knots. As long as we didn’t push the engine she’d stay cool enough to get us up the river.

Simon managed to meet the diver that the firemen used and the diver said he’d come tow us if we couldn’t make it. Knowing we had the number of someone that was available to help gave me a bit more strength.

With the sun setting we headed up into the unknown.

The moon was a tiny sliver, the wind was gusting at 30 knots and the river snaked from left to right. We couldn’t see anything so we had to trust our GPS plotter. From time to time we’d see channel markers without lights or random buoys. I kept thinking, ‘please don’t let us hit something or have our prop get tangled in a line.’

The fear I felt was immense. My body tensed with such a high strength. I felt like a spring being coiled tighter and tighter.

While passing bridges we noticed that the traffic was stopped going in and out of our area. I thought, ‘Oh no…our friend that’s going to pick us up will never make it to us! And if he does make it to us, perhaps we won’t be able to get back to the marina.’

A few minutes later we received a text from our friend saying that he’d left the marina. At this point we still had three to four hours to travel but our friend said it might take him that long to get to us. I felt so thankful.

Knowing that we were going to be picked up almost made me cry with joy.

It then dawned on me that I hadn’t eaten all day. With six huge tubs of frozen left-overs defrosting in the sink/counter you’d think I’d be able to take my pick of something good. I couldn’t face food. I just couldn’t eat. In the end I had to toss the food into the river before leaving the boat.

To keep my mind off our situation I went around the boat and put towels in all of the windows. I read that hurricane force winds cause water to get into all sorts of places. I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to put something in the windows. I then heard Simon bang on the cockpit of the boat – usually a signal that he needs me.

I walked up to the cockpit and Simon said, ‘I can’t make out what this is.’

I looked forward and noticed a massive tanker and it was all lit up. I surveyed my view, looked on our plotter and tried to figure out what I was looking at. We couldn’t see any green and red lights and considering the tanker was so close we were blinded by the lights. It appeared as if the tanker was almost blocking the whole river. I saw trees on either side and no clear way of going forward.

We then saw lines stretching far off it’s stern and bow. It took several minutes to figure out that the tanker was tied down to mooring buoys. As we got closer I told Simon to pass the boat on the right so he switched directions and we eventually found our way around the massive monster.

By this time it was Sienna’s bedtime – it was around 8pm. She wanted to be with us so I made a bed for her in the cockpit. Sienna stirred for a while but eventually went to bed with her head on my lap. Meanwhile I kept and eye on the GPS plotter and Simon tried his best to look across the water for any objects. From time to time we’d see boats anchored with no lights on.

The trip was horrifying.

As we approached our final leg Simon relaxed a bit. I started putting the fenders down below. I kept them on deck just in case we had an issue. Knowing we were almost to the anchor site it was time for me to clear up the deck.

Then I heard Simon yell, ‘Oh my god,’ while he quickly veered the boat the starboard side.

I looked forward and almost a stones throw away was a massive barge. It was anchored right smack in the middle of the river with no lights on. Thoughts ran through my head – what if we hit the barge? What if sunk? How will we survive this night?

As we rounded the bend, Simon called our friends. There were several boats already anchored in the area. Our friends flashed their anchor light and we headed in their direction.

Simon told me to head up to the deck to prepare to anchor. While travelling up the river, and in the daylight, Simon attached another anchor to our normal anchor. The plan was to lower the extra anchor first, then lower or normal anchor so that the extra anchor made sure that the normal anchor stayed stuck in the mud!

When I went to drop the extra anchor in the water I couldn’t lift it.

For some amazing reason the tide seemed slow and the wind stopped. Simon came to the foredeck with me and he lowered the first anchor while I helped the chain to drop. Once the chain of the first anchor was in, I then lowered the normal anchor and Simon controlled the boat so that we went backwards. I let out 30m (100’) of chain and we pulled the anchor in tight. It didn’t budge. I then let out 20m (50’) and pulled in tight. Again, we didn’t budge. I then let out all the chain we had, put on our snubber (a device that transfers the force of the anchor to the boat rather than the winch) and closed our anchor locker.

We scurried around the boat doing our final checks, turning things off and making sure everything was in order.

I gave Britican a rub and told her how much I loved her and that we’ve done the best we can for her.

Our friend, Ron, from a neighboring boat was up on deck helping Simon do some final things. We woke Sienna up, put her in the tender and I locked the boat up. Just as I took my final step off Britican there was a bit of lose sicoflex (black stuff that separates the teak) on the deck. I grabbed it and put it in my pocket. I felt the need to have a bit of Britican with me.

Ron took us over to a boatyard on land where our friend Brad was there with a flashlight. We hopped off the boat, into Brad’s car and drove back to the marina.

I felt relived to be back on land but sick to leave Britican. At least we had eye’s on our boat. Ron and his beautiful wife, Mercedes, planned on staying on their boat throughout the storm.

By 11:30pm we made it back to our car. Thankfully the traffic died down and it only took ½ hour to get our car. Once at our marina, we hopped in our car, gave Brad a big hug, and headed to Raleigh, North Carolina.

Sienna quickly fell asleep in the car. Around 2am Simon and I stopped at a McDonalds off of I-95 and grabbed a burger. I had a lovely chat with a police officer while waiting for our order. He told me that we were very smart to get out of Charleston during the evening.

He explained it would be bumper-to-bumper traffic in the morning.

By 3am, however, Simon and I were starting to hallucinate. We pulled over in the first rest station once we crossed into North Carolina. We slept for two hours in the parking lot. I didn’t think I’d be able to fall asleep but we were both out within minutes of pulling over.

By 6:30am we made it to my brothers house in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Britican is in the best possible place we could put her. She has friends keeping an eye on her. And most importantly, Simon, Sienna and I are out of the storms path.

Throughout this whole ordeal the support, kind words and offers for places to stay have been amazing. Thankfully I had an Internet connection while travelling up the river. Even thought I was scared out of my wits it was so nice to feel connected with people that care. We received messages on Face Book, through my email and many people text and called to offer help.

Interestingly, at one point on our motor up the Cooper River, I put my head around the spray hood, smelled the fresh air and felt peaceful.

For a split second, I felt in love with the boat, the river, the lifestyle of living on a boat.

There’s a story that has stuck with me for years. I think it’s a Buddhist story/meditation. At one point in the tale a person is handing on a branch over a cliff. There’s no way up and below the person are tigers ready to eat the person. Facing imminent death, instead of freaking out, this person notices some beautiful juicy red strawberries. Seeing the berries, he takes them and eats them remarking about how amazing they are.

I couldn’t grasp the message in this story when I was younger. For some reason, it hit home as we traveled up the river and I caught a glimpse of being in the now and appreciating that now.

No…there weren’t tigers ready to eat us but I sure felt that our lives were in danger. Even though I had massive fear, I managed to find a moment when I could simply appreciate life. I didn’t expect that to happen.

[xyz-ihs snippet=”Hurricane”]

Waiting for a hurricane to hit – here’s how it feels…

Fear is what I feel while waiting for a hurricane. I’m scared. My husband, Simon, is also scared although he doesn’t admit it as much as I do. Hurricane Matthew is less than a week away and reports predict a path heading up the east coast of America. Our home, a 56’ sailboat named Britican is currently docked at a marina in Charleston, South Carolina with a clear view of the Atlantic Ocean. Protected by land, we are not.

Currently Matthew is a Category 5 hurricane with 140mph winds heading north in the Caribbean.

Waiting for a hurricane

Waiting for a hurricane

Chances are that the hurricane will lose strength but based on latest reports we’re expecting possible 90mhp winds by the time he reaches us.

Tropical storm Hermine, a hurricane that eventually downgraded to a tropical storm, hit us last month with winds topping out around 50 to 60mph (Check out the article and video, Preparing our boat for a hurricane for our first tropical storm experience). There was wind, rain a tiny bit of thunder and lightening. On a few occasions we had to adjust a line or push a popped up fender back between the boat and the dock. Overall, however, the conditions weren’t too bad. Some boats had minor damage, but what frightened me was the destruction of parts of Pontoon A at the marina (we’re on Pontoon B). If the marina starts to break up, what control as boat owners do we have?

Surely people with homes get nervous when the report of a potentially destructive hurricane is on its way.

Homeowners, however, have no choice about what to do other than, ‘do we stay at the house,’ or ‘do we evacuate.’ If the forecast is looking particularly grim, government or state led officials will enforce a full evacuation anyway.

For a boat owner, however, we have choices. We can move our house. We can choose to stay in a marina, have the boat hulled out and put on land, set sail to potentially get out of the hurricane’s path or we can find a river, head inland as much as possible and anchor the boat. No matter what we do, we’ll be praying. If we choose to anchor, we then have to choose whether to stay on the boat or get off. With little certainty about anything, we have some potentially difficult decisions to make.

If the hurricane is above a Category 1, it’s highly likely that our marina will not survive.

Our boat is tied to a floating finger pontoon. The pontoons are floating cement structures anchored to the sea floor by more cement and thick chains. With enough disturbances, the chains will break, the docks will separate and the marina will essentially float away.

Our best bet, while surveying the situation based on today’s weather report, is to start considering a trip up the Cooper River. As long as the depth is enough to accommodate our 7.5’ draft (depth that the keel of the boat sits below the water), we can travel up the river, navigate through as many bends as possible and find a cove that allows for a 360 swing. With the cyclical nature of hurricanes, once anchored we’ll have to assume that the storm will potentially have wind hitting us from all directions eventually; we’ll need to be able to completely swing on our anchor without touching bottom.

But once we anchor, do we stay with the boat?

I suppose there has to come a point when the forecast either predicts weather that warrants an evacuation or it doesn’t. If we need to leave the boat, we’ll do so by using our tender…but where do we go? And what do we do with our tender and outboard?

I think the issue I’m struggling with most is that I’d rather stay in the marina where I feel ‘safe’ amongst other boats. However, if the forecast is correct I have high doubts about the structural integrity of these floating pontoons. Our neighbor, Ron, a seasoned live aboard, has been extremely helpful with discussions on various options. He’s lived through hurricanes – he knows the drill. I’m thankful and grateful that we have someone with wisdom nearby…but of course…

…I don’t know what I don’t know and that freaks me out.

If we motor up river, what if we can’t find a place to spin on our anchor? What if it’s too shallow? What if conditions get bad and I have to take our daughter to a safe location…and Simon requests to stay on board alone? What if the boat ends up 20 miles on land in someone’s living room? What if…?

Throughout our five-year sailing history, of which 2 ½ years have been full time, we’ve encountered a variety of storms. Heck, we’ve sailed through three Force 10 storms (to put that in context, I think Force 12 is hurricane – Force 10 is bad) and have experienced waterspouts, lightening and thunder, hail and torrential downpours. At marina’s, we’ve worked hard to protect our boat when major storms hit…Once, one of the cleats from the dock pulled right out. We quickly managed to use another cleat and no damage occurred.

We’ve lived through storms. We’ve got that t-shirt. When forced to endure a storm we have the confidence to know we’ll most likely survive. What we haven’t lived through, however, is a full blown hurricane. And frankly, I don’t feel the need to gain that experience now or ever.

So…while waiting for a hurricane, fear is what I feel.

We’ll keep making making the best decisions we can and hopefully we’ll have a boat and a place to put her after this is over.

Not long after writing this, Hurricane Matthew hit the east coast of America. Many marina’s were destroyed, power was out and there was massive flooding. To hear more about Matthew and what our experience was like read these articles:

When the storm was over, Britican, had absolutely no damage. Many boats that stayed in the marina were substantially scraped up. We had a few boats sink 🙁

[xyz-ihs snippet=”Hurricane”]

How to Fix a Gebo Portlight Window Knob

Over the past couple years we’ve experienced two main issues concerning our Gebo portlight window knobs. One issue is frustrating and the other is potentially a serious problem. This article and accompanying video explains the issues and demonstrates how to effectively fix them.

Watch the video immediately below and for further explanation, read below for more details.

How to fix a Gebo port light window knob video

Over the past couple years I’ve opened and closed all of our ten Gebo portlight windows

I often prefer to open the Gebo’s because they’re lower on the boat hull so if and when it rains the water is less likely to enter the boat. I also like opening the Gebo windows because they provided excellent ventilation.

After a few months of owning our boat, an Oyster 56’ (built 2003), I remember the unsettling feeling I experienced when I ran into issue number one. Before upping anchor and heading for our next bay, I tightened one of the Gebo knobs and just as I felt it was almost tight, the knob stopped tightening and started to spin freely.

Gebo portlight window

Gebo portlight window

Later on in our sailing adventure I experienced this issue both when tightening and opening the window

Imagine it’s hotter than heck outside and the only saving grace is the nice breeze that enters perfectly through the Gebo portlight window. Then visualize my frustration when I go to open the window and instead of the knob loosening, it instead spins freely remaining tightly closed!

The issue is that the plastic knobs hold a brass fitting that allows the knob to screw tight and screw loose. Unfortunately after too much use or an overly aggressive twist, the plastic casing breaks away from the brass fitting leaving the knob useless (and me in an overheating situation)!

Gebo Portlight Window Knob Issue #1: The knob stops tightening or loosening and spins freely

For a temporary fix, you have to yank, or sometimes saw, the plastic knob off exposing the brass fitting. Once you see the brass fitting you can use a pair of pliers to tighten or loosen the latch.

Don’t be fooled by how simple this task sounds

With some of our knobs it’s taken hours to saw off the plastic casing!

The second issue that we’ve come across with our Gebo portlight window knobs is extremely problematic – especially if you’re planning on sailing!

Recently we’ve had two knobs corrode within the frame and upon twisting them shut, they’ve pulled completely off the window. Imagine having to sail somewhere and you can’t get a low-to-the-water-line window closed? In our situation we had to sail with a load of towels packed in around the window and another time we simply choose to motor instead of sail.

Knowing what we now know we always have several Gebo porlight spare knobs!

To fix the disintegrated screw fitting, you’ll first need to order a replacement screw. Once you have the screw, there’s a sliding rod of metal in the frame that comes loose when you unscrew a small holding screw. Once you loosen the holding screw, the rod will slide to the left or right. You can then position the new knob screw fitting into position, slide the rod through and then tighten the holding screw.

Note that if the sliding rod doesn’t slide, wash the area out with warm water. The rod is most likely fouled by salt or crud.

So, Gebo Portlight Window Knob Issue #2: The screw fitting that attaches from the window frame to the knob disintegrates and pulls off

To start the process of changing knobs, you’ll need to take a small knife or screw driver to pry the top of the knob off. Once the top is off there’s a screw that needs to be take off. After that, if the brass fitting is still attached to the plastic outer knob, the knob will unscrew.

Gebo Portlight Window Knob Takeaways?

  • Add another task to your yearly cleaning jobs: Clean the Gebo knob fittings with warm water to reduce the rate of corrosion and eventual failure.
  • Always carry spare Gebo screw fittings and knobs.

I’ve been told by several marine servicing professionals to avoid opening my Gebo portlight windows. They have a reputation for breaking and the more you use them the higher the chances that they’ll fail.

For me, however, I love fresh air so I’m okay with paying the price of failure

As a side note, if you have a Gebo that will potentially go under water when sailing, don’t leave it to inexperienced crew to close these windows. You seriously have to tighten them with maximum strength – otherwise the potential for water to come in is high.

So…now you know the scoop on Gebo’s it’s up to you as to whether you open them or not ☺

Making your sailing dreams a reality – the key is not to dream but to do!

My husband, Simon, and I spent over ten years dreaming about the type of boat we’d get and what we wanted to do with it.

Our plan was to win the lottery, buy a new Oyster 56’ or Oyster 62’ Yacht (type of sailboat made in England) and sail around the world.

In preparation for our lottery win, we’d read sailing magazines, go to boat shows, attend private Oyster boat showings, and once a year we’d even charter a sailboat and spend a week of bliss sailing the Mediterranean or Caribbean.

Sailing around the British Virgin Islands

We’d often say, ‘when we have our Oyster built we’ll make sure to have this or that feature…’

At night, in bed, we’d visualize taking our boat out of the marina and sailing it into the sunset heading for 360 degrees of beautiful blue ocean. We wanted the sun-soaked-salt-laced wind in our hair, the sound of the hull slicing through the waves, the feeling of freedom at our disposal.

And then one day it dawned on us that we might not win the lottery.

I said to Simon, ‘imagine if you hit 90 and I’m 80 and we didn’t live our dream?’

We held on so tightly to the concept that we had to win the lottery that we failed to consider other options. We failed to consider buying a used boat. We failed to think about perhaps buying a boat, other than an Oyster 56’ / Oyster 62’, to practice with until our lottery win arrived. (yes – I admit that we were still banking on a lottery payout at this point…)

Out of frustration, I told my husband, ‘we need to either shit or get off the pot.’ I was tired of dreaming…I wanted to make my sailing dreams a reality.

We decided to research some low cost but quality used sailboats. Until asking that question, we only ever focused on buying the $1.5 million yacht with our future lottery winnings. I wondered if it was possible for a ‘normal’ couple to find an affordable boat so that we could at least start to practice for our around the world trip. (I put ‘normal’ in quotes because from what I’ve been told, we’re anything but normal – hahahaha).

One thing led to another and after researching quality older boats, Simon went on Ebay and found a 1980’s 35’ Moody sailboat priced to be sold. The boat was located in Scotland and at the time we were living in England. Simon flew up to Scotland, rented a car and inspected the boat prior to having a professional survey conducted.

Things flowed, a final price was negotiated and plans were made to move the boat from Scotland down to the south coast of England.

A month later, Simon flew back to Scotland, picked up a professional skipper and sailed the boat down. The duo got stormbound in Ireland and had to leave the boat there for a few weeks but eventually they got her to a marina in Port Solent near Portsmouth, England. Looking back, sailing Selene down to England was one of the highlights of my husband’s life. It was scary but also exhilarating.

Apparently, the boat started to fill with water when they left Scotland. Simon puked because he thought, ‘Oh no, I’ve bought a boat that’s about to sink.’ When the leak was found it was from the fresh water tank. A hose clamp simply came lose and the problem was quickly remedied.

When our new boat, Selene, came into the marina I felt a mixture of nerves and excitement.

Our frustration didn’t lead to getting the boat of our dreams but it did lead to getting a boat.

Interestingly, I quickly realized that it’s not the boat that makes the dream come true, although that can be part of it… What’s important is what you do with the boat that really matters.

At first I discovered the transition from being WAY outside my comfort zone to feeling comfortable with boat handling and sailing skills (rising to a challenge and succeeding) to be monumentally fulfilling. I was a grown woman – I didn’t want to go out and learn something new. What if I failed? What if I messed up? Expanding my comfort zone actually made me come alive.

And then there are the countless sunsets my family and I enjoyed while sitting in the cockpit looking out into the sea. There are the memories of week-long trips from one seaside town to another.

There’s the time that I told Simon we’d be able to go west even though we’d have to sail against the tide. Simon disagreed that we’d be able to make progress. For over four hours we stayed in the exact same spot despite having 20 knots of wind sailing us at over 5 knots. Note: Don’t mess with the tides around the UK!

It’s also the stories about learning how to cope in emergency situations – we took on lots of water once and were effectively sinking…we also had our engine cut out (ran over a lose fishing net) in the middle of a massively busy shipping and small craft lane. During both emergencies we handled the situation well and grew in confidence.

Our first boat, Selene, provided us with so many magical moments and learning experiences.

Another memory that will never fade is when I took a friend of mine, and his 12-year-old daughter, out for sail. There happened to be a famous race going on – it’s where loads of sailboats race around the Isle of White, a small island off the south coast of England. Well…I thought it would be cool to sail near the island to watch the race. Low and behold, as the boats came around the island I was right in the middle of the race path.

We quickly got out of the path but it was as if we were all alone one minute and the next we were surrounded by large and small sailboats. It was my first taste of racing and part of me enjoyed the commotion!

After we safely navigated away from the race, my friend and I were complacently lazing about in the cockpit feeling proud that we took the boat out and avoided a potential disaster with the racers. And then out of nowhere this massive gust of wind filled our sails, we both jumped up to fight the steering wheel and lost – the boat rounded up!

Our hubris got us in trouble.

From there on out, we stood attentive and made sure both hands were on the wheel. I’m sure that any onlookers would have loved to have seen our reactions. We looked so calm and confident. I suppose we were trying to feel what it’s like to be ‘real’ sailors.

Anyway, that gust of wind got us on our toes faster than a lightening bolt!

Selene also provided us with an opportunity to truly determine what was necessary for our future boat and what we definitely didn’t want. A good example of this includes Simon being 6’2” – he couldn’t standup straight anywhere in the boat. After gaining a bad back and a crick in his neck during long stays on Selene, we made a mental note that our next boat had to be high enough for him to stand!

Less than three years later we obtained our Oyster 56’

No…we didn’t win the lottery. And, no…we didn’t get a new Oyster. We managed to buy a priced to sell used Oyster. After discovering that the boat wasn’t the be all and end all we decided we could settle for an older boat. And considering how much new boats devalue after you drive them out of the marina, I’m not sure I’d ever buy a new one!

Furthermore, we gave up on waiting for our lottery win.

We loved sailing Selene so much that we decided to sell our house, our car, our possessions and buy the best boat we could afford. The plan was to sail around the world.

So far, we’ve circumnavigated the Mediterranean, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, sailed up the Caribbean and are now on the east coast of America. It might take use 5 years or 20 years to get around the world, but so far, so good.

We found a way to purchase our dream boat, we’re living our dream of sailing around the world and slowly, we’re figuring out how to make the money necessary to keep going.

I truly believe that the Universe supports you when you decided to get off the pot rather than sitting on it. It hasn’t been easy for us but for some reason after five years of giving our dream a go, we’re still going!

Morals of the story

  • The boat is a big issue and it’s important to get one you like but it’s not the whole package. Also, don’t make the dream boat your first step towards living the sailing dream.
  • Don’t be a dreamer, consider what you can do now to be a do-er. You don’t want to hit the age of 80 and look back thinking, ‘Maaannnnnn, I didn’t even attempt to live my dream.’
  • Don’t rely on the lottery…I think your chances of getting struck by lightening are higher. Furthermore, it can keep you stuck.

[xyz-ihs snippet=”HowToLiveTheDream”]

Preparing our boat for a hurricane!

Let’s start the day before a hurricane was due to hit our area. We had a berth at Charleston Harbor Marina in South Carolina… (video at the end of the article)

While walking from our sailboat to the main dock this morning I appreciated the placid water and light pink skies growing from the east. Normally I’d smile and think how absolutely beautiful our surroundings are. I’d watch the variety of birds fly about, make a note of how high the tide is and keep an eye out for passing crabs on the dock. I’d smell the salty sea air and notice the ever so light warm southern breeze.

Today, however my feelings are different. Today I have one thing taking over my mind and it’s the big storm that’s currently making it’s way towards us on the east coast of America.

Preparing our boat for a hurricane

Preparing our boat for a hurricane

Forecasts predict the Category 1 hurricane to hit us tomorrow around 3pm

Lost in my thoughts, I approached the main dock and Butch, the night watchman, yelled out, ‘Miss Kim, did you hear that the storm has been upgraded?’ I walked up to Butch and we discussed the impending storm. Butch then recounted a doozie that hit years back. It wasn’t forecasted to be a bad one but it turned into a hurricane just as it approached our current home, The Charleston Harbor Marina in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

Butch explained that he got caught out on the jetty tying boats down in 80 mph winds.

“Yikes!” I replied, demonstrating a face of slight terror when his full story was told

We parted ways just after wishing each other well. Butch explained that he’d be on hand the night of the storm and to give him a call if we have any problems.

After spending a couple days collecting information from my insurance provider and reading information from those that have made it through a hurricane, I came to a scary conclusion.

If a very bad hurricane hits (Cat 3 or higher), no matter where the boat is, the chances of it making it out are very slim

So, regardless of being in a marina, anchored or stored onshore in ‘normal’ storage, a hurricane is more than likely going to destroy a boat.

Needless to say, we’ve confirmed with our insurance provider what our hurricane coverage is (to ensure we were totally covered!) and we’re spending the day preparing for the worst.

Today my husband, Simon, and I will take down our bimini and sprayhood – the canvas structures that provide us protection from the sun, wind and sea. We have solar panels that zip into the top of our bimini, or sun roof, so we can unzip them, unplug the electronics and also store them below decks.

Preparing our boat for a hurricane

Preparing our boat for a hurricane

Additionally, we’ve purchased 25’ of dock fender to protect the side of the boat

Instead of just having our fenders dangle down from the boat, we’ll put the bulk of the dock fender on the dock to ensure if the fenders pop up in the storm the boat is still protected. We’ll also put as many warps, or ropes, from the boat to the dock as possible. Furthermore, we’ll position the boat considering where the brunt of the wind and waves will be coming from.

It’s expected that the strong winds will be coming from the southeast and the winds will hit our stern pushing our port (left) side of the boat off the dock but the bow into the front jetty. Simon and I will pull the boat back a bit giving us more breathing room for the bow to move forward without the possibility of it hitting.

So…that’s the plan so far.

After all our preparation was done all we could do is sit and wait for the hurricane to hit…

Simon, our daughter and I all woke up around 8:30 in the morning. The sky was dull, there was a bit of wind and the sky was darker than normal.

Not having a brilliant internet connection on the boat, Simon walked over to the marina office to get the latest report. Upon his return we discovered that the Tropical Storm was upgraded to a Category 1 Hurricane. Later, during the day, the storm was downgraded so that when it hit us it was officially a Tropical Storm. Her name was Hermine.

Preparing our boat for a hurricane

Until 2pm we thought the storm was rather mild but then the wind increased!

We didn’t have much rain. It was simply blowing consistently. We noticed a few boats that had bimini’s coming off. The screening on the marina wall was being blown away. Additionally, the potion behind us broke apart and it lost electricity. Otherwise, there wasn’t really much to see.

For the most part, when it wasn’t raining, most of us live-aboards were outside talking while checking all our ropes. The boat started to bump up and down quite a bit so being on the pontoon provided a bit of relief – it was steadier. I couldn’t help but feel a bit green with a tinge of seasickness at a few points throughout the day.

When it was raining we tried our best to stay inside!

Simon and I had to pop out to secure a fender that kept popping up and within five seconds of being outside, I was soaked. The rain stung as it hit my face – not because it was cold but because of the speed it was hitting me!

Eventually, the wind died down and all the live-aboards met on the dock swapping stories about what they saw. We all decided to meet the following day for happy hour to celebrate our survival.

Twenty-four hours after the worst of the storm, all the live-aboards were enjoying snacks and drinks on the pontoon under the beautiful sun enjoying the warm breeze. Anyone visiting our dock would have never guessed a tropical storm passed through the day before.

Britican sustained no damage and neither did any of the other live-aboard boats.

Some people lost canvas covers, one boat smashed into the jetty, another split apart a storage box and one boat hit the outboard of the water taxi. Otherwise, I’m not sure there was any other issues within the marina.

Preparing our boat for a hurricane video

We prepared for the storm and our preparations paid off.

[xyz-ihs snippet=”Hurricane”]

10 Steps to Picking up a Mooring Buoy & 14 Tips to Avoid Making Mistakes

If you’ve never picked up a mooring buoy, also called a mooring ball, it can be a bit daunting the first time; especially if you many onlookers. Read these 9 steps to picking up a mooring buoy so that you understand the procedure and then consider the 14 tips below to avoid making common mistakes.

picking up a mooring buoy

picking up a mooring buoy

9 Steps to Picking up a Mooring Buoy

1. After locating a mooring field, or bay filled with mooring buoys, determine if the buoys are private or for public use. Also determine if there are any weight or length restrictions – often buoys are color-coded (white might be private but yellow could be public), provide restrictions and/or have phone numbers written on them. Information prior to arrival can often be obtained from pilot books, plotters, maps, cruiser guides and cruiser websites.

2. Before entering a mooring field, take note of any empty mooring buoys and pay attention to how other boats are lying at their buoys. If there are no other boats to visually inspect, make a note of wind direction and the flow of the current. You’ll want to aim into the wind or the current when picking up a mooring buoy.

3. Position a crewmember at the front of the boat, preferably with an extendable hook. Also ask them to attach a line each to the bow’s port-side and starboard-side cleats reminding them to make sure the line goes from the cleat away from the boat and then back over the guardrail (in preparation).

4. Approach a free mooring buoy in the direction that surrounding boats are laying. If there are no other boats, head into the wind or current (whichever is stronger).

5. Ask the forward crewmember to count down the distance between the bow of the boat and the mooring buoy while using verbal clues or hand signals to indicate the boats direction. (Remind the crewmember to aim his or her voice towards the back of the boat so you can hear him or her).

Picking up a mooring buoy

6. Shift into neutral when you feel the boat will drift close enough to hook the mooring buoy.

7. The aim is for the forward crewmember to grab the attachment located on or near the buoy (often it’s loop), hoist it up to the bow, slip at least one of the lines through a pennant eye loop and back through to the same cleat. When the weather is calm, there’s often enough time to slip the other line through the eye and bring that back to it’s same side.

8. If only one line is put on, the boat will be held in place however it will be lopsided. The second line can be added by using the engine to create slack, pulling the loop back up and inserting the second line. You can also drive your dingy to the bow to install the second line.

9. Once both lines are attached, the crewmember then needs to make sure the boat is as close to the mooring buoy as possible, so to not encroach on other boats in the field and that each line is equally looped back so the boat doesn’t lay lopsided. If the weather is heavy the use of the engine might be required to create slack so the ropes can be tightened.

10. To leave a mooring buoy, the forward crewmember waits for the helmspersons ‘go-ahead’ and then he or she unties one side, pulls the line in and then the other. Once all lines are in, the crewmember instructs the helmsperson on where the buoy is, so to not run over it, and the helmsperson exits in the safest manner possible.

Picking up a mooring buoy
Picking up a mooring buoy

Note that the port side rope goes down to the loop and back to the same side and vice versa on the starboard side.

14 Tips to Avoid Making Mistakes when Picking up a Mooring Buoy

1. We position a third person midway between the helmsperson and the forward crew to help with communications. We’ve also seen other couples that use hands free head sets to provide instructions to each other. Within the cruising community they’ve been aptly named ‘marriage savers’ and it reduces the shouting that happens without them.

2. Never do you want to use only one line to affix your boat to a mooring buoy due to redundancy purposes. Lines can easily chaff and by having two lines affixed the chances of coming unhooked are drastically reduced. Furthermore, if you use only one line chances are that another boater will visit you and ask for you to add another line – especially if you’re lined up to hit them if you come unattached.

3. If possible, dive on the mooring line and make sure that the integrity of the rope and ‘anchor’ – usually a cement block – look in tact. In many areas of the world, mooring buoys are not serviced or maintained. It’s important to find out what you’re tying your boat to!

4. There is no local or international standard for mooring buoys. One bay will have buoys with long ropes and easy to lift pennants and others will have heavy buoys with only a metal ring at the top! In some cases it’s impossible to pull the buoy up to the deck to tie a line on. When that happens, make a very large loop with one of your lines, throw it around the whole buoy and tie the line back to the boat. Make sure that the wind and/or current keep the line tight and then drop your dingy or jump in the water to physically feed the unused line through the metal hoop. Once one line is secured, remove the other line and properly feed it through the hoop.

5. Note that some mooring buoys have floats near the end, or in the middle, of the line that needs to be picked up. Often these floats are a bit of a distance from the actually mooring buoy. The forward crewmember needs to direct the helmsperson to a position where the floating rope can be picked up.

Picking up a mooring buoy

6. It can be advantageous to back into a mooring buoy instead of going bow first. The same set-up and directions apply however it’s easier for the helmsperson to see and it’s easier for the crewmember to simply grab the buoy line out of the water. Care needs to be taken in relation to any ropes getting caught in the prop and the crewmember needs to be careful not to fall in the water! An added benefit of picking up a mooring buoy from the stern is that the wind will blow through the cabin providing more fresh air down below decks.

7. In calm situations it’s possible for the boat to bump into the mooring buoy causing noise and possible damage to the hull of the boat – especially on colored hulled boats. If this happens you can affix a third line from the bow of your boat through the top of the mooring buoy, run it up through your anchor channel and attach it to your windless winch. When you tighten the line, it will force the mooring buoy to stay clear of the boat.

8. In no-wind situations it’s very common for boats to swing randomly. When this happens there’s a possibility for collision. In other words, its possible for two boats to actually swing into each other – especially if there’s a mono haul next to a catamaran. When this happens, you can either leave the mooring field or sleep in the cockpit keeping one eye open. If boats hit each other it’s often just a little kiss but one time our bow hooked up with the bow of a catamaran and locked together! It took us a while to break the bond (the two boats were in love!).

9. When leaving a mooring buoy, there’s often a situation where the forward crewmember cannot get the line untied due to tension. If this is the case, the helmsperson needs to engage the engine and get closer to the mooring buoy.

10. Don’t use bow thrusters if there’s a possibility of a line being in the water when tying onto a mooring buoy.

11. NEVER leave the helm if the forward crewmember is struggling. It’s far easier to let the line go and try again than it is to rush back to the wheel to avoid a collision.

12. If you undershoot the mark, just engage the engine for a few ticks. If you overshoot the mark, just let the boat be pushed back with the wind and or current. If you totally miss the mark, make a big circle and do it again.

13. If help is provided in a mooring field, someone on a boat will come up to the bow. Hand the bulk of the rope (coiled) and the end of the line to the person and they will feed it through the mooring ball attachment giving it back to you to secure back on the same side. When you’re grabbing the first rope back, you can often give the helper the coil and end of the other rope or position it in a place for them to grab it off the deck.

14. Tying onto a mooring buoy can be hard work for new learners. If you ever see someone struggling, make sure to get into your dingy and head over to help them! Always pay it forward as you never know when you’re going to need help.

picking up a mooring buoy

What more can you add? Any suggestions, mooring buoy stories or experiences – please leave your comments below…