Living on a Boat – Questions
This is part 2 of 4 on the topic of Living on a Boat.
Part 1: Living on a Boat – Cheap Living
Part 3: Living on a Boat – Family and All
Part 4: Living on Boat and Alcohol
In this post I will try to answer some of the questions that I get about living on a boat. If you have other questions that are not addressed here, feel free to send me an email and I will try to answer them for you. This will also be the beginning of my FAQ. Occasionally I will add to the FAQ as I accumulate more questions and answers.
How do you deal with the winter?
The same way you do, except I shovel the dock instead of the walk. In the fall we wrap our boat in plastic so that it looks and acts like a greenhouse. During the day the temps can get up to over 90 F under the plastic, even in the middle of winter. We use a bubbler which is basically a big underwater fan to keep ice from
forming on the lake in a little patch around our boat. There are some steel boats though, who don’t bubble and don’t seem to have any problems. We choose to bubble as we like the open water around the boat so that it still rocks and moves around a bit – just like every good home should. We heat the inside with electric heaters, but could use propane or even wood as some of our neighbours do. All in all, winters are very warm and snug aboard our boat and we actually look forward to it.
Do you have running water – hot water – a shower – a tub, etc.
Running water, hot water, showers, tubs, etc. are not essentials. We did not have any of them on the first boat we lived aboard – the Alberg 30. We managed just fine. The marina has showers available for us live aboards and so every morning (rain, shine, snow or sleet – just like the mailman) we would troop off to the marina bathrooms for a shower. It was a bit of a drag but you get used to it. Now, on our River Queen, we have running water, hot water and a full sized shower. Ahhh pure luxury! We don’t have a tub, but there are some boats that do. Our neighbours (Atlantic Grace) a couple of docks down from us do have a tub on their 40′ sailboat. Now, they are living the high life! See, even living on a boat has a bit of the ‘keep up with the Jones’ syndrome. Seriously though, you can get used to not having these things – I know that might be inconceivable to some people, but it is the truth. We did.
Where do you go to the bathroom?
We have two different seasons for the bathroom use – during the summer anything goes. We just have to go do a pumpout of the holding tank now and then. During the winter we try to limit #2 to the marina bathrooms. We can still get pumpouts in the winter but they cost a lot more and so we usually try to reserve as much of the holding tank as we can for those true emergencies – the midnight runs, so to speak.
Don’t you miss…?
We used to miss a lot of things, but to tell you the truth, I can’t, for the life of me, remember what they were now. I have everything I could want or need on this boat. We’ve adjusted to our space and lifestyle and those things we missed … we just don’t miss any more. It is a simpler life for us – less junk and clutter is a good thing.
What about the boat always rocking and moving?
That took some getting used to. Living on a boat that is always moving makes land feel kind of weird. When we first moved aboard, we would get onto land and have ‘spells’ where we would feel like the room or the ground was still rocking – it is a peculiar sensation. However, after a couple of months even that went away. I don’t even notice the boat moving now – in fact, if it stopped moving, I would probably feel that more.
Don’t you worry about sinking?
When we first moved aboard, every little sound made me imagine water was rushing into the boat and Davie Jones Locker was calling me … I haven’t thought that in a couple of years now. You get used to all the nosies and sounds and I know now what is a normal sound even if it is not a sound we hear very often. Plus I know my boat pretty well, it is not about to sink.
What do your families think?
I decided to poll our immediate families to answer this question. Here are there responses:
My Father: “My father always said that you could get used to anything. He said, for example, “you could get used to hanging if you hang long enough.” That describes how we feel about you living on a boat : we are hanging in there getting used to the idea.
I always tell my patients that I have a married son living in Toronto. Two kids. Living on a boat in a marina. When they realize what I just said, they say “oooh….coool! Then I launch into a description of the merits of shrink wrap plastic, describe how a bubbler works, tell how to break up the ice around the boat without falling in more than once, and tell how to go to the bathroom on a boat. They always ask about the children. I have told them about safety features, such as a water sensitive “turtle watch” which can also be used to test the kids salivation skill, and about life jackets. They always sound happily relieved when I tell them that the kids don’t have to wear them to bed at night. I have described the joy the kids get out of converting dried old bread crusts into goose guano on the dock.
Yep, your living on a boat has provided a great deal of conversational fodder on what would otherwise be a dull afternoon.”
My Mothers 1st response was: “You sure you want to hear?”
But then she said this, “No problem with you living on the houseboat. It’s like a very small apartment. The sail boat was pretty small and always the worry that you were going to “sail the 7 seas”. I was also concerned about the safety of the grandchildren on the boat, especially when I saw the picture of [The Boy] learning how to walk on the dock, but you take precautions with life jackets and now “the watch”. Where you want to live is between A. and you and you both seem to be very happy where you are. When your great grandparents on your father’s side came to Canada they lived in a sod house on the prairies. I wonder what their parents thought? You saw the house in Ireland where your grandfather lived as a child, only it was only a small house with one room upstairs then and 12 children lived there. Also your great, great grandparents house at Armaghbrague where another 12 children were raised. How did they do it? I would love to see you in a comfortable house with room for the children to play outside without worrying about them and not necessarily a view of Toronto, but that’s up to you.”
My Sister: “I too, have enjoyed my visits to ‘the boats’. My fave experience was when we moved you onto the sailboat and we picked up anchor and puttered out of the marina into the lake and just sat and watched the sun set. My most recent visit was in winter which meant for me hiking up to the showers in the marina and although it was fun like a ‘camping weekend’ I am glad that I don’t have to do it on a regular basis. As well I was ‘woozy’ for a few days after I returned home – as I guess I was not used to the gentle swaying of the boat from the waves and wind. All in all this Auntie would just rather have you living CLOSER – boat or no boat !! :)”
Mother-in-Law: “I see shocked faces when I mention that my daughter and her husband live on a boat. They seem relieved when I quickly mention that it is really like a small apartment.
I do love all the new modern conveniences you are bringing on the boat. The hand run washing machine is very exciting especially due to the fact that the daddy and 3 year old son do the washing now. When are you going to get a butter churner and make your own butter?”
Brother-in-Law #1: “well i think it’s great! there is no disadvantage to this visiting relative as long as i have flexibility in my requirements for sleeping arrangements and no expectations of privacy.”
If I wanted to move on a boat, where should I start?
This question is actually a huge topic that I cannot fully and completely address here. However, here are three important areas of concern for you to consider before you actually make the move:
- Do you have a body of water nearby that has space and facilities for living aboard a boat? If not, why not? Is your weather not conducive to living on a boat i.e. do you live in Tuktoyaktuk? Is there some sort of by-law in place that disallows live aboards? i.e. Oakville, Ontario. Basically, if others are doing it in your area, then there is no reason why you can’t. Ask around, especially at the marinas. If they point you to someone who is living on a boat – bring a small gift, i.e. a bottle of wine or a hunk of cheese and crackers and tell them you would like to chat about living aboard. Most will accommodate you especially with the added incentive of your little heart (or stomach) warming gift. Simply walking up to a live aboard and firing questions, will get you little useful information.
- Do you own a boat? If not, are you ready to own a boat? Is money the issue – if so, how will you solve this problem? Is there a “creative” solution to the money issue? A land living friend of ours just told us that he was moving aboard a 38′ powerboat a couple of docks down from us. Our first comment was, “Wow, contrats on buying a new boat!” He replied, “Oh, I didn’t buy it, I’m just boat sitting for a year. The owner does not have time to take care of the boat right now. All I have to pay is the dock fees.” That is what I mean by creative.
- Are you single – fine. If not, is your family/other half ready for this type of change?
These three areas of concern: the Where, the How, and the Others are right at the top of the list of practical considerations if your are looking to explore the adventure of moving aboard a boat.
How do I convince my Significant Other to move aboard with me?
First of all, I don’t think you should convince you Sig O that this is what you should do. If they don’t want to do it, and you force the issue, they won’t be your S.O. for long. Find some other dream to live with them or figure out some way of changing their mind, but if they are not commited to the living on a boat lifestyle, then you are headed for trouble. In my case, my wife initially moved aboard as an adventure – now, she wants to live on a boat as much as I do. In fact when she was pregnant with The Girl, she was the one who convinced me that moving into a larger boat was the way to go rather than moving back onto dirt. She’s a special one – and I’m keeping her all to myself!
Living on a boat is as much about being happy with your choice as it is about saving money or living an adventure. The topic of who you share your adventure with is one that I’ve tried to address before. Check out the post called So You Want to Live on A Boat for more information including the following.:
“There is one other topic that I would urge you to do some real soul searching about before you take the plunge. That is, your marriage. How strong is your bond with your wife – how much does she really want to participate in this adventure? Living aboard a small boat means that you really cannot get away from each other – your bedroom is also your living room which is also the kitchen which is also the bathroom, etc. More marriages have been ruined by moving aboard a boat – just look at all the boats for sale in Florida. Talk with some of the sales people down there and they will tell you story after story broken marriages and busted dreams. Husbands sort of hanging around trying to sell the boat while the wife flies home to try to find normalcy in her life again. Read some of the stories that are out there about the conflict that couples go through when living in a confined space. Then have a face to face with Mrs. about how you are going to deal with these conflicts when they arise (and they will arise – believe me.)”
Work out your issues before you move aboard because you will be working out your problems sooner rather than later if you do move aboard.
Don’t you worry about keeping your kids safe?
Yes – big time! This is one that I’ve spent a lot of thought time on. The Boy is not a swimmer … yet. It is something that I’ve been working on with him, but have not yet reached the point where he is comfortable in the water. It is a process. It is hard for him to learn how to swim if he is not happy just being in the water, so we work on that first. But, even if he were a great swimmer and loved the water, I would still work through the problem and set up the various systems to keep him safe on the boat. Life jackets are a must anytime he goes out the door. His “Turtle Watch” is used whenever he is playing on deck. On the Alberg, we used netting and jacklines with a tether to his life jacket. With The Girl, it is currently door baby gates (the kind used to keep kids from falling down stairs.) Soon she will be walking and then it will be life jackets and tethers for her as well. Having a set of rules, staying fully aware of where the kids are and what the possibilities for trouble are is the biggest defense in keeping kids safe on a boat.
Will you ever go back to living on land?
Yes – probably, however, moving back onto dirt is not in the immediate future for us. I suppose at some point we will, but for now – this is our life.
Living on a Boat – Cheap Living
I often get emails from various people asking all sorts of questions about Living on a Boat. Many are from people who are contemplating moving aboard themselves and are looking for information and knowledge from those of us who have already taken the plunge (so to speak.) With that is mind, I plan to do a short four post series on the topic of Living on a Boat touching on the topics that I get asked the most often.
This then is Part 1 in our Living on Boat Series.
Part 2: Living on a Boat – Questions.
Part 3: Living on a Boat – Family and All
Part 4: Living on Boat and Alcohol
Living on a Boat – Cheap Living
I recently worked my way though the book by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin called Your Money Or Your Life – Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence. I had probably purchased the book 10 years ago, and while I had previously applied some of the ideas found in the book, this time I’ve really taken the philosophy to heart and have applied a greater part of the book to our life here on the boat. Just by living on a boat we already lived a more frugal life than most, but even with our already reduced housing expenses, I’ve found many ways to control both the amount of money coming into my life and more importantly the money going out. I highly recommend Joe and Vicki’s book to anyone who has a desire to get away from the consumer lifestyle that so many of us have been sucked into. It is especially good for those who are contemplating how to reduce their expenses so that living on a boat might be an option. Ok, enough of that.
We are living on a boat in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Mississauga a major city right next to Toronto, Ontario although without signs nobody would know where Toronto ends and Mississauga begins. Before moving aboard our boat 4 years ago, we lived in a little brick bungalow in Toronto. So, we’ve lived (and owned) on land and lived on the water … we prefer the water. As I look back at my old budgets from the house, and compare them to what I am spending today, I figure that my housing costs are approximately 2/3’s less today. Living in the house with the mortgage, taxes, gas, hydro and water came to around $1600.00 per month and that would be considered living cheap compared to most people living in Toronto. Here on the the boat we average out at about $600.00 a month living year round. The living on a boat number could be further reduced by converting to propane heat for the winter – a move that I am thinking about for this upcoming winter. Without the extra hydro required for the winter, our slip costs for the year would go down to a little over $350.00 per month! We also live in one of the more expensive marina’s on Lake Ontario – slips can be had for a fair amount less if you are further away from Toronto. Finally, I don’tthink there are any cheaper living accommodation’s any closer to Toronto that where I am. Right now, I am sitting at my kitchen table on the boat looking out the window with a full view of downtown Toronto. If I were to hop in my car, I could be at the corner of Yonge and Dundas (right in the heart of downtown Toronto) in about 20 mins. There are a number of business people who are my neighbours here (a couple of lawyers, a teacher, a banker, etc) that work either downtown or in some other part of the city. They are earning city incomes while living cheaply in one of the most expensive cities in Canada. Somehow, I would say that they’ve got it figured out in a way that most never do; high income with low expenses. Now, if you did not need or want to live close to a major city center, you’re living on a boat expenses can be even less. Say you are living on Canada Pension Plan or your retirement income – I’m willing to bet you could have your housing expenses down to less than $200 a month.
So I say again, there is no way anyone is living on land for $600 a month within 20 mins of downtown Toronto. Further, we are a 5 minute walk from the GO train which will take us to Union Station in 1/2 an hour for $8 bucks. So – Yes, living on a boat is cheap living.
Other Options for even Cheaper Living on a Boat
Anchoring. Depending on where you are in world you may also find a place to anchor out or ‘live on the hook’ as it is called. This would mean that you have have to be self-sufficient – able to generate your own electricity and haul your own water and waste but there are many who live on the hook for $0 per month – yep, it can cost you nothing to live on the anchor! Where we are, this would not work for winter living as we need the electricity and the safety of the harbor to be able to combat the ice that forms on the lake, but this would be feasible in many southern or more temperate locals. A dinghy is essential for this living situation as a method of getting ashore for work, supplies, etc. A couple of years ago, we anchored out in a little bay just off the Leslie Spit in the Toronto Harbor Islands area and met a gentleman who was living there during the week. He worked at one of the hospitals downtown and took his dingy to and from work each day. I think he was American and went home to the US each weekend, but during the week – his housing costs were …$0. Smart man.
Mooring. Again, depending on your particular water situation there may be mooring balls or a mooring field available for very low cost. A mooring ball is a method of anchoring without using an anchor. Usually someone has sunk a heavy cement block down to the bottom and attached a chain to it and a big ball or float of some sort. All you do is grab the chain and attach your boat and you are ‘home.’ The owner of the mooring ball (or mooring field, if there are a bunch of them in one area) usually charges some small fee to use that particular mooring. There is a mooring field just off of downtown Toronto called the Aquatic Sailing Park. It is absolutely lovely there – so private, yet so close to downtown Toronto. After an initiation fee of $650.00, their fees work out to $73.00 a month (summer only, unfortunately) and there is a work requirement of 16 hours in the Park itself. Hows that for living on a boat – cheap?!? Again, you would have to be self-sufficient as there are no hookups, electricity or anything like that. Plus a dinghy is a must have to get to shore.
Private Dock. This option may be available in your area but will likely require some searching around. Many rivers and lakes are growing private docks like seaweeds. Many of those docks are either virtually unused or only used a couple of times a year or on weekends when the owners are there. With a little creative negotiating maybe with cash in hand or on a trial basis you should be able to rent a dock or slip for a small fee for a month or two. I would suggest even trying for free in exchange for say a bit of yard work if it is a someones cottage or maybe even just to keep and eye on the place. Creativity and personal negotiation skills will be your biggest assets here.
House vs. Boat
Now let me say this before you say it, because I know you are thinking it … yes, the boat is much smaller than a house. I know it, believe me I know it! However, my backyard is bigger than yours I likely have a better view, and if I don’t like my neighbours, I just move. Can you say that? There are trade offs – some people may not be willing to live in a smaller place to be able to live more cheaply and to have more freedom. For us, the trade off is more than worth it. I’ve commented on Living on a Boat vs A House before.
Other Living Costs
- No Hydro bill.
- No Water bill.
- No gas bill (although you will have to fill the propane tank a couple of times a season.)
- No land tax.
- No cable bill.
- No phone bill – no land line, so you will likely need a cell phone.
- If you live on a sailboat, your fuel bill will be very low. As it is, our boat is a house first – and a boat second, so we don’t use much fuel either. Of course, that means we don’t go far.
Food. Depending on what your boat is equipped with, you may or may not spend a lot of money on food. When we were living on our sailboat (Alberg 30) we did not really have a proper kitchen. We had an Origo non-pressurized 2 burner alcohol cooktop and a nice sized toaster oven. Our fridge was very small – and only a fridge – no freezer. What ended up happening is we started to bring more and more purchased and prepared food onto the boat – just because the cooking and food storage was such a hassle. That is NOT the way to save money and live cheaply! We were spending a fortune on food. When we moved aboard the River Queen, we got a very nice 3 burner propane stove with oven and a full size fridge with a top mount freezer. Perfect for just normal every day, live on land type cooking. Unfortunately, we were so used to just bringing home take out that we did not use our new kitchen to its full potential and were still spending a pile of money on food. Since reading Your Money Or Your Life though – we’ve cut our food bill down to a quarter of what it was. We are cooking a lot more simple food – purchasing more in bulk and generally being aware of what we are spending on food. So the trick with food is – use what facilities you have and keep it simple. If you have limited cooking facilities and limited refrigeration – then you don’t have to buy expensive food because you have no way of cooking it or keeping it. Simple foods are better for you anyway. If people are interested, I will do a follow up to this and give greater detail about how much we spend on food and how we cook. Let me know if you want to see this.
One final comment that I would like to make about living on a boat cheaply is this: you don’t need, nor will you ever use all the crap you see for sale in all those glossy naughty yachty magazines. I’m not even sure what is all being touted in those rag mags these days as I don’t read them anymore, but back when we were looking to purchase a boat we got sucked in by all the ‘must haves’ that populate those mags. If it is shiny and electronic, you likely don’t need it. A simple $50.00 hand held GPS works just as well as the $3000.00 binical mounted model. Your boat will likely come with a VHF radio – it will work just fine, you don’t need that new hand held model which is waterproof down to 2000′ (why?) and will call the cows home from pasture at the same time. You don’t need all those extras and unless you are the guy buying the gold plated yacht, you can’t afford it anyway – and from what I’ve seen, he likely can’t afford it either. I talked about this issue way back when I first started living on a boat:
I’ll admit that I had read one too many of The Magazines and Books and that I was beginning to think that I would need a complete refit before sailing. (I no longer believe this.) So, we went to boat shows and priced out and bought those things that we just felt we could not do without. Things like a handheld VHF, self-inflating life jackets, etc., you know, just the bare essentials. Now I wish that I had spent that money on more important thing; things that would have made us more comfortable. A bimini cover and dodger for instance. But you just have to have a VHF in your hand when sailing, right? And you must have a self-inflating life jacket on at all times, right? Well, here’s the truth. I’ve used the handheld VHF maybe half a dozen times in two years and have only put on the jackets when in rough weather which we normally don’t sail in anyways. The VHF already on the boat would have worked just fine and the Canadian Tire life vest for 40 bucks would have worked just as well and could have provided a butt pad when not in use. Oh well, live and learn. What The Magazines and The Books say you need and what you really need are two very different things!
Other things you can do to save money on a boat:
- Build your own wind generator out of scraps. My neighbour did this – works great!
- Do your laundry in a hand washer – and hang everything out to dry – we do this.
- Haul out your own waste in jugs and dump down the nearest toilet to save on pump outs. See this post on how I managed the holding tank on the Alberg.
And finally – just stay home. You live on the water – you don’t need a cottage or a boat or all the hassle of going north or south or whatever direction cottage country is. Just brew a cup of coffee and sit out on deck, enjoy the view, suck in the clean air and enjoy the gentle rocking of your home.
Next up in our Living on a Boat series will be: Living on a Boat – Family and all. Until then, would love to have any questions or comments you might have on this topic.
Birds on a Wire
Aww – ain’t that cute? All those pretty little birdies all lined up nice like that. Birds are beautiful – nature is just wonderful! Awwww.
Of course, you don’t have to clean up the line of crap left behind by Tweetie and friends. Not so cute!
Keeping Kids Safe on a Boat
We recently added another tool to the toolbox of keeping The Boy safely on the boat. He is now at the age (3 1/2) where he is curious, impulsive and wants to try and do everything. That means that, in a flash he can be out of the cabin and onto the deck of the boat. If he can fly out of here so fast, then we have to consider the possibility that he could just as quickly end up in the water. It worries me sometimes with A here and taking care of Baby Girl, that The Boy could get into trouble.
So we bought him a turtle watch.
Actually, it is “Safety Turtle personal immersion alarm” that he wears on his wrist or ankle that will send a signal to a Base unit if it gets wet. i.e. falls in the lake. The base unit stays plugged in and is kept centrally in the boat along with one of the smoke detectors and the Carbon Monoxide detector. If the “turtle” gets wet, the base alarm sounds an ear-piercing siren that is loud enough to be heard anywhere around the boat.
So … it had it’s first ‘test’ the other day. The Boy was out on deck and all of a sudden the alarm went off. A. bolted out the door to see what was going on and found The Boy … licking his new turtle watch. Huh?! Yep, licking it. Nope, don’t know why. Anyway, now we know it works and only his wrist had to get wet to check it out.
Keeping kids safe on a boat is a topic that I’ve put a lot of thought into over the past couple of years. (Other post here.) I always seem to come back to the concept of Vigor’s Invisible Black Box. Check out the post Safety at Sea from a couple of years ago for a description of VIBB. Every time you envision what could go wrong and then plan for it, you are adding another piece of equipment to your VIBB. Safety, not just at sea, but generally in life is a combination of awareness and small corrections. Awareness of what could go wrong – awareness of something that is going wrong and then the small corrections to prevent or stop that situation. Of course, I’m not saying that disaster will not strike, but with planning and awareness you can prevent the series of small events that lead to catastrophe.
Safety is a state of mind – it is living fully aware.
John Vigor wrote an article for Good Old Boat about the Black Box theory – check it out, it’s an interesting read.
Finally – every boater who ever leaves the dock should have John’s book, Seaworthy Offshore Sailboat: A Guide to Essential Features, Handling, and Gear. Even if you have no intention of going off-shore, the concepts and planning will help keep you safe anytime you are out on the water.
Take Care of Your Bow
Docking Lesson No 1: When maneuvering your boat in strong winds, always be aware of your bow. It is the lightest part of your boat and is usually the furthest point from you and easily forgotten when looking for your slip or trying to set up your dock lines. Like the children’s song says, “When the wind blows, the bow will break,” (I know – it’s bough) and before you know it, the mad scramble begins to try to regain control of it and ultimately your boat.
On Sunday our neighbour went out in his beautiful (and new) Delphia 33. Beautiful boat! The sun was shinning, the wind was blowing a good 20 knots – basically a great day for a sail. Getting back into his slip became the tricky part. His plan was to back into his slip with the wind blowing straight down the slip. His initial approach was perfect – he came slightly past his slip, jammed it into reverse and with the wind blowing the bow to line up the boat began to back in. This is where he made his first mistake – he had the wheel turned the wrong way which made his boat go sideways instead of backwards. Back into gear and pull forward – no problem yet. Then he made his 2nd mistake (and the more costly one) instead of turning straight out into the channel and realigning the boat to back up for another approach, he just went forward a short distance and then tried to reverse back into the slip again. Only now because of the wind, prop-walk and momentum he was no longer lined up with his slip. Back into forward again, but now it was too late. The wind had caught his bow and swung him straight out, so that when he went into forward he was going straight at the boats in their slips on the dock across the channel. He tried to correct with hard port rudder and more gas but the bow was too far gone. CRASH. After unhooking himself from the boat anchor that he was hung up on, he went down the channel a ways and then reversed into his slip perfectly.
However, the damage was already done.
Some tips when working in a wind:
- Use the wind to your advantage. Be aware of exactly where the wind is coming from. Use your experience to know what that wind is going to do to your boat and then use the wind to your best advantage.
- Sometimes when the wind is blowing, it is easier to just go in bow first rather than losing your momentum and stability in the wind by going into reverse. It is far more fun coming back tomorrow to switch your boat around than doing repairs (and paying for other boat repairs.)
- When trying to dock directly into the wind, reverse might be the best option. Your bow will simply follow where you go – the wind will keep it in line – you don’t have to hardly even think about it anymore.
- When everything goes to crap – simply pull out – go down the channel a ways – catch your breath, and then get everything lined up for another shot. The reverse – CRAP … forward hard – reverse again – AH NOOOO … forward will full gas scenario is not what you want. If you bung it up, start over.
Maybe humming Rock-a-bye-baby will help you to Take Care of Your Bow.
- Rock-a-bye baby, in the water channel,
- When the wind blows, the boat will rock,
- When the bow breaks, the boat will crash,
- And down will go baby, bow and all.
Lightning Strikes Again (and again)
This past couple of weeks have brought us some absolutely spectacular lightning shows. Lightning with a thunder accompaniment always brings thoughts of safety (and fear) to mind. In a previous post about lightning safety, I managed to ease my mind by convincing myself that the higher masts around us would protect us from a strike. However, the truth of the matter is, if lightning would have struck our sailboat, there is no telling where it would have ended up. Our mast was deck stepped (the bottom of the mast sits on top of the deck, instead of going right through to the keel), which means that any lightning strike coming down the mast would have had to jump somewhere to continue its downward path. This is how holes get blown in the bottom of boats. Add the fact that the mast was practically sitting directly over our heads when we were laying in the v-berth and, well … you get the picture.
So now we are in a big metal boat; a big, highly conductive surface directly connected to ground (water), with a nice high metal canopy framework begging for a lightning strike. So am I really any safer?
I asked around the marina, and for the most part, people did not think that the metal boat would be safer – but then I came upon another boater who lives on a steel sailboat. He’s got the full deal going for him – a nice high metal mast and a highly conductive steel surface connected directly to ground. What he suggested is that we are actually safer in our steel shells because (in theory) the lightning strike should take the path of least resistance and flow easily and directly through the hull and into the lake. He likened it to a Faraday Cage.
Here is a quote from Wikipedia:
Cars and aircraft. When lightning strikes an aircraft or a car the electric currents induced on it are forced to travel on the outer skin of the vehicle’s body. If you were in a car, and the car were struck by lightning, it is not in fact the rubber tires that would save your life. If the lightning can jump from the ground to the sky, then it can jump from the ground to your car. What actually happens, is by being enclosed by the car’s cabin, the lightning travels around you, through the conductive frame of the car. This is because the car forms a Faraday Cage.
This is talking about cars and aircraft, but from what I can tell should also apply to boats. Anyone out there want to confirm this for me? Any modern day Franklin’s or Faraday’s want to experiment with this? (Go fly a kite!)
(Lightning Hitting CN Tower photo’s taken by Mathias Roussea on June 5th, 2008.)
Spring Update – The View from Here.
Wow – where has the time gone? Time does fly when you’re having fun!
Couple of updates first: the plastic wrap is off the boat and everything is ready for the summer. The engines started easily, the genny runs well and the AC units are both pumping out the cool when the days get hot.
Last week while A. and the kids were visiting grammy, I built bunk beds for the kids. The boy LOVES his upper bunk. He’s got all his stuff up there and loves climbing up and down. Plus he’s discovered a new game – when I’m laying on my bed, he crawls up into his bunk and starts throwing his stuffed toys at me while laughing his head of hysterically. At least one of us is having fun.
The girl is now 6 months old and growing like a weed. In fact she is in the 96th percentile for her length and her weight is off the chart. She’s still breastfeeding so I guess that is agreeing with her. She’s not mobile yet, but can roll over both ways, sit up by herself and jump like her pants are on fire in her exersaucer. That thing takes up a lot of space on a boat, but she loves it and the exercise is good for her chubby little legs.
I’ve begun to use the upper deck for my office in the evenings. The view from here is lovely but is more conducive to daydreaming than getting any actual work done. The weather has really warmed up, but is not too hot… yet. I will take advantage of my upper office as long a I can before the heat drives me back into my main floor office (kitchen table.)
I’m on the hunt for a dingy with a motor that the boy and I can tool around in this summer. If you know of any, let me know via email.
Signs that Spring is Here.
It began a couple of weeks ago with the arrival back of the seagulls. There was still a bit of ice here and there in the harbour which the seagulls used to conference on. Shreeking and calling at all hours of the night carrying on like drunken weekenders on a Canadian long weekend.
Next the brokers broke out of the winter funk and began to launch boats. It started with just one or two but now there are dozens of brand new sail boats lightly bobbing in slips without masts or the character that comes from use.
And now finally: water! It’s kind of funny – we live on water year round but miss it so badly when the supply gets shut off in the fall. Yesterday, we officially welcomed spring by taking a long hot shower on-board, wasting water and generally reveling in the luxury.
The final step in the spring dance will be the removal of the plastic. We’ve already cut some air holes to let out the heat during the day but in the next week or two we will go at it with razor knives and expose the River Queen in all her glory.
Tonight the moon was floating in the sky over Ridgetown – the water is still and the air is warm – harbingers of the days to come.
Boats and Computers
I suppose that most would consider our little family to be fairly computer literate. We have high speed internet on the boat which we access with 3 laptops and one Internet Tablet. We run a couple of personal blogs (WeLiveOnABoat.com, LifeAboard.ca) and two comercial sites (NeighboursAppliance.com, ScrapScene.com.) We use things like Skype (long distance phone calls) all the time, do our banking on-line and plan our days and lives with on-line tools such as Google Calendar and Remember the Milk. We use xDrive for our on-line backups.
I’ve been asked several times how get get internet on the boat. We have used 3 different internet suppliers here.
The marina where we are docked have a company that supplies wireless internet (for a fee) to the boaters in the bay. Their speeds are really good, especially the 2 meg uploads but their signal fades badly in various places around the marina including our winter slip here. I can use their access point in the front of the boat, but not in the back.
I also have an ‘air card’ that plugs into my laptop that I use primarily on the road at work. The speeds are Ok but not good enough for Skype – perfectly fine for basic surfing and email though. We use this connection when our other supplier is down.
Finally, our main internet supplier is a wireless modem unit called Rogers Portable Internet. The speeds are good to great for downloads but uploads can occasionally be a bit slow. It works good for Skype voice but can occasionally drag a bit on Skype video. We have it shared with a wireless router so that we can all be on the internet at the same time. (The Boy even has my old laptop which he uses to watch Bob the Builder, etc. videos on YouTube. He can pull his laptop out, turn it on and surf (via bookmarks) to his YouTube videos. He’s 3 yrs old…)
Others have expressed concerns about the moist environment on a boat being bad for computers. We have not experienced any problems with this while on board unless you count dropping a water bottle on one of the laptops shorting out the keyboard – oops. For the most part, laptops today seem to be fairly durable. The one I am writing on right now is 2 yrs old and travels with me in my service truck everyday. That means vibration, dust and constantly being slapped around and it is still working fine. Of course, tomorrow it will quit! I guess what I am saying is that we’ve have had good experiences with laptops on our boats.
Winter Snow Storm
Whew – we just got whacked again! On Friday we bundled up the family and headed off to my mother-in-laws home somewhat south of Ottawa. We arrived just as the snow started. It finally stopped snowing early this morning (Sunday.) Then the work began.
The first picture is of the snowplow stuck in the driveway. He to be towed out. That’s our car buried in a drift to the left of his truck.
The second picture is The Boy playing on top of the cars in the driveway. Cool, eh?
Again – I have to say it … where is that global warming everyone keeps carrying on about?