Friday, November 01, 2019

Exciting news! The audio version of Tightwads on the Loose is coming! Readers have been enjoying this story for years in paperback and as an eBook and it has been a consistently strong seller. It has garnered rave reviews from many readers and been named a best book multiple times. Now those who prefer to hear a story with their ears rather than take it in through tired eyes can also enjoy it.

As children, we all loved when someone read us a story. Why not enjoy the same means of opening our imaginations as adults? Author Wendy Hinman is excited to share her phenomenal story through audio, thanks to the incredible storytelling talents of our narrator, Robin Karno. Robin’s enthusiasm and excitement has made the process of bringing this story alive so much fun. Not only has she been a fabulous collaborator, she has a pleasing voice, great comedic timing, and a talent for capturing the flavor of the voyage and the accents of the cultures that this traveling duo visit in their 34,000-mile journey around the Pacific aboard a small sailboat.

Now the whole family can listen to this engaging, award-winning story of travel adventures with Wendy and Garth. The Tightwads on the Loose audio book will be available for purchase through most audio book retailers. Once you pick up a copy, you can relax and listen to the story unfold as many times as you wish!

Find it here.

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Friday, October 25, 2019

Tightwads on the Loose Wins Readers Favorite Book Awards

“This book is the next best thing to going on a seven-year odyssey itself!”
"Tightwads on the Loose: A Seven Year Pacific Odyssey by Wendy Hinman is a memoir of the adventure of a lifetime. When Wendy met Garth in Washington D.C., she was fascinated to learn that he had sailed around the world with his family and lived like Robinson Crusoe after they bumped into a reef in Fiji that left a whale of a hole in their boat. Always adventurous, she had taken sailing lessons herself when her father bought a sailboat and had spent weekends and vacations sailing the Hawaiian Islands and the Chesapeake Bay. Wendy and Garth became a couple and dreamt of life at sea but after getting married, they settled down to pursue their own careers. After ten years, they finally decided to realize their dream of a tropical escape which resulted in a seven-year odyssey in the Pacific Ocean. This is their story.

Wendy Hinman's Tightwad on the Loose is a first-hand account of living in a 31-foot boat and going on a 34,000-mile voyage in the Pacific for seven years, with only the barest of necessities. A lot of people dream of setting the business of living aside to fulfill their dreams, but only very few really do it. Wendy and Garth belong to this special breed of people. And by writing Tightwad on the Loose, Wendy Hinman brings her readers with her while she relives their fascinating journey. Reading this book feels like being involved in plotting the trip and going with them on their sometimes exhilarating, sometimes frustrating trips to Mexico, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Kwajalein, Saipan, China, Hong Kong, Philippines, and Japan. And as they return to their old lives, her feeling of dislocation is contagious. This book is the next best thing to going on a seven-year odyssey itself!"

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tightwads on the Loose now on Kindle

Tightwads on the Loose: A Seven Year Pacific Odyssey is now available on Kindle!

Tightwads on the Loose: A Seven Year Pacific Odyssey

Everyone dreams of tropical escape. But what happens when you escape for too long?

Imagine spending 24 hours a day with your spouse in 31 not-so-square feet . . . for years; crossing the Pacific Ocean on two gallons of fuel; and tossing spaghetti marinara around your living room, then cleaning it up while bouncing like ice in a martini shaker. Tightwads on the Loose tells the story of Wendy and Garth, lured to sea by the promise of adventure. They buy a 31-foot boat that fits their budget better than it fits Garth's large frame and set sail for an open-ended voyage, never imagining they'd be gone seven years, or cover 34,000 miles at the pace of a fast walk.

They live without most “necessities” and learn that teamwork and a sense of humor matter most as they face endless "character-building opportunities." They make a long-anticipated visit to the island where Garth had been shipwrecked as a teenager, only to find it had become a penal colony. An electronic catastrophe in the Solomon Islands leaves them without navigation equipment, which forces them to trade their free-wheeling lifestyle for one that seems straight out of a '60s sitcom: jobs at a U.S. Army base in the Marshall Islands. In Asia, they dodge typhoons and ships that threaten to turn their home into kindling. Finally they endure a grueling 49-day nonstop ocean crossing. None of this prepares them for their arrival "home" to a post-9/11 America which leaves them wondering what had changed more, them or the world.

Tightwads on the Loose offers a fun read to the armchair adventurer -- or anyone afflicted with wanderlust.

You can download Tightwads on the Loose onto your Kindle and begin reading right now!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Book About Our Adventures

Tightwads on the Loose tells the story of Wendy and Garth, lured to sea by the promise of adventure. They buy a 31-foot boat that fits their budget better than it fits Garth’s large frame and set sail for an open-ended voyage, never imagining they’d be gone seven years, or cover 34,000 miles at the pace of a fast walk. They live without most “necessities” and learn that teamwork and a sense of humor matter most as they face endless “character-building opportunities.”

Tightwads on the Loose offers a fun read to the armchair adventurer — or anyone afflicted with wanderlust.”

Tightwads on the Loose: A Seven Year Pacific Odyssey
by Wendy Hinman
ISBN 978-0984835003
In bookstores May 2012
Paperback edition 386 Pages
The book features photos, a book club reader’s guide and an interview with the author.

Available through the Tightwads on the Loose eStore, through your independent bookseller or

"Alternately hilarious, exciting and thought provoking, Tightwads on the Loose will take you on a glorious romp around the Pacific.” Elsie Hulsizer, author of Glaciers, Bears and Totems: Sailing in Search of the Real Southeast Alaska and Voyages to Windward: Sailing Adventures on Vancouver Island’s West Coast

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tips for Prospective Blue Water Cruisers

Since we’ve been blue water cruising for over 7 years and 34,000 miles, we have had numerous people ask us questions as they prepare to go cruising.

Cruising is definitely not for everyone; It is a different lifestyle that comes with its own trials. Not every relationship can handle 24 hours a day 7 days a week in all kinds of weather. Purchasing and outfitting a boat is a tremendous committment and financial investment. Many fortunes have been lost in discovering it is not necessarily the most romantic mode of sightseeing. A Round the World ticket with a backpack can satisfy your desire to explore other cultures without banking your future on it, as can renting a charter boat for a brief period.

Once you go cruising, if you like it and stay out for a long time like we did, returning to the lifestyle you lived beforehand can be very difficult. I could write a book about that. Actually I have written a book about about that and our many zany adventures. It's called Tightwads on the Loose: A Seven Year Pacific Odyssey. Buy it here.

On a more serious note, here we’ll share a little of what we’ve learned about cruising. One could write a book to adequately cover this topic and several good ones already exist. While we’ve learned a lot from reading about cruising, much of what we’ve learned has come through using our boat and continually reevalutating what kind of lifestyle we want to lead and can afford. Note: Since we went on a small, old wooden boat with a tiny budget, take these tips with a grain of salt. Our learning experience was definitely a salt-encrusted one.

Please see other postings on this blog for information on boat preparation, the equipment we carried and what we thought of it, as well as communications, weather, and provisioning. And if you're just looking for stories of our adventures, there are plenty of those, too.

Helpful resources for cruise preparation

We'd suggest you find ways to experience cruising before making any committments to help you decided if the lifestyle is really for you. Chartering a boat without all the amenities and services for a period of 3-4 weeks can allow you to experience a more authentic look at the cruising lifestyle including getting your own fuel, provisions and water under various circumstances, generating your own power to meet your needs, laundry, repairs and navigation outside of home waters. A big part of cruising is being self sufficient and in modern society we have diverged a long way from that. Making an extended passage offshore can give you an idea of what life is like at sea and how you might adapt.

The most useful books we found for preparing to go voyaging were: Beth Leonard’s “Voyager’s Handbook” (very thorough and complete), John Neal and Amanda Swan’s “Offshore Cruising Companion” (specific practical information for getting your affairs in order and securing supplies), Herb Payson's "Advice for the Sealorn" and Steve Dashew’s “Cruising Encyclopedia” (a great reference available on CD). For all kinds of fishing, the “Cruisers Guide to Fishing” by Scott and Wendy Bannerot is a complete instruction manual. Cruising articles in the major sailing magazines are helpful but can be intimidating. In a perfect world . . . We continually remind ourselves that magazines are mainly funded by advertising and they want to avoid advocating anything that might be considered unsafe to protect people lacking in common sense.

Preparing the boat for voyaging

It is impossible to have the perfect boat before you leave to go cruising since it is hard to anticipate everything. You have to just call it good enough and set off sailing at some point. Experience will teach you about your boat and your needs. Our nearly 2 month long shakedown cruise revealed many issues that we addressed before really leaving the conveniences of home. You may find it helpful to visit the section where we discuss the modifications we made to our boat before departing. Keep in mind that people have different priorities and each boat comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses, so someone else's advice may not work for you.

Decisions about how to best prepare a boat for voyaging depend significantly upon individual lifestyle choices. We postponed several decisions about buying expensive items and have since added some and decided others were not necessary based on the way we live. Our list of modifications is always evolving based on how we are using the boat, deciding what is important to us and our evolving goals. We've found that planning stops once every year or year and a half in places where we can do a major boat overhaul helps us manage many problems until we can properly address our needs and helps keep maintenance from overwhelming us. (For example, we left with a brand new mainsail, but old jibs and staysails, since we weren’t really sure which we’d use. Once we got to New Zealand, we had a very good idea of what we needed and found good quality workmanship at lower prices than the U.S. Had we purchased sails before departing, we'd have made inappropriate choices).

Boat maintenance

There is no such thing as being finished doing boat work or to prevent having equipment problems. People joke about cruising being the opportunity to fix your boat in exotic places and that's not far from the truth. We are trying to keep sophisticated equipment (upon which we are often dependent for our safety) functioning often under very primitive adverse conditions. It is easy to break things when they get so much use, especially in a moist saltwater environment. A little oversight or mistake can cost big and that can happen more frequently when functioning on minimal sleep as you do on passages. Everyone experiences breakdowns and they can be time consuming and depressing, especially when you can’t deal with them properly. It can be frustrating and overwhelming sometimes trying to fix things in places that barely have a hardware store or a decent means of transportation. Electronics, watermakers, refridgerators and engines seem to be the most at risk items, but people have had problems of all sorts. The simpler the boat, the less there is to break and fix. Waiting for parts has put a major crimp in many a cruiser’s dream cruise. And lying with your head in the bilge or in the engine compartment, while never comfortable, can be twice as unpleasant in the heat of the tropics, especially when it entails ripping apart your full time home. If you believe you can’t live without it, make sure you have some kind of back up in mind so you can keep cruising anyway until you get a decent opportunity to address the problem effectively. We always have a project list and our priorities are always changing depending on the challenges we’re facing. To keep the list manageable,we try to schedule major overhauls each year or so in a location where we can get parts easily.

We also find it helps to do a little each day so we don’t get overwhelmed. Regular chores include important or easy repairs, getting and stowing supplies (food, water, fuel, parts), checking for and dealing with leaks, corrosion, mildew, wear and deterioration, laundry, varnishing, cleaning the galley and head areas, fridge, floor, rug, etc., making food and beverages we can't otherwise get (like bread,tortillas, ginger beer), polishing the stainless, scrubbing the waterline/bottom/rudder and transducers, scrubbing the dinghy, airing out clothing lockers, inventorying provisions and checking for rusting cans, punctured packaging and deterioration. The stainless rusts quickly in saltwater and can stain nearby cloth and hull areas. We’d recommend rinsing or or wiping down with fresh water any time you have an opportunity to prevent corrosion and using Wichinox with a generous freshwater rinse. One can catch fresh water to meet these needs. It is amazing how high spray can get and how it can permeate everywhere. Zipper cars will freeze if not rinsed with fresh water or protected, but they can be removed and replaced if necessary.

Replacement parts and spares

Make sure you have approximately a 1 year supply of regular maintenance items (like filters, belts and oil, stainless bolts and nuts and the like) and replacement parts for critical systems on hand. You can seal them in shrink wrap to protect these items until needed. Racor fuel filters have been a challenge to get in many locations. (Lucas CAV filters seem to be more available for a fraction of the Racor price in areas in the South Pacific.) Stainless steel shackles, pins and other hardware have been mostly unavailable outside of New Zealand and Australia and probably most major yachting centers, as well as line, electronics, most adhesives and sealants, boat specific electrical and plumbing parts, and of course, replacement parts for specific models of yacht gear. West Marine ships products all over the world and having a catalog on board is handy for figuring out solutions. Getting mail in some places can be difficult and import policies can delay your plans and create various hassles. (Make sure you have contact information for major suppliers of specialty gear you have, such as watermakers, autopilot, electric windless, etc. just in case you need them later.) Lead acid batteries and engine oil (but not always the kind you want) are available most places where there are larger towns. Machine shops are good in many population centers where there is light industry. Many boat yards and chandleries offer higher quality work and carry a wider variety of products in the more popular destinations and you can ask other cruisers about specific places. Planning ahead by making sure you have spares or doing preventative maintenance when you are in more developed areas can help minimize breakdowns and related hassles later.

Sometimes countries have more affordable quality products than the U.S. or cheaper labor rates. Talk to other cruisers for the current situation. New Zealand, for example, is an excellent place for doing work on the boat: Labor rates are much lower than the U.S. with highly skilled labor; Most local products are of decent quality; and importing products is quite easy they since waive all import duty for foreign vessels. New Zealand had good locally made mechanical items (epiglass, oars, stainless), although imported items and especially electronics cost more. Prices can vary significantly from store to store. Good quality sails and canvas work cost less due to cheaper labor rates (although most canvas dodgers we saw weren’t as attractive as ones designed and built in North America) even though materials often cost more. Australia is less ideal but offers another place to do a major overhaul.

Costs of voyaging

How much it costs to cruise really depends on your lifestyle and expectations. Some think of cruising as living a simpler lifestyle and others think of it as a once in a lifetime trip and this attitude will influence how you spend money. The size of your boat and the sophistication of your equipment also makes a big difference in costs. As more yachts visit an area, while more services become available, prices also tend to rise. We are trying to live within a budget of about $1000 a month including boat maintenance and finding that a bit challenging. Some months we spend very little and others we exceed the budget significantly. Our biggest cost is boat repairs and upgrades. The simpler your boat, the cheaper the repairs will be. There are many boats out here on a far higher budget than we are and often locals consider all foreigners to be rich and charge accordingly. But there is plenty to do that doesn't cost - snorkeling, swimming, surfing, hiking and we try to focus on those things. Hanging around with people on your same budget can make sticking to your budget easier.

Handling finances/money while voyaging

ATMs and credit cards work well in some countries but can be useless or expensive to use in more remote areas. Having travelers’ checks and a little cash (some single US dollars and $10 and $20 bills) is always a good idea to cover you in various situations. We’ve traded clothing and other items for things in some remote areas, such as northern Vanuatu, where money is of little value since there are no stores.

Setting up automatic bill paying can help you manage your money, but appoint someone you trust and provide them with a power of attorney and a checkbook to handle things that undoubtedly will come up because it is hard to anticipate everything. See Handling mail and business affairs for more info.

Earning income while voyaging

Getting paying work is possible on an informal basis in construction or boat maintenance/deliveries, teaching English or some restaurant work, but getting a work permit to work for a short time in an office position is much more challenging. Those wanting to work might need to stop for a longer period to find the job and then make it worthwhile for an employer to hire them officially. Often immigration visas specifically forbid one from working in a country so usually any work is done under the table. We have heard of people getting taken advantage of while working under the table since they can't complain. A trade or skill that might be useful to other yachties (equipment installation, sail making/repair, varnish/paint prep, rigging, electronics repair) could help earn some income. Many note these special skills on their boat cards. Yachties generally help one another gratis in the spirit of community, so approaching regular yachties on a work for payment arrangement should be done carefully. Megayachts with professional crew expect to pay for services.

Handling mail and business affairs

Sending mail to General Delivery or Post Restante still works pretty effectively without any advance warning at all and can be collected upon presentation of some form of I.D. Often merely addressing packages: hold for U.S. yacht in transit can eliminate problems with customs and be adequate to keep people from returning packages if you are not sitting right there. American Express will collect mail (for a short time for cardholders) and many marinas, yacht clubs and hotels will accept your mail in advance of your arrival with warning, but due to misunderstandings can be returned. The cruising guides for each country give you an idea of where you can send mail. In some places, like Vavau, Tonga, people never got their mail, but this is a rare occurrence. Because we have someone at home handling our affairs, we can minimize mail forwarding to a couple of times a year and usually choose to wait until we've reached countries we've heard are reliable.There are mail transferring services that you can hire (listed in John Neal and Amanda Swan Neal’s book) and some will even manage some of your affairs with a limited power of attorney. You may want to consider setting yourself up automatic bill paying and checking your accounts online to minimize mailing issues.

Double check expiration dates on credit and membership cards, and request replacing them early while it is convenient. Note the international collect numbers for your credit card so you can contact them outside the U.S. (Also renew your driver’s license and passport early if you can to prevent inconveniences later.) Don’t carry everything in your wallet. You can’t use credit cards everywhere anyway, so don’t take the risk of losing them and having to replace everything at tremendous inconvenience. Make copies of everything you are carrying in case you lose it and leave it with someone you trust. Carry a copy of your passport in your wallet and often you can avoid having to carry the original, especially to cash traveler’s checks. Carry a copy of your boat documents as well and always keep the original on the boat. (This is your title to the boat.) On board eamil can be useful for managing affairs in remote areas. See the Communications section for more info.


Insurance for health and boat seem to present challenges to most American yachties, and few people seem content with their arrangement. Many Europeans are uninsured. Do some research beforehand and ask a lot of questions to make sure you are covered in any situation you might find yourself. Get an agent that is easy to reach by email and helpful in answering your questions. Policies have various requirements which could include: one or multiple surveys of the vessel, more than two people aboard for longer passages, restrictions for traveling in certain regions, and limiting the amount of time offshore in a calendar year. We've heard about insurance cancellation or lapses in coverage with little warning. Insurance is very expensive and we've heard stories of people paying nearly the initial purchase price of their boat in a matter of a few years. We decided to self insure by buying a boat that we could afford to lose or fix out of our own pockets. (The cruising book written by John Neal and Amanda Swan lists a number of insurers and has lots of other useful information included.) Health care is readily available and inexpensive outside the U.S. and usually of decent quality in major centers. There are doctors out cruising that can be consulted informally via SSB as needed and some services exist that offer formal advice via radio or email.


A laptop computer is handy for viewing electronic charts and receiving weather faxes, getting email aboard via SSB, with DVD’s for watching movies and CD burners for backing up files and storing digital photos. Few yachties are without a laptop on board these days and many add a second laptop for back up. We bought a cheap used one off the Internet and have stored it in a Pelican watertight case. A pelican case is a good investment to protect it from moisture and in case you need to take it ashore. We also found a laptop handy for preparing emails and logs in advance to send from a floppy when we get to a shore side Internet access location. Computers can draw a lot of power. Different laptops draw different amounts of power. When we bought a new computer, our power usage rose dramatically. Running the computer off of its own battery and then recharging it is a way to save power. The inverter can create a hum that interferes with weatherfax signals and also takes significant additional power to run the computer than would otherwise be required. We found a power cord (via Targus web site) that enables us to plug the old computer directly into a cigarette lighter and bypass the inverter. The new computer unfortunately can not use the same one but we were able to find one on the IGo site. (Note: many newer computers do not have serial ports, but they are still needed to hook into weatherfax demodulators, GPS for electronic navigation or Pactor II modems for onboard email. We bought a USB to serial port adapter. You can also buy a PCMCIA card adapter at many electronics stores for moving files, especially digital photos across computers.)


The dinghy is our car and as a result it is a very important piece of boat equipment which gets a lot of wear and tear. Each type of dinghy has its strengths and weaknesses and no one thinks they have the ideal dinghy for all situations. Inflatable ribs with engines are great for going places fast, but the engine better work because they can hardly be rowed even short distances. Being able to plane in the dinghy with 4 people can make for some great expeditions. Having bigger tubes makes for a drier ride, yet could make it harder to stow. Keen divers like to have big dinghies to hold all their dive gear and sometimes up to 4 people. Hard sailing/rowing dinghies can be great fun in flat water and last the longest with minimal maintenance but can also be hard to stow. We have a 2 part nesting, sailing dinghy which is very quick to launch and fun to sail and row. However we worry about it being stowed on deck in very rough weather and we are unable to plane with an outboard motor.

Stowing the dinghy on the boat so that it is easy to launch and safe aboard in rough sailing conditions is a challenge we all face, but most particularly on smaller boats. Stowing an outboard motor in a safe and inconspicuous location is another issue. Raising and lowering a heavy outboard between the big boat and the dinghy is easier with a hoist mounted on the stern rail. Every time we go sailing, we consider whether we should stow the dinghy or tow it for the duration of the trip. During short sails when conditions are calm, we sometimes tow the dinghy. But, sometimes the wind can come up unexpectedly and having a dinghy in tow can be a bit unnerving in marginal conditions. Having a good towing bridle with a back up painter is a good idea when towing, along with a floating painter to avoid wrapping it in the prop when backing down while anchoring. Being able to hoist the dinghy alongside at night can reduce bottom growth and the possibility of theft, yet if the wind comes up in the night or there is significant rainfall that cannot drain, a dinghy hoisted alongside can be precarious.

Many dinghy docks and landing areas leave a lot to be desired. A light dinghy can be easily beached above the tide line yet may not be as durable. Some buy wheels for the dinghy for landings when the dinghy must be moved far from the water’s edge. Native kids sometimes play in them while they are left unattended. Dinghies can bash against the dock or rocks in rough conditions or as a result of wakes and using a dinghy anchor can help to prevent that. (And the dinghy anchor is essential for most snorkeling expeditions.) A long floating painter or cable (with locking capability) enables yachties to fit a larger number of dinghies at a crowded dinghy dock and reduces some of the wear and tear on your dinghy where there is high traffic.

Getting underway

Each time we move the boat or go sailing we must consider how well we need to stow the boat for the trip. When we are stopped for long periods, we begin to move in. For short calmer trips, we may not be as well stowed, but might get caught by surprise. Preparing to get underway includes: getting out relevant charts/guidebooks, plotting a course, stowing solar panels, rolling up the awning, stowing the dinghy (stowing dinghy seat, oars, and sails below and placing the dinghy on foredeck, wiping down its bottom and tying it down), stowing items below (rolling up carpet and putting it in the v-berth and putting away any loose items from the shelves or counters), closing all hatches, removing sail covers, removing the line that dampens boom motion, turning on instruments/GPS, starting the engine, hauling up the anchor and washing it and the foredeck off, hoisting sails, and putting out the fishing line.

Comfort in the heat of the tropics

The heat in the tropics can be overwhelming at first. It is critical to have an awning to use while sailing. We can roll ours up and unroll it easily underway depending on how windy/sunny it is and how much visibility we need. Another larger one for in port is handy for keeping cool in still/wet conditions, but they can be a liability in unsettled conditions. Our large awning has thru hulls for water catchment which are useful, although we rarely use the big awning because we are rarely sit for long periods of time and we worry about the wind coming up unexpectedly. Shading for the foredeck can be nice in especially hot or rainy climates (so we can keep the hatch open while it's raining) and a foredeck awning can also be used to collect rain for filling your fresh water tanks. If they are deployed at lifeline level, unexpected wind can be less of an issue. Windscoops disintegrate rather quickly in the sun and wind but are useful for getting the boat cool.

You may want to make sure you have good ventilation inside the boat since it gets very hot in the tropics. We are lucky to have a hatch over the chain locker that we can leave open even when it is pouring rain. We also have a cockpit window that is usually protected by the awning in rainy weather. Fans mounted in the galley and near sleeping areas can be important for comfort. Figure what it takes to run these into your energy needs. Ours take about .3 amps each. Solar shower can easily puncture and deteriorate in UV, a buy a garden sprayer with pump for fresh water rinses after swimming. A hot tea kettle can heat the water to the ideal temperature in cooler weather, but usually tropical weather makes cool showers very refreshing. Polarized sunglasses are important for navigating through underwater reefs and saving your eyes from the glare on the water.

We found that summer clothes we wore in Seattle were too warm for the tropics. Regular t-shirts and polo shirts can be pretty hot in still conditions. Sleeveless t-shirts are good, as are large collared short sleeved loose dress (oxford or Hawaiian) shirts and, of course, bathing suits are standard cruising gear. Gauze type fabric is much cooler. Mexico, New Zealand and Fiji have a good selection of inexpensive bathing suits and decent summery clothes, sometimes of lower quality. You might want some UV protective, quick dry kind of clothing that REI, Columbia Sportswear, Ex Officio and catalogs like Travelsmith sell. Sometimes we are out in the sun without the awning for hours when navigating a tight lagoon or when we’re out in the dinghy and it is nice to have another way to stay cool and protected from the strong sun. Special, quick dry UV clothing (or nylon) is useful with the strong sun and all the wet dinghy rides. Men’s nylon swim trunks are perfect shorts for cruising, since they dry so quickly and let you air out without the need for underwear which can hold moisture. (In addition to beach landings, it is easy to get wet with waves splashing between the boat and dinghy as you are boarding.) Pareos/sarongs are handy to wear as skirts in conservative countries (even over shorts or bathing suits for easier dinghy landings) and are cool, as well as quick and easy to wash and dry. We see locals carrying umbrellas to keep the sun off in areas where hats and sunglasses aren’t as accepted. We bought hats at REI made by Sequel that were very well suited to the tropics, with a back flap to cover the neck, a strap, air vents to let air in the sides yet protect the scalp and a dark under rim to save the eyes and they came in sizes which means they fit us well.

Miscellaneous handy items to have on board

We’ve found dry bags absolutely essential. A small one is handy for keeping things dry when taking the camera and a few items to shore for short trips. A backpack or hip bag is handy for carrying the day’s necessities – water bottle, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, money, camera, towel, hats, bathing suit, etc. A larger dry bag has been useful for keeping laundry or groceries dry or other larger items on wet dinghy rides.

You may want a nylon mesh bag for snorkel gear so it is easy to carry for day trips and can drip dry when hung from the lifelines or stern rail. Make sure you have good snorkeling equipment that fits and feels comfortable to wear. It is a great diversion and great way to cool off. Armorall can help protect your fins as well as other plastic items from UV damage. A shorty wet suit can keep the sun off and keep you warmer during longer snorkeling sessions. You may also want to exchange thick terry cloth bath towels for thinner beach towels, since they dry quickly and are much easier to wash without dedicating significant fresh water to the effort. We sent our bath towels home from Mexico and bought beach towels to replace them. We often use hand towels to dry off after a swim and have found a pack towel/chamois cloth to be especially handy for day trips since we can wring it out well after use.

Having a sewing machine onboard is very handy for sewing flags, clothes or slipcovers, as well as repairing clothing, stitching on awnings and dodgers (which only lasts 3 years), and sails.


Coin operated laundry is scarce in Mexico and the South Pacific, but laundry services are more readily available. We had a number of clothes ruined by them and a couple of things lost, so tend to approach the laundry services cautiously. The wash water and dryers are often very hot, heated by a wood fire in many cases, so separate your laundry carefully and provide specific care instructions along with a list of items included. The hot water will bake in any stains, so pre-treat any spots. Soaking laundry in baking soda or a great diaper product we found in New Zealand (and Australia) called Napi-san can brighten dull and stained clothes. If in doubt, ask for cold water and no drying. Only hand wash things with lycra/spandex and elastic, like bathing suits, stretch pants, biking shorts, or bras and even underwear if you can manage or the elasticity will be gone in a short time. And hand wash any special clothes or favorite items. For hand washing, a deep paint bucket with a mini toilet plunger works well, along with a fingernail brush to work on spots. Liquid detergent of most any kind works well in saltwater, although we tend to use a little more than in fresh water. I often use salt water until the final rinse and sometimes will do the final rinse at the tap on shore if I can to avoid using specially treated tank water that we have to haul. Bringing laundry ashore in a bucket or dry bag for a quick final rinse and wring can work well in some locations. We have been impressed with how much water we can catch with a small foredeck awning and make a point of doing laundry when we've been able to catch lots of fresh water. Our dinghy collects lots of water and (since we have no engine fuel can inside and it's usually relatively clean), we can use that for the wash cycle. Hand wringing can be tough on the wrists after a large laundry session; Wringers are handy but big to carry aboard the boat. Sometimes we make sure the stays are clean and use them to help wring.

Having 2 sets of washable slipcovers to protect the permanent cushion covers, saves them over the long run, especially on passages when they get abused. Salt from our skin and clothes inevitably gets on the cushions, as does oil from suntan lotions and mosquito repellent, and it’d be nice to be able to clean them more often and easily. Slipcovers can be softer on your bare skin and can be rotated if you have more than one set to keep things clean and looking good. Fleece is a great material that is soft on the skin. Bright floral patterns available in the tropics can brighten up the interior and offer a easy change of decor.


Fresh drinking water has not been hard to get in our travels. It is not available absolutely everywhere, but with a little bit of planning and water management is available most places and is good – and it usually tastes better than water made from a water maker. We treat our tank water with chlorine or Aqua tablets, but usually it is fine without. Having 4 jerry jugs on hand to haul water is critical since filling tanks alongside isn’t usually possible. Many fuel docks do offer free water as in the States sometimes only with fill up. We use saltwater for washing and bathing with a quick fresh water rinse and can live for 3 weeks on 50 gallons. Most boats carry more than this and a majority have water makers but water makers need special care and take fuel to run. Catching water on awnings can defray the hassle of obtaining or making fresh water and we are amazed at how much we can catch, usually enough for all our needs. We have cut a silver tarp (with a thru-hull and hose that run from it into jerry cans) that we have at hand in the v-berth area and set it up if it looks rainy and we need water. Others have some sort of deck fill system. Catching is the ideal way to get water, and although we found it rarely rained in Mexico and the Tuamotus, we could catch what we needed most everywhere else, and catching water makes a rain squall fun. Since we've started catching water we find we can be more free with our fresh water and don't need to rely on saltwater as much for washing.


Fuel docks are adequately plentiful in most major ports, although planning ahead is important. Sometimes fuel docks require Med mooring to a gnarly concrete fuel dock and filling with jerry jugs becomes more appealing. We only carry 18 gallons and have found that adequate, but we tend to sail more than most people and use our engine little for charging. Many boats carry fuel jugs on deck. UV tends to fade and crack them over time. (In rough conditions these jerry cans can be swept overboard taking the stanchions with them.) Fuel is usually much more expensive outside the U.S. Premix gasoline (sometimes called Zoom) for the dinghy outboard is also readily available.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Boat Prep

Preparing your Boat for voyaging

It is impossible to have the perfect boat before you leave to go cruising since it is hard to anticipate everything. You have to just call it good enough and set off sailing at some point. Experience will teach you about your boat and your needs. Our nearly 2 month long shakedown cruise revealed many issues that we addressed before really leaving the conveniences of home. You may find it helpful to visit the section where we discuss the modificationswe made to our boat before departing. Keep in mind that people have different priorities and each boat comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses, so someone else's advice may not work for you. Our philosophy was to go small and simple so we could go sooner.

Decisions about how to best prepare a boat for voyaging depend significantly upon individual lifestyle choices. We postponed several decisions about buying expensive items and have since added some and decided others were not necessary based on the way we live. Our list of modifications is always evolving. We've found that planning stops once every year or year and a half in places where we can do a major boat overhaul helps us manage many problems until we can properly address our needs and helps keep maintenance from overwhelming us. (For example, we left with a brand new mainsail, but old jibs and staysails, since we weren’t really sure which we’d use. Once we got to New Zealand, we had a very good idea of what we needed and found good quality workmanship at lower prices than the U.S. Had we purchased sails before departing, we'd have made inappropriate choices).

Power generation

All the electricity you need for daily living must be generated somehow. You need to become completely self sufficient without shore power since it isn't really feasible to rely on it over the long term once you leave your home marina. Estimating your power needs will be is challenging in advance, but we'd suggest you overestimate your needs and set up a variety of methods for generating that power. Reducing your power use minimizes the power one needs to generate. At one time, all of the four methods we had of generating power: Alternator, solar panels, trolling generator and wind generator didn’t work for various reasons. In general, we were glad to have the redundancy so that when once system had a problem or the weather wasn’t suitable (cloudy or calm), we could rely on another. Most people use a combination of the various means of generating power, along with running the engine or a generator two hours each day. Fuel is much more expensive outside the U.S. A book called “Alternative Power Sources” can be useful for making decisions about meeting power needs, although the book is not written specifically for boats. We've connected all our power generating sources to one regulator, a flex charge 25 and this diverts power if we are topped up. Again, the lower your needs are for power, the less need there is for generating it.

We don’t use our alternator for much of our power generation, but it makes sense to have a high tech alternator/regulator to maximize the output and an alternator that will take the stress and heat of operating at maximum output. We have a 50 amp alternator and it generates 35amps at the speeds we run it at high idle. We have a Next Step regulator which works fine. A monitor that allows you to keep track of your power generation helps you figure out how much power each item draws and your current state of battery charge. We like our new Link 10, but for a long while we were using the voltage meter to establish our state of battery charge after our original monitor died. We used to have a monitor that interfaced with our alternator regulator and the system worked well until we had a voltage spike and both were destroyed simultaneously. A general suggestion would be to insure that all systems can work independently if needed.

Solar panels
A quarter of their watt rating equals the number of amp hours per day that solar panels generate on average. Solar panels seem to lose some output over time. The rigid solar panels do better in cooler climates and need air flow beneath them for better power generation. Finding a safe, secure and unobtrusive way to mount rigid panels can be a challenge. Many people mount them to rigid horizontal lifeline poles so they can be tilted, but the edges are sharp and can present the potential for injury when getting in or out of the dinghy in their vicinity and lines can catch on them. They add windage to the boat which can be scary in high wind conditions. Others mount them onto radar arches and still others on pivoting brackets attached to verticle pole mounted aft of the cockpit. Flexible solar panels can offer an option if rigid panel mounting isn’t feasible. They can be stored under settee seats and are more tolerant of shadows (hard to avoid on a boat) than the rigid ones. Flexible solar panels can kink if they are not tied well in windy conditions and williwas can come up at night without warning; Damage to our flexible panels has reduced their output. Solar panels of both types need to be cleaned periodically to keep power generation at top levels. In addition, electrical fittings can corrode over time. We think the ideal solar panel would be the Solara since it could be glued to the deck (and could be walked on), and we would choose this next time, mounted on top of a hard dodger or cabin top.

Trolling generator
Trolling generators that drag behind the boat generate power pretty well when you’re moving, but work best at a hull speed of between 3 and 6 knots. Ours is a homemade 10 amp DC generator fixed to the boat (no gimbal). It has a ring on the end of the shaft to which we tie a 100 feet of 1/2" doublebraid. The line then is spliced to a 3 foot long 5/8" stainless bar, with a ring at one end for attaching the line, and a 6 inch diameter 3 blade outboard prop on the other. The output is run through a 15 amp power diod. It puts out about 4-5 amps at 6 knots of boat speed, but we find at about 8 knots the spinner can jump out of the waves when the swell is large and kink the line, which reduces its effectiveness and creates extra drag. Trolling generators can interfere with radio reception and can be challenging to recover in windy conditions. We’ve found heaving to be the best way to stop the generator from spinning while recovering it. Fishing is incompatible with the trolling generator.

Wind generator
Wind generators can often be quite loud, especially the Air Marine brand (although we hear the blades can be shaved to reduce noise on these). For some generators, it has to be howling in the anchorage to generate much. Our Rutland 910 generates power at lower wind speeds but doesn't generate as much as others at higher speeds. It will generate all the power we need in windy anchorages (above 15 knots) and when sailing to weather. It can increase our stress in windy conditions and sometimes we’ll tie it off for peace of mind, particularly if we don’t need the power. Given a choice, we'd forego the noise and windage and set ourselves up for a higher solar input.

Shore power
Marinas are much more prevalent than they used to be and do offer an option to anchoring for a special treat, for getting projects done (with unlimited power and water if you’re lucky) or leaving the boat for extended periods, but they are expensive. Most marinas typically offer only 220V power except in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. so 110 volt battery chargers as well as many power tools aren’t worth much after leaving those areas. And replacing electrical appliances can be difficult unless you’re traveling home. Installing a 220 volt battery charger will allow you to use foreign power sources. You may need some plugs and receptacles to create your own shore power cable that will plug into your boat. You can always buy the appropriate end fitting for that particular country upon arrival. Some marinas will allow you to use a transformer to convert the power from 110 to 220, but they are expensive, heavy and large, and marinas require an electrical inspection before you can plug in. Dual power transformers are common for many electronic appliances but you might want to have U.S. style plugs on hand to make your own adapters so you can hook into foreign sockets.

Estimating your power needs

Estimating your power needs is hard since you haven't lived aboard offshore before, but perhaps you can learn from our experience. Generally we use less power than most people and we use approxately 20-30 amps per day. Since we do not have pressure water, radar, auto bilge pumps, an electric windless, a satellite phone, or an autopilot, we cannot estimate the draw for those items. We are not using our Adler Barber Coldmachine refridgerator but it was our biggest draw when we did, using 60 amps per day alone. Visit our section on Keeping up with Refridgeration for a more thorough discussion. The following are estimates for items as we might use them on a high usage day. (Usage would be balanced based on charging ability that day and the general state of battery charge):

Estimated Power Draw
At Anchor
Item # of units amps Time Amp hours
Lights: Incandescent 2 1.5 amps 4 hours 12 Amp hours
Lights: Flourescent 2 1.0 amps 5 hours 10 Amp hours
Fans 2 0.3 amps 12 hours 7.2 Amp hours
Shortwave radio 1 0.5 amps 5 hours 2.5 Amp hours
Stereo: radio 1 1.0 amps 1 hour 1 Amp hour
Stereo: CD 1 3.0 amps 1 hour 3 Amp hours
VHF: listening 1 0.5 amps 24 hours 12 Amp hours
VHF: transmitting 1 1.0 amp .5 hours .5 Amp hours
SSB: listening 1 2.0 amps 2 hours 4 Amp hours
SSB: transmitting 1 6.0 amps .5 hour 3 Amp hours
Computer: floating 1 2.0 amps 3 hours 6 Amp hours
Computer: charging and on14.0 amps 1 hour 4 Amp hours
Computer: charging and off11.0 amps .5 hour .5 Amp hours
Digital camera battery charging 1 .5 amps 1 hour .5 Amp hours
Cordless drill charging1 .5 amps 3 hours 1.5 Amp hours
Handheld VHF charging 1 .5 amps 3 hours 1.5 Amp hours
LED Anchor light 1 .1 amps 12 hours 1.2 Amp hours
At Sea
Item # of units amps Time Amp hours
Lights: Incandescent 1 1.5 amps 1 hour 1.5 Amp hours
Lights: Flourescent 1 1.0 amp 1 hour 1 Amp hours
Fans 1 0.5 amp 24 hours 12 Amp hours
GPS 1 0.5 amp 24 hours 12 Amp hours
Instruments 1 0.5 amp 24 hours 12 Amp hours
VHF: listening 1 0.5 amp 24 hours 12 Amp hours
VHF: transmitting 1 1.0 amp .5 hour .5 Amp hours
SSB: listening 1 2.0 amps 2 hours 4 Amp hours
SSB: transmitting 1 6.0 amps .5 hour 3 Amp hours
LED Tri color 1 0.1 amps 12 hours 1.2 Amp hours

Minimizing your power requirements

There are various ways to reduce your power needs. Keeping up with Refridgeration is the biggest challenge. Using LED lights can reduce your demands. When we sit in the cockpit and talk in the early evening, our power usage is significantly lower. And also lower when we read in bed since we share the same light. Computers can draw a lot of power and different laptops draw different amounts. Running the computer off of its own battery and then recharging it is a way to save power.

Keeping up with Refridgeration

It is difficult to keep up with refrigerator power requirements. Since it is so much hotter in the tropics, it takes much more power to keep a refridgerator going than in more temperate climates. You might want to double or treble your power requirement estimates if you plan to rely on a fridge/freezer. Consider adding insulation or at least placing an insulating mat on top of the fridge area or just inside the lid to help keep the cool air inside. Avoid side opening units if you are installing a new one. You might also want to make sure any air cooled unit has adequate ventilation, which ours did not. We decided to turn our fridge off because we were unwilling to run the engine to keep up with its demands. The engine heats up the boat in an already hot climate and we find the noise unpleasant and the time inconvenient. Plus we cannot carry the fuel to power it. The adjustment was hard for us at first, but we live pretty well without it now. We are among the few who live without refrigeration but our power needs are a small fraction as a result. Visit our section on Living without refrigeration to learn how we've adjusted.

LED Lights

We run LED lights for our anchor light and tricolor which draw less than an amp a day. We bought them off the Internet from a company called Deep Creek Design, but they may also be available from West Marine. Deep Creek Design stands behind their products and has been good to deal with. The bulbs fit into a standard tricolor fixture and the anchor light even has a solar cell so it comes on automatically at dusk. While they weren’t cheap, we have been glad to have them so we can be seen even if we are worried about our power consumption. We also use LED flashlights and a cockpit light, which you can find at garden stores and often feature a solar sensor.


We initially bought a Sangean short wave receiver for $200 US from a catalog, and through it we listened to short wave and local radio programs and could hear the SSB nets, and receive weather faxes. After traveling for a while, we decided that we wanted an SSB so we could join radio nets and talk to our friends and add onboard email via Sailmail. In addition to the radio programs that we could listen to on our shortwave radio, which help us keep track of what is going on in the world, when we can transmit on SSB, we can keep in touch with other cruisers and give us another way to call for help if needed. We bought our ICOM 735 used via the Ham Radio Outlet on the Internet for about $600US including a tuner. We installed it with a backstay insulator and a copper strap (painted beforehand to prevent corrosion) stretched along the bilge between the antenna tuner and the keel bolts.

Communications with the outside world
Internet Cafes are usually readily available (throughout the Pacific in the larger towns) and affordably priced, although in a couple of places they were very expensive, like in Bora Bora, Vavau (in the northern islands in Tonga), and the resort areas of Fiji. Again, asking other cruisers and planning ahead can reduce the hardship of expensive email facilities. Other cruisers who have onboard email are often happy to let you send a brief email on occasion to let family know you are safe. Many people complain that Hotmail clogs their inboxes with lots of junk mail and closes the accounts after a month of inactivity. We have often been unable to check email for more than a month when we are in remote areas. We have had good luck with Yahoo and Yahoo includes a photo album which we have found handy for sharing images of our travels easily with a large number of people while we are away.

Onboard email via Sailmail
With a Pactor II/III modem, an SSB and a subscription to sailmail ($200 per year) or using Winlink for those with a Ham license (free), one can stay in touch via email on board. As we traveled to more remote areas, we became more interested in getting a Pactor II/III modem. We added a Pactor II/III modem recently and have found it to be very useful. We bought the Pactor II/III modem from the Offshore Store in Seattle, it easily plugged into our ICOM 735 and we didn't need any extra assistance to get it running.

Shortwave and Local Radio Programs
We can get news and entertainment on the short wave radio and have found we can get local radio stations that otherwise we couldn't receive on our auto scan stereo which is programmed for U.S. frequencies. We’d suggest researching the schedules for Voice of America, BBC, Canadian Broadcasting System, Radio New Zealand and Radio Australia, or doing a general search for Short Wave radio programs. They can be quite interesting and informative.

Communications with other cruisers and SSB Nets
Asking other cruisers is the best way to find out about current SSB radio nets in the area. The nets form a bond within our community. It’s a close-knit community that shares information freely and helps cruisers in need. (Caution: There can be a tendency for people to get overexcited about things that ultimately turn out to be non-issues, such as customs procedures for a specific country or for misinformation to be spread like wildfire on these nets.) Exchanging boat cards with email addresses is a great way to stay in touch over longer distances and over the long term. Lots of cruisers email one another via Sailmail to plan a rendezvous, share information and stay in touch.

Weather information

Weather dictates our lives so it pays to understand weather patterns. We can find out from other cruisers, via nets and often weather maps are posted and many useful sites can be found on the Internet. Weather routers like Commanders Weather out of Vermont is another resource. Being able to retrieve your own weather faxes makes you better prepared. Learn as much as you can about interpreting weather maps. One of the most useful sources of information we have come across is the Metservice Yacht Pack put out by New Zealand’s Metservice weather forecasting service. Steve Dashew's "Mariner's Weather" and "Surviving the Storm" are helpful resources as well.

Weather faxes
To receive weather faxes aboard, we also purchased Weather fax for Windows from a New Zealand company called Xaxero, which we found on the Internet. The program included a demodulator to connect the computer to the short wave radio. Another weatherfax program is JVComm which doesn’t require a demodulator. We generally plug the demodulator into the headphone jack of the radio but since we need to be able to listen to the signal to fine tune to the station for the clearest signal, we need an adapter with 2 outlets making it possible to plug in earphones as well as the demodulator. After we are done tuning, we unplug the headphones and turn up the volume for best results.
We found out what stations to listen for weather from an incredibly valuable booklet called the Metservice Yacht Pack put out by New Zealand’s Metservice weather forecasting service. It includes useful information about weather patterns and specific sources for weather information around the Pacific ($29.95NZ or about $15US). Bob McDavitt, who caters to yacht needs, can be contacted through email: Russell Radio is a ship to shore net run out of New Zealand, that provides personalized weather forecasting for one’s current location while underway, and the time and frequency details for this and many other nets around the Pacific are included in the Metservice booklet. Many nets offer weather information and can be accessed easily via short wave radio. Grib files of weather data can be requested via sailmail or Winlink (listed in their online catalogs).

Modifications to Velella

Velella was basically a well found boat when we bought her in 1998, but not quite ready for blue water voyaging. Most of the initial modifications that we made follow:
o Replaced 21 year old stainless steel standing rigging
o Rerigged the main sheet for more purchase
o Replaced undersized bow pulpit
o Replaced hatches
o Removed roller furling
o Added inner forestay
o Added running backstay
o Painted deck and added non-skid
o Added bow netting and replaced lifelines
o Added Spade anchor and rode
o Replaced main, jib
o Raked spreaders
o Added topping lift
o Replaced running lights, tri color and Anchor lights with LED bulbs
o Added jib tracks
o Replaced dodger, made sailing and full awning
o Rigged main preventer
o Rigged jack lines for safety
o Cut cockpit window for ventilation
o Replaced wind vane
o Replaced prop with folding model
o Added trolling generator
o Added Rutland wind generator
o Added flexible solar panels
o Installed SSB, Pactor IIEx modem for sailmail, short Wave radio
o Installed weatherfax software
o Made knife rack
o Made crash bar for galley
o Made Sunbrella pouches for clothing storage
o Added seatback tie downs
o Built chain locker for enclosing chain under V-berth storage
o Added ventilated crates for vegetable storage
o Added Snapware canisters for air tight dry food storage
o Replaced speakers with non-magnetic ones
o Added fiddles for shelves
o Built book shelf
o Added Jordan Series drogue and sea anchor
o Added liferaft
o Added EPIRB
o Built 2 part nesting, sailing dinghy
o Added 2 horse outboard dinghy motor