Thursday, December 31, 2009

The End of the Beginning

A few mornings before Christmas, I woke suddenly and completely with a thought big and crystal clear in my head: We need to sell Don Quixote. I turned to my sleepy husband and pounced on him with this idea. DrC is not clear headed in the morning. Like most men, he can think of only a two things when awakened. One of them is coffee. If I were to get his full attention, it required that I dispose with these ideas first.

Moving on, the idea of selling Don Quixote fell on fertile emotional soil. We had seriously been noodling leasing her, but the logistics were a nightmare. Putting her on the hard for a year means a lot of expense and slow degradation of the boat without any real return to us. If we planned to cruise for several years after New Zealand, it would make sense to keep her. However, as I've mentioned before, we do not have that much cruising kitty left... maybe a year at most. Jaime is getting long in the tooth for cruising, Aeron would like to spend longer chunks of time in single locations. This summer tempted all of us with a glimpse of a nomadic land life. The absence of Don Quixote in our life would be a financial relief, but it could also be the lifting of a burden enabling us to consider completely different adventures going forward.

Christmas Day found me on the deck of s/v Totem talking with our good friends Behan and Jamie. We were discussing all the options for the future, New Zealand paperwork, and teenagers. Without any prompting, Totem asked me, “Have you thought about selling Don Quixote?” I was struck by this coincidence. Prior to this not a single soul – online or nautical – had asked me whether or not we wanted to sell her. In the cruising world in particular, boat selling and ending the cruising life are topics that no one brings up unless the owner opens the subject. I think it might be taboo. Yet, here was Totem asking about selling Don Quixote before I said anything.

“Why yes... we had just started thinking about it. But it seems... it seems like a really big idea.” I'm almost babbling.

Jaime was less sanguine. When we broached the idea with the girls, we met with mixed reactions. Jaime cried. In her deeply contemplative fashion, Mera thought about the idea and informed us that this made a great deal of sense. She was ready for a new experience. Aeron vacillated back and forth but was largely concerned about Dulcinea's reaction.

This is as far as we'd gotten when a note arrived in my Inbox three days later from a couple we'd met in the Sea of Cortez last summer. “Remember us? We're planning on cruising this fall, and we heard about New Zealand. Would you consider selling or leasing Don Quixote?”

Rule of Three* strikes again.

So if you asked me two weeks ago if we'd sell Don Quixote, I would have said, “Hell no!” And if you ask me today, I'm going to say, “What are you offering?”

The immediate plans do not change. We spend the next two weeks moving the boat back to La Paz. There we are going to clean and empty her out since – whether sold or on the hard – she needs to be empty and clean. Then we'll haul her, paint her bottom, and get a survey done. Again, this must be done. We can't sell her like she is, and we can't leave her on the hard without a new survey for insurance reasons.

But we'll also be exploring all the many varied options of how you list and sell a boat without spending a fortune. The first is, of course, the ubiquitous hive mind of my blog, Twitter feed, and Facebook account. If you know of anyone considering buying a Lagoon 380 in the Pacific, tell them now is the time to do so. There are very few of us out here, they rarely go on sale, and when they do, the owners are rarely as motivated and willing to do a good deal as we are. We will put together a web page with her specifications and equipment over the next week, and get it out to the hive mind with a URL as soon as possible.

Lonely Splendor
Lonely Splendor
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
The other thing that does not change is our status of “floating.” If cruising is way of thinking, a form of living without traditional boundaries and in a liquid state of adaptive learning, we continue our cruising life for the foreseeable future. Even without Don Quixote, we can cruise in a tramper in New Zealand or Australia, by train in Europe, via R.V in the United States. We can hike, bike, or park. Ironically, the cruising kitty can sustain us for many more years if we simply change the mode of transportation: Our boat is beautiful but like every boat afloat she is a black hole into which you pour money.

I think we needed the comfort and spacious beauty of our Lagoon catamaran to get us out of our incredibly plush, capacious and comfortable land lives. After nearly three years of living on her and two years of moving her from place to place, however, we know how to live much larger with much smaller accommodations, how to do a lot more with a lot less.

Believe it or not, the Conger family is ready to downsize and purge. Again.

* Rule of Three – If three things happen in quick succession that point you towards or away from a certain course of action, the Fates are trying to tell you something. It is a very good idea that you listen and obey.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Questions from the Class - Don't You Get Stir Crazy?

A fellow doctor interested in our experience on the boat and with getting a locums position in New Zealand passed on these questions from his wife: How did you not go stir crazy on the boat? Did you not feel that you were on top of each other?

Our Boat Parrot is a Cat
Our Boat Parrot is a Cat
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
My flip response is: Yeah, a boat is small, but you've got the biggest back yard in the entire world.

But this doesn’t get to the heart of her question. I truly believe that when people ask me this question it is less about how we cruising families can live on boats and more about how land based families can give up the comforts of home. It is a scary world outside the secure box we’ve been trained to build and maintain for ourselves and our loved ones. With a house in the suburbs, we have some degree of security and a great deal of familiarity with the rhythms, the requirements, the dangers, and the pleasures. Once we step off the porch and into the street, we are lost in a world of possibilities, not all of which are manageable and most of which are completely unfamiliar.

The way you move a family on to a boat is the way you must do everything in life. First, commit your whole being to the project. You -are- going to do this thing, whether it is getting on a boat and sailing away, climbing into an R.V. and driving around the country, or stepping on to a plane and moving to another country. This is, without question, the hardest step. Everything else is details. To make the commitment, you must believe with all your being that you are doing the right thing for yourself and your loved ones. You can’t go into this half-assed. This is why I object so strongly to the dragged aboard spouse. All members of the family must understand and agree to the endeavor, or it will not be successful. Over and over we’ve seen boats fail and go home because one or more of the crew just wasn’t committed to the life.

With all members of the family on board, you must build your walls against FUD: Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. These will plague you. Worse, your family, your friends, your colleagues at work and at school will question you. Many will be supportive on the surface, but underneath, their attitude distills to this expression of doubt: What the hell do think you are doing? Challenges to your decision are couched as concerns for your safety, for the well-being and health of your children, for the “socialization and education” of your off spring. You’ll get questions about road bandits, pirates, drug lords, murderers, swine flu, bad water, and storms. Everyone will be “impressed with your courage” and “would love to do something like that” themselves, but you’ll feel the subtext. Your decision challenges the foundation of their existence, their reason for getting up each morning, taking their children to the local public school, going to work, and voting the first week of every other November. And by doing so you are, in some fundamental way, the Enemy. Questioning your choices is their defense. Calm, patient, well-researched responses to the endless what-ifs is your way of making sure that those fears do not undermine your own decision making process.

Then, make a project plan to get you from Point A to Point B. Set dates. Make those dates as specific as possible. Set objectives. Make those objectives as concrete as possible. “Start homeschooling” is too vague. “Withdraw the kids from school March 3, 2010” is much better. To the extent that your funds and situation allow, try to phase the lifestyle changes over the course of several months or even years. In our family, I quit my job, six months later the kids quit school, four months passed and we moved from a 3,000 sq ft house to an 800 sq ft basement, another four months and we moved on to the boat, then three months later my husband quit his job and we left Seattle. By adapting to each major change, we made the entire process less overwhelming.

While you implement your project, let go. Let go of everything. Let go of all the Things that own you. Let go of all the assumptions you have about what you are and why you exist on this planet to serve the greater good of the American (or Canadian or British) economy. At each phase, challenge yourself and your spouse and your children to get rid of baggage: physical and mental. Discover the freedom of not owning stuff. Revel in the wonderful world that is your children’s imagination. Explore the inner voice that enjoys bedroom activities with the spouse, kneading bread, or knitting. Rediscover how good your loved ones smell, even after they have been working, playing, sweating, swimming. Let yourself get dirty.

And now that you are here... at Point B on the boat, in the R.V., settled in Australia, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Mexico, wherever. Now that you are here... ask yourself these questions again: How do you not go stir crazy on the boat? Don’t you feel that you are on top of each other?

The only time we go stir crazy on the boat is when we are pinned down for several days due to weather and can’t get ashore or in the water. After about the third day, we’re all absolutely mad to get some really vigorous exercise.

Our boat is plenty big enough for everyone. We rattle around and only occasionally knock into one another. We’ve never met a committed cruising family who didn’t adapt their lifestyle -- more or less successfully -- to their boat, no matter how small the craft. We get in each other’s way when cleaning, sometimes when cooking, and occasionally when sneaking up to the salon to stuff stockings on Christmas Eve.

You’ll be fine. You’re going to be successful, too.

Sunset at Salinas
Sunset at Salinas
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I'm Baking

Our First Sierra
Our First Sierra
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
“Jaime! What are you doing?! Get out of that!” I growl menacingly at my eldest daughter who is hovering over the stove.

“It's okay, Mom. I'm just testing them. It's been awhile since you made them. Maybe you didn't do it right,” she attempts to soothe me.

But I know what she's up to. I know my daughter. I know everything about my offspring. “Get OUT of the rolls. They are perfect. Back away from the rolls. Back away slowly,” I warn.

All three girls giggle as I advance on the galley with a deck brush raised in warning. Aeron and Mera attempt to divert me while Jaime slides three piping hot garlic rolls out of the pan and juggles them as she disappears into the port hull. My feints and dodges do no good, and the thieves disappear into a garlic and olive oil induced coma in their cabins.

The temperature mercifully dropped below 100 a few weeks ago, so I started baking again. I didn't know I loved to bake before I owned a boat. In fact, I barely acknowledged my skills as a chef. It's a well known fact in the Conger household that just because you can doesn't mean you should. And into this bucket, I long ago relegated my not inconsiderable capacity to convert raw materials into tasty, nutritious meals.

Boat life, however, provides the critical ingredient which is missing from land life cooking: time. It's fun to cook when you have the time to do it right. When you are not spending the day commuting, running errands, working, picking up the kids and ferrying them to after school activities or play dates, you have time to think about cooking. You have time to select ingredients, paw through books, and get creative. You can make bread and yogurt and cheese. You can test this and try that. There are lots of opportunities to just enjoy the physical mechanics of chopping, blending, stirring, whipping, and kneading.

Since we've been living on Don Quixote, my interest in everything having to do with cooking has increased. Oh sure, I like it when DrC takes over, and I get a night off. But as a rule, I do most of the cooking, the girls and DrC do all the cleaning. I do all the provision planning, write up the daily lists of what is edible and what is not to be touched as it has a place in a future meal. I supply the maternal nurturing gestures which maintain our sour dough yeast starter and our yogurt culture. We grow sprouts, we bake muffins and scones, we invent creative ways to use the sun to cook stuff.

Then the heat hit. When the heat hits down here, it isn't a metaphor. It hits you. Really super hard. You can't move. It takes the breath away. And positively the absolute last thing on earth you want to do is add even one micro-erg of heat to the boat through the process known as cooking. For weeks, I couldn't get any more creative than “cold.” If I could figure out a way to prepare or serve something without turning on the stove, it became dinner. As a result, we ate quite a bit of cereal, fruit, and store-bought yogurt. For nearly two months, I stored dish rags in the oven.

Praying at the Candy Altar
Praying at the Candy Altar
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
The northers, however, finally started blowing cool air down into the Sea of Cortez. For weeks, we've woken to a salon well down in the truly pleasant 70s. The days rarely top 90. So I pulled out my yeast, fed them a little honey, and started down the familiar baking path. In the past days, I've made cookies, muffins, and many many batches of garlic rolls. Two of those batches were supposed to be normal sandwich bread, but after the kids descended on the first batch like locusts after a week crossing the desert, it seemed like a good idea to just pump out the garlicky goodness until they subsided.

This cool weather better last awhile.

Friday, December 18, 2009

TechTip: Listen to a Book

Short Answer
Since good English language books are hard to find outside of English speaking countries, and you can’t read anyway when you are on watch, download and listen to an audio book from

Long Story
We on Don Quixote have heard too many horror stories of nit wits who set a course on the autopilot, walking away to read, watch a movie, have sex, or take a nap. So we are very careful. Someone is always sitting the helm watching the instruments and the horizon no matter how benign the conditions. If the seas are fairly large or it is the middle of the night, the primary helm is either DrC or myself. However, if the seas are relatively light, there is no significant traffic, or we’re doing rotating night watches, we’ll put one of the girls on the helm. All three can man the helm for at least a half an hour, and Jaime is capable of a full three hour watch. Even a half hour in the middle of the night can do wonders to rest your crew.

However, I have two problems as a sailor on the helm: I get bored easily, and I have a short attention span and get bored easily. No seriously. It’s horrible. I absolutely can not sit still on the helm, particularly on those fortunate days when Mr. Auto Pilot is ably running the show. My solution is podcasts and audio books.

Now if you listen to podcasts already, the rest of this blog is redundant. is not only the leading provider of spoken word entertainment, but it is the single largest sponsor of podcasts on the Internet. Audible sponsors pretty much all my favorite podcasters including TWiT, Slate, and the Science Channel.

We download so many hours of free podcasts, it’s a wonder we have time to listen to yet more content. But if even the incredible wealth of free material is insufficient... for example if you are sailing to the South Pacific... then I recommend that you join and start downloading books. They are not cheap. I don’t care how many times I hear about how you can get a free book or that it only costs $14.99 per month, that still seems expensive to me. A fifteen dollar book is expensive. On the other hand, an audio book can mean 15 to 30 hours of entertainment which when contrasted with a movie is not a bad price at all. This is also a great way to get best sellers which are otherwise completely inaccessible to a cruiser traveling in distant ports.

To sign up for an Audible account, browse to You can get a code for a free month on sponsored podcasts such as the ones I mentioned above as well as many others. Just check their feeds.

As the sponsored ‘casters so often do when talking about Audible, I shall also include in my endorsement of a recommendation of an Audible book. I am currently listening to David Sedaris read his own collection of essays Me Talk Pretty One Day. There is no question this book is better read by the author. Other books which sound better delivered by the author include Steve Martin’s autobiography Born Standing Up, Jon Stewart’s America: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, and John Hodgeman’s great sequel More Information Than You Require.

CChummy Today
Chummy Today
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Audio books can make a long boring watch pass quickly. They enable a sailor to learn while contemplating the horizon and go a long ways towards easing the difficulty of staying awake through those graveyard shift anchor watches during a strong norther. Hitting a single freighter in the middle of the night would cost far more than a few years’ worth of Audible books. So arguably, it makes Audible a sound economic investment.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Boat Kids Overheard

I Like Sea Urchin
I Like Sea Urchin
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Boat kids are a special breed of child. They swim like dolphins, climb like monkeys, and lead lives full of exploration, play and wonder. They also say some of the dangest things.

DrC was carving up a tuna on the deck during a kid party. He was surrounded in a sea of bleached blonde heads.

Eric (4): Captain, you don’t want to start cutting there.
Robin (9): He’s right. Start at the anus.
Casey (14): What do you think he’s eaten?
Jaime (12): We found a little octopus once!
Robin: We found someone else’s bait!
Finn (8): Have you ever had sea urchin? That’s really good eating.

* *

The market is always a good place to spur the kids to explore.

Jaime points at some unusual vegetable, “What do you think that is?”

Mera stares at it a moment, clearly unwilling to touch it, “I don’t know. It’s in the abbarotes section, though, so it must be edible.”

To which Aeron replies in resignation, “Ah man... don't show Mom. She'll just cook it with onions, garlic and olive oil and make us learn how to spell it.”

* *

Manners are super important -- particularly if you want to return. This scene took place on coming into Isla Ixtapa Grande and swimming over to visit s/v Merry Lee.

Aeron calls from the water, “Captain, permission to board.” Captain Lewis looks a little surprised and grants permission.

Then Jaime, “Permission to board, please?” Again, the affirmative.

Romi (8) pipes in her small voice half filled with water as the wake from a passing panga nearly swamps her, “Per*glup* mission.... *breath* ... to board....” Merry Lee’s captain is starting to look a bit panicked as a veritable school of polite boat kids appear to invade his home.

Mera believes in eye contact so she uses the swim ladder to pull her head up high enough to see the captain, “Captainia de Velaro, permission por favor?” This interesting hybridization of Spanish and English raises a few eyebrows. Captain Lewis shrugs and rolls with it, “Si.”

Kirk of Bay Wolf, already resident with a glass of wine in the cockpit, notes, “We probably should have mentioned that Don Quixote and Bay Wolf travel with five kids between us.” Miya bounces up to the swim ladder, “Me too? Permission to board?”

“That’s five!” Aeron offers helpfully as she and her sisters drip a gallon of sea water into the cockpit.

Captain Lewis laughs, “That’s five. Come on aboard!!”

* * *

Boat kids frequently have better radio protocol than their adult traveling companions. There is also something delightful about their high voices on the VHF which causes everyone to switch channels to eavesdrop. Once during the April Sailing Week 2009, thirty some odd boats joined s/v Profligate of Latitude 38 fame for a wonderful week of fun, good company and fantastic downwind sailing. Richard Spindler and the girls bonded... the girls wanting to take advantage of the opportunity to play on a 60' catamaran and Richard basically having a child's joy in the wonderful powers of pure play.

Mayan or Egyptian?
Mayan or Egyptian?
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Mera: Profligate, Profligate, Profligate, this is Don Quixote.

Richard: Don Quixote, Profligate. Which one am I talking to?

Mera: This is Mera.

Richard: Hello Mera! Good morning, how are you and your sisters?

Mera: We're good. We shouldn't talk on this channel. Can we switch to 72?

Richard: Of course, 72.

At this point, theoretically only Don Quixote and Profligate should be on 72. However, it's morning, the weather is calm and gorgeous, and Mera's voice booms across the anchorage as 30 boats switch to channel 72 to listen to Richard and Mera.

Mera: This is Don Quixote on 72. Are you there Profligate?

Richard: I'm right here Mera.

Mera: Okay Richard. You're on Profligate. You need to say that. Can we come over and play? We want a play date with you.

Richard's laughter rolls through the anchorage: Yes Mera. You can come and play.

* *

Tuna again, this time after the guts are overboard, and the kids trying to figure out what to do next.

Tim (10): I recommend that we make fillets and put them on the barb-b.
Robin: Nah, let’s eat it raw. I bet they’ve got some wasabi on this boat.
Eric: I had it wrapped in bacon once. It was real good.
Aeron: Anything wrapped in bacon is good.
Finn: Sea urchin wrapped in bacon would be -really- good.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Eaten Alive!

High View
High View
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Isla San Francisco is a jewel in the chain of islands that line the Baja California Sur coastline from La Paz to Bahia de Los Angeles. A little bit of an island just east of San Evaristo, the island boasts three lovely anchorages, each offering protection from a different wind point. The views range from the wide open vista of the Sea of Cortez on the east side to an absolutely stunning panorama of the layered, sculpted Sierra de Gigantes. We always plan our trips through this region to include at least one - preferably several - days at Isla San Francisco where we hike, snorkel, and enjoy amazing sunrises and sunsets.

So it was with anticipation that we pulled into the southwest anchorage of Isla San Francisco. We had pulled anchor early in Los Gatos and motor sailed the 20 miles south in light, frustrating winds. The winds were so light at one point that we put the kids on harnesses and lines and threw them off the back to float along with us for a few miles as we transited the San Jose Channel. With dusk falling, we had a pleasant evening of rum drinks, rosemary beans, and fresh yeast rolls to look forward to as we tucked into the litter box, a shallow section of the anchorage on the very southern most tip just inside a natural breakwater.

The first few minutes went about as expected. A little kerfuffle skuffling over who does what as we settled in for the night. It’s Jaime’s night for dishes. No it’s not! It’s Mera’s. No it isn’t! I don’t CARE whose night it is, just get the dirty dishes off the d* table... You know. The usual.

Then they arrived. It was like a scene out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. A cloud of insects perked up, noticed six juicy tasty creatures had pulled up a mere dozen yards off the shoreline, and swooped down upon us. The bug tornado consisted of a few bobos, a fleet of mosquitos, and about seven berjillion no-see-ums.

Slap. “Ouch! Ooow... Ow! Bugs!”

The crew scrambled out, “Get the screens!” “Where are they?” “Behind the freezer in the office... hurry!” “Close Jaime’s porthole, she pitched the screen overboard last week!” “Got the shower hatch!” “Screens up!”

The mosquitos buzzed in impotent fury at the screens. They lined up, an army of proboscis-wielding blood suckers waiting for us to get stupid and slip out the door for a moment of fresh air. But we were smarter than that! We were ready! We had Screens! So we settled down to eat, smugly assured of our safety.

Slap. Smack! “Ouch! Oooow.... Ow! Omigod what is that thing?”

The crew tumbled out of the salon seats, smacking our exposed arms and legs with a collective cry of “What the hell?” The air of the salon was alive with microscopic, fast moving, flying vampires each armed with a ray of sting-death. They would alight on an arm or leg and dig in for the duration, plumping up and leaving behind a small red dot which itched worse than a 10-day-old road rash scab.

There was nothing else we could do. We shut every window, dogged down all the hatches. This served to trap a metric buttload of no-see-ums inside the boat, but no new ones could sneak in. Then the entire family began to slap, smack, and smear. Smearing was for the nasty bastards who had already eaten. They would settle on the white ceiling, fat black spots full of juicy gooey blood, slow and lethargic as they indulged in a post-feast siesta. These evil minions of bloody doom were the easy ones to kill with a well placed thumb. We spent the night huddled under sheets with the windows shut and the fans on, dying from a combination of slow blood loss and incredible, suffocating heat.

At the first glimmer of dawn, we ran away. We pointed the boat into the wind, fired up both engines, and tried to blow the remaining bugs out of the boat. It didn’t work. The entire day was spent eliminating black terror dots. The most effective method was to go to a no-see-um hideout... say the cockpit... and bare two fat juicy calves then wait. Wait for it. Wait for it. Slap! Another one down. We eliminated thousands using this method until our calves and forearms were a solid smear of jejenay guts. The only creatures with a stronger blood lust than no-see-ums are apparently my husband and children when exacting revenge.

Layered Morning
Layered Morning
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Even so, the battle was a draw leaving everyone on the boat looking very much as though we had caught a particularly virulent strain of the measles. We were exhausted from lack of sleep, tension, and itchiness. Dean slapped cortisone on everyone, poured two rums down each of the adults, and sent everyone to bed early. We’re told it will only take a week or so for the red spots and itchiness to fade. I suspect it will take longer for my high-strung family to relax enough to not smack every black dot they see.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Guide to Reviewing a Catamaran

Which Lagoon Do You Want?
Which Lagoon Do You Want?
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
I just completed a totally inadequate review of the Seawind 1160 in a popular cruising magazine and must now rant. Like just about every article written in recent memory about a cruising catamaran, this one told me nothing useful. 

Let me first note what is consistently wrong with these articles which appear in everything from local free circulars and web sites to glossy, expensive sail publications: The author is probably an expert on monohulls with little to no expertise in multihulls in general and cruising catamarans in particular. He will be impressed by/happy with/surprised by the following:
- the spaciousness and comfort of the living quarters
- the speed with which the vessel accelerates to the wind
- the downwind performance
- the stability and comfort at anchor even in considerable ocean swell
- the excellent maneuverability in docking situations with two widely separated motors

He will be disturbed by/unhappy with/dissatisfied with the following:
- the poor upwind performance
- the loud boom or slap when water hits the bridge deck while underway
- the uneven, “hobby horse” motion in choppy seas
- the tendency to “sail around” at anchor
- the poor visibility of the far side of the boat during docking maneuvers

The only thing you have learned thus far is that the author was on a catamaran. Every single cruising catamaran -- ALL of them -- have the above listed advantages and disadvantages when contrasted with their cruising monohull brethren. Without exception. If the author is now done with his 3,000 word review, he shouldn’t get paid.

I am not the catamaran bigot I was two years ago. Years out here have shown clearly why reasonable people can look at multihulls versus monohulls and choose to purchase the later. There are benefits and disadvantages to every style of boat, every model, and category. Catamarans have issues just like ketches, schooners, sloops, fractional rigs, etc. But if you are going to review a catamaran, I need you to describe the performance characteristics of the specific catamaran you are looking at. Don’t tell me what I already know simply because the vessel you are looking at has two hulls.

I recommend that all reviewers of multihull craft -- including individuals considering a catamaran purchase -- ask and make sure you get answered these questions:

  1. Fully loaded, at what wind speed does this catamaran finally start moving?
  2. What is the standard sail package and is it sufficient for the vessel? For example, does it come equipped with a functional light air sail? A bow sprit?
  3. What is the boat’s predicted performance at various points of sail? There is “not going to weather”, and then there is never sailing very well forward of the beam.
  4. Are there dagger boards, and do they improve the performance of the craft?
  5. What provision for bulkhead isolation is standard? Some production catamarans have no sealable bulkheads from stem to stern while others do a very fine job of breaking the boat into discrete, secure chunks improving safety in the event of hull breech or turning turtle.
  6. Are there escape hatches?
  7. Is the galley up or down?
  8. What is the head room in the salon and in the cabins?
  9. What is the ratio of the length to the beam, and what is the beam of the individual hulls?
  10. What is the bridge deck clearance?
  11. Where are the water tanks, and what is their capacity? Ditto fuel tanks. Trim and weight load is a serious consideration on a catamaran.
  12. What is the forward visibility while seated at the helm?
  13. Describe the access to key systems such as the engines, the rudder and throttle controls, and the head plumbing.
  14. What is the theoretical hull speed?
  15. During your sea trial, what fraction of wind speed did you feel you could push the boat to with a strong degree of consistency?
  16. How challenging would it be to single-hand the boat? If the default rig is not configured to easily single-hand, how much would you need to invest to get it there?
* * *

There are many more details I could add. However, even answering this short set of questions would go a long way towards improving the quality and utility of catamaran reviews. It would certainly assist a potential buyer with comparing catamarans across brands, models and years. If you are a catamaran owner seeking to sell your craft, a dealer or a manufacturer, I encourage you to immediately sit down and figure out how to answer these questions yourself. I assure you, DrC and I at least will insist on the answers before we purchase our next boat.
Cat or Mouse?
Cat or Mouse?
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A Little Extra Protein

Jaime Helm
Jaime Helm
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
A high pitched scream fills the boat, emanating from the salon. I leap out of the starboard bow where I am looking for a replacement bulb for the deck light and grab the advanced medical kit en route. A scream like that must mean a major knife cut. “What is it!? Who is it?!”

A gasp of horror and a huge indrawn breath from Jaime as I enter the salon, “OH MY GOD Mom, it MOVED.” She is standing at the table staring aghast at a bin of flour.

I draw a blank, “It moved.”

“The flour. It MOVED. Oh my god... LOOK it's moving again!!!” Mera and Aeron peer at the open container.

Aeron notes calmly, “She's right. It moves.” Why look at that. She pokes the powder with a testing finger and watches the entire mass roil slightly. “Cool.”

Mera doesn't think it's cool. Mera is a bit disgusted, “Eeew. What is wrong with it?”

“What is wrong with it? What is WRONG with it?! It's alive, that's what's WRONG with it!” Jaime shouts.

Okay, no blood, no band-aid. I put down the med kit and join the girls to stare at the teeming mass of bugs in our erstwhile dinner rolls. Apparently, we are not going to be having garlic bread with dinner this evening. I attempt to placate my eldest, “It's not really that bad. Just a bit of extra protein.”

She shoots me a classic teenage look of disgust and contempt. I'm worse than the flour. “No way. No -way- I am eating anything made with that.”

The gauntlet now thrown, I am tempted to get to work making yeast bread. However, when I pick up the container, a good dozen black moving creatures rise to the top and giggle at me. I swear I hear little chitters and snickers. I swallow both my pride and my gorge and admit, “Okay, you're probably right. There's not much we can do with this.”

Aeron looks disappointed, “Can I keep em?”

Jaime steps up, all officialdom, “No. You may not Keep M. Those are bugs. We do not want bugs on the boat.”

It's true. We don't want bugs on the boat. Bugs on the boat are a very Bad Thing. There are two basic kind of bugs you really do not want on a boat: weevils in the flour and roaches on the floor. Of the two, however, weevils are the easier problem to solve. “I have to agree with your sister, Aeron. We don't want weevils on the boat. You can throw them overboard.”

Mera asks, “Do they float?”

Inside Joke
Inside Joke
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
“More to the point, do they swim!?” Aeron is delighted with her new project. The flour bin gets swooped up, and my spawn are off to the transom where they throw flour and weevils around for 15 minutes testing such important scientific questions as: Do weevils fly? Why does flour float? Why do weevils sink? Why does flour clump in the salt water? What happens when you throw the flour upwind? and Just how much flour can we get on the boat before Mom's head explodes?

Glad someone is having fun. DrC says he saw a roach last night. All I can say is that he'd better be wrong, or we're going to need that medical kit after all. I'm going to have to kill myself.