Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cruising under sail is not that expensive until you stop

I often tell people that our lifestyle is not that expensive, so long as we are on the boat, cruising and anchoring at night. All this changes when one enters a port where the temptations are many. Add to that the  need to paint and repair the boat every couple of years and an airfare or two half way round the world, and this whole thing does not look like such a bargain.

I am heading back to the boat today, flying out of Vancouver to Los Angeles and then across the Pacific via Papeete, Tahiti, to Auckland. What took 8 months last year on Ladybug is compressed into a long day. In my bags are spare parts and replacement clothing and shoes to last us for another year or two, hopefully.

We bought an AIS equipped VHF radio so that if I sail Ladybug home on my own, next year, Rani will have some peace of mind. The AIS system provides a warning when commercial shipping is within a certain distance of our boat and sounds an alarm if a collision is possible. Most commercial ships are now equipped with AIS transceivers by law. We held off on buying one of these units because they used to be expensive and required a separate VHF antenna or a splitter. Standard Horizon now makes one for under $350 including the mail-in rebate - with free shipping out of Ontario.

We ordered a new membrane for our water maker. These are quite cheap in the US ($160), but not easy to find in Canada and very expensive in NZ ($450). Ours is a 21 inch long 2.5 inch wide membrane that should allow us to make about 25 liters of nice fresh water per hour. The two old membranes were installed in 2003 and were producing water that was slightly too salty to taste good. I will remove one membrane and pressure vessel from the system to keep things simple and improve the overall water quality. From what I have gleaned from manufacturer's specs, having a second 21 inch membrane in series with the first, yields only 6 liters more per hour at the low flow rate achieved by our electric pump. It also increases the dissolved solids by maybe 15 percent, plus you have the extra membrane cost and the complexity of high pressure (800 psi) plumbing.

The membrane had a tortuous journey from California, via my friend Kurt's house in Northern California and then by 'First Class' USPS mail (which I discovered has NO standard of service!). The membrane took a couple of days to make it to Kurt's house and three weeks to get to Richmond BC from there. If you do plan on using USPS for a parcel from the US to Canada, probably go up a level and pay for tracking and guaranteed delivery within a finite time.

We also purchased an Olympus 820 underwater/tough camera to replace our aging and quirky Canon point and shoot. We hope to take some underwater snaps in Fiji, where the corals are reputed to be even better than Tonga. This model is discontinued, but on sale now at Futureshop and Best Buy and seems like a lot of camera for the money.

Our final large purchase is an 11.6 inch notebook that is just a hair bigger and a lot faster than the netbook we bought a few years ago for Rani. My 5 year old 7 inch netbook has a quirky keyboard and sometimes refuses to turn on, so we thought it would be prudent to have two decent small computers since we now rely on them as our primary chart source. This new computer is fast enough to process our home movies from the Sony videocam and I produced the penguin video on the blog using it. Our old netbooks could not even display the videos from the videocam, let alone edit them.

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