What Living on a Boat is REALLY Like

Spoiler alert: we’re still docked in Brunswick.

Silver lining: we’ve been working on Sabado and making new friends!

Let’s rewind to last week when I was too lazy to write-

Monday was the 4th of July. We didn’t do anything in particular, but Sabado had front-row seats to the local firework show, so we ate some red, white, and blue nachos and watched from the bow. 🎇🎆

On Tuesday, we noticed one of our air conditioning units had shut off due to low voltage. Since we run our AC on shore power, we notified the marina. The marina sent an electrician over, who determined that the marina’s power demand outweighs its capacity. Typically, we’d receive ~120 volts when plugged into shore power, but we were only getting 105 volts. To solve the problem, the marina will need to upgrade all its transformers, which is a long and expensive process. They handled the situation perfectly- they offered to move us to a spot with less surrounding power demand, assured us that since the power is metered, we wouldn’t be charged for anything we weren’t getting, and notified the rest of the marina of the issue and their plan to repair it so everyone could check their power supplies and plan accordingly. Luckily, we could make due by limiting how many of our AC units run at a time. 

Wednesday afternoon we were lounging around the salon, waiting for the afternoon heat to die down, when we noticed a catamaran making its way to the fuel dock. Just as they passed Sabado, both of their engines died. Luckily, it was flat and calm with minimal current. They drifted towards the dock as several marina staff members grabbed their lines and pulled them in. Ray decided to run over and make sure they were okay/see if there was anything we could do to help. The couple who owned the boat turned out to be subscribers of ours! Thankfully, they were able to get a mechanic to come out and fix the issue while on the fuel dock, but after what they’d experienced, their confidence was shaky. Ray offered to accompany them as they returned to their slip from the fuel dock as an emotional support crew member; if something happened again, they’d have an extra pair of hands aboard to help! They made it back safely and offered to take us out later in the week as a thank you. 

That evening we were feeling social (a rare occurrence), so we decided to attend the marina happy hour. We ended up meeting the sweetest couple who just bought their Lagoon 39! The 4 of us hit it off and eventually got kicked out of the marina clubhouse at closing time. We were invited over to their boat to sample their bourbon inventory and stumbled back to Sabado later that night. 

Thursday morning, we were experiencing the consequences of our actions (🥃🍸🍹=😴🥴😵)… Regardless, Ray decided to tackle something that’s been on his to-do list for a while now: switching out the joker valve in the guest cabin head. This is one of the more unpleasant jobs for boat owners, but it must be done! Let me get you up to speed: a joker valve is what allows solids to pass through while preventing any backflow back into the toilet bowl (AKA the reason our 💩 disappears when we flush). Over time, these valves wear out and need to be replaced. It’s a stinky job, so I’ll spare you the details, but we were able to check it off our list by the end of the day. 👏🏼

Once the valve was replaced, I deep cleaned the bathroom and came back upstairs to this:

Afternoon storms are like clockwork here. Every day around 4 pm, the dark clouds creep in, and the rain is quick to follow. 

Typically these storms only last an hour or two, but they tend to come with lightning a little more often than we’d like… 

On Friday, we had some more AC problems. This time they were not power related; they were gunk related. Our AC units use seawater as coolant, and the water here… well… the water here looks like this: 

So, understandably, we’ve been experiencing some clogs. Typically when this happens, we can get away with simply cleaning the sea strainer. However, the problem seemed to go beyond that this time. Ray decided to try and flush the lines with clean, fresh water. 4hrs, lots of sweat, and one minor freshwater geyser explosion later, this was what the boat was looking like: 

We eventually admitted defeat. It was time to consider Barnacle Buster. Barnacle Buster is a tried and true solution to these growth-related clogs, but it’s an expensive product and a difficult job. Plus, it involves using a strong acid cleanser, which can damage the system if you use it too often. In the past, we’ve just hired someone to come and take care of it once a year, but in this economy, we decided to order the supplies online and teach ourselves how to do it.

We placed our order and headed to the clubhouse for a well-deserved happy hour beverage. We met up with the couple who had been having engine problems and chatted with them about the cruising lifestyle. They both had recently retired and just bought their boat. Unfortunately, their engines weren’t the only thing giving them problems. They were beginning to feel overwhelmed by the number of things that were breaking, despite having a recent survey of the boat say that it was in excellent condition. We were quick to tell them that everything they are experiencing is normal. At any given moment, something on Sabado is broken. Even though we’re the first owners, she’s still a relatively new boat, and we take excellent care of her; she’s still a boat! Imagine tossing your house into the ocean- the motion of the waves, the salt, constant sun exposure, and wind- something is bound to break. And even if nothing’s broken, there’s plenty of routine maintenance work, cleaning, polishing, and UV protecting to do. We’re always working on something! Most boaters say, “if nothing on your boat is broken, you just haven’t looked hard enough,” or “cruising is just fixing your boat in beautiful places.” 

I don’t know how comforting this conversation was for them; it was probably nice to hear that they aren’t having problems because they bought a crappy boat, but is it worse to hear that you will be trying to fix it forever? 

The next day we decided to change the oil in our generator. Aside from the heat, it was a relatively easy job. 

That’s the thing about boat projects, though: the tasks themselves aren’t always complicated, but the number of things you have to take out of storage to use, the yoga poses you have to contort yourself into to access what you need to work on, and the mess you have to clean up after can turn a 1hr project into an all-day activity. 

Tuesday afternoon, our new friends (from the boat with the engine troubles) offered to drive us to Costco so we could restock Sabado. The nearest Costco is over an hour’s drive away, so the 4 of us passed the time by brainstorming solutions for a few of the problems they’re having on their boat, re-emphasizing our previous message about fixing things being a constant but normal job. We ate some hotdogs and grabbed what we needed before heading home and waiting out yet another rainstorm. 

The next day our Barnacle Buster supplies arrived. See those white spots in that tube? 

Yeah, those are live barnacles growing inside the hose. To get rid of them, we set up a system of hoses that deliver the chemical mixture into the lines, then drain it (and anything it disintegrates) into a bucket for us to dispose of. This is what the boat looked like during this whole process:

Yikes, right?! I think this is an excellent time to mention our YouTube channel. We try our best to pick up a camera whenever something breaks or even when we’re just doing routine maintenance tasks, but we still don’t film ~60% of the work we do because of this 👆🏼. When the boat is an absolute disaster, you’re sweating your ass off, climbing into small compartments, etc., it’s tough to find a place to set the camera up, and if you do, it’s unlikely you’ll be getting any good footage. Those compartments are cramped and dark, two of the most challenging conditions for us to get a usable shot that’s in focus. 😅 That’s why you usually see us stop posting videos when we’re on the dock for extended periods because this is what we’re up to! 

One thing we do and will continue to do, however, is write about it. Hearing these new cruisers’ experiences has been a great reminder that sharing the not-so-glamorous aspects of boat life is important. I think it’s very easy to watch a few YouTube videos and get the impression that this lifestyle is all sunshine and snorkeling, but it’s not! So we’ll be more intentional in the future about snapping a quick picture and writing about what we work on each week in addition to all our fun adventures. 

That said, we spent all day Thursday putting the boat back together and cleaning up. 

Friday afternoon, we noticed the watermaker was doing an automatic flush (this happens every 5 days), but it wasn’t making its usual sound. Red flag. Ray hopped into the engine compartment to take a closer look, and it was not actually flushing. It wasn’t doing anything at all. When something like this happens, here is how we approach it:

First, Ray takes his voltmeter and tests the wires. This usually allows him to pinpoint which part of the system is failing. This time it was the control board, specifically only one of the three channels the board houses- the channel that sends the power needed for the flush feature. Once we understood that, we were able to rig up a temporary solution to complete the flush manually. 

Then, we open a bottle of wine and troubleshoot potential long-term solutions. This part of our approach usually includes Ray giving me a crash course on any relevant info that I may not know. As someone who grew up on boats and has an engineering degree, Ray tends to have a higher baseline knowledge of these systems than I do. Once I’m up to speed, we pitch ideas back and forth to each other, consult google, email the manufacturer, read up about similar cases posted in online forums, and sip our wine. We found our answer at the bottom of our bottle of Pinot Noir. Unfortunately, what we came up with is expensive and time-consuming, so we’ll be here a while longer. I’ll give you the full rundown next week. 

Saturday was my birthday, so we tabled our boat problems for the time being. With Ray, every day feels like my birthday, but as usual, he did everything he could to make it extra-special. ❤️ I somehow managed not to take a single picture, but we had a great day followed by dinner and drinks with friends!🥰 Thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday! I felt so loved and will work my way through responding to everyone today. 🥹 

That’s all I have to report! I hope you had a great week. ❤️

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