So what’s it like?

We get asked over and over, ‘what’s it like living on a boat?’

Well, it’s really different. Especially from our previous lifestyle. 

We went from a 3 bedroom 2 bath 2 car garage house, to renting  a bedroom of a house, we didn’t rent the house, just the bedroom once we moved to Florida.

Once we bought our boat, it seems bigger than the bedroom but obviously smaller than our house. 

While we have many things to learn about a boat, we have learned many things so far. 

Living on a boat is small.  So small that only one person can be in the kitchen at a time. If we are going from front to back, there is some shuffling of ourselves to get past the other person. 

There is no insulation on a boat. So when it’s hot, you can tell. When it’s cold, you can tell. We do have heat and air condition onboard but it is nowhere like a house unit. Also with no insulation, you can hear everything and I mean everything. The wind outside, people talking on the dock, the good and bad singers at the bar next door, each other in the bathroom. Hey, life happens. 

Living on a boat you feel the wind. When it blows, the boat rocks back and forth. Now it is soothing. Before it was not so soothing. When other boats go by, the wakes rock the boat. Please watch your wake. There is nothing worse than things falling off shelfs because a moron goes by too fast. 

Some people say ‘oh, so it’s like camping?’  Well in some aspects, very similar. A step up from tent camping but a step down from a RV. 

We have a very simple life and don’t take things for granted anymore. The trade off is less to no stress for such a simple lifestyle. When I say simple I mean simple. We gave up the walk-in closets to wear pretty much the same clothes every week. A pair of shoes, a pair of flip flops or we are barefoot. Try turning all your clothes hangers the same direction and when you wear something turn that hanger around. You will be surprised how many clothes you don’t wear. 

Once we got down to a simple lifestyle of getting only what we need instead of what we want, we were no longer ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’.  This allowed for only one income. How many people can say they were able to retire in their 30’s?  No we don’t have a fortune to live off of but we are no longer paying a fortune for everything we have or owe for either. 

Here is a walk through:

(Below photos are not ours or of our boat but similar)

You get on our boat by pier. You enter the cockpit (area that you steer the boat). This is also a nice covered outside lounging area. We consider this area our front porch, if a boat could have a porch (or stoop). 

 You enter the boat by a companionway (steps down into the boat). At this point you can side step to the left and you’re in the kitchen. It has a two burner stove and oven, double sink and an ice box. Notice I didn’t mention a refrigerator because we done have one. The ice box is a box that holds ice and our food. It is not an ice maker. So we buy blocks of ice to keep our food cold. Only fresh food, nothing frozen because there is no freezer either. Sounds horrible to most, no refrigeration, but we have lived this way for almost a year and still have whatever we want as long as it’s not frozen. We just don’t buy as much at the store. 

Turn around from the sink and your facing the rear of the boat and the rear berth (bedroom). This is where our queen sized mattress is located. 

If you side step to the right, away from the kitchen, you are now in the head (bathroom). It has an electric head (toilet) and shower in the same area, with a sink. 

Back at the bottom of the steps, walk forward and two steps later you are in the saloon (dining room), when the table is up. Put the table down and we have another bed/lounge area to watch tv. Across from the dining room table is another bench to sit on that also doubles as a single bed. 

Going right past the dining room, another two steps is the v-berth (front bedroom) which we use as storage for now because there are no bed coushins. 

So in short like a camper, but smaller, that floats (hopefully)  without insulation and constantly takes money for maintenance. Would we trade it for anything else? Well maybe not right now. 

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Some repairs can be done at our leisure.  Others, have a higher priority and need urgent repair.  The most recent,  another head repair (sigh) ranked pretty high up there on a timely repair.   Maybe a little less typing and a few more photos this time.

Essentially it started with a never before heard rattle. I took apart and put back together 3 times looking for the culprit.  It wasn’t until the third and most comprehensive take apart that I found this:


Then broke something else and ended up with this:


After everything was taken apart, it looked like this:


The new and old one:


Not to mention the tight working space to do all of this in:


After much frustration, it was all put back together.  What a much needed urgent repair.

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Just a matter of time.


When we purchased the boat, it came with an AM/FM cassette radio with cd changer.  Yes a cd changer.  While we don’t really have any cd’s or cassettes to listen to (does anyone anymore?), we did listen to the radio.

This little radio is just like the one in your car.  However we kept running into static on channels on a regular basis.  We tried changing out the antenna on the back, running the new antenna to a different location, and while the reception improved so slightly, the stations were still mostly static.  A few channels were better than others but not by much.

Eventually the radio bit the dust.  I mean the display stopped working, the volume stopped working and you couldn’t change any stations anymore.  While it did die on a station that we do listen to, is was hard to hear in the cockpit because we couldn’t change the volume anymore and it also had static.

We decided to replace the unit with a new ‘media’ unit.  This media unit is much smaller because it doesn’t play cd’s which we don’t have anyways.  We also purchased new speakers just because.  Who wants to have a new radio with old speakers?

Here is the old stereo mounted, it has seen some better days. Looks like it has seen some water damage over the years (but that’s a different project).


And the old inside speakers which didn’t look to be in bad shape, but we replaced anyways.



Here is the old yucky radio and the new shiny one side by side to show size difference.


And the new inside speakers installed.


The outside speakers were a little different.  They had to be a special type of speaker as to not interfere with the compass from the speaker magnet.  They are or were also weather resistant but time took its toll.  While the helm station is white and the speakers are white also, or supposed to be, after removing them and comparing with the new speaker, they were very yellow.  Also after closer inspection, the rubber surround that allows the speaker to move back and forth to make sound, was completely rotted away.  You can see the grill dots where there is supposed to be rubber. No wonder no matter how loud we turned it up you could still only barely hear the radio in the cockpit.


They were also sealed up to prevent water from entering (new ones were sealed back also).


And what the new one looks like installed at the helm.


The radio installed almost complete.


Separating the wires and keeping the spaghetti mess down to a minimum.


The finished install, all nice and clean looking.


The total cost: $148

Stereo: $85

Inside speakers: $19

Outside speakers: $44

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Gauges are Good…

Ever since we took delivery of At Ease, we have been slowly chipping away at the ‘to repair’ list.  There were a couple of items I had been putting off, just because of what I read and the complexity or so I thought.

Lets talk about tanks.  Not your regular fish tank, but more of storage type tanks.  We have three tanks, one fuel tank, one fresh water tank, and the third… well, not so fresh water.   They work just like your gas gauge in your car.  Our fuel gauge works just fine or at least we think as we haven’t ran the engine enough to use much fuel.  The water tank gauge ‘works’ as the needle sweeps however it always says we have a full tank, even when we ran out of water.  The holding tank gauge (waste tank or not so fresh water tank) always says empty, even when it is full.  Both are a problem because they both only hold so much.  If you run out of fresh water we cannot do dishes or brush your teeth or fill our cups to drink.  Likewise if the holding tank is full, we are in even a worse predicament.

So why do you ask it is so complicated?  It sounds pretty easy right?  Well what I have read is that the gauges and senders have to match in ohms resistance and there were two different ones to pick from.  The American standard (240-33 ohms) and the European standard (0-180 ohms).  I looked all over each gauge, and sender and neither gave a hint to which they were.  I searched several sailboat forums and it was hit or miss on which it could be.  Just depended on where the maker sourced parts from for that particular build. So I could buy an American sender and it may work or I may have an European gauge and it not work.  After several weeks of going back an forth with no avail, I started digging a little deeper.  I contacted the gauge manufacturer and they wanted to know numbers and any photos of them so they could figure it out.



After a few tries, they determined they were the European style and suggested I could replace with the same and then find out the gauges don’t work or replace them all with new American standard style. We are going to replace them all.  I took the water sender out.  Well I took the top cap off because the remains had broken off and fallen into the tank.  You can see next to the new stainless one, the old plastic one had broken apart (yes it was very difficult to fish the old remains out of a 3/4″ hole).


The new one cost $47.99, and here it is after I installed it.


Water tank sender complete, now on to the holding tank sender. I found the sender I needed online and it was $97, ouch.  I looked on eBay and was thrilled to find the exact same one that someone bought by mistake (maybe needed the European one?) and it was new in box for $15.  SCORE!

The timing was crucial for the pomp out guy to empty the holding tank, so not to be left with an undesirable mess.  All the due diligence of our head care finally came back to help out because there was no odor.  Whew!  Old broken sender carefully removed to reveal it was broken into three sections.


The new shiny stainless replacement:


Now here comes the tricky part.  With the water sender, it just screwed into place.  Very easy replacement.  This one was a juggling act of fingers folding like pretzels, the little metal C shaped ring and hoping not to drop anything into the tank to be lost forever. Just a drawing and small paragraph that said something like, start with one screw, insert C insert another screw, rotate, don’t drop then tighten.

Yeah, that was the hardest and most time consuming part. The instructions should have just been as well in a different language.  Anyways, here is the finished install:

Sealant was not required and was not used on the rubber gasket, but rather just applied to the outside edge just to add an extra layer of comfort.  Next was for the gauges to be installed.  I had Alicia do the install and wiring of the gauges ($25 each).  It was her first time with electrical, she did great and they worked!


Total project ~$125 plus. Great success and no more guessing on tank levels.

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Return of Newton, grr!

After giving our Yanmar (engine) some new oil and filters I decided it would be a good idea to flush and change the coolant.

After some reading, it didn’t seem to be a big deal or take a whole lot of time either so I was thinking, ‘why not?’ There are a couple of drain hoses (seen in not my photo below) and a fill cap (also not my photo below). Pretty easy I guess.coolant-engine-yanmar-port-aft-quartercoolant-1

I’m not completely illiterate when it comes to some minor mechanic work.  The only issue is where some things change because of a marine environment, or use of specialty parts, or knowing which items are left handed threads instead of standard, or Japanese instead of British standard.

After draining the coolant, comes the flush.  I found a product that was safe for my engine (many are not) and followed the directions of fill, run, drain then fill again with water to flush clean, and repeat until water was clean.  Then fill back with new coolant.  Likewise this was ‘special’ coolant for my engine and it seems that everything about boats is ‘special’ which equals more $$.

Done, all drained, flushed, and filled back up.  Now to run the engine to check for leaks and temperature.

Engine runs and no leaks, but the exhaust sounds a little dry.  Dry you say? Isn’t exhaust supposed to be dry?  Remember boats are ‘special’.  Most marine engines have a part that mixes water with the exhaust to cool it, and reduce noise.  As seen here:


The small black with blue hose is for water, the silver pipe is exhaust (tailpipe) and they are mixed together and now wet exhaust is sent into the big black hose. Then it’s off to the muffler, then out as seen here:


This is not exactly my system but gives a good way to see how it works.

Back to my issue, remember my boat exhaust doesn’t sound wet anymore, it sounds very dry.  In fact, there was little to no water coming out with the exhaust.  What could have happened?  Remember my old friend Newton, for everything done, there is a equal opposite.  I try to make my engine run a little better, and something else breaks.

Come to find out this mixing elbow as its called, is a consumable item.  Meaning it’s only good for so long before it has to be replaced.  What can happen if it’s not replaced?  You guessed it, no wet exhaust.  As you can see in these photos, the elbow is almost completely clogged up .


This is where the water is supposed to enter but it’s clogged up too.


Yet another ‘special’ $$$ part, then clean up the other parts and put it all back together. While I was at it, I replaced the hoses for this part too. They were in poor shape and it only made sense to replace instead of waiting for them to spring a leak (no photos).





Finally after putting it all back together, start the engine to check for leaks, and at last it works.  No exhaust leak in the boat (very important) and no water leaks.  Check outside and Huston, we have wet exhaust.  This would have been devastating to have left unchecked and took off on a sail.  At least now we don’t have to worry about it for a few more years.

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Newton’s Third Law?

Newton’s third law in summary is for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction.  I’m not sure if it’s me or inherent of boats but it seems for everything positive  I do to the boat, there is something equally negative that happens.

Let’s start off with oil and filters change.  Not your typical oil change like on your car.  I don’t just jack up the boat, slide underneath and drain the oil.  The engine in located in a small compartment hidden under the steps.  Where the green arrow is pointing in this photo.



The oil change went fine.  The oil filter replacement went fine. While I was at it and folded up like a contortionist I decided to change the fuel filter also.  Might as well I thought. Clean oil, new oil filter, I should change the fuel filter because I have no idea if it has ever been changed.  Simple enough. The fuel filter replacement went fine as well, or so I thought.


(didn’t have a photo but this is one of the fuel filters)

Started the engine back up to check for leaks, and the engine wouldn’t run. It was like it was trying but on one cylinder. It shook the boat and sounded very violent in comparison to the normal sewing machine sound.  After  bleeding the fuel and trying and re-trying still no luck.  I went from a running engine that had old oil, dirty oil and fuel filters, to an engine with clean filters and oil but won’t run.

Did I unplug something by accident?  Double checks everything, No.

Did I bleed the air out of the fuel filter bowl?  Yes. I tried bleeding it again, still not running right. UGH!  Now the bleed screw gaskets are leaking. UGH!

I sat down in the cockpit for a bit not knowing what I did or how to fix it. It was working, I thought I made it better, but made it worse.  I talked to a neighbor whom suggested bleeding it at the fuel injector furthest away.  Never done that before, nor have I heard of it. Sounded scary, but it was actually easy.  I did that, and she was back to working like normal. There was our sewing machine sounding engine.  More boat maintenance to come.

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I cannot believe it is already December, nor can I believe it has been so long since an update. The last few months have been so busy in all directions. After a little bit of fun we have had several things going on (several photos to scroll through).

Alicia had her mom come down and they took Oscar back to Tennessee.


Alicia flew back down with her dad and we got to entertain him for a few days.  We took him down to Key West, and a few other places.  He flew back and my parents came down for a few days.

Many years ago, we took a family vacation and got about nine miles from Key West and the road was shut down and we never made it to Key West.  This time we took my parents down and they finally made it.  We also wanted to explore a little more in Key West than normal and we finally found the end of the road. Processed with Snapseed.

We took them to Robbie’s to see and feed the tarpon.  This was awesome for my parents to see some fish that were as long as they are tall.  Nothing like the lake fish back home.

After all family was back home and about a year later, we have to plan for hurricanes. However this year, we are not in a house but floating on the water. Last year was not really eventful thankfully, but this year we had one pointing right at us.


A possible Cat 4 with 130mph winds, while on a sailboat….. umm that’s a little concerning.  What were we to do? Plan and hope for the best I guess.  We spoke with others in the marina that have been through this sort of thing.  Basically you tie up your boat that allows for tidal movement (up and down), storm surge (extreme up and down), and winds changing directions as the storm nears, and goes by.


We double checked the cleats on the dock because some where broken and would of left our boat helplessly swinging around (cleats are where the boat is tied to the dock like in this photo).


We put out 15 lines to spiderweb out boat in the marina, removed our canvas bimini, and lashed down our mainsail.  Anything to minimize things getting caught by the wind and ripped to shreds (similar to these photos below, not of our boat).


It looked crazy and was a lot of work, but just as you would protect your house the best you can, we did for our ‘house’.  Again thankfully we were spared and the weather was no more that a typical summer storm with little wind.  Other parts of the coast were not as lucky.

We also got a vacation in.  We took a cruise to the western caribbean, to places we enjoy and have been to before. As usual we try to find the road less traveled, more quiet and with abandoned beaches. fullsizerender-6

Also visited some regular tourist areas.

We went to an ice room (yes sadly in flip fops, bad decision), first time bowling at sea, and lots of R&R.

After all of this I still managed to get in some boat maintenance.  Changing the raw water pump impeller and replacing poor neglected raw water hoses.

Ray our neighbor was able to restitch our genoa (The genoa is a type of large jib or staysail that overlaps the main sail). There is always something to do or repair on the boat.



We have several other repair items going on but these will be posted after completion. Until next time.

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