Friday, January 31, 2014

A boating post (Sort of)

Time to get some Boating Posts put up.  (Though I think the last one from Kristi could be a boating post - depending on where one's heart is at the moment )

I had drafted up a post covering all the tasks I did before leaving Viking Star all alone for up to a year.  Things like change the oil / antifreeze.  Close all seacocks, fresh water flush the engine then draining it.  Turning on the block heater and AC blowers (Might still do a Things That Work... posting on those),  etc. - when yesterday it became very very clear that the MOST important thing to do when leaving your boat unattended for a year -- HAVE FRIENDS WHO CAN CHECK IN ON THINGS!

Yesterday our friend Samantha stopped by the boat to correct a small oversight I did not do in my fog when leaving last week, which she easily fixed.  But during this time she found out that someone had cut the power to Viking Star!

Turned off the power!   What a disaster in the making.  See, I fully depend on the blowers to keep air circulating throughout her, and the heating of the engine block (and strategically placed Golden Rods) to chase away chances of mold and mildew.   But here we were, less than a week out and the power was off -- and had been for a while!  (the batteries are able to keep things going for a couple of days, even when configured for limited discharge).  The aft cabin was already dripping!  Just imagine what the rest of winter would have brought...

She flipped the breaker back on at the power pole and will be fitting a lock to it.  I am thankful, and perhaps need to see if I can come up with some way for Viking Star to survive long term if again the power is cut.  (Was MUCH simpler when she was under cover.  But without a cover, I need to think some more..)

Ok - Mostly boating.  Stay tuned for another mostly-boating post coming in a couple of days: 'Cost to not-cruise - January'.  Will be interesting to compare the on-the-water and on-the-dirt lifestyles...

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dove Chocolates

Al and I both love chocolate.  And we agree that Dove chocolates are among our favorites.  We love the smoothness of their formula.

But we also appreciate the messages printed inside the wrappers.

Yesterday my favorite (I had more than one piece!) said, "Hold hands tightly, hearts gently."  I thought that was good advice.

Today Al brought me one of HIS wrappers, and gave me a smile and a kiss.

Yup!  I love this man.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Week and a Month

Today marks the first full week that Al has been here in Minnesota, and Monday I will have been here for a month.

It is interesting to come to this house that I never lived in, but is filled with so many of the things that I remember from my childhood, getting longer and longer ago.

The plates we eat from are ones I remember as being new when my mom prepared a special lunch for my friend Carla and me, and my brother Dean and his friend Shawn, when I was no more than 5.  We girls got got the plates with blue flowers, and the boys had brown wheat stalks on theirs.

Last night we popped popcorn.  And I went through the stack of popcorn bowls and pulled out the one I 'traditionally' used -- the pink one.  Dean's brown one went to Al, Mom got her white one and Dad had his original classic Tupperware dish.

It is comforting to find so many things in my current surroundings are unchanged from my childhood.  And I can understand better Mom's anxiety when she cannot find an item that I have moved.  I have tried to only move things for safety or convenience, but still ...

We continue to enjoy the sunrises through Mom and Dad's big front window.  Yesterday's was made special by the crescent moon and Venus.  Al and I both braved the COLD for these shots.  I stepped out onto the porch for this one:

Al got a shot that shows Venus better.  He stepped out onto the driveway for this one:

Moon on the right, Venus on the left.
Almost in line with each other!

It was -12f, and we were outside in our robes and slippers!  I KNOW the people who drove by and saw us were wondering who those crazy nuts were!

Als Note:  Not to worry.  Storden is a, um, SMALL town.  Am sure word gets around fast!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Made it to Minnesota

Well, yesterday I (Al) started at 4am to make the 1st ferry, then bus to Seattle, then a couple of planes to Sioux Falls.  During this time Kristi was watching the morning blizzard (and the county wide 'stay home' announcement) to see if she would be able to pick me up, or if I would need to get a hotel for the night.

Weather cleared and Kristi was able to pick me up (at 7:30pm)!

Here is a photo of the Sun Rise out the front window.  No water, but still nice.  And being back with Kristi is also nice :-)

And hey, its 11:30am here and the temp is up to -3f.  They say it is shaping up to be a nice day. . . . .

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

mv Viking Star blog going forward..

I have been thinking a bit about what to do with this Blog forward, given that Kristi and I are going to be un-cruisers for a few months.  I know in other blogs we follow, often the site will in effect become abandoned, or perhaps changed into totally non boat related topics..   As a way to frame things, I recall the two reasons we started this blog:
  1. To let family and friends know what we were up to, w/o having to sending out 100+ individual Emails.  (OK, maybe more like 12 individual Emails...)
  2. To give back to the community some:  I learned a lot from other folks experiences, and hence wanted to document ours...

So, going forward.   I think we will try to keep this alive, though likely will less activity, along those two same goals.  Perhaps less so on #1 as Kristi now has a Face Book account.   But even with our Swallowing the Anchor, it IS only for a year.  And already I have some posting ideas, like:
  • What did I do to prepare the boat for storage?
  • I have a tale of three LEDs to talk about.
  • And one about the Rot Spot I found yesterday on the hull....
  • Report on Generator performance after the rebuild and some efficiency improvements I am looking to make. 

Viking Star in her New Home. . .
I am thinking there are some topics I can dig up from the past, and given I will have LOTS of time on my hands, might even be able to post about them.  Heck, we might even get around to posting about out trip up the Snake so many years ago, providing we can find our notes.

I do plan to come back midsummer to check on things, am sure items will crop up from that. Plus I will be reassembling the DC generator then and will report on that.   Have been thinking that it might be helpful to continue the Costs posts, to compare the Cost to Cruise with Cost to Not Cruise lifestyle..

My hope it we can find something to post about every few weeks, something meaningful, but to keep this spot warm if you will.   We do, after all , PLAN  (Arg, I used the 'P' word) to un-swallow the anchor in a year.  Hum, will it be like starting over again?

 Things will slow down to be sure, but we are NOT leaving this life style, just taking a break.  Same for the Blog.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Prairie Wildlife

Kristi here.

It will be interesting to make observations of life in Minnesota.  While I have visited many times over the years, the last WINTER I lived here was '85/'86.  The locals say that it has been a tough year so far, with lots of snow and COLD.

I have found that my winter driving skills are much like the proverbial 'riding a bike' -- you just don't forget.

You would think that caring for elderly parents in their home would be mainly a lot of sitting around.  HA!  I have been busy cooking / cleaning / chauffeuring / shopping.  But there is some entertainment right outside the front window.

Mom likes to feed the birds, but the other day the bird feeder was a squirrel feeder!  These shots were taken through the window as the snow fell...

Hey!  Kick some out for ME!

Did you find it?

Oh, hello there!
We didn't see the bunnies visit, but they left plenty of evidence.

Prairie wildlife is very different from the seals, orcas, and eagles we have been used to for the past 5 years.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Getting to the short strokes

Today things firmed up.  Found a place to move Viking Star to, ordered my flight tickets, and sent off another box.  Will be moving the boat this weekend and flying to MN Wednesday.  Between then I need to prep the boat for layaway, drain things, top off the batteries, etc..

Cost to Cruise: A year in review - 2013

With the end of 2013 we now have two complete 'cost to cruise'  years to look at.  Actually a bit more as we started reporting our costs back in July of 2011.  But if we 'align' with Jan/Dec, there are two years of data. . . .

Bottom line this year?  In 2013 we spent about $8,000 less than in 2012!  ($37,622 vs. $45,542)  Wahoo!  Looking back for some insight, I noted in 2012 we picked up the costs for the Magnum inverters (unexpected expense), as well as we installed the Solar Panels and hauled the boat.  These three add up to almost all of the $8,000.   Haul out is normal maintenance, however the Solar and Inverters are kind of one-off (I hope) purchases.  Looking at 2013 we can see the medical costs in Feb/March, these are Kristi's Cataract surgeries.  Again, one would hope a one-time expense.

So, if we want to strip things down and back out the perhaps $6K for Kristi's eyes, our ongoing costs are getting very close of $30,000/year!   Of course need to add in a haul-out every other year (Perhaps $1,000?) - but overall I am happy we are settling down and approaching that $25-30K/year goal we had.

Here is the 2013 summary (click for a larger view),

Viking Star, 2013 Whole Year View

You can reference 2012 costs here:

And if you want to look back all the way to July of 2011, click here: )

Over the Christmas holiday I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine, he had us along sailing in the San Juan's a few times before we had Viking Star, and graciously offers his house to us during the holidays.  He has been following our costs for several years, comparing our 'life' to his on land - and he said to me "You know, it seems that in fact is costs MORE to live on a boat then land..".   Well, in thinking about this I think he is right.  If we look at things for a high level, consider:

  • Housing / Boat:  This all depends on if you own your house/boat, as well as if you keep moorage all year or not.  But if you do own a paid-off house, yearly taxes can be rather low..
  • Maintenance: It is no surprise how simple and reliable things are on shore.  Take for example water pumps:  A usable one on Viking Star costs perhaps $1200 (or $300 used), while one on a house costs $0.  Go down the list, Refrigerator, batteries, inverters, generator, etc.  There is just SOO much on a boat that a house does not have - and where there is an overlap - land based stuff is often much lower costs.
  • Groceries:  When in Land Life we had a car, and we would be able to drive to Winco or other lower costs groucery stores.  On the boat we have little choice.  Our Grocery costs are higher - perhaps as much as 50% higher.
  • Car:  Hey!   Here the Boat Life helps, and helps a LOT.   

Perhaps the rest of the items are kind of a wash.  And of course one could find lower costs ways to live on the water, but then same is true for living on shore..   Overall, I would say outside of the purchase price of a house/boat (and that is so individual dependent on if you own it or not..)  there is perhaps some truth in the statement that living on a Boat is not less expensive - given an equivalent lifestyle.

And THAT really is the key - what lifestyle do you wish to obtain.    I hope our tracking of costs helps others gain some insights as they look at this future, or even their today!  And if you to see more cost summaries, here is a link that has a good list of other sources:

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sandwich People

Once upon a time there was a man who had recently become divorced, and he went to the beach to contemplate his future.

He found a quiet stretch of sand and watched the waves come and go.

Soon he noticed a couple coming across the sand, a little old man and a little old woman. They helped each other as they went, and found a log to sit on, facing the ocean together. The woman pulled a sandwich from her bag -- it was wrapped in waxed paper, as picnic sandwiches were wrapped long ago -- and gave half to her husband. And they quietly ate together.

And the man who was watching thought, "That's what I want of my life."

A time later, he told the woman who said she loved him of the people he had observed and come to call The Sandwich People, and that this image is what he hoped to fashion of his life. And the woman loved the man even more. And the woman and the man became husband and wife.

Half a continent away, there was another man and another woman. They had loved each other for a long time. 

They had helped each other across life -- the births of children, the death of a baby, moves from home to home. They watched their children grow and leave and have children of their own.

They grew old together. And when a daughter returned for a visit, they laughed to tell her that they tied each other's shoes; Dad helped Mom fasten her bra, and she would comb his hair for him. When the daughter drove the Mom and Dad to town for groceries, they both pushed the shopping cart together, side by side.

And the daughter thought, "My God! These are the Sandwich People!"

But the story goes on. And time goes by. The health of the old couple begins to decline, and their children worry about them. The old man and the old woman need more help than they now can give each other. 

The old man tells the daughter, "I can stand to be most anywhere, as long as we are together!"

But the old woman is not happy. She misses the comfort of her cat, and the familiar surroundings of the home she has lived in for more than 30 years. And the old man knows she is not happy and becomes unhappy himself.

And the daughter tells her husband "My fantasy would be to move in with them and take care of them." And the husband recognizes that his wife will become unhappy if he cannot help to make this fantasy come true, and tells her, "It is not outside of the realm."

And the woman loved the man even more.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cost to Cruise - December 2013

December found us still in Port at Friday Harbor, though to be more accurate we spent most the month down in Portland visiting Family and Friends for the holidays.  You can see this reflected in the lower then normal Grocery spending, and the higher then normal Dining Out as well as the Travel expenses.  Travel also includes a one-way ticket for Kristi to get to Minnesota, I will be following her in January after I find a place to part Viking Star for a year.

Viking Star, Cost to Cruise December 2013

Solar exceeded modeling for December!  (22Ah/day vs. 16Ah/day modeled), and of course there was little usage of the engine/generator.  Also of note, Maintenance includes machining and parts for the Kubota EA-300 engine used in our DC generator.  It's blow-by became too great late last fall, and a tear down indicated a need for a complete overhaul.  (Machinists thinks the engine stood too long in one place w/o being used and w/o being prepared properly - given the engine was an Army Surplus unit from Ebay, who knows).

And I have to admit I found some errors in the spread-sheet.  Largest was that back in March I had entered our fuel cost twice!  Backing out that $653 helps a little.  And I found there is a difference in how the Average formula treats a blank cell vs. one that has a '0' in it.  In this view I have gone back and made sure all the '-' cells actually contain a '0', and are not just blank.  So, you might see some  larger then expected changes in a few of the rolling averages.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Where we are at...

Friday Harbor
Kristi and I enjoyed our time down in Portland for the holidays, between family and friends we got in a LOT of visiting!  Friday was action day:  Kristi made her way back to Sioux Falls SD (closest air port), where the plane was only 1 hour delayed due to late departure from Fargo ND.  (Yes, THAT Fargo).

I drove up I-5 picking up boat parts I had left scattered on our way down (Kubota generator engine block, and the Cummins heat exchangers).  Today is kind of a rest day for us both, mostly as we are suffering the hold overs from a Winter cold.  (Here Kristi has a 2 week advantage on me).  Over the coming weeks she will focus on getting her folks out of the nursing home and back into their home, while I will focus on re-assembling the generator and main engine - as well as finding a place to stash Viking Star for a year.

Will tell you, was SO nice to get back to Friday Harbor, for the 1st time in 3 weeks I can see the SUN again!  And also getting away from Kristi showing me the 'Hey look, it is -15f in Minnesota' web pages. . . .

Taking it a day at a time now and will see how things play out....