Sunday, January 27, 2019

Iridium we GO...

We have made the jump! Indeed, the quiet months of Winter are "forcing" us to shop for boat supplies.

After much shopping, we have decided to purchase the Iridium GO by PredictWind.
Granted, there is so many options on the market and the technology is forever changing.

But, for now, it is pretty much the best we can find for what we need to do and for the budget we have.
The damn budget!!!  So restricting...

The Iridium Go will allow us to do a hotspot for our smartphones, but also to get GRIB files, weather updates, wind, routes, GPS tracking, make calls, text and so much more. Mind you, it will be SLOW internet, but it will be Internet nonetheless...
With the unlimited data and 150 min/month for satellite communication,  this is pretty much the best we can find for what we will need to do and for a price we can afford. And... a little bird told that me that in some near or distant future, only God knows, Iridium, might be coming with a 3G broadband for the satellite comm. YEAH!

I look forward to installing the system in the boat and try it out.
We purchased via PredictWind and so far, the service has been impeccable... to follow...
The website offer great deals and tech support for the install.

I look forward to using this little device that will allow me to text my friends, let my family track us with a GPS tracking website, to get GRIB files, plan for routes, get weather updates and (hopefully never) make the call for the coastguard to save our lives if it comes to that!

I will post when the device is installed and I have played with it a bit and familiarized myself with all its many functions. I will then report on the ups and downs, the pros and cons...

Friday, October 12, 2018

Changing portholes on an aluminum sailboat...

Since we bought our girl in San Francisco in 2009, we knew that some of the portholes would need to be changed. Some leaked, some were slightly cracked and none of them opened except one.
Changing 12 portholes isn’t cheap! However, after spending 9 summers with very little air circulating in the boat, we knew we couldn’t leave for the Caribbean without opening ports; we would simply bake in our own little oven!

We (Dan) shopped for many hours in order to find the best fit for our aluminum boat. We wanted custom opening ports in stainless steel with tempered glass at an affordable price. That is a tough order.

We found a company located in Vancouver, but unfortunately, the dealings we had with their representative didn’t inspire confidence. When we are discussing spigot, angles, degrees and precise dimensions, there is no margin for error and a language barrier can be quite the obstacle. We weren’t ready to drop a couple of grands no knowing if the ports we ordered would actually be what we ordered!

For 9 years, we searched for the perfect company and this past January, we finally found the one that was able to make the portholes custom to our dimensions and meeting all of our criteria.

Pompanette (Hood) in the U.S. was able to meet all of our expectations and demands!

Then came the hard and messy job of removing the old ports and welding the holes shut in order to make holes with the right dimensions for the new ports.

Our welder Jeff did a fantastic job and after 3 days of hard work, sweat and a tiny fire!! the holes were welded and the prep work could begin.

Grinding the weld, prepping the aluminum, epoxying and fairing, priming and then painting, we are now ready for the install. The process is endless and we haven’t been blessed with nice weather lately, having to deal with rain, wind and cold weather that impeded the drying and curing process.
Furthermore, Dan had to remove most of the cabinetry inside the boat in order to access the areas where the ports would be. He had to make major adjustments to some of the cabinets to create room for the opening handles… 

It is now almost mid-October and we are now at the install stage.
I decided not to let these setbacks affect me. It’s not like I can control anything and I certainly don’t want to stress Dan more than he already is!

Here are some pics of the process.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Dinghy for the trip: Seamax Ocean 290

Today, we said goodbye to our faithful companion, our Achilles 10.4 fibreglass bottom, hypalon inflatable. That boat took us places we never thought we could go, it got boats out of difficult spots, either stranded or grounded or simply without power. It towed boats, pulled a tube for water sports and helped us create many happy memories with friends and family. It pulled a paddle board converted into a surf board for our daring and daredevil friends, including my crazy hubby … who I love dearly. :-)

That boat is amazing, solid, durable, reliable and tough. It gave us 9 great years of use and today, we had to let it go.

As we prepare for our sail down to the Caribbean, we realized that “Pearly” would not fit well on the davits and was unfortunately, too heavy. It was oversized for our stern and was difficult to stow for long ocean crossings. Since our sailboat is a cutter rig, it would have been impossible to use the cutter sail and stow the 10.4 ft, 127 lbs inflatable upside down at the bow. It was a tough decision, but after 9 years of exploring various stowing options, we realized that parting from her was inevitable…

Anyhow, after much research (done by Dan of course), we decided to purchase from a Canadian company. Our choice was guided by the quality, the reputation and how suitable it would be for our use. However, the recent tariff war (US &Canada) was also a factor in the decision. Lol.

We opted for the Seamax Ocean 290. Weighing 110 lbs, measuring 9.5 ft, aluminum bottom. It has a V hull, hypalon type 4 layers overlapped seams. It is foldable and storable in a heavy-duty carry bag. It offered a stow bag for the bow, a cover for water protection and a set of wheels for beaching and wheeling around for a reasonable $$. We settled for marine-grade PVC (Korean not Chinese) given the fact that it would be stored in the bag when not it use during crossings and would be protected by the cover when out on the davits thus offering UV protection. The boat is also well liked by scuba divers for its solid aluminum bottom that offers great stability for equipment set up and room to maneuver.

Of course, Dan picked the colour (he chose RED) of all colours… His thinking is that visibility out on the water is more important and that a thief wouldn’t be attracted to a boat that is so unique and visible! (We’ll see about that!!!)

After a bit of tweaking, we figured out how to outfit it for the davits. We found room to stow it down below and we went on a joy ride where we discovered, with much satisfaction, that with our 9.9 HP 2 strokes, we could make it plane on the water, therefore increasing stability and speed.

So far, we are happy with our compromise and are looking forward to try it out in the turquoise water of the Caribbean!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Beautiful fog

Sailing season is over… Fall has settled in. The boat is still a construction site and messy. I avoid it at all cost. Dan confirms that I would have a stroke just going down the companionway. He is still working on the portholes install. I don’t see an end in sight, but I trust him to get the job done before the snow stays on the ground!

On our last outing, we woke up at anchor to quite the scenery. A thick fog was enveloping us in a cloud of white. We couldn’t see one foot in front of us, but as time stood still, we witnessed the fog slowly lifting and the sun rays slowly piercing the thickness to finally reach us. It was beautiful…

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Talking about storms!

Since we are still unnerved by the recent twin tornadoes that touched down in and around our city (Ottawa-Gatineau), I thought I would take the time to update my followers on the recent development.

Two days later:

- There is still power outages throughout the city with folks having no power since Friday night.
- There are still around 300 lights not working on the roads/streets/boulevards around the city.
- There is a full blown clean up ongoing in various areas hit by the devastating weather.
- There are still people trying to come to grips with the recent events.
- There are still people out there helping each other and offering shelters and food and hot water.
- Hospital (TOH) is off auxiliary power.
- No casualties (death related to tornadoes)

Things are moving slowly, but they are hoping to have most people back on the power grid by this evening. We are crossing our fingers and praying that it does happen.

Storms are certainly part of our daily dealings in the summer. Granted, never have I ever seen such a storm in September.
If you remember last year, around this time, our Yacht Club had been hit with a microburst packing 80–90 knots (160–180 km/h) wind. However, it wasn’t a tornado and it had been quite brief.
Lots of damage to boats, infrastructure and many trees down. Fortunately, no injuries or casualties.
I was dreading this storm as well, thinking of last year and how Mother Nature had been nasty.

The fear of storms on the water is omnipresent and regardless how prepare we think we are, they remain unpredictable. I usually just pray that we come out of it alive and with the least amount of damage.

Three weeks ago, we were once again under a severe thunderstorm's warning and safely in her berth, our sailboat was home and ready for the blow. We were quietly watching the sky get darker and darker and the atmosphere filling with heaviness and uncertainty.
There is a thrill in not knowing what comes next. I guess that’s why there is such an occupation called “Storm chaser”!!!
Anyhow, sitting in a protected area, we kept watching as the weather changed for the worse.
That storm was packing heat, but by no means would I compare it to the storm we just went through.
The meteorologists called it a “Circular Storm” and it was indeed.
I took some pictures and I thought I would share them with you. :-)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Tornadoes in our city!

For the past 9 years, we have been sailing the Ottawa River, for 9 years we have been alerted of “Tornado Watch” and “Severe thunderstorms” during the summer months. It is normal, we expect it, we got hit by some, spared by others; its life when you sail in the area…

We have always been very cautious, checking the weather, signing up for alerts and such and we have rarely been worried that a “real” tornado would hit in our neck of the wood…
This isn’t Kansas or Oklahoma…

Yesterday, September 21, 2018, was different. It is the first time in my life I ever went down to a basement because threatening weather was coming my way. It was the first time 6 tornadoes touched down (3 in eastern Ontario (Ottawa area) and 3 in western Qu├ębec), it was the first time we saw tornadoes EF3 hit the region and create devastation beyond our wildest imagination. Yesterday, was a first for a lot of things…

But it was not a first for the people of Ottawa, Gatineau and the surrounding areas to come together and help each other in this terrible situation. It was not the first time that people rallied to alleviate the pain, the suffering, the grief, the hunger, the need for a hot shower or shelter.
It is not the last time we see tragedy and with it will come the heart of men and women united to help one another.

They will blame it on “climate change”, “global warming”, “El Nino” or even “El Nina”…
I believe it is simply Mother Nature reminding us that we are NEVER in control of the weather and that at any given time, she can decide to rock our world in any way she likes…

We are grateful that fortunately, we were not in the path of destruction yesterday and that the worst nuisance in all of this is the power outage throughout the city! However, thanks to some amazing friends (with power), we are eating good food and showering every day. :-)

I am sitting at my computer, on batteries (I charged it fully yesterday before the storm hit just in case there would be a power outage!! I was raised by my mom and she reminded me of this while I was growing up: Always hope for the best, Prepare for the worst!) and I am writing this post using the Internet from my cellphone with a hotspot. (Thank God for technology!)
I realize that being off the grid on our boat is one of the best things EVER! never relying on anything other than Nature…
Granted, we are housesitting for some friends right now and they have a generator so we are kind of cheating a bit… LOL

I like to think that in Canada, we are truly blessed. It is a rather safe country and yes, Mother Nature sometimes gives us a kick in the pants, but we always rally and it is in such moments that we realize that humankind still has a soul and a heart to help the people affected badly by tragedies.

Irony, I will never understand it… As I am writing this post, the power just came on!!! I like to think it’s because I took the time to be grateful and not complain about the little inconvenience of life.

We will keep praying for the people that have lost so much in a blink of an eye and that will struggle to get back on their feet. We will continue to help those we can help and support the emergency crews out there doing their job. When hardship comes, I find it helps to count my blessings and by doing so, I realize how lucky we are.

It could’ve been us…
It could still be us one day…

Thanks to all the various people that made these pictures available on the Internet...

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Help in the unlikely places...

What we have just experienced today gave us a taste of what our future holds.

So, we are on vacation for two weeks, cruising the area, enjoying the nice breeze, sailing, swimming and relaxing at anchor.

Before our departure, I made sure our list was checked and we had everything we needed for the two weeks: provisioning, enough diesel, enough beer/wine and propane… Well, my question was: Dan, do we have enough propane for two weeks? His reply: Yep! We are good.

Well, after one week, yesterday evening, once the chicken was well established on the BBQ and we were famished, the propane ran out…

I know that Dan and I try our darndest to make sure we are ready for anything and/or have spares in case of…
We usually carry two 20 lbs tanks of propane on board the boat in our propane locker. We filled them up when they are at about 50 psi to avoid situations such as yesterday.

Anyway, we were both looking at the empty tanks and I was trying not to blame Dan for it since he had assured me we would have enough. Ah well, no time for blame, time for action and solution!
I hate being cornered so my brain is automatically going into solution mode.
I know we cannot do another week without coffee … or even hot water for the dishes and such, let alone cooking the meat…

But let us be practical for once and think outside the box.
Option # 1
We are at a 10-minute dinghy ride of the nearest town which does sell propane tanks for $90 Ouch!! Hefty price, but eh! If that’s what it cost to eat and drink hot coffee, I guess that will have to do.

In the meantime, I am racking my brain thinking of my half-cooked chicken on the BBQ and a genius thought crossed my mind. We always keep 1.5 lbs propane canisters just in case…
Well, last night was the “Just in case” moment happening. We got the canister out and cooked the chicken to perfection.
While Dan is roasting the veggies, I am on the Internet trying to find the closest propane filling stations that could fill out our tanks and get us on our way.
Option # 2 Fortunately, there is such a station at about 7 km down the road from where we are anchored… Eureka! Okay 7 km is pretty short in a car, but about 90 minutes on foot.
That’s okay, we text a friend that lives in the area and ask for a ride… No answer!
No problem, Dan is convinced that in the town, about 35 minutes from the city, folks will be keen on giving a ride to a hitch hiker holding two propane canisters… :-)
Option # 3 We have some friends down the river that offer to lend us their 5 lbs tank, a 20-minute dinghy ride and we would have propane.

But somehow, Dan felt like the walking would be good penance for his “little mistake” LOL

Early this morning, we both hop on the dinghy and head for shore, I drop Dan off at a service road where he can meet the main road leading to the filling station. I get back to the boat and wait for his call to pick him up again.

After half an hour, I track him on the GPS to find out if he is making any progress. He is halfway there. Not bad! But that also means that he hasn’t found a ride yet. I guess more walking for him.

About 20 minutes later, I try to locate him again on the GPS and funny enough, I see him pull up at the service road where I left him less than 60 minutes ago. Fantastic!!!

I make my way over to him, manoeuvering the dinghy over and meet Greg, the kind soul that met my husband on the road on his way to the station and offered him not only a ride to get there, but a ride back! 
If you have lost hope in humanity, take solace in the fact that there is still a lot of great people out there, willing to help out. :-)

I got 2 more passengers in the dinghy as we head over to the boat having our new-found friend on board for a beer and a visit.

In less than one hour, we were back in business, I did the dishes that were pilling up and for less than $50 we had 2 full propane canisters…

I truly believe that today, I caught a glimpse of the life we will have as we are ready to embark on our adventure.
Many situations will arise where strangers will come into our lives and move us in ways we could not even fathom.

Iridium we GO...

We have made the jump! Indeed, the quiet months of Winter are "forcing" us to shop for boat supplies. After much shopping, we h...