When we first started telling our friends and family members about our summer plans for cruising, the few who were not completely flabbergasted had questions. Lots of questions. As a teacher, I love questions. Questions mean that individuals are curious, invested, and/or interested, all of which are necessary for learning to occur in a positive, meaningful way. My experience as a teacher also tells me that for every one student who asks a question, there are probably at least 5 others wondering about the same thing who are either too shy or embarrassed to admit that they don’t know everything. So, for all of our curious followers, here are some of the most frequently asked questions that have been put to us over the last few months. *Note: bear in mind that these answers are based on our own experiences aboard a 31-foot boat. The cruising experience can vary greatly depending on the lifestyles/amenities of other cruisers and their vessels.
1Q. What is the difference between a mooring field and an anchorage?
1A: A mooring field is section of water owned and operated by a marina or local governance that has permanent mooring balls/buoys floating on the surface in even increments. To tie up to one, you normally have to radio ahead to the marina and ask for an open ball; either they will give you an assignment (most balls are numbered), or you can pick your own and check in with the marina office later. Mooring fields are typically more sheltered and have access to the amenities of a marina (bath houses, laundry, pump-outs, etc.). Anchorages are usually more remote locations that are good spots to drop anchor. Things we generally consider when choosing an anchorage include: availability of shelter from storms/winds, type of sea-floor (sand is good for holding anchor, while sea grass is bad), and proximity to mangroves (the closer you are to mangroves, the closer the mosquitoes are to you).
2Q: How will you do laundry on the boat?
2A: The answer to this question depends on where the boat is at the moment. If you’re lucky and cashed up, you are staying in or near a marina with a laundromat on site. In this case, you simply bring your dirty duds and your detergent to the laundry room, put the required money and clothes into the machines and let them do their magic. I highly recommend bringing a book along so you have something to do while you wait. These laundromats often have unspoken rules like copy rooms in schools: don’t leave your stuff unattended.
If, on the other hand, you are in an anchorage where you don’t have access to laundry services, or you don’t feel like making the dinghy trips back and forth, you can do your laundry on the boat. In our case, that means cleaning and filling up one side of our double sink with water and a bit of laundry detergent; the other side of the sink doesn’t have a stopper, so I have a collapsible tub that fits in there. The tub gets filled with clean water and is used for my rinse cycle. I’ve discovered putting about 3-5 articles of clothing in the wash side at a time works best to ensure I don’t swamp the sink. All you have to do then is fold and flatten the wet, soapy clothes multiple times, almost as if you were trying to make really hard bread. When you’re done, hang the items on the lifelines until they are dry.
3Q: How do you keep food cold on the boat?
3A: We have a CF-50 WAECO cooler that we use as a freezer. In it, we store frozen meats and recycled gallon jugs full of water that we use as ice blocks. Once the jugs of water freeze solid, we transfer them to our 40 gallon Coleman cooler, which we use as a refrigerator. We then take the thawing water jugs and return them to the WAECO. Since our WAECO cooler maintains a temperature of 22 degrees Fahrenheit, we are able to switch frozen jugs of water out in the morning and before bed each night to maintain a safe level of chill for the items in the Coleman. The Coleman generally stores shredded cheese, butter, lunch meat, sour cream, leftovers, and occasionally Oreos or Starbucks frappuchinos. Note: Just because you’re living a basic life doesn’t mean you have to subsist on basic fare. Morale must be maintained 🙂
4Q: How are you going to sleep on a boat? Won’t the waves/sounds keep you awake?
4A: Joel and I both sleep pretty soundly in our v-berth. Waves don’t really bother us, but lack of wind definitely affects sleep quality. We always sleep with the overhead hatch open and normally shroud the hatch with mosquito netting unless there is 12 knots of wind or more (in which case the netting isn’t needed). Again though, how well you sleep on a boat has quite a bit to do with where the boat is. If you’re in a marina or mooring field, there is generally less open water wave action; however, you’ll have more small wave action from the closer proximity of transiting boats. Another aspect of marinas/mooring fields is that the land/mangroves that typically surround and shelter the area also act as obstacles to the wind. Now, even though I say we sleep pretty well, you have to make adjustments. I don’t know about you guys, but at home, I’m one of those people who likes to sleep in a room with a running fan and air-conditioned to around 72 degrees. I like to bury myself in a tunnel of blankets like a bear holing up for the winter. Unfortunately for me, nighttime temperatures on our trip so far have averaged around 78 degrees, and the humidity makes it feel more like the low 80s. This means no more burying under blankets for me; I sleep on top of the sheets, directly under the hatch, with two fans aimed at me. In short, the stronger the breeze, the better we both sleep.
5Q. How do you take care of waste on the boat?
5A: Most marinas that we have stayed at so far have a pump-out boat that comes around them mooring fields on set days to suck out your holding tank. We have a twenty-gallon holding tank and can generally go around 7-9 days of living aboard before needing a pump-out. As far as trash/recycling, Joel and I have a 7.5 gallon trash can (about half the size of most people’s kitchen trash cans) that we empty every two weeks or so at a marina. We drop off recycling then too. We simply don’t generate trash quickly because we are more aware of the trash we do generate, and we carry fewer consumables on board.
6Q: How do you generate energy on board?
6A: We have 450 watts of semi-flexible solar panels on our bimini and dodger that Joel built. All we need is one sunny day to completely recharge our battery bank and all of our electronics (cell phones, tablets, etc.). We also have a have a battery bank that consists of four 6-volt golf cart batteries and a dedicated starter battery for the engine. In the case of a rainy stretch of weather, we can run our engine and recharge most everything.
7Q: How will you shower/bathe on the boat?
7A: Pray for rain… Just kidding! We have two options when not in a marina, both of which involve wearing our swimsuits and bringing our shower toiletries into the cockpit. Option Number 1: Use the Whale Twist Deck Shower to hose off with water from our holding tank. Option Number 2: Set our solar shower up on the bimini and stand/sit underneath it; lather up with shower gel, etc, and twist the nozzle to rinse off. *Note: Since water is limited with both of these options, it’s not a bad idea to do a salt-water rinse first as long as the water looks pretty clean and clear.
What other questions do you have for us? We would love to hear them! Either leave a comment here or message us on Facebook. 🙂