Reading Time: 5 minutes
Hippos cooling off in the water at Ngorongoro Crater, August 2014

We Hate Hippos

A few months ago, Jan Wooller got in touch with us. She heard through Bill that we were interested in buying RJ Slocum and had many kind things to say about Bill and the boat.

As you can gather we have amassed quite a lot of experience over the years and know boats very well.

 

We can truthfully say that Rachel J Slocum is one of only a very small handful of yachts that we would be happy to go long distance sailing on. She’s incredibly well thought out and strongly built and will get you out of trouble no matter the conditions. We were green with envy over her forward facing sounder. 

 

Her gorgeous dinghy would happily fit in as an exhibit in the Australian Wooden Boat Festival which is held in Tasmania every 2nd February. Boats built from Huon Pine are uncommon and very expensive and are highly sought after here.

Along with her sage advice, she sent along a copy of her book, “We Hate Hippos: Stories of a Sea Gypsy’s Life,” which is sold on The Coastal Passage. Andrew read the book in less than a week. It took me some time as I had other reading commitments, and I sure am glad I did.

What appeals to me most about her accounts is that the narrative is true to life. It hasn’t been skewed by appealing to an unknown audience. It has none of the distasteful choices made to draw eyeballs, to be click-bait, or to instruct. Since most sailing blogs and vlogs market/advertise vigorously to sustain a livelihood, I take their advice with a grain of salt. I prefer a realistic account, much like those also shared in The Coastal Passage, the most widely read cruising magazine in Australia. 

I take the Hippo book (which I have come to refer to it with Andrew) as knowledge dispensed from a friend who is looking out for you. 

Old school

When I read the short passage about preserving food for long passages, I got pretty excited. When one has to live without refrigeration (let alone deep freeze), I found some practical solutions laid out before me. Ironically, this isn’t new… these are techniques used many years ago before there was refrigeration.

So, it’s time to go old school. 

Salt on butter

Allow butter to soften and pack into clean jars. level the top with a knife and sprinkle enough salt to cover completely. Butter can be kept for up to a year that way, even in the tropics.

Cheese in oil

Cut into blocks and place into an open jar. Fill the remaining space with oil. 

Vaseline eggs

Coat each egg with Vaseline to seal the shell and place into plastic racks. Turn the eggs weekly to prevent spoilage. Eggs usable even at the end of five months. 

Chloroform flour and pasta

Before sealing a plastic container of flour or pasta, place a film canister which contains a cotton ball soaked in chloroform. Since the lid of the film canister is punctured with a needle, the chloroform gas can escape slowly. This is the only foolproof method in preventing weevils. 

Pressure cook meat (beef & lamb)

Use a twenty litre pressure cooker which allows you to prepare 16 450 gram jars at a time. Place uncooked cubed meat into the jars with a small amount of water. Place special one-use-only seals on top and cook the bottles according to the instructions with the canner (e.g., 12 lbs of pressure for over 80 minutes). The meat serves as a tasty ingredient in casseroles, curries and bolognaise sauce, and can be stored for years.

I turned to Andrew after reading these anecdotes, and in turn, he recognized that look in my eyes. It’s time for another culinary adventure!

Other lessons learned

We enjoyed various anecdotes about Jan and Nick’s lives over the past 30 years cruising and voyaging the high seas, including:

Replenishing the cruising kitty

While we have put together a reasonable budget, we cannot forecast for the unexpected and be 100% accurate. Even though they had set themselves up as well as they could, there were times where they needed to take a break from sailing and they were able to find jobs in Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and American Samoa. 

Life in Japan

Andrew and I honeymooned in Japan. It was a place that long fascinated Andrew and we realized that our visit there was much too short. We’re hoping to have an extended stay there, just as Jan and Nick had. If the South Pacific islands don’t open up next year for cruisers, we may opt instead to sail to Hawaii and then on to Japan.

Misha, the bilge cat

One of the unknowns still lurking in our minds is whether Oreo and Xiao Long are suited for living on a boat. We were encouraged by how Misha and Tigger were cared for, especially when Jan and Nick were ashore and traveling six to seven weeks in twelve countries. There is a particularly dramatic account of Misha while under the care of Bill and his wife in Ushuaia when Jan and Nick visited Antarctica. 

Exploring/hiking

Much like the authors, we love traveling and exploring, so the thought of being able to spend a month to six weeks backpacking is one of our goals of sailing. Sailing afforded them the opportunity to backpack through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, New Zealand, South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, India and Nepal.

Photo courtesy of Jan and Nick Wooller. Here they are aboard s/v Yawarra II

Learn More

If you are interested in reading more about Jan and Nick Wooller’s adventures over 37 years, some of the information is available online and offline including a diary spanning over 12 years within 95 pages!

Additional Resources

Other cruisers have shared their knowledge through books, courses and coaching. If you’re interested in any of these options, please check out the following links for related resources.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Maximizing priorities

A few months ago, we launched our 30-weeks to minimalism initiative. This helped tremendously to sort through what we needed to take with us aboard RJ Slocum.

I turned to the experts (the Women Who Sail facebook group that I am part of) and searched for ideas in the past on what we do once we figure out what stays and what goes. Local auction for furniture, estate sale broker (e.g., Grasons ), consignment shops, Free Cycle and simply giving stuff away to friends and family. 

Unfortunately, we were in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, so the usual outlets of selling items or donating to charity were not available to us. What to do?

I took the ideas that worked in the past and weighed them against our goals. In order of priority, here is what we want to maximize first:

  1. Matching gifts – finding the best homes for each item
  2. Speed – showing progress while not living in disarray
  3. Value – adding more funds to our cruising kitty

 

1 – Matching gifts

Given the fact that we have the summer months to do this, we already started to think about which of our friends could most appreciate or use some of these items. We are happy to give these things away and seek no quid pro quo.

This of course is a slow-going process, in particular because it is being handled solo while Andrew works full time.

 

2 – Speed

I was stewing over the lack of progress. The fact was we rearranged items (much like deck chairs on the Titanic), but nothing was moving out of our house. I was still staring at closets full of clothes… and everywhere I looked, we still had a house full of stuff.

My frustration came out one weekend in early June. Andrew was blindsided by this one Saturday morning during his first cup of coffee.

He asked, “What can I do to help you?” 

Over the next hour, we had a discussion about what we want out of this process, and it boiled down to the priorities we set above. My frustration however came from feeling as though I was handling this all by myself when we agreed months ago that this would be a team effort. I was also annoyed over the delays caused by coronavirus, and he assured me that, in time, charities will open up again, and those avenues will be available to us once again.

It was then that I realized that my impatience was my undoing. 

The other factor we need to weigh is the unknown stowage space aboard RJ Slocum. Other than the few measurements taken for lockers and drawers for clothes, we don’t know how much space remains. This is a variable that we won’t know until we head back to Ft Lauderdale at the end of summer. 

So inevitably, we are resigned to shipping to Florida more than what we can fit on the boat. As a result, we’ll have to do another round of purging once we get there, which is another lesson in learning to go with the flow

 

Wedding photos taken at Side Door, Corona del Mar. Feb. 2015

3 – Value

When we can’t find a friend who wants an item and we think we can fetch some doubloons to top up our cruising kitty, we will look to sell the items. This could be once-worn couture wedding dress, Japanese sword, bespoke dresses (sari and qipao) made in Mumbai and Hong Kong, designer clothes, shoes and jewelry, etc. I’ve started a spreadsheet detailing where these items would go to keep everything organized. 

Some of the organizations include:

If you want a copy of the detailed spreadsheet, send us an email and we’re happy to share it with you.

 

Go Green

In September after we have a chance to evaluate the stowage situation on RJ Slocum, we’ll re-evaluate what we have and then there will be a flurry of activity before we ship anything to Florida.

I’m intrigued by participating in some local organizations, such as the Facebook Buy Nothing Project and find their mission and principles are consistent with our philosophy.

Just as we discovered when we decided to pack light, we came across Going Zero Waste  provides some ideas for organizations that will take donations of unusual items such as braseyeglasses, cosmetics and shoes. Before tossing anything, we will also be taking advantage of TerraCycle to determine what to do with other waste streams.

It’s not easy being green. 

 

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Hiking the Yosemite Falls Trail with elevation gain 2,700 ft (circa June 2018)

A Life of Philanthropy

One of the first posts we published on SerenadeWind talks about our relationship with money . When we began to dig into that topic, a natural extension to pursuing a minimalist life is a life of philanthropy. 

What does a life of philanthropy look like?

Lean into values

Friends and colleagues who know me have witnessed that when I set a goal, there’s a high certainty (approaching 100%) that the goal will be achieved. Whether I am quick to set an objective or take my time arriving at it, my value system is defined by integrity and honoring my commitments.

So, at the beginning of this year, I drew a line in the sand and declared that I wanted to pursue a life of philanthropy. Andrew is in full agreement of this ethos (although I suspect he has embraced this tenet all his life).

The shape and execution of philanthropy still needs to be defined. In the meantime, we have made donations to various causes every month since the line in the sand was drawn. These gifts were made as the needs have presented themselves. 

Non-profit Charter

If we go back to what we wrote, we toyed with the following idea:

How about we set up serenadewind.com with a non-profit charter in mind?

The concept is simple:

Whatever funds that come in will go toward paying boat expenses (including upgrades, maintenance, etc.) and any surplus in excess of some threshold will be given away to causes we believe in.

In the pursuit of minimalism, we don’t want to continue to accumulate money because it will end up owning us. Since the beginning of this year, we have donated to eight organizations roughly 50% of what has already come in through our funding.  

Cash in – Cash out

You may be wondering how we’ve been able to fund charities and organizations over the past few months especially since I retired from Warner Bros.

Andrew, of course, continues to draw income, but we’re not touching any of that. We are also not drawing down on our savings, since that makes up our cruising kitty and we want to be able to sail for many years to come. 

At the moment, the funding is coming through a single source: unemployment benefits.

When I first shared the news of retiring early to some colleagues, a few insisted that I file for unemployment. I was loathed to pursue this, until I thought,

Why not try and if it works, I’ll give it all away.

The decision to do this came at a price: insomnia. Now, I had something at stake where I originally had been laissez-faire. When I discussed it with Andrew, he was in full support of my dropping the matter altogether, and I did so for a few weeks. However, on the morning of the hearing with the judge, I did some quick prep work. The hearing itself was scheduled early afternoon when I was with my mom to address some leg pain that mysteriously began. 

Virtual Hearing

The amount of unemployment benefits in question totals roughly USD $9,000 (before CARES Act  and potentially over $20,000 with CARES Act). In theory, I could set aside 10% to cover taxes and give the rest of it away to those in need. 

While the money is nice, I’ll be honest. It means a lot more to me how it was secured. The most empowering moment came when I was speaking to the judge about my case. He asked a series of thoughtful questions over the course of 45 minutes. When the hearing concluded, he stated that the decision would be sent via regular mail in a couple weeks.

Regardless of the decision rendered, I felt vindicated. I had a chance to share my story to a neutral 3rd party and it felt liberating. If you want to learn more about the case, I will provide a brief write-up about it, which will be posted tomorrow. In reality, I didn’t have to wait that long. Less than a week later, the decision came in the mail.

When I read the decision, I set down the pages, walked over to Andrew and told him the news.

Then I did a happy dance.

Andrew laughed.

Second Mountain

I am reminded each week of how lucky I am to be in a relationship that fully encourages a life of growth and exploration. We are pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone. It first began with our relationship with money (which will continue to be tested throughout our lives) and extends to pursuing a voyaging life on the high seas. 

We refer to this period in our lives as climbing the second mountain. It’s a concept that has been widely circulated through the publication of David Brooks writing. If you have 5 minutes to spare, check out his video on “Should you live for your resume or your eulogy?”

We know the life we are leading is unconventional and not for everyone. The chronicle of our journey on Serenade Wind is largely to benefit those who may be curious about alternative approaches to living a full and balanced life.

For us, life is not about following a prescribed path. It’s an opportunity to choose your own adventure!

Today, in recognition of National Ocean Month, we have donated to Sailors for the Sea who advocates green boating practices. We have learned a lot over the past few months about what we can do to live with a greater awareness about how we impact the environment, which we profiled in Going Green and Ethical Sailing.

Post Script

This story was originally written at the start of this month. Over this past weekend, I received some news about a childhood friend of my brother’s who recently passed away.

Victor Kuo was both a public school teacher and philanthropist, working with organizations including FSG Social Impact Advisors, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, David & Lucile Packard Foundation, and Global Chinese Philanthropy Institute

Thank you, Victor, for modeling an honorable life and may you rest in peace. 

 

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Lifecycle of Ingredients

If you’ve followed our Culinary Adventures, you’ll start to see a theme of no waste in this household. We love cooking and riffing off recipes. Sometimes, this will evolve over the lifecycle of ingredients to create some fun, novel adventures in cooking and help us when we live aboard RJ Slocum.

Turkey 5 ways

It all started when I was a kid and the values instilled in me by my parents when it came to economizing and thrift.

Not only were they homesteaders (before it became en vogue) growing avocado, corn, sugarcane and wheatgrass in our backyard, my parents never wasted food once it was cooked. Bulk dishes became leftovers that extended over days (or sometimes weeks) until depleted.

I’ve taken that principle and elevated it to a new art form … because, you see, I like variety.

The lifecycle of ingredients made up of leftovers became a culinary challenge that I learned at Wellesley College, my alma mater. The dining hall weekly menu would feature something like the following: 

  • Monday – roast turkey
  • Tuesday – turkey soup
  • Wednesday – turkey pot pie
  • Thursday – turkey tetrazzini  
  • Friday – turkey ice cream (just kidding)

Journey vs Destination

This was, of course, all very surprising to Andrew because he has a different approach to cooking. He once told me an anecdote of his culinary experiment to master the art of cooking fried rice.

His process would be to cook a batch of fried rice and if there was something off about it, he would throw it out. All of it. Andrew would then repeat the process over and over again. The garbage would have countless pounds of fried rice ready for the dumpster. In his quest for mastery, he valued learning the skill over the end product.

I can understand that principle… in theory.

Had we known each other back then, however, I would have quietly siphoned off each batch of fried rice into Tupperware containers and place them into the freezer to be repurposed for other dishes, such as

  • a cheesy frittata
  • roll them into balls, cover them in panko breadcrumbs and fry them up
  • place them in a rich flavorful broth with some hand-torn roast chicken 

We would have made a great team back then, as we do now.

Stage 1 Meals

I share this backstory so you get a feel for how we will be approaching our life aboard RJ Slocum.

The kinds of dishes that will be prepared at anchor will primarily be bulk cooking that can be tailored and elevated when we are on passage. Here are some of the ideas that you can take with some basic stage one meals laid out in the following hierarchy:

  • Stage 1
    • Stage 2+

 

  • Braised beef or pork
    • poutine
    • ramen
    • fried rice
  • Grilled salmon
    • salmon cakes
    • chowder
    • pasta salad
  • Steamed rice
    • fried rice
    • congee
    • risotto balls
  • Roasted chicken
    • chicken soup
    • chicken salad/sandwiches
  • Roasted vegetables
    • vegetable soup
    • strata
    • omlette
  • Bread
    • pizza
    • breakfast casserole
    • french toast

The best way to incorporate these ingredients is with eggs, milk, bacon and cheese along with varying up herbs and spices to give them another dimension. Taste the dishes as you prepare them and you’ll be able to adjust along the way so there are no surprises with your final product.

While we’re still observing social distancing and staying at home to prepare our meals, we are using this opportunity to continue to refine our skills for life aboard a sailboat.

We hope you find these ideas useful.

 

Reading Time: 4 minutes

A couple months ago, we decided to experiment with ways to go green. For us this means, living deliberately and raising our awareness about how we impact the world around us. Here are a few updates on our progress towards ethical sailing.

Happy World Oceans Day

Sailors for the Sea

as of May 9, 2020

As the quest for going green continues. I came across a great resource Sailors for the Sea . They provide a list of commercial products that have been tested for the environment based on the following factors:

  • cleaning
  • performance
  • toxicity
  • biodegradability

The site also provides recipes for making your own cleaning products with lemon juice, vinegar, baking soda, and salt. 

Learning about topics like this gets me more excited to move aboard. In the meantime, we may give these DIY solutions a try while we are still on land. Much like our water water everywhere experiment, we’ll test out commercial and DIY solutions in a future post. 

 

Reef-safe Toothpaste

It has been precisely one month since we began using toothpaste powder. All of the ingredients are naturally occurring (sea salt, peppermint oil, etc.) and biodegradable. While the packaging is plastic, we feel confident that this form will last us longer than toothpaste tubes. So far we have seen advantages such as:

  • water conservation – less water is needed, because there is no rinsing!
  • salt – antibiotic, cleansing properties – Andrew noticed he had a canker sore developing in his mouth. In 2 days, it disappeared 
  • plaque reduction – with its mild abrasion, my teeth feel cleaner as if I had used an electric toothbrush 

In addition, we are gathering more ideas about zero waste. Here are other cruisers who have forged a path ahead of us, including

Reef-friendly Shampoo

A couple weeks ago, we ran out of our usual shampoo. We took this as an opportunity to experiment with other ways to clean our hair. Andrew opted to use a bar of soap and said it worked great for him. I shook my head, recalling days from my youth when I tried that on my long mane. There is a tacky residue that stays behind on my hair which makes it difficult to comb or brush. I equate that with pain, so using a bar of soap was a non-starter. Instead, I reached for a body wash that had been hanging around in our shower for much too long. That seemed to do the trick until that also ran out.

I decided to pull the trigger and purchase a zero waste, biodegradable shampoo bar made in New Zealand and give that a shot. 

Verdict? Ethique left a bit of residue, but it wasn’t as tacky as my experience with Oatmeal and Honey soap from Trader Joe’s. I sprayed some leave-in conditioner and had no issue combing out my wet hair.

When I described what I was experiencing, Andrew asked me how I was applying it to my hair. He offered a suggestion which is to lather the soap in my hands to apply rather than smear the soap directly on my hair. 100% improvement! 

Reduce Plastic – Go Bamboo

We are trying out bamboo toothbrushes. The Greenzla bamboo set we picked up from Amazon come with 4 charcoal bamboo toothbrushes, a travel bamboo tube holder and charcoal mint floss. 

Our bamboo toothbrushes, dental floss and bamboo travel holder are all additive, coloring and BPA Free, and are manufactured in an FDA registered facility, so they’re better for you and better for the planet too.

If most dentists, and the American Dental Association (ADA), recommend changing your toothbrush every 3 months, then over our lifetime we would have used and thrown out over 350 toothbrushes or 7 kg of plastic waste (based on an average weight of 20 g per toothbrush). That seems unnecessary going forward. 

Perhaps the only downside is they come with only soft bristles and Andrew prefers medium bristles. 

Photo courtesy of Business Insider

Zero Waste Products

Also starting this month, I decided look at other areas of waste and reduce my use of single use, disposable items such as tampons. When I think about boat life and carrying smelly items aboard, it was a natural conclusion to switch things up. Andrew had no idea I was contemplating this until he sorted through the latest Amazon delivery and exclaimed, “My menstrual cup arrived!”

I chose this particular one based on a recommendation by Pick Up Limes. It’s interesting how marketers have influenced the behavior of millions of women, steering us at a young age toward disposable items. This reminds me of cigarette advertising: get ’em while they’re young and you’ll have a customer for life. 

The benefits of this are:

  • less waste
  • less cost
  • more time

I’m sold! I can use this product for a year and simultaneously reduce waste, especially smelly waste.

As we continue to discover products that align with zero waste, minimalism, self-sustainability or going green, we’ll continue to provide updates on ethical sailing. Please note that we are providing links for convenience, and we are not earning any affiliate revenue. 

 

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In the final part of our tour of s/v Rachel J Slocum’s interior, we conclude the downsizing process that began with 30-weeks to minimalism. When it comes to the rest of the living space aboard s/v Rachel J Slocum, we will bring the “bear minimum” aboard because we need to leave room for spares. And we have no idea where Bill has the spares stored or how much if it is there is!

That will be one of the priority tasks when we visit Ft Lauderdale again. 

Saloon

Starting from the starboard side, this space is comprised of a long settee that can be pulled out into a double berth. Bookshelves line the starboard side of the saloon and as well as the starboard side of the owner’s cabin. As far as books, we will bring along sailing, cooking, writing, philosophy and climbing. Works of fiction will be stored in a Kindle. 

At center, the Lugger engine is concealed under the table, which can slide away allowing 360 degree access. 

On the port side, the saloon features a recessed liquor cabinet and wine storage between the two club chairs,

Throughout, many of the hatches allow easy access to the electrical wiring which Bill designed and installed himself during this vessel’s construction, which occurred over 3 1/2 years in southern Taiwan.

Desk / Main Nav Station

The desk is located forward of the club chairs on the port side. It includes a variety of instrumentation, while the remainder is located at the nav station which is adjacent to the companion way on the starboard side. 

Desk / main nav station

Other cruisers have shared ways to stay in touch, including:

Sea nav station

We will also be bringing computer and electronics to serve a few purposes:

  • back-up navigational tools (iPad with waterproof case)
  • storing sailing log/maintenance records/living expenses
  • generating website content
  • VOIP communication 

There is a tall, vertical nook next to the nav station where all the nautical charts were stored. We might repurpose this living space by creating pull-out, sliding shelves.  

V-berth

The fore cabin doubles as a workshop and sleeping area/stowage. In the brief visit we had opening drawers, I was overwhelmed at how each available space was taken up with spares, spares and more spares. The Voyager’s Handbook suggests leaving 1/4 to 1/3 of stowage for spares. We aren’t taking much because everything else is for the boat, to maintain her operations and keep us safe.

 

Spares, spares and more spares! Even the seat in the aft cabin has spares!

Everyday Tools

We captured some of the advice from youtube channel sail followtheboat, who provided the top 10+ everyday tools needed aboard a sailboat. These include:

  1. Socket set (imperial and metric)
  2. Marlin spike
  3. Screwdrivers (flat and Phillips, differing lengths)
  4. Multimeter
  5. Electrical kit (wire stripping, black & red tape, terminals, crimping gun)
  6. Torches/flashlight – 12V spotlight, work lamp (portable and rechargeable), headlamp (white and red lamp), diver’s torch
  7. Cable ties or zip ties
  8. Adjustable wrench (keep lubricated with WD40)
  9. Multitool
  10. Sailor’s knife with blunt end, serrated, rust proof, bright handled 

Out Chasing Stars offers their perspective on not just which tools but how to store them in their post Tools for Cruisers

I don’t envy Andrew’s task ahead of him, as he needs to evaluate what he brings from his tool box in comparison to what Bill already has stocked aboard RJ Slocum for specific boat use. 

Marine life

As we choose items that we take with us, we have become acutely aware of the impact salt water, sun and humidity could have on each item.

For humidity, we will be investing in Eva Dry Wireless or Probreeze dehumidifers as suggested by Marga while she gave a tour of her boat Dogfish, a Kelly Peterson 44 on the youtube channel s/v Adventurer.

Sunbrella will be the fabric of choice for tenting our boat as well as for fabrics used for the upholstery, cushions, etc. to help minimize damage from the sun and salt water.  

Corrosion is also a big factor, so we can’t be cavalier and buy just anything, we have to check for whether it is stainless steel, etc.

Finally, there is also the issue about creepy, crawlies. Living closer to nature sometimes means living closer to bugs, so we’ll need to address our habits when it provisioning food (bugs can nest in cardboard, so we will need to process/sanitize everything before it is stored on the boat), Mosquitoes love me. Andrew? Not so much. So we’ll need to figure out what sort of netting or screens exist or are required on the boat.

 

Circa 2017. Our climbing gear has doubled in quantity since then! Luckily harnesses, webbing and caribiners can be repurposed for sailing.

Rest of the living space

Because we are using this live-aboard home to sail around the world, we also want to make sure we are able to bring other items that contribute to living life beyond the boat. These include:

  • climbing gear
  • snowboard gear
  • longboards
  • folding bikes 
  • provisioning gear
  • knitting supplies
  • snorkeling
  • fishing
  • electronics – communications (headset), others

The sooner we get back to Ft Lauderdale, the sooner we can sort out the living space and develop a strategy. We’ll provide more updates, so check back here after our sea trial. 

 

Reading Time: 6 minutes

30-weeks to minimalism launched our 5 part series on how to downsize for the rest of your life. We followed this up with how to tackle sentimental items as well as clothes figuring out a way to pack light. In part 3 of this series, we address the boat head or bathroom.

Why is it called a head?

The head aboard a boat is the bathroom. The term comes from the days of sailing ships when the place for the crew to relieve themselves was all the way forward on either side of the bowsprit, the integral part of the hull to which the figurehead was fastened.

We will do no such thing aboard RJ Slocum.

The head aboard s/v Rachel J. Slocum

Features

To the uninitiated, this photo would not trigger a second look. However when Andrew and I first looked at this photo in December and read the specs, we were impressed with the following features:

  • Dry shower – It doesn’t seem like a big deal when you’re used to it on land, however when transitioning from shore life to boat life, a wet shower signals camping (in my mind). Wet showers are common on a variety of yachts, depending on what space vs. function trade-offs were being made by the designer. For example, some may want two wet heads for redundancy or additional occupants instead of one dry head. Regardless, having a dry head (shower in a separate compartment) is a necessity for our liveaboard lifestyle.
  • Kentigern toilet – The Simpson Lawrence Kentigern toilet is considered the Rolls Royce of marine toilets. If you are considering one for yourself, unfortunately they are no longer being manufactured. However luckily for us, we can still find spares from SL Spares
  • Ventilation – We were pleased to see that there are three hatches in this space. Ventilation is important to dry out the room and to reduce mildew. At the moment, we probably won’t need to modify the ventilation

 

To the right of the instrumentation is a porthole to the shower.
  • Porthole – From inside the shower, there is a porthole facing the salon (pictured above). Perhaps this is to allow in ambient light at night. Perhaps there is another reason (oh the stories this boat could tell…) Luckily, there is a curtain that can be closed for privacy.
  • Stowage – When we saw the boat for ourselves in March, we got to see the stowage available in the medicine cabinet, below the sink, above the toilet, etc. We also discovered there is additional stowage for wine.  

Can you guess where the wine storage is? It appears we are running low…

Secret wine compartment in the shower

Adapting to voyaging life

After the closet, the next priority for the “pampered” woman is the bathroom. The storage inside the head of s/v Rachel J. Slocum provides for a limited amount of toiletries, first aid and other pharmaceutical items. Few shelves exist in the medicine cabinet, so we’ll probably have to figure out our own solution to compartmentalize and store small items.

Downsizing from our current bathroom to this one will be less problematic since we are both low maintenance. 

Last month, I met up with my friend Hasmik to buy her old Nikon camera equipment, and she reminded me just how low maintenance I was. She and I travelled on safari as well as hiked up Machu Picchu together. This was during my single years before meeting Andrew. Using herself as a comparison, where her only requirement is to apply mascara and eyeliner on each morning. she tells me,

“I thought I was low maintenance, but you define low maintenance.” 

A large part of the voyaging lifestyle is becoming acutely aware of the impact we make on the environment. Just as we wrote up in going green, we want to live making deliberate choices about what we use on our body and how washing it off will end up in the ocean. It really makes you think twice about the chemicals used in cleaning products. 

Gone are most of the items in our current medicine cabinet. What will survive are a few basic items along with first aid supplies (or as Bill’s wife charmingly coins it, “the drugs.”) Out Chasing Stars shares with us what is contained in their offshore medical kit

 

On the right page, we list the linens we would take on our voyaging life

Linens

We have a fair number of queen and full size bedding in our house. We have flannels for cooler weather and a variety of bamboo as well as high thread count cotton sheets for the rest of the year.

Cruisers recommend darker colors or sheets with patterns to hide stains. We have mostly lighter shades. The Voyager’s Handbook has a guideline as well for us to reference (e.g., 2 sets of sheets for each actively-used berth and 2 light blankets. For cooler climates, fleece blanket, half a dozen wool blankets and a comforter).

As I am taking inventory of what we have, we have more than enough, but rather than make educated guesses, we decided we would ask Bill. 

Project Slocum Update

In the process of asking Bill about linens, we found out there is another person interested in buying Rachel J. Slocum.

WTF?

The other buyer wanted to move quickly, asking Bill to meet her in Florida during the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Cruisers the world over are in lockdown. So it seems, there’s little point in rushing to get on the water. But the new buyer was selling her house and ready to go.

We had always taken a cautious approach, valuing health and safety over a transaction, even if it involved the rest of our lives. So we replied to Bill that it provided peace of mind to him, we can wire the security deposit and move forward with our deal, rather than have him worry needlessly about being pressured to make a sale, even at the cost of his own health.

So a couple weeks ago, we sent the security deposit to Bill who took the boat off the market.

How did we feel about this next step?

When he received the reply from Bill yesterday evening, Andrew smiled, pretty excited about taking this next step. In the wee hours of the morning, I woke up and read the email Andrew had forwarded from Bill, and I started to research what information we would need to complete the transaction.

The next morning, when Andrew woke up, I told him I read the email. He asked me, “How did you feel?”

I paused, and said, “Pretty good.”

“Aren’t you excited?”

“Sure, I’m excited,” I replied flatly.

Andrew raised an eyebrow.

Why the difference in reaction?

I speculate that my unchanged mood largely stems from the fact that I had mentally accepted that this was our boat. Wiring the money, finalizing the purchase agreement, and any other steps were just that: mechanical steps in a process and nothing more. In my mind, she is already ours. The steps were a mere formality. 

Andrew’s happiness over this next step, seems to stem from a subconscious belief that there are a series of go/no-go decisions. In his mind, anything could prevent his dream from becoming a reality at each of these decision points. Rather than get his hopes up about the end goal, he is more cautious. Every step becomes a celebration… or a potential devastation.

Glass half full or half empty

We mentioned this before when we first decided to sail around the world. On our whiteboard, we sketched out a plan. Over the course of a year, that whiteboard was a disappointing reminder to Andrew about the lack of progress we made. It wasn’t a disappointment to me. I looked at the whiteboard with optimism about what steps needed to be taken for us to transform our lives.

The past day is a reminder of how Andrew and I differ in our approach to the same goal. He will celebrate each positive step. I will take each step in stride as a natural course of things.

I like the fact that we are getting better at observing ourselves and our interaction. This wards off any potential for disagreement or tension.

Now, on to the next steps… to work on the purchase agreement.

 

Linens ‘n things

Back to the topic at hand, Bill replied that we were welcome to any and all linens that are currently aboard RJ Slocum. That throws another curveball into the equation, since we will now need to bring aboard what we think we will need and marry this up with what he already has and then decide which will stay and which will take a trip to the dumpster.

All in all, we decided we’ll need to revisit this when when we fly out for the marine survey and sea trial in the fall.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Why I knit

Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Andrew and I would hop in the car on weekends and run errands, head to the gym, shop for grocery, visit family, etc. Without fail, on each of these short outings, I would take along my current knitting project. Sometimes while I am standing in line, I will pull out my project and begin to knit. Others look at their cellphone, I knit. 

I find it incredibly soothing and therapeutic. It allows my mind to focus on a single activity and block everything else out. My breathing is relaxed and I achieve a meditative state. Climbing brings the same relaxed state as well. 

While knitting is making a comeback, many celebrities are getting into it, and the benefits are tangible, it takes a certain level of patience to slog through the repetition of movements and a certain level of tenacity to complete a project over weeks and months.

It’s not a quick hit

I am reminded of the students in my mom’s crochet class. Earlier this year, she volunteered to teach crochet to seniors for 10 weeks, and I enjoyed hearing her plans for the class, the projects and of course how her students fared. Even with crochet, arguably the simpler and more forgiving skill to learn, one or two students would continue with the project outside of class time (i.e., homework). The others would work on their projects only during class and had very little to show for at the end of each session.

It isn’t for everyone

While it used to be an activity borne out of necessity, the industrial revolution has rendered it obsolete, except for as a hobby. For me it is one that is incredibly rewarding because it provides opportunities for creativity, feeling productive and at the same time therapeutic. Turns out it also helps cognitive function, thus staving off senility.

Fiber Arts

During these first few months of retirement, I am spending more time knitting. The projects I had queued many moons ago are now being tackled. I have boxes of yarn stashed, neatly organized by project, just waiting for me to tackle and it brings me so much joy to be able to finish each project and to be able to share them with others. 

At the same time, I have so many knitted and crocheted finished objects.

40+

Hats & Toques

30+

Scarves & Cowls

10+

Sweaters & Tops

50+

Mittens, socks, etc.

Bear in mind that this is also one of the areas targeted for downsizing since they all cannot come aboard our sailboat with us. We have a plan for this, which we will reveal in the upcoming weeks. 

 

Small Pleasures

The beauty of living in the present moment is gaining awareness, both internal and external. We described some of this in our previous post Past, Present and Future. As you tune into your external senses, you begin to appreciate the subtleties picked up by your senses.

I am reminded of scenes from Amelie who exemplifies these small moments in her every day life. This is depicted in the trailer for the film (see above). 

 

Lavender and Sage

I happened to tune into the scents of lavender and sage, which is the username by which I go by on Ravelry, a community site for fiber arts, including knitting, crocheting, weaving, spinning and dying yarns. Most of my projects can be found on this site, which has tracked my activity since May, 2012. 

 

Ravelry

 

In addition to being a great resource, it is an area to organize projects, stash, needles, and patterns.  

Is it for you?

I come from a family of knitters. Both my mom and my grandmother knit. While I have been knitting on and off since the age of 11 years old, most of my recent skills have been self-taught watching youtube channels, trying out new stitches and techniques. and reading knitting blogs. It turns out you don’t need to come from a family of knitters in order to start knitting.

Just as it is with sailing. No one in Andrew’s family or my family sail. Yet here we are reading, self-teaching, and one day learning from Bill how to sail a schooner.

If you would like to get started in fiber arts, please click on the links below. I hope you find these useful.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

What is minimalism?


For those new to minimalism, the elevator pitch is:

Minimalism is owning fewer possessions.

Learn More

Reduce Possessions

This sticky note has been featured heavily on our original whiteboard. It was also among the first of our short-term goals Andrew and I tackled. We gave it a good go by taking the activity one room at a time in August 2018 and again in October 2019. In the process, I offloaded a lot of clothes, bags and shoes as well as underutilized kitchen items. Cherished items went to friends, and the rest went to charity.

Time to Take It Up a Notch

In retrospect, we took a somewhat incremental approach to reducing our possessions. The effect was… meh. In large part, we were missing a strong why to underpin the activity. We now have that: sailing around the world. 

Because we want to make this transformative lifestyle change, it demands a pretty extreme definition of minimalism. We have furniture, personal items and household supplies that fill a 3-bedroom house along with a sizable 2-car garage and extensive outdoor furniture. Taking an incremental approach will utterly end in failure to get off the dock, so to speak. Taking a transformative approach much like countless examples in Living Big in a Tiny House is what it takes. 

Learning from the experience of other live-aboard cruisers, we decided we are not going to rent storage space while we sail around the world. If we sail for 5-10 years, so many variables can change and it doesn’t add up:

  • why pay for storage for years (e.g., $100/mo for 10 years = $12,000)
  • we may not use furniture, clothes or items from our distant past 
  • our needs inevitably will change

Thus, we will not be hanging on to anything that does not serve a purpose onboard a sailboat. A critical eye will be cast on every article of clothing, every kitchen item, and every tool on the workbench. As other cruisers have indicated, even what they brought was way too much. So, when it comes to purging, we are going to be ruthless. 

At the end of the purge, we will be left with a handful of suitcases and ready to go sailing, whether we start from Florida, Germany or British Columbia. 

Serenade Wind 2020 Bullet Journal

Game Plan

Thankfully we have a little bit of time to purge our belongings. Accomplishing this transition while keeping our sanity at the same time is one of the driving reasons for taking our time with this.

I have read some examples of breakneck speeds at which folks who are excited to start cruising quit their jobs, buy a boat, sell their possessions and move aboard within a few months time. Neither Andrew nor I are interested in replacing a frenetic schedule with another frenetic schedule.

One of the hardest things to do in this transition is deliberately slow down. I remind myself to go with the flow. Finding stillness in the day for introspection and self-discovery. I am giving myself the gift of time to define what gives me joy and purpose in this lifetime.

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

Jimmy Dugan

Does it help me fulfill a greater purpose with my life?

In our efforts to de-clutter, we are going beyond the simple question, “Does it spark joy?” Rather than attach happiness to the items we decide to keep, we are filtering the items to evaluate whether it will serve us in the future. With that lens, we can categorize the items into three buckets: 

 

Yes

These are the items that will be used daily when we are on our sailing adventures.

 

Maybe

These items will be set aside for a few months. If we don’t retrieve them during that time, we don’t need them.

No

These items will not have a home in our future. They’re too big, too worn-out or simply not a good fit for our new lifestyle.

30 Days to Minimalism

We decided not to take the same room-by-room or drawer-by-drawer approach as we did in 2018 and 2019. This time, we are going to take things on by category of items. I love Sadia’s youtube channel not just for her recipes but also for lifestyle tips. The categories were laid out based on her video 30 days to minimalism. Rather than do things in 30 days, we will attempt to do things in 30 weeks or somewhere in between. This way we have time for other activities. 

 

Reading Time: 6 minutes

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

Cleaning Products

The second major category we considered are the daily chemicals that we flush down drains, whether it is something used to clean ourselves (soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, etc.) or clean stuff (kitchen, laundry, etc.) In a boat environment, naturally the same lack of treatment process means whatever we use will directly impact the marine life.

Coupled with that consideration is also wanting to reduce waste and our use of plastic. Because space is at a premium, we don’t want to be hauling hundreds of pounds of single-use plastic items across the high seas. Thus, we are acutely aware of wanting to find solutions that are plastic free, zero waste and eco-friendly.

After spending an hour or so browsing through options on Amazon.com for these products, I came to a startling conclusion.

Going green is expensive!

Plastic free, zero waste and eco-friendly products are not cheap. But rather than let that deter us, we want to take a marginal cost comparison approach rather than react to the stated retail price. Here’s what we came up with:

 

Category

Current

Here is a sampling of brands that we currently use without consideration to its impact on the environment. Many of these products have ingredients that we cannot pronounce. These choices are primarily driven based on effectiveness, scent and cost.

 

Future

Here is a sampling of new brands we are exploring because we want to consider what impact these choices are making on the environment. Many of these choices are vegan and the packaging reduces use of plastic and waste.

 

Soap

 

The Yellow Bird Soap Bar (Peppermint & Tea Tree) 

Reef Safe Soap (Minty Green)

 

Shampoo

L’Oreal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Moisture Shampoo 

Ethique Eco-friendly Solid Shampoo Bar (Heali Kiwi) 

 

Toothpaste

 

Colgate Cavity Protection with Fluoride 

Power Mint Tooth Powder

 

Laundry Detergent

 

Tide Original HE Laundry Detergent 

Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder (Fragrance Free) 

 

Dish Soap

 

Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Soap (Original Scent) 

No Tox Life Dish Washing Block Soap 

Payoff of going green

If we were to total the full replacement cost per unit in a straight up comparison, the current products we buy are indeed cheaper. Even on a cost per use basis, the future products we buy are less economical although they give us the peace of mind that we are doing our part to help the environment. 

However, what if we took the eco-friendly, zero waste, plastic free approach one step further? 

Similar to a previous post on Make vs Buy, there is nothing to prevent us from deciding to make our own soap. Doing so provides not only with cost efficiencies, but we also get to determine what ingredients go into the soap. We also get to determine what is being used on our bodies. Thanks to youtube, we can learn how to make our own Simple Homemade Cold Process Soap.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, however, Andrew and I ordered a couple products from Amazon.com to see how they hold up over the next few months versus our usual brands.

If all goes well, we might bulk order coconut oil and go nuts, much like Tyler Durden one of my favorite movie characters and fellow soap-maker. 

Waste not, want not

One of my go-to youtube channels is Exploring Alternatives. In this video, they explore approaching your life with Zero Waste in mind as well as other tips, should Zero Waste prove to be too extreme on the outset.