I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. Every day for the past month in New Orleans it has rained and the forecasts have fluctuated wildly. Long ago I ordered the materials from Teak Decking Systems to recaulk our cockpit teak seams but every weekend I was met by more rain. Like a damn rain forest. Strangely enough I began to feel connected to the weather as if I could predict what would happen by the way the wind blew or how the hair stood up on my arm and this past weekend I took a chance that paid off.
Old caulk next to new caulk with Teak Decking System

I saw a weather window that had a chance of working out if all the stars aligned and I pounced on it. Tate was still somewhat weak from his Strep sickness, persistent cough and what actually looks like a brown recluse spider bite on his side from sleeping downstairs near the poorly sealed outside door (don’t worry it’s healing and he’s alright) so I was on my own. It’s far too hot outside for the infirmed but I tolerate it well and this has been a pretty mild summer in LA so there was no time to waste plus we have LOTS of upcoming project that userp this one.

To start these are the products I used, some are *highly recommend (Total work time was 15 hours):

  1. *Teak Decking Systems SIS-440 caulk, Jamestown Distributors has a good price of $11.99/cartridge CAUTION: You cannot use an oil based varnish or oil over this caulk as it is water based. They gave the greenlight however for Semco waterbased teak sealer. It took me 4 cartridges for this port side space.
  2. *Teak Decking Systems Reefing Hook, worth it’s weight in GOLD.  I went 5 times as fast using this tool.
  3.  Teak Decking Systems Seam Sander, eh for $50 you’d do better with a 1/8″ piece of starboard wrapped in sandpaper.
  4. *Caulking Gun NBC 250, also worth it’s weight in Gold. It may seem pricey for a caulking gun but we have used over 20 cartridges with this bad boy and it performs the same as we we bought it, easy on the hands and great compression.
  5. Mouse sander with 80 grit, then 120 grit paper to remove some of the varnish (? or maybe Cetol).
  6. Bleach, TSP or some other kind of teak cleaner.
  7. Acetone and rags.
  8. Blue tape and 3M fine line tape #218 (used as bond breaker).
  9. Mineral spirits to clean off renegade caulk.
  10. Putty knife to dip in mineral spirits and smooth caulk lines.

This is not paid advertising, this was me ready to shell out some bigger bucks to make this process easier than the time I caulked the Companionway hatch (Part 1 and Part 2).  It took FOREVER with just a screwdriver to not just remove the old caulk but get it off the sides of the seams. I knew there had to be a better way and while I didn’t believe this $22 reefing hook would make things easier I had to give it a shot and I AM SO GLAD I DID.

The old seams were failing in the typical fashion by pulling away from one side.

Old caulk all cracking and failing

Old caulk close up failing

Basically I just ran the screw driver down along the adhered side to separate the old caulk and then came back with this reefing hook that has sharp edges and scraped off most of the caulk from the sides of the seams and the bottom. If you tilt it at just the right angle the caulk just comes right off and you are left with bare teak. It was a piece of cake! I was crunched for time and didn’t do a video of this process because I figured surely there was one online somewhere but I can’t find one. Darn, oh well you are just going to have to take my word for it.
Teak Decking Systems Caulk

Finally after 8 hours on Friday I had ALL of the old caulk out of the seams using the reefing hook and then I sanded each seam using the sanding block which went really really fast because of how well the hook worked.
Cleaning teak seams
Cleaning teak seams closeup

After the seams were cleaned I sanded the teak using 80 grit and then 120 grit on a mouse sander to try and take off some of that awful varnish. This teak is so weathered and old that using a heat gun to remove the varnish would require excessive heat to lift the varnish from the grooves and I was afraid it would compromise the caulk on the very bottom of the teak. So sanding it was and it worked great. After I sanded and vacuumed I washed the teak with TSP and bleach and left to dry overnight.

The next morning the teak was dry as a bone in the sunshine and so I set up a tent shade on both sides and got to work taping…Oh yes the taping. Using Teak Decking Systems caulk they actually recommend you don’t tape and just sand off the excess. LOL. They aren’t talking about old and weathered teak no! This stuff is so messy if I didn’t tape it I’d have to sand off another 1/4″ of the teak to get it all off so taping was not optional.

I think it took me 4-5 hours to tape over all the teak and lay the 218 fine line tape in the seams. You see one of the (supposed) reasons teak seams fail is that the caulk is forced to form a 3 sided bond, to each side and then the bottom. The caulk doesn’t like this and usually pulls away from one of the sides causing the split in the pictures above.

Bond breaker material is used widespread in construction of roads and buildings where a flexible seam sealant is needed and they say it’s no different for a boat. Just for good measure I follow this line of thinking. The taping may take forever and it’s VERY tedious with all of the angles and also the little tabs I make for removal but the end result is worth it.
Taping teak bond breaker tape
Taping teak full picture

Next it was caulking time. We chose TDS SIS 440 caulk because we liked how it performed and has held up on the companionway hatch and also like how long lasting it is supposed to be. You can’t varnish over it though which it fine by us since we aren’t varnishing anyways.

I lined a 5 gallon bucket with a trash bags, had plenty of latex gloves “handy”, had a cup of mineral spirits and my caulk gun and putty knife. I would slowing pump the caulk into the seam doing 4 or so seams at a time and then I’d put the caulk gun down and dip my putty knife in mineral spirits and smooth out each caulk line. I started from the edge and worked my way in where I had more room. Periodically I would remove the tape from the last caulked areas and then proceed to new areas ensuring the caulk didn’t dry too long on the tape. The caulking process took only about 2 hours.
Caulking using Teak Decking Systems

Some of the seams came out really good.
Good caulk lines

Others were really difficult to smooth out at the junction of the border and battens. I’m not quite the caulking masteress yet. I left these areas fuller so that later I can come back and sand the caulk flat, which they recommend anyways.
Caulk mistakes
Teak Decking System mistakes

Even with the bumps and bruises I am thrilled with the result! Out with the old:
Old caulk full picture

And in with the new, she looks like a fancy sailing boat now:
New caulk with Teak Decking Systems

Once sanded all of the seams will be smooth and the teak is also SO much smoother than when I started. It was worth it for sure! I can’t wait to do the starboard side and hopefully at the same time the middle. Love love love our *new* deck.

You may now exit the country

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I’ll admit I’m a newbie at all this “international” travel stuff. In fact I’ve only left the country twice in my whole 31 years on earth. Once when I was 11 to visit St. Croix (U.S. Virgin Island) for a blissful week of scuba diving heaven with my sister and dad and once again the next year when I was 12 to Prince Edward Island, Canada to explore the Canadian wilderness and golf resort with my dad and now stepmom Kate. This was back in the early 90′s before the stringent Passport rules and so I was never required to have one. Well times have changed and I’ve had to go get myself a Passport, I feel like such a grown up now.

In being so travel inexperienced I didn’t really know all of things we needed to do in order to leave the country and safely travel the world. There are a TON of things to consider/do and it was kind of overwhelming at first gathering all the information but I think now I have a pretty good handle on the basics. This post is kind of procedural and may make you feel like a kid sitting in church so I apologize if it puts anyone to sleep.

Passports

Being a US born citizen the first time Passport application process was really straightforward and easy. You just bring your driver’s license, a certified copy of your birth certificate and your filled out 1990′s block style black ink only form down to your local post office and wait. You wait a bit more and then they take your picture, you pay a bunch of money (checks or cash rules) and they mail off your application for you with the understanding you’ll get your Passport to travel the world in 4-6 weeks. Easy Peasy.
Dani's Passport photo and application

Tate got his first Passport in Nov 2007 a month before he went “hiking” in Canada in December and while it’s good till Nov 2017 we sent in a renewal application since we don’t want it to expire while we are out. This was even easier as you just mail directly your old passport, 90′s form and an updated picture…ah yes the picture. So many rules for the picture, not too close, not too far, no blur and no funny business. I took the new picture in front of our white closet door and then submitted it online to a nifty Passport picture verification site called ePassportPhoto and they sent it to be printed that day to a drug store of my choice for only $8 bucks.
Tate's passport

Aside from the mustache and beard he really doesn’t look much different from 7 years ago. So so handsome <3

Vaccinations!

Lord, this one ended up being more complicated than I realized. Without going through the process of discovery I’ll outline just what vaccines I think are recommended if you plan to venture about.  These were all covered by my insurance except for those with a fee from the local travel clinic. (feel free to add or take away)

  1. Hepatitis A (2 shots 6 months apart)
  2. Hepatitis B (3 shots- 1 month, 2 month, 5 month)
  3. Tetanus (every 10 years)
  4. MMR (2nd shot for lifetime, first should be during childhood)
  5. Meningitis (1 shot lifetime)
  6. Pneumonia (1 shot lifetime)
  7. Yellow Fever ($145)
  8. Typhoid Fever ($115 )
  9. Malaria prescription ($1/pill to take 4 days before and 4 weeks after visiting high risk areas like Haiti)

Of course if you are up to date on any of these you are good which brings us to Tate. When Tate was a teenager he had an immediate and severe reaction to the first Hepatitis B shot, so severe he was hospitalized for days with a high fever and the doctors told him he had “serum sickness” which essentially is a reaction to the proteins found in non-human animal based serums. Because of the severity he never got another shot again. This isn’t good in the world of vaccines.

That episode was nearly 20 years ago now so this past Spring I found Dr. Wild (great name huh?), an allergist at Tulane Medical Center, to test Tate for this so called serum sickness and see if there was anyway he could get vaccinated for all these things he’s missing. On the first visit she essentially ruled out serum sickness since the described symptoms didn’t match what someone exhibiting true serum sickness would experience. Quite frankly the situation left her stumped.

She theorized that perhaps Tate’s body had an extreme response to the vaccine and began “fighting” off whatever the vaccine had introduced, as if he was truly sick with Hep B. They tested his blood and found trace amounts of the expected antibodies, which is a good thing as the this shows the first shot had an effect. Now in 2 weeks she is going to give Tate 10% of the Hep B shot and monitor for a reaction, if there is none then she’ll give him the remaining 90% which will be a full 2nd shot. I’m hoping and keeping my fingers crossed he has no reaction and can proceed with catching up on his severely delinquent vaccination record (every one listed above).

Thankfully I on the other have never had a problem with such things and just yesterday got four shots at once, Hep A, Tetanus, Pneumonia and a Hep B booster. Now I only have a 2nd Hep A in December and the Typhoid and Yellow Fever vaccines and then I’m good to go.
Things we needed to do in order to leave the country and Dani is vaccinated

I have heard you can get vaccines easily and cheaper out of the country but our first few stops after the leaving the Florida Keys are (planned) off the beaten path and I’m just a little wary of going there for the shots that we’ll mainly need for when we are there, it’s truly a rock in a hard place. Also I have read online that when you clear into ports you can be asked for your vaccinations records although I have no idea how frequently that happens.

Boat Documents

This one was really confusing for me years ago but I think I have it narrowed down to the important stuff, please please tell us if we are missing anything. On the boat we are required to carry and often show certain “official documents” when clearing in/out of port’s of call. This is a modified list from the great information over at NoonSite:

The most common documents that are needed when clearing in are:

  • Ship’s registration papers (U.S. Coast Guard Registration for us and we’ll carry the Bill of Sale)
  • Crew list (with full details of passports, date of birth etc).
  • Ships Radio licence for the boat AND a Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit for at least one of the crew (The Ships Radio License is for the boat and will give you a MMSI number which you need for your VHF and GPS and we just realized we needed and applied for the RR permit)
  • Passports and vaccination certificates
  • Visas (if required)
  • Clearance papers (zarpe) from the last country visited
  • VAT paid or VAT exempt certificate (when in the EU)
  • BOAT STAMP (Not required but we plan to have one with the boat name and Coast Guard #, Bettie del Mar did a good write up)
  • BOAT cards (Not required but good to have, we have one with our name, website and Coast Guard #)

Some countries also want to see:

  • Original boat insurance docs (We plan to carry ORM boat insurance)
  • The ship’s logbook (this can be used as a legal document).
  • A CEVNI certificate (if on the inland waterways of Europe)
  • A list of electronic or other valuable items on board

I think we’ll have most everything we need from this list by the time we are ready to leave just as soon as our passports arrive in the mail that Tate’s awesome sister Carley and her husband Adam have offered to take care of for us while we are out, a generosity we aren’t quite sure how to repay just yet…

Well so there you have it.  These are the wrap up and organization projects going on in our world and FINALLY this weekend I get to tackle the recaulking of the cockpit teak. I honestly can’t wait to make this space BEAUTIFUL! Wish me luck.
cockpit teak before

The 3 month notice and a tour

I missed a…didn’t answer a call from our landlord the other day. The landlord just isn’t a person, typically, that you enjoy chatting it up with. Usually they are calling to tell you about a neighbor’s compliant, ask you why your last rent check is late and inform you that the next lease’s rent is going up. Sort of like a call from your parents during your early 20′s you pretty much just don’t answer and hope they leave it all in a message that doesn’t require you to call back. This time however I had a hunch about the topic, when were we planning to move out?

Our lease expired in April and we’ve been going month to month with our rented condo. Ever since we sold Tate’s house back in Dec of 2011 we’ve been renting from my previous coworker with the understanding that sometime in late 2014 we would move out and onto the boat. (Honest to God it’s hard to believe its been that long ago.) Well that time has finally come and we made the commitment to be out of the condo by the end of October! This has me giddy and excited beyond belief.

Often people ask me if I’m scared about leaving on this trip and this question always perplexes me. Why would I be taking all this time, spending all this money and quitting my job if fear surrounded my decision? I know they are just trying to be nice and make conversation and also perhaps vent some of their own trepidation regarding such a venture so I don’t read too much into it but no, I AM STOKED! Bursting to the brim with 10 times the excitement and wonder that I’ve felt before past long camping, hiking, and boating trips.

This is, give or take my emotional composition: 70% happy/excited/ambitious, 10% homesick, 10% uncertain and 10% fear.

I have already started going through what little remains of our “stuff” and throwing out some things while boxing up others to give away. I am so ready to reap the benefits and realize our dreams after of 5 years of saving, hard work, and slaving away on this boat. This past week poor Tate was sick as a dog and running over a 101 fever for 3 days! The doctor said it was Strep and while he isn’t running a fever anymore it’s slow going down here. So in between me washing sweat soaked sheets I’ve taken this opportunity to get to the boat and finish up the inside. Oh yeah baby it’s done now.

For over a year now I have taken as many lunch breaks as I can to go work on the boat which is only 10 minutes away. Those 40 mins add up to many days of work. Recently I have finished putting up the insulation and headliner in a couple of other places, covered holes with painted tiles, fixed some more leaks in the boat (it’s virtually leak free, for now), and cleaned all the stainless in the galley area.

Oh yeah I wanted to show you guys this neat little contraption. I painstakingly spent weeks measuring and researching dish racks that would fit in our second shallow sink. The plan is to wash the dishes in the deep left sink and let them dry in the dish rack over the second sink. I found this collapsible one on Amazon and while it was hard to spend that much it was totally worth it and fits in our sink like a glove! No really the sides are made of silicon so while the dimensions are bigger then the sink I knew the sides would bend in a little and provide a tight fit. This baby isn’t going anywhere in a moderate seaway.
Collapsible Dish drain
Two sinks

I have shared pictures here and there of the boat during various projects but now since all of my interior projects are done and the boat is so much more improved and ready to live on I thought I’d take you on a little tour of the inside. Once we move on and load her up we’ll probably do a video tour to give you the real feel of a provisioned cruising boat.

The Galley area ready for the stove! Check out my little sun tile covering up that old outlet hole.
Galley area cleaned

The Navigation area. The table is big enough to role paper charts onto and all of our communication equipment is housed here. It also doubles as Tate’s workbench with the hardy blue Formica.
Nav area

The port Salon Dinette, super excited here. The boat looks so much bigger when I see pictures of myself inside.
Dani in the Salon

The starboard Salon Settee area. We’ll bring the salon cushions when we move aboard.
Salon Starboard

Looking aft to the companionway.
Looking forward on the boat

The hallway to the head and vberth.
hallway to the vberth

The Head area.
The head area

The starboard Head cabinets and hanging locker. There is enough space here to fit 5 Dani’s.
Head cabinets

The Vberth area. Oh how I can’t wait to sleep in thee.
Vberth area

Well there you have it. Now however my project list is so short, whatever will I do with all my time? Hmm, maybe read all those books I keep postponing, run more, cook better food, learn photo/video graphy skills, brush up on my Spanish, learn French…

But we aren’t all done, done, done. Here are the items remaining according to my list: Install stove and propane, install solar panels, install new engine shifter, install water tanks and faucets, recaulk cockpit teak (it’s like the rainforest here this summer), hook up the anchor, install the windvane, remake the dodger and bimini (in Aug), shorten 1 stay, and paint the handrail area.

That’s the shortest list we’ve ever had. Woohoo! Here’s to making it happen.

The shopping begins!

Oh who am I kidding? Begins? More like continues, onward down the yellowish green brick road of blood, tears and dollar bills. This entire boat project has been pretty much a years long shopping trip of giant proportions but recently instead of nuts and bolts I have been shopping for livingwares. The things we need to live comfortably and put this show on the waterway.

Our living room and kitchen are slowly being taken over by cardboard boxes and I think they may now be multiplying on their own, but I can’t be sure. The windvane in on the very bottom of this reef:
Boxes in living room

And our stove rests quietly in the living room decorated with plastic cups and collapsing bowls.
Tons of boxes in the living room

I won’t lie, all this shopping, while exhausting, is SO MUCH FUN. Finally after 5 years, 5 years, I can shop guilt free for things for the house. Here is a list of some of the highlights to me either by use or anticipation of use:

  1. Dyna Jet BL-44 Clothes wringer. I got mine from the Wisemen Trading Company for $146 bucks plus the tub clamps. Constructed of bronze and aluminum I plan to use this wringer when I wash clothes on our boat out of a salt water bucket allowing me to use less fresh water to rinse.
  2. Pack Towel’s super absorbent towels. These little guys take up less space and dry quicker then big fluffy towels. I got them on Amazon.
  3. Stainless Kettle 2.75 quarts. We have tested this copper bottomed beauty and are truly impressed. It heats water quickly and has a wide heavy base to keep it steady in rolling seas. It’s home will mostly be on top of our stove and see daily use as we won’t have running hot water. Amazon as well.
  4. Manual Coffee grinder. We LOVE coffee and out at sea whole bean coffee is easier to find and last longer than already ground, but we don’t want to eat up precious Amps with an electric one. This one grinds quickly and has a removable coffee storage jar. YUM! Amazon baby.
  5. 11″ Everyday Pan safe for the stove top and the oven. I gave real thought to getting the whole Magma shebang but couldn’t really see myself using ALL of those pots. The most important thing for me was the skillet and this pan solves so many problems at once. It doesn’t have a long handle, it has tallish sides to help with spilling, comes with a top and can easily go from the stove to the oven and back.  We’ll use this pan, our 4 quart Presto pressure cooker and another smaller side dish pan and that’s it until we feel the need. Amazon.
  6. Thermoses – various sizes. We need a way to keep hot food/drinks warm after we shut the propane off and get underway, a Thermos is just the ticket. We have a few of these in various sizes.  Amazon.
  7. Tritan Plastic Cups – 14 ounces. We aren’t bringing any glassware on the boat so I opted for these great “plastic” cups. So far we like them and they have great reviews not to mention they don’t tip over easily.  We are going simple and plan to use these cups for everything from water to wine to scotch or rum. Who else?
  8. Cermaic Coffee “Volcano” mug.  Tate hasn’t been involved much with this shopping as he “hates” shopping but he did leave me with one criteria- NO STAINLESS COFFEE MUGS. Pretty much all of the travel mugs out there are a stainless tumbler type so instead I got these wide base ceramic mugs with nonskid on the bottom. We’ll use these mostly unless it’s blowing like crazy in which case the trusty Thermos (see #6) will have to do. Amazon.
  9. DMT Knife Sharpener – Coarse to fine.  This gem was so highly reviewed I couldn’t pass it up plus its compact “butterfly” style reminded me of my time on the streets in New York and will also fit nicely in the drawer.  The salt in the air and water will no doubt dull our blades pretty quickly so having a good knife sharpener is going to be important I think. Amazonian babe.
  10. Rapala Fish n Fillet knife – I have read good things about this and I guarantee that once we quit our jobs we are going to penny pinching like never before so catching our own food and having an easy way to prepare it will be helpful. Can’t wait to try this one out and just look at that hand crafted Finnish leather sheath. Found here.
  11. Aloksak water/sand proof bags.  Electronics and boats just don’t seem to mix. Boats love water, Electronics like to be dry so I purchased these along with some Silica beads to try out with some of our electronics to hopefully extend their life if things get really hot and humid out. Here. (Thanks Attila for updates on your gear failures!)
  12. Lock and Lock Containers - I just kept hearing the best things about these containers and so bought some in all different sizes including 4 for eggs to experiment with. They have a silicone gasket and 4 locking tabs so these will keep our bulk stores of rice, beans, oats, pasta, sugar, flour, salt and other dry goods, well dry and hopefully bug free.  I found the best prices at QVC.
  13. Light weight and easy to wash Clothing like Kuhl’s “Revolvr” Pants for Tate. Since we plan to wash most of our own clothes by hand they will have to dry by the light of day. This makes fabric’s like denim just impractical and so we don’t plan to bring much if any at all. There are all kinds of new blends of nylon and cotton coming out that are breathable while being easy to wash and dry. If things get colder we’ll have our foul weather gear and also our long johns.
  14. 500 WATTS of SOLAR ! This is the last one for now and perhaps my most exciting. We finally made the decision to spring for five of the 3 lbs, 100 Watt flexible panels made by Renogy. This company was started by an LSU graduate (which Tate and I both are) and the new flex panels are made using Sunpower’s solar cells. We got them for about $200 each on Renogy’s website but here is a link to Amazon which has reviews. We really debated on this for a long time…months and months. Do we get fixed panels or rigid? Do we buy from China or pay the local premium? Where do we put them?  In the end we are going to put two 100 watts on the back for sure and we are playing around with where to put the other three, maybe one on the dodger and two on the bimini with the ability to “unhook” them if we need to take them down or move them (reinforcing the back of course). This would give us 500 watts total with the ability to have more panels “active” at different times of the day.

Whew, so I think I am finally done with all the major shopping. Everything else, if there is anything will have to wait until we are out there and find the need.  Check out The Boat Galley by Carolyn Shearlock, she has TONS of good info on outfitting the galley.

What are some things you just really wished you had while cruising?  What about some things you thought you needed but ended up not?

I’ll leave you with a couple of shots over Lake Pontchartrain on the eve of July 4th and my moms birthday. I’m practicing now so I can capture the beauty this trip is sure to bring.

Purple Martins flying at dusk, you can see the moon spec solitary and bright.
Purple Martins July 4th

The moon a few minutes from setting.
Birthday Moon