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Rufus Laggren

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since Feb 23, 2012
Chicago/San Francisco
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Recent posts by Rufus Laggren

Yes, the KISS principle (KeepItSimpleStupid) has always seemed a good way to approach fitting a boat. But there are a few considerations...  <g>

> shorepower

Consider the coffee maker. Reading lights, computers - solar is fine provided it covers your needs, but it might take a bit of work to reach that point for everything electrical thing in your life. Heat during cold months; depends on your body type. Refrigeration - when working a "regular" job and developing your future options, there may not be a whole lot of time for "green" food habits. Time is the big issue that decadent conveniences like stoves, good lighting and refrigeration address. Give it some consideration - it might be best to compromise in certain ways.

> electronics...
The only  item which I found instantly and regularly relevant was a VHF to listen to the local traffic and learn and track my environment. The cheapest box that listens to the main channels (12,14,16,23,73 and probably a few others like the Wx) and switches between them properly is all you need until you're on the move; with luck one suitable will come with the boat. Your antenna is FAR more important to good radio communication that the radio itself. A scanning feature which monitors all the channels is neat and nice, but not really that important for just eavesdropping. No need to spend any money there until later.

> anchor out...
Things to think about, most especially if you expect to maintain something like a "normal" life ashore. Again, time. Getting to/from the boat may take significant time from your day. And exactly how will you make that trip (every single time you need something on shore)? A good, safe dingy (anything neat, like a kayak, won't have much carrying capacity). Row it? Possible, but slow. Outboards are expensive and you need to obtain and care for one that will be reliable. You will need a place to safely (ie. with some probability it and the outboard will be there when you return) dock the dingy. In what condition do you need to arrive on shore (reliably, 5 days a week)? Jumping in and out of small bouncing boats does not do business suits any good at all... Not to mention spray on the way in readjusting your hair and makeup and decorating your white blouse. Your boat home at a dock, although not locked like a house, will usually have some combination of neighbors and harbor personnel around who are at least peripherally aware of who you are and that you're the person who's supposed to be on that boat. An anchor out will usually be at least 100  yards away from shore and often 1/4 mile or more, far beyond anybody's reach or interest. Except curious folks in _their_ motorboats or fellow anchor outs who might visit to borrow a cup of sugar and see if anybody's home and if not whether they might help by getting onboard to secure that loose line and gosh! that (was) a nice computer on the chart table... Finally, working on your boat in any systematic way is greatly aided by being able to _walk_ (egad!) along the side of your boat. I only know one guy who could do that w/out a dock.

Convenience is often dissed but that easy judgment misses its core value - "convenience" saves and, if we are building on a plan in a disciplined way, leverages _time_. I heard a story about Obama: He is a very smart person and he understood that human beings can only handle, in their thinking and processing, a limited number of issues at once. I think it was three but google will know. Being in a position where every day was a blizzard of critical detail, he delegated and off loaded every single part of his life that he could. He literally did not dress or feed himself, he did not get himself from one place to another, he did not make his appointments... He did _nothing_ he did not absolutely have to. Because what he _did_ have to do was pretty much impossible for one person but by utilizing all the help and conveniences he possibly could he was able to do his best at handling his real responsibilities. Most people don't have to run his gauntlet but the idea that we need to prioritize and "pick our fights" is something everybody should take a look at.

21 hours ago
Found this bug repellent page in passing. Looks worth a read.

1 day ago
> don't get excited about the electronics...

Truer words were never spoken... <g>

But _do_ look at the basic electrical such as lights, engine wiring and battery - that stuff. It helps a lot to have a few 120volt AC outlets properly wired from a breaker with a proper shorepower cord (those cords can be pricey - $100+ for some - so if you have one included, try to take care of it). Running extension cords around for the coffee maker, etc is even worse on board than on shore - but it can be done.

1 day ago

> swimming
Actually, that probably doesn't matter too much. You go overboard and you _better_ have a good life jacket on. Water temperature, clothing and possible injury can negate any swimming skill. Why not bring this up at any courses you take and see what the instructors (and others) say? The MAJOR problem with man overboard is getting the carcass back out of the water - even live, active eager carcasses. Major problem. Even when you're totally intact and just really surprised and get right on it with good help from everybody around, getting back on a dock (much less getting back on deck of a moving sailboat) is _not_ a no brainer. You're right - barnacles are a real problem. So wherever you end up in a home on the water, take a long look around and decide a plan on how to get yourself safe after you end up in the water. Because the water temperatures in many wonder places can be 45F and lower, you might have a very limited window before you start losing functionality. Try jumping into 40F water and see what _instantly_ happens to you (DON'T do it alone or w/out a solid plan on getting out again). And presumably you don't walk around on the dock w/your life vest on all the time, so... Make a plan. If think that swim ladder at the end of the dock will help you - try it. You might be terribly surprised, as in no lower rungs left... Even one you install one  on your dock yourself, in many places marine growth can render them hard to use in less than a year. Often the best plan is to _immediately_ make your way from transom to transom down the row of boats on your dock until you reach the shore and walk out. IAC, think it out carefully and conservatively.

>"just generally looking around..."

Isn't that pretty much where you're at right now, making a catalog of what you "feel" about different boats' layouts? Definitely keep a log or journal of your explorations because after you look at a dozen or more, they all run together - even the different types.

> racing
You found a "beer can" race! Great!. They are a nice way to get out on the water w/out too much stress and effort. Probably won't see any keen competition there, but definitely a wonderful way to go sailing. Good deal! <g>

When you're looking, look at _everything_ you come across. The boat I'm on now I almost passed by w/out looking because I had been inside two others of it's type and found the standing headroom uncomfortable. However, on this boat there was 2" greater headroom - even though it was an identical make/model. Go figure. I'm glad I looked. It also has a unique cabin layout with the galley sink in a center island which greatly reduces the "falling space" and works really well in all ways. Owners are all different. The last one I dealt with was a real farm-hand style carpenter but his design and layout was top notch. All the cosmetics were... unique. <g> But the backbone was all good. So look at everything and keep track of first impressions - you only get one chance at those and they're quite important.

Ferro is a no-go except in very special circumstance. _Nobody_ knows how to work on them. Period. I know of no regular yard that built ferro sailboats so that means they're all one-off and the quality of the build is up to the gods in each and every case. I studied up on the type before moving on. There is some real craft and science required in getting the hull made well and it comes from at least three different trades - having those skills all come together at one time is rarely a given. I've never heard of one that sailed particularly well and I looked over half a dozen and spent several months figuring them out. Ferro boats are (or were 20 years ago) made for commercial work in 3rd world countries because the materials are few and simple, tooling is relatively simple, and fabrication can be fast. But those boat are intended for short haul coastal work and were expected to last 5-10 years at most. But, just for contrast. A friend in SF bought a 30 yr-old 45' ferro saillboat from a musician in 2004(?) and made a success out of it by dropping $10k (15k? it's been a while) into it immediately, selling the mast and rigging,  and then _never_ moving it. She turned it into a very nice condo and managed (very _very_ lucky lady, IMHO) to sell it when she moved on. There were always leaks at the ports and from above.

> surveyors

They're not god, not even close. But you may want one, eventually. Search the web and read up on stories about and by surveyors. Study on the foibles of the boats you get interested in to get a little bit of an idea of particular troubles that boat might have. The report is always disappointingly uninformative (seems that way to me, at least), but one if the important aspects of a survey is that it gets another pair of informed eyes on something you cannot help but have blind spots about. It's the "Well DUH!" points that the surveyor can  make sure you don't miss.

SMELL when you first enter. Air freshener is _not_ a good sign. Smell when opening lockers. OTOH, the head (toilet) _always_ stinks... But you don't want it to stink so much, so check it out and compare notes between boats.

Here is an old list-serv that has mostly died out, but the archives might hold some interest. You'll have to look up the archive url; then use the google "site:target-url" keyword to search that particular site.

Google Groups "LiveaboardList" group

I don't think it's an immediate source of detailed specific info for you, but it has some flavor if you can skip through the guy-talk.

3 days ago

Glad to hear you had fun! And excitement doesn't scare your. Great! You might be a racer. And if you turn out good on the foredeck, you _will_ be wined and dined, feted and invited to sail every place.

> look at boats
Yup, time to get started. <g> Walk the docks, look at everything. It's a little cold, when you know you're not buying yet, but getting into different boats to look is necessary. Try to spend some down time (not racing or class time) on different boats - it's easier to feel how it might be to live that way. Go with a yacht club member to some weekend raft-ups where there will be 6-12 boats and you can visit shamelessly.

And practice safety (like, I'm sure, the sailing instructor says repeated(!). If you're not ready to do something, decline. Don't. The water brings reality a lot closer than most of us are used to. "Respect" will keep you in one piece on top of it. If you fall off the dock and nobody's around, can you save yourself? Please don't take that as a condescending rhetorical question. I knew somebody who died because she fell off her dock in Alameda and couldn't get back out of the water. She was about 40 years old and had been sailing for years. Life and everything else is closer on the water. So: Respect.

4 days ago
Lots of good books listed here. But I don't read books, really... Well, stupid trash for entertainment and I don't think that counts.

But I _do_ read magazines, every day. I want to soak up basic current issues w/out the flash-bang and droning heads found on pretty much all mass media. While not inclusive, I seem to read most of the following each month: Harpers, TheAtlantic, NewYorker. Then occasionally the Economist, VanityFair, seem to have some decent reporting. I'm sure there are lots of others, but the only time I "read" is during breakfast and my coffee capacity is a seriously limiting factor. <g>

6 days ago
I have spent most of my time on the water for the last 20 years. It can work, but the practicalities are important. The demands and risks of sailing, coastal or blue water, are not really germane to your plans right now, except in a purely theoretical way. You want a home, not a romantic, exciting vacation. Your home will not move easily under the best of circumstances because day to day life grows stuff like coffee makers, TV's, computers, piles of clothes and paperwork and much more that doesn't brook bouncing around on the water. It will take _serious_ planning and saintly grace to sail your home regularly (once a month?) - not something to plan on.

You should be able to get a usable boat for $5-$20k. Without spending a very  considerable amount of time reading and learning in any way possible, whatever you buy will be a crapshoot. Look through the classifieds in "Latitude 38" online magazine. It's one of the oldest boaters' community publications out there. Look through "Good Old Boat" magazine (don't know if they have an online version - probably); again, the classifieds. Those are the biggies I recall and there are likely other "live" info sources out there - it's been a long time since I read every word in every sailing mag. The  engine will be the most troublesome and important and expensive thing on the boat. Without a good working engine you will have real problems getting a slip. Most harbors do _not_ offer the slip to the next buyer - you need to apply and sometimes wait in line. Next most important (if you want one) is the toilet. They rarely work as nicely as landlubbers expect and there are very serious laws about how they are installed and maintained. Read up. Did I say they don't work right too often? If you have a working toilet ("head" in boat speak) you will need to empty your holding tank regularly. If you're really sharp, and on top of it, you can drive your boat (this is something that needs an engine) over to the pump out station (incidentally, where is it?) during those hours it's open and pump you tank yourself. Alternatively, pay somebody to come by in a big skiff with an (almost) bigger tank on it and pump your tank as a service; you don't have to be on the boat at the time. Most upscale harbors have this service. Leaks from _above_ are one of your worst problems, given that you're not sinking, of course. They will almost certainly be one of the biggest PITA's you will encounter; they will teach you boat repair.

Lin and Larry Pardey who spent basically all their lives sailing, wrote the best book about _practical_ cruising I have read. I believe it's titled "Cost Conscious Cruiser". I mention this after saying that vacation is not where it's at because they give one of the best overviews of what owning a boat means.

Nigel Calder, "The Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Guide" is the best detailed review what's on a boat and how to fix it. This book is the one you need to deal with the necessities of life on a boat.

"This Old Boat" (the book) is a classic anecdotal review of the kind of TLC fiberglass boats need.

Brion Toss and   Emiliano Marino both have excellent books about sails and rigging. But that's not really where you're at right now.

One thing no boat buyer ever thinks about is "how will I get rid of this thing... whenever". It's a very serious consideration because you cannot just donate a boat that is not in quite good shape. Marinas _will_ come after you for the cost of disposing a boat you leave on their hands and the Coast Guard will take you to court of you are linked to a boat sunk w/in 5 miles of shore. DO think about your exit strategy, know your options. Ideally, you can sell but life being what it is, maybe not. That's when you need to be smart. A boat is not as easy to abandon as a car. If worst comes to worst, the last quote I remember for "breaking" a boat in the SF Bay area was north of $4000 and that was a few years ago.

Wherever you think about parking your home, research long and deep (and quietly) the live aboard options. It's not clear sailing, sorta speak. When approaching _any_ person near the shore for information, try to _never_ use the words "live aboard" until you have (from several different sources) gained a very good idea who you're talking with and what their attitude is.  Harbor masters talk to each other and many have a really bad attitude toward live aboards. So do the town council. So do the police and harbor patrol. IF you find a place where you can get a live-aboard permit and are willing to pay for AND can get one w/in a year or two (waiting lists...), then you're fine and set.

Provided...  The boat you  bring into their territory will need to be navigable (can't be towed in), insured (you mentioned that) and look half way decent or they won't take it. They also run credit checks. Your car will need a place to park and sometimes that is not as easy as you might think - check the details. Is the parking lighted? Do you have to move the vehicle every 72 hours? Is the area patrolled? Most harbors are not right across the street from a grocery store so will need surface transportation. Bikes are nice, but check carefully how you're going to park it. All harbors I have been in have rules that _nothing_ is left on the dock except the coiled mooring lines; enforcement varies widely, but "better" marinas tend to be more stringent. Placing a bike on the boat is possible sometimes; there may be bike areas on shore near the gates.

How is garbage handled? Are the gates to the docks left standing open or do they reliably lock? Are there "upwind" slips available. Stay in a downwind slip a couple weeks and you will see why. What are your neighbors like? Spend some time watching your prospective dock(s) from 6am to 9am and from 5pm to 7-8pm; also mid-day. One reason live-aboards have a dodgy rep is because they deserve it. As well as the rich folks with their water-skiing boats and day sailors, you find real hard cases bouncing along the bottom.

Necessities of life: VERY IMPORTANT. Drinking water and safe reliable electricity. Neither one is something you can just assume. Bad electricity will corrode important parts of your boat in the water; it's not always easy to get good information about this.

Internet. Not a given. WIFI is often claimed, often unusable. Test it from the location of your slip.

Right now I have a 35' slip in a marina 10 miles south of San Francisco in the bay. It runs me $300+/mo and goes up every year. Basic insurance I got from Progressive and runs maybe $150/yr. Don't recall.

Clothes on a boat. Casual clothes, not much problem, especially if you don't mind wrinkles. Office uniform... Problem. There is _very_ limited "hanging" storage on a 35' sail boat and suits will suffer.

Boat living is not really too hard, BUT: There is a learning curve that really doesn't start until you move aboard.

Cooking. A boat is a _very_ tight environment. Anything you cook "below" will be part of your atmosphere in bed that night. Thus a usable cockpit with a good "bimini" (large fabric awning cover) can be HUGELY helpful by giving you a back porch to cook on. In the rain and in blistering sun.

Speaking of blistering, ie hot weather. Your boat _must_ have decent ventilation (and depending on personal preference, decent light below). In practice that means openable ports that don't automatically let in the rain when open or require a fight to prevent leaks when you close them again. Depending on your location, bugs may be a problem - hence screens on all openings you use.

Well, that's enough talk. I like living on the water and (mostly) the people I meet are more to my liking than elsewhere. Though I generally mind my own business.

Ah, one other thing. If you want to sail, find a few boat clubs that sponsor races. Skippers usually need more crew than they can find easily and hanging around politely can often get you a place. Racing is THE way to learn to sail because a good skipper is working hard to get the most out of his boat; you see the right ways, the wrong ways, and the disasters and get some feel for just how strong a sail boat really is. Any good sail boat is STRONG! But they do break and it's nicer to find out what breaks them on somebody else's nickle. <g> In return for a good crew berth, you need to help with the chores on the boat, both on race day and often other times in the boat yard when things are repaired and maintained. Good racing skippers often YELL. There are some that don't, but when they are trying to screw the last 12" out of their opponent at a mark, things can get passionate. It's usually not personal, it can be really offensive and unacceptable, but mostly it's just excitement. Bounce around crewing or a few boats and find one where you learn and have fun. The position you start at is usually "rail meat": fit only to balance the boat. The highest position on the boat (barring skipper and navigator) is "fore deck" where you set and  douse the spinnaker. One thing on crewing: Buy and bring your own life vest and foul weather gear. And take _everything_ out of your pockets when racing. A man overboard drill should really be done by every race crew, but... Nobody does it. Make sure your life vest works!

1 week ago

Thanks for that reference quoted. It sounds like an solid ID... <g>  Oh well. I guess if I had to deal w/this, this guy is not the worst. Just the worst I've run into.

> "... I'll keep those things in mind." (Dale)

<GG> Yup. Just like that. <g>

Forget where I saw it, but I remember reading that one's friends/family can be the worst problem because changes one embarks on can rock _their_ boat and a normal first reaction is to try to stop the rocking...

Greg, that looks like a real BOSS plant. <g>

1 week ago
> [dealing with hostile criticism and other forms of personal aggression]

I have done as Dale, the "wave it off" part, and Seth, and I'm sure many others, though much more mildly (so far). However, it was quite difficult.

Greg, I'm certain, has the right concept and approach. I absolutely agree with the warning that anything we say must be honest because people _know_. My problem may stem from the necessity, several times over the past year or so, to put a STOP to certain unacceptable behaviors right then and there - which I did. I felt that breaking the pattern was required any way possible. It was seriously not pretty. My impression is that this person had never been told "No" in any effective way. As far as I can tell, he has no regard for societal norms or any social contract except as tools  he can deploy. Anything goes. The result was, I guess, predictable, but what I saw going down was something that I felt had to stop, regardless. And I would again. I liken it to cleaning a sewer pump - when it has to be done, it HAS TO BE DONE and yes, it gets ugly.

I don't intend to remain this sewer much longer. There does not appear to be anything positive to hope for, unfortunately, although on the surface things have gotten much calmer. Perhaps being told no is taking some time to process. I'm sure the problem will resurface.

Thank you for your comments. Greg's  definitely reminded me there are better ways to deal. We can lose sight of that if we get too buried on one close environment.

1 week ago
Perhaps this would not be a real concern. I've never lived on a road with ditches, so this is pure theory speaking; though just keeping ahead of nature on two small properties, I became very conscious of the importance of managing water. My understanding is that the ditches are a functional part of the road drainage system. Thus, if the ditches fill with soil, they may not perform their designed function and need to be dug out. I'd guess this to be a "natural" process that occurs in any case, but IF plantings lead to this maintenance every 5 years, instead of the previous every 20 years (or some similar of compression of the major maintenance interval), they may not turn out to actually be what you'd call and improvement...

1 week ago