Moving Onboard Sarah Full Time

In November, 2003 I began the process of living on-board Sarah full time.  I had planned to start this process in June, but boat projects and finally my Gall Bladder surgery set the schedule back a bit.  I can't think of a worse time to execute this move than in the dead of winter, but that is the hand I was dealt.  I need to sell my condo before I retire and I know it won't sell while I'm living there.  Initially the pressure to move on board came from my planned departure on the Atlantic Circle cruise in 2004.  I've put that trip off to 2005, but the condo market in N. Virginia is still hot and I want to sell before it cools off.

On this page I intend to document my progress (or lack there of) in settling in on my sailboat.  There are a number of phases or steps I must go through to complete this move.

  1. Dispose of possessions inappropriate for on board living.
  2. Dispose of the rest of my possessions not essential for on board living
  3. Dispose of the remaining possession that will not fit on a 42' sailboat.
  4. Organize the on-board storage to efficiently contain the possessions I've brought on board.
  5. Dispose of 50% of the possessions I've brought on board.
  6. Dispose of more stuff

By January, 2004 I was somewhere between steps 2 & 3. 


Click on picture to view at full resolutionHere's a picture of my forward cabin shortly after I moved on board.  This is my "garage".  Anything I don't need every day goes here, until I can decide if it should be on board at all.  The only thing it lacks is 10 years of National Geographic magazines.   I do not heat the forward cabin and shut the door to minimize the affect it has on the temperature in the main cabin.


Below is a log of my moving on board activities
Prior Jan 17
Click on picture to view at full resolutionOther than storage space, my primary concen has been maintaining adequate heat on boar.  I depend totally on the dock electrical power to maintain a livable temperature in the cabins of Sarah.  The forward cabin I have designated as the "garage" and as such is not heated, except what heat seeps through the door to the cabin.  I have not put any heaters in the aft cabin as that is primarily just for sleeping, although I have not shut the door to the main cabin so some heat gets there.  I put a goose down comforter on the aft cabin berth where I sleep and that has provided all the warmth I need for sleeping.

That leaves the main cabin to keep warm.  The main on board electrical circuit can support the battery charger, the refrigeration. nominal outlet usage (e.g., coffee maker) and either the hot water heater or one space heater on medium power.  That is obviously not enough heat to maintain a reasonable cabin temperature during a normal Maryland winter, much less the bitterly cold one we are experiencing this year.  Therefore I have run another power cord on board to power one space heater at full power. 

Click on picture to view at full resolutionOn the left is the first level of cover I have put up for the coming winter storms.  This is a single canvas tarp over the forward companionway hatch.  I use this hatch because it is more convenient that the cockpit companionway hatch with requires the removal of the hatch boards for entrance and exit.  Shortly I plan to put an additional canvas tarp forward of this cover to provide more protection.  I'm just waiting to see how this "porch" handles the first winter storm (due tonight, Jan 14). 

In the berth Sarah is pointing due West.  The tarp on the starboard side is supported by a PVC pipe frame clamped to the lifeline stanchions.  The idea is to keep snow and ice off the companionway.  We'll see how well it works.  I am some what concerned about what will happen with 40kts out of the north, but we had 25 kts the other night with no ill effects.

Jan 17
Replaced the Kenyon stove with a new Force 10.  Now I have a working oven.  Of course since I try to stay on a low-carb diet, what use is an oven?
Jan 18
Miserable cold rainy day.  Used the Force 10 stove every chance I got.  Shoved more stuff into the "garage" and closed the door.  Having to deal with creating an efficient filing system for personal and financial correspondence.  At home I had several file drawers full of records and I didn't need to economize on space.  Living on board I cannot afford a single file folder for an unnecessary piece of correspondence.  Now I have to be Hyper-Organized to save the things that need to be acted upon, act on the correspondence that needs to be acted upon, discard everything else.  Wait a second, that is how I was supposed to be working before I moved on board.
Jan 21
Wind was howling tonight.  the PVC supports for my "porch" were creaking so much I thought the wind had shifted to the South and I was hearing the fenders being pressed against the dock pilings.  Got up in the middle of the night and realized the wind was blowing out of the North and the sound was the PVC pipe flexing in the breeze.  I untied the "porch" and secured the canvas on the port-side deck.
Jan 28
Click on picture to view at full resolutionSpent the last few days in my condo trying to get it ready to sell and dispose of the remnants of my furniture.  This was fortunate timing as we got about 4" of snow during that period.  Returned to the boat last night in time for an ice storm.  The creek has nearly frozen over as the pictures on the left and below show.  The ice is still pretty thin and we should have a warming trend for the next few days, so I don't expect any problems from the ice for now.  Of course it makes getting on and off the boat a real adventure.  Every time I grab a shroud to steady myself I get showered with ice slivers that were attached to the wire.  Sure wish I'd left the "porch" up.
Click on picture to view at full resolution
Click on picture to view at full resolution
Jan 31
Yesterday I finally got the Salvation Army to come to my condo and take the remaining large items of furniture.  I've got a lot of projects to do in the apartment before I put it on the market.  I hope to complete everything in the next two weekends.  I still have a bed in the apartment so I can crash there.  I'm going to Florida next week and have a 7:00 AM flight out of Reagan National so I plan to stay in the apartment the night before.  The airport is a drive of more than 1 hour from Town Creek. it's a 10 minute taxi ride from my apartment.

The cold weather has not let up.  The ice in Town Creek is getting thicker, but appears to be no more than 1".  I am resisting deploying a "bubbler" to dissipate the ice around Sarah as the power situation on the dock is already marginal.  If I turn on a "bubbler" I may have to turn off a heater.  As long as the ice doesn't get so thick as to shut off my seawater intakes, I'll keep that space heater powered up.

Feb 14
Just returned from a week in Florida looking for comfortable and affordable marinas for next year.  This will be my last winter living on board in ice.  Affordable may not be an option, but comfortable appears to be very attainable.  I left the DC area with my boat still firmly encased in ice and enjoyed 80 degree temperatures throughout the week.  I spent most of the time in Florida driving along the east coast between Titusville and Fort Lauderdale.  I put more than 500 miles on the rental car in just over 5 days.  I spent one day in Miami at the Boat Show, where I purchased a Monitor Windvane and got lots of ideas where to spend more money.

Click on the chart to view an enlarged imageAs far as the marinas go, the best values for comfort and affordability appear to be between Melbourne and Fort Pierce.  South of Fort Pierce the published monthly slip rates about double (from $10/ft to  $18-22/ft).  So it looks like I will have to budget around $600/month for a slip (including the Live Aboard fee which is pretty universal at all marinas).

The chart on the right identifies most of the marinas I visited during this trip.  I have included my impressions and some pictures of a few of these marinas below.

Obviously this is not a very thorough survey of the facilities available to a cruising sailor on the east coast of Florida.  I didn't cover  the area north of Cape Canaveral, where there are a lot of possibilities.  I also did not visit any marinas south of Fort Pierce.  I did locate several of the marinas in Stuart but did not investigate them as the published rates in Skipper Bob's showed all were priced in the $20 range which is way out of my budget. 

Of the marinas I did investigate my preference is toward either the Waterline Marina in Melbourne or the Harbortown Marina in Fort Pierce. 

My next decision will be whether to secure a reservation at any of these marinas next August or to just head down the ditch and take what is available when I get in the area.  The later choice would allow me the opportunity to evaluate the marinas in N. Florida as well as possibly find a better deal in S. Florida than what I discovered on this trip.  Of course then I run the risk of having to stay at a less desirable marina at an even higher rate.

Click on picture to view at full resolutionFort Pierce City Marina.  This is one of the most upscale city-owned marinas I've ever seen.  The facilities are extremely well maintained.  The marina is in the heart of the Fort Pierce with numerous restaurants and stores within easy walking distance.  The price is on the high-end of what I can afford.  The only downside to the marina is that it extends into the Indian River and is not that well protected from the winter storms and the tidal currents.
Click on picture to view at full resolutionAs it turned out the Ft. Pierce City Marina was not an option for me.  By the time I was ready to head south from the Chesapeake Bay Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne had completely destroyed this marina. 
Click on picture to view at full resolutionWaterline Marina in Melbourne.  This is a very well maintained small marina in the well protected Eau Gallie basin.  Although pricey it is within what my budget can stand.  It is also convenient to all of the facilities (both land and marine) in Melbourne.  This is my preferred marina of all of them that I visited.  The only drawback is the depth of water.  Most of the slips have less than 6' of water at low tide.  When I purchased Sarah I considered the P424 a shoal draft vessel (5.25').  That does not constitute shoal draft on the Indian River.  So if I decide to stay at the Waterline I may discover they do not have a suitable slip for Sarah's draft (this is a problem for most of the protected marinas on the Indian River and is not unique to the Waterline).
Click on picture to view at full resolution
Click on picture to view at full resolution
Click on picture to view at full resolutionHarbor town Marina in Fort Pierce.  This is a well maintained and very large marina is located on Taylor Creek on the north side of Fort Pierce.  Many of the marinas on the Indian River are constructed inside a breakwater out into the river itself.  This means they are not that well protected from strong northerly winds that happen with some frequency during the winter months, but also they are located right in the tidal stream with strong currents running through the docks.  Marinas such as Harbortown and Waterline, which are located off the river, offer much better protection and much less current at the dock (making docking a much less intense exercise).


Click on picture to view at full resolutionHarbortown is more expensive than Waterline and is my second choice for a winter berth.
Mar 5
Back in Town Creek, we have now had over a week of temperatures in the 60's and 70's.  The ice has been gone for several weeks.  The temperature only gets down into the 40's at night so I am very comfortable on one space heater, and I can turn that one off during the day.

I have been spending a couple of hours each evening in my apartment throwing out the remnants of my possessions.  The painter comes this weekend, then the new carpet and kitchen floor.  After that I will finally be able to show the place, but more importantly I will be able to drive straight to the boat each night after work.  I wll also be able to spend the entire weekend at the marina, starting to get the boat ready for sailing in another month.

The "porch" is back up and will probably stay up the rest of this month.

Mar 18
Nearly have my apartment ready to show.  It's painted, new carpet and kitchen floor and new washer & dryer.  Looks so nice I almost want to move back in .... NOT!

Bought a new to me car this week.  Actually I've been trying to buy this car for almost a month, but that's another story.  Purchasing a 1996 Ford Taurus Station Wagon this week brought home some more of the reality of how the rest of the world doesn't understand the concept of living on a boat.  Having purchased this car from an individual I had to do the leg work of completing the title transfer and registration myself.  Complicating this transaction I was picking up the car in Chambersburg, PA.  The closest MD Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) office was in Hagerstown.  So I went to the Hagerstown MVA with a bill of sale, the signed over title, and the expectation I could be on the road back to Solomons (125 miles away) in less than an hour.  The first problem I hit was that my only address was a P.O. Box in Solomons.  The state must have a physical address to register and title a car.  Unfortunately I can't remember the address of the Town Creek Landing Marina where I berth Sarah and where the car will be parked.  This is an impasse because I can't complete the title application and get the tags without a physical address, and without the tags I can't drive my newly purchased car - I would have to drive my rental back to Solomons to get the address and then take another day off from work to return to Hagerstown to complete the transaction.  I think I know the address, and my motivation is get out of the MVA with at least a set of tags so I can drive the Taurus home.  Since they will send the title to my mailing address I figure it doesn't really matter if the physical address is right or not so I give the MVA lady my best guess at the address and she enters it, then the NEXT BIG PROBLEM.  The marina is located in California, MD, but my mailing address is in Solomons.  The MVA can't send the title to a different city than where the car is located.  So my choice is to go home and get a P.O. Box in California, MD or have the title sent to the physical address I just gave the MVA (which is not correct).  So 5 minutes later I was leaving the MVA office with a set of tags for a car whose title will be sent to a non-existent address.  I figure that is next week's problem to solve, at least for now I have car to drive that doesn't have a rental meter attached to it.

April 2
Drove to the local (Waldorf, MD) MVA to complain that my auto title has not been delivered to the address I gave the MVA in Hagerstown (I now have the correct address).  The clerk said there appeared to  be a problem with the address on the title.  When she read the address to me, I said, "That is definitely not correct, how could that happen?"  The clerk corrected the address to the one I gave her, and within a few minutes I was on my way with the title and an apology from the MVA. 
May 23
Click on picture to view at full resolutionApartment is sold.  I am almost debt free.  What an experience.  Spent this weekend cleaning and oiling the forward cabin.  It's still cluttered, but much less so.  A little more organized.
July 9
I am unemployed and soon to be retired.  Left the office today having torn up my ID badge and corporate credit card.  Retirement officially starts Aug 1.
Aug 8
I have secured a reservation at Harbor Town Marina in Fort Pierce, FL.  Looks like that will be my home for the winter of 2004-2005.  My first choice, the Waterline Marina, couldn't confirm a reservation at this time and there was still some doubt they could provide a slip with sufficient depth.  With Harbor Town I have a large boatyard available should I need some major work done on Sarah, and the best access to the Florida Straits north of West Palm.  Ray Dills has planned a Town Creek old-timers get together at his home on the South River near Annapolis for early October.  So I will delay my departure for the ICW until after that party.  Might as well stay for the Annapolis Sailboat Show the next week and the associated SSCA activities.  So I will likely sail up to Ray's place for the Town Creek party, stick around for the Sailboat Show then head south.
Oct 23
Mike Repass and I sailed Sarah from Charleston, SC to Harbortown Marina in Fort Pierce, FL.  Details of the trip can be accessed through the ICW menu in the Sailing Section link at the top of this page.
Nov 26
This was my year as the Stevenson family host for Thanksgiving, which meant I had to cook the full Thanksgiving meal on board.  It was tight fit, but I was able to get a 9 LB turkey into the Force10 oven.  With only three burners, a small refrigerator and a limited amount of table ware I decided to reduce the menu slightly from what I have served in the past.  So just simple appetizers, no soup course, only one type of potato and one green vegetable.  Below is the menu served.
  • Appetizer of nuts, raw vegetables and cheese dip.
  • Salad course of cherry tomatoes and romaine lettuce, blue cheese dressing.
  • Roast turkey with cornbread and mushroom stuffing, cranberry sauce and giblet gravy
  • Mashed garlic potatoes
  • Mixed haricots
  • Desert of pumpkin and apple pie with vanilla ice cream

To avoid traveling on the day before Thanksgiving, and to accommodate Chris who flew in from LA, we delayed the Thanksgiving dinner until Friday.  It was fortunate we used this schedule as this year's Wednesday travel on the East Coast was one of the worst in years due to an intense storm system.  By Thursday when my family took their flights the storm was well off-shore and the flight complications were minimal.  Everyone flew into Orlando, which offered the best fares and schedules, but is unfortunately about 90 miles from Fort Pierce.  Sandy, Bobbi, Jeff and Chris arrived in Vero Beach around 7:00 PM and we went to a local restaurant for dinner that night.

I had hoped to take everyone out for a short sail after dinner on Friday.  Unfortunately the wind was blowing 15-20 kts that day and the seas in ocean were running 4-6 feet.  That would not have made for comfortable day sail, especially for non-sailors.  I thought I would just offer a motor trip down and up the ICW as an alternative.  The ICW in the Indian River is very straight and narrow, but at least it was a boat trip.  Then I discovered that we were having an extreme tide and Sarah was hard aground in her slip that afternoon.  So we just stayed in the slip and relaxed in the warm sunny weather.

Saturday I took everyone except Jeff (who flew back to Chicago that morning) to the Kennedy Space Center for a tour.  I was somewhat disappointed by the tour as it offered no opportunity to see the space center up close.  Instead we were bused from one visitor center to another, all very far from the the launch and control sites.  Given today's security issues that arrangement is understandable, but not really that interesting.  I was spoiled by my previous assignment as a support manager for among other activities the Unisys marketing office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.  There I got a personal tour up front and close to that facility, including the shuttle simulators. 

Saturday evening we had dinner at the Ocean Grill in Vero Beach.  The restaurant is right on the beach and it is amazing that it received relatively minor damage in the hurricanes and was in full operation.  The dining room has a great view of the ocean, and the food was pretty good, if not exceptional.  After dinner we said good bye as in the morning Sandy, Bobby and Chris were going to drive straight to the airport to catch their flights home.

All in all, I think the family get together came off pretty well.  It was a little cramped on board for dinner, but not uncomfortably so.  However, the next time I'm the host I think I'll find a place off the boat for the dinner - maybe a picnic area or a restaurant.

By the end of 2004 the downsizing, drama, and frustrations of moving onboard were over and I was a full-time live aboard preparing for an Atlantic Crossing to Portugal.