Houston, We Have a Problem

December 17, 2016

It’s been a week since my last day at SCAD and we’re still in Savannah hard at work knocking out the remaining projects on our list. We also have a tiny little problem to add to the equation: We let our Coast Guard documentation lapse.

Documentation establishes the nationality of the boat and is kind of like a boat passport. It also means you don’t have to put ugly state registration numbers on your bow, which is a plus. Oh, and you kind of need it when clearing in to a new country, like, say, the Bahamas. Oops! Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time this has happened to us. Yep, we did the same thing last year. In our defense, documentation used to be permanent, but the Coast Guard recently revised its policy and now it’s an annual renewal. There’s talk of going to a three-year renewal, which would be a vast improvement, but until then, I put in a priority handling request and we’re crossing our fingers that they can accommodate us. (On the bright side, they got it to us pretty quickly last year!) If it doesn’t happen, we might have to spend some time in the Florida Keys while we wait. Not the worst thing in the world.

Projects, Projects, Projects
Meanwhile, Rich is making headway on the battery bank. This will enable us to charge our electronics (like the iPad we’ll be using for navigation) and keep the lights and refrigerator running so we can live comfortably “off the grid” while we’re at anchor. Right now he’s building the basic infrastructure for what we hope will be a reliable and easy-to-maintain 12-volt system. Down the road we’ll add solar panels and maybe a wind generator, but we also don’t have a lot of electronic stuff to power. For now we’re hoping to get by with running the engine every other day to charge our batteries. We’ll see how it goes!


Our reconfigured electrical panel, plus new VHF radio with AIS, a Balmar Smartgauge battery monitor, and a USB charging station for our devices (like my stripey phone. And yes, in case you haven’t noticed, I have a stripes addiction).

Rich still finds time most mornings to sand and apply another coat of varnish to our new cockpit table, the recycled boat hook, and the tiller. He calls these his comfort projects because he can enjoy the mindlessness of working on them when he’s feeling overwhelmed by the battery bank project.


Rich sanding the tiller. Next up, the boat hook (on the table in front of him).

Yesterday we woke to temps in the ’30s. (WTF, Savannah?!) The real fun started when Rich had to shut off the power to work on the wiring for the battery bank, which meant no heat for us. Since I’m in the middle of writing a couple of stories for Savannah magazine’s Weddings issue, I had the pleasure of doing an interview while swaddled in a sleeping bag to stay warm. Then when the sun went down, Rich was hogging our only Luci light, so I wound up using my iPhone as a flashlight so I could work on a book I’m editing. What can I say, we yachties lead a glamorous life.

Note to self: Buy more Luci lights! (If you don’t know about Luci lights, they’re ingenious little inflatable solar lights and ours has been a total lifesaver for us. We got it for dinners in the cockpit, but it’s also become my light of choice for illuminating our salon at night.)

Experiments, Culinary and Otherwise
To warm us up (okay, to warm me up, because Rich is from Wisconsin and never gets cold) I made Thai green curry chicken for dinner. This was my first attempt and to my surprise and delight it was delicious, not to mention incredibly easy to make. The ingredients for this one are definitely going on our provisions list!

I’ve also been playing with the new camera Rich got me for my birthday. It’s compact and cute and perhaps most important for life on a boat—waterproof. It takes a pretty decent picture if I can remember to wear my reading glasses so everything’s in focus. Welcome to 48!

Another fun project has been figuring out how we’re going to stay in touch while we’re out there. Supposedly T-Mobile works in the Bahamas just like if you were back home in the States (well, at least with no exorbitant international rates), which is great. The not-so-great part? We have Verizon iPhones that won’t work on the T-Mobile network. Who knew that Verizon and Sprint operate on the CDMA network and T-Mobile and AT&T are on a totally separate one called GSM? I certainly didn’t. Since we’re out of contract, I thought we could just unlock our phones, pop in T-Mobile SIM cards, and we’d be good to go. Nope. Turns out we have to buy whole new phones to use with T-Mobile. This will be our first foray into the Android world, so wish us luck!

And speaking of keeping in touch, we finally got around to making boat cards, which everyone says are de rigueur in the cruising world. Ours are pretty light on the details while we work out our phone and other contact info, but we figure we can just write our deets on them when we give them out. Voilà!



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  • Reply Susan James December 18, 2016 at 1:24 am

    Mata Hari looks ready to go! I love the simplicity of the Luci light. I think it would be great to have at home. The green chicken curry sounds delicious. Can I get the recipe?

    • Reply Monica December 18, 2016 at 11:53 am

      Getting there! Some of those Luci lights might look cute out by your fireplace. Emailing you the recipe!

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