Category Archives: Why?

Anything that deals with the philosophy or emotion that motivates us.

The Focus Begins To Shift

We’ve relaxed into a comfortable routine during our time here in St. Petersburg. For example, yesterday was Tuesday, which means it was movie day. Every Tuesday the Sundial Muvico, a large multiplex theater that’s a ten minute bike ride from our marina, offers $5 tickets and deeply discounted concessions.

muvico

So for three weeks now, we plan our Tuesdays around the afternoon matinee schedule. The first week we saw Rogue One, and last Tuesday we caught Passengers. This week, looking for a change of pace, we watched a little jewel of a movie called Collateral Beauty.

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Do yourself a favor and go see this film. I don’t care what the reviews say on Rotten Tomatoes. If you can make it to the end of this movie without shedding a tear (or a flood of them), you have no heart.

Anyway, today is Wednesday, which means it’s dinner at The Hanger, where they offer their $12 gourmet cheeseburger for half price. So I’m pretty sure I know what we’ll be doing this evening. 🙂

But our time in St. Petersburg is growing shorter, and we’re starting to look at what comes next. Over my morning coffee, in addition to catching up on the latest news, I’ve started perusing the Waterway Guide to outline some possible options for our next few stops. And today, we’ve started some of the maintenance chores we’ve been putting off until we were closer to moving again.

For instance, before putting too many more hours on the engine, I wanted to make sure our shaft alignment was still within specification. We last aligned the shaft after reinstalling our rebuilt transmission while we were at Pensacola shipyard. But the boat was on the hard (out of the water, supported by stands) at the time. And here’s the thing about fiberglass boats—they’re made of plastic, and they bend. Sitting on stands doesn’t support the boat the same way as floating in water does. I know this is true because while we were on the hard, we noticed that the cockpit seat that has to be flipped down in order to access our swim platform would wedge and jam, making it difficult to open. It was due to the way the hull was being flexed on the stands, and the problem completely went away once Eagle Too was floating again.

So while we had gotten the alignment dead-on in the shipyard, I wanted to make sure it was still running true. If you have a boat with a direct shaft, it’s not really a difficult task (if you have a V-drive, best of luck to you. And if you have a saildrive, just completely disregard what I’m about to say. And check for corrosion. Daily! 🙂

Basically, checking the alignment just requires removing the coupling bolts.

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Then you measure the gap between the coupling faces with a feeler gauge. The general rule of thumb is that you’re allowed up to a .001″ gap (that’s one one-thousandth of an inch) per inch of coupler diameter. So for our 4 inch coupler, I was looking for less than a .004″ gap at any point around the circumference.

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I used the .002″ feeler gauge, and it wouldn’t slip between the coupler faces at any point. So we’re good. While our boat may have been bending a bit while on the hard, it apparently wasn’t enough to upset the alignment. I’m glad everything checked out OK, because if it turns out that your alignment is off, you have to start loosening engine mounts and making adjustments, and that’s just way too much to get into today. Google it if you need to know how, as you’ll find several really good online guides on how to do the job.

While I was back there, i also checked our transmission fluid, and I’m happy to say that it’s still nice and pink after about 35 hours of use, rather than brown and burnt smelling. So far it seems that sending the unit out to be rebuilt was definitely the right thing to do, and will hopefully allow us to have weeks, months, years of trouble-free travel in the future.

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To finish up, I pulled the vacuum breaker on the vented loop, cleaned it and reinstalled it. It had started leaking a little salt water onto the top of the engine while motoring. These vents usually have some type of little rubber flapper or check valve inside, and in time they’ll usually accumulate some salt crystals and start to leak a bit. Normally a good freshwater flush is all they need.

vent

A quick check of all the hose clamps (there are a LOT of hose clamps on our engine, and I always find a few loose ones that need tightening), belt tension (no more belt dust to clean up since we put a new pulley on the alternator during our refit), and a look at the fluid levels and fuel filter bowl, and our engine underway checks are basically done.

We can’t say for sure yet what our next stop will be, but I’m confident now that if called upon, the engine will be ready!

Clean Fuel Makes For Less Drama

We were motoring along in the Hawk Channel at 7 knots, just passing Key West. We’d left Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas that morning, and were bound for the Boca Chica marina at Key West Naval Air Station. We were trying to cross the main shipping channel in time to miss a large Coast Guard cutter that was getting underway. And then the engine, which had been purring along at 2,800 RPM all day, suddenly sputtered and dropped to idle. A few moments later, it died completely.

Rhonda and I looked at each other with our best shocked faces. Shifting into neutral and turning the key, the engine restarted, but we couldn’t bring it back up to cruise RPM. It would hold at about 1,500 RPM though, enough for us to make just a bit under 5 knots. “OK, we can work with this,” I said to Rhonda, as we limped toward the marina, fingers crossed. Fortunately, 5 knots was enough to get us clear of the shipping channel before the cutter needed to occupy the space we were using.

I was pretty sure I knew what had happened. We’d seen this before on our previous boat. It had all the hallmarks of a clogged fuel filter. Not surprising, really. After all, we’d been taking on fuel in Cuba, where you give the dock hands your empty jugs and some money and they return the jugs full later in the day. And we’d filled up in Mexico as well. And then our fuel tank contents had gotten pretty well agitated during several of our rolly passages.

Our Hunter 376 came from the factory with a Racor 110 fuel filter. It’s a small metal unit with a spin off bowl that’s quite a PITA to service underway.

 

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A big lesson from our shakedown cruise was that we needed to install a bigger filter. Preferably one with a clear bowl so that we could visually monitor fuel quality, and one that wouldn’t be so difficult to service in a seaway. Dual filters would have been ideal, so that we could just switch over to a second unit in the event of an inopportune filter clog. But there wasn’t room in our engine compartment for a dual filter setup. I’m fine with just a single filter, however, as long as  you can change the element in just a couple of minutes.

Here’s our solution. It’s a Racor 500FG turbine, which you may know is the go-to filter for most cruisers. As you can see, it just barely fit.

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But it hit all the checkmarks. We can see the fuel to visually check on the amount of water or crud in the unit, and changing the element doesn’t require removing a bowl and dumping a pint of diesel fuel all over the place. We sprang for the optional vacuum gauge, so that we can monitor the filter’s condition over time. (FYI since we’re not a USCG inspected vessel, we weren’t required to use the model with the metal bowl shield. If none of the vinyl hoses or plastic cable covers on the engine are melting, then neither will our filter bowl).

The one remaining problem with our fuel system was that the fuel shutoff valve was located at the fuel tank. Reaching it requires emptying the starboard lazarette, removing a floor panel, and standing on your head. Not a lot of fun when you’re trying to do a quick filter change underway. To solve this issue, we added an inline valve just upstream of the new filter.

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Now you can sit in one spot and shut the valve, remove the filter cover, pop out the old element and pop in a new one, and then crack the valve until the filter body is full of fuel. Screw the lid back down with the T handle, and you’re done!

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Another lesson well learned from our shakedown cruise. Hopefully there will be no more fuel-related drama in our future!

Turn Your Head And Cough

The countdown clock has once again started.  We’ve begun gearing up for departure, and it’s now time to give Eagle Too a thorough physical. We need to make sure that she’s in tip top shape and ready for the long trip ahead.

One of the first items on the checkup list was to make sure that our batteries are still youthful and fit. We installed them about 18 months ago, which means that in people years they’d be finishing high school and starting their freshman year of college about now.

Back in a post from last year called More Power Scotty, Part Two, we talked about the reasons why we preferred flooded lead acid batteries over other types. One is the ability to take individual cell readings with a hydrometer to monitor their function, something that’s impossible with AGMs or Gel cells. We don’t want any unpleasant “Holy crap, the batteries suddenly won’t take a charge!” incidents while we’re deep down island, days or weeks away from a marine chandlery.

It’s a pretty simple process. While performing this month’s battery level checks and topping off the cells with water, I took a moment to sample the acid in each cell with a hydrometer to measure their specific gravity.batterycheckup1 batterycheckup2

The results tell us two things. First, we were looking for all the cells to be at about the same reading. A cell that’s reading significantly higher or lower than its neighbors is a harbinger of doom. And second, comparing the readings obtained to a specific gravity chart gives a good measure of the state-of-charge, which can be used to validate the reading on our battery monitor.

Here were our results:

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Not all exactly equal, but within the normal and expected range. Most of the measured difference could possibly be chalked up to interpretation, as it can be a bit tricky to read the scale on the hydrometer accurately.

Once we had our readings, I then compared them to the data in this handy chart:

batterycheckup4

Based on our specific gravity measurements, our batteries were at just under 90% state-of-charge. And sure enough, when I checked our battery monitor, it read 88%.

I think we can check this one off as ready to go!

Our Shakedown Cruise

As we’ve mentioned before, it wasn’t originally our intention to return to our hometown of Pensacola, Florida just four months after heading off on our grand adventure last April. But as things have turned out, it probably wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Four months of voyaging turned up some issues with Eagle Too that never made themselves apparent during the year and a half we lived at the dock. Issues that will need to be addressed before we head out again, and which will be much easier to deal with stateside than from somewhere down island. Besides, we had to go somewhere for hurricane season, and Pensacola isn’t a bad place to spend the summer on a boat.

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Eagle Too anchored in Bahia Honda, Artemisa Province, Cuba

Our biggest concern, of course, is our ailing transmission. Even though it appears to be running smoothly and quietly and shifts well, the fact that it toasts the transmission fluid to a nasty dark gray color after 30 or 40 hours of operation tells us something is wrong. Fixing it is going to require pulling the transmission and sending it off to be rebuilt, and that means hauling the boat.

It’s been 28 months since our last bottom job, and our antifouling is showing its age, so if we are going to have to haul the boat to do the transmission work, we might as well put a fresh bottom on. No sense heading out with worn out bottom paint when we just happen to have friends here in Pensacola that run a marine maintenance and repair yard.

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Eagle Too anchored off Cayo Levisa, PInar del Rio Province, Cuba

The windlass. That was a big deal. The fact that it stopped working at a really bad time (anchored too close to a lee shore with a rapidly approaching thunderstorm) drove home just how important to your health and safety a functional windlass is. Especially when your bower is a 65 pound brute like our Mantus. My back still aches thinking about pulling it up by hand in 25 knots of wind. But it’s all better now. Just some corroded crimp connectors under the deck switches.

Then there’s a short list of little things that we’re working our way through. For instance, we’ve mentioned before that instead of using expensive marine ventilation fans, we stocked up on cheap ($10) 12 volt automotive fans from Walmart to cool the boat at anchor. To power them, we installed 12 volt outlets all over the boat, wired to the Fan circuit on our breaker panel. Well, it turns out that the Fan circuit was only a 5 amp breaker, and if we tried to run three or more fans at once, the breaker would trip. I guess we never tried it before getting underway, since we usually had the air conditioning running. So we swapped out the 5 amp breaker for a 10 amp, since the wiring can handle the current. Problem solved!

We’ve prided ourselves on our bone dry bilge, so it really bothered us when we started accumulating a couple of inches of fresh water in the bilge from an unknown source. Some sleuthing determined that the level probe on our freshwater tank had developed a leak, allowing water to seep into the bilge whenever we topped off the tank. So out came the old one and in went a brand new probe from KUS (the company formerly known as WEMA).

Our cockpit speakers were falling apart due to UV exposure. So now we’re sporting a shiny new pair of West Marine stereo speakers. The backlight on our Raymarine depth gauge gave out early in the trip, so the instrument is now on its way back to Raymarine for repair under warranty. And it’s a little thing, but we kept losing the little black plastic caps on the tops of our stantions. They’d just pop off underway and go overboard, and we eventually ran out of spares. So we placed a quick order with Sailboat Owners for a set of stainless steel replacement caps, which we hope will be more durable and tenacious.

I’ve been playing this little game with our steaming light for some time now. It stops working, so I go up the mast with my multimeter and tools and coax it into working again. It tests fine for three or four days, so I consider it fixed. Then the day comes where we actually want to use it, and damned if it hasn’t quit again. I can actually see it up there sticking its tongue out at me. After two or three rounds, the fun has worn off, so there’s a new steaming light sitting on our chart table ready for my next trip up the mast.

With the exception of the transmission, none of these problems are voyage-ending. But sitting here in mid-September, looking back on our year, I think it has probably been a good thing that we first headed out in early spring and were able to do a thorough shakedown on all of our systems and gear, identify all our weak spots and then spend the downtime during hurricane season making adjustments. So much of what we did to prepare Eagle Too was based on research on what seemed to be working for others, or some notional idea of what we’d want or need once underway. But four months of theory-to-practice now allows us to better judge wants and needs.

We’ll shortly try and do some posts on what we thought were the most useful systems and/or pieces of gear, the things we would absolutely not want to leave home without.

Home Again Home Again Jiggity Jig

Five months and 2,400 miles after throwing off the lines at Palafox Pier and Yacht Harbor in downtown Pensacola, Florida, Rhonda gently worked the throttle to carefully back Eagle Too into a slip while I hung from the starboard shrouds, ready to jump ashore and tie off our docklines.

Arrival

After cleating off the lines, I climbed back aboard while Rhonda shut down the diesel. As the engine shuddered to a stop, the low-oil-pressure alarm whistled shrilly until Rhonda reached down and switched off the engine key, silencing it.

We noted the time for our log, checked the instruments as we usually do upon arrival, and then, our end-of-voyage ritual completed, stood for a moment in the now silent cockpit, taking in our very familiar surroundings.

“We’re home,” we said to each other. For we had just returned to what has become the closest thing to home for us now that we live the life of vagabond cruisers. We were once again docked at Palafox Pier.

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We previously lived in slip 6 on E dock for 16 months, but it has another occupant now, and we slid instead into slip 11 on D dock. We can clearly see our old home, it’s just right over there, and we look with dismay at the squatter currently occupying “our” spot. But D dock isn’t a bad place, and we’ll be fine here for now.

The marina at the Naval Air Station was accommodating and affordable, but unfortunately there is very little there in the way of shopping or dining. Getting around required a car, and after five weeks, we’d pretty much worn out our ability to borrow a car from family or friends. Moving to downtown, while more expensive than the Navy marina, would be cheaper than staying put and renting a car, and would put numerous replenishment and dining options within walking or biking distance. With luck, we won’t be here too long. Rhonda thinks I’m being overly optimistic, but I’m hopeful that we’ll have the issue that brought us unexpectedly home sufficiently under control by November to let us head out again before the weather gets too cold. We’ll see.

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You may have noticed that It’s been a while since we’ve posted an update.  The creative energy that would have normally been expended formulating blog posts has instead been devoted to teasing out solutions to a complex family health issue. After a day of dealing with counselors, doctors, and social services workers, there just isn’t the energy or desire to pull together a blog entry. It’s all been quite depressing actually, and depression is not much of a motivator. But we’ve been making progress, things may be on the right path now, and we’re feeling somewhat optimistic that the time may soon come when we can resume our voyage and things here will be fine in our absence. And optimism is energizing. So maybe the drought has ended. Again, we’ll see. For now, just know that Rhonda and I are fine, we’re home, and we’re looking forward to the (hopefully not far off) day when we can once again head out and resume our interrupted journey.

A Journey Interrupted

I’ve said before that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. Well, the Big Guy must have been in need of a good chuckle this week. We’ve been busy pouring over cruising guides and studying charts, planning a trip up Florida’s east coast. We were intending to leave Marathon tomorrow, headed toward Miami. But then the phone rang. We found out that a family health issue back in Pensacola requires our urgent attention. So we’re still leaving tomorrow. But rather than heading east, we’re retracing our route back to Pensacola. It should take us 10 or 12 days.

We’re obviously disappointed. It wasn’t what we’d planned. But family comes first. So it’s back to Pensacola we go, with no reservations. With some luck, maybe we’ll be able to resume our adventure this fall. Or maybe we can head out again next spring. We’ll just have to see.

We’ve taken several cruises in the past, and I told Rhonda that while stowing gear on deck this afternoon and getting Eagle Too ready to put to sea, I felt exactly like I’ve felt on the last night of a cruise. That’s when you put your suitcases out in the hallway for the stewards to collect. You’re still on vacation, but the end is in sight. We’re really hoping this won’t be the conclusion of our amazing journey. We have so much more we want to see and do. But sometimes life throws you a curve, and you have no real choice but to just adapt and deal with it. Stay tuned…Keep Calm

Have A Plan, But Be Prepared To Change It

Since arriving in Mexico in mid-May, Rhonda and I had contemplated our next step. The original plan was to head south for hurricane season, tucking into the Rio Dulce in Guatemala for July thru October to wait out the peak of the season. But over a period of several weeks, we had the opportunity to talk with cruisers who had spent time there, and the reviews were decidedly mixed. As we spoke with people, we felt that a pattern began to emerge. The ones who sang Guatemala’s praises seemed to be those who had sailed their boat down for hurricane season, hauled it out and put it on the hard, and then flew back to the States for three or four months. Those who actually stayed on their boats had a less flattering view. “Well, you’re in the middle of the jungle, so it’s hotter than hell,” they’d say. “And Fronteras (the nearby town) is pretty rough, and doesn’t offer much.” We heard tales of having to spend six hours each way on a bus to reach Guatemala City to get to a sizable grocery store or an airport.

Looking around at this little island of Isla Mujeres, with its hundreds of bars and restaurants, grocery stores and shopping all within a manageable walk or short dinghy ride, and Cancun just a 30 minute ferry ride away, we started to ask ourselves why we’d want to leave here to go there and basically become boat hostages for four months. Yes, we have about a thousand hours of movies and TV shows on our entertainment system hard drive, and I have about 30 books on my Kindle waiting to be read, but the thought of just sitting in the salon reading and watching TV for four months lacked appeal. There was only one good reason to go south—hurricane avoidance. We began to consider just staying on Isla Mujeres for the season. We could if we wished to, as our insurance doesn’t require us to leave the Caribbean during storm season.

But that option presented its own problems. There was a protected lagoon on the south side of the island that is a recognized hurricane hole, and we were originally told that if a storm approached, everyone heads into the lagoon to ride it out. But then some folks with more time on the island said, “Yes, but all the charter and fishing boats from Cancun also come piling into the lagoon and try to tie up to the mangroves with clothesline and undersized anchors, and you have to ride out the storm on your boat so you can fend off all the dragging boats bouncing around.

That was the point at which the teeter tottered. Maybe we should just go back to the Keys, we started asking ourselves. We’re from Florida, we’re used to living with the threat of hurricanes, and there are a lot more options for running or hiding from a storm there. Instead of just sitting on the boat watching TV, we could spend the summer exploring the Keys and Florida’s east coast, maybe even jump over to the Bahamas.

So a new plan was born. A plan that was finally settled upon when our neighbors Addison and Pat on S/V Threepenny Opera informed us that they were jumping over to the Dry Tortugas at the next good weather window. We’d met them a month previously in Marina Hemingway, Cuba, and finding out that we were all heading in the same general direction, had traveled together ever since.A&P

Sailing from Isla Mujeres to the Dry Tortugas is a trip of over 300 nautical miles (that’s almost 350 statute, or landlubber, miles). That was over twice the distance we’d previously covered in a single jump, and would require spending two nights at sea. Such a trip was the next logical step in our progression as cruisers, but It sure sounded appealing to have a buddy-boat to make the crossing with.

And so that became our new plan. We had some discussion about whether we (mostly I) would regret passing up visiting the Rio Dulce, but I honestly felt that based on what we had learned, this was the better option for us. So at 0945 on the morning of June 15th, we untied from the pier at El Milagro marina that had been our home for four weeks and pointed our bow northeast towards Florida.Crossing1

The conditions were perfect, with 10 knots of wind on the starboard beam and two foot seas. With Threepenny Opera in the lead, we rounded the north end of the island and steadied up on a course of 045°.Crossing2 Crossing3

Several hours into the trip, we entered the Yucatan Channel current, the huge flowing river of Caribbean sea headed north to the Gulf of Mexico which eventually becomes the Gulf Stream. The current that we had fought and clawed against to make our way to Isla Mujeres now picked us up and hurtled us northward.Crossing4

Yes, that’s right. Ten point two knots speed over ground in a 37 foot monohull. It actually hit 10.4 at times, but I was never able to catch it with the camera. We were flying! Florida here we come.

We sailed on through the day making excellent time, with mostly clear skies and steady winds. Unfortunately, as always seems to happen, things became a bit less pleasant as night fell.Crossing6

Our experience here onboard the good ship Eagle Too has been one of miserable night passages. We’d hoped that this time it would be different. I’d loaded several movies on the tablet in hopes that while Rhonda or I stood watch, we could relax and enjoy a flick. But as darkness set in, we started encountering squalls that were building off the northwest coast of Cuba, the winds rose, and the seas became confused. In the early AM, after several hours of dodging storms, reefing and unreefing the sails and rolling about in the building swell, I felt we had once again managed to invert the suck-to-fun ratio onboard the boat.

But shortly before the sky started brightening in the east, things calmed down, and we were treated to a view of the night sky and the Milky Way that you can usually only find in an astronomy textbook. Thursday, June 16th dawned clear and mild, with a gentle ESE wind. It was only blowing five or six knots, which would normally mean a boat speed of three or four knots, i.e. time to start the engine. But the residual current in the Florida Straits was still adding several knots to our boat speed, so we were managing six to seven knots SOG in six knots of breeze.

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Eagle Too photographed from Threepenny Opera

Being a bit longer at 42 feet compared to our 37, our buddy-boat would usually pull slowly away from us, having a somewhat higher cruising speed. When they’d get a couple of miles ahead, we’d start the engine and make a sprint to close the distance. As the second day at sea wore on, the conditions became more and more settled, and Rhonda and I took turns grabbing a nap in preparation for another night. Crossing7

And finally, after almost three months and over 1500 nautical miles of cruising, we had our perfect night passage. Mild winds, flat seas, clear skies. More stars than you could possibly imagine, with the Milky Way boldly cutting a wide swath through the middle. No sound except the hissing of the foam from our wake, and an occasional quiet creak from the rigging, the sound of a contented sailboat in its element, being propelled by a gentle breeze. Rhonda watched Finding Nemo during her shift at the helm, and I enjoyed the classic James Bond film Dr. No, pausing every ten to fifteen minutes to scan the horizon, the running lights of our buddy boat still comfortably visible to reassure us that we weren’t alone on this enormous, dark sea. We even had company to talk to through the night. Shortly before dusk, when we were in the middle of the Florida Straits about 80 miles from land, this guy landed on our outboard crane and settled in for the night.Crossing8

We were happy for the company, and he didn’t seem to mind us chatting him up occasionally.

If at least one of our previous night crossings had been as pleasant as this one, we would have had much less anxiety about this trip. Now that we know that it’s not a requirement that night sailing has to suck, we feel better about doing more going forward.

With the rising of the sun on Friday, June 17th, we found ourselves within sight of our destination. Lightening winds had let us pass our buddy-boat, as we do a bit better in light air.Crossing9

The lighthouse on Loggerhead Key hove into view, and we entered the channel to the anchorage at Fort Jefferson to drop anchor.Crossing10 Crossing11

And exactly 48 hours after we threw off the docklines in Mexico, we were anchored in the Dry Tortugas. I told Rhonda we should be proud of ourselves, as not one person in a thousand could have taken a small boat and crossed three hundred miles of open ocean as we had just done.

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A shot of Eagle Too anchored off Fort Jefferson taken from Threepenny Opera

Why Fi?

In our previous post Rocking The Cellular World, I described Google’s foray into the cellular communications market, called Project Fi. At the time, I hadn’t yet pulled the trigger and switched my phone to their program (you can’t really call it a network, since it encompasses several different ones all bundled together). But their program just makes too damn much sense for someone with a lot of international travel in their future (which would be us). So I finally went ahead and completed my application.

Within two days, my Project Fi SIM card arrived in the mail.

FiSim

The instructions said that after plugging in the new SIM, I could use data over WiFi immediately, but it could take up to 24 hours for talk and text to resume working, as my number had to be switched from my old carrier (Verizon) to Project Fi. Concerned about being out of touch for so long (we have a lot of things going on at the moment as we get ready to depart), I waited until early on a Saturday morning to swap my Verizon SIM card with my new Project Fi card. Well, they might have issued an ominous warning, but it actually only took about 90 seconds for my number to port and a cheerful “Your phone is now available for use on Project Fi!” message to appear on my screen.

So far, I don’t see any difference in call quality, which is naturally a good thing. The Project Fi app that installed on my phone is very informative, showing me everything I’d ever want to know about my account, billing, data usage, and customer service and technical support. And I even now have the visual voice mail (for no extra charge) that Verizon was always trying to sell me as a $2.99 a month upgrade.

So what ultimately caused me to make the switch after 18 years with Verizon? The $10 per day per device access fee and $1.79 per minute international roaming rate that Verizon charges for international calling. It’s absolutely absurd to think of paying $10,000 annual phone bills, and I didn’t really want us to have to keep buying local SIM cards and changing phone numbers every time we run a new courtesy flag up the mast. With Project Fi, we can keep the same phone number for all our international travel with no additional fees, and calling rates to the US that average 20 cents a minute. Check back in a few months for a review on how it’s working!

I just wish I knew how they came up with the name Project Fi. As far as we’re concerned, it should be Project Awesome 🙂

A Visual Voyage

Our courtesy flag order from Color Fast Flags arrived yesterday, and Rhonda had fun this morning laying them out in a visual representation of our planned itinerary for the remainder of this year.

CourtesyFlags

Can you name them all? And which of these is not like the others?

For those who aren’t aware of nautical tradition, it’s considered a respectful gesture to fly a nation’s flag from your boat’s spreaders for the duration of your stay after you’ve been cleared in to the country. I don’t think it’s actually a requirement, any more than saying “please” and “thank-you” are, but it can earn you a few hospitality points while visiting foreign lands (foreign to us, of course. It’s home to the people who live there!) And you never know when a few hospitality points just might come in handy…

Typhoid – It’s What’s For Breakfast

Today’s post focuses on one of the less glamorous aspects of embarking on a cruising life—the epidemiology of it all. Now that Rhonda is retired and our breakneck sprint to our departure date has begun, the first item on the agenda was a visit with our family physician to obtain prescriptions for the drugs we wanted to have onboard and discuss the vaccinations we would need. If you’re preparing for extended overseas travel, the Centers for Disease Control has an excellent website that tells you exactly which vaccinations are recommended for the countries you intend to visit. You can find it here:

CDC Travelers’ Health

Plugging in our planned itinerary, it recommended that Rhonda and I receive inoculations for Hepatitis A and Typhoid, along with ensuring that our tetanus and measles/mumps/rubella shots were current. Our doctor also advised us to get the Hepatitis B shot as well. The CDC says it’s only recommended for people who may be exchanging bodily fluids with others, and I pointed out to our doctor that that wasn’t really part of the plan. But he replied with, “It doesn’t matter, if you get in an accident and need blood, you can contract Hep B.” Apparently one of his patients had had just that very thing happen on a trip to Egypt.

So the following morning, we found ourselves at the Escambia County Health Department, shirt sleeves rolled up, performing our best impersonations of human pincushions.Shots1 Shots2

It could have been worse. They have a combined Hep A/Hep B vaccine that covers both with a single shot. And Rhonda was current on her tetanus, so she was able to skip that one. When it was time for the typhoid vaccine, they gave us a choice. We could either have a shot, which is good for two years, or an oral vaccine, which is good for five.

“Wait, you mean we can just swallow a pill instead of getting stuck again? Sold!”

The oral vaccine was even $20 cheaper than the shot. The only (minor) downside is that it’s not one pill, it’s four, taken every other day on an empty stomach. Which is why we found ourselves getting up to an alarm at 0700 today to have a typhoid pill and a glass of water for breakfast. And then we went back to bed for an hour, since we’re both retired now and we can do things like that even during the week… 🙂Shots3

Total cost for both of us ran a little under $350, which should be reimbursable as routine preventative care through our health insurance.

It’s a good thing we went when we did. As it turns out, the Hepatitis B vaccine is a series of three shots. The second has to be administered 28 days after the first one, and the third one six months later. Twenty-eight days means our return visit to visit the puncturist  will be on or about March 30th, which is just a couple of days before our planned April 1st departure date (weather dependent, of course). And both our doctor and the clinician said that the third shot isn’t really that important, it’s the first two that build your immunity. So we’ll just get Hep B number 3 sometime later this year or early next year when we’re home for a visit.

Finally, there are a few places in the Caribbean where Yellow Fever is still a concern, and some countries require that you’ve had a vaccination if you’ve visited one of those areas (check the CDC site for more info). Since I’m former US Navy and Rhonda grew up a Navy brat, we’ve both been previously vaccinated for the disease and it’s reflected in our shot records, so that was one less needle we had to endure.Shots4

I sure am glad I married someone as meticulous (no, I did not say anal, stop putting words in my mouth!) about filing and record keeping. I would have lost these records years, probably decades ago!