Sunday, August 23, 2009

An E-mail and Answer



I have been talking to my wife for quite some time about sailing like your doing. She is interested but being the realist that she is she keeps bringing the question of money up and how that we would afford to keep sailing as neither of our jobs (aircraft mechanic and nurse) are mobile. So I was wondering are you able to work at some kind of job while sailing? We are currently saving as much as we can to make this dream come true but it is a SLOW process and we would like to do this while the youngest (currently 7yrs old) is still young.

Sorry if this question was answered in some earlier post that I haven't seen.

David Gillum and Family



Thanks for your e-mail. The whole money issue is probably the biggest set back people fac e when cutting the ties with land. This is a real lifestyle change... we went from owning our own buisness and having several car payments, credit cards etc to now having only about $150.00 per month in bills (bills that have a payment date each month that is) We no longer own a car or have a house payment (we own our boat outright). Our only two big issues are food for our huge family and boat maintenance. We have to stop and work for part of the year to do the work that needs done on the boat and to put enough away for food and living expenses for the months we are out cruising.
(A delivery with Changin Tags)

I have been delivering sailboats for about 3 years now so my oldest son and I head off every year for about 5 deliveries... either up and down the east coast or to and from the Caribbean. The money from these deliveries tends to all go right into the boat every year. We are always in need of new stuff and repairs to old stuff on the boat. I think most people who dream of living on a boat are unrealistic when they think of how much it costs to maintain a boat in "ready for sea" condition at all times. Owning it outright is the only way to go.. we also cut costs by anchoring out all of the time and doing all of our own work on the boat.

Rebecca has been a waitress for the past few years and has earned far more than she ever has before. The key is to find the right place during the right season. She earns more per day in tips in ST Thomas than I do as a Captain.

That being said, you have perfect career jobs for cruising... a nurse could have worked at any of the places we have stopped to work. She would have had a job on day one at any of our work stops... she could get a job here in Trinidad today where neither my wife or myself could. Your job as an Airplane mechanic has SERIOUS potential... we have a cruising buddy who is an airplane mech. and he does free lance work for some stateside company... they fly him back and forth to work on the planes when they need him... another friend of ours is a helicopter pilot who works in British Columbia during fire season every year and he and his family commute to and from their boat for half the year. Here is another thought... it surely wouldn't be a big deal for you to get certified on marine diesel engines... if you did that you could work anywhere cruisers are anytime... I would hire you this winter if you were anchored near me in St Thomas hehehe. Engine work is ALWAYS needed everywhere there are boats.

As a final thought... if this is a dream you share as a family and you are determined to do it, the hardest thing is to risk it all and just go... find the right boat that is seaworthy and that you can aford to buy... she may not look great when you buy her but with love and work you can turn her into a beauty... be willing to go through the stage of getting used to living in small space together... that really does go away eventually... and do what you love to do... work to live... don't live to work.
(Wandering Dolphin Before refit) (Wandering Dolphin After refit)

Good Luck!
Captain Tofer

Monday, August 17, 2009

Alternator Rebuild

As a cruiser I am constantly being pushed out of my comfort zone. Sometimes it is offshore when the wind pipes up and the seas are growing, sometimes it's at anchor when a boat drops the hook on top of our bow pulpit, sometimes it is when my oldest kid asks me to help him with his Algebra, but most of the time it is because the boat breaks... In case you don't own a boat... let me just inform you... boats break... all the time... everywhere... always in very hard to reach spots... and nothing is ever a cheap fix... ever. ever.

So on our last blog I told about our alternator. Well today with Andys help I pulled it all apart and rebuilt it... I was able to find all of the parts within walking distance (hot walks though) and I spent less than $100 US on everything. I must say that these days are few and far between. Usually the whole process involves multiple long trips from one part of an island to another and ordering in parts from some far off port, paying taxes to get them out of customs... resending them because the part was the wrong part... finally fixing the offending part and something else breaks when it is being installed... I could go on.

I am very thankful to Andy for helping me and next time I can do it by myself... which means it will probably run with no problems until I sell the boat one day.

Time for Supper,
Captain Tofer

Thursday, August 13, 2009


We are now at the Trinidad and Tobago Sailing Association harbor in Trinidad. While from the water this is very similar to a lot of other long term cruiser anchorages (thinking of Salinas and Luperon) the facilities at the club here are great. They have a laundry facility, clean showers, a work shop, bar, restaurant, WIFI, a TV area and nice pool. The cruiser gets full access to all of this plus free water and trash service and you can dock for free one day each week and use the electric to charge things up if you need to, all for only $100.00 US per month.

I am flabbergasted at all of the boats who refuse to come down here because they have read or been told such horrible stories about the crime here. This is a great island with more to offer cruisers than any we have been to for a LOT less money. The expertise of the people at the yards is unparalleled by any I have been too yet including Sailcraft Services in Oriental (sorry guys). If you have repair issues or need a haul-out these yards are GREAT.

On that note let me tell you what we have been wrestling with as far as boat issues. On the crossing from Grenada to Trinidad we were, there’s no better way to describe it than, dropped into a trough between two waves. The whole boat fell far enough that people on beds found themselves air born for a moment. When we landed (hard) the electricity all flickered for a moment and I knew that we had a short somewhere. Well soon the alternator’s charge dropped to almost nothing and then quit altogether and the batteries started to drain…

Over the next few days I pulled apart the cockpit, opened the floor and with the help of our new friend Andy (a single-hander from Australia) we traced out the problem. The alternator cable had broken loose from the shunt that splits controls all of the chargers and sends the charge to the battery banks. When this cable came loose, presumably in that offshore drop, it must have arced and burnt out the diodes in the alternator. The house bank which we just replaced with new EXPENSIVE AGM batteries in Oriental less than 2 years ago, seemed to be dropping in charge but no longer accepting a charge from the battery charger. Our worst fear was that they had somehow been damaged as well but it turns out they had simply dropped very low and our charger was too “smart” to charge them up. They are now almost fully charged after a week of tricking the charger by letting them cool down and restarting it every couple of hours. Our friend Andy, who also happens to be an electrical engineer, is going to help me rebuild the alternator, showing me how to do it as we go.

In closing… if you are a cruiser and are choosing not to come to Trinidad simply because you have heard horrible second or third hand stories… I am telling you as a cruiser who is here right now… you are missing out on a great stop. Come on down.

Captain Tofer

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ellie's Blog

Well where do I begin? For one, I have never blogged before, so I don’t exactly know what I am supposed to do, but I will try my best.

I have really enjoyed my stay here in Trinidad, and as much as my own bed sounds amazing right now, I would love to stay for another week or so. I have taken a few trips within the U.S., and being from Bellingham, WA, Canada is merely a 20 minute drive away, but this vacation to Trinidad has been my first out of the continent.

When people first found out that this is where I chose to vacation, they were skeptical. After driving through the northern part of Trinidad, I have to say that it is one of the most beautiful places I could ever imagine. The people here may work at tiny run-down fruit shops on the side of the street, but they are so welcoming, they have something about them that is so friendly. The whole country is beautiful, some places better than others, but all of it is great.

The whole trip has been amazing. I have visited a mall here, been swimming in the ocean, seen it rain a lot harder than it ever does back home, eaten local food, ridden in one of the most unsafe modes of public transportation, and experienced a whole lot of life that I wouldn’t have been able to experience anywhere else. Just yesterday my mother Amy, my Aunt Becky, and my cousins Jimmy, Emily, Kanyon, Kaleb and Ben went to the very popular Maracas beach and spent almost the entire day there. Our taxi driver’s name was Sterling and he showed us cashew trees, Cayman, which are a very small breed of alligators, he bought us local food, candy, and coconuts on our way up to the beach. Sterling was an amazing example of the people here.

If I have learned anything on my trip it is that life as a sailor is much, much, harder than I imagined. I have never considered myself high-maintenance at all, but I do enjoy a nice hot shower and a bedroom all to myself once in a while. When you are docked at a marina, like we are now, a hot shower is not hard to come by. Although the water pressure might be a little wishy-washy, it is indoors, and it’s good enough to get clean. When you are out in the middle of the ocean, much like we were previously this week, a shower means standing under a bag of hot water and trying to spray the salt water off your back and the shampoo out of your hair.

I guess for me life as a sailor is much more difficult than what I thought it was going to be because I didn’t really know what to expect, and because I had never had to live that way before. For my youngest cousin Benny, he remembers the farm as his old home, but has practically been raised on the boat and knows every in and out of his home, and the same goes for the rest of the family.

I know that this trip has been big for me, and that living on a boat for over a week with eight other people, and a dog, has been tough for me. But I also know that it has been an amazing experience that I will never forget. Also that I am not ready to go home tomorrow.

Roti and Doubles For Dinner, (ask me later)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Docked at a Marina Again After 18 Months Marina Free!

Yep this is the first time Wandering Dolphin has been tied to a Marina dock in 18 months. One and a half years anchored out in some of the most beautiful spots in the Caribbean. We still fondly remember our last stay in a Marina in February of 2008 at Rum Cay in the Bahamas with our friends on Sailing Vessel Salt and Light. That time we decided to pay the piper for a marina stay because the anchorage at Rum rolled so badly it was like being offshore. This time we came in to tie up at the CruizInn Marina in Trinidad so that Amy and Ellie can catch their morning flight on Sunday without having a wet dingy ride for a half hour first.

A lot of people are surprised that we can go so long without stopping at a marina, but consider this as well, we have only actually tied to a dock two other times in that whole 18 months. Once was for fuel in St Thomas (our first fill up in 13 months at that time) and the other here in Trinidad at the customs dock when we arrived.

When we first started cruising we thought we would be staying at a marina a couple of times a month at least but now we just look at them as a colossal waste of money. The air doesn’t blow through the boat like when you are anchored out and to us a shower from a hot black shower bag in the cockpit is at least as good as a shower in a stall where 14 other people have showered that morning. That being said it will be fun for the kids to swim in a pool again and it is nice to be able to connect to the internet whenever we want to.

I will try my best to get Ellie to blog before they leave. We have really enjoyed having them and hope they come back to see us in another spot somewhere along the way.

God Bless,
Captain Tofer