Getting Ship Shape
Roughly 1 month ago, we packed all our belongings into storage and left New York to live on our boat Kaya. We picked up Kaya in La Rochelle on the west coast of France near Bordeaux where she was parked at Port de Minimes.
I added a little script to our blog that polls our exact GPS coordinates from AIS so you can see exactly where we are, near real time. AIS is a system that tracks pretty much any boat or ship using the vessel's transponders, meaning we have zero location privacy now that we’re living on a boat. If you look at our location for the next week, we are likely to still be here, because we have been waiting for a good window of weather to leave.
We ordered Kaya with many features - generator, air-conditioning, heating, radar, sound system, electric heads (toilets), etc. However, we still had a lot of work to do to get her ready for cruising around the Med. For example, we treated all the wood surfaces with saturator for protection, got extra fenders and fender protectors, upgraded our anchor, installed wifi, upgraded our navigation charts, set up our MMSI (unique boat identifier used by AIS), drilled our first scary holes in the boat to install a passerelle (and learned what a passerelle/gangplank is)… the list of boat projects goes on but we are finally getting close to ready. Living on the boat also gave us a chance to test all the systems and get issues fixed while we are close to the factory (sticky door locks and water in the engine room were some examples).
Every step took more time than expected. It’s funny how the marine services operate. They are hardworking and friendly small enterprises that are constantly busy and sometimes hard to get appointments with. I guess they service big charter companies, and we are small fry. We are still trying to get an appointment with a fabric shop that makes protective covers. Nevertheless, La Rochelle is the perfect place to outfit a boat because there are just so many of these marine shops and services around here, and we got a lot done in the last couple of weeks.
This alone was life-changing. We are now able to use shore power in Europe. This is huge because we have a US spec boat, and all our appliances and electronics on board run on 110V/60hz. In Europe however, everything is 220V/50hz. The first couple of weeks we had to run the generator every day to charge our batteries and get hot water, which is not very sustainable. We can go into details later if there is interest, but in short, we now have this super fancy button that saves us a lot of headache as we travel around Europe.
It’s really surprising how hard this was to get done. We got a lot of hand-waving and furrowed eyebrows (“C'est compliqué!”), and the one company that had done it before said “Non”, because they were too busy. Then one day the electricians suddenly showed up and started working on the boat. They did an awesome job. We wonder if bringing Twiggy to the office helped to get our job prioritized - the owner of the company once sailed across the Atlantic in a little sloop with his dog not knowing she was pregnant, and she gave birth to 10 puppies during the crossing.
The dingy that came with the catamaran is a fiberglass bottom boat. Fiberglass tends to be a little heavier than eg. aluminum. That's why we added some wheels to make it easier when we need to pull it ashore. Bruno, a really cool guy who lent us a drillbit for the passerelle, installed the wheels and also navigation lights.
We installed a radar reflector for extra safety. Small boats usually return a very weak echo to radar. To maximise their visibility to other ships they can be fitted with a radar reflector. It was also a good opportunity for us to figure out how to use the halyard (that hoists the sail) to go up the mast, since we may have to do this from time to time. We asked our neighbour Shai to supervise the job so Sha-Mayn had the confidence to go up in a harness. Shai has helped us out a lot (for no good reason) on many little things, such as that passerelle we keep mentioning. Every time we go to Shai’s boat, I see a new piece of new gear I feel like I need to go buy.
We also finished the netting for Twiggy on one side of the boat. She refused to walk on the sides until we put the netting up.
We finally have our kitchen fully setup with pots, pans, spices etc. It’s a mini kitchen with a fridge, freezer, gas oven and stove. We take cooking very seriously and so we are really happy to have an operational kitchen. We have no less than 6 very sharp knives (we brought 4 from New York) and have been cooking every day.
Since the first day we arrived the temperature has dropped a lot and it now gets really cold at night. That means we need to sail south into warmer weather.
Our plan is to sail down to Gibraltar as soon as we get a clear weather window to cross the Bay of Biscay. The Bay of Biscay can have rough seas due to exposure from the Atlantic Ocean. Our first trip out to cross the bay will take 2-3 days. That's why we need to wait for a long window of good weather, and we’ve hired a skipper to go with us. Our first stop will be A Coruna in Spain. We'll spend 1-2 days in A Coruna to check the engine and get some rest. Then we'll sail over the next ~10 days along the Spanish and Portuguese coast down into the Straits of Gibraltar.
Sha-Mayn is traveling on a Schengen visa; that means that we cannot stay within the Schengen area for more than 90 days in a 180-day period of time. Because of that we are leaving Europe for 3 months to reset the visa clock. During that time we’ll travel to Cape town to visit Jazmine, Brett and Asia for a couple weeks and also fly back to New York in March for 1 month to take care of our apartment.
Beginning of March 2019, when the weather gets warmer in the Mediterranean, we start our big trip and sail east.