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Getting the boat and crew ready to sail away

Anchored

*** SPOILER ALERT: Jump to the bottom of this post to find out what happened to our Mantus Anchor in 240+ mph winds during Hurricane Irma!! ***

 

Without a doubt, our most important piece of equipment that we rely on to keep our boat safe is our anchor. When we first started cruising four years ago, it was a hot topic in our home for quite awhile. There were lots of other cruisers discussing what kind of anchor they trust and why.  We did our research and eventually Peter and I decided that the Mantus and Rocna anchors had the best design on the market. Both having a relatively new-school design, not many of the old salts were really talking much about them yet. Rocna was a hot name but we had some first hand experience of several Rocna’s dragging near us – one time where Peter had to jump on board and help rescue a boat when their Rocna didn’t hold.

After talking extensively with Mantus Marine, watching videos of their product in action, and reviewing all the info they had on their website, we were sold.  Our previous anchor was a 45lb Delta and we upgraded to a galvanized 65lb Mantus – a decision that made us feel way safer knowing we were moving up to not only a storm anchor rated for greater than 50 knots, but an anchor that could be trusted in all kinds of seabeds.

The anchor itself came in three pieces that got bolted together. The installation was a little messy with all the special bolt grease but it was fairly easy.

Swapping out the old anchor for the new anchor was the hardest part about it since we needed three people. I drove the boat, Peter was on the bow operating the windlass and our friend Mike was in our dinghy ready to guide in the very muddy old anchor and chain and then feed Peter up the new chain through the bow roller. The new anchor fit perfectly and we admired it for a little while before lowering it into some seriously thick mangrove mud.

Literally within two days of installing our new Mantus, a nasty 45 knot squall came through our anchorage. Of course it held like a charm but I couldn’t believe how much better sleep we both got that night knowing we were totally secure.

***

You must know that this all happened two years ago. Yes, you read that right, two years ago. It’s taken me that long to actually write about it. Shortly after Mantus shipped our new anchor to us down in Grenada, our sweet boy Gunner took a turn for the worse. We knew the end was near but it was around this time that things were getting especially difficult to care for him. Simultaneously, we literally ran out of money and were making plans to sail back up to the Virgin Islands and begin working for Aristocat Charters. The relaxed life we had known for the past two years was starting to turn upside down.

Before we made our journey North, we stopped at the Tobago Cays in the Grenadines one last time and got some REALLY cool underwater video of Peter repeatedly lifted our new Mantus Anchor out of its holding while I then gently backed down on the engine and he recorded how quickly it reset itself in both sand and turtle grass. The water was so clear and the footage turned out amazing. I was SO excited to post it!!

I went to transfer the footage from the Go-Pro to my laptop and after the import was complete the program was set to automatically delete the files from the device. (I know, stupid, right?) For some awful reason, the files were not actually imported, and yet they got deleted anyway. I spent countless hours researching how to recover them since I also had video on there from Gunner’s very last beach day ever in Carriacou :( I was unsuccessful and totally crushed. Since then we immediately started working in BVI with few days off which meant our boat did not leave our mooring ball for almost all of the last two years. Needless to say that didn’t give me any opportunities to replace our amazing video proof of just how much we love that Mantus anchor.

You really do have to see it to believe it. Peter was blown away the first time he saw it in action. Anytime the water visibility is even remotely clear enough to see our anchor, he ALWAYS dives it to make sure it’s dug in really well. If he’s not sure, he will either dive down and manually dig it in by hand, or he’ll signal for me to back down on the engine a little more until it grabs. A good anchor bite is one thing Peter does NOT take lightly.

With our previous Delta we frequently had to make adjustments before getting a good bite but with the new Mantus it was completely buried on the first try – every time. After watching the Mantus dig in from just the weight of our boat alone, Peter knew we made the right decision.

Even though we weren’t able to use our own anchor very much, Scott decided to put their 65lb Mantus onto their daysail catamaran, Aristocat, at the same time we began running that boat! We now literally have two years of experience with a Mantus from anchoring between one to three times EVERY SINGLE DAY on a much larger vessel.

Even in high winds and coral rubble, if you can get a good bite, that sucker isn’t going to budge. Someday when we start cruising again I will be 100% confident that a Mantus anchor will keep our little family safe.

***

On a side note, Mantus has some really cool accessories that also help to get the most out of our anchoring experience. We installed their Chain Hook for use on our snubber to prevent it from slipping off the chain and it works great!

We also tried out the Anchor Mate that prevents the anchor from swinging around while it’s stored up on the bow roller. This was something especially exciting for us because of the damage that our Delta had already done in some rough weather. It was easy to install and fits perfectly. We did measure to make sure both this piece and the anchor itself would fit onto our very old existing setup and we even had Mantus review some photos of the area around our windlass just to make sure. Now it doesn’t clank around or slam against the hull. Our anchor fits nice and snug when it’s not in use. I can’t even begin to express how impressed we are with their customer service.

All in all, Mantus Marine is an amazing company with the highest quality marine products and it’s run by amazing people that truly understand what their customers want. Highly recommended!! If you’re in the market for any anchoring equipment, do yourself a favor and reach out to Mantus Marine.

 

**HURRICANE IRMA UPDATE**

Okay, so everything above was written BEFORE the largest Hurricane on record in the Atlantic basin took a direct hit over BVI and our boat. I never got around to publishing the above post.

Fast forward to the days just before our boat saw winds of 240+ mph, I’ve got to tell you what happened to our Mantus…

Our Hurricane plan was approved by our insurance company as a written description of the preparation Peter would take to secure our vessel along with a visual diagram of where she would be inside a very protected corner of Manuel Reef Marina, Sea Cows Bay, Tortola BVI. It was a known hurricane hole and one of the best chances we had to protect our boat. Peter had tied up Mary Christine the best he possibly could with all the lines he could get his hands on, spidering them off to the concrete dock, surrounding boats, and had a total of three anchors set to hold her away from the dock. She sat parallel on the concrete wall separated by wood boards, tires and fenders. The “dock” where we were tied up was actually more of the edge of the parking lot for Gene’s Restaurant where we could literally drive our car up to our boat.

Since this wasn’t a typical anchoring scenario, Peter used a dinghy to distribute the anchors around the boat while it was tied to the dock. He set a Danforth style anchor off the port stern and another Danforth anchor from the starboard stern. He then placed the Mantus off the starboard bow. Now, when there is an approaching hurricane, all the boats inside this area have to wait until tropical storm force winds are present to pull their anchors tight because all of the local ferries drive through this channel at the very last minute and they have no regard for anyone’s anchor chains or rode that will ultimately be crossing the channel.  They simply drive right over them, destroying hours of prep work by all the other boats already tied up. It’s awful, but it’s just the way it is here. Sure enough, many of the boats you see in the photo below on the mangrove island had their stern anchors ripped out after tropical storm force winds arrived when all the ferries drove in.  What I’m getting at is that Peter had to literally stay at our boat until the final hour before he could pull our anchors tight and get to a safe place during the worst of the storm.  I can’t even begin to describe to you what kind of sickening feeling this created, both for me watching the news from afar, and for Peter having to live through this nightmare.

The Mantus was our best anchor and to get a really good bite he actually tied the rode to the frame of our SUV and set it with the car!!

We knew Irma was going to be big, but no one could have known just how intense or destructive she would be. The first hit from Irma’s eyewall completely stripped the bolts out from inside the cleats on our boat, ripping the cleats and the winches completely off of the port side.

There was nothing left holding her to the dock so she went drifting out into the area between the dock and the small mangrove island inside Sea Cows Bay. The mizzenmast snapped in half along with several stanchions and the whole bow roller was ripped off. She must have taken some heavy blows because the hull to deck joint had a sizeable crack. The most amazing part is that when Peter finally got back down to check on her several days after the hurricane, the only thing holding her in place alongside the other boats on the mangrove island was that Mantus Anchor! Its almost funny because everyone told us no anchors would hold in this mangrove mud during a hurricane. They all said we’d never get a good bite.

Here’s the kicker.  When our friend Trent dove underwater after the hurricane to try to dislodge the Mantus anchor, he followed the chain with his hands and stuck his whole arm into the mud as far as he could, up to his shoulder, and HE STILL COULDN’T EVEN FEEL THE ROLLBAR!!! I remember reading comments from several people when we first researched the Mantus anchor years ago where they were skeptical of the design and how the roll bar was bolted onto the fluke. Clearly this is not an issue.

Peter and Trent had tried to drive the boat back and forth over the top of it and even had a dinghy wake them a few times in an attempt to wiggle the anchor loose but all it did was begin to grind the windlass motor and skip links of the chain on the gypsy. Nothing they could’ve done was going to dislodge it.  In summary, our 65lb galvanized Mantus Anchor performed flawlessly in excess of 240 mph winds during the strongest hurricane on record in the Atlantic Basin! I’m confident that this is the only reason our boat is still floating to this day.

So what kind of primary anchor will we choose on our next boat? You better believe we will have a Mantus Marine anchor keeping our family safe.

 

 

IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING… We are PROUD to share these awesome products and services with our readers. There are so many different solutions out there for everything we could possibly need, but these are the solutions that work for us.

This post may contain information about a product sponsorship. We gladly accept discounts or samples when a company feels generous enough to support our cause. In return we support the manufacturer or local service by sharing their links and writing about our experience with them. We only seek out sponsorship and affiliate programs from products and services we actually WANT to use and likewise only accept offers for products or services that we WILL use. We are not paid for any reviews we write or feedback we provide. We simply like to spread the word and share great experiences we have had that could also bring joy to others.

A Necessary Galley Upgrade

A very LONG overdue galley project finally got completed this week! Though it cost us nearly $2000 it was a necessary purchase. Our stove/oven had slowly become unusable over the last several years and we finally bit the bullet and replaced it!

Our old stove was a Seward Princess – a brand that is not manufactured anymore. While I liked the setup, it was just plain dangerous to use anymore.  For starters, the oven door busted on one side so it would not close all the way. It never really got very hot to begin with but when a good portion of the heat began to escape right out the front it was hardly helpful and took forever to bake anything.

Next, the front right burner was completely seized up. I guess the valves on these units eventually get all gummed up inside and its nearly impossible to clean or service them. The knob just wouldn’t turn at all.

The middle burner in the back would not stay lit unless I stood there and held in the knob for a minimum of 10 minutes after lighting it. At which time, the temperature could not be reduced to low heat, meaning I had to carefully decide what I was going to cook on that burner knowing it could only be done at high heat and I might not have an extra hand to stir anything else. Most likely, the thermo-coupler was shot, preventing it from getting hot enough to stay lit on its own. Total pain in the a$$ so I just didn’t use that burner anymore either.

The right front burner was the only one I had been able to use but it was most definitely on it’s way out too. The flame would ALWAYS blow out the first two times, requiring me to stand there and light it a total of three times. It wasn’t bad propane or a lack of oxygen, it just wouldn’t stay lit unless I did it three times. Weird. But that’s not all.  If I was using the oven at the same time, the knobs on the front of the stove would get so warm that they would stick (just like the first burner). This was particularly scary when cooking if I couldn’t shut off the frickin flame. It’s a small space to begin with and if I’m cooking up a storm then there is definitely not room to have an open flame just burning away! Shut off then required me to be done using the oven because I’d have to turn off the propane solenoid on the wall, which stopped the flow of propane, but then I had to wait for the whole unit to cool off before I could turn the stove knob back to “off” position. Yep total P.I.T.A.  And so very unsafe.

R.I.P. old girl…

It was probably meant to be… I had Peter verify my measurements of the space allowance we had compared to the new stoves available in the Budget Marine catalog.  We decided on the American version of the 3-burner Force 10 – a very popular brand and model. It was a product that the chandlery here on Tortola at Nanny Cay either carried or could order in with their regular shipments.  On our next trip past Nanny Cay we stopped in to replace our leaking BBQ propane tank (yep, more money spent on necessary upgrades). While locating the new tank we inquired about the specific part number we wanted to order since we didn’t see any three-burners on the floor.  Turns out, the very model number we wanted WAS right there in the store, on the display floor, packed nicely in it’original box!! I was sold. It was right there all along, concealed from everyone else, we just had to ask and their system told us it was right there. Perfect.

We were disappointed that the pricing had gone up since the chandlery there was no longer operating as Budget Marine but it didn’t matter. It was not economically feasible for us to try to sail our boat all the way to St. Thomas on the off chance that Peter may get a consecutive three days in a row off work. Maybe if I wasn’t 8 months pregnant, but we agreed it was just better to spend a little extra and get one that was already imported into BVI. All we had to do was load it in the car, into the dinghy and into our boat.

Luckily, our friend Mike from Three Sheets was available to help Peter with the awkward lifting. It was only about 85 lbs but still rather large and definitely a two-man job for getting it into our boat. Even our friend Branson came to help lift the new one up and through our companionway.  Such sweet guys to help a pregnant lady out ;) The old one was much easier to get it out.

It took quite a bit of cleaning once the old unit was out. Messes are nearly impossible to avoid once these suckers are installed.

While the guys hauled the old one out, I started unpacking the new one :) It’s so SHINY!! Probably the shiniest thing we have on our boat now!

Now what do I want to bake first? :)

 

Birth Control In The Caribbean

Tomorrow I will be 30 weeks pregnant, anxiously awaiting the arrival of our little boy. The time is flying by!!

A few people have asked if our pregnancy was planned. Let me start with a little history…

When I chose to move onto a sailboat and travel the world, I knew it required a certain level of planning in many different respects. Before leaving the convenience of health insurance, pharmacies and our regular doctors in the States, I stocked up on as much birth control as my doctor would allow because back then we weren’t ready to grow our family just yet. From that point forward, we knew all of our healthcare would be out of pocket and further limited to the availability in each country we would visit. It was an expensive upfront cost instead of being spread out as a monthly expense but it made sense to get the kind I wanted when I had the opportunity.

While I was asking seasoned cruisers on Women Who Sail what options I had for birth control in the Caribbean, other cruisers newer than me were asking me the same question. It’s a valid concern and one that doesn’t come with an easy answer.

After spending several years in the Caribbean I can without a doubt say from personal experience, it’s not easy. It depends on if you want or need a specific formula of pill, or specific form of birth control (ie. IUD, etc.). I’ve heard from others that the Bahamas will provide birth control if you need to refill a prescription. The Dominican Republic is incredibly cheap for all types of medications and most do not require a prescription, though translating what you need to a generic brand in Spanish is not always easy to do. Puerto Rico and USVI are of course the easiest for American Citizens to access familiar brands. Its my experience that anywhere past USVI you pretty much get whatever they have in stock, which may or may not be what you need or are used to.

I was always intrigued by a post my good friend Genevieve wrote about How To NOT Procreate On A Boat. She preferred a chemical-free method of Natural Family Planning (otherwise known as charting) but had later discovered a fertility monitor that tells her exactly when her body is ovulating. Although the device is not intended to be used to prevent conception, her new method apparently does a pretty good job of helping either avoid pregnancy or trying to conceive. Their youngest is now five ;)

***

Did we want kids? Absolutely. When Peter and I bought our sailboat almost four years ago, we knew that someday we’d start a family. The question of where we would be at that time didn’t matter. We knew plenty of other families with kids on boats all over the world and honestly I never even hesitated at the thought of us still sailing around when we would finally decide we were ready for kids of our own.

It was always in the cards but it wasn’t until Spring-time of 2016 that our talks about marriage and kids really started getting serious. Everything all happened kind of fast. We planned on getting engaged as soon as we had a ring for me and literally the very next day off work we went to a nearby beach and I said yes! Our plan was to have a wedding sometime during Summer of the following year so we would have time to coordinate logistics of our families traveling to the islands to celebrate with us.

Around the same time, I had run out of birth control. Long story short, we decided to not get another prescription and let my body reset knowing that it could very well take 6 months to a year before I’d potentially be able to get pregnant anyway. I had also just figured out that the migraines I’d been getting for years were hormone related. Needless to say, I was pretty anxious to stop taking the pill in hopes that the migraines would stop too, and they did. Little did we know, it would only take us 4 months from then to get pregnant…

***

When the time came for Peter and I to switch from avoiding pregnancy to planning pregnancy, I began to research other types of chemical-free fertility monitoring. I knew the price tag on Genevieve’s device was high, but I also knew that when we were done having kids I didn’t want to go back to being on the pill. I started reading up on the device she had but soon found a different (and cheaper) brand called OvaCue that actually appeared to offer a lot more functionality. Both are more expensive than the store-bought Clearblue Fertility Monitors (and others) but offer way more reliability, positive reviews and features. Without going into too much detail here, the OvaCue Fertility Monitor predicts and confirms ovulation by use of sensors and automatic charting. After doing a little more research I found a chart that made my decision even easier. With more sensors than just a Basal Body Temp thermometer, the OvaCue offered the most benefits.

What really sold me was that there were no reoccurring costs, it works for women with irregular cycles and PCOS, but most importantly the traditional model does not require internet access to interpret the readings! The traditional model is a battery operated handheld device that can be used no matter what country I’m in or even if we are disconnected from the internet for days or weeks at a time. An absolute must if I was really going to rely on a system like this.

The cost is high but if you do the math its significantly cheaper than continuously buying OPKs for months on end while trying to conceive, PLUS I’ll be able to continue using it when we are ready to avoid pregnancy again, saving on years of birth control costs in the future. Totally worth it to me.

It took a little bit of work and a few emails to the awesome Ovacue Support Staff to get the hang of how to interpret the readings but I caught on pretty quick. I was able to get pregnant on the first cycle of using the Ovacue Fertility Monitor!! Needless to say, I’m very pleased with how it works and look forward to tracking fertility again after our first little one arrives, whether we decide to have another baby or not :)

So to answer the original question, yes we did plan our pregnancy. It just happened a lot faster than we thought it would!

**Disclaimer: The information provided on this website or in this post is solely based on my personal experience and opinion and is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. By reading about or purchasing any products described on this website or in this post, you are acknowledging that you take full responsibility for your health, life and well-being as well as the health, lives and well-being of your family and children (where applicable), and for all decisions made by you now and in the future. 

 

IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING… We are PROUD to share these awesome products and services with our readers. There are so many different solutions out there for everything we could possibly need, but these are the solutions that work for us.

This post may contain information about a product sponsorship. We gladly accept discounts or samples when a company feels generous enough to support our cause. In return we support the manufacturer or local service by sharing their links and writing about our experience with them. We only seek out sponsorship and affiliate programs from products and services we actually WANT to use and likewise only accept offers for products or services that we WILL use. We are not paid for any reviews we write or feedback we provide. We simply like to spread the word and share great experiences we have had that could also bring joy to others.

What Do We Buy For A Boat Baby?

Now that I’m half way through this pregnancy I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of things we’ll need to buy. Obviously living on a boat presents some challenges that most first-time-moms will never have to consider. Not only do we have a very limited amount of space inside our 42′ sailboat but we also have to consider the climate we live in.

Do we really need baby blankets in the Caribbean? 

Will our baby need pajamas?

We don’t wear socks. Will our baby need them?

If I need to use bottles, can I clean them without a dishwasher?

Are cloth diapers even possible with limited access to a washing machine? Where do we put dirty diapers in the boat?

What kind of baby-proofing do we need to do to make our boat safe?

How do I make a nursery out of the v-berth? 

How will I get myself and our baby in and out of the dinghy?

What kind of sunscreen is safe for infants?

If I order everything online, where can I have it shipped to?

The list of questions goes on and on…

 

Anyone can guess the internet is overwhelmingly full of baby registry ideas. I started by asking a few of my boat-mama friends what their must-have picks are for living on a boat and I made a short list. Eventually I decided to create a baby registry online to make it easier to save all the specific links for the products I liked.

Though I won’t be having a baby shower due to geographical limitations, a few close friends and family members back in the states have asked me what we need for the baby. Having a registry has turned out to be a very helpful planning tool to simply see what we really need and what we don’t, as well as how much it’s all going to cost.

We’ve already been given quite a few super helpful things from near-by boat mommas which helps tremendously! There are a lot of things we’ll still need to buy though.

Any gifts we do receive from family along with the items we buy ourselves will need to be shipped to a few different locations and brought down via pack mule (aka my mom, my dad, Peter’s dad and Peter’s Aunt Lucy when they come to visit and meet the baby this July). Baby supplies are few and far between here in BVI and shipping them in is no easy feat. Things often get lost in transit or held up at Customs, with no idea when you will actually be able to pick them up. It’s way easier to just have someone bring an extra piece of luggage for us.

My mom will actually be making a preliminary trip to visit us in March and help me get the baby’s room ready while I’m still able to get around so hopefully we’ll have all the basic necessities shipped to her by then ;)

There are probably a bajillion stores to create a registry at but I had seen another friend using BabyList and I really liked how it looked and how easy it was to use. You can search for any product from any store on the internet and by using a button in your favorites bar similar to the “pin it” button for Pinterest, it quickly adds whatever item and webpage you’re looking at to your registry. You can edit the display picture, the price, the description, add a note, and even select or create a custom category from a drop-down menu. The best part about it is that you’re not limited to one store. The possibilities are endless for shopping at any online store you like. If you or someone else ends up purchasing one of the items on your list, they just mark it as “reserved” on the registry and make the actual purchase on whichever website is selling the product (ie. Amazon, Babies R Us, Target, etc). It may seem like an extra step to manually mark it as reserved in a different place than where you purchase the item but this way I’m able to pick the things we really need. I mean, I’m not going to find lifeline netting at Babies R Us! 

For all of you experienced mommas and poppas out there, what were your favorite (read: must-have) items? Which things were not helpful at all?

Can you think of any boat-specific baby items that we should have? 

If you have a minute, take a look at what I have on the list so far and let me know what I’ve missed :) There’s two ways to view it… you can filter to see Available items, or those that are already Reserved, unfortunately not both at the same time.

Our BabyList Registry: Baby Pieschel

It’s A Boy

At the last ultrasound appointment (about a week ago) we anxiously waited for the tech to confirm our suspicions. Peter had been calling this baby a boy from the first day we found out we were pregnant, and I had a strong feeling it was a boy the whole time as well. Motherly instinct? Not sure. Lots of other moms claim they just knew in their pregnancies too. I made sure our intentions to find out the gender were known as the appointment started and it didn’t take long for the woman to smear the gel across my belly with just a few passes of the wand and suddenly announce, “OHH! It’s a boy!” She couldn’t have sounded more convinced.

Though I wasn’t exactly surprised, it was still a very real and monumental moment. A moment that would forever shape my view of this child for the rest of our lives. Whether it’s a boy or girl doesn’t matter – we would love them all the same – but my mind immediately started to validate the visions I’d had of what our life would be like with a little boy by our sides. Peter on the other hand, was absolutely elated ;) Finding out he’s got a little boy on the way called for a night of cigars and celebration with our buddies from Sunkissed Soeters!

I was 18.5 weeks at the time (as I write this it’s just one week later). We’re pretty much at the half way mark and it’s just now starting to feel more real. I’m slowly tackling projects and cleaning out the forward cabin of our boat to turn it into the baby room.

A few days ago we used up a roll of isinglass that had been stored in the v-berth for a good year’s time and finally fixed two panels of our cockpit enclosure. The sun’s UV rays had completely destroyed the zippers in two places so Peter helped me take the panels off, replace the isinglass and zippers, and reinstall it all. If I didn’t have my most awesome LSZ-1 Sailrite machine it probably would have cost us anywhere from $500-$1000 to have those repairs done in a sail loft. We’re both super happy to have saved the money as well as to have made a dent in the “garage”. There’s still a ton to clean out but it was a good start.

Just yesterday in fact we got rid of another large roll of material we’d been lugging around for the past three years. During our first year aboard we had replaced the carpet in the walk-through between the galley and the aft cabin, and ended up with enough for a second piece, though we knew we’d be storing it for quite awhile. Getting ready for a baby definitely sparks the desire to do some deep cleaning – including carpet replacement! I mean, three years aboard with dogs that both thought that was the most comfortable place in the boat will eventually render any material un-cleanable. On a nearby dock we carefully laid both new and old pieces face down, tracing with a Sharpie onto the back of the carpet where we needed to make the custom-shaped cuts.  This time I was able to use my Sailrite Edge Hotknife to make a WAY cleaner cut! I was a little worried about burning the edges but it melted perfectly and sliced through like butter.

I’ve got a ton more nesting – i mean sewing – projects to tackle over the coming weeks. It sure is a good thing babies take a whole 9 months to make their arrival! I cannot WAIT to set up the new crib. It was a gift from Brittany and Scott, now that their girls have gotten bigger and modified their sleeping arrangements. The best part is that it’s an exact fit for our boat (even though it was custom made) since the interior layout of our boat is almost identical to Asante’s. More on this exciting project later!