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Best SUP For A Liveaboard Sailboat

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Where The Coconuts Grow is sponsored by TOWER PADDLE BOARDS – A local San Diego company with a worldwide online store. We are proud to partner with this SUP manufacturer that you may have seen on ABC’s Shark Tank. They are based out of our hometown in sunny Southern California and we are happy to show some San Diego LOVE!

With a growing popularity among the cruising community, we saw pictures of the Tower iSUPs on several other blogs during the months we spent outfitting our boat. It wasn’t until the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show in 2013 that we became interested in actually buying one. After seeing the boards up close and personal, we decided we needed not one, but TWO 9’10” Adventurer iSUPs! It’s a good thing because we use them all the time now that we’re out cruising around. Click here to read about our first adventure on the paddleboards in the Bahamas.

Now that we’ve had some time to play around with our iSUPs, we’d like to share our experiences with you about the PROS and CONS of buying an Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board (iSUP) while living on a sailboat. Check out our Tower Paddle Board review:

PROS

– Rigidity

There were two blocks placed underneath each end of an Adventurer 9’10″ inflatable SUP at the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show. Amazed at the rigidity, I called Peter over to test it out.  It’s designed to hold up to 300lbs when properly inflated and Peter had no trouble keeping his balance while trying to bounce up and down on the center of the board. In the water, the rigidity proves to be just as reliable as long as it’s inflated properly.

– Inflatable

The best part about buying an inflatable SUP is that they roll up nicely. While aware of the long passages we had planned, it was impractical to purchase more gear that would need to be strapped on deck so the fact that these iSUPs can be deflated and stowed neatly in our forward cabin while under way was a major selling point for us. If we are at anchor for awhile, we leave the boards inflated and stowed on deck. On short day sails, the boards are fine on deck, but when we are passagemaking, the boards are deflated and stowed in our forward cabin.

– Size

Tower offers various sizes of inflatable SUPs and several other options for their fiberglass boards. Even at 6′ tall Peter felt comfortable with the 9’10” board instead of the larger 14′ inflatable board. The 9’10” Adventurer iSUP is just small enough for me to carry on shore and to lift up and over the lifelines while deploying or bringing it back on board our boat. It’s also big enough to remain stable on the water while carrying a bunch of gear.

– Accessories

Tower offers a ton of accessories designed specifically to fit their boards. We have attached a Safari Pak to one of our boards for carrying our snorkel and fishing gear. The other board has plenty of room left for Betsy to ride along for an afternoon paddle. All the essentials are available like a pump, adjustable paddle, leashes, extra D-ring hooks, spare fins, fin bolts and traction pads. If you think you’re good enough to not need a leash, at the very least attach some sort of line to the board to be able to secure it to something while not in use but still in the water. We have leashes on both boards but we really only use them to secure the boards to the side of our boat or when visiting friends :)

Boards can be purchased individually or in packages that include the pump and an adjustable paddle. While we purchased the board only, not the package, we still recommend getting the package if you want to be ready to paddle right out of the box. Our inflatable dinghy pump had the same attachment fitting as Tower’s so we thought we didn’t need to spend the extra money on a second pump. Now we wish we had bought Tower’s pump made especially for their boards because our pump lets out too much air as it is being disconnected.

We ended up purchasing paddles with fiberglass handles from another company during a Cyber Monday sale but Tower now offers very nice fiberglass paddles (and other materials) on their site for those interested in upgrading their paddle.

– Convenience

Our favorite part about having two iSUPs on board is that they are so much easier to deploy than our dinghy. We can easily drop a paddle board in the water to go visit a neighboring boat in an anchorage, or take a walk on the beach, or check out a snorkel spot that is farther away than we want to swim. Peter has even taken one of the boards to check us in at Customs and Immigration after a long passage instead going to the hassle of dropping our dinghy and motor.

– Exercise

Stand Up Paddle Boarding is a fantastic way to get in shape. It uses core muscles for balance, upper body as well as leg strength. Access to land may not always be available but in a calm anchorage we can always paddle around for a little exercise. On a windy or choppy day it adds an extra level of challenge to stay standing. For the more adventurous types, some people enjoy SUP yoga and surfing!!

-Price

A Tower inflatable SUP costs several hundred dollars less than a regular board, and often much less than competitor inflatable boards. Tower frequently offers online sale pricing so be sure to check back often! **

-Shipping

Domestic orders over $250 or that include a paddle board qualify for free shipping! Shipping is fast and their customer service is exceptional. Shipping is also available worldwide for a fee.

 

CONS

– Fins

Two of the fins remain fixed. The larger center fin on our board must be removed in order to roll the iSUP back up into a nice space-saving bundle because the inflator valve is located at the head of the board. This has since been redesigned and the new Tower boards have the inflator valve at the foot of the board making it easy to start rolling from the head and leave the fin attached. Our boards came with fin screws to attach the center fin which eventually began to rust after just a few months in salt water, even after rinsing with fresh water after every use. The head on the bolt has very shallow grooves making it extremely difficult to tighten or loosen the bolt. The bolt is also easily dropped and may bounce off the deck going overboard – OOPS! Tower also took note of this design flaw and has since replaced the fin screws with plastic fasteners attached with a loop. Problem solved!

– Lack of D-Rings

The board only comes with one D-ring on each end. Additional D-rings or a Safari Pak must be purchased if  you want to attach a bungee cord to the front of the board for carrying gear. They are cheap to buy more but take note before making your purchase to avoid the hassle of ordering twice.

– Discoloration

The glue that binds the PVC seems together begins to turn yellow after just a short while of sun exposure.  This isn’t a Tower-exclusive issue though… any glue used on PVC, such as our dinghy, will become discolored with UV exposure. It’s only a cosmetic flaw but it sure was nice when the board was sparkling white :) After two years in the sun, its hardly noticeable anymore, though it does happen.

– Handle

The webbing installed as a handle in the center of our boards has since disintegrated with UV damage and completely ripped off both boards. Again, Tower took note of this issue and has engineered way better handles out of more durable material for all their new boards. Lucky for everyone else!

After factoring in all of the Pros and Cons, we think the Tower Adventurer iSUP is the best SUP for a living on a sailboat!

**If you or anyone you know is interested in purchasing products from Tower Paddle Boards, PLEASE consider using one of our affiliate links above. Just like many other bloggers, we are part of Tower’s Affiliate Program which tracks where their sales are referred from. Simply access Tower Paddle Boards by clicking through from the links above first. Any subsequent products you search for on Tower’s website during that same internet session will help us out when you complete your purchase. It’s no additional cost to you and it will add a very nice chunk of commission into our cruising fund keeping us afloat for just a little longer. We truly appreciate your support!

 

Take a look at some of the amazing adventures we’ve had so far:

We go fishing…

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We take Betsy for ‘doggie paddle’ sessions…

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We play bumper boards seeing who can stay on their board the longest…

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We explore caves…

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We paddle to secluded beaches…

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We race…

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We paddle to the best snorkeling spots…

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And we cool off…

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A special thanks to Mom for capturing some great photos of us playing on our Tower Paddle Boards!!

If you’re interested in further reading, our friend Carolyn has a couple great articles about SUP Paddle Maintenance and how to introduce your dog to SUPing!

 

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.

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.

**If you’re in the market for any of our favorite products, please consider using one of our Tower or Amazon Affiliate links!

Houston, We have a problem: NO STEERING

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Saturday afternoon, 2.8.14, we began to stow everything away to head back to Brown’s Marina. The water tanks needed to be topped off and we needed to fix the leaking bladder tank. The anchor went up without any trouble and we began to navigate away from the adjacent sand bar. Suddenly, it was very apparent to everyone that we had NO STEERING!! The current was strong, but there’s no way it could be strong enough to counteract our steering all together. The rudder position moved back and forth clear as day in the autopilot gauge but the rudder itself was just not moving.

In a panic to stay off the sand bar that was almost underneath us we let out the Genoa to the port side to catch enough wind to turn the bow in the direction we were trying to turn. With the help of our trusty prop walk to starboard in reverse (she only goes to the right in reverse no matter which way you steer) combined with full sail to port, we got back to our original location and quickly dropped the anchor again.

Peter dove off the back to see if the rudder moved at all as the wheel turned and to see if maybe it was hung up on something. Negative on both. There were no obstructions and it was no longer connected to the steering mechanisms.

Immediately, Peter told me to go get the emergency tiller arm. The previous owner, Steve, had it strapped inside the corner of the forward hanging locker with old, crusty and almost disintegrated bungee cords because they had been untouched for so long. This is one of those things that you haul around with you ‘just incase’. It’s a massive two-part aluminum pipe that could double as a weapon if we were feeling barbaric.

I scrambled to lift it up through the companionway into the cockpit and bring it out to Peter where he needed to insert it through the hole in the aft deck. It runs diagonally down into the aft cabin. The mattress had to be pulled off to access a removable board covering the hydraulic steering arm that connects to the rudder. We had the emergency tiller all ready to attach and then… BINGO! That was it! One of two bolts holding the top of the arm in place was completely busted off. With it just hanging there, the hydraulic steering system was unable to grip and turn the rudder. We were lucky it was only a bolt and nothing worse. The second bolt had bent a bit from the force of keeping it all together but it kept holding. There had been a grounding wire attached to the bolt intended to diffuse the electrolysis in the water and had completely disintegrated the bolt from the inside out. Guess it should have been placed somewhere else :(

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We made it back to Brown’s Marina two hours later. Josh steered us all the way with the emergency tiller arm while Peter navigated from the helm. By the time we arrived, it was already dark and the current was whipping through the channel as usual. It was past closing time so no one at the marina answered our call on the VHF radio. We tucked in on the outside of the dock behind a catamaran in the only space that was visibly available to us at the time and hoped someone would come out to help grab a line. It took two tries but the Mary Christine was finally tied back up at the dock safe and sound for the night.

We were all exhausted so we tied up the dogs in the cockpit to guard our home and walked up the road to Sherry’s for some dinner. It was a decent local meal but way overpriced. The bill was $100 for four people for some fish and lobster plates. After our minor disaster, it was worth not having to make dinner. Plus we got to relax in a super cute little beachfront patio.

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Back at the boat everyone at the dock was wondering what had happened. With the help of new cruiser friends John (S/V New Moon) and Alex (S/V Nikimat), Peter was able to put a new temporary bolt in, reconnect the hydraulic steering arm, and they even temporarily fixed a leak at the stuffing box packing nut. Before they made the fix Peter borrowed John’s 4lb hammer and used a screwdriver to pry off the emergency tiller arm. It had to be done that night or Peter and I wouldn’t have anywhere to sleep.

We spent that Saturday night 2.8.14 and Sunday night 2.9.14 at the marina. Betsy had been confused and shamefully peed on one of the cockpit cushions while we were underway coming back from North Rock. Poor thing. It was just too hectic when we lost our steering. Sunday we cleaned the boat and did a tiny bit of laundry. The cockpit cushions and covers got washed on the dock and the guys did a soap test on the water tank bladder to see if they could find a leak. That night we grilled some steak and lobster with our neighbor Alex. It was a nice relaxing evening before casting off the docklines  again in the morning…

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Buddy Bowl – How to keep water available for pets on a boat

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One of the small details that went overlooked when we first moved onto our sailboat was keeping water available for the dogs. It’s never been an issue before. We just put a bowl out and check it a few times a day to make sure the kids have plenty of water. We know they like to drink mostly after eating and after a run, with a little bit throughout the day. No big deal.

When we first moved aboard the food and water routine was no different than it was on land. Fill the bowls and the dogs empty them. It wasn’t until our first sail with the dogs aboard that we realized our original plan wasn’t going to work. I had read a few suggestions online that some people just use an oversized bowl and only fill it up half way or less so that the water doesn’t slosh out all over the place when you’re under way. Guess what spilled the water out when we tried this method? Me! I spilled more water out of that bowl while moving around in the cockpit than the amount of water that was spilled from the boat heeling over.

In researching more helpful tips and tricks for liveaboard dogs I came across the “Buddy Bowl.” That was it! It was perfect!!

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I contacted Great American Spillproof Products and they gladly sponsored our adventures by providing us with two (2) 64 oz TOTALLY SPILLPROOF Buddy Bowls for Gunner and Betsy!! These will be totally essential for every day use while anchored up and especially while we are underway.

We keep one tucked behind the ladder at our forward companionway next to where we feed the dogs inside the boat. Gunner and Betsy know right where it is and they have no trouble at all helping themselves when they feel a little thirsty. Gunner ALWAYS lets Betsy drink first if they are both thirsty after a run :) He’s such a gentleman, just like his daddy.

We keep the second Buddy Bowl on the floor of the cockpit so the dogs will always have water while topside. When we are underway, they frequently like to lap up a little water every hour or so. We’re in southern Florida now and heading to only warmer climates so its super important for us to have water available at all times for our pooches. It’s also important to keep water available for them if they are feeling seasick. Last time we took the boat out we put them down below and Betsy didn’t feel that good. She was happy to know where the water was though.

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The staff at Great American Spillproof Products recommended sending us the 64 oz models instead of their standard 44 oz size based on our weather conditions and the size of our dogs. They hold more water (a HALF GALLON!) so you don’t have to refill them as often! It doesn’t look like the 64oz bowls are available in their online store but I’m sure they can help out if you’re interested in getting one for your furry friend.

It looks like it might be hard for the dogs to actually get to the water but it’s really no trouble at all. Gunner has a long nose but it’s just his tongue that needs to get inside to where the water is. Gunner is also a VERY messy drinker and his food, water and slobber usually get flung at least a foot from his bowl. The Buddy Bowl is even more awesome because it catches all that excess water inside instead of spraying out away from the surface of the water where his tongue hits. Score!!

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We tested them out and sure enough, they are totally spill proof. The Buddy Bowl will even hold the water if you tip it upside down! The bowls are made in the U.S. with non-toxic/BPA-free food grade plastic, and they keep the water cleaner with less surface area for bugs, dust and other dirt to collect in. There are fastening points on the bottom for tying the bowl up for storage or keeping it in one spot. We don’t have to worry about tying it down though since there’s not too many places it could slide to :) They actually stay put very well on their own.

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The Buddy Bowl is easy to clean and even dishwasher safe. Even though we don’t have a dishwasher anymore its still a cool feature :)

This really is an awesome product and could be used in the car, on a boat, outside, inside, at the beach, camping, in a crate, anywhere! It’s also especially handy if you have little ones around that like to spill the water bowl and splash around :)

We are proud to promote the products we love by sharing our experiences with others in hopes that it may bring the same joy to you!

If you’re interested in ordering one of these, the online store on the BuddyBowl website is down at the moment. Simply send an email to cree@greatamericanspillproof.com to place an order!

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New Vehicle

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Our new secondary means of transportation is finally ready to rock n roll!!

We shopped for a few weeks for a dinghy and motor on Craigslist. I just LOVE Craigslist!! We have sold a combined $6000 worth of stuff back in San Diego not including motorcycles and vehicles. When looking for something specific, it’s the first place we look, and usually someone has just what we need!

When we’re out cruising on a sailboat we need something reliable to get to and from shore. When you live on a boat, a dinghy becomes your “car”. We didn’t need anything real fancy or new, but we did want it to be reliable. As with everything, that’s hard to come by for a reasonable price, let alone finding a steal of a deal.

A couple of important factors were considered: length, material, matched rating for dinghy vs motor, weight, floor type and functionality.

Peter wanted a dink that could hold four people (when we have visitors), two dogs, fishing gear, and/or provisions from a local market. This of course means we need a dinghy that is rated for an engine capable of hauling a load like that.

We wanted to try the aluminum floor since we will have LOTS of fish hooks, plus dogs aboard and need something that will be the least likely to be damaged from hooks or 32 sharp protruding puppy toenails.

PVC material is easier to come by, but Hypalon material is what everyone buys if you are going to be in the tropics. The sun doesn’t warp it or melt the glue as fast and it holds up to the salt better too. This of course would mean spending more money.

We originally wanted a 4-stroke motor but the lighter 2-strokes started looking better and better when we considered having to lift it off to lock it up on our stern every night in the islands. There are indeed thieves who will come swipe off anything that’s easy to grab, especially outboard motors.

We settled on an Advanced Inflatable PVC 12′ (6 person) dinghy with a
Mercury 15hp 2-stroke outboard motor. Anything less than 10′ typically isn’t rated for a 15hp motor and we for sure wanted the extra power of a 15hp. The motor is almost 15 years old but the previous owner kept it meticulously maintained, it looked brand new inside! It’s not too noisy and it’s less than 75lbs which means even I can lift it up or down to Peter when we take it on or off.

12′ of dinghy isn’t exactly ideal for us since we don’t have davits off the stern, and that means it gets hauled onto the bow with a halyard. Once we get it up there, our huge foredeck is reduced to zilch :( Less room for the puppies when they are on guard and less room for us to move about. The good news is that it’s a roll-up with three chambers so we can let some air out of the bow and partially roll it up when we are underway. The aluminum floor is awesome, super sturdy and the inflatable keel seems to help keep us very steady. Did I mention its a nice pretty white color?

The real reason we closed the deal is because of the price. We basically paid for the motor and got the inflatable for free. Turns out the dinghy was defective and was made with a bad batch of glue. It was only put in the water three times before we purchased it and it looked okay, but within a couple days of having it in the marina all the handles, rub rail and transom came off. We kind of had a feeling it would be easier to exchange it than repair the rub rail that had already started coming off the day we bought it, but this just confirmed it. Under warranty, we just had to drive to Ft Lauderdale to get an even newer one. Lucky for us, we were going there anyway to go to the Boat Show!! Now we have a brand new 2013 model, right out of the box and still under warranty, which retails for $1200. Just the motor is worth what we paid for the whole package so we’re pretty stoked. It’s not Hypalon, but we figure we can just beat this one up for the first year or so until we need to buy a new one, then upgrade to a more durable material. The tropics will surely do a number on it but we don’t care so much since it was basically free :)

New toys are always fun and this one seems to be treating us pretty well. The dogs haven’t been for a ride yet but we hope they will like it too!!

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