Surviving the Coronavirus

I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe at home during this coronavirus pandemic. Although Florida has a stay at home order, marinas are considered essential services so I am able to come as go as I please. But I usually just stay on my boat unless I need to go to the marine store or grocery store. What a crazy time.

Since last post I have been doing pretty much the same…some sailing, docking, anchoring, repairs and upgrades. Things are starting to feel more comfortable now. The learning curve is not quite as steep. I even took the boat out solo a couple times. Here’s a quick video of me leaving the slip filmed by my instructor Andy.

One day we practiced gybing, which is like tacking except you are going downwind. Again without getting too technical, sailboats can sail into the wind because the shape of the sail creates an airfoil, exactly like the wing of an airplane. So the more wind that flows past the sails the more pressure is created to propel the boat forward. So sailing downwind you actually have less speed and control than sailing upwind. This makes gybing trickier than tacking because the wind can pick up the mainsail and slam it into the downwind position if you are not careful.

Here’s a short video of Andy gybing.

Where am I?

One interesting device I had installed is an Automatic Identification System, or AIS. AIS is an automatic tracking system that uses transponders and a GPS antenna to transmit your ship’s position, course, speed, and other information. The AIS also allows you to receive other ship’s signals, to show you a picture of where traffic is in your area. And of course, everyone can see you, too. It’s a bit like radar but only shows ships equipped with an AIS.

I wanted to have this because sailing solo, when I sleep no one is on watch, which could lead to trouble. With AIS, I can program an alarm if a ship is detected within a specified radius. The only catch is if a ship does not have AIS I can’t pick it up. Fishing boats often do not have this feature. It is kind of expensive to buy and install (about $1000…break out another thousand!!). Plus fishing boats often do not want other fishing boats to know where they are. Eventually I will also get a radar installed but that’s a big deal which I can’t afford right now.

Here are the guys installing the wiring for the AIS.

By the way, with the AIS you can easily track my position by going to a number of websites and punching in my MMSI number, which stands for Maritime Mobile Service Identity. One site is If you click that link and type my MMSI number (338356631) in the search box, a map will appear showing my last recorded position. Try it, you’ll see I am just south of Jacksonville, FL. So if you are ever curious as to my location, you can always just look it up.


The other project I am working on is making a rain catcher. On land, most people don’t even think about water usage. You turn on the faucet or shower, and an endless supply comes out. But on a boat, water, like everything else, is a scarce resource. I only have 67 gallons of water tank storage, which I use for drinking, cooking, cleaning and bathing. I seem to use about eight gallons a day, so that’s just over 8 days of water. Eventually I will buy a water maker, which can transform seawater into fresh water but again…expensive. So every 8 days I either need to get to a marina and stock up on water, or catch rain water. There are a couple different designs I am looking at but it’s basically a large tarp tied to various places on the boat. The rain water will either drain into a 7 gallon water jug I have, or directly in to tanks. I assume it’s OK to drink rain water. Anyone know? Should I treat it or filter it first?

The other option is not to bathe every day. Who am I going to offend? HAHA. Actually I bought a solar powered water heater and plan to fill it with sea water. Bathing with sea water then just a quick rinse with fresh water should extend my fresh water supply significantly.

What else? I had a semi-serious accident the other day. I tripped over a dock line and jammed my big toe into the concrete dock. The pain was excruciating for about an hour. I thought I broke it, but I believe it is just sprained. So I am basically boat bound for the next few days. I can’t walk without serious pain. So can’t go sailing, can’t ride my bike, can’t go grocery shopping. I can’t even work on the many projects I have to do. But I do have cable TV and internet so it’s going to be a boring few days, like everyone else on lockdown I guess. At least the weather is nice and I am around water. Here I am icing my poor toe.

More about toilets

Lastly, more about toilets. I did some research into compost toilets and was surprised to learn they are quite common on land as well as boats. The process is remarkably simple: You separate the solids and liquids and mix the solids with a composting material. After a couple months it basically becomes dirt which you can throw away or use as fertilizer in your garden. The liquids you dispose of when convenient. There’s a small fan that draws odors away so it doesn’t stink. When I compare that to my existing system–mechanical pump toilet, holding tank, valves, hoses, pumps…it’s crazy. Plus there’s the disgusting element of dumping raw sewage overboard (more than 3 miles offshore). So on my list of projects is to replace my existing toilet system with a composting one. Cost? You guessed it–break out another thousand.

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