1.0 Off the grid1.1 Water1.2 Showers1.3 Provisioning1.4 Medical1.5 Books1.6 Internet1.7 Visas1.8 Money1.9 Budget1.10 Essentials1.11 Nutrition2.0 Liveaboard2.1 Habitat2.2 Toilet2.3 Costs2.4 Navigation2.5 Insects2.6 Night time2.7 Weather2.8 Water storage2.9 Electricity2.10 Radio2.11 Comraderie2.12 Schedules2.13 Privacy2.14 Laundry2.15 Washing dishes3.0 Office3.1 Distractions3.2 Internet3.3 Work3.4 Troubleshooting3.5 On documentating3.6 Computers and software4.0 Sailing4.1 Slow and steady4.2 No schedules4.3 Ground tackle4.4 Eliminating electricity4.5 No refrigeration5.0 Resources5.1 Manuals5.2 Travel literature

This page is an ever growing collection of notes on technical off-the-grid and liveaboard topics. If you have unawnsered questions, please leave us a message on Twitter.

Off the grid

Water

In most dry places, desalinated potable water is free or available for cheap. In most tropical islands, potable water is available but often scarce, and so it is best to catch rain water which can then be treated with bleach: 1/2 tsp for every 5 gallons.

Showers

Coastal locations like marinas and public beaches often have fresh water showers for local swimmers or marina guests. Usually free, or available for use at a nominal fee.

We also carry a solar shower, a black pouch hung outside and made warm by sunlight. We will often simply bathe in salt water, and rinse with fresh water from a spray bottle in locations where water is scarce.

Provisioning

While modern grocery stores can be found in larger cities, these can often be far apart. In smaller towns, fresh vegetable and fruit markets are seldom open everyday, most only once a week.

For remote places, canned, dried or shelf-stable foods are a good alternative to refrigeration. Choosing canned foods is something worth experimenting with - buy an assortment, find which suit your tastes. We usually look for unsalted ones, without corn syrup.

Our favourite canned vegetables are mushrooms, mixed beans and tomatoes. Our favourite dry foods are nori, oats and cornmeal. Our favourite shelf-stable foods are tetrapak tofu, spicy sauces and various japanese condiments.

Medical

Most city-centers will have a hospital, but in most cases you must be self-sufficient. That includes a well-stocked medical supply and the know-how to fix yourself up. In case of a serious injury, you must have the means to get yourself to the nearest clinic. We use DAN Boater, a repatriation insurance that covers helicopter/transportation fees.

We find that medical apps for mobiles, and FM armyfield manuals, are helpful when dealing with minor burns, cuts and various aches.

Books

While books are great, they take up a lot of space, are prone to mold, and in warm countries, they ultimately attract insects. To protect them from moisture, we have resorted to keeping them in ziplock bags.

Amongst sailors, and likely other types of nomads, books and movies are a trading currency. Social hubs will often have bookshelves inviting you to take and leave a book. We have found countless gems in those.

Most of our books now, are on our Kindle Paperwhite, which takes little battery and allows us to read at night.

Internet

We often find ourselves away from hotspots, and even cellphone reception. We try, as much as possible, to send periodical location updates to our families. We use a satellite phone operating on the Iridium satellites network to do that.

The Iridium Go satellite phone costs around about 100US$/month and allows us to keep in touch with our friends and families via SMS & emails, from anywhere in the world - even the middle of the ocean.

Visas

Some countries require visas in advance, most do not, this also depends on your nationality. The visas are generally free, unless you require an extension for your stay. Upon entry into a new country, you may need to pay the immigration, customs, health and quarantine officers.

Upon leaving, a departure tax and varying amounts based on the size and weight of your vessel might also need to be paid. These fees can sometimes total up to 200US$. We find Noonsite to be a good resource for country-specific information on fees.

Money

Most places that we have visited do not necessarily have ATMs, but always have a bank nearby that will take a VISA card.

Better make sure that your credit card will not be blocked when used in foreign countries, and that it will expire at a location that will allow for you to receive a new one.

Budget

Provisioning can be expensive in certain countries, so stocking strategically with cheaper stores, ahead of time, can help to save money.

Canning is essential when traveling on a budget, a pressure cooker and glass jars will save you money and will help reduce waste. Preparing your own stores, also means that you choose what goes in it, therefore reducing your intake of added salts and sugars.

Essentials

Being in good physical shape is important, wether you need to run, jump or lift something heavy without injuring yourself. Knowing how to tie solid knots is paramount, knowing how to tie a good {bowline knot} could save your life.

A good stainless-steel knife, a spindle of paracord, a phone-size ziplock bag, a waterproof flashlight and a good drinking bottle for fresh water will go a long way.

Nutrition

Following a plant-based diet while traveling is possible. Planning provisions ahead is important, a lot of the places may not have specialty items. We found nutritional yeast, miso, flax seeds and B12 supplements, especially hard to find.

Buying a large supply of shelf-stable tofu is always a good idea; as it is a complete protein that can be used to make sauces and sautees, while providing calcium. Carry iodized salt, or items with iodine like seaweed.

Staples like nut milks and oats are found everywhere, varying in price and quality. There will always be fresh vegetables available, but the selection can be poor at times. Carrying cans and and dried version of those foods can help, for example: canned and dried potatoes. Canned spinach may not be appealing, but in a place where there are no leafy greens available, it's better than not having any at all.

Liveaboard

Habitat

As with most things in life, 20% of anything does 80% of the work. When moving into a smaller space, it is important to find that 20% and surround yourself with things purposefully. Single-serving tools and kitchenware will not do.

Investing in good quality army blankets and waterproof sleepingbags will make a world of difference. Non-metallic(bamboo or ceramic) kitchenware is also essential, everything rusts on a boat - even stainless-steel. To keep our clothes dry, we store them in large sealed industrial plastic containers.

Toilet

We have a salt-water head which looks much like a household toilet, but with a handle on the side, that pumps water in and flushes it out into a holding tank. The holding tank can be emptied in the ocean when far from shores, or at marina pump-out station for free. The latter option being the best, seeing as how pump-out stations also have fresh water hoses, which can be used to flush out the tank.

Costs

Living at anchor - that is, in a bay somewhere tethered to the earth with ground tackle, is usually free. Some bays will have moorings installed, that can be used for a small fee (often around 10-15$.) Marinas often have guest docks with power, wifi and showers, for a medium-to-high cost (400$-600$.)

The entire task of navigation rests upon the Navionics app, installed onto all of our mobile devices. Its depth maps, compass, GPS, waypoints, community edits, and more, are all the features that we could ever wish for to get from A to B, over water.

Insects

We have had a few encounters with insects aboard, often from food bought in small town groceries. Thin plastic bags, paper bags or cardboard should be avoided, or discarded prior to entering the boat.

We wash all vegetables, and fruits, with a 1:1 water and vinegar solution in a spray bottle, and rinse them in fresh water thoroughly. We leave them out to dry before storing them inside, moisture accelerates rot.

Night time

During long passages, we must sail throughout the nights. Our pattern, for two crew, is one sleeps between 1900 and 2100, then sails between 2100 and 2400, then goes back to sleep from 2400 until 300, and then goes back to the wheel between 300 and 600.

During these long nights, we listen to countless podcasts and audiobooks, which we discuss around breakfast in the morning. If we're feeling especially tired, listening to upbeat music, as opposed to spoken content helps.

During long passages, our daytime sailing occupations include: cooking, cleaning, doing fixes on the boat and brainstorming on future projects. We don't have a tight schedule for watches, we hand the wheel to the other as we get tired.

Weather

Our favourite weather service is Windy, and while underway, we download weather maps(.grb files) through the saildocs service with our Satellite Phone which we then process with PredictWind.

Water storage

Our main tank carries 170L, while an additional 150L is stored in jerry cans. When it is not possible to dock at a marina, we use smaller(4x10L) jerry cans to ferry water from shore. While it requires more trips, the lighter containers are less prone to breakage.

Electricity

We have 2 Solar Panels(1 x 60W, 1 x 100W), hoping to aquire an additional 100W panel. For additional power, we also carry a Honda EU1000i generator. Our boat has a 75AMP Balmar alternator, but it is only used when we need to use high-power systems like the macerator and the windlass. Every single light is LED, cutting down the consumption of power, from lights, by 10 compared to halogens.

Radio

As a sailor, you must offer help to a boat in trouble. Radio communication is key, specific channels are used in every country for emergencies or information exchange. Every morning, sailors will tune in to a specific channel and listen to a morning net, a public radio exchange in which the weather and local events are announced, as well as boats seeking crew, or items that need to be sold or found. When the weather is foul, the local channels are very busy.

Comraderie

There is an unspoken understanding between sailors, an exchange of looks when foul weather is amidst. All know the difficulties of life at sea, and is ready to lend a hand. We refer to each other by boat name, and like a bird-watcher, we can identify rare breeds by sight. When transiting through world routes, the same boats, you will meet many times, thus strenghtening the connection.

Schedules

We sail on a loose schedule, our movements are tied to the weather. We follow the seasons and prevailing tradewinds, to save on fuel and to avoid seasonal storms. We make stops for re-provisioning and rest.

It has taken us a little more than a year to cross the Pacific Ocean. And while it may have cost us time, it earned us safe passage, and our many stops have helped to broaden our view of the world.

There is 11,707 km (6321nm) between Vancouver and Auckland, this transit could be accomplished in approximately two months of non-stop sailing days, but where would be the fun in that.

Privacy

There is none, it is something you must prepare for. If you are to travel for extended periods of time with another person, you must be compatible. You must discuss problems when they arise and express concerns right away.

The combined space, below and atop deck, is bigger than it seems. If you are near land, there is always the option of going for a walk.

Laundry

In populated cities, laundry can be carried ashore to a laundry mat. In the south pacific, you will have to take care of it yourself. We use rain water to wash our clothes, by hand, using a set of buckets and a brush. The clothes are brushed and washed in soapy water once, then rinsed in fresh water.

When underway during a long passage, we do a salt water wash to save water, and rinse with fresh water. The clothes is hung out to dry on the lifelines, or on a separate line that we set up. Leaving dark clothes out to dry in the sun will cause it to discolour faster, such is the cost of sailing in warm places.

Washing dishes

We bring the dishes outside and wash them with saltwater scooped up from the side of the boat, using a bucket attached to a rope. The dishes are then rinsed inside with our fresh water foot-pump.

The fresh-water foot-pump pulls water from our tanks and dispenses it to the galley's sink at the rate of approximately a 1/4 cup per push. This system allows us to calculate water-consumption and storage.

We have a water pressure system onboard, but we chose not to use it since it dispenses more water.

Office

Distractions

When at anchor, it can sometimes be difficult to stay focused. The weather is king, it determines whether or not we can work. If the weather is foul, we are on anchor-watch to make sure we don't drag.

Waves also makes it hard to do simple tasks like writing, or drawing. Depending on the direction of the wind, we need to move the boat and that too, takes focus and time away from work. Calm and sunny days, are distracting in other ways: when the water is clear and teeming with colourful fish, it is difficult to resist jumping off.

It is easier to work on projects when docked, as we need not worry about the weather or the charge of our batteries.

Internet

Since connectivity can be rare, and far apart, the time that we do have online is spent wisely. Uploading backups, responding to requests from users, updating our friends and families with our new location.

As cellular data is often expensive around islands, disabling autoplay on videos, and disabling image previews is near obligatory.

Work

Working online without a constant internet connection is feasible, but painful. Still, there are ways in which some of the friction can be removed from the process.

Getting local SIM cards, with blocks of data, works well within cellphone reception range. But in the constraints of expensive cellphone data, uploading large files can be made possible by offloading heavy-lifting onto remote servers; having your server build and upload your projects instead of using your laptop batteries and broadband.

There is no solution to uploading videos to youtube, it's a costly and lenghty process. We have made the decision to keep our videos under 5 minutes to help reduce upload time.

Troubleshooting

Tools like Offline Wikipedia, digital encyclopedias and dictionaries a great assets to have aboard. Recipes can often be devised from dictionary descriptions of foreign fruits and vegetables.

In the case of a nomad programmer, having the current programming language documentation & various source files is an asset. Prior to going offline for a few days, we often rip entire sites, or capture specific pages as webArchives. The same goes if drawing references are needed, projects are planned ahead and references are collected while a good internet connection is available.

On documentating

We use a Session 4 GoPro as well as a Sony A6000 to film our travels. The GoPro has the advantage of being light and waterproof - making for a perfect everyday-carry camera. Shooting with the SLR requires more planning as it can only used in fair weather.

We film as much, and as often as we can. At the end of each month, we watch our footage and write a summary of that month's events. Monthy capsules are planned ahead, and we gather footage based on what is needed. While one is busy recording the narration, the other writes music, the two tracks are then edited together with the collected footage. We have our respective tasks when it comes time to edit, but both of us take part in the filming.

In rough weather, we prioritize our own safety above all, and so we rarely have footage of rough seas.

Computers and software

Salt water is highly corrosive, even an open window can let in salt air and long term, it can damage electronics. The usb ports of our laptops, as well as our usb cables have suffered damage as a result of this. We now store all devices and cables away after use, in large plastic containers. Since we use our phones for navigation, or to listen to music outside, we keep them in protective sleeves.

Having backups for your devices is of the utmost importance, extra power adaptors and mini usb cables are a must. Extra computers is also recommended, especially if you are working somewhere where new hardware is impossible to find, or too expensive.

If you can work on a machine that costs less money, do it. If something happens to it, it wont be too complicated to replace. Macbooks consume a lot of energy, and battery life is always an issue. Power consumption is something that should be taken into account when choosing a computer for working at sea.

We use a Chromebook to do our writing work, it is also our media station. We work on macbooks, but would like to change this in the future. Using an Ipad for sketching and drawing is a good solution, as is using Ronin which uses less power than photoshop.

We have a 500G portable hardrive that is waterproof and shockproof, we store all of the footage we shoot as well as backups of files that had not yet been uploaded online.

Sailing

Slow and steady

If you can do the same speed with less sail, do it. As soon as you think of reefing down, do it. Should we reduce sails? yes, always yes.

Better be safe than sorry. Reefing early will save you a lot of problems, shaking out a reef is easier than putting one in in big winds.

No schedules

Sailing with a schedule is a recipe for disaster, too many things can happen on a boat and arriving on a precise date can be difficult. Making plans will make you do bad decisions, leaving in bad weather to make a meeting for instance, can be dangerous.

Ground tackle

Our anchor is sized to our boat, we have a Rocna 10. Some will argue that bigger is better, but in our experience the quality and shape of the anchor, as well as your scope makes all the difference. If you want to upsize, your bow roller may need replacing, and in the event of windlass breakage, heaving it up by hand could be next to impossible. We also carry a Bruce 10, with extra lenghts of chain and rope.

We carry 30.5m of chain on Pino, with 61m of 3-strand nylon. This means that we anchor safely in waters no deeper than 11m, we have found plenty of anchorages in the south pacific in that depth range.

Eliminating electricity

Our aim is to have as few items as possible on board that demand power. We would like to have a manual windlass, and a composting head. A manual windlass would use no power at all, and eliminate all wiring, thusly minimizing the possibilty of corosion. A composting head would eliminate the need for a macerator, and for a sceptic tank. Our sceptic tank is 113 L, if we could get rid of it we could replace it with 113 L of fresh water instead.

No refrigeration

We have stopped running our refrigerator onboard, because of power constrainst. We don't drink nut milks anymore, because the average-sized tetrapak containers don't stay fresh for more than 3 days. We've wasted too much nut milk, having none aboard is better and we've managed well without it.

Most condiments don't need refrigeration, then again we don't use any dairy-based products or items like ketchup. Hot sauces, soy sauce, all vinegars, mirin, jam, lemon juice and other items, if used regularly, will fair just fine in cupboards.

Refrigerated vegetables will rot faster, but leaving them out and wiping off the excess moisture will help. Buying market vegetables that have never been refrigerated are best - root vegetables will last an especially long time. Items like peppers and leafy greens will spoil quickly, and should be eaten first.

Leftovers we eat the next day, incorporating it into other meals to offer some variety. Preparing food in the pressure cooker, and letting it rest unopened will help preserve the food. If left overnight, it can be reheated in the morning and will keep well until lunchtime.

Resources

Manuals

The Feeding and Caring of the Offshore Crew, PardeySelf-sufficiant Sailor, PardeyWorld Cruising Routes, Jimmy CornelHow to sail around the world, Hal RothThe Seaworthy Offshore Sailboat, John VigorThe Complete Anchoring Handbook, Poiraud Achim Ginsberg-Klemmt

Travel Literature

An Island To Oneself, Tom NealeNorth Into The Night, SimonThe Curve Of Time, BlanchetWalden, ThoreauThe Box Wine Sailors, McCullough
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