OMGosh Laurie, are you following what is happening in Ukraine?
This was the comment I received on a social media post I recently made. One which, by the way, had nothing at all to do with Ukraine.
It made me remember the early days of the Covid pandemic when concerned friends and family, certain that I was missing this important news, alerted me on FB and IG as well as sending the occasional email.
My reaction then, as my reaction now, was “of course” we know about a war that is happening 450 miles from our home. Just as we certainly knew about the Covid pandemic, which was, at that time, raging in the adjacent country, to where we were then living.
I sort of chuckle when I read these things and wonder what in the world these acquaintances from home must imagine our lives are like on board Gratitude. Do they imagine that we are floating around in a sort of alternate universe where bad things don’t happen, people don’t get sick or wars are somehow unimportant, or worse, do they imagine that we don’t care?
First and foremost, to answer the question “Are we aware of the Russian invasion of Ukraine? Yes, we are. Our hearts break for those poor souls who have been essentially kicked out of their homes in 2014, many of them living in makeshift accommodation intended to survive a year at most, and now having to again, uproot with whatever few items they can travel with, to seek shelter and safety among strangers in a foreign land. Yes, we follow twice daily the horror of watching, as brothers shoot brothers and country men invade their neighbors and friends. Relatives who speak the same language in many cases, being asked by despots and evil leaders to invade and steal the land and home and liberty of their neighbors and often their relations. And to do this because 1 maniac feels that he needs it – for whatever insane reason he gives.
This is probably a good time to talk about one of the greatest changes that we have witnessed in ourselves and each other in the past 3.5 years of living aboard and traveling.
Before we left, most of our life happened in a 5 square mile area. Apart from work, 95% of our life happened in that space. We went out with friends, most of whom looked like us, spoke like us, lived like, and worshipped like us. Most of our friends went to the same church, restaurants, bars, and grocery stores. If there was a tussle or dust up between neighbors, everyone knew (and dare I say, cared) about it. We lived in a sweet, small town probably like many of you reading this. The events that happened 4000 miles away, barely registered more than scan in the morning news. We felt for those suffering with hurricanes and tornadoes and volcanoes and other natural disasters. We felt a vague sense of concern for the victims of the fires out west, but we didn’t feel things viscerally the way that we do living in Europe. For whatever reason, we feel more connected globally since we left the US than we ever felt while we were there. We seem to be connected to the “world” in a way that we felt insulated from on the huge continent of North America. We are more keenly aware that what happens to “one” happens to “all”. We look at events from a global perspective rather than a regional or ethnocentric one. And mostly, we have gained, at least in some small measure, something that we had been lacking. Perspective. But please believe me, posts on social media are simply a way to chronicle our lives and share with friends and family our day. They are in NO way a barometer of what we are feeling emotionally or what we may be going through. The only way to know that is to pick up the phone and call us. It may look like rainbows and unicorns, but I can assure you, that is not always the case.
But back to our lives this winter…
There is simply no way anyone can have even the smallest idea of what our lives are like – day to day, nor do I think anyone would be interested. We often go for weeks without posting anything on social media because, well, we are busy. Busy living life and just as many of you, getting through the day. We have the huge benefit of working tirelessly on things about which we care deeply. The feeding, educating, nurturing, and loving our child and each other chiefly at the top of the list. Like most parents, if you removed from your day, the time spent caring for, arranging for the care of, feeding, nurturing, education etc.… of your child, you would likely feel as though you had endless hours to fill. Well, there you have our lives. Not exciting – certainly not IG worthy – just living and being and sustaining ourselves and each other. But in addition to school and feeding and intellectual as well as emotional stimulation of an 11-year-old, we also have a floating home which takes up most of the rest of our time. Alec has been working tirelessly getting work done to prepare for our departure end of April/beginning May. I’ll do a mechanical breakdown at the end of this post on the winter projects and to-do lists, completed and “to go”.
After the childcare, schoolwork, boat jobs the other 2 ways we spend our time is socializing with friends, hiking, sightseeing, traveling, or planning future travels. I am seriously behind in doing the planning for this summer and, while we try to minimize our fuel burn, we have even more incentive to do this now. All of this will involve careful planning and orchestration. We have been so fortunate that 2 people, previously unknown to us, have reached out via social media and the blog to share with us points of interest for our summer cruise. Certainly, this will be a huge help with the planning. Thank you, Karin.
A lovely group of ladies meets on Wednesday to knit – a new hobby for me. And Tuesdays we meet up with Kim and Steve for tacos and Glee. It is a lovely addition to our routine. More on that next update as we prepare to transition to cruising life.
A very big difference in the way that Europeans vs. Americans handle marina reservations, in Europe, typically, reservations can be made a week or 2 out. Perhaps in some of the busier Med destinations and for larger boats, this should be done further in advance, but this year, dock space in Turkey for winter is completely unavailable. Thank goodness we secured our reservation, otherwise, not sure we would have a winter home next year. This is due to a combination of Brexit and the additional need for non-Schengen winter accommodation. Turkey has a liberal policy of allowing temporary residency just as Montenegro does. This is a super important consideration for non-EU boaters. But if you haven’t been to Montenegro, my advice is to come here for the winter. Porto Montenegro is a premier and first-class, first-rate facility. I cannot say enough about how much we have enjoyed our time here. We would gladly stay another year except that we have made it a policy to move along each winter to explore a new country.
So back to the maintenance: While cruising last summer (and most summers,) we typically enjoy spending as much time as possible at anchor. The reasons for this are many, as you can imagine. In the summer, being at anchor is cooler, more relaxed, more peaceful than being in the marina. There is the cost of course, sitting at anchor is free vs spending several hundred dollars per night at the dock. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when nothing can take the place of being a simple walk to the “old town” or groceries or sightseeing – especially when that sightseeing trip is going to involve hours or travel during which we would be uncomfortable leaving Gratitude completely unattended all day. But, more often than not, we would rather be at anchor.
Floating in an idyllic anchorage either alone or in the company of others is one of the greatest joys of the cruising lifestyle. Our generator is quiet, but even a distant hum can be annoying in a peaceful and quiet anchorage when you are hot, sweating, and you know that the distant hum is providing cool comfortable air to someone else in the anchorage. That said, we have the means to be comfortable on super-hot nights and we want to be. I’m sorry for all the boating purists out there who are balking but we really don’t like to needlessly suffer – this is called pleasure boating for a reason. Alec swears that nobody can hear any element of our generator, but I can’t shake the feeling that we are being judged. Further, we didn’t build Gratitude, thus we had no say over what machine would power our electricity. The original owners opted for 2, very robust, 25 KW generators. They are great in terms of redundancy; and there is enough power to air condition the whole boat with 1 of them – but generators don’t enjoy being under loaded. Carbon builds up on the injectors and even when underloaded, they still need the same number of oil changes and consume nearly the same amount of fuel. Further, when we use the generators to top off the batteries from the downtime, the batteries took the energy back very slowly thus requiring more time on the generator at low loads. To sum it up, the 2 generators were not the most efficient way to power our electrical requirements at anchor, which is where we want to be most of the summertime.
That said, we wanted to make a modification which would be more environmentally friendly but also provide a means to keep the generator off all night long and have at least 1 small ac unit operating. Then, recharge the batteries in an economical way once we were awake (and the anchorage was awake) and complete the re-charge as efficiently as possible. We believe we have found the solution by adding solar panels to the hard top (which we had installed in Fort Lauderdale). We added 10 Victron Lithium Iron Batteries which should hold far more energy than our previous 12 Lifeline AGM batteries. Further, the solar power coming in will supply an additional source of energy and when we do start the generator, the new batteries should be able to accept power more efficiently, think pouring water through a garden hose to fill a bucket vs pouring water through an eye dropper. This should make running our generator more efficient (good for the generator, good for the environment, good for us). And since this was a large capital expenditure, our fingers are crossed that it has the planned affect. Alec wisely planned the installation for early in the winter so he would have time get familiar with the new technology. We have had a few “hiccups”, but we believe we have everything sorted now. We’ve discovered that most meals in the summertime can be cooked on the gas grill – even pancakes. We eat more salads and less actual food in the summer. Showers are quick and on the swim platform so water heaters can be turned off for most of the day also. Essentially, we sip energy in the summer at anchor and these batteries and their capacity should make all the difference.
I mentioned in an earlier post that our headliners have begun falling. The installation is nearing completion and should be done next week. Also, while we had the headliners down, we decided to replace over 100 lights with much lower energy LED lights which should further reduce our dependence on energy.
For those of you who remember or know Brian, our entertainment -electronics genius guru from Palm beach? He paid us a “house call” here in Montenegro. We had a failure of the Sat compass coming into Gibraltar 2 years ago. Due to Covid, we have been unable to have it properly repaired. Alec managed a basic mechanical fix whereby he attached some CAT 5 wire to the Sat Compass antenna at the top of the mast, and threading it through a port in the wheelhouse, attached it to the Sat Compass display. This was a basic and efficient fix, if a little inelegant. Additionally, the hard drive full of digital content hasn’t worked properly in our stateroom. He made some upgrades and modifications to the system which has been wonderful. Nice to wind down at the end of the day with some mindless media from the hard drive.
Alec’s maintenance list included servicing oil/replacing filters and air filters on the main engine, the wing engine and both 25KW generators on board. The coolant has been changed and the valves adjusted. Heat exchangers flushed on the wing engine and both generators. Raw water impellers changed; zincs changed. Alec rebuilt and replaced the hydraulic anchor wash pump and disassembled and cleaned and serviced the anchor windlass. We continue to be so grateful to Alec for the time and care he gives to our floating home. Many lesser men would have thrown in the towel a long time ago!!! It is a true labor of love, and we thank you!!!
Field trips off the boat thus far include skiing in Kolasin, Kotor, Perast, Sveti Stefan, Lustica, Podgorica, and Bar. I’m planning a trip to Medjugorje during Holy week in Bosnia, and we are also hoping to take a trip to Sarajevo, Mostar, and Belgrade before our time here is up. The current climate is a consideration as we Westerners may not be well received in all countries. More research is needed, and we still have time.
Again, this post is a bit longer than usual, but it covers a lot, as I haven’t written much lately.