Sun Safety

There is nothing that can sour a fun day in the sun than a nice, blistering burn. While some of us have been blessed with skin that browns beautifully without even a slight hint of pink (my captain, for instance), others of us (like myself) are blonde, pretty much as white as they come and covered in freckles. While the sun is not exactly my best friend, I don’t let it stand in the way of my dreams. As sailors and cruisers, spending significant amounts of time in the elements is part of the job description. When we are out sailing the sun’s rays get bounced off the water only amplifying their strength, and when we are out exploring it is often out discovering some beautiful outdoor wonder. Keeping ourselves properly protected is essential to the enjoyment of our journey. 

Below, cruisers’ share how they keep their crews safe and burn free. 


Health Care Experiences Far From Home

Preparing for stitches in Guatemala
(photo courtesy of Matt & Jessica's Sailing Page)

If you're out cruising, it's pretty advisable that you have a good First Aid kit at your disposal.  We aren't always lucky enough to be near a health care center if something goes wrong, or even if we are, standards may not be what we were used to back on land.  When things go wrong, it's not as easy as a quick drive down the road to the med center.

Whether it's a virus traveling around, a finger caught or smashed in one of the many areas possible to do so on a boat, or a lift threatening emergency, health care can get a little bit tougher out on the water.  If you have any experience or stories about health care far away from home, send me a post describing it.


Advice for Freshman Cruisers

Whether you're leaving because you've finally retired, or you're leaving because you're young enough to not care about health insurance, YOU'RE FINALLY LEAVING!  And anyone who has given it even an ounce of thought, knows that the amount of planning is insurmountable.  There is just no way that you can think of every detail and plan for every mishap.  This topic was created to use our MoFi resources and ask for tips.  If you have a post already written about the most important things you learned your first year cruising, great, we'll take it!  If you want to write one dedicated to newbie cruisers (remember, you were a freshman once!) please do!  We are looking for your best tips and tricks anyway you want to hand them to us and hopefully you can save a newbie from a little stress once they set sail.   (Please :)


Sailing Life Hacks

Cruisers are hardy folks. We have to be, because we live in a space the size of a small garden shed, and it galumphs around like a mechanical bull. Let's just say, it's an environment that's not big on creature comforts. But we cruisers are also creative and crafty sorts, expert life hackers, who like to share our ideas.

This Monkey's Fist topic started when I blogged, as part of my Tammy's Top Ten Things series, about things that make my life onboard easier, things like a good, old-fashioned ice pack, creative use of hair bands and static cling window film. I posted my Top Ten on the Women Who Sail Facebook page, and others decided to play along. We've ended up with a brilliant sailing hacks starter kit for new cruisers and some fresh ideas that even the saltiest among us can adopt.


Young Cruisers

A group of 30-something cruisers, enjoying the spoils of Jamaica.
(Photo courtesy of s/v Tamarisk)

This topic is all about the 40 and under crowd.  The ones that said, "I'm not going to wait for retirement before I fulfill my dreams of sailing off into the sunset.  Nay, I'm not even going to wait for my 40th birthday to roll around before doing it."  All of us that have done this fall into the 'young cruiser' category, and sadly, the least represented one out on the high seas.  Being so young, we're usually the newbies out there.  The ones just figuring it out for the first time.  Making mistakes and learning, but hopefully, having a ball while we do it.

This topic is meant to inspire new young cruisers.  Telling the how and why of, well, how and why other young cruisers are out or getting ready.  Have any great stories of being the odd one out due to your age?  We'd love to hear that too.


Boat Names

“Mayday, mayday, mayday, this is the Master Baitor.  We are taking on water.” 
As we sailed along, listening to this distress call and the interaction with the local Coasties, all I could think of is if this boat owner ever envisioned having to call in a mayday with that boat name.  Sure, he probably got a couple of laughs from his fishing buddies about the name.  He may even have giggled a little to himself when he calls a marina or a friend calls him on the VHF.  But did he ever consider how his boat name would sound in this situation?

Collecting bad boat names has become something of a hobby for my Bride and me.  We like to snap a quick photo of them.  Here are a couple of our favorites:

When we purchased our Catalina she was named “Norm’s Place”.  We knew that wouldn’t do for us plus the seller wanted to keep the name for his next boat.  When we started to come up with names we had several concerns in mind:

·         How would the name sound over the radio in a distress call.  We didn’t want the name to add to any confusion in an already stressful time.
·         We wanted a traditional name in that it was named after a woman.
·         We wanted the name to be fun and have meaning to us. 

Here is the story of our name: s/v Smitty.
Topic coordinator: Jesse, s/v Smitty


Boatschooling 101

Some "schooling" on s/v Totem: Mairen journals on a passage

Although we’ve been away from our home on Bainbridge Island, Washington, for five years - the majority of elementary school years for our three children – one of the most common questions we get from families who are considering cruising is “Are you homeschooling?”

Perhaps it’s just a question of phrasing, or interpretation of what exactly homeschooling is. Perhaps this is because one parent’s view of an amazing learning experience is another parent’s view of feral kids running wild…and from the outside, I suppose we probably look more like the latter!

As parents, raising our children responsibly is pretty much the most important “work” we have, so their growth and learning is really important. But the ways of approaching learning on board can be as wildly different as they are for homeschooling families on land.

Topic Coordinator: Behan, Sailing with Totem


Relationships on Board

Photo from here

Living on a small boat, being full time with a significant other or a young family, presents unique challenges to a relationship.  These bloggers have found ways to make it work and shared their insights.

Posted by: Jaye, The "Life Afloat" Archives



Boys on the bow of s/v Lyr (On the Horizon Line)

"Cruisers'' actually spend most of their time staying put - whether at anchor or in a marina.  But when they are on the move... well, as Capt. Ron famously proclaimed, "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen out there." In the posts linked below, you can read about the pleasure and the pain of passagemaking. Some of these posts contain practical advice.  In all you will sense the joy and the despair, the boredom and  terror, and above all a sense of wonder that we small humans, in our tiny specks that we call boats, can be carried from one port to the next.


Sewing Sailors

Planning for the "blasted winch covers" (Sailing Journey)
Sailing is expensive!  We all know that a big way to cut costs in the boating world is to DIY!  Teak, boat systems, and bottom paint are things many of us have figured out how to do in order to save cash, but have you ever thought about sewing?  Canvas covers are expensive!  CUSTOM canvas covers are really expensive!  What about those cockpit cushions!?  Expensive!  Whether you're a stitching stranger or a skillful seamstress, here are some posts to inspire you and hopefully save you a few bucks!  Enjoy!


Energy Management

Side solar panels aboard S.V. Cambria
In our very plugged-in world, managing energy aboard and prioritizing systems can be especially challenging. How do we satisfy the seemingly boundless demand for electricity? What amenities do you choose to limit or do without? What power sources work best where?

Check out this variety of posts on solar, wind, and how to manage energy demands. One common theme is the desire to be self-sufficient, off the grid, and environmentally responsible. But being independent types, we each plot our own course to get there.


The New Normal

When you're a landlubber, living on land is "normal." But if you live on a boat, the old "normal" goes out the window porthole.  For example, boaters often note the drastic lifestyle changes required by space limitations.  Also, we know that we are much more energy/resource aware, living on a boat.  But on the other hand, there are definite benefits to the liveaboard lifestyle.  The bottom line: if you live aboard, you adjust to a "new normal," for better and for worse.

Sole-less shoes: one of the benefits of cruiser "normal," according to Holli (s/v Shiloh)
In this collection of links, bloggers explore the differences between shore-based normal and ship-based normal.


Warning! Cruising May Have Side Effects!

Whether you are a new Live-Aboard or a seasoned Cruiser with many miles beneath your keel, you've probably experienced changes or "Side Effects" brought on by the Lifestyle.  The obvious ones are changes in health, both physical and mental, reduced stress, previously undiscovered hobbies and interests, etc.  In the links we have collected here, bloggers have written about both the common and the unexpected side effects of cruising.


Anchoring: Tips, Tricks and Tales

Anchoring: Ultimately the reason we go cruising; to get away from land. To be "anchored out" is to be self sufficient, separate from the amenities of land and to enjoy the world that surrounds us on a shoestring budget. Yet, anchoring is a touchy subject for many, there are endless forum posts and articles written about how to, why not and what for so we went looking for real salts - the ones who rely on their anchors day after day, in bay after bay - to weigh in on the subject!


Altourism: Doing the World and Doing it Good

Repairing sewing machines in the Hermit Islands
(photo credit: Sailing with Totem)

Author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader, Howard Thurman wrote:
"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
For some it comes by choice: trips planned for the express purpose of volunteer work somewhere in the world. For others or at other times it is more a matter of chance, of being in the right place at the right time with the right skill or staple food. But one thing is certain: whenever, whatever we offer, we come away with more. 

The "rules' have been stretched a bit for this topic. Along with blog posts we've sourced a few magazine articles. But all follow the same course, as it were, in pointing out how creative we cruisers are in finding ways to "come alive."

"...community cannot feed for long on itself; it can only flourish where always the boundaries are giving way to the coming of others from beyond them -- unknown and undiscovered brothers."       --Howard Thurman


Living on the Hard - a Few Good, a Lot of Bad, and Mostly Ugly Tales

Kelley (topic coordinator) from SV Chance proves that yard work is a dirty job.

Ever since I was a little girl I have hated “yard work.” While the yard work of today may not involve pulling weeds, it is just as terrible. It's hot, you get dirty and everything takes at least 5x as long to complete as you think it will. Add to it that boats are designed to function properly on the water. When you take them out, systems cannot be used to their full extent and life gets a little more difficult. These bloggers recount their tales of what life has been like when their homes are on the hard.


Eat to sail, sail to eat

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.” 
― Charles M. Schulz

Food is not just what we need to consume to keep moving, but a filter for experiences; just a taste or a whiff can transport us back to a favorite place we've visited in the past, or better understand a place where we find ourselves.

Even now, French pastries remind us of... Barra de Navidad's boatside panga delivery, of course.
(Photo: sv Totem)
For the first time in months, we saw fresh cilantro in the market. Jamie and I just looked at each other and said "salsa"!  So last night, dinner centered around the delicious dish that most people limit to condiment status. As our family we sat around the main salon table, spooning up the rare treat, we talked about our memories of Mexico. After many roadside taco stands and piles of tomatoes, our simple salsa cruda recipe was refined- it never fails to evoke happy reflections of our time there.

When do parts of your cruising experience become inextricably linked with what you eat or drink? Is there something you always prepare before making a passage? What about a recipe you've picked up that has become a signature offering from your boat?

Here are a few bloggers who have found that link between sustenance and place.


Fitness Aboard

 Let's face it. Our cruising lifestyle is intense. We must be mentally prepared but we must maintain physical strength as well! We spend long days in the elements, we raise sails, lift over sized laundry bags, climb out of our tenders and lug provisions to and fro. BUT we are also blessed with some amazing locations to burn some calories!! We could go for a swim, a hike or a paddle even! Check out what the amazing variety of cruisers do to stay in "Ship Shape!!"



Rubbish! No matter how simply we try to live we still create it. Living on land or at the marina disposing of it requires just a short walk to the rubbish bin. But what about when we're at sea or at anchor in beautiful, remote parts of the world? What do we do with our rubbish then? Burn it? Dump it over the side? or stash it on the boat somewhere? Or a combination of all three?

As cruisers we spend our lives on the sea. We see the effects of irresponsible practices, such as fishing nets and lines cast off and left to drift, harmful plastics injuring animals or entering their food chain, oil and fuels left to spill and kill.  As inhabitants and lovers of the oceans we have a duty to make responsible and sustainable decisions about our trash. Making us in effect the ocean's custodians. With that in mind we've put together a collection of blog posts that explain how fellow cruisers deal with rubbish onboard. 


What I Learned on My First Cruise

Shoals and currents and inlets on the chart can seem quite daunting on your first passage
(Plodding in Paradise

It doesn't matter how much - or how little - experience you had before you set out, there was something, or many somethings, that you didn't expect.  The lessons our bloggers learned on their first trip were in some cases about nautical technique, and in other cases philosophical.


Dogs on Board

Dyna and Dylan keep tabs on marina comings and goings (TakingPaws)
Call me Ishmael. Or, Fido, or even Spot. No matter, a dog by any other name is a sailor's soulmate upon the sea. Brave, loyal, trustworthy and enthusiastic--always. You couldn't ask for a better crewmate. Still, there are times when finding our best friend a safer harbor is the most loving--and hardest--thing to do.

In this topic, our bloggers talk about the dog days of cruising.


Kids as Crew

Here at The Monkey's Fist, our goal is to continually provide a place for newbies, wanna-be's, dreamers and planners to find information from real cruisers with experience. The topic "Kids as Crew" explores what it's like to have our children aboard and what types of jobs, responsibilities and chores they assume. Because like my mother always said, "Why do you think I had three girls? So, I'd never have to do the dishes again!!"


More Moving Aboard Transitions

Photo from The Life Nomadik 
Wow!  We got so many great responses to our first call for blog posts on moving aboard, that we decided to make a second post!  Here are more stories written by folks who are in that confusing, high-energy period as they became new liveaboards.


Living Aboard in Winter

Photo by Helen McAdory

Sure, the most comfortable way to live on your boat in wintertime is to sail it to the tropics in autumn, but not everyone has that luxury.  If instead you stay aboard as the snow flies and the water beneath your hull turns hard, tell us how you make it work!


Does Size Really Matter?

We have all fantasized about a bigger... boat, right?! Be honest. But does size really matter? When utilizing our small spaces to our advantage is the name of the cruising game what's to be said for the size of the ship? Is it really all about the motion in the ocean? Is it really about square footage? Can sailing around the on a 27' boat be just as comfortable as say, a 50' boat? Let's see what you the people, had to say. 

Image found here.


Protection Against Thieves: What Are Your Safety Precautions?

Permanent markings on a dinghy help deter thieves.
(Photo courtesy of Matt & Jessica's Sailing Page)
It's a sad but true fact.  Any place you travel, there is a chance you might encounter thieves.  They may be after all kinds of different things in varying degrees: your wallet; your outboard, your dinghy, or anything they can get their hands on should they board your boat. What precautions do you take to keep yourself, your belongings and your boat safe?  Whether it's locking everything down, traveling in groups, or staying away from certain locations, almost everyone has some kind of safety plan.  Read below to find out what others are doing, and tips you could pick up for yourself.


A Man, a Plan, a Canal: Panama

Bill and Caroline (s/v Juffa) celebrate a successful transit

In Google Reader, you can "star" posts that you want to save for later.  And when you know you're eventually going to transit the Panama Canal, the transit stories get "starred," right?  So here we are in Shelter Bay Marina, finally, and we'll be heading through the canal as soon as most of the broken things are fixed, so... we're reading all the starred transit stories.  Here are the ones we've collected so far; they're in chronological order, with the most recent transits at the top.  Great pictures, lots of details and advice, a bit of humor and terror mixed in. [5/22/13 - Update: now we're on the other side, getting more broken things fixed, so we're in a prime position to collect new transit posts, since we meet these folks when they pop out on this side.]


Shoppers in a Strange Land

Welcome to Odd-Mart! (Whether they know it or not) our buyers continually scour the globe to bring you an ever-expanding selection of products sure to meet all of your provisioning needs.


Going it Alone

Singlehanders go it alone. What does that mean for them regarding relationships, friendships, and family? Was it a choice or did the other half back out? Would you rather be alone, are you looking for a long-term partner, or perhaps looking for the occasional buddy boat? What are the emotional and practical realities of going it alone in what is often a coupled-up cruising world?

Bruce Glass of s/v Scuttle Butt clips to a jackline for safety when sailing solo
(photo copyright Bruce Glass)

Below are links to a variety of blog posts from singlehanders, some practical, some emotional, some a bit of both, and some just a peek inside a day in the life of a singlehander. It was more difficult than I expected to corral together posts on this topic. Perhaps many singlehanders are too busy doing everything on their own to have time to blog, perhaps many are simply somewhat private, introspective folk not as prone to sharing their life online. In soliciting blog posts by singlehanders I received comments that blogging defeats the purpose of being a singlehander, that singlehanders who blog have an ulterior motive, and that singlehanders who blog sound desperate because they are. I do not think we are all antisocial hermits or desperate; we are, like most liveaboards, unconventional folks who don't readily fit in society's mold.


Moving Aboard: Transitions

People move onto boats for a surprising variety of reasons: to live close to nature, to go cruising and see the world, to save money, and more.  The practical aspects of the transition were, in many cases, easier to manage than the emotional.  (Contributions are listed in alphabetical order by blog name.)
Image from here.


Cats on Board

Charlie on s/v Ceilydh

For nearly as long as sailors have been going to sea, their cats have been going with them. Whether as miracle workers, mousers, or mates, nary a crew member has been more valued than the ship's cat. Certainly, why we live aboard has changed throughout the course of history, but who we bring along to keep us company appears to be timeless. (Friends of Fido: Standby, dogs on board is an upcoming topic!)


Divisions of Labor: Who Does What on Board?

The ladies, they fix the head while men are baking bread
and women deal with feds but guys are making beds
and everyone sews...

(with sincerest apologies to Cole Porter's, Anything Goes

Oh, these modren times we live in! On a boat, traditional gender roles get tossed right out the porthole...or do they?

Did We Leave That Behind?

On s/v More Joy Everywhere, CATS are the big space-wasters

"Wow, this boat is so much bigger than our house!" said no cruiser, ever. If there's one thing cruisers have in common, it's that we gave up a lot to do this: not just our relationships and our careers, but our stuff. Every thing that was culled fell victim to a sometimes painful decision-making process. In this post, our bloggers discuss how they decided what "made the cut." (Thanks to Steph of s/v Norna Biron for the title of this post.)


Is There Jif in Vanuatu?

From S/V Bella Vita: If ya gotta have Grey Poupon, better bring it with.

"Old Mother Hubbard went to her cupboard...And when she got there, the cupboard was bare..." Or maybe not.  When it comes to provisioning, our bloggers explain that there are a lot more options than the weevil-y hardtack and grog that sailors survived on in the olden days.

What Are You Afraid Of?

Tammy (plodding in paradise) describes fear as a many-headed beast

Mariners have always known it: life at sea has its dangers. Things can happen out here. We take every precaution to make sure they don't, but still.... In this collection of posts, our bloggers write candidly about their fears, great and small, and a few that might surprise you.


How Do You Do Laundry on a Boat? Clothes for Cruisers

s/v Ceilydh has a wringer on board, and laundry is an all-hands-on-deck job

No, we don't beat them against a rock. It's nearly impossible to secure a rock on a moving vessel. So how do cruisers do laundry on a boat? And what about those now dreaded events? You know, like going out in public. In this combined topic, cruisers discuss how they wash and what they wear.


Are We Sailors or Travelers?

This way?  or That way?  (Jaye, Life Afloat Archives)

"Sailors or travelers?"  Sailing is more about the journey - do you enjoy your time at sea?  Traveling is more about the destination - is it the ports that you look forward to?  Are the passages your passion, or are they just a way to get from point A to point B?  Cruisers mostly agree that they enjoy both the sailing and the traveling; but the question is: which way do you lean?  Are you a seafarer who travels, or a traveler who sails to get there?

What Do Cruisers DO All Day?

Buns in the air
"what cruisers do" on s/v Totem

Contrary to popular belief, living aboard doesn't have to be all work and no play. Here are some of the ways cruisers spend their spare time. Spoiler Alert: reading is a biggie.  (Thanks to Behan, s/v Totem, for title of this post.)