We have been out there one year! The Boat.
17 July 2016
The cruise really began with the boat. About 8 years ago, Lisa said, “We aren't really going cruising are we.” I said, “Yes we are.” Then I realized that we needed to start taking the necessary steps to cast off. First we needed a boat. Veloce remains our much loved little boat. I have never sailed on a better built and designed boat than the Laser 28. I raced over 800 races on Veloce so didn't spend a lot of time on other boats, but of the ones I have sailed, the Laser 28 is still my favorite. But she wasn't big enough for life aboard.
Our boat criteria list was short. She had to perform well, not just fast but have that wonderful feel of a performance boat. A back porch was also a necessity for our cruising boat. I call a back porch any transom that you can step off onto your dinghy and easy access out of the water for swimmers. We have chartered boats that require climbing up and down a ladder to get into the dinghy. This is dangerous in a lumpy anchorage, at night, etc. There are some experts who insist the only boat to take offshore are the venerable 1970's and some 1980's designs. None of these have a back porch. I would not consider living on a boat without one. Uproar's back porch is a fold down transom. It is exceptionally large and perfect for landing and cleaning fish. Keeps the mess out of the cockpit.
Around 40 feet was the size we wanted. That left the choices wide open.....except for that performance factor. A shoal or wing keel was out! So were a lot of tubby cruising boats with roller furling mains. That didn't leave a lot of choices. After 6 months of research, we found Uproar almost in our back yard, Chicago, 100 miles away. Uproar is a Beneteau First 42s7, 42.5 feet long. She has the standard rig and deep racing keel. The engine had low hours and everything was in good shape but the interior was abused. The boat had not been sailed for 3 years and the owner was more than anxious to get rid of her. The 42s7 was designed by Bruce Farr, the same designer as Veloce. This was our perfect boat and still is!
She sailed fine and cruised comfortably on the Great Lakes for 6 years. But living aboard is a different set of requirements. I'm sure I have spent over $40,000 upgrading systems and adding equipment so we can live aboard! This is on a boat that didn't need any substantial repairs or maintenance. I pity the owner who buys that 1970s “blue water” boat that will sail through hell and back. I'm sure it will if the hull is gutted and all wiring, plumbing, electronics and the engine are replaced. And they will still not have a back porch!
Uproar continues to delight in the sailing performance category. She also stands up well to stormy conditions with the deep, lead keel. People are incredulous that we sailed in the Chesapeake and Bahamas with nearly 8 feet of draft. It really has not been a problem. We have grounded a few times, got stuck twice but were able to get off without assistance. We were a bit limited as to where we could go in the Bahamas. Sometimes we had to anchor around the corner from a few cozy anchorages. But we could go everywhere we wanted to. The comfort and performance of the deep keel has paid off.
Size wise, we are about the average size in the Caribbean, slightly larger than average in the Bahamas and Great Lakes. We would consider going larger but not much. Uproar is easy enough for two to handle. Oh, and we have learned what those reef lines are for. We are now using just a small, #3 jib and it has plenty of power. OK, we did blow up our cruising #1 genoa and have to use the #3 but we don't miss it. We still still have our racing #1, stand by for more on the racing program.
Living aboard was certainly new to us. Tiny houses are an interesting trend. We would love to have the square footage of even the smallest tiny house. But we don't feel cramped at all. Uproar has tons of storage space and the forward cabin and salon are quite large. The cockpit is smaller than we would like. It would be nice to have a large table out there for entertaining and seats large enough to sleep on. But there is plenty of room for the two of us to watch the sun go down and blow the conch horn. Our living space doesn't feels limited to the boat. The water around us is our endless home.
Here are some numbers. We burned 450 gallons of fuel the first year. Most of this was traveling through the Great Lakes, connecting rivers and Erie Canal. We also motored a lot on the Hudson River,, ICW, Delaware and Chesapeake bays. Since we have been in the Caribbean, we have used only about 50 gallons. I run the engine every day or every other day to charge the battery and make 35 gallons/hour of fresh water. We have an endless supply of water and all the electrical power we need. That really makes life comfortable. And we do this completely off the grid. Since leaving the US, we have spent only 6 nights at a dock. Our solar panels work great and I'm about to add 200 more watts.
Some of the new equipment was in boxes when we cast off. I have enjoyed the projects of installing and tweaking the new systems. We have a rather high tech electrical system. I discovered I wasn't charging my special batteries up to 100%. I spent an entire day this week doing some recovery charging and changing programming for the various charging systems. Now all seems fine.
Our freezer has worked well but is our main power consumer. I continue tweaking the system to improve performance. The gas stove and oven work great. Lisa bakes a lot of bread (except when we are in the French islands) and we still use only about 8 pounds of propane/month. The saltwater foot pump in the galley is great for washing dishes. We rinse with fresh. That saves a lot of water.
The heads and showers work great. I don't use the inside showers often. I use the hose sprayer on the back porch to rinse off after swimming, shampoo/soap, jump in the water and rinse again. That's my shower. We always rinse with the hose after swimming. I swim about twice/day. There is plenty of water. Unfortunately, the only way to dispose of human waste is to pump it overboard. We do have holding tanks on Uproar but there is no place to pump them out. Cruising boats are loosely spaced in most anchorages so the impact is minimal. I'm sure the waste on the islands also makes its way into the ocean but populations are small.
My biggest stress in cruising is when something on the boat isn't working perfectly. Things are working very well now and I'm learning to take the maintenance/repairs more in stride.
Would we trade Uproar for another boat? Well sure, we did like the Swan 100 we saw in Jost Van Dyke. We also like the space on modern catamarans but are not sure about the sailing characteristics. The one boat we would certainly trade for is the First 47 we saw in the Chesapeake. It is just a bigger and newer version of Uproar.
I heart my boat! Uproar has taken us 5,421 miles in the first year and truly feels like home, wherever the anchor sets.