Getting Started


We have been living on Tomahawk for a week now (which is a good excuse for the lack of posting). There are still a lot of things to do to get settled in, so we are busy: buying propane, hooking up a battery/electrical system, scraping and painting the bottom, cleaning inside and out, organizing our stuff into bins and compartments, etc. Lots of ups and downs, sometimes literally, especially on windy days!

Soon I will post further updates about our various adventures before and after moving on board, such as refloating our friend Jamie’s boat Paramour and fitting everything into storage. Also, yesterday we were sort of trapped on the boat because our dinghy is hard to get into on a choppy bay. Today we plan to remedy this by buying a fender step to hang over Tomahawk’s side.

If all goes well, I’ll be updating a bit more frequently again in the near future!

Fender Step

Our new fender will look something like this

Categories: Cleaning, Electricity, Getting Started, Life Aboard, Practical Stuff, Supplies | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

House- er, Boatkeeping

The boat is tidier than it’s been in a long time, but don’t get me wrong. It’s far from tidy. We threw out a bagful of crap that the previous owner left on the boat. Evidently, he was of the mindset that you should keep everything, just in case, which is laudable, except that you only have so much space on a boat. To be fair, a lot of the stuff has been sitting doing nothing all winter and probably deteriorated since he decided to keep it.

We’ve also replaced our lost paddles (you can read about that adventure here) and bought a kayak cart. It works great, even though we haven’t inflated the tires yet. So we took one of our kayaks home to our balcony and tucked the other inside the boat’s cabin, since we had cleared it out. I told you it wasn’t actually tidy in there. Keeping it in there reduces the risk of theft, though, which has hit home pretty hard recently.

One of the oars from our dinghy got stolen along with our friend Mike’s rowboat that he built himself. When Jason told him, he seemed surprisingly blase about the loss. “Living on a boat is a good lesson in perspective,” he said. “You’re always wondering what you need to figure out next.”

I suppose this is true of owning a house, as well. Or even a car, in some cases.

Among other things, we stocked up on the required safety equipment for our boat’s size (manual bailer, sound signalling device, fifteen-meter throw rope, etc.). I made a rope ladder by following the instructions in a book about knots that we bought on sale a while ago.

We ordered oarlocks to replace the broken one on our dinghy, but when they arrived, they do not fit. We paid twice as much on shipping and customs as for the oarlocks themselves, which is a bit off-putting. We are going to try to return them, but we probably won’t get much of our money back. As of now, we are considering ways to rig up straps for a temporary fix. Of course, we also need to buy new oars, since someone thought it worthwhile to take one.

Jason is starting a woodworking course soon, so he will try to construct something sturdier once that gets on the go.

Categories: Getting Started, Practical Stuff, Supplies | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Big Test

Last Sunday, we had to rescue Charly from the cold waters of the Georgia Strait before hypothermia set in. The rescue involved a series of maneuvers including tacking and trimming the sails for a beam reach and then a broad reach. With a sharp 90-degree turn, we were able to fish Charly out of the water with our boat hook.

Did I mention that Charly is a life jacket? I imagine the folks at Simply Sailing would have to pay someone a lot of money to get in the water this time of year!

Day three on the water of our sailing course drew on all the skills we’d learned (or not) so far. It was the last day and our instructor Larry put us to the test. Then on Tuesday, we had the immeasurable pleasure of writing the knowledge test for PCOC (Pleasure Craft Operator Card – like a driver’s license) and Basic Cruising.

It’s been an eventful time and a busy month. I had to rearrange my schedule to get the days off, which means I don’t have a whole lot of free time. Jason, on the other hand, has kept working until midnight on Saturdays; in other words, quality sleep isn’t really in the cards for him, since we met our instructor at the docks at nine in the morning.

The first day saw some engine troubles (which seems to be growing into a theme with us…). Joel was super calm and professional and we benefited from the incident, in a way. We had to scull back to the dock. In other words, we paddled a 24-foot sailboat through False Creek into the marina.

All in all, the class was worthwhile. Despite a lack of pedagogy in the on-water sessions, we were able to grasp what we need to get started on our sailing adventure. We are both fully licensed and have been making lots of sailing plans (more like sketchy possibilities, but hey, it’s a start, right?).

Our friend Jamie is back in town and he offered to take Jason, me, and my sister (who arrives from across the country for a visit tomorrow!) out on Paramour, his 43-footer that has put 40,000 miles of water behind it. Sounds awesome!

(As a side note, I’d just like to point out that I got my boating license before my driver’s license. For some reason, that amuses me.)

Categories: Getting Started, Lessons | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Actual Sailing!

It has been a while since I put up a post, but it’s not for lack of activity. Actually, lots of real-life activity keeps me away from the internet, so maybe a lack of posting is a good sign. We’ll just go with that.

Yesterday, I left work early to meet Jason for our very first sailing class. We decided a few months ago to sign up with Simply Sailing for their intro course, which consists of three evenings in a classroom and three full days out on the water, as I explained in this post. Yesterday was the first classroom session. Our instructor Christof covered such lovely topics as hypothermia, basic knots, and reading tide and current charts (all vital knowledge, for sure).

His version of the figure eight knot goes like this: “You make a smiley face, then you strangle him, and poke him in the eye.” It actually works quite well and I like his morbid sense of humour. We have a different instructor for on the boat, so we will see how he measures up to Christof’s glowing first impression of the school. (By the way, several weeks ago he dropped off our books at our house instead of mailing them, since he lives close by. More brownie points for the sailing community!)

The people in our evening class will be out on the boat on Saturday, not with us on Sunday.  However, it seems like there will be a third person on our day, which will be nice from a social perspective, but it would’ve been awesome to have basically private lessons.

No, it isn’t…

Unfortunately, Jason works until midnight on Saturday and we have to be at Granville Island docks at nine in the morning on Sunday. Not fun. This weekend will be particularly trying, since the clocks go forward for Daylight Savings, so we will miss an hour of sleep. Oh, well. I’m sure he will survive, plus we can always go back to shore a bit early if we get enough practice in for the day, according to Christof.

We are both super excited to get out on the water, even though the forecast is predicting crappy weather for the weekend. I went out and bought a Wetskins rain jacket and pants set from Canadian Tire for $69.99. A lot of sailors have mentioned it on forums or blogs, and it seems much more reliable than the cheap vinyl outfit I got for refloating our boat. I don’t think this one will shred at the first touch!

Categories: Getting Started, Lessons | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Warming Up

It finally feels like spring today. I know, I know. People in the rest of Canada and many parts of the US, Asia, and Europe will be thinking, “Finally? It’s only mid-February!” But to us spoiled people here in Vancouver, this month marks the beginning of the end.

The days are getting longer too, which gives me a fuzzy feeling and an itch to get working on the boat.

However, I realized today that we have everything we need to actually sail Tomahawk. The sails are beat up, but seem workable. The hull is solid, albeit due for a cleaning and a fresh coat of bottom paint. The rudder responds well to the tiller. Our biggest concern is the engine. I’m starting to understand why so many boaters are fans of diesel over gasoline. And electric starters, rather than pulling the cord, which I suck at.

We also need to take our engine out of the too-small engine compartment and mount it on the transom. This will be one of our first priorities. Of course, if the engine won’t start properly, we may need to shell out the cash for a new one, which will hurt a lot.

After basic preparations, we will soon need to turn our attention to the battery bank. We’ll need a new battery, in all likelihood, as well as some sort of generator. We have a solar panel on board, but we are thinking hydro would be awesome. And possibly wind. The more sources, the merrier.

Of course, before we can live aboard, we will need a solution to our toilet problem. No, we haven’t solved that yet. We will likely ask a few sailor friends for advice and see what our bank account thinks of the various options.

And a shower. We have our solar shower, which should be fine for summer, but we need some sort of hiding place to shower in. I’m thinking maybe one of those collapsible camping showers, if we can set it up in the cockpit. Hmm…

Lots to think about. Can’t wait to finally start sailing next month!

Categories: Getting Started, New Boat, Practical Stuff, Supplies | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bits and Pieces

Here’s hoping you all had a great holiday, whether or not you actually celebrate Christmas or any other occasion. To the Christmas babies out there: Happy Birthday!

Now that Tomahawk is sitting securely with a friend’s watchful eye nearby, we haven’t spent as much time out on the water. Of course, the cold and wet don’t help with motivation. We continue to collect items that we will need once we seriously start overhauling the boat, but for now, they are sitting in a box in our living room.

I’m sad to report that our hand-cranked blender from Vortex has sprung a leak. We didn’t use it very much before this happened, so we may not be replacing it. If you know of any other similar items that are more solid, please let us know in the comments!


Categories: Getting Started | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

And another thing…

We’ve been thinking (not seriously) of changing our blog’s name to “And another thing…” because every time we fix something on the boat, we find another thing we need to work on. It’s fun on one level, but it’s also very time-consuming and we have yet to actually take Tomahawk out sailing.

Here are a few of the items on our current to-do list:

  • Get the water out of our port compartments. We believe this leaked in through the companionway hatch when the boat was on its side. In other words, it’s not a hull breach and just needs to be sponged out.
  • Clean the interior. It was a bit of a mess before, but since the grounding, everything is all over the place. We bought some biodegradable, sealife-friendly Sea Safe cleaner. If you ever own a boat, please don’t use bleach or other chemicals that harm the environment. We haven’t tried it out yet, but this product is pretty cheap and very concentrated, so it should last a long time. They claim that three capfuls mixed in water will clean our whole boat.
  • Fix or replace the mainsail. Jamie took a look at our mainsail and discovered a tear in the cloth. The whole thing is pretty worn out. Sails are not cheap, so we may just duct tape the tear until we get a bit of practice in and we have some extra
  • Rig up an anchoring light. Right now, we have two solar-powered garden lights from Canadian Tire that are supposed to come on automatically at dusk. They don’t meet the regulations, but they will do until we can figure out how to hook up our electrical system – which brings us to the next point.
  • Hook up the electrical system. It turns out we don’t need to concern ourselves overly with an inverter. DC power will run all the boat’s built-in lights. We just need a solar panel, wind generator, and/or water generator to keep the battery charged. We might also have to do some rewiring, which we have no clue about. I’ve been reading Sailboat Electrics Simplified by Don Casey and am learning a lot. I highly recommend this book for people who have no idea about electricity, like me.
  • Patch the Zodiac. Yesterday, we went down to clean up the boat. Our dinghy was still floating, but had taken on a surprising amount of water. It had also deflated a bit. Jason was able to paddle out to the boat without sinking, so hopefully it will be okay until we can fix it. The goal was to get our pump, but the lock on the companionway has seized up. So he wasn’t able to get in and we returned home dejected.
  • Get WD40. See above. If we can’t unseize the lock, we will have to cut it and buy a new one.
  • Put a bridle on our anchor. Having your anchor bridled reduces the amount of strain on the line, since the force is diffused in two directions. It would also allow us to drop the hook directly off the front of the bow, instead of off to one side the way it is now. That would reduce chafe, which was what caused the line to break before.
Anchor bridle

An anchor bridle on the folks at Zero to Cruising’s boat. Check out their awesome blog by clicking on the image!

I’m sure there are a few more things and as soon as we finish one project, something else will crop up. If the dinghy does sink or become irreparable, we now have kayaks that we bought super cheap (display models in the off-season, dontcha know?). We will still be able to get out to the boat to move things forward.


Categories: Getting Started, Maintenance, New Boat, Practical Stuff | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Maiden Voyage to the Pirate Bay

Okay, Tomahawk has been around since the seventies, so it’s not exactly a maiden voyage. But it was for us!

On Monday, we got our informal sailing teacher Steve to help us haul up the anchor, get the engine going, and go for a little ride. Our False Creek permit expires tomorrow, so we had to find a new place to keep the boat until we can get a new one.

Jason and I got to the boat at noon and cleaned off some more bird poop. Unfortunately, it hadn’t rained enough to have any cleansing impact on the sail cover. I did the dirty work this time, since he did it last time. We sacrificed one of the SOS pads left on the boat by Danny. We were contemplating taking the sail cover home to stick in the wash, but we’ll have to work out the logistics of that. Don’t really want to leave the sail uncovered, especially if the diarrhea bird decides to come back!

Anyway, Steve checked our oil and spark plugs, which all looked fine. The oil wasn’t completely black, he said, which means it needs to be changed soon. We’ll keep that in mind. I haven’t change oil myself, but I helped someone do it for their car once. So I know it’s a pretty simple task, really.

Steve took us to Granville Island, where we loaded up our jerry cans with gas. It cost less than $40 and we expect that to last us several months, especially if we use the boat as little as we are now. With the weather getting worse, that seems pretty likely.

After gassing up, we headed to our new anchorage, which is much less sheltered than False Creek. Steve refers to it as the Pirate Bay, so we’ll call it that. A few other boats were anchored in the area and we had to squeeze in between them. Our anchor weighs a ton, probably way more than necessary to hold the boat in place, which is good. Instead of the recommended 5:1 ratio of rode to water depth, we ended up with about 2.5:1 to keep our swing radius to a minimum (as explained in this post on anchoring technique). I’m hoping it’s fine, but Steve texted me today that we should expect a small craft warning for Saturday. That means high winds potentially strong enough to push Tomahawk onto the beach or into another boat. We don’t want either scenario.

If we do have to move the boat, we have a problem arising from our ongoing work scheduling conflict. Jason works days and times when I don’t and vice versa. On both Friday and Saturday, for example, I work 10 to 6 and he works 4 to midnight. So yeah. We’ll see. Maybe Steve will move it with one of us as crew.

Meanwhile, we have yet to put up the sails. Our trip from False Creek to the Pirate Bay was done entirely under engine power. That’s because you’re not allowed to put up your sails in the creek, from what I understand.

Hopefully next time, we can finally catch some wind.

Sailboat in Fog

Tomahawk in False Creek

Categories: Anchoring, Getting Started, Legalities | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Trial and Error

Monday is our day off together, so this week we headed to Army & Navy to get rubber boots and a hat for Jason. So much quality stuff there and at decent prices too. (No, they don’t pay me to say that… but maybe they should.) I couldn’t find any footwear for me, though, because it was all too big. Go figure.

After that, we went down to the boat. Jason swapped his sneakers for boots and bailed out the dinghy. When we got to Tomahawk, who was still sitting happily in the creek, we noticed that a lovely bird had had a poop fest all over the sail cover and deck. Luckily, Danny, the previous owner, had left a bunch of cleaning supplies on board, so Jason nicely offered to do the dirty work. We didn’t do the whole job, in hopes that it will rain and we won’t have to deal with it. Also, it could happen again by the time we get out there.

Our plan was to turn on the engine and put the sails up, just to see if we could. Then, if we got the engine running, we would take a little loop around the creek and practice setting the anchor again. The poop all over the sail cover sort of dampened our zeal for trying out the sails, so we focused on the engine.

Being totally inept at mechanical stuff, we took it step by step with the manual. It took us a few minutes to figure out how to tilt it down into the water, but we got it (well, Jason did, and mostly by accident, but hey, now we know what to do!). It turns out you have to pull it in before the latch will loosen to let it go down all the way.

Alas, pulling the starter cord yielded nothing. We’re not sure if we were doing something wrong, or if it’s just been sitting for too long, or what. I posted in the SailNet forum and a lot of people suggested the carburetor might be dirty, or the gas might be old, or the spark plugs might be failing to produce a spark.

We’re kind of stumped. Luckily, our informal sailing “instructor,” Steve, is going to come take a look next week, so he might be able to figure it out. Until then, If you know anything about engines, please leave a comment here to help us out!

Categories: Getting Started, Troubleshooting | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Don’t Let Your Boat Go Walkabout!

As a writer by nature and training (among other things), I can’t help but notice how things are written. This is true of blogs, assembly instructions, cereal boxes, and posters, as well as books (memoirs tend to be the worst!). I even texted a friend once just to tell him about a spelling mistake on a Heinz ketchup bottle. Yes, I have nerdy friends, but then, if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them (although we have readers all over the globe, which is awesome! Thanks, guys!).

The NauticEd online sailing course I’ve been taking very slowly for over a year has a few writing gems in it. It’s not terribly written. In fact, most of it is quite clear and easy to digest, even the complex stuff about electrical systems and navigation techniques. The writer had a sense of humour too, which makes it enjoyable. This is my favorite sentences so far: “Ensuring that your boat is in the same place you left it is a very important skill.”

That worthy advice comes from the module on mooring and anchoring.

Where's my boat?

Categories: Anchoring, Getting Started | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Blog at

Finnian Burnett


Eriksen's blog

Companion site to

NeuroLogica Blog

Life on a Sailboat

american secularist

defending America from religion and other bad ideas

The Book Bully

Life on a Sailboat

Nicholas Scott, Ph.D.

mobilities, environmentalism, interspecies justice

K.A. Mielke

Writer of stuff and thangs.


Thoughts on life, travel, writing and things that make me curious.

Professor Nigel Thrift

Research, publications, and personal infromation for Professor Nigel Thrift

what happened next

record of the happenings of my little old life with hubby and the two little dervishes that are my children

Witless Babe

A Comic Diary

Views From A Small Island

A photographic record of the everyday and the not so everyday life around the UK.

a quite big adventure

Kelsey and Cordelia's travelling blog