Simple And Inexpensive WiFi

More and more cruisers, be they just weekenders or long distance travelers, are wrestling with the issues of staying connected and yes, I mean to the internet. My first boat had nothing more than a VHF radio and I was able to sail from the US mainland to Bermuda. Later on as the boats got larger and communications improved, a marine SSB radio was added. Then a famous person, I can’t remember who, invented the internet. With that, the ease of email crept into our lives and grew like a weed along the banks of some of the rivers we have traveled. We were hooked and began the search for the latest and greatest technology. Our first device was a hand held unit that was called Pocketmail and needed to be held up to a phone after calling a special number and it would send and receive your emails. It was a pretty neat device and very popular in the cruising circles. Next we added a Pactor modem to our SSB radio and after acquiring a Ham license, used the Winlink system to send and receive email and get that all important weather information. We still have and use extensively the Winlink system. But the more we were exposed to the internet itself, the more important it became and the more functional we found it to gather information on weather, emails and the areas we were traveling- something the Winlink could not do for us.

With the availability of WiFi hotspots to connect to, the possibilities grew considerably. Again, we would have to evaluate our needs and how to meet those needs with the changing technology. For the cruiser today there are now some great choices depending on the areas you plan to cruise, the space aboard and power requirements for additional equipment and that all important dent in the monthly cruising budget. Starting at the high end is a satellite system that can be used on a large part of the planet, even the watery parts. A satellite dish mounted inside a dome and engineered to track and hold the satellites position will give full access to the internet and all it contains. If coastal cruising is in your plans, or even some of the more developed islands, than another option is a wireless phone card modem attached to your computer that will connect and receive anywhere you can get a cell phone signal from your provider. For simple email via text format only a satellite phone will provide this almost anywhere in the world although some folks are finding the coverage is spotty on some oceans. Finally, many cruisers are finding that with a computer that has WiFi capabilities and a device to reach out and grab those free WiFi signals found in more and more locations the costs are relatively low and the installation is fairly easy. Most importantly, after that purchase of equipment, access is free. There are pay services sprouting all along the coast that will provide access via this same system in larger ports. After considerable research we decided on the WiFi method with the free access. Free is always good for most cruisers. Once the decision was made on the what, we now needed to decide on the how.

It is no surprise the internet provided us with the answers. Research, research, research, using mostly cruising website that we have found in the past are frequented by actual cruisers willing to share their knowledge and experience. Two such sites are the SSCA Discussion Board and the great site at A common name came up over and over again with lots of positive input. Some cruisers also had their own way of putting the system together to improve performance and protect the equipment. We decided on a WiFi unit Made by Senao. The Engenius UEB362 EXT long range USB adapter (now updated to the EUB9603H) was recommended over and over again. Another key piece of the equipment is the antenna. Like any over the air receiver, the antenna can mean the difference between success and failure. We try and match our equipment as much as possible and decided in the Engenius 8db outdoor omni-directional antenna. A small pigtail adapter is needed to attach the much larger antenna to the unit. Your choices will be either omni-directional or directional. The omni-directional will look like the antenna you are used to seeing and the directional antenna will look sort of like a small dish that needs to be aimed directly at the WiFi access point. This works great at the docks but swinging on the anchor as most of us do would present too much of a challenge. The omni-directional does not care whether the boat is swinging so naturally that was our choice.

Having the antenna be weatherproof and outdoor suited is a big plus. Keep in mind these units are not designed to be used in the manner we have planned. The unit itself is not waterproof and the attached antenna is very small. But it is removable and many of these units on the market do not have a removable antenna. That ability limits or extends the range of the unit. We would need to either find a way to weatherproof the unit or move it in and out as needed to keep it dry. Both will work but we prefer to keep it outside while underway since we can often connect as we pass a hotspot without stopping. The final short coming of the unit as is was the short cord that attaches the unit via USB to the computer. It is only about three or four feet long and won’t get it outside unless the computer is outside and we did not want to do that for obvious reasons. But this too is easy to overcome.

Once we had the adapter and antenna in hand, the search for the additional bits and pieces began. We found that a 6X6 plastic electrical box with no holes in it would make a very good weatherproof box to mount the adapter. We purchase a weatherproof gland to pass the cable through and some coax sealer. We found we would need an “active” USB extension cable to get the unit high enough to have some range with it. Having an active cable is important because the unit gets its power from the computer via the USB cable. Be sure it is NOT a passive cable or it will not work. We have received reports that we should not exceed 20 feet for the extension cable but others might find longer will work. Finally, a bit of silicon caulk to seal everything rounds out the material.

The electrical box has plenty of room to mount everything inside and a smaller box will probably work but this was what we used. First you will need to drill a hole in the top to accept the antenna. It slides into the hole and a locking nut on the inside holds it just fine. The hole around the outside and inside should be sealed with a bead of silicone caulk. Next a hole should be drilled into the bottom to accept the weatherproof cable gland and also sealed. Remove the antenna that comes on the unit and use some double stick tape to hold the unit on the back of the box. The first thing we noticed with this unit was its size. It is not much larger than a business card. Before mounting it, attach the pigtail to the antenna and the unit itself. Pass the USB cable from the unit through the hole in the bottom and attach the weatherproofing portion of the cable gland and add some silicone sealer to help keep moisture out. Once all of this is finished, add silicone sealer around the perimeter of the box and attach the cover. The box we purchased had tabs on the corners with holes in them so we could attach different methods of hanging it. We plugged the 20 foot active USB extension cable to the one that is attached to the adapter. Here is where the coax seal comes in and makes the plugs completely waterproof where they are joined together. The seal is sticky and stays that way so be sure and cover it with electrical tape to keep it from sticking to everything (and everyone) it comes in contact with. You will be almost finished but there is one final step before you start connecting.

Before you plug in the unit, you will need to set it up on your computer. There are two methods to do this. The adapter comes with a CD with the required drivers and a program to help make your connections. If your computer is not WiFi capable you will need to install this program. If it is WiFi capable you have a choice. In our research many complained about problems using the program that came with the adapter. Your Windows operating system has a service called Windows Zero Configuration which will manage all of your WiFi connections. Many users, including ourselves, let Windows handle the WiFi with few issues, but the drivers for the adapter need to be installed. Simple - go to the disk, find a folder called drivers, open it and click on set up. It will install the drivers and ask you to plug in the unit. Once installed you will need to restart the computer, and that is should be about it. It should not take a whole lot longer than it did to read this article. Once everything is done and the unit is hung as high as you can get it with the cable attached to your computer, you will be connecting any time an open access point is within range. We have been truly amazed at the range of this set-up and how well it performs.

And now for our total expenditures:

Engenius EUB-362-EXT $45.50 (now updated to the EUB9603H)
Engenius EAG-2408 Outdoor antenna $24.99
CA100 –NM-RSMAM-12 RPSMA Male to N Male 12” cable $9.00
RJ45-FT Feed-thru adapter $1.10
104 Coax seal $2.29
Plastic Junction box with lid $12.16
20’ Male to Female USB active extension cable $12.99
Silicone caulk $5.95

Total cost: $113.98

We did find a couple of sites on the internet that sell these same units already made up for a bit more money, but we like to build these things and install them ourselves. We get not only the feeling of accomplishment, but the knowledge that the parts are of the quality we expect. This has been a great addition to our equipment list and if your needs will be filled with this kind of set up, you will surfing before you know it.

WiFi Adapter For The Boat Revisited

For over a year now we have been able to get some hard evidence on the performance of our WiFi adapter and it has surpassed our expectations. We have been able to receive connection from at least three miles away that we can confirm and it has worked in areas where we had no idea of where the signal was coming from and at what distance. So we do declare it to be a complete success. For the original info see our post at .

But one aspect of the unit has bothered me since we put the whole thing together and that was the waterproof electrical box that everything was mounted to. It did work fine and kept the unit dry, but we just were not crazy about how it looked. People walking down the docks would stare for a while before asking what in the world it was. The gray plastic box was just not aesthetically pleasing so I started considering other options that would be easy and inexpensive and give us some options for mounting. On the sailboat we simply tied it up in the rigging and could remove it if sailing or the weather was really bad. On the trawler we wanted a more permanent mounting, but it too had to be weatherproof since the adapter is very moisture sensitive. Ever time I wandered the local building supply I considered different approaches. I finally decided on using a short piece of PVC pipe with sealed end caps top and bottom.

Making the case was as easy as the original, drilling a hole in the top cap to accept the antenna and two holes in the bottom cap. One would be for the USB cable to pass through and the other would be to accept the rail mount that we would use to mount the entire unit as high up as we could get it on the bimini frame. The mount is a typical rail mount used for antennas for a VHF or GPS. It turned out to be a perfect solution. The antenna, cable pass through and rail mount were all sealed with marine silicone sealant because all of the parts are plastic and silicone is the best sealant to use, IMO. I chose the four inch pipe, not because the parts are that large but because the antenna and USB cable connections stick out from the sides of the adapter and I did not want to jamb everything in tight. Once everything was tucked into the pipe, both ends were sealed with silicone and the caps pushed on tightly being careful not to pinch and cables. We also decided to replace the USB cable from the short cable that comes with the unit, to a fifteen foot cable with USB on one end and a mini-plug like those used for camera connections, on the other. The mini-plug is the same type that plugs into the adapter. This kept any extensions we might want to add inside the boat and out of the weather. We used a plastic cable wrap on the USB cable that would be exposed to UV to protect it.

Once everything was assembled and the unit mounted we went from a single signal from the laptop internal connection to about ten available connection. Most of these were security enabled requiring a password or key to connect, but three or four were open connections and the marina connection went from barely connect to a strong connection. I am sure we will still get the puzzled looks and "what is that" but at least now it looks acceptable and should be well protected from the elements. Now we just can't wait to use it while we are cruising

Doing A Boat Delivery

Doing a boat delivery is not always the glamorous task many might think it to be.
Someone whom has never done a boat delivery might think that you climb on this gleaming new boat and have a great time going from point A to point B at the expense of the owner of the boat. In reality there is much more to this transaction and the process and results can be far from the expectations. Taking on a boat delivery is very involved and may not be for the inexperienced. To even begin the process, and to meet the legal requirements to be able to be paid for it, you must first be a licensed Captain in the U.S. Other countries may have their own regulations. An agreement with the owner as to daily fees for the Captain and for the number of crew needed to deliver the boat is the first step. Additionally the daily expenses such as fuel, dockage, food for the crew and any other miscellaneous reimbursements need to be finalized well before you step onto the boat. Usually a payment in advance is required from the owner and they will also need to have the Captain added to the vessel’s insurance policy. The owner must also provide a letter of authorization for the Captain to operate the vessel in the absence of the owner. Finally, the logistics and expenses of getting the Captain and crew to the boat and back home again after delivery will all have to be worked out.

Once the formalities are completed, the Captain arrives at the boat and needs to do a thorough inspection of the boat and all of the systems. If the owner can be on board and available when the Captain arrives, the check out will go much smoother and faster, but this is not always possible. The engine needs to be started and run as well as generators and any other mechanical equipment. Electronics will be tested and the Captain needs to become familiar with them. Water pumps and bilge pumps all need to be in working order. You must familiarize yourself with how everything works and where everything needed for the trip is located on the boat. Important items such as thru-hulls and their locations are necessary in case of a failure. The boat must have the appropriate safety gear to meet federal safety requirements such as proper life jackets, flares, fire extinguishers, etc. The vessels running lights, anchor lights and interior lights all need to be in working order.

Our delivery was one of those less than simple jobs, as is often the case with a boat that has had an absentee owner and has been sitting unused for a long period of time. Things began well enough with most of the equipment checking out at the dock. We were fortunate enough to be able to get on the boat a good week before the departure date and begin our inspection. On the day prior to departure, we found two problems that had to be corrected before we could begin the trip. The dripless stuffing box was leaking quite a bit and this is one item that can’t be repaired with the boat in the water. The house battery bank also went completely dead as soon as we disconnected from the dockside power and shut down the battery charger. We made arrangements with both the owner and the local yard to bring the boat in to have it checked and hauled if necessary and, of course, it was necessary. The repair yard at Marsh Harbor Marina was extremely accommodating considering we dropped in and threw the proverbial wrench into their schedule. The complete dripless system needed to be replaced as did the house battery bank which consisted of two 8D batteries. At the same time all of this was going on we were dealing with our own new-to-us boat which was at the same yard to have bottom painting done and some other needed repairs. The needed repairs on the delivery boat would delay us for about a week.

Once repairs were completed we pulled off the dock early in the morning and only made a couple of miles when we realized the alternator was not charging the batteries. So back to the dock we went for a quick check and repair of some wiring. Then once again we were off, but now a few hours behind schedule, which would delay us from getting to our planned anchorage before nightfall. We do not travel the ICW at night. Most owners do not allow this and there may also be problems with insurance if something were to happen. As is our practice, we had a fall back anchorage in case there were delays and we did not make the original destination. At around 5:00 PM that afternoon we turned off the waterway into Church Creek, off the Wadmalaw Sound near the range markers. It is a narrow creek with marshland, a few stands of trees on the banks, very peaceful but really, really buggy.

As the evening progressed, our problems started all over again. The refrigeration, battery charger and several other systems only ran on 120 volts which means the boat must be plugged in at the dock or the generator needs to be running. Since we were at anchor, the generator was started and the 120 volt systems turned on. All seemed to work just fine and the generator ran as advertised. After about and hour and a half we could smell a distinctive odor of fuel and upon inspection of the engine compartment, found the generator spewing diesel fuel all over the compartment. We quickly shut it down and began troubleshooting and cleaning up the mess. It was determined that the fuel lines on the generator fuel filter were the culprit and no amount of tightening would stop the leak. We were only about fifteen miles from a repair yard south of Charleston so our plan was to head there first thing in the morning. Off we went for a good nights sleep, well sort of.

The next morning found us up before sunrise and after a quick breakfast we prepared to get under way. In preparation to get under way we checked the engine fluids before starting it and turned on the instruments and radio. The engine started right up since fortunately it had its own starting battery and it was fully charged. As is our practice, we use two way headsets to communicate between us when hauling or dropping the anchor. As soon as the anchor windlass button was pushed to raise the anchor the entire 12 volt system on the boat went out. No amount of checking would determine where the problem was. The engine was running so we at least we had the capability to motor to the repair yard, but we had no electronics and, in particular, no depth sounder in a very shallow part of the ICW. Here is a perfect example of how important it is to carry paper charts to supplement the electronic chart since the chart plotter was now out. We also carry a hand held GPS as well as a hand held VHF and both came in handy. The fifteen miles to the repair docks at Ross Marine went uneventfully and we arrived without touching bottom. Once again our delivery would be delayed and the yard began troubleshooting the problems even though we messed up their schedule. The yard determined that parts for the generator would have to be ordered and since it was now Friday afternoon they would not arrive until Monday. A cold front was approaching and expected to arrive soon with high winds and lots of rain. Based on all of these issues, we decided to head back to Beaufort and spend the couple of days working on our own boat. We were fortunate to have a couple of friends volunteer to come and pick us up. The couple of days turned into a week before the repairs on the delivery boat were finally completed and the weather was ready to cooperate again.

We used the time to begin moving our stuff from a storage locker we rented after our sailboat was sold, onto the new boat. We did some projects and unpacking and before we knew it, the week had passed and the owner of the delivery boat picked us up and returned us to the yard near Charleston. Our first day back was spent checking the repairs that had been made and re-checking all of the systems once more. We needed to add a few more provisions so decided to spend the night at the dock and get an early start the next morning. The next morning we were up before daybreak, had breakfast, waited for slack current so we could get off the dock and by 7:30AM the boat was again, finally, under way. But the saga was not quite over yet.

Most of the day was sunny, cool and uneventful until about 3:00 in the afternoon when the engine began to surge and act as if it were running out of fuel. A check in the engine compartment showed the gauge on the Racor filter was developing a vacuum which meant the filter was beginning to clog. There is a reserve filter attached but when the valve was switched to the reserve, the problem became worse. The solution meant we would have to stop, shut down the engine and change the filter. We were coming up on the turn off to McClellanville and knew there was a fuel stop and small marina where we might make the repairs IF we could nurse the boat that far. We cashed in some of our good karma and did make the dock at the marina without a complete shut down. While at the docks, the Racor and engine fuel filters were changed and the fuel tank topped off. Once the engine was restarted, the filter gauge was still showing a vacuum so the only possible conclusion was that a clog was either somewhere in the fuel lines between the tank and the filters or in the tank, most likely the pick up tube. A short phone conversation with the owner revealed that the fuel in the tank was well over a year old and most likely needed polishing and possibly the tank cleaned. Without these being done we could most probably look forward to more issues and we still had well over 200 miles to go to get the boat to its destination. There were no services available here and the closest place to have the fuel polished was Georgetown, some 30 miles north. We decided that rather than have someone drive down to us we would try to get the boat to Georgetown and even made arrangements with the local towing service there to bring us in should we not make it all the way. On top of all of this we found a broken fuel fitting on the tank for the return fuel line. Early the next morning we hitched a ride with the manager of the marina to the local hardware store to get a replacement fitting and within a half hour we had the parts, installed them and once again were underway with all of our fingers, toes, arms and everything else crossed. A strong weather front with gale force winds was forecast to arrive early this afternoon. A breakdown could be a problem.

We must live right or some higher power must have really felt sorry for us. The day was calm and warm and other than losing about 500 rpms on the engine, the 30 miles were covered in less than 5 hours. During the trip up we made reservations at a marina in Georgetown, and were given a recommendation for a service to clean the tank and the fuel. With everything confirmed we arrived at the marina docks just as the wind started to pick up and an hour or so before the front arrived and it really became blustery. The owner of the fuel cleaning service came to the boat to put additives in the tank so it could sit overnight and planned to come back the next day to begin the cleaning process. If you ever are in need of this type of service in the Georgetown, South Carolina area, we can highly recommend Clarence at Cherry Universal Diesel. His phone number is 843-833-3998 and he was recommended to us by EVERYONE along our route. We found him to be prompt, very friendly, extremely knowledgeable and just an all around nice guy. But be prepared because Clarence likes to tell stories and he is a lifelong local from the Georgetown area.

We took the time during the repairs to visit the downtown Georgetown area since it has been five years since we visited last. On that visit, many of the downtown shops were closed and the buildings in need of repair. Since then, it is obvious that there has been a serious revitalization going on and the downtown district is thriving. There are many more eateries and shops with few vacancies and the parking spots along the street are full. This is a very positive thing since this is also one of our favorite stops along the waterway. One negative is the derelict boats anchored all over the harbor leaving little space for cruisers. The city and local businesses have added quite a bit more dock space but that does fill up quickly so advance reservations would be a good idea. It is seldom a crew has time for any sightseeing while doing these deliveries. It turned out to be a pleasant diversion from the boats’ many problems. By the afternoon the process of cleaning the fuel and the fuel systems would begin. After a few short but interesting hours all of the fuel in the tanks was cleaned as was the Racor filter and it was clear we would be able to proceed with at least this problem solved. The folks at the Boat Shed marina could not have been friendlier and more accommodating.

The next morning we were under way in a crisp north wind straight out of the direction we needed to go. When we started this move the daily average temperature was in the lower 80’s for a high and the mid 60’s for the low. Our temperatures this week were in the 50’s and 60’s for highs and the 30’s and 40’ for lows. Add to that a 15 to 20 knot wind and the mornings were quite chilly with both of us bundled up in our winter finest. At least the trip between Georgetown and Myrtle Beach was uneventful and we suffered no breakdowns for a change. Still another front is expected sometime on Sunday and if we maintain our pace we will arrive at our destination sometime on Sunday. The anchorages near Myrtle Beach are few for a deep draft boat so this would be another marina stop. We settled for the Myrtle Beach Yacht club since they had room for us. There are a couple of marinas in this basin and it is well protected from wakes on the waterway. As usual it was a pleasant stop with friendly accommodating staff and we had an evening to rest and relax without dealing with repairs. The next morning we prepared to get under way with ice on the docks and all of the canvas on the boat covered in frost.

It did finally warm up during the day and the winds were very light. Our next stop would be one of our favorites, the basin at Carolina Beach. Our trip up the Cape Fear River was on an outgoing tide and at times we barely made 2 knots. It was a slow trip and by the time we reached Snows Cut, the tide was dead low and the water was indeed skinny. But all went well and by 5:30 in the afternoon the hook was down and we settled in for the evening. When the winds are calm here you can hear the surf break on the ocean side and it is soothing to fall asleep. The next morning was a shorter trip but we had several bridges to negotiate and a few of them only open on the hour. Whoever set the bridge schedules between Wrightsville and Surf City gave no consideration for slow moving vessels. It meant a long very hard push for us to make the bridge at Surf City after the Figure 8 swing bridge without delaying our transit by an unnecessary hour. Pushing the boat hard we did make it, but with all of the problems we have had with this boat it was a bit tense. Our final anchorage would be courtesy of the US Marine Corps at Mile Hammock Bay in Camp LeJeune with more than a dozen other cruising boats, but all of them heading south. We made our final destination 30 days after we started the trip and we covered 339 waterway miles, not one of our fastest trips. This was an eventful delivery but not all that unusual. These situations are more common than one might expect and keeping a cool head and a heavy dose of patience goes a long way. If delivering boats might be in your future you need to know both sides of the coin.

The New Site For The New Boat

The new site for the new boat is up and running and we hope you will stop by and visit from time to time. We will update it as things progress and post our new projects and upgrades as they are completed. And as usual we will be posting our travels as we set out on new adventures. The new sight is located at The Beach House so come on by. In addition you will find all of our past travels, trials and tribulations here so continue to enjoy Sea Trek's journeys. We will leave the site up for as long as you continue to visit.

Backstage At The Boat Show

Often ones first introduction to boating is at one of the many, many boat shows that are staged around the country almost anytime of the year. Some of the largest are in-the-water shows in Annapolis, Miami/Fort Lauderdale and several other venues in coastal cities and inland waterways. But there are quite a few others that are held in convention centers, stadiums and coliseums in cities both large and small. When the doors open and the first of thousands of folks walk through the door, the boats are gleaming and polished, the booths are dressed for customers and the sales folks have practiced their presentations.

But there are major components that very few get to see. It almost begins at the end of the show in preparation for the next, with debriefing sessions and strategies discussed. The move in and out for in-the-water shows are complex, but no where near that for a show that needs to be held inside large buildings many miles from the nearest water. Once the initial layout for the dealer’s area is confirmed and the floor plan is designed, the logistics of getting several large boats over highways and through city streets begins. Transportation via carriers experienced in handling this special cargo must be made well in advance. Those with the equipment and expertise are in big demand for these events so finding one at the last minute may be next to impossible. Many dealers have long established relationships with those carriers so each anticipates the needs of the other and this part of the equation usually works well. But there are always those last minute glitches that can make for anxious moments when show time approaches.

Ship & Sail Yacht Sales in Kemah, Texas is both a sail and power boat dealer that is present at several shows during the year. Houston International Boat, Sport & Travel Show is held at the Reliant Stadium and is by no means the largest show but is one of the first shows of the year, being held shortly after the New Year holiday. An estimated 150,000 people will walk through their doors in the ten days of the show. In most years a 1,000 or more vessels will be on display and over 400 vendors will show their wares. But when you walk through the door, did you ever wonder just how all of this was put together and how in the world did they get those boats in here. Well, it wasn’t easy.

An over the road trip with a large boat has its restrictions. The two biggest are height and width. There are limits for both in many states and special permits needed in most. A large consideration for transport is the bridges the boats must pass under. That means the dealers must virtually disassemble the larger boats to meet those restrictions. A good working relationship with a nearby boat yard is essential. Boats that will be on display will have to be moved to the yard based on availability of haul-out schedules and at the same time coordinated with the transport company that will haul the boats to the venue. Ideally the boats will be hauled from the water, have the bottoms powered washed to remove marine growth, and placed directly onto the trailers that will take them to their destination. If all goes well that is exactly what happens. But trucks break down, drivers get ill, travel lifts quit for whatever reason and sometimes the weather just won’t work with you. But somehow it all gets done and on time.

Once the boats are on the trailers, the process of removing whatever parts that will hinder transport are begun. With the sail boats this means masts, booms and rigging must come down prior to loading. Additional items such as arches and even stanchions and pedestal guards may have to come off. Some times this can be done in advance but again it is usually all done in one event to save time and expenses. For power boats this means hardtops, arches and even superstructures as well as propellers and rudders. This can be a daunting task. Hundreds of wires, cables, steering lines and whatever else runs from the bridge to the inner sections of the hull must be disconnected in such a way that it can be properly reconnected again later. These parts of the vessel need to be unbolted and uncaulked and prepared to be lifted from the hull. Once again sound experience and proper equipment are an absolute must. Some of these vessels are priced in the millions of dollars and working with human beings and large boat parts can pose certain hazards.

Removing masts and superstructures requires the use of a crane or the yard’s travel lift depending upon the size and weight. The sections are removed with great care so as not to damage anything and are then themselves loaded onto the trailers, sometimes sharing space with the boats and sometimes needing their own transportation. With the sailboats, most dealers leave the masts and rigging in storage at the yards until after the show. Each hull and each section needs to be supported properly on the trailers so that they will withstand the trip to the show venue without mishap. Care must be taken to support the load so the vessels won’t suffer damage, due to bumps in the road, sudden twists, turns and stops along the way. Even wind affects on the various parts plays in how the trailers are set up and all of this is done as the boat or sections hang from the crane or lift just above its respective trailer. You might think that once the boats are loaded and secured that the hard work is over. But in fact, it has just begun.

The producers of the show will schedule a time and place for the dealers to stage their boats prior to the show. For the larger vessels, this means hauling the boats to the venue days before set up begins and leaving them until the offloading and set-up starts. For dealers that have smaller boats that will be brought in by trailer other than the large transport, that means beginning the move in once the doors are open for set up. In either case, it is a well orchestrated plan that has been fine tuned over the years. Every consideration has been made based on size of vessels to be moved in and even the location within the building itself. Once again, scheduling equipment and manpower correctly determines how quickly and successfully the whole move-in process goes.

It has been said that from chaos and confusion comes order and this about sums up the move-in process. Consideration must be given to access for the larger boats and the equipment needed to unload and re-assemble them. Trucks carrying necessary supplies to build displays, and carry office supplies, signs and banners and whatever else is needed must be able to reach the display areas and unload. Most of this is directed by the shows promoters. Depending on size, the boats may come in by small trailers behind pick-up trucks or on large flatbeds set up for just this purpose. Sailboats must be lifted by a pair of large cranes and blocked in place. The larger power boats need to be raised off their trailers and blocked in position and the sections that were taken apart for shipping must now be put back together and made ready for the public. Again the large cranes might be called to duty. Decking may need to be built and positioned, and carpet or other floor covering placed in the display area. All of the set-up process is done over a period of days prior to the show. Most vendors will begin very early in the morning and continue till late in the evening. That opening day deadline is on everyone’s mind and the entire process is difficult and grueling.

Once the boats are positioned, decks are built and put in place and the major construction is completed, the finishing touches are put on the display area. This can be video displays, information brochures, lights, plants and anything else the dealer may decide that will make the area more attractive and appealing to the public. The equipment on the boats must be checked out and in good working order. Where needed, electricity should be available. Just before Showtime, the boats will be completely detailed and decorated. Hulls will be polished to a high shine and the stainless fittings and hardware will gleam in the lights of the arena.

And let’s not forget all of the vendors selling their various equipment and wares. Several areas are set aside just for these displays. They tend to be much smaller but still require a fair amount of set-up. They can be as varied as insurance brokers, chandleries, engine shops, equipment suppliers both large and small and sometimes, totally unrelated to boating. These displays are usually the last to be set up and are an indicator that the big day is quickly approaching. While all of this is going on, the promoters are busy hanging signs, setting up electrical connections, planning parking for thousands and even placement of the ticket booths. The entire undertaking is one well choreographed effort that even for those of us that have done this many times still watch the process unfold in wonder.
When the big day comes, the doors are finally opened and that first person walks through, the public sees a spectacular display of all things boating under one roof. The selections are almost overwhelming and the individual vendors are standing by to answer questions and sell their wares. There is little evidence of just what went on in those days just prior. It would appear that everything just magically arrived for their viewing pleasure. And once the last one goes home and the doors finally close on this particular show, well the whole process of taking it all down and getting it back where it came from, and put back together or stored away for the next show begins. But that is a whole other story.

Dealing With Hanna

Once again we find ourselves preparing for a major storm. It just seems that weather has turned against us from the time we reached the west coast of Florida and is showing no sign of giving us a break just yet. The marina we are currently in is very exposed in severe weather and staying at the dock is not an option, so we made the decision to haul out if a storm did approach. We were off the boat and away visiting relatives on the west coast of Florida when it became apparent Hanna was moving in the direction of the boat. On Monday we made a call to the marina to let them know we wanted to haul out and made plans to get back. On Tuesday we drove for about 6 ½ hours and reached the marina late afternoon. Once again we verified that the boat was to be hauled and started getting it ready for the storm.

After 14 named storms we have pretty much gotten this down to a science. But the question still comes up, why do we do this to ourselves? While the winds were down and from the right direction we removed the headsail and depending on the potential of the approaching storm we either tie the main and mizzen securely with the sail covers on, or remove them altogether. Hanna is expected to only reach minimal hurricane force and pass to our east so we opted to leave the sails on and tie them down. With full battens and batten cars, removing them is a major task, but we would not hesitate in stronger conditions. Given the fact that the boat would be out of the water and in a more protected area, they stayed on the boat. But the headsail must come off no matter what. We have seen over the years what a loose flogging headsail can do during a storm. Our furling gear does have a hole in the base and the drum to slide a bolt in and lock it in place but we still don’t feel safe doing this.

Next comes securing the wind generator and the self leveler for the radar. Again, we have taken these down in the past for really severe conditions but not this time. Both were tied securely and the manual brake on the wind generator locked down tightly. Next comes the removal from the decks of all loose items that can get blown away or flog around in the wind. Also items like the GPS antenna that could be hit by debris are removed. The solar panels on the hardtop and over the dinghy davits are very vulnerable so they must come off, be wrapped in a protective blanket and stowed inside the boat. Items like the man overboard pole, Lifesling, horseshoe buoy and other safety equipment normally stored on deck are stowed inside the boat. Even though the electronics are supposedly waterproof we still cover them with plastic and tape it all down well with good old duct tape. The deck dorades are removed and the deck plates for them are put in place. This keeps wind blown rain from getting in below. The outboard needs to be removed from the dinghy and stored on its mounting bracket on the stern and the oars, life jackets, etc. which are usually in the dinghy are stowed in the boat as well. At the same time, we remove clothing we will need, important papers, expensive removable electronics and any items we feel we just can not afford to lose. There have been times over the years when we have completely stripped the boat inside and out. We have also ridden out storms on the boat on occasion but this is not a decision we take lightly. We do evacuate more than we stay on board and many factors come into play to finally make that decision. We do not recommend anyone staying on board since once things start to go wrong, in most cases there is very little that can be done and you put yourself in a life threatening situation. A boat can be replaced but a life or limb can not.

Since our hardtop and windshield can not be removed very easily, we still try to secure them as much as possible. In very strong winds it is conceivable that they could be lifted off go airborne. So we run lines over them and secure the lines to hand holds and to the taffrail. In addition, the topping lift for the mizzen is dropped enabling the boat to be hauled out backwards so the weight of the boom and the mizzen tied down at the stern help keep the hardtop in place. The boom end for both the main and the mizzen are secured so that they can not swing from side to side should the sheets give way during the storm. All hatches and ports are dogged down tightly and the hatches are taped all around to again keep wind driven rain out. We know from experience that water will enter from these storms from places that were never a problem before and except for storm conditions will not usually be a problem. Any other spaces that the winds might drive in rain are covered and taped down. Once we have checked and inspected everything over and over and are satisfied we have not missed anything we can just wait for the call to pull the boat out. And we waited and we waited. We are not sure how it happened but we went from what should have been first on the list for haul out, since we called well in advance, to the bottom of the list and one of the last boats to come out. But finally it did happen. I suppose it was due to the fact that we are transients and all of the other folks are locals at the marina full time. The currents here are very strong and the tides are 7 to 8 feet so we are pretty much relegated to high tide and slack water. The crews at the marina seem to be hauling boats all day but at max ebb and flow were mostly hauling power boats that could be pulled with a fork lift and larger power boats that could maneuver in the current. They did an outstanding job with both our boat and the other boats they hauled. Always very friendly, helpful and professional and it was obvious they knew their jobs and did them well. After a bit of adjusting of the travel lift because of our keel configuration we finally came out of the water. Hauling the boat is always a stressful time for us since we don’t do it very often. We were absolutely amazed at the growth on the bottom of the boat considering the fact that we had the bottom painted in Texas, hauled out and had it power washed and zincs replaced days before we left and had been on the move for over 2000 miles. We don’t know what paint the yard actually put on the bottom but suspect it might have been house paint.

Once she was out and on the stands we gave everything another once over looking for anything we might have missed. We still have some food in the fridge, although not much, so every system on the boat was shut down except the fridge and the bilge pumps. Yes, we leave the bilge pumps on when the boat is hauled out. I have seen too many boats sink on the hard over the years and if water does finds its way in we want a way for it to get pumped back out. Even with the fridge running every day, as long as the pumps don’t have to run for a long time, our battery banks will easily hold up for a week or much more with out any recharging. Since we will be staying nearby we will also be able to monitor things. Hurricane Ike is also in the Caribbean and our wonderful weather service does not have a clue where it is going so we may be out of the water for a time until it has either gone elsewhere or passes us by. One final duty is to cover the companionway so that the rains won’t get in and then just wait for the outcome. We have some wonderful friends here in Beaufort that are putting us up at their house until the storm blows through. We never get used to these things and it is always a very stressful time for us since we have everything to lose if the worst happens. But what ever happens is now beyond our control. Once again we have done our best and the rest is up to God, the universe, or whatever higher power might be out there, even if that higher power’s name is Hanna or Ike.

Hanna passes 85 to 100 miles to our east and on Friday we get rain for most of the day. The winds are up a bit but no more than 15 to 20 and the rains are only intermittent. The storm passes to the east Friday night and the winds still don’t get more than maybe 25 in our location. By Saturday morning the sun is shining, the day is clear and beautiful as the storm makes landfall in North Carolina and we have a nice day instead of the mess we expected. With any of these storms we have learned long ago that any outcome can be expected. The south coast of South Carolina dodged the bullet and so did Sea Trek once again. We would now have the task of putting the boat back together but we have never complained about not having to deal with a worst case situation.