Makara Maintenance: Part One – Getting hauled out and being held hostage in the travel lift. Off to a bad start.

The first of many video blogs (vlogs) about our silly boating adventures aboard MAKARA. This one is the first in the series of a major (expensive) maintenance program that addresses several issues related to the vessel’s age.

Please be aware that we are giving you the day-by-day reality of shock over prices, disappointment in other people, general let-downs in situations and some of the profanity that ensues.

These are the shitty days in paradise. Sorry.

Makara – What’s In A Name?

When we bought our catamaran, she came with the name Makara. We could, of course, change the name of the boat. Even though it is considered by some as terribly bad luck, there is a delightfully elaborate ceremony that you can perform (as we did to change Tadd’s original sailboat from Praxithea to Third Aye) to appease the gods of the elements and the great Neptune. But as Makara didn’t pose the difficulty of having to constantly spell the name out to all the world over the radio, and because we liked it, we chose to keep the name (and just change to home port to Key West).

Sailing Key West


So What Does Makara Mean?

Makara, chosen by the previous owners, means ‘sea dragon’ or ‘aquatic-monster,’ in Sanskrit (मकर). Long thought to be a mythical creature in Hindu and Buddhist traditions, paintings and sculptures of this fantastical creature are found in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan — practically everywhere in Asia.

Ganga being carried by Makara
Ganga being carried by Makara

In India Makara  is known to be the vahana (vehicle) of Ganga-devi – the goddess of the river Ganges and the vahana of the god of the sea, Varuna. And in Hindu astrology the Makara is also the astrological sign of Capricorn. A little research reveals this strange mythical creature to have been very popular both in ancient times and in our present day.

The Makara is often depicted with the head of a crocodile, horns of a goat, the body of an antelope and a snake, the tail of a fish or peacock and the feet of a panther. Varuna is said to be the only one who can control the Makara and does not fear them.

Makara are considered guardians of gateways and thresholds, protecting throne rooms as well as entryways to temples; it is the most commonly recurring creature in Hindu and Buddhist temple iconography, and also frequently appears as a gargoyle or as a spout attached to a natural spring. Makara ornaments are a popular traditional wedding gift for the bride; these makara-shaped earrings called Makarakundalas are sometimes worn by the Hindu gods, for example Shiva, the Destroyer, or the Preserver-god Vishnu, the Sun god Surya, and the Mother Goddess Chandi. Makara is also the insignia of the love god Kamadeva, who has no dedicated temples and is also known as Makaradhvaja, “one whose flag depicts a makara”.

Varuna riding Makara
The Sea God Varuna

The leading Hindu temple architect and builder Ganapati Sthapati describes Makara as a mythical animal with the body of a fish, trunk of an elephant, feet of a lion, eyes of a monkey, ears of a pig, and the tail of a peacock. A more succinct explanation is provided: “An ancient mythological symbol, the hybrid creature is formed from a number of animals such that collectively possess the nature of a crocodile. It has the lower jaw of a crocodile, the snout or trunk of an elephant, the tusks and ears of a wild boar, the darting eyes of a monkey, the scales and the flexible body of a fish, and the swirling tailing feathers of a peacock.”

All in all a pretty cool name for a boat… so we’ll keep it!

Approaching Storm Threat

The forecast is now 80% of tropical storm formation by the time this disturbance reaches Florida this weekend, with a possibility that it will reach Hurricane strength as it passes through the warm waters of the Bahamas.

Invest 99-L 23-Aug

So that means we have to monitor this system’s strength and direction closely.

We need to make a decision soon to either sail out of it’s path or to try and get into our new marina slip before it gets here.

InReach Plays Pivotal Role In Saving Novelists Life

When Tadd and I talk to people about our planned adventures sailing around the world, starting with crossing the Atlantic next spring, they are typically surprised that we’re so excited about the prospect of being out in the middle of the ocean, hundreds of miles from land. Of course there is a scary element to launching on any offshore voyage, but like anything in life, preparation is everything. And a big part of that prep is safety equipment, from lifelines running from bow to stern of the boat (so that we can be tethered to the boat at all times) to auto-inflating lifejackets on all people on deck, and from exposure suits (it’s damn chilly out there!) to a “ditch bag” all packed with emergency items, first aid, gps and food etc, to be grabbed at the last moment before abandoning ship (should the worst happen… remember, always step up into a life raft!). So last year Tadd invested in one more safety device, which until now has been used for fun rather than any emergency!

We have a Delorme inReach, which is what allows friends and family to check here on our site and see where we are. It’s a small but great device… so great this amazing piece of innovation was, of course, acquired by the giant, Garmin. But as fun as it has been, it will be a great comfort to us during our major journeys, and here’s precisely why:

michael-hurley “Less than halfway through his 3,400 ­mile solo trip to Ireland, novelist Michael Hurley’s sailboat began taking on water. What could have easily become a tragic tale was saved thanks to his inReach, which he had brought on the trip to stay in contact with family and post to social media. Michael used his DeLorme inReach to send out a distress text which the Coast Guard relayed to all vessels in the area, including Michael’s exact coordinates and bearing. Help arrived less than two hours after the signal was sent. Now Michael says he’ll make sure to bring his inReach with him whenever he plans to go off the grid.”  To read more…

Washed up dreams

Cuban Key of Hope: Marquesa

Today’s trip was a couple hours west of Key West, to a mangrovey (is that a word?) key called Marquesa. On the way, Lindsay mentioned that we would mostly see Cuban refugee detritus. I thought, “Hmmm, I wonder what it was like to make landfall in the USA, knowing you are saved.” Then I saw this cloud. Imagine being a Cuban, seasick and scared that the US Coast Guard can intercept you and send you back to Cuba. Imagine seeing these rainbows and knowing your dream of being washed up on land was going to come true.

Double Rainbow Cloud

It’s about 90 miles to Cuba from here. Obviously, these folks made it.


We only visited about 25% of the Marquesa Key. Lindsay shot these photos as I drove the dinghy around in about two feet of water. It was high tide.


We noticed a trend in the Cuban vessel construction.


Although they were made from different materials…..


They all had enough “feedback” from others who made it to add a ring of flotation around the outside of their boats.


Although this one did not have signs of a float ring, it was most definitely a horrible ride with that flat bottom.


This one looks pretty recent, and you can see the canvas tarp they used to hold anything that floats to the outside of the boat, just in case they took on water.


Here are the new owners of a wooden hull. One Laughing Gull and some terns. I forget what kind they are. Peter? Will you tell me again? Okay, Peter told me the one on the left is a Royal Tern, and the others look like Least Terns.


This one shows the US Coast Guard tagged it with a sign that was dated. The ink was completely gone, so we can’t tell how long ago this brought new people to our country. We were suprised the boats were just left to degrade here, in a nature preserve.


Just imagine what it must have felt like to have your dream to be washed up in America. I can. Can you?

Trying to make ends meet in Key West

We’re making this up as we go along…

Makara in Key West

As you know, we are done with the major repairs on the boat. We have moved into a marina at great expense so that we can enjoy lots of water and air conditioning onboard. The credit card bills for all of the upgrade equipment have come due. The reality of the cost of living here in such a popular and beautiful place is currently upon us. We recently discovered that our original plan of renting rooms on AirBnB to pay for everything had a major flaw in it.

no airbnb

Since we are technically in a slip that is deemed by the city-owned marina as “transient” and not “commercial” it is a violation of city code to accept any payment for use of the boat while in this location. We were reported by another charter boat in the area for having an AirBnB listing. We are lucky that we didn’t get kicked out of the marina or fined for it. We had a discussion with the Marina Manager and have come to an understanding. No more earning money from this slip, which is fair. So, we have removed the boat’s listing. So much for making extra money that way. The Mexican vacation rentals are doing well, however, it is going to be slow season from September through November down there.

pile of paperworkGetting a commercial slip and trying to pay for it with charters requires a business license and a captain’s license. We don’t have either right now. We heard there is a very long waiting list (as much as 10 years and possibly longer) for those coveted commercial slips here in the Historic Seaport. We weren’t planning to stay in the area past January anyway. We don’t want to leave Key West in order to find a commercial slip in some other part of the Keys or Florida, so that’s not going to happen either.

It’s time to find a job around here.


Lindsay has been hired by Diver’s Direct in a retail position. That will definitely help her with something to do during the day, but it’s not going to pay her very much. In fact, if all we had was here paycheck, it wouldn’t even pay for the monthly slip rent. It would take about three weeks worth of pay to have your own apartment down here, but that’s another story. Being employed is a move in the right direction and will open her up to new contacts and opportunities around town. It also comes with free scuba diving trips. That’s a nice perk. She is also volunteering with the SPCA, which might help with networking, but it’s more about being around dogs, which makes her happy!

USCG Master Expired

I want to work as an “on-call” Captain on a local charter boat, but my USCG license expired. I missed the chance of an easy renewal process when that happened. I am in the process of taking the required classroom courses all over again. Luckily I can do that online. The next examination date was June 18th, so I got that out of the way. I had over 60 hours of study to get through before I could take the exams. So now it’s another situation of waiting.  The application process is supposed to take about a month before I get my document, so hopefully it will show up soon. I need that document before I can even ask to be hired to drive a boat around here. I should have started months ago!

waterfront brewery

My other idea to make money was to find a way into the Waterfront Brewery and prove my worth somehow. I have been networking for a couple weeks to carefully and ask the right people about volunteering there. The commute would be easy, since It is located at the head of our dock, a couple hundred feet away. It sounded like a fun idea and certainly would be convenient.

A couple of months ago, at a bar, my friend Mary Jo pointed out one of the partners of the brewery, Chris. I introduced myself to him and chatted back and forth with him for a couple of minutes. After emailing him and pitching the idea of volunteering, he immediately forwarded my info to the head Brewmaster, Justin, which was very cool of him. Unfortunately, Justin told me that volunteers are not allowed for liability reasons. He did tell me that he wasn’t busy today and to stop by to meet him. I just got back from that meeting. He mentioned that they are getting ready to expand the brewery with some more fermentation tanks in about 3 months. He recommended that I apply for work in the brewery / restaurant so that when the tanks come, he might need help in the brewery. The transition into the brewery would be easier if I was already employed there. I just filled out my first job application in many, many years. That was weird. We’ll see what happens!

So for us, it’s all about networking and persistently seeking out new opportunities. Staying positive also helps!

Liveaboards don’t get holidays.

When sailors live on their boat, they are called “liveaboards.” A more fitting term would be “full time live-in engineer.” If we have something break or leak, we are completely on our own. We can’t call a serviceman and go about our business. Our business is finding the problem ourselves so our boat won’t sink or catch on fire. Why are we on our own, you ask? Because every boat is built differently and usually includes faulty workmanship either from the factory or more likely from repairs or improvements made by someone else. Besides, a boat handyman will charge you 50 to 125 bucks an hour to learn your about your boat, and maybe fix it the first time but probably not, and that is if you can reach him and if he can show up in the next couple of days. We are forced to learn our boat’s systems whether we like it or not.

Today is the 4th of July. Last night, when I got home from a pool party, Lindsay let me know that the gas at the stove wasn’t workin (ummm, the tank is half full…) and there is a small pool of water in one of the cabinets (that’s a mystery). Okay, so that’s me for tomorrow. So as a liveaboard, there is no calling anyone, just dig in and fix it asap, which luckily in this case I got is all done in a morning.

I woke up and put on my work clothes, which are stained shorts with lots of pockets and a light colored t-shirt. I then ate a cold breakfast and made coffee. I started cleaning the stove parts.

This is a 3 burner propane (LP) stove.
This is a 3 burner propane (LP) stove. The front burners have always been weak, Today it just quit.

I cleaned all of the parts where the gas comes out, soaked the nozzles in vinegar and ran some wire strands through the tiny orifices to see if that helped.

These are the brass nozzles turning the vinegar green. Note the wire strands used to gently clean the orifices.
These are the brass nozzles turning the vinegar green. That is a black electrical wire, marine grade.

I lit the stove and fiddled with the knobs. It didn’t help, the flames were very weak and then went out. I suspect the cheap regulator I bought from Amazon has failed. I pull out all of the tools necessary and remove my custom-made wall-mounted regulator and shut off valve manifold and start disassembling it.

Tools in Makara cockpit

I notice the water pressure pump cycle a few times, which usually means someone is showering. Lindsay opened the door to our cabin and stepped into a pool of water and water running down the steps. She was not showering, which means the small leak just went full force and is pouring water into the bilge. Why did that happen just now? Man, I’m glad that didn’t happen in the middle of the night! Now the gas problem is on the “back burner” so to speak.

We shut off the water pump and started with removing seat cushions and everything we have stored in the lockers and cupboards to get closer to where we think the water is coming from. I had to find the leak right now, no matter if it’s a holiday or not. We shut off the air conditioning, radio, fans, ice maker, etc. and turn on the water pump. The leak can be heard under this storage locker floor. I have to cut a hole.

Here’s where livaboard experience counts. I need to cut a hole to see what’s going on under the floor panel. It would be best to know how what size of hole to cut for an access cover plate thing before I started hacking up the floor, even though it’s in a locker. Luckily, West Marine is three blocks away and I go and buy a deck plate for an access hole cover, I also buy a new LP regulator as well. I trace the outline and use my roto-zip to cut a hole in the floor, being careful to not cut through the bottom of the boat. (Yeah, we’ve all done that once.)

I stick my camera in the hole and see this….

Find the leak

I can’t see the leak. This hole I just cut is now useless, except for pictures. I cut another hole in an area that is behind panels, so I don’t need for it to be any special shape. I stuck a light in there and shot a video towards the light, this is what I saw.

See the spray from the pinhole? There’s your sign.

I cut another access hole directly on top of the pipe with the leak. I cut the tubing and inserted shut offs that I had in my inventory. Yeah, experience coming in handy again, especially because my tubing is metric. I go to West Marine and buy another deck plate for this hole.

plumbing in access panel

I wait, here’s the good part. So why was there a hole in the tubing right there and nowhere else? Because every boat is built differently and usually includes faulty workmanship either from the factory or more likely from repairs or improvements made by someone else. Remember that? Oh yeah, and in this case because someone dropped a utility knife blade where there is pressurized water tubing and electrical wires, and didn’t bother to find it. So the vibrations of the boat rubbed the water tubing against this piece of sharp steel until eventually it made a pinhole, on July 4th, 2016.

Thanks, buddy, whoever you are. You are sloppy and you ruined my holiday. Get bent.

Okay so that’s the plumbing fixed. Back to the gas problem. I watch a You Tube video and then fiddle with trying to raise the pressure by turning the thing that holds the spring. It doesn’t change anything. I decide it’s just best to replace the regulator. I re-customize the mounting bracket, yes re-customize is a word, and install the entire manifold again. Mind you, this is a couple of hours later.

That black thing on the right is an electric switch, for safety.
That black thing on the right is an electric switch, for safety.

So this new regulator has a pressure gauge that shows the pressure coming into the regulator. It’s on top on the left. I notice the pressure is kind of low, like 50, when the gauge goes up to 300. The stovetop burners light, but the flames are very low. So I switch tanks, still 50. I remove the hose that I bought from Amazon and use the hose that came with the new regulator, the gauge goes to 150. Crap, it was the hose. I light the stove and it goes wild with tall blue flames. Huh, the hose, go figure.

Happy Independance day, everyone. I’m feeling quite independant and alone in my liveaboard debacle today, but I have water and gas again, and it’s 5:30pm. That would have cost me like, I don’t know, 500 bucks. I wonder what tomorrow will bring. Who cares, I’m going to see the fireworks tonight!