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.
We just recently had a family aboard on charter. They had a 14-year-old son with a brand new toy. A drone with a video camera attached to it. He was kind enough to allow us to have some of the footage. We have updated our webpage “About the boat” to include four cool videos of Makara and the reef in Key West. Here’s a sample.
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).
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.
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”.
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!
Amazing news! For weeks I have been calling dockmasters and searching the internet for a place to keep our boat in the Key West area, without any luck. One of the marinas has actually closed by a developer for construction and another one is kicking people out so they can ask for higher rent from new customers. We were quoted the highest price we’d ever seen from them, and chartering was not allowed. With all of the new boats being driven out and on the search for a place to call home, I was coming up with “no availability” everywhere I looked between Key West and Marathon, which is an hour drive from here. Things were not looking good, so we moved into the City Mooring Field for August. I was serously looking into moving us to Marathon so we could start chartering up there, buy my heart wasn’t in it.
After taking someone’s recommendation to walk the docks and ask around, as a last resort Lindsay and I got in the car and drove to a couple of marinas on Stock Island. After being told we didn’t even fit at the first one because are boat is too wide, we drove to the second one called Safe Harbour Marina. we walked around and got a feel for the place. It’s not fancy, quite the opposite and very “Keesie.” You know, driftwood signs, old styrofoam trap bouys string up in the restaurant, shrimp boats, trailor park, old men with ponytails. We’d been there before, but we were not looking at the marina.
They describe themselves as being like “Old Key West.” We saw Mel Fisher’s treasure-hunting boat tied to the wall.
I met the dockmaster and started a conversation with him about how we couldn’t find a slip anywhere. He started thinking and told me to call back in three days, something might be opening up. When I did call him back, he said he knew of a privately-owned slip that he also manages, which is next to his marina on the outside of the basin. Someone just confirmed they were moving out of there and into another spot that opened up today. He didn’t know if our boat would fit but he had another spot for us, however it didn’t have electricity yet. He thought I wouldn’t be interested. I thought “LIKE HELL!” and told him I’d be right there to look at it. We really needed a place to put the boat while we do some travelling in September and October. I really wanted this to work.
I kind of guessed that we would fit, but couldn’t tell without getting in a small boat and actually measuring it. I told him if we fit we would definitely take it. Then I risked it all by asking about living aboard and doing charters from it. The risk would be that activities like this would be restricted and once he knew our plans, he would not rent to us. He said, “I’ve got people calling me and saying they can’t find a charter boat like yours to take them out snorkeling, you would do great business here.” I almost cried I was so exciting about hearing that. I asked him about availability beyond October, and he just shrugged and said, “yeah, sure.” This was a first-come-first-served boat slip that just opened up hours ago, and I was standing there in front of the dockmaster! We started talking about his vacation home in Costa Rica that he is going to list on AirBnb and he started showing me pictures. We talked about that for half an hour and shared some laughs. What a great landlord he would be! But Lindsay and I knew that had to confirm we fit and sign a contract or it’s going to someone else, he wouldn’t wait long.
Lindsay and I borrowed a dighy from a friend at a nearby marina and took some line to measure the distance between the newly driven pilings. WE FIT! We drove the dinghy into the marina and found the dockmaster, Dave. We paid our deposit and got a gate key. That’s it, we locked it in!
We now have a COMMERCIAL BOAT SLIP starting next month. What a relief!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
It’s official, Makara now hails from Key West, Florida.
When titling a vessel, you can choose to deal with a state or with the Coast Guard. We chose the Coast Guard thinking we could get away with not paying sales tax on the boat. We thought wrong. If you stay in any state long enough, they will come asking for proof of registration and title. Although we did not have to title it with Florida, we did have to register it with them since we were going to stay here for more than 30 days.
Since the first week of January, Lindsay and I have been busy deep cleaning, repairing and replacing parts on Makara in Key West, Florida. Before we purchased her, she spent many months alone and in a boatyard.
Before we could live safely aboard, we needed to address the many leaks from rainwater that soaked the mattresses, the 12 volt electrical system that started small fires when fiddling with the wires and the mold that was growing under the ceiling panels.
So we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. We had one cabin the didn’t leak too badly for sleeping so we moved in there and started pulling down the ceilings and checking for the location of the rainwater leaks.
All four of the manual toilets were so hard to pump Lindsay got a callus on her hand so we decided to upgrade to electric ones.
The pressurized water system was leaking and a rusty reservoir tank was about to burst.
I started a list and then sorted them out by priority. New items were discovered daily and when to the top of the “A” list. Just when one leak was found and fixed, a new one would appear. For the first few weeks, the list became longer and longer. Things that I thought were a priority “A” got shifted all the way down to “C”.
We started the long process of sourcing strange new parts and ordering them from the least expensive place. Amazon boxes came piling into our friend’s house in town. We had mountains of boxes in our dinghy every few days, bouncing out to the mooring field. A big pile of recycling loomed in the cockpit at all times.
To date, we have been on board and working for 8 weeks since the first of the year. During that time, I have checked off 134 items that total approximately 319 man hours, averaging 35 hours of labor per week.
The rest of the time was spent researching parts, bicycling to the marine hardware stores and reading how-to sites. The evenings were spent whining about my sore back and applying band-aids to my hands. Well, there have been several happy hours on shore, but I’m not posting about that right now.
Unfortunately, because everything is new to me, I’ve had to redo most of my work about three times before I get it right. It’s frustrating to put something all together before realizing it doesn’t work like I thought it would. At my lowest point I threatened to Lindsay that this is the last boat I’m fixing up. I don’t think that’s true today.
Lindsay has spend much of her time scrubbing and experimenting with toxic chemicals used in various combinations to remove mold, mildew, rust, mysterious stains and old caulk.
She has single handedly removed headliners from the cabins and scrubbed the ceilings free of anything that lives. The place smells so much better now and white walls and ceilings are now very white. It’s difficult to show her work with pictures but I’m sure you can relate. When somethings not clean, it’s not pretty. Cleaning a boat is not easy.
We are far from finished, but at least we feel it is now safe, clean enough and the electric push-button toilets are functioning properly so that we can have guests aboard now. Lindsay and I both still have many things on the list, and the boat is far from ready to cross the Atlantic ocean, let alone leave Florida and cruise up the East Coast. Luckily, we have time to get ready.
Just for fun, I pasted the list of 134 items that have been completed so far:
Tighten rudder cableReplace bilge pump fuses (becuase I foiled them)Return Amazon Garmin thingyFix propane supply systemOrder Lewmar seal kits at West MarineFind leak in stbd engine room shelfActivate new credit cardsReplace orings on all raw filtersFind 16 1 in white plastic trim plugs for forward cabin workAdd washers to water heater baseMake American flag pole from mop handleInstall salon fanRepair PF cabin fanInstall new cabin fanRepair 12V freezerRebed gauges and helm engine control panel shield – it leaksFix stove igniterFix Propane lightRebed helm seat mounts – they leakRemove and seal rear portlight visors – they leakReplace 2nd fresh water supply pumpCheck Morse ST-3 control for neutral warm up positionReturn West Marine RIB-350 GreyStop leak under galley sinkRepair Lindsay’s PFDRemove salt H2O toilet supply port headRemove old toilet PA headReplace shower drain pump, j(x) boxes, clean up shit work portReplace faucet in SA head – next it leaksReplace faucet in SF headReplace faucet in PF headReplace accumulator tankReplace faucet in PA head – readyReplace water heater fittingInstall elbows in shower drain hose (kinked) portRebed stb stern handrailRegister Makara and pay taxesBuild snubber, attach lights and tighten tiller on old dinghyGet refunded for Gill jacketInstall new stereo and see if it worksRebed aft boweyesRemove, straighten, and rebed port stern handrailPatch holes in dinghyReplace courtesy lightsReplace headliner in PF cabinRemove headliner and clean in PF cabinRemove and seal compassRemove rust stains from dinghyRepair water heater – RESET HI TEMP SWITCHFollow laptop repairFind / Fix leak in helm/above nav stationReplace hatch gasket and rebed guard rail in PF cabinRepair PA engine hatch and remount hingesRebed far forward padeyes each sideReplace washdown pump and switch power from windlassReplace control and wiring to winlassReplace PF cabin headlinerApply registration numbers to MakaraPaint shower bilge pump PFOrder reading lightOrder switches for cabin lightsOrder replacement lights for hardtopBuy Dinghy cooler for shoppingMake new dock linesOrganize spare fuses and light bulbsFollow boat insuranceReplace bulbs in engine control panelsReplace PA toiletRemove headliner, clean, replace in PA cabinReroute and protect bilge pump wiring portReroute AC pump hose PFStop leak in galley frameless portlightCheck engine room blowers and diagnoseDetermine leak in salon floor / liquor cabinetInstall rebuilt old latch on liferaft hatchStop leak in aft shower headStop leak in SA side frameless portlightClean and lubricate all hatch gaskets, inspect for leaksschedule scope between 15 and 27 AprilFill CO2 bottle for carbonated water makerInstall new light in galley to testCheck Galleon for February 2017+Try escushion ring on sink faucet PAReplace shower pump filters port sideFix hinge in PA vanity doorreplace cabinet walls in PA cabinInstall bellscrape and ospho AC compressor in PA cabinDesign and build engine room stepsTest Alternator on port side, Remove and find repairmanSpray paint dinghyInstall pull switch and new light fixtureReplace yellow smart control switchReplace clogged AC drain tubing in salonReplace light fixture on back deck floorInstall perko latch on water tank lidInstall grill over old toilet holesRepair generatorReplace breakers, install boxes and run wire for marine heads portInstall smart control, supply line and toilet PFReplace shower pump switches portTidy up all lines in port mechanical roomInstall 12V fan in freezerReroute and protect bilge pump wiring stbdRemove heads and salt water hoses stbdRepair SF cabin seat bracketsRemove and straighten or replace SF head door hingesReplace shower drain pumps, filters, and j(x) boxesRemove headliner, replace velcro and clean in SF cabinReplace hatch gasket and rebed guard rails in SF cabinInstall boxes and run wire for marine heads stbdDrill larger holes, reroute cables at inverter, mount switchInstall AFT new cabin lights and pull chain switchesInstall SF cabin light and pull chain switchInstall grill over old toilet holes stbdTidy up all lines in stbd mechanical roomInstall new 120V boxes, recepticles and port light switchAsk around about removing gas valveReplace port alternatorInstall smart control, supply line and toilet SAReplace pump switch SARegister dinghyReplace cabin lightsPaint numbers on dinghyRemove and reseal sink drains, hook up plug chainsInstall new cheap tester reading lamp SFInstall smart control, supply line and toilet SFReplace pump switch SFInstall new lights in salonTape up window seamsReplace outlets in all four cabinsReplace smart controls and return yellow ones to RaritanInstall trim rings on all four faucets
The trip was from December 15th to 30th, 2015. I wish I would have taken more video, but Lindsay and I were kind of busy sailing in rough seas. It was just the two of us after Southport, NC. Music by Pink Martini. Enjoy.
On Sunday December 12th and Monday the 13th, we finished up some needed repairs on Makara’s fuel tanks. As forecasted, the wind blew hard from the south during that time. We decided to wait until 11 am on Tuesday at high tide to depart, as the winds were forecast to turn, or “clock” to the west. The previous owner, Tyler, agreed to come along and show us how things worked as we sailed along.
The six-foot waves from the south were tough to sail against, and beating to weather is never fun. We kept on a somewhat comfortable angle to the wind and waves for the rest of the day. We were definitely not heading directly to our destination in Southport, NC but we were sailing! We headed offshore.
Apparently, a solo sailor on a forty foot boat was about 60 miles offshore and in distress at the same time we were heading out to sea! I can only assume he was heading south like everyone else and was off Cape Hatteras over the weekend’s heavy weather. Anyway, his distress call was heard and he was airlifted as you can see in this video. I could be critical and try to assume why he got into trouble but I’m not going to do that. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.
THEN, about 12 hours later, we spotted flares coming from the direction of Camp Lejeune. It may have been explosions from military exercises, we don’t know. That’s why when we saw several long-lasting amber flares at about the same time in the direction of the open sea, about 30 or 40 miles offshore, we thought they were more military exercises. Then we heard a call from a passing military vessel by the name of Button. They were asking if we had heard a distress call, as they could not make it out clearly and were no longer getting the transmission. We told him we saw flares but thought they came from them! The radio man aboard the military ship Button said, no, they were not their flares. The flares were well off their stern when they saw them. They then proceeded to relay the distress call to the Coast Guard in Charlotte, SC. They also hailed a freighter that was passing the area where the flares were seen. Because we don’t have a very powerful VHF like a military or Coast Guard vessel does, we didn’t hear any more about those flares. We were too small to assist anyone in that weather so we were not asked to do anything, in case you were wondering if we were supposed to help.
It seems weird there were two emergencies twelve hours apart in the same area. Lindsay mentioned there might have been a mixup in the am and pm of the reporting on this story. There is a very good chance we saw this man’s flares that night. This is quite possibly “b-roll” of previous rescues, as that is in the title on the Coast Guard website. As Captain Ron says “Nobody knows!”
We are glad he is safe and it is unfortunate he left his vessel at sea.