Wecome To RVs and OHVs

This blog is all about RVs (recreational vehicles) and OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles), camping, and survival
and how they work together to provide wholesome family fun and great learning opportunities.
Many posts are intended to familiarize novice campers and RVers with RV systems and basic camping and survival
skills. But even experienced RVers and campers will enjoy the anecdotes and may even benefit from a new
perspective. Comments, questions, and suggestions are encouraged.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Are You Ever Too Old to RV or OHV?

This is a question that comes up more and more as we get older.  However, the calendar is not going to tell  you when  you have to quit camping in your RV or riding your OHV.  One of our favorite OHV quotes is:  "You don't stop riding because you get old; you get old because you stop riding." 

My Mom and Dad didn't even buy their RV until Dad was approaching retirement age.  For many years my Mom's Mom traveled with them too until she was well into her late 80's at least.  I have a dirt biking friend who continues to organize and lead week long rides in Mexico even though he is in his late 70's.  My wife and I logged 50 off road miles on our dirt bikes on my 70th birthday.  I was already 73 when we got our sailboat!

How can you tell when its time to quit?  Unless acquire some dangerous health condition, there is really no reason why you can't keep camping and riding as long as you feel up to it.  I know many older folks who have had their driving privileges suspended but I also know plenty who keep going and going.  My own Mother, now 94, voluntarily quit driving only a few years ago when she felt her eye sight and reaction time made her feel uncomfortable behind the wheel.  I was very impressed a few years ago with my then 85 year old step dad's driving.  Unlike many elderly drivers, he maintained a youthful level of awareness and never fell into the over-cautious pattern many older drivers adopt.  On the other hand, we have seen some family members loose their driver's licenses due to failing eye sight or symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease.  They weren't happy about it, but we agreed with the DMV, especially have we had to go find the family car one had abandoned and walked home more than once.

My Grandfather always said "A man will rust out quicker than he'll wear out."   I definitely believe that is true.  I have seen men retire and just plop down in front of the TV with nothing to occupy their minds or exercise their bodies except the remote control.  In many cases instead of pushing the buttons on the remote control  they were soon pushing up daisies!  Publications for retired folks are promoting volunteer service as a way of improving retirement.  Volunteer service gives people something productive and rewarding to do and often includes more physical activity than they would otherwise pursue on their own.  Camping, boating, and OHVing are activities that also fulfill many of the same needs. 

All this being said, we need to behave responsibly.  We need to measure our strength and stamina and adjust our schedules and expectations accordingly.  We need to remember that our bones are more brittle and that injuries will take longer to heal than when we were young.  That may mean being a little less aggressive in our off road pursuits or turning in a little earlier and/or sleeping in a little later when camping.  If we are taking prescription medications, we must remember to bring them along and take them during our outings -- and to consider any possible side effects or restrictions associated with them.

So, don't let the calendar or some arbitrary number of birthdays determine when you have to stop camping, boating, or riding your OHV.  After all, having more birthdays is a good thing:  the more  you have the longer  you live!  Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes good nutrition and adequate exercise.

Just Do It!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Boat Clutter

A boat, like any other form of abode, will  collect clutter if you don't make a conscious effort to avoid it.   Fortunately, at least for us, there are usually fewer opportunities to collect unnecessary souveniers out on the water than in campgrounds or while traveling, but it is still way to easy to bring aboard items for a single outing that seem to never find their way back home.  And, while it may not be as likely to accumulate a lot of unnecessary stuff on a boat, it is likely to be more important to get rid of excess weight.  Excess weight in an RV can impact gasoline mileage and, if heavy enough may affect performance and safety.  On a boat, any excess weight is going to affect displacement -- how deep your boat sets in the water and that will definitely affect performance and safety.

Just like an RV or a set of camping bins, boats will benefit greatly from routine inventory and organization.  Often you may find it even more important to be sure you have everything you need on board and aren't carrying around a lot of extra weight.  Extra weight usually means a drop in performance for both power boats and sail boats and can affect handling too.  Because there aren't as many places you can acquire more "stuff" out on the lake or the ocean, you might not accumulate excess as quickly as you would in an RV or even when tent camping, but it is way too easy to "bring along" something for a specific outing and leave in on board indefinitely.  Over time that can amount to a lot of extra weight and a lot of stuff you have to move or sort through when you need something.

There are very likely at least as many ways to organize your boat as there are sailors but there are some general guidelines that can make life easier.  Unless you have a really big yacht, space is going to be at a premium and you will want to make use of every bit  you have and do it efficiently.  Some things, like cooking utensils and food related supplies obviously belong in the galley.  Things like boat hooks should be stored somewhere topside so you don't have to dig them out when docking.  Tools should be easily accessible.  My Venture 24 sailboat has a small compartment right where you step down through the companionway into the cabin that I found to be a good spot for my tools and spare parts.  They are out of the way of normal activity but quick and easy to get to when they are needed.  Things like life jackets and other flotation devices should always be within easy reach.  You want to be able to don your life jacket at the first sign of turbulent conditions and throwable flotation devices (used to aid passengers who fall overboard without a life jacket) must be immediately available.  Coast Guard regulations require you to have a life jacket on board for every passenger and it is not a bad idea for everyone to wear one at all times.  Throwable floation devices, like life preservers and throwable cushions should be readily accessible from the cockpit.  Many boats have storage under the cockpit, accessible through one or more hatches in the cockpit.  This is a good place for other things you might need while underway.  Some things need to be right at  hand, like the winch handle for sailboats.  When the boat is docked in port or the marina you might want to stow the winch handle inside to avoid it being stolen, but when sailing it is good to have it in a holster attached to the cabin bulkhead next to the companionway hatch.

Tool kits are essential to maintain your boat and effect emergency repairs out on the water.  However, you should try to limit your tool kit to just what you might need -- and know how to use -- to get back to the dock -- any dock -- if something goes wrong.   I have seen articles that suggest having cordless drills on board, but personally I think that, unless you have a large, powerful boat, they are likely to add too much weight and take up too much room for the few times you will actually find your need them.  I would recommend sticking with a basic set of hand tools that will let you take care of most routine tasks and basic emergency repairs.  Such a tool kit doesn't have to take up a lot of room or add a lot of weight.  And, as always, look for multi-use tools that can help minimize what you need to bring along.

After you've had your boat for a while it is a good idea to take time to go through and take inventory of everything you have on board.  Over time some needed tools or supplies will get lost or used up and need to be replaced and you will tend to accumulate miscellaneous items you don't need on every trip.  Taking time to take inventory lets you get rid of unnecesary stuff, replace important missing or damaged, and, in general, refresh your memory of what you have and where it is.  If you find stuff you never use, seriously consider taking it home unless it is a critical tool or survival item.  When you find damaged or missing tools, replaced them.  Outdated supplies should be discarded and outdated or used up supplies replaced.  It might also be a good time to consider how effective your current organization plan is and to relocate frequently used items to where they will be more easily accessed.

Boats can also accumulate unwanted stuff on the hull below the waterline.  A buildup of barnacles, algae, and/or other materials will add weight and resistance.  Boat bottoms require special paint.  Usually it contains copper to reduce growth of barnacles and is designed so ablation helps keep junk from adhering.  While that helps keep the bottom clean, it does mean the bottom must be repainted on a regular schedule to maintain protection, performance, and appearance.

Clean it up!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Cordless Tools for Camping


Our modern technology has produced a plethora of  cordless tools that add convenience and make many tasks easier.  Some of these can be used in an RV, on a boat, or even when tent camping too.  Being cordless they can be used just about anywhere without the need for direct access to 120 volt power.    I've even seen them recommended for use on sailboats.  Of course, you will either need some way to recharge the batteries or bring along plenty of fully charged batteries to last more than a day or so.  Solar battery chargers are a convenient way to recharge many types of batteries.  If you can't find a solar charger for your cordless battery you might be able to use a solar panel and an inverter to power the factory 120 volt charger.  Even the little 150 watt inverters that plug into a cigarette lighter should be powerful enough to charge batteries for cordless tools.  If you use such a device, be sure to monitor the charge of the 12 volt battery (RV, boat, or vehicle battery) is it connected to.  Considering the weight of cordless tools and the space they take up you will want to be sure they are worth bringing along.  If you seldom use them, you should probably leave them at home, especially the larger, heavier ones.

Perhaps the most familiar and most popular cordless tool is a drill/driver.  These are available in a variety of sizes.  Size is usually defined by the largest drill bit the chuck will accept.  1/4', 3/8" and 1/2" units are typical.  Another measurement is power, which is usually determined by the battery voltage.  Common drill/driver batteries are 12, 18, and 20 volts.  As you might expect, the higher the voltage, the more powerful the drill.  Recent advances in battery technology have further enhanced the strength and performance of power cells for drill/drivers.  The older 12 and 18 volt batteries had a tendency to be heavy and to take a fairly long time to charge.  Modern 20 volt lithium-ion batteries are usually lighter, last longer, and charge faster.  Lithium-ion batteries also continue to deliver satisfactory performance right up until the charge is gone, whereas with older style batteries the power would slowly decrease as the battery lost charge.  Sometimes that comes as a surprise to the user when the device just suddenly stops working, as if a switch or connection had failed.  If your lithion-ion powered cordless device stops working, be sure to charge the battery before concluding it is worn out or has failed.

A drill/driver is a handy tool to have around an RV.  There are hundreds of screws that hold things together.  Sometimes they need routine tightening; sometimes you need to remove panels or disassemble components to do other work.  A drill/driver makes these tasks faster and easier.  If you routinely do your own maintenance you will quickly find a cordless drill/driver indispensable for things like installing, removing, and replacing things like roof vents and windows.  However, you probably won't be replacing vents and windows in camp very often but it can be invaluable at home!

Why not just use a 120 volt drill if I have 120 volt power available?  I suppose you could for some things, but the cords often get in the way or restrict access to where you can use them.  In addition, and perhaps more importantly, cordless drill/drivers have a clutch system built into the chuck that allows you to select a torque setting so you don't over-drive a screw and sink it below the surface.  A screw isn't going to hold a panel in place if it is driven all the way through the panel.  BTW, 120 volt drills are usually more powerful and will be faster if you're drilling a lot of holes, especially in heavy materials.

Another cordless tool I have found extremely useful around my RV is a Worx brand cordless screwdriver.  It is only 4 volts, with a built in rechargable battery.  In place of a chuck it has shaft with a 1/4" hex socket.  It has a feature not found in larger drill/drivers, but is extremely useful:  the shaft can be extended to reach into places that the fat chuck on a regular drill/driver can't possible fit.  You can get a variety of  1/4" hex drive bits to fit the socket.  I even have a set of a few small drill bits with hex drives on them.  I was pleasantly surprised by both the power and how long a charge lasts, especially for such a small unit.  It is light weight, easy to use with one hand, and stores easily in any tool box or kitchen drawer.  It does not have the clutch feature of larger units but, even though it has plenty of power to drive long screws, it generally doesn't over-drive them.  It doesn't have the high speed and high torque of a regular drill/driver for drilling holes, but will work for some light drilling using hex-shanked drill bits.  If I only had the room or the budget for a single cordless tool for my RV, boat, or camp kit, it would be a Worx 4 volt screwdriver along with a variety of screwdriver and nutdriver bits an some hex-shank drills.   These are small enough and light enough to take just about anywhere, even as part of a boat took kit.

If  you do a lot of OHV or other mechanical work in the field, you might find a cordless impact wrench to be a good addition to you tool kit.  You can sometimes  use nut drivers in a cordless drill/driver for many routine tasks, but if you really need to loosen a tight fastener, an impact wrench is what you'll need.  One task for which I have found that is almost impossible to do without  damaging parts without an impact wrench is disassembling the clutch on my dirt bikes.  I've seen guys try to secure the "cage" with some kind of lever (a screwdriver, wrench handle, lug wrench, or crow bar) while loosening the nut with a socket and rachet, but often as not it ends up damaging the cage.  An impact wrench can spin the nut loose without damaging the cage.

You can even get battery powered soldering irons.   I have one about the size of a penlight and it works pretty well for light duty soldering of electronic parts.

Bits and accessories.  To get the most out of your cordless tools you will need the right selection of bits.  Look for a kit than contains a variety of bits:  2 or 3 sizes each of flat and Philips bits, some hex bits, and some torx bits.  On many RVs  you will also need a square drive bit.  Also carry a set of twist drills with hex shanks.  Nut drivers are available with 1/4" hex drives that fit the same sockets as standard screwdriver tips letting you use our power tool in even more situations.  Something I have found handy are extra long screwdriver bits.  Many of the variety packs of bits have bits that are only about an inch long and are intended to be  used in a extension gripped in the chuck of the drill/driver.  Standard bits commonly used in drill/drivers for most tasks are about 1 1/2" long.    Some are reversable with a Philips tip on one end and a flat tip on the other.   I like to have a few 3-4" bits on hand to reach past obstructions.   That has been less of a factor for me since getting my Worx screwdriver with the extendable shaft.

For those with bigger budgets you an even get cordless chain saws for ease in  handling your fire wood.   I wouldn't want to count on one to match a gasoline powered model for cutting a cord of firewood, but for light use around camp use they should be great.  The only major downside I've seen so far is that they tend to be a little pricey, but when the prices come down I plan to add one to my motorhome.

Keep your cordless tools charged!  Stocking your RV or camp kit with cordless tools won't do  you any good if they aren't charged and ready to go when you need them.  Check the manufacturer's charging instructions.  Some can be left on the charger indefinitely so they are always fully charged but some caution you to avoid over charging and leaving those on the charger will damage the battery.  Since most of us don't get to enjoy our RVs as much as we would like, it is too easy to forget about our cordless tools until we need them.  It might be a good idea to have pre-trip checklist that includes charging your cordless batteries a day or two before your departure.    If possible bring along a way to recharge them as necessary during your trip.  If you have an RV with a generator you can just plug in the charger anytime you are running the generator.  If you don't have a generator or are car camping, pick up an inexpensive inverter that plugs into your cigarette lighter so you can plug your cordless chargers into it when necessary.  I use a portable inverter to recharge cordless batteries on my boat where the 12 volt deep cycle battery is maintained by a solar panel.

Cut the cord!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

RV Insurance

Like any other motor vehicle, RVs must have liability insurance to be driven on public roads.  However, as always, comprehensive and collision coverage is normally optional unless it is required by a lien holder.  Given the high cost of many RVs and their accessories, comprehensive coverage might be considered extremely valuable.  For example, a good RV comprehensive policy will replace your awning if it comes unfurled on the  highway or you catch it on a tree in a campground.

You might  be able to add your RV to your  automobile policy, but unless they are already well known for covering RVs, chances are you won't get the best deal or the best coverage.  The time I tried to add my RV to a very good automobile policy they quoted me a premium that was more than double what I'd been paying for RV coverage previously -- and the coverage they offered was limited.

Companies that specialize or at least provide some focus on RV policies understand that RVs are different than cars and often, if not always, offer coverage that specifically targets the special features of RVs (such as awnings, roof air conditioners, etc).

The folks at reviews.com have done a very good job at exploring and recommending RV insurance.  Check out their report at www.reviews.com/rv-insurance.  If you still want to look at other companies or just want to confirm that you're making the right choice, listed below are some things to consider.

What should you look for in an RV policy?  First of all, you will want to make sure you are dealing with a reputable company that is stable enough to pay claims if you have any.  If you don't recognize the name of the company, try looking it up on the Internet or check the Better Business Bureau where the company is located.   You will want to confirm financial stability and their claims history and  customer satisfaction.   A significant factor in considering any insurance policy is always the premiums.  However, low premiums, attractive as they may be, might be deceptive.  Make sure  you know and are comfortable with the coverage you get.  Unusually low premiums are usually connected with unusually low risk (e.g., low coverage).   You could soon find any premium savings eaten up when you discover something  you thought was covered isn't.  Better RV policies will include coverage to replace a damaged awning or a roof A/C if you happen to drive under a low hanging obstacle and damage it.  Such coverages are usually excluded when an RV is added to an ordinary automobile policy.

Liability insurance is usually required by state law before you can operate your vehicle on public roads.   Most companies are familiar with the minimum legal requirements and won't offer any coverage less that that required by law.  However, for  your own protection, make sure the coverages are, at the very least, adequate for your jurisdiction.  Depending on your personal financial situation you may want to increase liability coverage.  Doing so will, of course, increase your premium, but, in the event you are in an "at fault" accident you will have higher coverages to protect your personal assets should the other party sue you for damages.  There is nothing that requires them to accept what your insurance will pay as payment full.  If you have a policy with low limits, it will help keep  your premiums low, but you may find yourself facing a court judgement forcing you to pay for damages not covered by  the limits of  your insurance policy.

Should I buy collision and comprehensive coverage?  This decision is usually based on financial considerations.  While is is always nice to be fully covered if anything happens to your RV, only you can decide if the cost of full coverage is justified.  Just like other vehicles, the value of RVs decline as they get older so there often comes a time when collision and comprehensive coverage aren't worth the extra premiums.  Collision and comprehensive are usually required by the lien holder whenever your RV is financed, regardless of the age or value.  They want to be sure their collateral won't disappear if you have an accident.

RV comprehensive coverage usually includes RV specific features or adjusted limits to accommodate the higher value of RV components and contents.  As previously mentioned, awnings and roof A/Cs are usually among the extras included in a good RV comprehensive policy.  Another thing to look for is higher coverage for contents.  RVs are very likely to have contents that greatly exceed the normal content limits for ordinary cars.  Think about what you have in  your RV (appliance, entertainment systems, personal belongings, recreational equipment, electronics, etc) that you don't carry around in your ordinary car and look for a policy that will cover those items if they are lost, damaged, destroyed, or stolen.

One popular  feature among RV policies is being able to delcare the vehicle non-operational and pay a lower premium while it is in strorage during the off season.   Such policies usually require you to have full coverage and the comprehensive part of the coverage remains in full force while the vehicle is in storage, but the liability and collision features may be suspended.  If you take advantage of this option, be sure to notify your insurance company before  you get your RV out of storage for a new season so your all your coverage is in force before  you drive it again.

Unlike motorized RVs, towable RVs usually don't require liability insurance, although it could be required by a lien holder.   If your RV is paid for, all coverage is optional for a towable but you still need liability insurance on the tow vehicle.   Again, you must decide whether the cost of the insurance is worth it to you.  Basically, the more valuable your RV, the better it is to have it fully insured.  Personally, I have never carried any kind of insurance on my towable RVs.  They have all been older units whose value didn't justify the cost of the insurance.  Over many years I have saved enough in premiums to pay to replace any of my towables.  But had one been involved in an accident early in the process, that might not have been the case.

Be sure!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Boat Wiring

In some ways wiring on boats is similar to wiring on  RVs, but there are also some very important differences.   One that is often overlooked is the need to use Marine Grade wire in all marine applications.

Marine grade wire.  The high humidity and often, exposure to salt air, demands the wire itself be specially designed for the marine environment.  Marine wiring will  typically have more, smaller copper strands than automotive wiring of the same gauge.  Each strand will also be tinned.  Using ordinary copper wiring on a boat is asking for trouble.  I had to completely rewire our 24' sailboat because some previous owner had wired it with zip cord!  I understand that zip cord is readily available, inexpensive, and easy to work with, but it corrodes way too easily to last very long in a marine environment.  Virtually all  the connections were badly corroded and crumbling.  Fortunately, it didn't cause a fire, but virtually none of the fixtures or connections were functional.

Like RVs, boats may have two or more wiring systems.   Power boats will have a wiring system for the engine, including instruments and controls.  Small pleasure boats may have a low-voltage (usually 12 or 24 volts) DC system for lights and some communications equipment.  Larger boats sometimes us a 48 volt DC system and may have an onboard generator or batteries and an inverter to power 120 volt AC systems to support residential style lights, outlets, and appliances.  The 120 volt wiring systems will normally conform to stringent marine codes that are typically an enhancement of residential wiring codes.  Older DC systems will probably use red conductors for positive and black conductors for negative lines.  Because of the potential confusion between black for negative DC and black for hot AC lines, newer systems use a yellow conductor for negative DC lines.  Of course the electricity doesn't care what color the insulation is so any color wire will carry the current, but the electrician who works on it (whether is is  you or someone who comes after you) will care so try to adhere to the normal conventions.  It will avoid future problems.

Because boats are often made of wood or fiberglass it is mandatory that every fixture has a ground wire  and that the ground connections are clean and secure.  A loose or corroded connection will cause performance problems such as dim, intermittent or flickering lights.  They might also cause arcing which could cause a fire or, if fuel fumes are present, even an explosion!

For convenience and a good appearance when running wiring, use multi-conductor cable rather than running 2 or more individual lines.  The additional insulation surrounding the combined conductors also provides extra protection against moisture and abrasions that could cause a short giving an extra measure of safety and longevity.

For added safety and protection against moisture, use heat shrink tubing on all joints.  It can even be used on wire nuts to help seal them.   In many automotive and even RV applications you can get away with just twisting wires together and wrapping the joint with electrical tape.  In a marine environment is is better to solder the joints and secure them with heat shrink tubing.  Twisted and taped joints are more likely to absorb moisture and corrode.

120 volt AC systems on a boat must always be protected by Equipment Leakage Circuit Interrupters and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters.  It doesn't matter whether the power is coming from a shore cable or from on onboard source, such as a generator or battery banks and inverter.   Any failure in the electrical system can put both the people on the boat and any nearby swimmers at risk for their lives!  While people on the boat may experience a fatal or non-fatal shock, swimmers could receive a paralyzing dose of electricity and drown due to involuntary loss of muscle control.   Even on the soundest boats, water sometimes puddles and creates hazards we don't normally face on land or in RVs.  It would always be a good idea to enlist the services or at least seek the advice of a qualified marine electrician when installing or modifying 120 volt electrical components on your boat.

Shore power cords for boats differ from shore power cords for RVs.  They have water-proof, twist lock connectors.  The twist lock connectors are required to prevent accidental disconnects from movement of the boat while docked.  The water-proof requirement is pretty much self-explanatory for something plugged into a receptacle on a dock floating on the water.

Power  up!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Outdoor Activities -- Healthy, Fun, and Endless

One of the criticisms of today's lifestyle (at least in so-called "civilized" countries) is the lack of physical activity and exercise.  The very fact that we have fitness centers attests to the lack of normal physical activity.  A hundred years ago, when Western society consisted mostly of farmers, people got plenty of physical exercise every day.  It was part of their normal routine and something they had to do just to survive.  As we entered the industrial age we began shifting more and more physical labor to machines.  While no one would complain about having to not work as hard or to have more free time, we are paying the price in terms of things like increasing obesity and a couch potato attitude and behavior resulting in an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle for many people.

Some people turn to gym memberships for physical exercise.   If that works for you, more power to you.  Many people sign up for memberships and then don't use them.  Someone described a gym membership as a PE class you pay to skip!  I'm afraid I kind of share that attitude.  If you enjoy working out and can do it consistently it can indeed provide many health benefits.  Unfortunately, for a lot of people it isn't fun enough or interesting enough to keep them keep them motivated.  In just about any endeavor, having someone to share it makes it more appealing and easier to stick with.   Outdoor recreational activities usually provide enough fun and social interaction to generate long-lasting motivation.

Outdoor recreation provides a variety of activities that include physical exercise, mental stimulation, and even spiritual experiences.  RVing, camping, dirt biking, boating, bicycling, hiking, hunting, and fishing all give us a chance to escape the numbing daily grind, get outside, and get some good physical exercise to boot.  Given the plethora of available outdoor opportunities, there is something for everyone.  You might be surprised how much physical effort it takes to ride motorized toys like dirt bikes and jet skis and how many calories you can burn.  I usually find that I have to take my belt up a notch or two after just a couple of days of riding my dirt bike.

In my family we have found that RVing and camping are perfect companions for many outdoor recreational pursuits.   While RVing and camping by themselves are fun and rewarding, when coupled with additional fun things to do (like dirt biking, hiking, boating, fishing, etc) they provide a solid foundation of enjoyable and productive diversions from our normal, often rather sedentary, lives.  With so many white collar jobs where you spend all day at a desk or sitting in front of a computer and even many blue collar jobs being assisted by robots and other machines, it is all too easy to slip into a pattern of minimal physical activity.

Sometimes interest in some kind of sport (hiking, swimming, dirt biking) gives you a motivation to improve and maintain your fitness so you are better prepared and can more enjoy what you do.  If you can only get away once a month for your favorite outdoor playtime, you may need to add some daily exercise so you are strong enough and agile enough to participate in your chosen sport.  Having a reason for hitting the gym or run through your daily exercise routine makes it easier to find or make the time to do it and stick with it.

Often during the first day of riding my dirt bike after not being able to get out for a while I would feel like I either need to do a lot less or a lot more riding.  Given those two options I would certainly like to do a lot more riding!   Usually by the second day I get my second wind and thoroughly enjoy the strenuous workout I get riding my dirt bike on challenging trails.  It has been said and I've quoted it often in this blog, "You don't stop riding because you get old; you get old because you stop riding."  To me that is a pretty darn good incentive to get out and ride (or hike or sail) as often as I can.

RVing, camping, and related activities are a terrific way to escape our modern, sedentary lifestyle.  Outdoor recreation such as hiking, mountain biking, hunting, fishing, OHV riding, boating and, in winter, snowmobiling, skiing, and snowboarding, all provide outstanding physical exercise.  You would be surprised how much effort it takes even to operate motorized equipment such as OHVs, jetskis and snowmobiles.  Sailing probably takes a lot more labor that driving a power boat, but they both get you out into the sunshine and either kind of boating often encourages swimming, which is an excellent, non-impact physical exercise.   Just about any kind of camping, but especially beach camping, encourages things like playing volleyball or throwing a frisbee.

Work  it!


Monday, May 21, 2018

How We Got Into Sailing -- Free Sailboat!

Yeah, you heard me right!  We got a sailboat for free!  It was nearly 50 years old -- a 1970 MacGregor Venture 24.  It came with 2 sets of sails, a working outboard motor, and the original trailer.  It has a swing keel so it trailers easily.  I couldn't believe it when I came across the ad on our local craigslist.   But I figured it didn't cost anything to respond to the ad and, you know the saying, "nothing ventured, nothing gained".  I was pleasantly surprised when I got a fast response from the "seller".  He said the response to the ad had "exploded" (imagine that!) and since he couldn't meet with all the interested parties individually he scheduled a Saturday morning for us all  to come look it over.  The deal was if there were still more than one interested party, whomever emailed him first on Sunday would get the boat.  Out of hundreds of inquiries he received about 18-20 people comprising 8 - 10 interested families or groups actually showed up for the showing.  My wife and I made a point of getting there early and it paid off because we got to meet the owner and his wife and chat with them a little bit before the other folks showed up.

OK, so why was he giving away a good sailboat for freeDefinitely a good question and one we all very much wanted answered.  Turns out HE got the boat for free off craigslist a little over a year before and had just another free sailboat -- a 36 footer!  The previous owner of the Venture 24 was getting older and had injured  his back so he couldn't sail anymore.  The boat needed a little work and he hadn't been able to find a buyer and his own kids were not interested in having it.  So he advertised it for free on craigslist and the gentleman I got it from was the only one who responded.  He re-did all the standing rigging and purchased a good set of used sails to augment the well-used set that came with the boat.  Then, when he got a 36' sailboat for free, he and his wife decided to "pay it forward" by giving away the 24' Venture.   He got his second free sailboat from an acquaintance at work who was tired of paying registration, insurance and moorage fees on a boat he never used.  Since the 36 footer is better suited to the couple's goal of eventually being able to live and travel on a sailboat, they jumped at the chance to upgrade.

After looking over the boat and determining it was solid (but could use some TLC), we decided we wanted to be first in that email line on Sunday morning.  With that in mind I began sending emails about 11:30 pm (not knowing  how long it would take to reach the owner) and kept resending about every 5 minutes until well after midnight.   You can imagine how thrilled we were to get a call Sunday morning telling us we had been selected as the recipients of the Venture 24!

As I mentioned above, it  defintely needed some TLC -- the once beautiful teak trim was all weathered an ugly concrete gray and the gelcoat on the topside was crazed from nearly 50 years in the elements.  With a little research on the Internet I discovered the faded teak could be restored to very near its original color by cleaning it with oxalic acid, then rubbing it down with teak oil and re-varnishing it.  I was amazed at  how quickly and beautifully it cleaned up!  We decided to paint the entire boat inside and out, which was kind of a fun winter project, letting us enjoy and get familiar with our boat even though it was too cold outside for sailing.  We chose a semi-gloss, exterior acrylic latex paint for the interior and oil-based Topside and Bottom paint for the exterior.   As anyone who has ever done any painting knows, preparation is not only the key to success, but about 80% of the effort.   Cleaning, sanding, wiping down, and masking each section took much longer than the actual painting, but when we were done we were very pleased.  Not only did it look brand new, it had colors we liked.  The original non-skid deck paint had been beige.  We painted it sky blue. 

Although the fiberglass hull and all  the other major components (mast, boom, rudder, keel, and rigging) were all solid, the wiring was in sad shape.  I discovered someone had run a lot of the lighting using ordinary zip cord.  Marine wiring is quite specialized -- in order to withstand the rigors of a constantly moist environment.  Marine wiring consists of many more smaller, tinned copper strands than ordinary automotive wiring of the same guage.  Of course that makes it harder to find and more expensive, but seeing what happened to the zip wire quickly convinced me to use only marine rated wire when I re-wired the boat.  The little 12-volt power panel was such a convoluted tangle of wires that I completely stripped it down and started over.  None of the existing navigation lights were functional so I replaced them with modern LED versions that will use very little power and will last for thousands of hours.  I replaced all the interior lights with LED fixtures too, then added a 30 Watt solar panel to charge the battery.

There is a saying that "A boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money!" and I can see how easily that could  happen.  I soon learned that in addition to special wiring and special paints that are both more expensive than their more common equivalents, there are hundreds and hundreds of very appealing options for boaters, ranging from basic shoes and clothing to exotic electronics for communication, navigation, depth finding and even fish finding.  I guess I can be glad I have a sailboat.  At least I won't be paying high prices for marine fuel or high cost of maintenance and repairs on complicated engines.

I learned several interesting facts about our little Venture 24.   They have a reputation for being almost unsinkable (but so was the Titanic!).  It is said you can heel one over until the top of the mast is in the water and it will right itself, due to the 500 lb swing keel hanging out the bottom.   I was surprised to learn it will sleep 5 people!  It doesn't have built in sanitation like a larger vessel would  have but it does have a nice little stainless steel kitchen sink and a porta-potti.  The galley has a shelf designed to hold a campstove and the dinette makes down into one of  the beds.  The walnut grained Formica table was very badly faded when we got it.  I was getting quite discouraged when I searched for remedies online only the learn the Formica would probably have to be replaced or painted.  Then my wife suggested I try the SC-1 detail spray I use religiously on my dirt bikes, and Wa-lah!  Success!  While ordinary furniture polish would temporarily restore the color, it quickly faded again as it dried.  But the SC-1 restored it to a near new color that lasts and lasts.   The little 24' boat makes a really nice base for extended weekend outings, proving both recreational activities and weatherproof accommodations.

 As much as we love dirt biking, I have to admit there are some summer days that are just too hot and too dry to enjoy riding the trails.   Here where we now live in Oregon, many riding areas get closed due to high fire danger during the late summer.  Being able to head out on the water and be able to dive right off the boat to cool off is a fun and welcome alternative.  One of the the things a really like about skippering a sailboat instead of a power boat is the choice of adventure.  If you like just relaxing, set a course downwind.  You can "ghost" along and since the wind is pushing you, you hardly feel any breeze at all as it carries you along at almost the same speed.  But if you want more excitement, turn around and sail back into the wind.  Now a sailboat can't really sail directly into the wind.  In fact, if the bow is pointed directly into the wind the boat is said to be "in irons" and it won't go anywhere, unless you count being pushed backwards!  Sailing into the wind means tacking back and forth across the wind at an angle.  When you do this the wind fills the sail and turns it into an airfoil (like an airplane wing) and the "lift " pushes the boat along.  When doing this the boat will often heel over 15° or so and you can really feel the speed and the wind in your face.  It isn't unusual to heel over so far water is coming over the rail into the boat!  However, it is said as long as the water coming over the rail is white and not green, you're OK.   Wind can generate a surprising amount of power and speed.  Remember, wind was essentially the only way to move large vessels on the water for thousands of years.  I've even seen sailboats tow water skiers!  When I lived in Marina Del Rey near Los Angeles, California some years ago, there was a guy with a little 10-12' sailing catamaran who would take it out and tow water skiers with it when most of the power boats were seeking shelter during small craft warnings.

My interest in sailing began long before we found a free sailboat.   I had joined a sailing club associated with a company I worked for in southern California many years ago and learned the basics on a 14' cat boat.  For a while I owned a little 8' sabot that I logged a few hours on and when I went to scout camp as an assistant scoutmaster with one of my son's Boy Scout troops, I spent most of the week getting their boats back in the water and giving a few basic sailing lessons.  One of their boats was a 19' lightning class that I found was really fun to sail.  Until I got the  Venture 24 it was the largest boat I'd ever sailed.  I had a day dreamed about one day owning a daysailer and when the Venture 24 ad popped up it was EXACTLY what I'd always wanted.

By the way, there are other ways to find free boats.  In fact there is an entire web site devoted to Free Boats.  You can also find cheap boats on ebay where at least one charity offers boats for sale that have been donated to them, allowing them to auction them off at ridiculously low prices.  However, as always, caveat emptor -- buyer beware!  Many free boats will need a lot of work or may have some hidden legal incumberances such as past-due moorage or storage fees.  Be sure you are prepared to handle what ever work is needed -- either by doing it yourself or having the budget to pay a professional to do it for you. 

Sail away!