September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye

September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation

September 01, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing

August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez

August 01, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind

July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap

July 01, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec

June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico

June 01, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua

May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising

May 01, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica

April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There

April 01, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama

March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money

March 01, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal

February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal

February 01, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific

January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week

January 01, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef

December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2

December 01, 2011

November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise

November 01, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question

October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers

October 03, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World

September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come

September 01, 2011
Sailing for Humanity

August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work

August 01, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish

July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books

July 01, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas

June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala

June 01, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise

May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now

May 01, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala

April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas

April 01, 2011
At Last in the San Blas

March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon

March 01, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!

February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2

February 01, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1

January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude

December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane

December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba

December 01, 2010
Stuck in Curacao

November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing

November 01, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks

October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe

October 04, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal

September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing

September 01, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea

August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao

August 01, 2010
Bonaire Diving

July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire

July 01, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles

June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent

June 01, 2010
Right Place, Right Time

May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle

May 01, 2010
To the Grenadines

April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon

April 01, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II

March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1

March 01, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing

February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations

February 01, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands

January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa

January 01, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............

December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing

December 01, 2009
Moving On To Morocco

November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med

November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone

October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol

October 01, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise

September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles

September 01, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well

August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca

August 01, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca

July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast

July 01, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia

June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa

June 01, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails

May 15, 2009
Into Africa

May 01, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia

April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy

April 01, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles

March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling

March 01, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports

February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta

February 01, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2

January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1

January 02, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time

December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear

December 01, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend

November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise

November 01, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz

October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman

October 01, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins

September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta

September 01, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story

August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

August 01, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians

July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca

July 01, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe

June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece

June 01, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey

May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey

April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living

April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip

April 01, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget

March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi

March 01, 2008
Home Sweet Home

February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising

February 01, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World

January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free

January 01, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free

January 01, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni

January 01, 2008
About Feel Free

January 01, 2008
Voyage Itinerary

April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy

By Tom Morkin

As a self-confessed Luddite, at yachtie get-togethers, be they beach barbeques or happy-hour gatherings, I tend to shy away from those groups where words and phrases like Satcom, AIS, interface, broadband, NMEA, uplink, download, and so on are used. From past experience, I’ve learned that joining those conversations has often left me depressed for two basic reasons: 1) I usually don’t understand much of what is being said, and 2) If I do understand what they’re talking about – high-tech goodies that make their sailing lives safer and more comfortable – I can’t afford to buy them.

So being stupid and poor, I gravitate to other low-tech groups that tend to talk about things that make our lives safer and more comfortable but cost one hell of a lot less. In the hope, dear reader, that you may find useful some of these low to very low cost items and ideas that have helped us through the years, stay reading.

Poor Man’s Hookah Rig
Say you need to dive under the boat to scrape the prop, clean the hull, change a zinc, or do a general survey of the outside wet part of your boat. You don’t have scuba gear on board or you do but you don’t want to use a tank, or you don’t have a hookah rig and your free diving skills aren’t what they used to be. This idea may be for you.

This simple rig can be used when you need to scrape the prop, clean the hull, change a zinc or do a general survey of the bottom of your boat.

You’ll need an inflatable dinghy pump, 20 feet of garden hose, mask and snorkel (with a purge valve), and last but not least, someone to work the pump. Connect garden hose to the output (exhaust) side of dinghy pump hose and insert the bitter end of the garden hose into the intake end of the  snorkel. You’re now ready to go. When dinghy pump is pumped, ambient fresh air is forced through the hose into the snorkel. Since there is more air than the diver needs, excess air exits the purge valve along with the diver’s exhausted air.

The deeper the diver goes, the harder the pumper must pump. For tasks under 10 feet deep, the person on the boat deck can easily supply the diver’s needs. The sound of the pumped air can be clearly heard underwater, which will tell the diver when the air has arrived in the snorkel.  No regulator, no tank, no mechanical compressor, no gasoline, no hassle.  Sounds crazy but it works!

Vice Mount
A vice is a very useful thing to have on a boat, but where do you put it where it is out of the way yet easy to get at and ready to use? Answer: through-bolt it to the bottom side of a locker lid. Not only is it out of the way, it’s ready to use and has a stable mounting.

This locker lid, under a galley settee, also serves to store my vice. It’s out of the way but easily accessible.

Buy as much as you can carry on your boat and put it everywhere. Below are just a fraction of the applications for the stuff. Rather than screw holes into your boat to hang pictures or attach fixtures to wall, try this type of Velcro. On Feel Free we also use it to mount our laptop used for navigation to our nav table, attach back rests of settees to walls and bulkheads, and glass holders to walls. We use the cloth type on such things as sail covers, cockpit enclosures, clothing, backpacks, footwear, windlass cover.

The sturdy, plastic Velcro can also be used to attach pictures to walls or bulkheads Our laptop computer (that we use to crank out this blog) is snugly attached to the nav table with the new, rigid plastic Velcro. Our settee in the main cabin is held in place with soft Velcro.

LED Head Lamps
In my next life I want to come back as an LED headlamp salesman. On the good ship Feel Free we have four LED head lamps, one small LED flashlight and three LED cabin lights, and we’ll soon be shopping for more. They produce a bright, highly directional beam of light and use a tiny fraction of the power their incandescent and fluorescent cousins use. Here are some of the ways they are used on.
We’ve made brackets for small lights and screw them into often-used lockers (food locker and spares locker so a light is always at hand when it’s dark).

This pantry flashlight is easily accessible.

The headlamps are invaluable, especially at sea. They illuminate the cockpit and deck all the while allowing you both hands for whatever task is at hand. The old incandescent lights they used to use in headlamps used so much power, heavy batteries were required to provide reasonable term of service. Strapping this heavy contraption to your head was quite uncomfortable, carrying the battery pack on your person, inconvenient. The LED headlamps have a powerful light, are comfortable and have long service life before needing battery replacement.

I’m so hooked on them that when awakened for my night watch, after my glasses, my headlamp is the first thing I put on. Moving around the boat at night taking your light with you, there is less need to turn on and off cabin lights, reducing power consumption and minimizing the likelihood of waking your sleeping mate. Of course, using red LEDs will not affect your night vision.

A friend who suffers from interrupted sleep used to have to get out of her bunk and go elsewhere to read so as not to disturb her sleeping husband by turning on the cabin light. By using an LED headlamp, she can now stay in her bed and read without disturbing him.

Strings of LEDs can be connected to provide soft mood lighting in cockpits for boat interiors, and they come in different colors.

Boat Step
To assist embarking and disembarking from or to docks or dinghies, here’s a simple solution. Obtain a 1-inch-thick piece of plywood, about 18 inches long and 9 inches wide, and attach each end with rope to stanchion bases, then hang alongside the hull. This is a safe and easy way to board the boat. We use karabiners for quick attaching and detaching. The boat step is painted with nonskid paint and a strip of carpet is stapled to the edge that rests against the hull.

This simple boat step is easy to make and very helpful for embarking and disembarking.

Solid Rails Made Possible By Spinnaker And Whisker Poles
We have three poles on board Feel Free. When not in use they are secured to the lifelines. This not only gets them off the deck, it increases security for the crew on the foredeck.

A Second (Hand-Operated) Switch For The Electric Windlass
The hand switch provides mobility to better see what’s going on as the ground tackle is raised. It also serves as a backup switch should the foot switch fail. In our seven years with an electric windlass, we’ve replaced the foot switch three times. It is reassuring to know if the foot switch becomes corroded and fails you can still operate the windlass.

The windlass back up switch provides mobility to better see what is going on as the ground tackle is raised.

Manual Mini Bilge Pump
Although we have two electric bilge pumps that should theoretically pump over 5,000 gallons of water per hour, we are unable to completely empty the bilge with these pumps. To completely rid our very deep bilge of water, we lower a garden hose firmly secured (wire ties work well) to a wooden dowel or stick, to the lower part of the bilge and using a second-hand manual galley pump (about $10), to pump the last of the water into a bucket and voila, we have a dry bilge.
This simple low-tech pump is used every year to pump the very bottom of our fuel tank to check if any water or sludge is on the bottom of the tank. The same procedure can be used with the fresh water tank to detect and reduce unwanted materials in its bottom.

Tom uses a simple pump attached to a section of garden hose and a stick to empty the bottom of the bilge of its contents.

Peanut Butter Jars
Definitely save all peanut butter jars!  They are watertight and can protect all manner of valuable items on those sometimes wet dinghy trips. Our favorite uses are for storage of our digital camera, cell phone, memory stick, glasses, watches, wallets, paper money, and so on. Sure you can buy purpose-built products to keep this stuff dry, but why?
Peanut butter jars are watertight and can protect all manner of valuable items.  

Tough economic times provide the incentive to be a little more creative in doing more with less. Low-cost boat modifications not only result in more money left in the bank account, they also provide one with the satisfaction that comes from doing it yourself.