Woot Woot Webasto! (in North Beach, MD)

While Amazon 1-day shipping failed us (arriving a day after the perfect little weather-window we were eyeing up), Webasto has not.

The fuel pump on the heater was indeed the problem — a piece that we were assured was “the most reliable component in the whole system” (*insert slight eye roll*) — so the upside is that it was a super-simple swap out to get my favorite piece of equipment up and running again.

Case in point: It was 23*F / -5*C here last night, with a slight skiff of ice forming over the marina, but we were warm & snug inside, completely oblivious to the gross temps outside. And on that note, maybe I should be grateful to Amazon’s delay for keeping us from leaving on this very-very-chilly morning! 😉

Of course now that we’ve got the heater working AND a battery monitor, our thoughts have turned to “HOW much power does this sucker draw???” (Answer: a lot. Like 8 amps a lot. It doesn’t run constantly, so it’s not a straight 8 x 24 calculation, but it’s still more than we’re entirely happy with).

We’ll tackle this from all angles, drawing on our favorite “cumulative benefit of marginal improvements” perspective, to see what improvements we can make.

Current ideas include insulating the heat duct (our cupboards and bilges are getting nice and toasty warm, but this really isn’t the ideal destination for that precious warm air!!); insulating the known cold areas (Brio II is a bit of a warm-air sieve, with the aft cabin having two very thin cold walls – to the lazarettes – and very little insulation anywhere); connecting our solar panels to the currently-in-the-box-solar-charge-controller (it’s on the list, it’s on the list!!); and continuing to evaluate additional offgrid power options (wind generator? more solar?).

It’s a balance between the “easy but expensive” option of more batteries and more diesel consumption and taking the long-term approach of a more sustainably set up system.

Not that any of this matters when you’re comfortably tied up to a dock with endless power, but we’d like to think this won’t always be Brio II’s home 🙂

From our toasty warm home afloat,


Projects & Plans (in North Beach, MD)

“Plans” is really a misnomer, since we really only have some vague intentions for the year (sail south being at the top of the list, but even that wavers a little when I look at the calendar and do the math and determine that at our often-slower-than-planned-speeds we’ll probably arrive around the same time the 90*F weather does… but hey, north for the winter and south for the summer does seem to be right in line with how we tend to end up doing things! Bucking the trend, I say).

Cockpit views on our Sabre 42 liveaboard sailboat

I digress 🙂

After a nice long Christmas visit to BC, we’ve been back on Brio II for just over a week, and we’ve been making pretty good progress on the project front!

New alternator for our Sabre 42 sailboat

A new alternator is in, complete with new wiring. It started as a simple swap-out, but as Jon traced wires and dug into connections, the right way to do things stood out. Of course the right way also required removing cabinetry and generally disassembling the boat, so if it were up to me we’d never do things the right way, just the fast way — but that’s why not all decisions are up to me 🙂

Boys working on a Westerbeke 46 Diesel Engine in a Sabre 42 Sailboat

Along with the alternator, we bought a Bomar battery charger and are delighted to be able to accurately measure our power usage (and the output from the alternator!). One funny little perk that you might not appreciate unless you’ve spent days staring at a battery monitor is that the Bomar has an extra-large display, so you can actually read it from across the room.

A new Bomar battery monitor letting us know the alternator is working on our Sabre 42 sailboat!

We’ve been playing the “how much does this draw” game and were intrigued / disgusted to discover that the ugly reading lights the boat came with draw 2 freaking amps each. Ugly AND inefficient, my favorite combination! They’re on the chopping block. Unfortunately new reading lights are a pricy and not-exactly-critical improvement, so they’ll have to wait a little.

We also bought and loaded 250′ of new 5/16″ G4 chain. The anchor setup on this boat was laughable, and we already had our beloved big-mama Spade (purchased before we even found “the next boat”, as a sort of engagement-ring boat-jewelry promise to ourselves that this would be the year we’d absolutely find a bigger boat to call home!). Jon marked and loaded all 250′, so that’s another big job off the list.

250' of 5/16" G4 chain

As a random aside, just in case anyone happens to be Googling the same questions I did, we discovered that 5/16″ G4 chain will very happily fit in the gypsy of a 3/8″ BBB anchor windlass.

Loading the anchor chain onto Brio II

We have a manual windlass on Brio II and while one day we’d love to upgrade to an electric one, we couldn’t quite justify it off the bat. But we also didn’t want to buy 3/8″ chain, when 5/16″ is more than enough for this size of boat (and weighs substantially less, a consideration when you think about where all that weight lives).

After hemming and hawing, I found a Cruisers Forum post that referenced anchor windlass gypsies actually accommodating a slight range of sizes, so we decided to buy 4′ to try it out for ourselves. Our 4′ test confirmed the forum folks, and we committed.

We’ll have to actually use the anchor a few times before I call it a 100% success, but for now I’m pretty excited about the idea of having a windlass of any sort!

Jon was the “manual windlass” on baby-Brio, which meant I almost always ran the helm side of things. In general we like to both be able to do all the tasks on the boat, so this was a bit of a needle in my side. Anyways, long story short, I think we’ll both be able to drop and pull anchor on Brio II which I’m quite happy about!

What else? We reglued the oarlocks on the dinghy (gotta love those old dinks), and have a port replacement in progress. We’ve also got an autopilot (with a REMOTE!) sitting in a box with our names on it to replace the dead display and brain on ours. Fingers crossed the hydraulic ram will continue to work 🙂

But lest you think it’s been all sunshine and roses, the big disappointment of the week was that our beloved Webasto stopped working. Zephyr and I were playing Legos in the vberth, enjoying the steady breeze of warm air blowing out the vent, when it suddenly just… stopped. The unit always goes through a cool down cycle, so I figured maybe we’d run out of fuel… but nope.

Looking forward from the aft cabin of our Sabre 42 sailboat - toddler feeding himself breakfast!

Still troubleshooting this one, but at only 150 hours of use it’s not the most wonderful development. Especially when it’s become my most favorite piece of equipment on the boat! (Have I mentioned I like to be warm and dry? It shouldn’t be that big of a thing, but really it turns out those are the two conditions required for Leah to be happy 🙂 ).

Anyways, all this to say we have been working away on our list of projects, keeping half an eye on the weather forecasts (lows in the 20s = “must have a working heater to even consider going anywhere”) and slowly musing about what the months to come might hold.

It’s a funny life, but it’s a good one.


Off the Dock & Back Again (in Rose Haven, MD)

I thought it would take us around two weeks to get off the dock with Brio II.

So of course it took us two months! 😉

The last couple days were a special flurry of activity, as Jon replaced our battery bank, made all new battery and starter and ground cables (with the biggest most expensive wire crimping tool you’ve ever seen — if you need to borrow one, you know who to ask!), and got everything squared away so we could actually leave the dock.

My contribution was playing with Magformers with Zephyr in the vberth so he’d stop trying to throw lugs in the bilge or steal Jon’s tools. Turns out kids’ toys are really super fun so my “job” was no work at all.

Have I mentioned we hadnt been out sailing yet? We hadn’t.

So when the projects and the weather and the temperatures and the work-week all aligned with Zephyr’s nap… we LEAPED at the chance!

We left 15 minutes after his nap started.

Got out of our (stupid awful fixed piling garbage) slip, got the sails up, and got cruising.

7.3 knots in 10 knots of breeze? Gimminy cricket Jonny, I think this baby can cruise!

We immediately entered ourselves into a “race” with the sailboat ahead of us.

After schooling them, we very humbly turned around and raced back to our slip.

Docking was amazing (this boat manoeuvers!!!) and Zephyr woke up approximately 4 minutes after we tied the last line.


And in case you wanted a mini peek into what life on a boat with a toddler is currently like… Z’s finally figured out how to get onto the galley counter AND how to get down 😉

So now no snacks are safe 🙂


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