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As much as we sometimes try to make it seem as if this cruising/live-aboard lifestyle would work for everyone, the fact is that that’s just not the case. There are so many things that we are forced to do that I know would be outside the comfort zone for many people. This does not mean that they couldn’t do it but rather that they likely wouldn’t.

Rebecca paddling over to pay for our mooring ball in St. John.

In the past 24 hours we have been forced to deal with two unpleasant situations, both of which required going for a swim under the boat. Just this morning, as we waited for a mooring ball to become available in Soper’s Hole so that we could clear into the BVI, we wrapped a line around one of our props. The story is much more drawn out than that but the result is that we lost our starboard engine. Extricating ourselves from this predicament required anchoring the boat and then making countless dives under the hull, all the while with it pitching up and down, scraping our skin with barnacles and threatening to knock us out.

Welcomed to the BVI by rainbows.
The day would take a sharp downturn not long after this photo was taken.

Rebecca took the first crack at freeing the line from the prop. I ended up finishing the job.

Less than 24 hours earlier I was forced to dive under the boat to perform a not-too-pleasant plumbing fix. For the sake of those who are perhaps eating breakfast or lunch, I won’t go into a lot of dirty detail on this. Let’s just say that it involved using an improvised plumbing snake to free up a clogged holding tank discharge. Use your imagination. Yeah… not a lot of fun!

Be happy that no photos were taken during the job described above!

Neither of these two tasks are outside the scope of what cruisers and boat crews do on a regular basis. If you’re planning on sailing to places where help is more than just a phone call away, you should be prepared to do the same.

Now that the boat is safe and we’re properly cleared in with Customs and Immigration, it’s time for a nap!


  1. Good perspective. My former partner (in a Hunter 31) and I used to have an expression “suck bilgewater “. I’ll spare you the story of the origin of that saying but practical use of the expression would be ” Be nice to me, the boat broke down and I had to suck bilgewater to get back.”

  2. I’d bet that freeing a fouled prop from underneath the boat make you miss ZTC’s removable engines. I suppose it would be as much fun as changing a tire in the center lane of a busy freeway.

  3. Do you not have rope cutters on your props?


    • No. You say that as if its a common thing. I don’t think I know a single person who has line cutters on their prop(s). Or at least, not that I’ve heard of.

      • We have a line cutter on our prop, a Shaft Shark.

        Of course we made a couple of trips to Maine before we came South.

        We have the running “What’s that horrible smell?” quiz game on board, which usually involves some sort of bilge or head related tasks for me, though occasionally it leads to the fridge…

        I am getting good at field stripping and fixing Jabsco Twist ‘n Locks.

  4. Sorry you had such a icky day, surely tomorrow will be better!

  5. Nice try, Sweeney! You almost had me feeling sorry for you until I remembered it’s 19 degrees outside and that you probably wrote this post wearing shorts, enjoying a cocktail as you watching the sun go down!

    • I actually didn’t write the post with the intent to make people feel sorry for me, nor was I complaining. I was merely voicing my opinion on some realities of living on a boat.

  6. As we are still several years and several thousand dollars in sailing school tuition away from slipping the dock lines (not to mention the whole house selling and boat buying thing), I find myself asking that very question more frequently. In fact, I’m writing this as I take a break from the TNC manual I’m reading for the purpose of setting up a practice HF WEFAX station…ummm captivating!

    I often begin feeling overwhelmed by the mountain of books (many of which I found referenced through the ZTC site, thank you very much!) and scope of material I want to become familiar with before sailing school. We all are much more capable than willing. It would be so much easier to go into retirement, get a beach bungalow and wait to cash in on the investment I’ll make on a burial plot. But would it “really” be easier? Regret is the most profound teacher of unused potential.

    I don’t desire the prospect of untangling a fouled screw with twenty ton of barnacle encrusted keel crashing down on me nor swimming in chummed waters to clear a discharge vent. But like you, I expect I’ll take it as it comes. After all, we embark on the dream with visions of fair winds and following seas and once there when thing go bad, the question of “would we” becomes moot.

    So in the end you just shrug off the difficult day, have another sundowner in perfect weather and laugh about being surrounded by all the “floaties” during the earlier repair. But who am I to be telling you all this? You have relived these situations countless times in your years of sailing in paradise. While I, on the other hand, am still a dreamer in the middle of a frigid Colorado winter. I guess I’m just trying to avoid the inevitable return to my WEFAX station setup. Next step, drag transmission cable on top of my iced, frozen roof without slipping and breaking my legs thus being resigned to that beach bungalow or even my burial plot. But hey, the good news is when I get done I can enjoy perfect ten degree weather and twenty knot winds! Perhaps you can think of us dreamers during tonight’s round of sundowners! Take care Mike and Rebecca, I thoroughly enjoy following your journies.

    • Hi Mike

      Please don’t feel overwhelmed. You can learn much of this stuff through “on the job” training. That is certainly what we did. Be sure to enjoy that learning process too.

  7. I consider my scuba tank a key piece of safety gear now. Despite my line cutter, I wrapped a line in Maine last summer. I doubt I would have had the endurance to cut it free were it not for my tank. A couple minutes work with the tank. Also useful for keeping the bottom clean, changing zincs, finding stuff that drops over board….. 😉

  8. I would take the life on a boat any day! It is our goal.

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