Monday, November 25, 2013

Working from the Boat - Day Job

People often ask me if I am retired, or how I can live on a boat while working.  The reality is that if you have the type of job that doesn't require you to be in 1 spot, this is a very workable solution.  In my case, I travel often to customer sites and to see employees and prospects.  If you do any kind of traveling for work, you have likely already adapted to being able to work remotely.  For example, I have found I can be fairly productive while at an airport, a hotel, or even while realaxing and enjoying a meal out.  

When I am home (on our boat) that also means that I can work and be productive there as well.  The boat has a Navigation Station like most sailboats (Think Mini office without the doors).  In my case, this consists of a monitor that is mounted in the center of the Nav Station that both doubles as an extra monitor for my laptop when I am working, or the heart of navigation and computing for the boat itself.  

In the picture in the sidebar, you can see that my desk is as messy as most desks you see in someone’s office.  Sadly in my case, it is also filled with a pair of sailing gloves, some line, a bunch of wires for the electronics like the router and my headset.

To make hearing and speaking to people, I have a pair of pretty good headphones to use on my cell phone or my laptop whether I am taking a call on my cell phone, or Voice over IP software such as Skype.  They are noise canceling which comes in handy when the wind is howling through the rigging above.  (See video clip a little later to see why this can come in so handy)

When Deb is not on board and I am working, I will use the large LED TV in the Salon as my monitor and sit on the salon settee.  It is a bit more comfortable and I like the extra real estate for the screen.     This was the case last week as I was sitting in the salon working.  It was a great day because it was still warm but overcast so no bright sunlight for a change, I had the hatches all opened up and had a nice gentle breeze running through the boat.  Half way through the call the wind started to pick up, then it started to pick up a lot, and I could hear the howling in the distance as the wind blew through the rigging of the row of sailboats just upwind of me.  While on the call, I muted my microphone and closed the large forward hatch.  As I finished that the sky opened up with a torrential rain pour.  I was quickly closing the 4 hatches in the roof that I had open and another 7 opening ports on the side of the boat.  All of this was going on while I was still on this conference call and un-muting the microphone to respond to a question or comment then muting as quickly as I could again.  

By the time the call ended, the wind was blowing a steady 20 knots and gusting to about 30.  The rain subsided for the most part and when I went back up top, the temperature felt like it dropped 15 degrees in that hour.

I continued to work the rest of the day on meetings and phone calls remotely, however the wind really had the boat hobby horsing and rocking pretty good.  When the wind starts to blow that hard, there are a few interesting sounds that happen on the boat, that we are just used to, but others wonder what they are.  I attached a small video below that shows me sitting on the salon settee working.  You can get a sense for how much motion there was on the boat this day, and we were tied up to a dock.  If you listen closely you can hear a few things in the background.  The first is the wind that you can still hear howling if you listen carefully.  This is with all of the hatches battened down and closed up tight.  You will also hear a bit of a ringing sound or long dull clank.   This sound is actually made from two different things that run up the inside of the mast.  There are wires that run from the base of the mast to the top of the mast for lighting on top of the mast, antenna, etc.  This is combined with the lines that run up the mast for raising the sails.  When the boat rocks a certain way they hit on the inside of the mast making this sound.    The other is a loud thump , this is actually something that you should not hear, but I still had an antenna for the TV run up on the flag halyard and when the wind would blow it hit the stays (the metal wires that run from the sides of the boat to the top of the mast to stabilize it).  It is a lot like a giant piano or guitar string being plucked.

So there you have it, a little insight into working from the boat.  98% of the time, it isn't much different than working from your office, but on some days the office is bouncing around a bit.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Making Granola aboard the boat

As fairly "new to the lifestyle" live-a-boards, we constantly struggle with space and storage.  One of the things we both enjoy is a little snack when hungry and have recently got on a kick with granola.  I almost always had a bag of granola that I would keep in a "lock & lock" container to keep it fresh.  When it get a bit hungry in the evening, I grab a small handful of granola and munch on it and it does the trick to satisfy the snacking bug.  

I have found I like to eat Granola as cereal in the morning with some milk over it.  I enjoy it on top of yogurt or even on top of some fresh cut fruit.  It is also really good on ice cream but that is something we don't have on board very often at all.
So today we decided to make out own granola.  I was shocked at how simple it was and allows you to make all kinds of variations for whatever it is you prefer.  For example, because we snack on it by itself, we made some that had dried fruit and coconut in it.  Yummy.    We made some that was individual crunchy bits the size of the oats so it can be spread on top of fruit or yogurt and even made some that is in chunks for snacking (think of a broken granola bar).

There are a ton of recipe's online but what we found in our few tries is that it is not really a science and it is pretty hard to mess it up unless you burn it.
We made ours with the following ingredients
3 cups of rolled oats (not the instant, but the plain old quaker style work)
1 cup of chopped mixed nuts (we used peanuts and cashews and just chopped them to about the size of the oats)
3/4 cup of sweetened coconut flakes (found in the baking aisle of the store)
3/4 cup of Brown Sugar (Actually we used just a bit more than 3/4 of a cup)
about a teaspoon of salt
1/2 tsp of cinnamon (I don't think this is needed, I just saw it on the shelf and figured what the heck)

We mixed all of that together in a bowl.  On a boat, everything needs multiple uses, so the bowl is also the lock & lock that we typically keep salad in when storing it in the fridge.

In a separate bowl (one of our cereal bowls) we mixed the following
Pan cooking in the oven on the boat
1/4 cup of oil (we used Olive, but anything will do)
1/4 of a cup of Honey (could also have used Maple Syrup)
We both like Peanut butter, so I also dropped a couple of tablespoons of Peanut butter into this mix.
Mix this all together really well and pour over the oat mix.  Mix well until all are coated really well.

Then spread evenly on a cookie sheet or small pan for the over.  Be sure to oil or PAM the pan first to keep it from sticking.
Here is a small video showing the product after about an hour in the oven

You bake it in the over on a temperature between 250 and 325 and just keep checking on it every 15 minutes and mixing it up a bit (it tends to toast more near the edges of the pan so we just moved the mixture around a bit).  It should cook between 45 minutes and an hour and 15 minutes.  I think it tastes a bit better when cooked at about 250 for and hour and 15 minutes.

If you like it in chunks for snacking, just press it down in the pan the last 15 minutes you will bake it and then when you take it out of the over, don't mix it up until after it cools.  We just broke it up into little bit sized pieces.

At this point, you can add in anything you really want, dried fruit like Pinapple, apricot, raisins, cranberries, papaya, really anything.  We even put small dates and broken banana chips in it.  

Good stuff….
Just pop it in an airtight container and it will be good for at least a month (we tend to eat it in less than a month)
This is about a third of a batch of what the recipe above makes.
We bake it in 3 batches due to the size of the pan we can get in the oven.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Enjoying our time in Corpus Christi

It has been a crazy couple of months.  As most of you know, Deb had partial knee replacement surgery at the end of September and with that came 6-8 weeks of recovery time.  While considering a date for the surgery, Deb was weighting a planned sail from Kemah to Corpus to spend a couple of winter months a bit further south.   Additionally, Deb and I are planning on a vacation and she wanted to get the surgery done as far in advance of that as possible so as to be very mobile for our vacation.  This meant that when we were planning on sailing the boat to Corpus, she was still using a walker and NOT able to get on and off the boat, never the less up and down the companionway.

At the beginning of October, our friends from Dallas came into town and planned to make the trip with me (See previous blog posts on the actual trip) and I am still blown away by their generosity and willingness to help out with this.

Night time view, Downtown Corpus is just at the end of the dock
Slowly we began to settle in to our new location.  We are actually on a dock that is right off the road.  I was worried about this at first, but after a few weeks, I am finding it to be pretty workable and convenient since we can keep our car just about 20 feet from the stern of our boat.

The Marina here in Corpus Christi is having some renovations done on a few docks so there was not enough room for any more "live-a-boards" on the other docks (with privacy locked gates).  We rolled with it; (Because what else could you really do) and we moved into our current slip.  I was not happy that the pump out service was not available on this particular dock but in the end, this is turning into a good thing.  It forces us to actually get off the dock every 2 weeks at the longest and at least motor over to the next T-head to pump out.  (for those that are not familiar with this, it is the unpleasant task of removing the contents of the holding tanks (think septic tank on land).  Not a romantic subject but certainly part of living aboard and keeping our waters clean.

There is a lot of foot traffic that walks down the sidewalk and passes the boat.  Most are just out strolling for the day/evening and some are walking to the restaurant that is at the end of the street we are on.  At first I was concerned about privacy, but we have not had anyone walk down the pier on the side of our boat.  There is a small wire gate we can close when we are on the boat for the night to keep people from walking down the dock.  We see quite a few people snap a picture or comment on the name of the boat.  If we are outside, we have had several stop and wave or even chat for a while.  The boat name and the fact that it still lists Panama City FL as the sailing port usually brings many questions.   We don't mind, we are excited about our lifestyle and don't mind sharing it with others.

We did have an interesting experience however when trying to order high speed internet service from ATT U-verse.  I figured it was going to be interesting when I called to order the service and attempted to have it installed.  The conversation went something like this…
AT&T: "May I have your address so I may check for availability in your area"
Me: "Well, there is not really a specific address, I am about half a block from the intersection of X and y"
AT&T: "Right, but can you just provide me your address, even if the house is not complete yet"
Me: "No, see that's the problem, it is not a house, it is a boat that is tied up along X Street"
AT&T: "I don't understand, you want internet on a boat??"  This was asked with utter disbelief.
Me: "Exactly"
AT&T: "Well if you can provide an address I can help, but I don't think we can get internet to a boat"
Me: "Ok. Thanks, I will think of another way to ask and call back later"

Then it dawned on me, I called back again and I ordered the service and provided the Marina's address.  Then I waited for the AT&T truck to circle the marina office repeatedly trying to figure it out and I went out and spoke to the man.   In the end, I was able to convince him to just run me a long wire down the sidewalk from the small little green tower where they connect the houses and I would take care of the rest.  He did, and I stapled the wire along the underside of the wooden bulkhead down to my slip.  I then wired in a telephone box in the breaker panel for shore power.  I then just hooked up a phone line into the boat right by where I connect Cable TV, Water and Electric.  It worked like a champ so I have high speed internet and can work very productively from here.   It was a bit comical however.
Relaxing in the Cockpit (writing a blog post)

All in all, we like it here.  I can't ask for much more, here it is in mid November and I am in shorts and a t-shirt sitting in the cockpit with a beautiful breeze blowing in on me while writing this blog.  In the mornings, the sun rises right over the palm trees at the end of the T-head and it really is pretty.  The Marina has really nice showers and laundry facilities when I want to take a long shower (it is a guilty pleasure).  Heck they even have free ice for Marina Members.
The only real downside of this location has to do with the flights in and out of the airport here.  They are not all that convenient and there are not many per day.

I will end this post with a nice little view of the sunrises from the boat.