Back aboard

1 May

Land life was great, but it wasn’t home. We loved the house and the neighborhood in St. Johns, but everyone missed Tango, so in May we moved back aboard!

Peyton really wanted us to be back onboard before her birthday in May. Our season on land was lovely, but there’s nothing quite like the boat life.

Peyton’s blackboard

Finding a home for everything feels like provisioning to go cruising!

Soon it will be goodbye to land

20 Apr

It’s almost that time! One more engine project between us and returning home to Tango. Our engine lines are original, and quite brittle, so time to go! Once they get in, we’re up for fun with fish tape and snaking things.

Every time we leave the boat, there is a sad family sigh…we all miss life afloat so much. A year and some change on land was nice, and this neighborhood was very wonderful, but it’s time to get back to the sailing life.

New Battery…New Gadget

8 Apr

So, we’ve had our two starter batteries for going on six years now. They are pretty much knackered. However, since we haven’t really been cruising (or even leaving our slip) lately, we’ve just kind been rather Zen about the “knackeredness” of the batteries. Last week we decided to start the process of upgrading them. Since they are kind of spendy, we are just going slow and buying one at a time. Since the starboard engine compartment is a bit less cluttered, we decided on replacing that one first. All went well with the installation, with the notable exception that I broke my rib on the installation. Yes, you read that right. I broke a freaking rib installing a battery. The battery compartment is located below Madi’s berth and the only way I’ve found to remove and replace the starter battery is to lay down on my side and carefully lift the battery out of the compartment. Part of the problem is that there is really no way to stand up in the constrained space. Another problem is that it is hard to get any leverage to lift and lower the heavy batteries.

That last bit is what did me in. I was laying down on Madi’s wooden bed support and I used my upper body strength to manhandle the battery into place. As I lowered the battery, I guess I put too much weight on my rib cage and I heard a very audible “snap” and a shooting pain radiated in my chest area. Dang! I guess I need more calcium in my diet. Regardless, I muddled through and buttoned up the new battery install. It was nice to press the ignition button and have the engine starter consistently turn over and to have the engine fire up without issue.

While I was laying on my side contemplating whether I should go to the hospital and get hundreds of dollars in x-rays and have them tell me that there is really nothing they can do for a broken rib, (yes, this isn’t my first experience with this) I thought how neat it would be to have some sort of permanent voltage monitor for the starter batteries. We have a monitor for our house batteries, but we’ve always had to use a multimeter to check the voltage on our starter bank. The downside of that procedure is that, since it’s kind of a pain to rip everything apart and check the voltage, we never really ever do it. For the past few years all I could tell you about our batteries is that they still kind of work but I couldn’t tell you what the state of charge is.

Wanting an inexpensive solution I hopped online and looked around for voltage monitors. Marine battery monitors are more expensive than I really wanted to pay so I looked for other options. I finally settled on a small LED volt and amp meter that also has a little USB port. Cool! The price was around 14 dollars. In the world of marine parts, 14 dollars is peanuts. Seriously, I’m down with 14 dollars. Add onto that a little switch for about eight dollars and about 10 feet of AWG 14 wire and bingo, a pretty nifty little voltage monitor. It works great and, as an added benefit, we can also see if our alternator is pumping proper voltage into the system. It’s nice to be able to see a real time readout of the state of charge. I’ll definitely repeat this for our port engine

I’ll include links to the parts that I used below.

Here is the voltage meter.

Here is the push button switch.

Message in a bottle

3 Jan

Back in 2014 or so, on one of our gulf stream crossings, Madi decided to write a message and put it in a bottle to see where it ended up. Today, she finally heard back! She got an email stating that yesterday the bottle and a young man named Emanuel found each other in Pico Island, Azores!

2018 bottle

Photo from Emanuel in Pico Island

If that bottle could talk about the nearly four year journey it had, riding the gulf stream. We speculate that it rode the current north towards Iceland, before it curved back around south to land on the Azores.

What a wonderful way to start 2018, as we prepare to move back on Tango in the spring and continue getting her ready for future cruising adventures.

Thank you, Emanuel!

Starter? I Hardly Knew Her.

24 Oct


From Andy,

Since the day we bought Tango we have always had a nagging problem with our ignition system. The two Yanmar diesel engines have both displayed the same crazy frustrating behavior. Turning the key an pushing the starter button always yielded varying degrees of success. Generally one would have to push the starter button around 15-20 times to finally hear the reassuring sound of the solenoid engaging the starter followed by the even more reassuring sound of the engines roaring to life. That nagging problem ended today. Well, on the starboard engine anyway.

Before we left Maryland we had a diesel mechanic come aboard and check out the engines. We told him about the issue and he kind of hmm’d and hawed, but couldn’t figure out what the problem was. We should have been persistent, but, I think at the time we just thought we could live with it. For the years that we have cruised on Tango, we have done just that. Lived with it. However, living with it has always kept me up at night. What if we are drifting towards a bridge or trying to get out of the way of an oncoming cruise ship? Pressing the starter button in the hopes that it would kick over is, ultimately, not a satisfactory answer when lives are at stake.

So, scouring the internet for many days, I finally came across a possible solution. Apparently there are two wires that run from the key switch and the starter button that tend to degrade quite badly over time. This degradation increases the resistance and when that happens, there are not enough amps to kick over the starter motor. Solution? Replace the two wires with some shiny new wires and a new 30 amp fuse.

Since running wires on Tango is a major pain in the arse, I started the experimental fix on the starboard engine first. (Why do they make some boats so hard to work on?) The run between the key switch and the starter is only a few feet on the starboard side and, within a few minutes I had the wires running from the source to destination.

Long story short, I just ran the wires along the pathway for the existing wires, cable tying as I went along. A few splices and connections later, the time came to test the system out. First press of the starter was a success. Could be a fluke, though. Second time? Success! Third, fourth and fifth time? Great success! The fix was remarkably easy and I feel stupid that I let self doubt of my abilities get in the way of fixing something important.

Bad Andy.


If you happen to have the same issue, here is a link to the original article that I used for this fix.


Now, on to the port engine. This one will be much trickier as there is quite a long and convoluted run from the ignition switch to the starter. Onward and upward, as they say.

Hot dogs

25 Aug

The dogs miss living on the water, so we bought them a kiddie pool while we house it.

A different kind of adventure

24 Jan

We rented a house! Now we are true landlubbers.

There are lots of reasons we decided to move off Tango (for now), but a main one is that Tango needs some major TLC that’s tough to do while living aboard. Things like rebuilding the diesel engines (starboard is under Madi’s room). Other things include cleaning out every hold and removing the hidden piles of stuff we accumulated over the years that we don’t use anymore. One thing I’ve always loved about Fountaine Pajot design is the storage. Seems like we’ve filled up this house, and we haven’t started cleaning out the deep holds yet.

We expect this to take a few years (doing it slowly on our own), and since we aren’t leaving Portland any time soon a house seems like a good solution. Most of our family and friends felt like this was a good and logical thing to do, but it feels very revolutionary to us!


The last few weeks we’ve been walking around the house talking about how decadent things feel with unlimited running water, an oven, a flushing toilet, a bathtub, a furnace, a normal address (no more “what is a slip?”), and high speed internet. One of the girls commented that she’s glad to have a foundation in our Tango life, because she appreciates things that others might take for granted.

Someday the cruising adventures will continue, but for now we look forward to land-based ones. Here’s to adventure!

Where’s a snowshovel when you need it?

12 Jan

Epic snow (for Portland), with overnight accumulation of nearly a foot! Poor Tango sank down several inches below her waterline, and the bimini and trampoline have new stretch marks.

Need to shovel off the snow, but don’t have one waiting in the forward hold? Why would we – this is Portland after all. We thought our days of bitter, snowy Maryland winters worrying about de-icing, shoveling, winterizing engines and buying bubblers were behind us. 

No worries! A dust bin, a collander and a squeegee will also do. Sailors can find many uses for an item, or necessity is the mother of invention, right? 

With Tango a few pounds lighter, some of the crew took a school break to throw a few snowballs and bound with the crazy dogs. Some of the other crew just hid under afghans and wished for warmer weather. 😊

On a night like this…

4 Jan

…What we wouldn’t give for another ten amps! (Especially Robin who is missing tropical weather big time).

Is it really supposed to be this cold in Portland this soon? The east winds blowing at 20 knots don’t help either. 

Time to dig out the ski gear, brrr!

Didn’t beat the first cold snap

9 Dec

Winter  arrived a bit early in Portland and I didn’t finish the enclosure. In fact, the last rolls of vinyl windscreen just arrived a day ago.

Oh, well! Perhaps it will warm up enough soon to make patterning outside a more enjoyable venture.