Please visit our home site at www.TRILOBOATS.com.

Anke and I are building our next boat, and writing about it at ABargeInTheMaking.blogspot.com. Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.

Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write, and I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirl gmail daughter com

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pogo Boatin’ with Walt Kelly




Don’t take life too serious... 
It ain’t nohow permanent.
-- Walt Kelly (1913-1973)


Pogo Boatin’ with Walt Kelly

The origins of obsession are often lost in the murky past.

Who knows? Maybe they sat me on a square bucket during potty training? Maybe the ‘voyages’ my Brother and I made in cardboard boxes played a role? Maybe being generally un-hip (aka square) had something to do with it?

But sometimes, they jump out at ya!

Walt Kelly’s Pogo featured a loose community of characters living deep in Okefenokee Swamp. Through them, he gently parodied (US) American life, politics and religion in a sly, folksy manner now all but extinct.

My Grandparents had several of his books, collecting the strip. One of the many highlights of visiting them was to read and reread them all, understanding more of their deeper wit with each passing year. Their antics were plenty amusing on a superficial level, and I came to see how they reflected those of the larger world around me, in all its nonsensical glory.

In another way of looking at them, each of the characters could be seen as facets of a single personality. The calm center of Pogo himself; loyal Churchy; grumpy ol' Porkypine; pragmatic Missus Beaver with her children chockablock with wide-eyed wonder and mischief; Albert, impetuous and half-cocked; Mamselle, dreamy yet sensible; even the Deacon, tending to a grim preachiness... all aspects I recognize in myself.

And fer sure, the denizens of Okefenokee enjoyed their lives.

While often to be seen foraging for nuts or greens or fishing, they had no paid work. No schedules. No commute. Just the long, lazy days, filled with bsophy, poetry, music and the occasional fooferaw.

And frequently they would enjoy themselves in a series of punts – box barges in miniature – named after cities and notables whom Walt admired.

Naturally, the indolence and sheer fun of it all blended in my mind with those square boats.

Naturally!












NOTE: I believe all graphics to be the work of Walt Kelly, with the exception of the final panel (drawn in tribute on Walt's passing), which artist I was unable to identify.

NOTE: Other fictional communities of roughly similar flavor include A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh stories, Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, and Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons stories.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Bootstrap Economics: Reaching for Escape Velocity

Maybe UP isn't the preferred direction?



Bootstrap's bootstraps. Hehe.
- From Pirates of the Caribbean



Bootstrap Economics: Reaching for Escape Velocity

I've been mulling over a reader's recent comment regarding the building of our new boat, WAYWARD:

To tell the truth, it is a little hard to see how 30 grand in materials for a boat is exactly shoestring living. Maybe it's different on the water, but where folks around here live close to the land, owning our own little places, people are very hard pressed to gather into one place a little pile of money one-sixth of that. HARD pressed.

We don't think of WAYWARD as a shoestring build, despite many shoestring aspects of our operation.

The actual number is closer to $20K for materials (now in retrospect... reduced by discounts and adjusted to eliminate costs of building remote). Our labor is 'free' to us. Almost half of that is copper plating costs, which we feel pays for itself over time AND - as a commodity metal - has intrinsic value. By making other choices we could possibly have cut the remainder in half (we made some expensive choices based on our build situation... it could have been much simpler and cheaper to build elsewhere).

So before copper but including infrastructure, our materials came to about $11K.

But the point is well-taken. THIS boat swallowed up a chunk-o-change. The question is a good one...

How do low-income folks sweep together this kind of cash money?


Income - Overheads => Disposable Income

Disposable income is money free to be directed where one will. Toward ease, entertainment, travel... or the fulfillment of dreams.

It is the left-overs from income after overheads - those costs necessary to one's lifestyle.

Low income folks seldom have reasonable opportunity to substantially increase our income. In fact, the general trend is downward. But lifestyle can be changed to reduce overheads.

Life on the water is potentially very low overhead. This fact underlies bootstrap economics that make it possible to attain the dream, even on low income.

Let's start with the simple life on land...


Overhead

"...Folks around here live close to the land, owning our own little places..."

A whole economy is implied in this phrase.

Nowadays, property for habitable land must be rented, purchased or gifted. Before and after land is paid for, it is subject to property taxes based on assessed value (which may be far above actual market value). Access and rights-of-way must be reserved and maintained.

Structures either came with the property or must be constructed. If not let run to ruin, they must be maintained, often in accordance with zoning laws and regulations. Generally, their scale produces proportionally large expenses. Their value increases taxes.

Whether you rent or own, these costs find their way to the Occupant.

Generally, one or more vehicles are involved. Purchase, maintenance, repair, fuel, insurance. Secondary costs creep up, too... that trip to see Auntie, a wedding just a few hours away, that rendez-vous just a state over... each side-trip is festooned with small, extra-vehicular expenses.

From the full quote, above, the folk in question seem to be keeping up. Foreclosure is not mentioned, and some savings are possible.

NOTE: Children are sometimes thought of as generating overheads, but I'm not so sure. In our case, we're a couple of LINKs (Low Income, No Kids). This frees a certain amount of cash, though not as much as our culture generally assumes. Kids don't require cash... they mostly thrive on love, food, water and fresh air. I won't go into it further, here, but there are plenty of quality families persuasive on this point.


Crunching Some Numbers over a 5-year Span

Let's look at rent. Since 1985, $500/month has been near what's considered to be low end for a functional space in places I've lived (Pacific NW). That's $6K/year. Over 5 years, that's $30K!

NOTE: That rental price used to be for a modest apartment - nothing fancy - in okay condition... now it's getting to be dive price. In some parts of the country, rents may be somewhat lower, but will nevertheless generate large figures over time. My contacts assure me that ALL these numbers are wildly conservative.

How 'bout a car? Let's say $1K purchase price. You put 5K miles on it per year - half the national average - at 25mpg and $2/g for gas. Legally required liability insurance costs, say, $100/month. Over five years, you replace the tires with retreads for say, $500, and  do your own oil change/tune-ups every 2K miles averaging $25 a pop (oil, filters, plugs, etc). In five years, these conservative numbers generate costs close to $10K!

Okay... that's a $40K lump swept together from $8K/year given over to rent + vehicle.

If we could eliminate just these two overheads, the same, low income that had been narrowly paying the bills would generate relative heaps of disposable income.

Fortunately, there is a way...


Bootstrap onto the Water and Deep-Six Overheads

Once on the water overheads can be low to niggling - especially for engine-free sailboats, with solar or wind electrical generation and biomass heat/cooking.

If you anchor out, no rent. No utilities (though on-board electrical is in effect a utility cost). No fuel. No taxes. Reasonable costs to meet Coast Guard regulations. Low maintenance. Replacement costs are low and spread out.

How to get there?

Bob Wise, at Volkscruiser, has a lot of good advice on the how-tos of getting a boat under you for reasonable outlay. When I say 'reasonable' I mean obtaining a home for the cost a used car. It's a buyer's market, out there, with a lot of lonely, serviceable boats at fire-sale rates.

With both feet still on land, one can save toward a small cash-down purchase or build. The bar can be lowered by arranging 'owner-financed' terms.

Consider avoiding credit with attendant interest payments (which can easily double the cost of purchase).


Income

We Water Rats have in our favor the ability to take on remote work while providing our own infrastructure, plus the generally handy skills we WILL develop aboard. Having to make-do naturally suits us to a range of jobs that drive Professionals nuts on the urban frontier.

We can get a job done without an employer having to worry about our transportation, care and feeding. Out-of-the-way work affords a substantial and uncrowded market niche for our services.

Odd jobs suit our kind; commuting to regular work does not... leave that to the Lubbers! We strike a bargain, fulfill our commitments, collect our pay and sail off.

Micro-streams of income, thanks to low overheads, can play a large role in our micro-budgets.

Special situations may call for something like a 5-year plan. In effect, we financed WAYWARD by working two extra seasons (seasonal caretaking), between recent every-other-year gigs. That extra push provided the 'extravagant' wherewithal without raising our prospects to anywhere near the official poverty level.

We're now looking forward to recovering from chronic employment.  8)


Location

Much of this presupposes that we live aboard in areas which are not yet rigged to milk us, nor yet move us along. There are generally two types of suitable waters:

Waters remote from population centers - Concerned Citizens - and conformity regulations they tend promote - are few and far between. They're more likely than not to be friend, client and employer material. Much of Cascadia is an example of this type, especially its mid- to northern reaches.

Cracks - In these, regs might well be in place, but enforcement is low to lackadaisical. If Concerned Citizens inhabit the neighborhood, it has enough blind spots to keep out of their view. A bit more shuffling around might be in order to diffuse the profile. The Sacramento Delta is such an area.

Sometimes, a funky marina can be found for a reasonable trade-off between increased income (earned nearby) and low rent. But careful... a lot of us who enter, never return. Escape was hard enough the first time round!

If you wish to attain escape velocity but don't currently live in an area where on-board life is inexpensive, consider relocation as part of your plan.


Savings

Disposable income is very often disposed of. Money burns holes in pockets. A splurge here; a luxury there. Just doesn't seem to accumulate.

Your Money or Your Life recommends we spend consciously. Put that money toward realizing dreams, not impulses.

You might be surprised how quickly it accumulates.  How powerful money, well spent, can be!


Our Escape Trajectory

In 1990, Anke and I bought our first boat, used, for $5K - $1500 down and $500/month for 7 months (could see it as short horizon rent-to-own). To pay it off, I flipped pizza at a notch above minimum wage, while Anke worked at a winery and childcare for a notch below. We both quit steady work the day we put paid. From then on, we were able to live on odd jobs (easier to manage from the water), yet sock half our piddly earnings away.

We lived on BRAMBLE for five years, learning to sail and boat carpentry. When we sold her, we recovered our purchase price.

The financial story is a bit more complex than this, but the gist is, the low overheads enabled by that first boat freed up 'capital' for use toward building our own. A sizable portion of our investment in each vessel has passed from one to the next (equity). Our moderate income over the years has been divided between low overheads, family related travel and a short run of DIY, liveaboard vessels.

An important point... BRAMBLE was not our dream boat, but rather our 'kindergarten boat'.

All inadvertently (and thanks to Anke's pragmatism), we lucked into a viable, bootstrap approach which broke the financial burdens of life on land. If we'd followed my lead, we'd have dithered away years - if not our lives - vainly scraping for that 'perfect' boat, anchored by overheads.

From our first days on the water, it has been different.





NOTE: There are many reasons to council that one NOT build one's first boat, but rather buy used. There is so much that first boat will teach you; lacking that experience to inform your choices, it's difficult to justify the time, effort and expense invested in building, unless you simply enjoy the process. Triloboats attempt to lower that cost, while this blog attempts to fill some experiential blanks. But the main goal of both is to help those of you who wish it toward the water!





Sunday, June 7, 2015

Introducing Ray Jason's SEAGYPSY TRIBE Proposal

Pair of Wharram Catamarans


I believe that a catastrophic global collapse is coming and that the best escape is through small bands of enlightened sea gypsies surviving and then sculpting a style of living that is authentic, just, sustainable and joyous.
- Ray Jason


Introducing Ray Jason's SEAGYPSY TRIBE Proposal

Ray Jason (aka the Seagypsy Philosopher) is one who balances a love of the moment with the belief that our modern civilization, built on 'conquest agriculture' - he calls it Humanity 2.0 - is going down. Hard. Hard enough that NTHE (Near Term Human Extinction) is, at least, a plausible outcome.

But he has a proposal for us... the Seagypsy Tribe.

Loosely networked, anarchic tribes of sea gypsies sailing vessels able to keep the sea for considerable periods, he argues, would have the best chance of surviving local and/or global disaster. In his Start-Up Manual, he outlines his thinking on how the tribe might coalesce.

In case of local trouble, head 50 miles offshore - beyond the range of fuel-strapped marauders - and await developments. Should the region become untenable, set sail for a new one.

For Ray, as or more important than survival is a better way of looking at things. Wisdom.

His proposed Seagypsy Tribal Principles include such as Life is a web - not a pyramid. Simplicity is better than complexity. Embrace co-operation and not competition. Each a step-stone toward Humanity 3.0.

If you don't agree with all of them, no problem... they and your own can be discussed over a friendly cup o' kindness.

Preserving some of what has been wonderful about civilization while warning of its pitfalls is part of the Seagypsy Tribe's true essence. Ray calls it Mozart without the mushroom cloud.

But what about piracy? And a sailing vessel can't stay at sea forever! Ray addresses these concerns and others in further thoughts.


*****

Of course, this is right down my alley!

I pine for such a tribe in an earlier post, TAZ, Sea-Steading and Water-Borne Communities. A coming together - and going a'venture - of similar souls in a watery environ. In no small measure, this blog has been a way of attracting such a community. Scratching that itch, as it were, and I thank you all for your friendships.

Like Ray, I see the hand-writing on walls closing in. Limits to Growth tightening everywhere I look. The sea is no exception. But the sea is old, and vast.

Gaia Theory notes that the liquid state of water can only pertain in a very small range of temperature. Below freezing (273.15deg Kelvin) and above boiling (373.15 Kelvin) - a tiny fraction of possible planetary surface temperatures- our oceans freeze solid or vanish, taking all life with it. Yet, for 3.5+ billion years, the liquid sea has harbored life, which has in turn moderated planetary geophysics within that narrow, crucial range.

If our life is to go forward, what better refuge than the sea? What better vessel than one which sails?

What better tribe than one composed of friends?





Here are Ray Jason's SEAGYPSY TRIBE essays to date, recapped from the preceding text:


The SEAGYPSY TRIBE - The 'why'.
The True Essence of SEAGYPSY TRIBE - The spirit.
The SEAGYPSY TRIBE Start-Up Manual - The 'how'.
The SEAGYPSY Tribal Principals - The wisdom.
SEAGYPSY TRIBE Further Thoughts - Responding to the response.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

R2AK!!! The Race to Alaska




Right now teams from all over North America are rolling into town, packing gear into dry bags, carbo loading, and praying to whatever god will listen.

-- From R2AK.com


R2AK!!! The Race to Alaska

Now, I'm not a fella who ordinarily gets excited over a race.

Puddle Duckin', here and there, maybe, for the fun of it. I keep tabs the Everglades Challenge and Texas 200 for the innovative ideas that course through them. But mere competition? Leaves me cold.

But 4 June 2015 (tomorrow, as I write) marks the commencement of the first R2AK - The Race to Alaska, the longest engine-free race in North America.

I find myself excited!

Organized by the folks at Small Craft Advisor, it's a wind-muscle-brain push up 750 very nautical miles of the Inside Passage. Starting in Port Townsend, Washington (USA) they'll head up the coast of British Columbia (Canada) to finish in Ketchikan, Alaska (USAgain).

Clearly, this covers a lot of challenging waters!

Some long, high-current narrows are unavoidable. Queen Charlotte Sound might as well be open ocean. Hecate Strait is a shoaling and narrowing approach, funneling the North Pacific. By the time they re-enter Alaskan waters, it's almost anti-climactic... archipeligan intimacy is re-established. Harbors re-abound. Summery, inshore weather is likely to be clement. And the fleshpots of Ketchikan to salve their aching muscles.

Any boat without an engine may enter.

One might think that a long hull with ample spread of sail would nail the $10K first prize. But this country has a way of leveling the field.

Small, muscle driven boats can drive through calms and skirt currents that will slow the larger vessel. A boat that can be hauled above the tideline can save hours of detour, entry and exit to and fro safe anchorages.

Skill, cunning and persistence will get a crew further and faster than their vessel's dimensions might dictate.

Too much reliance on wind, and one is at it's mercy; too much reliance on muscle, and one is on a strict budget. Sprinters won't stay the course; laggards will lag.  Time, distance and geophysics moderate the impact of fortune, be it for good or ill.

Pace, balance and good decisions are everything.

It's got my attention!




PS. Good luck, good times and safe travels to all ye who enter!