Learning the dark secrets of marine navigation electronics.

A boat is a very high maintenance item.  A sailboat even more so in my opinion.  The miles and miles of ropes, the numerous pulleys, sidecars, track, the sails, etc all consumable items, albeit with some care they can last a long while.  

I’ve just been describing BooBee’s home.  Hence my living on the boat became working on the boat.  A sailboat can be remarkably high tech, ironically.  Although their principle mean of propulsion is the wind they are equipped with some pretty high tech electronics equipment.  GPS, AIS (automation identification system – which tells you of the surrounding boats as far as a few nautical miles away.  Their name, identification, dimensions, speed, direction are visible on the instrument.  Then you have the radar which allows you to “see” in the dark, if you can decipher the image.  Depth sounder, speedometer, wind instrument for wind speed and wind direction.  A digital compass, and finally the auto pilot and course computer.  The last 2 goes hand in hand.  The course computer takes in all the available data and decides if your course needs correction.  Technically you can program in a destination called a waypoint and say, “take me there!”.

Like all electronics (with few exceptions maybe of military nature that are nuclear electromagnetic radiation proof too) their greatest threat is perhaps lightning!  The electromagnetic pulse generated by lightning strikes can desimate electronic equipment in proximity.  This risk is significantly higher in a sailboat.  The mast, usually made of conductive aluminium, sticks about 5 stories vertically towards the sky.  You can think of the mast as a big lightning rod and you are usually the tallest object around.  That, is a formula for a lightning magnet! 

Marine navigational equipment are expensive.  Not just burning a hole in the wallet expensive, but can actually make whole wallets disappear, credit cards and all.  When a storm hangs around, I would bow low to the God of lightning, for this God can make you go broke in just a single flash lasting a mere split second.

Of course, electronics die of old age too.  The navigational equipment on Micasa are more then a decade old.  One by one they added onto my stack of most concerning worries on the boat.  They would start by acting up, throwing me a screw ball every now and then and finally refused to play ball and gave up the ghost!

There are only a handful of marine navigational equipment makers and all play this game of built in obsolescence.  Anything older than 3 years, they would not carry parts for.  When you bring in a faulty piece of their equipment, hoping dearly that the repair would not be as painful as imagined you’d be told to throw it away and buy a new one!  Consumer protection stops at the shores, I would conclude!

Left with no other choice I had to seek for alternatives.  To get off main stream and to seek for something (heaven knows what) more affordable.  

Electronics frightens me.  They are like black boxes to me.  They produce an outcome, a result and only God will know what goes on inside these black boxes.  

I had to learn more about them, those black boxes!  Dwelling into the dark arts of those black boxes was petrifying. Before hitting the search button for every key catch phrase, I had almost have to cross myself first, the Christian way.  I read the distasteful scriptures for those black boxes which were brain numbing.  I soldiered on through this valley of cerebral death, reading pages after pages of those coma inducing scriptures.  Only God really knows how long I was on this ordious path as a minute on it seemed like days.  Slowly those words of the devil like NMEA with satanic numbers such as 0183 or 2000 started to gain a modicum of grip on my half comatosed brain.

Most boat owners would not have to suffer such ordeals.  They would simply throw money at it which buys them a less painful path towards navigation narvana.  This option is not in my arsenal.  I am out of a job!

Slowly but surely, the darkside prevailed. This dark art took control of my mind and tongue and I started to speak the language of the devil.  Baud rates and all!

Pardon the satirical view on learning navigational equipment.  It wasn’t an easy journey but one that was a necessary evil for me.  From these I started the search for an affordable alternative to main stream navigation equipment.  It exist!  Residing in the grey world of GitHub, the domain of nerds and hidden geniuses.

Poorer sailors, like me.  Yes, they exist although we do not hear much about them.  After all they are not the immediate targets of flashy commercials and advertisements of the multi billion dollar yacht building industry and the satellites of supporting industries surrounding it.  No sun tanned Greek Gods and Goddesses images associated with them.  This underclass and under previleged group of sailors are subconsciously brushed aside as mere irritations by those sailors and boat owners bearing much heftier wallets and digital numerical values which stretches into eternity!

God is fair, however!  He has endowed many of these underdogs and social outcasts with above average IQs.  This under privileged group has their own community.  They share a common hardship and as strong a zest to sail as any.  They have been facing the very same predicaments as I’ve only recently stumbled upon.  The spirit of willingness to help others, which is typical of the sailing community, is very much the philosophy of this group’s existence.  The objective of becoming rich in dollars and cents through the exploitation of the dire needs of others isn’t on the top of the agenda of the members of this community.  Yes, they are rich however, in their nobility and willingness to help others.  God bless them!

This community is linked through online networks and forums and much of the fruit of their toils are open for all in the open source domain of GitHub.  There you will find scripts and coding which utilizes the processing powers of single board computers and microcontrollers.  The Raspberry Pi which evolved from a toy for school projects is one of the favourites.  Using an Arm chip (from mobile phones) and some elegantly designed computer software architectures, these little computers do garner enough processing power to accomplish most computing tasks with relative ease, albeit with very low investment costs and power consumption in their operation.

Navigational equipment such as chartplotters and autopilots can be created from cheap hardwares and free open-source softwares.  One may think that these are mere toys with little relevance in the real world.  I would beg to differ from this view.  Such equipment can and do rival any commercially available equipment out there but at a mere fraction of what it’ll set you back by, if you are to buy one of those proprietary, limited lifespan navigation equipment.  Some well credentialed individuals associated with the industry have made such statements as “superior in their functions to commercially available units!”, with regards to these DIY equipment.  I am not in such an honoured level of existence, and I do find these DIY navigation equipment to be reliable and bountifully adequate for my needs.

Could this be God’s answer to my prayers?  To provide me with the means to navigate the seas safely and to mitigate the likelihood of Micasa and her crew (my Admiral, Sailor dog, and yours truly) getting in harm’s way?  Yes, I do think so and may God bless those unsung heroes (we know who they are!) who have done so much for the sailing community without much material rewards in return.

Thank you for tuning in.  There will be more articles forthcoming, in future.  Do feel free to comment and like my article, and do share them with your friends and loved ones!  In the meantime, do live life as its meant to be lived!

Living on a boat.

I went back to my journal and found this, written on the anniversary of my liveaboard, almost a full 2 years ago. I had been a liveaboard for a full year at that point and here were my thoughts.

A year of living on a boat.

Today is the eve of my first anniversary as a full time liveaboard. A full time liveaboard is one who lives on a boat as a primary home, in my case the only home. My land base home has been rented out exactly a year ago.

This is a longer than usual write up. I have shared many events of my day to day life on Micasa over the past year and today I would like to share with you some of my thoughts in retrospect on what living on a boat is like.

First thing first, forget for a moment the glamour and “high five” good times impression that you may have of such a lifestyle. Yes sure, I have had lots of good times both living on Micasa and sailing her around. The underlying most predominant thing here is that it is a lot of responsibility. Responsibility for the safety of those on board firstly and secondly the responsibility of making and having your vessel seaworthy, as this will ultimately leads back to the safety of all on board.

The sea with all its beauty and magnificence can be a very scary place for us land dwelling creatures (we would have gills otherwise). A calm serene day can very quickly turn into a violent storm. One that can shake both your boat and you to the very core. Imagine your home being thrown around as if it’s in a gigantic washing machine. You as the captain of the vessel can do little apart from the preparation and precautions you may or may not have taken up until then. Going about on the deck, in the fury of a storm, is far from safe and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Remember one thing too! You are on your own. Anyone who dares come to your aid will be at the full mercy of the violent sea, at such times. There are no tow trucks and no time out (or reset button). This is real life and you’ll just have to pray and ride it out.

I am no hero and neither do l have a great appetite for risk taking. Everything that I do on the boat is directed towards this one important factor. To reduce the risk of harm to those on board and the boat itself. To ensure that Micasa is seaworthy and that all her critical functions work well enough that when called upon, she will be able to get us out of harm’s way. Much like a chess player, I tend to look many steps ahead these days when it comes to anything on Micasa. Be it a simple repair or alteration, I will, in my mind, run it through the scenarios of potential harsh conditions and question the ability of the repair or alteration to put up with them for years to come. When things breakdown or come undone, it will most of the time, happen during such punishing times. During such times, your plate will already be spilling over the sides and you would want to ensure that lesser is being heaped onto this very plate. This is not meant to scare anyone but to share with you the gravity of potential situations one is likely to end up in, when at sea. Well, It did happened when on one cruise when we were anchored at a river mouth near Tanjung Pinang in Bintan, Indonesia (one of my earlier “share” in Facebook – 1st Nov. 2016). One simply does not blissfully and gaily set forth into the blue sea without good preparations. The sea will very quickly teach you humility and respect for her.

Alright, serious stuff out of the way. Once the boat is kept at a good level of seaworthiness you should go and enjoy what the sea and land reachable by sea has to offer. The thing that always amazes me is the sight that I see when I open my front doors in the morning, when away on a cruise. I am in the comforts of my home, though small it may be relative to most land based homes, it offers me all the conveniences of a real home. Yet, this home can take me to beautiful and exortic, off the beaten path destinations. You literally take your home with you on a holiday. The freedom you get from this, is one which is hard to put down in words. There are many cruisers out there enjoying this on a daily basis. Weather permitting, when you feel you have had enough of a place, you would simply set sail for your next destination without having to sacrifice any of the comforts of home. On each shore, a new adventure awaits.

The boating and sailing community is the other amazing thing. On a shore based home, we would hardly know our neighbours. But not so on the water. It is a true community in every sense of the word. I once wrote that a neighbour offered me a dinner of pasta, fearing that I might go hungry that evening. When help is needed I need not even ask for it at times. Help can offer itself right at my doorstep, at the time of need. It is a close knit community. One that I am truly happy to be a part of. On my dock, a neighbour is always having a barbecue on Friday nights. Invitation is always open to the neighbours. Just turn up with some food or drinks that you can share, is the general rule. Even if I am sometimes caught empty handed, I am still welcomed to share their food and drinks. The warmth and friendliness amongst the neighbours is something that I have not seen in any neighbourhood I have been in, barring none.

So those are some of the highlight moments, but what of my day to day living? Space is always limited. It’s something which I have grown accustomed to. Before buying anything the questions are always, do I have space for it? Do I really need it? Can I do without it? More often than not, it is a resounding “Yes” to the later! A big plus to having a smaller home is that it’ll just take me a fraction of the time to vacuum and mop the floor. In fact I do not even use a mop, just a piece of rug and a small bucket. It is easier to keep clean and tidy, yet at times when something goes missing, it is almost impossible to find despite the small space. Why? Every bit of storage space is stacked to the bream. To take the stove kettle out (when no shore power is available for the electric kettle) for example, I will need to remove half a dozen things before being able to reach it. Every now and then, especially in the earlier months, I will repack some of these storage cabinets and lockers. Placing the most commonly used items within easy reach as the routines become more set. There are dedicated storage for household items and clothing and some are for tools, spares and emergency equipment like spare anchor and chains, emergency tiller and even a sea parachute (this last one you would hope not to have to use). I have always been pleased with myself for having chosen Micasa with all that she came with. She is only a medium size sailboat and yet has a good layout which makes her space very livable. She came well equipped enough to cross vast seas. One of her previous owners has been a seasoned sailor and has equipped her well. Going through the things on the boat even months after I have bought Micasa, I realised how much thoughts and planning have gone into gearing her up. There were many things which I had no idea about when I first saw them during the initial “cleaning up” process. I did not grow up in a sailing fraternity. Despite of the vast amount of materials I have read, consumed and digested in the year or so it took me to find the right boat, there were still much I did not know about when it comes to boats and sailings. I have also taken some Royal Yachting Association courses which included five days out at sea on a sailboat before becoming a liveaboard. After a year of living on Micasa and occasionally taking her out for short cruises, there still remain much to be learnt. This learning process has been an interesting adventure in itself.

Living on a boat has made me very conscious of my own consumption. Water for example, is precious. Electricity is the other that I have become very conscious about. Simply because these things are finite and depend on the availability of resupply sources, which are not always there. I am also buying my groceries in smaller packing size (like toothpaste and coffee for example) simply for the lack of space to store the excess. Strangely, this has also made me more aware of what and how much I am consuming. As of now I am even embarking on a project to go off grid on my electricity requirement. To be self sufficient. Living on a boat has made me a much greener person simply out of necessity.

Yes there are a few more chores and precautions needed on a boat. The water tanks will always need topping up, the air-conditioner needs maintaining for example, and when away from the boat for more than a day, it’s always a good practice to turn off the seacocks (inlet or outlet for water), after all, this home can sink. After a while these become second nature. It’ll come automatically, like taking your shoes off before entering your home. Which I do on Micasa, and BooBee my sailor dog – she gets her paws wiped with a wet piece of cloth soaked in Dettol, after each time she’s been out for a walk. More to come about BooBee the sailor dog, in another write up.

Most other maintenance, such as the engine, the windlass (anchor winch), general plumbing or even servicing of the air-conditioner can be done by professionals. However this being a boat (some refer to it as a yacht which I dare not) everything will cost double if not triple of what a car servicing would cost for example. There are fewer people doing these for boats and they are of the impression that boat owners are able to afford it. True for some but not for all but that is hardly an excuse for robbery. I tend to do all of the work myself, for a few reasons. I do have the time and I am also not afraid to get my hands dirty but these are not the main reason why I do do them. I need to know as much about the boat as possible, as I have mentioned earlier that out there, you are on your own. If your engine breaks down for example, no one can repair it for you until you came back to shore. Knowing your boat better will give you a better chance of fixing thing out there, when required to.

Will I still choose this way of life if I get a reset? Absolutely! Despite of all the hazards and inconveniences, I have had a blast of a year. A year of interesting living where I have looked forwards to each day. Despite of the few extra ounces of responsibility on my shoulder, the highlight times are simply too good to be missed. One year is a long enough period of time to say that I now know what life as a liveaboard is like. For the foreseeable future I will choose to continue having a boat as my home.

I will continue to share my adventure and life aboard and maybe someday even write a book about it. In the meantime, stay tuned and thank you all for tuning in.

Remember to live life in the present – the present will not be around for long!

https://www.facebook.com/benedict.chin.3/videos/10213268095958037/

BooBee’s caretaker.

Till now, it has been how BooBee went from the world of a dog pound to what most people would have considered as living the dream!

The journey for me as BooBee’s caretaker, “daddy”, captain of our floating home Micasa, Jack-of-all-trade in keeping Micasa in a seaworthy condition, had been just as contrasting.  I have mentioned briefly, somewhere in the introduction in this blog about my previous life.  I was a corporate executive director.  A top pen-pusher or keyboard tickler for many years in a multinational company based in Singapore.

In my previous, previous life (not quite the 9 lives of a cat!) I was a farmer, a plantation manager in some far out of reach corner of the world.  There are much more closer analogies between a farmer and a sailor, than to a corporate slave.  You see, being a farmer, my job was to keep things going  and ticking along despite of the remote location and distance from civilization.  It meant that if a water pump, for example, was not working, I would need to find some ways of fixing it, if possible, rather than to lug it 50 miles into town to get fixed.  This thing about fixing things in remote locations (some call it exortic places) will ring a very loud and clear bell to those cruiser sailors. 

Of course, at the other extreme corner was the guy in a crisply ironed white long sleeve shirt, half strangled by a fabric noose around his neck!  This guy would have a pale complexion and an almost guaranteed condition of vitamin D deficiency from the total lack of exposure to direct sunlight.  He would take one look at the broken water pump and proceeded straight to filing up a maintenance requisition form.

A boat is usually in a very harsh environment, especially those in a salty abode.  Closer to that imaginary line which divides the globe into Northern or Southern hemisphere, the sun would be at its fiercest and relentlessly putting out a zillion watt of UV energy to reduce everything to crumbly bits in no time.  Things will breakdown frequently and maintenance requirements simply off the chart.  A boat is a very high maintenance thing, per se.  Put that corporate guy on that boat and you will be seeing a B Grade movie remake of the Titanic which always end with the captain going down with his ship (boat)!

So as you can imagine, the ex-corporate guy that I was did struggle on the boat and was trying desperately to find my farmer’s hat thinking “if that guy was around, he’d know how to fix this!”. The mindset and habbits moulded by more then 20 years in a corporate environment was my greatest hindrance.  I did eventually find my farmer’s hat and gradually those skills that were of second nature to me started to surface again.

I was retrenched from a company that I had put twenty over years of my working life into.  It was as if that company was mine – I helped build it, didn’t I?  As much as I had wanted to see things in a more positive light, that was a bitter pill to swallow and it certainly would require some strong medicine to remove that enormous chip on my shoulder.

Yes, I did move from living in a high rise apartment to sea level, literally.  I rented out my apartment for a bit of income (trust that corporate guy to keep thinking in dollars and cents!).  The boat was a high maintenance item and living on the boat became working on the boat.  And unless I would be doing most things myself it would have been a very fine line between living the dream and going broke!  Where’s that darn farmer?  Can’t he come around a little sooner?!

It was hard physical work (at least to that ex-corporate guy) and I would either had to gunk myself up in sun cream or live with the consequence of painful sunburn.  I had decided for the later till my skin was dark enough that I would burn no more under the hot tropical sun.  As soon as the farmer in me stuck his head around the corner, I took on ambitious tasks like refurbishing the entire boat’s floorboards from stern to bow.  I had to remove each piece of floorboard for sanding and revarnishing on the pontoon outside.  That way it would make lesser of a mess inside and my sailor dog was inside the boat. 

She was always curious and inquisitive about whatever I was tending to.  If I would open up my tool bag for example, she would immediately stick her snout in there to sniff around.  On a freshly varnished floorboard, she would have no hesitation towards trampling over it.  I once was doing some gelcoat repair on a patch of the fiberglass deck.  BooBee stood watch nearby and when her inquisitiveness got a better hold of her, she marched over for a closer inspection.  Of course it created some commotion involving panicked shouting and waving arm! Then seeing that I was a little upset, she marched on to go into the boat, leaving a trial of white paw prints on the teak deck.  A couple of those prints are still there on the teak deck today, a good two years after that fiasco.  I could remove them easily, but I thought, why not just leave them there.  This being her home as well and this is her Hollywood walk of Fame imprintment.

All that boat work was therapeutic to me.  It required elbow grease and much patience on my part.  Waiting for varnish to dry had been rather testing at best and my mind wandered into asking why UV cured varnish for the DIY man had not been created.  The technology is not new and with China’s manufacturing might today, the LED UV curing machines are even used for DIY manicuring.  A thought for some of you enterprising folks, perhaps!

I am a perfectionist by nature.  For example, if a piece of floorboard wasn’t varnished right, I would have little hesitation to sand it all off to start over again.  So I got better at it.  Practice does make perfection!  The list of boat projects was never ending.  There was a chipped veneer door that needed tending to.  An interesting 2 days project involving water colours to blend the repair in.  At the end, I myself couldn’t really tell where the chip was initially.

The therapy was great and over time I could tell that the enormous chip on my shoulder was deminishing in size.  A sort of detox for the mind.  I do keep a sort of journal on Facebook both as a mean of record keeping and to keep my friends and family informed.

I was looking out for a job initially, the sort that I used to do in the corporate world.  The suitable ones that came along would require me to relocate to places like China, Vietnam or Myanmar but then I had to decline.  I’ve got 2 girls (my Admiral and sailor dog) and a boat to look after.

After a while, I had simply stopped looking. Strangely too the headhunters have also stopped calling.

Over the last few years of maintaining and upgrading my boat I have became good at it too.  Be they of woodworking nature, mechanical, electrical or even electronics  (all boat related), I’ve tackled them all to the extent that even the perfectionist in me was satisfied with the outcome.  Micasa, is certainly one of the better maintained boats around.  I am now more the farmer turned sailor than that ex-corporate guy who would struggle at manual work. 

Earlier this year, I’d realised that the canvas awning over Micasa, needed replacement.  Instead of relying on professional services I undertook this huge project myself.  First building a structure around the boat out of PVC piping material, then wrapping the entire structure with heavy marine canvas which I sewed myself.  Trust that the perfectionist in me would have done a decent enough job at that. 

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Decent enough that I have gotten requests from boat neighbours to do some of their canvas work.  I’m okay with that and I’d realised too that I can supplement some of my expenses from boat work alone.  That corporate guy is no longer around and I’m fine with it.

Taking on that first odd job was a turning point for me.  It was a closure in a way to a corporate job, which I’m Okay with.  I’ve realised too over the last couple of years, that being away from the corporate environment had allowed me to broaden my horizon to a vast extent.  I’ve recently mail ordered for a large invertor for use on Micasa (after installing some lithium batteries) which did not work (the inverter).  It was from China and the 1 year warranty was not entertained at all.  Instead of throwing it out I had repaired it by changing a few resistors and a MOSFET.  Never in a million years would that ex-corporate guy ever attempt something of that nature.

So these few years had been a journey of sorting out my priorities in life.  I am comfortable in my own skin now, walking around barefoot in a pair of shorts and a tank top. 

The Admiral still holds a full time job on shore, in Singapore.  I would wish that she will say “enough”, soon!  That would be the signal to cast off our dock lines and we will be sailing off towards the horizon as true cruisers with BooBee our sailor dog on board.

Part of the journey has ended for me and I am looking forwards to the second part of it. BooBee the sailor dog has become a big part of our daily lives. I’ll continue to share my experiences of living on a boat with a sailor dog both in the present and in retrospect, in this blog.

Goodnight for now and do tune in for more in the future.

Cheers and remember to live life.

The making of a sailor dog.

BooBee was certainly exposed to a lot more than what she had experienced at the pound, till then.  She had never seen  television before.  The first time we turned on the TV (I remember it was a Saturday night, around horror show time) the image of a creepy man appeared and BooBee barked at him.  It only took her a little while to realise that it wasn’t a real man but just an image.  From then on she hardly ever took more then a glance at the TV.  Yes, we have a TV on Micasa, albeit a 32 inches TV mounted on a swivel arm.

One day, during the first month that BooBee was with us, I happened to turn on the stereo which has a pair of waterproof speakers in the cockpit.  She was up in the cockpit at the time.  She immediately walked to the companionway doors while glancing back towards the source of the noise, with a very puzzled look on her face.  Like everything else, she learnt extremely quickly, that it was only one of my gadgets!

We would every now and then take the boat out to spend a night or two at nearby Islands.  Lazarus Island, which is linked to Saint John Island by a land fill, was one of our favourite (and BooBee’s too).  The first time I started the engine, BooBee ran out of the boat, not knowing for sure why the whole house was rumbling.  Again she learnt!

When sailing, the safety of the boat’s crew rest with me, the captain.  Everyone, including myself must dorn a life vest. No exception, even BooBee!  She felt uncomfortable in it, initially, but soon gotten used to it.  She never liked riding in the dinghy and refused to get in by herself.  Always had to be carried on.  When anchored near Lazarus Island, the dinghy was the only mean of getting onto the island.  It was like Treasure Island to BooBee.  She loved exploring it. The next morning, as soon as I pulled the dinghy nearer to the boat, she was the first one on it.  All by herself!  She wanted to go exploring on her Treasure Island.

BooBee off to explore her Treasure Island (Lazarus Island).

On some stretches of water even within Singapore waters, on the more exposed side, the sea could get rather rolly.  To the extent that the Admiral would get seasick.  But not BooBee!  I have never seen her getting seasick.

Surprisingly, though, BooBee would get car sickness if the ride is anything longer than 10 or 15 minutes. One day after she threw up onto the back seat of the car, I commented to her, “You really are a sailor dog, aren’t you?”.  And that became her nickname of sort from that point onwards.

On one of the boats, a half dozen boats further along the pontoon, lives BooBee’s godmother.  She dotted on BooBee.  Occasionally bring her roasted pork knuckles or roasted chicken.  My Admiral too would sometimes buy KFC for BooBee.  When she told BooBee once that she was going to buy KFC for BooBee, she would lick her mouth just thinking about it.  She understood what KFC was.  BooBee’s dinner now usually consists of cooked rice mixed with a whisked egg, then microwaved to cook.  To this, strips of shredded deboned roasted chicken was added and mixed evenly into. She does eat better than we do but we would not have it any other way.  She loved fish and the occasional crab as well. We will have to peel or debone for her first. We do spoil her in this sense but then why not?!  Didn’t we agreed to regard her as a member of the family when we decided to adopt her?  Is she not like our child to us, an only child!?

In many ways, BooBee does not think she is a dog.  She had very little contact with other dogs as there are no dogs nearby, only on weekends, a nearby neighbour would bring their dog to the marina.  She was with humans only, nearly all of the time.  One morning while drinking my coffee, she even indicated to me that she wanted some. I ignored her…. It’s coffee after all and dogs do not drink coffee!  She persisted and when I kept ignoring her, she nudged me with her snout!  So I gave her a few teaspoons of coffee in a bowl….. She lapped it all up!!!

In some ways it’s my fault that she does not know she’s a dog.  Especially when it was raining outside I would give her, her dinner, on the saloon aisle.  At times she would eat a little messily with grains of rice sprinkled all around her bowl, onto the floor rug.  I would pick them up grain by grain, else the rice would be sticking to our soles. In my annoyance, I would say to her, “BooBee don’t eat like a dog!  You give me work to do!”.  Her godma thinks it’s my fault!

I know, it’s mostly our fault that she is such a fussy eater now.  She has also become a little costlier to maintain too!

That’s BooBee, my Sailor dog who was from the pound!

Knowing you, knowing me!

One of the many things to consider when adopting an adult dog is that it will have already developed its own character. A personality that would have been formed without your presence. The dog will not know your likes and dislikes and hopefully the adopted adult dog is sensitive enough to change its habits to suit yours (being the leader of the pack and master of the house or boat)! More likely than not, it will be a compromise by both the adopted adult dog as well as the master of the house (boat).

The two months following BooBee’s arrival on our floating home was basically a time to get to know her, as well as for her to know us. She does have a strong character of her own. She can be just as stubborn as any of us. She needed to be coaxed rather than instructed to do somethings like moving to her side of the bed so that I can sleep on my side. Opps, jumping ahead a little here but I’ll explain how she came to be sleeping on our bed each night, a little later. She does not play fetch likes most dogs do, in fact she does not play with any toys, period. Presumably have grown up in a pound, void of things such as play toys or even a person to play with, she does not play with any object at all. This does not mean that she will not play with us. One of her favourite game is to play “catch” when out for a walk on the marina’s shores. She would shoot pass me running at full bore then turn around to run pass me on the other side. She is a very fast runner, which is probably due to her Grey Hound like build. The sound of her paws striking the ground when running flat out did in fact sounded very similar to the gallop of a horse.

BooBee actually has the intellect of a small child. Like any small child you need to talk to them frequently so that they will start to comprehend and to make sense of language. After about a month of living with us, I was almost frightened by her ability to understand spoken language.

There was this time when I had just put out her cooked meal for her, in the cockpit. At Micasa’s (our boat) helm, the floor immediately behind the large single steering wheel is recessed with 45 degrees slope on either sides of the recess. This, to provide a flat (horizontal) stepping for the person at the helm when the boat is heeling under sail. This recess is perfect for BooBee’s stainless steel dinner bowl. If it moved while she was eating, it will not move far.

BooBee has a habit of eating just a portion of her meal while leaving as much as half of it for later. She has no competition on Micasa. Whatever she left behind for later will be there later! In the initial weeks after her arrival, I was alway anxious for her to finish her food out of fear that she does not eat enough. She is not very food motivated as I was told.

After eating part of her meal she stood at the companionway door looking down at me in the galley, washing up some dishes. By her mannerism (yes, I was getting to know her too) she wanted to go for a walk. I simply turned to her and said “go finish your food and I will take you out later!”. Having done the dishes, I looked up at her, at the companionway door. This time she had a “I’ve been a good girl” look about her. Feeling that I may have missed something, I went up to the cockpit for an inspection. Good God, she went and finished her meal after being told that I would take her out after she finished her meal!

She would eat one big meal a day for dinner. I had tried giving her food in the morning but she would seldom eat more than a bite of it. One of my favourite breakfast is pan fried luncheon meat sandwich along with my coffee. Sometimes, BooBee will look at me while I was pan frying my luncheon meat and licked her mouth indicating that she would like some. I would usually cook a little extra so that she can have her share. At times, she would sniff the piece of pan fried luncheon meat in her dinner bowl and simply walked away. I would get a little upset at that, being brought up never to waste food. I would nag at her, telling her that she (Boobee) should go and eat her luncheon meat after all I took the trouble to prepare a little extra for her. Sometime, my Admiral would chip in as well telling her not to waste food, after all “Daddy” took the trouble to fry them for her. Guess what?!! She would go and eat what was made for her after that!

Friends and neighbours are usually astounded by her ability to understand simple words but not me. I know her ability to comprehend goes far beyond single words. She does have an intellect of a small child (say between 2 to 3 years old) . My Admiral referred to me as “daddy” when talking to BooBee. With each passing day she was more and more our child. In reality, we have accepted her as a part of the family upon making the decision to adopt her.

She is scared stiff of thunder. During a thunderstorm she would not be her normal self. Seeking out confined spaces to hide in or under. If a cabinet door was opened she will try to climb into it.

I, on the other hand, am also scared stiff of lightning. Micasa is full of electrical equipment and navigation electronics. A direct hit by a lightning will destroy all of the above. A very costly affair. To make matters worse, Micasa is a sailboat with an aluminium mast which sticks up some 20 meters into the sky. This is akin to someone holding up a lightning rod in the rain and when out at sea, your sailboat is usually the tallest conductive object for miles around! We are located near the Equator (less than 2 degrees North of the Equator), where thunderstorms, especially during the monsoon (rainy) season, are frequent and violent. Poor BooBee, she would jump up onto the my bed on the slightest distant rumbling of thunder. That was how she now sleeps on our bed. All as a result of a monsoon season. She now thinks the entire bed is hers! I need to coax her to move over to her side of the bed, (from the center) when going to sleep at night.

Pardon me for making everything sounded as normal as a land based home. We have now been liveaboards for almost 3 full years and many things which we initially felt were odd and different are now taken for granted and as normal.

BooBee dislikes water. Whether it’s seawater on which we float or taking a shower. She would go into hiding at the slightest hint of a shower. Usually she needed to carried out onto the pontoon for her weekly shower. There were on two separate occasions that she lost her footing (paws?) when jumping from the pontoon onto the transom steps. Yes she ended up in the water but fortunately I was around to fish her out as quickly as possible. No harm done except she needed a fresh water shower after that.

Do we ever stop learning about each other? The answer is no! Yes, the learning curve was much steeper in the initial couple of months and every now and then BooBee still amazes me by how intelligent she is.

On the next write-up I will be touching on why BooBee became known as the sailor dog.

Some time later I will also be sharing with you on how this was also my journey towards becoming a bona fide sailor myself.

Good night and thank you for tuning in!

A new crew aboard our sailboat.

About BooBee.

She (yes she’s a girl) was 2.5 years old when we first laid eyes on her. She was rescued as part of an abandoned litter, in a drain somewhere in Singapore, we were told. She had been at the pound ever since. The only world she had known was the pound.

Never seen the sea before let alone been in a boat, and there we were bringing her onto our floating home.

She was led on a leash towards the boat. Everything was new and bewildering to her but you can see the excitement in her eyes at being allowed to explore this strange new world.

I carried her over the water onto the transom steps then down the companionway steps into Micasa (the name of our boat). That was the moment she first set foot (paw) on Micasa. Then I realised that she had never climbed a flight of stairs in her life before. I tried teaching her how we humans would climb a flight of stairs. One foot (paw) at a time on each advancing step! It was a hard act to follow. She indicated that she wanted to be in the cockpit by repeatedly glancing up into the cockpit from the saloon aisle. So I carried her up there where she sat, nervously looking around at the idle world outside. She remained there for next few hours. I was never far from her all those while not knowing what her reaction would be in such a foreign world to her. A neighbour sailor happened to walk past Micasa during that time and she looked on nervously at the burly man walking by and grawled at him despite her timid demeanor. That was the moment that I realised she had accepted Micasa to be her new home.

She hardly ate during her first couple of days on the boat. I was afraid that she would starve and tried to get more insight into what she would normally eat at the pound. She was already a malnourished dog. Ribs clearly visible through her thin layer of coat. A glance at her conjured up images of famine ridden Ethiopians that I’ve seen on the news years ago. Her head a little disproportionately larger then her angular torso lined by corrugating outlines of her ribs on the sides. A sad sight indeed!

On the second day she started drinking and eating a little, much to my relief but still way too little to even sustain her little body. She’s a medium size dog and weighed a megre 11 kgs.

She’s not a very food motivated dog I was told by the pound owner. True enough to my observations. She would love going for walks around the marina shores. Never too many walks in a day and she would be like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up all the scents from the ground during her walks. Passers-by would look at her and commented to me that she was very thin with an accusatory look which suggested that I have been starving my dog. Something had to be done fast! I wasn’t use to that.

BooBee (she had been responding to her new name on her second day with us) was a choosey eater. She does not eat Kibble (dried dog food) but only rice mixed with meat, mixed evenly into it. I discovered too that she liked the taste of butter, so along with each bowl of her meal I would mix in a large tablespoonful of butter. She seemed to like eating that and that should improve her malnourished condition rather quickly as well! I finally stopped this practice after a full two weeks of energy rich diet. Her body condition had improved vastly during that period. The corrugation of ribs down her sides were shallower and much less pronounced. Looking at her then compared to pictures taken when she first came on board gave me reasons to be contented that I’ve done a reasonable job of looking after her. She still drew comment about being lean. She has a silhouette of a greyhound with a high hanging tummy. Sexy waist line, the Admiral would comment!

Oh, and the flight of stairs at the companionway – out of the 5 steps she would only use the middle (3rd step). She would leap from the saloon aisle floor and bounce through the 3rd step on her way through the small companionway doors. So much for teaching her how we humans would walk a flight of stairs! Now she’s a blur of vision both going up or coming down from the cockpit.

More on our lives crossing path with BooBee’s – forth coming!

Me and you and a dog named Boobee!

BooBee, my sailor dog standing guard at the companionway door.

Who am I?

My name is Benedict Chin. A Malaysian by birth and for the last 24 years I have been calling the little city state of Singapore, home. I have been working in a corporate environment for more than 20 of those years. I was an executive director in a multi-national company for almost the last entire decade until a restructuring, which saw my retrenchment. That was almost 3 years ago.

And what did I do to help cope with something that drastic? Well, I bought a boat and moved from my high rise apartment to live on the boat with my partner in life (let’s just call her “The Admiral”) I will come back to the “why” in future writings but for now it will be too much details and too far a deviation from the core of our journey towards being sailors. Some journey it was as I was a typical corporate executive who was better at delivering presentation at senior management meeting that say topping up the water tanks on the boat or heavens forbid, berthing (parking) the boat alongside a marina finger pontoon.

BooBee the sailor dog (to be)!

It wasn’t until a few months after we have moved onto the boat that the thoughts of getting a dog to share in our adventures, entered our minds. Some criteria were eventually decided upon before we even started looking for a dog. The dog should not be a big dog as there is limited space on the boat. Our floating home is a 2003 Jeanneau 43 DS (a 43 foot sailboat). It has, I would guess, around 500 sq ft of living space. It would be less that the floor area of a 40 ft container. The width would be more or less the same as the container but the smaller and more pointed extremities at both ends make it much lesser a floor area than a 40 ft container.

The dog will have to serve some functions as a guard dog as well hence it shouldn’t be too small. Size does matter to some extent when it comes to a matter of deterrence. The thought of an “instant” adult dog through adoption was rather appealing as well.

So we went looking at the dog pounds for rescued dog to adopt. After a few days, spread over a couple of weekends we would have seen quite a few dogs but none came through as hot favorites. Oh, there was one which almost made it to this list however, she was adopted before we actually got to see her in the flesh.

At the last dog pound which we visited, we came across a skinny looking mongrel (a female) which warmed up to us by jumping up on me. In retrospect, I think she chose us rather than we chose her. Over the following week there was quite a bit of WhatApps messages going back and forth with the pound owner for information on “Bopit”! Yes that was her name. She was 2.5 years old at that point. The following weekend we adopted her.

Before she came to her new floating home, we have decided to call her by a different name. One that sounds a little similar to her existing name but a little easier off the tongue. “Bopit” has a hard edge to it so something a little rounder sounding like “Booby” may be better. So the name “BooBee” came to be.

Introduction : this blog is a real adventure in life involving my sailor dog and I, and the sea!

Someone once said that it is the things that we did not do rather than the things we have done that we will regret most, towards the end!

This is a real life account of BooBee’s journey from a pound dog to a Sailor dog.  At the same time it is also my journey from being a corporate executive to a liveaboard sailor.

There are many parallels between our two journeys and interestingly enough both our journeys took place at the same time.

Past lives :

Pound dog : Wake up in a pen amidst the mayhem of a hundred dogs (each in their own pen) barking for no apparent reason.

Lunch is the next major event , but there will be a few more hours to kill before that. After lunch comes the major event of the day. She’ll be waiting for her turn to be led outside for a walk, on a leash. At least she’ll get to poo poo on some grass, and sniff around a bit.

After the walk, there will be another few more hours of waiting before dinner. Then it’s lights off. This life is no different from a prison life. Void of nearly all sensories. Hard to imagine how she coped with two and a half years of that before our path crossed.

Corporate guy: Rushed to work in the morning, sloughed through the day then coming home at the end of the day when the sun has gone down many hours before, “tired as a dog!”, just to get a bite to stave off the hunger pains and to rest a bit so that it can all be repeated the following day! 

Always yearning for a bit of an escape when there was time enough to have a perspective glimpse of what life had become!  The feeling of imprisonment was always inevitable.  Sad, miserable and most of the time, rather pointless! 

Like most others, I would put on a brave face and called it a career, a fulfillment of my life’s ambition while playing out my role as a bread winner and provider of a roof over the head!

Both, in a prison matrix of sort, one dreaming of doggie paradise, the other a paradise both at sea and by the seaside.

Both pound dog and the corporate guy are destined for an adventure at sea, living on a floating home together.

This blog is about our lives (Sailor dog and yours truly) on Micasa, our sailboat home. We are liveaboards. Neither one knows much about the sea before that, let along living in the sea, on a floating home and from time to time setting sail towards Islands and land reachable by sea.

If you do not have the time nor the opportunity to seek out your dreams, come and live our adventure through this blog.  It will be updated regularly with real life accounts both from our not too distant past, as well as the present . 

Do subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates. This blog will be updated regularly with new stories.

Happy reading and do remember to live life in the present.

Cheers!