God Must’ve Wanted to Teach Me About Patience- Boat Repair Gone Wrong..

Miss Lone Star (and her crew) was involved in a big hailstorm in Austin late April 2015.  It sucked, but I already wrote a journal about the issues.  We needed to get her repaired and I checked her in to Platinum Marine in Austin a few days after the boat was surveyed for damage.  Ten weeks until departure to Kemah, TX.

There was a lot of stuff to be done but it all seemed manageable.  I played the part of the normal nosey and inpatient boat owner.  The service manager played himself and his name was Mclane.  I assumed that he was the big boss by the way he sauntered around the office and acted over-confident well beyond his young 30 or so years on this earth.  I would call or visit the boat a few times per week.  I mean, the repair had to be on time and we had already set off a ton of dominoes that would fall on the 15th of July.

Long story short, things didn’t get done on time.  Two days before departure I took a load of our personal things that Aubrey placed in tubs to the repair facility.  I was going to put them into the boat and I wanted to look over the detail job that was supposed to be done that day.  The outside of the boat looked beautiful and I was sure that the interior would look just as good, until I climbed up the ladder.  Holy fu#$%%%% sh##$$!!! was the response I yelled.  Nothing had been done except pulling out the dash, wires and garbage were everywhere.  Almost none of the items on the punch list had been completed.  My nightmare had come true!

I stormed into the repair office and that old Mclane was sitting behind his counter with his feet up on the desk chatting it up with a couple of his repair techs.  I had taken a moment to myself before entering so I could be professional but all bets were off when I saw that level of chillaxing.  He told me “yea, I wish we were a little farther along on the job and a few things turned out to require more effort than we planned,” etc, etc.  He promised that it would be done the next day.  It wasn’t.  The next day was moving day and we had  about transporter all lined up who was on schedule.

Ten weeks of work took place on the last two days and we spent 12 hours in his parking lot with the family until the boat was done at 9PM!  I was irate but I remained calm because I thought nothing will get accomplished from me yelling and complaining.  The finish work was appalling and things as simple as caulking cup holders hadn’t gotten done right or at all.  I didn’t get a walk through of the repairs and it got all loaded on the truck.  They just wanted to get rid of me and send us out-of-town.  I paid over $27k (insurance paid it, but still) and we paid top rate of labor $120 per hour.

One of the owners walked over to me and asked if everything was ok before we left.  I chewed his ear for about an hour and we did a walk through.  It was actually worse than I first saw.  He said he would take care of me and we would stay in touch.  I guess I forgot that the boat would soon be placed into the ocean and I was taking them at their word that the boat would float again.  It was dropped in Kemah, TX the next day and it indeed floated.

Everything else was a different story.  Ascetically, the boat looked bad.  Internally, the GPS didn’t work, windlass was inoperable, ice maker was not working, speakers not working, it was dirty despite me paying $680 to the shop for a 1 hour detail job, etc.  I was beyond frustrated because we planned to set off the next day but that wouldn’t be possible unless I wanted to do it with a boat that wasn’t ship-shape.  I called the owner and I think I was almost in tears.  I had no idea what was going to happen.

The other owner showed up the next day before I awoke and things got better.  Apparently, the former service manager had no actual experience and he went rogue on my boat.  They wanted to make good on it and get it all fixed.  We worked on it all day and he made several trips to West marine to get things he needed to get the work done properly.  Long story short, they performed well and eventually things were fixed, for the most part.  They adjusted our bill for what wasn’t done and they did several really nice things that they probably didn’t have to.  It is rare to find a business that would do the right thing without getting attorneys involved.  I was relieved but we still had to organize the 10 super huge tubs that were left undone from the pack up.

What happens when you combine bleach and ammonia?

We found out as we started to unpack tubs from the inside of the boat.  You guessed it right.  Mclane helped us get everything stowed so we could get the heck off his boat lot back in Austin.  He stacked some chemicals between two tubs and the reaction happened.  Aubrey said it created a noxious poison and I believe her.  It took about a week in Kemah to get thing straight but we finally did.  Thanks, in large part to our next door dock neighbors (Bryan and Jennifer) who had immense knowledge of boats, mechanics and kid watching.  All’s well that ends well.  It worked out well for us in the end and we made some friends who will likely meet up with us in the Caribbean.  I guess everything happens for a reason.  I learned some valuable lessons from this experience:

  • Demand excellence and accountability
  • Get an owner involved early and often
  • Never trust a man named Mclane
  • Don’t let people rush you
  • Don’t pay for work that hasn’t been done
  • Demand a walk through and don’t accept excuses for anything
  • Make sure the boat looks good and don’t pay for spotty looking work
  • Get referrals prior to picking a repair shop and look for alternatives (other cities) for work
  • Yell more often

    miss lone star robb hamic captain travel blog #travel #travelblogger caribbean

    Captain of the Miss Lone Star

It’s Easy To Move When You Don’t Have As Much Stuff

The title for this post seemed Ok as I typed it but instantly knew it was a lie when I reread it!  Moving sucks and there is no getting around it.  I think that it was easier to move our stuff into a1800PACKRAT Pod than a traditional house to house move.  I am sore as all get out, sitting here in the morning after but I feel great about all we’ve accomplished in making our dream a reality.

Moving  into 1800PACKRAT Pod

The thought of moving isn’t as bad when you are done!

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User Review: Goal Zero Sherpa 100 Solar Kit

We needed a way to charge all of our gear and we ordered the Goal Zero Sherpa 100 Solar Kit.  There is overwhelmingly large selection of systems on the market and it was confusing to me, being a first time user/buyer.  I found everything from a direct order from China to various other systems offered by suppliers.  Finally, I stumbled upon the company Goal Zero and looked on the website for more information.  I couldn’t be happier with this charging system, but I thought that it would be a different feeling once I received it.

Sherpa 100 Solar Kit

Sherpa 100 Solar Kit- a complete charging system!

It has a list price of $600 directly from Goal Zero and they are not listed on Amazon.  I searched EBay and found several units that were almost list price in new condition.  Luckily, I found a guy selling a new in the box unit for $480, shipping included.  It was a steal and I felt confident in the EBay guarantee so I bought it.

It arrived new in the box as described and it was smaller than I thought.  I opened it up and I didn’t need to consult a manual to hook it up.  So simple!  Plug the solar panel into the inverter, place in the sun.  It is just as easy to charge devices.  Plug them in and that’s it.  The Sherpa 100 has a separate plug adapter that allows for 110 plugs.  I chose this model because I need to charge a Macbook Pro.  Apparently, the Macbook Air could charge off of the smaller Sherpa 50 but the Pro needed a little more juice. Continue reading

Portable Coffeemaker For Boats/ Cruisers…

In my house coffee is important.  So much so, it was one of my primary worries when we decided to cruise our boat full-time for a few years.  I was surprised that there is very little concise information on available options.  I decided to write a journal on my decision-making process that led me to purchase a Coleman Quickpot Propane Coffeemaker.

I think that me and the coffeemaker will get along just fine but I plan to fill it full of bullet holes and sink it in the Gulf of Mexico if it doesn’t work out.  I don’t want to think of the things I will do to this coffeemaker if it doesn’t uphold its end of the bargain!travel alert danger visit caribbean blog

There are a lot of choices for portable coffeemaker and this is what I found for boats:

Coleman Propane Coffeemaker

It better make good coffee or it will visit the bottom of the ocean!

Generator for 110 power.  As much as I love coffee, I couldn’t think about this option because it is expensive and noisy at 5A-6A, when I wake up and need that sweet caffeine!

Inverter to 110 plug-in.  I don’t have a large enough battery bank to make this a viable option.  Surprisingly, coffeemaker pull a lot of watts to run for about 15-18 minutes brewing time.  Most makers run from 900-1500 watts and that will kill a batter in no time.

12v plug coffeemaker.  I thought that this might be a good option until I read the reviews on these systems.  It seems that the smaller, 4 pot coffeemaker work well in this situation but I can drink 4 cups of coffee in the first 5 minutes of being awake!  Cuisinart makes a 10 cup model that is nice looking but it got horrible reviews.  I just can’t chance it!

Battery coffeemaker.  This option was a joke and I couldn’t bring myself to research further.

Propane coffeemaker.  This seems to be the best and most viable option for me.  I see that the 4 cup models are most frequently utilized but there are a few 10 cup models.  There are a few different brands but one maker is no longer in business.  I’ve owned a lot of Coleman camping gear in my past and it has never let me down.

Miss Lone Star Travels CaribbeanI like the advertised features of the coffeemaker I purchased.  It states that a small propane tank will last 4.5 hours on a full-burn, which equates to about 10 pots of coffee.  The brew time is a reasonable 18 minutes.  It looks and works like a normal coffeemaker, front load.  It is not a percolator.  I don’t care for percolated coffee unless it is the only option.

This devices weighs in at a shocking 10.4 lbs but I got a nifty nylon carry case and have a spot picked out for it next to our cooler on the deck of the boat.  It is three parts: pot, coffeemaker and case.  Most models come with a glass pot that wouldn’t last a few nights on a boat so I upgraded to a nice thermal metal one.  I hope it keeps the coffee warm long enough to enjoy the last cup.

Miss lone StarWatch out if you are trying to buy one on the Internet because you can get screwed from trusted sites like Amazon!  The list price for the package I got was almost $300 new.  A search of the normal Internet sites yielded a huge range of prices, shipping costs and delivery times.  In the end, I purchased each item individually from Amazon to save money.  It is a shame we have to get crafty to save money these days.  I paid $125 out the door with free shipping.  I will have an extra glass coffee pot that won’t go on the boat but can be donated.  If anyone is interested in just the pot and propane maker, Amazon beat out Target online by $6, $71.99.

I feel pretty good about my choice but the proof will be in the cup.  I’m not planning to use it until we are underway because I don’t think I can handle the rejection if it doesn’t work.  I will keep its box and send it back to Amazon (100% satisfaction guarantee) if it doesn’t work.  That is, if it makes it off the boat alive after a disappointing brew..

miss lone star robb hamic captain travel blog #travel #travelblogger caribbean

Captain of the Miss Lone Star

Stranded on Dry Land and Waiting to Set Off

Waiting sucks! We want to be free like a bird!

Waiting sucks! We want to be free like a bird!

Does anyone else hate waiting as much as me?  We are stranded on dry land and waiting to set course for Florida for the next two weeks.  We have a lot of things to accomplish and we are still waiting for a lot of work to be completed on the boat.  I’ve been contacted by a lot of people who’ve chosen to liveaboard their boats and faced the same frustrating “waiting game.”  In the meantime, we are biding our time wisely by accomplishing too many tasks to list.

We will accept our storage pod from 800PACKRAT tomorrow.  They are delivering a 16x8x8 pod that we will fill with everything we want to keep forever (in storage until we settle down).  I did extensive research on the moving and shipping (storage) option and we think that this is the best option for us.  I plan to take pictures and do a complete review of our experience for others later.  I found the 800PACKRAT option to be the cheapest by over $1000 with everything included.  As many of you know, it is not inexpensive to move and store a lot of contents.  Our shipping cost was $2500 from Austin to Miami, which included a door to door option.  This will save us some money when we settle down and the company will deliver and move the storage unit to our new home once we call them.  I like the idea of not having to pay twice to move it. Continue reading

Republic of Texas (ROT) Bike Rally 2015

The Republic of Texas ROT Rally is one of the largest motorcycle rally’s in the United States and we were lucky that it was right here in Austin Texas!  We went out to the Travis County Expo Center for a couple days of debauchery while the kids were with Grandma.  This was definitely not a kid’s type of event.  We had a blast, nevertheless and we got to go on a long biker parade through Austin.

Republic of Texas ROT Rally 2015

Republic of Texas ROT Rally 2015

We’ve lived in Austin for a number of years and I’ve always wanted to go.  It was perfect timing and I waxed up the Harley for the weekend.  We drove out on Friday and were part of the parade, which ended on Congress St., downtown.  It was really cool to drive with 40k other motorcycles on a route through the city.  People were out in full-force and it was a fun event.  Sadly, Aubrey lost her helmet on the ride when she was trying to get the prefect shot from behind me.  Oh well.

We went back on Saturday to check out the festivities.  I know my wife loves me because she handled the whole thing in stride.  We walked around to check out all of the exhibits and passed too many fat naked chicks walking around to count.  Police directed traffic inside the Expo bounds but there was a strange absence of law enforcement inside.  The smell of weed was ripe and there were all sorts of interesting people to look at.  She was looking at a redneck duck, chained to a pool when a guy approached and asked if she wanted some beads?  She had the foresight to ask what she had to do for the beads, thank goodness.  He replied simply, “show me your boobs.”  I guess that is what people do at biker rallies, but not my wife.

Republic of Texas ROT Rally 2015

Motorboating Big Marv

We drive through the RV village that was filled with probably 20k people.  We saw blow up hot tubs with luke-warm water filled with disorderly plump females.  The upscale RV area had a hot tub pulled by a trailer, which seemed to be a popular place to hang out.  It was nice to only be driving by, let me tell you.

The weekend finished up with Lynyrd Skynyrd in concert on the grass.  The opening act was better than the main but it was all still worth seeing.  My hat’s off to Aubrey in overcoming her fear of riding on a bike and putting in a few hundred miles of road time.

Despite all of the interesting people, everybody was nice and it was a fun Austin thing to do.  If we were staying here we would definitely go back. Continue reading

User Review: Brute Bison 150 Cooler

I saw the UPS mail delivery email confirmation on my computer.  It read “left at door.”  I felt like a kid chasing after Santa as I opened my door to see the Brute Bison 150 Qt. Cooler.  It was massive.  It was majestic.  And it was mine!  How could a guy get so excited about the purchase of normal, day-to-day type of item?

King Kong doesn't have sh!$ on the Brute Bison 150 Qt. Cooler

King Kong doesn’t have sh!$ on the Brute Bison 150 Qt. Cooler

The Bison 150 Qt. Cooler is massive and it weighs about 100 lbs. empty.  This may sound like a hinderance but I look it as a benefit because of the sound and solid construction.  I saw an advertisement on the company page where they put the Bison 150 under a front truck tire and it kept its shape.  I thought that they must’ve filled it with concrete, when I saw it the first time.  I had to see this cooler in action.  I stood atop its frame and jumped up as high as I could.  Surprisingly, I landed without crack or dent to the cooler.  I repeated this exercise a half-dozen times with the same result. Continue reading

Caribbean Travel Blog- Q&A With WikiAnswers

I was interviewed by Wikianswers and Answers.com about our choice to live aboard our boat and cruise the Caribbean for years in search of a new home.  It was a great interview and I decided to publish it to my Caribbean Travel Blog to allow our readers to better understand why we made our choice and what it is like to live aboard our boat.  Enjoy!Caribbean Travel Blog

Q&A with Robb Hamic on Answers.com.

Robb, you live on your boat, the Miss Lone Star, with your wife and two children. Can you tell us what life is like living on a boat?

Living on a boat with the whole family is interesting each day! The live-aboard lifestyle is fun, relaxing, hectic and chaotic all at the same time. Living in a small space with a dog and two kids can be challenging but we make the most of it. We don’t have to remind ourselves that we are living the dream everyday but our pesky kids try to give us the business, when they get the chance. We are always busy until there is nothing to do. We take the time to share some of life’s greatest moments with each other and we have grown much closer as a family aboard our boat.

What influenced your decision to live on a boat?

I had the dream of living in the Caribbean since I was a kid. I dreamed of sailing the open sea and diving for pirate gold at the bottom of the ocean. I would catch lobsters with my bare hands someday! It was a kid dream that never died, in reality. We ultimately came to the radical decision of living on our boat because of a number of factors. School violence in the US is prevalent and early childhood education is spotty in schools. We thought we could do better but why do it from a home in a suburban neighborhood? We felt guilty for having a big house, multiple cars and too much stuff that we didn’t use. It made a lot of sense to keep only what we used daily or wanted forever. We actually save a ton of money living on a boat in the Caribbean compared to our everyday life in Austin, Texas. We are creating memories that are unreachable for many people and we felt the positives outweighed the unknown. Continue reading

Becoming a PADI Divemaster

I decided that I would detail my research, experiences and process of becoming a PADI Divemaster because there is little information on the Internet from the perspective of a candidate dive master.  In doing my research, I Googled various search terms that all lead me to pages of websites selling the opportunity to become a Divemaster.  I find that it is hard to actually glean much information from programs trying to sell a service.  I asked a number of my previous instructors to give me details of the program offered through my local dive center.  The responses I received were varied and different, even at the same school because much of the program is self-paced.  I learned that the training varies from school to school, which further confuses things.  I thought that there might be others out there in the same position, thus my blog series on becoming a Divemaster was decided.

North Shore, St. Croix, USVI

North Shore, St. Croix, USVI

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So You Want to be a PADI Divemaster…

The Shores of St. Croix

The Shores of St. Croix, USVI

I recently decided that I wanted to take the training to become a PADI Divemaster.  The Divemaster rating is the first professional certification in the PADI evolution for divers and most people never contemplate it.  After doing a little research on the program, I can see why!  It makes sense to me that a Divemaster’s skills need to be really solid to teach and lead dives.  While every diver is responsible for their own safety, a Divemaster is responsible for everyone’s collective well-being.  My Divemasters have been jack of all trades and have a great deal of knowledge.  I decided to pursue the course last night as I contemplate finishing my Rescue Diver certification in a couple of weeks.

I figured that the learning curve would be pretty steep but after a little research, I saw that a Divemaster’s endurance and swimming assessment is certainly no joke.  One portion of the training is this assessment, which is daunting.  It is completed on the same day with no rest between the watermanship stamina exercises.  All skills are timed and points are awarded for performance.  A candidate must pass with a minimum of 12 points out of a possible 20.  I have never settled for mediocre or barely passing so I set the following goals for myself.  If I complete it as stated, I will get 19/20 points.

400 M swim with no gear or goggles- 6-8 minutes

800 M swim with snorkel gear, face down and not using hands- 13-15 minutes

15 minutes of treading water and or floating, hold arms out of water for the last 2 minutes

100 M diver pull in full gear, pulling a tired diver who wears full gear- less than 2 minutes

I think this will be fun to train.  I have never been a swimmer and frankly, I have never swam laps.  I am going to take a few swim lessons to hone my skills.  Luckily, we have been working out regularly and my cardio is getting much better.  Thankfully, I have lost about 20 lb. in the last 3 months, which makes me want to run like Forrest.    I will need to incorporate about 5 days worth of pool time per week into what I am already doing for exercise.  I love the fact that Aubrey gets in the pool with me and swims laps.  The kids are even swimming a few times per week and making good progress.  We are turning into a pod of dolphins!

It is strange to think of our transformation from land dwellers to being in the water so much in just a few short months.  We will be leaving dry land for the boat and uncharted waters in less than five months.  We are so excited!