Mid-Life Cruising Sabbatical

Questions and Answers
Part 8


A question about working along the way. My wife and I both have doctorates in the sciences (Physics for me, Astronomy for her) and we have been looking into the possibility of teaching at the high school level in the Bahamas, virgin islands, and in the pacific. Some people have told us finding work teaching is easy, others say it is almost impossible. Do you happen to have any information along these lines?


Sorry, but I don't have any knowledge in this area.

Some thoughts though:

Why don't you contact a national teachers' organization like NEA. I would assume that they would have info on teaching in foreign countries. Maybe you know someone who is a teacher who could get the info for you.

How about teaching at the university level? There are quite a few colleges/universities in the Caribbean. I remember seeing job ads in the papers. Maybe you could get something for an entire semester. I would contact the University of the West Indies. They have campuses on several islands. There is also the University of the Virgin Islands.

I also remember that most countries made it easy for people who had needed skills to get work permits. Nurses are what come to mind.


Thanks for your Q & A's. Let me add a couple of Q's.

First, in reading your stores inventory, I'm curious how much provisioning you did while you were traveling. Did you find your 6 month supply to actually last 6 months? How did you determine quantities and items?

Second Q - we are getting ready to undertake a major refit of our boat to ready it for cruising. We're currently compiling a list of all (ha!) the gear and materials we need to get ready & go. We're comparison shopping Boat US, West Marine & Defender Industries. I'm curious if you undertook a similar outfitting; also, have you found a marine supplier that stands out above the rest re: price & service?


Yes, our 6 month supply lasted 6 months and more. Of course we replenished fresh stuff all along the way. Major reprovisioning was done in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, St. Martin, Trinidad, and Venezuela. I thought we described how we arrived at items and quantities. Didn't we? Yes, we did a lot of outfitting in the 6 months before we left. Major things were a SSB, water maker, GPS, anchors, lines, etc. We were in Miami and had lots of sources to choose from. We bought from both Boat US and West. I would say they are about the same in price and service. Our electronics came from a guy who sells out of his house under the name "Marine Distributors" (305-378-1984). I don't know if he is still in business.


I've read with great interest your articles, mostly on the Web page. I'm hoping to do something similar soon, that's been the plan. If only my girlfriend can still get away. Anyway, a couple of questions. Did you bring/purchase any sort of cart for hauling shore supplies? Did you find such a thing useful, or are you usually taking some sort of transport to get supplies? How about folding bikes?


We did not take any sort of cart. Most of the time we were riding public transportation to the store and back, but there were times when a cart would have come in handy. Most of the folding carts I have seen do not really fold up to a very small package. You need something with big wheels. Those little wire things you see people using at stores here in the States would be worthless with the rough streets. Maybe you could design one and finance your trip that way? My preference would be for one with small bicycle wheels and maybe a canvass body with a pipe frame. That way you could take it apart and store the pieces separately.

Yes we had a folding bike but never used it outside the States. The roads are just too rough.


Some questions:

1.      One thing I did not see you mention was the availability of propane in the Bahamas and the Carib. How did that go? Did you have to haul it from town or was it available dockside.

Really enjoy your comments. I am 50 and thinking about chucking everything but calling it a sabbatical, so people won't think I went nuts. (Grin).

2.      What was the relationship between your sabbatical and your not getting regular jobs on your return? Did you make contacts while "out there" for the consulting work, was it a coincidence or ????

If I go, I may want to come back some day.

3.      You mentioned that lawyers (that's what I do) are the category most likely seen out there. Are they working, retired or keeping their practices going from a distance. I could not tell from your comment.

Thanks very much. I think you are making it possible for lots of others to wrap their minds around the concept of going.


Numbers correspond to the numbers in the question:

1.      Propane, butane or a mixture ("cooking gas") are available everywhere. I don't remember any available dockside so you have to take a little trip. Everybody in the islands uses LPG to cook so that's why it's so available. In some places there are people who will come to the dock, take your bottle and bring it back filled. Fittings are what we use here in the states except for the French islands. Prices vary from a few dollars to $ 30 for a 20 lb. bottle. Most were in the $ 10 range.

Watch for a future article on St. Martin, the limo ride and why not to paint your propane tank red!

2.      I guess we just were not ready for a 9 to 5 job. Still aren't. No, we did not make any contacts while out there. Diane had a friend who had been in the consulting business for years and had always wanted Diane to go in with her, so she did. Jim had an old boss who was starting a new company and gave him 15 months of almost full time consulting.

3.      Most lawyers we met were retired. A couple had partners who were holding down the fort while they took their sabbatical. I don't know of any who were actually working while cruising. How do you tell if a lawyer is working anyway? (Grin)


Jim - would you mind commenting on your SSB installation, specifically the ground plane. I am trying to decide whether I need to drill 4 - 3/8" holes and add the drag of a 6x18" dynaplate; is it really necessary? I probably can obtain about 50 sq ft on the inside of the hull (i.e. copper sheeting, internal ballast, etc.).

If you could shed some light on this it would be appreciated.


"Down Time" had two Dynaplates when I bought her. 6x18" seems a little large, but maybe they were that big. Maybe 4x12". I don't really know how well other ground systems will work. Perhaps some of our other readers will email you.


I have very much enjoyed your web site, and have read all of it. I'm in the process of trying to follow up on some of your suggestions in contemplation of a sailing sabbatical of my own with my girlfriend on my '92 Hunter Legend 43.

You mentioned air ambulance insurance from DAN for two for $80. I agree that sounds like an amazing deal (probably, I would guess, because the company is marketing it for divers whom they figure are not going to be abroad for all that long, and are generally a young and healthy group).

Anyway, please tell me what DAN stands for, and if you have a phone number, that would be great!


DAN (Diver's Alert Network) is a non-profit organization run out of the University of North Carolina. 919-684-8111.

OK, I guess all of you have been waiting for my response to the "great fuel filter debate". Here we go:


I was going to send this as an email only, but after reviewing the answer and the problem, I changed my mind. I think your messages are a service to a lot of folks - but I seen several comments that are pure BS and this one I have to call you on.

I have a Perkins onboard. I have 2 parallel Racors before the engine mounted filter as you described. I have 2 micron filters and suction-vacuum gauges in the Racors, not 5 and the engine filter still loads up and starves the engine and causes surging and dying.

He's my beef - I saw 2 other boats in the S Pacific with the same setup - and both thought the same thing that you just "deduced". In the case of one, I had to find him half way from Tonga to NZ to give him a spare filter (they cost about US$3 and you can't bypass them. In the case of the other, I had to help pull him off a reef in W Samoa where he had ended up because his motor failed just as he exited the pass out thru the reef. Two lucky strokes for him - lucky we found him at 4 PM, before the sun went down and left him pounding on the reef all night, and lucky he had a steel boat because he had been pounding all day since 9 am. He lost the rudder, self steering, etc. but not the boat. He spent 3 months on W Samoa making repairs - there is no haulout facility anywhere in W or American Samoa for yachts. He had to jury-rig a rudder and sail it to Tonga for repairs. All of these problems because of the $3 fuel filter that doesn't need changing.

About the Baha filter - where you really need one there is no fuel dock and no need to worry about how long it takes - you'll get dirty crap out of a barrel and be glad of it - and you will take the time and they won't care. You just haven't got to the 95% of the world that doesn't have fuel docks yet. Why don't you all get a bit more experience before you try to "out-Pardey" the Pardey's.


Well, where do you start? My point about the secondary fuel filters is that they are not maintenance items. Yes, if a primary filter failed the secondary one would become clogged and have to be changed, but not as a part of routine fuel filter maintenance. That's why I ended up saying maybe you should take one. If you check the list of our spares you'll see we actually took two.

I am still mystified how something that passes through a 5 micron filter (or in the case of our reader, a 2 micron filter) gets caught by a 20 micron filter.

My theory is that the problems cited by our reader had nothing to do with secondary fuel filter. Note that he says that both boats he "rescued" had his same dual parallel primary filter setup. If these setups are not plumbed properly you get air leaks, and guess what, the engine surges and dies. When you replace a secondary filter you have to bleed the air from the system. That's probably what solved the problem.

We sailed with a boat that had a similar symptom that turned out to be a different problem. Seems they bought a boat that had only done coastal Florida sailing for years. They spent a year doing similar sailing and then crossed to the Bahamas with us. Periodically, especially in rough conditions, their engine would die. They kept bleeding the fuel system which solved the problem. The real problem was that the fuel tank had a lot of crud in the bottom which got stirred up in rough weather and stopped up the fuel pickup. The suction from the lift pump held the crud in place until they bled the system.

I'd also feel a lot more confident in these stories if the comments had come from the "rescued" boats instead of the "rescuer".

Another little problem here. You are going through a cut in a reef and you engine fails. How long is it going to take you to diagnose the problem as a secondary fuel filter, get to the engine, your spare filter, your tools, change the filter and bleed the system. I would be long on the reef before I got all that done, how about you.

Now for the Baja filter. ALL our comments have been about cruising in the Caribbean, not isolated parts of the Pacific. Yes there are places in the Caribbean where you can jerry jug fuel, but most is bought from fuel docks.

Now for my favorite comment of all, "Why don't you all get a bit more experience before you try to "out-Pardey" the Pardey's." Well folks, the last time I checked, the Pardey's sailed a boat with no head, no refrigeration and NO ENGINE! Lyn and Larry probably wouldn't know a fuel filter if it fell on them.


I just want to thank you for the MLCS series. I haven't taken the total plunge yet, but even if I never do, it's helped me immensely in the short-term cruising we always do.

I had a couple of suggestions (in case anybody asks) from your last chapter, Tools and Spares. The "micron sizes" for your primary and secondary filters were reversed. The large size (usually 30 microns) is for the PRIMARY and the small size (usually 2 microns) is for the SECONDARY. Whoever set your fuel system up apparently confused this. RACOR uses a P in the number for primary and an S for secondary. With this arrangement, the primary still loads up first, but not as quickly. Usually I find I use two or more primaries for every secondary I need. Also, I have a vacuum gauge between the two so I can see exactly what the condition of the primary is.

The second one is in regard to changing the "upside down" oil filter. My propulsion engine is a Ford-Lehman and it also has the filter upside down. The man who designed it showed me how to remove it without spilling a drop.
About 30 mnues before you're ready to change it, poke a hole in the top with a screw driver. This hole lets the oil drain back into the crankcase. I usual wrap a paper towel around the bottom anyway, just to be on the safe side, but it's seldom needed. Note: only use ONE hole! If you try to punch another one, chances are EXCELLENT the impact will make oil spray out of the first one!

Again, thanks for sharing your experiences with us!


OK, so everybody has a theory on primary and secondary fuel filters. No the mesh sizes were not reversed. The secondary filter for my Perkins 4-108 was a Perkins part and is part of the high pressure pump assembly. Since I didn't use very many of these (grin), I bought them from the Perkins distributor as "genuine Perkins parts". The engine manual said the filter was a 20 micron mesh. I had no way of proving or disproving this. My primary filter was a Racor 2010. These were available in 2 and 5 micron sizes only. Since the engine seemed happy with fuel filtered only to 20 microns, I saw no point in using the 2 micron size Racor. Logic being that the 2 micron would clog more quickly than the 5.

Being an old chemist I too assumed that my setup was "backward", but the more I thought about it the more I decided it was correct. The primary is MUCH easier to change than the secondary. In my case, I never had to bleed the system after a primary filter change. I guess the engineers wanted to minimize the need to ever change the secondary. It was there just as a backup in case the primary failed. Worked in my case.

The comments on the oil filter seem reasonable. However "remoting" ours not only made oil changes less messy, but also made the filter much easier to get to.

After I wrote all this I got the idea of calling Racor and asking them about our "great fuel filter debate". Here's what I found out:

The two most common Racor filters on sailboats are the 2000 and the 2010. The 2000 fits a 200 gph system and the 2010 fits a 500 gph. Obviously, both these are way above a boat's fuel consumption. The 2000 comes in 2 and 10 micron sizes and the 2010 comes in 2, 10 and 30 micron sizes. These filters are installed as primary with whatever the manufacturer put on the engine as secondary. I was obviuosly wrong about having a 5 micron size. I must have used the 10, because I am sure I did not use the 2 or 30. Anyway, I had a 10 micron primary and a 20 micron secondary. I still didn't see how the secondary could ever get clogged, so I asked the Racor engineer. Turns out it is possible. It has to do with the fact that filter media is not uniform. If a filter is rated at 10 microns it means the filter will trap particles 10 microns and larger 98% of the time. The other 2% will get through and eventually clog the secondary filter. Another surprise for me was the engineer's comment that the dirtier a filter is the more effective a job of filtering it does.

Jim & Diane

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