Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The "Land Yacht"

On the Chesapeake
She is a 1996 Rialta, a hybrid VW engine & chassis with a Winnebago body.  She’s been in my family since new but hadn’t been used much in recent years.  We’ve just broken 70,000 miles on her engine, there is still lots of life in her.

I mentioned in a previous post that we have about 160 sq.ft. of living space:  22’ L.O.A. (length overall), minus about 2’ for the engine compartment, so about 20’ of living space by 8’ of width.  Of course there are a couple of feet chewed up by the cockpit as well, but I’m counting that as living space.  I’m guessing we have the interior volume of a 27 or 28 foot sailboat, pretty spartan, but we have everything we need within reach…literally.

There is a two burner propane stove, small refrigerator, sink, and even a microwave though we have not had the occasion to use it, right now it’s another storage cabinet.  The head has a unique design with “pull out” walls and a pull up floor so that it can expand to take up most of the middle of the living space and become a useable shower room.
Sunset Reflection
There is a convertible dinette at the rear which we have been using in the bed configuration.  We have a futon mattress on there for added support.  One of the great features of the Rialta is the large rear window which offers great visibility while driving, but also good views from our bed of some of the beautiful scenery and sunsets we have found so far.
Panoramic Views
She is very comfortable underway and purrs along at cruising speeds of 65-70 mph.  The Rialta has a small five cylinder engine, so she won’t win any races but we get gas mileage unheard of on most RVs.  On the run from Trenton, NJ to Annapolis, MD we averaged over 13 mpg, and then more recently as we drove around the DelMarVa peninsula we’ve been averaging 18 mpg!
Boondocking at Sam's Club (see the full moon?)
Of course the systems on an RV are similar to what we will someday find on a boat.  We have a propane tank in an outside locker, an electric water pump, and 12v power system with deep cycle marine batteries for our house system (about 200 amp hours for those who might be interested).  We also have limited holding for both fresh and not-so-fresh (grey & black) water, so we have to find someplace to dump every few days.
She’s not without some quirks.  Unless we are plugged in (on shore power), we can’t really use the fridge, so we have been using it primarily like an ice box with a 10lb. bag of ice in a container on the bottom and anything that needs refrigeration packed around it.  So far this has worked pretty good.  And just yesterday morning we couldn’t get her to start for about an hour and a half.  Just as I was about to start pulling what I suspected was the fuel filter off (after further review it turns out it was not), Trisha worked some engine voodoo ritual (found on the web) which involved turning the key a few times, flooring the accelerator and then cranking her over, and sure enough it worked!  Since that mishap the engine has been fine, actually running a bit smoother.  I (and my dad) suspect that there might have been some gunk in the fuel filter from sitting that finally got worked out.  Suffice to say some fuel system cleaner has been added and the situation will be monitored.

So, that is our “land yacht” in a nutshell.  She is nothing too glamorous, pretty small, and looks a little bit like a space shuttle, but it is what is getting us out here sooner than later.  After reading many books on sailboat cruising, one of my favorite pieces of advice comes from Lin & Larry Pardey:  Go simple, go small, but go now.
By the waterfront in Cambridge, MD

Comparison shot to a 30ish foot sailboat

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Week of Transition

It's been a week since I left Albany, NY, my home for the past ten years.  I'd wanted to leave for quite a while now, so there haven't really been any feelings of nostalgia for it.  Of course I'll always miss my friends who are still there, but with our new mobile lifestyle I have faith that I will see them all again.

Our first stop after leaving Albany was at my in-laws on Long Island.  We were there until Wednesday of this week arranging and re-arranging our new 160 +/- sq. ft. of living space.  That's 10% of the square footage we had when we lived in our house.  We've gotten rid of so much, but we still ended up with two large garbage bags of clothes for Goodwill and some other miscellaneous errata that was donated.  It's good to know that our no longer wanted or needed items can have a new life with a new owner.

On Wednesday we left for Trenton, NJ.  An unlikely stop, I know, but we decided to take the opportunity to visit with some family there.  We ended up staying for two days as we found out that some other cousins were coming into town on the second day.  We hemmed and hawed about the decisions to stay, feeling like we had to get on to our next destination, but it dawned on us that we didn't really have to.  We don't have to be anywhere specific until at least the 30th.  The kind of freedom we are now experiencing is both liberating and frightening.

On the second day in Trenton we came upon an unexpected surprise at the Trenton City Museum located in Cadwalader Park.  There was a good art exhibit featuring local artists in the renovated 1800s summer home that the museum occupies.  The park itself was designed by the same fellow who designed Central Park in NYC, and Washington Park in good old Albany, so it was a nice place to spend an afternoon walking the dog and soaking up some sunshine.

We've noticed we are about two weeks behind the climate in Albany.  Whereas they got flurries last night and most of the leaves are gone, we have had temperatures in the 60s and there is still a lot of green on the trees.  If we plan this right, this nice weather will follow us all the way down the coast.

Today we left Trenton and headed for our first real destination:  Annapolis, MD, the sailing capital of America.  You see, even though we decided to "cruise" in an RV, we are still sailors at heart.  I'd much rather be anchored in a nice cove than boondocking in a Sam's Club parking lot, but such is life.  The opportunity to use an RV came along and we jumped on it, we'll get to the boat soon enough.

This week has seen a lot of change.  Change in the amount of space we live in.  Change in our schedules.  Change in the climate (at least our climate, I won't get into global warming here).  Changes in our spending habits.

We've finally started on our journey.  It's scary, it's overwhelming, it's fun and it's exciting.  This new life will take some getting used to, but we are living our life by our design and for ourselves.  There's no going back!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pulling Off The Band-Aid

Remember as a kid how band-aids could make everything okay?  And then do you remember dreading pulling them off once your "boo boo" was healed?  The anticipation of it stinging your skin and pulling on the hairs around your wound.  The trick was to do it quickly so that the pain only lasted a second and then everything was okay again.

Tomorrow the band-aid comes off.

It's my last day of work, any wounds left unhealed will be exposed as the next day we leave on the adventure of the rest of our lives.  I don't say the "adventure of a lifetime", rather I'd like my lifetime to be an adventure.

It starts on Saturday!