Each crew member has their own bunk but the bunks are not individual cabins. Tom & Emma have the only cabin in the back of the boat. There are spare mattresses and cushions so people can sleep on deck under the stars if they wish.
We’ve been up to 9 on board for short periods but that’s a bit much. We had several spells with 7 on board, the ideal is 5 or 6 people.
There are 2 toilets, one in the back for Tom & Emma and one in the front that is more the “public” toilet.
The toilets are marine toilets, the kind you have to close the lid and pump to create a vacuum that will flush it. It uses salt water, and evacuates everything back into the sea.
The toilet being a cramped, smelly and claustrophobic place, many crew opt for the cleaner and more ecological option of doing their business outside, either from the platform at the stern of the boat or simply by going for a swim.
The shower stall has long ago been converted to a pantry, as we wash on deck, either with sea water if it is clean or with rain water stored in drums.
In the kitchen, there is a sink, where we get fresh water from the tanks. There is a foot switch that activates an electric pump.
We drink the water from the tanks. There is a filter between the tanks and the tap so the water is good, clear and with no noticeable taste.
The tanks can contain up to 2000 liters and we fill them either with rain, collected with our rain catching system on deck or from potable water sources ashore.
A mechanical foot pedal pumps sea water to the sink via another tap. When the sea is clean we use it for rinsing, washing hands, even cooking as it saves fresh water.
The kitchen is equipped with a LPG (gas) stove. There are 3 burners and an oven. The gas bottles are stored on deck for safety reasons and there is a security switch that makes sure no gas can leak inside the boat.
We have a home made barbecue, cut out of an old gas bottle, that is mounted on the stern. It can be closed for an oven effect, and we often cook fish, kebabs or bake pizzas in it. We burn wood from the shore or sometimes charcoal. We use it only at anchor for obvious reasons.
We buy the food collectively, sharing its costs. We buy the basics and everybody has to buy his own snacks, candies and drinks. We take turns to cook, for there is no professional cook on Karaka, even if some enjoy it better than others and thus end up cooking more on their own will. We eat cheap, trying to get local produces when we can, dry goods such as pastas and rice and beans and flour, and canned veggies and fruits otherwise. We can rarely afford luxury gourmet items. Since there is no fridge, we can’t keep food that needs refrigeration. We catch fish as much as possible ourselves. We do eat meat when we can find some to consume immediately. We also grow herbs and sometimes mushrooms, make our own cheese and yogurt, etc etc.
There is no specific diet on Karaka. We avoid strict vegan crew members as it is not easy to have crew with different diets. Please refer to the “fishing” page for more info about that.
Dishes are done by everybody as well. When we get 6, 7 or more on board the amount of dishes become an issue, so if they tend to accumulate we set up turns, to make sure there are no fights over it. We do the dishes on deck in buckets using salt water, or in the sink in the galley if there is not too much of it. We rinse with fresh water when it is needed. Crew members who slack on their house chore turn are made to walk the plank.
Karaka is not a dry ship, we enjoy casual drinking and there’s been a quite a few hectic parties onboard. There’s always a bottle of rum and another one of whisky going.
Beers are difficult to keep cold so we don’t usually drink that unless we can buy ice as well.
The rule is that we don’t drink when underway, or if there is any chance of us having to take up anchor at short notice. We like our crew to be alert.
We don’t smoke tobacco and we would rather not have people smoking on board. Smokers will have to do it only outside where it can’t stink up the place and set fire to anything. There have been smokers on Karaka but this relaxed and relatively healthy lifestyle tends to push people to stop smoking.
Drugs including marijuana are not very welcome as we don’t do them ourselves and are not really willing to risk the boat for somebody else pleasure. Everybody is aware of the heavy consequences for drug offenses in most countries. As we cross and recross borders, even the smallest amount of illicit substances is considered a smuggling offense. Sailboats are often used for smuggling and as a result the authorities are very suspicious of us, and we get regularly controlled and searched, including with dogs. Any amount found on a foreign boat means you are a smuggler. Smuggling charges are much heavier than possession charges, starting with impounding of the boat all the way to heavy fines, prison sentences and even the death penalty in some countries. Bottom line : we’re not interested.
The boat is fully equipped with current safety equipment. We also carry a satellite communication device called an InReach, from the brand Garmin, that enables us to exchange text messages with the world from anywhere, get weather forecasts and update our position for our families to follow our progress. The communications are fairly expensive so we limit our messages and use the device only for boat related matters, this is not a private com channel anybody can use at will, but it can be used for emergencies, at a cost of about 0,50€ per message, either sending or receiving.
We have a fully equipped first aid kit on board that we maintain and keep up to date, as well as several books and guides for how to deal with most emergencies and the ability to ask advice from doctors with the satellite device.
Electricity is stored in batteries, and the lights, fans, pumps, navigation instruments, stereo, etc, are run out of them on a 12 volt system. The batteries are charged either by solar panels when it is sunny, wind generator when it is windy or the main engine alternator when we are motoring. There are several plugs of all types all around the boat, in 220v, 110v, 12v, and 5v USB. Given everybody is reasonable with their uses, we do not need to burn fossil fuel to generate electricity. Our electric production is 100% renewable energies and with a negligible carbon footprint.
We have the additional option to produce electricity with an alternator on the main engine, so that moving the boat under power also recharges the batteries with no extra fuel consumed.
For big power needs, we have an inverter to 220 volt and a big 3 cylinders diesel generator, with a capacity of 10 000 watts. We use those ones for long jobs with the power tools, or for the bigger tools like the grinder, table saw, vacuum cleaner or the welder.
We find that the biggest drain on the batteries nowadays is computers. It is not infrequent to have a computer per crew on board, and if everybody runs their laptop all the time, the electricity from solar and wind is not enough to keep the batteries charged. Apple laptops like MacBooks pro are especially heavy consumers of power and should be avoided if possible. If you really must have a laptop, for video or photo editing, or for working online, please chose a small one. In fact, we think it is better if the crew do not bring their own laptop with them, opting instead for a less energy hungry smartphone or tablet for their entertainment and internet needs.
Regarding entertainment, it is increasingly common for people to spend a lot of time on a device, staring at a screen (we’re guilty of it too) and we would like to limit this as much as possible.
We usually get 4g internet where ever we stop, so we can keep connected and in touch, but we much prefer the crew to be social, active and creative, than spending all their time in their bunks watching TV series on their devices.
Being on the boat is a great opportunity to disconnect and get that old school feeling of not being assaulted constantly by all sort of media through our screens. Think of it as a diet for the mind.
We have a lot of tools, materials and opportunities to share skills and creative talents, as well as endless opportunities for exploring and being active on or in the water, so as you are packing to come on the boat, think about what you can bring to entertain yourself that would be more interesting than a hard drive full of movies and series.
We have a vast library of paper books on board, about 300 or so books, most of them good stuff in both fiction and non fiction, and that should be enough to keep anybody busy a year or two. A very good thing to bring is a e-book reader, like a Kindle. They are really great and we also have a huge e-library to share.
For the music on board, we have another page specifically about that, check it out.
For the other aspects of the life on board and how it is to live on a boat without much money, check our collection of hints and advice called the “Tricks of the trades“.