Life on Board

Each crew member has their own bunk.I have the aft bunk. The best bunks after mine are the two in the pilot house and the one in the fore cabin. 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 aft for me 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 plateform 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 you get fresh water from the tanks by standing on a foot switch that activates an electric pump. There is a filter between the tanks and the tap. The tanks can contain up to 2000 litres. 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. We fill the tanks mainly with rain water, collected from the tarp on deck. Sometime we get the opportunity to fill from a dock, and some other times when we're stuck we have to carry jerry cans in the dinghy.

The kitchen is equipped with a LPG stove. There are 2 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. I avoid strict vegan crew members as it is not easy to have crew with different diets. There's nothing more annoying than to have to cook without milk or eggs when you are not vegan. Vegetarians who eat fish, milk, cheese and eggs would be fine as we rarely use meat anyway.

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 housechore 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. I like my crew to be alert. I don't smoke tobacco and I 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 I don't do them myself and am not really willing to risk my boat for somebody else pleasure. Everybody is aware of the heavy conscequences for drug offences in most countries. Any amount found on a foreign boat means you are a smuggler. Smuggling charges are much heavier than possession charges. I don't want to have my boat confiscated AND have my crew hanged...

Electricity is stored in batteries, and the lights, fans, pumps, navigation instruments, stereo, etc, is 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 12 volt plugs, the cigarette lighter kind, where you can plug battery chargers, Mp3 players, computers, etc. There is also a 1000 watts inverter that converts the 12 volt power to 110 volt. You can then plug any appliance that uses less than about 700 watts, like computers, blender, sewing machine, drill, jigsaw, sanders, etc. Lastly, for big power needs, there is a big 3 cylinders diesel generator, with a capacity of 10 000 watts. We use this one for long jobs with the power tools, or for the bigger tools like the grinder, table saw or the welder. We use it as well for the vacuum cleaner.
The plugs for Ac power can be anything as we already have universal adaptors.

I also wrote a "Beginner's guide to life aboard Karaka" concerning what future crew members should know. If you have been selected to come crew on Karaka, it might be a good idea to check it out here.

For the other aspects of the life on board and how it is to live on a boat without much money, I just put together a collection of hints and advices, check the PDF version.