May 22, 2017

Sailing to the Florida Keys

We've been getting a lot of questions from friends and family about what we are up to. So here's a summary, and answers to some common questions:


Where are we going?
We are moving aboard our boat and setting sail for the Florida Keys where we will spend the winter of 2017. We are tentatively heading for Stock Island, where the plan is to get a dock and hang out for the winter.



When are we leaving?
The current timeline is:

May - Fix up the house and sell stuff
June - Prepare Boat for living aboard
July - Launch boat, move aboard, have a mega yard sale of remaining possessions.
August - Settle into a routine on boat.
September - CAST OFF!


What route are we taking?
In 2007 we sailed down the East Coast. This time around we're taking a series of rivers from Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico:

Illinois River - 334 miles
Upper Mississippi River - 219 miles
Ohio River - 46 miles
Cumberland River - 33 miles
Tennessee River - 215 miles
Tennessee-Tombigbee Canal to Mobile Bay - 234 miles

Total distance ≈ 1,081 miles.

The image below shows all the connected waterways as a solid black line:



How long does it take to get from Chicago to Mobile by boat?
If we travel an average of 25 miles a day, it will take us 43 "traveling days" to get to the gulf. Some days we won't travel because of bad weather or we will want to explore a town.

25 miles a day is only 5 hours a day, less when the current is going with us. So even though we won't be traveling everyday, 43 days is probably a pretty good estimate.

We're planning on it taking about 3 months to get to the Florida Keys.


What about bridges?
We will drop the mast in Chicago and have it trucked to the gulf.


Are we selling our house?
No. We are renting it. We've hired a recommended property management company who will handle everything while we are away.


What about the company/your job?
I sold LongerDays in the spring of 2016. I had a 1-year employment contract that expired in the spring of 2017.


What will we do for money?
Aside from rental income, I'm not entirely sure. Right now I'm like a leaf on the wind, hoping for a soft landing.


How long are we going to be gone for:
For as long as it's fun! Probably several years. However, expect to see us in town around Christmas and/or summertime.


Are we keeping the cats?
Between the kids and the cats, we decided to keep the kids. We found a really nice home for the cats, where they will be going to live at the end of May. Hobie loves our cats, and he wants to bring them with. We told him cats don't like water, so it isn't fair to bring them on the boat.

When we told him about a nice lady we met who was sad because her cat died, he said "maybe she could watch our cats when we live on the boat."

LeeAnn and I looked at each other like "well that was easy."

We're still really careful when talking to him about the cats. Here are the reasons we decided not to bring them:

- There isn't an out of the way place to put the kitty litter box.
- Grocery shopping when traveling on a boat means walking to the store, and then walking back carrying everything you buy, plus two kids. I'm not sure we can, or want to add kitty litter and cat food to the load.


How are you going to keep the kids safe?
We get this one a lot. It's kind of amazing how "unfamiliar" is so easily turned into "unsafe." The idea that our kids are safe at home in Muskegon is an illusion. We will keep our kids safe on the boat the same way we keep them safe at home.

At home:
- When the kids go outside to ride bikes, they where helmets.
- They're not allowed to play in the street.
- In the car we wear seat belts.
- We have child locks on cabinets
- Baby gates in front of the stairs.

On the boat:
- When the kids go on deck they wear life jackets.
- We have 24" tall lifelines with netting around the perimeter of the boat.
- The cabinets have locks on them.
- Charlie's room has a baby get to keep him from getting up and wandering around at night.
- etc.

There is danger everywhere, the best we can do is create boundaries, rules, and keep a close eye.


Are you planning to homeschool the kids?
Maybe! Hobie won't be "school age" for school for another 1.5 years, but we're already laying the homeschool foundation just in case. We feel very fortunate to be able to have both parents available to take an active role in our children's education!


Aren't you worried about socialization for the kids?
If we were sailing non-stop around the world I might be worried about socialization. But we are taking well worn paths traveled by thousands of boaters every year. "Boat kids" aren't all that uncommon, and we've found cruising family's tend to gravitate toward each other.

Plus if you think about it, school is about the only time in your life when you are with people who are the same general age, race, and socioeconomic background. Why is that so great for socializing? Why shouldn't kids learn to relate and talk to people of all ages and backgrounds?

Granted, there is something to be said for steady friendships with people your own age. So I am worried about that. We will just have to work it out as we go along.













Apr 4, 2017

Carry That Weight!

LeeAnn just left for the consignment store with her second van load of stuff!



Carrying a heavy box of books up the basement stairs, I considered the weight. Wondered about the mental weight of these books. How heavy do they weigh on my sub-conscious? And how good will it feel when they are gone? One less thing to take care of. One less worry.

My nightstand left in this trip. I replaced it with a stool that had been sitting idle on the storage side of our basement. It feels so good to replace something I wasn't using, with something I wasn't using.


We also sent off a table with the map of the world on it. I thought "I'm giving up a map of the world, so I can do see the world."


I sold a broken outboard motor last week, reducing my outboard motor collection by 1/3. I listed the whitewater kayak I no longer use on Craigslist, and believe that will also be sold today.

So far our kids are handling this well. Charlie is oblivious, and Hobie hasn't seemed to notice things slowly disappearing. We have been talking with him about selling our things and moving onto the boat more and more. We want to give him plenty of time to feel this out, ask questions, and be comfortable.

Mar 21, 2017

A Prison of Possessions

Chipping away at our things. We now have four boxes of books sitting out in the garage. We are bringing them to a used book store that will give us a bit of money for each book.

By going through our books, we've found that we actually own duplicate copies of several books, and in some cases series of books. Safe to say, we love books, and it's hard to part with them. I'm saving the books I really love, the ones that dramatically impacted my life. I'm letting go of the rest.

I couldn't help second guessing myself tonight. What am I doing getting rid of all this stuff? I don't plan to sail away forever.... just for a while. Do I really want to get rid of all my stuff? Trying to think logically, I reminded myself that I didn't have most of these things 10 years ago and I wasn't any less happy then.





I also freaked out a little when I realized we really don't have that much time to get ready. LeeAnn is leaving for Norway toward the end of July and gets back in August. In order to hit our September 1st departure date, we have to be moved out of our house and aboard the boat by then end of August.

I guess I didn't realize until tonight that we are straight up moving. Moving out of our house and onto a boat. I remember how much it sucked to move when we bought our new house... and I didn't realize until tonight that we are taking on that same monumental task. At least this time we have several months to accomplish it.


For all my dreaming of sailing away, I'm sad to leave this house. I'm sad to think that we will never be able to put it back together the way it is now. We will never "come home" to this house.

But when I set my feelings aside and think logically, I remember that we have only been living here for 3.5 years. 4 years ago we lived in a completely different house, and I don't miss it. I don't yearn to go back "home" to it.

Am I really ready to set my life adrift? To take up a rootless existence?

Whenever I feel this way, I come back to asking myself "what would I do if I stayed?" I would work, and continue dreaming about sailing away.





It's funny, the possessions that make leaving so stressful and so much work, are at the same time difficult to give away. A prison of possessions. This reminds me of a line from "The Truman Show":

"He could leave at any time. If his was more than just a vague ambition, if he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there's no way we could prevent him. I think what distresses you, really, caller, is that ultimately Truman prefers his cell, as you call it."

And two great Fight Club quotes"

"It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.”

and

“You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.”


I'm sad to get rid of our books, but several of these books haven't been lifted from the shelf since we moved into this house, and I can't remember a time when I appreciated them as much as I did tonight, while I was choosing which ones to keep, and which ones to give away.


Mar 20, 2017

A Paralyzed Life

I don't want to spend my life going to work.

I don't know why that is such a radical idea.

It's not that I'm lazy. It's that I'm not a hamster. I don't want to spend my life circling the same five square miles that I was born in.

This planet is amazing, and I want to see it.

There are interesting people, and I want to meet them. Different foods that I want to try.

Life is short, and full of surprises. No one plans on accidents, but they happen all the time. My cousin fell off a ladder a few years ago and broke his back. Paralyzed for life. The girl who grew up across the street from me developed a brain tumor several years ago. They weren't sure if she was going to make it. I could be one step away from a tragedy. One doctor visit away from a terminal diagnosis.

Life is short, and I decided early on that I would trade as little of my life for dollars as I could. I decided that when I made money, I would save as much as possible. I wouldn't let the expectations of our society spend my money for me.

If I were in America's top 1%, I'd work for one year, save as much as I could, then retire. Zoom out and consider that as an American, I am a member of the global 1%. So technically, the same theory applies.

I'm opposite of lazy, I have worked very, very hard over the last 7 years. I smiled and played the part. I bought a house, bought cars, bought stuff. And I was patted on the back by society. It was assumed that I was spending 115% or more of my take home pay (with a mortgage, car loans, and credit card debt) to buy the very most that we could afford.

Secretly, we were living well below our means. I was stashing away as much money as I could. Ready to eject from the rat race into a life of travel and adventure. But now it's harder to get out than I thought it would be.

There are so many worries. So many fears. But I tell myself: "Just go now. There will never be a perfect time."

Life wants to be dull.

It wants to be boring.

You have to fight against it.














Mar 19, 2017

Renting house, getting rid of stuff, shipping mast

Renting Out The House

We've been going back and forth on how we want to rent out our house. Initially we thought we would rent to a friend or family member. More of a "house sitter" type situation, and just ask for enough money to cover the property taxes and insurance.

Renting to friend/family would take the pressure off getting rid of all our things - which is more challenging than I thought it would be!

However, I've been keeping an eye on the rental market and noticed two things:

1. Rents in Muskegon have been going up a lot. My friend owns several rentals and was just telling me she rented out a house in Lakeside (our old neighborhood) for $1,200 which is really high for that neighborhood. Our neighborhood is considered "nicer" and we plan to rent our house with some furniture so I'm hoping we can get between $1,200-$1,500/month.

2. There are very, very few houses for rent in our school district. As of today ours is actually the only one on the market. I just put up a "test listing" of our house to see what kind of hits we get on it. I started with a really high price and will continue to lower it until I start getting contacted about it. For anyone who contacts me, I will simply say it has already been rented.

I since listing the house earlier today, I've received two inquiries... which I'm going to take as a very good sign.

Getting Rid Of Our Stuff

We have slowly been getting rid of stuff. It's REALLY hard. Today we tackled books. We have several "cool" books from college that we have been hanging onto for the "someday" when we might read them, or want to reference them. Considering it's been over 10 years since college... I think it's safe to let these books go. But then... what if we end up regretting it? We would need to buy the book all over again!

I think it helped that today we had a friend over and she didn't want any of the books we decided to get rid of. These books we place so much value on... we can't even GIVE them away.

We are letting go of a bunch of novels that we don't mind having on the shelf, but admitted to ourselves that we didn't imagine ever reading them again.

Getting rid of our possessions is a hard, slow process.

Shipping The Mast

We've transited the Erie Canal twice, and each time we carried our mast on the boat. It doesn't sound bad in theory, but the reality sucks. The mast on our catamaran is 49 feet, which leaves an extra 5.5 feet hanging off the bow and stern of our 38 foot boat. Not impossible, but it doesn't make docking fun.

Nor is it fun to to have the additional ropes and straps running around the deck to keep the mast secured. I worry about the possible damage being done to the deck. "did that powerboat wake cause the fiberglass under the supports to crack? No way to tell until we get to the end of the canal...."

I also continuously worry that something will come lose and the mast will be lost over the side. The overall theme here is "worry" which to me defeats the purpose of going cruising.

On this trip, we are heading south down the inland rivers that run from Chicago to Mobile, and I want to be able to take our time and enjoy the trip. For the first time, I want to ship the mast.

I started searching for shipping, and it ending up being a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. I was searching for things like "mast shipping" "mast transportation" and searching several pages deep on google, not finding anything. Finally I searched for "Great Loop mast shipping" and I found exactly what I was looking for towards the bottom of the page.

albertlogistics.com specializes in shipping "normal" sized sailboat masts. I say "normal" because I found many shippers in previous searches who specialize in mega-yacht masts.

Albert Logistics has a few pick up locations, two in Chicago and one in Kentucky. They group the masts together to reduce the overall cost, and deliver the masts to Mobile, AL. The cost is $850 to ship the mast. It's probably going to cost about $500 to have the mast stepped and packed for shipping in Chicago. Then I'm not sure how much money to get the mast stepped in Mobile.

I'm guessing it will come to about $1,500 total, a fair amount higher than the $1,000 I was hoping to spend. I could get back within my budget by carrying the mast on deck, but based on my past experiences, I think shipping is well worth it.





















Mar 10, 2017

Cruiser Coaching

Cruiser Coaching

Going cruising is a really scary thing. It can be really nice to have someone there to cheer you on, or maybe just tell you that you're not crazy. If you need some help I'm offering coaching. Fill out the following form to get started:


Here are a few things my wife and I can help you with:

Encouragement

Becoming a vagabond is a scary idea. You’re going against the grain of society. Giving up a large portion of your personal possessions. Leaving behind family and friends. There is the fear of the unknown and the “what ifs”. Those around you may be excited for you, but it’s also nice to have someone to talk with who has been there before, and can encourage you through your journey.

Spouse Reassurance

Perhaps your spouse (husband or wife), has concerns, and they just need to hear some reassurance from someone who is not you. Maybe your spouse is tentative about the idea of cruising on a sailbot, and would feel more excited after talking to someone who has actually done it. Maybe your spouse just wants to have a conversation with someone of the same sex.

Budgeting

How much money do you need? How do living expenses on a boat differ from land based living expenses? Will you be spending less or more money? What opportunities are there for making money along the way? My wife and I have lived on a boat as college students with no income, as business owners with steady high income, and as contract employees with moderate income. We’ve lived aboard with kids, and without.

Sailing, Navigation, and Seamanship

Are you worried about the skills and experience you need to go on your adventure? Do you have questions about navigating unfamiliar water? Plotting courses? Are you concerned about thunderstorms? Tides? Where to anchor for the night? Are you prepared for heavy weather? We can help you make a plan.

Destinations And Route Planning

Should you sail offshore to the Caribbean or take the Inner Coastal Waterway (ICW)? Are you thinking about the Great Loop? Maybe you're interested in a transatlantic passage to the Mediterranean? How should you travel to avoid burn out?

Boat, Equipment Selection, and Preparation

Power or sail? Monohull or multihull? What is the right size boat? How much holding for freshwater, fuel, and waste? Do you need solar panels? A radar? Autopilot? A spare for every part? You can go broke outfitting a boat, I’ve also seen people get caught in an endless cycle of always preparing and never departing. Don’t be one of them!

Living

Laundry, Grocery shopping, Boat repairs and maintenance, showers, what it's really like... etc!









Mar 9, 2017

3 reasons I'm afraid to sail away

I Worry About The Unkown


My youngest son, Charlie is 1.5 years old, and still wakes up fairly often in the middle of the night. Whenever I'm in his dark room, standing over his crib, shushing him back to sleep, I think about how happy I am that we are not living on a sailboat.

I think about how nice it is that I'm not in a strange place, a thousand miles from home. I think about how comfortable my house is. How it can't sink. I think maybe I don't want to sail away. Maybe we should just stay home. It's SUCH a comfortably tempting thought to think.

But when I really embrace this idea, it falls apart. So we don't go sailing. Then what? Do I go to work and keep up with the Joneses? Two weeks vacation once a year. Is that it? Is that what I want to do with my life? Absolutely not.

Do I want to look back on my life and think "I chose comfort and familiarity over living the life I really wanted." No way.

I Worry About Money

I spend most of my time worrying about money. It's the most pressing issue, and in a lot of ways it's the easiest to solve compared to intangible things like "the fear of the unknown."


My concerns start with health insurance. When we were younger, life didn't cost as much money. We needed food for two and gas money for the boat. That was about it.

Now we are a family of four, and its our responsibility to look out for the well being of our children. I consider health insurance for all of us to be a necessity.

I'm hoping that I'll be able to keep my current job in some form. Just in case that doesn't work out, I've started a web design and management company called Wowie.co (please check it out, and tell your friends). The company has been really successful so far, but it's still a candle in the wind. I'm also experimenting with revenue streams from this blog, which I will share updates on in a later post. We also plan to rent out our house.


While I worry about money, it's not a reason to give up the sailing dream. Cruising has provided me with many skills (self-confidence, problem solving, budgeting) and even opportunities. My current job and income is directly connected to our 2007-2009 sailing trip. So who knows. Maybe this new adventure will result in new income streams I currently can't imagine.

I Worry About Uprooting My Family

I have a lot of wonderful memories of growing up. My parents have lived in the same house for as long as I can remember. Living in a house provides a lot of interior room to run and play. I remember playing catch with my dad in our back yard. Riding skateboards and bikes in our driveway. I have a lot of wonderful (and horrible) memories from going to school, and there are people here in Muskegon that I've known since the first grade.

I'm afraid to pull my kids away from the wonderful childhood I had. I know Hobie in particular is going to miss our house. He is going to miss our cats (which we are going to have to find new homes for).


On the flip side, I don't know how great it can be to grow up on a boat because I didn't experience it the way my kids will. They will make their own special memories. They will see and experience things that other kids don't.

Ultimately, I don't think there is a "right way". I think (hope) that my kids will look back on their childhood and view it as "normal" because it is simply the only one they know. I mean, the idea of growing up in India is totally exotic to me. But to the kids who grow up there, it's just normal.

You Only Live Once

Whatever my fears, I always come back to two things:

1. My life is going to go by faster than I would like it to.

2. I don't want to spend my life working.

I'm not opposed to work. I'm a straight up workaholic. But I'm always asking myself "when I'm old and looking back on my life, what do I want to see? A life spent working, making money? Or a life spent making memories, experiencing as much as I can of this amazing world where we live?


I think everyone tricks themselves into thinking "there will be time later." But... there won't be. This is it. Life slips by like sand through your fingers. Ask any old person and they will say "each year goes by faster than the one before."

I can't help but feeling life doesn't really want to be lived. It's like the buzz of a refrigerator, the ambient noise that no one notices until it suddenly cuts out. It's easy to take for granted.

You have grab life by the throat. Don't let it slip away. You only get one shot, so make it count.



























Mar 7, 2017

To hell with it. Let's sail away!

We're getting ready to sail away. There is no other way for me to put it. We know when we are leaving (fall, 2017) and we know where we are going (The Florida Keys), and after that... unknown.

I've been dreaming about this for YEARS. So it's weird that I'm not more excited. Don't get me wrong, I'm totally excited. I'm also more terrified than I thought I would be. The fear is a total buzz kill.


First off, we didn't arrive at the decision to sail away under the happiest circumstances. The original plan was to sail off in the fall of 2018, and be back in the Bahamas for our 10 year wedding anniversary. That sounds like a great plan, except I'm losing my god damn mind in Muskegon.

I just can't fathom another year and a half of my life in it's current form. The thought of it makes me boil from the inside out. It makes me slump into depression.


Somewhere along the way, I read, heard, or came to the conclusion that happiness is inside you. And if you are not happy where you are, then you will not be happy where you are going. Happiness is a state of mind. You can't find it with GPS coordinates. Or can you?


My life here is not all that bad. By many standards, it's above average. But that doesn't mean it's right for me. I never wanted a routine life. Commuting to work each day. Having a house with nice things. No thanks. Life should not be about going to work. I get that we all need money and everything, but the meaning of life is not to go to work. At least not for me. I don't want to be laying on my deathbed looking back on my life and thinking "well, I lived in Muskegon and I went to work and made some money and bought some things. That's what I did." To hell with that.


This life I'm living, it's not my real life. My real life is on pause. At least that is what I've been telling myself for the 8 years its been since we stopped living on a sailboat. But how long does it take for this land-based life to become my "real one?"

I worry that the further we get from living on a boat, with every year that passes, it will become all that much harder to go back. I worry that I'll end up stuck in this life forever. I feel stuck already. Trapped. I'm worried my life is going to become an accident. That I will end up living out a suburban life I never wanted.

And so, losing my mind, struggling with depression, I convinced LeeAnn that we should sail away a year early.

Feb 21, 2017

Space Saving Pots and Pans For Boating

Magma Nesting Pots And Pans


Magma Nesting Cookware has a detachable handle so the pots and pans can fit together in a
conveniently small space. This is super handy for boat living where storage space is generally limited.

Magma cookware is really the gold standard when it comes to boat cookware. It's what most people use. I'm not sure if that is because it is the best, or if it is because of Magma's name recognition from it's very popular boat grills. 

  • Designed specifically for RVs and boats
  • 100% 18-10 mirror polish marine grade stainless steel, encapsulated triple-clad bottoms for superb even heat distribution
  • Secures conveniently for storage with the included bungee cord, stores in less than 1/2 cubic foot of space
  • Includes 3 sauce pans (1-1/2 qt., 2 qt., and 3 qt.) with interchangable lid a stock pot (5 qt.) and a saute / fry pan (9-1/2 inch diameter) with interchangeable lids, two removable handles and storage cord
  • Oven and dishwasher safe, not for use with induction cooktops 
 

What I love:

I think the thing I love most about the Magma cookware set is that it comes in both non-stick ceramic and stainless steel. I also like that there are some options on the exterior finish, either polished stainless steel or a really nice blue color. 

What I don't love:

I don't like the weird lid. It's a smart design to reduce the number of lids required, which I do appreciate. I hate having a million lids. However, I don't like that the Magma lid is either going to overhang on smaller cookware, and dip down into larger cookware. I think the Neoflam Midas set does a better job having "normal" lids.

 

What users are saying:

I spoke with a number of people using Magma cookware, and everyone basically raves about them. Several people mentioned that these are heavy duty pots and pans, able to stand up to daily use and abuse for years.

Overall:

I think you really can't go wrong with Magma cookware. It's a safe bet that is comparable in price and quality to a "normal" set of household cookware. I also think it's awesome that they give you two handles with the 10-peice cookware set instead of just one.



Neoflam Midas Nesting Pots And Pans


Neoflam Midas is a nesting cookware set with detachable handles. This comes in super handy on boats where space is limited. 

What I love:


The Neoflam Midas cookware comes in a fun colors: Emerald Green, Sunrise Red, or multicolor. I really like the handle style, which can be attached at any location on the cookware. Compare this to the popular magma cookware which has a specific attach point that could be challenging if you have to detach/reattach on a hot pan. If using a pot or pan in the oven, the grab and grip handle style of Neoflam looks quick and easy compared to trying to fit a handle into a keyhole on a hot pan while on a rocking boat as you lean into a hot oven. A Neoflam replacement handle is also about half the cost of the Magma set.
I also really like that these nesting pots and pans come with a plastic lid, so the cookware can double as food storage containers.
The tempered glass lids are rimmed with silicon which is handy for reducing vibration noise when motoring.

What I don't love:


There's not much to not like about the Neoflam Midas cookware. I don't like the ceramic non-stick coating. I'm probably alone in this. Everyone seems to love non-stick, but I love taking a metal scrubby to polish up stainless steel pots and pans. I have used a metal scrubber on a ceramic pan and it didn't seem to damage the ceramic coating, however I'd be concerned about doing this regularly.

One thing I think Neoflam really got right is their "Ecolon" nonstick coating is made from all-natural materials. It's PFOA and PTFE free. Honestly, I have no idea what the hell that means, but my hippie wife has warned me on more than one occasion about the chemical dangers of non-stick coatings. I think it's safe to assume boaters lean toward the "natural" side of things, so this Ecolon coating is a good call.

I also don't like the bowl like shape of the pots and pans. Honestly the bowl shape of the 10" frying pan is probably my main dislike of the Neoflam cookware. 


Overall:

This nesting cookware set looks pretty great. In my quest to find the perfect compact cookware for boating, I'm seriously considering buying this set. If you have purchased Neoflam Midas pots and pans, please let me know how you liked them!












Feb 19, 2017

Black and Decker Dust Buster Review

On our first boat, we didn't have a vacuum. On our second boat we had a small shop vac. We had a cat who would get litter all over our small floor space, and because we didn't want to sweep kitty litter into the cracks between the floor boards, we ended up using the shop vac all the time. On our third boat, we bought a Black and Decker Dust Buster.

There are two versions of this dust buster. The less expensive, and more expensive version. We have the less expensive model. From what I can tell... there is no difference. Perhaps the more expensive version has a better battery.

The main benefit to the dust buster over the shop vac is that the dust buster runs on battery, so we don't have to use the generator, inverter, or be plugged into shore power to run it. It's also nice not having to worry about the distance from the wall outlet. Whether outside, or inside, near or far, the dustbuster works. The dustbuster is also easier to grab really quick.

The dust buster has a clear "dirt trap" that is super easy to empty. There is also a filter. You can buy replacement filters, but the filter is also washable. We've washed ours several times.

With as dirty as boats get, on top of the mess that kids make at every meal time, we end up using our little dust buster several times a day.

I'd recommend staying away from the BDH9600 pictured below. We had one of these at work and it stopped working within a few months.