Living off the grid

Today we said goodbye to our frenetic resting place in Golfo di Lacona on Elba. We left behind camping vacationers in the thousands from Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. One last funky water gymnastics at the beach this morning, one last gelato for the kids and one last stop for “cornetti” at the bakery and the anchor went up.

When we first arrived in Lacona four days ago we were shocked: The density of people, parasols, air matrasses and plastic paddle boats was beyond what we had ever experienced on a beach. But I have to admit, the place grew on us. Everybody, locals and tourists alike, were so friendly and relaxed. So many people together so closely just wanting to have a good time and being real nice to each other.

Busy Lacona was just the ticket for Leonie's birthday and a special surprise for her and her brother ... getting pulled by a jet ski.

Busy Lacona was just the ticket for Leonie’s birthday and a special surprise for her and her brother … getting pulled by a jet ski.

Families rule, kids are king, the prices are very reasonable and the quality is surprisingly high for such a touristy place. It was nice for our kids – and for us, too – to not move for a while after we’d travelled quite steadily making our way up the west coast of Corsica and across to Elba. It was also wonderful to have settled weather and undisturbed nights. The loud latin music from the beach restaurant didn’t keep us awake. Last night Bill and I ended up dancing a few salsa tunes on the roof top disco while the kids watched.

But today at noon it was time to lift anchor and to move on to the harbor of Porto Azzuro (a good two hours east along the coast of Elba) to fill our water tank. We just docked for 30 minutes, got the water hose from the marineros and took off again after paying the 10 Euro fee. It would have been nice to stay. Porto Azzuro looks like a beautiful town. However the marina was fully booked and we didn’t want to pay the 110 Euro berthing fee anyways. So now we are anchored in the nearby bay – together with fifty other boats. YIKES! One French fellow who arrived late ended up so close, we can smell his garlic dinner!

It had been nine days since we last took on water in Saint Florent, Corsica and we still had 250 litres left. That means the four of us used 500 litres in nine days, 55 litres per day. Not bad for water consumption. Given that the average German uses (a comparatively low amount of) 120 liters per day as I happened to read in “Der Spiegel” today.

Thankfully our Sharki has a generously large water tank, which allows us to be independent from land and avoid crowded and expensive marinas, which is particularly important in the high season. And we do conserve, of course. Knowing that there is an end to things, you automatically do. But there seems to be enough for numerous body rinses every day: Nobody is allowed under deck salty. So the shower is running after each splash into the ocean.

Our awareness of energy consumption has also greatly increased since we are living on a boat. It is a constant challenge to manage electricity, to not let the batteries get too empty and to keep our devices more or less charged. Even though this can be annoying, I like the learning and awareness bit of it. Plus, I think it is neat to be living off the grid and to figure out how to keep things working. At least all of us are getting really good at turning off lights and devices we don’t need. Hopefully we can keep that awareness for the time when power will again be something one does not have to worry about.

We are learning how much electricity the fridge, the toilet and sink pump, the lights, the navigation devices and the vacuum are using and how much our solar panels are generating. The freezer we quickly unplugged after a few days on board. It just took too much energy out of the batteries. Same with the vacuum: It only gets used if we are on shore power.

The glance to the battery monitor, which is located by the steps leading under deck, is becoming second nature even for Sol. “We are adding amps!” one of us might announce gleefully. Once we’ve used up too many amps, the generator has to come on.

solarUnfortunately we don’t have enough solar power, yet, to make it through a 36 hour period without burning fossil fuels. That is something we are thinking about improving. Even with the sun shining brightly every day, we usually need to use the generator (with gas) for an hour to charge up, unless we are under way and use the diesel engine. While sailing we can also charge the batteries with the turning propeller.

Pretty neat little entity that is a sailboat, isn’t it?




on “Living off the grid
8 Comments on “Living off the grid
  1. We’ve been following your adventures and wish we were young enough and posses the energy to enjoy such an adventure !
    We know there is a great amount of hard work and planning involved, but the beaches and scenery must be fantastic !
    We’ll keep watching !!

    Bob & Carole

  2. We love reading these updates – we are in Osoyoos, and I have shared this with the family – so awesome to feel a part of your great adventures. Sounds like Leonie had a great birthday. Please say Happy Birthday to her from us! Enjoy!
    The Moen’s

  3. What a great learning experience for all of you. I know it’s almost the same when camping non-electrical-we became keenly aware of power 🙂

    • It is very much like Camping, Lone! Only camping We don’t even worry about electricity whereas on the boat you need it for navigation. Water is often more an issue then, isn’t it? But it is good to have these times away….

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