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A Mobile Odyssey

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Sailboat to motor home 10 Part Series


Sailboat to motor home is a 10 part series that is written with a potential RV owner in mind.  
Drawing from our boating experience the basics have been transferred to the odyssey in the motor home using real world experience.  
It is our hope that any potential RV owner will benefit from the experience. 
Like most of life it is a continuing learning experience.

New Owner Episode 1

The First Day of the motor home journey was June 4, 2018! We bought our first motor home on May 15th 
Having lived aboard a sailboat since 2003 many of the things were familiar, still we considered ourselves “newbees” to RV’s, so join us and we will discover the world of RV living together!

The reason we bought a motor home is because we did not have a vehicle capable of towing a Travel Trailer or 5th Wheel. Like boats, there are advantages and disadvantages to each. 
We also chose to sell our '07 Mustang Convertible as it had 200+K miles and the added cost of rigging it to tow was prohibitive, both for money and time line, for departure. Understandably, that decision is going to make some things inconvenient, but simpler during trips.

The first hurdle is the purchase process.
The decision to buy new, used, from a private party, or dealer will depend on many factors and they are all related to how many little green things are in the wallet. 
Most dealers have some type of warranty on used units, because of the age of ours, (2004), our dealer provided a check of all systems and provided a “Camp Ready” guarantee which was basically that all appliances were in working order. This guarantee was good till the end of the driveway! 
This is still better than anything from a private party, and if it is a “first purchase”, may be the better way to go.
Buying from a private party may save in the short term however, a good suggestion is to have a cash reserve and or skills to cover repair or replace for major systems. We had that issue with our sailboat even though it was surveyed; there were major problems that the survey missed!

Financing is the other important decision. I will state unequivocally that cash is best.
 Many dealers offer 15 to 20 year financing. This is inviting on the surface, however the interest rates are terrible, and the fact that an RV is a depreciating item, it just may turn out to have payments on an RV that is no longer useable.
There are other better options, a credit union, bank, or second mortgage. It would be a good idea to secure pre-approved financing.

We spent our first night in Columbia County Rest Area, Florida, after dinner and first fill up of the trip in Ocala. A Texaco station was handy so we filled up ($109)! Thinking about the fuel cost, I can’t help thinking about how far I can sail on $100.

One more detail, Roadside Assistance!
RV towing like boat tow is not usually covered in standard coverage. One of the photos1 shows our boat being towed when we had a serious engine problem. That tow would have cost a little over $2300 had we not had insurance.  
We started out our RV experience with a 3 year Membership in Good Sam when we bought ours. I’ve heard since there may be better.
The stop at Wal-Mart provided the first modifications to the motor home.  LED Replacement bulbs and a 750 Watt Inverter was purchased to add to Boondocking capability 
This should be enough to get started, more posts will follow, so join the adventure.




New Owner Episode 2

The last post discussed the aspect of where to purchase the RV, and mentioned having a warranty.
Our third day out we discovered a leak in the freshwater tank. Because we bought from a national dealer, they did replace the leaking drain valve with no charge. 
At that time, we also learned something very important about tires on RV’s. Even though they did not look worn at all, they were 5 years old. It was highly recommended that they be replaced. It seems that because RV tires, unlike auto tires, spend more time sitting which deteriorates them from the inside. 
Also, when buying tires be sure to check the date molded on the sidewall to be sure of getting “fresh” ones. 

Probably the next important thing on the RV agenda is emptying the waste tanks. 
Next up was heading to a dump station. This is the second time.
Thankfully not at all like Robin William’s movie RV!
It should be a simple process IF all the hoses are connected securely and rubber seals are in good shape. 
Our sailboat is similar. Sounds worse than it really is, pump out stations on shore literally must “suck” it out of the boat.
There is a special deck fitting for this purpose.

One more quick thing, where to stay on the road? can provide many destinations at no or little cost. We stayed in some so far and one was super with free dump site close by.
Many Wal-Marts allow overnight stays.
Next up, aspects of being “Self Contained’”




New Owner Episode  3

Another aspect of purchase, is learning how to operate all the systems.
Our dealer provided a “run through” of how it all worked.  Like "Oh Really"?!
In our case, the “Tour Guide” was lacking and the technician that was getting our motor home ready gave us better information. 
Our first experience hooking up the city water and sewer in the campground went like this:
Water pressure regulator; check! 
Sewer hose secured; check!
Buy special elbow for hose to be secure in pipe; check
Turn on water and watch water run down tire; check, no wait, not check!
So wondering what the devil was going on now, I took the panel off and discovered the hose to the plumbing was wrapped in plastic with a plug. Simple for a change, remove plug and reattach to hose outlet. No more leak.
So, add another thing that was missed in the “camp ready” repair check list at purchase. 
Things are starting to remind us of the similar experience with our sailboat, learning after the fact! 
All was well until we reached the next stop and we used the internal pump and watched water flow out the side of the motor home. Turns out there is a check valve that is also defective, which is why the hose was plugged in the first place. 
The most important thing is to learn what to ask and what to check. It is no fun to discover and repair things on the road where it is more expensive and inconvenient.
This is a partial list of things to run through especially for a used unit.

  1. Toilet, how does it flush? Does it?
  2. Fresh water tank and pump.
  3. City Water Hookup.
  4. Hot water heater, how does it ignite?
  5. Furnace, does it blow hot air?
  6. Shore Power connector. Is it in serviceable condition?
  7. Air Conditioner, does it blow cold air?
  8. Refrigerator, is it 2 or 3 way and does it work in all modes?
  9. House battery, is it serviceable and is it a "true" deep cycle battery. Ours was 2 years old and a combination Marine Start/Deep Cycle that was on the verge of dying. 
  10. If it is equipped with a generator make sure all is working properly.
  11. Discover where the electrical power comes from. For example: in our motor home everything runs off the house battery, including generator starter. Nothing goes to the start battery so I fashioned a jumper connection from #10 wire and two clips. This allows the battery to be charged when parked for long periods. In the interim of our travels, another wonderful thing that was missed on information...there IS and emergency start button in the cab for when the starting battery is low, learned this about 8 months after purchase!




New Owner Episode 4

Sitting in Tennessee waiting for our tires to be replaced, I was thinking about the differences between traveling on the sailboat and in the motor home.
Veteran RV’ers are aware of the issue, but it’s worth repeating. 
A big Class A that had near disaster due to blowout with 7 year old tires, that looked almost new and caused over $100,000 damage to a $500,000+ Motor Coach because of a front tire failing. 
For our safety the shop replaced all of ours.
That’s not much different than boating. Some friends aboard their boat intended to sail off to the Islands but had to return because of an overheating engine. 
We, ourselves, had many unplanned expenses over the last 3 years for our sailboat.
We had planned a road trip earlier, however, Hurricane Irma destroyed our Volkswagen Westfailia2.
The unplanned repairs on our sailboat is exactly what prompted us to buy the motor home that we did and from who.
We wanted to have trouble free travel for at least a year. 
Most boat and RV owners are a handy lot and become quite good at improvising repairs. However, it is very discouraging to break down at the end of the driveway even more so 150 miles from anywhere!
Our choice was a 2004 Gulfstream BT Cruiser 23 which was old enough to be affordable and new enough to be reliable especially with the “camp ready preparation" by the dealer.
We chose also to sell our trusty 2007 Mustang3 especially after discovering all the complications and expense of having a tow vehicle. 
There are a lot of things to consider if planning to have a tow "toad" car. On a boat it is a service dinghy and the RV world borrowed the term. There are a number of solutions and they need some serious shopping. 
More on selection in the next episode! 
Meanwhile enjoy some of the photos taken along the way.

2 & 3




See More Photos here

New Owner Episode 5

The wonderful motor home experience we planned has yet to happen.
This is much the same for many aboard boats.
This does not mean it has not been interesting and even fun.
It does serve as a caution to all potential owners who look forward to enjoyment and adventure.
Dawn has such a positive demeanor and finds many things relatively funny, such as watching me get drenched because the water connection went nowhere!
Many a sailing journey has ended with one of the partners, upon landing, saying “I don’t care what you do with the boat, I’m flying home.”
Dawn and I have hardly been more than 37 feet apart for 6 years now.
Adapting to the motor home was not especially hard for us, as far as our personal relationship.
Selecting an RV is going to be as much about size as price. 
Is it going to be used for occasional trips, or full time living?
How much personal space is going to be needed?
These are two important questions that need an answer.
The last on size is that bigger is not always better. Maintenance and operating cost figure in as well. 
Some campgrounds have limits on length, some roads are not passable for larger rigs, and some may even require special license to operate. Some think it is wise to start small and work up. Long time cruisers Lin and Larry Pardey say “Go Simple and Go Now!” My first sailboat was 24 feet; first motor home is 23 feet.
Another consideration is to fold or not to fold!
The 23 foot has Jackknife sofa and fold down dinette for sleeping. Some, in this size motor home have a cab over bed. These require either making the beds or climbing up a ladder. 
Sometimes that may become annoying for full time living. 



New Owner Episode 6

With the size and type of RV chosen, it is time to head out.  For those not completing their homework assignments (that's the teacher in me) it will be a time of learning. Many new owners will find many questions that were not covered in the “run through.”
After the fact discoveries are the most inconvenient, especially for those starting with no prior experience.
In the showroom with all the glitz and verbose sales representative, much is glossed over. Knowing the right questions is the first step to avoid disappointment later. 
Here is my list of concerns born of several years of tent camping, van camping, motor home, and living aboard sailboats:
-I have noticed a trend to install propane generators aboard smaller diesel powered motor homes. 
The same is true for Travel Trailers and 5th Wheels. It is not near as critical for the trailer set as many of them have much larger propane tanks (or twin tanks). However, in the motor home the propane must be shared between cooking, heating and refrigerator and just could cause loss of refrigeration. 
-The other concern is that it seems a trend toward electrical dependence. This includes but not restricted to installing household refrigerators.
-The latter I believe could be a cost cutting measure similar to what happened to sailboats in the 1980’s. As cost escalated, those that could not cut cost died.
-Quite frankly, using residential refrigerators may save in the initial cost of construction keeping the MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) low but will require higher cost in the long run as expensive inverters and constant generator use is required. The standard 2 or 3 way propane refrigerator can run for weeks on the normal supply of propane where a house frig can run maybe one or two days on battery. I even saw one motor home with an induction stove!
This will make the buyer dependent on either the generator or commercial campgrounds with full hookups.
It will also render the RV just as useless as a home in an emergency when the power grid is down!

After Hurricane Irma we were out of power and water (Electric Powered Wells) for 4 days. Our sailboat not only survived but provided us with “normal” living conditions during that time. 
Being self contained in either an RV or sailboat is not only a plus but could be a life saver.  

New Owner Episode 7

(September 2018)

Out of the showroom into Scenic America 

If traveling in a new RV, hopefully; all the right options have been chosen. If traveling in a used RV, hopefully, it came already properly equipped. Rarely have I agreed with the design team; however, as in boats, RV’s are going to be a compromise. 
Choosing the first destination depends on preference, availability, and duration of the trip. 
Overnight parking on the way is available at most Wal-Marts, many Cracker Barrels, and several Highway Rest Areas.
Extended stays can be found at as well as other places on the Internet. 
Many State and Federal Campgrounds are reasonably priced, however; many are not “Full Service Campgrounds,” and lack electric and or sewer connections. Most will at least have a dump station and potable water. All will have details on the Internet.
This is where the rigs ability to survive will depend on how it is equipped. 
We left Florida and were on the road for 4 months now and have only stayed in one rather economical Commercial Campground with full hookups at $25 per night.
For those planning to become full time, learning where all the free stuff is becomes important. 
There are also membership plans such as Thousand Trails and others that offer use of the Campsites for a purchase and yearly fee. 
Next episode I will discuss the modifications made to our motor home to allow more extended stays in wilderness campgrounds “Boondocking”
Also, by now the decision to have a tow vehicle has been decided.   


New Owner Episode 8

The discussions have been about the purchase of the RV of choice. 
Now it’s time to delve in to using the RV.
The decision to tow a car or not, should be considered. The easiest would be a simple tow dolly, as only the electrical hook up is the lights and turn signals. Tow bars require multiple hook ups to prevent battery discharge, damage to running gear and such.  Caution is needed when equipping to tow a vehicle long distances. 
The first thing we found was that our motor home had one very weak battery for the house system. Our unit was bought used and the house battery was 1 year old. Most importantly it was a Marine Deep Cycle/Start type. These are designed to start outboard engines and are not correct for the intended use in an RV.
I have noticed that many trailers only have one as well. Having lived on a sailboat I knew that battery had to go!
It was replaced by 2 actual Deep Cycle Batteries that had 240 AH (Amp Hours) Capacity for a total of almost 500 AH. This gave our motor home at least 3 days without using the generator. 
We also had an issue with water dripping from the water fill vent next to the filler so we got a small plug to use during travel. (See Photo4) -later replaced with a rubber stopper, this prevented water being sucked out of our tank while driving down the road.
Some travel trailers do not have room for 2 batteries, which is a shame. 
The other addition was a 750 Watt Inverter5. This was more than enough for our needs. The manual for our motor home indicated that there was an optional internal inverter available.
As noted earlier, 
trailers have propane powered generators or none! They also have more LP capacity than most motor homes. The trend has been to use LP generators in Diesel Powered Motor Homes, (Except for the big Class A’s) which not only gets expensive but limits the time in unimproved campgrounds. Using the LP for cooking, refrigeration, and occasional heating should enable the RV to survive for weeks in a wilderness campground (Boondocking). 
Getting used to the limits of the RV of choice will be a continuing process and it is recommended some short training trips with all the necessary supplies within easy access.  

4 & 5



New Owner Episode 9

Off to tour in the RV.

How does the cost line up really? 
There are two considerations,. Is it a week end trip or an extended stay?
These will play out different in a cost analysis. I have tried to be conservative in the estimates.
How about a week’s vacation at 300 miles away from home with 2 people. 
With an RV estimated cost would be as follows; Gas @10 MPG, $160 (approx. with gas prices at the time)
             Campsite @$40, $200
             Food (for 2) $35 (No restaurant)
              Grand Total: $395
Taking the same trip by automobile the figures will look more like this:
             Gas@25 MPG, $65
             Motel Room @$70, $350
             Restaurant meals $150
             (This is figuring only 2 meals  
           Because most Motels and Hotels 
           Provide free breakfast)                                                        
               Grand Total: $565
So, with just estimating with pretty much real world figures from our journey, it still is about $170 less, with more freedom.
I just can’t help injecting why we keep our boat here using the same figures, less fuel cost the savings over an automobile trip is $535! )No Campsite fees and little fuel cost when anchored off shore)
The next and last episode will cover our entire journey leaving June 4th, 2018, from Florida to October 1st, 20158, to Tucson Arizona.
This will also include the expenses we had for visiting attractions. I must warn everyone ahead of time that we have a rather extreme budget as we are on a fixed retirement income. 
Next episode will be of interest to those who are contemplating full time RV life.
The Last of this series will give our actual cost for our trip up to this point. 

New Owners Episode 10

This is the last in the series, after surviving Hurricane Irma, this season, we placed our boat in storage on land and bought a 23 foot class C motor home. Photos6,7 show boat and motor home comparison. 
 In this episode the entire cost of the trip, starting from Port Charlotte Florida on June 4, 2018, and stopping temporarily in Tucson, Arizona on October 1, 2018, a trip lasting 4 months and covering 7323 Miles. These are real world numbers and we were a little surprised as we have had an eye toward being economical and attempted to keep the cost at a minimum!
This is the cost breakdown.
Gasoline (Actual average mileage 10.4)
June,          $958.63
July,            $268.13
August,       $523.65
September, $423.67
Total for Gasoline $2,174.08@7,323 Miles and 839 Gallons (Generator also uses the Gasoline)
June,         $21.96
July,           $11.23
August,      $31.83
Total Propane $96.47
Groceries+(staples, supplies)
June,         $256.40
July,           $250.60
August,       $419.33
September, $358.28
Total Groceries, $1,284.66
Restaurant Meals
June,          $201.77 (7 times for 2)
July,            $113.56 (4 times for 2)
August,       $112.46 (5 times for 2)
September, $169.48 (5 times for 2) 
Total Restaurant Cost $596.67
Attractions and Entertainment
June,          $98.99
July,            $54
August,       $7
September $0
Total Entertainment $159.99
Total for the 119 Days $4,825.15 

I would like to add a note here directed to those who have an eye toward full time RV or Boat living. 
The months of November and December have been more like normal life and less like touring. 
Many costs such as gas and entertainment were much less than the average. Only one major trip and one attraction during the last 2 months.

Actually it would be impractical to make a similar road trip in an automobile, however, for comparison, this is the guestimated cost.
Gasoline @25MPG
For the same 7323 Miles would be 293 Gallons @ Roughly $812

Motels @ $50 Per Night for 119 Nights
Restaurant Meals
(I figured only 2 per day for 2 people as many motels feature “free “Breakfast!)
238 Meals out @an average of $28.44 for a total of $6,769.16

Please note some cost may be slightly less or more depending on taste and selection. However, the grand total would be very close to $13,500
This works out to about $8,687 less than taking a road trip by RV. Even renting an RV may be marginally less. To get a feel for traveling in an RV, I have purposely used lower price estimates, for example real world Motel Costs would average more than $50 and many fine dining restaurants would cost considerably more! 
For those considering going Full Time, the figures can be used to compare current living expenses.
I cannot help but add the cost of a similar trip on our sailboat
There would be very little fuel cost as the engine is used only for docking and some maneuvering around the bay.
For comparison during a recent trip, we had to motor for 10 hours down the Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW) and used around 12 gallons of diesel. 
Basically only food and whatever entertainment would be the only cost for a rough total of only $1,881.33 which would leave a fair amount to spend for other things. One of our traditions is after a long passage (1 week or more) is to stay in a motel for a couple of nights and of course eat out. 
I sincerely hope the series has been a help for those deciding to RV or not RV. We have certainly learned many good points along our journey. I would like to add as a retired teacher our budget is most likely less than many readers. 

If you missed any Episodes feel free to send a request to my Private Message, also please visit our web pages

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