Monthly Archives: November 2011

Winterizing ourselves, change of plans!

Winterizing ourselves, change of plans!

So, what we thought was a sure option, going to Florida, fell through at least for another week. So, we will stay here. The weather will be cold but we will survive! Today, we are gonna go work in a coffee shop, draw, do some art and explore the area! Jax and I have to do some Christmas shopping, while Morgan and Jena de-worm their puppy – awkward. So, plans have changed, but that’s okay – winter clothes are on and we are out the door.

Winterizing the boat, heading to Florida

Winterizing the boat, heading to Florida

There is not much to tell you guys today. We woke up and hung out with our friends, Jena and Morgan, on the boat, working and trying to decide our next steps. The weather will be 50˚F, 10˚C, for about a week. We could wait and go cruising after the cold wave for a couple of days or we could drive to South Florida where it is in the high 70˚F, 21˚C – we decided to go with Florida. After working until noon, we got started on moving the boat for where it will stay until February. Jax winterized the engine, while I cleaned the cabin and packed, Morgan and Jena cleaned their car and Hank chewed on his bone and looked bored. Tomorrow we will leave early, if we get the ok on the house. If not, well we will work more and do some tourism of the area by car.

Chillaxing at Dog River Marina with Hank

Chillaxing at Dog River Marina with Hank

Well my friends, we have been relaxing to the maximum degree these last couple of days. The weather has not been on our side and it will not be for another week or so. Morgan, Jena, Jax and I are contemplating driving to Florida and continue the chillax session there. Plans are still in the works, so I wont go into too much unknown detail here.

However, I will tell you, that Morgan and Jena have the most well-behaved puppy I have seen in a long time. Granted, I have not seen very many but you get my point. Hank is a three month old labradoodle they adopted when camping at a permanent RV settlement in Ashville, North Carolina – against their better judgement. After receiving a text from Morgan that read “how do you feel about a dog on your boat?”, a week ago, Jax and I were a little bit nervous. Nonetheless, Hank has been a delight to have aboard. Regardless, Jax and I are set on the idea of not having more pets! So, we are enjoying Hank’s company but keeping it real with the responsibilities that comes with a pet and our lifestyle choices.

To read more about Sir Hanks Albert Moriarty’s story, follow the link.

Locking through, a brief tutorial on lock edicate and maneuvering

Locking through, a brief tutorial on lock edicate and maneuvering

Before our journey from Chicago, IL to Mobile, AL, the idea of traversing 40+ locks was daunting. Now, after locking through all of them in different times of  day/night and types of weather, we have realized that not knowing what to expect can make locks scarier than they actually are. So below, we have included some advice based on our own experiences.

When approaching the lock, hail them through the VHF radio. We found that the hailing channel used changes depending on the area. So, before taking off on your trip make sure you know on what channel or channels you can find the lock master. If you have no information going in, ask a tow captain or other boater by radio, earlier in the day.

When addressing the lock master, you can mention the lock name through the radio, repeat the name twice, state who is calling and where you are headed (example: Pickwick Lock, Pickwick Lock, this is Southbound pleasure craft, Surkha, over) and wait for a response. If you obtain none, try another channel. If the other recommended channel does not work, then wait because they might be busy. If communication fails, follow the red, yellow and green lights, which just as traffic signals, indicate if the lock is ready for you.

If you do get a hold of the lock master, tell them what kind of vessel you are, if you are just cruising, you are a “pleasure craft”, let them know your direction, South or North bound, state your location (river or channel mile) and your estimated time of arrival. Commercial and governmental vessels have priority always, in some locks you might have to wait for hours or even overnight, so consider that when planning your schedule. If you think your day is going to be tight, call the lock master the night before and ask him or her about their schedule and they will usually tell you when would be a good time to arrive.

Once you are inside the lock, have a line ready on your mid-ship cleat and fenders in whichever side you prefer to tie on. We had four fenders hanging on our port side our whole trip from Chicago to Mobile. Only once did a lock master asked us to tie on our starboard side. Most locks will have “floaters”, shown in the photo below, which will float down or up with you. This is where you wrap your line. When tying to the floater, make sure you pull hard, so that your vessel’s fenders are pressed lightly against the wall, this will prevent you from scratching your boat. In some states, such as Mississippi and Alabama, it is a requirement that anyone handling the lines wear a life jacket, so have one or two ready just in case. Some locks ask for your registration number, so keep it close by. During our trip, we did encounter a lock that tossed us two lines to hold on to while lowering us. If this is the case and there is any wind or current, make sure that the strongest of your crew members is at the side of the boat from where the force is coming from. In some smaller locks you wrap your line around a fixed circular cleat and hold on, letting go gradually as your being lowered.

Once your lines are secure, call the lock master and let them know you are ready, some will wait to close the lock door until you are ready, some do not care. A whistle or horn will sound once they start dropping or raising the water level. Once the process is done and the doors open, another alarm will sound. Remember locks are no wake zones, so keep your speed down coming in and leaving. It is always good form to thank the lock master when exiting. If its foggy, dark or you a do not have AIS onboard, you can ask the lock masters if they know of any tow boats coming your way. They will often tell you locations, names and speeds for up to 30 miles of traffic.

From Chicago to Mobile, we met only three female lock masters, so make sure you let them know how cool it is to hear a female voice on the radio, for the majority of tow captains and lock masters are men.

PS: Do not forget that next to every lock there is a damp and if you go closer to 800 ft, not only will you be violating the law but endangering yourself.

overwhelming sea and tiger in our car

overwhelming sea and tiger in our car

We have been in Mobile Bay for a day and half. What we thought would bring a huge feeling of accomplishment, has become an ocean of uncertainty. We left our anchorage at around 8am, with a Southeast wind on our bow, the waves were present yet not intimidating. Within a couple hours we were in Mobile Bay, which is nothing like we expected. The international port, what appeared to be a robotically controlled operation was flooded with HUGE cargo ships. We got to see raw metal being unloaded from a Panamanian ship, remembering that only three months before we had seen barges being loaded with shredded metal waste near Calumet, IL.

As we left the industrial area, we met the ocean. The ocean… well, the sea… well the bay… but I cannot describe how immense it felt! That feeling of “WOWWW!, we did it” slowly became, “Jaxon? how do we do this?”. We sat down, trying to ignore the wind and attempting to learn how to navigate the sea. Relearning charts, buoys and navigation. We were hungry, so I went below to make quesadillas and then I heard, “Caye, you know I don’t know about this, you know sailing, having to think about so much” there was silence, I stopped working on our meal and sat by Jax, trying to help with navigation while the waves washed our deck. Jaxon’s uncertainty weighted my heart to the bottom of the sea and I was speechless, we were once again humbled.

Two hours later, we got to the Dog River Marina to fill our diesel, trying to plan our next anchorage. While filling, we started to chat with the dock master and a tenant – conversations about anchorages, oil spills, politics of the South, Anchorages of Florida or lack of them, filled the air. Two hours later, before leaving the dock, we realized that our membership to the American Great Loop Association granted us a free night at the marina.

Once tied up in our slip, we cleaned up the boat and waited for our friends Morgan and Jena, who arrived at 9:00pm. After meeting their cute puppy Hank, drinking wine and chatting until 2 am we tucked our confused selves into bed. We lay there remembering that adjusting to the big water will take a while and no decision should be made until we have tried it – a step at a time. For now, we will sit back and enjoy our friend’s company and slowly explore the area.

Feeling the ocean breeze

Feeling the ocean breeze

Another 4am morning today, third in a row. The fog was heavy again – heavier than yesterday. We were docked near a Canadian trawler, Last Chance, who was also awake early. We decided to sail the 3 miles to the lock together, relying on their instruments to get through the fog. By the time we arrived at the lock, the fog was so thick that the lockmaster decided to pause all locking until it lifted.

Taking advantage of the break in a long day, we invited the trawler to raft up and enjoyed pleasant conversation, toast and tea in their stateroom. Alison and Martin (who’s actually Dutch originally) have been living aboard for a couple years with their 13 year-old dog. We really enjoyed our time with them and it was officially the first experience, of more than a couple minutes, that we’ve shared with any other south-bound cruisers.

The rest of the day was easy and very similar to yesterday. The late start meant that we had to night sail in order to make our next anchorage. I am writing this at 7:40pm and we have another hour or so to go. We started today around mile 116. We will start tomorrow at mile 20. That’s right, 20 miles to go before Surkha gets her first taste of saltwater! We can smell the sea air already.

Sailing 100 miles, 14 hours on Thanksgiving

Sailing 100 miles, 14 hours on Thanksgiving

Today was the big day – our first “century”. We spent last night near a Coast Guard cutter station in Demopolis, AL. The next morning we were up at 4am for the second day in a row. Shortly after, we were on deck, in 30* temperatures, a flawless starry sky above and ready to get wet and muddy. Anchors stowed and transmission coaxed into forward, we headed out into a deep fog.

The morning’s fog lasted for three hours. In this time, we passed three oncoming barges. Needless to say, we had every forward and rear facing light on the boat turned on, air-horn at the ready and eyes peeled forward. After finding the first barge, we were in a better situation because we were able to ask him for the positions and names of the next barges behind.

The fog lifting off the river on Thanksgiving morning was a sight to see and we soaked up every beautiful moment. Orange sunrays escaping from the holes in the trees along the bank cut swathes from the dense fog. Herons called out from the shoreline and every so often we would find ourselves alongside some towering loading dock or derelict pier.

The next 8 hours of sailing were uneventful. Hour after hour of humming diesel engine setting the mood. Around 6:00pm, just as the the sun made its last valiant stand, we saw an outlandish sight – captain Jack Sparrow. This Captain Jack looked to be in his mid-twenties, had dreadlocks, a raggy vest and 28-foot schooner made entirely of bamboo, old plastic soda bottles, blue plastic tarp and string. He had obviously been on the water for weeks or months, based on the condition of his craft and accumulation of garbage in the boat – two things we can relate to. Dumbstruck, we doubled back for a chat.

Jack turned out to be Zachary. Without home or job in Tuscalusa, AL, he happened upon a stand of bamboo and decided to build himself a boat. After its completion, he hit the river, planning to sail to Mobile, AL. Three months later, winds have been against him all too often and the current, which changes seasonally, is extremely slow – about 1 mph. Intrigued by Zachary and the boat, we offered a tow to the next dock. Towing the somewhat fragile boat meant that we could only do about half our previous speed, effectively doubling the length of the very last leg of our 100 miles, 14 hour day. The slow speed did leave time for good conversation, stories and some singing.

In reflection, 100 miles did not feel that long. Shifting our much anticipated arrival time at the end of the day did stretch us a bit thin, but it was well worth the odd meeting. Our Thanksgiving meal? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the last few minutes before passing out for the evening.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

What Inspired Us To Take Off

What Inspired Us To Take Off

As recent young graduates, Jax and I are often asked why we decided to go sailing? And how can we afford it? Below I (Caye) will attempt to answer these questions (With Jaxon’s input, of course)

The night of the third day we had known each other and my third day at Beloit College, Jax and I decided he was going to wait for me to graduate (he was a junior and I was a freshman) and sail the world. Without realizing, that night we had made a “deal” that for some reason we both took seriously, leading to the solidification of our relationship. Within a couple weeks we had moved in together and were committed to make it work and get to know each other along the way. As we continued our studies and life together, it became very apparent that traveling by sea, was exactly what we should do.

During college, I studied public health, with an emphasis on maternal health in “developing countries” and graduated with honors, loving my field, in only three years. Jaxon, studied environmental studies, with a focus on emerging technologies, but spent most of his days starting businesses on campus. When I first met him, Jax and his friend Paul were starting an online general store, that included full-on delivery to your campus mail box of any imaginable needed good, Beloit General. The store was hosted in our shared 7 x 15 ft dorm room. Throughout all of his college years, Jax continued to do web development, which later became our company, AndandoMedia.

A year into our relationship, he was managing the sales of the recycled goods I made and sold to local stores, Yapa. Within two years, we had a crêpe stand that served warm food to drunk college students every weekend, The G Spot. As I hurried to finish school in three years, so we could take off, Jax came up with a new business idea every week, he would present the plan to me following it with “remember that from every 1,000 ideas, only one is good”, while his friend John and I tried to convince him to rather finish his papers and focus on school.
As we both explored our passions for sociology and entrepreneurship, we continued to make films, which kept us busy while the sailing idea was on the back burner. During college we produced a short film about eating disorders and a short documentary about teen pregnancy in Beloit, WI, both of which were mentioned in and admitted to various film festivals around the US. With a shared passion for traveling, people, cultures, community and this world, Jax and I decided that we needed to experience it first hand. I had (and have) a special interest in learning how the theories I was taught in school, regarding public health, sociology and environmental conservation, fit into the “real world”. Being passionate learners, observers and analysts, we both wish to be an active part of this world, learning as much as we can from it.
Having graduated with very good grades and with a good critical mind, yes, I could have gone to get my masters and PHD in global public health and further my academic and career endeavor. Jax, I am certain, could have started incredibly successful companies in a much more stable and reliable environment, but what would that have done? Created two new modern-day, socially successful people out of the millions that pursue a “normal life” annually.

But, where would that leave us in life?

How could we settle down, knowing that there is so much to see and learn from in this world?

What does it mean to be an expert in public health, if I can afford private insurance?

How can I talk about maternal mortality, if I have never known a family touched by such sorrow?

How can we learn about this world from an office?

How can I advocate for those women, who do not have a voice in the public sphere, without knowing if they actually want me to dedicate my life to their cause?

How can we aspire to do some good in this world, if we do not go out and get to know it well, or at least attempt to?

Too many questions have not been answered in our lives to assume we know what we want to do for the rest of them. That goes for sailing as well, but we are eager to explore.

After discussing why we craved traveling this world, we realized that Jaxon’s passion for entrepreneurial adventures would allow us to live life as we wanted, which so very few people can find the means to do.
Prior to June 2011, when we got Surkha, neither of us knew how to sail big boats. But we decided that we would make our trip by water to be more conscious of the environment and it would also allow us to stay longer at each port. Now we sit in an old barn in the Northern Andean range of Ecuador, still exploring our life, starting businesses, making films and having lots of fun.

How can we afford it?

Well, as I mentioned before, our pack of two is completely blessed to have an entrepreneurial soul in it. Jax founded the company, Reneweb.net, that makes most of the money that helps us survive. Reneweb.net is a environmentally friendly WordPress hosting site (now Inventando.in – part of the AndandoMedia family). During college Jax taught me CSS and HTML coding and I started designing most of the websites, integrating me into the company in my sophomore year in college. In the past we have also done website development, but when lots of job started coming in, we were faced by the question of expanding the small company and losing what little free time we had or not taking in more development projects. We decided the latter.

Occasionally, we still do some development work depending on the nature of the project. We also have money invested in a few companies in Ecuador, my home country, and some assets. However, although the words investments and assets are in the last sentence, I have to clarify that in between paychecks, we barely have enough to afford our monthly expenses, which as liveaboards with very few luxuries, is very small. This paragraph would not be entirely honest, without mentioning the help of our parents, who are always willing to lend us a hand when every debit card is rejected. That said, striving for financial independence has been an important part of our development and we have learned much through a constant need to find new income streams. We are certain that our financial situation will improve as we continue this journey. We are resourceful people and love food too much to go hungry.

This is what we think:

The time is now to live your dreams! We are certain about that. If you cannot afford them, then scale them down, but do not keep working to have “enough”, because you will likely never be satisfied. Take a break if you do not feel content and analyze your days and adjust your situation to be happier. Remember that no life is easy and that we humans have a tendency to envy other peoples’ lives, even when we have achieved what we think would make us content. Dreams, do not always have to be big, luxurious or stereotypical retirement plans, just think what really makes you happy?

Acknowledge that if you are reading this text, you are already more fortunate than many, not because you landed in our site, but rather because you have access to a computer, electricity and the possibility to be an agent of positive change. We live in a world full of people of different ethnicities, that speak different languages, that worship at their pace and desire, that dress differently and conceive of this world in their own unique way. We are different, yet we are all human and by being human we can change our situation for the better, especially those in socially democratic republics. So, do not pity “Africans” do not devalue “Latin Americans”, do not fear “Middle Easterns”, do not envy “Europeans”, do not hate “Americans” and do not think “Asians” are one ethnicity, for the words I have used to describe people are used way too often and are worthless. Admire us as one, as a species and remember that generalizing is antiquated, we are one of countless species in this world and they too deserve to be respected just as you and I.

 

Tiger in our boat

If you are a regular reader here or at tigerinourcar.blogspot.com, you may have noticed a few quick hints about a meetup we have been planning. Well it’s true and it’s happening! We are mere three or four days away from our respective romps through the continent colliding in Mobile, AL. Jena and Morgan of tigerinourcar fame will be parking their Prius-converted-to-mini-RV and joining us for a week or two of cruising. They’ve been road-tripping North America for a a few months and we are now planning on together taking the issue of relaxation very seriously and will let little stand in our way.

Equally noteworthy is the heady news that these two friends just gained a new family member, who will also be joining us on Surkha. The third member of tigerinourcar is a black, well-behaved terrier, something, something, something else mix puppy! A gift from some friendly the folks in an RV campground, Hank is now occupying the rear cabin of the Priu(RV)s and I’m sure is loving every moment of it.

That’s it. We’re very excited to see these guys, catch up, hang out, explore Mobile Bay and play with the puppy. If anyone has been waiting for an opportune occasion to donate to Mangolandia, supporting a bit of relaxation after the past months’ miles and trials may be just your ticket. Thanks!

We are flying! Estamos volando!

We are flying! Estamos volando!

Our last update was mid-evening two days ago. To recap, the anchorage we wanted was too shallow, so we had to night-sail for 2 hours or so. We ended up finding another anchorage in about half the distance we thought we would need and dropped anchor around 8:00pm – it felt like 10pm with the 3 preceding hours of darkness and tiredness from waking at 4am.

The following day (yesterday) was a short one. We had the option to travel 36 miles or over 100. We obviously opted for the first option, thereby putting our estimated arrival in Mobile, AL at Saturday, rather than Friday – still 4 days earlier than we’d thought a week ago. It’s funny how little we can accurately predict when we will be in a given spot on this trip. Cruisers are notoriously bad at keeping schedules or even having plans, sailing cruisers are even worse because their travels are so weather dependent. Add the rivers’ limited anchorages to the equation and a broken transmission and our schedule has been varying by weeks or months, but I digress…

The 36-mile day was a welcome respite between the previous 16-hour day and today’s 11-hour day. We found our anchorage around 1pm and it was just about everything we could wish for.  “Cochrane cutoff” is a loopy bit of the river that was bypassed by a man-made canal – a cutoff. For us, it offered perfect 9-foot/3-meter depths, not a bit of civilization in site, incredible vine-covered trees and foliage bathing in the shallow shore waters, a full accompaniment of birdsong and best of all, temperatures pushing 80 degrees F/26 degrees C.

Caye was overjoyed by the temperature and location. I, in the meantime, was having a bit of a grumpy-attack and couldn’t quite seem to appreciate the situation or say anything positive. In colloquial English, we would call this “being a wet blanket”. The funk was of course totally unfounded and inexplicable. With a bit of poking and prodding from Caye, I quickly recovered and opened my eyes to the incredible situation in which I found myself – in the most awe-inspiring anchorage of the trip and in love with my best friend. After this episode passed, we put on shorts for the first time in three months and got straight to work on the multitude of internet projects that occupy most of our free-time. Fast internet and our new battery meant that we were able to put in a good 5 hours working. We were ecstatic – the projects are fun and challenging and it feels so good to be productive. Both this site and our web hosting and development company are improving and expanding – the fruits of some of this work will be rolled out over the next weeks.
Stay tuned

Heading South Fast

Heading South Fast

Our last two days have brought with them some change. For starters, we are in semi-warm humid weather, big plus. Second, due to the large spacing in between adequate anchorage, we are putting in very long days – 13+ hours. We have entered the Tombigbee River and finally we are using Señor Tutti again, our auto pilot, whose main goal is to hold the tiller straight, giving our hands a break and making our trip more efficient. Regardless of the changes, we are still meeting very interesting people and listening to amazing literature like South, The Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition by Sir Ernest Shackleton.

South, is the first-hand account of an epic and inspiring adventure of the Endurance‘s 22-man crew, who in the pursuit of crossing Antarctica by foot/dog are frozen in pack ice with their vessel and have to find their way back to civilization. Sir Shackleton, a detail-driven writer, does a fairly good job at inspiring us to keep pushing our miles as we cruise through these warm, calm, iceberg-free waters.

This morning we woke up at 4:10 am and left the Midway Marina, were we restocked Surkha, at 4:35 am. We went through five locks and reached our anchorage at 4:40pm, only to find that it was not deep enough. After “bumping the bottom” a number of times, we were forced to continue 30 more miles in search of deeper water. Tomorrow, we will leave Mississippi State and enter Alabama and at this pace we might even make it to Demopolis, the last big city and marina before Mobile, AL and the Gulf. This means that by this time Friday, we might be bathing Surkha in salt water for her first time.

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles C. Mann

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles C. Mann

After finishing 1491, New Revelations of the Americas, Charles C. Mann’s previous work, I was anxious to start 1493, Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. 1491, left me so satisfied with it’s revelations that challenged my thinking, that I craved more of Mann’s exploratory writing. On a sailor’s budget, Jax and I do not usually buy audiobooks, rather we download them for free from the public domain website LibriVox, which contains more than 5,000 classics – highly recommend checking it out. However, we made a first exception on 1491 and only a week later made a second exception and acquired the unbridged 17.46 hours long 1493. After listening to Mann’s research for two days straight, while in charge of the tiller, I once again felt challenged, partially confused and impressed by Mann’s skill at weaving complicated ideas together.

1493, sets globalization into a historical context. Using words such homogeneity very often, Mann narrates different stories and important events that brought us to the world we live in today. Other than extrapolating on the exchange of goods from different continents, the Colombian exchange, Mann talks about the travel of certain food types and modern day impact on land. Tomatoes, potatoes, maize and sweet potatoes, native to the Americas are four sources of calories that are often used as examples by Mann, as he explains that one could barely imagine Europe without tomatoes today, Ireland’s population survived and almost perished due to potato dependency in the 19th century and Philippine and Chinese agriculture and ecosystems have dramatically suffered due to sweet potato and maize production. As in 1491, Mann spends a considerable amount of every chapter talking about disease and how it shaped the world we live in today. After reading both of his books and Laurie Garrett’s book, The Coming Plague, it seems hard to believe that we need to be reminded that tiny microorganisms control our existence and just like Greek Gods, if their lives are not fully explored, followed and respected the consequences are devastating.

Every chapter of Mann’s book is as convoluted as globalization itself is. He jumps from one continent to another and from one millennium to next. After a few chapters, I was doubting Mann had a thesis, or even if he had written a logical book – for it all seemed a jumble of facts intertwined by pretty words. This feeling of confusion did not fade away as we listened to the rest of his prose, for whole books can be written about almost every single event he mentions. Although 1493 contains stories from over 3,000 years and it involves the whole world, Mann does an excellent job at portraying the history of the world we live in today, complex, global, some times pretty and often confusing.

Before starting this book, I would recommend you do the following thing – an exercise I wished I had done. On a piece of paper, write down your race and jot down two things that come to mind when you think about the role of the following populations in globalization’s history: Europeans, Africans, Indigenous peoples from the Americas, Filipinos and Chinese. If you are feeling committed, you could also answer the following questions, or at least think about them:

What was the ratio of Europeans, Africans and Indians, in the Americas in 1400s and 1600s?

Which races or ethnicities were enslaved in the Americas?
After finishing 1493, re-visit your answers and assess how your perspectives have changed. I leave you with those thoughts. If you do not wish to do these exercises, that of course is completely fine, but do read this book and 1491 if you get the chance.

To read 1491, New Revelations of the Americas review, follow the link.

 

Follow the links below to buy the book.

Kindle Edition

Hardcover

Audiobook

Create your own business cards – DIY

Create your own business cards – DIY

When Jax and I finally came to terms with the fact that we would need “business” cards when cruising, we decided we wanted to do something different than just order a bunch from a random company. We looked at having some made out of recycled paper, but the cost was too high for what they were. After eating cereal one morning, we realized that the cardboard of cereal boxes would make pretty classy business card material. So, that afternoon we started researching and found that a bunch of people were making stamps and stamping their own business cards in different materials. We thought the idea was pretty exciting and decided to go with it.

Below, we have included some simple steps and advice to make your own business cards.

The first step is to find a stamp maker, even before launching into the design. We shopped around Etsy, where there are a lot of potential providers. Jax and I only wanted the rubber part, because we wanted to mount it to a piece of wood and attach a vintage tile handle to it (which we have yet to find). After lots of looking around, we found “Modern Art Stamps“, a store based out of Costa Rica that only does the rubber part of stamps.

After looking at their requirements for custom designs, I started designing ours in Photoshop. The recommended dimensions were 900×600 pixels at 300 dpi (dots per square inch). To learn more about their specifications, follow the link unmounted rubber stamps.

Once we received the rubber, about a month after ordering, we started creating our own business cards.

First we disassembled the cardboard boxes and with a pencil and a ruler began drawing 9×5 cm (3.5 x 2 inch) rectangles and cut them.

To mount the rubber, grab the piece of lumber or whatever you want to mount your stamp to and cut it to the right dimensions – so that the whole rubber is inside. Then get some thick double sided tape and attach the rubber. We have heard that some people also use strong glues and stick the rubber to some foam and then to the surface. It is important that you have something soft between the hard surface and the rubber, that way you guarantee that the whole stamp will receive some ink when you ink it. After attaching the rubber, you are almost done, press the stamp in your ink pad and voila! Start stamping.

The first stamps might not be as good, so kept trying different pressures, until you get one that really works. We learned while doing Surkha’s cards, that if we pressed too hard on the left side, a waterfall-like effect would show next to the little sailboat. We also learned that Surkha’s font was too bold and we could not get it to ink completely, however we liked the effect in the end. Do kept it in mind when doing yours though.

After stamping all your business cards, grab a fine-tip pen and mend any words or details that you think your stamp has missed. Other than fixing the periods in both our email addresses, we did not have to correct anything else.

When we started our process, we had managed to collect, with very little effort, 5 cereal boxes and 5 smaller boxes of similar cardboard. After cutting these 10 sheets of cardboard into 9×10 cm (3.5 x 2 inch) rectangles, we obtained 180 blank business cards – it took us 2-3 hours to finish the process. We spent $34 on the stamp, $2.94 on the pens and $3.00 on the ink, a total of $39.94. When we had been looking at buying some recycled business cards, the common price we found among companies that seemed legitimately “sustainable”, was $90 – $150 for 200 cards. So, by doing our own we saved some money, this saving will only increase as we do more batches, where ink, pens and stamp do not have to be replaced. Our main goal was not to save money, but rather do what made most sense to us. We had extra cardboard and usable recycled material around, so paying a company to do something we could do ourselves and have fun did not make sense. As a traveling couple, having a stamp also means that we can create business cards on-the-go and not have to wait for the mail, which perfectly suits our lifestyle. Unsure of what was going to be the end result, we decided to go for it and I can say I am glad that we did.

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