Friday, April 23, 2021

What I miss most

If you've followed this blog for very long, you'll have already heard me say it. The thing that I valued the most about cruising, and the thing I miss most since we've been land-bound, is the cruising community. The fellow travelers we met in the six years that we voyaged on Kintala , many of whom have become life-long friends, anchored us in a way our big old Mantus anchor never could. They gave willingly of their time, their talents, their stuff, their experiences. We laughed, cried, walked, swam, dinghied, and made music together. Friendships were formed quickly, deeply, and picked right back up even after months of time apart. It just doesn't happen on land. This afternoon I stood at the window and watched three different neighbors come home from work, their cars disappearing into their garages, the doors of which would close before they even got out of the vehicle.

My son-in-law just got back from a "testing" voyage to the Bahamas with some friends, a voyage to test the waters, so to speak, to see if he thought their little Ericson 28 could handle taking his family of six there. A voyage to gain some experience, some insight, of what to expect. In this episode on their YouTube channel, he talks about his fellow travelers. He captures so well the feelings I have about it all, so I'll just share it here. If you enjoy the video, please like it and subscribe to their channel. They are fledgeling voyagers trying to find their way and they could use all the support they can get.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Living Vicariously

Well, if you must be landlocked and you must sail vicariously, what better way to do so than to follow your own family. Here is an interview that Anabelle and Elois at Voilers Les Copains did with the kids while they were in Indiantown, FL for the hurricane season. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 28, 2020


A couple of months ago Deb and I went to look at a trawler sitting in a slip about a 40 minute drive from our land dwelling. I was marginally enthusiastic about the trip. Getting on a boat for any reason is kind of fun right now. We had done a little sailing a few weeks before that with old friends, and it was a really good day. I miss being in the sky. I miss being on big water. For the first time since long before I can remember neither one is in my life, and hasn’t been since we came back to land. This is not a happy thing. On the other hand, buying at boat during this particular stretch of history has an aura of madness about it. No one knows what the world will be like in 10 or 12 months. Things may be settling back into a “new normal” where people have learned to live with the virus (and with each other) without the hostilities and hatreds, prejudices and foolishness, that overwhelm us and threaten the future. Most of those in the cruising community that we know have holed up somewhere. Some on their boats, some on land. Many others have decided that living on a boat is an adventure whose time has passed. There are few places to go, those that are left are getting increasingly expensive and, sometimes, increasingly hostile to those who are gypsy sailors. Sailing can be a hard life and none of us are getting younger. Access to health care is becoming a deciding factor in making life style choices. Their boats are for sale while they try to fashion a land life that fits.

From an outside view, Deb and I have done exactly that. Kintala is gone. Our land life is one that most of the rest of the world would envy. I have a job that is challenging, enjoyable, and comes with a good health care plan. (I am also pretty good at doing it, always a nice thing.) There is family near by. Our days are usually filled with little ones laughing, games, walks, or (in the case of the youngest) long stories bubbling forth in a language she is still trying to master. Deb and I are in better physical shape than we have been in decades. We have collected a modest number of toys to keep us entertained; two bikes, 5 Ukuleles, 1 guitalele, a guitar, an electric drum set, and a tool box to get my collection back under control. It would be easy to think that we have joined the ranks of cruisers who have, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt”. We have not made such a decision, but we have decided that going back to cruising would have to be a half-n-half thing. Half with family that already lives on a boat, half with family who lives on land. But the details of that kind of life are still fuzzy.

Then we got on this trawler sitting quietly in its slip, a FOR SALE sign hanging from the rail. It had nice lines (for a trawler). It looked relatively well maintained. It smelled like a boat. The interior is the best we have seen for the life we think trawler life might be. It is located just off a river that goes to a river that goes to the Gulf. We could commute, half-n-half, on the boat. Instead of Chesapeake Bay - ICW - Biscayne Bay it would be St. Charles - Ten/Tom - Tampa Bay - Keys. Something a little different. Something new. 

Photo from
A tiny bit of my spirt that has been silent for way too long lurched. The rest of me said, “Really? Are you kidding!?”

Still, we are salty hands now. That flash of happy spirit was quickly tempered by a wary eye bred of being well aware of the pitfalls that bedevil the marine industry. The boat lacked air conditioning, an auto-pilot, and has one too many motors. It has no capability to make its own water. The anchors aren’t even any good as anchors. The engine “room” is actually a pit covered by the salon floorboards. Any serious engine work will completely disrupt a life on board. It was seriously overpriced. I wrote a book about being spring loaded “walk away” from any boat one might be looking to buy. The bet would have been that we would walk away from this one.

Instead, we made an offer. It was a modest offer. The asking price added to the cost of adding air conditioning and a capable auto-pilot, would have added up to more value than an insurance company would cover. Never mind putting a water maker on board, a must have bit of kit (in my humble opinion) if one is hoping to spend life at anchor or on a mooring ball. And, like I said, it needed new anchors as well.

I was a little disappointed, but not really surprised, when the offer was roundly rejected the following day. I understood. We took a terrible beating on the selling price of Kintala (thanks to an utterly incompetent surveyor who scared off the best offer we had). Letting a boat go for far less than the value it holds in your life's story is not an easy thing. So, no hard feelings.

But it would have been nice had it worked out. Deb and I still have no real clue how the rest of our journey will play out. We are living well and content. But I miss being in the sky. And I miss being on big water. And neither one is in my life right now.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Kintala sails away

After nearly a year and a half, with one attempt derailed by an incompetent surveyor, Kintala, our faithful Tartan 42, has become the apple of a brand new owner’s eye. It is said that the two happiest days of a boater’s life are the day the boat is bought, and the day the boat is sold. I am not finding that to be the case.

Kintala was our full-time liveaboard home for nearly 6 years. For two years before that she taught us the trials of getting an older boat ready to go cruising, and the triumphs of mastering her racing-like sailing character. She carried us to the Islands, kept us safe in 60 knot blows while riding to her anchor, and shrugged off 10+ foot seas on more than one occasion. Most importantly she taught us things about ourselves that we could not have learned from any other tutor; she fundamentally changed the way we approached life, and forever altered the way we look at the world.

Before Kintala, I was the quintessential US citizen / consumer. I owned a sports car, a pick-up truck, a collection of motorcycles, and a boat. We lived in a nice condo with a shop in the garage out back, traveled on vacations, and watched movies and sports on a big screen TV mounted to the wall perpendicular to a working fire place. Though not rich by America standards, we lived pretty well compared to the rest of the world’s population. 

To the vast majority of human kind that has walked the earth in the past, we would have been magicians. Our sculptured cave was heated and cooled on a whim and we traveled across the ground at breakneck speeds in or on thundering hunks of metal. I made a living flying… FLYING! Eight miles in the sky, covering hundreds of miles in less than an hour, and doing so night and day with (what would appear) little thought given to the weather. Rain, snow, wind, and clouds? Pfftt. I even flew OVER thunderstorms and looked down on the lightning with utter impunity. 

And, somewhere deep in my American soul, I believed I had earned such an exulted place all on my own. I had what I had, and I deserved it. But then we sold off everything except some clothes, tools, and knick-knacks, moved onto Kintala full time, and took to the sea.

Very quickly we became different people living in a different world. Kintala kept us safe in some ugly weather, but very often we didn’t feel safe. Instead we felt exposed, out on the edge, not sure of what the outcome would be. Afterwards, such moments make for great stories and indelible memories, but…”Pfffttt” was an attitude long forgotten. We no longer lived in a sculptured cave − dry, stable, heated and cooled on a whim. Every wind shift, current change, tide, and passing wake rocked, swung and tilted our world. “Stable” became a relative term. Were we holding on with both hands, finding it hard to walk, or catching things being flung off of shelves? No? Then what movement we did feel was “stable enough.” Some nights, sleep was elusive because of the sweat running down our backs and soaking the sheets. Other nights we huddled under every blanket we could scrounge, loathe to get out of the berth in the morning because we could see our breath floating toward the salon in the frigid air. We often sailed our boat cold and hungry, hot and thirsty, and soaking wet when we couldn’t outrun the rain.

We sailed to the Islands and lived for months with people who could barely fathom our riches. We lived on a YACHT, and didn’t have to work to put food on the table. That everything we owned fit into some 400 square feet was still more opulence than many of our new friends could ever hope to see. Yet they were just like me, working as hard as they could to make ends meet, worried about the people they loved, and doing what they could to make things a little better in their community. It quickly became overwhelmingly clear that I didn’t “deserve” what I had. My exalted place among human kind was a matter of a lucky birth, meeting and falling in love with the right person and - most importantly - having that person love me back. Sure we made some good decisions and worked hard. But pretty much everybody we met while causing made the best decisions they could make and worked just as hard.

As the years went by, the American consumer in me faded away. I became just another wanderer in a world filled with beauty and risk, quiet anchorages and 10 foot seas. I came to suspect that dolphins and whales might be smarter than humans, certainly wiser. I started to wonder if the main reason we can’t communicate with them is that they are so far beyond us in fitting into the cosmos that we humans just don’t have the necessary vocabulary. It may be that they don’t have thumbs and can’t make tools, but has our tool making made us smarter or wiser? Or have we just constructed a civilization that is unsustainable and built the weapons useful only for doing ourselves in?

Out in big water in our little boat, I realized the ocean cared nothing about my opinions about anything. Then I started to realize that most of my opinions didn’t matter anyway, were likely pretty foolish and uninformed, and usually tainted with more than a bit of hubris. The ocean will ferret out any incompetence, but it hasn’t a care about me being competent…or not. The same is true of the sky, of course. But I tangled with the sky in some of the most sophisticated machines human kind has ever invented, backed by a network of weather stations, specialists, airports, and experts. 

Kintala was an old sailboat with a tired motor. The skills necessary to make her go were learned thousands of years ago. Had a sailor from the 1400s magically appeared on our deck, he would not have thought us magicians. He would have known instantly if our sails needed trimmed or reefed, took one look at the night sky and known in what direction we were headed. As for the rest of it? Weather stations don’t pick up rogue waves or 40 knot winds falling out of a clear, calm night sky for reasons no can explain even to this day. The experts and specialists were out of phone and radio range. The next port, if more than 50 miles away was, in all likelihood, more than a day away as well. The hubris of land living is a hard act to maintain out in big water in a little boat. 

Life unfolded as it will, and now we find ourselves back on land. We have added a few possessions. A car is necessary, some bikes as well. We bought some used musical instruments to fill our days with a new skill of making some modest music. But we rent our two room flat, still don’t own a TV and, for the most part, keep to ourselves and family. We are happy and contented minimalists, living as lightly as we can in a burdensome world. 

And Kintala is no longer ours. Something that, at one point in the last few years, I would have thought very unlikely. I was a sailor, and I lived on a boat named Kintala. Now I am not, and I don’t. And I'm not sure what that means or where it leaves me. As to what comes next? I can’t really say. 

For I am just another wanderer in a world full of beauty and risk, quiet anchorages, and 10 foot seas. 

The first day we saw her.

Lowering Kintala into Carlyle Lake, her home for the two years we prepped to go cruising.

Motoring her from the lift pit to her new home on Carlyle Lake

Her first dock. Yes, she was the largest boat on the lake by quite a bit. It took a shoe horn to get her into that slip

One of our first sails on Lake Carlyle, long before the dodger and new bimini.

Sailing on Lake Carlyle, long before the dodger.

One of our excellent sails on Carlyle.

As good as it gets

Learning how to use the whisker pole

First sail with all of the grandkids.

The first dinner on the newly installed table
New cushions installed

Installing the best piece of equipment we ever bought - the Mantus anchor.

Time to head for warmer waters!!!

The Blessing of the Boats at Carlyle right before we left to go cruising

Our cruising sendoff with good friends John, Nancy and David

Our first anchorage cruising

Lots and lots of miles motoring on the Intercoastal Waterway

The first of hundreds of bridges we would pass under and through with Kintala.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Annapolis

And more bridges...

Some of the ICW was a challenge in fog

Lots and lots of fabulous sunsets

And moon rises...

Our first lock experience

Friends that accompanied us on our first offshore passage from Charleston to Fernandina Beach
And "friends" that met us in Florida...

Our favorite anchorage in No-Name Harbor in Miami
No-Name Harbour

Dinner Key Moorings and the frequent storms there. This was the Mother Ship.

Kintala and the Mantus held fast through this one.
Prepped for her first hurricane, Joaquin

Didn't get us away from the storms, though...

Anchored outside of Hopetown. So glad we got to see it before hurricane Dorian.
Met by a new friend
And more friends
And more friends...
And yet even more friends

Kintala was often a sail loft with the Sailrite machine working hard

One of the many hitchhikers we had during our travels
West End Bahamas before Dorian. One of our favorite places in the Bahamas

And someday we hope to end up back here in whatever boat takes us there.

Friday, March 20, 2020

A different kind of dark side

Unless you're a complete hermit living in a cave somewhere, it's likely that you're being surrounded on all sides by dark news and unpleasant impacts on your life. In addition to our own struggles with Social Distancing, it's been interesting to follow all of our cruising friends as they face challenges on their voyages north for the hurricane season. Many of the island nations frequented by cruisers have closed their borders, making it impossible to access food, water, and fuel. Even in the U.S., many marinas have closed completely, and others have limited service severely. It remains to be seen how many of those cruising boats don't make it north of the hurricane zone before June 1st, and to assess the resulting impact on the insurance industry. So far, we've been fortunate enough to still have employment, access to food, and not one of the ten of us living together is sick (which is a real challenge when you're dealing with 6 kids age 1-13.) We're counting our blessings, but feeling deeply for those of you that have been experiencing more difficult times.

As many of you know, we've put Kintala up for sale. Our intention is still to go back to cruising as soon as we have sufficient funds to do so but, with the collapse of the market, our retirement funds are taking a pretty severe hit, so that may come later rather than sooner. The one thing we do know, is that when we are able finally to go back, it needs to either be on a sailboat more attuned to the needs of older cruisers, or on a trawler. Since we'd never actually spent any prolonged time on a trawler, we decided to take a trawler course to see if it was indeed a lifestyle we wanted to pursue. I located a small school in Dania Beach, FL that used our favorite cruising grounds in Biscayne Bay for its four-day excursion. We signed on. This was six months ago, long before there was any realization that the world was soon to undergo a significant change due to a very small bug.

Fortunately for us, we had decided to drive instead of fly, so that we could extend the mini vacation into a real one by visiting our kids in Stuart the week after the trawler course, and could then haul a bunch of stuff with us for that second week in a hotel. It wasn't until the second or third day on the trawler that we began to hear the rumblings in the news about the rapidly arriving Social Distancing. Since we were there already, we continued on with our plans and had a wonderful time. So if you're sick and tired of hearing about the Coronavirus, read on as we share our takeaway from four days on The Dark Side.

The trawler we were taking the course on was a 1979 40-ft. sundeck model. Almost as soon as we boarded, we realized that this particular boat was one we would never consider. The interior was entirely crafted from that very dark, almost maroon-brown wood. The aft cabin was large, comfortable, and had a queen-sized bed, tons of storage, excellent ventilation via 4 openable ports, and a comfortable head with a large separate shower stall, but because of the dark wood it felt very claustrophobic. The salon area was wide open with plenty of room to have chairs to sit in as well as an L-shaped settee. The galley was down three steps and to port. It was almost twice the size of the one on Kintala and included a stove, oven, microwave, full-sized fridge, double sink and a good amount of storage, although honestly I think Kintala has more storage in her galley. To starboard was the second head. Forward was the second cabin with a pullman bed to starboard and a ton of workbench/storage space. The engine compartment was beneath the salon floor, but didn't really allow for much room to move around in it. The boat had a single Perkins and a genset.

Three steps up from the salon was the sundeck, a large space with room for a half dozen deck chairs and a cooler. This particular boat had a bimini over the sundeck instead of a hard top, and no enclosure, something I wondered about, given the proliferation of mozzies and no-seeums in Southern Florida. Three steps up from that was the flybridge which was pretty small considering the size of the boat. There were two captains' chairs in front of  the helm but barely enough room to add a folding chair behind them. The flybridge also had a canvas bimini and an enclosure on three sides.

Our first night was on the hook on North Lake in Hollywood, Florida. There wasn't much wind and North Lake is in the middle of a no-wake zone so we had a very peaceful evening. The following day we motored on down to Boca Chita, going through eleven bridges of which we only had to wait for one to open due to our 15-ft air draft.

The North Lake anchorage. It's a lot fuller than we've ever seen it before.

We spent the night at Boca, did an hour of docking practice in the morning, then headed up to No-Name Harbor where we spent a leisurely afternoon eating lunch at the restaurant and hiking the loop to the lighthouse before heading off to Hurricane Harbor. It was the first time we'd ever been in Hurricane Harbor but I assure you it won't be the last. Hurricane is at least 2-3 times bigger than No-Name and much less utilized. Granted, there's no shore access, but with the changes at No-Name (the loss of bathrooms and laundry facilities,) it makes No-Name a little less appealing anyway. We watched a beautiful sunset, then did a night transit to Marine Stadium where we anchored and had dinner on the boat.

Back in No-Name Harbor. Felt like coming home.
The sunset from Hurricane Harbor

Thursday morning, we headed off to a very tiny little hole called Lamar Lake on the northeast corner of Virginia Key. It was one of those places that would be impossible to get into with Kintala's draft so it was a real pleasure. After lunch, we headed back to the home marina where we found ourselves back on the dock before dinner, just in time to catch up with our good friends Bill and Ann who currently have their boat in the Hollywood marina on the dock.

The view of Miami from Lamar Lake
Trying to fix a chart plotter problem with his new chart plotter.

Just the room on the foredeck is almost enough to convince me...'s the takeaway:

Almost immediately we realized that a sundeck trawler of any brand wouldn't meet our needs, but for a reason totally unexpected. We both felt very isolated from the water on the trawler because of the height of the decks. It felt a lot like the difference between riding down the highway in an air-conditioned car rather than on the seat of a motorcycle enjoying the sun and the wind and the smell of bacon from the diner in the small town. It became almost immediately apparent that if we ended up on a trawler it would have to be a sedan or Europa model because the decks would be at water level.

The one place that the high deck was welcome was the flybridge. It was wonderful to be able to see more of the water, to be able to see better when docking, and to actually be able to see the front of the boat. Tim thought he would hate the flybridge but was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it was to motor down the ICW being able to see everywhere.

It was fabulous to sit in the salon and have a 360° view of the anchorage. One of my biggest pet peeves about sailboats is that once you're below it's very hard to see out, unless you have a catamaran, pilot house or deck salon model. The windows were huge, but that alone raises the issue of heat in the summer. This particular boat had Phifertex panels snapped over the windows. It kept the interior cool, made it so you could see out but no one could see in, but it also added to the darkness of the interior.

I thought the motor noise would bother me but it didn't. The generator noise, on the other hand, was bothersome, but he only used it long enough to run the microwave. The batteries were adequately charged by our short runs each day. Any generator we had would have to be in a sound box. We would also put copious amounts of solar on any trawler we ended up on. I loves me some silent power.

Originally I thought I'd want a galley down, but after being in that galley I think I would prefer a galley up. Not a deal breaker, for sure, but just a preference. In many of the Yachtworld ads I've noticed the stove in one corner butted right up against the fridge and I've always said I wouldn't like that setup and gravitated towards the ones with the stove in the middle of the U-shaped galley. This galley had the stove in the middle of the U and I was able to see that I was right about the other style of galleys. It would be very difficult to use the oven in the arrangement with the stove in the corner.

Safe side decks are of tantamount importance, and one of the main reasons we're thinking about transitioning to a trawler at all. Most Europa models have the solid wall railings on the side decks as well as being covered. This boat had very narrow walkways along the sides with handrails mounted on the cabin top and no railings until you got up to the bow. Definitely a no-no for any boat we own.

The motion was one of our biggest questions before taking the trip. We had seen many trawlers during our six years of cruising that got tossed around in rolly anchorages and weren't sure how bad it would feel in the boat. The motion in the flybridge can get very aggressive because of the height from the water. Even on the ICW, the wakes of larger boats caused a rocking bad enough in the flybridge that you couldn't stand up or move between levels. Down below, on the other hand, those same wakes were almost not noticeable, and in the galley they were even less of an issue, a benefit of the galley down models that I hadn't considered prior to this trip. This boat had an extreme amount of clutter on every available surface (definitely NOT the way we live in a boat) and not a thing was tossed, even in the worst wakes.

I was worried about docking such a hulk of a boat. I needn't have worried. After a half hour of docking practice in Boca Chita, I wouldn't hesitate to dock the boat anywhere, any time. Our captain was one of the best dockers I've ever seen. He plopped the boat on the wall at No-Name in a space that was seriously not 10 feet longer than the boat and he did it all with one engine and no bow thruster. He taught us to rotate the boat in its own axis, again with only one engine and no bow thruster. I would much rather dock that hulk of a boat in close quarters than just about any sailboat I've ever been on, including Kintala.

Anchoring was such a pleasure. Just pull up, drop the hook, and back slowly. Tim loves him some electric windlass with a remote on the flybridge...

Going through bridges without waiting for openings was maybe the very best part of the whole gig. I HATE opening bridges. I hate waiting for them, I hate working with the bridge tenders. I hate waiting on tides for lower bridges and our tall mast. Nuf said.

Getting underway took just a few minutes instead of the 45-minute routine we normally carry out when moving Kintala. Fire up the engine, pull up to the anchor, raise it, go. Easy peesy. Surprisingly, this left us conflicted. The whole routine of readying a sailboat for movement has its own rhythm to it, one that blends with nature. Checking the weather, deciding on sail combinations, prepping lines, stowing things below and even what clothes you wear are all part of the routine. Would we miss that?

Questions also arose around the cruising community. Like it or not, there is still some discord between sailors and trawler operators. Would we lose that sense of community we so value? Would sailors feel welcomed by us or would they keep their distance just because we're on a power boat? We had discussions at great length about this with our sailor daughter and family. We all agreed that there is the basic issue of the fact that it's difficult for sail and trawler boats to travel together due to the difference in speed. But in my mind I can't reconcile the lack of community between the two groups since it appears that over 90% of trawler owners are former sailors. Have to think on that one a lot more.

I don't know what our decision will be. A lot depends on how the whole Corona virus pans out, what funds we're left with, how our health is, and what boats are available. But, for sure, the trip was really valuable because it made us assess just what it is that draws us to a life on the water. It's a life we love, and a life we're just not ready to give up yet.

Boca Chita
Boca Chita

Boca Chita

We really miss the trees in Florida. Tim is standing behind the tree to show our grandkids how big it is.
They would be all over this thing. They love to climb trees.
Boca Chita

The lighthouse at Boca Chita
Boca Chita

Boca Chita

The pier at Dania Beach
We ate really well. The Captain was an excellent cook and served all Keto.

Boca Chita

The wall on which I practiced docking the boat.

Biscayne Bay

Hurricane Harbor

Sorry for the blurry photo. I didn't take it. And, no, that isn't champagne all over Tim's shirt. It's just water.