Friday, July 15, 2016

1000 days, a thousand ways

Today is the 1000th day since we left to go cruising. A few weeks ago I told Tim this landmark was coming up and that he should come up with a post about it. His "OK" was unenthusiastic, but I'm giving him some slack in the writing department these days since it's taking all his energy to deal with the intensity of that star around which we'll circle most of the way while here at Snead Island Boat Works. I told him I'd let him slide and I would do the post.

Leaving Oak Harbor October 19, 2013
I've been thinking a lot about those 1000 days in the past week. A landmark, certainly, but I felt no epiphany to mark it. The reality of it is that I can tell you in a thousand ways why going cruising has been the best thing that's happened to us because every one of those 1000 days has been a gift. We've had challenging days that taught us much, peaceful days on brilliant turquoise waters in the Abacos, days of gatherings with new cruising friends, days of weather that humbled us, stunningly perfect days of sailing, days filled with laughter and, recently, too many days filled with grief. But even the recent span of grief from our loss of three family members in nine months has left us realizing how glad we did this. While we still had the time. Because none of us is promised a thousand days, and we cherish every one we've had.

Oriental, NC sunset while waiting for engine parts Nov 2013

The moon rising on our first overnight offshore run

West End Bahamas on our first trip there Feb 2014

Working with the grandsons on the Floating Bear disaster June 2014
Return trip to the Bahamas March 2015
Watching an eclipse from the comfort of our V-berth September 2015

Road trip for Tim's dad's funeral October 2015
Sunset on the day my brother died February 2016
Storms that humbled us
Beaches that amazed us
Skies that took our breath away
Anchorages that were perfect

We've had friends to accompany us
We've seen odd things...
Funny things...
Sad things...

Scary things...
Beautiful things...
We've had things break...

Written  a book...

And wouldn't trade it for anything.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


The filling of the cruising kitty is going well, and the boat project list has more items checked off than not, but summer has been hard on Worker Man. Snead Island is a great place to work: New Boss is fair, considerate, and hard-working himself, the owners and the rest of the employees helpful and easy to work with, and Tim's desire to produce quality workmanship expected. But the Florida sunshine - the emblem of this state - is his biggest enemy. Working down inside small, un-airconditioned boats that are sitting in the brutal rays takes its toll on his 61-year-old body.

On the other hand, the summer has been pretty good to me. Being in charge of The List has afforded me the opportunity to learn a phenomenal amount about Kintala. Most of my projects so far have been inside the air-conditioned boat so, other than the outside portion of the port rebuild project, I have had the benefit of cool working environs. Not having the benefit of a highly experienced mechanic at my beck and call 24/7 has forced me to research, learn, troubleshoot, and push through problems on my own with only the brief conversations after Worker Man returns for the day and before he collapses on the settee directly under the A/C vent. Checking off list items has gone a long way toward improving my confidence as a mechanic.

Until yesterday.

Early in the summer I decided to tackle first those items that would make maintenance on Kintala easier. The easier it is to change the oil or fuel filters, the more frequently it will get done. Installing the remote oil filter system was of the highest priority. Adding en electric fuel boost pump to bleed the engine after changing filters was next. I did my research, spoke to our friend Stephen who also owns a Tartan 42 (which is a very nice one for sale by the way), and spent time looking at various pumps. When Stephen sent a photo to me of the pump in his install, I realized all of a sudden that I remembered seeing one already installed in the boat. It was mounted on top of the fuel tank, hidden under the settee base, all the plumbing there, but the wiring was set up with ends to attach to an external battery when you needed it. Yes, we should have realized a long time ago what it was for but, you know, the out of site out of mind thing.

Not having a separate battery nor any desire to purchase one, I spent the day Monday running new wiring from the house bank to the engine compartment where I mounted a switch, then from there to the pump. As with all things boat project, it took the whole day, although I confess that an hour and a half of that was fashioning a wooden switch box to house the switch I happened on in the used box at the parts dept here on site. If you've been following this blog for a while then you know that Tim and I are both pretty anal when it comes to detail so the box had to be right.

The engine compartment showing the remote oil filter install and the new switch box for the bleed pump on the back wall.

The fuel filter housing with the bleed banjo fitting on top
Tuesday, new filters in hand, I began to learn the ins and outs of changing fuel filters on a Westerbeke 50. I had never done it before and, in fact, had usually found some place else to be when Tim did it because it is a very unpleasant job that involves bleeding of the human sort in addition to bleeding of the fuel sort. We had no spare diesel to fill the filter housings with, but everything I was reading on the topic of the electric fuel pump indicated that the pump would fill those housings given enough time. I changed the filters, turned on the pump, bled the filter fittings, let the pump run, bled them again, pump run..well you get the idea. 15 minutes later I started the engine. It started right up. Big smile on my face for the 10 seconds it ran until it stopped. Rats-n-frackin'.

Off to the maintenance manual and various Westerbeke forums. The general concensus was that I still had not removed all the air and had sucked it into the high pressure side of the system where it air locked the injector pump. It takes shockingly little air to stop a diesel engine, it turns out. Since I had cranked over the engine, I was now blessed with the learning experience of the Westerbeke 8-point bleeding procedure. An hour later and I was still not getting fuel to the injector B-nuts and the starter was getting warm from cycling the engine. "Uncle!"  Wiki says that the term "cry uncle" is from Roman times when children who were being pressed by a bully would have to say "Uncle" to be freed. How truly appropriate, as I can think of no better bullies than the designers of the Westerbeke 50.

When Worker Man returned to Kintala, I retraced my progress, showing him how far I had succeeded in obtaining fuel dribbles along the bleeding path. He loosened one B-nut that I had been unable to reach on the high pressure side of the injector pump. cranked the now cool engine, got fuel there. Then he bled two of the injector line B-nuts and the engine started.

I've learned a ton so far this summer, but perhaps the greatest lesson I learned through this project is that some times you quit just on the verge of success. I stopped because I was worried about damaging the engine and starter from too much cranking (probably smart), but had I taken some time to read some more, to think it through and continued bleeding the next day, I would most likely have gotten the job done without help. Don't get me wrong - getting help when you're unsure is a very good thing, and it's great when it's there to benefit from, but I'm sure there's going to be times when I just have to keep at it and not give up. At least when the Westerbeast is involved.

The oil pressure sender connection is, of
course, right by the dipstick so it can be
bumped into every time you check the oil...
And just so The Beast could show me who's boss...when the engine finally cranked to life there was no oil pressure on the gage. We immediately shut down the engine and closed things up for the night. This morning I started troubleshooting and discovered that the wire from the oil pressure sender to the gage was both loose and damaged. I cut it clean, installed a new connector, lock washer and nut, started the engine and was rewarded with oil pressure in the green. So take that you big bully.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


With Daughter Youngest and Grand Daughter still in Siesta Key, the crew of Kintala deemed it okay to rent one of those motorized four wheel coaches for a couple of more days. It even seemed reasonable to tempt the fates and join them in Siesta Key...on the Fourth of July weekend. Such a visit is the social antithesis of our current mode of living, dwelling on a boat as the near lone residents in a boatyard, occasional bike rides into a non-tourist town, with most of our off time spent hiding from the heat in our modest – but still air conditioned – salon.

Siesta Key on the Fourth of July weekend is 10,000 cars trying to fit into 8,000 parking places. It is hoards of pale skinned visitors laid out on the beach like so many lobsters at a bar-b-cue, slow roasting in the near tropical sun. It is also adorable little kids splashing around in the shallow surf, enthralled by an ocean many of them are seeing for the first time. It is families having fun and people taking a break from their work-a-day lives. It is THE BEACH, that mythical place of bikinis and brews, a touch of heaven that can often be pretty close to the mecca all the vacation advertising makes it out to be.

One of my favorite parts of this beach is the Drum circle, the every-Sunday celebration of the Sun Going Down. It is a good thing to celebrate in that the Belenus (as the sun is known as in Celtic mythology) is, in these parts, a bit of an overbearing god. Oh, he brings light and life, makes the plants grow lush, warms the sea to temperatures that sea life and swimmers find agreeable, all that good stuff. But he gets a bit enthusiastic about it all during the summer, lashing anyone who has reason to dare direct exposure with a heat and humidity that will make a long day of work seem nothing short of day of punishment. Watching him settle behind the horizon for a few hours break is a relief.

Besides, it is as good an excuse as any for a bunch of people to gather around and pound some drums, for people young and not so young to laugh and dance in the sand, for people to enjoy being people without anyone getting hurt or offended. It is a big beach with lots of room, so anyone who finds the whole thing a bit too primal or ancient can find their own place to watch the sun set, worshiping (or not) any kind of god they like in the process.

It is, after all, part of what the Fourth of July is supposed to celebrate, the birth of a nation where choice and individual liberty rule.

And then this jack-ass and some friends showed up.

It was easy to ignore the wanker from my place in the midst of the assembled. He was, after all, trying to shout down 30 or 40 drummers using a little, battery powered, megaphone; clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer. And though I, given my general lack of faith in all things requiring faith, would certainly qualify as hell-fodder for this guy's god, demographics suggest most of the people surrounding me would self-identify as Christians of one sect or another. (Well, maybe not the guy wearing the gorilla mask and pounding out – with a good amount of talent I might add – a riff probably never heard in any cathedral.) It isn't clear to me what the wanker with the megaphone thought he was accomplishing. Most of the people around him likely shared, at least in some part, a belief in his religion. Exactly who was he trying to impress?

Unfortunately, just a few yards from the drums, at least on that guy's side of the circle, his megaphone was enough. His doctrine was judgmental and hate filled, his rhetoric arrogant and insulting. Police mounted on horses had to force their way in to break up confrontations since, it appeared, some of the celebrants' doctrine surrounding primal sun-god celebrations include kicking a wanker's ass. I'm not sure that's what the megaphone preacher wanted, but it is likely he went back to his church all proud of being persecuted. (According to Christian mythology such persecution will garner him some extra credit when he gets to heaven. Which is one of the many reasons I prefer ancient Celtic mythology, or pretty much any kind of mythology that is openly recognized as mythology, to modern Christian mythology.)

My first thought was that ignoring him or, better yet, laughing at him, would be the best response, that anything even remotely indicating that he was being taken seriously would only make his affliction worse. But then I got to thinking. In today's world, maybe that isn't the case anymore.

How many steps is it between this guy and any of the young white guys who have made the news by shooting people in a church or opening fire in a theater? How many steps is it between this guy and any religious fundamentalist who takes to violence? He worships a god he believes is going to torture, forever and ever in the most barbaric and sadistic way imaginable, most of the people on the planet for the sin of not worshiping in the approved manor. (A doctrine many Muslims share with many Christians.) How bad could it be to shoot a few of them to maybe “save” some of the others? This is a mind already twisted, how much more twist will it take to make him actually dangerous?

And, mind you, this guy could have legally been carrying a concealed weapon. This is, after all, Florida. Had he been carrying such a weapon, “standing his ground” would be more than enough of an excuse for a twisted mind to open fire. Something I suspect, given the speed at which they moved in, the police had in mind as well.

How can you not take such a person as seriously deranged and, potentially, seriously dangerous? Maybe kicking his ass, stripping him naked to make sure his isn't armed, and then throwing him, his megaphone, his signs, and his buddies into the surf to cool off, is the seriously right thing to do these days?

Thus is celebrated the Fourth of July in America, 2016.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cruising Colors

One of the things I enjoy most about cruising, especially in the Bahamas, is the colors. The water is such a brilliant turquoise that it almost hurts your eyes. The houses are all painted pinks, blues, greens, yellows, purples, and lend a sense of whimsy to the air. Since we're not currently cruising but are sitting at a dock replenishing the cruising kitty, we have to find our colors elsewhere. Boat yards are, after all, not known for being colorful...well...except for the language from frustrated boat maintenance.

We went to the Siesta Key Drum Circle again last Sunday and there were a couple ladies dancing in very colorful costume. It was such a joy to watch so I thought I'd share for your enjoyment as well. I've also included some photos of a beach trip we took that was cut short by a storm.

The conch horn is blown at sunset at the drum circle.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Working my way backwards...

It seems a long time ago now, since we started this blog. In fact, it was a long time ago. As the days, months, and years passed we had a good time writing about the journey from being land dwellers to making it to full time cruiser / live aboard status. And we are still having a good time. For example, first thing this morning I climbed up a ladder into a bare hull that we will soon turn back into a boat. At the moment it lacks engines, plumbing, wiring, navigation, and a helm. It wouldn't even float if we dumped it in the water, for it lacks thru hulls and all of the normally associated bits and pieces that keep the water from flowing freely through the holes.

A little later I climbed back down. After that I climbed back up. And later down.

All that up and downing is just part of the fun. Though that may sound a little odd I think of it this way. Boss New and his bosses have pretty much dumped the task of equipping and wiring this boat, from scratch, in
my lap. I am ordering stuff (lots and lots of stuff), planning on where to mount stuff, and figuring out how to get power to the stuff. There are two alternators, two cranking  batteries, a house bank that will (hopefully) be made up of a dozen 6 volt batteries, a 4000w inverter, a battery charger, two separate shore power plugs, four pumps, water heater, refrigerator, navigation boxes, lights, and other sundry bits, that all have to play together without throwing sparks or melting down any of that expensive stuff. There is stuff like trim tabs, spot light, bow thruster, and underwater lights that I haven't played with before. The DC master panel is being custom designed, mostly by me, through the internet.

Once upon a long time ago I was in charge of a crew that rebuilt a King Air that had been turned into a snow plow. It ended up in a ditch with the nose landing assembly torn from its well and both of its engines broken in half from the sudden stoppage. That same crew and I rebuilt a smaller plane that had tangled with a real snow plow, breaking its wing strut in half and tearing out part of the fire wall. Those were big, complicated jobs that pushed the limits of repairing something rather than just taking check from the insurance company and buying a replacement something. Being involved in another job like that is an unexpected but interesting visit back to where I used to belong.

If I have to give up cruising for a while in order to fill the kitty, there are worse ways than being elbows deep in a job like this one. There are some things I question, but there are people around here who know more about boats in general than I do, and they assure me that things like the boat's center of gravity (center of gravity being something I know a bit about) and buoyancy (something I know less about) will be fine. Other
things I find a bit puzzling. Word from the boat world is that two alternators on twin engines don't play well together, it's best if they are not both tasked with charging the same battery bank. We never had such problems on twin engine airplanes, so clearly there is something new to learn here. And even with the uncountable electrical repairs and modifications I have done on airplanes, they were all DC power systems. I am less sure-footed with the 110v AC that will be going into this boat. More fun is that the inverter / battery charger means these two distant power cousins are going to be getting awfully familiar. Which, as one can imagine, has the potential for way too much drama.

Writing abut cruising is a bit of a reach at the moment. We are not cruising. There is no clear blue water around here, no sandy bottoms to catch and hold an anchor, no isolated islands to explore. Sometimes writing at all is a bit of a reach. Fun job or no, it is still a long day's work in a harsh environment. My weekly word output has dropped dramatically since the end of the day is a chance to stop doing things for a while, including writing. Reading the blogs of friends who have sailed far afield is often more attractive than trying to come up with something interesting to say about living at a dock. Living in a Tiny House and working hard to stay one step ahead of a world that is clearly having its problems is, in my opinion, a reasonable and responsible thing to do. But there isn't much more to say about it than that, other than to add that our Tiny House is looking pretty good at the moment, and I am playing a lot of drums.

So if, sometime next year, you are anchored at some isolated island and happen to hear a joyful rhythm being pounded out and echoing over the clear blue water, it just might be me celebrating being back where I belong...again.


Just a quick photo of the finished porthole rebuild/new headliner project. The port side ports went much faster since I knew what I wanted to do. Four days total. I have one more interior project - to replace the sliding mirror panels in the head - and then it will be back to the engine and steering projects. I'm feeling pretty good right now about my progress, but Shhhhh don't tell Kintala, OK?