Monday, October 29, 2007

Stuff-and-Such

When I was growing up, my grandmother (who was quite a character) used to talk about "Stuff-and-Such," meaning all the mounds of accumulated things that end up surrounding us. She was, after all, an expert in the matter. All the reading about living aboard a sailboat and the simplified life aboard caused a great amount of philosophical rumination on the subject recently, which culminated in a long weekend of dealing with said "Stuff-and-Such." I faced the garage storage compartment with a great deal of courage, large trash bags, empty Goodwill boxes, and a space designated on the floor with each child's name. Things I learned in the process:

1. If your garage burned down and you never had a chance to look in these boxes you'd never miss what was inside of them. The matches mocked me every time I passed them throughout the day.

2. Personal shredders should have been invented a long time ago.

3. If your child asks you if she can store something at your house, tell her that if it's not important enough for her to have in her house, it's not important enough for you to have in your garage.

4. Spiders already have enough homes to live in without you providing a box of Christmas ornaments that you never intend to use.

5. I could buy a lot of stuff for a boat with the money I would have saved not renting storage centers over the years.

6. If I haven't opened a box in 3 moves I should throw it away immediately.

7. Never ever should I let things or the acquiring of them become more important than people.

Don't get me wrong. Not all "things" collected are bad. Objects have a tremendous power to connect us to memories of good times past and to people we love. I tore open one box of things I'd saved for the kids' kids only to find mixed in with the stuffed animals an old, ratty red hooded sweatshirt that belonged to my mother. She wore it in a picture that I have of her raking leaves on a beautiful fall day. It was one of the last healthy, happy days of her life before she had her stroke. I cried for half an hour. The key is in determining what things are worth saving and what things are not, and the reality of it is that, in the end, we can take nothing with us at all. So as I begin the long, long (did I say long?) process of reduction, I'm trying on the liveaboard life a little at a time, anticipating the tremendously liberating feeling of living life as it should be - hard work with your hands, a close tie to nature, and time with loved ones. It just doesn't get much better than that.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Not just pictures but real boats!

So I had a corporate flight that ended up in Ft. Lauderdale over Friday morning. (That afternoon we flew to Key West, spent the night, and now I sit in Freeport, Bahama. Sometimes this job doesn’t suck too bad!) And as luck would have it the Ft. Lauderdale boat show was going on. It is mostly a powerboat show, but there was one marina where they filled a couple of docks with sailing catamarans; the main displays being Leopard, Lagoon, and Fountaine Pajot. It was the first time I’ve actually had a chance to step onto one of these things and poke around.

Mind you these were all brand new display boats and mostly bigger than anything Deb and I can hope to afford; but it was still a good chance to learn about them. My first impression was that this is just way cool; beautiful pieces of equipment with all kinds of fun stuff to play with. Second, they really aren’t very big. Well, pretty big for a boat but not too big for a house.

I guess the way to put it is that this is about as big a change in lifestyle as we could imagine. We would (will) be going from a house / garage full of stuff, toys, things, tools, knick-knacks to a floating, open-floor-plan cabin that floats and moves. Everything you need for daily living is there – but there is no room for all of the stuff we tend to drag along with us through our lives. A good many of the people I talked with at the show, salespeople mostly, were live aboards for at least several months a year. And they all seemed to love it. (I know, they would love to sell me a boat.) Anyway, it was a good time and did nothing to discourage me from hoping to make this happen some day.

A new kind of kitchen for Deb


A new kind of cockpit for me

Sunday, October 14, 2007

ASA 103 is now under our belts, with our instructor's signature freshly in our logbooks. We did have more wind this time for most of one day which was refreshing after our "jello" water last class (not a ripple anywhere). ASA 103 was much of the same material as ASA 101 (in fact it's the second half of the book) but all in much more detail. We learned about charts and the MULTITUDES of symbols one finds on them, soundings and how one must remember one's gradeschool math so one is not embarrassed in front of a whole lake of sailboats, bouys and the multiple shapes and colors and names of them and a most useful skill of assembling a head door handle so that the piece with the opening post falls inside the head when it breaks instead of the outside. A few tense moments of claustrophia while examining the broken lock to see how to get it open with only half a handle. Note to self: Always tell someone you're going to the head so if you don't return promptly they can check on you!

We had a great time this weekend and learned a great bit, the nicest of which is that you always seem to meet the most interesting people around boats. Here's some pictures for you:




My favorite Skipper

Jerry

Tim, Bob & Chris

George, Larissa and me

Waiting for the wind

Our ever-patient instructor


A great crew!

Knot Practice

And a short video of what it looks like inside the cabin while you're sailing pretty quickly:



video

Really sailing a boat, some...

I sacrificed my “Honda Racing” hat to baby Neptune today. It blew off when I looked up check the trim on the genoa. Up to then I hadn’t actually seen a lot of wind on a sailboat, so I slow in making a grab for it. We did try to use it as the victim for an impromptu “man overboard” drill, but by the time we got the boat turned around the hat had drowned and apparently sunk to the bottom. As it turns out maybe baby Neptune likes hats (Baby Neptune is the youngest child of a distant cousin to King Neptune, the god of ocean fame.) because, for the next hour or so anyway, the wind blew at better then 10 kts. We got the Catalina 309 (the same boat we were on before) heeled over enough to get the leeward ports buried in the water for short moments. We even reefed the genoa a little. Now that was some fun.

But sadly enough it was an old hat and baby Neptune must have gotten tired of it. By mid-afternoon the wind had faded. Though we tried to sail home for a while “wing-on-wing” with the light puffs of wind behind us, eventually we admitted the obvious; that we weren’t actually going much of anywhere and all of us would be late for work the next morning if we didn’t fire up the “iron spinnaker.” (Otherwise known as the motor.)
We gained the dock among a small squadron of sailboats all put-putting home with sails stowed. But for a short time we were really sailing.

So now we have about 32 hours of time on the boat with another 8 or so hours of classroom time; for a total of about 40 hours. The same amount of time it takes to get a private pilot’s rating. Just like flying, I think I’ve learned enough about sailing to go out now and teach myself how to do it. And I hope I do a better job then some of the other classes who have used this boat have done. We got to the boat yesterday to find one of the stanchions broken off and a long, wide, unsightly scrape down the port side of the boat. It looks to me like someone dragged it along the dock and hooked the stanchion on something, though the story is someone broke it off trying to keep the boat off the dock.

There are two cables that run around the perimeter of the boat called “lifelines.” These lines are held up by little fence-post looking things called stanchions. The lifelines are actually no such a thing. They are more like a “remind you that you are about to fall off the boat” lines. I think their real purpose is to make sure that you hit the water headfirst if you actually do fall overboard, since they are set right about knee high. They look cool though, and if you get heeled over far enough you drag to bottoms of the stanchions in the water. But apparently you can’t push a boat around with a stanchion without breaking it off.

In addition to a broken stanchion, (one that held a pulley block for the rolling the jib by the way) the handle on the head door fell off during our day. This could have been a minor annoyance to anyone who pulled the door to latch behind them. The good news is that the head has an opening hatch, and we could have handed the handle into sailor trapped in the head. Anyway, the boat only lists for $100,000 or so, so what’s a broken stanchion here or a latch falling off there? If I had a ton of money I’d still buy the thing just to learn on. I would hope to get a little off the list price though.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Machine lust

It has been a while since I have been smitten so badly by a machine. Well, a year anyway, since I was smitten by the GSXR. Deb never has to worry about another woman, but let a racy looking motorcycle scream by, or get me near a boat with some good looking rigging; my brain goes into lock and I start reaching for my credit card. I’m sure some doctor somewhere has a name for my affliction. Anyway, I read about sailboats, study sailboats; I even have a little spreadsheet made up to compare things like length / beam ratios and displacements between different makes and models of catamarans. It’s all kind of fun actually.

Though living on a catamaran someday is the goal, I find myself reading up on little (less than 30 feet, more than 20 feet) mono-hulls with the idea that a “starter boat” in the lake around here might be a good idea. I’ve always heard that a boat is a hole in the water into which people throw large sums of money. But hell, I used to own two airplanes so how bad can a boat actually be? (Besides, I don’t have large sums of money. Once having had two airplanes might have something to do with that state of affairs.) It would be good practice. Not only might I actually get a chance to sail a boat when the wind is blowing, (next weekend is not looking too promising in the wind blowing department) but I can learn things like what it takes to keep a boat floating with all of its systems working. Another reason for a slightly large beginner’s rig, it has to have some of the systems on it that a cruiser boat would have. If it’s not on the boat it can’t break. But if it doesn’t break I don’t get a chance to learn how to fix it. And of course that is just what I need, more practice fixing things. (The little Zuki is running, the Beemer clutch / oil leak is the next project.)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Why?

I sat outside to eat my lunch yesterday and the sky was crystal clear blue, the humidity is finally gone here in St. Louis and the smell of dried leaves was wafting by me and I'm wondering why in the world I'm not finding a sailboat today instead of being locked up in my cubicle for 9 hours a day. Human beings are meant to experience nature and I'm pretty sure that an 8X8 box doesn't qualify...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Next Step

Well we signed up for our next course, Basic Coastal Cruising. Here is the link to the standard for the class so you can read about everything we will learn in 3 days:

http://www.american-sailing.com/asa_standards/standard_basic_coastal_cruising.html

The class will be October 12-14 and we're hoping that this time we have a little more wind than the last time! We will have the same teacher (which I'm really excited about because she was great) and the same boat. It should be an amazing day with the leaves turning.

I also added a link to a site for one of the boats that we're looking at. It's a lot of fun to drool over. It would have to be used though - definitely can't afford a new one!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Good Book

I cruised through amazon.com a week ago and bought a couple books (Their new book browsing tool is wonderful). I've read enough "how to" books for the time being and I wanted some real-life stories written by people who have done what we want to do. I bought "A Year In Paradise: How We Lived Our Dream" by Stephen Wright Watterson (ISBN 0-9706167-0-8), a story of a retired couple in their early 60's that sail their 30ft sailboat from Sandusky, OH to the Keys and back in a year's time. The author is an excellent writer with a dry sense of humor very similar to mine and descriptive skills that transported me right to the cockpit of their boat, where the aroma of baking cookies was wafting up from the galley below. I wanted to leave tomorrow.

Now I'm reading "At the Mercy of the Sea" by John Kretschmer (ISBN 978-0-07-149887-6), the antithesis of the previous yarn, which has me riding out terrifying nightmares of hurricanes at sea.

I've chosen both books in an attempt to be realistic about my expectations, aware that while everyone seeks the romance of the sail, there are both inconvenient and dangerous aspects to cruising on a sailboat. I decided this is a price I'm willing to pay to squeeze every last drop of living out of whatever days the Lord may grace me with.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Thoughts over a cup of coffee...

A few minutes before I head off to the hangar and I am running the weekend’s adventure through my mind. Not so much the actual learn-to-sail part, but the first brush with a life style of living-on-a-boat part. The only real reference I have is the 31-foot boat we used this weekend; not big enough to live on but certainly big enough to use for something like a two-week cruise.

In the cabin was everything you usually use in a day, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, a place to sit at a table and even a desktop where one could work at a computer. There were lights and though this one had no heat or air-conditioning a larger boat would. We were out in the toolies so there was no Internet access, but that was a function of where the boat was parked, not the boat itself. There was even a bulkhead, (if one were so inclined) to hang a nice, flat-screen TV to play movies, and power to run it. It was all just really close together.

So I look around this house, which is the nicest house we have ever had and I really love it. We have this perfect, huge bedroom with a lot of floor space I rarely walk on. It has a walk in closet full of clothes I never wear. We have 2 ½ bathrooms, an empty bedroom, and a bedroom with 3 desks, two bookshelves, and two computers. We have a living room with two couches, tables, and a fireplace. (I love the fireplace.) And we have the coolest back yard in the Central West end, to say nothing of my garage. Why even think of not living here?

And yet… The backyard of the boat is the ocean, or the shore, or the lake, or whatever part of this huge planet you happen to have sailed to. I have the coolest back yard in the C.W.E. but the cockpit of a boat is the coolest front yard I have ever seen. A slightly bigger boat, (say a 38 foot Cat) would have plenty of room for things like books and tools, even bicycles and snorkeling gear. (I think my SCUBA diving days are over just because I’m not sure I want to go through the hassle of getting another certification.) And though I would miss my garage, I would be living on this huge machine with two engines, electrical systems, and all kinds of stuff I would get to tinker with all the time.

Living compact, light if you would, mobile, mostly self-contained, with the wind and the waves rather than isolated from them; I have to admit the idea is growing ever more alluring.

Then again, maybe I am just nearly as nutty as some people have always thought? Anyway, off to work…

Sunday, September 16, 2007

At least I know what I'm trying to do.

Day two of trying to make a boat go where I want using wind and sail, helm and help. The help comes in the form of the rest of the crew. It was kind of amazing how quickly Tony, Mike, Joe, Jerry, Deb and I formed a semblance to a working boat crew with the patient instruction of Larissa. (It might have helped that four of the group, Deb, Jerry, Mike and I, were all pilots. Jerry is a corporate pilot flying Hawkers out of St. Louis.) After each maneuver we would all swap places so we could learn how to work the sails as well as getting time and practice driving the boat. People shifted posts from helm to mainsheet and jib sheet “grinders” almost like we had a plan.

The name “grinders” comes from sticking a big crank handle in the top of a mechanical winch (the boat had 4 of them) and working it to tighten up various ropes (called “sheets” for reasons completely unknown to me). These “sheets’ are used to put tension on the sails which is called “trimming.” A person using the handle - to turn the winch - to tighten the sheet - which pulls on the sail - to set the trim; looks like a person working a giant, old-fashioned coffee grinder, and it sounds sort of like one as well. Trimming changes the shape of the sail and allows them to use the wind more efficiently. Use the wind more efficiently and you go fast.

“Fast” is of course a relative term. On water it turns out there is a maximum speed any sailboat can go no matter how hard you push it, a speed which is equal to 1.34 * the square root of the length of the low water line in feet. The boat we were on today had a top speed of about 6.83 knots, a blazing 5.9 mph! Who would have thought that 5.9 mph was nearly as fun as 120 mph on a GSXR 1000? (I’m sure someone is thinking, “And a damn sight safer to boot.” Hi Mom.) And really, because of the light winds today, the best speed we made was right around 2 ½ mph. Neither Deb’s nor my motorcycle will actually do just 2 ½ mph unless you ride the brakes and badly abuse the clutch. In a sailboat in light winds it is a respectable speed and we were all quite pleased with ourselves for getting the boat to go at such an amazing pace using nothing but a gentle breeze. (We did get a good laugh when a butterfly PASSED us on an upwind tack.)

The day started with a review and a written test. Deb (of course) aced the test and scored the first 100% that our instructor had ever handed out. I (of course) didn’t score 100. In my defense let me say I have taken dozens of written tests over my carrier as a pilot and long ago gave up caring what the actual score was, as long as it says “passed” at the top of the page. And well, as most of you figured out a long time ago, Deb is smarter than I am.

So after two days of being on a boat I am smitten once again with a bad case of machine lust. (To complement my apparently permanent case of wanderlust.) Airplanes. Motorcycles. And now its boats. Not just any kind of boats either, but big, beautiful sailing type boats that cost more than a house. I don’t know if we can ever make it happen, but it looks like we are going to give it a try. I guess the worst that can befall us is we go broke and get wet.

Been broke. Been wet too. So I guess we’ll see.

Miscellaneous pictures



Sailing "Wing on Wing", when you sail downwind and have the mainsail on one side and the jib on the other. This allows the wind to push the boat downwind more efficiently.



Tim at the entrance of the cabin so you can guage the size




The inside of the boat facing aft

The tack explained

For the non-sailors: I was told that I was not clear about a video I posted. The video of Tim's first tack is a video of a sailing maneuver in which you start at one edge of the no-sail zone and steer through it to the other side. This involves the sails moving from one side to the other side of the boat as the wind direction changes. The no-sail zone is an area from about 10:30 on a clock to about 1:30 on a clock in which you cannot sail. If you attempt to, the sails simply stall and you will be stuck in what they call, "the irons". This term came from a battle tactic in which ships would try to force an opponent to sail in the no-sail zone, rendering them powerless, after which they would board them and put them in irons.

(Now you can go back and look at the video again)

One-entry logbook

Day two complete and I am the proud owner of a new sailing logbook with an ASA101 endorsement in it. The day started out with the completion of our 100 question written test and then some time on the water. By 12:30 the wind was dying off so we heaved to and ate some lunch. The wind remained calm and the water glassy in spite of the weatherman's predictions of 8-12 knots after 1:00. Here is how Tim entertained himself. Quite adaptable, don't you think?



We finally turned on the motor and practiced man overboard drills under power since we had to prove the skill to pass the test. After the drills we decided to head out under power a little and explore the other end of the lake. Half way there the wind suddenly picked up so off went the motor and out came the sails. We got to practice the man overboard drills under sail and I even beat Tony's speed record with a whopping 2.87 knots. Wooooooo Hoooooo!

We actually had some good sailing for the rest of the afternoon and then headed back. It was a wonderful experience that answered our initial question of whether we want to try to do this. The answer is a resounding "Yes!"

Saturday, September 15, 2007

One day a sailor

So now I have one whole day of sailing experience. Well, not really. I spent about 20 minutes standing behind the tiller of a boat that was barely moving. When the wind completely died away we furled the sails (they don’t come down anymore, just roll up into the mast and onto the forestay like window shades for the Jolly Green Giant), cranked up the motor and practiced things like docking and approaching a mooring buoy. Lesson #2; A slow moving 31-foot sailboat handles like a loaf of bread.

Lesson #1 was: a sail boat without wind isn’t really a sailboat. It really isn’t a powerboat either, though powerboat rules apply.

We did have a little wind at first, and with Deb at the helm the boat was tooling along at a nice clip with a pronounced heel – and that is just way cool. I spent a little time down in the cabin while the boat was actually under way. Water looks like its going by really fast when its that close, even if you are only doing a few knots. I couldn’t spend much time there as the “head” was giving off a noticeable sink, sort of like camping down wind of the port-a-potty.

All in all, sitting on the “stern pulpit” sipping some hot coffee, feeling the gentle motion of the boat, looking around at all the rigging strung across the deck and actually making a little sense of it all; I could almost envision calling such a place “home.”

Day one of ASA101

We arrived at class about 8:15, packed lunch and coffee thermos in hand, and had some time to walk around the marina looking at boats. By 9 we were all there and had swept the spider webs off the boat (spiders like marinas it would seem), stowed all our gear, put on our life jackets, learned where all the through-hulls were (any drain or water inlet that goes through the hull). The wind was blowing nicely and off we went.



Our instructor Larissa:




We had a chance to each steer the boat through a tack and a jibe before lunch. Here's a video of Tim's first tack:

video

My first sailing attempt took a little concentration, but I was amazed at how similar the skills required were to flying



On the way out to the middle of the lake we dropped a water bottle off the boat by accident which is a no-no. The federal regulations state that you can't dump any plastic overboard in any waters of the United States. So we decided to practice the man overboard drill using our water bottle as John Doe. We successfully rescued Mr. Doe and off we went.

Our ever patient instructor hard at work:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

We stopped for lunch around 12:30 and shortly after lunch the wind pretty abruptly came to a halt. We ended up motoring back to the marina via some bouys at which we each practiced a mooring pickup (a manuever that allows you to secure your boat to an anchored float to spend the night), and then we each practiced motoring up to the dock without slamming into it.

More book work at the dock in preparation for the written test tomorrow. Hopefully the wind will pick up a little in the morning so we can get our practical test out of the way.

Miscellaneous observations:

I thought the "heeling" (when the boat tips in good wind) would bother me, but it's just a lot like being in a hard corner on the ZX-14, just in slow motion.

Note to self: if we ever use the head, make sure to have it cleaned after returning to the dock. Letting the holding tank sit makes for an uncomfortably smelly boat.

Second note to self: never never never leave food in the refrigerator when the power is off.

I'm happy that my flying skills came back in use after all these years of not flying.

When you get off the boat, you still feel the rolling waves.

Coffee tastes better on open water in a sailboat. So does a peanut butter & jelly sandwich.

Sailboats make you smile.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I got to class early so I could poke around the parked boats a little. The owner of the place showed me around several of the boats he has in his lot, the largest being a 41 foot Hunter. It was a pretty thing; it was also a pretty little thing. The inside was gorgeous and included two bedrooms, two heads, galley, stateroom and Nav station, all of it very close together. Maybe part of the "smallness" came from the fact that the "windows" were tiny and up very high. Understandable since this is an ocean going boat and one would expect heavy weather to put the waves up on the deck and washing over the cabin. Now THAT would be a ride! Still, looking at the interior and thinking, "This is a house...."

In any case I am really looking forward to spending the weekend on the water and learning a new thing. Hopefully the wind will be blowing as hard in the morning as it was tonight.

School's out for sailing


The boat we will use in class

We learned boat parts, rules & regulations and how to tie 6 basic knots in class tonight. Tomorrow morning we're on the boat. I stood in the parking lot of the sailing school and looked up at a 41 ft Hunter, and it seems a lot smaller than one would think. I didn't get to see the inside, but Tim did before class. He said he was also surprised at how small the inside was. Maybe I can't live on a boat. It will be interesting to see the boat tomorrow with 7 of us on board.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sailor talk vs. Pilot talk

I am finding the new language a bit daunting as well…mainsheet, boomvang, (love the word, still not sure what it means) outhaul, downhaul, cunningham, telltails, genoa, spinnaker, clew, leech, luff, head, (not the one you pee in) tack, (this word apparently means several different things), jib, heel, in irons, close hauled – which is not the same as a close reach – which is not the same as a beam reach or broad reach, and none of which actually have anything to do with reaching for something. And apparently (at least it seems this way from the videos we have watched) all sailor words are pronounced with a slight New England accent.

Why can’t they use normal words like pitot, VeeRef, nacelle, buckets, (not the boat kind used to haul water) leading edge, (luff to a sailor) trailing edge, (leech to a sailor) trailing link, yoke, boards, slats, EFIS and stall? (All spoken with a slight West Virginia drawl.) Then it would make sense. For example, when a pilot “stalls,” the wing on the airplane stops going forward and starts falling down. What else would it mean? But when a sail “stalls” the sailor is “in irons,” the boat stops going forward and starts going backward. "In irons?" What does irons have to do with anything; hand-cuff kind of irons, get the wrinkles out of your shirt kind, change the tire on your motorcycle kind? Irons? A pilot would use a completely different word for "in irons."

Even when I learn the words I am a bit self-conscious using them. I am a pilot and using pilot words is just natural. But I am not a sailor. In fact, except for one story from my childhood about me going for a sailboat ride, (an event I don’t actually remember) I have never set foot on a sailboat. Surely I have never actually tried to steer a sailboat. And I'm sure "steer" is the wrong word. I know the driver stands at the "helm" but I don't think you can "helm" a boat. "Crash" is a word everyone uses, though a sailor can also "run aground," "pitch-pole"
suffer a "knock-down" capsize and sink (not the thing you wash your hands in.)

So when I use sailor words I feel like a poser; like some kid hanging around the airport boasting about his “ILS to Minimums” when you know for a fact he has never even seen the inside of a cloud. I suppose this will change with time. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll get a laugh out of the person who glances at the top corner of the mainsail with a puzzled look on their face when I say, “I’m going to the head.” (That is the one you pee in.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Learning a new language

After nearly 20 years as a pilot I was rather surprised to find a lifestyle with a language more complex than aviation. We picked up our books for our ASA101 course today and the list of terms is daunting to say the least. I'm sure that some day this language will become second nature, but for the time being it is very much like putting on new school clothes in September that feel too stiff and not broken in. When is a rope not a rope? When it's a sheet or a halyard or a lifeline or a rode or...

Friday, September 7, 2007

Back to School

One week from now we start ASA101 Basic Keelboat Certification. I printed out the list of things that you have to know to pass the test and wow! I better get busy studying! I'm sure that it will all make better sense once we're actually doing it, but for the time being it's all Greek. We start out Friday after work at 5:30 with classroom time. Saturday and Sunday are on the water all day both days. The class is given on a 31ft Hunter.

Here's the link to some information about the boat:
http://www.huntermarine.com/Models/31/31Gallery.html

Here's a link to some information about the school:
http://www.stlouissailing.com/pages/lessons/asa101.html

Thursday, September 6, 2007

I'm so excited - I just stumbled on a fully certified ASA101 sailing course right here in the Saint Louis area. St. Louis Sailing Center offers a course on Lake Carlysle very near here in Illinois in just a few weeks.

Here we go!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

My take on the weekend ride.

It really was a fun weekend. I picked up a bit of metal in the back tire leaving Hot Springs, AR (Where I spent the night after leaving Dallas, TX.) and limped into a place called Russellville on a plug. The Suzuki dealer there took good care of me and I was back on the road with a brand new, super sticky sport tire. Good thing too, since I spent Saturday riding with the “fast boys.” Actually, I just hung on to their rear fenders figuring if their bikes would lean over that far, my bike would learn over that far as well. Turns out I was right and managed not to embarrass myself. I even did a pretty good job of buggering up my brand new back tire by sliding it out of the corners. FUN! There is nothing like trashing a $300 tire in a couple of hundred miles.

Deb and I put in more then 400 miles on Sunday riding at a slightly less insane pace, though still fast enough that Mr. Poe-Poe might have taken us to visit the local jail had he been able to catch us. (I was following Deb watching her slide her rear tire out of the corners!)

I don’t think I’ll be up to such shenanigans in another 10 years or so though. But I did watch a short video of a sailing cat making 20 knots through big waves, and that looked like fun as well. And you know what? That Cat wasn’t leaning over nearly as far as my GSXR.

Monday, September 3, 2007

We just got back from a long weekend of very fast motorcycle riding on great Arkansas roads. I'm wondering if I would miss that, or would the adrenaline rush be replaced by enough things in sailing that I wouldn't miss it? Will I be ready to give it up by the time I'm ready to buy the boat?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Boat

We are, realistically, 6-10 years from retirement. The reasons behind this are money, money, and money. In order to pay cash for the boat (we don't want a loan on it) we have to have enough equity in the house to sell the house and buy the boat. We are 4 years into a 15 year mortgage on the house, so (assuming the housing market doesn't do a total dive) by the end of 10 years we would have enough to buy a decent boat and enough in savings to live on it. So we have decided on a range of prices based on what we think the housing market will do in that time period.

We started out looking at houseboats, only because I was worried about so many small spaces and felt I could live on a houseboat that we saw that actually had more square footage than the duplex we currently live in. We could take nearly all of our stuff, including my husband's rather obscenely large toolbox, and would actually be able to take our motorcycles onto the boar's deck. The only problem with this boat choice is that we would not be able to take it in the ocean, and while a good bit of our family lives accessible by rivers, some of it is only accessible by ocean. Nix the houseboat, on to an ocean-going power boat.

The ocean-going power boat still has big rooms and a spacious deck. Not big enough for the toolbox or the motorcycles, but plenty big enough to avoid issues with the small spaces. The ocean-going boat has the advantage of traveling to all family members in good time but has one very distinct disadvantage. Unless we win the lottery, we can't afford to put fuel in it. Nix the ocean-going power boat. Enter the sailboat.

While the idea of sailing is something that appeals greatly to me, and I have enjoyed the times I have sailed (I can count them on one hand by the way), the idea of my house tilting at a 45 angle seemed a bit much like living on my motorcycle in a perpetual corner. Nix the sailboat. Enter the catamaran.

Ahhhhhh. After much looking and talking and internet searching and book reading and talking to boat owners, we may have finally found our boat type. Sails well. No expensive fuel required except for docking and generating power. Stays upright while sailing. Has a spacious, open, airy salon. The more we look at these boats the more we like them. We have plans to take a week-long, liveaboard sailing class on a catamaran next year. This class will be the telling point. It may be, after living on a catamaran with 4 other people for a week, we may smile at each other and say what a nice vacation we had, and go on to other retirement plans. Then again, we may get off the cat and decide we need to find some way to make it work a lot sooner than 10 years.

Stay tuned...


The Dream Boat?
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Monday, August 27, 2007

The Reasons

I've thought a lot about why I want to retire to a sailboat. Aside from the obvious, that both of us love the ocean and boats, I have found other reasons to do this, some of them rather enlightening.

One of the results of my "turning 50" evaluation was a desire to live more simply. It occurred to me that there would be a tremendous advantage in getting rid of all this stuff now, while I'm still alive, rather than leaving it for my children to do after I'm gone. Have you asked yourself in a while "Where did all this stuff come from? How much of it have I actually touched in the last 12 months?" Wouldn't it be great to put some of your stuff into your kids' garages?

Most days I find I'm wishing the day would pass quickly at work. It occurred to me the other day that I'm 51 and I'm wishing away days. Even to me this doesn't seem to make much sense, which leads me to reason #2. I really want to live every moment of my life. I want to treasure the ocean smells, or the smell of someone's fresh catch frying in the pan. I want to hear the sounds of gulls, of water lapping against the hull, of people chatting across the dock. I want to stretch out in the hammock and feel the sun warm on my face. I want to work hard all day and have the sore muscles to prove it instead of a sore behind from sitting at a desk all day. Some would say I'm suffering a mid-life crisis. I don't know that I would call it a crisis, but I have become intensely aware that there are less days in front of me than behind and I don't want to waste a single one of them. There's a saying (and I can't remember who said it) that goes something like "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do". Not much more I can add to that.

Those are my philosophical reasons, but there are indeed some practical ones. Our family is spread all over the place and sailing would provide an interesting way to visit.

Living on a sailboat is generally less expensive than living on land, allowing us to retire earlier (see reason #2).

I really really like to travel.

The Retirement Project is newly begun and I'm sure there will be many more reasons that emerge as we move along. At this moment in time, suffice it to say that there are more reasons to do it than not. Good enough for me. How 'bout you?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Dream

The Retirement Project
(or how to move onto a sailboat)

For our entire married life we have wanted to live near the ocean and have managed only to continue to move farther away from it. With the advent of our 50th birthdays came the usual sorts of life evaluations that one goes through. At what have I succeeded? What contributions have I made? What do I have left that I want to do before I die? Living on the water was high on both our lists.

One day while we were visiting a marina on the river nearby, we happened into a conversation with a boat broker about liveaboard boats. It started a train of thought that grew day by day. We began searching the internet, talking to boaters, reading books, and somewhere in the course of all that, the mist of a dream began to seem tentatively possible. A few more weeks, a few more trips to marinas, a few more internet searches and we have somehow transitioned to the solidly possible.

For any who share the dream, and for our family members who might not understand, this is our story. We don't know where it will take us, but welcome along for the ride!