Monday, October 29, 2007


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


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:

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


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...