Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Aerial View

I went past the lake this morning...at about 500 mph and 4 miles in the sky. The Gateway Four departure out of the St. Louis area runs just about over the north end of Lake Carlyle. I could pick out the Marina but was a bit too high to see individual boats on the parking lot, though I assume little Nomad is resting fine in her metal cradle. It has been nearly a month since I sat in her cockpit, travel and illness keeping me away from the lake. And I can't say that I like it much.

For those of you wondering...no, our little "near jet" doesn't normally climb while doing better than 500 MPH over the ground. But a tailwind of nearly 130 MPH sure helps. Level at 37,0000 feet, a TAS of 465 MPH and a tailwind of 160 MPH, had us hauling the mail eastbound just at 625 MPH. We made St. Louis to New Bedford, MA in less than 2 hours. Sadly we are due out of here in an hour or so, heading to the Baltimore area for the night. Otherwise I would be visiting Daughters, Sons-in-Law, and grand kids today!

Flying over the coast into the New Bedford airport was a blast. We passed over two aircraft carriers sitting at a dock a few miles east of here. The multiple islands fanning out into the open ocean, the marinas, the towns nestled right up to the shores, this is a place I am looking forward to seeing from the deck of a sailboat someday soon.

Here's what it looks like from around 30,000 feet! Kind of hard to pick out the details.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Depth of Field

I spend a good bit of my week at work doing graphics for marketing materials for the aviation parts company that I work for. I was working on some pictures this past week of a group of long hoses that our hose shop sells and my manager chose the picture he wanted for a brochure but made the comment that he wanted a longer depth of field on the hoses. "You need to get these fully in focus, Deb." he said.

It's funny how very small, simple statements like that can have a profound impact. Later that evening I began reading the copy of The Voyager's Hanbdook by Beth Leonard that had just arrived courtesy of Amazon. She spends a good deal of time in the early chapters talking about the cost of cruising and encourages her readers to honestly evaluate their financial readiness to embark on the path to the fulfillment of their dreams. After completing the chapter I opened a new Excel file and began to jot some figures down.

Somewhere between "Current Savings" and "Annual Income - Post Retirement" a remarkable shift began to take place. Until this point, my dream of retiring to a sailboat has been something akin to sailing along in New England fog...a vague image of a boat and shores unknown, with no clear picture of the details. In fact, the "dream boat" has been some odd conglomerate of catamaran and monohull, the journey somewhere between Cape Cod and the "Islands", and the time frame somewhere between now and "I've fallen and I can't get up...the companionway". Thanks to Beth Leonard's countless hours of research and personal cruising experience, and the volunteered information from so many of her cruising friends, out of the fog sailed a mid to late 80's 36-40 foot, cutter-rigged monohull firmly in the middle of my figures. Depth of field is still a little shallow, the boat isn't fully in focus yet, but my dream has gone from maybe...possibly...want it to be...to a budget in my spreadsheet. A budget that I can make work. A budget that can buy a real blue-water crusing boat. But what boat, you say? Hmmmmmmm I'm focusing...stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Downsizing. It is a constant theme among those who are working on moving off the land. Deb and I did a little downsizing this past week. I drove the truck nearly 2600 miles last week, from St. Louis to Pittsburgh to Cape Code and back to St. Louis. Once home I cleaned it up, ran it through the car wash, drove it over to a dealer and traded it in on a Nissan 350Z. We hope this is the last car we ever buy and that it will be the one that we drive to the boat. I'm pretty sure this doesn't fit most people's idea of "downsizing" since the car cost about the same per month as the truck, the insurance is a little more, and we used up some savings to make the deal happen. But the Z will fit in the garage and, when we do head for the boat, it will get us there faster!

The main purpose of the truck trip was to deliver the last of Kristin and Brian's belongings to their new home in Cape Cod. Scheduling pressures kept my time there to barely 36 hours but it was an excellent visit. Saying good-by to Amber, Kristin, Mike, Brian, Catherine, May-may and Christopher, so much of my heart living in one place, was pretty hard. The idea of having a boat anchored not far off their shore for summers, of having various "crew visits" in warm waters during winters, is quickly becoming less of an idea and goal and more of an...obsession maybe?

Our plans for a summer "open water" excursion in the Gulf, using a 38 foot mono-hull, is looming as a kind of turning point. We have very little experience in salt water, virtually no experience in open water, have never done an overnight sail, never been on a sailboat that was out of sight of land, and haven't spent more than a few days in a row living in a mono-hull. In fact, when I list it that way, it seems like we might have a long way to go and that there is much waiting to be discovered in our little jaunt around the Gulf. Still, if the $$ was there I think we would leave tomorrow and figure out a way to make it work. Which, I'm pretty sure, meets the definition of "obsession."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Land Legs

I don't like them, land legs that is. This is the first weekend since March that we stayed home and did house things instead of being on the boat. I was the dutiful homeowner, raking leaves, cleaning out our backyard fountain, doing laundry, sweeping the garage, picking up a load of firewood for the winter...

...and counting the days till March. I've been reading John Kretschmer's Flirting with Mermaids this week and I can completely identify with his description of himself. After a few short days of being landlocked he's chomping at the bit, ready to be at sea again. Carlyle Lake may not be "the sea" in any sense of the word, but it's good enough for now and I'm ready enough to be on it again.

Defining adventure

According to Goggle earth, it is 2266 NM miles from Cape Cod to the Bahamas to Charleston, SC and back to Cape Cod. According to Flighttrak (The flight scheduling software we use at work.) we did 2115 NM on Friday, not quite the same distance but pretty close.

We racked up those miles going from St. Louis to Gulfport, MS then to Ft. Lauderdale, FL on to Freeport in the Bahamas, back to Ft. Lauderdale and finally back to St. Louis. Five legs, a pass through Customs in Freeport and and Ft. Lauderdale, a bumpy passage off the coast of FL though some building cue's, 1 night landing and 7 hours 42 minutes spent sitting in the cockpit during a 13 hour duty day. By the time we coasted to a stop at home base I felt like I had swum those miles.

For some reason, while taking a year to sail up and down the East Coast seems a huge adventure, flying SUS - GPT - FXE - MYGF - FXE - SUS? Not so much. I guess it is all a matter of what you are used to. And maybe its a matter of time spent as well. A year of sailing would include innumerable small events, strange sights, new places, multiple anchorages, storms, calm days, broken equipment, and many new stories to tell. A day slinging around around the bottom right corner of the country? Well...there were some big boats in the waters between FL and Freeport, my coworker managed two near perfect landings vs my three, kind of average, thunkers and clearing Customs? Even the office at Ft. Lauderdale, (the bane of my customs encounters over the years) was a pleasant, quick affair. Hard to label Friday's travels as much of an adventure.

Still, it beats sitting in an office all day long.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Naked Nomad

Nomad came out of the water today. It was a wet and somewhat chilly enterprise since it rained most of the day. Schmitty backed the travel lift down the ramp while I tossed the lines and got ready to sail, single hand, all the way across the marina. (Kidding, but it was the first and only time so far that Nomad and I have been out on the water alone.) There was only a tiny bit of wind so the little boat just coasted to a stop in the center of the lift and waited patiently while we set the slings and lifted her clear of the lake. A few minutes later she was sitting on her keel in the middle of the cradle, her mast just another stick in the forest that used to be the marina parking lot.

I was going to take a bunch of pictures of the boat shorn of Bimini, sails, and sheets and sitting contently on the hard, but I wasn't sure which would get me in deeper trouble, dropping Nomad out of the travel lift or ruining Deb's camera in the rain. Since Nomad settled into her cradle with no drama I figured I would err on the side of caution...the camera stayed tucked away and safe in the truck. I'm sure there will be pictures later, she isn't going anywhere for a while!

You know the season is truly over now. Not only is the boat dry, (except for the incessant rain) winterized and without canvas, but she is also empty of Rum, Coke and beer! I know, 'cause I went looking for a little sustenance to fend off the wet and chill after the first couple of hours of work and came up empty. Ah well, I was about to start the drive home anyway.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Really it's the last sail (really)

I can tell you that because the sails are in their bags in my garage. We took Nomad out Saturday morning with our friend Kort. He had just finished pulling off his bowsprit that got damaged in one of the races this past season and, being boatless, was looking for a ride. It was pretty cool so the very low wind speeds didn't bother any of us. We just drifted along at 2 knots across the lake and back and had a great time telling and listening to stories.

As far as we could tell we were the only boat out there besides Patriot.

The rest of the day was spent helping various people get their boats ready to pull and telling and listening to more stories. (In case you haven't figured it out yet from reading this blog, telling and listening to stories is probably the number one past time of sailors.) We finished the day off with a good dinner shared with our friend Barry and a spectacular sunset.

Sunday morning dawned foggy, cool, and still. The promised 10-15 knots wasn't materializing but there was enough breeze to go. Our friends Bill and Pam agreed to go along, their first sail on Nomad. The wind was out of the north and quite a bit chillier than Saturday. It was good to have a thermos of coffee and some freshly delivered Girl Scout cookies we bought from Kort's daughter.

When we came back to the marina we began the long job of removing the sails and the bimini and all of the extra lines for the winter and packing them into the truck.

There's a bittersweet mood hanging over the marina these last few weeks of the season. It's some of the best sailing of the year with good wind, no bugs, little traffic on the lake...but ever present the knowledge that this is the last sailing of the season followed by months of gray and cold and slush and early dark and long hard hours of catching up on all of the house repairs and work projects that have been ignored for the sailing season.

As I walk the dock toward the truck pushing the dock cart full of our summer life, I keep asking myself why it is that I don't live somewhere that I can do this full time. Can't find an answer. Guess I'll have all winter to come up with a good one.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Still an airplane driver...

Sailors approach their DC electrical systems with a laid back, caviler attitude that has always bothered me for some reason. Most of them understand DC systems a lot better than your average shade-tree car mechanic. They talk about house banks, charging systems, starting batteries and electrical load with the easy familiarity of people who know of what they speak. There is absolutely nothing "wrong" with what they say or how they operate their boats. And yet, as soon as I shut off the engine on any sailboat, this little voice echos in my head, "we are draining the batteries!" It bugs me to no end.

Then, last week, I checked out in a new kind of little single engine airplane. (New to me anyway.) It had an all glass panel and autopilot but only one generator and one battery. And I remember thinking there was no way I would take that thing into a night, cloud-filled, sky. It simply didn’t have enough DC system for all those fancy electronics. Aha!

My internal pilot warning system flashes code red at even the thought of running on battery power only. The first item on the check list for a full DC generator failure in the jet is to switch to “EMERGENCY POWER.” That action severely limits the amount of electrical load on the battery by shutting down all but the most important systems on the airplane. The check list then notes that even with a fully charged battery, there is but 30 minutes remaining before the battery is dead. Given the wrong set of circumstances (see below) everyone on board may well end up the same. "Batteries only” ranks high on the aviator's “up the creek without a paddle” list, topped only by being on fire or having a wing break off. (I did a one engine inoperative, full DC failure in night, IFR skies with an approach to minimums, during my last training session in the simulator. It took me two tries to get it right and yes, that means I crashed on the first try. I owed my training partner a beer that night…for killing him.)

A sailor treats his or her batteries like the driver of a car does a gas tank. Fill it (them) up with petrol (electrical potential) and head off. When it gets close to empty (or they get close to dead) stop and fill it up again (or bring some system online to top them off). A sail boat will run for days and days on battery power only. That is the normal state of affairs. Screw up and run the batteries dead (or the tank empty for that matter) and it will probably be nothing but a bit of an embarrassment. It may be a minor inconvenience. Shoot, it might even be a major pain in the butt. But only in the rarest of circumstances would it put one’s life in immanent danger.

In airplanes battery power (And gas of course!) are life and death consumables.

So I guess I am still an airplane driver pretending to be a sailor. Now that I figured it out though, maybe it won't bug me so much?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Last, last sail

Really...well maybe, and maybe not. Deb and I are planning on spending next weekend on the boat and then pulling her on that Monday. Maybe that will be the last, last, last sail. But today was winds of F-4, clear blue skies, and 70 degree temps...in November no less! How could we miss a day like this? So Kristin, Brian, Christoper, Deb and I piled into the truck this morning and headed to the (very, very full) lake. The marina was a busy place today. Lots of people were pulling boats, others were getting boats ready to pull, and a couple of us were lucky enough to go sailing and worry about pulling boats later.

There was only 5 feet or so of breakwater showing above the waves and Nomad had 15 feet of water under her keel sitting in the slip. There is so much water in the lake that the channel buoys were actually useful. Once clear we set a reef in the main (in deference to having little Christopher aboard once again) and flew the working jib. Nomad headed out at 4+ knots. For some reason that probably has to do with winds v shores v the shape of the lake, it was hard to find an outbound point of sail that wasn't in the trough. As a result it wasn't the best ride, Nomad rolling side to side as she shouldered though the waves.

Deb and I enjoyed the ride but I think it was a little harder one or two of our guests. Besides, though the temperatures weren't November temperatures, the sun is still a November, after the time change, sun. By early afternoon we were back in, various crew members lounging in various places; Brian in the hammock, Deb below, and Christopher curled up in Kristin's arms. Eventually we closed up the boat and head off though both Grandpa-T and Christopher pouted a bit at having to leave.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Shop visit

So it came to pass that we needed to take the jet over to the shop to get an engine ice protection system fixed. (This will lead to something about boats, promise.) I did some preliminary troubleshooting from the cockpit and decided that, for whatever reason, a bleed valve was not opening. This was obvious since the engine temperature wasn't climbing like it normally would with some hot bleed air being siphoned off the compressor stack. I know it sounds backwards but trust me, that's the way turbine engines work.

I am an ex-director of maintenance and a long time wrench, which makes me a major pain for a shop mechanic. Knowing that, I try to hang out in the pilot lounge where I belong, letting the full time techs work on the airplane without me being underfoot. But this problem had me curious and so I had to jump in. It turns out there was a bleed valve failing to open, but it wasn't the valve's fault. There is a relay controlled by a switch that holds the valve shut as long as the engine is running at less than 61% power; this whole system being a second power path running parallel to the primary ice control with its switch in the cockpit. That relay had failed keeping power on the valve all the time. I know that sounds backwards as well, but this system is powered off. This way, should the electrics fail for some reason on a dark and icy night, the engine ice protection system (which uses hot bleed air to melt the ice) will automatically come "on." (Smart folks, those airplane engineers.)

It has been a long time since I have been that deep into a system repair and I have to admit it was fun. I like figuring out how systems are supposed to work and then hunting down the reason that they don't. And I like doing this best on integrated systems; i.e. an ice protection system that uses DC electric power to control air valves that shunt compressor air to various parts of an airframe.

And that's how we get to the boat part. A boat may have DC power, AC circuits, electronics, winches, sails, generators (sometimes), water storage and distribution systems, ground tackle deploy and retract capabilities, and a diesel engine (or two) all integrated together into one big mobile machine that allows for both travel and living at the same time. How cool is that? Keeping one going just has to be the kind of thing an old wrench hand will find both challenging and (sometimes anyway) enjoyable.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Endings and beginnings

I was supposed to be off on a flying trip this weekend, the kids were supposed to leave Indy Friday for St. Louis, and Deb was just trying to keep it all coordinated. My trip canceled at the last minute, Kristin and Brain needed a few extra hours before heading out, and so (much to our delight) Deb and I made it to the boat Friday night after all. As always walking down the pier to open up the boat marked the true beginning of the weekend. I just love clambering around little Nomad, opening ports, removing covers, topping off batteries, doing the engine checks that are a part of every pre-departure check list, and (given the outside air temp, "OAT" to a pilot) cranking up the heater. I also added a dock line from the stern, across the now open slip next to us, to the finger pier. With all the rain the lake is 6 feet deeper than it was two weeks ago, the "break water" that much shorter, and the building winds out of the WSW were shoving the boat against her dock. The added line pulled us off the fenders making for a much quieter night.

Kristin, Brian and Christopher arrived Saturday morning freed from the burden of home ownership and ready to start their big adventure in Cape Cod; their first stop being a visit on Nomad in hopes of joining us on the final sail of the season. Friday night things were looking a bit "iffy" in the sailing department but Saturday dawned clear, not as cold as we had feared, and with the winds fading to a much more reasonable Force 3 to 4. Brain and I made short work of hanking on the working jib, running the sheets and pulling the covers. The crew got bundled up and off we went on a really nice reach toward Coles Creek.

The waves were in the 1 to 2 foot range, mostly left over from the night's blow. Without a reef in the main the boat would heel over pretty hard in the gusts, but with Captain Christopher in the cockpit I would loose the main sheet to keep Nomad on her feet. Deb worked the helm pretty hard with me constantly changing her sail, but between the two of us we managed a heading that worked while keeping Christopher (and Mama) happy.

Even with her main sail being badly abused Nomad danced down the lake at better than 5 knots, sometimes topping 6, and a couple of times pushing hull speed. It was almost as if she knew this was the last romp of the season and wanted to show Christopher and his Mom and Dad the best that sailing can be. The good speed also meant getting back to the dock before the baby could get too cold, making this last sail as perfect as one could hope.

Sometime in the next week or so Nomad will endure being hauled up on the land and stuck in a cradle. Hopefully our reports over the off season will be of projects being started, (and finished) improvements being made, and the little things done that all sailors seem to do to make their boats "better." My list is up to 20 items, about half of which I consider as "must get done."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Small Spaces

34 years ago Tim and I piled everything we owned into the back of our 1969 Chevy van and headed down the driveway of his parents' house on the way to Wichita, KS. Tim had to be there in 7 days to start his new job, and we were going there with no place to live. "Everything we owned" was comprised of a couple boxes of books, some clothes, a few wedding presents, and the most important items, our camping gear, because the plan was to live in the campground outside of town until we could find a place to call home. Over the years we had kids, who come with stuff, and we bought houses to put that stuff in, and we had more kids that needed bigger houses and more stuff, and then we made more money so we bought toys and we needed bigger garages to keep the toys in...well you get the picture.



This past weekend we helped Kristin and Brian pack up the last of their things and loaded them into a small U-Haul trailer. They needed the house empty so they could clean for the new owners who will take the keys and the associated mortgage this Friday at closing. They have chosen to take very little with them to Cape Cod because the space that they will occupy is small. When they leave Cape Cod to go to New York City they will still take very little with them because the spaces in New York are all very small.

It's a strange relationship with have with our material belongings and as I stood there looking at the packed trailer I ran the gamut of mixed emotions. To be unencumbered in this way is a wonderful thing, free of the weight of hours of labor to house and maintain all of the stuff we have accumulated, and I eagerly look forward to the day when I'm looking at the packed U-Haul trailer with the things that we've decided are important enough to take to the small space of our boat.

The problem is in getting to that point, dealing with all of this stuff, sorting, giving away, selling, dealing with the memories that each thing represents. I seriously could have called home from the catamaran course this past Spring and told them to sell it all and send me a check. It will be a painful process to be sure, but oh the rewards. Helping Kristin and Brian this weekend has helped me to stay focused, to keep that goal front and center and continue moving toward my own small space.

Now anybody need 6 vases in varying sizes and 8 picture frames and 3 non-working DVD players???

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Weekend Pictures

I spent most of the weekend sleeping, trying to knock this cold out of my system. As a result, Tim spent most of the weekend single-handing, depending on me only for the occasional manning the helm while he tacked. This was a gracious nod on his part, as he was clearly able to handle it on his own but just wanted to make me feel a little better.

I did manage to squeeze a few pictures in during those rare "bursts" of energy I had (meaning I was actually able to stand up for 2 minutes at one time). Since I was basically in a fog the rest of the weekend, the pictures will have to do for now.

Our visiting Pelican friends



One of the most amazing things I've ever seen. The pelicans lined up in this perfectly spaced line and flew within feet of the water surface. Absolutely stunning.


One loner left behind while he was stuffing his jowels with fish. If you're ever bored and want a laugh, read the children's book Round Robin



It was a little nippy - Tim in his new foulies


We were doing 5.5 knots downwind at one point wing-on-wing


I can't help but laugh when I look at this picture. It reminds me of Tim's folks' chairs side-by-side in their living room.


A little different view out our front door though...


And our picture window isn't quite as large


Saturday, October 17, 2009


The marina is a quiet place this weekend. The campground is closed for the season, a bunch of boats have already been pulled and sit on the hard, people are already in the "off season" mode. Deb and I already miss "coving out," but with night time temperatures dipping into the 30s, 110 volts of AC shore power to drive our little heater gets kind of necessary. Nomad will be at the dock when night falls. In spite of the cool temperatures and overcast skies Deb and I headed out this morning for what turned into a really nice sail.
The winds were steady, we put some good heel on the boat, and we made near the dam and back in just a few hours. With no bugs, no sweat running down my back, and the Bimini folded out of the way so we could catch the little bit of sunshine that peaked out once in a while, a bit of chill didn't matter. This is one of my favorite times of the year to be on the boat. Too bad it can't stay like this until spring.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Back at home port...

As it was last year, the highlight of the "Boat Show" wasn't the show at all. It was getting to spend time with Matt, Tiff, Campbell, John and Lara. It is a little odd to be "Uncle Tim" instead of "Grandpa-T" with Campbell, but we had a good time playing tickle and working on floor puzzles. John, Lara, Matt, Deb and I stayed up late Saturday evening around a bonfire at John and Lara's house catching up with family news and sharing stories. Unlike many whose cruising lifestyle takes them far from family, ours is aimed at making weekends like this past one happen more often.

The show itself was (as expected) a blast. Unlike last year we spent a good chunk of money on "boat stuff," though to be candid the biggest chunk went to a sewing machine that can make "boat stuff."

Even I was amazed at the capabilities of the Sailrite machine and I am looking forward to having Deb teach me the basics of using our new toy. After all, making sails and covers and dodgers is a lot like making stringers and skins and doublers, (airplane bits)...only the material is a little more flexible than is aluminum, and one uses stitches rather than rivets to hold it all together.

The "looking at boats" part of the boat show was a bit different from last year. I didn't expect to find a "perfect" boat that just popped out at me as "the ONE." I know enough now to know of some of the compromises that come with boat design; the stability of the cats traded against sailing hard on the wind, headroom vs. windage, draft vs. anchorage choices vs. performance. I know that engines need to make at least 1 hp for each foot of LWL (for me anyway) if the boat is to avoid being seriously underpowered. I appreciate the difference between a sloop rig (like Nomad's) , Solent and cutter rigs, (I like), and a ketch, (some people love them and there are some beautiful boats with such rigging, but it doesn't do anything for me). Looking back at my thoughts of last year is kind of fun, all of the top mono-hulls on my list this year are aft cockpit boats; Caliber 40LRC, Pacific Seacraft, Benetau 43, (yes a production boat). One of the Hunter boats even caught Deb's eye as a pretty nice live-a-board prospect.

The catamarans are still at the top of the dream with the Leapord 38 and the Lapari 41 ending up in a draw as far as "if I win the lottery." There may be no such a thing as a "perfect boat" but each of these gets pretty damn close. The Antares is sill the Queen of the fleet and the Lagoons have stunning interiors, but each appears to sit awfully high in the water to my "sailor's eye."

Mostly, just like last year, was the realization that any of these boats, (or most likely their older renditions) would make a fine place to call "home." With that in mind it is fun to debate the sea kindliness of a 38' cat vs. a 50' mono-hull. It is even more fun to realize that I'm pretty sure we would quickly learn to sail either one with a certain amount of expertise. Perhaps most exciting of all was discovering a place that will set us up to do an 8 day, blue water sail to deliver boats to the Islands for the charter season at a cost less than that of a sailing vacation. A chance to learn, earn another ASA rating, and sail a boat where we really want to end up some day...out of sight of land and heading for some distant port. In fact that is now at the top of our "do this next" list. Pretty good for a long weekend.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Boat Show - Take II

Leaving for the boat show! Well, not today but soon. We need to pack tonight since we are going to a concert Thursday night and head for Annapolis early Friday morning. (O-Dark-thirty early - "Can't pry my eyeballs open" early - "This is still last nigh" early. You know, EARLY.)

A few months ago it looked like the boat show was going to be pretty sparse. It seemed the manufacturers were anticipating a small crowd with no $$ to spend and so were saving $$ of their own by staying home. But in recent weeks it looks like they (the manufacturers) decided to be a bit more optimistic after all. The most recent boat list suggests that the docks will be full of all kinds of neat stuff. Though everything at the show is going to be far out of our price range, there are still a couple of boats I am looking forward to boarding for a tour; in particular the Dufor 40, the Fountaine Pajot Lipari 41 and the Southerly 42RST. (At the moment I think the Lipari 41 would be the boat I would be writing a check to cover, should I hit the lottery.)

Even better than the boat show is the chance to see Matt, Tiff, Campbell, John and Lara again. A year is too long. (Little Campbell will not be so little this trip!) Some day we hope to drop anchor in Annapolis and have the whole crew on board to visit us.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Of Pelicans and Cormorants

A vanguard of giant white pelicans flew over the marina Saturday morning. As I stood in the parking lot and watched them glide by I had to smile, even though their arrival means that our second season on Nomad is coming to a close. Of course anyone who doesn't smile at such a sight is a sad, sad excuse for a human being, but I had another reason as well. Deep inside the aviation community, hidden in a place mostly closed to outsiders, is a bit of slang. (I think this bit was popularized by Ernest K. Gann - perhaps the best aviation story teller of all time.) It is a name given to the grayest of graybeards, the survivors, those more at home in the sky than they are anywhere else - "Pelicans."

No one ever claims to be a "pelican." (To do so would mark the claimer as an utter fraud.) It is a term one uses in describing the best...Pappy Schaum was a pelican; WWII B25 pilot, shot at and shot up but never shot down, he taught me more about staying alive in the sky than any 10 "instructors". I have known one or two others in my life, but they are a rare breed. Anyway, I stood looking up this past weekend and smiled, reminded of the pelicans I have known. And then I got to thinking, I am so new to the sailing world that I don't even know the slang sailors have for their "pelicans." There must be one, a term of respect used only for those who have long braved the sea, whose years and miles covered, knowledge, expertise and just plain skill, loft them into a league joined by the very few. I suspect though, as I have come so late to this new game, that I will probably never meet such a one. Even if I did I would probably remain unaware. A thing about pelicans, they are so far advanced that is takes a bit of expertise just to spot one.

Later that day, as Deb and I worked our way down the lake, tacking endlessly against the southwest wind, we were enveloped by a huge gaggle of cormorants. Cormorants have an air about them, not as majestic as giant white pelicans, but a kind of gritty, blue-collar sort of bird. I envision cormorants as being expert enough to spot the pelicans for what they are, but not being overly impressed. After all, there is much to be said for being expert enough to get to the end of each day.

For all my musing the best part of the weekend was that Deb and I simply went sailing. Saturday was cool, with blustery winds that made getting where we wanted to go tricky and getting back to the slip simple. (Adding to the tricky part was various races taking place around the lake. Lots of people asked if we were racing but Nomad went her own way this weekend. Good choice. In one race two boats tried to occupy the same bit of lake at the same time - and a bit of damage was done to each.) Sunday morning dawned clear and calm. After some hemming and hawing around we decided to go out anyway. We were far from alone. All over the north end of the lake boats were flying full sails but barely moving. After a couple of hours of enjoying being on the water, Deb reading a book and me catching too much sun on the foredeck, the wind filled in just enough to fill Nomad's big drifter. Soon we were making a bow wake, then added some bubbles, and next thing you know we were doing close to 3 knots on an almost utterly flat lake. It was a pretty nice way to finish out a weekend.

The Fleeting Moment

One might think that I might want to report on a major happening this weekend, this being a blog, and blogs being the place where one reports major happenings in one's life. It was, after all, the weekend of the Commodore's Cup, the last big race of the Boulder Yacht Club racing season. But the most phenomenal thing that happened this weekend happened in the span of about 30 seconds, one of those fleeting moments that gets frozen in your memory of time like a superb snapshot in a prized album.

We were tracking down the lake toward the dam at a pretty good clip. The wind was clocking a pretty steady 16-18 knots with some higher gusts and we were enjoying it immensely even though it was a bit nippy at 53 degrees and the sun was hiding out behind the dark gray fall clouds. All of a sudden we were completely surrounded by the most cormorants I've ever seen in one place. We couldn't possibly know, but there literally must have been thousands of them. They were flying low to the water, jockying for positions in many long Vs as they prepared to head south.

(by Rafal Tarnas)

It took your breath away. It was amazing. And it lasted 30 seconds. That 30 seconds summarizes in so many ways why I want to move onto the boat full time and go cruising - because if you're not out there doing it, you'll never see things like those cormorants we saw today. The moments are so fleeting and at such unexpected times, that you just have to be there to catch it. And there we were, right in the middle of them, close enough to hear their wings flapping as they succumbed to the instinct of millennia.

Kind of makes me understand their desire to go south...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Life Laps

Nomad did two laps of the lake on Sunday. The first with Captain Christopher (age 9 months) in charge. Kristin, Brian and Christopher joined us Saturday morning for a weekend on the boat. We did do a short sail Saturday, but a building storm and nearby lightning made getting back to the dock look like a really good idea. (The lightning was close enough to prompt me into taking the instruments off line and below, and not letting anyone else get near the mast.)



Christopher loves being on the boat, and he is surely in charge. He takes the helm whenever he likes, plays with winches, and likes working the jib sheets. (Mom keeps him restricted to the lazy sheet. Christopher might be the Captain, but Mom is still Mom!) He is also pretty good at giving orders. "Gggrrr..." means "turn to port." "Rrrrrr..." equals "trim that main sheet please" And "EEEeeeeiiiiii...!" translates into "Wow this is FUN!" Or maybe, "What do you think you are doing Grandpa T?" I'm not sure about that one.

The Kids needed to head for home Sunday, so after our morning sail in Force 3 winds we headed for the dock. In the channel Kristin's phone rang with GOOD NEWS, they have a solid offer on their house in Indy, an offer equal to the max they had realistically hoped to get. They are about to start a new lap in their life, the big adventure to the East Coast is underway. (Of course for DeeMa and Grandpa T, there is a tinge of sadness in this good news. Kristin, Brian and Christopher will soon be far, far away; joining Amber, Mike, Catherine, May-may, and baby-on-the-way in Cape Cod.) Later Deb and I went out again, the Force 5 - 6 winds being just too inviting to ignore. We left the main full and joined the fleet of other boats all scooting around in the waves. There was even a kite-boarder out playing. (The first one of those we have seen in Carlyle.)

It was a fun sail. Hard on the wind Nomad came close to burying a rail a couple of times. And one of these days we are going to remember; when the heel reaches 35 degrees to port everything above the starboard settee, books, water jugs, hats, all of it, will fly across the cabin. No big deal during a day sail on our little lake, but something to keep in mind for living on board and heading off on a multi-day journey. Heading back to the marina was really fun. The bearing for home put us on Nomad's best point of sail, a deep reach just short of a run. On that heading the waves were hitting the stern slightly off the starboard quarter, a soft hit since our speed nearly matched that of the waves. The result was near magic, coasting toward the slip like a kid heading down a long, straight slope on an old coaster bike. At one point the GPS claimed we were making 6.5 knots, a record for us (we think). But one would never know it from the ride, Nomad's easy motion belying our speed. Closing up the boat was a bit somber. Not only was it the end of a perfect weekend, it is getting near the end of the season. It was also (probably) one of the last times Christopher will be Nomad's Captain. Soon he will be living pretty far away. I guess we just have to find a way to get the boat to him.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Musings on Why

I crossed paths with a guy at the airport today. He used to hang out in the office next to mine, providing mechanical support for one of the Lear Jets parked in the hangar. On a recent Thursday he came to work and was told Friday would be his last day...after 30 years. By Friday afternoon he had no benefits, no health insurance, and no income. To keep the bank from taking his house he was forced to accept the Company's offer of "contract work" at half his old per hour pay, come when they call, take it or leave it. It might not be enough to save his house, but it may put off the inevitable for a couple of months. Near the end of his career anyway, (like me) finding another job, particularly one in this area, is going to be nigh on impossible. A lifetime of effort and service dismissed without care, sacrificed to some department "bottom line" somewhere. It is every working person's nightmare come true.

I have a pilot friend who is in the same fix. Looking for any job he can find in order to keep the bank at bay long enough to find a flying job somewhere, anywhere, that he can afford to move to, is his full time occupation. Younger than I am and with with two kids at home, his horizons are looking bleak these days as well. Aviation is dying. The skill sets those of us who make a living in the sky developed to stay alive are not readily transferred to some other occupation.

There is an old saw that is not really funny anymore.
Question: "What do you call a pilot who is not sitting in a cockpit?"
Answer: "Unskilled labor."

What does all this have to do with Deb and I and little Nomad? Maybe not a lot. On the other hand, maybe more than it appears at first. Nomad isn't big, but we could live on her if we needed to. She can't sail oceans, but she can handle rivers and coastal cruising, at least for a while. (And as long as we are careful with the weather!) She isn't paid off either, but that we could manage even if we took a beating on the house, cars, motorcycles, tools, furniture and other sundry items that would not fit on a Com-Pac 27. We wouldn't end up quite where we are trying to go. But with a boat to live on, skills to trade for necessities, and destinations to sail toward, we would be 90% of the way. It wouldn't be ideal, but it would be better than a lot of people have and we would find a way to make it work.

(An aside for those who are thinking "health insurance." Yep, that would be a problem, but consider this. Regardless of how our health insurance is administered, be it "socialized medicine," profit only care driven by HMOs and insurance companies, or the ministrations of the local witch doctor; if we have the best of the best or none at all... We live, we get sick or hurt, and we die. And maybe, just maybe, those last few months or years, hanging on in pain, with diminished capabilities, minds gone, bodies out of control, racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars of bills that someone, somewhere, is going to have to pay, maybe that isn't the best we can do?)

So I'm thinking that is the "why" of trying to live on a boat. Isolated a bit from the tyranny of the "profit motive," (something I am finding more and more distasteful as I grow older) with maybe just a little distance between me and the shore where the "powers-that-be" hold absolute sway, low enough to be below the radar as it were, (In spite of mast height!) little Nomad offers an option, a place a bit safe and slightly out of reach of those who care nothing about me at all. Religious fanatics, political fundamentalists, the power hungry, those who are sure they know more about how I should live than I do, maybe they can't swim that well?

Besides, living on a boat is just plain cool.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A short visit

They put fresh chip & seal on the short, park-entrance road, that leads to the marina. Add a little rain (actually more than a little) and throw in me riding Deb's ZX-14 after a hard run from recurrent training in Toledo, and you get a few moments of "front-wheel-pushing-toward-the-ditch" excitement. (I had departed Toledo yesterday afternoon and made it to near Indy before running out of daylight and energy. This morning I hit the road just as the sun was broaching the horizon in my mirrors, slogged through a couple of hundred of miles of rain, and turned onto the new gravel around 10:30 in the morning. Fun ride!)

Ditching a dripping helmet and damp gloves I headed straight to the coffee pot for a fresh cup of warmth. Then I headed out on the porch to say my "hellos" to the assembled and to peel off a couple of layers of damp riding cloths. I have to admit that my heart skipped a little beat when I spotted Deb walking along the dock, heading to the clubhouse from the boat. I had been nearly a week on the road but seeing her headed my way with Nomad in the background and the lake all fuzzy in the rain induced fog, I knew I was home.

There was no wind in spite of the rain showers so Nomad didn't leave the dock. She just rocked easy while we ate lunch and caught a bit of a nap. (Dawn being a long time and hundreds of miles past!) After that we closed her up, I dumped the bags in the car, and we headed for St. Louis.

It was a short visit, but at the end of a long week? Perfect.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Land living...

We discovered this morning that our truck got broken into...again. I just read an article where State Police are going to be allowed to draw my blood whenever they like (to see if I have been drinking). I am working through the 52 some odd possible requirements I have to fulfill if I want to bring a plane load of American citizens (and company Big Wigs) back into America in a airplane Registered and built in America and flown by an American pilot, me. But before that trip goes I have to get a new American Issued Pilot License that has an endorsement to the effect that I can speak English.

I am about to head off to recurrent training where I have to produce a passport, (my FAA issued Pilot License will not do) to prove that I am an American BEFORE I can even enter a classroom; the class to be held on an airplane I have been flying for 3 years now. During the simulator part of the training I have to produce a valid Medical certificate even though the sim is bolted solidly to Mother Earth and can't possibly crash into anything, even if I die sitting in the left hand seat while in the middle of a "flight."

(Though I try and stay away from politics on this blog, politics is part of living. If you will indulge me for just one moment, the Transportation Security Agency is now an agency completely out of control, and clearly more of a threat than some rag-tag band of dark-ages religious fanatics literally hiding under a bunch of rocks in some utterly forsaken rat hole on the other side of the world.)

During my travels this morning to visit the shop where our airplane is in maintenance, then to meet Deb to pick up the truck and drop it off at its own shop, I saw 5 (Count 'em FIVE!) State Sanctioned Harassment Teams lurking along the side of the road, (otherwise known as "Traffic Cops"). Their sole goal being to pick people at random (people just going about their daily business) and subject them to some government sanctioned extortion. I guess handing out tickets to Soccer Moms is cost effective, stopping car break ins not so much.

Of course the stories abound as to Coast Guard goon squads tramping all over cruiser boats being operated by retired couples, endless paperwork hassles just trying to enter a port to buy a little fuel and groceries, and pirates. So maybe water living is subject to much the same constant hassle level as land living?

Then again...maybe not.

It is hard to imagine that it can be any worse. And either way, at least at the end of the day, one could sit in one's cockpit rocked gently by the sea, toast the setting sun, and draw a bit of comfort from the fact that neither the sky nor the sea pays any attention at all to the follies of human kind.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Two-boat, half-weekend.

It was good to step aboard Nomad and all was as we had left her 18 days ago. Settling into the routine of unbuttoning the boat on a perfect day reminded me of why we like this lifestyle so much. Kathy and Arild were headed for the lake as well to join us for a Friday night cove out and Saturday sail, only fair since their ranch had been the center of operations for last weekend's motorcycle shenanigans.

One other boat mumbled past us as our little motor carried us to Coles Creek. (Under power sailboats sort of putter along making a muted, gurgling kind of noise which suggests that, while they understand the need to move under mechanical urgings once in a while, they are not completely happy about it.) Nomad is no faster under power than she is under sail. By the time she had set her hook just inside the "NO WAKE" markers this other boat was already settled in for the night a few hundred feet away. Dinner was a feast that filled our cabin with good food and good talk. Later our guests disappeared into the V-berth while Deb and I were lazying around in the cockpit. We decided we were pretty comfortable so sleeping bags and pillows were hauled up the companionway. We spent a perfect night under the Bimini, Nomad barely moving in the quiet cove.

Light winds were forecast for Saturday so after an awesome breakfast (cheese omelets, sausage, raisin-cinnamon toast, and coffee for 4 off our little two-burner alcohol stove) we headed off into the lake flying our big drifter. It was slow going at first, just 2 knots or so, wing on wing going dead downwind. It seemed the dam was a long way away so we turned up the lake and into a freshening breeze; a breeze that became increasingly funky...gusting and fading while shifting 20 to 30 degrees at a time. Nomad would go from moving easily across a smooth lake to heeling hard in bumpy wavelets and then settle back again. At one point we actually dipped a rail into the water, (something Deb and I enjoyed, Arild laughed at, and Kathy found less than amusing). A somewhat weird but fun sail.

I expected a mid-day fade to the winds so we put into the dock thinking about heading home. (Kathy and Arild were teaching a class on Sunday; Deb and I needed to take Amber, Catherine and Mary to the airport after their visit.) But Barry was looking for crew for an end of the day run and I thought Kathy and Arild might enjoy a night sail on Juno as much as Deb and I do. And I was right. (Besides, turn down a night sail on Juno? No chance.)

Juno strutted her stuff romping up and down the lake in a solid wind. The stars glittered, Jupiter shone brightly, and waves foamed and hissed along the hull as Arild learned the fine art of tacking Juno's big jib. His task was complicated a bit as he had spent the day trying to learn to tack Nomad and the two boats are as different as night and day when it comes to getting them cleanly through the wind. Nomad wants her head sail backed solidly before tossing the lazy sheet and picking up the tension on the downwind side. (Learning the proper moment to let the jib cross the deck has taken Deb and I nearly two seasons of practice, and untold hundreds of tacks.) Juno needs no such coaxing. As soon as the jib starts to rattle toss the now lazy sheet and grind like crazy to pick up the tension on the other line. It is a matter of style and timing that is a lot harder to master than it sounds, and having two such completely different boats tossed at him on his first day on the winch was a challenge. Arild stuck with it and by the end of the night had graduated from landlubber to "grinder basic," which is still a rank or two below "deck monkey."

I got to be the deck monkey for the evening and had great fun. We changed head sails a couple of times, using the jib to cross the lake, setting a big spinnaker for the down wind run to the dam, and then back to the jib for the beat into the wind which was, by then, blowing directly out of the heading to Boulder. While Arild worked the starboard winch and I clambered around the boat, (with a short stint below to catch a nap) Deb spent a good bit of the evening at the helm. She loves sailing Juno and though Barry is good about sharing pointers Deb doesn't need much advice any more. She kept the sails full as we worked our way home through the night. Alas, even good sails must come to an end and Barry eased his Albin back into her slip in time for Deb and I to be on the bikes by 2200. It was midnight by the time we climbed into our Central West End berth. Though not equal to the cockpit of Nomad under the stars, it did feel pretty good.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I, on the other hand...

...am probably 6 months to a year behind Deb in my "walking away from the land" transition. (Not that I am going to let her cast off without me!)

I really had a good time the last two weekends being just a wandering biker again; no real plan other than the day's ride and the anticipation of time spent with people who have a similar interest. (Ten's of thousands at Indy, just 7 of us in Arkansas.) Tracking Deb's big ZX-14 on the way home, coasting over the hills along Rt 160, the fog burning away, the day getting warmer, (and going at a much saner pace than we had the day before) it really was hard to imagine a better way to spend some time. And though I feel the passing years as much as anyone I never really have the idea that I'm too old to do things I can still do and enjoy; an attitude that might change drastically should I ever toss the GSXR down the road at a buck +!

(Last week THE BOSS of our company asked what I was doing over the weekend. I told her we were going to Arkansas to give the State Troopers someone to chase around. She asked if I was ever going to "outgrow" such antics? I suggested, since I am already 54, that it didn't look like it. And its not just me. One of our riding buddies and new friends from this last weekend's road games is a young 63, recovering from a nasty $1.20 night crash suffered a while ago, and feathered the rear tire on his R1 right to the edge. There's the definition of a sport biker for you!)

Still, it would have been fun to drop the lines on Friday evening and not return to the dock until Monday evening...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Strings and Things

The second day of our ASA 103 course we got to the marina early and we were sitting in the cockpit of the Catalina 31 in sweatshirts drinking coffee and enjoying the crisp fall morning. Even though I am credited for the plans to retire to a sailboat, it was Tim who said "we gotta find a way to do this" as he leaned back in the stern seat and closed his eyes to let the sun warm his face. It was the beginning of our Five Year Plan.

We've done pretty well so far, taking four ASA courses, buying a boat, living on her every weekend and learning about the systems and the new way of life in confined spaces. I've started the slow process of cleaning out closets and paying down bills. We've read everything we can get our hands on and talked to everyone who will put up with our questions. It appears that we've gotten to that place in our Five Year Plan where we're beginning to think about those things that will be last to deal with, the hardest to part with, the last string to cut.

In nearly every story, article, and interview we read, the question eventually comes up - what were the hardest things you had to say goodbye to when making the break from land? I pay close attention to these in preparation for my own cutting of the strings. There is a certain amount of trepidation involved in my ruminations, a fear that when the time comes I may not be able to follow through. This is also a feeling that every liveaboard cruiser has dealt with, so at least I do not go there alone.

This weekend was a weekend away from the boat, a trek to our annual sport bike rally in the north central portion of Arkansas.

The 300 mile ride there gave me plenty of time to think about the situation, objectively removed from Nomad. Clearly, the ZX-14 is at the top of the list. Clipping along on fantastic Arkansas roads deep into triple digits is an adrenaline rush that would be difficult to match. On the other hand, as I sat around the bonfire later that evening, it occurred to me that I'm probably getting a little too old to be rip-snorting around Arkansas roads deep into triple digits. As if on cue, just moments later I remembered sitting on the Lavezzi 40 catamaran during our Memorial Day ASA 104 /113 course and thinking I could very easily call home and tell them to sell everything and send me a check. I could have walked away and not looked back.

It's an odd place to be, this in-between stage in our Five Year Plan. One foot on land, one foot on the boat...looking back...looking forward...but I find myself looking back less and forward more. It surely helps that our cruising will take us to visit family that we don't see now. A lot of cruisers are saying goodbye to family when they leave the land which makes it bittersweet. Our ventures, though, will be taking us to grandkids, nephews, friends. It also helps that I desperately want to simplify life. At the moment, every minute of every day is accounted for - laundry, bills, cooking, cleaning, helping our kids, and the miriad of daily errands that living on land requires. I want desperately to get up in the morning and have nothing better to do than drink my coffee in the cockpit while I plan the day's boat chores and watch the great blue heron scout his breakfast.

As much fun as I've had this weekend, I can see the strings holding me to land growing threadbare. When the time comes, I'll be ready.

Monday, August 31, 2009

No Boat Weekend

We were in Indy for the MotoGP race the past weekend. Well, I was. Deb was in Indy to see Kristin, Brian and Christopher. She endured a day at the race track Sunday but spend most of the weekend working with the kids and playing with the baby. They were kind enough to find Grandpa-T a place to sleep.

Friday morning I headed out to the track from St. Louis, did about 100 miles in pretty hard rain, and watched the racers practice on a soaked track, just like last year. (If it ain't raining, it ain't Indy.) Deb rode in Friday night and somehow missed riding in anything worse than mist. Less than an hour after she got to Kristin's house it starting raining again. Hard. I don't know how she does it.

Saturday dawned sunny, cool and perfect for motorcycle riding (and racing). I got on the GXSR to head to the track only to discover that my (nearly shot anyway) back tire had a nail in it. Deb was kind enough to let me borrow her ZX-14 and I headed out. Deb's bike is big, fast, quiet, smooth and fun but, (and don't tell her I said this) the shifter is hooked up backwards. I told Deb not to worry about the flat, I would just plug it when I got back to the house. (I was pretty sure she would ignore me, and I was right. I got back to find a new pair of shoes installed on the Zuki.)

Since I am the only MotoGP fan in these parts I will refrain from boring you with race details. It was a circus with some big names hitting the track hard, two Americans in the top 5, and no hurricane.

After waiting about an hour for traffic to start moving around the track Deb and I headed home. It was a much easier ride than last year but still pretty cold. It would be hard to prove global warming by midwest temperatures this year!

I did catch a case of machine lust this year; BMW had their new S100RR sport bike on display (as did Yamaha with the new R1). I swore off BMWs after the K1200RS went away to buy Nomad, (best deal I ever made) but yowzza...that is a sweet looking piece of motorcycle go fast.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The say necessity is the mother of all invention...

but this may be carrying it a little too far.

I think I'll stick with tacking back and forth to get there, and if the wind is just too hard on the nose to sail where I want to go, then I think I'll curl up in the hammock with a good book! (Can you imagine that wind turbine letting loose in a storm????)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Wee Bit of Adventure

I got to the boat early Friday afternoon and started down my "fix it" list. The biggest job on that list was replacing the galley and V-birth lights with new, adjustable L.E.D. units. (P.S. Deb injects here that these are the best improvement we ever made to the boat. Tim earns big brownie points with this one.)

Deb arrived around 7 PM. It was getting late, getting dark, the wind was blowing, and we were both tired after a long week. Saturday morning was the BYC "Poker Run" with the registration and Captain's meeting at 1000. All good reasons to stay at the dock.

So of course Deb and I went sailing.

The wind was blowing pretty good and as I backed out of the slip the bow swung the wrong way, recalling visions of my first attempt at getting little Nomad to the lake. This time though I backed hard across, just shy of the boats on the next dock, spun the helm, called upon our little diesel to dig us out of the hole, and got the bow pointing the way I wanted. It was a bit sporting but we got it done. Rounding the corner to the lake provided us with a most spectacular view of the setting moon back lit by the red sky of the setting sun.

Once on the lake we had to work through a small rigging problem trying to set the main with a single reef. In spite of the darkening skies and pitching deck we figured out what we needed to do, (though it did cost me another hat as I wrestled with the flailing mainsail). The broad reach to Coles Creek was a perfect night sail. We set the hook in total darkness having the inlet completely to ourselves. Though a bit bouncy with the wind and waves, the temps were delightful for August and we had a comfortable night. (I think Deb just wanted to try out her new galley L.E.D. light while coving out.)

Saturday we got up early to sail back to Boulder and join the fun. We got there around 1030, (close enough to on time for sailors) got our registration and directions paperwork, left the dock again and started a romp around the lake in Force 4 / 5 winds. It was a great day of sailing and at the end all the participants gathered around to draw cards and enjoy dinner. As card players Deb and I are pretty good sailors. Between the two of us I'm not sure we drew 4 cards that were the same color; needless to say we didn't win anything. That didn't matter though. Afterward Bill mentioned that "Paradise" was heading for Coles Creek for the night and we were welcome to join her. That sounded good to us and little Nomad left her slip for the third time, actually getting to Coles Creek first. We set a hook and were joined by Paradise, Orca and Quicksilver.. It was the first time we rafted up at night and it was kind of fun. (Serenity, another boat from Boulder, was resting nearby.)

Sunday morning dawned clear and calm. We spent part of the morning fixing a small water leak Deb discovered while cleaning the inside of the boat. We tried to sail home but the light winds directly out of the north made that impossible, so we ended up motoring back to the marina. As usual on Sunday we headed to the pump out station to empty the head. And as usual we passed the MacGregor 36 catamaran that is tied to the end pier. This time though, Gabe was getting Tango ready to sail. Somehow Deb talked us into crewing so we hurried our pump out visit, tied little Nomad to her slip and jumped aboard Tango for a final sail of the weekend. (Best I can give you is a stock photo - we didn't have time to grab the camera.)

Tango is an open bridge-deck catamaran with a HUGE sail plan. I think the jib on that thing would just about cover Nomad like a blanket. Even with the light and funky winds there were times when we were making close to 10 knots, the water rushing past the twin hulls and flowing under the tramps. It was cool beans!

After tying Tango to her dock and taking leave of new friend Gabe we went back and tended to Nomad, who was in serious need of some T.L.C. You see, as we sailed out of channel Saturday night a swam of core bugs descended onto her decks and sails. (Corps bugs, we found out, are named after the Army Corps of Engineers. It seems no one in the area ever saw any such a critter until the Corps built the dam that stopped the river that made Carlyle lake. So now we know.) Corps bugs, when squished, make a nasty, hard to remove, purple / black spot. Nomad looked like a bug war-zone, her decks stained with the demise of thousands of the little creatures. Scrubbing her clean took hours, and it was still and perfect weekend.


I can always tell how good our weekend of sailing was by how bad a case of "tilt" I have when we get home. "Tilt" is the memory of sailing that our inner ears bequeath to our brains even after we stop tilting on the boat. Early on I had it bad enough that I had to hold on to the shower walls when I closed my eyes in the shower - even 8 hours after I put my feet on solid ground. Now that we've been sailing all these months I only get it after a lot of lively sailing or a particularly long time of sailing, both of which we got this weekend. It was the perfect weekend and I have a major case of tilt. Unfortunately, pictures and video wash out the wave heights so no one believes you unless they experience it themselves. I'll leave you with one nice picture though and I'll let Tim tell the rest of the weekend's tales since he does it so much better. Suffice it to say that it was the perfect weekend. I couldn't have made it better if I had special ordered it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sailboats are Magic

Really. Here's how I know that...

A week ago Thursday I had a dental appointment. Mine is a good dentist, but every dentist I have ever had eventually gets around to hurting me. Last Thursday was the day. By the time he was done the entire right side of my face felt like it had been used for Cardinals batting practice. Today, ten days later, it still isn't back to 100%.

A week ago Friday we headed off to Indy. to help Kristin and Brain get their house ready to sell. As usual we loved spending time with Daughter, Son-in-Law and grandson. And as usual we worked way too hard in the blistering heat trying to get as much done as we could. Once upon a time I could do that kind of thing without penalty. Nowadays that kind of effort extracts dues. Ignoring the pain in my jaw was a bit easier given the pain in my shoulders, back and wrists. I don't know how much a pick-up truck full of mulch weighs, but clearly it is more than a person my age should be shoveling around in a day.

Last Monday I rolled out of bed early for the first of 3 days of flying. And I mean really rolled. The attempt to swing my legs overboard and exit the bed in the normal fashion provoked serious protests from my lower back. It was an effort just to bend over to tie my shoes. By Tuesday morning I could barely manage even a roll out of the hotel bed. This was added to the continuing complaints from my jaw, which was getting worse rather than better. (Could it be that continuous altitude changes are not good for fresh dental work?) In any case electric like jolts ran down my jaw from my eye teeth, turned north at my neck, traveled through my inner ear and finally set off sparks in my brain.

On Wednesday the 3 days of flying turned into 5. It took a month to get to the end of the week and I didn't think Friday would ever arrive. It did (of course) and brought with it a marathon of tugging contrails around the country. Starting from Morgantown, WV we went to Waterloo, then to Kansas City, St. Louis, (a stop added at the last minute) back to Morgantown and, finally, back to St. Louis. I rolled the mains on home turf, parked the jet, changed out of limp and wrinkled flying clothes, sagged into the Saturn and drove the two hours to the lake. It seemed a long, long drive.

By the time I made it to little Nomad I could barely crawl into the V-berth. My back was stiff to the point of making it hard to breathe, my jaw ached, my right wrist wouldn't work right, and my ears were ringing from the noise of 8 1/2 hours of jet driving. Feeling every inch of the 3479 nautical miles of the week's flying and every one of the 19,745 days I have been taking up space on Mother earth; I was a seriously hurting unit.

Saturday morning I woke up feeling fine.

Sailboats are Magic.

The sailing this last weekend was pretty magical as well. Perfect winds blew in Saturday for a romp down the lake.

We ended up at Coles Creek for another impromptu raft up with 5 other boats. (Coles Creek is fast becoming our new weekend address.)

During the afternoon we splashed around in the lake with the young crew members from Miss My Money and Quicksilver. (Though a bit older they are almost as cute as my own grand daughters.)

I was a bit surprised to discover I could stand up on the bottom just a couple of boat lengths aft of the raft up. How we all managed to sail in and tie up without grounding is a mystery. Then calm winds and cool temps settled in for Saturday night. (Can this really be August in the Midwest?)

This morning we woke to a foggy sunrise, more swimming, and more perfect winds for a lap of the lake.

The sun burned through the haze and the good wind could not be ignored. Miss My Money and Gail Force set off for home. Nomad headed south toward the dam. From Coles Creek we tacked port and starboard, close hauled on a reefed main and working jib, heeled over and crossing paths with a whole parade of sailboats out playing tight on the wind. From the dam to home was mostly a broad reach / run, Nomad making better than 4 knots and seeing 6+ in the occasional gust. All while on a comfortable point of sail.

Magic all around.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sailor Genes

I had someone ask me again last week what it was that got me interested in sailing in the first place. Tim and I have given this much thought over the last couple years, and Tim likes to place the blame for our retirement plans squarely on my shoulder, but I can't concur. You see, last week was my dad's 84th birthday and while I was looking over some old pictures of him and reviewing some fond childhood memories, I found this one:

And then there was always the boat that went along with us camping...

And the boat that took us fishing...

Oh and while we're talking about fishing in that boat...there was the time that me and my mom and my dad were out in the middle of Indian River Inlet fishing, all a little drowsy from the sun and the rocking of the boat, when all of a sudden my mom looked up from her novel and said, "Paul I think maybe that storm might be a little close to us, don't you?". I believe that was one of the rare times that I saw my dad pale. We booked it as fast as that little 14 foot john boat would go to a little island out in the middle of the inlet where we turned the boat over top of us and waited out a tremendous thunderstorm.

So you see, I was destined from day one to be a sailor. It was all in the genes.

Happy Birthday Dad, but I think it was me that got the gift.