Sunday, April 26, 2009

A 10-Isobar weekend

For those of you who might not be pilots and therefore might not care about such things, isobars are lines of equal atmospheric pressure drawn on a map. The closer they are, the steeper the pressure gradient, the stronger the wind. Yesterday we looked at the Intellicast Wind Cast and there were 11 isobars in the state of Missouri. This makes for a very windy day. The winds were 20-25 gusting to 35, the boats were heeling in the marina with not a stitch of canvas out, the hallyards were clanging away on the masts, and no boats were racing in this, the first race of the Boulder Yacht Club 2009 racing season. Here's the map for tomorrow, just so you have an idea of what I'm talking about:

The Boulder Yacht Club still had a productive day, sold many items at the club garage sale, and ended the day with a fantastic fish fry / potluck dinner. The fish had been donated by the fishermen who fish off our docks all year as a gesture of thanks for allowing them to use the facility.

By the end of the dinner the wind was dying down enough to make a night sail so 10 of us squeezed into Dennis' boat and took off. We made it all the way to the dam and back posthaste with a favorable wind and only 2 tacks (well there were a couple "accidental half-tacks" entirely attributable to the potency of Captain Morgan's 100 proof rum and entirely too many skippers in the cockpit.) Tim and I found the foredeck to be the safest place to be and we stretched out and enjoyed the stars. The evening was brought to a close with the most amazing display of sailing skill as Barry sailed the boat all the way into the slip without the engine, a feat that is completely beyond my skill at this point.

The wind today was even worse than yesterday with frequent gusts to 40 so we spent the day sanding and varnishing teak and finishing up my gelcoat repair project. As promised, here are some pictures of the finished instrument pod and our newly overhauled compass, just returned from Viking Instruments who did a tremendous job.

The completed project:

The shelves for the instruments are mounted to the bottom of our drink holder:

The overhauled compass. They put a new glass on and fresh compass fluid so we can actually see the numbers now!

Freshly varnished teak:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Acetone mixer

It has been a while since I regularly worked in chemicals; I had forgotten the exquisite case of heart burn that comes with sniffing Acetone. Add a belly full of Cheez-Its and a warm Coke burp and you will swear that life as you knew it is coming to an end.

"And what," you might ask, "were you doing sniffing Acetone, munching on Cheez-Its and drinking warm Coke?"

And I would answer, "Working on little Nomad." Of course.

Through a happy set of excuses I ended up spending the day at the marina with a box full of parts, a bag full of tools and a squawk list nearing twenty items. Items 1, 2 and 3 on that list were; Replace the head hose, fix the water pump wiring and re-seal the porthole in the head. Items 1 and 2 killed most of the morning. I started item three by pulling the clamping plate off the outside of the porthole, a task that proved pretty easy. The years had turned what had been sealer into something more like dust, which was no match for some Scotch-Brite and Acetone.

Me being me, I figured the rest of the portholes could use some sealer work as well and so I just kept going. By porthole #3 I was getting kind of hungry. I hadn't packed a lunch and didn't what to stop long enough to drive into town, so I raided the snack locker and came up with Cheez-Its and Coke. About half way though porthole #4 the Cheez-Its and Coke were well mixed by my constant motion and started some kind of bubbling action that was distinctly uncomfortable and produced a whole range of low frequency noises. By the time I got to pulling the nuts and screws out of porthole #5 the Acetone was joining the fray. I have to admit to being somewhat distracted while working porthole #6. I haven't lit my insides up like that since a long ago night that included too many tacos and just enough Tequila. Every time I had to lean over to do something it felt like the fire was starting at my navel, flowing up my throat and leaking out my nose.

It was a relief to finish torquing the last screw and start the task of cleaning up. I sat kind of straight up during the ride home and by the time the Arch hove into view I was feeling more or less human again. Deb had Mexican Bean Dip ready for my dinner. It was pretty good but I was careful to drink a lot of milk.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cruise to Indie

The forecast for this weekend was rain rain and more rain so we decided to use the opportunity to take a little road trip to Indianapolis to see Grandson #1. Although Tim and Melanie have seen him a good bit in the last few weeks due to their frequent trips to Pittsburgh, I have been homebound and hadn't seen him in almost a month. Mom, Dad and baby are all doing well and Christopher even blessed Grandma by skipping his normal evening meltdown. In fact, we had a rather pleasant evening rocking and walking and chatting about all things baby. Some pictures:

And oh so suave in his little hat!

And what sailing blog would be comlete without a picture of the future sailor, complete with sailing overalls...

We did stop by the marina on the way home to install our freshly overhauled compass. I will post some pictures later. It was just too rainy to risk the camera. Hopefully next weekend we'll get some drier weather so I can get the gelcoat repair done and we can start on the porthole leak-fixing project. For this weekend, though, the cruise to Indie was just the thing.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

2009 Shakedown Cruise

Aaannnnnndddddd.....we're off! (like a herd of turtles)

After a whole lot of engine work over the past few weeks, including oil changes and fuel filter changes and impeller changes and coolant bleed work, we finally got to go on our shakedown cruise for 2009. Most of the other folks at the marina that went out yesterday did so a lot earlier in the day, but we were determined to finish two of the projects (the new bilge pump installation and finishing the instrument installation) before we went out. We finished late afternoon and had just enough time to cross the and return, a good thing, since the wind was due out of the north which makes thi the preferrable trip anyway. No speed records today, but just as well since the 58 degrees while sitting sheltered in the marina is a whole different experience than out in the middle of the lake in 16 knots of apparent wind. We got to see quite a few of the migrating terns diving for their dinner, and just before we made the marina channel we got to see one of the last lines of white pellicans heading north for the breeding season.

Boats are being splashed a few a day, so Margaritaville (our dock's name) is filling up and the population of the marina is growing day by day. It's good to see friends from last season and meet a few new ones, but in a way I'll miss the quiet of the winter marina and the company of the emboldened wildlife. One of the liveaboards at the marina was getting ready to take off for his parents' home for Easter weekend yesterday and he made a comment that struck a chord. He said, "You know I'm getting in my truck to go "home" to my parents' for Easter but I feel like I'm leaving home to go somewhere strange". I so know what he means. Since it's too windy to sail today I find myself dawdling around looking for small projects that will prolong our time here. Anything to keep from having to go "home" and back to work on Monday...

Season Starter

We did get a short sail in yesterday after all. The winds were modest and out of the north so we managed just a short sail across the lake and back. Our newly mounted instruments gave Nomad's max speed for the outing at 4.5 knots and the engine ran as smoothly as it ever has. So the boat worked pretty well.

I, on the other, was more than a bit rusty. The sails went up, the lines got coiled and stashed, the fenders (all but one that I somehow completely missed) got stowed in the lockers; but nothing seemed to flow smoothly. I didn't do much better getting us back in the slip. Fortunately our slip mate has not splashed his boat yet so I had a little extra room. Even with that I managed to come up a bit short and a big step away from the dock. Nomad made the last few feet to home by being hauled in on lines.

Still, it was a good weekend. We got several projects finished, made notes of some things we need for other projects, and got in the first "shake down" sail of the year. We spent the evenings having impromptu parties full of good food and even better stories. And we are now just four weeks or so from the Catamaran class.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Anticipation... It is raining like mad outside, thunder and lightning. The list of boat work is kind of long, (it took four trips to load the truck with stuff this morning; parts and bits and tubes and pumps...). I hope to actually get off the dock for a while this weekend but I am not holding my breath. Between the weather and the work it may be another weekend in the slip.

But I am still looking for an excuse to leave work early and head to the lake. I'll get grubby, collect a few more cuts on my hands, probably swat at an insect or two, mutter a few choice words at boat designers and their ancestors, enjoy a few cold ones and sleep soundly at night. There is something magic about sailboats...

Monday, April 6, 2009

More Vertical

I am about finished doing the flight planning for a trip going out tomorrow. At first we were going to Ft. Lauderdale over night, home on Wednesday. Late last week the trip got changed to an overnight in Detroit. This morning the trip got changed again, back to Ft. Lauderdale for the day with a late evening run to Biloxi for the night. Home Wednesday from Biloxi rather than FXE. Constantly changing schedules is one of the reasons business people find their own plane useful and cost effective. (You can't get from St. Louis to Ft. Lauderdale to Biloxi via the airlines in one day, let alone change the trip a few times in a few days. Well, you can, but you wouldn't want to pay for it!)

On a related subject I have been reading the blog of a guy named Robert Watson. He lives aboard a Leopard 40, the exact boat currently at the top of Deb's and my "wish list." (He named his "Changing Spots".) In addition to his boat his playground is the same we hope for; the East Coast and the Islands. In fact he has spent time in Cape Cod, Annapolis, Charleston, St. Augustine, and a whole list of other places I hope to sail to some day. His schedule changes pretty often as well; sometimes due to weather but more often (it seems) because he is really enjoying some place where he has thrown out an anchor and then finds it hard to leave. He seems a man completely content with his life.

And I have to admit to a certain small bit of envy, of which I am also a bit embarrassed. After all I am already one of the luckiest people on the planet, doing pretty much what I love to do and making a good living doing it. But with a couple of weekends spent working on Nomad, the promise of warm weather to come (though it was snowing this morning) and our chance to learn about sailing catamarans coming up in about 6 weeks, I find myself thinking less about being in the sky and more about being on the water. Can a person who is already content be "more content?" Or is that like being "more vertical?"

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A note from a boat

I'm sitting inside Nomad at the moment, the rain is falling outside, the heater is running at my feet, and I am about as content as a person can be. Before we leave this afternoon I have to winterize the engine again. (Freeze warnings!)

We worked pretty hard on the boat yesterday, making headway on the cooling system and running the wiring for the instruments. That turned out to be a huge job. I think I jumped in and out of the cockpit lockers about 100 times but with any luck we can finish up the instrument install next weekend. With all the rain we have found some leaks in the boat, two in particular are pretty noticeable so they have moved to the top of the "FIX THIS NEXT" list. Leaks or no, with the next nice day we get we are going sailing. (How else can we check to see if the motor is really working?)

The best part of the weekend was the group of people in the marina. Spring prep work on the fleet is in full swing. Yesterday boats were being put back in the water, bottoms painted, masts stepped, rigging rigged and in the evening an impromptu dinner party to share food and knock back the Marina's stash of various wines, beers and spirits.

Well, there is some thunder about so I need to get off line. (I'm sitting next to 35 feet of solid metal lighting rod!)