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...