Friday, December 24, 2010

Twas the night before Christmas...

Maybe next Christmas the white stuff on the ground will be sand.  Merry Christmas all!

Christmas Eve, 2010...

...not on a boat yet, maybe not by Christmas Eve 2011, but 2012?

I am not a believer, but that doesn’t mean I don't have things to celebrate during “Religious Holidays.” For me the biggest plus for Christmas is that family gets together. Harder and harder to pull off as each year goes by, but this season, at some point, all three of my daughters, both my Son-in-laws, and all five of my grand kids will be at the same place, (my house) at the same time. (If we ever hope to gather them all on “the boat” well, it will have to be a pretty big boat!)

There is a theme to Christmas, fading though it may be in our increasingly violent and self centered world, that I really like. “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to all…” (I know I changed that last bit. Women and children are as deserving of goodwill as anyone else.)

I have a friend. (Several actually, really!) He is very conservative, eats lunch listening to Rush Limbaugh, has dinner with Glen Beck. He thinks Fox News is actually news. He is also very religious following, (as one might guess) an American Protestant branch of Evangelistic Christianity; one of the “this is a Christian Nation, Jesus loves the NRA, would vote Republican in every election, and will reward you with prosperity if you pray right,” frame of mind. (Well, I’m a little unsure of that last part, maybe you have to do something besides pray right…I’m not really an expert.) If you knew me very well you might assume that we are locked in near mortal, verbal combat every time we cross paths. But here’s the thing; in spite of his rhetoric, in spite of his ideology, he is, in fact, a man of goodwill.

We are not allies. I do not want to live in the world he thinks he wants to build, (part of the reason for moving onto a boat). Oddly enough, he thinks he is being forced to live in the world I would like to build, and is not happy about it either. (Little does he imagine…in my perfect world no one could coerce another person in any way for anything…no one would profit from the labor of another or at the expense of another…ever. And universal civil rights would be exactly that; universal, civil, and rights.) Yet in his day-to-day living he is good for the people around him. He blows a small gasket at the idea of gay marriage, but he would not fire a gay person who worked for him or derail their career in any way. He thinks kids should pray in school, (as if that doesn’t happen before every math test) along with hearing some New Testament readings every morning. But he is horrified at the idea of bombing a mosque or forcing a synagogue to close. He might even believe that the cosmos is only 10,000 years old but, when family or friends get sick he will give them a ride to the hospital. (And it wouldn’t surprise me at all if, sometimes, he helps pay the bill.) I'm not sure why he loves his ideology, though he clearly does. But when it comes to actions, what is good for the person who is in front of him, their body, their feelings and emotions, will be his true guide. Because of that, though we may not be allies, we remain friends.

Anyway, to all people of goodwill, of whatever creed or color, and especially to those who have made the break from land, anchored off whatever beautiful beech you may have found your way to…Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Take Two

They say opposites attract, a fact that Tim and I have confirmed many times over the nearly 36 years that we've been married.  So it should come as no surprise that I will have a completely different take on the question posed by Otto, our shipmate on the Long Island circumnavigation.  Vive la differance!

First, some disclaimers.  Point One - Any discussion on this blog about catamaran vs monohull or the features of any particular boat is set on the background of available funds.  I want to be sure that everyone realizes that if it comes down to time to go and we don't have the funds for a catamaran, then we go on a monohull and do it quite happily.  If we don't have funds for a 47 foot then we go on a 42 foot or a 37 foot or a Pearson 35.   Point Two - Any boat that we own will be cared for meticulously because we're both quite anal when it comes to things of that sort.  Tim's a former aircraft mechanic with the FAA peering non-stop over his shoulder and I'm just a tiny bit OCD when it comes to organization. (You can stop laughing now Tim).

OK, now that the formalities are out of the way, to compare Osprey and Quetzal in any way - size, shape, amenities, handling, stability, and heaven forbid, style, is like comparing a 1970 VW bus to a  classic Jaguar.  While on Osprey, I always felt underpowered both in sail and engine, overweight, graceless, and insecure.  I'm sure that given many months and many dollars I could turn that Pearson into something that felt more like home to me (think liveaboard), but it just didn't "fit".  Quetzal, on the other hand, even at 25 years old, had the grace and lines of a classic, and the handling to match.  It felt immediately like home and I could have easily turned the boat around at the end of 6 days and done it again.  And again.  And again.  I truly enjoyed the Long Island trip, but it was in spite of Osprey not because of it.  The trip was enjoyable because we had a good instructor, great company, and an incredible destination.  The Bahamas trip had all of those things, and a really great vessel to enjoy them with.

As a mechanic and a pilot, Tim tends to look at the technical aspects of the boats we sail.  Specs, power, handling, headroom.   Not being particularly gender biased, I'm not sure if  it's a woman thing or a me thing, but I tend to feel the boat.  Every boat I've ever been on has an atmosphere and I'm pretty sensitive to that.  That's why as we got off the new Beneteaus and Jeanneaus at the boat show, I was left with the feeling of leaving a cold hotel room. Osprey left me feeling a little like leaving a trailer park, but Quetzal felt just like Nomad, a place I could call home.

To be sure, I hope to sail a catamaran off into the sunset, but if the monohull we end up on is anything like Quetzal, this will be one happy camper.

Long Island vs. The Bahama Islands

Shipmate Otto, who endured the Long Island Trip with us, asked how the Bahama trip compared. So I'll take a stab at leaning the two trips against each other to see what stands out.

First I want to be fair to the Pearson if I can. It wasn't the fault of Osprey that she leaked like a screen door and many of her systems needed serious TLC. Also, the lack of an auto-pilot was a huge detriment over a long sail. Helm watch on Quetzal was easily handled. One could get something warm to drink, sit comfortably, take some time to gaze at the stars and the horizon, chat with whoever else was in the cockpit. Standing at the helm of Osprey was constant work and often long hours of intense concentration.

Quetzal was being sailed by her owner / master. There was nothing about that boat John K. didn't know. He could talk a crew of amateurs through setting a whisker pole in bouncing seas or pulling onto a completely unfamiliar dock in stiff winds and running tides, all the while sounding like he was giving instructions on how to start a toaster. Osprey, on the other hand, was somewhat unfamiliar to John H. and had, (in my opinion) a completely inadequate set of sails and sail controls for what we were doing. Also, (just in my opinion) we didn't do the boat any favors by filling the bow tank with almost 1/2 ton of water we didn't need. I suspect that alone accounted for about 50% of the snot that got beat out of us. The upshot is a huge part of the difference in the trips was that we went to the Bahama's on John K's boat with John K. We went around Long Island with Instructor / Captain John H. on a training boat.

To be honest, on any big scale the boats aren't really that different. The Pearson is 35' long, just about 75% of the Kaufman 47. At 13,000 lbs the Pearson displaces about 62% as much as the Kaufman. Neither boat is particularly large for an ocean going vessel and, moored side by side in a marina full of boats, they wouldn't look that different to a land-lubber's eye. I have to say I feel the Kaufman is much more user friendly when out of sight of land than is the Pearson. Still, both are "classic plastic" monohulls of less than 50 feet, a couple of decades old, designed and built by people and companies with good reputations. They are much more the same than different.

Both trips suffered a bit from being run on a schedule, and thus were not quite the same as living aboard. We shoved poor little Osprey around Long Island with little regard to waves, wind or crew fatigue. The 24 hours to Block Island took 36 and we were all pretty much knackered after a night of 10' following seas. It never really got any easier. Pushing hard we still ended up a day late and had to leave at 0300 on that last day to make Tom's River at a reasonable hour. No cruising couple I have ever heard of would trash themselves like that on purpose. (Deb and I have no intention of being any different.)

Quetzal didn't struggle quite as hard. Still, we crossed the Gulf Stream twice during a week while, (we have since discovered) hundreds of cruisers waited in FL for better weather to head east. We left West End for a questionable run to Lucaya, couldn't get into the harbor, and sailed back to the West End. On the one hand it was exactly what I would expect to do on a trip where Deb and I shelled out some serious denaro to sail. On the other hand a cruising couple wouldn't bash through 6 - 8 foot seas just to spend 8 hours away from a dock they were going to pay for anyway. Not when the alternative was spending a day sitting on the beach in the Bahamas. On the next try we made it to Great Stirrup Cay long after sunset, setting the hook after making a night run into the bay using the Chart Plotter to miss the rocks. (I would have loved that but missed the fun; holed up below fighting off my normal "3rd-day-out" bout of sea sickness.) During the process we managed a fright by almost getting too friendly with a cruise ship tender who wasn't showing a lot of light. At daybreak the hook started to drag and we bailed out having barely seen the sun rise on Stirrup Cay. Again, perfect for getting experience but something any of our cruising friends would have avoided with a little planning and patience.

In the end the trips seem more like book ends. We managed to get cold and wet on both. We learned a lot about sailing on both. (I even managed to feed the fish on both.) Sailing down the East river through the heart of NYC is about as opposite a thing to tossing a hook in Hoffman Cay as one can imagine. Yet each was fantastic and I intend to do them again as many times as I can manage. Indeed, it is not hard to imagine that a trip around Long Island and a subsequent run from FL to the Bahamas will, one day, just be two ends of a year's worth of traveling aboard Nomad II.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An admission...

I know this is going to mark me as a nearly useless, utterly shallow excuse for a human being, so let's keep this just between us...but I was really hoping that the trip on a 47' monohull would prove such boats a real option for Deb and I. The main reason? (I mean it, just between us.) I think monohulls, most of them anyway, are prettier than Catamarans (most of them, anyway). We've looked at a couple of older Catamarans as possibilities, right size, right price, right equipment, but (and I will not share any actual model names, beauty being in the eye of the owner, as it were) just plain ugly. Of course there are a few butt ugly monohulls out there as well, but they seem a distinct minority in the monohull world. Catamarans, on the other hand, well...what does one do with a vessel whose primary dimensions are those of a tennis court?

I realize I have been watching the sailing world in general, and the Catamaran world in particular, for just a few years. But has anyone else noticed that these things seem to be getting kind of excessive across the middle? I can remember, when I first started learning about catamarans, that a 50% ratio, beam to LOA, was considered about the "maximum." Even a boat I happen to like, the 38' Fountaine Pajot Athena, has a beam of 21.5' while being only 38 foot long overall. (That's a tick more than 56%!) The 38 foot Leopard is about the same. Indeed, from any angle that emphasizes the beam even these boats (either of which I would take in a heartbeat) look more than a little "clunky." If I remember the last two America's Cup competitors were basically square. They were space age, fragile, and fast as hell...but does anyone think they were pretty? That thing with the wing was just plain weird, and this from an airplane driver who normally loves high tech toys.

I know that "ugly" is supposed to be completely subjective. But I also suspect it isn't. We often disagree about beauty, but we rarely disagree about ugly. When we see it, we know it. When it comes to machines though, there is another consideration. Ugly is, usually, as ugly does. I have "helmed" my share. I'm even type rated in some of them. The Embraer EMB-110P1 was one. Ugly indeed, with a face only a Mother could love and cold, slow, noisy and unpressurized. The jet I'm flying now (another type rating) is slow for a jet, has limited range with a load, and only a marginally better face. (The teal and pink paint job doesn't help). But at least it isn't as ugly as the Beech Premier.

Then there is the opposite of "ugly is as ugly does." There are some truly bizarre looking machines out there, built to do "A THING." They do "THE THING" and often look like performance art in the process. Witness a Sky Crane lifting the impossible or a Supper Guppy swallowing same for a flight across an ocean.

A truism for boats as well as airplanes, when you are sitting in the cockpit you can't see the ugly. In fact sometimes ugly from outside is actually pretty from the other side. People who fly the Premier are pretty happy with the speed / fuel burn / range / comfort, it stomps the C-V (my ride) in each of those categories. That it looks like a guppy on stilts when sitting on the ramp doesn't bother the people paying the bills, the airplane seems to grow on them.

I suspect a Cat can be like that, built to do "A THING." Sitting a dark and stormy anchor watch while sipping coffee in the dry and warm, a 360 degree view out of the bridge deck, the boat gently rocking just a few degrees (like we did in FL)? Nothing ugly about that. Rocketing along at hull speed, (whatever that means in a Cat) regardless of the point of sail, without a heel, roll or yaw? No ugly there either. Room to spread out a little...okay, there was lots of room on Quetzal. Still, the aft porch or front tramps of a cat look like pretty nice places to spend some days. Built to do something special, that can over come odd looking lines and angles.

Catamarans have been around long enough now where, once in a while, one pops up whose price and looks don't spark a gag reflex. (Unlike monohulls, there seems a whole armada of Catamarans that are both obscenely expensive and seriously ugly to boot. How do they sell those things?) Anyway, I'm going to take my shallow self and start looking for a pretty Catamaran I can call home. And if, once I find her, we spot a gorgeous monohull flying all her canvas, rail dug in, spray flying and making a rainbow over a perfect bow and shear line...well, I hope she won't hold it against me if I sigh a little.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Photo Essay of Bahamas Bash 2010 - John Kretschmer Sailing

 The Ship - Quetzal, a 47 foot Kaufman

 Leaving Cooley's Landing at SW 7th Ave.

 Sailing South to Miami for a better aim at crossing the Gulfstream and having some hope at ending up in the Bahamas

 After a night of sailing the West End Bahamas comes into view

 I have my first stamp in my passport and I'm ready to go swimming!

 Quetzal at the dock in West End Bahamas

 The beach at West End, Bahamas


 We totally wore John Kretschmer out.  Allen, our chef, takes a quick nap before whipping up his first masterpiece.
 Our dinner is caught and freshly delivered to our dock.  7 lobster tails and 4 conch, cleaned while we watch.

 We were here :)



Allen the Magnificent preparing our first incredible meal aboard.  From ocean to table in less than 2 hours.


Shipmate Glenn from Connecticut takes a turn at the helm

 Downwind sailing at its best with the whisker pole

 Shipmate Sergey from Vancouver takes the helm

Caution:  Objects off port stern quarter are larger than they appear

 John and I escape the sun under our jury-rigged sun shade.


 Quetzal's teak decks are awesome!

 Two old friends have some time to catch up

Sergey always kept us laughing

Captain John Kretschmer

 Tim and John talking sailing

 Approaching the cut at Hoffman Cay

Quetzal at anchor at Hoffman Cay

John with Quetzal

 Not exactly the cove at Carlyle Lake...

 Blue Hole at Hoffman Cay

 The rocks around Blue Hole at Hoffman Cay

 Hoffman Cay






 The Captain hard at work (It's a tough job but someone's gotta do it right?)

 Leaving Hoffman Cay and heading off on the last 24 hour sail to Ft. Lauderdale



 The mark for the Banks where 3,000ft of water suddenly becomes 20ft right out in the middle of the ocean.


Back in Ft. Lauderdale

Oh yeah - it is nearly Christmas, isn't it?

 I'll take this one...

 Sergey doing a wonderful job leading us through the canal back to the dock.

 The welcoming committee at the dock.

Tim trying to ignore the fact that the trip is over