Monday, January 31, 2011

First Deposit

This will seem totally silly to anyone who has never made the jump from land, but we sold our first piece of furniture today and we both had silly little grins on our face as the guy who bought the desk handed over the green crisp bills.  Deposit #1 into  the "convert the house to a cruising kitty" fund.  Since it marks the delineation between the dream and the beginning of the reality, I thought that the desk should have an honorary photo.

I was hoping to commit a little aviation this week with a two day trip to places south. That was until the good folks at NOAA starting talking up a storm of "historic proportions" headed our way. The initial freezing drizzle and rain is supposed to start within the hour, to be followed by a serious ice event, significant snow accumulation, dropping temps and building winds. By tomorrow a full on blizzard should be visiting these parts. Unnecessary travel is being discouraged with all acts of aviation being postponed to next week. (Pretty much all acts of anything taking place out of doors should be postponed to next week.)

Instead of prepping for a trip I am prepping the house; big pile of dry wood by the fireplace, dishes done and put away, salt ready to be deployed - persons anchored off a warm beach should feel free to gloat. I would if I was you. (And I thought last winter was never going to end!)

David from Australia emailed to ask about the Fidgi in Ft. Lauderdale as he is thinking of buying same. From his neighborhood to Ft. Lauderdale is a bit of a hike just to look at a boat and maybe I could save him a trip? I was pleased my look-see could be useful to someone else, but I also felt a bit of a twinge. Deb really likes the idea of a Catamaran home. Sailing Lady Marian was a true revelation, such a fun boat to sail and living on a 40' cat is living in style. That 39' Fidgi would need some laying on of hands, but when done it would be damn close to equalling the Lady. I can't quite shake that boat out of my brain...

But taming a Cat will drain at least a couple of years out of the cruising kitty. And therein lies the rub, though even a mono hull couldn't get me out of here before the ice starts.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Still learning things at boat shows...


Every time I get off of a monohull after an open water sail I think to myself, "Make mine a double!" But a couple of weeks and months go by, the dutch-roll ride and incessant rocking on the hook memories fade, while romping through the Gulf Stream memories remain.  Then an indoor, monohull show comes along and the little kid in me patters through the isles yelling "Look at all the pretty boats!"  Hull shapes and deep keels whisper assurances that they will put a bow into the wind and honk their way state side from the islands like a proper sailboat should.  Innovative use of interior space is everywhere, galleys with all the fixings right where the Chef would reach, heads with stand-up shower space, living areas where the living would be large, storage everywhere, (and no big deal if you load them up a bit.)  Each cockpit suggests a place secure in a seaway or perfect for lounging off a quiet white beech, sundowner in hand.  And each seems better than the last.  Go below on any boat longer than 40' and the thought comes unbidden, "Yep, this will work, let's write someone a check."  Then get on the next 40 foot plus boat and think the exact same thing.  Just about the time what little sense and self control remains is happily abandoned an adult (usually Deb) taps me gently on the shoulder and points at the fine print.  These things are all carrying price tags well north of a quarter million dollars!  Any check with my signature for one of them would bounce higher than the masts.  (Well, this is an inside show so there are no masts.  But you get the idea.)

Then there was a Tartan 4400, with a price tag twice that quarter million.  Who gets smitten by this one?  You guessed it, my adult supervision.  Now she knows we can't afford even half a new Tartan.  This however, is not a deterrent so much as a challenge.  Within hours of getting back to the hotel she finds an older Tartan that looks nearly as good as new, has a recent survey posted on line, with an asking price that is about twice what I paid for the Z, is located here in Chicago, and is for sale by one of the brokers who has a booth at the show.

There is little chance we will buy this exact boat.  But it has sparked some ideas about different approaches to getting to a boat, and maybe getting to a boat sooner.  You never know what you might learn at a boat show.

The folks at Superior Yacht Sales, Cindy and Dick Kalow were kind enough to show us the Jeanneau Sun Oddyssey 409, a fantastic yacht, and some ideas of how to get hold of one. 

The 409 galley

Tim sitting in the saloon of the Tartan 4400.  All I can say about this boat is W-O-W

Tartan 4400 aft cabin

The Catalina 375

Monday, January 24, 2011


Like last year Deb and I plan to ride the train to Chicago, stay in a nice hotel, eat some good food, and see some pretty (and way to expensive) boats while being inside, warm and dry. A pretty good alternative to another winter weekend of snow and no sailing. My guess is all of the boats will be monohulls. We hope to be Catamaran people. But there are some good ideas to see on new boats. Since any boat we get will be "pre-owned" (sounds better than "used" or "second hand") you never know when a good idea can be rebuilt into a pre-owned boat.

This will probably be our last low-key, kick-back and enjoy bumming around weekend of the winter. A chance to maybe do a neat family thing brought about the need to put our house on the market this spring. We have a towering "to-do" list on the house and not a lot of weeks "to-do" it in. The main urgency is to get the house list done before the weather breaks. Having house work impinge on weekends spent on Nomad? Ugh.

My last-things-to-do-before-shoving-off list included; sell house, sell Nomad, buy bigger boat, quit jobs, store motorcycles. I always figured whenever we started on any of those things we were about to reach our goal. Now selling the house will have to be taken off that list. We will still have a place to live. (The Family Thing.) And no one knows how long it will take to sell a house in this market. A realtor friend tells us 200 days is about the average. Once it is done though, the last-things-to-do-before-shoving-off list will be one item shorter.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dog Watch

Heavy jeans? Check. Hooded sweatshirt and wool cap? Check. Two pairs of socks, foulie bottoms and boots? Check. North Face jacket? (After 30 years this is still the warmest coat I own, battery acid scars and all.) Check. Gloves? Check. One would think I was gearing up to stand a dog watch in a Force 8 blow in the North Atlantic. I wish I was gearing up to stand to the dog watch in a Force 8 blow. Sadly, all I need to do is walk to the store a few blocks away to get some fabric softener, normally just a quick jog. But last night some 9 inches of snow fell on St. Louis and the temperature is in a steady decline toward single digits. That kind of cold makes it tempting to take the car, carbon footprint be damned! This is the city though, so as usual nothing gets plowed but the main streets, the closest one to us being most of a block away...uphill. The Saturn is pinned against the curb and the Z? It can't even get out of the garage without some serious snow shoveling. (The ally won't get plowed either.)

Now I admit that a lack of fabric softener wouldn't normally be enough of a crisis to warrant gearing up to this extent. Truth is I've been spending too much time indoors, and way, way too much time in the same zip code. Any excuse to move for any reason is a good excuse. (Actually, I think Deb made up the need for fabric softener just to get me out from underfoot for a while. Can't say as I blame her. When I get restless like this I wouldn't put up with me either, except I'm attached.) Its going to be cold out there and at least half the walk will be nose into the light winds. "Bundle up" is the phrase of the day.

My boots kick up a cloud of ice crystals with each step. The city sounds are muted by layers of snow blanking each inch of ground, every fence and tree limb. Even the city buses pass by with not much more than a whisper. One couple I pass is walking a tiny, little white fur-dog. When it jumps off the path it simply disappears, its leash just sticking out of the snow. Here and there people are shoveling paths from their car out to the squished, packed snow in the middle of the street. (Good luck with that.)

Its a right turn from the Wall Mart back to the house. I turn left adding many more blocks to my walk. The wind is cold but fading, the sky slowly clearing. Each passing band of sunlight sets the snow cover to sparkling with a zillion tiny bursts of dazzle. I stop to watch and can't help but think, "This is a seriously beautiful day."

It is a different kind of beautiful than is hanging off a hook in Hoffman Cay, sunshine and clear water and empty, perfect beeches. It is a different kind of beautiful than sinking through a solid overcast, picking up the approach lights at the last minute and slipping onto a wet runway with nary a bump. In spite of the long winter, in spite of the weeks it has been since I last set foot on Nomad, this day, here, far from the ocean, blanketed in snow, is insisting on being a near perfect day. All it needs is a fire in the fireplace, and I'm going to do that next.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fidji 39 pics

As requested, here are the Fidji 39 pics







A look at a boat

Weather dictated that some VIPs who really, really had be in Ft. Lauderdale Tuesday afternoon needed to leave St. Louis Monday afternoon. Tuesday morning's forecast included things like snow, 1/2 mile visibility in fog, icy runways and taxiways, and 4 to 6 inches of accumulation making it difficult to even get to the airport. Sometimes the most professional decision for the pilot in command of a high tech jet is to run like a frightened little bunny rabbit, a day early and some 400 knots over the ground, 7 miles in the sky.

Which means I had all day Tuesday to keep myself busy. Mmmm... what to do? Yacht World listed a 1991, 39' Fountaine Pajot Fidji for sale at $132,000, just waiting to be looked over barely an hour's rental car drive away from the hotel. Deb and I have been curious about the Fidgi, but all we knew was based on pictures of the few that show up for sale. Seeing one "in the flesh" was a chance not to be missed. And one never knows, maybe I would find a new model of boat (and maybe this very boat) to move to the top of the "this could be the one" list.

A phone call or two later and a visit was arranged with the owner, who was in town for one more day checking on his boat. The Old Port Cove Marina in N. Palm Beech was a bit overwhelming for a lower rent live-a-board wanna-be like me. Towering condominiums, expensive looking single family units, and a massive marina filled with Million Dollar Babies were all safely ensconced behind a manned guard gate. The guard had my name and issued me a little temporary permit so I could park my rent-a-car in the lot without it being towed. (At the owner's expense which, in this case, I assume, would be me.)

Peter and his wife however, were a delight. After introductions they allowed my scruffy self aboard ONSA. (I dress up pretty to fly the jet.) Peter has done some serious refitting to his Fidgi, sails, engines, electronics... all things that would normally need addressed on a used boat. The galley stretching across the a aft wall of the bridge deck saloon always looked like a good idea in the pictures. Turned out it really is, though the center cabinets were a little shallow. Two access doors to the cockpit, one at each end of the galley struck me as more workable than a wall of Plexiglas. Good bridge deck clearance, the normal cabin set-up in the hulls, nice ground tackle rig...lots of good ideas in this boat.

But alas, as nice a piece as ONSA is, I don't think the Fidgi is quite the boat for us. The saloon is really kind of cramped. The dinning table completely fills the space. The cockpit is equally modest. Though I liked the center helm station flanked by doors, it splits the cockpit neatly in two; both halves now being separate seating areas. Mind you, given the choice of a 47' mono-hull and the Fidgi at near the same price, the Fidgi wins hands down. I have tools and I am not shy of tearing things up. The saloon area could be redone to make a much better use of space. (Good-by big fixed table, hello some more storage space.) The cockpit is small, but bigger than a mono-hull and doesn't roll or heal - workable as is. Live in one hull, redo the other, move and repeat. Given a season or two a Fidgi would morph into a pretty nice choice. But there are a couple of other models that rank a bit higher on the list, Athena, TPI, and Admiral among them. (And me, I'm still hoping for dagger boards...can you say "Catana?")

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011...

Sometime in the last couple of days, I'm not exactly sure when or why, something inside me shifted. It has been a few years since Deb brought up the idea of retiring onto a boat, which morphed into a sailboat, which grew into having little Nomad to learn about sailing and practice living aboard. To that we added sailing in Pensacola, going around Long Island, and the Bahama Bash. Everything about the plan has been a grand adventure and a huge amount of fun. Most important (as mentioned before) was my new appreciation for simple, light, be-a-part-of-the-environment living that contrasted my go fast, go far, push the limits high risk assault on life. It helped that sailing (to my surprise) can have its share of high-wire moments. Big ocean...little boat...all the weather a pilot knows so well...strange and new places; how could it be any other way? And who would want it to be? As the years go by a rush junkie just turns into an old(er) rush junkie. To lose the rush is to lose the reason to breathe good air. I was content to be on the path we are following.

But I am chaffing at the lines all of a sudden.

I thought it just might be the "winter blues." After all, it has been weeks since I last walked Nomad's deck. But the weather doesn't really bother me much anymore. I'll take a little cold if it comes without bugs. It is much more likely we will have a heater on the boat than an air conditioner. We like the older style Cats that lack the sliding glass wall simply because they look easier to keep warm. (Well, I also happen to think they just look better.) There is a constant parade of Good Old Boat, Cruising World, Sailing World, and Practical Sailor at the mail box to read by the fireplace. Kind of a nice way to spend an evening. It can't be winter.

Then I thought it just a matter of being a bit bored. I don't have a bike to ride, not sailing, and not flying much. I spend more time pushing paper than I do rudder peddles. But there has been a constant flow of Daughters, Son-in-Laws, and grand babies through my living room. We have flown to Portland, ME and Harrisburg, PA in the last week, getting in some night and weather flying, shucked off some ice, flown an approach or two. In the next few days it is off to Ft. Lauderdale. After the visits of the holidays end I have a whole list of work to do on the house and some new tools that Santa brung me to play with. Being bored isn't it either.

Someone suggested I'm just feeling the rush of time...maybe...but I'm not really wired that way. I expect to be annoyed by the interruption whenever it comes my turn to shuffle off this mortal stage. I don't have a "bucket list." What's the last item on such a list, jump off a bridge? Someone else suggested that I am embarrassed by the culture I live in, and need to put a little distance between me and it. (That person might have a point.)

What ever it was that happened - January 9, 2011 - and I just really, really want to be gone.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


With the goal of eventually living on a sailboat, New Year's brings the obvious muse, "How many more years 'till we get there?" We are pretty far into the original "5 year plan," and clearly we are closer than we were on 8/26/2007. (Date of the first entry in this blog.) The only thing I knew about sailing back then was that it appeared to be the one avenue we could afford to travel that would lead to being on the water and living on a boat.

We've learned some things since then. Sailor talk no longer sounds like a foreign language. Once in a while I'll use "port" and "starboard" and "head" even though my feet are on solid ground. We can make a boat go and turn and tack, can find our way to a destination with the series of headings that works with the wind. We've learned to be comfortable on open water, bumpy water, and night time water. We have learned a whole bunch about what it takes to make a sailboat a home while keeping all the integrated systems working. I even learned how to sew...some anyway. But what sailing really taught me was an entirely new way to approach the world.

Sailboats move with the wind and the water. Unlike airplanes and motorcycles, a sailboat becomes a part of the environment. When the wind moves a little, the boat will move a little as well. A little more wind, a little more movement, but only up to a rather modest point. A sailboat is about being in a place and (sometimes) going to a new place, but it isn't really about "getting there."

I don't know when we'll get to the boat. It is enough to know that the winds and the tides are moving us that way, and I can smell the salt on the air.


It's 5 minutes to midnight on New Years Eve and in fact, 2011 will have arrived by the time I hit the post button. I believe it's an impossibility to approach January 1st without at least giving some passing thought to the ritual of resolutions, and having those resolutions painted on the canvas of the 5 year plan yields some interesting results.
Since most resolutions are restorative in nature (diets, exercise, smoking cessation...) it got me onto a health care train of thought.  My New Years Resolution?  CPR.

CPR - Challenge - Purge - Reallocate.

Challenge:  I'm resolving to challenge my assumptions on what material possessions I require.  In the process of cleaning my house for the arrival of my children and grandchildren, it occurred to me that I was cleaning a whole lot of items that I hadn't used since the last time I cleaned them and that life would be a lot simpler if I removed the items so that I didn't have to waste time cleaning them.  All purchases in 2011 will be filtered through the "Can I use this on the boat when we leave?" criterion.

Purge: I'm resolving to remove any stuff from my house that I haven't used in the last 12 months.  One closet at a time, e-bay and Craigslist and ReUseIt and Goodwill will be my new friends.

Reallocate: I'm resolving to reallocate resources and priorities to what matters.  It's troublesome to me that we spend enough money in a year on the security system in our house to cruise in the Bahamas for a month.  It's also deeply troubling to me that I allow media and political influences to weigh me down and distract me from the important things.  Even though we gave up television nearly 8 years ago, we are bombarded with negative influence and fearmongering on all sides from headlines at the checkout line, 6 TVs on the gym walls, coworkers at the water cooler, the internet, the newspaper and even NPR, all vying for my attention and some deliberately aiming to control.  As much as I try not to use this blog to press religious opinion, there does happen to be a certain scripture that I find immensely inspiring when thinking about the promise of the New Year and my attempt to best use its time:

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."  Phil 4:8

Happy New Years to you all and best of luck to you on your own resolutions.