Sunday, September 25, 2011

Any excuse...

The clouds below were packed close together and looked like they might be bumpy, so I switched on the "SEAT BELT" sign and slowed ye old jet down a tad. Once in the overcast the ride was as expected, not bad but not comfortable. Approach gave us a vector so we turned, popped out of one cloud and were RADOME to a dark looking CU about 2 seconds away. "This one might hurt," was the opinion from my new co-captain. WHAM! Yep. In the back coffee and cold drinks were airborne, bodies hit seat belts and heads hit the headliner. The V-ist of the VIPs aboard, a Senior VP no less, caught a flying elbow from his seatmate and got cut below his left eye.

When a Senior VP gets off a corporate jet coffee stained and dripping blood, you can be pretty sure some corporate pilot somewhere is not having a good day...even if the VIP is a really good guy and there really isn't very much blood.

Two days later we flew them home and hit some more bumps, but none as righteous. The group dismounted with smiles and jokes, and all was okay in my little aviation world. We head out again in the morning.

After that kind of week I was looking for any excuse to take Kintala off the dock and do some sailing. Alas, there was nary a hint of breeze the whole weekend. Boats took to the lake of course, but none of them claimed to have found any wind. Winter draws nigh, the work list awaits; I sighed a sigh of resignation and opened up the tool box. By the time we left the marina 4 hatches were removed, holes were covered and rain proofed, the new topping lift was installed, (one trip up the mast) Deb did some modifications in her galley, and I even coped a nap. While talking to a friend about our progress I had an epiphany; there are only two things standing between us and the ocean.

1) Get Kintala ready.
2) Sell the house.

That's kind of cool.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Counting My Blessings

(Warning: this is a rant and if you're easily offended you may want to skip it.  Ed)

If you read this blog regularly you'll recall that last weekend was a work weekend.  (OK stop laughing, I know every weekend is a work weekend...)  My designated project for the day was to replace the hinge on the hatch aft of the helm station, replace the gasket, and to mount a storage box underneath it for our handheld VHF and whatever snacks the watch person might like to have kept dry on a wet night.  As a way of explanation, this hatch used to house a remote VHF on a bracket that was destroyed because the previous owner didn't ever bother to replace the broken hinge so water was pretty much continuously pouring down on the VHF, ergo its demise.

The work went well, thanks to a couple ideas offered by marina regulars on how best to remove the now completely corroded-in broken hinge pin, (Note to self: must have a good vise mounted somewhere in the boat before we leave) and I was in the middle of mounting the plastic box under the hatch when a guy saunters past, stops briefly, shakes his head, and directs the following comment in the general direction of Tim who was working on the hatch over the salon a few feet away, "I would never let my wife handle a power tool like that." before sauntering on down the dock.  At the wise old age of 55 I try very hard to keep my feminist opinions to myself, especially in the confines of the marina where we have many good friends.  To my credit, I bit my tongue and let Tim rifle off a comment to him which clearly didn't penetrate his very firmly established views about women, but I very much wanted to tell him that I thought it was a miracle that his wife let an a**hole like him be her husband.

I'm a reasonably competent person with tools of all sorts, and the work on Kintala is largely shared by both me and Tim.  I credit this almost completely to the fact that I have somehow managed to snag the most encouraging, supportive, respectful partner that exists on the planet, and one that manages to ignore my rantings and ravings about people like this particular dock-walker.  I originally wasn't even going to say anything about this particular incident, but 2 days later I read a post by Kathleen over at SailVicarious where she was asking for help in creating a seminar for couples in which the man wanted to sail off into the sunset and the woman was reluctant due to fear, and it aggravated me to the point where I just had to say something.

The fact is, if you're a man who wants to go cruising and your wife is reluctant to go because she's never been encouraged in your relationship to expand her knowledge base and skills, never had the opportunity to handle the power tools, never allowed to voice her opinion, then in my eyes it's just too late to drag her along into what will almost always end up being a challenging situation.

Our 40 years together have been a partnership.  We do tend to fall into Pink and Blue roles on the boat sometimes, conceding to the inevitably gender-biased upbringing in our society and what skills we've become proficient at, but when the projects to be done are all Blue, I pick up a wrench and a [gasp] power tool, and dig in.  It's not to say I don't fall prey to certain fears about cruising - I believe we all do at some point, but my incredibly supportive and encouraging husband has made it possible for me to be not only looking forward to our departure, but eagerly anticipating it, and for that I daily count my blessings. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Backing up... the only way to go forward. Those who have been around any kind of maintenance for a while are probably nodding and smiling, humming some version of the song, "Been there, done that, have the T-shirt." After several weekends spent chasing leaks in various hatches, rebedding the two big ones and polishing the tops of the two little ones, they still nagged. Polishing made them look better but also highlighted the fact that the protective coating on the aluminum frames has long since disappeared. Big areas of the big hatches are noticeably corroded and the plexi badly crazed, the plexi in one of the small ones is cracked. Time to regroup and rethink this project.

A shop near our home will clean and powder coat all eight frame pieces for a couple of hundred bucks. The only debate is what color they will be when finished. My choice would be fire-engine red (matching the interiors of the dorads). For the most part sailboats are about as visually stimulating as a chunk of drift wood; faded or off-white hulls with a muted "trim" stripe, white sails, dull grey metal work, brown wood, a near invisible dull aluminum mast sticking up in the air. One could draw a picture of a marina full of sailboats and use only half of the crayons in the basic box of 8. But I suspect the graphic design expert (and reigning Admiral) of our little navy will have a different (and admittedly better) artistic vision. We are pricing new plexi as well.

So at the top of the to-do list for this weekend is pulling the cabin hatches, disassembly, and dropping them off at the painters. Since they will be gone for a couple of weeks the gaping holes will be plugged with plywood and RTV. Kintala will look like a project boat after all...but she will still be able to take to the lake should the fall winds fill in. In a year or so (?) I will be sitting at the helm out in the middle of big salt water and know the hatches are both as stout and as protected from the environment as they can be, and will chalk that one up as a job done right. (Though they probably won't be fire-engine red.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Half a cruiser

It has been said that cruising is the art of doing endless boat maintenance while anchored in exotic places. We have the endless boat maintenance part down pat, so I guess that makes us half a cruiser. Then again; if one was born and raised in Tahiti maybe one would think a lake manufactured in the middle of the corn fields of Illinois and filled up with sailboats as an exotic place? Or maybe I can call the pump out dock an exotic port of call? There has to be one like it in Tahiti someplace, doesn't there?

Naw...half a cruiser it is.

It is a malady affecting many at our marina lately. Friend Joel's boat suffered some sort of major melt down. When I stopped by his slip to invite him to dinner he was elbow deep in the engine compartment with motor bits, wrenches, and screwdrivers scattered hither and yon. Over on S/V Gail Force Jeff was laboring to re-bed one of the big side windows of his Hunter. It seems the leading edge has spronged its way free of the sealer holding it in place to funnel as much spray as possible into the interior. Ray is hoping to finish up installing a binnacle, the last task of many this year, and get his boat wet in the next couple of weeks. It may take a sailor to get a boat across an ocean, but it takes a mechanic to get the damned thing off the dock.

Meanwhile, I am struggling to keep S/V Kintala on the "working boat" list and off the "project boat" list. (Is there something like the 90-day injured reserved list in the sailboat world? If not, there should be.) Three days of hatch work resulted in one hatch that leaked just a little less than it did, and one hatch running water through it like I'd hooked up a faucet. We know this because the last mounting screw was being torqued up just as thunder rolled across the lake. The rains came, the rains conquered. Apparently the work done re-bedding the hatch frame disturbed the half-arsed repair work done on bedding the hatch glass done in the dark, distant past by persons unknown. The hatch top is now sitting in the garage and Kintala has a sheet of plastic duct-taped over a giant hole in her deck. I am seriously considering pulling all of the hatches, having them cleaned and powder coated, re-installing the glass (in a non-half-arsed manor) and re-bedding them a second time. Your guess would be as good as mine as to this happening before or after removing and replacing the head and all the associated hoses. (A job that has not even been started yet and is already a morphing into a monster headache.) At the moment the planning node of my brain has hit overload and quit working.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Webster's sense of humor

hatch 1  (hach)
a. An opening, as in the deck of a ship, in the roof or floor of a building, or in an aircraft.
b. The cover for such an opening.
c. A hatchway.
d. Nautical A ship's compartment.
2. The hinged rear door of a hatchback.
3. A floodgate.
down the hatch Slang
Drink up. Often used as a toast.
The weekend was spent rebedding several of the hatches on Kintala.  The V-berth hatch and the one in the main salon have been leaking since we bought the boat and despite repeated attempts to correct the issue by resealing the exterior handles and putting in new gasket material, it continued to rain inside every time it rained outside.  Tim worked the 2 larger hatches while I tackled the one aft of the helm seat, a kind of odd place to put a Bomar hatch that locks from the inside when there is no way to access the inside unless you're a child of 3 or a midget, threaded carefully through the lazarette and around the cockpit floor to the stern.  It once provided access for a remote VHF radio station, but due to the fact that one of the hinge pins was broken and there was no way to lock it, water did what water does and completely totaled the VHF.  As Webster says above, a hatch is a floodgate.  So we removed the useless remote VHF and I located a square plastic storage box that fit exactly in the same place, just large enough to stow our handheld VHF and a couple snacks for the watch person and installed it with the help of several mounting blocks.  Of course removing the broken hinge pin took half a day as it was a stainless roll pin now thoroughly embedded in corroded aluminum, followed by a trip to locate replacements and my project carried over into the second day.  Tim's job wasn't any easier, each hatch taking a full day to remove and clean up, the aluminum frames being as corroded as mine was.  After two days of this we were fully prepared to take Webster's final piece of definition "Down the hatch...Drink up" at his word and enjoyed the company of The Assembled at the marina for dinner and various alcoholic concoctions.  The weather man is calling for pretty much steady rain over the next 24 hours so we'll have plenty of time to see if our efforts have yielded a dry(er) boat.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Home sweet home...

It is a bit late on Thursday evening, Deb and I just finished putting the weekend stuff on Kintala. This should be mostly a work weekend; fixing leaks, finding engine noises, putting up the new topping lift. We hope to get a little sailing in as well but we will just let the weekend unfold as it will. It is good to be back on board.

Recurrent training went as expected, though the underlying thought that this might be my last rodeo cast an odd light on the week. If this was my last go-around I managed it without crashing the sim; though I did put a few simulated dings in it. That scenario started with an all engines failure on a night cross country and at 25,000 feet, with an extended glide to the closest suitable runway we could find (Jonseboro in this case). With no hydraulics and a rapidly depleted battery there were no flaps, no boards, no brakes, no TRs, and we had to do a manual gear extension. We thumped it down on a runway but using the emergency braking system resulted in a blown tire, the simulated jet coming to a rest just a few feet short of the end of the simulated runway. Interesting. My new co-driver got the hardest sim session with his all engines inoperative game starting just a couple of thousand feet up after a departure. Against all odds he got it turned around and back down on a runway, though to make it to concrete he had to leave the wheels up and slide into a simulated belly-flopper of a landing. The box makes ugly noises when it detects such an event, but also determined the impact was survivable - the whole reason for the exercise.

The real jet is still in maintenance with a to-do list to rival Kintala's. So far there is no word as to when we can go back to flying the real thing. That's how I managed to squeeze out an extra day for working on the boat. The carp are still this evening, (must be below their minimum operating temperature out there) the heater is much quieter than the a/c, and the V-berth is calling my name. It is good to be home.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A different kind of school

Part of the 12 day flying stretch Deb mentioned is the yearly visit to recurrent training for the jet; 12 hours in the box, 12 hours in the classroom. To accommodate the fact that three of us are going this year and all of us need our time in the box, each day will be at least 10 hours long. Our airliner ride leaves St. Louis in a few hours and yes, we are flying on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. I expect it to be a long, trying day of endless TSA hassle; and I really, really wish I was spending the day on Kintala with Deb.

Still, someone else is paying to put me on the road for 4 days and do my best to crash a multi-million dollar simulator; how can that not be fun? We have had a pretty good warm-up to the sim in the last two days of flying. Friday my new co-driver and I (my old one has be recalled to American) entered a hold at PDC to wait out fog, used up the holding fuel we had added, missed the approach and diverted to ALO. Getting back to SUS at the end of the day included dodging TRWs and shooting an ILS approach. Going to the maintenance base at ALN yesterday involved another ILS approach. My new co-driver is a long time pilot and friend who has spent the last year or so flying 747s freighters around the world. (The state of our industry is so fractured that flying 747s that can weight upwards of 400,000 pounds all around the planet pays considerably less than flying a Citation that weights 16,000 pounds around the mid-west. At least, in the mid-west, English is English and the food is tolerable.) I'm thinking we are going to have a pretty good time slogging around in our old Citation.

After a long week it will be good to be back in the school of Kintala and the lake sim known as Carlyle. Projects await, and with the cooler temps of fall the work will not be quite as trying. (Changing the head and hoses in 70 degree weather sounds much better than doing the same in 100 degree weather!) I need to learn more about head sail combinations, particularly on how to fly the bigger stay sail. Right now it isn't even clear if it can be flown parallel to the jib, something I am itching to explore. In fact I was thinking this morning of just how much I have yet to learn. I don't know much about zincs and saltwater, solar panels and wind generators, auto-helms and wind vanes, flag etiquette in foreign ports, picking up a mooring ball (and paying for same), laying to a stern anchor, or what the hell that new noise is coming from the engine compartment. (It popped up two weekends ago and I don't have a clue.)

Long time cruisers will probably get a chuckle out of the things I worry about not knowing. Then again, in many ways I am still a pilot pretending to be a sailor. Airplanes or sailboats, one thing I am pretty sure of is no one ever stops learning on either one.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Peace and Quiet

It's late Friday night and Tim's in the middle of his 12 day stint of flying so I'm here on Kintala by myself.  It's also the end of a day of fog and mist and steady rain in the area so The Assembled are few and the marina is atypically quiet.  No 3am party, no party boat loudspeaker, no a/c running 24/7, and even the carp seem to have deserted the marina for wherever it is they go in the fall.  The season is clearly winding down.

I spent the day on a canvas job for another marina resident making a window covering for the forward, highly slanted window on a Hunter 33.  With some Tori Amos on Pandora, the sewing  machine hum and the pattering of the rain on the deck, it was a pretty pleasant day on the boat, albeit just a tad lonely without Tim here.  It was my first project using Sailrite's Stamoid fabric, a vinyl-covered fabric that has many uses besides the snap-on window covering I made today.  It's very flexible and easy to cut and sew.  I was pretty impressed with it.  Here's some pictures of the finished product, although keep in mind that it was dark, raining and I took the pictures with my phone.

For those of you doing your own canvas, I highly recommend Sailrite's Press and Snap tool.  It was worth every penny I spent on it and then some. 

Off to bed.  Hopefully it won't rain too much more tonight because we still haven't licked the leaking hatches yet and I'm sleeping under one of them....

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Endless days in the School of Kintala

The wind built all through Sunday night, rocking our little 2-boat raft-up. After a tasty breakfast compliments of Paradise, Deb and I tried to figure out what combination of sail would best fit the conditions. We debated multiple choices; the big and little stay sail, with or without a bit of jib rolled out, coupled with one or two reefs in the main. We were really trying to get it right with the winds steady in the high teens, gusting well past 20, and swinging through 20 to 25 degrees. The one thing I didn't figure mattered was the waves - at 42 feet Kintala is just too long for the short, steep waves that build on our little lake to matter much.

Sailing short handed with the wind what is was we decided to keep it simple. A reef in the main and about half the jib left on the roller was our choice. We handed in our answer sheet, pulled up the anchor, and headed out onto the lake to get our score.

At first it seemed we had gotten it correct. Not an "A+" as we heeled hard with a lot of weather helm, but at least a "B" with some bonus points for pure fun. An hour later though, with the wind building and gusting, our "B" was sinking fast. Rail in the water, helm hard to weather, Kintla was once again struggling to do what we had asked. The bad news was we were almost completely out of control, the good news was we were in the middle of the lake with a bit of room to figure something out and, well, it is lake Carlyle. This season the lake has proved that it can put a hurt on a boat, but one still has to work pretty hard at it, or be very unlucky. We hadn't run out of luck yet, or completely out of ideas. I dropped the traveler all the way to the bottom and freed the main sheet. At the helm Deb forced Kintala up just enough that the mad deck-monkey (that would be me) grinding wildly on the roller line managed to stow away the jib.

We were now pointed upwind of the marina entrance, falling off just a bit would get us safely home. Only Deb had no control at the helm. No matter what she did the bow kept the same heading. Unlike little Nomad, which would sail happily on just the main, just the jib, or just about any combination of the two, Kintala is not a happy boat with no head sail. Playing with the main sheet / traveler moved the bow a few degrees this way or that way, but Kintala was still not taking orders from the helm. Now I was out of ideas, but at least we weren't going very fast. I was forced to admit to getting a failing grade on this sailing test - Deb started the engine.

I should have let a little of the jib back out, but getting it in had been a single-minded battle that left my arms complaining bitterly of lactic overload, with wrists stiff and fingers numb. The flogging sail and flying sheets were a sight to behold, scenes from the movie of "How Not To Do It". (Deb was sure were were about to break something.) My brain just couldn't get to giving back what was so hard to earn. Even better we should have started out with the small stay sail, rolling out just a bit of jib had we needed it. Equally important, when the wind goes above 15 kts put a reef in the main. When its going well above 20 put in two! Thus rigged my guess is that we would have punched easily through the waves still doing at or better than 6 kts, with nary a care in the world.

But we will have to wait for the re-test to find out for sure.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Video and Pics

Just a quick video and some pics of the great sailing we had yesterday.  It was 22-28 knots and lumpy water and we were unfortunately way overcanvassed.  When we started out the day it was perfect for one reef in the main and 50% of the genoa, but the wind kicked up incredibly fast and we were left trying to deal with too much sail.  Great lessons learned in a controlled environment.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Visit

All I wanted was just enough wind to put the sails up for my three visiting grandkids so I could maybe, just maybe, help them to understand what it is I love so much about this thing we're doing,  but then this is Carlyle Lake and on Carlyle Lake it's always either too much wind, or none.

After loading my middle daughter, her very patient husband and the three kids on the boat we motored out to Cole's Creek to swim away the afternoon, hoping that some wind would build by the time we were done so we could sail back to the marina.  Four hours of sweltering heat later there was not even a whisper of wind, so we motored on back.  After indulging in the scrumptious fare of the annual Boulder Yacht Club hog roast benefit they took off for home and within an hour we were heeling over at the dock under 38kt winds and a tremendous thunderstorm.  Ahhh well.  We'll have to wait a few weeks and try again.

We did have a wonderful day of playing with the kids on the boat, exploring the cabins and testing out each berth (Mary's favorite is the Pilot Berth), steering with Grampy T (Michael would much rather race a power boat I believe), having noodle races around the boat (Catherine is clearly the winner here), and swimming fast to evade the Grampy Shark attacks.  Most of our families think we're just plain nuts selling everything and moving onto 400 sq. ft. of sailboat, but today at least 2 of them were pretty interested in the goings on and very disappointed that they weren't going to get to sleep in one of the rocking berths for the night. 

Sailing is cool :)

No...I think I like this one.

Let's see... I like this one.

Picnic lunch under the sunshade

Going backwards is the hardest.

Hmmmm...not impressed with the lake water or the super cool raft boat.
And the winner of the round-the-boat race is...Catherine.
The Grampy Shark chasing Mary