Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's the little things

In light of all the recent difficulties we've encountered with the boat, one of our friends-that-we-haven't-met-yet (aka a fellow cruiser whose blog we follow religiously) said, "Stay the course. In a year the past will be well in the past. It'll be worth it, I swear."  It was a perfectly timed comment for me because if I have one prominent character flaw it's that I tend to be overwhelmed by things in the present and forget the end goal.  You would think I would learn this lesson since I've had it presented to me often enough over the years.  I remember while I was getting my pilot's license I was having difficulty with "plunking" the plane down on the numbers at the end of the runway instead of smoothly gliding across the numbers and softly touching down.  My instructor (who also happens to be my ever-so-patient husband) pointed out that I was focusing on the numbers to the elimination of the rest of the runway environment.  He noted that I should possibly see what I could do to keep the whole runway environment in my field of concentration and pointed out that this would allow me to settle onto the runway with a modicum of grace.

This train of thought caused me to take a break in my internet search  for new engine mounts for the Westerbeke 50 and to go sit with Tim in the cockpit for a while enjoying the last of the colorful fall leaves and the seagulls' antics while diving for the little silver jumping fish all over the marina.  I was thinking about  how when I reflect on my 55 years, all of the things that I think fondly of are the little things.  Everyone has the big events - birthdays, marriages, anniversaries, job changes, moves, illnesses, deaths, but it occurred to me that it's the little things that define a life, the accumulation of all the little choices and experiences that fill out the framework of who we are.  Pictures popped into my mind - of me and Tim's Gramps standing at the kitchen counter peeling apples for an apple pie, his favorite...of the kids running and jumping in the piles of oak tree leaves on a perfect fall day much like this one...of my mom singing Amazing Grace while she was folding laundry...of all three of our kids plus spouses sitting around a table after dinner with us laughing till our sides hurt about some ridiculous thing that had happened to one of us...of hundreds of white pelicans soaring over Nomad in a perfect line...of laying in the V-berth on this very boat, rocking gently and hearing the halyards way in the background making better music than any wind chime.

So while our dream may be just a tiny bit tarnished at the moment, and obstacles seem to be piling up in front of us, I'm going to be sure to take some time to enjoy the little things because in a year it will all be in the past and I'm sure it will be worth it.

Parade of failure

We went for a long sail yesterday with Jeff and Co. on Gail Force.  It was a romping good sail until late in the afternoon when Jeff was forced to fire up his engine to bring us home.  Speaking of engines...

Deb did a lot of research this weekend piecing together parts of Kintala's history and trying to figure out how we ended up where we are in spite of our best efforts; badly broken boat, falling behind schedule, and struggling to figure out how to pay for it all.  She got a lot more done this weekend than did I, though I did manage to unbolt the mount plate from the old tranny and bolt on the new one.

"There," I thought to myself with the last bolt snugged up, "the tranny is ready to least we are making a little progress."

Not so fast, Buckwheat.  Something went bad somewhere that started this whole cascade of shattered metal bits, and Deb pointed me to the right place based on something she had read on failed V-drives...engine mounts.

The moment she said it all the pieces fell into place.  And, since there are a lot of big parts already removed, I could get a pretty good look at the starboard side forward engine mount - which is totally and completely hammered.  You know how old, really old, really old and used up rubber gets, brittle like cheap plastic, chunks breaking off with black dust spread around here and there?  It would be nice if the engine mounts on Kintala looked that good.

Here is what my survey says about engine mounts:  "...the engine mounts are in good condition securely attached to the longitudinal stringers..."  Just to add insult to injury, here is the comment from the mechanical inspection: "V-drive fluid/oil - Level, Color,  Smell - ACCEPTABLE, Signs of debris, NONE"

Here is where we stand.  The engine mounts are toast; installing a new tranny and V-drive would be a complete waste of time and $$.  New mounts go in first.  Next will be a new damper plate, since the tranny warranty is void without one.  Then (Buckwheat) the tranny can go on.  The V-drive goes in last and all I have to do then is figure out how to line all this stuff up so the shaft runs true.

Moral of the story?  The next time you get a survey or mechanical inspection done on a boat make sure someone looks at the engine mounts.  Better yet, do it yourself.  If they don't look freaking perfect get a big, big chunk knocked off the going-in price or walk away and don't look back.  Your bank account will thank you.

My gift to charge.

p.s.  To be fair an item on the the mechanical inspection "repair" list included replacing the engine mounts.  When I asked why, given that the survey explicitly stated that they were in good condition, I was told the adjustment studs were corroded and it would difficult to alien the shaft next time that was needed.  That same list included repairing the engine pre-heat system which, in fact, works perfectly.  The mechanic doing the inspection didn't know how to use it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Road Trip

Fedex came today carrying a long tube and a heavy box filled with charts and guide books.  You see we happened on a terrific deal on most of the charts and guides we needed for our trip from Chicago to Nova Scotia via the St. Lawrence.  A friend of a friend just finished the trip and was looking to offload the materials in preparation for loading up on Caribbean charts for his trip farther South. It carries with it a bit of the excitement of The Road Trips that we used to take in the car when we were younger.  Stacks of maps to look at and plan from, the trip unknown and full of promise.  In spite of the fact that we don't have a working engine at the moment or a transmission to power with that engine, it somehow makes me feel just a little better to have these stacks of books on my kitchen counter and piles of charts on the kitchen table.   The charts aren't new, exhibiting some markings on them from their previous owner, and somehow I feel connected to them as a result.  Brand spanking new charts would mock me I think, their blank margins and possible routes waiting for the pencil, but these charts smell a little of the ocean and teak and diesel and salt, and the slightly stained and dog-eared edges do yield a bit of promise.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

And the beat...

...goes on.

A puzzled V-drive guru called today.  It appears that the drive coupling flange isn't actually one of theirs, the moment it is a complete unknown as to how this particular V-drive got mated to this particular tranny, when, and by whom.  Why the drive was so badly trashed is partly explained though.  It seems the mystery tranny coupling provides a good bit of the support for the drive gears.  When the bolts in that coupling started to fail the drive gears started to move, grinding against the case as they rotated around.  (No clue as to why the bolts started to fail.) 

Since boats are not required to have maintenance log books it would not appear there is any way to know who did the modification, or why.  Eventually we will figure out some way to make it work, though no word yet on this unit being fixed.  We may still be required to pry loose a SBU or two for new.  All of which brought up an entirely new train of thought.

If the $$ flowing into Kintala were water she would plummet to the bottom faster than the Titanic.  So it amazes me how many seaworthy boats are out there, cruising on a modest budget.  And it is no wonder shore side dwellers think all sailors must be rich, or at least were rich when they got into sailboats.  Its kind of like an old boss of mine used to say, "I know there are millions of dollars in aviation, I put them there." 

I know the feeling...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Slogging against the tide...

"Your hatches are done but didn't turn out too well." 

My first thought was, "Well, then they aren't done yet, are they?"

When one is powder coating cast aluminum, one must be careful to pre-bake the part to prevent out-gassing.  (Something I thought I knew and verified with a 10 minute search on the Internet.)  One would think an outfit calling itself "Performance Coatings" and claiming to be experts in powder coating would know it as well.

Apparently one would be wrong.  As a result, one ends up with hatch frames that look like they have been painted with non-skid; really ugly gloss-black non-skid.  Honestly, I have done better paint work drunk, outside in the wind, with a rattle-can.

The sad fact is I'm not even too surprised. This entire experience of buying Kintala and trying to get her seaworthy has been a parade of incompetence. A welder who couldn't weld, a surveyor who didn't, a mechanic who missed a disintegrating drive, a rigging inspector who couldn't tell a good rope from bad, why would I expect to find a painter who could paint?  There have been exceptions; UK-Halsey, Cameron Marine, the folks who made the mattress for the V-berth.  I certainly hope the V-drive people join that short list, but truth to tell I'm not holding my breath.  I fear the tranny / V-drive repair is many, many moons from being completed.

I would admit to much of this being my fault if I was trying to get things done on the cheap, going with the lowest bidder, haggling everyone over a penny here and a dollar there.  But we haven't done it that way.  Instead we have tried to find those with the proper credentials, the right capabilities, and good reputations; hoping to get what we pay for.  It is an approach bred of spending thousands of hours miles above the ground going ridiculous speeds - spending an entire working lifetime betting my life on the expertise of others.  Countless others have made that same bet on my abilities, and do so every time the cabin door is closed on my airplane.

It is an approach not working very well in the sailing world, but we have no choice but to keep trying.

Just like the painter.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Random thoughts...

We did get to go sailing; Thor and Ulli taking us out on their Tri for a really nice sail in light winds.  (Six knots in five worth of wind, not bad!)  Both Deb and I spent time at the helm, a few King Pelicans coasted by to show off their flying skills, and we floated back into the marina just as the wind died away altogether.  It was fun.  (Deb left her camera on Kintala and was disappointed to have missed some great shots.)

News of Kintala's busted innards spread through the marina family and virtually everyone stopped by to offer words of encouragement.  Many also shared words of disparagement based on their own encounters with marine surveyors, mechanics, and boatyards.  (Even Schmitty our resident mechanic - who also offered guidance and advice whenever asked and loaned tools without question when the one I needed was back at the house.  Thanks!  It would have been an impossible week without the help.)

For the record let me say that I suspect there are more boat mechanics out there like Schmitty than like the hack who "inspected" Kintala.  Mind you, I can't PROVE that, but I do suspect...

After a week living on the boat, even if it was a week of unrelenting mechanical effort, it was hard to pack up and head back to the city.  It helped to remember that work resumes in the morning, and work is what I trade for SBUs.

As much as I do enjoy my work, and as good as it will be to get back in the sky for a spell, this week also reminded me that not having to work is better than the best job there is.  Just why is it that people who make a million or two (or eleven) in exchange for a years worth of effort hang around for a second year?  Take the money and run (or sail), that would be my advice.  Before I call it a night I'm going to lift a glass to all of you who have already managed to point your bow offshore and go.

A big bonfire is a thing of beauty on a cool fall night.  A pile of pallets makes for big bonfires.  While the fire burned some of the assembled assembled in the club house and gathered around the big screen TV... apparently there was some kind of game going on that involved a St. Louis team.  Not sure what they were all cheering about...

Finding and fixing all the leaks in the pressure side of a water system modification can take longer than installing the mod in the first place.  (A chunk of hose and a couple of worm clamps?  Really?)

Finishing a home project takes at least two trips to the parts store; finishing a boat project takes at least three.

Experience tells me putting parts back on is about 3 X harder than pulling them off.  It is likely to be a long, cold winter.

For all of the effort and progress this week, I'm still feeling a bit ambivalent about Kintala. Right now it isn't clear if she IS The Retirement Project or just slowing our progress to being where we want to be. No choice for now but to keep throwing parts at this thing and see what works out.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What did you do...

...on your fall vacation?  On Monday we pulled the V-drive.  On Tuesday we pulled the transmission.  On Wednesday we pulled the head then fabricated and installed a new piece of floor.  On Thursday we installed the pump (hardest part of the job) and ran new waste hose.  On Friday we built up and installed a way to use water drained from the sink to flush the loo (saving boat water AND keeping lake water out of the holding tank), and plumbed in a deck wash line while we were at it.  Then we put the inside of the boat back together so it looks like a boat again, not a work shop.  (Getting the pressure side of this new system to stop leaking was the second hardest part of the job.)

All week the weather was Mid Western Fall Ugly - high winds, gray skies, rain and drizzle, blustery with constantly falling temperatures.  At first, still recovering from jaw work (i.e. taking lots of drugs), with Kintala rocking and bucking at her dock lines, shoulder deep in the bilge or shoehorned into the head, there were times when I wasn't sure just which way was "UP".  But by the end of the week I didn't even notice.  This weekend?  Supposed to be two days of Mid Western Autumn Perfect - clear, cool and with just enough wind.  Maybe someone will have pity on us and take us sailing?  I could use a break from vacation.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Getting a Head

From day one we knew that Kintala was going to need a new Throne in the Head.  Green fuzz was growing out of seals, the base was water damaged and deteriorating (and storing stink), and we couldn't keep the water level down in the bowl.  Weeks ago a new Lavac system landed in our garage and went to the top of the work list; only to be bumped by leaking hatches that ended up at overhaul, then bumped again by the trashed V-drive, that also ended up in overhaul (we hope), then bumped a third time by the demise of our transmission.  Today though, with nothing but a big hole in the bilge where the V-drive and tranny used to reside and no pressing deeds to be done in the engine compartment (fingers crossed), swapping out the head finally got started.

 Bye Bye old head

Hello beautiful new Lavac Popular Manual Head

Not finished, not yet.  In a lot of ways the work is really a two person job stuffed into a one person space.  So mostly what got done today was getting the old unit and associated hoses removed and the new base built.  Originally that base was going to be 1/2" Starboard, but the more we looked at it the less comfortable we were with the idea of it carrying the expected loads in the expected environment.  As it turns out Schmitty had ordered a Corian piece to use as a bow seat on Alcestis; a piece that turned out to be a serious case of overkill in both size and weight.  Our Starboard was perfect for his use, his Corian perfect for ours, and so a deal was struck.

Kintala may not have a V-drive.  She may not have a tranny.  Her hatches are still covered in plywood and duct tape.  Take a seat on the Throne though, and your little fanny will be supported by the finest, one-inch thick, custom cut and fitted piece of Corian that has ever found its way into a head.

When we finally do get to go, we intend to go in style!

Monday, October 17, 2011

V-Drive Blues

Not so much a case of the blues, maybe a case of the flu, or even pneumonia?  A few weeks ago when the new engine noise showed up I said something about it sounding like the V-drive, maybe the transmission, but probably the drive.  Silly me.  It is both.

The racket we heard as Kintala drifted to a stop in the marina last weekend was the V-drive disintegrating into a housing full of chewed up parts and 90 wt gear oil gravy steeped in metal shards.  No big surprise there, though it has been a long time since I have pulled such a blowed-up bit out of a machine.  When the drive went it took the output flange of the transmission with it.  That flange is part of the shaft, which is apparently as deep into the transmission as one can delve.  So the transmission is toast.  We just ordered a replacement for a few pennies less than two SBUs.  (SBU = Standard Boat Unit = $1000.)  The V-drive folks say they may be able to overhaul their unit, so Deb is out shipping it.  I'm guessing they will open the box, snort and laugh and poke each other, and then we will buy a new V-drive to go with our new tranny.  Total for getting Kintala under power once again?  If it comes out any less than 4 SBUs it will be a surprise.

Today has been a day full of learning new things; how to take a V-drive out of a Tartan, that I need a special wrench to get the lower port mount bolt of the transmission loose (I believe I have just such a home...transmission removal to be completed at a later date.) and, if you move the prop drive shaft just 1/2 inch forward once it is free from the V-drive, lake water will will spew into the bilge at an astounding rate and startle the snot out of an aircraft mechanic.  (The shaft is now securely fixed in place so it can't move again!)

When we bought this boat I tried as best as I know how to avoid just such a development, spending SBUs on inspections and repairs done by reputable people and organizations.  This one though, is really getting me close to being an unhappy camper.  One look was all it took to know that this V-drive has been making shinies for a long, long time.  When it started making noise it wasn't telling me it was getting ready to fail.  No, it was telling me that it had failed a long time ago and was about to implode.  Since I have no history with this boat I missed the memo.  But the son-of-a-wanna-be-wrench-bending-bozo who changed the gear oil the last time, and probably the time before that, and maybe the time before that, should have gotten it highlighted and in bold print.  And tell me, just what does a mechanic do during a $600 mechanical inspection, count the sockets in his tool drawer?  Polish screwdrivers?  Juggle spanner wrenches?  If only I had known then what I know now I would have paid him an extra half a SBU to take a dribble of V-drive, tranny and engine oil, rub it between his finger and thumb, and hold it up to the sunlight.  I fear though that even if he had, and as a result had driven a quarter inch shard of tortured metal into his skin, he would have completely missed the relevance of the blood flowing down his finger and called the drive good to go. 

Since it would be impossible not to be discouraged at getting burned by so-called experts, I'm just going to go ahead and be discouraged.  One never knows how things will end up but the thought is that this is going to delay our departure some.  What was a "to-do" list has exploded into a major work order.  Getting it all done and then paying for it is going to take considerable effort - and maybe a little more time than originally hoped.

So I'm not going to waste any effort trying to keep a stiff upper lip, look at the good side, think positive, or any other such idiotic make-nice chatter.  I'm just going to accept discouragement as part of the deal, grab a rag, and get back to work.

p.s.  The tranny came out today.  For the mechanics among you...getting to the problem bolt required; a) pull the starter, b) pull the shifter arm off the shaft, c) remove 4 nuts and pull the shifter housing, d) pull the bottom two shifter housing studs out of the tranny case.  (There isn't near enough room in there for a stud puller, which was okay since I didn't have one at hand.  Two nuts locked together did the trick.)  Then a 9/16 crow's foot on a long extension was just enough leverage to break the bolt loose without harming the engine case; which was the real concern since the tranny is trashed anyway.

p.p.s.  I promise to be in a better mood when stuff starts going back on the boat that actually works.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Boat Bum

We spent some time on the lake this weekend (both Saturday and Sunday) with Friend Jeff and Gail Force; and it was good time too. (There were a bunch of other friends on the boat over the two days as well; Bill, Ann, Joel, Sharon, Mark, Thor and Ulli.)  Winds ranged from 12 to 20 knots with gusts touching 30 once in a while. The lake lumped up with nice little rollers and white caps, we tossed spray off the bow and down the deck, and generally romped around the lake with other die-hard boats bashing upwind and then flying back down. (Gail Force clocked 8+ on the gps for extended runs off the wind - reminding us of why someone thought up the idea of a sailboat in the first place!)

While on one of those fliers with Deb and I standing in the companionway enjoying the ride, she allowed as this was really all she wanted... to be a boat bum.

"Good news," I replied. "We are burning through cash like we have some, Kintala is broken down and tied to a pier, she has bits and parts scattered everywhere waiting to get fixed, with plywood in her ports and dock line knots taking permanent shape.  Pretty soon winter will arrive and we will be down in her salon huddled around a space heater trying to stay warm (with the bath house a cold walk away in the middle of the night), and we are begging rides from friends to get out on the water. If we are not boat bums yet we are getting mighty close."

Once upon a time I was a respectable man...

Actually that's one of those descriptions that is pretty close to true without being very accurate, and we both got a chuckle out of it.  Kintala is on the injured reserved list at the moment, but that isn't terminal.  We are bumming boat rides but there is nothing particularly new about that - I'm always bumming boat rides.  And one of these days I suspect people will be once again bumming rides off of Kintala. 

With the flying schedule slow this week we are going to take an extra few days and concentrate on actually working.  I hope to pull the v-drive come morning and get it shipped off for overhaul.  The hatches should be back from paint next week along with new glass.  Building them up for install will start soon.  The new head is on the boat.  (Still in the box but on the boat!)  I spent most of today putting another coat of teak oil on all the deck wood, getting it ready for the harsh winds of winter.  (More jaw work done last week is slowing me down this weekend.  I'm good for sitting on a boat working sheets or standing at the helm.  Upside down, elbows deep in the bilge?  Not so much yet.)

But you know, I really am looking forward to being a boat bum some day.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Luck, first cousin to The Magic

We had more than our share of The Magic this weekend, so we really had no claim on a streak of luck. But it worked out that way anyway.

Yesterday's big do at the marina was a wedding. Dennis, (he of mast climbing fame and owner of the marina) traded "I do's" with Petra, charmer from Germany and Sister of good friend Ulli (she of Trimaran fame and one time Commodore of the Yacht Club). Ulli's husband Thor is the incoming Commodore - so it was very much a family affair. Part of the celebration was an evening "Wedding Regatta." Some 18 sailboats headed out following Dennis' Desperado, complete with a Newlywed sign flying off her stern. The weather was prefect, the sail was perfect, and a horizon of full sails crossing a setting sun is a sight fit for a wedding.

Kintala was among the fleet of course, but we didn't make the turn for home, ducking into Coles Creek instead. A peaceful night after a long, busy day was just the ticket. This morning we sailed off the hook a bit early since Daughter-who-is-the-youngest was due to visit, bringing granddaughter-who-is-also-the-youngest, for their first sail on the new boat. Ghosting out onto the lake in zephyrs we were greeted by hundreds of King pelicans, hundreds more cormorants, and still hundreds more gulls. It was an amazing sight and we were quite content to drift slowly among them. But time was running out to meet Daughter youngest so we were forced to fire up the motor.

There is a smell that every mechanic has burned into his or her alarm system - that of hot metal being tortured to destruction. I caught just a whiff, but it was enough to set my internal klaxon to blaring. The V-drive was actually being pretty quiet, but I eased back on the throttle and waited to see if we would make it to the dock.

Almost. Entering the marina I dropped the boat into neutral to make the first of two 180 degree turns. That was all the life left in the V-drive. Selecting forward provoked ugly thrashing, clunking noises from below - and that was pretty much that. A call out to friend Bill of Paradise, informing him that we were drifting helpless in a marina full of boats was all it took. Within minutes Schmidty was pulling alongside in "Alcestis" to tug us home, Joel and Gary on board to help. At the dock a half-dozen stood buy to ease a wounded Kintala safely onto her pier - and that was pretty much that.

We could not have coughed the V-drive at a more opportune moment. Instead of being a disaster it was a non-event. The Magic and a wedding, the pelicans and a big dose of luck, all in the same weekend. No one can ask much better than that. Still, in spite of my best efforts it must be admitted that Kintala really is a project boat now; tied to her pier basically immobile, hatches missing, head about to be removed, (and not a moment too soon) sailing season likely over...for the next few weeks and maybe months she belongs to mechanics, not sailors.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Magic

Magic is that thing that happens when something pretty amazing happens but no one is really sure why or how it happens. A collection of circumstances, none of them particularly spectacular alone, flow together with some inner state of mind and somehow, everything in the entire freaking universe fits together just like it should.


Daughter-who-lives-with-us has a friend visiting from Cape Cod, yet every bed in our little house has some one's name on it. So Deb and I allowed as we would offer her our sleeping place and head to the lake a day early. (Pretty slick, yes?) Once at the lake we decided to cove out for the night, something we have not done near enough of this season. Leaving the pier it seemed like a good idea. A couple of hundred yards from the inlet, mmm...not so good. Hoards of corps bug enveloped Kintala and her crew like some sort of Biblical plague. The starboard side of the hull was literally coated from water line to toe rail. We were motor sailing behind the jib, which itself drew a liberal coating of these nasty little creatures. They squished under hand with every grab on anything, flew into our faces, got tangled in Deb's hair and my beard (the only hair I have) and made hideous splotches of goo everywhere they died. As soon as the anchor sank into the mud we abandoned topside, retreating in the face of overwhelming numbers to the screened-in protection of below. Pretty much the opposite of magic.

Fed, showered and snug in the V-berth, the corps bugs faded from memory, and the magic started to fill the boat. Though all of her hatches are missing and the holes filled with plywood, and though there was nary a hint of a breeze, somehow Kintala shed the warmth of the day like a white beach on a clear night. Temps in our berth were perfect for cozying up under the quilt. It was still and quiet and I slept like a dead man; the best night's sleep I have enjoyed for countless weeks.

If there was a more perfect place on this little planet than Coles creek come this morning, I can't imagine where it could be. Apparently there was more magic than could fit in the boat so it flowed out to fill the cove. Fish jumped, birds circled, and the wind started to build from the ESE; a perfect direction for sailing off the hook. So we did.

That same wind must have blown some unused magic out on the lake proper. Over the next 7 hours or so Kintala romped under perfect winds of 10 to 20 knots, yet the waves on the lake never built to anything more than cat's paws. Hard on the wind, beam reach, broad reach, run - from Coles Creek to the dam to Tradewinds, back to near the dam, back to the cove, to the inlet for our marina, then to and fro across the width of the lake one more time just for the shear joy of it all. Kintala covered more than 30 miles today, every inch some of the best sailing we have ever known.

We are back on the pier now. Deb is working on a sail project for a friend, dinner is in the oven, I am fumbling around this keyboard; pretty much an average day when we are on Kintala. But the glow from the magic still fills the boat.

By tomorrow even the glow will fade, leaving only the memory of a perfect day. But that is the way of magic. It is a rare thing and no ones knows the recipe for making it. We all get a bit of it now and again, though sometimes I suspect it goes by unappreciated - a missed opportunity if you will. And it seems to me there is just enough of it going around to keep all of us from going stark raving mad. However it works, the touch of it swept over our little piece of the world today. Maybe it is headed your way tomorrow?

Monday, October 3, 2011

A little lift

Good friends and long time riding buddies showed up this morning to see our new boat. They went out with us once, many a moon ago, on Nomad, and later on Juno. After a tour of our new digs we very gingerly (the V-drive still making ugly noises) motored out onto a placid and mostly empty lake. The main sail was pretty soaked from dew since we hadn't put the cover on after yesterday's drift, and though the deck monkey (that would be me) wasn't very optimistic, we figured we could at least hang the sail out to dry. We rolled the jib out as well, mostly for the hell of it.

Turned out there was just enough breeze to have Kintala gliding gently across the wavelets. It didn't matter that we were only making a knot or two; we weren't really going anywhere anyway. An hour or so later we were about out of lake and going just fast enough to ease through a tack. Gliding slowly the other way Deb handed a fantastic lunch of Chef salads up from below. We munched and laughed and drank a couple of cold ones...

I'm feeling a bit constrained by our little lake and the items being added to the "to-do" list are getting frustrating. But you know what? No King anywhere on our little planet had as nice a meal as we did today - gliding through placid waters like we were powered by pure magic, spending a day with good friends, in the cool of early fall...even the corps bugs couldn't put a dent in the day.

Kintala has plywood in place of hatches, her new head still sits in my garage. She sports no solar panels, no wind generators, lacks a dingy and a dodger, the auto-helm won't, and her drive chain has a seriously weak link. Sometimes the big water I want to live and sail on seems far, far away. Getting there is taking pretty much all of my best efforts and sometimes I wonder if it will be enough.

Somehow days like today help a little, and salt water seems just about in reach after all.

Falling Footwear

I am learning to loves me some Kintala. She is a pretty boat, a good sailing boat, and has a lot of potential as a live aboard cruiser. She settled onto our dock as the focal point of the effort to downsize our stash of "stuff" and spend part of our lives living with a little more adventure, a little more freedom, than is considered normal in our society. Be that as it may, somewhere deep in my mechanic's soul was the feeling that this big Tartan was hiding something, that, though we have found and fixed a lot of unexpected issues (which was not unexpected) there lurked a shoe that had yet to drop. Kintala may have finally given up her secret.

Saturday we motored out into the lake to act as the Committee Boat for a lake-wide series of races. We sat tethered to an anchor for hours while a fleet of boats romped around us in solid winds blowing 10 - 15 knots. Good for the racers, a bit of a trial for us since we haven't actually been sailing in weeks. Sunday we were determined to sail. But Mother Earth wasn't paying any attention to our determinations; there wasn't a breath of wind. With her jib poled out Kintal drifted in slow circles managing nothing more than collecting another layer of corps bugs. (I sure hope corps bugs don't live in salt water.) Eventually we gave up, put the sails away, fired up the motor to head in, and put the boat in gear.


The sound of falling footwear.

That faint noise we noticed a couple of weeks ago, the one we thought was coming from the engine? V-drive, or maybe transmission, but probably V-drive, and no longer faint. We gently powered back to the marina with me secretly wondering if we would end up calling for a tow. Once home I changed the fluid because we all know that changing the fluid will fix thrashed gears and quiet ugly noises. The stuff that drooled out of the bottom of the V-drive case was full of "shinies", those tiny bits of shaved off metal that mechanics love to see come out of customer's vehicles, (it means a solid couple of days of work and maybe a big commission on parts) and hate to see come out of their own vehicles for the exact same reasons.

I don't know how much such drives cost to overhaul or repair, or how hard they are to get out of a boat. I don't know how much life is left in the drive. Sometimes big chunks of metal grind themselves to death rather slowly, parts that will surely need replaced still having some life left in them. The search is on for expert advise and a plan of action. I fear though, winter is going to include a long, cold foray into the world of overhauling expensive boat bits.