Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fish out of water

You see them on our lake all summer - 4 or 5" long silver fish that fly out of the water as the boat passes through schools of them and they shoot out onto the rocks along the shore.  They flip and flap trying to get back to the water and some make it, though most don't.  That's what I felt like this weekend.

Our annual No-Boat Regatta alternates locations each year so as to accommodate folks from all the areas around St. Louis, and this year was the location for the Western realm.  As Tim described in the previous post, the lake is East.  Pretty far East.  If St. Louis was having a normal St. Louis winter, this wouldn't be an issue because we would be bundled up in down coats and buying 50# bags of rock salt to try to get the Z-car out of the garage to drive to said festivities.  Unfortunately, it was 62° and the sky was blue and daffodils are blooming in my yard.  In February.  Also,  unfortunately, the festivities are scheduled for Saturday night and Tim has to fly Monday morning so there was just no time (or money) to justify driving an hour and a half East to turn right around and drive 2-1/2  hours West to the party.  So off to the party we went, but my heart was driving East. 

Party day was followed by today that was even warmer and sunnier, so since we didn't have time to drive to the lake, we took off on our bicycles to scope out a route to the kids' new house that they hope to move into soon.  We ended up riding from there to Forest Park, did a half loop around the park and back home for a total of 8 or 9 miles.  Beautiful day.  The whole time we were riding, I was thinking about sitting on the deck doing teak work. Teak work. You know, the back-breaking, finger-grating, brow-sweating stuff we all gripe about?  Yup.  I was wishing I was there.

So we're still here, the house can't possibly sell anytime in the next 3 years with three foreclosure comps within 3 surrounding blocks, we don't have a functioning engine, and in the face of all that I still somehow seem to have managed to make the break from land to cruiser.  Kintala just doesn't know it yet.

No Boats weekend

The club's annual "No Boat Regatta" is exactly that - NO BOATS. This year, in an attempt to provide equal access to all members, the party was held about as far away from the boats as possible. Indeed getting to the lake from the party site would mean getting on I70 and heading east for several miles. Cross a river, head east some more. Miles later cross the border into the city of St. Louis. Note the Arch, cross another river, find one's self in Illinois. One is also in East St. Louis, a city with some infamy in its history, (which is probably why I kind of like the place). Get on I64 to go many more miles, get on 50 (east of course) more miles still...well, you get the idea.

Instead we went across the street to spend a night with Daughter Youngest in her new apartment. This morning was pancakes with Grand Daughter Youngest offering a running commentary as to the history, tastiest recipe, proper cooking techniques, and most attractive presentation for the world's best pancakes. At least that's what I think she was saying. "Pancakes", "juice", and "Mmmmm" are about the only words from her not-quite-two-year-old vocabulary that we share.

I love the folks in our marina and it was a pretty good party. (Come to think of it all of our parties are good.) The only real hitch was a lack of dessert, the ordering of which somehow got lost in the dinner translation. A deficiency easily fixed when Deb joined a rescue party which popped over to the nearest store. They returned with gallons of ice cream with all fixings necessary for sundaes. Sugar fix secured, alcohol flowing easily, band playing, many of the assembled dancing the night away, jokes and quips and sea stories flying...

That I still missed being on the boat this weekend is clear evidence of my favorite personality quirk.

As mentioned earlier winter weather never really showed this year in St. Louis, just a few nights of sub-freezing temps and a trace of snow now and again. The mid-western spring winds are already starting to fill in. (For those not familiar with land-based trades, the trees in the mid-west often grow at a slant due to having the sky leaning on one side for a good part of the year.) It will be in the 60s again this week. In just a weekend or two the silence of the marina in the cold months will give way. Sounds of "do-lists" being cleared and boats being readied to splash will join the buzz of insects and the chirping of baby birds. Spring will be good, Kintala may even be ready to power off the dock by the time the Corps. puts enough water back in the lake for her to range free of the marina. (She is, at the moment, sitting in the mud at the pier, which is like the best of being both on the hard and in the water. She can't fall over nor can she sink.)

But I have enjoyed these last couple of months of sharing the weekends with just a hand full of the faithful.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Coasting through a non-winter

Yep, I'm doing some serious work on the boat this weekend.  Got out my tape measure - figured we need about 60 feet of new water line to replace the pressure side of the system throughout Kintala. Make a note, 60 feet.  Then we helped Friend Joel drop his mast so he can fit a new furling system for his head sail.

Wore me out. Time for a break, maybe a nap. The last of the drive train parts is at the machine shop and due back in a week or so (whenever they find a few hour slot between real jobs to throw my one-off custom onto the C&C machine) so I should get rested up. A major thrashing looms in the near future that should end with Kintala actually being able to leave the dock under her own power again. It has been 338 days since the magic green flowed and Kintala became The Boat; 132 days since we were towed home. She has been broken and tied to the dock for about 40% of the time we have owned her. Fortunately most of those days overlapped what passed for winter this year in the mid-west. She would have been tied to the dock anyway.

Some other projects have been completed and we have had a wonderful winter season at our nearly abandoned little marina. The future is a little less clear than it was with our departure date set back, the housing market as dead in the water as the boat, and a couple of open questions as to how we get from "here" to "there." But that simply puts us in the same boat (bad pun but I couldn't resist) as a lot of other people trying to navigate uncertain times. Mean time projects are getting completed, Deb and I are spending most weekends surrounded by lightly flowing magic, and many of the people I love most in the world are near by. This winter has been a coast.

Monday, February 13, 2012


The step from the dock to our side deck is..well...appropriately sized for tall people. If the wind is out of the East (almost never) it blows the boat away from the dock out to the length of the springline which, due to the placement of dock cleats being for 27' boats not 42'boats, is more like an amidships line not a springline.  When you happen to be trying to negotiate said step with 2 bags of groceries or duffle bags of clothes or a heavy computer back pack, it can be kind of hairy, and before any of you say "duh" and suggest a dock step stool, we can't accommodate our vertically challenged guests with one because we're situated on the main dock and the dock carts are just wide enough for the dock which leaves no room for a dock step stool. 

Sometimes when you're taking that step and you're perfectly balanced for the boat to be 6" from the dock and then a gust tumbles down the hill and blows the boat to 12" from the dock, your balance becomes suddenly precarious.  There's that moment that seems to freeze in time where the upper foot is stretching away from the planted foot and you think to yourself, "If I fall in now I'll have to replace my computer. iPad..." and then the panic sets in.  You're neither on the dock nor on the boat, nor in the water, nor suspended in the air and for that one moment everything is as uncertain as it can get.

When you're in the middle of the 5-year plan the same feeling can overwhelm you at times.  You've already begun the downsizing of the land-based accommodations but you don't yet have everything on the boat.  When you're land-bound you wish you were on the boat.  When you're on the boat you try to finagle any way to stay there and not head back to land.  Land-bound responsibilities like jobs (curse the need for them anyway) keep yanking you back and threatening your commitment to step onto the boat.  I know the gust will give way and the boat will come gliding back under my upper foot, restoring my balance, but right now I feel like I'm hanging there in mid-air for what seems like an interminable time.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Winter Weekend

The OAT gauge on the 'Z read 25 degrees when I pulled into the marina parking lot late Friday night. A "pop-up" trip had us in Natchez, MS Friday morning for a long day of sitting around. (Corporate pilots have a saying, "We fly for free; they pay us to wait".) Some airports have amazing places for waiting corporate pilots to hang out; theater rooms, work-out rooms, lounges with big screen TVs, coffee and sometimes fresh baked cookies, and a place to catch a nap. Sometimes the "airport car" is a BMW or Jag, and good eateries abound for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Natchez isn't one of them. It does have a good eatery for breakfast. The airport car is an ancient, green, SUV with springs sticking out of the driver's seat, a steering wheel that doesn't feel like its attached to anything, and precious little braking ability. It was a long day.

By the time I walked the pier to the boat my eyelids were getting kind of droopy. This in spite of a cold north wind gusting to 30 knots, snow showers, and ice coating the deck. Falling into the lake would likely have woken me up, but I crawled into the V-berth most of the way to la-la land already.

 This morning it was 18 degrees, wind still blowing, small sheets of ice forming in the marina. The air was brittle, like thin glass. A huge flock of seagulls swarmed around a patch out in the lake, a vanguard swooping around the masts of the marina. Winter has dropped by for a visit. With both heaters running Kintala managed to hold temperatures in the 60s, even in the dead of night. Midnight trips to the head though, meant layering up before heading out. We didn't do much work. I pulled one broken piece of trim off the companionway, Deb made cookies; mostly we kind of hibernated.

A walk through the campground gave cause to stretch and in a few hours we will head back to the city.

But maybe I'll take a nap first.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The patches are hatches

On Friday the weather was cool-spring-sunny and nearly perfect (in the heart of winter) so three of the plywood patches got replaced with hatches. By the time the last screw went home on the aft starboard side the rain was getting too close to risk pulling the patch over the V-berth. By the way, if one is daft enough to use duct tape to help seal temporary (4+ month!) holes in one's boat - a heat gun and 3M Adhesive Remover will become two of one's very best friends. Trust me on this, duct tape should be used to tape ducts. It should never, ever, be found stuck to sailboat decks.

But I digress. With rain overhead it seemed a good idea to move the base of repair efforts back inside the boat and finish up installing the trim around the inside of the aft hatches. Well, almost finish. A lack of proper sized screwage left the screens to go on at a later date. It rained a good part of the night and all of Saturday. The 3 installed hatches passed their first leak check with flying colors...making yours truly a happy deck monkey indeed.

I had to leave the lake Saturday night, chaffing at yet another job being almost done. Rats! But Sunday dawned as another near perfect day in the mid-west, so Deb rolled out some butyl tape of her own and set the last hatch in place. All of our patches have been replaced by hatches and Kintala no longer looks like some beater sitting up on blocks out in the weeds. (Of course she doesn't actually run yet but we will keep that just between us IF you don't mind.)

The reason for my early departure from the lake was that Sunday morning found us wheels-up for a set of flights what would land us in Ft. Lauderdale for a couple of days. Not bad sometimes, this job of mine. Even better we did the flight in a demo bird with the hopes that the Company would see fit to replace our tired, somewhat beat (but perfectly maintained) ride with something a little better suited for the job. Having the luxury of sitting in south FL the demo crew allowed my partner and I to run through some of the systems; whereas the APU immediately shot craps, an "APU FAULT" message popped up on the EICAS, and all such running-through came to a sudden and unexpected halt. In other words I broke their shiny new jet in less than 5 minutes.


And no, I can't buy it...not even with a hundred lifetimes of airplane driver pay.

I'm told it will be all fixed before the folks that can buy it need a ride home. In the meantime I'll sit in Florida and enjoy the pictures of Kintala sporting her own shinny new bits.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A must-see video

When I did the post on the weather the other day, I had been looking for a video that I had seen quite a while ago to include in the post.  I looked high and low and 20+ pages deep in Google to no avail.  After a couple emails to bloggers who I follow I was able to find the video.

This video is disturbing.  It's hard to watch, but force yourself if you can because as sailors / cruisers / racers / beachgoers / fishermen / partakers of all things nautical we have the only incentive to care about such things.  I'm generally not an activist although you wouldn't think that was the case having grown up through the 60's revolution, but this one issue hits me where it hurts - home. The video is long and uses a lot of bandwidth so it's best on a fast connection.

Are you still using plastic?

OK I'm off my soapbox.

Let There Be Light!

I'm sure you'll find this hard to believe, but in this picture you're actually looking through the acrylic.  I know it won't last long - wind, dirt, bugs, sails, and sun will all conspire to scratch and craze this gloriously clear piece of hatch acrylic but for the moment just let me bask in delusion and enjoy the nice, light, airy interior of my home.  I'm not sure why, but for some reason finishing this project has done more to improve my mood than just about anything else on the boat.  In fairness I should say TIM finishing this project, as I have been a completely useless bum today.  I had good intentions, mind you, of restitching a friend's sail but found I needed some supplies from Sailrite so it will have to wait till next week.  In the meantime, I'm going to sit here in the salon at my table and enjoy the light. And later?  I'm going to cook a really special dinner for He Who Completes Projects :)

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Boat parts go on...

Some parts go on to get the boat back to where it was. Other parts go on to make the boat a little bit better than it was. (And, truth to tell, some parts go off and on because I'm not always exactly sure what I am doing.)

This particular project falls into the "make the boat a little bit better" category. It was Deb's idea to replace the plastic seat at the nav table with a bench and, while doing so, add some badly needed storage space for her galley. I think it came out rather well. In addition to replacing ugly and giving Deb more space, the bench makes sitting at the nav station much more comfortable and secure, allows better access through the aft cabin door, brightens up that corner of the boat a little bit, and provides a place for a person going "on watch" to get ready. All good stuff for some wood, glue, nails and labor. Many thanks to another Tartan 42 owner who was generous enough to share the design with us.


The only trick was that the floor the bench sits on isn't flat. I had to fabricate two long wedges to sit under the aft and port edges. Fortunately they were a near perfect fit on the first try. I might do a little touch-up sanding and stain; then again I might not.

Next? Hatches.

A Perfectly Beautiful Spring Day in St. Louis...In January??

Yesterday it was 66 in St. Louis.  Being under-employed, I had a chance to take a stroll to the nearby park with my three grandkids to do nothing more pressing than to see if the two girls could bounce me off the middle of the seesaw and which of them could make it past me down the slide without paying the Dema Kiss Toll.  There was lots of laughing and enjoying the warm sun on cheeks turned skyward and the warm breeze tousling their toddler hair.
Just in case you forgot, yesterday was January 31st.  And just in case you happen to live somewhere in the Southern climes and don't know what St. Louis weather is usually like in January, it's definitely not . like . this.  In fact it usually involves a horrendous ice storm about the second week in January that culminates in 6 weeks of trying to salt the four inches of ice in the alley so that Tim can get his car out of the garage.  The whole afternoon while I was having a great time with the kids, I had this niggling sci-fi disaster movie kind of feeling going on in my head.  Everyone's enjoying the lack of winter around here, but it's SO out of the ordinary that it's frightening to me in that polar-ice-cap-melting-and-losing-Florida-under-the-raised-ocean-levels kind of way.  The migration patterns of the birds at the lake are all out of whack, the Snow Geese are still flying formations over the lake in odd directions and way later than usual; Monday I actually saw some flying back North again.  All of our bulbs are up, the crocuses are blooming, I saw a robin today, there are a ton of bugs flying around everywhere and the cherry trees in the next block are blooming. In January.  Not in May. This is unprecedented and yet I don't hear anyone else raising the alarm.

So what does this have to do with a sailing blog?  Apart from the fact that I love sailing and I can't think of any way I would rather spend my remaining years with my best friend, the whole plan has the one benefit of living greener with a small footprint and, even though I doubt it's possible, of paying back in some small way the damage that my generation did by being so self-absorbed.  I look at the planet now and it makes me hurt deeply. All I can hope is that she'll have mercy on us and let us pass through the plastic-strewn waters without tossing us to the bottom in one of the new mega-hurricanes.  I think I'll go dig out my sunscreen a little early this year...