Monday, August 27, 2012

Dodger Phase I Complete

If I haven't mentioned it before, our dodger is being built with a three-bow dodger kit from Sailrite. We bought the kit because it was cheaper than buying all the pieces separately that we needed, but the resemblance stops there. The Sailrite kit has a single window that goes around the front with no openings, and we wanted ours to have three window pieces that completely zip out so that you could have just the free-standing top up, the top and the side windows, the top, one side and the front...well you get it. The only problem is that there's no pattern for that design that I've been able to find for our boat. So basically we're designing it from scratch with a little help from our friend Thorsten and his trimaran, Greyhound. Thorsten has the perfect dodger with the panels just the way we want it so I've been burning a path down Jost Van Dock between our two boats, taking copious amounts of pictures, measuring, and taking notes. I finished the sewing on the top this weekend, so I'm declaring that phase I, and declaring it complete. What do you think?

The folding struts from Sailrite give it the added advantage of being able to fold either back, for loading on provisions from the side ladder, or forward, although I'm not sure why we would need to do that, since in a large storm we would probably take it off altogether.

This weekend is phase II, the front window panels. I admit to being only cautiously optimistic about completing that phase without having to purchase something to replace a screwup on my part. Cross your fingers...and maybe your toes too?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

State of Balance...

Readers know that our boat's name, Kintala, means state of balance. Usually I think of it as a kind of fuzzy headed goal, some ethereal state of mind that will evidence my fully enlightened self, or maybe it just means having enough sense not to fall of the boat when she heels over in a good breeze. In any case I do like the way the name rolls off my tongue...Kintala.

While Deb played music on her sewing machine, orchestrating the assembly of the dodger, my more basic skill set was deployed putting varnish on teak ... the Zen of boat maintenance. It was a perfect morning, enough breeze to keep the air from getting stale with an overcast shading the marina from this summer's relentless sun. It was one of those moments of flowing time that just picks you up and carries you along for a while with nothing needed, demanded, asked or expected. I got to thinking that not all off the time I spend working on the boat is an unrelenting grind, but at the same time thinking I have spent hundreds of more hours working on this thing than I have spent sailing it. And sailing it was the purpose for buying the boat in the first place.

Or was it?

We bought the boat to live on, to indulge in our life long, shared wanderlust, and to explore a new way of experiencing living on this little planet of ours. We are not there yet but (assuming we make it) when we do time spent on the boat and under sail will become our primary abode. A good guess might be that in the first six months of living on the boat we will put more miles under our keel than we have in all the years since Saturday, September 15, 2007. It will balance out.

We did get in a pretty good romp in on Grey Hound Saturday night. The winds laid down a little from what we had hoped, and the rain that was supposed to fall on our heads never showed. Still, we hissed around the lake at better than 6 knots on a fantastic night sail with Thor, Joel and Emily. (Officially we were part of a race, but who cares so long as it is an excuse to mount up and go?)

Sadly, during the race we noticed the flashing blue lights of Officialdom clearly tracking a search pattern grid across the dark waters. That they continued deep into the night was all the clue our crew needed to guess that they were looking for a body. As it turned out they were looking for two. The usual suspects were at hand, lots of alcohol, poor decision making and, in this case, very inexperienced people in the boat. All that really matters though is that two people are gone, two families of hearts are broken, and years full of dreams will go unfulfilled.

And that is the way life works as well. Not only do we need to balance out the long term and short, we do well to balance out each day, each weekend. And to that end Kintala whispered a gentle lesson to me as I brushed her teak. "This is a good day. This is good work getting done. This moment is exactly what it should be. Notice it as is passes."

I just may learn to like this boat again ...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Friday and another project

I have an admission, I don't like straps on my boat. Ropes I don't mind, (I've finally learned to call them "sheets" and "halyards" and "rodes" and some boats now even have them as "stays".) But straps?

I realize this might raise howls of protests from the sailing world and right away let me say it isn't ALL straps the bug me. The short ones holding things in place or the really long ones running from stem to stern for one end of a safety harness never draw a critical look. Maybe because they don't really intrude on anything? But the middle length ones, the ones that always seem positioned in the exact right place to catch a toe; the ones that buzz in the wind until they work themselves slack and then stop doing their job? (Which is a puzzle since, when one needs to loosen them for some reason, it takes a screwdriver and incantations in multiple languages to get the locking rings to let go.) I don't care for them at all.

So last weekend I got rid of the 5 straps used to steady the bimini by adding a few lengths of tube. Not only are the straps banished for good, but two of the tubes now act as handholds right where we needed some in the cockpit. Even better the space between the bimini and the soon-to-be-dodger is no longer bisected by an ugly, buzzing strip of soon-to-be-slack nylon webbing. Not bad for a couple of hours worth of work.

But that was last weekend. It is Friday again and getting late ... off to a shower and the V-berth soon ... just as soon as the rest of a gin & tonic is drained from my glass. Kintala is still stuck to the pier though a bit of rain has fallen to the north, just enough to tease us by shaving a couple of inches off the exposed shoreline. Seeing as we can't go anywhere, while Deb works on getting the dodger canvas under control my priority this weekend is the exterior teak. In order to get two coats of finish on it by Sunday night I had to get it scrubbed tonight so it would be dry by tomorrow morning ... which is why I need a shower and am enjoying the gin & tonic.

Another weekend, another project.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Measure three times...

...cut once.  After reviewing the Sailrite DVD again I discovered that we had possibly made our snap line on the deck too far aft when we did our pattern, so that when we would have tried to fold the frame forward it would not have folded all the way down without unsnapping it. We did the patterning again on the frame and made some adjustments, and the resulting lines are much more pleasing. Now I think we're nearing the cut point.

Old Layout
New Layout

Honest Officer ...

... I am trying to take you seriously.

This was my week for "ramp checks." We pulled into Kansas City's Downtown airport on Monday to be met on the ramp by an FAA inspector. Pilot's licences and medicals checked, Aircraft Operating Handbook on board along with properly approved check lists, weight and balance information, minimum equipment list (MEL) and Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) paperwork checked, Registration, Airworthiness and FCC station licence accounted for, and a walk around inspection of the aircraft. "All I can tell you Sir, is that all the big parts were attached when we left Bonneville. If you notice anything missing please let us know."

I've been ramped countless times before and Mr. FAA man was easy to get along with, but the sad fact is he accomplished exactly zero. The skies are no safer, I don't know anything I didn't know before, the airplane was just the same leaving as it was arriving ... a completely pointless exercise in administrative / enforcement B.S. It looks good on a piece of paper somewhere to somebody, but ...

Saturday night Friend Joel invited us out for an evening sail. There were 5 pretty capable lake sailors sitting around the deck with one guest. The winds were light, the corps bugs were out in full force, and though there were a couple of other boats out on the lake they were either anchored up for the night or, all being other sailboats, not making any more speed than we were, a la less than two knots. They were also all over on the other side of the lake, more than 3 miles away. With the sun just below the horizon we turned toward home, which also put us on a better point of sail so we could make our 2 knots. Over by party beach a power boat fired up and headed our direction. Though the sun was down there was still plenty of light to see him coming. (For those living in more southern latitudes evening twilight lasts a long time in these parts at this time of the year. More than an hour after sunset there is still light in the sky.)

We are cautious sailors who don't really trust power boaters all that much, particularly late on a Saturday evening when sailors of all types are likely spending time with Captain Morgan. Emily went below to turn on the nav lights.

As it turned out the power boat belonged to the Corps of Engineers; manned by a young Dudley Do-Right and his assistant, Barney Fife. We were dutifully informed that it was 36 minutes after official sunset and we had been running without our lights on. Indeed, according to these uniformed custodians of all sailing wisdom, we were deep into "ticket time" and they had every right to cite Friend Joel for hazardous operations. Ticket time? Could this be Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street fame masquerading as Dudley and Barney? It was hard to keep from laughing though I promise that these two were serious. It seemed counterproductive to point out that there was plenty of light for them to spot us over a mile away without our lights on.

Life vests were displayed upon request. (Deb's and my inflatables not included in the total as we were not actually wearing them - which may be, in 40 some years of dealing with bureaucracies - the absolute dumbest rule interpretation I have ever run across.) Paperwork was handed over as the Corps boat pulled against our hull sans fenders or any words from the Corps Boat driver that he was going to do any such thing, found to be in order, then handed back. We were also informed that we were heading toward a sandbar and had best change our heading, advise that was mostly a puzzle. Said sandbar was south of our north heading boats, the next thing we were going to run into was the railroad causeway more than a mile away. Friend Kacey (who, like the rest of us was clearly working at holding his tongue) allowed that, as our depth gage showed 5 feet under the keel, we would be okay for a while yet. Besides, with their boat hard against our starboard side we weren't turning anywhere until they backed away.

Which they eventually did without, fortunately, writing any tickets. Unfortunately, since we all had our lights on now, they also left us in the midst of the worst cloud of corps bugs any of us had ever seen. The rest of the sail was rather unpleasant.

As in the FAA's ramp check absolutely nothing was accomplished. Sailing the lake is no safer and the boat is the same. I did learn something though. Apparently the Corps of Engineers knows less about the topography of the lake they manage than do 5 pretty capable lake sailors ... and one guest.

I really do try to take these encounters seriously. After all the official types have the weight of government authority behind them, almost always come spring loaded to the pissed off position, and very often come packing. I was taught never to give lip to anyone who was either smaller than I ... or better armed. But really guys, lake Carlyle on a Saturday evening when we were literally the only moving thing within miles?

The only hazard we faced came from the Corps boat. The corps bugs were just annoying.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Go- No go

One of the first things you learn when you get your pilot's license is how to make the go-no go decision. The go-no go decision is used in many places in flying - first off, in the weather briefing, where (especially for us VFR pilots who can only fly in the clear blue sky) you must extrapolate the weather man's best scenario for your flight path by perusing multiple forecasts, prog charts, and radar screens. After deciding it's a weather go, the next go-no go decision is made at the preflight. You carefully examine the exterior of the plane for its airworthiness, fuel status, instrument readouts...if everything is OK then you're a go. As you power up and begin your takeoff, you have a point at which you must decide to take off or abort, a point which is different for each type of aircraft. And again, as you land, you must decide by a certain point if you need to go abort the landing and go around.

While the go-no go decision in aviation is a much less subjective decision, regulated by the Kinder Gentler FAA's concern for your welfare, the go-no go decision in cruising is a much less obtrusive one, and highly personal. As we've worked our way through the last 5 seasons of preparation these are the elements that we have determined we need to check off the list in order to utter the famous, "It's a go Houston".

  1. Money. I've heard from many of the sailing blog writers that I follow that you can cruise on a lot less money than you can live on land. I believe this because we live on our boat a good part of each week. I've compared the Cost of Cruising posts to our expenses on the boat and they seem to correlate.  That being said, we feel we need to have enough money in savings to cover a major expenditure, such as a new engine, should we need one. At our age we don't want to spend time sitting stuck somewhere because we don't have the money to fix something broken on the boat. And we all know how frequently that happens. We have a good retirement nest egg, but we're trying not to delve into it until we near the end of our cruising years, as we surely will physically not be able to handle a large sailing yacht at some point in the future. We would also love to be able to cruise a couple years without working in order to get our feet underneath us and determine that we do actually like and want to do this.  I have read multiple stories of people who really want to continue to cruise but have had to quit and go to work because they ran out of money. This is fine for people in their 20s, 30s, or 40s, but for us, we just don't have that many years to cruise and don't want to spend a lot of it working, especially since it would probably be much harder work and for much less pay "Welcome to Walmart" is not something I want to hear myself utter in this lifetime. Tim has repeatedly also made the point that we've been poor before in our married life and we don't want to be poor again. So what's the magic number??? Well, it's about the amount of equity that we have in the house, but due to the whole economy falling flat on its ass we can't seem to sell the house. Renting doesn't help because we need the cash. The house will go back on the market early in the Spring and we'll be holding our collective breath.
  2. The Boat. Everyone says, "The boat will never be ready. Go now." While it's true that the boat will never be perfect, in our humble opinion there are a few things that no sailor should head offshore without. These include a solid bluewater boat (check) with a good set of sails (check), good rigging (check), an autopilot (none yet), dinghy (not yet), dodger (being built as we speak), SSB or Sat phone (not yet), AIS (not yet), multiple backup GPS units and/or chartplotters (check), some sort of power generating system such as a Honda generator, solar panels, wind generator, or combination of all of the above (not yet). There are many things outside this list that are desirable, such as a fridge, freezer, or combination (have one but it's old and power hungry), some which we have and some which we do not. All of them depend on money. See point #1.
  3. The Coast Guard. Since we sail in an Illinois bathtub where you are never out of sight of land, there are a lot of bluewater legalities that we would have to accomplish before leaving. Completed paperwork such as ship's radio licences, updated flares, recertified life raft if we decide to take it, re-armed life vests, etc.
  4. The House. In order to even attempt to sell the house, we first have to finish de-toddler-izing it from the year that our grandkids lived with us. Everything below the 4 ft line on our walls has to be painted, the landscaping repaired, and the carpet cleaned. It's a little hard to do this while working 4 tens and going to the lake every other available minute.
  5. The Purge. When our kids and grandkids moved in with us for that year we did Purge Stage One. I've managed not to accumulate anything new since they moved out, but we do need to accomplish Purge Stage Two. Takes lots of time to do ebay and craigslist. See point #4.
So while the mantra for cruisers who are out there successfully cruising always seems to be "Go Now", it's going to be a little while longer before we can make the call to the transport company, unless we win the lottery or some kind millionaire reader wants to take on a charity case. Since I doubt that either one of these will happen, we will diligently work at our list, add daily to the cruising kitty, and pray like crazy that someone really wants to buy a terrific condo in the CWE of St. Louis so our go-no go decision will be a resounding "Go".

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Job estimates and jinxes

When the noise in the V-drive first popped up I remember thinking, "This will be a bit of a pain." Sure there was some mechanical "laying on of hands" in my future, but after a lifetime of changing aircraft engines, overhauling landing gear, and rebuilding wrecks, how big a deal could changing a v-drive or tranny in a boat, be?

It was, as it turned out, one of the dumber things I have thunk in my life.

So it came to pass that the dodger kit lay untouched in the living room for a couple of months. It had cost a bit more than one SBU so it was kind of embarrassing letting it collect dust. But no one seemed to have a good idea of just how one goes about putting a dodger on a Tartan 42, the kit came sans any good suggestions and, (I hope no one gets too upset at this) the online vids Deb found on building up the kit were - shall we say - less than inspiring. It seemed clear that Kintala was about to inflict another serious thrashing on my already thrashed bod.

Yesterday morning ye old Makita was fully charged and the first hole was punched in the deck. Ten hours later the dodger frame was designed, fabricated and completely installed. By this evening all of the basic decisions had been made on window size and location, number of panels, locations of zippers, and the fabric patterns had been laid out over the frame and cut. It was minor thrashing at best as even the weather cooperated, with highs in the 80s rather than the 100s, a bit of a breeze, and some clouds in the sky blocking the worst of the sun.

Some of the patterning done except for the side panel
Now I freely admit that the metal work was, by far, the easiest part of this job. From this point on Deb is the expert and carries most of the responsibility for fitting a cover to the steel tinker-toy box over the companionway. I do hope to get in some more sewing machine time where there is some easy stuff to do, but only if it helps rather than hinders her efforts. (If anyone is thinking of taking on a similar job the one piece of equipment you absolutely must have access to is a chop saw. One inch stainles steel tubing is some tough stuff. Just the thought of hacking away at all those cuts by hand makes my fingers cramp.)

For some reason this looks bigger than we expected

Can it be that a project is about to go right on this boat?

Or did I just jinx it?

I guess we'll find out.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Just a reminder... check the Cruising Comforts tab on the blog periodically. I have a new recipe up for my homemade thin crust pizza with videos to help along the way if you're not comfortable with yeast dough.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Not much rain, at least not here at the lake. But at this point any time water falls out of the sky we all do a happy dance and hope for more. Heavier rain fell all around us, some of it up north in the watershed for the lake, so there is some small hope that the lake level has bottomed out (as it were) and may soon be on the rise. Kintala may actually leave the pier one of these weekends. How cool would that be?

A night race Saturday gave us a chance to crew with Joel, Emily and Thor on Joel and Emily's boat. "Pascagoula Run" draws 5 feet with a thin, racing type fin keel. I asked Joel if he was going to plant some corn in the row we were cutting in the bottom mud.  "Beans,"  he replied, "Its too dry for corn."

Eight boats crossed the start line in the fading sunset. Joel and Thor chose a different tactic than the rest of the fleet so we got an excellent view of the clutch of boats all looking for traction in the light to moderate winds. It was a beautiful night's sail with the nearly full moon on the rise in the east, lightning off in the distant west (with the promise of rain) and a crew of good friends making the most of a good boat. About an hour after all the boats were safely home it did rain some, but the serious weather passed around us.

The night race was my second sail of the weekend as I had gone out with other friends earlier in the day. There was a bit more wind and, though this crew are as good friends as the race crew, they are not nearly as experienced as sailors. In fact little 'ol me was the most capable sailor on board - kind of a scary thought, that. We did good if you don't count the one little broach that had water splashing up against the starboard side ports. No harm, no foul, and a good learning experience for everyone. 

We also took some time to lay out the dodger kit and take a good look at getting that project started. I'm kind of excited about getting it going.  Next week we will be drilling holes and cutting tubing. " Laissez les bons temps rouler!"

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sight lines

Friday must have been "road rage" day in St. Louis. Or maybe the heat has just melted every one's brain making it impossible to pay attention anymore. Whatever the reason there were more than the normal number of evasive actions required to make it safely from home to work to home to the marina. But it was the first of the day that sparked this muse.

I didn't swing out to the right to pass the big, black, SUV in the fast lane because he (or she) was going slow. It was going a good pace for the just-after-rush-hour traffic flowing along 64. Apparently the driver took it as a personal insult that I would go around in the middle lane, then pull in front of them while only going a couple of miles an hour faster than I had been. At least I think that's what happened as the SUV driver stomped on the gas to pull up right behind my little red motorcycle - giving the clear impression that they were unhappy and that putting my life at risk was the proper way for them to demonstrate their ire. Fortunately for me that same little red motorcycle puts about 180 HP on the back tire, so a simple flick of the wrist was all it took to put the SUV out of my harm's way.

The thing is the only reason I moved ahead was the SUV was too tall to look over, had a blacked out back window that I couldn't see through, and was too wide to see around. They were blocking my sight lines and thus shortening the time available to react to anything lying in wait down the road. I simply wanted to see what was coming a little better.

I like clear sight lines. In ye old jet we have radar and data up link weather so we can see as far ahead as we like. Even on our little lake Kintala has a old GPS so I can see where I am on the lake even on the darkest, overcast night. On the ZX or in the Z I routinely look down the road as far as can be seen, which is also useful in spotting speed traps.

I like clear sight lines.

Which may be why I feel like I'm struggling just a little with "The Retirement Project" at the moment, the view ahead is being blocked. The boat isn't ready to go. I have some idea of what it will take to get it ready to go, but the V-drive disaster made it clear that Kintala can blind side me whenever she likes. There are some big projects to be completed and who knows what lurks buried in the "to do" list, failing rigging, corroded chain plates, engine bearings about to give up the ghost? A life long mechanic, it doesn't take a lot of imagination for me to conjur up potential mechanical disaster. The housing market is dead, the government may decide to keep my Social Security so they can buy another aircraft carrier (or something), some smart Wall Street type may yet figure out a way to run off with the rest of my 401K ... or nothing interesting is coming. Maybe the boat is almost done, the house will sell when we need it to sell, the government will continue to bumble along as it has for my entire adult life, and Wall Street may decide that stealing all the money isn't actually a good business idea.

I wish my sight lines to big water were a little clearer. Then again, if we could all see what was coming we would all make better decisions.

Still, I'm going to go around the SUVs when ever it helps me see a little better.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Demise of the Gray Teak People

If you've been reading awhile then you might remember a post last year about Gray Teak People. Surely today, with the installation of another piece of newly refinished teak on Kintala (courtesy of 1.5 cans of Cetol Natural Teak and a half can of gloss clear and a week's worth of hard work), we have departed the land of Gray Teak People. For your enjoyment, and our memory (since the gloss isn't going to last long I'm sure), here are some pics of some of the pieces.