Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Minimalists

It seems we're not the only ones waking up to the realization that the media is attempting to pump us full of the need for "stuff". You can see an interesting interview on minimalism with On Point Radio here, but be warned that it could be dangerous to watch it if you're not already on board with the concepts.

You can also read some of my older posts on the subject:

Stuff and Such

Small Spaces


This Holiday Season I really challenge you to be daring - buck the trend. Do something to help others instead of buying junk you don't need with money you don't have for people who don't want it and in fact most of the time don't care. Be brave and you just might find the holidays are actually enjoyable instead of stressful.

More resources:

Nano houses

12 Reasons why you would be happier in a smaller house

The Tiny House

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Truly Black Friday

As Tim said earlier, we've been visiting family in PA, family that has television. For those of you who might not have followed this blog for a long time, we don't have television. We haven't had TV for nearly 11 years now, so being exposed to it for 18 hours a day for a four-day visit is...well...trying. Add to that the fact that it happens to be  Thanksgiving weekend, and you have added 500 repetitions of various Black Friday commercials, the Most.Annoying.Black.Friday.Commercial award going without any doubt to K-Mart for "the lights the lights the lights..." ad nauseum. This morning, the Black Friday commercial marathon was followed by Fox News' coverage of the Wally World Boxing Match, including incredible video of customers defining the Reason for the Season as beating someone to death over a flat screen.

I got an email from a friend today who said that the consumerism this year was "making her skin crawl". While looking for a way to describe my feelings I realized I couldn't describe them any better than that. I've been without the dulling effect of TV for so long that I was shocked by the lack of caring, the greed, the inability for even basic civility during the holiday season. If not then, what hope do we have for January second? I was relieved that my children agreed to forgo gift giving this year except for a Dollar Store grab bag drawing between the kids. I was feeling a little smug, happy to be headed off the grid, until I saw the Black Friday ad for West Marine. West Marine?  Really??

I guess as long as I'm buying parts for the boat I can't be totally off the grid, but as the holiday progresses, I will reluctantly make my contribution to consumerism by buying the next boat part to finish the boat only so we can get out of Dodge (sorry watching too many old Westerns on the AMC Black Friday Western Marathon), and my goal is to exhibit kindness and civility in all my purchasing transactions, smile broadly at all sales people no matter how rude they are to me, and donate routinely to the red kettles.

Happy Holidays!

Thanksgiving muse

Deb and I navigated east for the holiday weekend to join with millions of others spending time visiting extended family who have wandered far away. (In our case extended family are where they have always been, it is Deb and I who have wandered.) Our family gathering echos that of most I guess, sometimes loud, often boisterous, rooms packed with family who, while not strangers, are not very well known either, with lots of laughter and a grimace or two thrown in for good measure. Of all of our holidays Thanksgiving is the one that reflects human kind's family / tribal roots most dramatically.

As usual there were questions about our cruising plans and the work going on with the boat. Not very detailed questions since boats in our family history are usually simple platforms from which one hunts fish. Spending a night aboard one would mean someone didn't plan very well. It isn't likely many of our clan will be joining us for a visit on Kintala once we get to big, salt water.

Which is where we hope to be one of these Thanksgiving days. My guess is the first one will feel a bit strange with those family / tribal roots noticeably missing.

This Thanksgiving kind of ran right into Christmas, though the latter is still 30 days away. I have to admit to loosing my appetite for Christmas many years ago ... looking at it as nothing more than a shallow celebration of some of the worst traits of our society. (Those being a really childish greed, paying interest on money used to buy things no one needs or even really wants, accumulating waste, and worshiping the idea that a pile of things equals being happy.) Seeing Christmas consumer insanity oozing onto Thanksgiving day just doesn't seem like a positive sign that we are learning anything. But then I'm pretty sure the people who run Madison Ave and Wall Street don't care too much about what one wanna-be sailboat cruiser / off-the-grid wanderer thinks of their efforts. Given that millions of my fellow Americans joined the national mall skirmish of shoving through doors and fighting over bargains, it is clear they don't care much about what I think either.

Which is okay. I feel much the same way about what they think.

So this Thanksgiving I'm pretty happy to be with family. Having a boat at a marina like Boulder is a thing so good that its hard not to feel a little smug. But working toward living in a way that fits so well with my view of the world; to not seeing TV commercials, hearing about Black Friday, or having wads of coupons stuffing my mailbox and cluttering my porch?


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mirror Mirror...

on the lake...

Since winterizing the boat we're back to having to trudge up the dock to the restroom instead of using the head on the boat. Given my 56-year-old bladder, this happens to me frequently and at inopportune moments, such as when I'm completely buried under piles of quilts in the V-berth on a morning that I don't have to get up. A big pain for sure, but there have been many moments like this morning that I would have completely missed if I had not gotten up to trudge up to the bath house.

The water was as still as I've ever seen it. No ripples from someone stepping off their boat, no small silver fish flipping out of the water, no breeze whatsoever. There was sparkling crystals all over the boat and the canvas from the night's heavy frost, glittering in the sunlight as it just peeked over the treeline to the East.

It was a stunning morning after a wonderful evening spent with friends, followed by a quiet sail in the afternoon and topped off by this sunset -

It was the weekend everyone hopes they'll have every weekend, and I hope you all had one as well.


It was the club's Thanksgiving dinner celebration this weekend, perhaps my favorite "party" of the year. As usual things went off without a hitch, lots of good food found its way onto our plates, and lots of good friends gathered over the course of the weekend for many a good conversation. One though, stood out.

A good friend and very experienced sailor, someone whose opinion I value and who has taught Deb and I a lot about sailing, was pretty blunt in suggesting that we are nowhere near ready to go off adventuring in Kintala. He points out, and quite correctly, that I have never been even nominally in charge when picking up a mooring ball, setting the hook in a busy, blue water anchorage, entering a strange port, checking in with a new harbor master, plotting a multi-day run, docking in a strange marina, navigating a busy shipping lane, or mastering any of a dozen other skills necessary to keep out of harm's (or just other sailor's) way. My guess is there have been a few debates among our friends at the marina over just how much experience is enough.

Those doing the debating are seasoned charter customers. Just off hand the places I know they have explored, often many times, include Greece and other ports in the Med, the BVIs, SVIs, Bahamas, Keys, Puerto Rico, most of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, San Fransisco Bay, and parts of the Oregon and Washington coasts. And this just from the stories they tell. Some of these folks go pretty far afield two and three times a year and there always seems to be a trip in the works. In fact, there are at least two being planned in the next couple of months.

These are not wanna-be lake sailors hoping to be cruisers.  They are seasoned wanderers who happen to live and work in and around central IL, where little Lake Carlyle is the only place they can go play when not off getting soaked in salt spray. They have earned the right to have opinions worth listening to.  (A rare treasure in our world today.)

Of course Deb and I are regularly invited to go along ... and we would love to do just that. There is, however, one huge problem. We own a 42 foot sailboat that needs to be readied for blue water sailing. Pretty much every spare dime we have ends up in the boat. (Not to mention every extra minute.) We could take a week long charter to the BVI, or we could buy a self steering system. We could go on another Bahama's Bash, (friend Joel is heading out on one in a couple of weeks) or we could buy a wind generator.

Others are a bit less critical of our lack of experience.  They know of the trip around Long Island, the week spent on a Cat in Pensacola, and the Bahama Bash that took us on a night passage across a playful Gulf Stream, twice. They have watched us go from complete newbies, people to look out for, to capable lake sailors. They watched us go out to learn in Nomad when others were coming in to escape the building winds and waves. And, most critical to least, they approve of our choice of Kintala and the work we are putting into her.

So I don't know. We are in too deep really, to back up now. We took the trips we could to see if this was a real thing we wanted to do and then to narrow down the choice of a boat. The boat is on the lake. The work has to be done (and paid for). The house is for sale. Down sizing our life to fit on a Tartan 42 continues. Though launch day will never be set in stone, (too much an airplane driver to think that is a good idea ... ever) each day is a day closer.

How much of what I don't know can hurt me? I don't know.


Some of which happened with Kintala on an easy reach in light winds, ghosting across a mirror-like lake. Pam, Bill, Spero and Al joined us for what may be the last sail of the season. They watched Deb and I get Kintala off the pier, willing to help but accepting that we like to practice when ever we can. They approve of our change of plan to start out on the East Coast and slowly work our way into blue water sailing while field (or water) testing our work on the boat. (There must be newbies that start out in salt and never spend any time inland, right?) They would like to see us get some more supervised blue water experience, but also suggest that, sooner or later if one is going to go cruising, one just has to go. Cruising is different from chartering, living aboard different than going on vacation.

Lots of good conversations on what was a breathtakingly beautiful weekend in central IL, getting late in November.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Windy weekend

When we sat in Kintala in Chicago trying to decide if she was The.Boat, one of the things we discussed was whether we could get her on Carlyle Lake safely so that we could work on her while we still had jobs and learn to sail her where we knew how to sail. For the most part this has worked well for us. With the exception of the mast raising debacle and the occasional low water levels on the lake, this plan has worked for us. The only time we really can't sail safely is when the wind is howling like this weekend - 35 sustained gusting to 45 - because the space we're on at the dock doesn't allow enough engine speed to get steerage before one hits another finger pier or other people's boats, making it impossible to get off the dock. Once out we would have no problem, but a 42ft boat in a 30ft marina makes for some tricky departures. We've had a lot of success with using various dock lines to maneuver the boat into position with dock cleats, but depending on the wind direction and speed, this process can sometimes take 2-4 people on the dock to help with lines and this weekend everyone was too busy taking advantage of the warm temps to do their winterization, so we decided to follow suit.

Saturday we spent doing the engine degreasing project that Tim has wanted to finish so he could chase down a couple oil leaks, a more involved project than one would think because of having to dispose of the wastewater up the hill (good) rather than pumping it through the bilge pump into the water (bad). Many trips later the engine is as clean as old paint can possibly look, and the major oil leak is located as spewing from under the valve cover, the gasket of which will need to be changed soon. The pan underneath as well as the bilge in general were all cleaned out and new oilsorb mats installed under the engine.

Today, after a lazy morning of coffee and conversation with The Assembled at the clubhouse we tackled the winterizing. Three water tanks, one holding tank, one air conditioner and one engine later, we finished dousing our Beloved with the Dreaded Pink Stuff. Have I ever said before how much I really hate this stuff? We finished just in time for the cold front to move through, bringing with it a healthy drop in temps and the promise of snow after midnight. Yesterday we were lounging in the cockpit in 73° and tonight we have snow. You gotta love the Midwest...

We did also manage to cross another item off Tim's list. Ever since we bought the boat he's been hitting his head on the oil lamp that someone with a twisted sense of humor thought to hang directly over the engine compartment access panel in the aft cabin. After the 100th time of hitting it again, down it came today prior to winterizing the engine. It's a beautiful oil lamp but we just couldn't find a place to put it so it's going to start a new life on a friend's boat.

All in all it was a good weekend. Projects crossed off the list, some good time spent with friends, some lounging in the cockpit and enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. And as clich├ęs often go, this one is too true - any day on the boat is better than a day at work.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Autumn sailing

Kintala stayed at the dock the weekend.  With the north wind whispering along at no better than 5 knots she would have had a tough time finding any traction.  At least that seemed like as good an excuse as any to spend Saturday lounging around the boat and finishing up on some reading.  With the club's Halloween party later as well Deb had the inside of the boat filled up making goodies.  An excuse to keep me away from the to-do list even while spending a day at the dock.  In fact, except for doing some dishes for the party clean-up crew, I didn't manage to be of much use at all, all weekend.

Which I am actually kind of pleased with, though this will have to be my last weekend of loafing.  Work will slow due to the onslaught of winter, but I have to get back at it.  The list is long, wind vane, SSB, solar / wind gen / gas or diesel gen - what ever combination we decide to go with, RADAR, oil leaks and engine clean-up, rebuild of aft cabin area, lights in the cockpit, (bought 'em months ago, not sure where they are now) hatch leaks ... I really need to get back at it. 

And though Kintala stayed at the pier, Deb and I went sailing with James and Marc on James' Hunter.  At the start there was enough wind to keep us moving with enough sun (on one tack anyway) to keep the chill at bay.  By the end both sun and breeze had been swallowed up by the overcast.  Eventually James gave in and started the motor, but a new and rather alarming vibration kept the speed at barely 2 knots.  We took a good look at the engine so see if anything obvious was amiss but nothing caught our eye.  Best guess is that an injector is fouled, but real troubleshooting will have to wait until next week.  And, since it isn't my boat, that gets added to someone else's to-do list rather than mine.  In any case, by the time we made it back to the dock the whole crew was noticing a drop in core temperature.  Autumn sailing is pretty, but it is also chilly.

I wonder...

...what the view from the rich people's front porch looks like ?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Interesting article if you dare to read it

BBC had an article this week by Manuel Castells in which he talks about the rise of alternative economic cultures. The parallel to full-time cruisers is remarkable and it's worth a read.

Manuel Castells on Alternate Economic Cultures

Yummy stuff over at Cruising Comforts...

Hmmmmm little piece of on the Cruising Comforts tab for the recipe and enjoy!