Friday, December 21, 2012

Remember what I said ...

... about the Army Corps of Engineers? Not last time, but the time before. Maybe I was right. Rumors were falling thick upon the ground so Deb decided to just call them and ask, "What the what, over?" (Now why didn't I think of that?) The Gospel straight from the Commandant? 443. Normal winter pool. Kintala will not end up leaning on her toe rail after all. Plus some might have noticed that a big winter storm blew its way over a good chunk of the country, indiscriminately tossing rain and snow around, just like the good 'ol days. The need to get Kintala out of the water, right now, has faded. The want to get going however, is worse.

Deb was at the boat alone last weekend finishing up the dodger. I didn't get to see it until this morning. Pictures don't come close to doing justice for the job she did. Sitting at the top of the companionway, untouched by the 25 kt winds playing in the rigging, snug as the proverbial bug in a custom fitted, heavy duty rug (dodger)... no kid ever had a fort to play in that is as cool as the one I got. And it sits on top of a 42 foot sailboat! We aren't gone yet, but today I was struck by how far we have come and how close we are getting. There are a few big hurdles left to clear; selling the house, gathering up the last of the funds we need to live, and moving the boat off of Carlyle. (The gathering of funds is partly dependant on how bad a mauling we take selling the house.) Only one big boat job remains undone before I think she is ready for big water ... installing self steering gear. (There are lots of jobs to do; wind vain, solar panels, interior work, storm sails, RADAR, some real navigation gear ... but we can start out without those. And who knows, we might still get a couple of those done before shoving off.)

We may not be in the starting blocks yet, be we are surly out on the track and warming up.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dodger Phase Complete :)

We had one more project to complete on the dodger to call it complete. Since we don't have the money to do a complete cockpit enclosure right now, we decided to add a panel across the back of the dodger to close it off in cold weather so we can open the companionway slider and let both light and air in. The span across the dodger is completely flat, though a bit oddly shaped, but seemed easy enough. Easy??? Did that word actually come out of my mouth as related to a sailboat? It turned out to be the most complicated bit of work that I have done on Kintala to date. Now, I'm the first to admit that it became complicated because I wanted it designed a certain way, but as I thought about the design I had decided I wanted an opening door with screen in it and a roll-up plastic window, a system of zippers similar to the ones you find on a tent where the door opens whether it's just the screen part or the total screen and tent part zipped together. It was a mind-bending assembly of 9 zippers in multiple layers and I'm very very glad it's done!

From inside

From inside


Remember what I said about the Army Corps of Engineers? It looks like I was wrong. They are going to start releasing water from the lake in the next couple of weeks and are seriously talking about going below 440 by a foot or more. They admit that this will do a lot of damage to the marinas at the lake though they don't mention damage to boats. I guess they think there is room for everyone on the hard. (There isn't - nor are there enough stands and cradles since many people share, pulling their boats every other year.) This also leaves very little water in the lake to support irrigation through next summer's growing season and puts the water level within a couple of feet of the intake which provides drinking water to the town. It is also doubtful any of the marinas can survive a season of drastically reduced income. They, like hundreds of other small business owners in the area, may well be bankrupt before the lake level is allowed to rise back to normal once again.

In return for all of this potential for disaster, the barge companies get six more inches of water in the Mississippi for (according to one report) 5 or 6 days. Who ever is making this decision is nothing less than certifiable.

But there is no use getting angry over it. Crazy people are a rouge force of nature, like a hurricane, tornado, or forest fire. All one can hope is having enough warning to get out of the way. If we are going to live the life of live-a-board sailors, altering plans and adapting to changing conditions is all part of the gig. Lake Carlyle, as much as we love the place, and as big a part as it has played in our journey so far, is being rendered untenable by an unrelenting drought multiplied by the lunacy of politics.

So we are shifting plans, figuring out what we need to do to get Kintala out of the water. We have until the level gets to 444, the shallowest level that a 5 foot draft can get into the lift across the lake. (The only one on the lake that can take Kintala's weight.) Just before or just after she gets dry, the mast has to come down. Stepping it was a near disaster so - will the jinn pole get the job done before we lift the boat, or will we have to bring in a crane after the boat is on the hard? Can the lift lift her with the mast still up? Decisions.

Once the boat is in the lift do we put her down in Carlyle? To do so means taking up residence in a different marina, buying stands to hold her up, (stands we will have no use for after this one episode) and face being up out of the water for an unknowable number of months. The up side is Boulder isn't that far away and we can do a lot of work on the boat while Deb and I both have incomes. Big deal that, since we still need bottom paint, self-steering gear installed, through-hull inspections, a cutlass bearing, maybe a new drive shaft, and a new drip less seal installed.

Another option is to put the boat on a truck rather than stands, and send it to big water. Maybe east, maybe to Kentucky lake. Kentucky lake is a three hour drive, a bit far for weekends. But it is on the Ten-Tom and big salt water is just a couple of weeks of river travel away. Get the boat ready to go and, from there, just go. That has some serious appeal to it. And there is still the thought of a Mississippi marina somewhere not far from the Central West End, though how well river marinas will endure the drought is any one's guess.

Or the house can sell and we just go ... east probably. Find a marina to be on the hard for a few weeks, do we we have to do, shove off. Each choice plays off the variable of lake level, policy, rain, and the housing market. If I knew what was going to happen in any of these areas I wouldn't have to work and could probably afford a $2,000,000 brand new Catamaran to boot. (Not saying I would live on a $2,000,000 Catamaran even if I could, but not saying I wouldn't either.)


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What Inspires You?

I was reading a blog post by Andy Schell on Sailfeed where he asks the question "What inspires you?". His own answer is:

"What inspires you? What inspires me is the constant feeling of something missing, of never being satisfied. I'm happy - just not satisfied. I'll never be. Or I might as well give it all up."  

This is 28-year-old Andy writing reflections on the last 8 years of his life. It's a good question, and one that gave me pause. This is, after all, the age of vanishing heroes - fallen role models in sports teams, priests and generals accused and convicted of sex abuse, absent parents. The mysterious is banished to Google's few keystrokes, the awesome has become contrived by "the making of" videos, wonder and amazement are left to the few 2-year-olds that have not learned to use their opposing thumbs to text.

I thought about Andy's statement that he will never be satisfied and realized that there was a time that I felt that way, a few years back. Some say it's what motivates our plan to retire onto a sailboat - that desire to move and see and travel and the hunger for something more, something greater than oneself of which Andy speaks. But sitting in the warm shelter of my newly finished dodger last weekend looking into the cool, foggy mist, listening to the primordial screech of the great blue herons with the fragrant steam of my coffee tickling my nose, I realized that at 56, I'm not only happy, I am satisfied.What inspires me? I'm inspired by this fabric of life of which I am a single thread. I'm inspired by the greatness all around me, the greatness that I was searching for with the fervor of youth.  It is, after all, the responsibility of youth to be driven - to push, to explore, to create, to move - and the privilege of age to be able to sit quietly and be amazed and awed and inspired by the greatness all around, the greatness that was there all along.

So we continue with our plans to cruise, readying the boat and trying to sell the house for our cruising kitty, not because something is missing for which we are searching, but because our little lake already gives me the satisfaction of being just where I belong in the plan of things. And Andy, I hope I'm still around to hear what your 56-year-old self has to say about your 28-year-old reflections. Since I'm sure I'll be too old to sail, I'll be the cantankerous old lady in the liveaboard houseboat at the end of the last dock. You know, the one with the rocker on the front porch...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Foggy thoughts

It rained last night. There was even a little thunder during one particularly hard burst. Come this morning the rain had departed to our east and the fog moved in to blanket the lake. The marina is mostly abandoned, with only 4 or 5 of the true die-hards around, and none were out and about early. So I took my cup of coffee and settled under the dodger to enjoy the morning. It is one of my favorite things to do. Thoughts drift though one's mind like vague shadows do through the fog, coming from that quiet place in our heads that we usually ignore. Some are not even thoughts but misty impressions that leave just a faint trace as they pass.

Though usually positive this morning started with a distinct unease. It is December 9. But here I am sitting comfortably under the dodger in a jacket and hat in 50 degrees - on the back side of a cold front. This is not normal and through the fog passed the understanding that something is afoot. Living light and mobile on a boat may turn out to be one of the smarter things a person can chose to do.

Of course that choice comes with the need to do a lot of work. I did some yesterday, pulling the valve cover to try and get the worst of the oil leaks fixed. While under there setting the valves seemed a good idea since there is no telling when it got done last. Easy, right? Ah, but this is Kintala where, in spite of her name, nothing comes easy. There is a bracket bolted to the top of a long nut which, in turn, is the nut at the top of a stud that holds the head on the block. The bracket blocks the valve cover from coming free. I know you see what is about to happen, and it did. The bolt sheared off cleanly when I tried to move the bracket out of the way.

So I set the valves and replaced the gasket, bolting the cover back down before scattering metal shards around while drilling out the sheared bolt. A job that I was going to do today.

Except I was sitting in the fog where nothing gave any indication of even thinking about moving. The fog seeped into my bones, and I'm not going to do much moving today either. I think a may adopt a new winter time schedule ... work on the boat Saturday ... loaf on the boat Sunday.

I like foggy mornings.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ups and downs .... and ups

The lake level debate goes on while official statements (usually taken from news papers) and rumors (which seem to appear like magic with no discernible origin) vie for attention. As of this moment the official version is that dropping the lake to normal winter pool of 445 is a surety, 443 likely, and 440 a real possibility. This would be bad with a worst possible outcome being Kintala basically laying on her side in a foot or so of water.

Rumor has it 445 is a surety and 443 possible. But draining Carlyle, which after all isn't a very big lake and would support the shipping depth in the Mississippi for less than a week, is a move too irrational for even the Army Corps of Engineers. This would be good news, but the anarchist streak that runs deep in my soul chuckles at the idea of rationality on the part of any government body. It happens, but betting on it is a bad idea.

Also, the city of Carlyle is a small place in the middle of IL. It is supported by the fishermen, sailors and campers looking for some recreation (and a handful of some-day-cruisers using the lake as a fitting out and gearing up starting point). All of the above depend on the lake. Set against them is the money interests of international shipping companies, the mega-agricultural conglomerates, power plants and heavy equipment manufacturers. All of them depend on the river.

Guess which side has the most expensive lobbyists and a Rolodex full of Congress critter, Senator, and Governor's private cell-phone numbers?

Fortunately a drought is a bit like flood in that both tend to be slow moving disasters. The lake is still at 447+ and the official word right now is that nothing will happen for at least two weeks. It might rain or lakes up river might release some water. So the Corps is, for the moment, waiting and hoping that Mother nature lets them off the hook. (I'm rooting for Mother Nature as well.) We have some time yet to figure out what, if anything, we need to do go keep the Retirement Project out of the mud.

An idea that has come up is moving Kintala to the Mississippi river. (Follow the water my Son, follow the water.) We can still work and live on her on the weekends and, when the time comes, just head south. The down side is leaving Boulder, living on the river, and eventually having to sail down The Big Muddy. I have no real desire to be a river sailor. In fact, after more than a decade of flying up and down the Mississippi, once we head out I don't really want to see this river again. (Well, except when we are visiting Daughters and Sons-in-Law and Grand kids.) Of course the Mississippi is only about 9 feet deep itself - hence the call for Carlyle water. Nine feet is about what we are floating in even as I type.  Moving to the river might not gain us anything, so to speak.

Or the house could sell soon. Which would put money in the bank to move the boat to big water. Which is the whole idea anyway.

That would be the best.

Or maybe it will be raining when we sell the house?

Now that would really be the best.

BREAKING NEWS: It has just been reported that the Corps will not be releasing water from the flood control lakes to support shipping on the Mississippi. So...

My heartfelt apology for suggesting that they would surely go where the money demanded, and...

I still hope it starts raining soon!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Having a plan

Airplane drivers like to have a plan.  We like to have another plan for when the first plan goes bad. Then we want a third plan for when the second plan doesn't fix the problem that popped up when the first plan when off the rails. Truth is, if you have ever sat in the back of an airplane wondering what the two up front were doing while boring easy holes through the sky on a crystal clear day, auto pilot engaged and cup of coffee in hand, they were probably making small talk with a small part of their brains. But a big chunk of their brains were constantly churning through plans based on, "what if...?" It is how young airplane drivers stay alive long enough to become old airplane drivers, and it gets to be a habit.

This weekend was a short stay on Kintala. Sunday saw Daughter Youngest moving ... again. Parents everywhere know what that means. Still, I had a plan to get a couple of easy jobs done. Putting the winter floor back down in the cabin was easier than easy, and done in just a few minutes. We also replaced the chain gypsy on the windlass, which required that Deb climb into the locker to reach the back side of the mount nuts so I could raise the windless high enough to get the gypsy off past the chain backlash guard. (I volunteered to climb into the locker for the dirty, cramped, smelly end of the job. Really. I did.) The plan is that the new gypsy will keep the chain from jumping free about every third link when dragging the anchor up from the bottom. We will see, but it is a good looking piece of shiny new bronze ... I'll give it that much.

Then we heard a nasty rumor that has the potential for throwing a giant wrench into the big plan. It seems the Mississippi river is running out of water. (Actually, I spend a lot of time flying up and down the Mississippi river and have seen with my own eyes that it is, in fact, running out of water.) Barge owners are demanding that the Army Corps of Engineers use what ever resources are available to keep the river traffic moving. So are farmers who grow the stuff that fills the barges, marketers who sell that stuff, and people who eat that stuff. Power plant operators who need coal to burn want the barges running as well, as do other people who like to turn the lights on in their homes and keep the heaters running through the winter. One has to admit they all have a point.

Lake Carlyle is one of those resources and as of midnight last the lake level was at 447.63 feet above sea level.

445.00 is normal pool.

Kintala sits on the bottom at her pier at 443.

The rumor is the Corps may drop the lake to 440, which means Kintala would be "floating" in water about as deep as a baby pool. Clearly that plan will not work.

The obvious plan #2 would be to put the boat up on the hard with all the other boats.  The problem is there is no good way for us to get Kintala out of the water. The plan was that she comes out only once, (at about $1000 a lift) goes on a truck and ends up near big salt water. We have no stands to put her on here in Carlyle, our marina can't even lift her (we go across the lake for that) and at 443 their lift pool is too shallow for Kintala to get in anyway.

Plan 3 would be to anchor her out in a deep part of the lake and hope that:
1) She doesn't get iced in,
2) No bad guys see her sitting out there and decided she is easy pickings,
3) She doesn't spring a leak, have the bilge pumps run the batteries dry and end up on the bottom, (shallow or not) and,
4) Doesn't drag in a big winter blow and end up against the shore.

Plan number 3 doesn't seem like a very good plan.

Plan number 4 (suggested by the peanut gallery) was to dig a hole under her where she sits at the dock, floating in her own little pond until it rains again. That plan did not include any suggestion of how such a hole might be dug, how much it would cost, or who could do the work.

Plan number 4 was dismissed without much ado.

Plan number 5 is to move the boat to a pier that supposedly has a couple of feet more water next to it. Kintala shouldn't hit bottom until 441, maybe even 440. Then her scheel keel will squish into the mud bottom a foot or more, leaving her stuck but floating at 440, maybe even down to 339 or 8. (Giving us a little leeway on the rumored Corps plan.)

Right now it looks like plan #5 will have to do.

Keeping one's boat off the bottom is a constant concern with sailors, but that usually means not letting the boat sink to the bottom or not running the boat off the edge of the water into the land.  Making a plan for when the water drains away from under the boat?

Man I wish we were in big blue water now.