Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wild ride at the dock?

An all day trip scheduled for Saturday was the excuse I needed to head to the boat in the middle of the week. I really wanted to get the storage area under the pilot birth finished. While variety might be the spice of life, living well on a sailboat means finding a place to put all the stuff. At the top of our list of stuff that needs to find a permanent home is Deb's fabric rolls. It was a good project for getting back in the groove of getting projects done; a couple of chunks of 2 X 4 rip sawed and cut to length, a sheet of 1/2" plywood cut on a template, some stain and sealer, and four latches to hold things in place should Kintala ever find herself lying on her side in some ocean somewhere. Speaking of which ...

... Though the work was a pretty low tech affair compared to something like Deb's dodger project it has been complicated somewhat by the weather. The wind started blowing just a few hours after I arrived on Wednesday morning and it has been building in waves ever since. Kintala is docked facing north and starboard side to. The wind has been clocking around and is now rocketing out of the west north west with gusts in excess of 30 knots. I'm sitting on the port side facing across the boat, and it feels like some kind of carnival ride that is going to pitch me right over on my head. The decks are sheathed in ice, fenders and lines and rigging are banging and singing all over the marina, and all of this with a barometer that has risen from 997 to 1012 in way less than 24 hours. This is not what they taught me in pilot weather 101.

So I have been working all day on a boat that feels like its about to roll right up on the dock and lay on its side. A bit distracting really and, I have to admit, noisy. I love staying on the boat but sleep has been light and interrupted often these last two nights. At one point I went out thinking I should tighten the port side stern line to hold us off the dock a little. It was coated with ice, stiff as a broom handle and frozen to the cleat. It seemed likely that playing with it wouldn't accomplish much more than mashing my fingers and maybe losing one of the lines holding us in place. Leaving it be seemed the "lesser of two weevils" (to quote Captain Jack Aurbey's famous pun).

So why am I ... wait ... wind picking up ... rolling ... rolling... ah, that was a good one ... so why am I pretty pleased with being on the boat right now? Normal people don't want their house moving around, working while grabbing for drill bits that are trying to get away, and lying in a bed that rolls one from side to side.  A sensation accentuated by lying alone in the dark miles away from the nearest human being, all accompanied by bangs and clanks and assorted noises more usually associated with grave yards and ghosts.

An empty marina is a different kind of place. The edges of civilization are pushed back a bit. There is a tinge of wildness in the wind hidden from people sleeping in brink buildings, a wildness that calls back to our evolution from tribal apes who were at home in the wilderness. We are a civilized species now, bending the world to our needs and are healthier, live longer and are better fed for it. But maybe, just for some of us, those benifits require just a little too much "house breaking." We are healthier but sitting at a desk and watching TV leach the health away. We live longer, but the living isn't always better with the years demanded by jobs being years we would rather spend somewhere else. And we are better fed even if a lot of us are better fed than we should be. (Though one of society's true highlights is regular access to ice cream!)

Civilized people still need a little wildness, living on a boat is a good place to find some.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


The train pulled into St. Louis from the Chicago boat show at 0200 this morning thus bringing a close to my favorite trip of the year. Boats, trains, meeting old friends, spending a little $$ on knick-this and knack-that, too much fun. I got me a set of fids, determined to become a line-splicing guru and banishing fraying knots from my boat forever. We also brought home a couple of tethers, having debated the issue long enough. And, having met a vastly experienced sailing friend who put one in his boat, I came pretty close to talking myself into repowering Kintala with a new Beta Marine motor. Not quite there yet, but the idea of replacing our old, worn, leaking Westerbeke of questionable reliability has me polishing my wrenches with a gleam in my eye.

As always there were lots of pretty boats, nearly all of them clearly designed to sit at the dock and impress your friends. Still, Deb finally got on board one modern boat she was forced to admit was rather nice - a Beneteau Oceanis 41. And yet, if I ever get Kintala to the mechanical condition I want, I'm pretty sure our 1983 Tartan will be a better offshore cruising boat than a 2013 Beneteau Oceanis 41. The exception to the "pretty boat" syndrome was the Blue Jacket 40. We climbed on board to check it out and, down below, sat Bob Johnson. Yep the real Bob Johnson, co-designer of the Blue Jacket, guru of all things Island Packet, and designer of Nomad. So what do I do face to face with a living legend of the sailboat universe? Insult him of course.

You see, the Blue Jacket has an interior somewhat like Kintala, but with a unique fold up table that works around the keel stepped mast. Deb's eye went straight to it and she asked Mr. Johnson if he would be so kind as to open it up for us. He did of course, and that was that.

"Thanks a lot," I said "Just two minutes in your boat and you managed to add another two week project to my "to-do" list." I meant it in jest of course, I was as taken with the table design as Deb and already laying out the necessary wood parts in my mind. But I fear it didn't come out that way - ah well, nothing but class - that's me. I doubt Mr. Johnson is too concerned about my opinion on anything - rightly so. And he seemed genuinely pleased at how much we had loved our little Com-Pac 27.

For all of the fun this boat show was a bit of a disappointment. Pretty, "mine is bigger than yours" boats also set the tone for the rest of the show. I wanted to learn about setting up solar panels on a serious cruising boat. There were no solar panels in sight. I wanted to learn about wind generators and hydro generators. There were none of those in sight either. There were no Rocna anchors in the building, a disappointment since we have decided the new anchor we bought simply isn't performing as well as we had hoped. All kinds of inflatable dinks were stacked up here and there, but nothing nested or folding or sailing. Much of the personal gear I examined looked like it had been designed by the marketing department. Looks good, but who sees you standing watch on a dark, cold and stormy night passage? There were lots of fancy furling rigs for main sails, but finding information on bullet proof storm sails? Apparently pretty boats don't sail in stormy weather.

And then there is John Kretschmer. We sailed with John on a Bahama's Bash a couple of years ago, enjoyed dinner Friday with him and 20 others who have sailed with him over the years, and attended his "heavy weather" seminar at the show. I took an instant liking to John when we first met, something that is unusual for me. (There are a few on this planet who wonder if I take a liking to anyone at anytime.) The "Pretty Boat" aspect of this show highlighted the reason why I did. In the airplane world there is a small group inside the small group that are paid to fly airplanes - the truly hard core professional. They often started out nursing rag tag equipment through the harshest weather on merciless schedules for fly-by-night freight companies. They shrug their shoulders and crank-up their airplanes while other "pros" go looking for an excuse to cancel. Enroute thunderstorms, destination weather at minimums, forecasts of turbulence or ice or high winds, for this small group it is just part of why they do the job at all. Any twit can fly when the winds are calm, the sun is shining and the runway is dry. More to the point, if they don't go they don't keep the job, don't get paid, can't keep the kids fed and the wife happy. So when they don't go its because going means the sky will kill them, and this bunch is notoriously hard to kill. Some lucky few of this group find their way to jobs that are not nearly as harsh, but the hard-core bred into them over countless dark and stormy hours in lightning-lit cockpits is forever a part of their soul. If they make it to the good life they live easy and, at least among themselves, laugh a lot and tell good stories. There is no easy way to join their ranks and they have no patience for pretenders.

Contrary to what you might think this group is not well liked by "the industry." They don't write articles for the popular flying magazines, sell a lot of books, or get quoted in the popular press in regards to aviation matters. They tend to be gruff, don't much care what other people think, and raise the ire of the talking experts for one simple reason, this small group actually are the best at what they do. They fly airplanes, make flights, and handle weather that gets other people killed. They do it time and time again. And they know from the close calls they have had and the friends they have buried that the sky is not always blue and accommodating, that challenging the elements in man-made machines is not a marketing ploy for advertising shiny new airplanes on the cover of "Flying".

John Kretschmer is of that kind in the sailing world. Touching bases with him again was a breeze of refreshing air during what was otherwise a "Pretty Boat," kind of show. I know that's what sells Beneteaus and Hunters and Catalinas, keeps magazines afloat and people employed. But if that's what I really thought sailing was all about, I wouldn't bother.

And probably, if you are a reader of this blog, neither would you.

Chicago Boat Show 2013 - Call me surprised.

Since 2007 when we began our first sailing classes and before we owned a boat, we had joined the dreaming masses at the Annapolis and Chicago boat shows. This year was our fourth year at Chicago, and it offered a kind of opportunity to look back. I wondered, as I sat in the coffee area people watching, how many of the attendees around me owned boats and sailed actively, and how many were dreamers like we had been those 6 years ago. Dreaming is a good thing, a very necessary thing in today's age of relentless work and too little play, an escape and an infusion of energy and positive thinking. Maybe someday...just maybe...
Fast forward 6 years and I find myself watching and listening to the people as we wait in the lines to see the boats - the expensive-out-of-reach-for-most-of-us-boats. From this end of the 6 years you can pick out the ones at the other end of the journey pretty easily. They oooh and aaaah at the ice bin for beer in the cockpit and the flashy but not so efficient layout below. The boat owners and those looking to replace their boats are looking at the lack of handholds and awkward traveler positions and narrow, crowded side decks and possible dodger mounts and winch access. Recognizing myself 6 years ago in the oooh and aaah crowd and now in the boat owner crowd, it was good to realize just how far we'd come. Every once in awhile you need to get some encouragement in the midst of a tough refit, a pat on the back that you're not a rank beginner anymore,and I'll take it wherever I can find it, even if it means the deck of a flashy Beneteau which I can never afford.

I was, however, not beyond being caught totally flat-footed surprised. One of the main reasons we ended up with the Tartan was the fact that I have a wonderful husband who deferred to me in the area of design. At all the boat shows we attended, we toured the new Jeanneaus, the Catalinas, the Hunters and the Beneteaus, and after leaving each cabin I always felt like I had left a rather sterile hotel room. I had difficulty imagining any of them as my home in the way Kintala feels to me. Tim, being the pilot of high-end jet aircraft with fancy, new interiors, always preferred the  newer models. Well.....drumroll....I can now confess that I have found a new production boat that I could buy and live on if the checkbook could support it. The Beneteau Oceanis 41.

The boat was laid out exactly the way we would lay out a boat if we were designing it, and they had addressed a lot of my initial objections to modern production boats like the lack of opening ports in the side windows, fantastically well-designed companionway stairs and engine access, and had the one feature that we compromised on Kintala, a head at the base of the companionway, along with a feature we're building into Kintala, a useable tool, parts, and workroom.  The companionway stairs and engine access are probably the best feature of this boat. the stairs are completely encased by side walls as you go down and are much more level than the typical ladder-like stairs found on most boats (including Kintala). To access the engine, there is a hydraulic lift on the stairs that not only makes them easy to lift, but keeps them there while you're working inside. It is a truly well-designed boat with a cruiser-owner in mind, and for anyone with a bigger pocketbook than mine or the luck to win the lottery, I highly suggest you look at it.  The price as fully equipped at the show and also including a dodger and bimini but not a radar was $285K and change. There would be very little I would change about it other than to install a three burner stove instead of a 2 burner one, a radar, and two long handholds down the length of the boat which were inexplicably missing. I would also remove the front-opening fridge and install a top-loader for efficiency. This would be my choice in that price range without any doubt at all.

Enter stage left, Surprise Number Two, the new Gemini Legacy 35. The last time I boarded a Gemini catamaran was at the Annapolis Boat Show three years ago. I seriously couldn't wait to get off it (sorry to all Gemini owners who are happy with theirs). It was constructed so lightly that I would be constantly afraid of it coming apart were we to take it offshore. The nice thing about having two days at a small boat show is that you tend to go look at things that you might not otherwise since you have the time. We took the tour on the Gemini Legacy and were quite pleasantly surprised. They moved the cabin roof back quite a bit toward the table, allowing you headroom in most of the salon area, greatly opening up the salon and the galley both. The hulls are still a real tight fit, and the guest cabins very small, but the master cabin, that sits abeam the boat forward of the salon, is a wonderfully enticing space that makes you just want to curl up there and read a book. It's well lit, well ventilated, and their choice of veneers and paint colors all geared toward the light, airy feeling. The boat has a much more substantial feeling to it, and at $216K sailaway it's a pretty good deal for anyone wanting to get into a catamaran.

One negative surprise about the show this year was the real lack of meat and potatoes in the vendor aisles. There were a lot of schools, sailing clubs, insurance agents and the like, but almost none of the items we had come to research were represented: Rocna anchors, wind generators of any sort, solar panels of any sort, and hydro generators of any sort. We were able to purchase our tethers, a rope-cutting gun, and a good set of fids for tremendous boat show specials, and we did settle on a keel-cooled Frigo unit to replace our aging and very inefficient refrigerator compressor, but we left with money in our pocket when we would likely have purchased one of those items had they been there. It was an odd shift - the boat manufacturers had become more serious in their representation, the vendors less.

In my opinion, the free seminars offered at this show area the best reason to go. There are nearly 50 one-hour seminars offered each day of four days and they just keep getting better and better, with high-quality instructors and topics of highly applicable interest to nearly every level of experience. We attended an offshore energy management seminar offered by Bob Williams that I anticipated was going to be too basic for my mechanic-husband, but turned out to be a very valuable resource to us as we are setting up our electrical usage planning. We also attended the Force 10 Storm Management seminar offered by our friend John Kretschmer who, as always, is highly entertaining while delivering a real 1-2 punch of knowledge.  Regardless of what seminar you choose, I promise they deliver and will not disappoint. In between your seminar attendance, there are also a ton of on-floor demonstrations at vendors, the best one we attended being the splicing demonstration done by Donnie from the West Marine Rigging production staff in Rock Hill.

Here are some more miscellaneous pictures for those of you who didn't get to attend.

Sailing Simulator for kids that was awesome.
Compac Yachts Pilot House 23

The Blue Jacket 40 World Debut. A really well-designed boat by Bob Johnson and Tim Jacket.

New to the U.S. Delphia 41

Seward 32

The annual ice sculpture contest at Navy Pier
Incredible detail in the work

Chicago at its best

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Whadda ya think - does she look like a liveaboard now???

Stray gloves

Things worked out so I could head to the boat Friday morning with Deb catching up later in the evening. Un-trashing the boat by getting the pilot berth area insulated and assembled and making the boat visitor friendly again was the goal for the day, not that we were expecting visitors. Making it to the store for this project didn't happened last week so a stop would be required to get the necessary materials. Going to the boat first to double check measurements and make a list of things needed seemed a good way to save a trip. (Boat projects always take more than one trip to the store.) Said list included: 1 sheet of 3/4 inch insulation board, 60 grit sandpaper, insulation friendly adhesive, (the wrong stuff melts the board like butter - you can guess how I know that) and adhesive for resetting the furring strips. (The hull would be too cold for fiberglass - adhesive would have to get the job done.)

About an hour later the trip was complete. The guys at the Home Center ( - just in case you ever need project parts in central IL) even lent me a knife to chop the insulation board into 4 2X4 chunks so it would fit in the Z. While stuffing my coat into our rather small locker I noticed just one glove in the pocket. These are brand new gloves on their first outing but I was sure the other one was in the car. Work ensued, plastic was strung up to keep the impending dust cloud at least partly at bay, final measurements were made, ye trusty old palm sander was loaded up with a fresh square of 60 grit - first task to grind the old adhesive off the hull so the furring strip could be reattached. About 10 seconds into grinding two nasty things happened. The first was it became evident that Tartan secured the furring strips using bondo as the adhesive. Bondo - as in body filler. That was disappointing since bondo is not really much of an adhesive, it grinds into a fine dust that will penetrate about anything, and - well - after 40 plus years in the "fixing stuff" world I just hate the stink of bondo. It was also a bit disappointing since putting stuff together with bondo is not evidence of a quality boat. The second bad thing was ye trusty old palm sander finally gave up the ghost and died on me.


My evolving personal philosophy is to try and take things as they come without adding unnecessary drama nor whining like a little kid. So, after the initial "Rats" came an attempt to fix the sander. No go - motor shot. Off to the store to get a replacement. Gotta have one, knew the old one had provided years of hard service and was on its last legs anyway, just go. I was a little miffed on the ride back into town. The day was getting away from me like, I had to admit, days doing boat projects tend to do. Go with it.

Walking into the store I noticed my other glove lying on the ground, right where I had dropped it several hours before. Rueful smile, lesson reaffirmed.

It was a 6 hour thrash to get the boat visitor friendly once again. I finally called it a day around 8:30 in the evening. Deb had pizza and beer ready in the clubhouse, and all was well with the world. Saturday we actually had visitors - marina friends who had come by to check on their own boat and were curious about our progress. The job isn't quite finished. There is a light to fix, a trim strip to add, and the area needs a light sand and stain to fix all the rub marks from trying to get over sized parts into undersized places. (Thus the need for another trim strip. I chopped one ungainly part in half to make it manageable.) Next week I hope to get back to the project that started this project.

Temporary blocks holding the panel till the trim strip is done.

Note: For any who care I am actually somewhat serious about my evolving personal philosophy, referring to it as "American Zen".  (Taking it too seriously would be counter-productive!)  It has much to do with living well without causing harm, and giving others room to find their own way without my interference. My version also involves some un-zen like language and a combination of attitudes that appear, on the surface, to be mutually exclusive. But it seems to be working for me.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

State of Trash

As Deb mentioned my weekend involved carrying a cold bug around with all the associated joys that come with that assignment. I'm going to blame it on last week's overnight trip to Harrisburg, PA. The hotel was comedy central for a Rodeo, packed full, and complete with horse trailers, those goofy string ties, huge belt buckles, knee high boots, and mutton chop side burns. All this in the central PA mountains in January, where there wasn't a cow that needed poking or a range that needed homing for lord knows how many miles. It was silly to the point of pure fun, costumes, characters, and play acting with the added thrill of broken bones and associated mayhem. Some of our human family are delightfully weird.

At breakfast most of the tables were shaded by cowboys wearing their hats. I guess they were afraid the sprinkler system was going to fire up and they wanted to keep their eggs dry. Anyway, I'm sure one of those cowboys was being generous with a cold, or maybe it was one of the horses.

Though my cup of enthusiasm was nearly empty Deb managed to get me out of the V-birth early Saturday morning to pull the main and head sail off the boat before the winds picked up. The wx was perfect, the air was warm and still with the day pretending to be an April spring day. Pretending. By evening the rain had come (Yeah!), slacked a bit, then turned to sleet and ice pellets. (Yeah?) We got another layer of sleet this morning making us all walk a bit like penguins to keep on our feet.

By this morning I was feeling a bit better and slightly motivated with the pilot berth mod first on the list. All I needed to do was move the cushion and make a pattern to take home for cutting the main part ... ah but this is Kintala. The bottom outboard edge of the cushion was soaking wet, actually laying in a ribbon of water that ran the whole length of the berth on the hull side. Fixing the leak became part of the mod, which would required removing the teak slats at the hull, which meant removing the shelf, which meant removing the AC plug, chain plate cover, three 6 foot long trim strips, and one light fixture. Even that wasn't quite enough and getting the teak panel out was a Chinese puzzle requiring a mysterious combination of twisting, turning, flexing and positioning before it would clear. As usual, a couple of minutes turned into a couple of hours, and the port side of the boat is in a minor state of trash. (I firmly believe that some "state of trash" is actually normal for a boat.)

The good news is it appears the water is a result of condensation and not a deck leak. One firring strip is loose so it will require being reattached. It seems a good idea to glass it onto the hull this time, and the other 3 will get a layer of glass added as well, which will lead to some epoxy paint, insulation, and reassembly. Then back to the mod.


I recently read a post on another blog that said that no self-respecting blog writer would see the New Year in without doing a post on resolutions. I,on the other hand, studiously avoid New Year's resolutions because I'm a firm believer that they just don't work. If you're not motivated to change the things in your life that bother you from February 1st to December 31st, what in the world would motivate you between January 1st and January 10th or 18th or 23rd or whatever other date in January you deem your self-fulfilling failure of a resolution has failed. I do, however, use the beginning of the New Year as a time to assess. Due to my position on resolutions, my assessment is not geared toward what I have done wrong, nor the piling on of guilt, nor the insane rush to correct all my mistakes of the previous year in 10 days as the tabloids claim with their latest lose-25-pounds-in-a-week cover diet (positioned strategically next to the recipe for death by chocolate cupcakes). The main goal of my assessment is to encourage myself with what I have accomplished and to take a deep, clearing breath and organize things in my life to accomplish what needs to be accomplished in the upcoming months. With all this in mind, I decided to take some time this weekend while Tim is sleeping off his cold in the comfort of the V-berth to assess our progress.

My first assessment is the progress of our goal. We took our first sailing lessons in 2007 as an exploratory into whether the idea of selling all our worldly possessions and moving onto a boat was a wise thing that fit us. Although we really decided to make a go if it in the months before, I consider that we really started our 5-year plan June 14, 2008 with the purchase of Nomad, our first boat. June 14 of 2013 will be the end of our 5-year so I figure we're still on track.

As all of you who have loyally stuck by the blog know, we have had our trials since buying Kintala, enough so that we've periodically wondered if we had made the right choice. I was breathing a sigh of relief after finishing the dodger enclosure a couple weeks ago, and for some reason I looked around at her and began to realize that we've come a long way, and this is not the same boat we started with. So here's a tour:

We gave her a proper name, Kintala, which means Karma or state of balance. We even did it right, with John Vigor's renaming ceremony and offered the proper libations to the boat, to the lake, and to the onlookers.

We dealt with the V-drive

We put in a decent head to replace the leaking, rotting base one with the wicked, deadly handle that was in there.

Spent two days carrying buckets of oily bilge water to the hazmat barrel and scrubbing the bilge:

We cleaned up heaps of trash that the previous owner left:

Cleaned out gross cabinets:

Changed engine mounts:

Built a new nav seat / storage cabinet:

Replaced all the water hoses and a few drain hoses:

Installed new halyards for the ones that pulled out (don't ask):

Installed new mainsheet and traveler lines:

Built a new spice rack:

Installed a new backsplash:

Installed LED drop-in bulbs in all lamps and installed new LED strips lights in the galley:

Added a hinge and more insulation on the refrigerator:

Built a stovetop counter to replace the one that was missing (go figure):

Had a custom mattress and memory foam topper made for the V-berth to replace the one that was missing (go figure again):

Converted bimini to rigid frame and got rid of the f*&!*# straps:

Refinished all the teak with Cetol Natural Teak, 3 coats and 2 coats of clear:

Refinished the hatches:

Refinished all the ports:


Built a storage bin where the old VHF remote used to be that was ruined by leaking water since there was no latch on the hatch (go figure again):

Tore out all sorts of malfunctioning equipment including the supposedly working autopilot, an antiquated Loran, and multitudes of non-functioning instruments:

Replaced the anchor windlass gypsy:

Designed, constructed, and installed a new dodger:

Not to mention all the things for which I don't have pictures like:

  1. Polished all the brass
  2. Installed Command Strip hooks in various places on the boat like for towels in the head
  3. Made a custom dish drainer rack
  4. Made pillows for the settee
  5. Sewed sun covers for the hot weather
  6. Removed enough unused and unconnected wire from the bilge and engine compartment to circle the globe
  7. Cleaned up existing wiring - bundled and secured
  8. Fixed an inoperative sump pump
  9. Fixed an inoperative fresh water pump
  10. Sealed a badly leaking toe rail
  11. Built screens for the hatches and the companionway
  12. Repaired the bimini window
  13. Restitched multiple sails
  14. Replaced illegal propane cylinders and a badly corroded regulator
  15. Had the spare anchor blasted free of rust and awaiting paint
  16. Replaced the cracked acrylic weather screen in front of the ignition switch / tach assembly
  17. Repaired a few soft spots in the deck
I'm sure that there are multiple things that are just escaping my memory at the moment, but as I sit and look around me it occurs to me that we are well on the way, projects are indeed being accomplished, the boat is becoming our home, and life is very good. 

My resolution? To enjoy every minute on this boat, my home. Tick - that resolution is accomplished.