Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Charlie's Soap

There's a new review on our Reviews tab that you might be interested in.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Table is done ...

... next.

Actually, as is usually the case, several other projects were and are in progress along with the table build, so it is more like "keep going" then it is "next". Deb was creating us a new sail cover and I am still working on filling the void under the starboard side staysail winch so it can be remounted. The incessant spring rains, while much appreciated for bringing the drought to an end and filling the lake to overflowing, have also forced my attention to more mundane maintenance matters. My boat leaks and that is just bugging the snot out of me. Bedding ports and hatches now share the top of the list with getting the winch back on.

With new cushions, a new seat at the nav table, LED lights, ports polished, and now the table build complete, Kintala's salon is a completely different living space than when we first bought her to the lake. In a way that seems unique to boats this has become "our" space. Enjoying an almost pathological attachment to their vessels is something sailors talk about all the time. I'm not there yet. Kintala is still mostly a project to me, a means to an end, a way to live on the water and travel, and a chance to give action to the feeling in my heart that ours is a deeply ill society that needs to find some new priorities and a new way to look at the world. The list of projects needing done before we head to big water is daunting. The list of smaller projects that just need attention is infinite. But I admit, being on our boat, particularly when she is off the dock and free to roam, is to be in a good place.

In addition to finishing the table the engine has been run and all fluids checked, there is water on the boat, and the sails have been mounted. Getting off the dock is also at the top of the list of things to get done.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Collaboration or the fine art of working together

If you frequent very many sailing blogs you will notice a fairly prevalent theme centered around playing nice with others in a small space. Sailing couples frequently decry the lack of private space and the abundance of differing opinions, especially when working together on a Boat Project.

If you frequent this sailing blog, you may have perhaps noticed that we've accomplished a lot of Boat Projects on Kintala, most of which have been done together, and without much fighting. Two of these projects occupied the last few weeks on the boat, the mainsail cover (mine) and the ongoing bulkhead table project (Tim's). I was thinking about this whole issue because on both of these projects we sought the other person out to "help me walk this through", a phrase that seems to inhabit our married vocabulary a lot. The one doing the project will begin talking out the plan of whatever step is troubling, and bouncing ideas back and forth we come up with a revised plan that is always better than the original.

I believe the reason that too many couples find it difficult to work together is that they are married to their project, not their spouse. They have a plan that they feel is perfect already and any new ideas, being a threat, are soundly rejected even if they might be better. Tempers and hurt fly freely in this situation.

When Tim and I work together on a project, ideas are not puzzle pieces that come whole and fit into a certain spot - my piece then his, each maintaining their own integrity. They are springboards to new ideas - ideas that get blended and cut and twisted together into the final project, one made better by the infiltration of new creative thought by someone with a different way of seeing the same thing. I don't want to imply that we don't each own a project sometimes; we do. The V-drive replacement was his deal, the cushions and dodger mostly mine, the bulkhead table has been completely his, but all through each of these we needed help to form an elusive idea into a solid project. (Well, maybe not the V-drive...my contribution on that one was to stay far away in the clubhouse :)

The next time you find yourself deep in a project and are feeling a little...well...put off by someone's suggestions, stop yourself and listen. It might be just the spit and polish your project needs.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Step by step ...

inch by inch ... slowly I turned ...

This old comedy routine is a good description of our progress toward living on a sailboat. Step by step we have figured out if this was really something we wanted to do. We took a bunch of classes, learned about big water and explored the world of catamarans. Nomad taught us the basics of living on, sailing, and maintaining a cabin class sailboat. That lead to picking a Tartan 42 as the foundation of a home we can take to the water.

Inch by inch we have muscled Kintala toward fulfilling that vision. Drive train, systems, interior work, dodger, progress for many of these efforts was literally measured inch by inch, sometimes far less. Move the prop shaft about one half and inch and water would poor into the boat. The engine mounts were tweaked to align the shaft to as close to "zero" as possible. The table design and build often included measurements of an eighth of an inch. Much of Deb's cushion work was done to lengths smaller than an inch, and her dodger was often tweaked to an eight inch or less; with the visible variation of a straight stitch line being even less than that.

Slowly we turned away from being land loving, stuff hording, mortgaged-to-the-hilt-members in good standing of an insane consumer society. We have (mostly) turned from shredding the tires of screaming, high-powered motorcycles to dancing a night watch with the ocean at the helm of a small sailboat. All of my life I have looked in the mirror and seen a pilot / mechanic / biker. But somewhere in these last few years I turned around and the reflection is now that of a sailor / mechanic who flies airplanes to buy boat parts. Just as slowly the house we so loved in the Central West End, the house we spent years turning into our favorite place to be, turned into a pile of bricks chaining us to the land. Selling it is now a "thing what matters" and our real "current address" is a favorite cove on our little lake.

I also turned to discover that I am not quite the odd-ball, mis-fit some of my life's adventures might suggest. It turns out there are a lot of people like me, but they mess around with boats so I just hadn't run across them before. Hard headed, fiercely opinionated, independent to a fault, they are also people who will crawl into a dirty under-deck hole to help fix a thing that needs fixing for a person they barely know. All they ask in return is a cold beer and the expectation that, some day down the line, you will crawl into a dirty hole to help someone else. Fiercely independent they may be, but few who have spent much time on open water take themselves too seriously or see themselves as masters of the earth. If most of the people on our little planet were more like a lot of the sailors I have met, human kind would never have invented borders and suffered all the related ills and hatreds that go along with drawing arbitrary lines on a map.

To be honest a lot of bikers fit this same profile which is why I am still a comfortable member of that tribe. Oddly, though much of my life focused on flying, I never did fit into the "pilot" tribe very well. There is a group who, in spite of spending hours in the even bigger ocean of the sky, tend to take themselves way too seriously and are convinced of their own superior abilities. Maybe its because much of the pilot world flows from the attitudes of the military. Maybe its because pilots spent scant minutes in the air compared to sailors who live on the water for weeks, months, and years at at time. What ever the case the pilot tribe is not going to miss me, nor I it. Of course a lot of sailors are pilots as well and sometimes we sit around boats and talk about airplanes. Nothing human beings get involved in is all one thing or another. But most of the sailing pilots I know would rather be on their boats.

This post started out as a take off a comedy routine ... but veered off into places I didn't expect. (If you are not a writer don't try to figure it out. If you are a writer you know exactly what I mean.) The original destination was "Step by step, inch by inch, slowly I turned ... to see the water in the lake going up foot by foot!"

Two weeks ago Kintala was sitting in the mud. Today there is more than 5 feet of water under her keel! YIPPEE! We started the day with some hope of actually going sailing. But truth to tell we are still in winter project mode, not sailing mode. The engine needs run and checked for leaks after some late season maintenance last year. Deb spent part of today getting the interior squared away so tools and parts don't turn into missiles at the first hint of a heel. Head and main sail went on Saturday morning, so she had the chance to finish fitting the new sail cover today as well.

While she did, I went for a short sail with Friend James. It was my first sail in many a moon and its hard to describe just how good it felt to be back out on the water. (I did do a little work this weekend, honest.)

Most happily the water in the lake means the lift is accessible. We could, theoretically anyway, sail across the lake tomorrow, pull Kintala from the water, load her on a truck, and be on our way. Knowing that makes me smile ... the purpose of a comedy routine.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cerca ...

... pero no puros. (Close, but no cigar.)

We finally got an offer on the house that was almost in the ballpark. We countered at the very bottom of what we were comfortable settling on the first time out. The buyer (if that's what you want to call him / her) came back with an offer 10 grand less than his / her first offer. I'll have to admit that is a style of bargaining unfamiliar to me. My agent knows me pretty well and politely (I assume) suggested this person shouldn't expect to hear from me again. All of this started on a Friday afternoon and went on over the weekend, which seemed a little odd as well. But, if there is one thing we can all agree on after these last couple of days, its that there are a lot of "off" people floating around out there. Surely some near-normal person will show up one of these days needing a house.

The table project is getting close as well, but no cigar there either. Clear coating the table is the hang up. I'll have to admit I've never been fond of clear coating, probably because I am not very good at it. I put coat #5 on this evening and I can already see that most of it will have to come back off to get to the bottom of the brush marks. All of those who can make their woodwork shine have my utmost admiration. (Yes, yes ... I'm using a new brush. Temp, humidity and dust are all under control, the surface is clean and wet sanded between coats with 400 grit, I have tack rags and mineral spirits, use slow even strokes all in one direction, don't squish the brush against the side of the can, and work from wet to dry laying down a nice even coat. I even sip down a beer or two, you know, to steady my brush hand. Alas, the gleaming table of glass-like finish continues to elude me. But that's the nice thing about doing things like this for one's self. I can keep trying until I'm happy or just get tired of screwing with it. Either way works for me.)

No cigar yet, but we are getting closer.

Ed. note: Ignoring my messy garage, I personally think that his table finish looks pretty damn gleaming.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Steps forward

We came back from the boat a little early last weekend to get another couple of coats of clear on the table. Monday morning a planned nine straight days of traveling started for me, so all boat project progress came to a halt. Seeing as I am spending several long days in places I don't really want to be however, Spanish lesson progress is proceeding nicely. (Which isn't to suggest I can actually speak Spanish yet.)

Table project efforts are still focused around the shop in the city, but that doesn't mean Kintala herself is being ignored. A few weeks ago Deb noticed an ugly brown stain oozing out from under the starboard side staysail winch. Ugly brown tracks on Kintala usually mean core material, and so it proved. What ever bedding might have been under the winch at some point in the distant past has long since shriveled away to nothing. We also discovered that the winch was mounted over plywood core; or rather what is left of the core after years of being soaked in water. So a little repair work is in order. It is also clear that the winch itself has seen no routine maintenance in - oh, I don' know - a decade or so?

Add to the list, rebed and service all four cockpit winches.

We also took another swing at resetting the main hatch lexan in the frame using a different kind of sealer, Dow Corning 795. Though I had many bad things to say about how porly the black 4200 we tried last time did it the adhesion department, the fact is it stuck to the frame like it was welded on. It just didn't stick to the lexan at all. We roughed up the edge of the glass with some 50 grit this time around and I am cautiously optimistic that we might be closing in on finishing up the hatch project some one and a half years after we started it. (Getting the 4200 off the frame was ... difficult.)

The hatch went back on just before the start of the greet-the-new-newlyweds party for Emily and Joel. It was a pretty good party (of course) with counters full of food and the gathering of good friends after a long winter apart. Lots of boat work was finished up just in time for the festivities and the parking lot was a full symphony of buffers, grinders, and power washers right up until dinner was served. I must have been working a little harder than I thought throughout the day though. Long before the party was even running at full steam I was spotted streatched across the corner couch, nodding off. A long day of work in the warm sunshine, good food, a bottle of chilled "Blue Moon"... I was lucky I lasted as long as I did. Leaving the serious work of celibrating to the younger and more practiced I headed off to the V-berth and slept like the dead.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The big one that got away

A lot of cruisers spend time talking about fishing on their blogs. I used to fish as a kid with my dad and my personal best was an estimated 24" long walleye that weighed somewhere in the vicinity of 12 pounds that made it into the boat before flipping back out into the water on the other side after which the line promptly cut on the sides scratched from carrying the boat on the roof rack, and the fish departed with my favorite lure.

I hope to be able to catch some fish after we get to blue water, since the budgetary benefits are not to be denied, but if my luck in finding someone to bite on our condo sale is any indication, I probably better find good sources for chicken. We've had a very steady stream of showings on the condo since we listed it. Everyone gives it high marks on their after-showing survey - the price is right, it shows well, etc., but there's always some reason they don't want it. They want a single family home not a condo, they want a basement, they want it closer to the bars so they can drink and walk home (really???) and on and on ad nauseum. NPR tells me the housing market is coming back, that home prices have gone up 20% in most markets, and that the inventory is at a historical low. These are all good signs for us, but at the moment the only good sign I want to see is the S-O-L-D sign out front.

THEN maybe I'll be looking for my very own Cuban Yo-Yo hand reel.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Three strikes ...

Deb and I have been dissecting the sailing book I mentioned a few posts ago trying to decide what we might have done different. And, as these things are want to do, another of the blogs she follows initiated a spirited exchange in its comments section about the very same subject ... risk management and accident chains.

There are many who suggest that all accident chains have at least five links. I don't know that that is a hard number. More likely it is an aggregate sum that works out well in Power Point presentations used in safety seminars. But it is as good a number as any. Here is also a good time to remember that we are contemplating accidents that are truly accidental. If one gets hammered, then climbs aboard a 150HP super bike and blasts off into rush hour traffic, that accident chain has but a single link. The resulting carnage is mostly a forgone conclusion resulting from near suicidal stupidity. The first step to breaking an accident chain is to remember that a colossal act of real boneheadedness can get one killed without any additional links needing to be forged.

Working to avoid accident chains in my aviation life means any airplane that has me sitting in one of the two front seats is working on a three strikes rule. One thing goes wrong, no matter how apparently minor it is, and we have a strike. A light quits working, a gauge gives me a wonky reading, the weather we are seeing out the front window is noticeably different than what we expected from the forecasts, it doesn't matter what it is so long as it is a thing unexpected. Since I almost always fly as part of a crew any such incident is immediately shared and we start thinking specifically as to what kind of threat this may portend.

Aviation is a dynamic enterprise and, truth to tell, unexpected things occur on a lot of flights. Often it involves the weather. Forecasting is much better than most of us like to admit, but it is still an inexact science and sometimes they get it really, really wrong. Or the unexpected thing might be an equipment problem of some kind. It is almost always nothing more than a minor annoyance with multiple systems and back-up options at hand. A lot of flights reach the destination with a single strike being assessed, just another day in the office.

On rare occasions a second unexpected thing will raise its head and demand our attention. It is almost always a thing completely unrelated to the first thing. Occasionally it appears to be unrelated but, as the flight unfolds, the two get intertwined. An easy example is a much higher than anticipated headwind followed by an unforeseen route change from ATC. The extra fuel we put on board for "Mom and the kids" is suddenly not so extra any more. In all likely hood we still have plenty of gas, but we also have two strikes. I have been doing this a long time and have often carried on to the original destination with two strikes on the score sheet. It is also just another day in the office, but a day with the gremlins out playing. We will be keeping an extra eye out for their games.

Now, still using the example above, add a third thing. It might be related; say a fuel gauge going weird or an oil pressure starting to fade a little. It might be completely unrelated; a radio quits working, one of the navigation systems takes a break, or a generators goe off line. What ever it is, the destination now becomes the nearest suitable airport. It doesn't matter how unrelated the unexpected things appear to be. It doesn't matter how badly the Bosses in the back of the plane need to be where we were originally going or how dear to my heart it is to get home in time to see my Daughter in the school play. There are three strikes and now the assumption is that this flight might be an accident looking for a place to happen. It might not be, but there is nothing to be gained by pushing on to see what happens next. Meetings can be rescheduled, there will be another play.

Such a stop doesn't necessarily mean we are done for the day. A couple of hundred pounds of gas can cover a ton of weather concerns. A quick review of a gauge reading by a mechanic might reveal, for true and for sure, that there is no real problem with the system and continuing on is a prudent thing to do. But we stop and figure it out in a safe harbor where we know we can't get hurt. And we don't leave until the strike list is back to zero.

I have to admit that I haven't worked out just how this applies to living on Kintala yet. Airplanes fly for scant hours at a time and a divert destination is never that far away. Going anywhere in a sailboat takes days, weeks, or months. The nearest place to go just might be the place were one is already going. So maybe, when an unexpected thing rears its head underway, the proper response is to fix it, get it off the list, and keep on going. Low on fresh water and days from shore? Fire up the water maker or find some rain to collect - problem solved - continue on. Unsure which way a distant storm is going to go? Take up a heading sure to be away from its path until it shows its intent - problem solved again - continue on. Sail torn, block not working, line nearly chaffed through? Don't wait. Fix it and get it off the list. The point is not letting the "strikes" accumulate. (Fixing things in route is not usually an option up in the flight levels. When it breaks up there it stays broken until we land.)

The strike list doesn't suggest that we always take off with a perfect airplane, leave port in a perfect boat, or always wait for a perfect forecast. In the jet we have a thing called a Minimum Equipment List. It is exactly what it sounds like, a list of equipment allowed to be broken yet we can still depart on a trip. Very often the list details some procedure that the crew must adhere to to compensate. We might leave with a landing light burned out as long as the flight will land before dark or a seat belt not working so long as that seat is blocked from being used. The destination weather might be sucking giant lemons, but if we know that before departing it all becomes part of the plan and, as such, is not a strike. Strikes are things that were not in the plan. Letting them accumulate is watching the accident chain get longer.