Thursday, May 30, 2013

Spring in Illinois

A friend of ours took this picture at the marina this afternoon. That would be Kintala's mast sticking up there front and center - we're the one with the blue sail cover on the main dock. You just gotta love the Midwest in the Spring...

Photo courtesy of Kevin Sheer

And the winner is....

Mike of This Rat Sailed.

Thanks everyone for responding. I really enjoyed hearing your stories. It sent me back to those early days when we were buying these books and insatiably devouring them. It also made me realize just how far we've come in these 6 years. Best wishes to everyone who responded and is on the same track. And a special wish for Mike and his wife who are landlocked in Colorado and still dreaming!

Mike - email me your physical address and I'll get the books out to you.

Thanks again everyone!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


I have a box of cruising books that I would like to give to some person dreaming about or starting to prepare for cruising. These books have been very helpful to us but I'm cleaning out the closets some more and they need to go. If you're interested in them, drop me a line and I'll pick the best one to receive the stash.

svkintala att gmail dott com

Here's the list of books:

Escape From Someday Isle - The Best of Living Aboard
Travels With Yeti - HIram Connell
Sailing the Dream - John F. McGrady
Seraffyn's Mediterranean Adventure - Lin and Larry Pardey
Blown Away - Herb Payson
There Be No Dragons - Reese Palley
The Capable Cruiser - Lin and Larry Pardey
Tales From a Gimbaled Wrist - Michael L. Martel
Sailing Promise - Alayne Main
A Year in Paradise - Stephen Wright Watterson
Do Dolphins Ever Sleep? - Pierre-Yves and Sally Bely
The Essentials of Living Aboard a Boat - Mark Nicholas
Cost Conscious Cruiser - Lin and Larry Pardey

Good luck!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Go now ...

or not.

Kintala is starting her third season on lake Carlyle. This was not supposed to be but the v-drive disaster put a least a year deep dent in The Retirement Project. Shallow water and the brutal temperatures of last summer drastically reduced the number of miles we could put in learning our new boat and shaking down the admittedly shaky systems. Added up we are actually a little more than a year behind what we had hoped when we started this journey.

But it turns out the delay should have been part of the original plan. Having a drive train that actually drives turns out to be a necessary kind of thing. Having some clue as to the proper way to operate the boat turns out to be a good thing. Having time to fix things while there is still money flowing in turns out to be a no brainer sort of thing. And having another year to put away savings turns out to be an absolutely fantastic thing. So fantastic in fact, that the rather large amount of stress inherent in completely overhauling the way one lives in the world, is noticeably reduced. Indeed, I almost wish we had a little more time to fix and to save. (Particularly given last weekend's new drive train failure - which may yet put my back firmly against a very uncomfortable wall.)

But it doesn't look like it will work out that way. For reasons both emotional and legal I can't give many details, but we appear to be at the very edge of taking this leap. A decision as to an east coast destination for shipping has to be made soon. We can only wait so much longer for the house to sell before the "rent-it" option will have to be the choice. (Not what we want but it is hard to take a house with you when you jump into the abyss.) We are just shy of being enveloped in the hurricane, standing on the shore, wall cloud in sight, wind just starting to pick up, the first rain drops falling. It is a slow moving hurricane (at least for the moment) and it may well be a few weeks - or even a couple of months - before the full furry makes landfall in our little world. But it is clearly in sight and the barometer is dropping. And really, 4 to 8 weeks is not a very long time.

For those of you who have yet to leave, don't let anyone tell you to "go now". They don't know what you know. But when it comes time to go, take a deep breath, take one last look around, then jump.

New Review - Simultalk 24g

I have posted a new review on my review tab for the Simultalk 24g marriage saver headsets. I hope you'll wander on over there and read it!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bad Juju

S/V Gail Force is sitting up on the hard, a bulkhead half chopped away to allow access to a leaking fuel tank. S/Vs Miss My Money and Paradise both suffered meltdowns in the electrical systems at, it is assumed, roughly the same time. Friend Steve was seen walking up the dock toting the alternator from Island Time, hoping he had found the source of the short that is killing his batteries. There is some bad juju haunting our dock.

And Kintala? Well, it was a fantastic weekend on Kintala. We left the dock Friday afternoon to spend the night in our favorite cove. A full moon rose off the bow just as a fire red sun set off the stern. A perfect night on the hook. Saturday we had a great sail back to the dock to wait and see what the Midwest weather had in mind. While there we reinstalled the wayward staysail winch. When the weather concerns abated we sailed away again, back to our favorite spot to raft up for the night with Paradise and Quicksilver. Come Sunday we decided to just stay put and do some work on the hook. A few hours later we had fixed a minor glitch with the roller furler on Paradise and re-bedded the port with the worst leak on Kintala. Miss My Money dropped by for a visit, and a good time was had by all. Come night we had the cove to ourselves once again. Rain was expected at some point but the storms went a different way. Perfect night #3, the longest we have ever stayed out on Kintala.

This morning we sailed back to the dock on perfect winds, 10 to 15 with an occasional puff to 20. Kintala was dancing downwind on just her head sail at 6 knots, steady in the following swell. All told we sailed 20 plus miles and spent more than 4 hours under sail. Along the way we discovered that Kintala really sails well on just a head sail. We flew the main only once all weekend. And so for nearly 4 days we pretended like we had made it, working on the hook, coving out, sailing off the anchor, almost like our land lines had really been tossed. It was grand.

But then it came time to roll up the sail and head for the marina. We motored in, figuring to pull head first into the dock, hook a bow line on a cleat and use reverse to pull us back up against the pier. It is a technique taught us by Friend Joel (boat handler extraordinaire even if he is younger than some of my socks) when the wind is from the wrong direction to back in. And it worked perfectly right up until the last gentle nudge of reverse to see us home.

Line handlers all claimed I hit something with the prop. But what I heard at the helm was the sickening clatter of heavy metal battering other heavy metal. A quick shift to neutral quieted the din but clearly Kintala had come up with some new way to abuse my good intentions. Nearly half a century of bending wrenches ... I know the sound of "broke" when I hear it.

Truth to tell I just couldn't bring myself to look at the carnage right away. Instead we straightened up the deck, washed down the anchor chain (marking it with zip ties - like we should have done a year ago) and cleaned the caked mud off the foredeck. (Those who set the hook in sand should count their blessings every day!) Eventually though, I had to take a deep breath and go see how badly we were injured ... this time. Lying in the engine pan, under the V-drive, that's where the bolts and washers were found. The prop shaft
had torqued itself right off the V-drive. Resigned to disaster I donned mask and fins, jumped in the water, and felt my way to the prop fearing the worst. But from what I could feel there was nothing fouled on the shaft and the wheel itself is unbent, unbroken, and unbashed. It even turned freely in its bearings. (Carlyle water is opaque on the best of days and under the boat it was black as night. Cold too, nothing like free diving in water too dark to see and too cold to hold one's breath for long. Never let it be said my boat will pass on any chance to make me miserable.)

Best guess is that two of the bolts rattled their way free, leaving the last to be guillotined when I shifted into reverse. Why such a thing would happen is yet to be determined. The coupling was secured with the hardware provided by Walter machine, properly torqued with steel lock washers installed. The shaft was lined up and there hasn't been a hint of vibration right up until the thing let go. At this point I'm thinking bad juju makes about as much sense as anything else.

So, though skeptic I might be of all things even remotely related to spook-ism, I am starting to wonder if we should hire some voodoo doctor to dance up and down the dock, shake some beads, whisp some incense, and mutter a few incantations to drive the evil gremlin spirits away.

Wrenching, sweating, and swearing don't seem to be working.



Monday, May 20, 2013


Note: If one is easily offended by the way adults sometimes talk in the real world, one might want to give this entry a pass. It is all in good fun and no offense is intended.

Our faithful crew, Joel and Emily
Kintala found her way off the dock an out onto the lake today. It was a perfect day with a perfect crew (Joel and Emily) and turned into a perfect sail. Alas, this being the Kintala / TJ dysfunctional relationship after all, it got off to a bit of a rough start. For you see, today's first sail of the season was supposed to be yesterday's first sail of the season.

Yesterday, as per our usual routine, Deb got the inside of the boat ready for travel while I prepped the deck. It took some time since I was trying to remember everything, but eventually we unhooked the AC power cord for the first time in months. A run through the engine pre-start check list and a twist of the key was rewarded with the sweet sound of a rumbling diesel gently chuffing water out the port side. The oil pressure was good, we were making amps, even the tachometer was working. All was well in my little marine world.

So why was my mechanic sense sparking, insisting that something was wrong? I stood for a minute at the helm listening, feeling, wondering if it was just a mild case of paranoia - this being the Kintala / TJ dysfunctional relationship - after all. There was no denying it, something was definitely wrong. But I had no clue how I knew or what it was. One thing I have learned though, when it comes to boats, evidence for nearly all really bad problems can be found in the bilge. And sure enough, lifting the floor board uncovered the water that was puking out of the outflow coupling from the exhaust can. Kintala was slowing pumping herself full of water with every stroke of the engine.


The coupling hose had split. Nothing for it but to button her up and head to town for parts. Since we were going that way anyway it seemed a good idea to get the proper part needed to finish up the drawer mod. I thought I had the right part. I even drilled the hole for the right part. Turned out it was the wrong part. Fortunately it was also the right hole for the right part and by the end of the day all was well with my little marine world once again.

So today we went sailing ... and it was perfect.

Back on the dock, now settled in bow pointed south for her summer time orientation, dock lines all re-laid, AC power cord re-routed, Kintala was a sailing vessel once again and not just a project boat. It was getting pretty hot though, so I popped downstairs to crank up the Air Conditioning, what with me going to be on the boat tonight and it also being too hot to sleep.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013


The new table got a proper christening this weekend with Daughter Eldest and Family visiting for a few hours on Mother's Day. The day before Daughters Three, Son-in-Laws two, and grand kids seven had all gathered for a birthday party, that of Grand Daughter youngest turning three. The party was a great time, but the highlight of the day for Grampy-T (that would be me) was putting together a big sandbox kit as a birthday gift. Grand son eldest, all of five years old, helped with the build. That is misleading actually, since he assembled the main box pretty much all by himself - wielding a power screwdriver like an old pro.  My contribution was mostly holding wood parts in place and handing him screws. I am pretty sure I was taking things apart when I was five. But I am absolutely sure I wasn't putting anything together.

Though we were visiting at the boat we didn't make it out on the lake for several reasons. There were only a couple of hours at our disposal until we had to head back to the city for a Mother's Day dinner. Deb and I haven't been off the dock in Kintala for months and were not really comfortable taking two young ones and two non-sailing adults along for the first sail of the season. And Kintala isn't quite ready for the lake yet, mostly because of the drawer installation.

Both the table and the drawers drew rave reviews. Then again, I had informed all concerned that all I wanted to hear coming from the back cabin was a series of "Oooos" and "Ahhhs"; that any mention of minor imperfections were not going to be appreciated. I said it mostly in jest of course, but "Oooos" and "Ahhhs" were heard in abundance, some genuine and having to do with how smoothly the new drawer sliders work. Which is why Kintala isn't ready for the lake yet. They work so well that any heel to port will have them opening on their own. Deb and I are still exploring exactly what kind of locks we want to install - needing bullet proof latches that don't look like something off a barn door. In this case the internal finger-latches so popular on sailboats just don't seem hefty enough to do the job. But we will come up with something.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Laws and rules

Every niche of human endeavor seems to evolve its own rules and laws. Most of them don't have anything to do with physics, i.e. the natural laws, or judicial powers, i.e. social laws - though they might be distant cousins. One of the old saws in aviation is to stay away from the edge of the sky when things go wrong, altitude and airspeed are life. A corollary for sailors would be looking for sea room when the weather goes bad. The ocean can sink one all by itself of course, but finds it much easier to do if there is a handy shore onto which it can shove the keel of a boat. The physics of motion and energy, gravity and weather, gird many of the rules of flying and sailing. The social rules of right-of-way, mooring practices, and paperwork form the bases for the rest.

But I'm thinking of a different breed of rules and laws, related closer to Murphy than Newton or Cleisthenes.

I think there is a law, enforced by Tinkinzar (You could look it up.) that requires some minimum number of leaks be found on any sailboat. I'm not sure what that number is, maybe 5, maybe 10, maybe 13? Who is to say since no one has ever found every leak on any boat ... ever. But here's the thing, when you fix a leak on a boat some other leak, somewhere, has to spring up. Otherwise the balance of the universe will be off and the boat will roll over and sink. The trick is to shove the leaks around so as to replace the truly annoying ones, like over the V-berth that drips on your bald head, with one that flows down the inside of some out-of-the-way cabinet and on to the bilge.

Somewhere is written a similar law that determines how many oil leaks must be spread out over the engines of the entire sailboat fleet. There is some tendency for this rule to be local, fix one on any engine and another is likely to show up on that same engine. But if a truly diligent and talented mechanic banishes all oil leaks from the engine room (or has enough money to just purchase and brand new, no leaker to put in his boat) a leak will appear on the engine on some other, hitherto leak free, boat. Likely the engine nearest, leaks are lazy that way, but not necessarily. Sadly this law sets one boat wrench against all others. Just about the time I seal the last dripping flange on my aging Westerbeke, the guy in the next boat over will fix all the leaks on his Yanmar. How else to explain finding my Westerbeke drooling black goo from some new place the very next weekend? Hard to say for sure of course, but I'll bet many a marina brew-a-ha has roots in the frustration of oil leaks appearing seemingly out of nowhere.

Another aspect of the oil leak law is that every new boat splashed means more oil leaks in the world. Unfortunately most new engines don't start leaking for a week or more. At least one of the oil leaks in Kintala is probably a "new boat" leak that needed a home and couldn't wait.

Electronic devices are subject to many a subtle law; capacitance and resistance and voltage drops. But the law that really matters is the device density law, the one that determines just how many electronic do-dads can work together within the confines of a given length of water line. Some smart engineer from Ray Marine or Simrad or Germain needs to figure out what that number is and share it with the rest of us; one device per foot, or two per five. It may be that number is dependent on the material of the hull, more for metal boats, less for fiberglass. Maybe mast height or draft sways the allowed density some, but try to add one more device than the law allows and some other, already installed item, will leak the magic smoke and quit working. This law must have some non-locality properties as well. Which is why, when the mega-yacht with the flight deck of the Enterprise rafts up next to you, the depth meter suddenly quits working on your pride and joy.

Tied in with the density law is the failure hierarchy law. This one prioritizes which electronic item goes Tango-Uniform to stay within the limit. It will be; a) the most expensive, b) the newest not still in warranty or, c) the one hardest to reach.

A law that seems obvious to me, but has apparently been passed over by the smart people on the planet, is that of water's unrelenting attraction to other water. I know they claim gravity causes water to run down hill thus cutting little paths, forming creeks, then streams, then rivers, all flowing to reach the nearest salt water. But I think water cuts its way though dirt and rock as it seeks Mother Ocean. It has little to do with gravity and nothing can stand in its way for long. This is why the clamps and hoses on boats eventually fail as the water in the tanks forces its way into the bilge to be pumped overboard. (Water is smart that way.)

Since humans are basically mobile bags of mostly water laced with a few stray chemicals, this same law explains why sailors will go to any length to fix their boats and make it to the sea.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


... Kintala doesn't hate me after all, though I'm starting to wonder if Tartan does. The drawers came back to the city to get 3/32s of an inch shaved from each side, a quick clean-up and they would be presentable. I had me a new router loaded up with a shiny sharp blade and settled the first one onto the workbench nice and comfy, hot towel, music playing ... six quick passes and the shop would be closed for the day. But the customer didn't look so good. All the wood was dry and brittle, bits chipped out here and there, and a long crack radiated from one of the nail holes. Nail holes? The bottom rattled around loose in its routed out track and the front lacked even that much mechanical support. It was held to to each side with three little brass brads. Are you kidding me? A more thorough exam showed all three to be in equally sad shape. These things were slapped together like a shack in a third world ghetto, a total of 12 little nails holding each together. Clearly a quick a shave would not be enough to get these customers ready for the party. Exit the barber analogy, let more serious work commence yet again.

A few gentle taps with a soft hammer and the first one fell apart on the bench. I was glad to see a trace of some kind of a glue like substance had been used to help support the front piece, though it had long dried into nothing but filler. It was the only place as back, sides and bottom fell away clean. Well, almost clean. The other two drawers crumbled just as easily, though one had a side that was split through, front to back; it fell off in pieces. A few other bits broke off as well, but that one side was the only part requiring replacement.

With the drawers reduced to piles of parts it seemed silly to shave the sides. Several careful passes along a saw blade, a few moments on the belt sander, and each was shrunk the required itty bitty bit. Reassembly with all joints firmly glued and clamped, then all surfaces treated to a healthy dose of wood oil, took the better part of two days. They still need to be fit into the boat, a task that is sure to be a lot more involved than it looks. In the end though, the back cabin / storage space on Kintala will be much improved, better than factory even.

In the aviation world repairing something "better than factory" is a bit of a boast - and pretty hard to do. Matching factory work is difficult enough. In the boat world, "better than factory" looks to be within the reach of pretty much anyone with half a brain, some small talent with basic hand tools, and a willingness to take a few extra minutes to do something even half right. I kind of hope Kintala is warming up to my efforts to make her the boat Tartan pretended her to be. And I really hope Tartan did a better job on hull and rigging than they did on interior and systems. Its enough to keep a person up at night wondering just how many corners got cut in places that can't be seen.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Kintala hates me ...

that's what it is. I don't know why she hates me but, all I wanted to do was add some roller bearing drawer sliders. The drawers in the aft cabin use wood on wood sliders. You know, like the ones you find in the quality of furniture that comes with assembly directions written in four languages and relies on plastic buttons to hold the whole thing together. Load them up with anything heavier than a couple of pairs of socks and a T-shirt and opening them is like dragging Velcro across itself. We use these drawers to store things like tools and spare parts, thus making every opening is an exercise in frustration. Roller bearing sliders to make life easier; a couple of measurements, a few screws, what could possibly go wrong?

Feeling pretty sure of myself since the table project has been getting rave reviews, with yet another weekend of constant heavy rain curtailing any outside projects, and having the new sets of shiny, easy rolling sliders in my fat little fist, I took to measuring and screwing. Such a project undertaken at home would consume an hour, so on a boat; maybe a day. And that's about what it took since the framing around each of the drawers had to be notched for each slider; three drawers = six sliders working in a somewhat tight space with pretty poor lighting. Set the drawers in the new sliders, a few more screws and ... and ...

... and the drawers wouldn't fit. It is a bit of a long story and hard to explain, but all said and done the drawers are now about 3/16s of an inch too wide. Yep, three lousy, tiny, sixteenths of an inch ... that would be 3/32s of an inch on each side. Various options were considered but in the end the only hope is to take my handy little router tool and shave some wood from each side. Except, well, I might have overworked my handy little router tool a bit during the table build. Right at the end of the job some of the magic smoke leaked out and now it doesn't work anymore. On the way home from the lake we stopped by Harbor Freight to buy another handy little router tool. (I promise to be more gentle with this one.) Tomorrow I'll try my hand at drawer shaving.

Really? Each side, 3/32s of an inch? Anyone who claims the sea is a harsh mistress has never met my boat.

Still, not all was spite and frustration. We pulled the water proof cover off of the hatch we re-bedded a few months ago and let it set out in the rain. Much to my delight it actually appears as if it doesn't leak anymore. Only one hatch and four more ports to go. Items which Deb suggested be added to the list; which led to a more serious problem.

For you see, friends and neighbors, I was forced to confess that I threw my to-do list away several months ago.

I know. I talk about the list all the time. And I know, the list is a holy item among boaters. I'm not sure one can claim to belong to the congregation of the sea and not have a "to-do" list enshrined somewhere. Deb had entrusted me with the sacred duty of keeping of the list. And so I strove to live up to expectations, mislead my trusting Wife into thinking I was working off the list, and lying to you Good Readers. And I am rightly ashamed.

But alas, the demands of the list became too great. Things were being added to the bottom of the list faster than I could remove them from the top of the list. I'd work harder. The list would grow faster. It bedeviled me, this list. Laughed at me, taunted me with mountains of work undone and projects untouched. I struggled to live up to the demands of the list, but like all poor sinners was left wanting.

So I threw the damned thing in the trash.

That's right, I have no list. If a hatch drips on my head, I'll get around to fixing the leak. Some improvement that we can do to make the boat more like home catches my eye, I'll give it a thought and see what I can do. But list? Sorry. I'm never going to remember all of the things I have done to this boat. And I don't really care about all the things that need done to the boat. Right now I am fixing drawers. After that I might fix leaks, or I might remount a winch, or maybe something else will pop up that I'll do. Maybe I'll just get a beer and watch the sun set.

For I have discovered that working on the boat is boating.  Working on things was something I used to like to do ... and I am going to like it again.  Having a to-do list for boat projects is like having a list for morning projects: take a pee, brush teeth, make some coffee. That isn't a list, that is just living.

And all I want to do is live on my boat.