Monday, September 30, 2013

If at first you don’t succeed …

Toss it back in the water and see what happens. Mostly as a joke I had been telling people I was going to splash the boat, motor back a couple of hundred feet into the anchorage, set a hook, and go away for a week. If the boat was still floating when I got back we would drive on. If it wasn’t we would call the insurance company and start over.

Instead (of course) I worried the repair like a demented mother hen, crawling down in the hole over and over for the first hour or so after Kintala landed in the lift pit. The slightest leak would have been glaringly obvious since a fine
I asked Tim for a thumbs up picture. He gave me a so-so signal.
layer of sanding dust coated the whole repair. Nearly ten hours later and the dust is still dust. At some point one must move on so, somewhat reluctantly, the side boards were replaced and the locker filled with much of the stuff that has been cluttering the decks.

In addition to floating,  Kintala sports a mast, rigging and boom once again. Though it is surely a trick of the mind, I’d swear the mast stands straighter and a bit taller what with being stayed by all the shiny new wires and sparking turnbuckles. And this time the mast went up without the slightest hint of drama or damage. I had sworn I was going to hide somewhere and drink while the mast went up. Instead (of course) I was down in the cabin guiding the mast onto the step.

The hammock is back on the foredeck and Tim's a happy camper.

Tomorrow might see sails bent on and more lines run … or it might not. Last time we tried this one night was all we got. If we are still in the slip tomorrow night, then I might start thinking “we made it” once again. I will admit that a good bunch of work was done today, so maybe we will get to ride a rising tide for a while.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Weekend review

Even with family coming to see the boat this morning it seemed a shame not to get anything done. It would only take a few minutes to add an additional flag halyard under the starboard top spreader, an easy, not dirty, job. (Kintala has one on the port side but I heard somewhere that “Q” and courtesy flags should be flown starboard. Don’t know if it’s true, but mast-on-the-rack is the time to make sure one is not being a lout for a guest.) That done and no sign of visitors, a slightly dirty job was next; that of putting the final coat of paint on the rudder “shoe” repair. Of course family arrived just about the time my right arm was thoroughly specked in black hydro coat. It’s always best to be working with water based paint when a quick cleanup is desired.

It has been several years since young Campbell went with us to the Annapolis Boat show and charmed the crowds by testing out various V-berths. She is now a charming young lady but, after a short test, declared the V-berth in Kintala to be just fine. Her parents and grand-parents (Deb’s brother and his wife) were pretty excited about the boat as well. The plan was for them to see Kintala floating with mast up and sails bent on … but things don’t always work out as planned. It was a fun visit anyway and everyone got up and down the ladder without drama.

Visit over,  John invited Deb and me to go sailing with him on Ellida. She hadn’t flown a sail since entering the Erie Canal several weeks ago. This was my fourth trip out to the bay, Deb’s second, and John’s first; making me the most experienced “bay sailor” on board. In spite of that handicap the only difficulty encountered was a complete lack of wind. Sails slatted on the various powerboat wakes, knocking the stale air out of them. But actual sailing will have to wait for a better day. We did see some pretty nice boats; including one schooner flying a full set of square rigged canvas. Not something one ever sees on Lake Carlyle.

Back in the marina work called once again. Some time with the sander, another trip or two into “the hole” to run control lines, a few minutes figuring out which way was “front” on the wind vane blade, and our Cape Horn installation was finally, completely, utterly completed. With the vane standing tall at the stern, a dinghy motor hanging on the rail, and jerry cans lashed to her life lines, Kintala gives every appearance of being a true “cruiser’s sailing boat”. The illusion fades as soon as one notes there is sand and stands under her keel, not water; and she has no mast; rigging, or sails.

She does have a good looking wind vane though. We will see what tomorrow has to offer.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday night review

Though there was a small chance that Kintala could go back in the water today I just couldn’t bring myself to go for it. Oak Harbor is mostly a working boat yard marina. The guys go home Friday afternoon and, just like the rest of the working world, will not be thinking “on the clock” until Monday morning. If we went in today there would be no one around to pull us back out for 48 hours. Not that I think we will need pulled back out but, then again, I never imagined we would need pulled back out the last time we went in. Spending another weekend on the hard is a bit of a disappointment, but it still seems the prudent way to go. Here is why …

Changing the helm shaft bearings included putting in two new nylon washers to reduce end play. The last guy who did the job apparently decided that putting in the forward one was too hard for his miniscule level of mechanical ability. He just left it out. Replacing the helm brake shoes (a job I assume was done by the same twit) includes putting in a new shaft Teflon sleeve. There was no new one. There was no old one. The Twit didn’t even leave the old one in place. Also missing was the washer that takes the brunt of the pressure when the brake is applied. This lack caused damage to the shaft itself so it wouldn’t fit into the new (and previously forgotten) Teflon sleeve. This bedeviled any attempt to assemble the unit yesterday so we called it a day with the binnacle still open. Last night at about 0300 I woke up realizing what the problem was. About 30 seconds with a file was all it took to correct the problem and the binnacle was closed up today. Along with the new chain / cable assembly installed so “centered rudder”, in fact, centered the rudder, (“centered” used to be with the monkey fist at the 2 O’clock position) Kintala’s steering is at least as good as it was the day she left the factory. (And a DAMNED sight better than it was when two surveys were done, and when we bought the boat.)

With the new hardware installed in the shoe insuring that the rudder will stay attached to the boat, Kintala’s helm is as smooth as the preverbal “baby’s butt”. Well, at least it is better than it was. But finding that parts were simply left out the last time anyone worked on this boat means I will be a lot more comfortable waiting until Monday to try and splash this thing once again. Besides, even if we had hit the water today there is still a little “lying on of the glass” to be done to the wind vane install. That will easier be done on the hard with 110 volts of AC readily available. (Docks, at least in this part of the world, do not come with power unless one deals directly with the local municipal power company gods. Something I hope we don’t have to do.)

With just a couple of minor items still to be address over the weekend, the mast is ready to step as well. It is just possible that, by the end of next week, Kintala will be floating at a pier giving every appearance of being an actual sailboat. That may sound pretty bold. But, you never know, it might happen.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The friends you haven't met yet

I've been holding this post in my mind for a week. Last week a truck pulled up next to our boat and within a few minutes Tim was calling me out of the galley to come see something. Lo and behold, there stood Bill from Veranda, instantly recognizable from the few pics on his site. He was working in the area and thought he'd come see how the Retirement Project was going. I've emailed Bill on multiple occasions to ask Stupid Newbie Questions, and his patience and good nature were commendable. We have followed their blog almost since the beginning, and they have followed ours, encouraging us with their comments and Bill's hillariously dry sense of humor. I've been holding this post because I wanted to wait until we met Christy, Bill's significant other, so I could post one of those "Hey we finally met these friends of ours" pictures set in the salon over the fine dinner we most certainly owe them, but then the famous Sinking Incident happened and got in the way of our weekend dinner plans. The arrival yesterday of John on Ellida got me to thinking once again about what I feel is one of the most remarkable things about cruising - the friends you haven't met yet - and it was time for this post.

Certainly there is no time in previous history where we have had the capacity to interact with one another in the way that we can on the internet today. Some would say the internet is a detrimental influence on the establishment of relationships because you hide behind the anonimity of the computer screen and can pretend to be anyone you want, leaving the authenticity of those relationships suspect at best. These criticisms don't seem to apply in the cruising community, though, because I have found that the folks we meet cruising are of a singularly high caliber of person. Honesty, integrity, caring, hope, encouragement, inquisitiveness all seem to abound in the cruising community, both online and off; not the sort of character qualities that lend themselves to the shallow meet-your-next-friend forum on the internet. We have been fortunate to meet so many good folks through our blog to this point. Bill and Christy from Veranda, Paul and Deb from Lattitude 43, Tom and Sabrina from Honeyrider, David and Nancy from Via Bella, the Zach Aboard family, Mike and Rebecca on Zero to Cruising, Bob on Eolian, Mike at This Rat Sailed, Mike on Siochana, Bill K., Capt. Mike on Zoe, David on S/V Pelagia, and countless others who have offered their support to us through comments, not to mention the countless friends that saw us through the last 6 years on our home lake Carlyle in Illinois, and sent us off with gifts and best wishes.

While cruising is certainly about the wanderlust, the desire to be "off the grid", the expression of exasperation with our current form of government, the desire to learn about other cultures and many other reasons, for me it is mostly about the people. These people have enriched my life already beyond measure and we're not even off the dock yet. Yesterday John was thanking us for something we had helped him with, and I told him that so many people have already helped us and that it was our way of paying it forward (a term I really hate by the way but I haven't found any better). I was thinking specifically about Bill and Christy at that moment, and how Bill had said they were happy to help, in some small way repaying all those that had gotten them started in the beginning. It's a wonderful cycle that I'm incredibly blessed to be a part of.

Thanks Bill.

Morning post

Another boat from Carlyle arrived at Oak Harbor yesterday morning. Ellida had been in the Great Lakes, heading for the ocean through the Erie Canal. Progress halted when one of the locks on the Canal failed, trapping her behind a big steel gate. No one is sure when it will be fixed and, given the ongoing crisis in leadership we call "governing", it may be a long time. So Ellida backtracked two days, was hauled, and finished her voyage to big blue water on the back of a truck. She is on the hard next to Kintala for a day or two while she gets "unpacked" from shipping and receives a quick dash of fresh bottom paint to ward off the salt water critters. A Hallberg-Rassy in the 30 foot range she is a boat with many a mile under her keel; a boat to be proud of.

Kintala has a way to go to meet Ellida's stature, but we are trying. The rudder went back into position yesterday and more work was done getting the mast ready to step. Today will be spent back in "the hole" assembling as much of the steering system as possible while waiting on the last few parts. There is no way to "leak test" the repair without actually tossing the boat back into the water so we will just drive on like we know what we are doing.

Though I am still not making hopeful plans for what comes next the sailing community around us (both East Coast wise and the blogger world) is making up for it. Like a rising tide it is impossible to ignore the swell of support and encouragement lifting us up and carrying us toward splashing Kintala soon, then heading out with the rest of the community that has taken us in. We haven't actually sailed anywhere yet this has already become a remarkable journey. It has only be 63 days since Kintala was pulled out of lake Carlyle but somehow (with the exception of the Daughters and Son-in-Laws, grand kids and friends I still miss every day) life as it used to be is fading into the mist.

Then again, this morning it is "back in the hole".

Monday, September 23, 2013

This way ...

As is normal with boat projects the leak repair has morphed into a tangled nest of overlapping jobs. Fixing the hull leak led to pulling the rudder. Pulling the rudder meant disconnecting the steering; which lead to replacing the steering cables, inspecting the sheaves (pulleys to an aircraft mechanic), and replacing the helm shaft bearings. The rudder being out led to fixing the rudder itself; it also led to finding the failing hardware in "the shoe." The boat being out of the water exposed a couple of places where the bottom paint didn't stick very well which, of course, will require a little sanding and painting before the boat goes back in the water. Such paint to be applied when the rudder and repair are painted, sanding to be done in the morrow.

But the boat needs to go back in the water because the rigging work is coming along and pretty soon there will be a mast laying up on the hard without a boat to land in. (They step masts with the boat in the water around here.) So today was spent bouncing back and forth; fiberglass, steering parts, building rigging, getting the mast ready for the rigging, a little more fiberglass. If someone claimed to have seen me cross the boatyard 50 times today there would be no reason to argue. Around 1630 all the jobs stumbled to a halt, some for lack of parts, some for slow setting fiberglass, and some for shear lack of energy.

On a bit of a whim a touch of Captain Morgan and Coke, a bag of pistachios, and yours truly took a front row seat close enough to the edge of a pier for the shells to be tossed into the water with minimum effort. Squadrons of geese flew by; all headed north for some reason. The weather was literally picture perfect with cloud images clearly reflected in the blue water. The temperature hovered on the edge of too cool for just a work shirt but the sun's radiant heat made up the difference. The view was a marina full of sailboats, water that leads to an ocean, and nice houses up on the shore.
"This is a Monday", I thought to myself. "This is my life now."

"And this is why we came this way."

I still have no plan for when we get to the next part. If forced I might admit that things appear to be slowly coming together. Here, in a marina surrounded by nice boats being prepped to head south in the next few weeks, Kintala draws constant praise as a good boat being well kept. Tartan 42s are not that common and ours is showing the outward signs of years of effort. (Though it is still a truism that beauty is only skin deep while ugly goes clear to the bone!) When we go (assuming we go) it will be in a boat I have no reason to distrust. When we splash the next time steering, rudder, rigging and hull will be as sound as I know how to make them.

Mostly due to Deb's constant effort the interior is "home" with more amenities than one should expect for being "off the grid." Also, due to her constant diligence, we have the funds available to get going and keep going, at least for a while. All this is, of and by itself, a good piece of work not to be dismissed. We have been very lucky, but we have also worked very hard and, even not knowing how far we will get, we have come further than many.

That being said, honesty compels me to share a truth. When we first got here there was a tiny little boat floating at a pier; somewhat disheveled, well worn, prone to leaks, with second hand sails, questionable running rigging, and crewed by a couple short on experience and squeaking by on minimum funds. Betrayed by the "American Dream" they are looking to live their lives as best they can with the hand they were dealt. The quiet word around the marina was that they wouldn't get very far even if they managed to get going at all. Their boat was unworthy, they were unprepared.

They headed out a couple of days later, spent a good part of a week anchored just a few miles away waiting on favorable winds, and are reported to have passed by the Solomons two days ago on their way to the ICW. Kintala sits on the hard and we haven't gone anywhere. I am cheering these folks on with all of my heart. Even if they get no further than the south end of the bay, I can't match either their courage or their determination.

People like that ... all the more reason to come this way.

Starship Enterprise

After the completion of my Great Water Project, Tim said my sink area looks like the Starship Enterprise. We now have (left to right) a dish soap dispenser, a double-filtered drinking water dispenser, a pressure water faucet (that we almost never use), and a filtered foot pump faucet. All of this required rebuilding the Shurflo water pump with a rebuild kit since the part replaced by the rebuild kit had flaking paint on it that got into the pump guts and tore the very delicate rubber gasket that's inside. This gasket, like all other things marine, is weirdly designed with only half of the width of it being supported by the flange of the pump, and the other half of it hanging out in the interior space of the pump where it is subject to being torn. A slightly longish trip to the West Marine in Annapolis (ummmm nobody told me there were multiple West Marines in Annapolis so of course I went to the wrong one...) I got the kit installed and put back together with success. A quick test and the pump kicked on, pressured and kicked off. Feeling pretty smug, off we went for a delicious dinner at my nephew's house and a good night's sleep on our return. I woke up at 6:20 to the water pressure pump, which I had neglected to turn off. Damn. I spent a few minutes on various forums trying to decide what to do and the symptom most closely related to mine (running and not turning off), was air in the system due to a leak. I looked below the sink and yes, there was a small leak. I tightened up an errant hose clamp on one of the water lines, opened up all the faucets and turned the pump on. After a few sputters the tone of the pump changed and water came out full force. Close the faucets, pump kicks off. While these discoveries may be painfully obvious to some of you (yes, Bill I was thinking of you), I'm a Shurflo novice so bear with me.

Last week I installed the double filter faucet system for the drinking water into the foot pump line, only to discover that the foot pump couldn't handle the high pressure, low volume filter setup. I moved that filter into the cold water line for the pressure pump faucet and purchased one of those low pressure, high volume inline filters that you use on the hose when you fill your tanks outside. I installed it in the out line of the foot pump so now we have filtered water on the foot pump just in case we lose the electricity and can't use the drinking faucet.

Redundancy, folks

Since I was on a roll, I also made a few modifications to my homemade dish drainer / silverware drainer so it would sit lower in the sink for more stability.  All in all it was a pretty productive 2 days. Now it's on to sewing various covers for all the stuff we've added above decks.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Leak repair day three

Since the rudder is off anyway taking a good look at the lower edge seemed wise. (It was also an excuse for not climbing down into "the hole" right away. Hours spent in there yesterday left more bruises and sore spots than a good street fight.) It looked ragged and was still showing a little moisture 24+ hours after the boat was pulled. As I’m sure you already guessed, the rudder obviously hit something pretty hard once upon a time. In addition it is split along the bottom seam; probably from spending a Chicago winter filled with lake water and sitting on the hard. And, as I’m sure you have also guessed, bondo dust flew off grinder and wire brush with nary a hint that fiberglass, or even epoxy, was anywhere in the same zip code when the work was done. Another "repair" done entirely in bondo and bottom paint.

Probably a good thing. Even a whiff that competency had brushed by this boat before we bought her would likely send me into shock. Even better, spending time on the rudder meant I never did make it into the hole. Tomorrow will be a better day for that anyway.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Leak repair day two

Yesterday was a tough day. Today looked to be more of the same but when a fight can’t be avoided it is best to step in angry and swinging and looking to make something happen. Right off two things seemed obvious. The first was that, once again, Kintala was suffering the after effects of another seriously defective repair. The second was that the rudder would need to come down to be sure of fixing it for good and for true. The Senior Boat Guru in these parts agreed so I waded into the fray with grinder locked and loaded.

It turns out pulling the rudder isn’t that big of a deal; so long as one has a 40 ton travel lift nearby that can pick the keel about six feet off the ground. All of the assorted lines and cables and pulleys associated with the primary and wind vane steering system were removed as part of dropping the rudder which also allowed pretty good access to the area needing repaired. Well, pretty good for a place buried under the cockpit and about as deep in the boat as one can go.

Several hours of work later it became clear that having this happen may have averted a serious, perhaps fatal, problem.
The repair at the base of the rudder tube was so badly done that, eventually, it simply had to fail. Instead of fiberglass tape and resin some fool had spooged epoxy paste around the base of the rudder tube. Not thickened epoxy resin, just run-of-the-mill epoxy past; brittle and prone to cracks when flexed. Flexing is inevitable given two months of picking the boat, putting it on stands, putting it on a truck, driving 800 plus miles, and picking it two more times, and is something which would assuredly happen even worse pounding into building weather. Not only was the wrong material applied, it was applied in an appallingly bad manor. I ground a flat washer out from the middle of the spooge. It was like finding a cockroach baked into your pancake.

In addition, the rudder is held on by an impressive bronze fitting that bolts through the skeg and clamps around the rudder shaft (called a “shoe”). Six bolts hold this thing together. On Kintala, one bolt was simply too short; shoved in the hole and held in place by bottom paint it wasn’t actually holding anything. Three of the other bolt holes had the threads stripped from them. I didn't strip them getting them out. Someone stripped them putting them in. All that was holding them is place was friction. There were just two bolts holding this unit together; two bolts holding the rudder on the boat. This was a failure destined to happen. If the leak didn’t doom the boat first, the mount would fail in a way that would jam the rudder IF it didn’t just fall out of the boat altogether.

The fix is going to take several days. Since the steering is apart anyway it seems best to replace the cables as well. They are 30 years old and damaged by yet another bit of appallingly poor maintenance. I’m still a bit discouraged and more than a bit angry. Some of what I am finding on this boat is not just lazy and stupid and low rent, it borders on criminal negligence. The good news there are few places left on the boat where such work can hide. So all it not lost just yet.

Boats sometimes just disappear and fade into mystery. From what I have seen of this industry some of those disasters must be the result of truly horrid maintenance finally catching someone out at the worst possible time. (Which has me thinking delivery Captains are about the boldest people I've run across lately. Take an old boat whose service history is unknown off to some distant shore? I'd rather repo airplanes.)

As bad, and as lingering, as yesterday's disappointment was, it is still better than having the rudder fall out of the boat 100 miles out to sea in building weather. But this should not have happened at all.


I'm not usually one to be open to "signs", but as I left our friends' boat to head up to Kintala I was passing a line of boats docked stern- to and had to smile a bit ruefully. I guess you  do have to take your encouragement wherever you can get it.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

“All hope abandon ye who enter here…”

This, according to Virgil, is the sign posted above the doorway to hell. Clearly he never spent any time around sailboats; else he would never have wasted such an eloquent phrase on a place as mundane as hell.

Last night was such a good night that today couldn’t help but start out well. Deb headed off to do some errands, the most important of which was getting our web access figured out so she could keep the money under control. I was committed to getting the work under the cockpit finished so the cockpit locker could once again swallow the enormous pile of stuff currently scattered hither and yon upon the deck. About half an hour passed down in that hole, a half hour where my subconscious brain kept trying to get my conscious brain to pay attention to the funny running water noises. But my conscious brain was struggling with other issues and paying no mind. Deciding another part was necessary meant crawling up out of the hole, where my conscious brain noticed the slightest sheen of oil marring the water in our part of the marina. Our bilge is clean and we have oil absorbent pads under the engine, but ours is the only boat new in the water in these parts and so the primary suspect. My unconscious brain had my conscious brain’s full attention.

It didn’t take long to find that water was flowing in, reaching the plug in the pan under the engine and emptying into the bilge, provoking the pump into semi-regular purges. Tracing uphill the flow lead under the drip less seal, past the engine through hull, under the rear cabin floor, fridge compressor and water heater, up the “V” of the aft hull and to the base of the rudder tube stand pipe. Kintala has a breach in her hull; less than a “flow” but more than a “trickle”. It wasn’t there in the two plus years she floated in Carlyle. It is clearly there now and sure looked to be getting worse.

Within minutes the crew here at Oak Harbor had the lift fired up. By shift’s end Kintala was resting on stands once again. That seemed a slightly better choice than having her resting on the bottom in the mud. Last night’s triumph of achieving our goal faded like a pleasant dream that is soon lost in the mist. For more than two years fixing things on this boat simply meant I was free to go on and fix other things. Sometimes they were big things, sometimes little things, sometimes more cosmetic than functional things, sometimes more functional than cosmetic things; all things that had to be done before we could move aboard and “cruise”, but cruising was always the plan.

But I have no such plan tonight. Tomorrow I will work on the boat because there is no other thing to be done. There is no going back, but beyond that there is no plan, no hope that the day coming up will be any better than the day just ended, or see us any closer to doing something other than working on the boat. It seems every problem I find is more critical than the last. Is there a problem lurking out there that simply can’t be addressed? I don’t know. In fact, “I don’t know” are the words I speak more than any other these days. I don’t know if the rudder needs to come off or how much of the rudder tube / hull joint is damaged. I don’t know why the battery charger labors constantly, when I’ll find time for the deck repair, if the Boat Show is doable, if flexible solar panels will meet our needs, where I am going to stow three anchors, how to run a dinghy, or where to store the Honda generator. I used to know things. Now there are mornings where I don’t even know where my work pants are being stored or if there is water to brush my teeth. Are we ever going to get closer to big water than we are right now? I can’t say as I know.

It could be this hull breech is just an easy two or three day, maybe two or three week, job. It could be that once it is done we will be back to where we thought we were days or weeks before. It could be we will head south in November or December, or spend the winter here. It could be none of the mentioned.

Hope is lost, but curiosity remains. Can we pull this off? Yesterday we thought we had. Today? I don't know.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


For 2213 days we've been working toward the completion of this very moment, getting Kintala ready for full-time cruising and in the water on the East Coast. After steering her safely out of the launch pit and into the transient slip, Tim left to crew on a boat in the Wednesday night club races, but I opted to remain behind and savor the satisfaction of reaching a huge milestone. I want to remember this exact moment for a very long time.

The boat is rocking ever so gently in the water for the first time in two months, the frenetic parade of racing boats has departed, leaving quiet in their wake, I have a batch of chocolate chip cookies in the oven.  There are pink clouds dancing in the light of the last of the sun’s rays outside the portholes, their accompaniment the honking of the geese and the end-of-season mournful cries of the seagulls. Off in the distance you can hear the beginnings of the cicada orchestra and very faintly the announcer of a high school football game. Sound travels so very well over water. The air is cooling rapidly now that the sun is going down, and a cool breeze is drifting in the salon hatch, mixing with the cookie smells and the steam from my cup of ginger peach tea. Occasionally you hear the muted conversation of other marina tenants on their boats.

As Tim is fond of saying, our learning curve is a vertical cliff. The list of things that we know about cruising are so dwarfed by the list of things we don’t know about cruising so as to be non-existent. But for now, I’m going to enjoy this two thousand two hundred and thirteenth day of The Retirement Project.

Tomorrow’s another day.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wax on...wax off

A sense of the now ...

A new propeller is a thing of beauty, all shiny and bronze and gleaming in the sun. Sadly most of its days will be spent languishing in unfriendly waters where creatures of various tenacities will seek a permanent home on its carefully constructed curves. So I admired it for a minute, hanging fresh and ready to go to work under Kintala’s keel, then squirted four coats of dull, grey, zinc primer over it. Still, it looks better than the old one did. I also added a couple of zincs to the prop shaft. The prop we bought is reported to be “micro balanced”. Nice, but it seems to me to be mostly propaganda. Oh I’m sure it is finely tuned to run true at the factory, but with two heavy zincs attached to the same shaft melting away at an uneven pace, it seems “micro balanced” is not going to last very long, or mean very much to an actual boat working its way through the ocean.

I wonder if all cruisers develop this sensitivity to our society’s constant barrage of half-truths and spin? Being away from the relentless advertising of TV and radio, content to sit on the porch sipping an Irish coffee and watching the sun set as the evening’s entertainment, true things, (or at least accurate things) form the basics of our decisions making now. What is the weather really going to do? Not TWC’s breathless, bubble-headed take on every routine change in the atmosphere. Which way is the current running this morning, how much do peaches cost at the next reachable store?

One of the things I liked about being a pilot was how much of my life was concentrated on “the now”. Pilots, when they are doing pilot things, are focused on the immediate. So are motorcycle riders (the faster one goes the more one is focused), SCUBA divers, and rock climbers. All things I have enjoyed.  Land lubbers tend to dwell in their imaginations; whatever is going on around them is secondary to what is going on in their head. They text while driving, think about work while walking down the street, spend their evenings living in the make believe world of “reality TV”.

This new cruiser’s life is living close to the now. The task at hand, the weather, the water, the balance of the boat and the world forward of the bow; these are my normal points of focus. What is happening all around sets the tone and determines the next decision.

Our original plan was to splash as soon as the prop was installed. But part of living in the now is that plans become very tenuous things. They are wisps of possibilities more than actual intentions, shredded by the slightest breeze of what is actually happening. In this case the “breeze” was watching the boats in relation to the docks, moving three feet up and down several times over the course of the day. (I am still getting used to the fact that, in this part of the world, docks do not float.) Glassing the transfer tube while working from a dinghy would be messy and uncomfortable at best, and maybe near impossible. Tides are a real thing that must be taken into account, so we decided to finish the steering vane install on the stands instead. Splashing will wait another day, or two.

It depends on the now.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Champagne and the Dog House

Sometimes encouragement comes from unexpected sources. Kintala hasn't made it to the water quite yet, but the work goes on. And so there I was under the boat cleaning water intake grids of excess bottom paint when a nice looking BMW motorcycle rolls up and drops the kickstand. The rider steps off and asks if I am Mr. Akey. Since I don't think anyone is looking to serve me with any kind of papers in MD, I allowed as I was.

"You don't know me," he says, "but my friend Craig Kleinlein from St. Louis asked me to drop this off for you." He then produced a bottle of champagne and a card from his rear trunk, explained that he and Craig used to work together, wishes us well, shakes our hands, congratulated us on our retirement, and heads off. Craig is our financial guru from Edward Jones and, without his help, we wouldn't be sitting on the edge of blue water, boat almost ready to splash. When people you hire turn into friends all is well with the world.

Later that day we borrowed nephew Matt's mini van (leaving him the Z in return - a fair trade) and drove across the Bay Bridge in search of a dinghy. A few hours later we returned, The Dog House (the dinghy's new name) and little outboard safely aboard. Sometime in the next few days we will launch it for a little practice. Neither Deb nor I have ever actually helmed a dinghy before; it is another of the items on our near vertical "learning curve".

This morning we took our coffee down to the porch to enjoy the view and get a start on the day. There are
still items to be addressed before the boat gets wet and we are hoping to get it wet tomorrow. Another long work day was, well, in the works. New friends Mike, Barbara, and Ollie were greeting the day as well. The conversation danced around sailing and racing on the Bay so Deb mentioned we might look to crew with someone for the Wednesday night club race, just to get a chance to know the place a little better before heading out. As it turned out Mike and Barbara were planning on spending the day out on their C & C and asked if we would be interested in going along. Let me see, on the one hand work on the boat more, on the other go sailing on the Chesapeake Bay. So I did a quick run to the boat parts store to be set for tomorrow and then we went sailing. No harm will be done if Kintala stays dry until Tuesday.

I don't know what sailing on the Chesapeake is like on most days, but on this day it was perfect. The WNW wind started out at 10 and built to 16 with gusts to 20. The sky was blue, the waves big enough to feel like "big water" without detracting from the ride, and the temperature was wind breaker cool without being cold. After motoring down the river and getting some good advice on how to stay in "good water" the head sail made its appearance. When the engine rumble died away Deb flashed me the biggest smile I have seen in a while. An hour or so later the Bridge hove into view off to the south as the eastern shore edged ever closer. A nest of crab pots seemed a good reason to tack back toward the west. There were comments on how ugly some of the big commercial boats can be, talk of sailing the Bay and things to watch for, and the general good natured banter that seems natural to new friends and sailboats on the move.

I, probably more than Deb, feel the sting of family far away. I occasionally glace skyward as the jets pass
overhead on final approach to BWI and know exactly what the crew is doing to prepare for arrival. I still think of riding the GSXR every time some outlaw winds his sport bike through the gears out in the night somewhere, teasing the cops and cage drivers with his antics. But today, out on the bay, I couldn't think of anything I would have rather been doing. There are things to learn, good people to meet, interesting places to know, and a new way of living to make our own. Encouragement comes from unexpected places, and we are just getting started.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

It might be a new place ...

... there might even be salt water near by. But some things never seem to change.

My boat still hates me.

And I still hate my boat.

(We have the definition of a dysfunctional relationship. Without her I can't live the way I want to live. Without me she would be slowing falling apart, abandoned in a Chicago boatyard. But we still hate each other.)

Since Kintala became the focus of The Retirement Project she has had two surveys and one rigging inspection. None of the reports from any one of those three individuals suggested that either the running or standing rigging was an issue. All of the running rigging was replaced within the first six months, and I'm surprised it lasted that long. A few weeks ago the standing rigging came down and was packaged up for shipping. It looked a bit sketchy to me with hints of corrosion in the wires and some of the fittings, and one of the running back stays had clearly reached the end of its service life.

So even though the information we had was that the side stays had been replaced not too many years before we bought the boat, I was a bit skeptical. The new insurance company required another rigging inspection (even though it was part of the survey as well) which was accomplished this morning; the verdict? My skepticism was well placed; all of the standing rigging needs replaced along with the roller furler. (It is too small for the boat. Something we have suspected since the first time we tried to roll in the head sail.) In fact, in spite of the information we thought we had, there is a good chance Kintala's rigging is original, making it some 30 years old now. And if it isn't; then it was repaired with the cheapest materials available. (Either way is no surprise given the maintenance history of this boat.) Tomorrow we will check the chain plates. What are the odds they are in good shape?

(Mind you, given my experience so far I would never agree to replace the rigging based just on the opinion of the guy who is going to make a good chunk of change replacing the rigging. But this stuff is clearly compromised and I would have been even more skeptical if not an eyebrow had been raised.)

Fortunately we are at a place where building rigging is part of their daily business. Even more fortunate is that they like to have the owners involved in the build which both reduces the total price and gives the owner an intimate knowledge of how to care for and repair the rig. I have no idea how long this is going to take or much it is going to cost. We will simply have to roll with whatever it takes.

There was also some hue and haw over how big a deal the deck repair is going to be; but that one doesn't bother me as much. Sure it will be an ugly bit of fiberglass work, but that is nothing new. A lot of labor sure, but it will be my labor. Fiberglass is not that expensive.

The good news of the day is that the prop is ordered and should arrive tomorrow. With just the tiniest bit of luck we should have a stickless Kintala floating at the dock by tomorrow evening, which probably means we will get there Monday at the earliest. Either way it will make our daily living a little easier. We will have a place to cook and eat, hot water, and a full 30 amps of alternating current available to keep the fridge cool and the boat warm. (Summer ended with a bag this afternoon. Tomorrow temps will be some 20 degrees cooler with the nights cooler still.) Best of all it will not take a 10 foot ladder to get up to the deck.

Oddly enough, as discouraging as all of this could be, it isn't. We had almost decided on replacing the rigging regardless, since we have little faith in the marine inspections endured so far. Knowing the rig is as good as we can make it is better than betting on the opinion of the inept. And the rest? It is just work, and I like working. Will our plans change? Maybe, but we didn't have much of a plan to begin with. Changing it isn't much of a big deal. We will winter somewhere. Maybe somewhere warmer. Maybe somewhere not as warm as we had hoped.

But I still hate my boat.

And my boat still hates me.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

So close ...

We are so close!

Cameron Marine Transport got us out of the Midwest a couple of weeks later then we had hoped. But they made a blazing two day trip across the Allegheny mountains to the side near the ocean and, most importantly, delivered Kintala to the Oak Harbor Marina without so much as a scratch. The last few hundred yards of the trip were down a driveway that looked way too narrow and overhung with trees for boat and truck to squeeze through. The good folks at Oak Harbor assured me there would be no problem, that bigger boats had come that way more times than could be counted. And of course they were right. By mid afternoon Kintala was sitting in sight of the creek that joins the river which flows into the bay that leads to the ocean. Less than two hours later her mast was secure on the rack and she was secure in her second set of stands in almost as many days.

There had been a small hope that the boat would go straight from the truck to the water but the guys at Oak Harbor suggested we not be in such a rush. There is still the propeller issue to settle along with a couple of other minor jobs below the waterline. Taking a few extra days at this point to ensure everything is done right is the smart way to go. We did get the dodger and Bimini back up, then headed off to spend the night with family; where I sit in air conditioned splendor, stretched out on the world's most comfortable couch, and bang on this keyboard. (Ed note: sorry about the smudge on the camera lens that was not discovered until too late. It was a very hot and sweaty day...)

These have been some of the most remarkable, busy, hot, and challenging couple of weeks I have ever had; and I am feeling the miles and hours of work. This final transition from old life to new has been a fantastic journey all of its own. New experiences, new friends, new places; the sadness of saying good-byes, trying to imagine what will come up next; and now the final couple of days before The Retirement Project is a project no more. Perhaps I should be elated that we are finally here, but mostly I'm just tired. It is a good kind of tired though, the kind that comes of hard efforts to do a worthy thing. Within a few days we can write about splashing, stepping the mast, casting off, a first night on the hook, our first day on the Bay.

But for tonight I am content knowing we are so close.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Focus is a good thing but I'm starting to think I am suffering from too much of a good thing. The truck is due in about 12 hours. People keep asking me if I'm excited and what our plans are for when we get to the coast. I tell them "yes" and then say something about being in the Keys come New Year's Day, but the fact is I'm not and I don't have a clue. Moving day has been the focus of my efforts for so long that, at the moment, there is nothing else.

Here's what I imagine. The boat is in salt water; steering vane working, deck repaired, and the mast up. The boat is shed of the debris 7 weeks on the hard and 800 miles on a truck left behind, the sails are bent on, dodger and Bimini installed, and the dinghy is ready to dinghy. Someone throws me the last dock line, the final act that starts our life of living on the water ... and I just stare at it, mind totally blank.

The fact is I have no idea what my life is going to be like a month or six weeks from now. It has been several years since that last time we sailed on the ocean. Getting Kintala ready overwhelmed The Retirement Project; reducing even the number of nights we could spend off the dock in our little lake in Carlyle. For the last two years every spare dime and extra hour has gone into getting ready for moving day; and I'm not really sure what happens the day after.

I hope though, we keep meeting people like the folks here at Tradewinds. This morning a new friend gave us a cribbage board for a going away gift. It is well used and clearly has been a part of his family for many years. It became an heirloom for our family the moment I touched it. Then he taught me how to play cribbage; beating me rather soundly two straight games. I think he was trying to let me win, but it will take a few rainy days being pinned in the boat before I get good at this game.

Maybe I need to focus on it a little more.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Countdown: Three Days

We did finally get a pickup date from the trucker - it's officially Monday the 9th. This leaves us a mere three days to get everything else done before he comes. While thinking about the transport, it occurred to us that we would have to take the hatch covers off and we still hadn't rebed the one over the V-berth yet so it would have leaked like a sieve had it rained. We spent the better part of the day scraping old sealant out and putting pretty new sealant in so hopefully it will hold this time.

Tomorrow we finish the wind vane control line installation and begin to pack up the lazarette and
reassemble the cockpit. Without a doubt, the wind vane project has been one of the more complicated projects we've undertaken on this boat, right up there with the table and the dodger, and the cockpit has been a disaster through the whole installation. It's going pretty well though and I'm getting eager to give it a try. The whole theory of wind vanes still has me a little mystified I admit. The idea that wind can not only power your movement, but direct it as well is an amazing thing.

Not a breath of wind this morning

On a sadder note, a sailing friend of ours found out today that he has a malignant tumor behind his right eye. It's a difficult piece of news, and it emphasizes for me, once again, the fragile nature of life. We have so little time to experience all this world has to offer, and I hope that maybe through our cruising some one of you might be encouraged to follow your dream as well, whatever form your dream might take.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Moving day ...

... has come ... and mostly gone. There is no sign of a truck, trailer, or driver. Not unexpected really, since we got a hint last week that the schedule would slip when there was a question about getting a road permit that extended over the holiday. Text messages went back and forth and by yesterday evening Sept 9th had become the new "moving day". I'm not exactly sure how it is that we couldn't get a truck here on a specific day even with months of lead time; something that in any other industry is as routine as breathing. But this is a "marine transport company". As soon as the adjective "marine" is attached to anything pretty much any semblance of normal operation can be dismissed.

Other than the total lack of professionalism (which no longer surprises me) I am trying to shrug off this additional delay as just another part of being a cruiser. Wait on weather, wait on tides, wait on currents ... wait on a truck. Waiting too many more days will start to be a problem; after all we really have no desire to winter in the Chesapeake Bay. So far we don't need to be gone as much as we would like to be gone. And in the meantime there is always work to do. For the last couple of days I have taken up residence in the lazarette, gaining access to the underside of the cockpit to try and figure out the control line runs for the Cape Horn wind vane.

By the way, as good as the reviews the Cape Horn system garners, the installation has had its bumps. What one gets in the kit is less than half of the pieces actually needed to make this thing work. Sure the missing bits are small; turning blocks, fair leads, clutches, the actual control line itself. Spot sourcing them once the project is started makes sense since the amount needed of each of these things is dependent on the actual installation; and you get to make that up as you go. But somehow I didn't quite get that when reviewing the order list against the installation manual; and we have added several hundreds of dollars to the price by getting the rest of the needed items. Something to keep in mind if you need to put one of these things in your cruising budget. Not Cape Horn's fault at all, just sharing what happened to us. But trust me on this, doing a hot section on a turbo prop engine is a far sight easier than putting this thing in a 30 year old boat. If you can't do it yourself expect the labor bill to add 50% to 100% to the installed cost.

None of which is easing my transition into the cruising life any. I can't get a truck here on time. The bottom took 3 weeks instead of 4 days, the wind vane isn't wind-ing or vane-ing anything yet, the list of work still to do is daunting and I'm sure I don't know what all needs done yet.

I guess if this was easy everyone would be doing it.

Distant Shores

I just read an interview with the popular couple from the TV show Distant Shores, Paul and Sheryl Shard, and I wanted to pass it along. They're having a giveaway of two seasons of their DVDs so if you want to participate, just follow the instructions at the bottom of the post. Of course, we're hoping to win so it won't hurt my feelings if you don't participate!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

That one thing

Tim and I have been talking about the recent surge of cruisers who are giving up the cruising life for something else on land. Some of them are success stories, people who set out to cruise for a predetermined time, cruised for that time, and are now heading into another venture on land - families, new jobs, business ventures. Some of them are people who set out to cruise and along the way met with a dream they didn't know they had and changed courses. Some of them are tragedies for sure, illnesses, accidents, and the like, but it's the very few out-and-out failures that we have been examining, turning them over in our discussion to see if there is anything we might learn. After a few days of this off and on between boat work, I think we've decided that in most cruising dream failures, the failure is the result of That.One.Thing.

Anyone who has lived on a boat knows what That One Thing is. It's the one thing that drives you crazy nearly every single day. It's a different thing for every cruiser. For some it's the fact that you have to dig to the bottom of the top-loading fridge every time you need to find something. For some it's the three minute showers due to the water rationing, for some it's an uncomfortable bed, for some it's the lack of communication with friends, for some it's the extended togetherness...the list goes on and is as varied as the individuals who are cruising.

We decided that success in cruising is certainly dependent on a variety of factors: personality, expectations, money, mechanical abilities, etc., but in the end it's That One Thing, the straw that breaks the camel's back that pushes someone over the edge and sends them back to land. It's important to remember that we all experience things like this on land as well, but everything on a boat is intensified because of the constraints of small spaces and the sometimes harsh environment. What to do? We decided that as much as is possible we need to isolate those things and find a way to make them better. While the fridge is not my personal thing, for some it's a big issue and so it would be a great idea to find a way to organize the fridge in a way that it makes it easier to access. Ours happens to be filled with those extra-large blue Ziploc bags with the handles. We have one for cheese, butter and yogurt, one for meat, one for veggies etc.They're exactly the height of our fridge, are easy to lift out and easy to see through to find what you're looking for. If the shower is your thing, determine that you're going to stop at a marina with showers at least once a month so you can luxuriate for a lengthy time. Budget for it, and stick to your guns. If it's an uncomfortable bed, spend some money to customize it. We had a custom mattress made for our V-berth and it was the best money we ever spent. It's actually more comfortable than the bed we had in the condo. We had it done at Verlo Mattress and it wasn't very expensive. A cheap 4" memory foam topper from Wally World finished it out for us.

The hardest thing about all of this is identifying what it is for you, and then communicating it to your cruising partner(s). We have this inherent resistance to being honest with ourselves and an even greater inability of communicating those things to those who love us, but if you can stop the buildup of frustration, then the straw is not likely to break the camel's back.

Do you know what your one thing is?