Thursday, June 27, 2013


A very good friend of mine who also happens to be an English teacher, sent me the gift of this poem, one I hadn't read in quite a while and needed reminded of. Thanks Emily!

The Sailor Boy
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1861)

He rose at dawn and, fired with hope,
    Shot o’er the seething harbour-bar,
And reach’d the ship and caught the rope,
    And whistled to the morning star.

And while he whistled long and loud
    He heard a fierce mermaiden cry,
“O boy, tho' thou are young and proud,
    I see the place where thou wilt lie.

“The sands and yeasty surges mix
    In caves about the dreary bay,
And on thy ribs the limpet sticks,
    And in thy heart the scrawl shall play.”

“Fool,” he answer’d , “death is sure
    To those that stay and those that roam,
But I will nevermore endure
    To sit with empty hands at home.

“My mother clings about my neck,
    My sisters crying, ‘Stay for shame;’
My father raves of death and wreck,-
    They are all to blame, they are all to blame.

“God help me! save I take my part
    Of danger on the roaring sea,
A devil rises in my heart,
    Far worse than any death to me.”

(-- For my dear friends, Tim & Deb Akey.  Live your dream... we'll catch up soon :)

Armchair Sailors

I've been carrying around our boat cards in my backpack lately because now that we're actually doing things like quitting work and moving the boat, we're telling lots of people about our plans and it's just easier to hand them a boat card and tell them that if they would like more info they can go to the blog if they're at all interested. Tim and I have been talking a lot lately about the reactions we've been getting from people.

"Are you serious?"
"I have to admit to being just a tiny bit envious."
"Oh I could never do that."
"I think that's the neatest thing I've ever heard."
"How long is your trip?"
"Where are you going to base the boat?"
"I've always wanted to try something like that."
"I'm so happy for you guys. I always love to watch someone's dreams really come true."

The last one, just today, was the carpet cleaning guy at the apartments where I work. It got me to thinking about the fact that not everyone is as fortunate as I am for being able to actually follow through on a dream. For whatever reason, many people have to shelve theirs, be it illness in the family, or the care of children or grandchildren, or an unwilling spouse. When I'm handing out boat cards to NBPs (non-boating persons), I remember how much it meant to me to be able to tag along on a bunch of other people's dreams through their blogs, wondering if maybe we I'm hopeful that in some small way we might inspire someone to follow through on their own. For those armchair sailors who cannot, we hope to offer some small bit of pleasure, a moment of respite from the daily grind, a small bit of peace in the midst of daily chaos.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Watts, Amps, and a big fat headache

One of the things on The List (you know the one that Tim threw away and I rescued from the trash...) was to do our electrical consumption spreadsheet so we could plan what we were going to need in the way of solar panels and wind generator. I had originally been scheduled to do 2 canvas jobs this weekend but they both bailed for various reasons so I was left with a rainy weekend and nothing to do. There was no more opportunity for excuses so I dug out my spreadsheet, reading glasses, scrap paper and pen and set to work.

I started at the bow in the V-berth and worked my way to the stern, checking each DC item in the boat and marking it in the spreadsheet - watts, amps, average daily use, part numbers and where we bought them, and running total. I had previously done some research on boats about the size of ours whose owners had blogged about their total usage and they seem to run between 190 amps per day and 250 amps. (Comments please if yours is very different and why.) As I worked, I estimated high on everything since I have only our current use as weekend liveaboards and absolutely NO idea what our actual use is going to be while cruising. I came in at 205 amps but there are several things we are going to change to curb that, including 2 cabin fans that are hogs at 10 watts each and run for a good part of each day. One thing I noticed while doing some research on things that were already installed in the boat and that we had not bought since, was that even two years makes a HUGE difference in the efficiency of models of things. Take for instance our bilge pump. While I don' t have my spreadsheet right in front of me  to give you exact figures (working on the marina computer), our pump uses more than twice the amperage that the current model of it uses. While I realize we can't replace everything electrical in the boat, there are certain things that stick out on my spreadsheet that can be replaced relatively inexpensively. Since electricity is a currency on the boat, sometimes it pays to spend a little more for the product in order to save on your usage.  We have already replaced all our lightbulbs with LEDs, and the spreadsheet includes our new refrigerator which we have yet to install, so we're already moving in the direction of self-sufficiency.

I did learn a ton this weekend about electricity, a subject that has not been a good one for me prior to this, and I feel pretty confident that we can meet our power needs with a little creative thinking. After Tim reviews my spreadsheet I'll post it for you all to peruse. By the way, he is going to rest a little now because I've been driving him crazy with all the questions :)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Feeling more like a sailor

Seeing as I’m not really a pilot anymore, and soon will be a full time, live-aboard a sailboat vagabond, feeling more like a sailor seems a good goal. Though today all I was trying to do was put water on the boat.

There is hope to never have to do this again, but for last winter we used a little “pink stuff” to keep the water lines from freezing. Getting the “pink stuff” out of the lines so the water doesn’t stink and taste bad is, well, challenging. Filling the tanks, running them dry, and filling them again, usually does the trick; but not this season. Water out of the tap was still foamy and stinky, particularly out of our 79 gallon tank. I prefer using the shower on the boat rather than the public bath house stalls, but not if I end up getting slimed. So all I wanted to do was put some clean water on the boat.

Drained the tanks, filled the 79 gallon tank, filled the 40, and last, filled the 20. Something came up while the hose was in the 20 gallon tank filler. I went below to fiddle with whatever it was and, a few minutes later, found myself walking in the water pouring out from under the wet locker. Yikes! (It really wasn’t that much water, but I still get a little freaked when water is running in the boat where water shouldn’t be running in the boat.) Disassembly initiated to get behind the wet locker. It appeared that the fill hose was leaking at the top so more disassembly was initiated. I couldn’t really see anything wrong but I trimmed the top of the hose back and double clamped it with two new worm clamps anyway.

Result? Just what I should have expected by now; water still pouring into the boat. There is a tangle of wiring back there (apparently boat builders and / or hack mechanics never heard of zip-ties).  Burried in the jungle I spotted some kind of vent loop / siphon break. Hmm, vent loop? Even more “Hmmm”; vent loop screwed to a wooden block but the wooden block no longer fixed to the hull. With vent loop in the spot light (literally, it is dark back there) and wiring shoved out of the way, filling the line resulted in water squirting out of the vent loop with, shall we say, enthusiasm. There is no fancy check valve in this vent loop, just a good sized hole drilled in a bent bit of copper tube.

So I learned something new about Kintala today. After rerouting and zip tying the lines, putting new clamps on the fill line, repositioning the vent line and remounting it to the boat, there is still this …

If one doesn’t want water pouring into the boat when one fills the 20 gallon tank, one shouldn’t overfill it.

I’m feeling more like a sailor already.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Let's go already ...

I always expected the transition from land / house / air / pilot to sea / boat / sailor / ex-pilot to be a bumpy one. It has proven a little rougher than I imagined. Original plans had been to go when we were ready but now we have to get ready to go. This is making the work load significantly higher. For example, just today I am dealing with finding a surveyor (we need to update the boat's value for the insurance company before it goes in a lift I don't really trust) scheduling a crane to pick the mast, settling on a shipper, and trying to get up to speed on installing the Cape Horn steering vane - which we ordered yesterday. Things completely up in the air at the moment include solar panels and wind generator, gas generator, dink and motor, what kind of bottom paint to use, and navigation equipment. To say my cup runneth over would be an understatement. Oh, the AC at the house broke as well and had to be fixed ASAP.

And I haven't even left for the boat yet this week - two days behind for babysitting and AC repair duties.

Work load aside, the emotional beating of saying goodbye to a life long obsession with aviation, contemplating saying goodbye to kids and grand kids, knowing how demanding living on a boat can be, and facing learning a whole new lifestyle without a net (or life jacket - as it were) has been substantial. I don't sleep much anymore and living with me right now can't be much fun. (Sorry Pretty Lady.) Sometimes, even with everything there is to handle, I find it hard to concentrate. Having my career ended for me left a sour taste and, at least for the time being, I am spring loaded to the pissed-off position, spoiling for a fight, and don't really care with whom. Come the revolution ...

... and yet, when the revolution does start I want to be miles off shore, maybe in another country, swinging on the hook and watching the sun set over a cold bottle of brew; the first hint of looking forward more than back. The plan now is to install the wind vane, pull the boat and put it on the hard in Carlyle, complete all the work we can while waiting for the truck (mid-August), head east, finish what we couldn't finish here there, and splash. By early September we want to be floating in the mid-Chesapeake, practicing our way north to the Annapolis boat show.

Once there we hope to get our cruiser decoder rings, meet up with some folks we hope to meet someday,and join the herd heading south. When the rest turn toward the Islands we will probably aim for the Keys. There are some places on the west coast of FL I want to see and staying close to boat parts might be a good idea for the first few months. We are sure to break things. If a couple of the wheels come off of the plan we can spend the winter in the lower Chesapeake or maybe Georgia. Come spring we will head for Long Island sound and places north. By then we should have figured out much of what needs figuring,and anywhere we want to go we will go.

A little more each day I find myself caring less about what happened and more about what I want to happen. Let's go already...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Learning curves

The v-drive repair got a good workout Saturday as Kintala was tasked with being the "photo boat" for a sailboat parade to honor the marina's newest newlyweds. (Friend Schmitty and his lovely bride Karen tied the knot on the bow of Alcestis; pretty cool, yes?) There wasn't much wind and we needed to, literally, run circles around them to set up the shots, so it was all done by motor. It was as good a test of the v-drive as possible. There were even some nice comments made about my ability to put the subject boat where the photographers needed it to be in relation to Kintala's bow, right lighting, good angles, and pretty close. What they didn't know was that I spent a few years as the photo pilot for an airshow team; where we flew together at half the distance we had between the boats and at 30 times the speed.

Sadly, my boat handling skills were not near as good when we left the dock. Somehow, on a nearly calm day, I managed to put a 3' x 1' scrape down the side of Kintala's port hull by dragging it down the corner of a finger pier. Deb had suggested we use a tag line to pull the bow around, something we have done often enough. I should have listened. (One would think I would have learned by now.) It isn't a bad scrape; less than an hours worth of buffing should be all it takes to make it go away. In my defense the bow did start moving in the right direction at first, as one would have expected given the direction of the slight wind. It just didn't keep going that way. That scrape bothered me for the rest of the day. I am ending a 37 year, 11000+ hour, 12000+ landing career in aviation having never done anything that led directly to putting a scratch on an airplane. This is not to say there were no scratches; I did fly some pretty sketchy airplanes. Tail wheel failures, brakes failures, steering failures, bits coming loose to bang on other bits, and one bullet hole; these, among others long forgotten, all left marks. But none were directly my fault.

So bouncing Kintala off the dock was a bit discouraging. We are on the cusp of doing this full time and it would be nice to be a little further up the learning curve. Still, what is one to do? Sometimes the universe unfolds in ways unexpected and, much of the time, we are just along for the ride. A whole host of different currents have intertwined in our lives and, as it turns out, it is very close to time for us to go. The boat isn't quite ready. I'm not quite ready. I'm still not 100% sure that the bank account is ready. On the one hand all of that has to be accounted for somehow. But on the other hand, at a level almost too deep to grasp, none of it matters at all.

Because it is very close to time for us to go.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pretty bits and aching backs ...

A good thing about a 40+ year career ending the way mine is ending, and when it is ending, is that the transition from "corporate pilot" to "full time sailor" might be a bit less bumpy than it otherwise could have been. (How's that for a sentence?) As the last of my aviation paychecks dribbles in there is time to be on the boat pretending to be a sailor. So that's were I am and that's what I'm doing.

The pretty new drive train bits are installed. There is still V-drive and tranny fluid to change and one last good look around needs to be made to make sure nothing was forgotten. (There were no parts left over so that is a good sign.) The hope is Kintala will be back in operation by the weekend. Pulling the V-drive is a colossal pain on a Tartan 42 as the forward end of the engine pan makes it impossible to slip the drive straight onto the tranny. All kinds of contortions are required which usually bash up the gasket, hack gouges in the seal, draw blood and curses from the mechanic (that would be me) and generally cast a pall on an otherwise beautiful day. Well, I should say all kinds of contortions were required. After some careful deliberations and a chat with the resident boat guru I cranked up a cutting wheel and removed a proportional bit of the engine pan, making V-drive installation about 90% easier than it was. This seemed like a particularly good idea since rumor has it some people have had to do this repair several times over, sometimes while hanging on a hook in less than ideal sea conditions.

Kintala's new v-drive / prop shaft coupling is now bolted together with some high-tech self locking bolts backed up by low tech safety wire, so there is hope that this repair will not need repeated any time soon. But when it comes to boats and maintenance I think Dante got it right with,"Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate".

Assuming tomorrow's test run is a success it will have taken the better part of three days to get this done, which seems like an unnecessarily long time. But I have discovered a couple of things as I move from my old world to this one. The first is that this body of mine has accumulated more than its share of damage over the years. Once upon a time putting in a 14 hour day slinging wrenches at an airplane was just another day in the shop. But now? Six hours hunched over the bilge wrestling with a 30 pound V-drive and its all I can do to limp to the shower. I think I could still do the 14 hours if I had to, but that is another thing I have learned. I don't have to do that anymore.

Of course there is another huge difference between airplanes in the hangar and boats on the water. A wrong move wouldn't sink an airplane. Playing with Kintala's drive train while she floats always seems to involve some moments of water pouring into the boat; something I have yet to get used to seeing. So working on drive parts in the bilge means working extra slow to avoid installing a "stupid."

Deb will catch up with me tomorrow.  One of the things unexpected was that the crush of work suddenly needing done "right now" keeps us apart several nights a week.  That was normal for a corporate pilot but it isn't something I want to carry into my sailing life.

And so it goes ...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

State of Balance

Karma, what-goes-around-comes-around, human interconnectedness on a quantum scale, dumb luck –
however it is described sometimes things just seem to work out in ways completely mysterious and unanticipated. This past weekend was TAPAS on the docks, one of my favorite celebrations on the Boulder Marina calendar. Boats get spruced up for show, good food is prepared, and friends gather together to walk the piers and peer at the boats. As it turned out someone the marina had invited St. Louis Sail and Paddle, the local sailboat dealer, to show off some of their stuff. The owners of the company brought a trailer full of stand-up paddle boards and a couple of sport sailing tri-hulls for people to play with. Deb and I tried both. The sailing tri was a hoot and Deb is a natural on a paddle board. I, on the other hand, feel far more comfortable on a motorcycle doing 160 MPH then I did on that board. And I proved it for all to see by taking a classic fall and making the largest splash of the day, the only one to fail at the stand-up board.

These good folks dropped by to visit Kintala and had nothing but nice things to say about our Tartan. When they found out that we are within weeks of pulling the trigger on being full-time, live aboard cruisers they offered their expertise. It turns out they sell sailboats up to 50 feet and know crane operators to un-step masts, have relationships with shippers, have worked with the lift operator that can pick up Kintala here at the lake before, and have rigging and shipping experts on staff. A one stop coordinator for arranging everything we need to arrange for getting on our way.  For me shipping a 42 foot sailboat one third of the way across the country is a daunting task. For them it is just another day in the office. The mountain facing me is that much smaller today.

Many friends are offering good advice, and some of it suggests we stay here in Carlyle until everything we can possibly get done on the boat before heading off gets done. The argument, and it is a good one, is that leaving now and spending two months on the hard in some East Cost Marina, or leaving here two months from now to splash in salt water almost as soon as we get there, adds up to splashing at nearly the same time.  I am reminded that spending time fixing things here is a lot cheaper than spending time fixing things there.  So basically we are talking about starting our living aboard life by living aboard in Carlyle for six to eight weeks. It is actually sounding like a pretty good idea.

More good ideas have come in about the V-drive. Parts should arrive on Tuesday. With any luck installation will be completed by Friday and Kintala will be operational once again.  We can get some more sailing time in while living on the boat in Carlyle and finishing what we can finish at the same time.  There is some small concern that we might get hung up a bit and not get on our way quickly but, truth to tell, all I want to do is get going. The mistake will be pulling out before it would be wise, not waiting too long. So tonight, even if it turns out to be a temporary condition, I am going to bask in the feeling that this whole plan is starting to come together, that there is a sense of balance settling in around “The Retirement Project”, and that we are really on our way. All because of a chance meeting at a Club Party.

How cool is that?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Off the edge ...

Yesterday (barring something totally unforeseen) I flew ye old jet for the last time, landed it at the maintenance base where the new owner is getting a pre-buy inspection, and walked away. My goal was to see this flight department closed with the same commitment to professionalism with which it has been run. And it was. Almost done, almost dusted. There are a few non-flying details yet to address but it is likely my 40+ career in aviation is over. (Okay. I admit that getting my head around the idea of being an "ex-pilot" is not going well, so I have decided to put off mulling over it until later. I think a good time would be swinging in my hammock, cold one in hand, watching over the bow as a flaming red sun sets into blue water. I'll toast the sky and say, "Thank you.")

Today we met with Craig, financial guru and a real pro, who has helped us figure out how we can get away without condemning ourselves to abject poverty. (This may be the only time in history that I endorse Wall Street types in any way, shape, or form, but Edward Jones' has been nothing but honest, professional, and helpful. We couldn't have done it without them.) We are not swimming in money and it wouldn't take much of a disaster to throw us into deep water. But as of now we can say with some assurance, "We made it". There is enough cash stashed away to get us to deep water, get some work done on the boat, and put fuel in the tank and food on the table for the foreseeable future. It is likely that, now and again, we will have to hole up somewhere pretty and generate a little extra dinero somehow. But that is actually something I am looking forward to doing.

The only real glitch left in the works is the house. Nobody seems to want it but me, and I don't want it anymore. This next month will see one last attempt to get it sold. If it doesn't go then it goes on the rental market. Sailors need to work with the wind whichever way it blows, and that is as true of the housing market in St. Louis as it is out in the Atlantic 100 miles from land. (Which housing market, I must say, really blows right now - rumors to the contrary not withstanding.) We are pretty sure of the destination marina on the coast. We have a choice of two shippers who can do the job, and there is lots of water in the lift pit so Kintala will not have to fly very high to get up out of the water. There are a million little details that will fall out of the sky like graffiti on a ticker-tape parade. But they will be handled and then forgotten.

So here we are, hanging just off the cliff like Wile E. Coyote, no ground under us but not yet falling. In the morning I head to the boat knowing the final push has started. The only kind of living I have ever known has ended. A different kind, a kind still mostly shrouded in mystery, has started.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Short ...

... weekend, that is. (Think on it, some of you are sure to get it.) It rained like crazy yesterday and last night. Kind of an "ops check" for the port we bedded last weekend. Turns out we got the screen / seal in backwards so it leaked. But it was an easy fix.

The V-drive isn't going to be as easy, but now there is some hope it will not be a complete disaster. Pulling the drive yesterday took less than an hour. Which suggests either, a) I am a pretty good mechanic or, b) I have way too much practice with getting the V-drive out of a Tartan 42. ("B" is probably it.) My assessment, echoed by Walter Machine guru Don, is that the V-drive itself is undamaged. Don described some hardware to me that didn't sound like what we used the first time around. So we are going to get some and, along with replacing the coupling on the prop shaft, (part still to be determined) put it back together and see what we see. Likely a couple of weeks yet, but not the disaster it could have been.

The weekend is short because needs have me back in the city tomorrow and probably stuck there until next Friday. It is also short because, after the V-drive got pulled, the incessant rain has put a damper on my mojo ... boat work slowed to a stop. I did lend a hand pumping out a half-dozen or so boats that were in danger of sinking due to the rain. Everything on a boat needs constant maintenance including, clearly, the cockpit scuppers. On some boats a full cockpit oozes water into the hull through a variety of built in leaks. (Hard to imagine how the designers missed such an obvious threat to the boat. Oh wait, no it isn't.) Sink drains go under, then gunnel's, followed shortly by the whole boat. One of the nicest, best kept boats in the marina suffered some similar chain of events (details yet to be determined) and was found this morning with the cabin full up to the tops of the settees. An industrial sized, gas-engine-driven pump was deployed to keep her off the bottom. She is a dirty mess, but will soon be the toast of the fleet once again.

The moral of the story? Best be near one's boat when it's raining like stink. That way you'll know if she's starting to sink.

You're welcome.