Friday, August 29, 2014

... out where we belong ...

The Dow Corning 795 box showed up today. The box itself was too short for the tubes, so someone had punched four holes in the end for the nozzles to hang out an inch or so. Honest, I wouldn't think to make something like that up even if I was trying. The good news is the tubes managed to make the trip without being damaged and leaking 795 all over someone else's something. So we had sealer to near finish two projects today. (And we will not be buying anything from again.)

The project completely finished was bedding the aft cabin's port port. (Couldn't resist.) Deb removed it weeks (and weeks) ago. But she couldn't do the glass work needed with the kids living with us; not everyone loves the smell of resin in the morning. Then other things came up. Then we used up all the 795 on board doing Bear projects. But today was the day. That port was covered up for so long that we both got used to how dark it was in the back cabin. Now we can get used to how bright it is again.

Ed note: This was my first solo fiberglass repair job rebuilding the completely rotted out opening. I'm pretty proud of it!

Traveler sans sheaves before final assembly.
The port was one leak that we had back there. The main sheet traveler was the other. I pulled it off yesterday and tossed the rotted 1/4 X 1&1/4 X 50 untreated teak some yahoo installed when they moved the traveler from the coach roof to just aft of the companionway. Then we went shopping for parts. At a place called Seafarer Marine it cost us 3 whole dollars to have a custom piece of star board cut, and it took them about 3 whole minutes to hand it to us. In addition they have a whole store full of all kinds of do-dads, tools, and good prices on things like solvent and resin. I think I found a new favorite place.

No more rotten teak spacer under the track.
Before you say it, yes, the non-skid needs painting. It's on the list.
But we came up empty on new sheaves for the traveler. West Marine had 3 of the 8 we needed, but the price seemed a bit high, and what good is three out of eight? Then we got prices from Rig Rite who is the sole distributor of the now defunct Nicro-Fico traveler line and West Marine looked like a bargain. The total suggested price for the 8 plastic wheels that fit is somewhere north of $400. Yeah, like that's going to happen. I'll gnaw new ones out of old skateboard wheels before I'll take that beating. For $400 I'd expect pieces made of solid bronze and polished so bright they would be seen by astronauts.  But the rail is bedded tight and pretty on a new slice of star board, so the biggest part of that project is done.

I think I'm going to take tomorrow off. Someone said something about it being a holiday weekend, good enough excuse for me.

I was sitting in the cockpit this evening watching the parade of boats go by on the New River. Ever wonder why it is that the bigger the boat, the smaller the swimwear adorning the young ladies riding the bow? I guess they used up all the money putting gas in the thing, though someone once told me the smaller the bikini the more the cost. I suspect that is true on several levels.

There was a bit of a breeze leaching some of the day's heat out of the air. Ducks splashed into the water around the boat and a line of big winged cranes coasted down the opposite shore. Once in a while we see a manatee around, but I do miss visits from dolphins. I am a bit jealous of cruising friends we know who are hanging out on a hook somewhere, exploring different places and not near as near land as is Kintala. But all in all, as tired as I am of this dock and the endless work list yet to go, I know the places to be that are worse than here are far, far, more numerous than the places to be that are better than here.

Getting a couple of projects done or near done reminds me that we are, in spite of how it feels some days, making progress toward getting back out where we belong.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I loves me some Honda

Being dock dwellers, we haven't talked much about the Honda EU2000i companion model generator that we have lately. Today Tim was working on rebuilding the traveler up at the picnic shelter (more on that later), and needed a power source for some 110 tools. We dug out the Honda from under its cover didn't start. Color me shocked because we've never had it start in anything more than one pull before. In Honda's defense, the generator has been sitting on the back of the boat now for over two months unused, with fuel and salt air mixing together.

Since my sewing project for the day was put on hold due to missing materials and my port rebedding still awaits the missing Dow Corning 795 being shipped to me, I got on the internet and did a little research. It turns out that these generators have a low-level oil alert cutoff switch that involves a float in the oil tank, and that float tends to stick if the generator sits for some time. When we were on the mooring field or at anchor, we were getting rocked around enough and using the generator enough that it didn't matter, but sitting here in relatively calm waters for two months did it in.

In keeping with the KISS principle I did the easiest thing first though and cleaned and gapped the plug (it was pretty dirty but still usable). It hadn't been done for awhile so it wasn't wasted work but it didn't produce the start. I dug out a piece of twisted safety wire that we keep in the workshop for just this kind of prodding and poking and carefully threaded it into the tank. A little fishing around and a couple pulls and the generator started right up.

I loves me some Honda.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

All part of the deal

Deb and I picked up some kind of bug within hours of each other. Or maybe its something in the air, allergies or the stuff they are spraying across the river since the wind has shifted from that direction. It is like a bad cold or mild flu and, unfortunately, came to visit at the same time as getting the big hole in our foredeck closed seemed like a good idea, what with a tropical storm fixing to turn into a hurricane churning around out by the islands and all. It may just be a newbie thing, but being in this neck of the woods at this time of the year has made keeping an eye on the NOAA two and five day tropical forecasts my newest hobby. So far so good, the sea and wind gods have seen fit to take it easy on the Atlantic, apparently focusing instead in kicking the snot out of the Pacific this year.

Framing for the structural foam which you can see oozing out the left side.

So we have been pressing on with projects as best as we can, collapsing at night with the day's energy account severely overdrawn. Deb has been adding to the cruising kitty by doing canvas work for nearby boats. I have been depleting it at about the same rate getting materials for filling the void in the deck. It must be admitted that slinging glass in a FL summer, while enjoying alternating visits from a fever and the shakes, is a new experience for me. One I can't say I'm enjoying much, but today saw the deck closed for the last time. All that remains is the non-skid repair, something I put in the "cosmetic" category. No less important, just less pressing.

Foam core in place.

In the end the smaller voids ended up being filled with a combination of stuffed glass mat in one corner, two part structural foam in the other two corners. The main core repair was done with a high density foam mat that looks a bit like a chess board, overlaid with bi-axial glass, filled as required, with the original deck glassed back in place. So yes Mr. Sailboat expert, I fear this bit of Kintala's foredeck has at least four different kinds of core material. If the bow ever twists off and falls to the bottom of the sea I'll be sure to put it in the blog. It must be said though, that part of the deck is now as hard as sin. No more sinking feeling when going forward and, no matter what, much better than it was.

Deck glassed back in place but pre-grinding. You can see why we need to replace the non-skid. It's old and in bad shape.

Two other boats in the marina are undergoing similar repairs, the one next door being done by my new friend Dennis (of slinging glass at The Bear fame) at the same time I am attending to Kintala. We have been helping each other along figuring out the best way to approach two similar, but still different, repairs. His problem was forward of the mast and the core is plywood, not end grain like Kintala. Making an assault on the ugly from the side was impossible. His only approach was to cut away the deck until finding solid core. Once the underlying repair was completed, piecing the top deck bits back together and making it all fit right would have taken days. Instead he is just going to glass over the new core making, in essence, a new top layer to the deck composite. I, on the other hand, could dig the rotted core out from between the layers of glass, stuff it full one way or the other, and put the original top deck back in place. Two different ways, both getting the job done. He put the final layer of filler in his repair today, grinding, gel coat and non-skid tomorrow. I stitched the seam in my deck plug with glass today, filled and ground the repair. Gel coat and non-skid tomorrow as well. It is kind of fun having the repairs going on at the same time, the cold beer we share at the end of the day in Kintala's cockpit feels well earned.
Post-grinding and waiting for the non-skid

There are several more big projects to go. Sometimes I get a bit discouraged. Deb and I used to talk about what we were going to do with the boat next, where we were going to go, what we might see when we got there. Now we talk about what we are going to do to the boat next and how much it is going to cost. We wonder if we are ever going to get off this dock, and how that might be managed. Another friend from this year's cruise has thrown in the towel, the boat up for sale. Breakdowns, stranded in the Islands for months, bad weather, nights of being afraid, and a relentless loneliness not being the kind of life desired.

The seam for the anchor locker is going to be glassed in as well.
It's glassed below but not above deck so water went into the core.

I understand completely, but still can't envision Deb and I living any other way. Just the thought of having to get a regular job, going to an office, needing a car, meeting someone else's schedule, all the while just waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me yet again by some change in Board or Management politics, gives me a headache. Living and cruising on a boat on a fixed or very modest income is often a hard way to live. Anyone who suggest otherwise simply hasn't done it. But grinding out the hours needed to get to a paycheck isn't always a walk in the park either.

Everything gets easier if one can throw large chunks of money at whatever problems arise, and that is true on land or on the water. For Deb and I, and it seems for many we have met "out here", it was a choice to make a go of a different kind of living, one where big chunks of money are not likely to be part of the equation. For others "out here" big chunks of money were never going to be part of the equation, and living on the water offered a chance to live better than living modest on land.

The cruising mags seem geared to those retiring well and going cruising. Good for those who pull it off. For the rest of us though, going cruising means living modest. And living modest sometimes means that problems take a little more effort to climb over.

All part of the deal.

Just a reminder why wer're doing this...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Time flies.

This morning started out with the discovery that there was no power at any of the 110v outlets anywhere in the boat. Not a big surprise since, on Kintala, they are all wired to a single circuit breaker. We also have two GFCI outlets in the system, one in the head, one in the galley. I always thought that more than one such outlet in any circuit was kind of silly. I still sort of think so. But the original marine surveyor wrote up that we needed to have two, so we have two. Inevitably when one pops its little cork, the other one does as well. This time the one in the galley had the red LED light glowing, something we haven't seen before. Best guess, almost confirmed with a bit of internet research, it that it indicates the outlet itself is bad and needs replaced. Both Deb and I are a bit touchy about electrical things, lots of water, and fire on the boat. A new one seemed like a good idea.

The deck repair has slowed a bit, mostly to let it dry. Each day it gets opened to the FL sun and heat, which is probably not as effective as one might think due to the FL humidity. Every little bit helps though, particularly since the bad core stretches a bit further than would be ideal, sneaking uncomfortably close to the port side bow cleat and reaching right to the anchor locker insert and pump out deck fitting. So cleat and fitting were removed to see what's what. The locker is fiberglassed into the bow, so it stayed.

The core under both appeared to be solid so the cleat went back on. That was not the fate of the old pump out fitting, which has been a bit of a trial since the first time Kintala went to the pump out at Boulder. It has some kind of odd-ball thread cut in it. We have never found a connection to the pump out station suction hose that would screw into the threads of the fitting on our deck. Pumping out has always meant trying to press one of the rubber nozzle things into the deck fitting with enough force to keep nasties from spewing out at the holder. Deb has spent days uncounted trying to find a clip-on connection with the proper thread, all without success. Which is saying something. When Deb can't find a part it is a pretty good bet that the part will never, ever, be found.

Ah, but we had the thing out and the boat is in Ft. Lauderdale, surrounded by marine stores, and with access to a car. We were headed out to get a new GFCI and run a few errands anyway. What say we just mosey on over to some store that has "Marine" or "Sailor" in its name, get the right thing, get the right thing to fit in the thing, and get the other right thing to get the first thing to connect to the ship's plumbing? Then put it all together and make pumping out a matter of twist, clip, flop, and flip? (Twist the connector in, clip the fitting on, flop back out of the way, flip the switch.)

So we did, and it only cost $145.

The next time I'm watching the hoses pulse, listening to the pump thump,(particularly if I'm kneeling on a rocking deck on a mooring field somewhere) and I'm not, literally, leaning over a shit hole and hoping all goes as planned, that $145 is going to be a bargain. I almost can't wait to try it ... almost.

So tonight finds us with 110 power once again, (charging this old computer as I type) a new pump out fitting, and a newly-put-to-bed cleat. Tomorrow I'm going to start stuffing glass into all the right places.

It is hard to believe that August is almost gone. There is a deck to finish, a traveler that needs a new bed, a port still waiting to go back in, a furler to install on the staysail forestay, a mod to add an auto pilot to the wind vane to figure out, acres of teak that need treated, and a Bimini that needs re-sized and a new cover. I'm helping a friend with a bit of work on other boats now and again (in exchange for boat fixing stuff) and it didn't take long for people around here to find out that Deb is a guru with a Sailright machine. So she has a couple of jobs to do as well. (Normally we don't do outside work except to lend a hand, but after our budget beating, turning down a chance to grow a little extra green or trade for some free parts, isn't in the cards.)

How time flies when your having fun.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


It may be that nothing will focus a sailor's attention more than chopping a giant hole in the deck of his or her boat.  Even when the hole is about as far above the water line as it is possible to be, cranking up the saw and slicing through the fiberglass that carries the load of the fore deck and separates one from the elements seems a drastic kind of thing.

With The Floating Bear floating peacefully on her mooring ball in Dinner Key, and a day or two of not doing much of anything at all, it is time to turn some attention to Kintala and her own project list. At the top of that list is the soft spot not far aft of her bow, favoring the port side, and encroaching on the cleat.  It has been there since we bought the boat and reminded me of a task that needed done every time I went forward to attend to dropping or pulling the hook.  Time to take a deep breath and crank up  the cutter.

Hammer taps outlined the area of ugly needing to be uncovered, though thought was given to the finished product.  The soft spot spans two sections of non-skid across a band of gel-coat.  The call was to make the cut inside one section of non-skid and assault some of the bad core, as it were, from the side. I like the idea of chopping in such a way as to save the top piece for later, glassing it back down on the new core to complete the repair.  This requires not butchering it up when slicing it out and easing it off of the core.

By the way, assaulting the bad core from the side is not in the books anywhere, at least not in any of the sailboat repair books I could find.  According to the sailboat experts solid, un-compromised core has to be exposed in order to do a good repair.  Since I have long lost faith in sailboat experts, some of this is getting made up as we go.

Anyway, tape lines laid down, the saw went to work.  The trick is to cut deep enough to free the top layer but not deep enough to cut the bottom layer of the composite deck.  (Or, in this case, deep enough to cut through the interior and open the V-berth to the sky.)  It isn't nearly as hard to do as it sounds. There is a clear difference in feel when the blade slices through hard fiberglass into mushy wood. Once the cut was complete the task was to ease the top layer off without breaking it into several useless pieces.

The trick to that is to use a multitude of prying tools; screwdrivers, putty knives, picks, hacksaw blades, whatever works to separate the glass from the wood.  Throw in a ton of patience.  When something starts to crack, stop and take a different approach.  It took more than an hour of being careful, but the top layer of deck came away as clean as could  have been hoped.

The ugly lay underneath, exactly as expected.  Water actually ran along the putty knives, screwdrivers and, eventually, vacuum cleaner attachment, as the work went on.  Rotten wood covered a good bit of the fore deck before it was over.  Eventually most of the evil core was gone and a DA sander went to work, smoothing out the top of the bottom layer of composite and the bottom of the top layer.  So long as the sun was baking the repair it was left exposed to dry out.  It gets covered at night in case of rain, but for the next day or two it will be left opened to dry.

That will give me time to plan the sideways attack on the bad core.  There are several options. Latest and greatest would be to fill the undercut deck with structural foam.  I worked with the stuff years ago while building experimental radar jamming drones to be launched from Nuke attack B-52's whose purpose was to give the Ruskies too many radar hits to shoot at.  Once mixed it swells up like the Blob of horror picture shows then dries sin hard. But it isn't cheap and getting it in the right place at the right time can be a challenge.

Old school would be to make this part of the fore deck a solid laminate using glass mat and resin, stuffing the voids using any tools that work.  Middle school would be to mix up some resin and thicken it with silicon to fill the voids.  The concern with both of these is, given the angles and areas involved, getting a solid fill. I'll have to think on this one a bit.

All in all though, the focus is back on Kintala and getting her ready to  go cruising again.  And that is a good kind of focus.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Anchoring and Liberty

Deb thinks I should put a warning label on this one, so ... if your skin is particularly thin this morning you might want to come back later.

Rumor has it that the State of Florida, listening to the demands of McMansion owners, is contemplating a ban on all overnight anchoring of all boats in all of its waters. There is no telling if such a ban will ever make it into law and, if so, when. There is also no telling if any such law will survive the inevitable legal challenges. In any case, as a member of the cruising community at which the law is specifically aimed, a few thoughts come to mind.

We are in Florida at the moment. Have been for a few months actually. Most of our time here has been spent on a dock or a mooring ball. Both cost a lot of money for a modest return. Dinner Key is our favorite place to stay in Fl, and the customer service is excellent. But we pay for a mooring that is completely exposed to Biscayne Bay. There are days, weeks, where being there is barely tenable. Even when the Bay itself is not beating up the place, the wakes from power boaters blasting full song down the channel only to chop the throttles right at the "NO WAKE" sign, will send the unprepared in the mooring field flying. It is a long ride to the dingy dock. The bathrooms are modest and there is no real lounge where one might sit and get some work done on the internet.

Currently we are on a dock, a hideously expensive dock where customer service ranges from spotty to downright surly. The office is usually unattended, internet access is horrible, and we are constantly at risk from the antics of power boaters using the launch ramps. Again there is no real lounge, just a few chairs and a card table scattered around the laundry room.

Anchoring off is the free market alternative to putting up with these bandits. Isn't Florida one of those Big Red states where such ideas are worshiped? In fact, isn't this whole place supposed to be one of those "god wants us to keep Big Brother Government off our backs" places? Demanding that government keep free-spirited cruisers from dropping a hook in public waters to avoid being raped by a scruples-lacking money grubber, isn't that an affront to the Big Red God?  Some of the disciples were fishermen. Surely they anchored out once in a while to avoid paying some lowlife carpetbagger for access to a dock that was falling apart and lacked any place to park their asses.

The hypocrisy seems blatant, though one of the realizations that have come with more than a handful of decades of life, is that hypocrites are blind to their own hypocrisy. Somehow having my modest (though pretty – if I do say so myself) sailboat in their view of the water is an assault to their freedom even though, when I leave, the water will be undisturbed. But me having their hideous cubes of wretched excess and monuments to egomania blocking my view of the shoreline, marred by their assault on the land and the environment, is perfectly okay. My home they want banned, though no cruiser is making a similar demand about their homes.

Their home vs mine suggests that cruisers, in nothing but the most general of terms, are far better human beings than are those complaining about us. If it comes to standing before the Big Red God, I'll state my case and take my chances on having lived my life as I have, as opposed to how they have lived theirs.

Of course the hypocrisy goes much deeper. The "small government, personal liberty" claim is nothing but an empty slogan. Those who mouth it are in the service of big money. Small government can't stop big money from doing whatever it wants to get bigger, and that includes stomping on any civil right that impinges on the bottom line or, in this case, perceived property value. Personal liberty isn't even a consideration. But here is the thing ...

Liberty is not the right to self-absorbed narcissism. Liberty is the chance to live in a society where the value and aspirations of each individual are cherished and supported by every other member of that community. Liberty is found where universal civil rights are protected by the full weight of a first world society. Liberty is every individual being rewarded for his or her contribution to a better life for themselves and others, where no one gets rich off the labor of another. Liberty exists where no one is allowed to coerce another in any way for any thing, and is only found where the full resources of a society are focused on protecting me from you, and you from me.

Liberty is not an individual thing. It is a gift offered to each individual of an enlightened and powerful community.

Liberty is too difficult, too complicated, and too fragile an accomplishment for any single person to manage alone. Liberty is the reward for a community working together to build a better life for themselves, their kids, and their grand kids.

Americans have come to hate anything that even hints at a community.  Our political system has devolved into an endless, 3-way battle between the party of "All I care about is getting mine" vs the party of "All I care about is getting yours" vs the party of "All I care about is getting everybody's". America's budget is based on the belief that it will be at war with nearly everyone, nearly all the time. Working with anyone to accomplish anything that benefits a larger community is demonized as socialism.  We can't even build roads anymore, or fix bridges.

Which is why liberty is being lost in the United States of America.

The proposed anchoring law in Florida is as good an example as any.

NOTE:  My friend Robert has issues with this post.  They are based on a much deeper understanding of Florida politics than is mine and, perhaps, a fundamentally different world view.  If he gives me permission I will cut and paste his comments here.  Until then please go to the comments section and read what he has to say.  It will a be good use of a few minutes of your  day!

Friday, August 15, 2014

No more "BOOM"

Champaigne on the bow and in the water for Neptune

Around 0900 this morning we officially notified King Neptune that S/V Obsession had passed into history to be replaced by H/V (Hybrid Vessel) The Floating Bear. His forbearance on new ship and crew was requested with the proper sacrifice of bubbly offered.  At 0915 Husband to Daughter Eldest tickled The Bear's engine to life, and at 0930 we eased away from Cooley's landing, did a pirouette in the New River and headed outbound. With a new air draft of less than 10 feet we didn't bother the 7th Street bridge tender as we coasted under his domain with air to spare.

Searching for a bit to find an engine RPM that felt "right", The Bear settled into a 2100 RPM cruise making about 4.5 knots, even pulling the 12' hard bottomed tender, Eeyore, on a short tether. Roughly 938,700 revolutions later we nosed up to mooring ball No. 34 at Dinner Key, secured a couple of lines, and The Floating Bear was home.

Given all the work that we did, the trip was a mechanical snoozer. I think the engine is making a little too much smoke and a little too little water. By the end of the day my ear was picking up a little more exhaust noise, so there are some things that still need a good look. Minutes after securing the engine one of the two brand new, properly wired and "ARMED" bilge pumps kicked on. The new stuffing box needed a bit of a snug, not unexpected after 7 hours of continuous running.  I made a late day visit to the lazarette to shut off the drip.  Rudder bearings are a bit snug, and there are still a couple of minor interior leaks.

"How," you might ask, "would you know that?"

Well, though the trip was a mechanical snooze, weather wise it was a different issue. Half way down the ICW, somewhere around Bakers Haulover Inlet, we were watching the sky get darker and the lightning flash.  A storm thundered by one side, another passed by the other side, but the third caught us just as we cleared the Venetian Causeway Bridge. From there until we were well clear of the Rickenbacker Causeway the rains pounded The Bear as if to test her ability to stay afloat. The winds howled and visibility dropped to a couple of hundred yards. It was easily some of the hardest rain I have ever seen.  The Bear was mostly dry inside, didn't seem to mind the winds much, shrugged off the waves, and just kept muttering along.

Daughter Eldest and Grand Sons two had taken the car south to do some pre-school preparations and avoiding having two young ones on board for what was nothing short of a sea-trail. They were waiting for us when we arrived.  So, after waiting out some more rain, Deb and I made like normal people and borrowed their car to get back to Kintala. We will head back down to Coconut Grove tomorrow ... sometime ... likely not very early ... to finish up a bit of wiring that was left undone and return their wheels. Public transport will get us home and there is a pretty good chance we are going to take a few days off.

On the one hand it is a huge relief to have The Bear back to where she needs to be for the reasons she needs to be there. Deb and I can now focus on salvaging our cruising plans, figuring out where we want to be in a year and how we can get there. The work list for Kintala, now somewhat truncated by budget and time constraints, can be addressed. These have been some stormy seas since Kintala returned to the States. The stress of the voyage is showing.

On the other hand – well - during the official Name Changing Ceremony this morning Grampy T got choked up around the part of watching over the newly renamed boat and crew as they set sail. Dema had to take over. It reminded me that this was yet another "cruiser good-by".  Christopher and little JJ will not be clambering around Kintala like they have been for the last several months. Daughter Eldest and Husband will be concentrating on other things a day's sail away (though only an hour by car). That part of my heart isn't as far away as those in St. Louis, but they aren't just down the dock anymore either.

Tough as these past couple of months have been, I am going to miss singing "BOOM" at the sky. It isn't nearly as much fun without little voices joining in.

Try keeping a toddler still for a cellphone picture...

Peeking out through the mosquito netting - the first night back on the boat.

A few days ago - the Bear starting to look a bit more like home again.

Home Sweet Home. The end of the channel at Dinner Key

Monday, August 11, 2014

Boats and Bears and Trains ... oh my

The crew of The Floating Bear moved back aboard a couple of days ago. Alas, that has not led to any appreciable easing of the work load. The DC electrical system is still a work in progress even though the batteries have found their way to a new home in the starboard side lazarette.  Switch panels are held in place with tape and wiring runs are still being unscrambled.  A whole heap of zip-ties are about to be sacrificed in order to bring order, but at least the lights are working.

There are solar panels to hang and wire, and the water system is not cooperating for reasons as yet to be determined. Massive leaks in the cabin windows are being addressed by actually re-bedding them. By all appearances others have made at least four attempts to stop the leaks. That is the number of different kinds of sealer found piled one on top of another. Needless to say the efforts proved fruitless and the windows leak like screen doors with the first drizzle of rain. It must be admitted that trying to remove said layers is nearly fruitless as well.  One long day of effort is required for each of the four windows.  That task has fallen mostly to Deb as I have been banished to spending my days in the lazarette, tied in a knot of wiring.  There is also a debate raging about the new holding tank install.

The fitting for sucking the nasty away is located at the top of the tank. When I asked about it needing a tube reaching near the bottom of the tank for the system to work properly I was assured by a guru of all things nautical that it would not be necessary. I admit to having doubts. Nomad was - and Kintala is - plumbed with that fitting at the bottom of the holding tank. Normal pump type sucking gets the desired results without the need of enthusiastic vacuum / weight lifting type sucking. If a suck pipe needs installed I would rather do it now than after the tank is full of smelly brown stuff. An internet search did not shed much light on the subject of holding tank sucking in sailboats, and far be it from me to question the sage wisdom of a guru of all things nautical based on my scant experienced with just two such systems.  But I still wonder if that tank needs a pipe stuck in it for a proper sucking to take place. (Advice based on the cumulative wisdom of the gurus of all things nautical who find their way to these musings will not be ignored.)

Other challenges go beyond that of just trying to repair the boat and get the systems working properly. The budget burden has escalated to the point of being crushing. Searching for income to offset the outflow is now solidly in the short term future. (Anyone who could use an pretty accomplished airplane driver in the Miami / Ft Lauderdale area should feel free to speak up. I know where one can be found.) The schedule burden has become impossible. The boat was supposed to leave yesterday for a mooring field near to where Grandson Eldest will be starting school scant days from now. I think he is going to need a note from his boat doctor.

At the moment we have no real clue as to what to do other than get up each morning and struggle on. This is family, those for whom all of us would step in front of a train, if necessary, to keep them safe and whole. What is a Bear in comparison to a train?  And, at least with a Bear, one might actually live to tell the tale.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Marina Musings

Magothy River Anchorage, MD
Deciding to go cruising is a long process. Most people who decide to go cruising don't know anyone else doing it personally and have never been out cruising with friends, so the picture of what cruising actually is is pretty indistinct. This was certainly true for us as was evidenced by the fact that we never even thought about the ICW in our planning. We thought about long ocean passages, we thought about weather, we thought about equipment as related to passages and weather, but the idea that we would motor down the ICW some 1000 miles just never even entered our minds.

One of the biggest things we've learned about cruising in general this past year is that it's important to think about what kind of cruiser you want to be, and to be honest with yourself about whether you have the abilities and characteristics to be that kind of cruiser. It will impact the way you prepare to cruise, the things you purchase, the things you bring from your land life, and your expectations. We've said often on this blog in recent months that we always pictured ourselves as blue water cruisers, taking long passages and rarely sitting for long periods of time. This reasoning came as a result of our long passages around New England and with John Kretschmer in the Bahamas, passages where there was adequate crew to ease the load of passage making. The reality of it was that we suffered more from sea sickness than we thought we would, and sail changes at night in bad weather were more stressful than we were comfortable with. We simply didn't enjoy it when we were short handed.

Broad Creek Anchorage, NC
I never really began to think about what kind of cruiser I wanted to be until our friend Kacey came to visit for two weeks. He wanted to spend a prolonged time out “doing it” and toward the end when we had some long, ranging talks about his experiences he said he had decided he was more a liveaboard than a cruiser. It really got me on this train of thought and with every passing month, and with every additional experience, our “kind of cruiser” is being better defined.

So what does this have to do with the title of this blog post? Because for the last month we've been parked at a dock in a marina. It's a nice marina with great reviews on Active Captain, beautiful landscaping, a view of some incredible yachts, good dock mates, and all the conveniences of home. So why do I hate it? Because Kintala can't swing into the wind and the sun doesn't do its ripple reflection thing on the ceiling in the morning, the water is disgusting, there's no dolphins and I've gotten hurt not once, but twice getting on and off the boat at high tide. One kind of cruiser I definitely don't want to be is a marina rat.

Pungo River Anchorage NC
This is not to say that being a marina rat isn't a good thing. For some people. There are a half dozen people here who live full time in the marina, most of them on trawlers of some sort, although a few are on sailboats. If being a liveaboard is your thing then a marina is the place to be. A continuing flow of ice and clean clothes and long showers is not to be taken lightly, and we've been in a few really exceptional ones like Oak Harbor and Barefoot. But would I trade it for a mooring? In a heartbeat.

We've spent a good bit of time on the Vero Beach mooring field, and it's called Velcro Beach for a good reason. Great protection, excellent dinghy dock and lounge/shower/laundry facilities, free bus service, and a beautiful beach. The best beach, though was at Treasure Cay, Abacos. The moorings there are reasonable at $20 a day, and the facilities are great. St. Augustine was one of those places where the mooring field sucked because it's so exposed and the dinghy ride to the dock is long and wet, but the town made up for it with rich history everywhere. More recently we spent quite a bit of time in Coconut Grove at the Dinner Key Mooring Facility. As far as moorings go, the actual mooring field sucks like St. Augustine because it's so exposed. The exposure does give you a fantastic skyline view of downtown Miami and oncoming thunderstorms, fresh air and a nearly constant breeze abound, and the mosquitoes are few if you're out far enough. The reason we would go back there, though, is the staff. Patrick and his staff are without any doubt the most talented customer service division we've seen on a mooring field anywhere. They are helpful, polite, prompt, knowledgeable, and make you feel like you're the only reason they're there. And yet...

From the dock at Oriental, NC
We would still rather anchor out when given the choice. We are almost always happier when we are cozied up in a cove somewhere either by ourselves or with a couple other boats. It's best if the water is clear, the bottom sandy, and the weather warm, but we've equally enjoyed some cold, gray, stormy anchorages with cups of coffee and warm sweatshirts. We've anchored up rivers in Maryland, in inlets in South Carolina, in bays in North Carolina, along long stretches of beach in the Abacos, in a tiny cove in Egg Island, Eleuthra, in Middle River, FL, and right smack dab in the middle of Nassau. Each one has had its own flavor, each one serves to meet a mood.

Camp LeJeune Anchorage

After a year of thinking about this all, here's my Pros and Cons list for each. What kind of cruiser are you?


Pros Cons
Air conditioning in hot climates, heat in cold. Noise: other boats, road and city traffic, neighbors
Easy access to groceries, trash, water, electricity, laundry, and sometimes (if you're very lucky) wifi Wifi rarely works
You get to meet more people You have to put up with people that you may not care for
Easier to work on the boat Harder to go sailing since you're established in one place
Ice Cream Access: 10 Wakes from passing power boaters

You spend WAY more money because everything is so accessible
No need for a dinghy dock Hard to get on and off the boat when docks are not floating. Easy to get hurt.
No running the generator. Power at the dock is low quality and we've had two shore power cords burn in 7 years.

Services vary wildy for the same money. The best marina we ever stayed in cost 1/3 of our current dock.

Charleston, SC anchorage


Pros Cons
More stable ride since the boat always swings into the wind Sometimes exposed
Good ventilation since the boat swings into the wind Sometimes relatively expensive. Quality is inconsistent
Less worry about dragging in high winds You need to know the quality of the mooring
Relatively accessible to services like groceries, banks, laundry, etc., depending on the mooring You spend more money than anchoring
You can run the generator but... Some people don't want to hear it
Most mooring fields have cruiser nets to facilitate getting to meet people For some reason jet skis feel it is their personal duty to run high speed through mooring fields. Honestly. Every one we've been in.
Dinghy dock available

Ice Cream Access: 8

South Beach Miami Anchorage

Pros Cons
Freedom. You rarely have anyone telling you what to do, anchoring well is a challenge and builds skill You're totally responsible for your safety
You pick the view Services vary depending on where you pick
Free Sometimes harder to meet people
Ventilation is good since the boat always swings into the wind Sometimes people can anchor too close or be obnoxious
Did I mention free? Ice Cream Access: Dependent on location, but usually around a 4
4G cell internet available in most populated areas, even in the Bahamas. We were rarely without it Wifi is rarely available without an extender, and even with one most wifi is password protected now
Privacy is excellent Dinghy docks are hard to come by and usually cost
You can run the generator whenever you feel like it

No-Name Harbor, FL
Hatchet Bay, Eleuthra Anchorage
Dinner Key Mooring Facility, FL

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The light at the end of the tunnel ...

... we can see it, but we can't seem to get there. For the last several days we were sure that the family would start putting some stuff back on The Floating Bear, and soon after move onto their newly refurbished little floating home. But the first day such was anticipated it was discovered that the companionway steps / engine cover had to be repaired before any moving would commence. The little ones, in particular, could not be expected to move back on the boat if they couldn't actually get down into the boat.

The floor, you see, is back where the floor was when the boat came out of the factory. The stairs, on the other hand, had been hacked to fit the floor that had been laid over the original floor when that original floor rotted. When the second floor rotted and was covered with a cheap, cardboard faux wood cover, the steps had been hacked again. Un-hacking them, and fixing related engine bay items, took longer than expected.

Move the light back a day.

The next day Daughter Eldest was first to the boat, excited to be moving stuff and perhaps a bit preoccupied. She slipped on the cockpit floor which, truth to tell, is very slippery under normal conditions. Throw in a thin layer of sawdust from all the woodworking going on and it gets down-right ice rinky. Her foot gave way, momentum carried said foot the short distance across the cockpit followed by her full weight. Her full weight, by the way, is barely 100 pounds. But it was enough to cause loud crunching noises when toes crashed into fiberglass. She is still using a crutch but moving around better.

Move the light back a day.

That day it was decided the head plumbing should really be finished before starting to stuff things into every available locker. Good thought, and there were only four hoses needing run, along with a couple of 90 degree fittings. How long could it take?

Move the light back a day.

This day would be THE day. Just a quick repair of an easily accessible water tank needed to be done first. And it was a pretty quick repair. Removing the old repair however; completely different story. That repair -honest, I am not making this up - included a blue paper towel being fiberglassed over the open, six inch crack in the top of the tank. The other six inch crack in the top of the tank was spooged over with white goop. Some of the white goop had been reinforced with its own coat of fiberglass resin while the rest had been left to fend for itself.  Grinding all that foolishness away without adding additional holes in the top of the plastic tank took a while.

Move the light back a day.

Once upon an idiot's dream someone installed a hatch in the port side quarter berth wrong-side-out. It hung dogging handles and hatch in the cockpit sidewall, down around shin height and just aft of the companionway. Honest – I am not making this up, it opened OUT to the cockpit where it has caused many a bruise. It wasn't a stellar day. I tangled with the hatch, got fed up, chewed that thing out with my teeth and spat it into the New River ... okay, I might have made that bit up. But that hatch is GONE and the hole sealed tight with a new pane of Plexiglas
The light had already been moved back another day so, what the hell. Get another thing done to undo a thing that should never have been done in the first place. Just like the water tank, floor, headliner, compression post, mast step, chain-plates and rudder; that hatch install was about the dumbest bit of butt sorry maintenance imaginable.

Well, I can't imagine it, but someone did.  Anyway, I can still see the light. Maybe we will get there tomorrow.

Monday, August 4, 2014

One year in ... sort of

Yesterday was one of those days where being far away from the family still living in St. Louis made my heart hurt. I sat in the chaos that is The Floating Bear and remembered Michael Jr's head butts, reading Kali to sleep for naps (though Grampy T often faded first) little Gussie's final good-by cuddle, Catherine and Mary's missing tooth smiles and questions about us leaving and the teary final hugs from Amber and Melanie ...

... then, sight still a little blurry, I went back to work. My Ft. Lauderdale / Miami family remains in a bit of a bind. It is good to be here helping them over a bump in the road, giving them a chance to get their own journey back under control and part of my heart is here as well.  Waking up to little JJ peaking under the covers of my current sleeping spot on the starboard side settee and calling out "I see you!" isn't a bad way to start any day.

Getting Kintala's journey back under control should probably be higher on the list of things I worry about. But it isn't. When the smoke clears from this current brush fire Deb and I will assess the damage, inventory the available resources, make some decisions, and do what we have always done; keep going.

It occurred to me that it was just over a year ago that our old Tartan put Boulder behind her and headed for the haul-out pit across the lake. Though I didn't start the count of our cruising days until we set sail from Oak Harbor (274 as of today), the day we left the sailing family at Boulder is the day we set out to go cruising.

The boat and her crew have come a ways since then. We are still a long way from being master craftsmen in the sailing / cruising world, but we have certainly reached journeymen status. (Though I am still surprised when someone asks my advice on anything cruising related.) It should be fun, being back underway without everyday being full of "firsts". New things are exciting, but there is a lot to be said for having a clue.

There is also a curiosity as to the shape our cruising life will take now that the first steps are in the log. This past year has been lurching from crisis to crisis: the hull repair at Tradewinds; rudder, rig, and near sinking at Oak Harbor; the endless beating at the hand of cold fronts coming down the ICW; storms and tornadoes in Oriental and Charleston; the engine break-down in Oriental.

Then there was the triumph of our time in the Islands. We got there and back all of a piece and all on our own. Kintala crossed the fearsome Gulfstream twice. We made some good decisions and fell in love with a good place in the world. Then Deb and I sailed back to the States and headlong into the storms of The Thing in PA and then The Bear. Perhaps the longest continuous stretch of bad weather we have experienced in the four decades plus we have traveled together.

When they say cruiser's plans are written in sand at low tide, they are not kidding.

What this next year will bring is anyone's guess. Which is true for all of us, everywhere, cruiser or land's man. The only sure thing is that Kintala, even burdened with the occasional day of a hurting heart, has started her second year by holding her bow to the waves to see what comes next.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Land life and Cruising

I belong to a couple of the sailing groups on Facebook. My favorite by far is Women Who Sail because, since it's a closed group, women feel safe to confide their fears and concerns about sailing and cruising, and they are many. Sometimes someone will become particularly down or frustrated about some aspect of cruising, most of which either involves the space constraints, or their significant other, or their significant other in constrained space.

Today I was working on rebedding two fixed skylights on The Floating Bear, each of which was about 5 x 7 inches and should have taken maybe 2 hours apiece. That would be on any normal boat but, this being The Bear, it of course took all day since there were 4 different sealants involved, stacked on top of each other, the bottom one of which was Liquid Nails. For those of you who do not already realize that you never, ever use Liquid Nails on a sailboat, the reason is because after a few years Liquid Nails becomes highly brittle and crumbles away. Not a good choice for skylight rebedding anywhere, but particularly so in South Florida, the land of the daily thunderstorm. So as I spent hours on end digging out the old sealant, I had a lot of time to think.

I was rehashing in my mind some of the posts I had read the night before on Women Who Sail and it occurred to me that many new cruisers have forgotten that just because you're living on a sailboat doesn't mean that the normal problems associated with living and relationships on land have been left behind. There is still the issue of finances, wet towels still get left on the floor, you still get tired after a day at work (and every day on a boat is a day at work), toilets leak, the dinghy/family car still doesn't run on occasion, and it rains at the most inconvenient times. And don't forget to add to that the stress of being on unfamiliar territory while possibly missing some required skills to cope and missing family.  If you go cruising thinking that these things won't happen because you're living the dream, you will be horribly disappointed.

Early on in our cruising preparations, Brittany from wrote a piece on having realistic expectations. It was a short, simple post, but one that really hit home. I think it's done us a world of good because, in light of our recent cruising derailment, had we not had realistic expectations we might have quit. As it is, we've learned to have a little thicker skin, to take things in stride, and always to find something to laugh about.

My grandson Julian peeking around the corner of my galley. This is his favorite place.

So, if you're in the preparation stage of the cruising dream, remember that you can't run away from your problems. You will be taking them with you, and dealing with them in a much smaller space under much more stressful conditions. Dream your dream large, but temper it with realistic expectations and your cruising time will be much the better for it.