Sunday, May 31, 2015

Land magic

Deb and I are spending the days getting the condo ready for market. It has been rented, fully furnished, for the last 2 years. The renters took some of the stuff with them when they left, but try as we might, we could not get them to take it all. So we had a condo full of stuff that needed to go away, far, far away. Daughter Middle and Deb came up with a plan, and today we had a “Free Sale”.

Now I know what you are thinking. “Free” and “Sale” are mutually exclusive terms. If something is free then it is not for sale. And if something is for sale it is, most definitely, not free. Putting those two word together makes absolutely no sense at all.

But, apparently, if one does put those two words together and then casts them into the cosmos via “ReUseit” and Facebook, they become a potent magic spell. Wafting out across the city the words will provoke, compel, and seduce all kinds of people into action. Soon texts were flying and phones were ringing. People wanted to make appointments or put things in reserve. Used things, things they had not even seen, and some of the things built specifically to fit into this one condo and our specific kind of living.

The Free Sale was supposed to start at 2 pm. By 2 pm virtually everything was spoken for. By 3 pm virtually everything was gone. Two items were left, and tomorrow someone is coming to collect them.

Unbelievable. I am a well known skeptic of all things wooish, but how else to explain a house full of used stuff disappearing like a field of wheat under a cloud of locusts? Even better, one of those looking at stuff got to looking at the condo itself. More than an hour later she left empty handed but with the contact information for our broker. Now that would be some special magic indeed, though I would be surprised if any woo has that much power.

With the place now empty enough to echo, the last push is upon us. With any luck we will be done by the end of the week and the condo can go on the market. Now all we need is to find the magic that leads to the words, “Under Contract”.

It would be fun to have the house done that quickly as we have other things vying for attention; the most important of which is the arrival of grand baby number 9. Little Sophia made her way into the world yesterday morning. She and Mamma and the rest of the family are just a few hours drive away. Grampy-T is feeling the need to gather up the new little one and say, “Hello!”

Monday, May 25, 2015

Joy

One of the things I like about cruising is that it restores that wonder that we had as children. You just can't see striking sunsets every night and float in 20 feet of crystalline water where you can see the bottom without being rendered speechless. Yet even with all of that, the grandkids are still able to focus me on joy in a way that nothing else can. While visiting Tim's parents at the nursing home in the first few days of our travels, I took one of our granddaughters to see the large bird cage full of finches that resides on another floor of the facility. She could stand there for hours watching them, fascinated. 
The white one was her favorite.



And the laughter . . . they never cease to catch me completely off guard with their fresh, untarnished view of things. We were cooking hotdogs over a campfire in the back yard of my eldest daughter's house in Indianapolis and the fire was smoking quite a bit from the hot dog grease dripping into it. My grandson Julian remembered that his dad had a respirator in the garage for dealing with stinky paints and within minutes he handed off his hot dog stick to me and returned all prepared to deal with the smoky fire. If you ever needed a laugh, this is one you simply can't resist.



Untouchables...

The extended family gathered at Daughter Middle's In-laws' home for the holiday barbecue. Kim and Steve are good friends in addition to being family (something not everyone can say). Their house is a fine place for such a get-together with a lot of room, a nice porch, and a big back yard. That there is a park adjacent to that back yard, complete with a industrial-sized playground, is just an added bonus as far as grandkids are concerned. And so it came to pass, after dinner and dessert, several of them corralled Grampy-T and we all headed off to partake in playground antics.

With the playground is a large covered area where, as would be expected on a holiday weekend, another group had gathered to grill, chill, and play. Their little ones were making good use of the playground as well, resulting in a boisterous crowd of little ones filling the area with laughter and games. As is their habit my gaggle headed straight for the slide. Grampy-T set up camp and soon there was continuous circle as the gang dared the “tickle spider”, going down the slide in various combinations of head first, feet first, face down, face up, and plain vanilla backwards. On occasion one would attempt to climb back up the slide, working hard to keep their feet in a cloud of tickle giggles. At the start of each pass each kid would claim, “Don't tickle me!” which was, of course, exactly what they wanted most.

Though mine were the only kids on the slide at first, soon others joined in. Reaching the top they joined in the chorus of “Don't tickle me” which, in the case of faces I didn't know, is exactly what happened. How could it be any other way? I didn't know these kids and had no clue which of the crowd were their parents. Yet as each one reached the bottom they gave me a look, one that clearly wanted to know why they weren't good enough to join in our fun. They got back in the line again and again, smiling at the top of the slide and joining the refrain, a little look of sadness when they reached the bottom un-tickled. It wasn't many rounds before I just couldn't do it any more. Though they couldn't get the full tickle monster treatment, I started holding their hands as they went down, laughing with them and helping them keep a good speed to the bottom. It seemed to be enough to keep the kids happy without provoking a confrontation with parents I didn't know, and who didn't know me.

Daughter Middle spends a lot more time at playgrounds than do I. She had joined us at the slide and, as the kids drifted away to other games, caught the look on my face. She sees this kind of thing all the time. Show even the slightest interest in what the little ones are doing, get involved in any way with their play, show just a hint of caring, and the other kids in the playground will flock around instantly. Yet no adult dare indulge a child's ingrained need to be part of the group. Any adult caught tickling, holding, or in any way touching a kid who isn't "theirs" will be instantly thought of as being a threat. Even helping a little one onto a swing and giving them a push or two, which one little girl asked of me several times, just seemed like a bad idea. So paranoid have we become, so saturated with the propaganda of fear, that a Grandpa playing with his own grandkids in a public park is likely to draw frowning attention unless Mom or Dad are clearly nearby. Including an unknown someone's kids in a game that involves an adult is completely forbidden.

It was a tiny reminder of how sad things can be for those who live on these shores. Kids are now “untouchables”, but they don't know that is supposed to be a good thing. To them all it means is they are not good enough to join in the play. To them, all it means, is that they are not good enough...

The generation after the generation after mine, is getting a rough start in the world.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Closing doors

The alarm drags me from a deep sleep. Within minutes our air mattress is deflated, last minute items stowed in our bags and the car packed. The house of Tim's childhood now stands empty, his parents having been moved into the nursing home last year. The sounds of childhood laughter, old TV programs, running toddler feet and shared meals echo faintly in the empty rooms. The family picture wall is blank and painted with fresh coats of bland paint suitable to market the house, but my mind still sees them there, denying the For Sale sign in the front yard. We know we will never be back inside this house of memories because an offer has been accepted and the new owners will take possession before we return. We take a last sweep through for missed belongings and close the door.

Kintala safely on the hard, we're headed across the country to our old condo to get it ready to put on the market. The renters are moving out next week and we'll begin the process of cleaning and painting in preparation for our own For Sale sign in the yard, hoping with all our might that the real estate agent's assessment of the market is correct and that this time we will successfully divest ourselves of this land anchor.

We've closed a lot of doors in our forty years of marriage. Aviation kept us moving a lot and Kintala is our 17th home in those years. Some of those doors we were happy to close, others left me weeping as I pulled the door shut. All of them brought significant change to our lives, but probably none as much as closing the door to the condo and moving on to the boat. During this brief visit we listened to Tim's sister as she recounted the horror stories of dealing with 55 years of stuff embedded in every nook and cranny of his parent's house. We sat around a restaurant table last evening and listened as my niece-in-law (is there such a thing?) recounted her frustration with corporate society. We dodged distracted drivers in frenetic traffic, surfed hundreds of cable channels to find nothing, strolled through malls filled with useless merchandise. While some doors will always hurt to close (grandkids are the number one reason people quit cruising...), closing the door on our condo, two years after going cruising, is an affirmation of this new life we have chosen. I'll miss the kids terribly, but I'll be ready to head home soon.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A visit unexpected …

The fully loaded Boeing 737-300 rumbled far down the runway before the nose wheel floated free of the concrete. Seconds later the rest of the gear cleared Mother Earth and was tucked away for the short flight to Pittsburgh. The haze thickened, turned into a cloud layer, and then fell away as we climbed into the low flight levels.

Flight levels start somewhere around 18,000 feet above my normal living altitude, (sea level). A good portion of my career was spent in that realm, at the helm of various kinds of exotic machinery built for those extreme conditions. That last two machines I captained blew happily along in the mid flight levels, 35 to 45,000, at speeds around 500 mph. Like most pilots I kept a careful log of each hour spent in the sky. It was like being airborne was the only part of life worth a special mention, home in a way only pilots understand. For most of the best pilots I have known, such an assessment is far closer to the truth than any of us would openly admit.

Those days came to an abrupt end, my career terminated in about as ugly a way as can be imagined. (Short of digging a big, smoking hole.) Log books got stashed away in a safe deposit box while headsets and other cockpit paraphernalia were gifted to friends still in the game. Ipads, once used for approach plates, were eventually loaded with Navionics and Garmin Blue Charts. I walked away from my last flight without looking back. Heading for a new kind of living, the part of my life worth special mention would lay on the surface of the sea and at the helm of a different kind of machine. Life is short enough. Spending time in the past only makes it shorter.

But modern life, at least in the US, is spread out. Kids and grand kids are scattered across a good part of a very big country, other family scattered even further. Flying is the only option, though I would consider sailing Kintala down interstate 70 if it could be done. Drivers think I go slow in a car? Ha!

Now, for only the fifth time since we set out on the boat, the ground fell away outside the window. I don't care so much about seeing out, but they are about the only seats where I can lean to the side and get some sleep. The four flights before this one passed mostly that way. Once in the sky thoughts tuned briefly to an old life that held little allure but the sky held no special interest.  What I wanted most was for the crush of lines, security, and noise, to be over.  Flights were endured.

This time I found myself gazing out at the passing clouds. BWI to PIT is only 40 minutes at jet speeds. Soon we were letting down into a gray and bumpy overcast. The auto-flight system in jets work extremely well. I doubt many of the other passengers noted the subtle sashays of pitch and yaw, and few would realize that the contrail flowing off the corner of the deployed flap indicated how humid the sky was. I felt the turn onto the approach though we were still a thousand feet or so above the ground when the tree covered hills of PA hove into few. The pilot flying missed a perfect landing by scant inches, recovered well, and set his machine down on RW10R with a satisfying thump. Boards levered up from the wings, TRs slid open, brakes rumbled, and the first flight I have enjoyed in a couple of years turned toward the gate.

It is highly unlikely I will ever command the cockpit of a jet in the flight levels again but, no matter. It is no longer home. My world view has shifted, the need for the mad rush not part of my DNA. A world without boarders, laced together with trains, ships, and pretty roads filled with efficient cars and bicycles – without a single billboard - is closer to my ideal now. And airships, how cool would that be? Ideas and thoughts, the very things that make us human, flow around the world at near the speed of light. There is really no need for the rest of the human body to try so hard for a speed that is a paltry 0.0000747% of light's velocity. (Unless my math failed me this morning, 0.0000747% of the speed of light works out to about 500mph.)

Still, it was good to visit my old life and, for all of my change in view, remember it fondly.

Note: blog time is now several days behind real time. After visits in PA and IN, we are now safely in MO.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

64

"So, you are the surveyor who is supposed to know what he is doing..”

Some might suggest such was not the best way to start a survey. But there was method to my madness. Before me stood the second surveyor we had contacted about getting Kintala a new rap sheet. The first was someone with whom we had been talking for several months. One who assured us he would be available to get the job done before our current insurance policy ran out. Just days before that deadline said surveyor disappeared into the vapor. Emails were ignored and phone message provoked no response. Yet another marine professional measuring up to the customer service standards of the industry. Deb was concerned about the deadline. I was downright unhappy.

Short on time we asked JB for a recommendation. He came up with Art Johnson Marine Surveyors. Deb called, explained our dilemma and shared some of our history with those practicing the surveyor's black art. With no alternative we set up an appointment for just two days before heading west.

The message behind my greeting should have been obvious to anyone paying attention. "Let us tolerate no illusions here. Deb has shared our history of surveys and explained the resulting insurance difficulties. I am short-tempered, skeptical, and do not intend to be trodden on again."

Kintala's was not the only survey being done. I hoped Mr. Johnson was paying attention.

After our introduction and with some preliminary paperwork finished, Mr. Johnson started at the keel, methodically working his way forward and up. He moved his moisture meter along the hull, the needle jumping when waved over the bottom paint. “Here we go again,” I thought to myself, fearing another round of Universal Hydraulic Migration.

“Just out of the water I see, the bottom paint hasn't dried out yet. This is a good, sound, dry hull.”

He made no mention of the small repair I need to do at the keel joint. He looked at it; looked at me. I nodded. He moved on. We talked about the various through-hulls. What were they for, when were they serviced last. Partly, I think, he was just checking to make sure I knew something about my boat. The idea made me smile. He checked the size and pitch of the prop, mentioned that the cutlass bearing had a couple of hundred hours of run time left in it. Spinning the prop he looked up, “V-drive?”

“Yes, and less than five years old.”

“Thought so. That much lash would be worrisome if was just the transmission.”

I smiled some more.

Outside bottom done he climbed the ladder to the deck. “Forward and to port” I called “is the deck repair I did last summer.” It is one of the things from the last survey that is killing us with the insurance companies. Mr. Johnson moved forward and to port, looked, and nodded. Then he added, “Why was this in the last survey? It isn't structural. I would mention it to an owner, but it is only an issue when a wet deck it at the mast or the hull/deck joint, sometimes under or near a cleat."

My smile was almost a full grin. Full grins are not in my normal repertoire of facial expressions when dealing with anyone from the marine industry.

He said the standing and running rigging, except for the jib sheets, looked good and pretty new. I suggested that the jib sheets had some life left in them and stated that the standing rigging had been done right at Oak Harbor less than two years ago. “Thought so,” he replied. “They do good work here.”

They do indeed. Mr. Johnson, it was becoming clear, actually did know what he was doing.

Deb joined him when he moved below. Things were examined, part numbers got checked and verified, he poked and prodded with the deliberate cadence of someone with long practice. Later he mentioned a small electrical item in the engine room that I know about. (Every one says rubber cover boots can be found everywhere. I have yet to find one that fits the starter relay.) He insisted we toss a depleted fire extinguisher directly into the dumpster, a good idea when one thinks of it. He was pleased to see how many good ones we had stashed around the boat. “Too many people,” he added, “go off shore with the absolute minimum number allowed. It isn't the kind of thing I can put in a survey, but I mention it to boat owners all the time.”

A few hours later and it was done. Mr. Johnson collected a reasonable amount of money from us, shook hands, allowed again that we had a good looking boat, and went about his business. After he left Deb brought up one item uncovered, one that sets the tone of this survey. It is a minor thing really, and more than a little embarrassing for me. (Feel free to make some fun at my expense, it is well deserved.)

Every mention I can recall about the Tartan 42 is that she holds 79 gallons of diesel.  It says so right in the Manual.  I know the broker and former owner used that number, and both of our previous surveys say the same thing.

The faded tag on the tank itself says “64”.

Mr. Johnson was the only one who caught it.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Running on auto-empty

The deadline for heading West has been driving our days, with me really hoping to have the Auto-helm mod done before we set out. Adding to the fun was me making a serious visit to the state of unhealthy, a decline which matched the unfolding demise of the auto-helm mod. As I felt worse and moved slower, bits and parts in the attempt to mount the ST1000 on the port cockpit coaming bent, twisted, broke, and failed. On the first attempt to power up the unit the course read-out showed a heading of 81 degrees. Kintala is facing just about due south as she sits in the stands; something was seriously wonky. (And not just with my bits and parts.) As it turns out the ST1000 only “knows” where it is if it is sitting laterally across the boat. Since it is designed to drive tiller steering rather than being attached to the rudder via a wind vane, it made perfect sense that it would get lost if mounted longitudinally. Perfect sense, that is, after 3 ugly days of struggling to get work done when it was near impossible just to get out of the v-berth. Amazing how smart one gets when finally recognizing what is happening right in front of one's eyes, but that's what happens when running on empty.

So yesterday all previous work was scrapped (leaving several new holes in the cockpit that I need to fill) and a whole other approach had to be dreamed up. The good news was that, for the first time in days, I could actually function for hours at a time. They turned out to be productive hours. Today went even better and, even though there is a bit of touching up and final finish work to do, the circuit breaker on the panel marked “Autopilot” is now really wired to an actual auto pilot. All the access panels are closed, all the interior parts are installed, and the ST1000 can now sit across the stern of the boat on its very own, specially designed (and soon to be pretty) hardwood shelf; rigged to the Cape Horn. As soon as we get back – and it gets prettied up – I'm sure Deb will add some pictures. Getting that thing to fit in the narrow confines of a Tartan 42's stern was a bit of a challenge. And though it is clearly “after market” it doesn't look totally hacked. Even better, we don't need to buy a $465 remote to make it work.

There were still some struggles. The electrical plug provided so the unit can be easily removed is a seriously cheesy unit with tiny screws that barely hold the required size wire. I tried tinning the wire ends so the tiny screw could get a better "bite", but then the wire wouldn't fit at all. Fortunately I learned a long time ago to leave a little extra hanging out of the hole, just for such contingencies.

Then the instructions called for a certain size drill for the unit's mounting holes, all well and good except I was mounting it in fiberglass, not wood. Disassemble, re-drill,reassemble. Not a big deal but it was near the last task of the day. Though it was a much better day than the previous several, it was still a long one where I pushed pretty hard. Dealing with tinny little screws not quite up to the task and miss-sized holes, with feet dangle off Kintala's, narrow stern eight feet or so in the air, used up pretty much all I had to give for the day. But then Friends David and Nancy salvaged things by inviting us on an ice cream run after dinner. Ice cream will fix what ails ya ...

So, all in all, I am really pleased at how the last two days worked out; kind of a "just in time" thing. In twelve hours or so we should be with Daughter Youngest and Grand Kid 5, who are meeting us in Pittsburgh for a short Family visit. Then on to Indy to see Daughter Eldest and family for a short visit. Then to St. Louis to see Daughter Middle and family; get the condo on the market, and catch up with old friends at places like Lake Carlyle. Estimated time back to Kintala is six weeks. It will be a couple of more weeks on the hard after that, and then, finally, I'll get to see if the Auto-pilot works as well in the water as it seems to work on land.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

It's all good ...

JB and his crew made room, so Kintala is sitting on the hard. Before she went into the lift we stopped at the pump-out. Backing out of the slip and over to that part of the dock went well, and it looked like I knew what I was doing. From the pump-out dock to the lift was a straight, in-reverse run of maybe two boat lengths. Within moments JB was yelling at me, Deb was trying to get a word in edge-wise, and Kintala was being her normal obstinate self in reverse. No excuse, I totally botched the approach to the lift pit. Which, I am going to claim, proves that I am an “open water” kind of guy who doesn't do well in the tight confines of being near land. In any case, for the first time in nearly 19 months our old Tartan is dry, sitting on her keel, and surrounded by support stands. Every time I get off the boat there is this little mantra I need to remember: “We are on land now, it is 12 steps down a very steep ladder, and one can get seriously hurt if one is not careful.”


Land, I have decided, is a dangerous place to be.

No wonder land dwellers show such obvious signs of stress and mental challenges. It doesn't help that we have been driving around. Apparently driving every day does something evil to one's psyche. What, pray tell, is wrong with these people getting too close, going too fast, talking on the phone, and clearly not paying much attention while getting too close, driving too fast, and talking on the phone? I really have no desire to share their apparent death-wish.

Almost 2 years in the water and this is how our Hydrocoat looks.

On the good side we can see that our bottom paint has done an excellent job; that our zincs are eroding too fast, that the stuff that comes out of the galley drain is hard on bottom paint, and that there is a small “smile” repair that needs done. I am reminded that living on a sailboat on the hard is a bit like living in a childhood tree house. Taken in the right frame of mind, it can be kind of fun. So long as it is temporary.

We are, as I suspect happens to most sailors who find themselves on the dry parts of Mother Earth, a bit overwhelmed by the list of things to do. The auto-helm, repairs on the fore deck, and bottom work must all be addressed before we find ourselves floating once again. Adding to the fun, sometime last night the manual windlass barfed its oil all over the fore deck. Not sure what happened, or why, but clearly that has to be rectified before we toss our heavy Mantus and a good length of chain back into the wet parts of Mother Earth. And there is something wonky with our Cape Horn Wind Vane that needs explained and addressed. It is a thing easier done on a step ladder than from a dink in a rough mooring field.


This, I remind myself, is as much a part of the cruising life as being anchored off of Crab Cay in the Abaco Islands. Cruising boats are beat up, battered, used hard, and pushed hard. We have found a good place, surrounded by friends, with family near by, to get ready for the next stage. Some of this time will be spent with Daughters (3) an grand kids (soon to be 9).

And that is all good.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The anatomy of a boat project

 
The List


Boat Project [n. f*&#%k this!]

     noun
  1. specific task, estimated to take 1-3 hours to add, remove, or repair a component on a cruising yacht
  2. something contemplated, devised, or planned
  3. a large or major undertaking, especially one involving considerable money, personnel, or equipment
  4. see also, simple boat project, BoatUS sinking statistics, www.yachtworld.com

Oh to be able to take the words back, "that one should only take me about 2 hours". My job for yesterday was to replace the upholstery on the nav seat, one that we built to replace the really ugly "Jetson" chair, the 60s vinyl captain's chair that was in the boat when we bought it, you know, with the ever-so-popular copper vinyl swoop trims all over it. Tim did a marvelous job building me a new cabinet to store my bakeware in, one that doubled as a nav seat. Unfortunately, the nav seat happens to sit directly next to the engine compartment and ends up being used to set things on, and to hoist yourself up with dirty hands after kneeling next to the engine compartment, and to sit on with dirty work clothes while you research parts and maintenance manuals on the computer. The fabric was showing an immense amount of wear and even washing was not restoring its lustre. Add to that the fact that the fabric was the same used on the settee cushions (which did wash nicely), and it looked even more awful. I decided to recover the seat in something that could be wiped off, some sort of Naugahyde. A trip to Hancock Fabrics with my friend Nancy a few days ago yielded an unexpectedly inexpensive piece of fabric in the discount bin, just big enough to cover the seat not once, but twice, in the event that the sharp edge of some tool finds its way next to the new seat cover.

So anyone with a boat will rapidly recognize how the day went:

  • 8:00 am: Dig out fabric. The fabric has been sitting in the discount bin at Hancock Fabrics for some time, folded, and has pretty defined creases. Unfold the fabric and lay out on deck in the sun to soften the creases.
  • 8:45 am: Sun goes behind clouds. 
  • 8:50 am: Gather a load of laundry to wash and then dry so you can tumble the fabric for a few minutes in the dryer to get the wrinkles out without wasting $1.50 in quarters just for 2 minutes.
  • 8:55 am: Head to the laundry up the hill but then realize you should bring your computer and do a blog post while its washing. Return to boat.
  • 9:00 am: Walk up the hill to the laundry.
  • 9:10 am: Realize you forgot the quarters. Return to boat.
  • 9:20 am: Load of laundry in, computer booting up.
  • 9:55 am: Transfer load to dryer, add fabric.
  • 10:45 am: Fold clothes, loosely roll fabric, return to boat.
  • 11:00 am: No shore power on this dock, so rather than drag the 80# Sailrite up the hill to the laundry, get out extension cord and drag it down the dock to the 110 outlet. Do elaborate cord run through dock cracks so no one trips, wrap around pylons, stretch to boat, plug in additional extension cord, plug into 30a shore power pigtail. Return to outlet and plug in. Climb in boat, plug in Sailrite.
  • 11:10 am: No power at the machine. Climb back out of the boat, go to 110 outlet, check outlet with Tim's shaver. No power. It was working earlier, it's Sunday and I have no idea where the breaker is so I decide to wait till Monday to sew.
  • 11:15 am: Unplug extension cord, coil neatly, unplug pigtail, return all cords to their appropriate storage areas on board. Before stowing Sailrite, walk up hill to talk to Tim and retrieve computer.
  • 11:20 am: Tim tells me where the breaker is. Of course I just stowed the elaborate cord arrangement.
  • 11:30 am: Walk to boat, climb in boat, gather cords, climb out of boat, repeat elaborate cord arrangement.
  • 11:50 am: Stop for lunch.
  • 12:15 pm: Disassemble the nav seat lid, remove old fabric.
  • 12:30 pm: Finally begin to sew.
  • 12:45 pm: Finish sewing, begin installation on seat.
  • 12:50 pm: Begin to locate the staple gun needed to staple the fabric onto the seat base. This involves removing everything in the aft cabin in front of the cabinet door where the staple gun resides. That would be a portable air conditioner and multiple buckets full of cleaning supplies.
  • 1:00 pm: Finish seat installation.
  • 1:05 pm: Begin cleanup.
  • 4:00 pm: Start dinner.
Total time for a 1-1/2 hour sewing project: 8 hours. Sound familiar?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The daily dose

If one followed my last post and the comments, particularly those of good Friend Robert, one would see a long discussion that focused on how, why, and how much, someone should be angry over this or that. Let me say that I dearly love Friend Robert's different world view, and that it is my deepest hope that we meet up at some anchorage someday, (preferably far from US shores) share a cold one or two, and debate until our hearts are content. But, be that as it may, I live on a sailboat. Anger is an infrequent visitor who can only breach Kintala's companionway when we are on the dock, in the US, with good Internet access. Only then do I get a daily dose of follies of human kind, particularly the follies of American / political / religious human kind. And, yes, I should know better than to check the news every morning. All I can plead is that old habits die hard. (Okay, I'll admit that a good wake hit from a passing boat or jet ski will provoke a word or two. But that is a short-lived bit of being incensed that comes with any display of stupid.)

In our normal world of living aboard, unaffected by the insanity that surrounds a life off the water, boat work goes on apiece. My big project at the moment is working through the ST1000 auto-helm install. No clue how long it is going to take since each step has to wait on the step before. An example is access to the transfer tube on the wind vane. We had none, though I should have thought of it as part of the original install. Yesterday was filled with sourcing a deck plate and installing it on the front face of Kintala's helm seat bulkhead. It went pretty well. In fact the frame fit in the hole cut on the first try, with no need of a rotary file to grind away the tight spots. So today was filled with trying to figure out how to hook the ST1000 to the control rod on the Cape Horn transfer tube. Several possibilities were explored. At this moment the thought is that mounting the ST1000 to the cockpit coaming and attaching it to the control rod via a push-pull cable, might (might!) be the way to go. Tomorrow we will take a harder look at making that work. If it does the whole auto-helm thing will be kind of cool, even if it does give clear evidence of back-yard engineering and make-it-work-with-what-you-got design.

Deb spent the day replacing the fabric cushion on our nav seat. The original was showing its age. The new, brown, Naugahyde cover has classed up the place considerably. Though probably an indication of my warped mind, I find working on a clean, good looking boat is easier than grunting away on one that looks tired and worn. Working through a list of projects will make any boat look like a refugee camp, but keeping the chaos factor to a minimum helps in making the work seem more worthwhile. At least it does for me. So Deb's nav seat cover, though an easy task that some might think kind of minor, goes a long way in keeping the “work-on-it-some-more” fires burning.

We have a week before leaving the boat on the hard, in the caring hands of Oak Harbor, and heading west. It is close enough that thoughts of seeing family, Daughters, and grand kids fill my day. Pretty much nothing will make me too angry when set against those images. The rest of the world can take care of itself for a while, and I hope to have the auto-helm pretty much done before we leave.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Tasty Chicken ...

Kintala and her crew are solidly back in the “Land of Plenty”, currently floating on a dock at Oak Harbor Marina. We were supposed to be on the hard by now, but the brutal climes that passed for a winter around here have JB and his crew about a month behind schedule.  They are getting boats back in the water as quickly as they can, and JB will find a place for us as soon as he can. There is plenty of work that can be done on the boat while she floats, so it isn't like we are sitting around with nothing much to do.

Friends David and Nancy have a car in these parts since this is their normal summer base. They have graciously allowed as we should use it as we have need. Since we had need of boat parts and provisions we took them up on their offer, and so found ourselves wandering around the other day, looking for both.

The food store had a big sign out front, “Whole rotisserie Chicken for $4.99.” Deb thought that was a pretty good price.  We haven't enjoyed such eats for a while so one was added to our cart. At the auto check-out the chicken passed by the magic glass, the thing “beeped” and the price came up at $6.99. Two bucks isn't that big a deal, but Deb – being the customer service guru she is – was curious. Turns out the $4.99 only applies to those who have a store card, a detail not mentioned on the sign. In other words, they were lying to us. Deb was a bit incensed and the nice lady guarding the auto check-out isle allowed as she could get us a temporary card if we liked. My response was a bit different; we are back in the United States of America, OF COURSE they are lying to us. What else would you expect?

I'm going to make two guesses. The first is, if you are reading this you are, at this very moment, agreeing with me. And the second is, just a few moments from now, you are going to start thinking what that really means, and what it says about the society we have built and live in.

“Of course they are lying to us.”

We expect nothing more. The “race” for POTUS is in full swing. (Race? Isn't that a demeaning way to describe a process for selecting the person who controls the largest collection of nuclear weapons on the planet? Are they going to win a Blue Ribbon for the world's destruction?) We expect every single person in that “race” from one party to boldly lie where no one has lied before. Global warming? Not happening. Evolution? Not happening. Jobs going away and the middle class dying? Not happening. Or, if it is, it is the fault of the “Government” and not the corporations that have bought said government, in full, no refund needed or demanded. The erosion of civil rights and the walking back of liberty and voting rights for women and minorities? Not happening.

From the other side we will likely get someone who voted for the War on Terror, who sees NAFTA as a great way to sell American jobs for cheap, and would like to do more of the same. One who thinks that deregulating Wall Street and Big Banks was a good idea. After all, her then President husband is the one who signed those bills. None of them, from either side, is going to suggest that “Pro Life” and “Pro gun” are mutually exclusive ideas. None of them is going to even hint at the idea that America's military spending is completely out of control or that our “Security state” is getting ever more insecure.

None of us expect the American media to point out these lies with any regularity or with much enthusiasm. They are fully on board with making sure “The Race” is treated as democracy at its best, a shining example to a world who, in reality, thinks the US has gone completely mad. Sure, a few on the Right will insist that Fox News is True News – and the only one. Those on the Left will point to John and say pretty much the same thing. In any case, all of us, Left or Right, correctly assume that MOST of the media is lying MOST of the time.

Or, when not outright making stuff up, just exaggerating to the point where one can't tell the difference. Since when did a snow storm become AN EVENT, named like a hurricane, with “storm trackers” dispatched to point at the sky and breathlessly claim, “LOOK, it's SNOWING!"  No kidding dork, they pay you for that?

Some of us expect our particular God spokes-persons to tell the truth, while being pretty sure all of those other god's spokes-persons are agents of the Great Deceiver. A few of the more enlightened might think not all of those others are so bad, occasionally touching on telling a bit of the truth, though still not up to OUR spokes-person's words from God. In any case most of us agree that most of the religious leaders in the world are lying most of the time. (There are a few who are pretty sure they are all lying, pretty much all of the time, but we are a still a minority in the world.)

Virtually all of us agree that “advertising” is all pure, uncut, in your face, unadulterated B.S. If we thought about it just a little more, we would realize that all political campaigns, all Corporate Announcements, and virtually all religious pronouncements, are nothing more than advertising, and cringe.

We live in a bubble of propaganda, know it, and have come to expect nothing more. How, one may wonder, can such a society long survive? I don't know that it can, which is one of the many reasons I live on a boat.

But I do have to admit that the chicken was mighty tasty.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Gill nets and Mulligans ...

The Fishing Bay anchorage.
The plan was to leave Fishing Bay and make two or three easy day-sails to finish the trek North. Sunday dawned sunny and calm. We moved over to the fuel dock to pump out the used water tank, fill up the fresh water tanks, and dump some trash. The Fishing Bay Marina turned out to be a gem of a place, good anchorage, friendly people (India runs the office, couldn't have been more helpful, and is a Charmer) … we plan on stopping there for a few more days before heading to places south. Anyway...

No wind to be had
Leaving the dock was as easy as stepping aboard, taking in the lines, and letting the gentle breeze drift Kintala free and clear. The GRIB files promised a day of little or no wind, but we rolled the head sails in and out a couple of times anyway, looking to quiet the Beast. After an hour or so we found enough air to fill the sails, and for two wonderful hours we moved along like a sailboat should. Sadly though, the GRIBs turned out to be more right than wrong. Just after 1100, drifting to a stop with sails flapping uselessly, the Beast rumbled awake and we made like power cruisers once again.

A sea of glass

And still no wind...
We had departed without having settled on an anchorage for the night.  We needed a balance of wind or no, plus functional Deck Monkey or no, divided by the need to get where we were going. There was another variable in the equation as well.  The Chesapeake is a pretty big body of water. When one is wandering down the middle of it, the only place even remotely safe from crab-pots, one can easily be ten miles or more from a suitable place to drop a hook. Ten plus miles in, ten plus miles back out; at sailboat speeds such a detour can easily add five or six hours to a two day total. Once we got to adding up the numbers it appeared that anchoring for the night would mean going nearly 30 miles further than if we just sailed on to Rock Creek and the Oak Harbor Marina. But that would mean a last minute change of plans to making an overnight run up one of the busiest Bays on the East Coast. We haven't had much luck with last minute additions of overnight runs, and started this season with a distinct ambivalence to the idea of any overnight work. Then again …

… straight to Rock Creek was a total of just 24 hour and we were already ten hours in. It was the best kind of full moon night, with moon rise just as the sun set. It was clear as a bell  We have done four overnight runs in the last month or so, and this one would be in the Bay with very little chance of weather. No wind, meaning motoring and hand steering, but there wasn't any wind in the forecast for the next several days. Motor at night, motor in the daytime, it's still motoring. So we elected to motor on...

... and had the easiest, smoothest, overnight run we have ever had. We even managed a couple of hours of sailing come late evening and into the sunset; 1815 to 2030 to be exact. This allowed the Wind Vane to do the driving while Deb cooked up and served dinner. Sweet timing indeed.

Sunset on the Chesapeake

The only downside to the whole adventure was local fishing habits. For once the crab-potters seemed to have figured out where the shipping channel was located. The same cannot be said for those stringing out gill nets, particularly those working between the channel markers of Red 68 and Red 80. Those daft buggers are apparently dense or lazy, laying out their prop-traps with one end at the a channel marker - my guess is so the duffs can find it again without having to learn how to use a GPS - with the other end strung out into the channel many hundreds of feet! Yikes.

Big boats tend to run in the middle of the channel leaving the nests unmolested, though my guess is such boats would chew through such gear without notice. North bound forty-two foot sailboats, on the other hand, tend to run close to Reds to give the big boats room. Kintala would certainly notice if she ran over one, likely drifting to a stop with prop and rudder hopelessly fouled.

Cruise ship leaving Baltimore heading for the islands. Wait...why are we going the opposite direction????

Fortunately, most of the dodging was completed before the sun went completely down, though one passed close down our port side in the moon light. By shear luck the net stretched out away from our hull, the other marker even deeper out in the channel. Yikes!  I certainly hope that one got shredded into tiny little bits by one of the big boats that later closed in on us from the stern.

One of the ships we dodged

Note to self: look behind often when running this channel at night. The big cargo ships heading for Baltimore are scary fast and surprisingly quiet; and run all night long. Looking back over one's port shoulder to see four stories worth of bow slicing through the water just 0.1 nm away WILL make the heart pound. After that scare I kept a much better watch and, using the information on our I.A.S., called each boat by name when they were two miles astern, making sure they had us in sight, and letting them know we would be moving close to the Reds to give them plenty of room for a pass on our port side. Nearly every one of them thanked us for checking in.  It was all very professional and kind of fun.  Echos of landing a Cessna 150 at Pittsburgh International Airport at rush hour on a Monday morning. (Those of you who don't get the connection, don't worry. Those that do... yeah, that was me.)

Rock Creek anchorage early in the morning

Just after dawn we pulled into Rock Creek and now sit on the hook just a mile or so from Oak Harbor. Later today we will head in and transition from cruising to getting ready to cruise. It is almost like a mulligan; sell the house, visit family along the way, fix up the boat, say good-by to the kids and grand kids, try not to get trapped too far north come Autumn. We did this once already. Let's all hope the second try works out a little easier than did the first.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Close ... getting close ...

Staying in Fishing Bay for a day or so turned out to be an even better idea than it seemed at first. The weather that was heavy rain and winds to 40, that had faded to showers and winds less than 20, arrived as moderate rain with winds gusting to 30. And it is cold! Not sure exactly how cold since our outside temperature gauge is one of the things that hasn't enjoyed being exposed to salt air. Phone weather says it is 55 degrees somewhere near here, but it feels a lot colder than that. Lows tonight are forecast for the mid 40s, ugh. After that Spring is supposed to show up, so all we need do is shiver through the next 48 hours. Two days of travel after the sun returns and Kintala will be as far north as she is going this year.

There are a lot of uncertainties after that. Numbers for home sales and unemployment rates are not encouraging, but selling the condo is a must do or all cruising bets are off. Even if the condo goes the the grim specter of having to find a paycheck for a while to fill the hole in our budget looms. How I envy those who made a clean get-a-way; who can stop at a marina without counting pennies, drink a $3 beer at the local watering hole without thinking the ones on the boat cost half as much, or contemplate boat projects without cringing. After nearly 19 months in the water and 4000 miles under her keel, and while somewhat neglected during the summer of the Bear, Kintala is deserving of a little tender loving care. Some kind of auto pilot is a must. Bottom paint, fiberglass work where 50 knot winds left their mark, the non-skid on deck is getting ugly, we would like to add another solar panel and more batteries to the bank; all things that need attention. And I am sure at least one pretty big job lurks somewhere that has yet to raise its head. In fact one of my major concerns is getting caught too far north again, too late in the season, and facing another winter run down the ICW. That would be a big “Ugh” indeed.

On the other hand … Daughters and Grand Kids await, including the newest due within weeks. There are friends we hope to see, and other friends we hope to meet and join on the trek south with come late summer. Some still in the Islands are thinking of heading to the Chesapeake for the summer. Others are already north of us, and we will be meeting them as soon as we get to Oak Harbor. That will be a fair and happy reunion, one of the true joys of this life. The idea of hooking up for a few weeks of traveling together is enough to take the gloom off of a day like this one. Come fall we may not get far, but we will get somewhere. Jobs, if they be necessary, will have to be found where where the snow doesn't fly nor the water freeze. Home will still mean Kintala. While her sailing capabilities can only be admired, her cold weather livability leaves much to be desired.

A summer of labor followed by a winter of cruising seems a pretty common theme. If we settle into being members of that part of the cruising tribe, we will be keeping good company. But first, one more day of cold, then two more days of travel.