Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dialects


We all learn our first language in a way as old as the species, total immersion. We are born with no language at all but, after a few years of copying everyone around in making strange noises, manage to catch on. It is surely a labor intensive endeavor, but so is learning to walk and getting spoon to mouth without poking the eye. It helps that little ones' minds are very pliable. New concepts and understanding are an every day, every hour, every minute affair; it is all they know of living. It is also before they learn to remember things very well so, as adults, most never think of how hard it must have been.

A lucky few grow up in families where two languages are spoken at home or who, as children, get to live in a culture that speaks a different language than the one spoken at home. They learn a second language with near the same ease as the first. Those not so fortunate, if they want to master a second language, usually end up working through hours and hours (and hours) of carefully constructed lessons, each building on things learned in the lesson before. It can be a daunting task for those whose minds are no longer very pliable and who, this time around, will remember the effort. Some, in an effort to repeat the apparent ease with which they mastered their first language, try total immersion once again. I talked with some folks from our old Spanish group in St. Louis who had made such a plunge. One cast the effort in a colorful way with a single sentence; “At the end of each day my brain hurt.”

I spent a lifetime flying and, as a part of that discipline, “learned” some of the language of Mother Earth in much the same way as most “learn” Spanish or French: hours of carefully constructed lessons building a working knowledge. It was sufficient to get me safely home (with an admitted scare or two along the way) and I can certainly speak the language of weather better than those who did not spend a career in the sky. But I am not a native speaker. There are subtleties and nuances of meaning that I miss. I know so because, as a person living and traveling full time on a small sailboat, I am taking the full immersion path to being fluent in speaking Mother Earth. And, at the end of many days, my brain hurts. Sometimes also my butt from the thrashing taken, hands from the sheets wrestled with, shoulders from grinding away on winches, and stomach from heaving over the side for a couple of hours.

I grew up in an industrialized society that has managed to push nature a step or two away from everyday living. “Every day” weather, the normal variances of wind, precipitation, temperature, and length of day, pass by almost without notice. A five minute blurb of the TV while downing the last sip of coffee before heading out to the car is all the “weather” most people experience. It is only when massive winds blow out of hurricanes or tornadoes, or equally massive amounts of rain or snow fall, or truly extreme temperatures overwhelm an area, that the goings on of the earth have much impact on the day of most people.

On a small sailboat every change in the weather is noted at least, and often changes the very course of a day. The language of the goings on of the earth is continuous, but the language of Mother Earth is more than just the weather that is coming. This is the environment in which we evolved. It is a part of us, we are a part of it. All of our perceptions are based on this environment. The colors we see, the temperatures we find comfortable, the shape of our bones and the density of our muscles, the sounds that we hear and the food that we taste, all are based on being creatures evolving in this tiny corner of the universe in this particular stretch of time. The language of Mother Earth is the foundation for our very being, but we have lost the ability to understand.

There are rare moments, sitting at anchor as the sun sets or keeping a night watch out in the big, when whisperings in that ancient, original, language ghost across the water. Having lived “out here” for more than two years now, I know there is meaning and wisdom in the whispering, but the words are indistinct. My untrained ear stumbles over meanings that are subtle, like those found in verse and song and art. My command of the language isn't enough to catch more than a hint of the encouragement being offered, but the hint is enough. Turning my ear toward the sea and sky, being immersed in the language that defines our very existence, trying to catch a bit of the wisdom that lies behind a self aware being who is as much a part of the cosmos as any star – there is a draw there, a longing, that cannot be denied.

It is best to leave all convictions aside when the whispers come for, as JBS Haldane reminds us, “the universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.” It is a time to listen, not speak; to learn, not pontificate. It is a time to balance all of the work, effort, discomfort, and distance from loved ones this lifestyle entails with a touch of acceptance and place and meaning.

The language of Mother Earth will never come naturally to me. I spent too many years learning a different tongue, the coarse dialect of modern man; one of envy, greed, power, violence and domination. It is a language that breeds nuclear weapons and terrorists around every corner, where killing is a sacred act and the god of War the only acceptable deity.

But at least I am learning to tilt my head in a different direction, to catch some words from a different language.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Foolish Voyage: Self-Discovery at Sea (A Book Review)

In the early months of full-time cruising, one of the things that floated around the periphery of my sub-conscious as I stood watch on our overnight passages was whether or not I would be capable of single-handing Kintala in the event that something happened to Tim. My fear-driven, wild imagination nearly paralyzed me in those first few months, exacerbated by the occasional freakish weather event that required his attention on our very dangerous foredeck. We would run into single-handers as we socialized in anchorages – some male, some female, some smallish boats, some quite large – and always my reaction was awe and admiration.

It's hard to imagine what drives the soul who wishes to ply the big oceans alone, especially one in a small boat. I've been out there in big, blue water enough to understand the challenges of sea sickness, sleep deprivation, and physical exhaustion, and I have experienced those with the support of a deep relationship with a life-long partner. To take it all on willingly, alone...hard to wrap my head around it, so I was interested when I was approached to review the book AFoolish Voyage: Self-Discovery at Sea by Neil Hawkesford.

Neil's yearning for the sea was motivated in part by having suffered the similar disillusionment with corporate greed and power struggles that we did. At an early age he was dismissed from a position unjustly, found himself with a lawsuit settlement as a result, and began thinking about the sea as an alternative to his quite unhappy life. He had been inspired by the book Shrimpy by Shane Acton and had been long interested in the boat that Shane used to sail around the world, an 18-foot plywood Caprice daysailer. After looking for a similar boat, he found an 18-foot Hurley Silhouette and bought her. He named her Mor Gwas, which means “Sea Servant” in the old Cornish language. After a three-month refit he began his voyage.

A Foolish Voyage tells the story of the making of a true voyager. Neil's determination to live a life worth living inspires the reader to do the same: to challenge the status quo and to evaluate a life's direction. It is a story of achieving a dream and the hurdles one must overcome on the way. It is also a story of failure and how it impacts our lives and spirits. For some, failure is an unscalable brick wall, a devastation so complete as to halt the endeavor. For others, it is a challenging opportunity to grow. In A Foolish Voyage Neil bares his soul and allows us, the readers, to join him in the examination of our own failures if we dare.

A Foolish Voyage is a stroll through the world of the small-boat sailor in England, rich with the types of characters one always seems to find in the vicinity of small boats and replete with the heady sensations of harbours as well as the open sea. It is at once both a tale of courage as well as doubt, a vivid account of those moments that, if survived, make the stories sailors love to tell “round a pint” or two...much, much later.

While Mor Gwas' ending is not so happy, Neil picked up the pieces and built a Wharram Tiki 38 catamaran along with the help of his partner Gail. You can read about his current escapades on his blog at thegledaproject.com.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Politics and pot lucks

Kintala has been anchored up in Stuart for the Holiday week, celebrating with friends who are here as well. There was never really much of a “plan” to all end up here together, it just worked out that way. Some are here struggling through the last tasks of a major refit. (At least they hope they are the last tasks.) Some are here staging for the Islands. And one lives here now, having moved back on land after solo cruising the Islands for a while. With Daughters (3) and Grand Kids (9) far away this Christmas, it would be hard to express just how grateful I am that the cruising tribe does this gypsy thing of gathering and “setting up camp” whenever a couple of boats happen to be resting near each other.

Then, a day or so a go, Deb got wind of a pot-luck dinner at a yacht club not too far from here. It was a combination SSCA / Women Who Sail thing. A bunch of plans were made and unmade as to who could go and how we could get there. In the end the crew of Skimmer, rafted up next to Kintala, decided to just sail up the river. We went along since sailing the five miles or so seemed a lot better deal than walking or driving. After a bit of drama getting the boats apart, mostly caused by yours truly making a bad call on the bow line being the first to go given the winds. I tossed the line rather than suffer the indignity of having it drag me off of Kintala and into the water between the boats. Skimmer circled around and made a very nice touch-n-go to gather me up. We shut off the engine, rolled out the jib, and sailed merrily away on a run. The first bit of sailing we have done in a while was pretty close to perfect.

The lunch was pretty good as well. It turned out there was a guest speaker; Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich, Comodoro Club Nautico Internacional, Hemingway, de CUBA! How cool is that? He is in the US helping to normalize the procedures for Americans to cruise his country. As can be imagined it is a bit of a bumpy road, but Comodoro Escrich seemed very pleased with the progress being made. He also offered an invitation to become members of the Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba. There are good reasons to do so if one is trying to work out a trip to Cuba and, truth is, Deb and I are thinking about it. If nothing else, how cool would it be to be members of the Marsh Harbor Yacht Club in the Bahamas (which we are) and members of the Hemingway International Yacht club of Cuba?

At the moment, if an American does go to Cuba, the Cuban government will grant a 30 day visit with a near automatic 30 day extension. Desafortunadamente, the US government will only allow its citizens to remain in Cuba 14 days. I'm not sure what happens if Mother Ocean doesn't provide a weather window to comply with the demands of the Department of Homeland Security. I guess that's one of the bumps still being worked out.

Also at the lunch was a Canadian cruising couple where, as with the crew of Kintala, the Admiral was bi-lingual while the deck monkey stood around trying to look like he understood the conversations going on in Spanish. (I actually caught a word or two, now and then. Made me happy.) After Mr. Escrich left, we sat around chatting with the Canadians and a Cuban ex-pat who lives near the Yacht club were we had lunch. (He also owns two cruising boats, one power, one sail.) Fortunately, most of that conversation was in English, though Deb and Heather (Admiral of the Canadian boat) took full advantage of the chance to chat in Spanish. (Stuart and I standing around trying to look like we understood.)

It was a fun afternoon full of laughter. Understandable, since American Clown Car Politics and our society's weird obsession with lawyers, guns, and money, was kind of the theme for the day. It would appear the rest of the world can't bring themselves to take Americans very seriously, regarding us as a weird kind of joke being played on the world. It seems a pretty rational approach to me, and I think I will borrow it. Cubans, Canadians, Americans, an ex-pat Israeli, and a guy who spoke with a heavy British accent (I didn't get much of his story)...quite a mix for an ad hock pot luck. And not that unusual in the tribe of gypsy cruisers.

Mid afternoon found Skimmer carrying us back to the anchorage, coming to rest next to Kintala once again. Sailing was close to the wind, multiple tacks, and a really good time. We tied the last of the spring lines just as the day faded, gathered up some stuff, jumped in the Dinks (Skimmer and Kintala's) and headed off to join the crew of Kokopelli for sundowners.

But I still managed to miss being with Daughers (3) and Grand Kids (9).

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Going to the Dark Side

No, I'm really not much of a Star Wars fan. Haven't seen the new one. Haven't seen any of the prequels. And it has likely been several decades since I have watched any of the original “Big Three”, though I vaguely remember enjoying them when they were first released. It might be an interesting experience to see them again. The older I get the less appreciation I have for simplistic story lines and clean cut boarders between right vs wrong and good vs evil. (The same chafes at me with the LOTR movies, and I never made it all the way through the three Hobbit movies – though maybe I will – someday.) My guess is the Big Three wouldn't be quite as much fun as the first time around.

Our home for
Nor have Deb and I decided to move to some kind of power boat. Kintala is still our home, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. But I am going to the Dark Side nonetheless. For I know a guy who manages a boat yard. A good guy. One I consider a friend, and one who does the kind of work that should always be done when someone is paying for a job to be done right. The person who owns the boat yard where my friend works feels the same, and their reputation is getting around. The yard is full of projects, there are more projects coming in, and they are having some trouble finding people to do the work that an increasing list of customers wants to have done.

My name came up and, as a result, I was invited to drop by and see if we might have something to offer each other. It appears we do. I have a lifetime spent working as a mechanic in a demanding field, with now eight years working on boats, years that include two extensive refits and uncounted repairs and modifications. They have a place for us to live and the means for us to fill a nearly depleted “cruising kitty." So, come sometime early next spring, Kintala will settle into a slip in a boat yard and I will start punching the clock as a full-time, paid, “professional marine technician," the very kind of person about whom I have written so many kind words of admiration and awe these past few years, including countless blog posts and a book. Talk about walking a mile in another person's shoes...

I am still working my head around the idea. My last job was as an extremely well-paid Director of Flight Operations / Chief Pilot. There was no time clock anywhere in the vicinity. In fact, I haven't punched a time clock in over 30 years. So the bad news is the kitty is not going to refill in any great hurry. The good news is that it doesn't have to fill very far to support a lifestyle far simpler and much more modest than the one lived as a Director of Flight Operations / Chief pilot. There is also this nagging thought: I am not a “professional marine technician”, not really. I was a professional aviation technician and am a boat hobbyist. A boatyard lives in a different reality. Get them in, get them done, get paid, get them gone. It keeps the lights on, fuel in the travel lifts, and money in the bank to cover the paychecks. No excuses. No alternatives.

I haven't been a citizen in that kind of world for a very long time, and it may not be as much fun as the last time around. But there is no escaping the reality. I have, over the years dealing with the marine industry, claimed to be at least as good and usually better than the ones whose work I have had to correct, replace, or live with. Now I get to prove it.

No excuses.

I do have to admit, though, it looks like they are having a lot of fun in the yard. There are boats with the bottoms peeled and boats with huge access holes cut in the hulls so fuel tanks and / or engines can be removed. Various systems are being installed, masts are down, ways to fit custom these or add specialty those are being sorted out. There is a wood shop, a fabricating shop, indoor sheds for working on some projects, and covered slips for working on others. A paint booth will fit anything they can haul, and there are three travel lifts in motion. It is exactly the kind of place kids with little belts full of plastic toy tools hope to find when they grow up. Being in the place stirred memories of hangars and airplane parts, tough people, tough jobs, hard work, and things getting done. Good memories of a world where I was once at home. A place to find some satisfaction in being at home once again.

A place that may not be the Dark Side after all.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Stuart noise

Stuart, FL. Many people have told us good things about Stuart FL. We have been here four nights now, and one thing not mentioned is how loud it is. There is a train track that runs right past the marina off of which Kintala in anchored, a very busy train track. A train track that is as busy at night as it is in the day. There is a lifting bridge that the trains use. Every time the bridge is about to close for the passing of a train, day or night, a loud horn sounds to warn boaters that the bridge is closing. It sounds three times for three times. Then the train comes.

The Stuart anchorage, complete with derelict boat.

There are a couple of roads that cross the train track right around the marina. Roads that require all trains to blast their horns as they approach, day or night. Trains have very loud horns. There is also an airport near by, though the passing aircraft are not nearly as loud as the passing trains.

The anchorage itself is much better protected that it appears upon arrival. There is a long fetch of water off to the WSW, but it doesn't appear to be deep enough to support any serious wave action. Artificial waves are pretty much the only kind that rock Kintala, complements of the large fleet of deep-v-hulled sport-fishing boats that pass through these waters on the way to the ocean.

Living on a boat goes a long way to fostering a live-and-let-live attitude, except when it comes to deep-v-hulled sport-fishing boats. There is something about the way they assault the water that lingers, with short-period, steep-sided wakes rocking our world whenever they pass. Someone suggested there is a turn in the river that is just right for focusing the passing wakes; don't know if that is true. What I do know is that even the bigger boats in the marina where our friends on Kokopelli are getting some rigging work done, dance like mad several times a day. From where I live it appears that deep-v-hulled sport-fishing boat drivers suffer from a genetic disorder that prevents them from either slowing down or looking behind them to see what havoc they wreak.

I was on Kokopelli the other day, helping to install a transmission after a seal leak lead to an overhaul. One of those wakes hit while I was below. Access doors got to banking back and forth, drawers slammed in and out, and round handled tools went rolling. I was glad the tranny was already bolted in place. For a while, during its install, it had hung precariously over fingers and toes as Brian and I worked out the 3-D Chinese puzzle that always seems a part of getting drive train parts in or out of boats. And Kokopelli is tied securely to a dock. My guess is getting fingers bashed by wake-tossed transmissions isn't something they mention in marine mechanic's school.

Speaking of which, I'm just assuming there is such a thing as a marine mechanic's school somewhere in the world. There isn't much evidence of it where marine mechanics have been. Take, for example, Kintala's old oven. It has been around long enough to have experienced the laying on of many pairs of repairman's hands. LPG stoves use brass flare nut fittings to keep the gas from leaking into places no one wants the gas to go. Brass isn't all that stout so a special kind of wrench is best used, appropriately called a “flare nut wrench”. I know about flare nut wrenches. Mechanics who work on cars know about flare nut wrenches. (Often used in brake systems.) Crane mechanics know about flare nut wrenches. The service reps for our brand of stove even know about flare nut wrenches. They specifically asked if we had some on board when they heard we were working on the stove.

Marine mechanics, on the other hand, don't seem to know about flare nut wrenches. More than half of the fittings needing undone to replace our defective mercury switch wouldn't take the proper sized flare nut wrench. They had been distorted by the use of common open end wrenches or (more likely) the misuse of adjustable wrenches. (Maladjusted adjustable wrenches will mangle even hardened steal nuts and bolts, and have rightly earned the nick-name “bugger wrench”. Brass fittings don't stand a chance.) Eventually I managed to get all of the fittings off, on, and tight enough to keep the gas from leaking into places no one wants gas to go. But it took three tries. And the next time the fitting on the mercury switch needs undone, I suspect it will be the last. I am a pretty fair hand with a wrench, but that poor little fitting has been bugger-wrenched nigh unto death.

(Yes, I am assuming work done to Kintala's stove was done by marine professionals. Most of the boat owners I know are shy of working on anything having to do with LPG. Deb gets nervous when I work with it. The stuff does have a bad habit of going “boom” if things are not done properly. Getting a “pro” to work on LPG systems isn't, on its face, a bad idea at all.)

For now Kintala sits quietly in Stuart, stove and oven fully functional, some other small items fixed. We are taking a bit of a break from moving nearly every day, and Stuart seems a good place to rest and catch up on some broken boat bits.

Even with the noise.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The gargantuan glut

 glut

(ɡlʌt)
n
1. an excessive amount, as in the production of a crop, often leading to a fall in price
2. the act of glutting or state of being glutted
vb (tr) , gluts, glutting or glutted
3. to feed or supply beyond capacity
4. (Commerce) to supply (a market) with a commodity in excess of the demand for it
5. to cram full or choke up: to glut a passage.

Periodically (and really only rarely) Facebook's algorithms hit spot on and something enters my feed that is so relevant that it deserves more than a quick Like or Share. The article at the following link is such a thing, and I'm shocked that it was published in 2012 and it took me this long to find. It moved me, and I want to talk about it, but first you must read it. Go ahead, I'll wait.


Can you breathe yet? Because that's the way that all this glut of stuff makes me feel. When I walk into Target (or any other big box store) this time of year I feel frantic - I simply have to turn and run out the door just so I can breathe. The excess presses me from all sides, the coercion of guilt compels me to want to buy useless stuff for my grandchildren in some freakishly corrupt desire to secure a place in their hearts.

George Monbiot's statement that, "this boom has not happened by accident. Our lives have been corralled and shaped in order to encourage it", was born out by the stacks and stacks of things we ended up throwing away because we couldn't even sell it to move onto the boat. No one wanted it. My kids didn't want any of those countless ridiculous Christmas gifts sitting in boxes, sealed, that I had worked so many hours to foolishly buy. Not even perusers of Craigslist could be convinced.  Selling what we could and moving onto our boat helped sever the ties, for sure. But still the pull is there to fill even this small space with the latest boat gadget, and to spend money we don't have to honor some obligatory exchange. The latest cruising glossies as well as most of the popular sailing blogs are rife with gift lists for sailors. Facebook is full of Amazon ads for the perfect gift.

STOP!

So what can you do? Monbiot's assessment, "When the world goes mad, those who resist are denounced as lunatics," seems to fit those of us in the cruising community so well. We have resisted and denounced and yet the tethers to this maddening glut of consumption are still strong. But there's hope. Our consumerist society can be salvaged if only we would learn to spend our money on experiential gifts rather than grotesque assemblages of cheap plastic and glitter that feed the pockets of Disney or Mattel. This holiday season, and for the rest of the year for that matter, give the gift of time. In Monbiot's words,

"Bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, tell them a joke, but for God’s sake stop trashing the planet to tell someone you care. All it shows is that you don’t "

(Ed Note: for more reading on the issue, The Story of Stuff Project)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

No controversy

John, Deb, Tj, Nancy, David circa October 2013

We had friends at Oak Harbor Marina. So we sailed 1000 miles north and spent the summer. When the summer ended we left Oak Harbor to visit a friend in Kent Narrows. We left Kent Narrows to visit friends in Annapolis. We met some new friends there as well. We sailed on to Severn River to meet some friends and, as it turned out, dodge a hurricane. At Hospital point we joined up with friends from the summer before and headed down the ICW. We stopped in Oriental and some friends caught up with us. They caught up with us again in Wrightsville Beach. We stopped in North Myrtle Beach to see friends. We had no friends in Buckstown, but they invited us in for Thanksgiving dinner anyway. And so we made some new friends. We were invited to Sisters Creek in Jacksonville to meet some friends. While pinned to the dock waiting for the wind to let up we made friends with others also stuck. Since then we have played hopscotch down the ICW with a couple of them. They passed us when we spent an extra day in Titusville to meet a new friend, have lunch, and show him the boat. We caught up with our Sisters Creek friends here in Vero Beech where we stopped to meet some old friends from the lake back in IL. When we leave here it will be on to Stewart to, you guessed it, catch up with some friends. When, eventually, we make it to far Southern FL there will be some old and very dear friends already there.

We have been “out here” for just over two years. Yet nearly everywhere we go there are people we know, and our itinerary is as determined by who is where as it is by the weather. Which is pretty amazing considering that the majority of our friends are gypsies constantly on the move. It is even more amazing when considering that many people, including my wife, don't consider me to be particularly “user friendly”. Oh, I am a comfortable public speaker and, given the right kind of get-together, will enjoy slinging stories with the best of them. But I am pretty much useless at parties, "mingling" being something at which I have neither skill nor interest. I am also not particularly fond of being in closed in places with masses of people. A small venue with some live music is about my limit.

And, in virtually all cases, I am pretty much expressly forbidden (for very good reasons, I might add) from jumping into discussions focused on politics, religion, sex, or money. (Actually, any talk of politics will include religion, sex, and money. Any talk of religion will include politics, sex, and money. And any talk of sex...well, you get the idea.) Deb categorizes most of my views on these kinds of issues as being simply “off the reservation.” There are no labels that fit, no political parties whose views I share, and apparently no gods who will tolerate me, or me them.

See what she means?

So, the fact that we have friends scattered all over this part of the Atlantic coast with several more in the Islands, says a lot about the cruising tribe. Some of them are even aware of my “off the reservation” status, but don't mind having me around anyway. Which is kind of understandable since, I suspect, a few of them are nearly as far off the currently acceptable ideological beaten paths as I am. Not that we talk about it, even then. Given a world as angry, self-righteous, and violent as the one we are currently sailing through, being a bit cautious about what one says to whom is a pretty good survival skill.

Instead we will talk about anchoring techniques, weather, routing, sail rig, and boat maintenance.

No controversy there.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Just Pics

Our friends on Goldie




The Haulover Canal. Incredibly narrow and usually completely choked with fishing boats. Wednesday afternoon seems
to be a good time to go through.


The bridge tenders



These are truly the most graceful birds we see.



This is the way it is with dolphins - blink and you miss them.

video

Broken dreams

The Florida ICW can be beautiful, populated with a much greater number of various types of wildlife than you see farther up north. We've seen dolphins more than we can count, pelicans that let the bow wake push them out of the way while staring haughtily at you like the intruder you are, the hilarious antics of the cormorants with their gigantic fish catches, and the occasional turtle popping up to check us out. Unfortunately, the wildlife is usually perched amidst the remnants of so many broken dreams. All along the Florida ICW there is an endless string of sunken and anchored boats in varying states of disrepair. In the midst of the fierce anchoring law debate in this state, it's hard to remember that each one of these wrecks represents somebody's dream of freedom lost. It's sobering.






Back to the beginning

We stopped at the Titusville mooring field yesterday so that we could meet a blog reader who (bless his heart) went all the way back to the beginning of our blog and read it through and contacted us shortly after. In addition to meeting a new friend, it was good to take a day's break from the relentless early morning all day runs we've been slogging through the past few weeks.

The deck of Nomad circa 2008

After a leisurely morning in a very nice, screened-in cruiser's porch at the Titusville Marina doing updates on our Active Captain and Garmin and Navionics with their wifi, we met Colby and gave him a ride out to see Kintala in the dink, followed by a nice lunch in the cafe section of downtown. We chatted about all the projects done on the boat, about learning to sail, about kids and jobs (or the lack of) and goals and dreams. Colby is just starting out with his cruising dream with no prior sailing experience just like us, so the conversation was centered primarily on what it was like in the beginning. We reminisced about our ASA 101, 103, 104, 105 and 114, and about stumbling around Nomad before we had learned much of anything.

As we talked, I began to realize the volume of knowledge and experience we've accumulated in the last eight years. I could see that it could be a bit overwhelming to someone with just a glimmer of a dream and a ton of questions on how to turn it to reality. As we debated the benefits of learning to sail in a trailer sailor versus a boat in a permanent slip, it occurred to me that it's really a good thing every once in a while to sit down and think back to the days in the beginning - to remember that glimmer of a dream that you've managed somehow to turn into reality. The cruising life can be so encompassing that it's easy to forget how far we've come, and I'm really grateful for the fresh eyes of a dreamer to remind me.

Thank you Colby.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Great Escape

Light through the v-berth hatch looks gray and uninviting. While not as cold as in Wrightsville Beach, it doesn't look to be Florida warm out there either. On the other hand, the v-berth is toasty perfect. The only idea provoking any enthusiasm at all is to snuggle deeper into the fuzzy embrace and ignore the coming of another day. Sadly, such ignoring will not allow for escaping the embrace of Sisters Creek. Deb is already up and about. Crawling out of the berth takes a minor act of will. Not bitching and moaning about it takes a massive act of will. One that is only partly successful.


The day doesn't look any better from the top of the companionway. Misty and dreary, low hanging clouds and reduced visibility rule the just-rising sun. It feels like an early start, but by the time deck and engine checks are complete and the Beast kicked awake, Kintala is the next-to-last boat on the dock. Everyone else having already made good their departure. Being tail-end-Charley isn't all bad though, there is plenty of room for getting off the dock against current and wind, making the turn, clearing the signpost, and entering the channel. Mr. Bridge Tender is as cooperative as can be, even having opened his span several times in the past half hour or so to set the captives free. Turn the corner and we are under way once again.

The stop at Sisters Creek wasn't really that bad. We met new friends Terri and Larry, and Friend Kacey drove down from Savanna to visit for a couple of nights. But the wind, modest facilities, out-back location, and Dudley-do-right the Brain-Locked Ranger, took the shine off the place.

The rest of the day goes by easily enough. It feels cold though, and the sun is slow to push aside the clouds. A Skype visit with Daughter Middle and Grand Kids Five comes and goes in early afternoon. Such visits always brighten a day. The last fixed bridge of the route passes overhead, St. Augustine beckons. A boat we shared the dock with at Sisters Creek has suffered some kind of an engine problem and is on the mooring ball we are supposed to take. It takes a few turns while things get straightened out; we see them clearing the mooring. St. Augustine was the very first place we picked up a mooring. We have done it a few times since then.

Even the birds have their beaks tucked in for the cold.

The day's motor run has driven the batteries into float for the first time since we hit Sisters Creek. There will be no need for the generator tonight. The hot water tank is full of hot water. With the deck set for the evening a dirt-dweller's shower, long and hot, feels like a reward well earned.


Kintala is now on the ball and riding into the current and wind, nodding gently in the waves. It is a big improvement over grinding against a dock. The setting sun is visible, its rays belie the still cool temperature. The clouds have finally given way.

Our escape is complete.






















The sun finally poking through. What a difference in the surrounding colors with the sunshine.

Peering out the St. Augustine inlet. Glad we chose the inside route today.
A St. Augustine tour ship
St. Augustine all lit up for Christmas

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Finally made it to Florida...

The first day here when it was sunny and calm
...where we have been pinned hard against the dock in 30 knot winds, temps in the mid 50s, intermittent rain. It would be better to be in a protected anchorage, but this is a free dock in Jacksonville and we are touching bases with several friends while here. Being on a dock always makes that easier, unless the wind is blowing 30 knots.

It is hard to get comfortable. The wind is broadside to the boat so we are heeled over. Even with every fender we own placed between the dock and the hull, one still worries a bit about the constant grinding motion between the two. Which, usually, ends up with going out to check on things every couple of hours, night or no night. That is okay though, since there is no real way of keeping a boat quiet in this kind of wind. Things flap and bang and creak, and crushed fenders squeal like they are being tortured. There is not much sleeping going on, might as well get up and check on things.

This morning was day number five. The winds fell to the low to mid 20s overnight so it was a little less uncomfortable, a little less noisy, and good for getting a little more sleep. Then, at 0730, someone starting pounding on the side of the boat. That can only mean something is going wrong for someone on the dock and they need help, right?

No. A dweeb of a Park Ranger stood on the dock, wanting to inform us that we had exceeded the 3 day limit for staying and needed to leave.

Are you kidding me?

Today at 22 knots. Too windy yesterday to take pictures
There was 20 knots of wind blowing directly into his face as he stood looking at the boat. At his feet five fenders were being smashed flat as Kintala leaned against the dock. Fortunately for Dudley-Do-Right in his efforts to exercise what (I suspect) he thinks of as an important and necessary duty, he was talking to Deb. She was patient enough to try and enlighten this hopeless wanker as to the realities of boats, docks, winds, and currents. At 0730 in the morning after days of 30 knot winds, woken from the first good sleep since the overnight run, to have someone trying to chase me away from a place where the bathroom doesn't lock and doesn't flush, where the trash cans are overflowing, and where there is nothing within walking distance of any use? Does this idiot actually think we traveled 1000 miles to be squatters here? St. Augustine is a day away. A few days south of that is the promised land of Biscayne Bay, with the Bahama Islands only a day's sail from there. There is nothing I want more than to be on our way from this place.

Obviously the man was suffering some kind of mental episode begging for an "intervention". He would have a much better grasp of reality, might even become a useful member of the human tribe, if somehow he could clear his head of a truck load of stupid.  Had it been me, there might have been a short conversation punctuated by a loud splash. I would have considered tossing him into the water an act of human kindness, a cold bath might be just the thing he needs to snap out of his delusions.

With any luck we will be out of here tomorrow, saving what little is left of my sanity. The Park Ranger will just have to remain deluded and useless, unless someone else takes the time to help him clear his head.

Welcome to Florida.

The Sisters Creek free dock. Beautiful place as long as the wind isn't howling

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Tiny House tribes

The original hope, eons ago it seems now, was to cross into Florida within hours of the end of hurricane season. According to the insurance company, that didn't happen. But NOAA has a different idea of when a hurricane could spin up to romp across the land. Kintala did, in fact, cross into Florida within hours of the end of the OFFICIAL hurricane season. That's good enough. Our southbound journey has given way to “being here.”

It took a 31 hour motor in the ditch to get from Charleston to Jacksonville. It seemed a bit unfair. With the exception of a couple of hours up near Charleston there was virtually no wind. Yet a constant 4 to 5 foot swell harried the boat all the way to the breakwater in Jacksonville. Well, it didn't really bother the boat so much as wear out the crew. The good news is that the tiller pilot / wind vane didn't mind the swell at all. Note to self; a cruising boat without a working auto helm is not really a cruising boat.

A thing we sometimes do while on an overnight passage is to listen to downloaded pod casts, often a TED talk taken from NPR. One we listened to on this last run was a discussion of tiny houses. We live in a tiny house so it was interesting to hear what other people think of our lifestyle. It was thoughtful, though most of the discussion revolved around urban living and tiny houses / apartments making use of “private” space while sharing “public” spaces with others living in tiny houses. At that particular moment Kintala was far enough off shore that the coast off our starboard side was just a glow of lights. Off the port side lay the Atlantic for thousands of miles. Opinions of urban living and shared spaces don't reflect that part of our reality.

Some of the motivations for living smaller and lighter seem to be shared, be it in a tiny apartment in the city or a modest sailboat out in the big. The less one owns, the less one has to earn to support what is owned. There is more time to pursue the art of being human. Access to community is enhanced though, it must be admitted, there are different dynamics between the tribes formed on land and those of gypsy cruisers. One of the differences most stark is not how the members of the tribes interact within the tribe, but how the tribe relates to the society at large. Land tribes of living simpler, smaller, less cluttered lives remain embedded in that larger society. They challenge many of the precepts of that society from the inside. They are exposed to the dangers and failures as well.

The cruising tribe of tiny floating houses puts distance between itself and that larger society, rejecting it more than challenging it, and working to be less exposed to those dangers and failures. It would be nice to have some grand scheme to help reduce the dangers and fix the failures. On the other hand, when a house is on fire the first impulse is to run.

I suspect a good portion of the cruising tribe thinks that America's house is on fire. It may not be (as my fire-fighting brother might say) a fully involved structure fire. But the kitchen is getting smokey and the door to the attic too hot to touch. Getting outside is not a bad idea. (I picked the kitchen because that is where families tend to gather, and the attic because that is the home of the crazy uncle of family lore. America's family is chock full of crazy uncles.)

It is likely accurate to suggest that those who share my bit of the cruising tribe haven't really abandoned America's house. But we are standing around in the driveway, waiting to see what happens next. We don't get too far from the open ocean, our on-ramp to non-American shores. On the ICW we know there are empty places hard to reach from land and not populated enough to be targets for the crazy. Deep down we hope the house will be okay, with maybe a little damage to be covered by the insurance company. But we are not sure.

And we are not going back in there until we are.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

More pictures

A wordier post will be forthcoming, but for the moment I'm just too tired so here is some eye candy for you to enjoy.

The anchorage at Whiteside Creek, SC

Coming in to Charleston we were second in the procession of boats

The sun setting on our offshore run from Charleston to Sisters Creek near Jacksonville


I never tire of seeing these guys. They make me smile.
Barefoot Marina in North Myrtle Beach, SC

Typical ICW view

Another typical ICW view

Leaving the Charleston Harbor for our offshore run

The second morning of our offshore run. The fog socked in right around Cumberland Island, GA