Friday, December 30, 2016

Redefining Christmas

When we were raising our kids, I openly admit that we fell victim to the holiday guilt trip. We were shamed into spending money we didn't have on things we didn't need, most of which would be discarded within a few short weeks of Christmas, and all of which would get the axe when we downsized after the kids moved out. We were part of the corporate culture, good spenders trained well. But as keeper of the Christmas List, I was miserable, tired, stressed.

As we began to reassess "stuff" prior to moving onto Kintala full time to go cruising, holidays were one of those things that endured careful scrutiny. In order to assure that we had enough money to care for ourselves and not burden the girls at the end of our retirement, spending was going to have to be curtailed to an extreme measure. By that time we had seven grandchildren and, between birthdays and Christmas, we would have spent our entire monthly cruising budget on gifts and cards. I struggled with guilt and feelings of inferiority for a long time. We had a lifetime history of holiday giving and had succumbed to the propaganda that if you didn't spend a few thousand dollars on your kids and grandkids every Christmas, that you didn't love them.

As we began to log the cruising miles, it became apparent that we might have something to give after all. The experiences we were living, the stories resulting, and the future possibility of having the kids on board to share in them, all became a growing reality. We might not be able to buy the multiples of hundred dollar Lego sets, but we could share in the laughter at the antics of the dolphins.

On December 10th we left St. Louis in Daughter Eldest's van headed for the boat where they intended to spend a month as a trial for a summer with us in 2017. That month, which spanned Christmas, is rapidly drawing to a close (much to my daughter's dismay), and it has left me with a renewed appreciation of the benefits of the cruising life and the way it has changed our outlook.

It all started with Christmas morning. The kids had gone to Mass at the local Catholic church in Palmetto and, while they were gone, I placed a few small Lego minifigures wrapped in tiny packages on the back of the settee. They were met with delight, smiles, and a bunch of giggles. I had worried that they were too small, too insignificant, too inexpensive, to impress them, but my fears were unfounded. They were thrilled and spent the next couple hours assembling them and playing with them. Later that afternoon we went for a hike in the local part, Emerson Point Preserve, followed by Christmas dinner of roast chicken on the boat. It was a perfect day. There were no hours of opening mounds of presents, no boxes of leftover wrapping paper and ribbons to store, and no credit card bill to pay in January. There was only a sleepy, "This was the best Christmas ever!" heard from the aft cabin. The Legos will never be remembered when the kids are 40 and having their own Christmas with their kids, but the memories of Christmas on the boat will endure.

I recently heard of someone who made an Advent calendar that had little cards tucked into each pocket. On Thanksgiving afternoon, they filled out the cards, selecting someone for whom they would do something special, or to whom they would give a small gift or write a letter. It culminated for this family in delivering a basket of gifts to their local fire station on Christmas day. It takes unbelievable courage to step from the Lemming Stream, but there's probably never been a more important time in history to do so. Next Christmas, try to give the gift of experiences rather than gifts. Hug rather than buy. Dare to define your love through some other means than money.

I promise you it will be the most rewarding thing you do

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Close, oh so close.

Daughter Eldest and Family have been visiting for a couple of weeks, enjoying life on Kintala and a break from the winter weather gripping the midwest. We have played games, worked coloring books, hung out at the beach, and gone for rides in the “Ding”, grand daughter youngest's word for the dink. (I think it is going to be permanent.) The little ones all love going for rides in the Ding, something Grampy T hasn't learned in going on four years of living on the boat. With the Merc-on-the-Ding running acceptably again, power rides rather than oar rides are the new highlights of the day.

One thing we had not managed to accomplish was getting the whole crew out on Kintala for a sail, something we finally managed a day or so ago. The forecast was for very light winds, but the day was warm, the boat ready, and sometimes just heading out is enough, even to drift around for a while.
We did a bit better than that.

Clear of the river my internal wind sensors suggested there was enough of a breeze to hang out some canvas. Our newly installed wind indicator didn't agree, but it turns out there is a calibration routine needed when you mount a new breeze stick on the mast, and we haven't done that yet. And, opposite of what they drill into hard-core instrument pilots, the years on the water have taught me to trust what my body says is going on with the weather and the boat. Things like wind sensors and GPS maps provide supplementary, and sometimes suspect, information.

Deb swung the bow up and the main sail went aloft as smoothly as it ever has. There was just enough wind to give it shape as we fell away to a close reach; Kintala surged to a killer speed of a knot or so. The jib spun out without a hitch and the sheet pulled in tight. Speed went up to two plus, then a touch over three. We ghosted along that way for a few minutes, heading to drop the anchor at Egmont Key for lunch. After a few minutes I decided to spin out the staysail as well. There was no reason to think that it would help much, but the boat looks cool with everything flying. And why miss a chance to look cool? With its sheet pulled in equally tight both head sails started pulling in near perfect parallel. Even with the apparent wind hovering around a bare 10 knots, speed flirted with 5 with just a hint of heel to port. Whatever shortcomings our old Tartan offers as a full-time live aboard cruising boat, they get forgotten when she is sailing fast on little wind, fully dressed for the dance.

There are people who love bashing into the waves, spray flying and the boat galloping along at full song. And there are times when I like that as well. There are people who prefer to be running before 20 knots worth of breeze, boat running at near hull speed with just 15 knots or so left ruffling the deck. And there are times I like that as well. When running offshore for a couple of days (or weeks for the true sailors among us) it is best to love whatever is happening at the moment, for the choice of what kind of sail we are having is not ours to make.

But sometimes the choices - boat, crew, and weather - add up to nothing short of pure magic.
The winds faded as we approached the anchorage, which turned out to be completely potted over with crab buoys. Without bothering the Beast we dropped the hook in deeper water than we had planned and much further from the beach than we had hoped. Lunch was low key and clean-up a bit of a trial given the rolling. Though the wind really had faded, we chose to drift off the anchor. It was also pretty good conditions for trying out the rebuilt jib pole, though the fact is I am still not comfortable with the thing. (Yes, I have read all the articles and watched all the you-tube videos. So far something hasn't sunk in so I am still working on it.)

We drifted down wind at a knot or two for a couple of hours, poled out jib doing what it could in the zephyrs. With the day fading away and the river mouth in sight, the Beast was poked awake to get us home before dark.

Crawling into the v-berth, boat secure and kids happy, it was easy to feel that getting back to cruising is tantalizingly close.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Another good-bye

Last Friday was the last day of working at the yard for this season. Being the start of the Christmas Holiday it was also a half-day, with lunch provided by the owner. Afterward I stopped and talked with the Boss Boss for a few moments, thanking him for having had me around for the summer and voicing the hope that it had worked out as well for him as it had for us. He allowed as it had. The project boat on which I had done much of the electrical system rebuild, had not been projected to be a project near as involved as it had evolved into being. (He didn't put it that way.) He seemed to think I was a good fit for a job he had not planned on having to do during my interview. Even better many of the people I worked with seem pleased to hear that Kintala will be heading back this way sometime in the spring. I am secretly kind of proud about that. One of my specific goals for this summer was to be as “user friendly” as I could manage. While that may come natural for most people, I don't have an innate talent for playing well with others. Deep in the south, surrounded by a culture I don't always understand that has some, how shall we say, “quirks” that I find problematic, I suspected being a kind of puzzling loner was the best I would do. Instead I found people I am proud to call my friends.

So, as the sun rose over the still waters of the basin, with our old Tartan rocking gently to her mooring lines, I was a bit ambivalent about leaving here. It isn't that I am not looking forward to cruising once again, getting back to the life we worked so hard to get to in the first place. But there are people here I am going to miss seeing nearly every day, and the “say good-bye” that is part of cruising is my least favorite part.

In addition, I spent much of my life around technicians, pilots, and mechanics. By and large, they are people who know, somewhere deep in their soul, that each day working for someone else costs a little more than it pays. A knowledge accepted with a casual shrug, for that is simply the way that it is. I missed being a part of that clan, one marked by a tough edge, a hard earned expertise, and a deep feeling that being good at what they do matters. It is a clan where it is  easy to tell the difference between those who can and those who can't. They live in a world with few excuses. The judgment of who-is-who doesn't come from opinion poles, twitter followers, or even elections. The job gets done, or it doesn't get done. The machine works as it should and goes away, or it doesn't and comes back to get done right. It was good to spend time in a place where the residents are comfortable with that kind of clarity.

Big open water brings that kind of clarity as well, sometimes with an even harder and sharper edge. Those of us who venture that way often gather and share stories of the experience. But for the most part we go out as single handers, in pairs, or small crews of friends or family. We also do it in intense little bursts of days or sometimes weeks. It isn't (usually) a day in, day out kind of thing shared by a select group working together. As much as I am looking forward to living that way again, the time spend here was good time, and I am glad we came this way.

There are people who get the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve off from work, some with pay, some without. For me the first Monday after Christmas was the first day of my (temporary) re-retirement and transition back into the cruising life. The first steps in that transformation included getting Kintala off the dock, motoring up and across the river for fuel and a pump out, and then a few hours spent sailing to work all of the stuff that makes a sailboat a sailboat. Since it was also the first serious shake-down cruise after months of being on the dock doing a lot of re-fitting, Daughter Eldest and Family waved us off from the shore. Little ones do not belong on shake-down cruises, no matter how benign or low key.
As it turns out Deb and I were kind of glad they weren't around, as any claim of us being any kind of serious sailors would have been put in serious doubt. We got off the dock okay, even found our way to the Twin Dolphin Marina and settled onto the fuel dock without drama. (Nice place by the way, with good and friendly hands willing to help anyway they can.) Unfortunately we had to get off of the fuel dock and get turned around in a tight basin, with a cross wind. 

It didn't go well. 

At least I have learned that going slow is the way to go, making sudden stops more a “bump” than a “crash”. After multiple tries, with real sailors giving us advice from the bows of their boats to “back into the wind”, and a bit of luck, I managed to get Kintala turned around and back out on the Manatee River. Though I don't envy the maintenance bills that come with a bow thruster, I sure wished I had one. 

I didn't actually bump anything, let alone crash. A small balm for my battered pride. People haven't yelled advice to me from shore since our days back on the lake in IL but, truth to tell, I earned it. Years ago, in one of the first posts on this blog, I said something about sailboats handling like a loaf of bread. Some things haven't changed.

Once back out on the river we turned downwind, let the jib fly, and gave the Beast a rest. For the first time in too many days we were sailing on our own boat once again. It should have been glorious. And it was - sort of. But neither one of us is really healthy yet, and the pure effort it takes to rig sails, stow lines and fenders, and keep the deck and cockpit of any sailboat under way under control, was taking its toll. Turning back toward Snead Island we came up tight on the wind, tacking our way up the channel. Flying the main would have been the right choice, but Kintala does pretty good on just her head sail, and handling one sail was enough.

Actually, it was more than enough. Lines snagged, blocks experienced minor jams, and our timing was off. Even tacking just the staysail went less than smoothly. In reality everything on the boat pretty much worked the way it should, except for the crew. We were just ham fisted amateurs, off the water and away from the demands of sailing Kintala well for way too many months. 
Only one mechanical task lies between us and dropping the dock lines for real. The little Merc is not happy, refusing to idle even after a good sonic cleaning of its tiny carburetor bits. Last time around it took several tries to get the idle jet clear and it looks like a repeat performance. I can't really complain though, the poor thing has hung on the stern rail for months, completely ignored as other tasks filled the days.

It is tempting to hope that all of the summer's work will pay off with an easy winter of sailing in the Islands. But it also has (to me anyway) value all of its own. Kintala is arguably in better shape than she has been since we bought her, safer, and much more user friendly. And it is safe to bet that both Deb and I have vastly expanded our knowledge base of boat repair and maintenance. Regardless of what the next few months bring, I think we can rest easy in the knowledge that we have done a lot of hard and necessary work, and made the best choices we could.

Now all we have to do is knock off a little more rust, and hope that our sea legs return soon.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Best Day Ever!

Grandsons (2) were pretty impressed with Grampa T riding the crane to the top of the mast. They were even more impressed when, once the job was done, Boss New let them pull on the levers that folded in the hydraulic support legs. If you want to see the biggest smiles in the universe, let a little boy run a real live crane. When he does, (and then gets his favorite dish for dinner) he will loudly proclaim that this has been the "BEST DAY EVER!" Who knows, maybe he is right. Maybe, in the sum total of everything that happened in the whole cosmos in the last 24 hours, this was the best day ever. 

By the end of the day I was sporting a pretty good smile myself. Kintala's new inner forestay and much better furling system for the staysail are in place. (Thank you again Mizzy and Brain!)The furling line is run, and a new halyard is rigged and spliced, waiting to hoist the sail. I've done a couple of dozen line splices but, for some reason, went into total brain fade when trying to do this one. After botching several tries (and wasting some brand new line) it was time to take a break and figure out what was wrong with my hand / brain connection. Ditching the written directions and watching a video helped, and the next try ended in success. By the time it was all done the wind had picked up into the low 20s. I was feeling a bit beat in spite of the smile, so decided to wait until this morning to bend on the last of Kintala's normal sailing suit. Everyone on the boat is, more or less, on the mend. Some more. Some less.

The plan is for next week to be my last week of working on the clock for this season. Then all attention will turn to final prep to get on our way. There are still a few minor items to clear; a new bit of exhaust hose and some rework on the throttle will finish up the Beast. The Dink is inflated but the Merc hasn't been run in months, and it isn't likely to run without some TLC of its own. 

Though it is tempting to feel that we are close to getting back to our cruising life, the more years I put in the less likely I am to talk about things that haven't happened yet as if they are inevitable. Arabic speaking religious people, Muslim, Christian, and Jew, share a saying “Inshallah”; “If god wills.” Though I have no god belief I find a good bit of wisdom in the sentiment. We are creatures of the moment. The past fades rapidly into uncertain memory, the future waivers between a guess and a plan.

There might be another bit of wisdom lurking in “Inshallah”. We often choose to do a little bit of evil in the moment with the idea that it will bring a lot of good in the future. And it sometimes works out that way. But I'm beginning to think it works out that way much less often than our fuzzy memory likes to suggest. It may be best to avoid doing the little evils, even with the best of intentions, if at all possible. And if this moment brings a chance to do any little thing that will bring on a smile big enough to light up a universe, well, that is a chance that should always be taken.

Just hours after writing the above I headed out to the deck to hoist Kintala's last sail. Grandsons (2) were excited about helping. We unfolded the sail, ran the sheets, hoisted it aloft, and tugged on the furling line to wrap up this last big project. Tugged on the furling line. Tugged. 

Something was jammed at the top of the sail. Yesterday's BEST DAY EVER ran away laughing as my mood spiraled down, down, and then down some more. We dropped the sail back to the deck and I retired to the v-berth, mostly to ignore the need to come up with a plan. I was just done.

A little later Deb, who was away at the store when all this happened, called from the foredeck. Dragging my cough racked body up the companionway was as big a chore as I have faced recently. It appears a serious downer will give a waning flu a new burst of life. Going forward I found Young Steven, a rigger here at the yard, and Deb deep in debate. He believed he could fix the problem pretty easily, and do it aloft. Just minutes later he was in his climbing rig and headed up the mast, tool bucket in tow. It turned out the fix wasn't as easy as he thought but that didn't matter. He kept at it, spending more than an hour aloft, then dropping the stay where he could get a better grip and angle on the problem. Then he went back up the mast to re-rig the stay. By early afternoon we were exactly were we had intended to be by the end of the day, stay secure and the last of Kintala's working sails in place.

Young Steven lives on his boat part time though, with schooling his primary goal, cruising is just a thought for later. But I think I'll nominate him for honorary cruiser status. His dogged efforts may not have turned today into another BEST DAY EVER, but he came pretty close. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Last Soldier Standing

Hiding in the tupperware cupboard is the best game ever
The plan was to put the boat back in the water on Thursday, December 1st, drive to the airport in Tampa and begin a 10 day vacation visiting our 9 grandkids. It went so smoothly, right down to getting the TSA Pre line at security. During visits with Daughter Youngest and Daughter Middle, cookies were made, good meals consumed, games played, crafts crafted, son-in-laws ordained into the priesthood, (did you catch that last one?), and the visit culminated with a trip to our favorite ice cream store, Ices Plain and Fancy. It just couldn't get any better, except that Granddaughter #1 was sick. She spend a couple days on the couch sleeping, and within a day Granddaughter #2 was showing the tell tale signs.

Saturday morning we packed up Daughter Eldest's van with enough stuff for them to visit the boat for a few weeks. We took off toward Florida a mere 1/2 hour after planned departure (amazing feat with three kids under 8) and had a great time playing peek-a-boo through the headreast of the seat with the Granddaughter Littlest and Lego Star Wars games on the iPads with the two boys. They were wonderful and the time flew by. Round about the late afternoon, while we were looking for a hotel to spend the night, my throat started burning. Uh Oh...

I was the sickest, with a vicious sore throat, high fever, and deep, racking cough low in the chest. Tim soon followed, succumbing after an attempted first day back at work on Monday. He spent the next 36 hours in bed and, although he left for work this morning, I expect him back by lunch. Kristin and Brian and two of the little ones were downed yesterday, leaving only the middle one standing. He devoured dinner and we thought he just might bypass the wrath of this bug. Within an  hour of going to bed he was awake, screaming. The Last Soldier had fallen.

Over the summer when people asked us what our cruising plans were and we spoke of having our Eldest daughter's family on board for a few weeks over the holidays before heading to the islands, the universal response was, "What, are you crazy???" "Seven people onyour boat?" They've visited before and, being boat people, they get the constraints of space, water, and power. We get along well and enjoy each other's company. Dealing with this bug with seven of us on the boat has perfectly illustrated the necessity for kindness, caring, patience, and a sense of humor that living in small spaces requires. This kind of living requires mindfulness: choosing to be kind and caring, a polar opposite of the cold, spiteful, political climate we find ourselves in right now. And if it takes a vicious virus to help me remember that, I guess that I can live with that.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Mud on the anchor

Kintala splashed without incident. The Beast fired right up with shift and throttle still working smooth as silk. The Engine Guru suggested we go out into the river and run for a bit to polish in the new dripless seal, so I ghosted back out of the haul out pit, swung the bow to port, and eased between the pilings marking the yard's basin out into the Manatee.

We were making nearly 4 knots at 1800 rpm, the Beast rumbling smoothly along. Amazing what a new prop, shaft, cutlass bearing, and a properly aligned engine will do; though I resisted the temptation to run over the nearest crap pot just because I could. (Not really, those things still look like tiny little mines to me, tuned to sense fiberglass, and just waiting to go off whenever we get near one.)

Just a few hundred yards out into the river the engine temperature started to spike. Disappointing but not completely unexpected. We had drained part of the cooling system getting the lines to the water heater out of the way for access. Like every older boat I have tangled with, bleeding that part of the cooling loop on Kintala isn't easy. With the first thought being to not hurt the Beast we shut it down to cool off and tossed the anchor off the bow. It was like stepping through some kind of time portal.

Wow, this is why we came this way. It seemed like forever since we rode quietly to anchor, the boat nodding gently, swung into the wind. The temptation was to spend the rest of the day right where we were, maybe even the night as well.

But there were other needs pressing on the day so, after a while, we stirred ourselves back into “get it going again” mode. As expected, the coolant level was fine. It doesn't take much air to lock up the system. (Something I still don't quite understand. The boat's water system pump doesn't have any problem pushing the bubbles out of the way, and I have never heard of anyone air locking the cooling system on a car, truck, tractor, or motorcycle.) Kintala has a valve that will bypass the water heater. With that open and the engine temp falling back to 160, we cranked the Beast awake and putted back to the marina with the temp seeming to settle somewhere near normal. I managed a near perfect landing back in the slip, something that rarely happens when pilings are involved.

Tied to once again, the main item pressing on the day came to the fore: catching a plane that evening that would take us to St. Louis, kids, and grand kids. Which was about the only thing that could get me to pull up the anchor and head back in.

Though there is a couple of more weeks of work left once we return, both in the yard and on Kintala herself, we are on the verge of getting back to the cruising life. Soon having mud on the anchor will be the norm once again.

It will be good to be home.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Debating with the magic

Kintala is still sitting on the hard, though the chances seem pretty good that she will be back floating
sometime within the next 48 to 72 hours. Even so, it is a perfect morning to sit in the cockpit, sip hot coffee, and gaze out at the open waters of Tampa Bay laying just off her elevated stern. The stray fishing boat leaves a track on the ripples while a few cruisers (and sadly one derelict) sit quietly in the anchorage. There is just a hint of the magic brushing the shore along with the gentle splashing of the waves. After a long and (sometimes) difficult summer it is a good reminder, this is why we came this way. And yet...

The view of the Manatee River from the cockpit on the hard.

The magic has a different feel to it this morning. Instead of calling me away to places natural and quiet, where wisdom resides and the best of what it means to be alive and aware can be strengthened, it chastises me for running from the maelstrom lurking just over the horizon. For the plan is to have Kintala well on the way to, if not in, the Abaco Islands by January 20th . There she will remain  for much of the following 100 days. By then we will have some idea of just how bad this new regime will be.

Perhaps it will turn out to be just more of the same; elitist, corrupt, and basically incompetent. That seems to be about the best we can do in America. We have been stumbling along thus for most of my adult life and have managed to hang on. There also seems to be a reasonable chance that this new regime will be such a spectacular failure that no one will have to do anything but watch as they throw themselves off a cliff.

Maybe, after the 100 days, we will return to a nation much like it was in the late 60s and early 70s; divided, torn, stumbling, but finding its way out of an interminable and useless war, and shedding the worst abuses of a powerful apartheid police state. The US of A emerged from those days bruised and scarred, but a better people and a more just nation than it had been when men, who had won medals fighting the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini, were lynched by the White Supremacists of the KKK. We also learned that no nation can be great when the air can't be breathed nor the water safely drunk; where the land is strip mined to mud and all the trees turned into lumber.

That understanding came at a brutal national cost. Many were killed and many more wounded in the one-sided battles of police v marchers or the National Guard v students. In addition to the violent government responses, terrorists weighed in. Churches were bombed and burned and civil rights workers were murdered. The government eventually, and reluctantly, bowed to the will of the protesters. The war was ended, civil rights laws were passed, a few of the terrorists were rounded up, tried, and jailed. (The police and the National Guard never were held to account.)

Personal costs were high as well. I was an anti-war and civil rights protester. My Dad had been a cadet at West Point when young, served in Korea and, well, wasn't the most inclusive man I have ever known. I left home at 19, returning only for visits that were often tense. As the years went by we learned to work our way around that history, but the mine field was always there. My Dad has been gone a little over a year now but I fear, if he were whole and hale today, we would find ourselves on opposite sides still. The battle over civil rights and ending a war set the stage for a relationship between a Father and a Son that lasted a lifetime.

So the magic comes with a bit of an edge this morning. The disciplines of the magic- wisdom, compassion, understanding, careful thought and an even more careful response - are best learned and honed in those quiet places. But where they are needed most is in the midst of the maelstrom, when power corrupts, runs wild, and threatens everything of value that lies in the path between itself and domination. Ducking and running is like spending hours mastering your part of a concerto, then not showing up for the concert.

Yet the magic is suggestive, not insistent, or vindictive. We plan to sail to the Islands for a while because that is part of the way we live now, and American politics has little to do with it. Other parts of the way we live include living light and mobile, ignoring consumerism in all of its forms, traveling, and getting to know people who are not exactly like us. It is also a lifestyle that goes easy on burning energy and extracting limited resources from the planet only to throw them into a garbage pile in a few weeks or months. It is one that a large number of my fellow Americans don't get, don't want, and don't care about.  Indeed, they don't seem to care about a lot of things I think important.

And maybe this new regime is more a reflection of that than anything else.

Still, the opposition is taking shape. Protesters are already in the streets, alliances are being formed, underground and sanctuary movements are coalescing, rapid responses to the inevitable government brutality are being considered and practiced, and communications are being established to counter the propaganda war. But a middle aged white guy living on a sailboat doesn't matter that much, and there may even be some wisdom to be found in sitting this one out. It is entirely possible that the incoming regime is exactly what should be expected when an empire has run its course, when (to butcher a phrase) failure is not only an option, it is the only option. Trying to stick a cork into the Titanic might have been heroic, but the ship was already damaged beyond repair.

Taking to a lifeboat was a much wiser choice.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Sailing on borrowed time

The world unfolds in uncharted and unpredictable ways, making for good luck, bad luck, and (for those born under a bad sign) no luck at all. Unpredictable as luck may be, it also seems to be a bit malleable. Confucius, some 2000 years ago, said, “The more you know the more luck you will have.” Various golfers apparently took up that theme with variations of, “The more I practice the luckier I get”. One of my most used quips is, “It's better to be lucky than good” but, in all honesty, I don't really believe in luck at all. Nor am I a big fan of fate though, like most of the pilots I know, I regard “Fate is the Hunter” as a pretty good description of a professional pilot's life. Not being of the religious frame of mind the idea of “everything happening for a reason” seems a bit unfair to refugees and people dying of cancer. Such people also make Henley's “I am the captain of my fate: I am the master of my soul” little more than a poetic expression of pure hubris.

Still, the world unfolds in uncharted and unpredictable ways, sometimes holding us up, sometimes landing on our heads, and most times doing a little bit of both at the same time. The only thing we get to “captain” and “master” is how we fit what happens into our tiny corner of the world, how we let events shape the kind of people we become.

The reason the stuffing box was leaking and the
Three Bolts to Go that started this whole process.
Work on Kintala continues. Much to my surprise, I have done mostly support tasks; pulling the broken parts off, grinding the outside of the hull, bolting a few of the new parts back in. Much of the hard work has been picked up by the Yard Gurus. The Engine Guru was particularly aghast at his findings, having to crank the WesterBeast over nearly and inch and a half to get the new drive shaft centered in the middle of the stern tube. The old one was basically riding hard against the edge, with the dripless seal running way out of center. (Which actually says a lot about the seal since it didn't leak a drop in all the miles we have covered.) It seems pretty obvious: whoever did the last repair remounted the strut “close” then lined the engine up as best they could. Why the boat wasn't shaking itself apart is anyone's guess.

The Glass Guru wasn't impressed with his findings either. He discovered that strut was being supported by about 1/4 of an inch of glass, and that, not fully wetted out when it was laid down. I'm not exactly sure how Tartan mounted the strut in the first place, but I am sure they should have talked to our Glass Guru before they built the boat.

The boat has also seen a small parade of the experts who work here drop by to take a look, including a boss or two. The consensus is unanimous; one good line snag wrapped hard around our drive shaft would likely have pulled the strut clean out of the hull. Kintala would have sunk within minutes.

Clearly we have been sailing on borrowed time, three years worth in fact. Parts of those years were spent sailing around the crab pots of the ICW, the Chesapeake Bay, and the western coast of Florida. More than once we brushed past a pot not seen until the last moment and, last year, made the night motor up the Chesapeake strewn with pots and drift nets. A mistake on deck could have put a line in the water while in the middle of the Gulf Stream or in the Atlantic between the Abaco Islands and Egg Key. It isn't hard to image how disastrous it could have been.

Were we lucky? Was that not our fate? Or did we just make the best decisions we could along the way, based on what we knew at the time, and working with the resources we had available? Things unfolded the way they did, uncharted and unpredictable. We ended up here, surrounded by people who have the knowledge and resources to get us up and going again, safer and better than we were. Things don't always work out that way, and then we make different decisions and use different resources. All of which turns us into the people that we are.

Which, in our case, is grateful members of the cruising tribe, hoping to be back “out there” soon.

1/3 of the flax seal was missing, turned to mush in the grease. It had also not been placed in the trough correctly so it had
merely squished between the plates and wasn't against the rudder post.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Three bolts to go

For the first time in months, the WesterBeast rumbled to life with a purpose, dock lines were tossed, and Kintala eased her way back out of the slip where she has rested for all these long months. It was kind of exciting even if we were only headed to the haulout pit. We weren't really planning on being lifted out, but the rudder stuffing box had started leaking on the way up the west coast of FL, and it lies well below the water line. Lifting the boat just high enough to pull the three bolts that hold the stuff in the stuffing box, without having water flood into the boat, was among the very last things needing to be done in this summer of work.

It has been a while since I drove a boat in the tight confines of a marina, but there was zero wind, shift and throttle worked silky smooth, and we ghosted into the lift straps like we knew what we were doing. Half an hour, hour at most, and we would be back in the slip with the boat closer to 100% than she has ever been.

A few hours later Kintala was sitting on the hard.

I have always been a bit shy about the parts of our drive train that didn't get attention back when the v-drive exploded. I should have been even more concerned after learning of the water spout hit that had done so much damage to the boat including (apparently) shoving it backwards into some shallows that damaged the rudder. With the boat nearly out of the water we could see the shaft and prop, and decided to take a closer look. After careful consideration, a new prop shaft, dripless seal and cutlass bearing will be installed (long overdue and recommended last summer by the folks at Oak Harbor)

Another issue is the shaft support strut mounting itself. Once we really started to look at the shaft / strut /  bearing combo that hangs under the bottom of the boat, I grew convinced that the strut support had, at some time in the past, been repaired; a repair that left much to be desired in such a critical area of the hull. Where the shaft exits the hull also appears to be more than just a bit of a hack job. I just couldn't convince myself that it was going to be okay to keep going with things as they were.

It would be easy to get discouraged. We thought we were so close to being on our way once again, with a fat and happy cruising kitty and a solid boat. There were plans to visit family and have family visit us, travels that are due to start in less than two weeks. The Islands were calling for the winter. All such plans seemed to be at risk with the cruising kitty cringing in fear of the costs heading its way.

But it may not be as bad as we thought for those first hours of Saturday morning. The Snead Island crew is a crew of experts and we are (junior) members of the family. If there is anyplace in the world to get critical glass work done in a high stress area of the hull well below the water line, this is the place. What seems like a Major Big Deal of a boat repair is often, to them, a minor glitch handled as a matter of routine. Chop out, glass, re-align, and remount the shaft support? Sure, no problem. (We just did that exact same thing for the two big engines just installed in the project boat I've been working on all summer.) Source custom bits and parts? The number is in the shop's speed dial list. A new shaft, coupling, seal and bearing will be on the way before the week is out.

Since I like to imagine myself as one of the experts around here, much of the work will fall to me. But our glass slinger has been slinging structure glass for decades. The engine guy has aligned as many marine engines as I have done hot sections on aircraft turbines, or flown instrument approaches right down to minimums. I will not mind having them looking over my shoulders and offering suggestions.

So I am going to put off being discouraged until we see how it goes. A broken boat, even if it is pretty much all one owns in the world, is still just a broken boat. And it may well be that we (once again) uncovered a potential major problem the easy way, in the perfect place to address it with a minimum of fuss and risk. However bad (or not) this hit turns out to be, when done, Kintala will be a better, safer boat, than she was yesterday morning when we eased out of the slip...

...and thought there was only three bolts to go.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Anatomy of a Summer Refit

In case you're new to the blog or actually have a life, you may not have gathered that coming here to Snead Island Boat Works for the summer meant a lot of hard, uncomfortable work for Tim. But it also meant he didn't have to deal with The List. He hates The List so deeply that he turned it over to me a couple years ago. He hates it so deeply that when I showed it to him yesterday with all the check marks beside everything, he almost fainted. This summer, The List became my project. It's been a long summer of very hard work, but it's been a great summer for me because I've learned to do so many things that I didn't know how to do before, and I've become intimate with Kintala like never before.

I thought that any of you who are actually considering doing such a thing as full time cruising might like to see what happens after you've cruised for three years. So without further adieu, here's the summer refit. some of them have been linked to the post that talked about the project.

  1. Refinish hatch screens. The original finish was four years old and was getting grungy from all of the humidity. Humidity is your enemy in every way.
  2. Make jerry can covers. We have them for the fuel cans, but the water cans needed them.
  3. Make chafe guards. I found that Sailrite's boat blanket makes terrific chafe guards and they have the side benefit of being able to install after the lines are set. You just wrap them around and velcro them. They have held up well through some pretty tough winds this summer.
  4. Make shelf support for electronics shelf. After using the shelf for a year, it became apparent that it needed a bit more support in the middle of the span since we were putting so much stuff on it.
  5. Install iPad mounts on binnacle and dodger hand rail. We wanted mounts in both places so that we had options.
  6. Install new sump box and repurpose old sump box. Kintala had a large, deep fiberglass box that the shower and head sink drained into that was attached to a sump pump. The sump pump quit, and rather than replace it, we opted for one of those self-contained shower sump plastic boxes with the pump built in. I installed it under where the old box was. Then I cut the old box in about half depth-wise and built a wooden bottom for it. We now use that box to store soda and beer.
  7. Move fridge drain to drain into sump box. In the attempt to have as dry a bilge as possible, I moved the fridge drain hose so that it drains into the sump box.
  8. Install 12v plug in cockpit for iPads. I installed this close to the iPad mount on the binnacle.
  9. Repair stern nav light. Turns out that installing the 12V socket allowed me to find a loose wire that fixed the stern light. Things rarely turn out that easy.
  10. Install LED light strip in forward engine area.
  11. Install LED light strip in aft engine area.
  12. Install Mantus anchor swivel.
  13. Send headsets in for evaluation and/or repair if financially feasable. It was, and we're back in the headset business for anchoring and docking.
  14. Make windlass cover. Our windlass leaks a lot of water into the chain locker through the chain tube and we are trying to limit the amount of water that ends up in the bilge.
  15. Rebed all salon ports and repair teak. Long, long, involved project. The teak under the port frames had rotted and rather than scrape all the teak off the fiberglass (it was glued) and replace it, I elected to dig out the rotted teak, and fill it with fiberglass body putty then prime and paint it white. This lightened up the interior substantially.
  16. Replace headliner. A job that actually turned out to be easier than I thought, and that rarely happens. Took about a week total. A link to another post. And one more.
  17. Locate and repair water leak above port settee. After removing the headliner it was easy to see that it was the block on the deck that the main halyard would travel through if it was fed to the cockpit. Removed, rebed, and replaced.
  18. Make flag sleeve. We needed a sleeve to cover the flag when we aren't flying it. The flag gets filthy and there was no reason to have it deployed all summer.
  19. Replace galley faucet. We had a leak at the faucet head where it had cracked. While replacing it, I also added a water saver that I absolutely love.
  20. Mount battery bus bar. We had too many power wires coming off the battery terminals so I added a heavy duty bus bar to clean up the installation..
  21. Install remote oil filter and change oil. The summer refit items were mostly to add to either comfort, beauty, or ease of living. As a result, the remote oil filter was top of the list. Changing the oil always meant shedding blood and now it's super easy to do.
  22. Add new bilge pump and move existing one.  We wanted a bit more redundancy in bilge pumps. I added one of the new low-profile pumps and then moved the existing one. I also added one of the three-way bilge pump switches on the new pump. Our existing one was just a breaker so there was no test function.
  23. Change heat exchanger zinc.
  24. Change fuel filters / add electric bleed pump. Another one of those projects that you cringe at on a Tartan 42 with a Westerbeast is bleeding the fuel system. I wired in a small electric bleed pump that bleeds the system up to the high pressure injector pump. You do still have to bleed that injector pump and crack one of the injector lines, but it's a whole lot easier than it was and much less human bleeding while fuel bleeding.
  25. Remove alternator, send out for overhaul, reinstall. We have a Balmar 75 alternator that costs a fortune to replace. One of the benefits of working at a boat yard is that they know all kinds of places to get things serviced. Our alternator came back from the shop looking almost completely new for a fraction of the cost.
  26. Overhaul raw water pump. I originally was going to just change the impeller, but once I got inside I discovered that the whole pump was pretty shot. We ended up getting a new one. I still may overhaul the old one just to have a spare on board.
  27. Sew new cushion slip covers. We have white salon cushions and one of the ways we've found to deal with that is to make slip covers out of fleece blankets. The back cushions we leave the white, and use the slip covers only on the bottom cushions. I had made one set last year along with some new striped throw pillow covers, and this summer I made a second set with one of the other colors in the pillow stripes. This way we get a chance to change the look of the salon just by changing the slip covers.
  28. Replace head sliding mirror doors. We have a cabinet behind the sink that has two sliding doors that are mirrors. When it gets hot, the boat swells in just the right way to make the mirrors catch on the shelves. It made it almost impossible to open the doors and the silver was getting rubbed off the back. They looked tacky. I was able to get some thinner acrylic mirror so now the doors slide easily.
  29. Replace salon fan.
  30. Send compass out for overhaul.
  31. Replace compass light.
  32. Replace throttle, shifter, and fuel cutoff cables.Without any doubt the hardest job I have ever tackled on this boat.
  33. Run new control line for wind vane.
  34. Replace plexiglass engine instrument cover.
  35. Replace below decks down stay for inner forestay. We found that one of the strands was broken on the stay when we were looking at something totally unrelated. Good lesson to always be observant.
  36. Replace or repair whisker pole. After looking unsuccessfully for a newer one that was the right size for our boat, I decided to repair ours. We couldn't afford a new one. It was a bit of a job that took most of a week in addition to waiting for parts.
  37. Find a spare anchor. Our old Danforth spare that lived in the anchor locker literally rusted away. We discarded it and have been on the lookout for one at used boat part stores but finally caved and bought a new one.
  38. Repair crack in bowsprit. We had a very small crack in one of the welds in the bowsprit. As it turned out, a boat next to us was getting a welding job done and so we were able to have him haul the welding hose about 10 feet over to Kintala and do ours for $20. Better lucky than good.
  39. Repair bimini aft support. One of the rivets had worked loose and, while it was no structural issue, the rattling noise was driving  me crazy. I ended up drilling it out and using a screw and nut.
  40. Wire new galley A/C plug to inverter. We have a power strip on our electronics shelf that connects to the inverter, but I wanted a plug in the galley so that I could use my mixer and Magic Bullet.
  41. Replace topping lift. Ours is getting frayed at the top.
  42. Replace the staysail furler. Our staysail furler was one that came off the kids' disaster boat and, while we were incredibly glad to have it the last two years, it needed replaced. Friends of ours gifted us a newer Furlex furler when they replaced theirs so we had to install it.
  43. Replace staysail halyard. The old furler had a different kind of halyard that attached directly to the furling unit so with the new furler we needed a new halyard.
  44. Replace masthead wind transducer. Thanks to a very fat osprey in St. Lucie, ours was broken. 
  45. Refinish salon floor. Many previous posts about this. You can search by the floor refinishing tag. The decision was made to refinish rather than replace because replacing a boat floor while living on it full time is nearly impossible. Refinishing it while living on it was just barely tolerable. Worth mentioning the stain remover again here. And another post link.
  46. Make screen cockpit enclosure. We don't need the plastic enclosure at the moment because we're not going north into colder weather, but we wanted a screened in cockpit so we could sit outside in the evening.
  47. Sew new shade cover. 
  48. Replace holding tank vent filter.
  49. Replace exhaust hose and clamps.
  50. Service rudder stuffing box.
  51. Tons of logistical items. We had a whole list of things like doctor's appointments, dental work, renewing the Coast Guard documentation, renewing the Customs sticker, canceling and then renewing the Delorme InReach, getting Florida drivers licences, replacing expired fire extinguishers, checking and updating flares, registering to vote in Florida, registering and recertifying an EPIRB that was gifted to us, and tons and tons of research for parts and instructions on all of the above projects.

The things we didn't get to cross off the list that will either get done in the islands or next year:

  1. Modify lazy jacks. Ours hang up on the sail battens and need to be adjusted to minimize that.
  2. Refinish exterior teak.
  3. Polish stainless.
  4. Paint deck nonskid.
  5. Paint bilge (easier to do when hauled out so maybe next year).
  6. Replace aft cabin and v-berth fans (may yet get done before we leave).
  7. Repaint aft hatch by wind vane.
To be fair, it's been longer than a summer refit. Tim started working here April 1st and, with the exception of the departure prep list, I'm just now finishing up my project list. Eight months of pretty much four or five full days a week. So if you think that retiring onto a boat means you actually get to sit around and do nothing, this post might disabuse you of that notion. It's a bit like childbirth though - once you're sitting in the cockpit looking at the beautiful Bahamian waters, you tend to forget about all the pain of the refit. And I'm soooo going to enjoy sitting in my bug-free cockpit!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

President Elect Donald Trump

I actually wrote this 3 days ago, but it didn't publish as planned...

Part of my everyday, working philosophy is to face unpleasantnesses as honestly and forthrightly as possible, contemplating possibilities with whatever clarity can be found, and acting with such maturity and wisdom as I can manage. So I am going to imagine that I will wake up in a couple of days to President Elect Donald Trump. It helps that I live on a sailboat, owe no one on the planet any money, have a little of same in the bank, and the Islands are only a few days' sail away.

I have no idea how such a thing could come to pass but, then again, I have no real explanation as to how he ended up the leader the the Republican Party in the first place. Having him win this election is as unfathomable to me than the fact that he is famous at all. I haven't watched TV in nearly two decades so he was barely famous in my world. Sure I knew the name, but that was mostly because my last job was being a pilot for a casino company. Many of that company's senior management had worked for Trump Enterprises at some point in their career. They universally loathed the man, his only fame so far as I cared. I am still astonished that a TV con man parlayed that questionable skill into becoming a potential POTUS.

So anyway, what will it be like to wake up to Trump's America? Pretty much like waking up in Obama's America, at least at first. Wednesday morning I will roll out of the v-berth around 0700, do my morning routine, head off to work. In a few weeks we will visit family, then have family visit us. After that Kintala will be headed for the Islands for the winter and into the spring. With any luck we will be there on Inauguration day, anchored off some white sand beach, and paying absolutely no attention to the goings on of America politics. (Yes, the seasons will continue to unfold, the earth will still spin its way around the sun, and most of the people on the planet will not know or care who the President might be. As much as possible I intend to be one of them.)

A bit longer term, I suspect there will be differences. Millions of people stand to lose access to health care under any Pres. Trump / Republican overhaul of the health care system. Deb and I are likely among them. Women, particularly poor women, will find access to health care particularly difficult given the demise of Planned Parenthood. In general the poor, particularly poor kids, are going to find life even more difficult than it already is. In any case, Deb and I are pretty healthy and live a healthy lifestyle. And the fact is something, someday, is going to prove fatal. Will our lives be appreciably shorter under Pres. Trump? Possible, but not likely. Given that we do live on a boat, perhaps we will end up in Mexico and have access to acceptable and affordable health care that is unmatched north of the border.

Deb and I may also feel a hit if Pres. Trump and the Republicans have their way with Social Security; the “entitlement” program that we have been paying into for our entire working lives. Though my guess is it will be the generation after mine that will see the ultimate transfer of those funds to Wall Street. Even if Pres. Trump and the Republicans manage to “privatize” SS away, I still have a boat full of tools and a few good years of working left in these bones. Life will be much harder than we expected, but that is going to happen to millions of others as well, and I make no special claim of being exempt.

I never have, and never will, fall into the income category where Pres. Trump and the Republican's tax breaks mean anything to me. On the other hand, we live a kind of life where their cuts in domestic spending will likely not mean much of anything either. Being able to move means we are not tied to any particular failing water supply or sewage treatment system. We don't use roads much. Failing bridges and lack of maintenance on the ICW could be an inconvenience, but Kintala is an open water boat and we are getting ever more comfortable on her. It is likely we will manage just fine, not finding lead in our water or the bathroom plumbing exploding stink into our home. (Well, that last might happen but it will be the most “local” kind of fix, one we can do for ourselves.)

I do expect that a major armed conflict is in America's near term future but I don't think Pres. Trump and the Republicans will be particularly guilty of causing it. The fact is the military is America's biggest jobs program, and that program has to grow ever larger to keep people working, voting, and paying enough in taxes so the war machine can go on. War is the inevitable outcome of such an economic policy. It is an insane way to run a country, or a world for that mater, but there it is. In any case I am too old to be called up, though I worry about grand kids. Should we see an all out shoot-em-up between nations packing intercontinental missiles, who survives will be a matter of luck; few will get by unscathed. A Pres. Trump with an arsenal of nuclear weapons at his disposal isn't a happy thought, but he has eight grand children of his own, and some of them must live in prime target zones.

Regardless of the claims of Pres. Trump and the Republicans, global warming will continue, coastal cities will find the flood waters ever further inland, and millions upon millions of people are going to forced to migrate. However, it will be slow motion kind of disaster, costing untold trillions of dollars but spread out over the next several generations. I don't know that human kind has any option other than living with the world we have created. I don't think it likely, at this late stage in the game, that Pres. Trump and the Republicans can make it any worse. And really, I live on a boat already equipped with solar panels, off the grid much of the time, and floating on top of the water. That is pretty much all I can do about global warming.

Lots of people may well end up at greater risk from a militarized and emboldened police / security state, but it isn't likely that Deb and I will be among them. We have friends and family who are bi-racial, others who are gay, and know many who are not people of faith, or of the "wrong" faith. According to Mr. Trump's own words they will find themselves suffering under a loss of civil liberties, human rights, a freedom of choices. Should that happen how any of us can stand and fight on the right side of history is something we can't imagine...yet.

Public education will decline, given Pres. Trump and the Republican's infatuation with conspiracy theories, utter contempt for critical thinking or evaluating evidence, and worship of the Young Earth Creationist god. But public education has been in decline for a long time and a Pres. Trump administration couldn't do much more damage than has already been done. Eight of my nine grand children are home schooled and they are likely to be far better educated than most of their peers. This may well turn out to their advantage for, when they come of age, Pres. Trump (absolutely), the Republican Party (possibly), and the United Sates of America (maybe) will be history. There will be something new for them to build, and they will have to do it in a world unimaginable to the generation of Pres. Trump. Where they gathered the skills to do that rebuilding will not matter.

I hope that President Elect Donald Trump is nothing more than a fading hallucination, but the world is a crazy place and crazier things have happened.

Another part of my everyday, working philosophy is that much of what happens in this crazy world is simply out of my control. Around me political issues decades in the making collide, hostilities nurtured for generations overwhelm whole countries, and the unexpected consequences of decisions made hundreds of years ago are coming home to roost. There is nothing I can do to alter such large scale social currents. All I can do is regard the person next to me without malice and make my own decisions based on the idea of, first, doing no harm. Regardless of who is the President Elect, I am encouraged by the knowledge that there are others see the world in much the same way. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Project Report - Cockpit Enclosure

You do the best you can. You plan. You design. You make a list of materials. You source the best price and delivery. Inevitably, the project takes twice or three times as long and at least 30% more materials than you estimated. But once in a very, very rare while you get lucky and a project takes exactly what you ordered and much less time than expected. <gasp> did I just actually say that?

I've been sitting in the cockpit for the last two years trying to figure out just exactly how I was going to design a cockpit enclosure and, I admit, I was exasperated. Our cockpit is not square-backed like so many of the newer production boats. It curves. It also has a two-step coaming that starts out from the bulkhead at one height and then, halfway toward the aft end of the cockpit, it drops down a couple inches and narrows considerably as it curves toward the helm seat. I wanted to have the screen outside of the bimini frame, but, due to the way we mounted the solar panels, that wasn't possible. I'd been putting off the project just because I was so frustrated with trying to figure out how I was going to do it.

A couple of weeks ago, while waiting for a coat on the floor to cure, I took my Sailrite patterning plastic and my rolls of tape and began to tape it in place on the frame to see what I could come up with. Doing this in 95° Florida sun was probably not my best idea since it acted like a greenhouse and nearly roasted me to death, but after a couple hours I had what I though might work.

This past week I could no longer put off the project so I gathered my materials, moved my sewing machine out into the cockpit and began the work. After a bit of a slow start, something that always happens on any custom fit job, I found my stride and in just 5 days had the project finished. To say that I'm pleasantly surprised and that both the Captain and I are immensely pleased with the outcome would be the understatement of the century.

For those of you that might be thinking about tackling this projecct, here are the materials I used. My total project cost was somewhere around $350. I can't tell you exactly because some of the materials I used I already had in stock, like the thread as an example.

  • For the screen I used Phifer Solar Screen from Lowe's. I thought about using the Phifertex that everyone else uses, but this fabric is a little less than half the price and that was a big factor for us. I could also get it locally without freight.
  • For the framework I used Sailrite's 2" facing. It would have been much cheaper to make my own facing, but time was a huge factor to balance against expense and the pre-made facing would cut my time by almost half. I also didn't have a good place to cut facing or an iron to press it.
  • For the needle and thread I used a #20 needle and V-92 thread.
  • I used #10 YKK plastic zippers, some of them double pull and some of them single pull depending on the need
  • I used 1/4 and 1/2" seamstick tape. You have to tape every seam and zipper on a project like this so don't skimp.
  • I used stainless snaps cloth to surface where I snapped to the outside of the coaming and in some of the smaller areas where I couldn't use zippers to connect to the bimini I used the stainless cloth to cloth.
  • I used Flex Rail to attach the screen to the coaming where it dropped down in the aft area. I used Dow Corning 795 as a sealant and #6 screws every 8".
Fitting this area was the hardest. Our mainsheet and traveler run along the forward edge of the cockpit so there was a long discussion about whether to try to rig the screen so the mainsheet came through it in some way, or whether to disconnect the mainsheet shackle from the traveler and stow it on the genoa car track. We decided to do the latter for awhile and then we can always modify that screen panel to include some type of pass-through for the mainsheet later. Having the mainsheet out of the cockpit also gives us more living room. By the way, that lovely custom Bristol 57 in the background is for sale if you can afford to fork over a cool $599K.

I ended up with five total panels. Two on each side and one across the stern. The vertical line / zipper you see in the middle of the photo is the end of the first panel and the beginning of the second panel on the starboard side. If you look at the bottom of the photo you can see where the coaming drops down and narrows.

The lower section of the coaming is pictured here with the track mounted on top.

The aft lower section also runs in the track on top of the coaming and inside of the stern. The wind vane autopilot and the outboard are all outside the screen.

When we're parked for a long while the wheel is mounted on the rail. It fits nicely outside the screen. There are several places where I used short velcro strips on the outside of the screen to mount to the bimini frame to give it extra stability.

The view from the starboard outside.

One of the zipper seams which I designed to completely cover the zippers to protect them from UV damage. You can see one of the velcro straps there as well as the snaps that attach the screen to the outside of the coaming.

Before we did the new bimini and the connector, this is the enclosure we had for the dodger. Converting the upper corners of the dodger to accept the new enclosure was the hardest part of the job. 

Here is the outside of that corner with the new enclosure.

And here is the inside of that corner.

This was the second most difficult part, dealing with the aft stay. I ended up using two pieces of screen and doing the facing below the stay and a zipper above the stay. The whole piece slides into the track, then the middle zipper zips, then the top zippers, then the sides. It's a bit of a puzzle assembly, but it's pretty bug tight. We're pretty excited to have another living space for when the grand kids are with us next month. It will also provide us with good shade in the Bahamas. At some point when we head north again we'll do the plastic portion of the enclosure, but for now there was no reason to expose it to UV damage when we don't need it yet. All in all, next summer here at Snead Island will be much more pleasant with a place to sit in the evening.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Story tellers

I like stories, and I admire story tellers. Story tellers have always been important to humanity. Lesson plans and class rooms are how we pass along facts and knowledge, but stories and myth are how we share truth and wisdom. Sadly, story telling has fallen on hard times in our society. Part of the reason I don't miss TV is that the story telling is so lame, its main purpose to be just titillating enough to have the viewer hang around for an evening's worth of commercials. Books still do a pretty good job, though with the loss of editing finding a good story that is also well written is getting more and more difficult. For my money, outside of a good book, the best story telling our society has to offer at the moment is the occasional movie. (Though many of them are now focused on selling toys and video games, rather than telling a good story.) Still, there was / is some good story telling in movies, and movies hang around for a long time. Parked as we are here at a dock, two of our best sources for movies have turned out to be the local library and the $3 bin at Dollar General.

Over the last week or so, two older movies in particular have shared far better than average stories. The first was “The Great Debaters” (2007), the second “Guilty By Suspicion” (1990). The first told a tale of being Black in America, circa 1938 in Texas. The second was about being the target of the House Un-American Activities Committee (now known as the House Judiciary Committee) in the mid to late 1940s. Somber tales, both, touching on times when America was not so great. Yet even when America was not being so great, there were normal Americans who helped make her a little greater. Some risked the hate and mob violence of the Jim Crow South sanctioned by a heartless and corrupted government. Others faced a life of oppression at the hands of an openly heartless and corrupted government, one that had abandoned any pretense of honoring the Constitution, or even simple human dignity.

In both cases, those on the wrong side of history loudly claimed to be righteous in the eyes of a god, and the True American Patriots. History, of course, has judged them to be some of the nation's most notable hypocrites. But here's the thing: most of them died without ever knowing that of themselves. We know, and can learn from their failings, because the stories have been passed along.

Which is why I am such a big fan of the true story teller.

Most of us are never going to know how we might fit into the stories told by future story tellers, even if we are just anonymous background characters. But I'm going to take a guess at the kind of stories the story tellers will tell of our time; see what kind of characters we really are.

The racists, the ones claiming a special understanding of what god wants, and those most loudly claiming to be the True Patriots, will be villains scorned. Those who ignored the need to cherish and protect the earth that supports us will be reviled as some of the worst of humanity who ever lived. The story tellers will make them out to be ogres and trolls. Ugly, twisted creatures who reeked of rot and death.

 At some point, those who love war may fight one that leaves much of the world devastated. Those who survive and rebuild what they can (assuming there are any left) are going to tell stories of demons and monsters who nearly destroyed the planet. The war fighters will have sunk so low that the story tellers will not regard them as members of the human tribe. (A truth maybe, even if it isn't a fact.)

And the heroes? I'm not sure who the heroes are going to be. Perhaps it will be those who lead a peaceful revolution. Perhaps it will be millions who stood before the tanks or the armed mobs unmoved by fear, demanding, and then building, a society that truly is just. Maybe it will simply be those who survived and managed to carry on. Or they may be people who chose to take care of the people around them, standing at the front door of their neighbors and friends when the new brown shirts came for them, because that is what good people do.

The heroes might even be those who were unafraid to meet violence with violence. You never know. We would be listening to much different stories now, if the first people who dressed in white robes and danced around burning crosses as a black man hung dying above the flames, had been seen as easy targets rather than protectors of the "American Way of Life". I'm not saying we would have better stories than the ones we have now. (After all, stories of the civil rights movement are, by and large, pretty good stories.) Then again, maybe we wouldn't be writing stories about the return of Jim Crow.

Mostly though, I suspect the stories of our time will be ones of opportunities squandered, of chances missed, of a people who – for reasons unknown and perhaps unknowable – turned their backs on compassion, reason, and wisdom. The most noticeable trait of the story the story tellers will tell about us is that there were no heroes, They will tell of a people who happily - and knowingly - danced with the trolls and the ogres, following them out into the darkness...

...and were never heard from again.