Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Third time's a charm...

A common comment around many a maintenance shop, be it planes, bikes, or boats, is “Practice makes permanent”. The gist is the person who manages some odd ball or unpleasant task will, most likely, get to do it again the next time that one comes through the shop door. It makes for a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, any good technician wants the reputation of being able to fix about anything, figuring it out, coming up with a solution, making it work. After all, someone built or installed the thing in the first place. Who wants to admit to not being at least that capable or smart?

On the other hand, does one really want to be the “go to” expert when it comes to pulling holding tanks or rebuilding heads? How about being the person who can climb down into any ugly, dirty, tiny, sharp-edged filled hole toting tools and grinders? Even tasks that are normally kind of fun, like climbing a mast, are much less fun when it is the third one of the day or the wind is blowing and the waves are rocking the boat. (We use a climbing rig around here as moving the crane in place for a simple light repair chews up too much labor time. And no, this old guy wasn’t one of the “permanent” mast guys - though I did use the harness a couple of times on easy jobs just because I could.)

But being a boat tech was never on my list of "things I want to do for the rest of my life." And so it came to pass that Friday was my last official day of punching a time clock. My first “last day” was when we moved the boat to Oak Harbor, moved aboard, and headed south. Unexpected expenses made it necessary to refill the the cruising kitty and “retirement” was put on hold for a summer season. It went well, we retired again and headed off to the islands. Life lined up to have us back here and on the clock for a second stint of “filling the kitty”. That has worked out really well in ways completely unexpected. Still, we always knew that the time would come to work on throwing the dock lines once again.

This makes the third attempt at being retired and, in this case, “practice makes permanent” would be okay with me. Not sure how much confidence I have that it will work out that way, but we have managed pretty well so far. No reason not to keep giving it a try.

It will still be a while before Kintala rides to an anchor or mooring ball as she requires a bit of tender loving care of her own. Care that wasn’t as forthcoming this past summer as we had hoped, mostly because a whole tribe of grand kids were around to fill up the days. A real bottom job, all the way down to the gel coat for a barrier coat, is on the schedule. There are some plumbing mods to make (yes in the head system), a few rigging issues, brightwork, and an assortment of odds and ends we want to address. Estimated time of completion and departure sometime near the end of January.

I’m sure the enthusiasm for working on my own boat will return after the first few minutes of working on the first project. That will likely be replacing some of the running rigging, a low key way to get up and running on personal boat projects. Later we will have to work on the habits of living off the grid once again, conserving water and battery power, planning ahead for making stops to add fuel and stores, keeping an even closer eye on the weather.

But for now, just having the time clock out of my life feels pretty good.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

And then there were Ten…

Grand Daughter Newest made her debut early Friday morning. It was perfect timing on her part. There had been much concern that the drive to the Birth Center would happen during one of Florida’s nightmare rush hours. It seemed a good bet that, this being child 4 for Daughter Eldest, such could well lead to a delivery happening on the side of the road somewhere, sans any professional help. There was also the issue of the tide. Low tide would turn just getting Mom off the boat and to the van into a huge hurdle (forgive the pun). There was also the issue of getting the rest of the family, Dema, Grampy “T”, and children eldest, middle, and little, to the event; and what to do with the family for those first couple of post-birthday days when Mom and new baby could use some easy, quiet time to get acquainted and settled into some kind of routine.

Hotel rooms close to the Birth Center were reserved as the due date approached and, as each day passed, the reservations changed as required. A rental car took up residence off of Kintala’s pier, providing enough seats to get everyone where they needed to be while adding a bit of flexibility to respond to transportation needs. Bags were packed with the essentials and placed strategically, ready to be grabbed quickly. Phones were kept charged and checked periodically to make sure the ringing would be loud and unmistaken as the call to action. All of this excellent planning, by the way, being done by Dema; Grammy “T” just going to work each day while trying not to forget the assigned minor parts in the impending proceedings.

The starting gun for our part of the scramble went off at 0210, with the tide closer to high than low. A few minutes later we were at Blowing in the Wind, boat home of Daughter Eldest and family of soon to be another. Mom and Dad headed off to the Birth Center with Son Eldest who, it turned out, became a kind of Master of Ceremony at the actual birth. (More on that in a moment.) Even in Florida there is no rush hour at 0210, so long as there isn’t a hurricane inbound. (Now there is a thought sure to induce shudders of dread.) Mom, Dad, and Brother Eldest made it to the Birth Center with time to spare. There, Brother Eldest, just a couple of weeks short of his own 9th birthday, not only attended the arrival of his Sister Littlest, he held onto Mom’s hand, encouraged her through the last of the contractions, actually handed his new sister to his Mom for the first time, and cut the umbilical cord when the time came. An amazing display of poise and maturity that floored the professionals in attendance. So taken were they, that Big Brother is actually listed on the official paperwork as one of the doulas in attendance. (How cool is that!?) Future boyfriends are going to have a serious hurdle to clear when it comes to Big Brother, one that will likely surpass even those raised by Dad and Grampy “T”.

While all the serious stuff went on at the Birth Center, the rest of the family settled in at the hotel awaiting news. Brother (little) and Sister (soon to be not the littlest), having already been real troopers though awakened in the middle of the night to find Mom, Dad, and Brother Eldest long gone, being loaded into the rental car, and enduring the drive and settling into the hotel, faded off to sleep. The approaching dawn brought news that Little Alexandria Francesca had arrived safely in our midst and that Mom was doing well. A few hours later, the family reunited at the hotel where introductions were made all around and the stories were shared. That unique feeling of joy, mixed with relief, and seasoned with the wonder and love that the newly arrived bring with them into this world, infused the room.

Some people claim the mantel of “born to be a sailor”. Alexandria, if she so desires as she grows, can actually make the claim of having been born a sailor. Her first home is a sailboat, one that was (fortunately) floating on a high tide when the time came. How her life will unfold is a story yet to be told, but she is off to a unique start.

Welcome aboard Little One.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Which way

A couple weeks ago, we very much enjoyed a visit to nearby marina to partake in a Thanksgiving pot luck dinner. Living in the boat yard has kept us away from the live-aboard / cruiser community so it was good to be back among the tribe. While there, I recognized a person who had been in the boatyard to have his boat launched. We had talked for a few minutes back then and I got the short version of the part of his life that had led our paths to cross. He struck me as a bit eccentric - not unusual among our group - and affable; though more animated than is my normal approach to the world.

I was a little surprised then, while we were in line to fill our plates with goodies (and completely unprovoked by anything I had said since I hadn’t said anything at all) he stated, “I assume you are pretty conservative.”

“No,” I said, unable to suppress a smile. “Not even close.”

“Really?” I guess it was his turn to be surprised. “I hope you don't lean too far left.”

“How far is too far?”

He chewed on that for a moment then said, “Well, I know you are a person of faith.”

“No,” I replied still smiling, “Not even close.”

“I guess we’ll have to work on you.”

“I appreciate the thought, and feel free. Realize you will not be the first who has tried.”

Plates full, we headed off to different parts of the group, which was fine with me. But that short little exchange sparked a muse…

How far is too far?

How far is too far when it comes to seeing that every child has enough food, a roof over their head, access to health care, and a chance at an education? Does raising taxes on billionaires and corporations, or scrutinizing military spending cross some line into being a less caring people than taking care of kids? Single payer health care provides access to millions upon millions of people all across first world societies. Is suggesting the US should at the least seriously consider such an option, leaning so far that it will make our heath care system worse than it already is? Compared to the rest of the civilized world, is that even possible?

How far is too far in supporting universal human and civil rights? Where are those limits that should never be crossed - trying to ensure that our justice system actually dispenses justice, or insisting that law enforcement officials, themselves, operate within the law? If we refuse to incentivize prisoners and prisons as profit centers, is that going too far, somehow leading to the downfall of our society? Is providing medical care for individuals with serious mental health issues rather than locking them up in solitary confinement for months (or years) somehow leaning too far toward being a compassionate, enlightened, society?  It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer, is a Maxim that has been long and generally approved.” I fear, in the America of today, it is a maxim no longer generally approved.

Is it leaning too far left to recognize that the 47 year "war on drugs" has been a abject failure? Once again, the rest of the civilized world has learned that treating drug addiction as a health care issue works. Treating it as a criminal issue, does not. It is actually something some Americans learned at least a generation ago, which is why there is a 21st Amendment to the Constitution.

How far is too far in the support of democracy? Is insisting that every American citizen of voting age has free and easy access to a polling place, and that their vote will actually be counted, a line that should not be crossed? Will making election day a national holiday, or changing “election day” into  "election week” somehow demote us to being a less democratic people? How about just getting rid of the electoral college, an anachronism that has twice in the last five elections put the loser of a national election  in the White House? Will a "one person - one vote" mandate for the office of President of the United States make us less democratic nation?

How far is too far in keeping the oceans that we sail over and live on healthy, capable of supporting the biodiversity that feeds much of the human population and produces about 70% of the oxygen that we breathe? If there is to be much of a future, is suggesting that we must balance our consumerism against fouling the water that we drink, tainting the air we breathe, and poisoning the food we eat leaning so far that it will - somehow - detract from our chances of survival? If future generations look back on us as wise, careful stewards of the planet, (which, at this rate, they are certainly not going to do) will they think that we “leaned too far" in bequeathing to them a planet they could survive in and enjoy?

It it leaning too far to realize that threatening to start a nuclear war in order to preempt a nuclear war is a horrifyingly stupid idea?

On the other hand, it is pretty easy to point out where leaning toward “law and order” can go too far. Leaning so far as to declare that “money is free speech” crossed some line into delusion. Greed never was a good idea but, as a society, we certainly lean pretty hard on propaganda and advertising trying to make it so. We have taken too much to leaning on war when trying to solve issues best left to diplomacy, and are paying a fearsome price in lives and treasure in support of that obsession.

When it comes to leaning, which way is the thing that matters at last as much as how far.