Monday, December 31, 2018

And there you have it.

The day after Thanksgiving festivities in St. Louis, I made my way back to Kintala to begin the long month of small repairs, cleaning, and packing to prep her for sale and our move to an apartment. A two day drive turned into three after stopping for a short visit with the crew of Blowin' In the Wind where they were docked in St. Simons. Pulling through the gate at Westland Marina in Titusville, FL the third day and after 1200 miles, it was hard to deny that it was going to be a very long month.

I can't say enough good about the staff at Westland Marina. Dave was unbelievably pleasant and helpful on the phone before we even got there. Once we arrived, he did everything possible to make our transition to the hard a painless one. Patricia, the office manager, is the definition of efficiency and got us checked in post haste. And Angie? She's my new hero. She and Dave run the best DIY yard I've ever been in. It's clean, well organized, and well maintained. The bathroom, laundry, and lounge facilities are top-notch and always clean. Trash is emptied frequently, and all of the machinery is clearly well-maintained. The month would have been much more difficult had it not been for this group of helpful people and their dedication to running a first class facility.

The odd thing about time is that it can simultaneously drag and fly by. The 14-hour work days allowed a lot of time for reflection since polishing stainless and cleaning and oiling interior teak don't take a lot of concentration. The individual days seemed endlessly long, but the days left on the calendar were dwindling rapidly. I had the truck reserved for December 16th and after spending 24/7 with Tim for over five years I was missing him terribly and was highly motivated to get back to St. Louis to see him before Christmas.

The hardest thing about making a move off a boat is the actual logistics. In order to clean properly, I needed to empty lockers and cabinets. In order to do that, I needed to pack, but where to put the boxes while still leaving room to work? Even with our bulkhead table and resulting open floor plan, there's not a lot of room for boxes. It was a bit like a 3D puzzle. A short discussion with Dave and Angie and my job became much easier. They have a system there at Westland where they put a pallet on the forklift, raise it up to the deck gate, and hold it still while you load your boxes. I packed up enough boxes for one pallet and offloaded it the following day. I wrapped the pallet with mover's shrink wrap and Angie hauled it to the boat rack building where they put it in one of the racks up high.





A few days later, pallet two joined it, leaving only tools, cleaning supplies, and my last minute galley things and clothes.  I couldn't pack up the tools till I was done with the small repairs, something that couldn't be completed yet since I was waiting on a part to arrive. I needed to figure out some way to get the tools off the boat but to still have access to them without breaking the bank. I thought of renting a car to store them in or getting the truck earlier, but both were cost prohibitive. I briefly considered just loading them on a pallet under the boat, but the weather was supposed to fall on its face so that idea was discarded rather quickly.

Photo courtesy of westlandmarina.com




















I finally decided on getting some really large plastic storage tubs and putting them under the boat. Fortunately, Lowes was kind enough to put their largest storage tubs on sale that week, presumably for people to store all of their holiday decorations in. The clerk that checked me out said that she moves a lot because her husband is in the military and she went out and bought 22 of them so she just packs them instead of using boxes. They stack easily for storing so I could see the benefit.

Once the tools were off the boat, I was able to start at the bow and work aft doing that deep cleaning that you can only do when cupboards and lockers are completely empty. It was so nice to finish the V-berth and be able to look at as I finished the rest of the boat. I needed the motivation to keep going!



One by one the lockers were cleaned and freshly painted, ports polished, the deepest depths of the fridge were cleaned, the teak cleaned and oiled. Kintala was sparkling and I was ready to go home. Exactly three weeks to the day from my arrival, Angie was kind enough to give me a hand on Sunday, loading the pallets directly onto the U-Haul with the forklift so I didn't have to load the individual boxes. The whole of our five years cruising fit on three pallets, 4 x 4 x 3, including a lifetime of aviation tools. Not too bad for a couple sailors aspiring to minimalism.



The very last thing to leave the boat was the grandkids' mascot, Bean the Bear. He had the honored place of shotgun on the trip back. I'm waiting to see if he can endure city life or if he's going to sneak back with the kids when they visit to head back to sea...

As I worked along over the three weeks, some disconnected observations about the experience floated through my head. I offer them to you here as they appeared, in no order.

  • When we get the next boat, I told Tim we are going to put it on the hard for two weeks every year and empty every cupboard, locker, and cubby so I can discard junk, clean and paint the interiors, and restock in some orderly fashion. Really. I'm serious.
  • Cleaning brass really doesn't take much time or energy and the results are so immediately and completely satisfying.
  • Right after you finish oiling the teak, a huge cold front storm will find another leak so you have to do it again after fixing the leak.
  • Moving off a boat after five years was way more difficult than moving out of a house after twenty years.
  • Why do we wait to fix that small annoying thing until we're selling something? I had intended to modify the mainsail cover slots for the lazy jacks for the last year. I have absolutely no idea why I waited.
  • It's fun to see how long something lasts in the boatyard free pile after you put it out. The record goes to some fiberglass repair components - they got snatched up before I even finished getting them out of the dock cart.
  • First Place in cleaning supplies: Miracle Cloth. Someone mentioned these on one of my Facebook forums. I'm a skeptic by nature so anything called Miracle Cloth in my mind probably isn't. I was so very very wrong. This is the most amazing product to come along for boaters in a long time. It's a heavy duty rag saturated with some sort of cleaner combination that includes coconut oil. It smells great, but boy oh boy wait till you wrap your hand in it and rub that rusty stanchion. The rust just wipes off. One cloth did over half the boat and probably would have lasted longer but it was totally black. I'll be doing a detailed review in a separate post, but in the meantime here's the link on Amazon.
  • Runner up in the cleaning supplies: Mother's Mag and Aluminum polish. I ran out of Prism and couldn't get any delivered in time to use so I found this stuff at the local auto store. It's a completely acceptable metal polish. Miraculous on our aluminum backsplash and did a good job on brass. Prism is my go-to polish for metal, plastic, fiberglass, pretty much anything but, honestly, it's been going up in price so bad that I've been looking for alternatives.
  • It's amazing how many meals (although odd) that you can squeeze out of what's left in the pantry when that means you don't have to pack the food, carry it, or move it into the new place.
  • If you absolutely need something to fix or clean something on the boat it will absolutely be in the box you just taped up.
  • When the people at Enterprise start calling you by name and asking you how the boat is coming along, it's long past time to be gone.
  • A piece of dark chocolate is good any time but it's especially good when it's the last piece you have and you just found it in the fridge.
  • The love of bacon is relative. When you just finished spending several hours cleaning the stove, it's easy to ignore the package in the fridge.
  • There is simply no greater pleasure than a long hot shower after a long dirty day of work.
  • No matter how long the project list is, there's always time to stand and chat to your neighbor about where they've sailed.
  • The easiest thing to leave: the 12-foot ladder.
  • The hardest thing to leave: Tim's custom bulkhead table.
  • As I sat resting one afternoon, I looked around and realized that there is simply not a single component, system, or piece of Kintala that we haven't laid hands on to do something to: maintaining, customizing, cleaning, polishing. As I looked at it all, my only goal was to leave the boat in the condition that I would want to find it as a prospective buyer. Whoever you might be, I've accomplished that goal. And there you have it.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Rescued from the Apocalypse

I needed some things for the apartment. You know, stuff like sheets that fit the now queen-sized bed rather than the king-sized V-berth, and some dress pants and shoes for Tim since his zip-off pants and boat shoes were a little inappropriate for the new job. I went to Target early the day after Christmas, right after dropping Tim off at work. Pushing my cart through the kids' department after realizing we had a grandson's birthday to think about, I stopped mid-track, stunned. It looked like a tornado had ripped through the department. There were new clothes strewn around on the floor with dirty cart tracks pressed right over them. There were piles of clothes laying on top of hanging racks. There were labels ripped off laying everywhere. There were products from other departments laying everywhere, many of them opened. A pair of someone's badly worn tennis shoes was shoved under some clothes, obviously a product of a shoe theft. Shelves were wiped clean, and remnants of the clothing they held were laying in a pile on the floor at their ends. I literally couldn't even process the destruction.

There was a sales associate walking around picking things up and, bewildered, I asked her, "Is this from the Christmas rush?" She looked at me with a look that mixed exhaustion, frustration, disgust, and a touch of depression before answering, "This was just from Christmas Eve. We did double the business we did last Christmas Eve  - way over our projected total. People were pawing through things, shoving other shoppers aside...it was mayhem." Realizing I probably looked pretty stupid standing there with my mouth agape, I explained. "We've been living on a boat the last five years. I guess I've been a little isolated from this..."

Every department was more of the same. There was some odd post-apocalyptic vibe in the whole place; the elevator music was silent, leaving only the sound of pallet jacks, stacking boxes, and the little bleeps of their stocking computers trying desperately to determine the original location of something left on the floor. Sales associates and stockers shuffled silently through the layers. No one smiled.

Since returning to landed life, I have seen the very worst of my fellow humankind. We've been dumped unceremoniously into the whirlwind that is consumerist life in the States today. Impatience, greed, and abject rudeness abound everywhere. If it weren't for the blessing of having our family close by, I might have been tempted to join the workers in their despair, but the years of travel have changed me in a very fundamental way. 

For more than five years we've been blessed to be part of the cruising community. It was, in fact, the single most important part of our cruising experience, and one that surprised us. We expected to love the sea, the sunsets, the long walks on beaches, the movement of the boat through the water, the playful antics of the dolphins, but we never expected that we would form the deepest friendships we've ever had in over sixty years. We never expected to experience the selfless giving, the complete trust, the genuine caring that we have from those we traveled with. We never expected to see the very best of humanity or the ways in which that would change us.

Our friends of Life On The Hook recently decided to buy a house and to commuter-cruise some months out of each year. He commented that he wasn't sure they would still be considered cruisers once they had a permanent address on land. I replied that I disagreed, that I think cruising changes who you are, and grants you a place there permanently. Cruising is a state of mind, that of caring, kindness, helpfulness, generosity, wonder, respect. Those are qualities that develop as a result of being part of this traveling community, qualities that remain even when a member of the community is landed, regardless of how long.

As I navigate the apocalypse that is landed life, I will carry with me closely the memories of the last five years: the unexpected gift of food from a tiny galley, the offered ride to buy groceries, the support during a family death, the countless smiles and waves from cockpits passed in the dinghy, the offer of a free dock for a night's stay, the innumerable bouts of laughter over appetizers in the cockpit. And if all that is good about the cruising community can bleed over just a bit to the people around us here in the city then I'll consider the time well spent.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Closing a circle...

The end of my first week of being un-retired for the third time, and this time it is serious. It has been about 13 years since I last went through indoctrination at a new company. No one actually calls it “indoctrination” anymore. Instead it is “indoc,” which sounds a little less 1984 Big Brother-like. In fact it has been rather interesting, going around to various departments to get the low-down on what part they play in the business of helping professional aviators be even more profession still, and how what they do intertwines with what I am going to be doing. As in many things “aviation” there is a whole army of people behind the scenes making possible what pilots or (in this case) instructors, do. We (pilots and pilot instructors) get to launch and strut our stuff for all to see and admire but, without that support staff, we would be talking to empty caves while scratching lessons on the wall with a rock.

Not exactly Kintala's cockpit...

Things have changed a bit since the last time I joined a big company. “INDOC” now includes a long list of subjects addressed by computer-based training. The longest and most detailed instructions explore the areas of workplace harassment, cyber security, document security v privacy, protecting trade and military information and, as one can imagine in this post 9/11 world, preventing bad guys from using advanced simulator training to learn how to crash airliners into buildings. A lot of people clearly put a lot of effort into preventing such a ghastly affront from happening again. Instructors are the last line of defense, but its hard to imagine anyone getting anywhere even close to the classroom, let alone a sim, with such evil intent. Everyone on the planet, except the bad guys, should feel pretty good about that.

The sections on harassment and protecting private information could pretty easily be summed up the words of Confucius. “Surely the maxim of charity is such: Do not unto others what you would not they should do unto you.” I know the Christians claim this one for their own, and that’s fine. But it seems pretty likely that they borrowed it from the Stoics, who likely borrowed it from Confucius…who likely borrowed it from someone now lost into history.) In today’s world the training on work place harassment and protecting private electronic files took up most of a morning. It seems a pretty sad state of affairs when so much emphasis is needed for something we should have all learned in kindergarten, “Don’t be a putz.”

All in all I am finding the transition back into a world I once knew so well, but have been away from for a while, smoother going that I had feared. Some regulations have changed, some procedures are different then they were. I am getting used to driving once again, and now expect at least one person to try and wreck into me on each commute. Keep an eye out, dodge as necessary, and all is well. Seconds later all is forgotten, just another day on a St. Louis road.

It also turns out that one of the instructors working in the same program I am about to join was, once upon a time, a student of mine when I worked at a University. I gave him his initial introduction to high altitude and turbine operations. Now he is a five year veteran at FlightSafety and fully qualified Sim instructor on the Legacy 500. In fact he may end up training / checking me out in that airplane. Which I think ranks pretty high up there on the, "How cool is that" chart.

Talk about closing a circle.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Going forward


Our first few nights in the new apartment, it will take a while to get acclimated to living this deep in a city. We were pleased to see that there is a clear line of sight from the balcony to the setting sun. I’m tempted to keep the Conch horn close by to mark the day’s end. There is so much noise in the city, one clear note of celebration ringing its way around the buildings couldn’t be a bad thing, could it? I am also curious as to why people ever complain about how a boat smells. The city’s assault on the nose is at least as bad though, like a boat, I suspect that in a few days it will become unnoticeable.



It is likely it will take several weeks to adapt to this new living space. It is only a few square feet larger than was Kintala’s interior, but it still feels much too big. The ceiling is far away for one thing, though that leaves a lot of additional storage space in closets that go all the way up. Of course the apartment it is a completely different shape than was the boat, a box fit only for sitting rather than a form fit for moving. Also, here, all we can do is decide where to stick what, adapting to the space rather than, unlike Kintala, adapting the space to us. What this room really needs is a fold up table mounted on one of the walls, with storage behind it for dishes and such. The best we are going to do is getting Kintala’s original table back, with its two folding sides and center line storage area, where rum and gin are likely to take up permanent residence for an occasional taste. The shifting schedule that will be my new life will keep such tastes to a minimum. “Flying” a sim falls under all of the rules of flying for real, including a 12 hour minimum lapse between imbibing and reporting.

The space could also use a tool storage / work shop area. Tools are now stashed in a half-dozen different tool bags, most of which are tucked away in what looks to be some kind of shoe storage area. I can't imagine actually having that many shoes but, then again, it is likely such a person with that many shoes can't imagine anyone having so many tools. 

It is hard to believe not quite two months have passed since the decision was made to do this thing. Even though I have been putting in some long hours of study to get up to speed with the new responsibilities, it has all had a kind of surreal feeling. Settling in to this new space quickly put an end to that. Going forward is now the only path to getting back to where we want to be.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Stumbling my way through…


People who live on land have made this getting back to land thing far more difficult than it needs to be. Out on the water people tend to take your word for things. People “buddy boat” for weeks or months starting out with just a simple agreement between two crews who, likely, hardly know each other. They start to respect each other pretty quickly when making joint decisions on weather and routing. Should one boat run into some kind of trouble, the other will step up and help in every way possible. Often, in our experience, “buddies” will go far above and beyond what would be expected to get their new friends out of whatever jam they have found themselves in. Such is born without so much as a handshake, just people meeting, talking, finding they have a common goal, and then agreeing to help each other along for while. Which is sort of what it should be like to have a job.

No one thinks that the other crew might be lying about their level of experience, no one doubts that the stories told are basically true. It must be admitted that sailors are at least as good as those who fish at telling stories, but somehow that gets taken into account and all is well. No one thinks that the story will be exaggerated to the point where claims of knowledge and ability are being exaggerated. In fact it is often the other way around. People who have had thousands upon thousands of miles slip under their keels, with more stamps in their passports than most people have bills, are almost shy about their adventures. Telling tales is one thing, baseless and exaggerated boasting quite another. Rarely have I seen the latter among the cruising community.

One of our first buddy boats






























That level of trust is seen in other ways. During our years on the water, we often helped out another crew with some mechanical problem. It was never necessary to offer proof that I knew enough to help. It was just assumed that I would help as much as I could, or at least not make matters worse.

Ah, but moving to land…

We bought a car. Part of that buying process involves getting it registered. Part of that registration process means listing an address. We don’t yet have an official address in Missouri, even though this is where I am currently living and where the job is located. We listed the address of the apartment we have a tentative agreement to lease. But we can’t sign that lease until I can prove I have a job. So, when the official job offer came in my email I forwarded it to the leasing office. The email, rightly so, didn’t actually have a benefits package or pay scale listed and so wasn’t good enough for the leasing office. Now I have to take a paper copy of the benefits package to the leasing office. I can tell them how much I will be making over the phone, but that isn’t good enough either. They need to see a piece of paper. In the meantime the car registrations ended up going to a place where we don’t actually live yet, and have since disappeared into the unknown. Surely ours are not the first registrations ever lost and we will be able to get duplicates. And just as surely it will be a pain in the ass, having to prove to some agent somewhere that I am who I say I am and I actually own the car they already know I own.

Then there is the background check. My resume goes back roughly 45 years. The contract company doing the background check sent me an email. They couldn’t verify that I actually attended the tech school I attended right out of High School in order to start my career, and insisted I send some kind of document. Oddly enough, my graduation certificate was actually near at hand. I took a picture of it and posted it in an email, a picture anyone halfway competent with photo shop could likely fabricate in less than 5 minutes. But it made them happy. Now though, they can’t verify that I actually worked at one company for eight years. They can verify the first five years, after that? Nada. They want me to contact the IRS, come up with some documents, and email them along. I will do it of course, but I thought the whole idea of a background check was to independently verify the claimed background. If you are going believe in the documents I send that can easily be fabricated, why not just believe my resume in the first place? The really weird thing, those last 3 years were spent flying with the person who brought me to this job, a person who as been a FS instructor for more than 5 years. If they want to verify I worked there, all they have to do is ask him. Hell, we went to Flight Safety together at least twice in those last three years for recurrent training.

Land living apparently makes one skeptical of everything and everybody. Nothing is taken at face value, no one’s word is good, everyone is assumed to be running some kind of scam. I guess that is understandable, just look around. The land lets people get away with things, things big water would use to administer a major smackdown.

All who live out on big water face the same challenges, deal with the same kinds of problems, have to have mastered the same basic skills. There is no where to hide when things go awry, and when they do everyone caught tends to work together; first to survive, then to recover. When cruisers meet it is something they know that they share. Somehow big water has infused much of the cruising community with a basic honesty.

Something I never thought about much until heading back to land, and something I really, really miss at the moment.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Balance


It has been several weeks since I put Kintala in the rear view mirror, heading back to St. Louis to work for Flight Safety International as a ground / sim instructor. The job is secure now, with the official start date less than two weeks away. There will be a ton of training / preparation work before I actually stand in front of a class room full of pilots or saddle up in a sim. First there is the required pile of paperwork to complete. There is an old saying in aviation that goes along the lines of - an airplane can’t fly until the weight of the design, test, and certification paperwork is at least equal to the maximum take-off weight of the aircraft. Digital files and computers have reduced that stack somewhat, but it looks like pre-employment paperwork for flight instructors has to equal about half the applicant’s body weight before they can be turned loose.




Once the paperwork is complete and indoc finished, the real training begins. There is computer-aided training on subjects yet to be disclosed. Then there is a new type rating for the aircraft they want me to teach, the Embraer Legacy 500. This will be my fourth type rating, the third I have earned at Flight Safety. A type rating is a month-long training exercise whose intensity is hard to describe. Modern day full-motion simulators are marvels of engineering. It is quite easy to forget that one is attached to Mother Earth, and so no matter how badly a maneuver might get botched, the ground will not rise up and smite thee. The risk might be simulated, but the tension on the flight deck can get very real indeed. There are emergency procedures; engine failures at the most critical moments of a departure roll, wind shear encounters, explosive decompression, flight control anomalies, fire…that must be utterly mastered. Perfect execution, in these cases, is just barely good enough. 

Along with the simulator training are forays deep into the aircraft systems: normal operations, failure modes, redundancies, limits, reversion modes…hydraulics, electrical, flight controls, pressurization, air conditioning, de-ice systems, auto-brakes…  Yes, there will be a test and no, it will not be graded on a curve. Every professional pilot in every airliner cockpit has been through similar training. That is a good part of the reason for it being safer riding along in an airliner that has lost an engine and half of its flight instruments on a dark and stormy Saturday night, than it is driving down the road on that same dark and stormy Saturday night after the bars have closed. On a sunny Sunday morning with all the systems up and running normally, it is safer to be sitting in an airliner than to be sitting in church.

For flight instructors there is another whole area of training required, that of learning how to use the training aids, those being the simulator, graphical flight simulator (GFS - otherwise known as a cockpit procedures trainer to us old pilots) and the myriad training aids used in the classroom. There will also be a week’s worth of instructing on being an instructor, something I am quite curious about and looking forward to doing. It all sounds rather daunting even if I have been through it several times before, and have spent hundreds of hours standing in front of a class room full of students. 

Will the upcoming years be interesting, challenging, and worth while? Yes. Will they be as good as those same years spent on Kintala, wandering hither and yon, being part of the cruising family? I honestly don’t know. My thoughts easily drift back to quiet anchorages, clear waters, and overnight passages; both easy and not so easy. Most of my dreams are of being on the boat, the first waking moments bring a touch of regret as the dreams give way to being back on land. My feeling is this is going to be both better than I had hoped, and harder than I had imagined. Its a bit like that first crossing to the Islands, half way there in the middle of the night, lightning on the horizon, lumpy waves occasionally splashing into the cockpit. One part of the brain says, "Relax, it will be fine. You know what you are doing." But some other part of the brain says, "Are you crazy? What are you doing here?"

For the curious, the link shows the exact place that will be my working "home," and the very sim I am about to learn. 

www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2017/november/pilot/turbine-school-is-in-session

Friday, December 7, 2018

We own a car...


We own a car. I know “American Normal” is to own at least one car, usually more. In fact, at this moment, we actually own two, though that will soon be rectified and is part of another story. But the fact is we have been rather happy with not owning a car for these past five years. When needed, we would rent a car for a day, weekend, or for a trip to see Daughters and families. We used one when we needed one, paid for it, and didn’t pay for having one around when it wasn’t being used. If we had owned a car it would have been hard to come up with a way to move the car as we wandered around. Even a small one wouldn’t fit on the deck, and trying to tow one behind Kintala would likely not work out very well. So we made do without. But now we need a car nearly every day as there is no public transportation that works with my new schedule.



I have a schedule. I know it is “American Normal” to have one’s life ruled by schedules. There are schedules for work, kids' soccer, church or other social obligations; people have self imposed schedules to catch sports games on TV or particular TV shows. Cruising “schedules” are a whole ‘nuther thing, spanning hurricane seasons and month long tide schedules. They shift and change; the schedule that worked northbound in the spring would bring nothing but trouble if tried southbound in the fall. On the boat, most of the time, if something caught my interest that kept me up most of the night, no problem. There was no alarm set for the morning and I could sleep as long as needed. But soon there will be a “schedule to keep,” though it is still likely to be different from most “land schedules.” 

Oddly enough, though airline passengers think of nothing but the schedule, and get rather irritated when a carrier doesn’t hold to the schedule, for people who actually work in the flying end of aviation “schedule” is a misnomer. Flying work comes at all hours of the day and night, everyday of the year. Some trips last a day, others two or three and, depending on the particular segment of aviation one is in, can run on for a week or more. In the training world that I am about to enter, the full motion sims (each of which cost in the millions of dollars range) normally work 20 hours a day, pretty much every day of the week. Since “flight time,” even in a sim, has daily limits set by regulation, it takes roughly two and a half instructors to ride herd on the crews training each day. Someone gets to head for work around 0300 in the A type M in order to crank up the sim at 0400. Someone else gets to shut the thing down at Midnight. The time slots shift so constantly that one of the questions during my official interview was if having a not-really-a-schedule schedule would be difficult for me. 

So my soon-to-be schedule-less schedule requires a car. And it turns out I’m not much of a city driver any more. In fact I’m not much of any kind of driver. I have turned in to that “old guy” who sets the cruise control at 5 over the speed limit and then goes about my business. Oh, I try to stay out of the “fast lane” so long as my exit doesn’t get off from that side. But if it does I’m not likely to speed up for the last mile or two just because the guy behind me is pounding on his steering wheel and shaking his fist at me. If I notice at all I’ll just wave back. Truth to tell though, I would rather try and get Kintala on a dock in a 3 knot cross current or cross the Gulf Stream on a dark and bumpy night, than tangle with Rt 40 through St. Louis at rush hour. I think doing the latter is far more hazardous. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but some of these land dweller types are in an awful hurry for people who can’t drive very well. 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Unexpected turns…

Deb's post explains what happened. Kintala will soon be for sale and we are land bound. Really, really land bound. St. Louis is about as far from big water as is possible to be. Our cruising life has hit a bit of an impasse and some very hard decisions had to be made.



Those who know me know that selling the boat isn't much of an issue. Kintala has been our home for a while now, a part of our adventures, and served us well. With much effort we have transformed her into a good and dependable tool for living the life we wanted to live. I expect a good whack of depression when stepping off her decks for the last time. Not from stepping off the boat, but from stepping away from the life - even if just for while - that we worked so hard to build. My Grandfather once told me, "Never cry over anything that can't cry over you." There will be other boats.

I'm still coming to terms with the idea that we would do such a thing but, quite frankly, this opportunity came at the exact right time for us to manage some changes that need to be made. Kintala has been a good boat. Just shy of being an outright racing boat, she did the job of teaching us to sail well rather than just well enough. Being neglected for part of her life and needing a ton of work, she also did the job of teaching us how to keep a sailing boat going, mile after mile, year after year, adventure after adventure. In that light she was likely the perfect boat to get us going. But she was never the right boat. Now we can get her sold without facing financial ruin if she sells slow, piling up the storage fees. We will have a place to live while working though the selling process, and a steady income to cover the (un)expected boat costs sure to raise their hoary heads over the next few months.

Realizing that replacing Kintala would be fundamental if we were to continue cruising happily along was one reason to do this. Another reason, as Deb explained, is that we are just about out of working cash to keep going. Ideas and efforts to "pay as you play" were not promising. I didn't much enjoy being parked at a dock while working full time. It might have been different if the boat yard had been less isolated or we had owned a car. But it was a hard time for me, not at all what I imagined my life would be like when we left to go "cruising." I'm not sure I would have managed it at all except that Daughter Eldest and Family joined us, ending up on their own boat. That we have to leave them is the only real down side to this opportunity,  and it was nearly enough to have me take a pass. Every life gathers a few moments that are impossibly tough, the kind that leave an actual hurt where your heart usually resides. Leaving Blowin' In The Wind in our wake was one of those moments for me.

This foray back to shore will be different from when we lived there before because we are different people than we were when we left. Happy minimalists now, just the idea of a life weighed down with stuff makes us shudder. Also, living on a boat is just a very small step from living outdoors. I fear having sunrises and sunsets hidden behind walls of concrete, with the night sky whitewashed by the city's glow and the moon barely visible, will chafe at my heart. I know that memories of nights spent at anchor in the Islands will haunt the dark hours when the noises of the city drum against the windows and sleep is hard to find. Memories of clear water and dolphins at play will intrude while sitting in the break room or preparing for another classroom hour. They will be good memories holding the promise of times yet to unfold. But they will also cause a twinge somewhere really, really deep, a moment of regret that we are away from the endlessly restless water that has become so much a part of our everyday life.

So we are looking to live as simply and lightly as possible, something we have never done while living on land. Transportation needs will be met as modestly and cost effectively as possible. A long commute has limited appeal, and the only living space that is green and outside of city / suburban living is many, many miles away from a job sight located just across the street from the International Airport. Which is the first reason for choosing to live in the city.

Another reason for looking to live deep in the heart of a major metropolis area is that, oddly enough, is has its minimalist benefits. Suburban living offers little in the way of small, efficient, boat like living spaces. We are already looking at an apartment that has just about the same square footage living area that is Kintala. Provisioning (grocery shopping as they call it on land) is within easy walking distance, as are eateries (for when Deb is away), a world class public library, and other interesting places to explore. There is no West Marine nearby but, for a change, that will not be an issue.

St. Louis is good about maintaining green, common spaces. There are well maintained parks everywhere one walks, and the Gateway National Park is just a few blocks away. At least we have a river near by, one we can visit pretty much whenever we like. The apartment complex includes its own common spaces, one being a large gym. That is something I have missed while living on the boat. We walk a lot as cruisers are wont to do, but the lifestyle is not as inherently healthy as we thought it would be. Even with a full time job there will be hours available to get my resting heart beat back to where it should be, build up a little stamina, and maybe shed a few sloppy pounds.



Another good reason for living in the city is that we have never lived that life before. Why not try something completely different? The hope is looking at this as a whole new adventure will take some of the sting out of leaving the boat. The fact that two Daughters and seven grand kids live in St. Louis helps, as one can imagine.



There is some question as to just how we can pull this off, having been as deep into, and as much an enthusiast of, the alternative, independent, nearly self-sufficient and mobile life style that is cruising. I am curious about that myself. In my perfect world I would be collecting a nice pile of doubloons for teaching sailors how to warp onto and off of a dock, set a sail, and navigate from hither to yon without crunching into Mother Earth.

In the real world, however, the only way these kinds of dollars come my way is for teaching younger pilots (and reviewing with already highly experienced pilots) how to program some odd ball holding pattern into the FMS, fly a night approach to minimums in ugly weather short an engine and with half the instrument panel dark, and navigate from hither to yon without crunching into Mother Earth. All skills I spent nearly 50 years getting right, and now have a chance to share with the next generation of professional aviators. No small thing, that. This is an important gig, with a ton of responsibility, working with people who take their work seriously. Given that the need to collect a paycheck has become painfully unavoidable, there is no other job I would rather be doing, no other place I would rather be doing it, and no other group of people I would rather be doing it with.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

En·tr'acte

en·tr'acte
/ˈänˌtrakt,ˌänˈträkt/
noun
  • an interval between two acts of a play or opera.
  • a piece of music or a dance performed during an entr'acte.
When we left to go cruising 5 years ago, we knew that we would have to stop to work along the way. We were leaving a year or two before we had planned due to the loss of both of our jobs in aviation. We did indeed stop for two times to work at Snead Island Boat Works in both 2016 and 2017 and the funds earned there allowed us to go to the Bahamas again and to travel these last seven months with our eldest daughter and her family on their boat. We also knew that those funds would not take us to the later age that we wanted to begin to collect Social Security and that we would need to find more to fill the cruising kitty before long. We got our Captain's licenses with the intent of starting a charter company, but Kintala is just not the right boat to do that with and we didn't have enough funds to buy another. The end of our cruising funds loomed large in our minds as we rented a car and drove to St. Louis to celebrate the arrival of our eleventh grandchild who had graced us with her adorable presence two weeks prior.

As is his usual custom, Tim drove to the local airport where he meets with a long-time friend and one time coworker when we are in St. Louis. The friend is currently working at Flight Safety in the city and it seems that they are in desperate need of instructors, a job with a two year minimum commitment. The offer was very generous, the coworkers old friends of Tim, the working environment a far cry more comfortable than that of a boatyard, and it was near the seven grandkids we don't get to see that often. It was a no-brainer. 

So what does this mean for Kintala and The Retirement Project?

The Retirement Project will go on. Once the kitty is full and after the commitment is met, retirement and cruising will resume. Unfortunately, Kintala will not accompany us any farther. She has served us well these seven years, and even though she suffered under previous owners, she has been returned to her original beauty and sleek function through our obsessive care. It's time for her to find someone who will use her for what she was made, a far superior blue water boat. She will be listed for sale shortly, but there will be incentives for anyone who wishes to purchase her prior to the listing. Once we return to the boat we will get photos together and listing details as well as a price. If you're interested before then, please contact us through the Contact form on the right sidebar.

We recently did a couple posts evaluating the "Go simple, go small, go now" mantra that pervades cruising. Whatever you feel about the issue, for us cruising without certain comforts and with the constant worry about where the money is going to come from to pay the bills just simply isn't fun. And when it ceases to be fun, it's time to find another way.

A lot of cruisers are surprised at just how far their actual budgets exceed what they were told they could cruise on. A year or eighteen months into what they thought was going to be a five-year cruise, they're facing the depletion of their funds. They're stunned, disappointed, and a bit frightened for their future. The idea of stopping to work makes them feel like they've failed to live their dream.

We went into the whole thing with eyes wide open. We knew we would have to work, although we've had to work more than we thought we would. We thought we could take Social Security at 62 and that it would be enough to live on, but the reality of our budget has made us reach for 67 before taking benefits sufficient to live on. While this two year hiatus will be challenging and a logistical nightmare, it will give us the time we need to pad the cruising kitty. With that, we can go on once again with some assurance that the financial pressure will be off and the fun to suck ratio will once again tilt toward the fun side.

Obviously the form and function of the blog will change some over the next two years. The next few months will center on the difficulties and challenges of returning to land, something that many cruisers struggle with. Toward the middle of the time the focus will shift on finding the right boat for the next adventure. Monohull?  Catamaran? Trawler? No idea. There will be lots of posts reflecting on what we've learned these last five years - the good, the bad, and the ugly. We will, as always, continue to honestly share our thoughts and feelings as we make our way. We hope you'll find it informative and, as always, we welcome your comments and questions.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A Treat For Yourself on Black Friday

Seeing how it's rapidly approaching Christmas, I'm going to indulge in a shameless little plug of my new book. Below, you'll find a copy of the introduction from the book. I think it will best tell you what the book is all about. If you're dreaming of going cruising this book is for you. If you've been cruising and are temporarily or permanently land-bound, this book is also for you. If you have family or friends that just don't get why in the world you would even think of doing something like this, buy them this book. It makes a great Christmas gift.

As with any of our writing, we've always promised that we would tell it like it is, the good, bad and the ugly. This book is no different. In it, I lay bare my soul. I hope that it touches you as deeply as the writing of it touched me. If you read it and it means something to you, please leave a review on Amazon. It's impossible to emphasize how much reviews mean to self-published authors. And, as always, I welcome your feedback.

Introduction

Selling everything and sailing off into the sunset is a dream for many who, like I once did, live a life of unsatisfying work. It's a search for something more, some deeper meaning to life than the 9-5 grind. But leaving a life I knew to embark on a life wholly unfamiliar was hard work. It takes so much time and effort that in cruising circles it's known as the “five year plan.” We were actually fortunate to depart almost exactly 6 years after our initial decision to go.

Unless you've sailed your whole life, and the departure to a full-time life on the sea is just an extension of that experience, the learning curve is steep. We had never sailed or owned a boat before we decided to do this and we were suddenly caught up in a whirlwind of classes, how-to books, and an unending list of online forums full of experts eager to offer advice. My kitchen counter became Command Central with countless to-do lists (many of which had large dollar values in the cost column) neatly arranged in order of priority.

Balancing the end of one existence with the beginning of a new life rapidly became overwhelming. Our departure day brought no relief. The first year or two of this new life was immersion school, a hard-earned lesson learned nearly every day. My illusive and somewhat hazy concept of paradise felt distant. In its place I found an unnerving sense of uncertainty, fear of failure, and that mind-numbing blankness in the face of too much information. Every moment was dedicated to figuring out the “how” of this new life. The shelf in the living room grew full of books to guide us through the “how” of buying a boat and establishing a life on the water, but as the departure date approached, I began to lose touch with the very reason I was choosing to make this significant change in the first place. 

Five years into our new life, as I was cleaning out my photo folder, I was surprised that in spite of my preoccupation with figuring out how to make it all work, my photos had captured those moments that singularly defined the “why” of my journey. I began to collect them and to attempt to capture their essence in the written word. This book is a collection of those moments that most accurately portray why I felt compelled to live a meaningful life with the sea.




If you would like to read a review before you buy, here are several:

Ellen Jacobson

Ardys Richards

Keith Davie

Thanks

I've been thinking a lot about gratefulness. The society in which I find myself living does not encourage it. Greed, impatience, consumption, and disrespect abound, but gratefulness is a commodity in short supply. I can think of only one brilliant exception to this trend, and that is with my friend Cindy Wallach of the blog Zachaboard. While she no longer tends to the blog, she posts almost weekly on Facebook with a "grateful for..." list. It's refreshing. It's inspiring. It's a habit toward which I should expend much energy. So as it's Thanksgiving Day here in the US of A, I will list just a few of those things for which I am extremely grateful today.



I'm grateful for my best friend, my husband of 43 years who is ever so patient with my shortcomings, who still finds the tenderness after all these years to run his fingers through my hair in a gentle caress, even in his sleep.

I'm grateful for my three grown children, for the beautiful women they are, for the amazing parents they have become.

I'm grateful for the eleven wonderfully unique grandchildren they have given me, for each of the different eleven smiles, and for the gift of laughter they give me each and every day.

I'm grateful for sunsets, for the ever-changing hues of them as they pass from brilliance to deep purple.

I'm grateful for friends who share the love of the sea, who know without the saying of it how much a life with the sea means.

I'm grateful for dolphins, for their whimsical humor, for their loyalty in accompanying us on passages.

I'm grateful for the smell of bread baking in the oven, for the smell of fresh coffee in the cool morning, for the scent of fresh pine as the sun burns off the morning dew.

I'm grateful for the way new grandbaby #11 rests in my arms, trusting so completely in my care.

I'm grateful for that moment of first waking, coddled in warm covers and the fuzziness of not quite cast off sleep.

I'm grateful for strong women in my life and for the good role models they are.

I'm grateful for the luxury of having one day set aside each year to think of nothing but these things.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Patch it up and keep it moving

Kintala is pressing on toward Titusville. Well, trying to anyway. The timing from Dolbow Island, where we spent the night after making a 10+22 / 45.2 nm run from Bulkhead Creek, meant having the anchor on board just as the sun broke the horizon. That was the only way to clear Jekyll Creek before the outgoing tide drained most of the water out of it. I am not a big fan of early mornings, but the anchor was up on time and we headed off down the Mackay River.

Jekyll Creek lies on the other side of St. Simons Sound from where the Mackay River enters. Just as we approached the mouth of the river Deb came up from below with the news that there was oil in the bilge. About that same time the radio came alive with reports that visibilities in the sound and at the approach to Jekyll Creek were less than 1/4 mile in dense fog. There were also reports of boats hitting the ground while trying to bluff their way through. While we debated what we should do next Kintala ran bow-long into that same fog. St. Simon Island and an anchorage we have used before lay just ahead, making the decision to abort an easy one. For the first time since we left to go cruising, the horn was brought into play, one long blast every two minutes, as we gently poked along. Within easy ear shot, a barge was tooting long and two short, underway not making way. Not bumping into someone was high on the list of things needing done at that moment. The anchorage lay just outside of the worst of the fog, making it much easier to park the boat and drop the hook.

Once settled in, we discovered that oil wasn’t the real problem. We have been hunting down and eliminating a few oil leaks for a while now, and there was no evidence of a new one. What was new was water leaking out of the pressure relief valve on our water heater; water than ran through the engine pan, collecting up some oil as it flowed its way past our engine blankets and into the bilge. We cleaned up the mess and, until we can get a new relief valve, used a union and a couple of clamps to bypass the water heater. That joint still leaked, so for now we keep the water pressure pump “off” unless we are actually using water. While doing all that, Deb said  she smelled a touch of diesel as well, but all I smelled was normal hot engine stink. We cleaned up, closed up the engine covers, and took it easy for the rest of the evening.



The next day we pressed on, making it to Cumberland Island. This time the post flight engine check left no doubt, the engine blanket was soaked with diesel and the stink could make eyes water. I was not in a particularly good mood as we dove in to see just how badly hurt we might be. After some frustrating troubleshooting we found a pin hole in the fuel line from the lift pump to the fuel filter. I was sure that the Navy Submarine Base nearby would have the facilities necessary to make us up a new one in about 20 minutes. But even if I could afford the kind of prices the military pays for things, the gun boats prowling the base entrance suggested not trying to bang on the front door to ask. (As it turned out a missile sub pulled in an hour or so after we dropped the hook. That explained the gun boats.)

With no replacement parts within sight, we went into full backyard engineering / repair mode. JB weld, some carefully sculpted rubber pads, and a couple of worm clamps later and the hole was no more. The next day’s run to Sisters Creek in Jacksonville proved the repair water-worthy. And while poking around snugging up this and that while looking for the fuel leak, we also manage to noticeably slow the flow of oil.



Now we are riding to a mooring ball in St. Augustine. The original plan was to spend a few days here, enjoying the visit with the crew of Blowin’ In The Wind. It is a bit depressing to be here without them, so the plan is to head to Daytona in the morning. One day after that should see us in Titusville.








Sunday, November 4, 2018

Heart shots...

Yesterday Kintala and Blowin' In The Wind dropped their Beaufort, SC mooring lines just as the sun was peaking over the horizon. Laughter danced across the water as the grand kids helped get their boat underway. Months after catching up with each other in Beaufort we were finally setting off to cruise together. It would not be as long a trip as we had hoped. In Titusville Blowin' In The Wind would head off for a couple of seasons of work in the Tampa area. Kintala would not be going that way. I knew that would be a hard day. We have been just shy of a single family for more than a year now. The boys? Ah, the boys and Grampy T, carving, playing Ukes, taking "wizard walks" and visiting those places only Grand Dads and Grand Sons being together get to visit. The new baby? Already walking and smiling at me. And Mia...Mia has completely stolen my heart. But that goodbye was still weeks away and I simply ignored its approach.

It was cool, almost cold, clear, with just enough wind to keep the main sails full as the ebb tide carried our tiny flotilla down the river at better than 6 knots. Our two boats where actually in the middle of the long line as we joined the parade of southbound cruisers. There may be things more fun than sailing with grandkids sailing along side on the next boat over, but I have no idea what that may be.

The last time Blowin' In The Wind crossed the Port Royal Sound they took a pretty good thrashing, so nerves were strung a little tight as we rounded red marker "246" to look East toward Africa. Four of the boats ahead of us turned, clearly taking to the outside to head south. We continued across the Sound into Skull Creek with nearly perfect timing. The tide had shifted and we were now riding a flood tide and its rising water. That same tide slowed us a bit as we crossed the Calibogue sound, then carried us on toward Fields Cut. Fields Cut is one of the thin spots along this part of the ICW. Passing through on a rising tide is always a good idea. We ghosted over a thin spot without problems, snuck through some narrow spots, and were quite pleased with just how well the day was going.

That was a thought we should never have allowed.

Just before we exited Fields Cut into the busy shipping Channel that leads to Savannah, Blowin' In The Wind called with news that their little engine was spewing oil. The nearest place to anchor was just on the other side of that shipping channel near Green 35 and, of course, a container ship was headed in the channel. There was just enough time to get both boats across. Deb tucked us as close to shore as seemed safe while I scrambled to get the anchor wet for the first time in months. A quick splash and set and we were ready to catch Blowin' In The Wind into a two ship raft up. As the lines were made fast I called the container ship by name on channel 13 to explain why we were where we were. The Captain of Ever Lucky was as professional as could be, slowing and moving as far from us as possible as soon as he heard that we were rendering aid to a boat in trouble. He then laughed a bit as he explained that he would have been far less accommodating had we been a couple of goober weekenders dropping a hook for lunch in such an inopportune place. His giant ship passed giving us only a gentle rocking. Of course, just a few minutes later, a power yacht blew past at full honk, setting our two boats to banging into each other and nearly tossing one of the grand kids over the side. (In my perfect world there would only be full displacement hulls. Its a freaking boat, just what is your hurry? If you want to go fast, put some skin in the game and buy a motorcycle.)

Blowin' In The Wind's engine was a mess. Most of the oil that had been inside was now dripping off this and pooling in that. There was so much oil that is was hard to see just where it had escaped, and nothing showed on the dip stick. A second container ship passed by, also going as slow as he could but still way too close for comfort. I sopped up all the oil I could, filled the engine with fresh oil, and watched as my grand son fired up the engine. The leak still wasn't obvious so I insisted we get the boats out of there and anchor someplace safer. They dropped away while I went forward to haul the anchor and chain out of 25 feet of water.

The offending pump, cleaned up
A few minutes later Daughter Eldest called to say that they were spewing oil once again, and she had spotted the breach. Clearly their little engine was running on borrowed time. The nearest safe anchorage was up a place called St. Augustine Creek, just a mile or so away. We pulled in, rafted up again, and started digging. It appears that the water pump seals have failed, engine oil and raw water spraying out of a weep hole. I am a moderately talented mechanic, but we were miles away from anyplace where parts were available, and I am not that talented.


We made arrangements to get Blowin' In The Wind safely moved to a boatyard were repairs could be made. Sadly, Kintala can't hang around and wait. We need to be in Titusville ASAP for a different commitment. The goodbye I have been dreading came unannounced. Brave hugs were exchanged as Sea Tow set the lines to pull my family away. Then the lines that have been holding Blowin' In The Wind and Kintala together for well over a year were finally, painfully tossed. As they were making fast to the dock we passed by heading south to an anchorage a few miles further along, exchanging final goodbye's and "I love you"s.

I hope to be able to breathe normally again by morning.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Time to vote...

So Deb and I voted today via mail. I’m not going to say anything about how we voted, though those who know me can probably guess. I like voting by mail, it allows time to research each person and each item on the ballot as I go down the ballot. Something nearly impossible to do at an actual voting place.

It was possible to look up the resume and political history of each candidate even, (in some cases) to follow the electronic footprints of their social media contributions. It seems the most prudent thing to do is try to find words written by the candidates themselves, though a small dose of skepticism is warranted. What their opponents might say about them also has some merit, but must be taken with a huge helping of skepticism. Often what they say about their opponent says quite a bit about the kind of person they are themselves, and what kind of representative they might be.

In the case of voting to leave judges and justices in office, it helps to see on which side of an argument they often fall. Just who appointed them to the bench in the first place is also a pretty good indication of where their allegiances lie. Finding some of that information takes a bit of digging.

The real benefit of voting by mail comes when considering the list of state constitutional amendments. Those often seem to be deliberately written so as to be as confusing as possible. It is a puzzle why that would be. People voting by “giving it their best guess” would be as likely to get it wrong (according to the authors of the amendment) as to get it right. Wading through the verbiage to get to the real intent of the amendment can be a daunting task.

An additional problem is that many of the amendments bundled several, completely unrelated issues, into one vote. Voting for an issue for which one approves often means also voting for a different issue on which one is vehemently opposed. Balancing the “what I would like to see” from the “what I really don’t want to see” against each other can often lead to a near draw. In at least one case on this last ballot I voted against an amendment just because it was a near draw. First, do no harm. (Or, as in the case of a lot of voting these days, do no MORE harm.)

Of course anyone can do the same amount of research before going to a polling place, and all of us should. But the daily rush of normal living sometimes makes it hard to set aside the time to do so. It helps me to have ballot, black (or blue) pen in hand, access to information, and all the time I need to poke around as much as I want on each issue or candidate. I suspect that is about the only way democracy has much of a chance.

So our votes are cast and I can go back to not paying a lot of attention to the daily shenanigans of those in power. On the one hand I consider voting to be a near moral imperative. It is about the only way we have to voice an opinion that matters. On the other hand I’m not convinced it actually makes any difference, particularly on the national level. There is nothing about the electoral college, the design of the Senate, or the gerrymandering of the Congress, that is the least bit democratic. The majority opinion as regards those institutions is proving to be utterly inconsequential.  So, though I think we should all vote, and approach the privilege with near reverence, I also ponder the accuracy of the words once shared by the late comedian George Carlin.

“Everybody complains about politicians...”

But where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality.

No, they come from American homes, American families, American schools, American churches, American businesses, and they’re elected by American voters. This is the best we can do, folks. It’s what our system produces...

So I vote, but with huge helping of skepticism thrown in. My deepest suspicion is that riding along on an empire in decline might be a bumpy passage, and there seems little chance that we can change the course of that history at this late date. But a minute chance of changing course is still better than no chance at all. Voting by mail makes it possible to do so as carefully and responsibly as I can.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Two Books...One Boat...Two Views...One Mind

The blog has been uncharacteristically quiet for the last couple of months.  Part of the reason is that we've been sitting still in Beaufort, SC and there hasn't been much to talk about. But the real reason is that our writing energies have been going elsewhere...to new books.

It's an odd thing that each of us were writing new books separately and yet, somehow, managed to finish them both at the same time. As any of you who have written anything of any length know, those last few weeks before release are a flurry of edits and re-reads to the point that you have difficulty even focusing on the words. With each edit you think you're done, only to have a proofreader find yet another typo or formatting mistake. At long last, though, both are finished. And that brought up a whole new issue – how to release two such different books at the same time.



 I posed the question to a Women Who Sail writing group that I belong to, some of whom suggested that we should stagger the releases to allow for sufficient attention to each one. Great idea, but we wanted both books out in time for the Christmas gift giving season so there's insufficient time to do separate releases. Then there was the idea of setting up a marketing contest of sorts, allowing our readers to choose which book they wanted released first. After thinking about it, I realized I didn't want to pit our works against each other in such a way.

The longer I mused, the more I realized that the situation embodied our relationship. One of the reasons we have succeeded in cruising for so long is that we get along really well. We are a melded unit of nearly fifty years, with the kind of relationship that allows complex thoughts to pass between us with just a glance and a smile. Though we share that kind of bond, we also allow each other space to be independent characters, are happy in our own skins, and content to sit, sometimes for days, in total silence in each other's company. The new books are our individual reflections on two different subjects, reflections of two different individuals who happen to share a small boat as a living space.

Tj's is a short little book reflecting on the ways in which learning how to play a ukulele at age 63 changed his perception of the world around him. The uke was gifted to him by four of our grand kids nearly a year ago, and the book was birthed by far-ranging philosophical discussions between Tj and our eldest daughter about those changes. She – the poet writer – encouraged him to write them down, and Learning From a Uke – a small book for a small instrument was born. It's a short little book, thought-provoking and honest, that touches a bit on the difficulties of aging gracefully and the joys of learning something new at any age. It's one you can pick up over and over, each time finding something new.

My book came about because I was cleaning out and sorting the thousands of photos in my computer pictures folder the day after having another of the discussions we often have with new cruisers about how to get started. As I browsed through the photos, remembering those years of preparation prior to embarking on this adventure, many of them reminded me how easy it was to get totally wrapped up in the “how” of accomplishing it, and to lose sight of why I was doing it in the first place. I began to gather those in a folder and to write a short bit about each one. Being a writer, I wanted to capture in words the essence of this lifestyle that the photos captured so well. The Essence is a collection of those photos and vignettes that touch on what it means to me to live this life with the sea.

Both books are available in Kindle and print format; the print formats make for great holiday gifts. If you do read them, please leave a review on Amazon. It can't be emphasized enough how important reviews are to self-published writers. We also love to hear from our readers, so feedback is greatly appreciated – it's the way we learn to write better, and learning something new to improve yourself is always a welcome thing.

We hope that you take from them as much as they have given us in the writing of them.

Reflections on another hurricane

As has become our habit, we decided to scamper away from the oncoming Michael a bit earlier than originally planned. Even a modest ramp up in winds, consistent 20s with guests into the 30s, would rough up the waters between the boats and the dock more than we should risk with the little ones. In addition, unloading the boats in heavy rain is just more work with everything being slippery and heavy; not helpful when the Dink is already bouncing and banging around in the wind and waves. So we bailed a day early, still had bouncy rides back and forth from boat to dock, and got a little wet.



Settling into the hotel always comes with sigh of relief. Then it becomes a waiting game, fidgeting as the hours tick by while wondering just how hard a turn our lives are about to make. A turn over which, in the physical sense of a storm’s path, one has absolutely no control or influence. It is good exercise for my everyday, working philosophy; which includes accepting that most things that steer a life are outside of my control and are, therefore, not my responsibility. My responsibility is making sound and intelligent choices in the face of those things. Do that and be content with the outcome, whatever it might be, for that is the best anyone can do.

There was always a reasonable chance we would come through unscathed and, though we haven’t been back to the boats yet, there is no reason to think otherwise. The storm is now north and west of Beaufort, not even disturbing our sleep as it passed in the night.

Tomorrow we will return to the boats and go about returning to what is normal living for us. Many discussions will follow as to what to do next, where to go, and for how long. Dodging bullets is expensive, though not near as expensive as catching one. Establishing an income stream of some sort will be necessary for a while. Sorting that out will have much to do with the direction Kintala’s bow points over the coming months. Cruising, for us, was never about retiring onto a boat. So far it hasn’t been about just learning to live on a boat either. Instead it has been a matter of learning to make a living while living on a boat. We are working on it.

It would be silly, not to mention an act of awesome arrogance, to think a hurricane was the least influenced by anything any individual might do. Yet having to shrug off a little bit of “survivor’s guilt” still comes with the event. This makes the third time in 13 months that utter disaster has passed within a whisker, disrupting millions of lives, yet leaving ours basically untouched. Somewhere, deep inside, a soul knows that just isn’t fair, that it is pure luck to land in the “unharmed” side of the equation. People far more deserving of a stroke of luck landed on the opposite side; people with fewer choices, fewer resources, alone, now destitute, facing the bleakest of futures. There is something wrong with a heart that isn’t touched by that, that isn’t left puzzled, that doesn’t wonder “why?”

Then again, Daughter Eldest and family that includes four young kids, are among those who deserve a bit of luck. Maybe Deb and I didn’t catch an undeserved break so much as ride along in their bubble of fortune.

Anyway, it is time to get back outside. Three days in a hotel, sitting with walls on every side, a roof overhead, and a floor that doesn’t move with the wind and the water, is okay. The air conditioning is nice, the staff here a delight, snuggling under the covers at night a treat. We paid for three nights, nonrefundable (based on the forecasts) and so will make the best of our little vacation. But, even after a vacation, it is always good to get back home.

Our home is more exposed to Mother Earth than most. And it is clear She doesn’t much care about human kind one way or the other. Some might even suggest she is getting a bit testy over our collective choices, displeased with our stewardship, and short-tempered with our irresponsibility and short-sighted greed. I can’t say, and can’t change it anyway. What I do know is that three of the most powerful storms in US history have now passed close by and, no matter what path they took or what else they might have done, some of the people I love most in the world were out of their direct reach. That is the world we live in, the home that we have chosen. We live in it the best that we can.