Thursday, April 25, 2019

Throwback Thursday - The What and the Why

This post is for any of you that are considering the cruising life, but are still stuck in a cubicle on land. We still had our starter boat, Nomad, and were a year from buying Kintala.

The what and the why

There is no way to avoid it, we spend a lot of hours working on little Nomad. Much of the work is pretty serious stuff, engine cooling systems, electrical charging systems, bottom paint, re-bedding life line supports and bow pulpits; the kind of stuff that makes the boat work better and sailing her safer. (Though I tend to play it down a bit, it is possible to get seriously hurt on any sailboat, even on our little lake.) Jobs like replacing the step carpet, water damaged and moldy side panels, head hoses, and headliner, keep her cleaner and dryer and a more healthy place to spend one's days. New interior lights make her cabin that much more inviting. And all that teak work? That just makes her pretty.

We spend a lot of hours working on the boat, but not near as many hours as we spend working at jobs to support the boat, and the house, and cars and bikes... We enjoy all of those things but sometimes I wonder about the "degrees of separation" between what I am doing and why I am doing it. When I work on the boat there is no separation at all between the what and the why. My hands are in direct contact with my goal, get the boat in the water and enhance my experience of living on her for the weekends. When I'm at work, sometimes, I am not at all sure just what I am doing sitting at this desk, and I sure as stink sometimes wonder why.

Living on a boat, I imagine, is not the only way to have such an intimate connection with a life. A farmer might pull it off, a rancher, maybe a mountain man. But I have never been any good at making things grow, I don't really care for animals, (particularly ones that are much larger than I am and can kick me into next week) and there are no mountain men any more. I do machines, and have a killer case of wanderlust. At the end of a "boat-work" day I can pour a Rum & Coke and sit right down in the middle of what I got done that day. And then, if I want, I can pull up an anchor and head off somewhere else. (Unless we are on the hard!)

I suspect I am more than a little out of step with my world. From our first days at school we are taught to find our place in a complex society where the bit we learn to do can be added to the bit someone else has learned to do, all the bits added together, run through an even more complex medium of exchange and distribution, and somehow it adds up that most of us can pay to have a roof over our head and food on the table. It works pretty well too, modern society taking better care of more people than at any time in all of history. (Well, recent history might be an exception. The bits aren't adding up as well as they used to.)

But sometimes my bit doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, and how all the bits add up to credit card bills and house payments, a little vague. The bit I do this morning will be forgotten by lunch, the bit this afternoon lost in the haze before the drive home ends. Come evening I am not exactly sure what I spent the hours doing, or why it was worth one of my allotted days. In fact I can't think of anyone, anymore, who works for the shear joy of doing what they do. And that may be the saddest thought I have had in a while.

But it also explains my fascination with working on Nomad. I love working on our little boat, and not just to get her back in the water. I enjoy making her work a little better and look a little nicer. And when she does splash and make her way into the lake once again, she will be a tiny spec of form, function and joy moving across the water. In fact, I am of the opinion that every boat that hoists sails makes that day a better day. In the scales of the world having a good day or a bad one, a set of sails pulling hard in the breeze offsets a lot of ugly.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

On the move…

One of my favorite things about living on the boat was being able to move to a new place without having to move anything but the boat. Pick up the anchor or drop the lines, that’s all it took to be on the way. On land, moving is a much more tedious, yet labor intensive, process. Pick up, pack up, carry stuff out, load the truck, unload the truck, carry stuff in, unpack, and put things away. There is furniture to be disassembled and then put back together, and everything needs to find its new place in the new place. So when we moved back on land the plan was to move no more than two times. Once back onto the dirt and then, cruising kitty full, once more back to water. But, apparently land plans are as much written on a beach at low tide as are the cruising kind. Not even six months in this place we are off to a different place. It's a strange and wonderful tale.

Daughter Middle has a big family, with grandkids (six) growing every day. They knew they were going to need more room in the not-too-distant future and so starting looking around. Nothing serious, just getting the lay of the housing land. Things got a bit more interesting when they recently managed to sell a house they have owned on the East coast where they used to live, many a moon ago. With money for a down payment they started to look just a bit more seriously. They found a place that would be perfect, though likely far out of their price range. But, with nothing to lose they offered as much as they could, though it was still far below the asking price.

Less than a week later the offer was accepted. Yikes!

Thus began a blizzard of activity to get their current house sold as soon as possible. Painting, cleaning, fixing, they all worked like crazy, Deb included. (I did what I could but there is this whole “earning a paycheck” thing that fills up a lot of my days.) The house barely made it to market before it was sold, and I mean barely. It sold in something like 18 hours.

This morning they closed on the new place. Two houses a thousand miles apart sold, and a new one purchased, all in the matter or a few weeks. I'm not sure I believe it even though I had a ring side seat to the show.

The Granny Flat Salon (sale photo-not our furniture)
Anyway, their new place has all the room they need for the growing family, including grand daughters (2) scarily close to being teenagers. It also has a detached garage in the back. One with a two room apartment on top, something known as a “Granny Flat.” By the end of next week it will be known as the "T and DeMa flat." How can you not love the idea of having rent money stay in the family?

The Granny Flat Galley
The hardest part of our leaving the boat was leaving Daughter Eldest and her brood behind. There is a few minutes of every day when my heart hurts from not having them as a part of my daily life, not waving to them from the next mooring ball over, not settling into a quiet anchorage with the two boats rafted together. Those days are some of the very best days I have ever known and, someday, we plan to live like that again.

The days to come hold the promise of being the land version of those days. Days filled with strumming my Uke with a little one on my lap, of whittling sticks with grandsons, of seeing the youngest take some of her very first steps. I know a lot of people believe in some kind of reincarnation, or of karma. It sounds good, but I fear it can’t be so. There is no way I ever lived a former life so well as to have this one working out the way it is. But I'll whisper my thanks that it is, and start packing.  

The Granny Flat Aft Cabin (sale photo-not our furniture)
The Granny Flat Cockpit

Friday, April 19, 2019

Land Dink

For most people living and traveling on a boat requires some way to get back and forth to land without having to wrestle said boat onto and off of a dock. We had the Dink. It was bought used, dull gray, and powered by a tiny little outboard barely capable of pushing the thing across the water. I was never a big fan of the Dink, particularly when using it at night. But as the years rolled by I became a bit more comfortable in the thing.

Moving back to land meant finding a wheeled version of the Dink; some way to get back and forth to various places miles and miles apart. Since the primary reason for our sojourn back to the hard was to shore up a badly depleted cruising kitty, spending a ton of cash on a new Land Dink seemed counter productive. Instead we found a used one at a dealer of good repute. It had low milage for its years and was a “fully inspected pre-owned vehicle”. There was enough money left in the bank account for us to pay cash.

The radio, heat and air con worked. It kept me dry even when it rained. It had a cruise control, which was nice. And it had a remote starter, which became my new favorite toy. Aim the fob at it from the second story window of the shop’s Instructor hang-out, push a button, and it would start right up. By the time I got in, heat was pouring out of the vents and the ice was melting off the windows. Pretty cool. We were pleased to meet the transportation needs of our land sojourn at an acceptable cost.

A month or so after purchase, the new-to-us Land Dink began to shudder once in a while when pulling away from a light, particularly if it was going uphill. It felt very much like I had forgotten how to drive a clutch. Possible, I guess, but this was an automatic. Some days it would be better, other days worse. But the overall trend wasn’t positive. Having long ago learned to be pro-active when it comes to mechanical things going wrong with a Dink, we drove it the hour plus back to the Dealer Of Repute and dropped it off for repair. Two days later they called. There wasn’t anything wrong, or so they claimed. Test drives along with computer and visual checks were clean. 

Come again? I may not be a car guy, but I am pretty good at telling when something isn’t working. And it seemed highly unlikely that the seat of my pants were more sensitive than the various sensors built into a modern car. But what are you going to do? It is really hard to fix that which isn’t obviously broken. At least they didn’t charge us for not finding anything wrong, the rental dink being the only blow to the bank account.

A few weeks after the shop insisted that all was well, the shudder was joined by Traction Control warning light in the dash, and with that the cruise control went away. At first it seemed like a good sign. A traction control problem could, possibly, lead to such a shudder. Maybe a bad but hitherto intermittent sensor lay at the root of the problem? Though not likely, at least it seemed possible this would be a relatively painless fix. We made an appointment with a nearby dealer to look at the car. Before the appointment date arrived an engine warning light appeared as well. The traction control fault had shut down the cruise control. The engine fault shut down the remote start. The Land Dink was getting to be just as annoying as our water Dink had once been. But with lights glowing, there were clearly things broken that could be found and fixed.

The first thing the new shop did was download the fault history from the car’s memory file. There was a lot to read. Multiple failure codes associated with the Traction Control, piled on top of those that came from the engine’s oil pressure system. Add the whining noise that turned out to be a failing fuel pump, and front brake disks that were warped just enough to heat up and cause the steering wheel to shudder. Repair costs quickly added up to more than the car had cost in the first place, though the shop suggested it would probably run for a few weeks, maybe even months, as it was. We paid a modest troubleshooting fee and limped home.

The Land Dink was a dud. 

Several days of debate ensued. Go cheap again and hope lemons don’t fall in pairs? Buy more expensive but still used and get some lemon warranty as well as some modest retail value in a few years? Reliability was an issue that came to the fore as I limped back and forth to work. The schedule can cover odd hours of coming and going in the wee hours of the morning or deep into the night. The trek from home to shop traverses some parts of St. Louis that are places that one does not want to be stranded in the wee hours of the morning or deep into the night. Hem and haw, consider and debate, decide, un-decide, and decide something else.

The dull gray Land Dink went away. In its place is a brand new, shiny white Land Dink of good repute, complete with a bow to stern warranty. All decisions eventually get judged somewhere off in the future, where things not yet known are old hat. If a dull gray dud of a Land Dink is the worst decision I make while back here on land, I’ll think we did pretty well.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Throwback Thursday - Depth of Field

I wrote this post after we bought our starter boat, Nomad, but before we bought Kintala. Our cruising plans were just really beginning to take shape, so for those of you in that foggy middle ground of the 5-year plan, this one's for you.

Depth of Field
I spend a good bit of my week at work doing graphics for marketing materials for the aviation parts company that I work for. I was working on some pictures this past week of a group of long hoses that our hose shop sells and my manager chose the picture he wanted for a brochure but made the comment that he wanted a longer depth of field on the hoses. "You need to get these fully in focus, Deb." he said.

It's funny how very small, simple statements like that can have a profound impact. Later that evening I began reading the copy of The Voyager's Handbook by Beth Leonard that had just arrived courtesy of Amazon. She spends a good deal of time in the early chapters talking about the cost of cruising and encourages her readers to honestly evaluate their financial readiness to embark on the path to the fulfillment of their dreams. After completing the chapter I opened a new Excel file and began to jot some figures down.

Somewhere between "Current Savings" and "Annual Income - Post Retirement" a remarkable shift began to take place. Until this point, my dream of retiring to a sailboat has been something akin to sailing along in New England fog...a vague image of a boat and shores unknown, with no clear picture of the details. In fact, the "dream boat" has been some odd conglomerate of catamaran and monohull, the journey somewhere between Cape Cod and the "Islands", and the time frame somewhere between now and "I've fallen and I can't get up...the companionway". Thanks to Beth Leonard's countless hours of research and personal cruising experience, and the volunteered information from so many of her cruising friends, out of the fog sailed a mid to late 80's 36-40 foot, cutter-rigged monohull firmly in the middle of my figures. Depth of field is still a little shallow, the boat isn't fully in focus yet, but my dream has gone from maybe...possibly...want it to a budget in my spreadsheet. A budget that I can make work. A budget that can buy a real blue-water crusing boat. But what boat, you say? Hmmmmmmm I'm focusing...stay tuned.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Price Reduced!

Hi. Just in case you're new to this blog, my name is Kintala. I'm a 1982 Tartan 42 designed by Sparkman and Stevens. They really know how to design sailboats, so I have lovely, sleek lines. My hull is designed to have a long waterline when I'm heeled over, and the extra length allows me to go just a little faster. I'm a cutter rigged sailboat, and I just love it when the wind is kicking up and I get to leap over the waves flying everything I've got.

My owners took me from a sad, sad state of neglect and over the last 8 years they worked on every single system I have: improving, customizing, polishing, sanding, varnishing, and giving me all sorts of new stuff like an easy to hoist mainsail with a Strong Track system, a  custom dodger and bimini with a nifty bug screen enclosure to keep the no-seeums out of my cabins, 300 watts of solar, and my favorite, a custom bulkhead table with lots of storage. In order to do all this work, they built a custom workshop with tons of storage for tools and parts (and they have a LOT of tools...) and a real honest-to-goodness workshop bench with a vise.

I have this awesome Mantus anchor on my bow that doesn't ever drag. I love to spend lots of days relaxing at anchor in the Bahamas while my Captain plays ukulele in the cockpit and my Admiral bakes all sorts of delicious smelling things in the galley. She has a couple weeks' worth of supplies stashed in my big pantry so there's always yummy smells wafting from my companionway. I have an amazingly comfortable V-berth where they lay and watch the moon rise and talk till all odd hours of the night about all things philosophical. I guess being out in nature tends to make you think like that.

Any way, they sorta ran out of money before they ran out of places to travel, so for now I'm stuck on these miserably uncomfortable metal jackstands in a boatyard in Florida while they make enough money to go cruising again. I'm not usually one to complain, but I did inform them that I was a sailboat, not a Yard Queen, and that I would much rather prefer the sound of water rushing alongside my hull rather than the blasted trains that run up and down this stretch. So they agreed to trust me to the care of an awesome broker named Melanie Sunshine Neal (don'tcha just love her happy name?) and see if she could find me some new people so I could get back to the water I love so much. And to help me find some new people, they reduced my price to $59,900 this week. So if you want to see all the pretty pictures of my insides, click here. And if you want to talk to Melanie about coming to meet me, just contact her through my Yachtworld ad. I can't wait to meet you!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Throwback Thursday - Strings and Things

For those of you who might be in the middle of your five-year plan to go cruising, I wrote this post about the things that are difficult to leave. Untangling yourself from land life is not for the faint of heart.

Strings and Things

The second day of our ASA 103 course we got to the marina early and we were sitting in the cockpit of the Catalina 31 in sweatshirts drinking coffee and enjoying the crisp fall morning. Even though I am credited for the plans to retire to a sailboat, it was Tim who said "we gotta find a way to do this" as he leaned back in the stern seat and closed his eyes to let the sun warm his face. It was the beginning of our Five Year Plan.

We've done pretty well so far, taking four ASA courses, buying a boat, living on her every weekend and learning about the systems and the new way of life in confined spaces. I've started the slow process of cleaning out closets and paying down bills. We've read everything we can get our hands on and talked to everyone who will put up with our questions. It appears that we've gotten to that place in our Five Year Plan where we're beginning to think about those things that will be last to deal with, the hardest to part with, the last string to cut.

In nearly every story, article, and interview we read, the question eventually comes up - what were the hardest things you had to say goodbye to when making the break from land? I pay close attention to these in preparation for my own cutting of the strings. There is a certain amount of trepidation involved in my ruminations, a fear that when the time comes I may not be able to follow through. This is also a feeling that every liveaboard cruiser has dealt with, so at least I do not go there alone.

This weekend was a weekend away from the boat, a trek to our annual sport bike rally in the north central portion of Arkansas. 

The 300 mile ride there gave me plenty of time to think about the situation, objectively removed from Nomad. Clearly, the ZX-14 is at the top of the list. Clipping along on fantastic Arkansas roads deep into triple digits is an adrenaline rush that would be difficult to match. On the other hand, as I sat around the bonfire later that evening, it occurred to me that I'm probably getting a little too old to be rip-snorting around Arkansas roads deep into triple digits. As if on cue, just moments later I remembered sitting on the Lavezzi 40 catamaran during our Memorial Day ASA 104 /113 course and thinking I could very easily call home and tell them to sell everything and send me a check. I could have walked away and not looked back.

It's an odd place to be, this in-between stage in our Five Year Plan. One foot on land, one foot on the boat...looking back...looking forward...but I find myself looking back less and forward more. It surely helps that our cruising will take us to visit family that we don't see now. A lot of cruisers are saying goodbye to family when they leave the land which makes it bittersweet. Our ventures, though, will be taking us to grandkids, nephews, friends. It also helps that I desperately want to simplify life. At the moment, every minute of every day is accounted for - laundry, bills, cooking, cleaning, helping our kids, and the miriad of daily errands that living on land requires. I want desperately to get up in the morning and have nothing better to do than drink my coffee in the cockpit while I plan the day's boat chores and watch the great blue heron scout his breakfast.

As much fun as I've had this weekend, I can see the strings holding me to land growing threadbare. When the time comes, I'll be ready.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Throwback Thursday - Weekends and the Inevitable Monday

When I wrote this original post we owned our first lake boat, Nomad but were still three years away from buying Kintala  and five years away from going cruising. We have been luckier than most because not only did we enjoy our time on the lake on Nomad but we got to travel for five years on Kintala and have some of the most amazing experiences. Looking back on it, though, if even the only thing we had gotten to do was to sail Nomad on the lake all those weekends, enjoying the wind and the water and the white pelicans and the sunsets, we would still have succeeded at squeezing every good thing out of each moment. Many people plan to cruise and consider themselves failures if they can't make that dream a reality. If cruising has taught me anything, it's that I will have succeeded if I enjoy every moment of life as it comes, even the preparations to go cruising.

Weekends and the inevitable Monday

One thing I've noticed is that owning a boat makes you much more aware of the weekends. We sat around last night, after coming home from the lake, planning out the remaining weekends till the ice hits. I decided two things: A)There's not enough of them B)There's not enough of them.

While complaining about this very thing at work one day, someone told me that Tim and I have "too many toys". I've been musing on the subject a lot since he said that, wondering if I was somehow guilty of using up someone else's share of toys, guilty of paying an inadequate amount of attention to the duties that beset me at work each week.

And then...I think about my sister-in-law's battle with melanoma these days and I decide that one can't have enough time spent playing with toys. We spend so much time concentrating on the process of making money, to what end? None of us knows whether we'll ever make it to retirement in the first place, or who we'll spend it with. I guess I've decided to enjoy it now, and to spend it with my favorite person.

I've always loved a poem called Life's Clock which has one line that is my mantra: "The present only is our own"

The Clock of Life

The clock of life is wound but once and no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop, at late or early hour.

To lose one's wealth is sad indeed, to lose one's health is more,
To lose one's soul is such a loss that no man can restore.

The present only is our own, so live, love, toil with a will,
Place no faith in tomorrow -- for the clock may then be still.

Robert H. Smith

It's funny but if you look in the dictionary at the word "beset" there's a nautical application (for those of you non-nautical folks): Unabridged (v 1.1) - Cite This Source - Share This
be·set Audio Help /bɪˈsɛt/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[bi-set] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
–verb (used with object), -set, -set·ting.
1. to attack on all sides; assail; harass: to be beset by enemies; beset by difficulties.
2. to surround; hem in: a village beset on all sides by dense forest.
3. to set or place upon; bestud: a gold bracelet beset with jewels.
4. Nautical. to surround (a vessel) by ice, so that control of the helm is lost.
[Origin: bef. 1000; ME besetten, OE besettan. See be-, set]

The ice is closing in...and I intend to enjoy the water while I can and the wind (however little there is) in the sails.

Tick Tock.