Tuesday, October 12, 2021

First Night on First Light

This is our third St. Louis to New Bern foray. A good part of it is a nice drive through the Blue Ridge mountains, this time with some of the trees just starting to turn. It was a reminder that seasons change. Though it will be a while yet, it certainly feels like a seasonal change is in the works for our lives as well. We are boat owners again, and are working toward spending a lot of time on the water. It must be admitted that our little car didn't enjoy the trip. Loaded as it was with tools, dishes, hardware, parts, more tools and more parts, hauling that load up the mountains had our little engine howling in protest and put a good dent in our usually impressive MPG.

It was 15 hours worth of “nice drive” with a New Bern arrival time of 10 pm. We elected to spend the night in a hotel and start our first full day on First Light fresh. Since we would be in the hotel for less than half a day, most of the stuff would stay in the car with just a few bags and musical instruments going inside with us. Almost to the front door, I remembered that we needed one more bag for the night. I headed back to grab it while Deb checked us in. As usual, I had backed into parking places because the scraping noise that comes from the bow when the curb is too high makes me wince. Said bag was in the trunk. It was dark and I was tired so it didn't register that the ground was really soft as I popped the lid and started to rummage around. Soft, because I was standing in the middle of a giant ant metropolis with a population likely larger than that of New York City. Those little buggers took offense at me stomping through their world, swarmed my Keens, and tried to encourage me to depart at once.

They succeeded.

Just as I closed the trunk I felt the first little prick of hurt, Moments later I danced into the parking lot with bag in hand and feet on fire; dropped the bag, shed the Keens, and started sweeping the little demons off my skin. Staggering into the lobby barely able to walk was a bit of a show. Now in the light I could find the few remaining assault troops still chewing their way into my nervous system, popped a Benadryl Deb keeps on hand, and limped up to the room. (A good bee sting can put me down for days. The Benadryl was an at-hand, hope-it-works-if-there-is-a-problem kind of thing.) While I iced my burning feet, Deb ran to the local store to get some med spray and bandaids. It all helped, and by midnight I was in bed after an 19-hour day.

The next morning, we rolled into the Marina for a third time as owners of a new-to-us boat. Day one was spent finding our way around, getting some things cleaned up, and starting a new to-do list. We put up the shower cap, (big cover that goes over the fly bridge.) It was at least as much of a job as was putting up the bimini and dodger on Kintala. Then we figured out a way to get power on the boat. Man, has it been a while. The big power plug had no match on the pole. Oh yeah, there is an adapter thing that goes from big to small, plugging the boat into a regular looking socket. But that doesn't carry a lot of amps so careful selection of what went on and what when off was necessary. Fridge and battery changer only. The boat's batteries are toast but, with the charger running at least we have some light. There is a pallet full of new batteries to be installed, a task for later. A couple of pieces of furniture got tossed off the boat with the help of a couple of young yard workers. A few other odds and ends were accomplished.

So, I sit here in our new salon, first night on First Light. First impressions....

The interior of this thing, compared to Kintala, is massive. Not quite as big as the two room apartment that is our land-side home, but for a boat? There are big picture windows all around. At the moment all they look out on is boats on the hard in various stages of repair or decay. But it isn't hard to imagine the view in No Name Harbor or Crab Key. The forward cabin looks to be twice that of Kintala's V-berth. Two people can fit in the galley without rubbing (Deb says she's not sure that's a good thing...) The lower steering station seems a bit tight. But it is still bigger than that on Kintala, and it is INSIDE. 

There is a big-screen TV that is tied to some kind of magic box that actually has stations on it. Weird. We haven't had any kind of commercial TV in our lives for nearly 20 years. A quick run through stations I've never heard of was all it took to convince me that we haven't missed anything. But there was also a DVD player and Deb and I like to watch movies. Since moving to Kintala all such watching was on a tiny screen. But this big screen came with the boat so why not give it a try? Deb bought a DVD while at the store picking up some other stuff so we could see if the DVD worked at all. There was a total rat's nest of wiring, TV, DVD player, router, power strips. One would think tie-wraps are some kind of state secret. There are also two different remote controls. I haven't had one of those in my living space for nearly a decade. Now I have two. So we ate dinner and watched John Wick off a bunch of bad guys because they stole his car and killed his dog. 

Pure cartoon violence, BANG...BOOM...SMACK...GRRR...we got a couple of good laughs. Then we hit the shower, I put some more goo on my still-aching feet, and it is time to call it a day. It was a good day, and holds promise of more good days to come.

Can't beat that.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

A different kind of minimal

I usually hesitate at taking a guess at what someone else is thinking. Half the time I can barely make sense of the thoughts crashing through my own head, let along those of someone else. But, that being said, I suspect many sailboat dwellers harbor just a twinge of smug at the light touch they leave as they live and travel. Those not minimalists by desire are still minimalists by design: using the wind for go power, living in tiny mobile houses, making electricity with solar panels and wind generators and passing through a place leaving little trace and no permanent mark (At least those not living on Super Boats.) Even the divots gouged out by anchors, already under water where no one could see, would be gone minutes after pulling the hook and ghosting away. People who live such a life are surely among Mama Earth's favorite children. I will admit to being a bit pleased with having been one of them.

But my sailing days are over. The next time we take to big water it will be at the urging of two thumping Cummins of around 150 hp each. Both will leave a trail of stink lying on the water while, by any standard, pushing the boat a remarkably few miles per gallon of fuel. In fact, I just did a crude estimation and it looks like the trawler goes just a bit further on a gallon of dinosaur juice then does a corporate jet. Ouch. The up side is that the jet will go further in a day's worth of travel than the trawler is likely to cover in a year. (As an aside, after all the travails with the WesterBeast, I am wondering at being ganged up on by two engines nearly three times the size of the Beast. At least these are in a pretty big pit where I can work around them without always drawing blood.)

Since we will not be doing much driving while trawler-ing, will still be making a good bit of our own electricity with solar panels, (at least while not moving) and still living in a tiny home not taking up much room, hopefully Mama Earth will give us a pass on making a tiny bit of stink. And if She does get a bit irritated and send a hurricane our way, those thumping Cummins will give us a fighting chance of getting out of the way.

Still, if we manage to find ourselves anchored somewhere, surrounded by a gaggle of masts rocking gently in the swells, I will understand a few slightly elevated noses.  I hope some will still drop by, take an easy step out of the dink onto the swim platform, settle on the flying bridge for a nice look at the view, and join us for a sundowner. 

Friday, October 8, 2021

Insurance Circa 2021

Ed Note: Another detailed post about insurance procurement in the marine world. If you're not planning on buying a boat any time soon, you can probably skip this one.

Hurricane Dorian 2019

Like a list on a bad dating site, there was Sandy and Andrew and Katrina and Michael and Harvey and Irma and Dorian...and whether or not you believe in climate change, hurricanes are increasing in frequency and strength.

And insurers are taking note.

When we bought our first boat, it was on an inland lake. We were able to get insurance through BoatUS for $857 per year even though we had no prior experience and only a handful of ASA classes. When we bought Kintala that amount went up to $1100. When we announced our intention to move the boat to the coast and begin full-time cruising, they said no, thank you. We looked around and ended up with Markel, who served us the whole first year just fine, although with the annoyance of having to report to them every time we changed states. At renewal time, we were referred to Jerry at Novamar Insurance in Sarasota, FL who was able to get us a good policy with GEICO. It started out at around $2300 but reduced each year with the lack of claims, and by the time we sold Kintala it was down to around $1700 for an agreed hull value of $95,000. The only claim we ever filed was for a hurricane haulout for Irma and they paid quickly.

Fast forward to our trawler purchasing period, now two years after selling Kintala. I contacted GEICO and even though their policy is to not insure any boats over 30 years old, they did quote us because we have our car with them. It was even a reasonable quote for hull value of $74,900 and $10,000 personal property and $500,000 liability with a policy premium of around $1700. It did not include the Bahamas, but we really didn't intend to go there this first year anyway. It went to the underwriters as soon as we agreed to it, and a few days later, after sending them the required copy of the survey, they came back with the statement that we had to comply with all survey recommendations, both the safety items on the A list and the recommended items on the B list, before we could close on the boat. Ummmm.... we told them we could not work on a boat we didn't own and we couldn't close on the boat without insurance. They said too bad, so sad, and the conversation was over. It was quite a surprise, because when we bought Kintala, the insurance company gave us a rider with 30 days' allowance to complete the survey recommendations, and we only had to address the A list safety items, but GEICO was not budging.

Back to the drawing board. Our broker, Lars Bergstrom from Curtis Stokes, suggested that we take a look at their website where they have compiled a very nice list of resources for those buying boats, including insurers. I sat down early the next morning with my notebook and began to call every single one on the list. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that each of the people on the list were brokers who would all be calling the same underwriters for the policy, so I had duplicated a lot of effort for some of the brokers (sorry, guys) and ended up with a bit of confusion. In the end, we contacted a fellow sailor, Laura of Legacy Underwriters, Inc. (who I knew from the Women Who Sail Facebook group) who was able to hook us up with a policy from Concept Special Risks, Ltd. It was massively confusing because even through her we had to fill out multiple applications—one for her company as the broker and one for Concept directly. In the end we were supplied with a policy for the hull value of $72,900 with a $10,935 deductible for normal damage (if there is such a thing) and a whopping $21,870 deductible for named storms. In case you're not doing the math, that's almost a 30% deductible. (The named storm deductible on our last policy for Kintala was 5%.) Liability at $500K, uninsured boaters at $100K, and personal property at $10K. Yikes. And this is even with the fact that both Tj and I are USCG licensed captains. Still, they insured us for the whole US and the Bahamas, and they're OK with liveaboards. Acquiring insurance was one of the longest parts of the purchase. It took a full 15 days from our first phone call to an insurance company until we had a binder so we could close, and another full week before I had the policy in hand. They gave us 45 days to complete the A-list on the survey, something we are in the middle of now.

So here's what I heard from the companies I contacted.

  • GEICO—they don't insure liveaboards. Period. They don't insure anything over 30 years old or 40 feet. 
  • Anchor Marine—the rep did contact us back but I had already secured a policy by that time. We were really in a time crunch for the closing after screwing around with GEICO for so long.
  • W.R. Hodgens Marine Insurance—he also did respond but we already had our binder in place by that time.
  • Blue Water Yacht Insurance—"I can't help you."
  • Jackline—they do not insure anything under $100K. They primarily only insure circumnavigators
  • Markel—never got a response
  • Novamar—"I seriously have nothing for you."
  • I repeatedly heard "we don't insure liveaboards" and "we don't insure boats over 30 years old" and "we don't insure travel to and in the Bahamas" 

So my advice is this:
  • Do your own research. Don't assume because someone else got insured by so-and-so that you will also.
  • Get your insurance tied down solid before you sign the closing papers and transfer funds.
  • Be completely upfront with the underwriters if you plan to live aboard. I know a lot of people are just getting insured and not telling them, but if you go to file a claim it could quite easily be denied
  • Be sure to get the survey compliance requirements in writing and secure a reasonable time frame to get that work done.
  • GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING - deductibles (both regular and named storm), navigation limits, liability, uninsured boater, medical payments, personal effects, time to complete the survey items, exactly what survey items have to be completed, what hurricane plan is required.
  • Be prepared to pay at least 25% down on the policy, if not in full.
  • If you're new to boating, get every training class done that you can. It will help immensely. ASA101, 103 104, 105 and your state's boating safety courses all add up on the application. Also, keep a logbook of any charters you do. I seriously doubt we would have been able to get insurance at all in this environment were we just starting out like we did in 2008
  • Be prepared to do this Every.Single.Year. Keep your notes—just because they insured you this year does not mean that they will insure you next year. Boat owners are getting dropped all the time by companies they have dealt with for years
  • If you elect to self-insure, be sure that you understand the risks of doing that. Believe me, it crossed our minds, but we would still be required to have liability insurance in order to stay in many marinas, and the difference between just liability and hull insurance was not great enough to persuade us. If you elect to go this way, you may want to secure the advice of a maritime lawyer first.
And my final statement on the topic is...Good Luck!

Sunday, October 3, 2021

The Boat Purchase Circa 2021

Ed Note: This is a longish post about the whole buying process for our new trawler First Light. The detailed information has been requested by many folks also looking, so bear with the history lesson necessary to explain what buying a trawler looks like in  2021.

The first boat we ever bought, our Compac 27 named Nomad, was our "starter" boat, our learning boat. The Compac was perfect for that since she was a stout, forgiving design. She was already located in the marina where we wanted to be on Carlyle Lake in Illinois, an hour's drive from St. Louis where we lived. The price was a stretch for us at the time, but we decided to proceed anyway. The owner of the boat had properly prepared her for an extended time on the hard because he was away—he left her fully shrink-wrapped and in the care of a local broker who also had a boat in the same marina. We didn't hire a buyer's broker, we didn't do a survey, and the whole transaction took less than two weeks. Boat US insured us even with no survey and no prior experience other than ASA101, ASA103, and ASA 104. Such is the way with less expensive starter boats. Such is the way with boat purchases circa 2008.

The problem with Nomad's purchase going so smoothly is that it left us ill-prepared for the purchase that Kintala would be. We were completely unprepared for the purchase of a serious cruising boat. We had no knowledge of surveys, or big-boat brokers, or over-land transportation, or the types of problems that the many new systems of a serious cruising boat would bring. We were bringing our aviation world expectations into the cesspool of marine world realities. While we made it work, and enjoyed 6 wonderful years of full-time cruising, it cost us dearly—in physical, emotional, and financial hardship. Vowing to try to help others not to make those same mistakes, we wrote How NOT to Buy a Cruising Boat

As we sold Kintala and moved back on land to refill the cruising kitty, we began to think about the transition to a trawler. The last year we sailed had been a sort of survey of our future plans. We were asking every trawler operator we could find if they were sailors in the past and how they felt about the transition. To a person they all said they wished they had done it sooner. The plan then was pretty firmly ensconced in our minds as we sold Kintala, but the timing had yet to be determined.

Right before the Covid lockdowns were declared, we took our Trawler School in Biscayne Bay, FL. In fact, the lockdowns were declared while we were anchored in No-Name Harbor enjoying a sundowner. We realized immediately that this would put a wrench in our works, so the plan kind of went on hold till we could see what was happening. Not a bad plan, because more time = more money in the cruising kitty. 

Even as Covid put a damper on the plans for over a year, we began to spend a significant amount of our spare time on Yachtworld again looking for what might be the "perfect" trawler. We realized after the trawler school that it would take some time to decide what style of trawler would fit our lifestyle the best. We were being slow, cautious, and vowing not to repeat the same mistakes detailed so painstakingly in our book.

Once Covid became the New Normal, we started to seriously look around a bit. The market was going insane with all the available boats going to people who had decided that 1) since they had to work remotely anyway due to Covid they could do that from a boat and social distance at the same time and 2) since life was uncertain, to say the least, then maybe they shouldn't put off the dream of living on a boat and should do it now. Boats were being sold sight unseen. Boats were going for over the listing price in bidding wars.

Last year we saw an ad for a Golden Star Sundeck 38 that happened to be in our area. We took the grandkids with us to see it. We liked it, they liked it, and we put an offer in on it. The owner was asking way too much money for it (the insurance company wouldn't insure it for what he was asking for it) and our offer was a lowball one in consideration. He soundly declined the offer and we moved on. (Lesson One from our book—always be prepared to walk away.)

Over the next year, we went to Kentucky Lake to look at a couple boats, did a virtual tour on one in Stuart, FL, and conversed with brokers on several others. At this point I was tiring of the process and I think we were coming to the conclusion that we would just have to wait till the market calmed down a bit. I decided to set up a search alert on Yachtworld, just so that I wouldn't miss something if it came along. A couple months later I got an alert on First Light.  It ticked all the boxes but one, so we decided that it would be worth taking a look at. I talked to the broker less than 24 hours after the listing went live. He explained that we could make an offer sight unseen, then make arrangements to come see the boat and if we didn't like it we could walk away at that point with nothing lost. We put the offer in.

Deciding what to offer is always the purchaser's dilemma. In any sane market, a buyer would offer 10% less than asking price. In this market? We offered the asking price. It was a fair price for the boat, and with a full-price offer we would have more room to negotiate on survey items. The offer was accepted, we made arrangements to go to the boat that weekend, and off we went. As we drove, we talked a lot about the decision. The boat was at the high-end limit of what we were able to spend, but it had everything on it that we would have to have added to a lower-cost boat: radar, solar, AIS, air conditioning, a full-size fridge, the teak was all freshly done, the bottom was freshly painted, it had a brand new dinghy and the exact outboard we would have chosen. I had looked at several boats in the mid-40's to mid-50's that we would have to have spent another 25 grand to get all that installed. Granted, the equipment would be new instead of a few years old, but the amount of work involved and our bones accumulating years made the decision an easy one. The hardest part of the decision was the location of the boat. Having a boat that was that far away was not ideal, but all other things considered we decided it was worth it.

Timing has been a huge question of many prospective buyers, so here is the detailed breakdown of our purchase. The whole purchase process took close to 2 months. We placed the offer in on August 6th and was accepted August 8th. The time delay was due to the fact that the seller was living in Japan at the time. We visited the boat the following weekend and agreed to purchase. The longest delay was in securing a surveyor as many are booked out for 3 months but, after a good many phone calls, we were able to get one to the boat September 1st. The next delay was in waiting for the oil sample reports to come back. By the 4th of September we had all in hand, made our offer for the survey adjustments—which was accepted— and signed the conditional acceptance on the 4th. The buyer's closing statement was signed on September 17th. Insurance was procured on the 17th (another post coming on the insuring process) and the closing was the 22nd.

So here's the takeaway from the whole process:

First of all, I can't say enough good about Lars at Curtis Stokes Yachts. In our case, we didn't have to have a buyer's broker because two of their brokers were co-brokering the boat because the one is new and wanted a more experienced broker to help him through the process. The trainee acted as the listing broker and the more experienced broker acted as the buyer's broker. In every step of the process he was professional, courteous, responded immediately to all of my questions, and followed through on all the actions necessary to close the sale. In addition to that, he acted as the captain on our sea trial and did one of the most amazing jobs of piloting a boat in close quarters that I have ever seen. It was clear that Curtis Stokes has very high standards and trains their brokers well. The customer service was unparalleled.

Second, Kathy, the office manager of the marina where the boat was—Duck Creek Marina in New Bern, NC—was hugely responsible for how smoothly the purchase went. As a customer service manager for nearly 30 years, customer service is the most important aspect of any interaction I have with a place, and Kathy took it to new levels of competence. She was ever so patient with my questions, and there were many. I can't stress how important it is to have good, capable people to deal with in any purchase, but especially long-distance ones.

Third, be sure to write down all of your questions as you think of them. When you are at the boat with many distractions, you will forget. Carry around a small notebook and pen with you and write down everything. What you need to do, what you need to ask, what you need to buy. Be sure to get a specific timeline from the broker on what is expected of you. Make no assumptions, and be proactive. You are your best advocate in the purchase of your boat.

Fourth, just a list of some of the steps/considerations/requirements involved in buying a boat for those of you for whom it's a first time:

  • The offer
  • The acceptance of the offer
  • The visit to the boat
  • The Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA)
  • Deposit funds transfer (usually 10% of purchase price)
  • The survey: hull, mechanical, rigging (if sail), fluid analysis
  • Fluid analysis if not included in the mechanical survey
  • A boat history report
  • Survey allowance offer (amount reduced from offer for items on survey that require attention)
  • Buyer's closing statement
  • Insurance procurement
  • Funds transfer to escrow
  • Closing
  • State sales tax
  • Local sales tax (not required in some states like NC)
  • Personal property tax (done by county and city both in NC so some marinas have both and some only have county)
  • State registration
  • USCG documentation
  • Dinghy registration
  • Dinghy sales tax
Making yourself a checklist is a great idea. I have a multi-section, spiral-bound notebook that I used with one section dedicated to each item I needed to take care of. This gave me plenty of room to make notes on phone calls with prospective vendors to deal with each item.

Navigating a boat purchase can be difficult. Find well-qualified people that you can work with, be detail-oriented and proactive and hopefully it will all go smoothly.

Now I get to start the Boat Projects section in the notebook...

Monday, September 27, 2021

Another Survey

Up until we took the plunge into the world of boats I always thought a survey involved two folks. One walked around with a big stick. The other took sightings on the stick with a fancy looking boxy thing mounted on a trip-pod. If it was along a road there was usually a sign that warned of the "Survey team ahead." A boat survey was a bit of a mystery.

I know a little more about boat surveys than I did. We have been through a few. There was the original disaster survey done when we bought Kintala. There was another disaster survey when we sold her. Between those two were a few more that had to do with insurance. As I recall only one of them went off without a hitch of some kind. And then there was the recent one on First Light. (I still think of it as a pre-buy inspection. Aviation talk.) Instead of two people walking around with a stick and a box, there were 8 people poking around the boat. Two person hull team, two person engine team, two brokers representing the seller, and the two of us actually buying the boat.

As most who follow our story know, I'm not exactly a novice when it comes to things mechanical: a life-long aircraft mechanic, Chief inspector, shop foreman, Director of Maintenance, plus nearly two full years spent working in a boat yard trying to keep our cruising life afloat. I know which end of a screwdriver goes in the hand. I was pretty open about my background when interviewing people for this survey. It only seemed fair to warn them.

All gathered at the beginning of the appointed day for First Light's inspection. My opening statement was clear.  I was writing the checks. I was looking for a reason to walk away. All except the seller's brokers were working for me. I asked the questions. I got the answers. If I didn't like the answer, we were going to talk about it some more.

They got to work, poking and prodding, making notes, taking pictures. Believe it or not I managed to stay out of the way...for the most part. The engine team took fluid samples of everything, engines, transmission, and generators. They did leak down checks, pushed on this and pulled on that. Later, during the sea trial, they pushed the engines hard and we discovered an overheat problem on the port engine at full song. Nothing major but we got a bit off the asking price to get the heat exchangers overhauled and the water pumps serviced.

At full song, First Light made something like twelve knots while towing a huge wake. Nose bleed territory for a sailboat driver. Just off idle she did six. Six knots all day long regardless of the wind? Inside if necessary, warm and dry? I'm still getting used to the idea. Talking with the engine guy as he went about his work made it clear he was an expert. We dove pretty deep into the trawler engine world and I got answers that made sense. I was a happy man. Later all of the oil samples came back clean. Never, ever (ever!) buy a boat without having those samples done. I was a bit less happy with the hull guy, mostly for a reason that is not his really his fault. It is a marine industry thing. There are a lot of composite structures in an aviation world. 

Fiberglass and carbon fiber mostly. I have extensive experience inspecting and repairing both. The simple, first-pass inspection of composite structures is a "tap test". Go along the structure with a very small hammer or even a coin, tapping as you go and listening carefully. The first sign of composite damage is when the layers start to separate. Layers...that's why it is call composite in the first place. There are layers stuck together to form a solid piece. A light tap on good composite makes a bright little "tink" sound, the layers are all stuck together and sound. A dull little "thunk" sound means one needs to look a little deeper. The layers are coming apart. It could be that the core is going soft. It could be that the structure has taken an impact load the wrong way and delaminated. What you do not do is pound on the structure with a big rubber or plastic mallet like you are trying to drive 10 penny nails. That is a good way to cause the damage you are trying to uncover.

Yet that is exactly the way boat surveys go about their "inspection". My guy was beating on First Light so hard that the engine guy (apparently having been through this before) put on a set of ear protectors. The hull guy hammered the hull, deck, and flybridge like he was trying to knock pieces off the boat. I held my tongue because this wasn't the first time I've seen a boat assaulted in such a manor. Of course later he pulled out a cheap looking little plastic box, swept it over the decks he had been pounding on, pointed at the little needle waiving around, and said "wet deck here, wet deck there." I had already walked all over those "wet decks" looking for soft spots. The deck was / is as solid, more so in fact, then the floor in our two room apartment over the garage. I have walked the deck of many a far-flung cruising boat whose decks were not near as stiff. Nor have I have ever heard of a "soft deck" sinking a boat.

But I didn't argue. Not because I thought he might be right, but because I knew he thought he knew. Later we had a bit of a chat about his "findings." He did allow as the decks were in pretty good shape for an older boat and likely wouldn't need any "attention" for years. I didn't suggest it would have been a few years more if he hadn't taken a plastic mallet and spent the better part of the morning beating on the boat as hard as he could. 

Truth to tell, the next time a hull surveyor starts beating on my boat with a hammer, I think I'll borrow it for a minute to go beat on his car. See what he thinks of that.

That being said, the hull guy did find stuff that really does need attention. A lot of it electrical. I'm not sure how this happens in the boat world. In the aviation world, everything is important, but wiring is kind of special important. Heat shrink, chafe guard, tie wraps, clamps, terminal covers, routing, grounding, circuit protection...all done to perfection, every time, all the time. In the boat world? Positive posts on batteries left "open." Switches with no markings as to what they are supposed to switch. Wires zip tied to fuel lines. Other wires hanging without a zip tie in sight. Breakers the wrong size for the circuit. Electrical tape strung like party favors. AC and DC wiring all jumbled together in the same panel. Who does this kind of work? (Don't tell me, I don't want to know.) I'll be spending many hours getting First Light's electrical system squared away to the point where I'll sleep at night. (Boats seem to catch fire a lot. I'm pretty sure I can guess as to why.)

No boat is perfect. Not even new ones. We have done what we can to prove to ourselves that First Light is  fundamentally sound. But there will be surprises and unexpected costs. One of the reasons I will be sticking with the job for a while. Ideally the boat would be close enough to reach for weekend work, but that isn't how it panned out. We will be diving into the murky world of contract work while chewing up every vacation day I have to make trips east. The first of those will happen in a week or so. We will start to get to know our new old boat; see how much trouble we are in. 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

A Bit About Trawlers

When we first started looking at trawlers, we were unable to find much information on them out there to help us understand the different types. Most of the good information we got was from the trawler school we took in Biscayne Bay. Captain Bob of trawlerschoolcharters.com helped us out with a very detailed description of each type of trawler to help us make up our minds. Long afterward, I ran into this article on Passagemaker magazine that did a very good job of defining a trawler and explaining the difference between trawlers and motor yachts: How Do We Define A Trawler? 

So, for the uninitiated, here we go...

The Trunk Trawler

The basic, recreational, traditional trawler that everyone thinks of when you say the word "trawler" is a trunk trawler in the style of the Grand Banks. when viewed from the side, it has the "wedding cake" profile of layers decreasing in size. The house structure of the boat is moved farther forward so the foredeck is a bit smaller. You are able to walk all the way around the deck at the water level. In the interior, there is usually a V-berth and head in the bow, then a few steps up to the salon, galley, and lower helm station. A few steps down to the aft cabin which contains either one queen or two twin berths. 

Advantages: Great access to the deck for docking and loading provisions. Nice aft cabin. No ladders to the flybridge. Cabins on opposite ends of the boat which is great for guests. usually two heads, again great for guests.

Disadvantages: No shaded areas on deck except for the flybridge which is often very small. With my fair skin, this is a huge issue. I know you can rig temporary shade structures on the aft deck, but I haven't ever seen one I really liked.  It can also be hard to find one of these with the queen berth in the aft cabin, so if you're looking for a walk-around bed this may not be a good model for you. They also often have teak decks which are maintenance nightmares.

For more details, you can read Captain Bob's article on the trunk trawler here: Trunk Trawler

The Sundeck Trawler

One of the most common recreational trawlers out there is the sundeck model. The sundeck design moves the house structure back just a bit, which allows for a larger foredeck. Access to the salon is through a side entry, sometimes there is entry on both port and starboard.  There are adequate side decks on most of them, with a few steps up onto the sundeck at the stern. The sundeck may be open or it may be fully enclosed. There are then a few steps up to the flybridge. The interior volume is large. The aft cabin under the sundeck is usually a full-width cabin with either a walk-around queen or king berth, lots of storage, and a head. Up a few steps is the salon and lower helm. The galley on some is up in the salon, but on some of them it is a few steps down toward the bow, with a small dinette opposite it. Then there is a V-berth and head forward. Here is a link to the one near us that we made an offer on that was refused. It's still for sale, but he's asking way too much for it.  It was a nice boat, though. Golden Star 38

Advantages: Extremely spacious. Cabins are on opposite ends of the boat which is great for guests. Almost always two heads, again great for guests. A choice between galley up and galley down. The sundeck provides a well-shaded area to sit and often has a bar and small fridge.

Disadvantages: Very hard to access the stern for docking maneuvers, especially if the sundeck is enclosed. Steep ladder to get from the dinghy to the sundeck via the swim platform. Usually higher freeboard, making it harder to access the boat at the dock without portable steps.

Here's Captain Bob's article on the sundeck model: Sundeck Model

Pilot House Trawler

We loves us some pilot house trawlers, but unfortunately most of them fall way outside of our budget. A good example of one would be the Kady Krogen 39. We toured one a few years ago and there's something to be said for the ship-like quality of a pilot house boat. The KK39 had the Portuguese bridge forward of the house structure, something that would offer some safety while on deck underway. Pilot house models vary greatly in the interiors, a lot depending on whether it is a raised pilot house or a flush deck. Whatever the interior, these are serious cruising boats with oodles of comfort.

You can drool over Kady Krogen's wonderful collection of yachts here.

Or, you can drool over the Helmsman pilothouse yachts and passage makers here.

Advantages: A dedicated helm station that resembles those on ships. They are usually equipped with a settee and table, a massive amount of instrumentation, heat, air, rear-facing cameras...what's not to like?

Disadvantages: Cost. Sometimes visibility from the pilot house is not terrific to the rear, thus the need for rear-facing cameras. The hull design on some of them, the Kady Krogen in particular, is rounded and prone to rolling if there's no active stabilizers. Did I mention cost?

Here's Captain Bob's article on the Pilot House Trawlers

The Passagemaker

The passagemaker trawlers are just beefed up versions of the pilot house trawlers. In this class are the expedition trawlers, and the serious ocean-crossing trawlers. This would be a lottery boat for us...

Advantages: Copious amounts of room. Very sea-kindly with active stabilizers. What's not to like?

Disadvantages: Cost, both to purchase and to operate on a yearly basis. 

Here's Captain Bob's article on Passagemaker Trawlers

And lastly, the boat which we ended up on, The Sedan Model

The sedan models are really common amongst the aging cruisers, a group we find ourselves firmly entrenched in this time around. One of the most common sedans for the budget cruiser is the Marine Trader Sedan pictured here in the Europa version. The foredeck can be larger with the house structure moved a little further aft. There are walk-around decks the whole way around the boat, and a cockpit area at the stern with a walk-thru to the swim platform on the same level. In one version of the sedan model, the Europa, the side decks are covered. The salon, galley, and lower helm station are all on one level with the aft deck, accessed through sliding glass doors. There are only a few stairs in the interior, used to go forward to the V-berth, pullman or bunk cabin, and single head. If you get into the larger models (48' or so and larger) you usually have two heads. Access to the deck is on one side or the other and the rear.

Advantages: Fewer steps to deal with as the joints age. Very good access for docking from both the stern and the bow. Very good access from the dinghy to the swim platform. 

Disadvantages: The flybridge is accessed via a ladder and a hatch. This is the main disadvantage on this style of boat.

Here's Captain Bob's article on the Sedan Model Trawler

The Takeway

So why did we choose this boat? First, let it be said that, early on, we made an offer on the Golden Star 38 sundeck model, and if it had been accepted we would have happily lived on that boat. There were many advantages to ending up on that boat: It was only a half hour from our house, it had 2 heads, it was shorter so less costly at a dock, it had huge volumes of storage. The big disadvantages were the fact that he was asking too much money for it and insurance wouldn't insure it for what he was asking, it had no air conditioning, it had no autopilot, and it had Volvo engines. While Volvo engines are known to be reliable, the parts for them are very hard to come by and are very expensive. But one of the things we asked ourselves while we were in the trawler school sitting on that sundeck 10 feet off the water was whether or not we would feel disconnected from the water. After living on Kintala full-time for six years where you could almost drag your hand in the water while sitting in the cockpit, we were worried that being that high up might make us lose that connection. It also occurred to us that most of the friends we made while cruising were made when people saw us sitting in the cockpit playing ukes or reading and they would stop by in their dinghy on the way to town. Would that happen if we were up on the sundeck, especially one fully enclosed? Probably not. Since the cruising community was the best single part of cruising, this was an important factor for us.

Every boat is some sort of compromise, but First Light ticked nearly every one of the boxes on our list. It was newer, so it would be a little easier to get insurance for (More coming on that in a future post.) It had a walk-around queen berth (a deal-breaker for me,) a really nice galley up with a full-sized fridge, very wide, safe side decks with good handholds, a shaded cockpit to relax in at anchor, an electric windlass, solar panels, settees in the flybridge long enough to sleep on, a very good dinghy, a big enough generator, and reliable Cummins engines housed in a decent engine room. The one disadvantage that caused some concern was the near-vertical ladder to the flybridge, but if we still own the boat when we can no longer climb it, we can always run the boat from the lower helm (or get one of our grandkids to come helm the boat to take DeMa and Grampy T out.)

The good thing about there being so many types of trawlers is that there are so many types of sailors who live on them. What works for us may not work for you. So if you're considering a trawler journey, try to think about the things that are important to you. How will you want to live? More on the hook, or more at a dock? How much will you want to travel? To where? What's your budget like? Each of these things will begin to form the answer to your "What type of trawler is best for us?" question. While no boat is a perfect match for all your wishlist, First Light is as close as there was for these two cruisers.

Ed Note: There are articles coming on the whole buying experience including surveys, as well as the whole insuring process.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Here We Go Again

It has been nearly three years since I walked off Kintala without looking back. Since then I have settled into a comfortable life doing an easy job that pays well. Even better, Deb and I ended up living in the “granny flat” over a garage owned by Daughter Middle. She and Family, including six of our eleven grandkids, live in the “main house” about twenty-five feet from our front door. To our complete delight, they come and go without knocking. This is what “family” was meant to be. (And the main reason we have been here for nearly three years.)

Though still dedicated minimalists, we have indulged in a music hobby that delights the soul. On our walls hangs an array of Ukuleles, joined by Deb's guitar. Across the room sits an electric drum kit, fold up electric keyboard, and small amp for the U-bass and electric Uke. Next to my chair lay a tongue drum while in the opposite corner are two bucket drums that also store harmonicas, maracas, a tambourine, and additional mallets. Books on music theory are stored in the iPad for frequent reference.

Six different parks lie within walking or biking range, with two bikes being added to our “stuff." Well, actually four. One of the realities of living on land saw the first two stolen right out of the garage. We are regular visitors to the parks, often accompanied by a gang of grandkids There are special trees we visit to stay close to Mother Earth. They often gift us with a whiff of the magic that so often brushed Kintala's deck and slipped into her cockpit. The sparkle of a Dryad or Nymph will flirt by in the tree shadows and dancing light reminders that, even in the city, we are part of a living world. Something otherwise easily forgotten in the noise-echoing concrete canyons of a modern American city.

In any case I am, by any definition, among the luckiest, richest, most privileged human beings who has ever lived. There are billions of people on this planet. A good bet would be that more than half of them would change places with me in a heartbeat. So why, pray tell, have we bought another boat with the intent of moving aboard and going back to the gypsy lifestyle of a full-time cruiser?

Good question.

First, “full-time” this time doesn't really mean full-time. It means six months on, six months off with a travel time fudge factor. Winter months will be spent on the boat, wandering waters first explored on Kintala: the East Coast, ICW, Florida Keys, maybe the Chesapeake Bay and the Bahama Islands. Hopefully much of that time will be spent with Family as well. Family currently living on their own boat keeping to those same waters. Family we sailed with and lived near by for nearly two years. Family we have missed every day since we left Kintala. It will be good to wander with them once again.

Summer months will see inland waterways added to our forays. A slip about a 30 minute drive from our land-side home will keep the new boat far from the rampaging hurricanes that are becoming ever more common. Regular weekend trips on the river with grandkids who don't live on a boat will keep our ship handling skills sharp. It will rest under the cover on floating docks. As safe as any boat anywhere can be.

That, as they say, is the plan from which to deviate. The details are fuzzy, the distances long, and the budget a question. But we have been down this path before. Flexibility, a willingness to admit mistakes, learn, and go on is the key. Add in, once in a while, a fair bit of stubborn determination and success is a sure thing. Well, as sure a thing as life will allow.

This is an older photo when it was in the water and, no, we would never allow the power cord
to drag in the water...

Another big change is that the new boat is a trawler. Yes, we have gone to the “dark side." As much as we loved sailing, traveling on a sailboat can be trying. Outside steering station, weather challenges, the cumbersome handling characteristics in tight quarters, a draft that tested the depth of the water in many of the places we wanted to go, the glacial pace even when trying to outrun weather? All were stress-inducing limits to what the boat could do. More to the point, the nearly seven decades of my sojourn though this life have left their mark. Once upon a time working a foredeck in a heaving sea and thirty-knot winds, deep on the back side of the clock, was an adventure to be lived. Now it looms more like a death match to be avoided. My fighting days are long over.

Living on Kintala was, at times, just as trying. It was also like living in a cave. The windows were high and small. Airflow was often restricted. Even out on anchor, in the tropics it often made for a very hot and muggy cave. And when caught too far north on the ICW during the trek south? Waking in the morning meant seeing one's breath float through the salon. Struggle into long pants and a sweat shirt before leaving the berth. Bundle up more for the hours spent huddled at the helm, wishing the day was over.

An older photo of the previous owners

The new boat? Fire up the generator and run the AC for a few minutes to cool off the cabin. Or turn on the heat and sip hot coffee in shirt sleeves while waving at the sailboat captains shivering in their cockpits. And no cave. Sitting in the salon means 270 degrees worth of visibility, near 360 if the covers are off the big windows forward of the lower steering station. There is a covered “back porch” on the same level of the salon. It has a gate that leads to the swim platform / mini-dingy dock. A ladder accesses the covered flying bridge / lounge area. The all around view is amazing. Truth to tell, it is a little intimidating. Kintala was, by most measure, a slightly bigger boat. But when standing at the upper helm this thing looks massive. One can see the entire boat, including the bow! How cool is that? What was going on at the bow was always a mystery when at the helm on Kintala.

That nearly seven decades that has slowed me down on the foredeck weigh on me in other ways. Mine is a good job. But no job is as good as not having to have a job. A huge portion of my waking hours are dictated by the whims of those whose only real goal is to use my life's hours to stuff their pockets with cash. They do share a little of what clients pay them with me. (Otherwise I wouldn't be there at all.) But a far larger portion of it ends up in their bank account rather than mine. We are near a place where we don't need any more money to finish our journey. Why spend the hours that remain doing someone else's bidding? But I could “not work” and still not go back to cruising. So again, pray tell, why?

Simple. I miss being on big water. I miss living with the ebb and flow of a more natural life spent closer to the rhythms of Mother Earth. (Though some might argue that Mother Earth is getting a bit cross with humankind at the moment.) And, to be honest, as much as I adore having family so close, having so much of the rest of humanity equally close is...trying. Each day sees more carelessness, more conflict and anger, more lies and hubris and hate, than experienced in months of living on the water. I loathe having to drive city streets and highways, where the worst of selfishness and self-indulgent arrogance is on regular display. The bits of car parts lining the shoulders and regular slowdowns for accidents are constant reminders of the real danger possibly lurking in every car and truck nearby. Each trip is likely to include at least one near miss; someone cutting across my lane with inches to spare or ridding my rear bumper in an apparent attempt to get me to ride the bumper of the car ahead. But cool and calm is required. Many of these wankers carry a gun along with their attitude. I will not miss being around them. Still, there will be sacrifices and compromises.

Not all of our new toys can travel with us. I am going miss the hours spent hammering out the primitive rhythms on the drum kit, a beat that helps put the world in focus. There is not enough wall space for seven ukuleles and a guitar. But which ones to leave behind? It isn't likely the bikes can fit anywhere, nor can all of the tools I have re-acquired having moved back on land.

But by far the hardest part will be, as it was before, saying good-by to those I love most in the world. The grandkids will grown many inches during the months we are away. There will be stories of things that happened while we were wandering, events that we missed. The jolt to the heart that missed time will bring cannot be, should not be, discounted. At times there will certainly be thoughts that the hurt was too much of a cost, that we should have stayed put.

Yet there will be other stories, stories that could not have been told without a boat being part of it. Stories of river travels with grandkids having a new adventure. Stories they will pass along to generations I will never see. Stories of traveling with the the other grandkids whose missing smiles are hard to take even now. Stories that share the magic of living different and exploring free. Stories whose foundation lies in the knowledge that life is what it is. Make of it what you can. Accept what happens. Keep going as long as you can.

So we will be going once again. But not tomorrow or even this year. More on that as soon as we figure out just where we stand with this new boat.

A different kind of view

A different kind of wake

Friday, April 23, 2021

What I miss most

If you've followed this blog for very long, you'll have already heard me say it. The thing that I valued the most about cruising, and the thing I miss most since we've been land-bound, is the cruising community. The fellow travelers we met in the six years that we voyaged on Kintala , many of whom have become life-long friends, anchored us in a way our big old Mantus anchor never could. They gave willingly of their time, their talents, their stuff, their experiences. We laughed, cried, walked, swam, dinghied, and made music together. Friendships were formed quickly, deeply, and picked right back up even after months of time apart. It just doesn't happen on land. This afternoon I stood at the window and watched three different neighbors come home from work, their cars disappearing into their garages, the doors of which would close before they even got out of the vehicle.

My son-in-law just got back from a "testing" voyage to the Bahamas with some friends, a voyage to test the waters, so to speak, to see if he thought their little Ericson 28 could handle taking his family of six there. A voyage to gain some experience, some insight, of what to expect. In this episode on their YouTube channel, he talks about his fellow travelers. He captures so well the feelings I have about it all, so I'll just share it here. If you enjoy the video, please like it and subscribe to their channel. They are fledgeling voyagers trying to find their way and they could use all the support they can get.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Living Vicariously

Well, if you must be landlocked and you must sail vicariously, what better way to do so than to follow your own family. Here is an interview that Anabelle and Elois at Voilers Les Copains did with the kids while they were in Indiantown, FL for the hurricane season. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 28, 2020


A couple of months ago Deb and I went to look at a trawler sitting in a slip about a 40 minute drive from our land dwelling. I was marginally enthusiastic about the trip. Getting on a boat for any reason is kind of fun right now. We had done a little sailing a few weeks before that with old friends, and it was a really good day. I miss being in the sky. I miss being on big water. For the first time since long before I can remember neither one is in my life, and hasn’t been since we came back to land. This is not a happy thing. On the other hand, buying at boat during this particular stretch of history has an aura of madness about it. No one knows what the world will be like in 10 or 12 months. Things may be settling back into a “new normal” where people have learned to live with the virus (and with each other) without the hostilities and hatreds, prejudices and foolishness, that overwhelm us and threaten the future. Most of those in the cruising community that we know have holed up somewhere. Some on their boats, some on land. Many others have decided that living on a boat is an adventure whose time has passed. There are few places to go, those that are left are getting increasingly expensive and, sometimes, increasingly hostile to those who are gypsy sailors. Sailing can be a hard life and none of us are getting younger. Access to health care is becoming a deciding factor in making life style choices. Their boats are for sale while they try to fashion a land life that fits.

From an outside view, Deb and I have done exactly that. Kintala is gone. Our land life is one that most of the rest of the world would envy. I have a job that is challenging, enjoyable, and comes with a good health care plan. (I am also pretty good at doing it, always a nice thing.) There is family near by. Our days are usually filled with little ones laughing, games, walks, or (in the case of the youngest) long stories bubbling forth in a language she is still trying to master. Deb and I are in better physical shape than we have been in decades. We have collected a modest number of toys to keep us entertained; two bikes, 5 Ukuleles, 1 guitalele, a guitar, an electric drum set, and a tool box to get my collection back under control. It would be easy to think that we have joined the ranks of cruisers who have, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt”. We have not made such a decision, but we have decided that going back to cruising would have to be a half-n-half thing. Half with family that already lives on a boat, half with family who lives on land. But the details of that kind of life are still fuzzy.

Then we got on this trawler sitting quietly in its slip, a FOR SALE sign hanging from the rail. It had nice lines (for a trawler). It looked relatively well maintained. It smelled like a boat. The interior is the best we have seen for the life we think trawler life might be. It is located just off a river that goes to a river that goes to the Gulf. We could commute, half-n-half, on the boat. Instead of Chesapeake Bay - ICW - Biscayne Bay it would be St. Charles - Ten/Tom - Tampa Bay - Keys. Something a little different. Something new. 

Photo from boattrader.com
A tiny bit of my spirt that has been silent for way too long lurched. The rest of me said, “Really? Are you kidding!?”

Still, we are salty hands now. That flash of happy spirit was quickly tempered by a wary eye bred of being well aware of the pitfalls that bedevil the marine industry. The boat lacked air conditioning, an auto-pilot, and has one too many motors. It has no capability to make its own water. The anchors aren’t even any good as anchors. The engine “room” is actually a pit covered by the salon floorboards. Any serious engine work will completely disrupt a life on board. It was seriously overpriced. I wrote a book about being spring loaded “walk away” from any boat one might be looking to buy. The bet would have been that we would walk away from this one.

Instead, we made an offer. It was a modest offer. The asking price added to the cost of adding air conditioning and a capable auto-pilot, would have added up to more value than an insurance company would cover. Never mind putting a water maker on board, a must have bit of kit (in my humble opinion) if one is hoping to spend life at anchor or on a mooring ball. And, like I said, it needed new anchors as well.

I was a little disappointed, but not really surprised, when the offer was roundly rejected the following day. I understood. We took a terrible beating on the selling price of Kintala (thanks to an utterly incompetent surveyor who scared off the best offer we had). Letting a boat go for far less than the value it holds in your life's story is not an easy thing. So, no hard feelings.

But it would have been nice had it worked out. Deb and I still have no real clue how the rest of our journey will play out. We are living well and content. But I miss being in the sky. And I miss being on big water. And neither one is in my life right now.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Kintala sails away

After nearly a year and a half, with one attempt derailed by an incompetent surveyor, Kintala, our faithful Tartan 42, has become the apple of a brand new owner’s eye. It is said that the two happiest days of a boater’s life are the day the boat is bought, and the day the boat is sold. I am not finding that to be the case.

Kintala was our full-time liveaboard home for nearly 6 years. For two years before that she taught us the trials of getting an older boat ready to go cruising, and the triumphs of mastering her racing-like sailing character. She carried us to the Islands, kept us safe in 60 knot blows while riding to her anchor, and shrugged off 10+ foot seas on more than one occasion. Most importantly she taught us things about ourselves that we could not have learned from any other tutor; she fundamentally changed the way we approached life, and forever altered the way we look at the world.

Before Kintala, I was the quintessential US citizen / consumer. I owned a sports car, a pick-up truck, a collection of motorcycles, and a boat. We lived in a nice condo with a shop in the garage out back, traveled on vacations, and watched movies and sports on a big screen TV mounted to the wall perpendicular to a working fire place. Though not rich by America standards, we lived pretty well compared to the rest of the world’s population. 

To the vast majority of human kind that has walked the earth in the past, we would have been magicians. Our sculptured cave was heated and cooled on a whim and we traveled across the ground at breakneck speeds in or on thundering hunks of metal. I made a living flying… FLYING! Eight miles in the sky, covering hundreds of miles in less than an hour, and doing so night and day with (what would appear) little thought given to the weather. Rain, snow, wind, and clouds? Pfftt. I even flew OVER thunderstorms and looked down on the lightning with utter impunity. 

And, somewhere deep in my American soul, I believed I had earned such an exulted place all on my own. I had what I had, and I deserved it. But then we sold off everything except some clothes, tools, and knick-knacks, moved onto Kintala full time, and took to the sea.

Very quickly we became different people living in a different world. Kintala kept us safe in some ugly weather, but very often we didn’t feel safe. Instead we felt exposed, out on the edge, not sure of what the outcome would be. Afterwards, such moments make for great stories and indelible memories, but…”Pfffttt” was an attitude long forgotten. We no longer lived in a sculptured cave − dry, stable, heated and cooled on a whim. Every wind shift, current change, tide, and passing wake rocked, swung and tilted our world. “Stable” became a relative term. Were we holding on with both hands, finding it hard to walk, or catching things being flung off of shelves? No? Then what movement we did feel was “stable enough.” Some nights, sleep was elusive because of the sweat running down our backs and soaking the sheets. Other nights we huddled under every blanket we could scrounge, loathe to get out of the berth in the morning because we could see our breath floating toward the salon in the frigid air. We often sailed our boat cold and hungry, hot and thirsty, and soaking wet when we couldn’t outrun the rain.

We sailed to the Islands and lived for months with people who could barely fathom our riches. We lived on a YACHT, and didn’t have to work to put food on the table. That everything we owned fit into some 400 square feet was still more opulence than many of our new friends could ever hope to see. Yet they were just like me, working as hard as they could to make ends meet, worried about the people they loved, and doing what they could to make things a little better in their community. It quickly became overwhelmingly clear that I didn’t “deserve” what I had. My exalted place among human kind was a matter of a lucky birth, meeting and falling in love with the right person and - most importantly - having that person love me back. Sure we made some good decisions and worked hard. But pretty much everybody we met while causing made the best decisions they could make and worked just as hard.

As the years went by, the American consumer in me faded away. I became just another wanderer in a world filled with beauty and risk, quiet anchorages and 10 foot seas. I came to suspect that dolphins and whales might be smarter than humans, certainly wiser. I started to wonder if the main reason we can’t communicate with them is that they are so far beyond us in fitting into the cosmos that we humans just don’t have the necessary vocabulary. It may be that they don’t have thumbs and can’t make tools, but has our tool making made us smarter or wiser? Or have we just constructed a civilization that is unsustainable and built the weapons useful only for doing ourselves in?

Out in big water in our little boat, I realized the ocean cared nothing about my opinions about anything. Then I started to realize that most of my opinions didn’t matter anyway, were likely pretty foolish and uninformed, and usually tainted with more than a bit of hubris. The ocean will ferret out any incompetence, but it hasn’t a care about me being competent…or not. The same is true of the sky, of course. But I tangled with the sky in some of the most sophisticated machines human kind has ever invented, backed by a network of weather stations, specialists, airports, and experts. 

Kintala was an old sailboat with a tired motor. The skills necessary to make her go were learned thousands of years ago. Had a sailor from the 1400s magically appeared on our deck, he would not have thought us magicians. He would have known instantly if our sails needed trimmed or reefed, took one look at the night sky and known in what direction we were headed. As for the rest of it? Weather stations don’t pick up rogue waves or 40 knot winds falling out of a clear, calm night sky for reasons no can explain even to this day. The experts and specialists were out of phone and radio range. The next port, if more than 50 miles away was, in all likelihood, more than a day away as well. The hubris of land living is a hard act to maintain out in big water in a little boat. 

Life unfolded as it will, and now we find ourselves back on land. We have added a few possessions. A car is necessary, some bikes as well. We bought some used musical instruments to fill our days with a new skill of making some modest music. But we rent our two room flat, still don’t own a TV and, for the most part, keep to ourselves and family. We are happy and contented minimalists, living as lightly as we can in a burdensome world. 

And Kintala is no longer ours. Something that, at one point in the last few years, I would have thought very unlikely. I was a sailor, and I lived on a boat named Kintala. Now I am not, and I don’t. And I'm not sure what that means or where it leaves me. As to what comes next? I can’t really say. 

For I am just another wanderer in a world full of beauty and risk, quiet anchorages, and 10 foot seas. 

The first day we saw her.

Lowering Kintala into Carlyle Lake, her home for the two years we prepped to go cruising.

Motoring her from the lift pit to her new home on Carlyle Lake

Her first dock. Yes, she was the largest boat on the lake by quite a bit. It took a shoe horn to get her into that slip

One of our first sails on Lake Carlyle, long before the dodger and new bimini.

Sailing on Lake Carlyle, long before the dodger.

One of our excellent sails on Carlyle.

As good as it gets

Learning how to use the whisker pole

First sail with all of the grandkids.

The first dinner on the newly installed table
New cushions installed

Installing the best piece of equipment we ever bought - the Mantus anchor.

Time to head for warmer waters!!!

The Blessing of the Boats at Carlyle right before we left to go cruising

Our cruising sendoff with good friends John, Nancy and David

Our first anchorage cruising

Lots and lots of miles motoring on the Intercoastal Waterway

The first of hundreds of bridges we would pass under and through with Kintala.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Annapolis

And more bridges...

Some of the ICW was a challenge in fog

Lots and lots of fabulous sunsets

And moon rises...

Our first lock experience

Friends that accompanied us on our first offshore passage from Charleston to Fernandina Beach
And "friends" that met us in Florida...

Our favorite anchorage in No-Name Harbor in Miami
No-Name Harbour

Dinner Key Moorings and the frequent storms there. This was the Mother Ship.

Kintala and the Mantus held fast through this one.
Prepped for her first hurricane, Joaquin

Didn't get us away from the storms, though...

Anchored outside of Hopetown. So glad we got to see it before hurricane Dorian.
Met by a new friend
And more friends
And more friends...
And yet even more friends

Kintala was often a sail loft with the Sailrite machine working hard

One of the many hitchhikers we had during our travels
West End Bahamas before Dorian. One of our favorite places in the Bahamas

And someday we hope to end up back here in whatever boat takes us there.