Saturday, January 12, 2019

Strings of days…

Living on Kintala was usually a low key kind of life, but there were times when we had to push pretty hard. Long days would get strung together while trying to make it far enough south to get ahead of the cold weather. Other times the push would come from trying to get out of the hurricane zone in the early summer, or get back from the Islands in time to make that push north. Then there were strings of long days that came with trying to get the boat buttoned down and secured for an incoming storm, then getting out of Dodge ourselves before the storm arrived.

There were what seemed like an endless string of days working on the boat to get it ready to launch, or to launch the next time, or the time after that. There were days strung in a seemingly endless line, each feeling like the earth had stopped in its orbit around the sun right in the middle of summer in Florida, days that made me wonder if I would feel dry or cool or comfortable ever again. Of course all such days eventually faded into memory, replaced by easy days riding to an anchor or mooring ball, watching the moon rise over an uninhabited Cay or Bay, the water so still it tricked the mind into thinking it had never really moved, or would ever move again.

Since making the decision to do this land thing for a while, we have been stringing long days together again. The push to get Kintala to Titusville, the push to get to St. Louis, Deb’s push to get Kintala ready for the broker while I pushed to get the job secured and started, and the push to get settled into the apartment. The current push is to get through the type rating training and get qualified as a Flight Instructor. Current days are spent in a class with four other pilots, all of us working to make friends with this new, and very complex, airplane. The level of experience / expertise sitting with me is kind of amazing. There is an ex-Air Force flight test pilot who then spent 17 years at Southwest airlines. Another of the class was an Airbus test pilot while another is a current Embraer test pilot. Only two of us are US pilots, and I am the only one based in this country. Germany, England, and Spain are home for some, and the other US pilot is based in and flies around Asia. This is the level of expertise that will soon be looking at me from behind the work stations.

Okay then.

American pilots fly under FAA regulations, European pilots under those of EASA. Only an EASA trained instructor can do sim work with EASA pilots, and I have been asked to do both. There are other regulatory agencies for China, Russia, and others I don’t know. There are additional qualifications that are company specific, many having their own particular operating parameters. I haven’t been tossed into those waters yet. As it stands, I have to pass two different sets of tests, one for the FAA and one for EASA. And I still have to learn how to actually operate the Sim, Graphical Flight-Deck Sim, and classroom from the instructor’s seat. All interesting challenges that look to be their own kind of fun. But all also long days of work that must be finished before reaching the goal of actually instructing again.

It feels a bit like being just a couple of days out of Marathon on the migration north to the Chesapeake Bay. A good approach then was to get up each morning, haul the anchor, enjoy that day for what it had to offer, and not think too much about the long string of days of that still lay ahead before one could settle in again, at least for a while.  After all, part of the reason for being on the boat in the first place was to travel. Wouldn't it be kind of childish to complain just because there was a little to much of it happening all at once?

I am hoping the same kind of approach will work here as well. We came this way for good reasons, and it is working out better than we had dared hope. A string of long days seems a pretty fair trade, and it isn't like such a stretch is something new.

But I could have done without the 12 inches of snow.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

It's Official

The ad for Kintala went up on today. When I closed her up and drove away, it was my only desire to leave her for the new owners the way I would have wanted to find her when we bought her. Take a look at the photos and you be the judge - did I succeed?

You can also see the photos on the tab in the header above.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Cruising in a new location

We chose to live right in the middle of downtown St. Louis during our cruising hiatus for several reasons. We wanted a very small space to live in, boat-sized to be exact, so that we wouldn't accumulate stuff that would have to be dealt with when we go back to a boat. We also are so used to the simplicity of small-space living that we had no interest in spaces too large. Suburbia didn't interest us at all. The community-centered cruising life left us with no desire to live in the highly insulated life of St. Louis suburbs, o. We were used to interacting with people, and used to being able to walk to most of what we needed. Then there was also the idea of trying something new that we've never done when living here before. We'd lived in the city limits before when we lived in the Central West End condo, but it was on the outskirts. We've never actually lived right smack dab in the middle of a metropolitan city. On top of all of those reasons, I desperately needed to see the horizon, something that you couldn't do from any suburban house in the area. We found our place on the tenth floor in a high rise building about 15 blocks from the river, western exposure and sunsets included.

Yesterday was one of those unusual winter days in St. Louis - warm, sunny, and almost no wind. Just like we did when anchoring in a new place for us on Kintala, we took advantage of the weather to explore our new cruising grounds. As Tim said in his previous post, we started out by strolling the 15 blocks down to the river and the Gateway Arch, passing many other city parks that line Market Street along the way. On the way back, and via a coffee shop, we stopped by the Central Library, which is happily only two blocks from our apartment. One of the other advantages of living in a major metropolitan area is beautiful, old architectural structures. The library is one of those. We signed up for library cards and took to exploring what will surely be a place we spend many hours in.

The library was renovated right around the time we were casting off the docklines to go cruising, and we hadn't been there since. It's three floors of amazing collections of books, magazines, rare documents, visiting art exhibits, computer rooms and even a cafe. All technologically modern, housed in an architectural feat.

On the way up the split grand staircase there are a pair of beautiful stained glass windows. The staircase is a marble affair, cool to the touch, and I imagine the whole building would be a good respite from St. Louis summer heat. The staircase takes you to the third floor where the rare documents section is. After asking what the oldest manuscript they had there was, we were told it was cuneiform clay tablets from Mesopetamia. Most things in this section are locked behind a door to a temperature controlled room, but they are still available for public viewing with an appoinment.

We had to take a tour of the children's and teen's sections so we would be prepared for visits from grandkids. The sections are huge and filled with all sorts of books, games, puzzles, and fun but comfortable furniture for reading. They run a children's story hour weekly and once a month they do a theater production in the basement ampitheater for free. The teen section was as big as most libraries. Several of my grandkids would go nuts in there - long story series abound as well as walls of audio books and DVDs. 

The pièce de résistance, though, was a creative experience lab. They have a room with four pods equipped with very high-end computers and large 42" wall-mounted monitors. The computers are complete with every creativity program possible for digital project creation and editing - Photoshop, Indesign, music creation - you name it. You can begin a project there and take it to completion, or you can bring your project in and polish it off. It's good for both professionals and novices and they make a host of tutorials available for anyone that needs help. In one corner of the room is an enclosed music recording studio that you can reserve. It's an amazing resource, and it's all free.

The library was built beginning in 1901 with a substantial donation from Andrew Carnegie and a collection of  1,500 books. Today it houses over 4 million items in 16 branches. All through the library are displays of the original construction and the rehab of 2012. I'm sure if you spent a lot of time there, the stunning detail in the architecture would fade to the background, but for the time being I was pretty satisfied to just walk around and look. Everywhere you go there are painted ceilings, carved wood and stone, and embellishments of the sort that no one can afford to use when building these days. It's a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. Maybe not quite as good as turquoise water lapping crystalline beaches, but when it comes to man-made structures I'm pretty satisfied to have this five minutes from my apartment.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The End…

…of 2018 that is. The year didn’t end anything like I would have expected when it began. If anyone had suggested that it would close with us being back in St. Louis and Kintala on the hard for sale, the only thought that would have come to mind was that some real tragedy had struck. A second season worth of work at Snead Island was done, Deb and I both had Coast Guard Captain’s tickets tucked away, there was some money in the bank, and Daughter Eldest and Family were on their own boat living happily nearby. There was no reason to think that our life afloat would be history just 12 months later. And yet, here we are.

Yesterday we took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and went exploring, spending much of the day walking down to the river to check out the Gateway Arch National Park. Since we last lived in these parts, a lot of work has gone into the Park. Each year there are several major events held at the site. Since we will not have to struggle with parking, I suspect we will take advantage of many of them even if big crowds are not high up on my list of favorite things. We did, after all, come this way to have new adventures and live a different way. If the crowd gets too much, it is an easy walk home.

I was a bit surprised at the lack of a crowd yesterday, it being a near perfect day for walking and the Gateway Arch National Park being a major draw in the city. It turns out the Park was officially closed, along with much of the rest of the Government. I don’t pay much attention to such goings on anymore and was only vaguely aware of the shut-down. I have already ridden to the top of the Arch, don’t need to take that trip again, and so didn’t notice that the ticket office was closed. The grass, river, trees, sky and sun ignore such goings on as well, and they were what had called us out for our walk in the first place.

Tomorrow is my first day of type rating class. I took advantage of the slower pace between the holidays to book a bunch of hours in the Graphical Flight Deck Simulator. It seemed likely that the years spent on an actual deck-deck had left flight deck skills a bit rusty. But in fewer hours than feared, old habits started coming back, the cadence of events that make up departures and approaches started to feel right again. I am not sure that all of the technology actually reduces the work load as much as claimed, it has just changed the nature of the work being done. Electronic check lists are cool, but do the exact same job as paper check lists and take about the same amount of time to deploy and work through. Instead of concentrating on physically flying the airplane, pilots now concentrate on a litany of nav source / autopilot / flight director / auto-throttle mode annunciators and controls. If the air is smooth one can certainly do all of that while sipping at a cup of coffee, so to someone looking in from the outside, it might appear that there isn’t much work being done. And it is certainly a different kind of work than that which goes on in a boat yard in the middle of a Florida summer, not to mention that it pays a lot better.

This might be a pretty good year after all.

The arch at the riverfront. We hear the barge horns in our apartment from the river here.

The arch is just too big to fit it all in a photo!

Monday, December 31, 2018

And there you have it.

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 28, 2018

Rescued from the Apocalypse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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