Thursday, December 13, 2018

Stumbling my way through…


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

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

One of our first buddy boats






























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

Ah, but moving to land…

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 10, 2018

Balance


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 7, 2018

We own a car...


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



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

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

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

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Unexpected turns…

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

En·tr'acte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A Treat For Yourself on Black Friday

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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




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

Ellen Jacobson

Ardys Richards

Keith Davie