My Life as a “Captain”

Sea Captain is a rough, tough name.  Because, Sea Captains are rough and tough.  I suppose, I’m rough sometimes, and usually pretty tough.  But, I’m no “Sea Captain”.  I’ve lived aboard Adventure for over four years.  To be honest, I’m not really even a “Captain” or licensed ship’s master (though that might change in the coming months).  I am the “Master of this Ship” though.  We (the ship and I) have an agreement now.  I maintain her, and she’s stopping hitting me in the head, tripping me and doing bad things.  She still throws things around sometimes in little tantrums though.

I’m actually “certified” through the America Sailing Association on several levels; things that most people, with a little common sense, can do, study and get “certified”.  Almost anyone can take classes and pass the tests, and a lot of people do so, sometimes without common sense.  Some people never bother.  They have money, they buy a boat, pretend to be a “Captain” and wake smaller vessels, marinas, fuel docks, can’t figure out which way to go when coming head on, make bad decisions sometimes endangering others and so on.  Perhaps those are the folks that spend their money on someone else to do the varnishing?  I don’t know….

But, people around the marina, the Coast Guard, the marina patrol all call me “Cap” or “Captain”.  JoAnne calls me “Captain” occasionally, though rarely.

Being a Sea Captain is a rough, tough thing.  Not for any reasons you might imagine though.  When I started this blog, oh so many years ago, it was to document things we did, places we’ve visited and one thing I promised myself and my readers was to keep it “Real” — tell it like it is.  Because there are so many wonderful blogs and video blogs out there that tell it like it ain’t.

Not that they LIE.  But, they don’t tell the WHOLE truth all the time.  Don’t get me wrong, they show the great parts of living aboard a boat, the awesome places they visit, the beauty of the world, the cool people, and great friends they make.  These are all good things.

Leaving out the bad days, nights of anchor dragging, stormy seas, crappy boat performance, the jerks you meet out there (along with all the great people) is a kind of “lie by omission” to me.  Perhaps in our blog due to our actual LACK of travel sometimes, it gets boring or repetitive.  I get that. But, it is what it is.  Being a boat “Captain” isn’t an easy job even when you’re actually being a captain and sailing the boat.  On the other hand, it’s great fun.

Adventure is a wonderful, beautifully designed, boat made from fiberglass and she contains a massive amount of wood both above and below.  A lot of teak. She was designed, we believe, by William Garden, built in a Taiwanese shipyard in Taipei, Taiwan.

Her full keel is a dead weight displacement at 19,000 lbs.  Her total weight/displacement puts her as a 16 ton ship.  Her rig is that of a ketch, two masts, main and mizzen.  She has four sails, a working jib, a 150% Genoa, main and mizzen sail, all of them are roller furled sails (main and mizzen in-mast).

She has three solid anchors.  Two CQRs, one at 60lbs and one at 45lbs, 150′ nylon rode and 280′ of 3/8th BB chain on the 45 pounder.  The smallest anchor is a 19 lb danforth used as a kedging or stern anchor (rarely used).  No, I won’t get into the “anchor argument”.  It is what it is, and we have what we have, and I’m not switching anchors because some know-it-alls on the Internet, sitting at their arm chairs tell me “CQRs Suck”.  Mostly, they don’t suck, mostly every anchor ever invented has pros and cons.  At least it’s not a giant rock with a hole cut in it to tie a line too like the Greeks used, right?

Adventure is a well found Pirate Ship that any wannabe Pirate would be both proud to sail or live upon.  She handles well, even in crappy weather and big seas.  It’s just that the Captain of this boat is more difficult to handle… the seas that is. I’m still looking for a place to mount the cannons though.  No cannon deck….

I can sail her, alone if need be and JoAnne can sail her too, but has problems with the sheets sometimes.  I think that is more a perception thing than a physical thing.  This boat is significantly larger than most of the boats we’ve sailed (Except a 42′ Jeanneau called “Wombat” in the BVIs a few years ago) so it can be daunting to stand on the deck or cockpit moving at 7 knots under all sail with a short handed crew of two.

I’ve gotten sea sick at least twice.  The First Mate, JoAnne, she’s a tough cookie too.  Fought and beat back Cancer twice.  Broke her back once.  Has given birth to six children.  Broke a leg once.  Multiple stomach surgeries.  Has put up with my shit for 42+ years now, so she’s a very tough First Mate, and I love her dearly.  But, she too, gets sea sick.

So much of my “being a Captain” of a boat is spent cleaning, sanding, varnishing, repairing things, building new things from parts, varnishing, installing systems (new water maker!) and did I mention “varnishing”?  Also trying to make things easier for us.

Of late, I’ve spent a couple of weeks working on sanding and varnishing.  That’s a tough job in the heat and humidity of North Carolina.  Installing the water maker wasn’t a piece of cake either.  I had to remove a large, 30 gallon water tank and replace that with the water maker system.  I think it was a good trade off though, since we rarely used that tank.  It was our reserve water, really, and we rarely did more than flush that tank out every couple of months to add new water.

On the bright side, we can now make water using a generator.

Installing things is a “Captain” thing to do, otherwise, you pay someone else to do it.  That’s not fun….  If a Captain has a crew who is capable of doing a particular job, the Captain will delegate the authority to accomplish the task.  The First Mate can’t do most mechanical things well, if at all.  She just doesn’t really see mechanical things in a way that she can fix or repair them.  But, she’s a wonderful cook – and I will even call her a “Chef” though she refuses to accept that title (without professional training).  Sometimes, amateurs are better than professionals anyway, and no matter what she thinks, she a Chef in MY mind.  She’s also the “Provisioner” and pretty much in charge of the inside of the ship, except the engine. And other mechanical things.  And anything broken.  HA!

She can do a little electrical stuff, because she’s an Amateur Radio Operator, but I prefer to do that stuff because, it’s what I did for my whole life.

Thus, I do the mechanical work, electrical work, plumbing when required, I paint, I sand, I varnish, I do sewing, of sails and canvas, I do marlingspike work (ropes, lines, replacing old lines with new).  I do dock work, deck work, I remove fittings, I replace fittings, I fix fittings… Soon, I shall even become the boat diver and clean the bottom of the boat myself. (That’s another thing that bugs me…. as the wild life here grows quickly, and the local guy doesn’t have a lot of competition so charges a lot for a single boat cleaning job).

Again, the cost of maintaining a boat is significantly more than a house.  Of course, you sometimes spend a lot of money on new windows, doors, appliances, and so on in a house, but you don’t have the salt air tearing it all apart internally most of the time like a boat.  Your house, unless you live in California or Japan, doesn’t move at all.  Ours moves constantly, so wear and tear on everything from dock lines to antichaffing stuff.

Our “window replacement” was the bimini and dodger as of two days ago.  It wasn’t a cheap thing, but it’s pretty.  It isn’t glass, but Esenglas.  Not shingles for a roof, but a canvas covering.  The cost was about the same as I would have ended up paying for a new garage door or several windows in a house.

But, it is nice. The solar panels are better mounted, we have new grab rails and I’m happy with it.  But I didn’t do it.  Perhaps the next time, I can do it myself.

Over the four plus years aboard Adventure, we spent two of them cruising and taking off for Colorado for cancer treatments and two compression fractures in JoAnne’s back.  So, over the course of time, we spent about 9 months off the and the rest on it.  A full year of that was cruising around the Chesapeake Bay, and down from New York to here in North Carolina.

We don’t have as much distance under the keel as some do.  We haven’t visited all the cool places some have.  Times though, are a changin’, so it is said.  I’m going to order my surface air supply systems and a few things like a regulator in a few days.  The Varnishing is nearly complete (for now, more will take place under way).  Water maker installed.  JoAnne is making lists of things for provisions.  We’ve considered staying a couple extra weeks (based on weather, and the Steed Bonnet race) and that’s up in the air at the moment as well.

Truthfully, there’s nothing now, not even hurricanes harrying the area to prevent us from setting sail in a day or two other than extra food.  This weekend I’ll go through my lockers one last time, hit the storage unit, repair a tire on our car, remove crap from the dock box and do final tests, and a short day sail to check on things.  Jay Beard has volunteered to go along for the shake down.

In the next two weeks, we have parts coming in, and strapping down of things to accomplish, grocery stores to visit, rum to replenish and perhaps… a day or two off to rest up before the departure.

As you can see, the “Life of a Captain” isn’t all “Partying”.  It’s more like being a Slave to a ship that rarely moves from the docks, but demands a significant amount of attention each and every day.

Move, though, we will.  To the South.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.  Out there.  That a-way.

Then I can be a Tough and Rough Sea Captain again.

Maybe.

If I don’t get sea sick.

I’ve got to head this boat south pretty soon
New album’s old and I’m fresh out of tunes
But I know that I’ll get ’em, I know that they’ll come
Through the people and places and Caldwood’s Rum

  (Manana, by Jimmy Buffett)

Note:  Most of blog entries on the windsoftime.us site (also see this link if for some reason the domain is down https://thewindsoftime.wordpress.com) are pretty boring, talking about the things I do on the boat, to the boat and in the boat.  But, Adventure is a ship, worthy of so much more than sitting idle at the docks like she does.  Soon, we will make her Happy Again.

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