On a Happier Note

Last entry I talked about Renata.  I did that because it occurred very recently and more recently than this week.

This week, we took a week off for birthday and anniversary celebration.

I turned 60 this past week, and JoAnne and I have been married now for 40 years.  As I said before, I am not sure how she has put up with me this long, but I’m very happy she has, and proud to be her husband.  I did a quick Facebook post honoring her, posting images and a statement.  I would try to recapture it here, but it will simply repost on FB and I’m sure a lot of people are tired of seeing it now. haha.

We did a little road trip, traveling to Georgia to see Stone Mountain, something JoAnne has wanted to do for some time now.  We spent a couple of days in a very nice hotel there.  We also visited a local restaurant here on Oak Island, called Swain’s to try their sea food.  It was ok, not the best I’ve had, but not the worst.

We found a nice brewery near Atlanta and tested several beers.  All of the beers were very good.  I tried five tasters and wound up with my “standard go-to beer”, an Irish Red Ale, which was so smooth, it made Killians (not my most favorite, but one that most will know) taste like cheap crap.  (Which, I suppose, technically it is after so many craft brews under the bridge.)

The only thing of note on the trip (other than a good time) we had was a massive amount of rain yesterday.  Torrential downpours throughout the day made traveling difficult and cost us about an hour or so of time in going so slowly at times.  At one point, we couldn’t even see ten feet in front of us and were doing 25 mph behind a large truck so I could see his lights and keep an eye on the road lines.  Going off the road would have been very dangerous and probably we’d still be stuck, as there was water flooding the sides of the roads and median.

Eventually, we made it back here, and surprisingly, we had very little leaking going on in the hard rains.  I had placed a large tarp up to reflect the sun off the decks a few days back, when it was choking us with heat and humidity, which actually helped reduce the heat, and apparently the leaks.  So I now know most of them are coming from the top of the main cabin somewhere.  I’ll continue looking for them.

Turning 60 sounds awful to some.  Especially you younger folks, right?  I’m sure many can’t even imagine being this old.  I certainly couldn’t when I was 30 and in the military.  I figured I’d never make it out alive anyway.  But, I did.  And I have made it past several dangerous things in my life, including a nearly “heart stopping” heart attack.  We’ve both had our share of dumb and awful things happen to us over the years.  An accident once in Colorado nearly got us both killed.  A guy ran a red light.  My “quick thinking” and previous “training” I’d had years before kicked in and I managed to put more car between me and him, than had been between him and JoAnne split seconds before.

The car was destroyed, as was his own vehicle.  JoAnne was injured but not anywhere nearly as severe as it would have been had I not acted.  We’ve had two “butt kickings” out “there”, neither of which was really all that bad, but it did give us a deeper respect for the ocean, and the weather.  Mother Nature will surprise you when you are not watching closely.  A boat is as good as it’s master.  Sometimes though, a boat is better than the Master’s skills and the skipper can do almost anything stupid and survive.  Except if they don’t care for the boat correctly (as in the last blog entry).  Eventually, doing nothing at all, can kill you.

Cancer tried to get her.  My heart tried to kill me.  Together, we’re stronger than ever before, but also, we’re more wary, we’ve slowed down, and realize that while we want to go-go-go, we can’t-can’t-can’t hurry.  Taking our time and eking out as much from life as we can takes not only courage, but perseverance, and thinking, reasoning and time.  You can’t always just rush in and get it done.  Sometimes, you seriously need to step back and evaluate what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and how you’re going to do it.

Setting sail is easy to do.  But, when you live aboard, it’s more difficult, because you become comfortable leaving things laying about, sometimes you don’t take all the precautions you would in a seaway, like wearing your flotation device or keeping your radio on all day/night.  You don’t have your wind equipment turned on constantly and tend to guess the wind speeds from experience.  You don’t always remember to close certain hatches at a dock… until it rains hard and you were away from the boat, and your bed gets wet.

You sometimes get bugs in the boat, even though you try hard not to introduce themselves, or you take precautions against them.  But, you learn, you cope, and you deal with everything.  From an emergency, to simple day-to-day things.  And sometimes, you watch as someone else’s dream sinks beneath the waves, helpless to help them.  And yet, you go on.

As to the boat, and the ants…. they seem to have fled or died finally.  We have tried two different kinds of ant traps, both of them seem to be attracting those left and both having different sorts of poison in them, they have pretty much left.  I have seen no sign of any of them since our return yesterday evening.

Our plan at this point seems to be – because we do not set hard dates now for anything – to try to get a good weather window sometime in October, to depart for the Bahamas.  The plan is to head south, outside the Gulf Stream, and sail directly to Marsh Harbor.  We will probably use that as our hub to explore as much as we can see in three-six months time there, and return to our “home” here by not later than April, to try to catch decent winds and weather.

All of that depends on the boat, the crew, the skipper here, and our ability to accomplish it.  I am extremely confident of our ability to accomplish it.  I’ve seen “Lesser Humans” come through here who’ve accomplished more.  No, I’m not insulting them, I’m stating the obvious.  Younger people with much less experience than we have now, having accomplished wondrous things that we have not. We can, and we will do them though.

At 60 life has become shortened.  Time on this planet is meted out in moments and memories and we intend to make the best of them.  We don’t want to wind up stuck in a dock for the rest of our lives, living like the crew of Renata, watching as our home sinks beneath the waves due to lack of hope, caring or whatever finally took it’s toll on Renata.

While time is slowing ticking away, we are still learning, as are all people, every day.  Each event is a learning event.  Each day is a time to reflect on your skills (or lack thereof) and move forward.  Tomorrow is a new day, with new learning events.

A sailor never becomes a complete expert in everything they do, but they surely have skills that most can only dream about.  Sailors KNOW what they know, and know there is much they do not know.  Sailors are not afraid to test the waters, sail the tides or do without things they would like to have, but do not.  Sailors learn as they go, and they pass on to others as they can.  This sailor never stops reading, never stops learning, and will never give up.

 

A Sad Ending

First, I want to say “I’m sorry” to the folks who make comments on the blog posts, and I forget to check and approve them right away.  Sometimes, I get away from the blog for a few days or even weeks at a time because it’s not always the first thing on my mind, every day (which, for a wannabe writer is saying I’m perhaps not as focused on writing as I might be).

On to the actual blog post for today though.

This past week and month has been both a blast and blur.  We had our 40th wedding anniversary on the 5th of August.  It also happened to be my birthday as well.  The main milestone is that I am still alive after all these years with JoAnne and she hasn’t killed me yet.   I’m happy for that.

But more, I’m happy that we are both still around to enjoy the dreams that took hold ten years or so ago – sailing and living aboard a ship, in this case, the sailing ketch Adventure.

This boat has been, I’m positive, several others’ dreams before us. I know the previous owner had similar plans and designs as us.  I know of many people who talk about, but never quite make it to the place we have made it too.  I also know many give up on their dreams when they become difficult.

I believe JoAnne and I have “found our stride” and will continue to walk this world a few more years trying to continue to stretch these dreams into reality.  Living on  a boat is difficult, but easy.  It has it’s ups and downs sometimes daily, like that tides.  Your dreams of living aboard and seeing the world can be blown about by everything from the light breezes to hurricane force winds.  You can watch others’ dreams die.

Sailing Ketch Renata, now at permanent rest

We watched one die this last month as a ship called “Renata” sank finally.  She was an old ferro cement boat.  The couple aboard her were elderly, and apparently had little income other than, we think, a social security check.  They landed in this marina a few years ago, due to some unfortunate circumstances and literally became “stuck here” as money was tight, and I personally believe, their hearts were no longer in it.

The boat sat at the docks for years, collecting crud on the bottom, plant and animal life.  A few weeks ago, she started taking on water, though I believe, knowing the design of the boat, it had been taking on water for months and months prior to the fateful day that landed her under water.  The boat had broken loose on two occasions, being saved both times by marina personnel and people standing by that assisted (including, the last time, friends of ours who happened to be sitting at the docks at the same time Renata broke loose most recently in a wind storm). The first time she broke loose was during Hurricane Matthew, last year.

One evening, the owner, Jerry, contacted the marina and mentioned that his boat was “leaking”.  It went from bad to worse over a few hours.  I believe the hull finally became dangerously soft in places and began sending water into a crack, which likely (I’m guessing, as no one has seen the hull for sure to determine the exact cause of the sinking) caused the crack to enlarge.  Smaller pumps were tried, and eventually, TowBoatUS came in with a huge pump and tried to keep the boat floating. Towboat, the marina, the owner and the USCG made a series of decisions to protect the ICW.

Had the boat sank on the outside dock where she was located, she’d have heeled her masts over to cover most of the ICW canal, thereby becoming a danger to navigation.  Taking her up into the creek was out of the question due to the draft (and apparently had been tried once before, which may have led to originally crippling the boat).  Finally, the decision by the USCG was made to put the boat over in a shallower area, off the canal in such as manner as not to block that canal.

The boat remained afloat for a full 24 more hours before it sank suddenly at about 5pm the next day.  The couple have since been assisted by marina people, live aboards and locals in the area, collecting enough money to get them sent back to their native Ohio.  Both vehicles they owned (neither in good repair) were towed by a trucking company to them in Ohio a day later.

That day, a couple of sailors lost their home, and their dream to the deep blue.  It could happen to anyone, even the best of us, or the worst of us. It can happen to expert sailors when something goes dreadfully wrong, or it can happen to the novice with minor mistakes.  But, it happens all to often.

Watching the Internet talk about these things, and especially Facebook and Social Media and the condemning of these people who have unfortunate events occur to them tells me the human race is rather callous sometimes.  Even I feel as if they could have done more to prevent what happened, instead of relying on the rest of us around them to rescue them.

But, in the end, even the naysayers stood up and helped.  For that, I am grateful, because it tells me that humanity isn’t completely doomed.

I will help anyone as I can.  And I hope if I ever am in need of assistance, my fellow sailor will stand up and lend me a hand if needed.  Judging those folks on the Internet, where your “anonymity” is promised but not guaranteed, is simply atrocious behavior.  For those around the marina and community who talked about these people behind their backs constantly, I feel only sorrow and shame for their behavior and words.

Because they were elderly, I had little doubt they were unable or incapable of making knowledgeable decisions for themselves, which by itself would have been no worse had they lived in a home somewhere instead of a cement boat.  But because they were in a ferrocement vessel that was slowly losing integrity, the remarks beg the question of “Why did no one attempt to help them before?”

I can’t answer the question either.  I didn’t know their whole story until after the sad ending, and even now, many pieces are missing.  Now that I know much more than before, I feel bad for not being able to help sooner.  Then, the days we passed them on the docks and said Hello to them, receiving only a grunt, or sometimes not even acknowledgement we were there says a lot about the way others treated them.

If you’re standoffish, or downright rude in your treatment you might not be acknowledged in return.  Some were rude here, and treated them rudely, but they too, treated others in kind.  So, honestly, I can’t say what would have become of them later in life, had the boat not sank.

Today, I understand they are back in Ohio, under care of their children.  I know nothing more of their circumstances than what I have mentioned here.  I don’t know how long they lived on the boat, where they started from, where they went or how life will go for them in the future, but I can only hope their children brought them back with open arms and will show them the love they have missed for so many years being alone and away from humanity (whether by choice or not).

We’ve had dozens of cruiser friends pass through, all happy in their lives, doing what they wanted to do more than anything.  We’ve watched a few start their journey, and traveled with some who were barely days along in theirs, as we moved into the first and second year of our own journey.  All have been happy in what they were doing, a few with trepidation, some ready (including me more than once) to hang it up and return to a normal, quiet, less rolly life in a house, and not an anchorage or marina.

But for the folks in this story, their days of travel are finished.  They have swallowed the anchor, not of their own choosing.

Fair Winds to Jerry and Dorthy of Renata!

Milestones

I hesitated to post this today, but… exactly two years ago today I had a heart attack.  The following Monday (19 May 2015), I would be in cardiac surgery for open heart, aortic valve replacement “procedure”.  (Edited – I thought today was the day I had the surgery.  My wife reminded me it was Wednesday the 13th the attack occurred.  Oh well, so much for memory, right?)
I also hesitate to use the word “procedure”, but that was their term for it. It was a mind numbing, very humbling experience to have your chest cracked/sawed open in surgery and for people to be touching your inner workings, in particular your heart.  I honestly didn’t believe I was coming out of surgery alive at that point.  I’d said good bye to everyone I could, just in case.
JoAnne and I had previously set a date to leave Colorado and move aboard Adventure on 1 June 2015. On 11 May 2015 I had turned in my resignation.  On 13 May I was driving home and experienced a heart attack. Not a classic heart attack, but a sickening feeling, nausea, cold sweats and heart “palpitations”, along with trouble breathing. I pulled the truck over, knowing something was wrong (but what, I was not sure) and called JoAnne thinking I might never see her again. I knew it was my heart, but there was nothing “classic” about what happened, and nothing I could do sitting in the truck on Highway 94 outside of Colorado Springs, 40 minutes from home and ten minutes back to work (and worse, going through security to get back in.  Then, there was the issue with calling an ambulance and eventually getting my truck home…. but I digress).
The aortic valve was calcified, and deformed from birth (I knew that part and had for a couple of years, and also knew I had a “heart murmur” all my life). I also knew that some “day” I’d have to have that “procedure” but didn’t expect it for 5-10 years.
I think the stress of selling the house, quitting my job to “retire” and getting rid of all our “stuff” probably brought on the attack.  I was, after all moved out of the house and we’d already gotten a good price, signed on the dotted line, and had gotten rid of 90% of our “stuff”, bought the boat, and we were moving aboard soon.  It was a very stressful time for all of us.  The kids too, because we’d moved in with my daughter and son-in-law and their three children, into their tiny (at the time) house.
I was terrified of the surgery and honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I thought, but you can never say something like that is routine.  Many people die on that operating table for various reasons from the anesthesia to not being able to restart the heart.
But, here I am today.  Alive, and well, and very likely in better shape today than I was before the heart attack (and don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been in ‘bad shape’, never been overweight, I’ve always exercised and even exercised the day I had my heart attack).
I went on to recover in pretty much record time.  Six weeks after I left the hospital I went back in for a check up and they released me to go back to work (with a few restrictions on lifting of course) and I stopped to visit the nurses who had cared for me so well at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs.  One nurse hugged me and cried… she told me that it was extremely rare to see a patient return looking so well in so short a time, and most of them never saw the same patients again ever, or if they did, it was due to them returning to the hospital in even worse condition.
JoAnne and I went on to move on to the boat in July 2015.  Slightly over a full month from our originally scheduled time.  Since then, we’ve had a lot of adventures on Adventure.
Today, I racked our first batch of beer made on the boat.  It won’t be the last, and we’re starting a second batch in a couple of days. (We have an ulterior motive though, we’re entering a home brew contest through Check Six  (https://www.facebook.com/CheckSixBrewingCompany/) located in Southport, NC.  I highly recommend a stop there if you like beer.
We won’t stop living our lives because of medical issues.  We’ve been slowed slightly, but getting back up to speed has been fun.
JoAnne went through her own bad experiences with cancer prior to my heart attack.  It wasn’t a cake walk either, but she’s doing fine.
I suppose, in the end of it all, life is how you lived, and are remembered.  It’s not always about how you die.
I believe that people who want to do something with their dreams need to stop right now, evaluate just how much you want that dream to become a reality.  Think it over carefully.  Judge how difficult it would be to start that dream, or the realization of that dream and then write down a plan to make it happen.
It is very, very important you write it down.  Then read it every few days.  I’m serious.  If you have a written plan to follow, you will soon discover you can break it down into smaller, achievable chunks.  If you want to set sail into the sunset, go around the world, or visit the Bahamas, or fly to Europe on a vacation, then by golly, do it.  Don’t wait for “retirement” to happen.  Because, retirement my friends NEVER HAPPENS.  It will never come for some people, they won’t make it there.  Others will be infirm medically by the time they “arrive” at retirement.
Tomorrow is NOT the day to start. Tomorrow never comes.
Right now, this minute is the time.  Write your plan for your dreams.  One year, five years, ten years – and plot your course for how you will arrive at your dream.
Make the dreams happen.  Don’t wait for them to come to you.

S/V Adventure Video Tour

I think I posted this before, but because it’s one of Kurt’s most watched videos, I’m going to post it again… with comments.


This video was shot by Kurt A. Seastead of s/v Lo-Kee.  He is currently doing a refit of his boat.

Adventure was purchased in January of 2015 by Rick and JoAnne Donaldson (that’s us) for a long term cruise and travel.  The boat had a few things wrong with it, but over all, she floated.  The equipment was old (and mostly still is), but it all worked.

Some of the comments on the Youtube video included comments about how “sloppy” I am. 🙂  Another comment was about how dangerous in mast furling is (or perhaps could be?) and that the person writing the comment would NEVER use it.

I’ll make a few of my own comments.

I’m currently working part time in a marina.  I’m handling boats coming through from the Caribbean and Bahamas headed north.  I count the number of in-mast furling rigs I see daily.  I see no less than 5-6 out of 7-10 sail boats.  I find it interesting that there are so many who’ve traveled oceans with these rigs so far.  I have traveled IN the ocean but not crossed it yet.  But so far, the only issues I’ve had with the rigging was having to replace all the halyards and make sure the proper maintenance was performed on the rig.

The boat came with the rigging installed.  I’m not going to undo everything just to make a couple of people happy so they can assume they are right.  The truth is, if the rig gets jammed, the sail can be lowered and treated like any other main sail.

I wonder how many people who make claims about how “bad” something is, have actually used those pieces of equipment.  I venture to say “Almost ZERO”.

As to my “sloppiness”… We had not cruised before we bought the boat, except on bare boat charters and a smaller boat in lakes using our trailer to get there.  Out of necessity we packed lightly, moved the boat and sailed, but generally for 2-3 days at a time.  We couldn’t get enough stuff on the boat to support us.  That included food and water (rather important items).

We also LIVE on this boat, full time.  We don’t have a house, don’t want to waste money on “storage units” we will never visit.  Have no place close by to store things with friends and honestly, don’t want to do so.  There is certainly only so much room on a boat.  We have spare parts for a lot of things.  We have tools to do repairs (and tools take up a lot of space, but without them, we’d be lost).  Tools also can keep me working when necessary to earn some money, because, I know how to do a LOT of jobs.

So one person’s sloppy, is another person’s “organized chaos”.

Also note that we had been on the boat LESS than three months when that video was shot.  We’d owned the boat less than a year and moved aboard in August 2015.  We were still learning how and where to store things.  It was somewhat haphazard at the beginning.

Truth is, we have gotten rid of a lot of things, BUT, we still have clutter and things we can’t yet part with, and until we can find smaller, like items to replace things we use we won’t be doing that just yet.  We have significantly reduced the weight of several items though and we now have a car at our “new marina home port” so we use it to store extra tools I won’t need when cruising.

There are things on this boat a lot of people wouldn’t want.  I’ll give you a little idea.  Composting toilet (a lot of people HATE them, but have never used one.  A lot of people swear by them. I’m still in the middle on this).  OLD electronics.  I have very old radio, doesn’t do AIS.  Broken radar, I’m not paying 2 grand for a new one.  Old, but functional chart plotter (old…. is 1990s, updated firmware for 2009 and no more support).  But it has brand new charts (days old now).   We have no microwave.  We have no freezer.  We DO have a working refrigeration unit (I repaired the ancient one and it works fine).  We have a gas generator (Honda 2000eu version) which people hate because it uses gasoline.  (A lot of people have a gas motor for their dink…../shrug).  We have a propane engine for the dinghy (hard to get propane I hear…. so far, so good, no problem with that).  We have a NEW stove and oven (ok a year or so old now) but my wife loves it.

And so on.  I’m absolutely CERTAIN that if you’ve ever been on and sailed a sailboat something in that list will make you cringe.  And some of you will think “Cool, I use one of those!”

Here’s my point, and the point of re-posting the video once more.

Everyone has their way of doing things.  We each have an idea of what we like, don’t like, and how we would do it, and how we would NOT do it.  You, me, him, her, doesn’t matter.  There are people who wouldn’t GO in a sailboat, because they are power boaters.  We have some who pick at us calling us “Blow Boaters”.  I take it as a compliment, and point out the price of fuel, and the wind is free….

We’re on this journey because my wife wanted to travel.  We think it is a neat way to see things.  We love meeting people.

We’re not on this journey to please ANYONE other than ourselves.  Perhaps that’s selfish, but after 60 years on this planet, doing everything for everyone else, I’m a little peeved at armchair sailors and snobs who nit pick everything anyone else does “because it’s not how *I* would do it”.

A few years ago, I stopped visiting Cruisers Forums, and Sail Net (and I HELPED form sail net!) because of the armchair sailors who would denigrate others for what they considered “dumb questions”.  There is a large group of people out there that are at work every day, getting up, going to work, going home, and logging into the computer – and on weekends they go out to their marina where they store their boat, they climb aboard and drink “sundowners” and wake up with hangovers.  On Monday they go back to work.  During the week they call some company to go polish their boat or wash it, and pay through the nose for the privilege of sitting on the dock on weekends drinking their Bud Lites – but during the week, they bitch and complain about all of us who actually live on the boat, go places, and make due with significantly less space than they have, no or low income, squeeze Lincoln until he screams and buy our cheap beer at the grocery store, and our liquor from the local markets.

They do this because they feel as if they are better than the rest of the cruisers out there.

I’ve yet to meet a long distance cruiser who has a perfectly clean, perfectly cared for boat, that isn’t somewhat cluttered, full of extra “stuff” they “need” (hoses, extra lines, pieces of “small stuff” – that’s bits of twine and line for those of you who might not know that), tools, the odd “silver tea service” or plastic wine goblets.

You know why?  Because they are out there doing their thing, being happy and not complaining about how the other half lives.

Kurt and I are discussing a remake at some point.  A follow up video to this one.  It will address some of the questions you all have, assuming we find the time and can connect somewhere to do it.  But, it will also be real, personal and it shows the truth.

The fact is, I write this blog on the same basis.  I tell it like it is.  Not how you want it to be.  There’s no such thing as a perfect boat, day, trip, travel, or location.  There’s rarely a perfect day of sailing (it happens, but it’s not often).  Extended cruisers sometimes pick up jobs.  They sometimes have to stop and work for a living.  Sometimes they travel and are out of contact for weeks at a time.  Sometimes they even catch fish.  Sometimes they get hurt.  Sometimes, unfortunately, they can die.

I write about everything.  Good. Bad. Ugly. Fun.  Doesn’t matter.  I enjoy writing about our Adventure(s) and what we go through.  I was beat up by a once-friend on Facebook because she disagreed about how I presented my store about a marina.  We had a ROUGH time there.  We had a lot of things go wrong.  Most of them happened when we were not even at the boat.  And yet somehow having these bad things happen and writing about them upset this lady to the point she de-friended me.  I was, in her eyes “putting down her marina”. /Shrug

As I said, I’m not here to please anyone else.

Kurt wanted to do the interview above.  It was impromptu, we had not really cleaned up the boat after having been traveling for a few weeks. The wife was off doing laundry.  I was going Kurt the tour.

So, sometimes, sloppiness is a perceived thing (mostly to OCD people who have a penchant for correcting where someone sits their coffee cup) and equipment issues are almost ALWAYS, ALWAYS based on 3rd hand, biased reporting by people who have zero personal experience with them.  I’m sure that a lack of spit and polish on the bronze pisses people off to no end. 🙂

When it all comes out in the end…. If we have a good time doing what we’re doing, why would anyone be upset?  Except for the people in Florida that don’t want over night anchoring because, well, they are armchair sailors and boaters and honestly don’t know anything about how the other half lives.  They just don’t want to see us in the waterways.

If we all had to please everyone around us, all the time the task would be to ensure everyone is happy.  And you’re not.

That is not the way to live your life, friends.

Go out and be happy.  If you’re going to sail a boat, do it.  Don’t complain about how others do it, how they live, that their equipment isn’t like yours…. be happy we’re different.

 

 

 

Life is a Journey, Not a Destination

Extended Cruisers… that’s what we tell people now when they ask us where we live.  We get questions on where our house is (the boat).  Where do we live?  How do you cook? Where do you go to the bathroom?  Where do you shower? What do you do when you get tired of being on the boat?  One person asked us “Do you use sleeping bags every night?” Another asked us about doing laundry.  Everyone asks “Where are you going?”  Even other cruisers ask that question, including me.  We’re all curious about how everyone else deals with life I suppose.

I think all of us in the cruising world have these questions asked at one time or another and very likely as we were entering into the world of cruising, we all might have asked the same questions of others, or of ourselves.  At first, it’s fun explaining it all to people.  Eventually though, it can be tiring.  Not in a bad way, but in a way that shows you’ve answered the question a thousand times and you get the point you try to reword it more efficiently, using less words, or just simply shrugging your shoulders when you haven’t the energy to respond again.

It isn’t that the questions are stupid, inane or silly.  They want to know, and you have to tell them. So you do.

One day perhaps, I’ll write a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Cruisers to pass out to anyone asking them questions.  Or maybe not.  Because everyone is different.

Speaking of “different”.  JoAnne and I started this “journey” almost 10 years ago – actually, I don’t remember the exact date or year any more.  A lot of water has gone under the keel since we started.  For the past two years we’ve cruised “Differently” than others.

Most people pick a destination and go.  They get there as fast as possible, barring difficulties, and they stay long enough to enjoy the scenery, a pub, a beach bar, a beach, fishing, or simply meeting new people.

For two years we’ve “cruised” down the coast, running into trouble – we might call it “Adventure” but most call it trouble.

From broken engine parts, to broken engine, broken halyards, dead and dying batteries, leaks, busted hoses, pipes and lines, getting hit more than once by other boats (one time being rigging and bow being severely damaged), to getting beat by the Chesapeake Bay and Cape Fear River Inlet we’ve persevered.  We’ve gotten up each time and kept going, albeit, slowly.

Plodding along at a snails pace from New York to Norfolk, Norfolk back to the Potomac River and then Potomac River as far as North Carolina.

We’ve been here in Southport for about eight weeks now.  On 6 February 2017, it will be just over eight weeks.  Throughout the time on the boat, we’ve also been off the boat traveling around the country.  We’ve made trips (several) back to Colorado.  We traveled from Colorado to Missouri, Tennessee, Florida down one coast and back up the other.  We’ve traveled around the DC area, throughout Virginia, back and forth and up and down.  I am guessing because I haven’t figured out the distances yet, but, we’ve put on 25,000-30,000 statute miles traveling by car and boat so far.

We loved the Northern Neck of Virginia – but it was remote.  We made good friends there.

Southport has been different though.  Not just the people.  Not just the place.  A combination of everything.

We have fallen in love with the place.  That doesn’t mean we want to live her forever.  But in the two months we’ve been here, we’ve made a lot of friends, met a lot of cruisers passing through, including some friends we’ve met elsewhere.

For the past few days we’ve been debating moving on.  We are here late enough in the season that if we depart now, we can still get to the Bahamas for the Spring.  Do we stay or do we go?

Yesterday, I went through Active Captain, sent emails, made phone calls and wrote up a budget based on our cruising kitty’s contents.

We can move on and still have enough money, assuming nothing goes wrong from now until we locate a place to go.  But every marina we contacted gave us “No room at the inn” or were willing to ask us for more than normal to hold a slip for us to use.  One of my fall back plans was mooring balls.  I found some, very inexpensive places. No living aboard allowed though.

The cost of staying at a slip here versus Florida is a shock.  Double in almost all cases.  Except certain places on the West Coast of Florida. But, there are a lot of places we won’t “fit”.  Can’t get in.  Canals too shallow, fixed docks to climb out of the boat at low tide (JoAnne simply can’t do that now).

Last night we talked about staying for awhile, enjoying Southport, and perhaps even working a bit to regain some missing cash from the Kitty.

I had three job offers yesterday in the space of an hour, without even asking.

Yesterday afternoon, the dock master told me he “found me a slip if I wanted it”, and told me if I was interested, he was looking for another dock hand.

This morning we made the decision.

We are going to hang out here a while longer.  Enjoy the beer over at Check Six Brewing Company, our friend’s company and probably try to throw a few bucks back into the bank.  The health insurance is (pardon the pun) bleeding us dry at this point and working to offset it even a little will keep us floating (another pun?) for awhile.

This is not truly what I wanted to do, but it seems to make sense.

For everyone wondering about it… no we’re not staying forever.  I told the Dock Master that October we would leave, or November.  But we might come BACK as well the following season.  He thought that was a good plan.

So, not technically “swallowing the hook” yet.  Just going to test the air and see how it smells for awhile.

Anyway, my son, Nick reminded me this morning – Life is not a destination, it’s a journey.  He’s right.

We’re Free People.  We do not have anyone to tell us what to do, when to do it, where to go, or how to accomplish what we do.  We CAN come and go as we please, when we please and where we want.  Complications are something that life throws at you constantly (case in point, running north to get my car from Virginia, going all the way to Detroit to see my brother in the hospital, even if he couldn’t see me).  That along with our own personal medical histories, we have to be sure we’ve got insurance for a bit longer.  Boat and car insurance.  Money to eat…. yeah, life’s complications.

To all our followers (I think there are three of you now) no worries.  I’ll still write here, I’ll still keep you all up to date.  And let me say something about why I actually do this blog.  Please follow along a few more minutes.

Why do I write this blog?

For all the years prior to actually doing this I read everyone’s blog.  I sat sometimes awaiting a new entry on a few of them.  I read EVERY book I could get my hands on, either buying, borrowing or shopping them online on Kindle.  I read grand tales of Blue Waters, great fishing stories, scary weather stories, and I read every thing in Cruisers Forums, Sail net (I helped start Sailnet, did you all know that?  Then got kicked off of it because some people didn’t like my political views, haha).

Through out it all, I found very, very few stories of what REALLY happens to people or the gory details of daily life on a boat, hanging upside down in the bilge with a finger blocking a hole while trying to reach back up to get a mallet to pound in a wooden plug.

What I DID encounter on the forums was a smattering of good, quality information interspersed inside of a lot of hollow knowitallness from many armchair sailors.  Oh, I am sure they weren’t all arm chairing it.  Many did live on boats in marinas and I found most RARELY ventured from the docks.  They polished their boats daily, cleaned the stainless steel, painted the bilges, and plumed the depths of their Sundowners in the evenings.

I look around at my ship – and ship she is, big, beautiful and ungainly in a marina, but wonderfully agile and quick upon the sea under sail – and look at the dents, dings, weird, dirty spots I can’t seem to clean off, a few gel coat spots that probably need redoing and see the Dock Queens in this place (most of the boats haven’t left in months or years) and wonder what I am doing wrong.

I’m on the boat working on this or that ALL the time.  JoAnne broke her back on a dock, slipped and fell on another and lost a pair of glasses.  I’ve cracked my head on things and drawn so much blood, my long bones and marrow are having troubles keeping up the replacement blood cells.  No one else writes about these things.

No one tells it “like it is”.

I find that both appalling and fascinating.  Over these last few years of doing all the reading, I rarely came across a story or blog, book or tale of all the terrible things that happen to people.  When I chose at one point to tell about the things that happened in one certain marina, I lost friends over it.  They misread into my words that I was complaining and believed I was denigrating the marina and not telling the story.

I’ve had a difficult time putting some things into words since then because, frankly, I don’t like upsetting people and especially not real, true cruisers.  But, telling this story is my way of leaving something for my kids to read and think about long after we’re all gone and dust (or fish food).

I write because I have a passion for writing.  I don’t do it for money (ok, I have one published book.  Makes me about 3.75 a month….) and I have other books waiting in the wings for publication, but it’s not about money.  Never has been.

I don’t advertise on the blog like so many do.  I don’t think it’s fair.  Advertising permeates everything. Our phones, our Facebook accounts, email, television, radio, in-your-face in the stores, malls, on the sides of the roads and for cruisers to plaster their pages with “ads” to “Buy our book!” irritate me I guess.

I write because I like to, I like to tell the story.  I want people to know, beyond any doubt that anyone can cruise.  Anyone can become a sailor, and a good one.  But you have to work at it, and it is NOT easy.  It’s NOT going to come to you like magic.  And no destination is as pristine as made out by many books and articles.  There are problems ANY where you go.

Human beings are simply put, pigs sometimes.  They throw crap everywhere.  The water is full of plastic and junk and I daily pull things out around the marina.  But, humans can be kind, considerate, helpful and just all-around, wonderful.  They don’t have to throw junk in the water and pollute, but they do.

Because cruising today is NOT what it was twenty years ago, we are not on the “cutting edge” of visiting places.  Boats aren’t any longer seen as “strange, new visitors from a far away place”.  Boats are, unfortunately, considered a “Cash Cow” and the inhabitants are considered “wealthy”.  Except those on derelicts.  Who are considered by everyone to be “scum of the earth”.  This is a wrong assumption, but sometimes it’s true.

The truth about cruising is there are good and light things, and deep, dark secrets.  Some places we’ve seen have people doing drugs, drunks everywhere (I suspect those are the cruisers actually haha) and dirty, sinking boats. Other places have beautiful, spotless Dock Queens who never move.  Wonder why they look so nice?

Then there is us, and Adventure.  And almost EVERY OTHER extended cruiser we’ve met.  All of our boats aren’t the best, well kept.  They are sometimes messy inside.  They are sometime dirty outside.  We have too much crap.  Too much in the lockers, too much in the forward cabin.  Too much on the deck.  Lines everywhere.  Old lines. Not new, pretty braided stuff.  Junky “look what I found in the trash” lines sometimes.

This is the stuff I write about.  I do it because… honestly, I want people to see what it is like.

I don’t always tell the whole story either.  There are no words for some things that would not offend a lot of people (try talking about composting heads in mixed company and you will grasp what I mean!)

I hope that folks enjoy what I write, and I’ve had a few tell me they love it.  I’ve had a small number that hate on me.  That’s ok.  Everyone has an opinion.  Some are just wrong, that’s all 🙂

I will let you all know in a few days how it’s going and whether or not we can “hang” at this for awhile in Southport.  If you get here, let me know.  We’ll meet you on the dock and greet you!

Fair Winds

Rick

 

Setting Sail

This weekend coming up appears to have SNOW in the forecast.

For all you snow people, that’s good. For sailors, that’s not so good.

JoAnne and I and the good ship Adventure set sail tomorrow in the best 48 hour weather window we’ve seen in some time to head as far south as the winds will take us.

We’re aiming for Charleston, SC (with emergency stopping in Winyah Bay if required) and if weather continues to permit, and the waves/wind and boat cooperate, Savannah, GA perhaps.  Fifty hours roughly from setting sail is Savannah, which Charleston is about 24.

JoAnne is still not “sure” if she can handle a shift, let alone several, but I’m confident we can do it.  We will test it over the next 24 hours and see how we do.

We should have good winds (starting off all wrong at first tomorrow morning) and then turning to give us some Northerlies which ought to take us pretty far south.  The speed and movement of the boat will depend on my skills as a sailor and of course the wind and waves.  But at this point I’m confident I can do it.

Traveling near by us, on their own ship, Bentana, are Judy and Stephen.  We met them about two years ago in New York.  They are long time cruisers (about 7 years now) and they are going to Florida as well.  They came into the docks here yesterday morning to meet up with us.  I don’t really think they intended to travel with us, but it appears since we’re all going the same way, we’re all going at the same time.  That’s cool because we can chat on the radio and keep in contact.

I think we will probably decide once we hit the area of Charleston to go on or stop based on how our boat is doing rather than the other boat.  We really WANT to go on, and try to get more than a single day of sailing in, but by nature no one is really a “sailor”.  You have to learn the skills, you have to learn to live on the water, you have to learn to live on a small vessel going some place perhaps unpredictible and in conditions unknown to you for more than a few hours… and yet, it’s done.

People have sailed for months and months to go around the world, to get to the “New World” and did it with nothing more than a compass and an innate sense of well being (because, you can’t stay on a boat more than a few days at seas, without some kind of “well being” now, can you?) lol

JoAnne doesn’t think she is ready and I know she is, but I also know I AM, but am not ready to do it alone.  So, therein lies the problem.  If she can’t handle a shift for 2-4 hours, I might as well be alone.  But, I can’t do a 24 hour shift without stopping at some point, and I can’t sleep for 15 minutes at a time either. So, it’s complicated.

For all you folks that see your dreams on a boat, and think you can do it – think again.  For all of you that have your dreams on a boat, and think you CAN’T do it — think again.

You CAN do it it.  All you need is careful planning, careful and critical thinking, knowing your weather, knowing how long you can actually sleep for and knowing your boat.

In all honesty, I’m JUST to the point I’ve gotten to know the boat well enough to do the right things with the sails.  I know the weather well, and know what it’s going to be like for 5 hours in the future.  I also know my body’s limitations.  But, I also have a crew, my sweetheart, whom I worry obsessively over, and care for, and don’t want her injured again, so anything I do (as Captain) makes me rethink five or six times what is right and that is a good thing.

Until it isn’t.  In the military, we said “Make a decision or die”. In real life that doesn’t happen to many, but it does happen to those who go to sea.  But decisions MUST be tempered with common sense, good judgement and training.

I hope I have all three of those.  The next 48 hours will determine the truth.

All my best to everyone for a fantastic New Year.  May all your Dreams come True – but, remember, you must plan for them to come true 🙂

Fair Winds all!

Beaufort NC to Wrightsville Beach, NC (Masonboro Inlet)

Last entry, we had planned to continue down the ICW. At some point along the way, we changed out minds for the 20th time. I think the stress of going in the ditch is less than the stress of going offshore at night for a 24 hour run (or in this case, 14 hours overnight). So, we decided, one more time to go outside.

On 27 November 2016 we departed the Morehead City Yacht Basin marina and had a LOT of issues getting out. Currents kept pushing the boat the wrong way and neither bow thrusters, or the prop walked were helping me get out cleaning. And on top of that, I think like a rocket scientist and pressed the WRONG button on the bow thruster. So, for the second time in a month or so, I whacked the bow pulpit. No damage, but it’s irritating as all get out.

Adventure’s bow is long. There’s a 9′ bow sprit and 7′ of that are at the pointy end of the boat, along with the railing, the platform and the forestay, making it difficult (to me at least, I’m sure there are some Gold Star Captains out there who can drive better than I can) to see what I’m doing, aim the boat properly and I’ve just not got much experience with currents. Most of my sailing was in lakes, and places where the winds did what you expected.

Anyway, once out of the dock without smacking anything else, we powered up and headed for the channel, made a call to the bridge. And then promptly made a fool of myself for the second time. The “Beaufort Bridge” answered me. Apparently they handle the Beaufort Bridge (which honestly, I wasn’t suyre where that was located) and the train bridge I had to traverse as I came around the corner leaving the marina’s channel. They told me the bridge opened on the hour and half hour.

So I asked… “We’re talking about the train bridge, right?”

“Yes,” she replied. I was then very confused because I was certain the bridge should be open all the time, after all the chart said so, I’d heard no calls from USCG stating the train bridge was closed and so I reiterated the question, this time more specifically. I could hear the mirth in her voice when she replied, “Oh, THAT bridge is open all the time and should be up now.”

I couldn’t SEE the bridge until I was right at the end of the channel and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do if the bridge were down. Long story short, it was opened. I turned to starboard and pushed through – or thought I would. A small boat decided to bust through as I was heading in. So I slowed, to allow the faster boat through. He slowed. Now, I’ve got no steering in a few moments, and he’s taking his time coming through. I call him on the radio and invite him through. SO… HE SLOWS MORE.

Finally, I gave up, gave the boat gas and aimed right at his bow (I’m still a hundred yards away) but I think he got the message and suddenly powered up and got out of my way, because I can promise we weight about 34,000 lbs (dead weight, after being lifted on a lift) and I suspect he wouldn’t have been in one piece after an “encounter”. Finally, through the stupid bridge we were headed for the Beaufort Inlet.

The time was about 2:30PM or so.

The plan was to get out to the sea buoy by 1600, turn on a course to bring us to the sea buoy near the Masonboro Inlet in 14 hours.

It was a long, chilly night. I left the enclosure up and drove through the night, running the engine the entire way. I did have the main sail up for a few hours and reduced the engine RPMs to keep my speed at around 4 knots, which would put me at the sea buoy at about 6:30.

Along the straight line course I drew on the chart was a “Danger Zone”. After investigating I discovered it was a shooting range for Camp Lejune and sure as shootin’ (see what I did there? lol) USCG came on the air when I was just getting to the first light and announced live fire operations on-going in the vicinity. I ensured I cleared the outer lights by a couple of miles just to be sure. I didn’t want artillery shells dropping on me.

I never heard, nor saw any firing but I could occasionally hear the booms of what sounded like howitzers. (Know the sounds well from living in Colorado Springs, and having heard them live before in other circumstances). Never saw any splash downs, thank goodness. haha

Daybreak happened about 5 minutes before I reached the seabuoy (and I had to slow the boat as couple of time to ensure I arrive at the right time to still see the flashing lights and then spot it with my eyes. I actually drove within about 100 yards of the bouy. The Autohelm was running and it is “off”. I’ve since fixed the issue. Something in our closet made of metal was too close (within 4′ of the electronic compass).

JoAnne had been sleeping down below and I called her and woke her up, asking her to join me in the cockpit when we were about 4 miles from the inlet.

We arrived and dropped anchor at 0840. Ten minutes after my calculated/predicted time. We did have some issues getting into the inlet due to winds blowing the tide about, and apparently an opposing current, but once we were actually past the breakwater, it calmed considerably.

We decided to stay here a few days, as these 24 hour shifts are a little much on me these days. I was grumpy, tired and grumpy. Did I mention, grumpy? JoAnne let me sleep for a couple hours and made a wonderful lunch/dinner. Baked Sweet Potatoes and boiled shrimp. Wish I could say I caught them myself, but I didn’t. I’m still not quite ready to be fishing and driving a boat at the same time apparently. haha Especially not with shrimp nets!

It has been raining on and off now since we arrived. We have plans to depart here tomorrow morning and head for a marina on the ICW to spend about three days, giving us a chance to get internet and do some weather planning.

Our next trip appears to be outside to Charleston (or perhaps a short jump, but I’m not seeing anything very nice for us to work with at this point).

Yesterday, I dropped the dink in the water, got the engine on it, and we puttered into the municiple docks near the bridge and went to a little place called King Neptune’s, a little resturant/pub. Had fish and chips and a couple beers and came back just before it opened up again. I got the dink back on the boat, everything tied down and ready for evening.

The rain came with some wind. And the wind remained. ALL night. I was worried about dragging so I didn’t sleep almost all night. I set two anchor alarms (one on the phone and one on the GPS) but the winds were almost 38 knots at one point. Predicted was 16. I have no idea what was going on. I checked three or four applications on my phone and no where was the wind supposed to be over 16 knots last night. Two other ketches were riding to anchor near by, and one sloop. The sloop was getting their asses kicked by the rolling they were doing. I can’t believe anyone aboard slept a wink last night. But maybe they did. Maybe they are “Saltier” than me?

The other ketches were doing the same thing I was doing. Riding up and down, and turning into the wind against the waves. I tried a few tricks but nothing helped. I gave up and finally fell asleep about 3 AM for a bit. The wind was dying down then and I wasn’t worried any more about dragging at that point.

Right now, I am writing this on generator power, needed to get the batteries topped off, and I need to check the engine for our trip south tomorrow., but JoAnne needed hot water for dishes and such, and I wanted to get this written while I had time and was thinking about it. I’m going to put up a hot spot and post it shortly.

More in a few days!

Fair Winds