Loss of a Friend – Guy Bernardin – Circumnavigator

“I had resolved on a voyage around the world, and as the wind on the morning of April 24, 1895 was fair, at noon I weighed anchor, set sail, and filled away from Boston, where the Spray had been moored snugly all winter. The twelve o’clock whistles were blowing just as the sloop shot ahead under full sail. A short board was made up the harbor on the port tack, then coming about she stood to seaward, with her boom well off to port, and swung past the ferries with lively heels. A photographer on the outer pier of East Boston got a picture of her as she swept by, her flag at the peak throwing her folds clear. A thrilling pulse beat high in me. My step was light on deck in the crisp air. I felt there could be no turning back, and that I was engaging in an adventure the meaning of which I thoroughly understood.” – Joshua Slocum, Sailing Alone Around the World, 1900.

On the 16th of September I took a leave of absence from my marina job for six months – until April anyway.  Maybe a bit longer.  We did a quick (month long) road trip and returned last evening from the road to Colorado and back.

Our whole purpose for being on this boat is to go places.  Our boat has sat here for most of a year, December 2016 until now.  We had some bad experiences with the water, waves, wind and weather and took a break, but it’s time to go again.  For awhile I was of a mind to sell the boat and get back on land.  I don’t like JoAnne getting sick, and having experienced sea sickness myself, I don’t want her to be ill ever again.  However, we aren’t giving up quite so easily.

But, we need to move, we need to go, we need to see things.  Life is short and if we sit here, we waste our chance to see other parts of the world.

Nothing has driven that idea home more accurately than the sad news I received a few days ago.

A few months ago an older man came to the Marina here at South Harbour Village.  His name was Guy (pronouced as Ghee) Bernardin.  He was in his 70s.  He was aboard an older boat by the name of “Crazy Horse”, a racing sloop.  The boat was in need of attention, and he’d just purchased the vessel for a non-stop race around the world.

Guy and I quickly became friends.  I helped him on several occasions with lines and moving things around for him.  He had another friend named Larry Brown who came to visit and stayed with him for a few weeks while working on Crazy Horse.  Larry and I spoke often as well, while various parts were refitted on the boat.

Sometime in June I had asked if I could interview him and write an article for the local paper.  He refused at first stating that he was leaving soon for France to go back to work on his other boat, a Spray (Slocum) replica.  I found out more of his story in that conversation – that in 1998 he had completed a three year, round-the-world tour which duplicated for the most part, Joshua Slocum’s original trip.  He explained that the boat was steel, and he was going back for some refit work.

The Interview was never to take place as my wife and I had also gone home in June to do medical appointments and other things.  Guy was ready to depart save for last minute things when we returned.

When we returned, I saw Guy infrequently, but I did chat with him on and off.  I assisted him in installing his wind generator a couple of days before his departure sometime in late July (I do not recall the date, and didn’t write it down).  I know he left and came back in with either engine or steering issues, or perhaps the weather bothered him.  I never got the chance to ask, as the following morning he was gone again and I never heard from him again.

Sometime in August (about a week or so after his departure) I wondered how he was doing.  Then I heard a rumor about a radio call for help and some people were saying they thought it might have been Guy.  I did not hear the call.  I don’t know the details of the call, who made it or why. I completely discounted the idea it was Guy.  He was, after all a seasoned traveler, sailor and knew what he was doing.  I never believed anyone actually heard the call themselves and were guessing (which they likely were).

I forgot all about it.  Until this past week.

JoAnne and I had to go back to Colorado for a few days.  A message came in from Norm at the South Harbour Village Marina while we were traveling with friends, asking if I had heard the news about a friend who had been in the Marina for awhile this past summer.  I received the sad news that he was missing and his boat had been found.

A few minutes later I had an article mentioning him and learned that his fate was not what I would have expected.

I was shocked, and to this day I am still in shock I believe. I’d written off the original rumor of the radio call because I felt it couldn’t have been Guy, it couldn’t have happened to a world cruiser, racer and a man who was very good at what he did.

Guy Bernardin went missing sometime in August we believe, somewhere off the coast of North Carolina, close to us. His life raft was aboard, the boat intact as far as I can tell from the article.  I have little information on what might have happened to him but have first hand experience on his boat.

“Crazy Horse” was a typical racing sloop, designed in a minimalist fashion, but there were narrow decks, running rigging all over the place to the cockpit, a scooped stern, easy to have fallen from there, life lines were short to the deck (no more than a foot probably) and little to grab onto.  Guy told me he had not had time to install jack lines when I questioned him the last time I spoke to him.

Guy Bernardin

We were raising the wind generator mast and he was putting in bolts and connecting the final wires.  I asked him about the jack lines, and he said that it was something he had not bought and probably wouldn’t require them for this part of the trip.  I didn’t question his wisdom on this for I knew he was experienced.  The image below was taken just a couple of days prior to installation of the wind generator.  I was shooting images of boats going through the fairway and happened to catch the stern of Crazy Horse in this one.

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Crazy Horse on RIGHT of Image above

It is now very apparent that Guy, while experienced in around the world cruising, a six-times around the Horn man, and a seasoned racer made a mistake that anyone could make.  He didn’t think anything bad would happen.

According to the article (Written in French), the boat was recovered with no one aboard.

For those who know the story of Joshua Slocum (and I hope all Sailors know it, if not, read it) Slocum traveled solo around the world, with an old wreck of a boat he rebuilt from the keel up.  A completely “new” boat from the old boat rose of the “ashes” (ok, sand actually) and he proceeded to travel the world, visiting exotic locations and becoming a very famous man in the late 1890s.

Bernardin sailed a steel boat called Spray around the world, following the footsteps of Slocum over a three year circumnavigation.

Like Slocum, Monsieur Bernardin disappeared at sea.  Unlike Slocum, Crazy Horse was found without it’s Captain. Spray was never located.  Today we can only assume the worst for Guy.  He never finished his last voyage.  At least I tend to believe he wished to complete it with success, not in the manner it ended.

So, to sailors everywhere…. do your best.  Never skimp on safety, know your limits.  Know that any little thing can kill you out there.  I’m sure you all know this, and I’m preaching to the choir, but seriously, I’m tired of losing friends like this.

Fair Winds, Guy Bernardin, where ever you are now.

 

Sail: disappearance of the navigator Guy Bernardin off the American coast

Guy aboard the Slocum Spray Replica

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http://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/2017/10/05/guy-bernardin-lost-sea/#.WdxRdryap7Y.facebook

http://www.lepoint.fr/sport/voiel-disparition-du-navigateur-guy-bernardin-au-large-des-cotes-americaines-03-10-2017-2161787_26.php#

http://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/2017/03/08/fifty-year-anniversary-spiritual-journey/

https://www.amazon.com/Sailing-Around-World-Retraces-Slocums/dp/1574091484

https://books.google.com/books/about/Sailing_Around_the_World.html?id=sAA6uNUnKYMC&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

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Cabin Top Painting and other projects

Since we’ve owned Adventure she has needed a paint job.  We had the bottom done in NY when we got her, and she’s probably in need of a true bottom job soon, but we’ll wait until next year to do it.

But the top… the deck, the sides of the cabin walls, bow sprit and a few other areas have been in desperate need of help.  I cleaned the boat about once every two weeks, and she was dull, the white ‘wiping off’ on my hands, feet, legs or knees as I’d touch or crawl around her.

Last year, the bow sprit was in evil shape, messy with a mildew that ran the length of the sprit, some areas of wood showing through.  After testing the sprit for integrity (and after hearing one of the sister ships had a rotten sprit) I decided to clean and paint the bow sprit.  I did a bunch of research on paint and found everyone recommending this or that, at the cost of hundreds of dollars a gallon.  I lived in a house I owned for 25 years and successfully used all sorts of paints on the outside of the house, and interior as well.

Certainly, something in these magical marine paints must be made of gold I thought.

Turns out many are a type of oil based paint, and some are epoxy based.  The two part paints usually go on the bottom.  Thus, I will reserve judgement on those for now.

After a year the paint I used on the bow sprit still looks great.  It was simply an oil based exterior house paint and it has held up well to smashing waves, a few dozen rain storms and the sun beating down on it day in and day out, cold and heat as well as ice a few times have assaulted it.  Yet, it still looks great.

Now, the top side of this boat is wooden, with a very thin coating of fiberglass and gelcoat.  Which, as I pointed out, was well gone from a wax job.  I thought to wax the boat, but there are some extremely thin areas along one side where something has rubbed it down to wood.  I decided to try the same oil based exterior house paint on the cabintop.  Instead of going with a messy mixing job, I opted for a simple, oil based, gloss white.

After thoroughly washing the boat’s top, and cleaning off some mildew that was laying in wait on the dark side of the boat (North side as we sit in our slip) and making sure it was very clean, I found no spots that needed sanding, because, frankly the boat is weather worn on top.

Next I taped off my grab rails, rigging parts mounted to the deck top, hatches, portlights and the edges of the non-skid (which is a light tan color).

I thinned the paint slightly and rolled it on in all the large surface areas, and went back over with a brush in the difficult-to-reach places, around hardware, wooden grab rails and mast steps.

The boat… looks amazing now, compared to what she did look like.  I’m considering a second coat, but a single cover should be sufficient.  I will now wait and see how well this wears.

I need to do a couple of repairs along the port side in the non-skid deck surface and one large chunk of “missing” fiberglass on the starboard side.  There’s a divot about an inch by inch-and-a-half that was dug out of the deck by something (not sure what, when or how it happened) and I need to fill that again.  Been hesitant to do so with the rain, heat and humidity though.  Once I get that figured out, I’ll likely do the deck surface in some new, non-skid.  Not sure when I will do it though.

Other Projects:

After looking at a lot of options, I’ve done some power calculations and decided we can get by for this cruising season to the Bahamas with two solar panels.  But, I want four to give us the right amount of power.  Unfortunately, there is no place to mount them.

I contacted a local “tower builder” here in town.  He has a good reputation and has been recommend by more than one person.  Unfortunately, we’re running out of time to get it accomplished this year.  It won’t be cheap work either, I don’t think.  But, perhaps I can put something together.

The idea is to move my two solar panels to a rig on the davits and add two more, for a total of 640 watts of solar power, as well as put a mounting post for a wind generator off the back of the rig, out of the way of the mizzen boom.  After speaking to him, he said he could accomplish anything.  But, he’s going through some medical issues.  This week, he had a stroke.  So, I am not sure he will be able to do any work this year now.   If he can, great.  If not, I will hunt for someone else, or I will work out some kind of temporary rig to move the panels off the bimini.

Bimini:

It is really, really old and needs replacement.  Plus, I’ve punctured it with holes for the brackets for the solar panels.  Which means I either repair or replace it if I move the panels.  I’d really like a new one up there to be honest.  Maybe a white one to keep the sun off our heads.

Wind Generator:

It’s on the list.  A 550 Watt generator will, along with 640 watts of solar be plenty to keep the batteries topped off, and we could even add a few things after that, like a….

Water Maker:  

We’re looking at the Rainman Water Maker, the DC version.  They sell three versions, all portable, don’t have to be mounted anywhere, and perfect for what we want to do.  They produce enough water to keep our tanks topped off in most areas, as long as we have the energy available to run it.

Butterfly Hatch:

The big, butterfly hatch in the center of the main cabin is a beautiful thing.  We can set up an air scoop to bring air down below, open it up for air, uncover it for light.  But, it’s ugly in another way.  It is now, except for some grab rails, the only piece I have not worked on and varnished.  I need to take it apart to do the work though, removing the metal, the hinges, doors and sanding it down first.  It is dire need of a makeover.  That might happen in the next week if I can find a few nice days to get the sanding accomplished.

Last words:

I have to go through the engine, and I need to order some spare parts (for a toilet for instance) and a few minor things, but otherwise we’re ready to “go” soon.

We have too much stuff though on the boat.  We’ve been slowing removing extra junk from the boat, but I sincerely do not want to get rid of it. There are spare nuts, bolts, screws, washers and a lot of other things I want to keep, but really don’t require them on the boat right now.  So, we’re considering a cheap storage locker where we can remove some weight, store those items in a safe, dry location and have access to them when we return in the spring.

It will clear out our Vee Berth, giving us room for some traveling companions if necessary, and a place to sleep for visitors.   In roughly six to nine weeks, depending on the weather, we’re planning to head for Bahamas.  The trip out will take a few days and we will sail outside away from shore and down to Marsh Harbor area.  We’ll tell you more on that as the plan coalesces.

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