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

ICW – Willoboughy Bay, VA to Coinjock, NC

When last you tuned in, our intrepid band of Adventurers found themselves in Willoboughy Bay.

We hoisted anchor and headed out intent on making it to the Great Bridge.

We were all nervous about the bridges and lock. Both the boat crews, Adventure and Acadia are pretty new to this stuff and we were buddy boating together for moral support I suppose. And I wanted some assurance of the depth so I let them go first to call out depths if it got to shallow. We saw no stuck boats along the way, so obviously it wasn’t too bad. I’m SURE there were boats with deeper drafts than ours passing through before us.

We motored the entire distance from Willoboughy Bay to the various bridges. The first one was easy. The next one was fixed. Norfolk and Western was open. Gillmerton was one we had to wait for, no problems, except we had to wait for 30 minutes because we arrived too soon I guess.

Then we got to the lock. We had to wait at the lock. A long time. Anyway, the lock turned out to be NO problems at all. We got to the Great Bridge, everyone waited, they opened it, and we pulled over at the Atlantic Yacht Basin for the night. Acadia got fuel, we docked. The next morning I pulled the boat around and fueled up and then we left after both boats were ready to pull out.

Again, Acadia led. When we arrived at the Centerville Turnpike Swing Bridge I remained behind Acadia a few dozen yards. Our boat takes awhile to get up to speed, and it takes awhile to stop. If the wind isn’t on the nose (and even if it is) inertia on her is tremendous. Takes sometimes 5 or 6 boat lengths to come to a stop. There was no wind. And it takes a few minutes even at full throttle from a dead stop to get up any speed.

We all started through (after being admonished to “GET CLOSER” by the bridge master) – a large power boat, Acadia, then us. Then as I’m coming up on the bridge the guy on the radio starts yelling at me for being “slow” and tells me, while yelling into his radio, “I should CLOSE this bridge on YOU NOW”.

He didn’t… and to my own credit I didn’t tell him what I thought of him. I “thanked him” politely and went on and let it roll off my back.

I know these guys are government workers. And I know that some can be assholes. This guy was an asshole, and a jerk to boot. I hope someone reads this and says something to him, but probably not. (And I’m sure someone else will say I was in the wrong, even though they weren’t there, lol). To prove I was not wrong, here’s the regulation: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/33/499

I understand there are cars, I understand it “holds people up”. But, I ALSO know the history of bridges, and boats DO have right of way. We were within 100 yards of the bridge (It was a swing bridge and swings to the north). We were behind another sailboat, neither known for their maneuverability in close quarters with full keels – us, and them with a full keel and a board that was up). We moved as SOON as the bridge opened, and it took time to get up to speed, and NOT make a wake because we’d been admonished NOT to do that either….. Finally, the bridge was opened for less than 4 minutes from the time the first boat shot through, to the time I plodded through. And it was well within the normal opening time (about 10:30, and in fact, 3-4 minutes late).

Here’s the rub though. Federal law (33 U.S. Code – Regulations for drawbridges) mandates boats have right of way at bridge crossings. Yeah, several states have adopted rules on busy bridges and won’t open at all during certain times, and only open maybe on the hour or half hour during daylight hours. Or they open on signals from the boats passing them. So, why is a bridge tender screaming at a slow moving sailboat whose top speed is rarely more than 6 knots under engine power (with the wind behind it mind you)? Good question.

But, oh well. That was the beginning of my day yesterday. The first day out of Willoboughy Bay went fine. Even passing giant ships, cargo vessels, aircraft carriers, and two ships coming out about the same time as we were passing, we negotiated things fine.

When we got to the first sound, it was hairy. Wind was blowing pretty hard and apparently causing a current, which I didn’t realize would happen. I expected long fetch to generate waves… but not necessarily current. I manage to get pushed out of the channel 2 or 3 times towards the end of the run, to the point I was seeing 7 foot depths and at 6 feet, I was going to hit the ground, probably hard. The wind was either on the nose sometimes or just off the starboard bow and helping kind of push us sideways as well.

It was nerve racking knowing that hitting the ground there was going to stop us cold and we’d likely have to get towed out of it.

When I arrived last night I was short tempered with everyone and upset at myself because it wasn’t going smoothly, I’d been yelled at for no real reason by some “authority” who really shouldn’t be doing that anyway. I was hungry, tired and literally exhausted. I made the decision to stop here at Midway in Coinjock (JoAnne had called and gotten a reservation for us) and the Acadia – who thought they had a reservation at Coinjock across the way, didn’t have one and moved on to an anchorage.

So, Jon and Marcia went on ahead and we said good bye over telephone (because we had 4G and 5 bars, how cool is that for the first time to be able to actually communicate using a phone in damned near a year?) and hope we cross paths again.
They are pulling out someplace near Raleigh-Durham to visit grand kids I think. We’re headed as south as we can get in the next couple of weeks.

Last night I decided we’d remain on the docks here for a couple of days. There’s a good blow coming tomorrow, 16-20 knots I saw on one report, maybe rain later tonight and perhaps tomorrow. Saturday MIGHT be a good day. I’ll look over my GRIB files in the morning and decide if we will leave Saturday or Sunday morning. Since we’re motoring, NO wind would be the best thing I can hope for.

But, I took the time to pull the aft compartment apart, open up the batteries, check everything, and run an equalization on them, which seems to have helped them a bit. I’m hoping to get the batteries to go back to float again on the meter, but not sure if they are damaged or not. My hydrometer is hokey and I’ll have to get a decent one (I have two, one is really old and it doesn’t seem to work either.)

At this point I think I have the batteries, and the charging system “synced” finally. I still don’t think the main system batteries are holding a charge right though. I’ll check things once more in the morning.

The other issue that boat Acadia and Adventure had seems a little odd for fiberglass boats. Rust spots. Millions of them. They appeared out of nowhere and we discovered them a day or so after we were in Fishing Bay. At this point we suspect the lift (we were both lifted, we were cleaned and they were worked on for battery replacement, and a serious leak at the rudder post). We considered the cleaning might have done it, but they weren’t cleaned I don’t believe. Just hoisted up and worked on. So I think that the steel cables (which were rusty) or the engine (diesel, with a large flapping exhaust pipe) might be the culprit.

It is most likely the engine was blowing exhaust out, along with water, and rusty from the old lift engine and splattered both our boats.

I knew that if I could get some oxalyic acid I could likely get the stuff off. JoAnne found a solution, she handed me a can of stuff that looks like “Ajax” in a can, but is called “Bartender’s Friend” which is used in bars and restaurants to clean stainless steel, apparently. She had purchased some so I could use it on the old stainless grill we have. Which I did and it worked, and I’d forgotten all about it. It also worked on the stains too. I didn’t get them all off but I did get the worst of it gone.

The boat top is in dire need of paint. One day, I’ll paint it. Mean time I have to keep washing her down.

Now to the not so good part. Pulling up to the dock I lost all steerage. I knew that I needed to come in slow, as there was a boat in front of me, and one behind. I slowed too much. I managed to not get the boat turned in time and though we were moving at fractions of a knot, I caught the bow pulpit against a dock post. The post remained undamaged, but the pulpit steel bent a bit. I tried today to engineer a fix, and succeeded in pulling it back a small amount. But the starboard side is push back an inch or two. I’ll fix it.

So, batteries seem to be doing ok. Got the little rusty spots off the plastic (haha). Got through the first stretch of the ICW. Got some sleep last night, and planning to sleep well tonight.

Oh… best part of today. We are the sailing Ketch Adventure. I was told by the owner here that it was funny, another boat named adventure was coming in. Sure enough, today, right in front of us, the sailing schooner Adventure shows up. A large, steel ketch, complete with ratlines up the rigging, shorter masts than we have, but a wider behind. The cockpit is huge and she’s over all a beautiful boat. But, of all the lookie-loos today, most of them stopped here to look at us, and not at the other boat.

I was proud 🙂

(then again, they could have been staring at the horrible paint, my bent steel, the dirt on my hands and feet and knees from cleaning, and sniffing the smell of sulfur as the batteries cooked below… who knows?)

Willoboughy Bay – Elizabeth River, Virginia

We spent the night of 30 October 2016 in a little river called the Poquoson River. Last year on the 17th of October, we were up that same area, but in a different creek. The next morning we had prepared to wait out some chilly weather and some stonger winds when the marina I’d planned to go to for some assistance on the rigging finally called back with the words, “IF you can get here TONIGHT (it was a Sunday), then we can look at your boat tomorrow.”

Against my better judgement, we pulled anchor and made for that marina. We didn’t really have a choice (we did, but we were led to believe if we didn’t hurry we were going to be delayed) and we did it anyway.

Yesterday, we looked at the weather and headed down the bay. It was nice, cool, but nice. Crossed into the Elizabeth River and made it a short hop to Willoboughy Bay, just past the bridge Tunnel on the Elizbeth River. We anchored out last night, and today was supposed to bring winds. And about 2-3 AM this morning, the weather reports came to fruition.

A Nor’easter like last year, slammed the Bay. Listening to weather reports there were 4-5 foot waves, and gusts at 30 knots from the NE all today. The warnings are in place until this evening. Several sailboats, including one traveling with us, wisely remained on anchor this morning. In checking my GPS settings, it appears we’ve not moved at all, no dragging last night or today.

Thankfully, the winds have somewhat simmered down and the waves have stopped slapping us. We’re still rocking and rolling a bit, but I have the mizzen sail out a bit to help point us into the wind. Works pretty well. Winds are currently out of the NNE at about 15. Gusts are about 19 now, instead of the almost 30 knots they were earlier this morning.

Our companion boat, “Acadia” with Marcia and Jon were ready to head for a staging at Hospital Point this afternoon. I pointed out that though I haven’t been there, it appears unprotected from the north and in the river, so besides currents there are wakes from passing vessels. Everyone opted to stay put here. Since this is the first time for all of us to traverse this area, we all felt it prudent to wait a little longer. We’re all “novices” at something. I’m not a sailor novice any more, but I’m a “cruiser novice” and I’m still pretty timid about driving this monster. She’s got a full keel, doesn’t turn rapidly unless we’re moving quickly. The rudder and keel combination just doesn’t bite quickly at slower speeds.

Our next destination is somewhere around the Gillerton Bridge and/or the locks. Or something. I’m unclear at this point on what our decision was yesterday because mostly it was the ladies looking over the charts and telling us where to go… which is typical I suppose. 🙂 Honestly, that’s not the case, it’s a joke; we all know where we’re headed, we’re just not SURE where our destination will be due to the large number of cruisers passing through.

We tried the Atlantic Yacht Basin south in the channel near (past) the locks and they “couldn’t guarantee” anything for us, except they MIGHT have docks with no water or power… of course they cost the same as those with water and power…. ok. I guess we will play it by ear at this point.

While a nicer day might have more boats headed south with us, I think that’s ok. I also think I really need the “practice” in busy areas. I was white knuckling it through the river at the bridge tunnel before I figured out everyone wanted to go fast, faster than me and I mostly let them, except for the barge whom I cleared almost 2 miles in front of him and he was only doing about 4.5 knots anyway. I was going faster.

One sailboater was coming from my starboard side while I was traveling a channel under power (now I’m a power boat, and he’s obviously a sail boat perhaps under power, perhaps not, so I gave him benefit of doubt) on a crossing path. Cool. But he maintained course and speed. According to the rules he was wrong on two counts. Yes, he was a sailboat, I was under power. But a sailboat approaching from a “behind position” which he was doing, gives way to the motorboat – and I was in a channel (shallow I might add, and we were in an area where had I gone out, I could have gone aground with my draft). However, I gave way as a “power boat” because he did not appear to be doing anything and I couldn’t go any faster. Going slower was rather difficult too in the location based on the winds on the nose as it would have slowed me significantly. Which it did.

And being a sailboater, I gave way anyway to avoid a collison. Now, I’m sure there are some out there that might argue that I should have given way as I was motoring, and I’ll point out now, you weren’t there. I was. He was approaching from the rear (off the starboard quarter) at a pretty good clip and COULD have passed easily behind me, but CHOSE to pass me and cut in front of my bow. I honesty would never have tried that with anyone, or any boat unless traveling at a significant speed faster than the boat being approached and even then would have passed him father forward, changed course to parallel the other boat or passed behind.

Am I complaining? Not at all. Pointing out what we saw. The boat behind us thought we should have kept going instead of coming almost to a dead stop. I didn’t want to risk a collision (which was becoming rapidly apparent at that point). I will point out that the other boat was sailing with two sails up on a starboard tack, and we were driving into 24 knot winds at the time. I couldn’t have sailed there to save my life due to the depth challenges in that area. Oh well.

Today it is chilly. In the mid 50s. I ran the generator for a couple of hours to ensure charging of the batteries, and shut it down a bit ago, leaving the solar panels working and the refigeration turned on to chill things back down.

I’m about to go sit at the table and go over the charts carefully, so I know the charts, the course, what I can expect and where the bridges are located. We already know there are two railroad bridges we should be able to traverse easily. We’ll need tides/times tomorrow, and to know the exact bridges/lock, times for those and approximately how quickly we will get there and can traverse the area, and finally where to stop tomorrow night.

We all have our own ideas, and as long as those ideas somewhat jive and don’t put anyone in danger, a handfull of Noobs should be able to accomplish what thousands of others have done routinely. (That’s the best part about books, and knowledge from others, you aren’t doing it FIRST, just the first time for you.)

Engine:  The engine in this boat is a Perkins 4-108.  Nice engine.  Leaks though.  Found it’s dripping oil (finally).  Can’t find the location though.  Had the alternator bolt loosen yet again.  Tightened it up.  Checked new belt, it’s fine.  Added a little over a pint of oil this morning.  Need to watch this thing carefully from here on out.

My friend Jeff Ryan (@K0RM –  Former ARRL section Manager) in Colorado has a mechanic/boater friend down range from here.  Gave me his name, over in Washington, NC I think he said.  Supposed to send me information to contact him.  He’s a master mechanic, and a boater, lives aboard.  Probably understands what we’re going through too.  I’ll give him a call passing through just to say hi if nothing else from Jeff.   Either way, babying the engine will likely turn into a full time job for me.  It’s another reason I chose to remain at anchor today instead of pushing the limits through waves I didn’t want to deal with (and currents, and wind, all of which were in opposition this morning).

Man, I’m learning some of this the hard way (by reading about it, then experiencing it first hand) lol

I will add to this, or edit it later. Right now, I only have a hot spot to access the Internet and have to turn it on and off as necessary to prevent wasting the data. I can’t type this on my telephone, the tablet or hand write it to the Internet.. so that’s the way it is for now. LOL