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.

 

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

 

Cape Fear: Fresh Water issues

Just a really quick update here.

I started the water pump and found the water was flowing from the front of the boat. It had to be coming from hoses going to the front head.

Our front head is… a closet.  While it functions perfectly, it has a brand new Jabsco pump toilet and everything except MOST of the electricity works up there, the important stuff like water, toilet and bilge pump wiring functions.

This means I have removed a LOT of bulky items from the “closet”.  Coats, my wet suit, canes (JoAnne and both have used them for walking in the past, and I keep them around “just in case”, lol.  Three times breaking my right ankle taught me the hard way), there is a big bag of “dirt” used for the composting toilet sitting in there, some tools, and stacks of TP in the bags as well as paper towels, tarp and we store the unused heaters in there as well.

After I removed everything I crawled into the bathroom upside down and looked into the “undersink” area and immediately found the problem.

This is a Chinese built production vessel.  The Chinese are pretty good at building things, stealing designs and making knock offs, and pretty good at plumbing.  This boat is built with copper pipes, fore to aft plumbing the sinks and fresh water.  Fortunately, it doesn’t get exposed to sea water.  The water tanks are plumbed with plastic hoses, plastic connectors and various adapters connecting everything together.  Some of it is haphazardly thrown together appearing as afterthoughts”.

The copper pipes going to the sink are held in place by a pressure fitting, with a rubber washer that presses the pipe into place as you tighten the nut.  The apparent constant pounding on the front of the boat in the waves yesterday forced the pipe from it’s connection, which in turn released the pressure at the front of the boat, telling the pump to engage and it complied by forcing all the fresh water in the main tank out, into the under-sink area, down into the bilge, and the bilge pump simply did it’s job keeping sloshing water out of the bilge and outside the boat where it actually belongs.

The repair was simple.  Remove the washer and nut and the metal washer, inspect everything, clean the connection and put it all back together, retorque the nut into place with the washer (I’d have put in a new one, but this was was not worn and appears to have been recently replaced since just before we bought the boat).  The other side, I re-tightened.  Turned on the pump and viola! Water pressure again. I really need to look at a foot pump though. haha  Took about two hours of work removing things and repairs, and another week putting it all back together (all that stuff has to go somewhere!)

So, other than losing 60 gallons of fresh water through a failed plumbing connection and about 8 pounds of water from our bodies through other means best left undescribed, I’ll say we’re “none the worse for wear”.  JoAnne is a bit dehydrated today which isn’t good for her.  I’m “over” that for now, but am still constantly hungry dispite a half price burger and full priced pint of beer yesterday evening…. I’ll get some more food in me and look at the wiring up front.

We’re going to stay here at least once more week.  Need to wait on our new credit card, I want to do some digging through things we have and see if we can’t eliminate a few things.  Lighten the load so to speak.

We haven’t made a decision to stick with it, but we have been receiving a lot of encouragement from friends who’ve been through (and are actually going through now) similar issues.

I have learned that we’re both more “fair weather sailors” than we are old salts or hardcore-round-the-Horn people.  I have ALWAYS known that the ocean demands respect, and I do. But, when it comes to rotten weather predictions by using the collected data I feel like I should have known better than to go out yesterday.  JoAnne did.  And I went back to bed for two hours, dozed off and awakened thinking I was going to “call it a day” before we went out.

But, I didn’t do that.  I’ve ALWAYS trusted by instincts and the few times I didn’t turned out badly for me.

That kind of mistake, taken in small doses is usually just dumb.  Downright dangerous though, when combined with the Sea, Weather and second guessing oneself.

Unlike the giant ships that disappear at sea, we came home.

No matter what we do from here on out, I’ll not venture down a coast in the wrong conditions again.

 

Fair Winds, Friends!

 

Rick

Cape Fear

In 1962 a movie was made about Cape Fear.  Saw it as a kid.  Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen, Telly Savalas were in the movie.  It was a thriller type movie.  Criminal, murder, stuff like that.

Yesterday we could have starred in our own thriller movie.  Or horror movie.  Or just a documentary about puking.

We left the docks at 0900 on the way out the Cape Fear inlet.  We were supposed to leave at 0700 and JoAnne listened to the NOAA weather, and said “Not going out in 9 foot seas” and she was right.  Completely, totally right to trust her instincts on departure.  After discussing it with Judy and Stephen for a few minutes, we all agree a couple more hours sleep might be prudent.

We pulled out on time, at 0900, and headed back to the inlet.  Tide was just starting to come back in and we slogged a bit through it in places.  Bentana had little trouble with a newly repowered boat, brand new engine.  We, on the other hand couldn’t make more than about 4 knots maximum most of the time and that was pushing the engine.  I almost turned back and said “Nope”.  But I didn’t.

We got out to the channel and dodged a ship.  He called me and asked if I’d be polite enough to step out side the markers for him, to which I replied that he could have the entire ocean should he desire it.  We moved outside the channel in 40′ of water and his bow bulb was as big as my whole boat.  After he passed, I called him and “thanked him for the slow pass” and I think I made his day, he laughed and said “Good travels”.

No more incidents for a bit.  Then the shoals came into view.  And the water turned into a rocking wash tub.  I almost turned back…. but I didn’t.

We called Bentana who was now gaining ground and moving at a quick pace out to sea.  Judy said that they were going past marker 6 I think it was and then turning to 180 degrees to catch the wind, get out to sea and then would tack back later.  I followed her lead.

We didn’t make it to the mark she turned out at.  We were taking a pounding by then and the wind was wrong, and so were the waves.  Making a decision to stop taking a pounding, I checked depths, and objects in front of me and turned to 180, raised sail and steadied the boat considerably.  I consulted with JoAnne about turning around.  She said “I want to go to Charleston.  We’re already out here.”  She had a point. I could have turned around… but I didn’t.

We sailing relatively well at that point going up and down the waves, and not getting slammed now, things somewhat smoothed out.  But JoAnne kept getting sick.  At some point I had to go below to check on something.  What it was, I don’t even remember now.  That’s when I started getting sick.  First time ever being “seasick”.  When we took a steep wave and most of the ocean washed over the foredeck and back to the cockpit coaming, it was at that point I thought “We should turn back…”.  But I didn’t.

I called Bentana to check in at 1230 as we’d planned.  They were “doing ok” and we all exchanged encouraging words.

By 1300, JoAnne was doing all she could to keep from throwing up, and I wasn’t.  It was my turn.  I got so sick I threw up for five solid minutes.  I think I nearly passed out from it.  I had heart surgery last year in May.  I still have pain in my ribs and back from where they cracked open my chest.  All my ribs crack like knuckles.  I think they all popped yesterday.  It was right about that moment in time I realized just how stupid this was.  I stopped and considered the situation carefully.  We could go on and we didn’t know the sea state would settle for sure, or we could go back, reverse course back through the washing machine, tides, current and winds all from different directions, we could heave too (we were about 8 miles out perhaps by then) and hope things settled.

At that moment, I made the “prudent” decision to turn around.  Finally.  All DAY I had not listened to my inner voice telling me “Today is not the day!”  Please note I called it a “Purdent Decision”.  It truly wasn’t a prudent decision.  It was a mistake to go out when I had thought it wasn’t a good day.  And to be clear I DO know weather conditions pretty well, and I wasn’t sure I was comfortable, but we were tired of being here, ready to go, ready to roll, get going, go somewhere else.  All the way around “prudence” was jumping up and down trying to be noticed and I was ignoring “her”.

I called Bentana and told JoAnne, Judy and Stephen at the same time we were headed back in.  I can’t bear to see JoAnne sick like that, and if something had happened to me she’d have been helpless at that point to do anything about it other than call for evacuation.  That wasn’t going to happen.

We rode the waves back in, partially under sail, trying to keep the winds right and give us some speed.  We made 4-5 knots back in, until the channel, where the waves were crossing us, and hitting the side of the boat.  Not that we had a LOT of choice in which way to go.  Shoals were coming up and waves were big, ships were headed out, and winds were still only 20 knots maybe.  Not enough to bother the boat.  It was the wave action that was sucking bad.

We passed three more, outgoing ships, I gave them wide berth and even used their wash to get into smoother waters for a bit.  That helped.  I had long since stopped being sick.  Nothing left.  JoAnne was settling down too I think by then.  I occupied her with helping watch for markers and ships.  (Hard to miss a ship, though, you really want to miss them….)

We hit the junction of Cape Fear River out going current, the incoming tide, let a giant cargo ship pass, and a tug pulling a barge, and I made it to the ICW cut headed back in with little difficultly.

The engine was still running so that was a good thing.

After we docked with help from Norm from the Marina, who was kind enough to stay on the dock until we arrived, Jay from Knot Working and the folks from the power yacht Chrysalis, I discovered the water pump running down below.  I killed the breaker assuming the worst.  A bit later, I discovered all the water in our main tank was pumped out (probably to sea) and the pump was running for awhile I guess.  I’m surprised it didn’t burn out.

This morning I heard Judy and Stephen got beat up pretty badly as well, Judy was also, apparently ill as well.  They made it as far as Georgetown.  Far short of Charleston.  I believe they said (JoAnne reported) they are on anchor now and resting, well and safe.

I have work to do on the water tank.  I’m going to extend our visit here at least a week.  I have work to do on the ship, repairs to make and I’m going to have a little chat with a few local business establishments around here…. because I came back to a message about my credit card being compromised (AGAIN) and five transactions for 17-28 bucks occurred yesterday in Raleigh, a good distance from here… but there are three suspects who could have used my number (having all three taken my card out of my sight to take a payment, or getting the number some other way).  The rest of the places I used it, the card was never out of my sight and they swiped it into a machine so they couldn’t have easily gained the information from the card).  I’m NOT happy about that happening either and if I discover for a fact who did it, there’s going to be consequences.  I HATE thieves and I won’t hesitate to take whatever action is required to prevent them from stealing again  (legal or otherwise given the right circumstances).

Today, JoAnne gets to relax her back and rest, I’m tearing things apart, making coffee and preparing for the cold weather coming.  We are discussing giving up and quitting, selling the boat, getting an RV, going back to Colorado defeated, going on down the ICW, or choosing better sailing days on the outside.

Stay tuned.  We will let you know what’s next.

Fair Winds!

Rick

Perkins 4-108 Issues, LED Lighting

A few days ago we discovered a broken bracket holding the alternator.  It was not something I was going to ignore, and certainly wasn’t going offshore with it broken like I found it.

The forward part of the L-bracket was shattered.  One side (aft) was still holding solidly, and the bolt was going through the two pieces.  However, a broken alternator bracket would cause vibration (which it did when it broke) and eventually would have torn the belt to shreds.

Therefore I called for a mechanic because I haven’t any way to do welds, and it’s one of the skills I don’t have (but I certainly am going to look into learning it now).  I am sure that I could have accomplished all the work the mechanic is doing, and if there’s ever a “next time” I’ll do it.  I’m am not the worlds best mechanic, and honestly, I don’t like getting dirty inside engines.  And since we’re on a dock, and I’m already paying for it… might as well have a professional look things over anyway.  I’m glad I did because I’d never have seen the exhaust leak before it killed us.

Technician came out rapidly (he was on-site), removed the bracket, did some testing and we discovered with our faces in the engine that the manifold was blowing a lot of exhaust out into the engine compartment.  Well, that opens into the bilge and cabin.  Long story short, that needed repairs so we didn’t… umm…. DIE.

He did attempt a repair, put new gaskets in and had the welds accomplished.  There was an extra bracket installed which was causing some of the problems with being misaligned!

But other issues ensued as well.  We noted some oil leaks (but had a hard time finding them exactly, finally he found them and one, the least one, is on the timing cover.  The major one is the valve cover area, and the gasket (after looking at it) is pretty old and ate up.  It’s either original, or it’s pretty old.

On Friday last he said “It will probably be Monday before I can come back”.  We said “OK” and then went and rented a car from Enterprise on their weekend special (10 bucks a day for Friday through Monday morning, giving us almost four full days for 38 bucks).  And Jason called and came back on Saturday to repair things because… he got the parts in sooner. Haha.

Ok, now we’d paid through Wednesday and had to extend a few days.  Today is Tuesday.  We used the car, turned it in yesterday.  Made a trip to Wilmington to find a Radio Shack and some parts I needed for electrical project I was doing.  (I found one, and 45 BUCKS later, I had my little project boxes, toggle switches and a fan for our bathroom and the composting toilet, which I’ll do at a later time when I have all those parts…).

So, it’s raining like hell yesterday after dropping the car, so we duck inside the Dead End Saloon up at the top of the hill to wait out the rain and we run into Jason who is running back and forth from the boat to the truck for tools.

Not good news.

  1. The valve cover DOES need a new gasket, badly.
  2. The timing system isn’t as bad.
  3. The mixing elbow from the exhaust is pretty bad, but we don’t know yet how bad.
  4. The injectors are spitting fuel through (which is what causes the white smoke on startup).
  5. The manifold attachments are missing a couple of nuts, but worse, even after new gaskets and sealing, it’s not good.  The thing has overheated and is slightly warped.

Bottom line, has to be retooled to make it flush again.  The valve cover needs removal and gasket replaced.  The timing area (a bunch of gears connected to the crankshaft) leaks oil and SHOULD be replaced but that’s a pretty big job.  The mixing elbow, once removed is trashed inside. Pieces of it are missing.  Causing back pressure.

So, we need a new one.  I told Jason to go ahead with the work.  We’re going to wind up doing a “monthly rate” here at the marina now I guess.  Only way to save a bit of money now. This is likely going to run about 3000 dollars for the amount of work.  /sigh

Anyway, we should have rebuilt injectors, new gasket on the valve cover, and a new mixing elbow, a replaced bracket on the alternator (and it is now PROPERLY aligned, which it wasn’t, which has been causing most of our issues with belts and vibration in the past).  Right now the engine valve-rocker cover is off and everything is covered with cloths.  Elbow is off.  Injectors are gone.  Fuel is all shut off.  We’re stuck on the dock for a few more days.

I spent today working on our lighting.  I don’t like the incandescent lamps (good for reading, bad for the batteries) and the LED lamps I’ve used don’t give us quite enough light for the interior when it is pretty dark outside.

A few months back I bought three rolls of LED strip lights that work on 12VDC (I had bought a tube of them at the hardware store before that, and discovered they were set up for 120VAC and it wasn’t an adaptor, but rather they use resisters and diodes to drop the voltages down to what LEDs can use, a couple of volts each).  Anyway, I can use the tube lights on the dock, when we have AC power only.  I couldn’t modify them safely to work with DC.  Instead I bought the strip lights and put them in my little project box.

I needed toggle switches and a way to mount them. I considered three or four methods including little project boxes, but Radio Shack is the only place to pick those up (unless I order them online from someone like Jameco, Digikey or someone similar).  I haven’t been anywhere that I could really order things, long enough lately to do it, so… RS it was.

So, I collected parts as I could.  A while back I saw someone else’s work with LED lights and liked their stuff.  It was Acadia, Jon and Marcia’s boat.  He had used little boxes like I wanted to do, and had mounted them using sticky tape (all of the parts are very light).

Today I put everything together and installed strips of LED tape on both sides, under the area where the grab rails run along the length of the ship.  So the settee area is now well lit when you turn on both sides.  I doubled up the starboard side for JoAnne because she sits on the “couch” a lot and reads there.  She has extra light for book reading now.  She loved it.

Starboard Side Lit up

Port side lit up

Another shot of the port side, the mess is the tools, looks like we need to dust again. lol

The next few images show the parts, and some of the tools I used to do the job.  The boxes are simply mounted with “doubled-sided-sticky tape” (the 3M stuff) and I tied the wiring to the existing lamps because honestly, I don’t feel like ripping out the wood that is between the overhead/deck above and the lamps.  There’s a hand full of wiring running inside there and if I take it all out, I’ll be rewiring the entire boat in no time – and I don’t have the time to start that project right now. haha Eventually, but not now.  I want to be able to sit there and read, look at charts at the table and even do soldering (like I did today with my makeshift light you see in the background, which doubles as an emergency anchor light).

The wire has sufficient current carrying capability for very short runs.  I wouldn’t use it for something other than LED lights.  It’s really meant for speaker wires, but it’s 16 gauge and can handle about 3 amps of current.  These lights pull about 500 milliamps (1/2 amp) on either side.  So a total of perhaps a bit under 2 Amps.

Close up of the LED tape strip, and the internal part of the switch box.  The wires are soldered internally and there’s a feed that is attached at the existing lamps using crimp connectors.

Used tywraps as strain relief inside to prevent accidentally pulling the wires from the box.  Since it’s inside of a box I used a bit of electrical tape to insulate the soldered connection.  It is inside a box which no one will see (except here in a picture) so I wasn’t looking for elegant or neat, just “good” and besides, I don’t have any shrink tubing or I’d have used that instead (old electrical wiring habits die hard sometimes).

The finished box.  Double sided sticky tape goes on that side, the whole thing gets “stuck” to the overhead (under the grab rails on the bulkhead) and hopefully will hold for a few years.  I cleaned the surface with acetone before sticking things in place. It’s painted with a flat white paint, so cleaned right up and the LED tape is also “3M” tape so it ought to hold a long time.

LED light strip in “action” – and yes, I noted the damage to the wood in the picture.  Apparently there was a leak there once.  It’s been patched somewhat and I probably should pull that all down and put up new wood or repatch it at least (which means I’ll be pulling new wires in as well to the electrical, therefore, that isn’t happening right now either. haha)

Starboard side, double strips front and back.  Port side only has one strip.

Sometime in the next few days if I get a chance, I’ll do the same thing with the galley area, because it’s in the walk-through to the aft cabin and very dark.  There are four lamps, two under the grab rail area, one behind above the engine, and one on the over head.  None of them provide enough light for the galley, or working in the galley, so that’s going to change soon.