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.
Advertisements

Hurricanes and Boats

Simply put, hurricanes and boats don’t mix well.

Matthew is proving to be a pain in the ass for a lot of folks right now.  People in Haiti, soon Cuba and then the Bahamas.  After that, according to the models (which I want so desperately to disbelieve) Florida, and most of the East coast of the United States will be in for a bit of roughhousing as well.

Latest Tracks for Matthew

I’m far enough north that it should break up and just be a tropical storm by the time it gets to us, especially if it hangs over land for any length of time.

But for whatever reason (I can’t see the reasons) the models have pushed over to the west and it’s promising to be a beast.  I see a front coming through, and pushing out, and now there’s a dry, low pressure system in the middle of the US which may reach the coast about the same time, and that might be pulling the hurricane in somewhat.

On the other hand, there’s a mess of rain and another front west of that high.  It usually takes 3-4 days to cross the states with weather systems.  Hmmm.  MAYBE it will get to the coast in time to push some more.  I don’t know.  I’m not a forecaster, just a storm chaser that looks at the data and predicts local mesoscale conditions.  Hurricanes are big, bad, Red-Spot-on-Jupiter things to me and are as distant as that planet is from Earth for me.

I’ve been in two.  One hit DC a long time ago and water levels came up 8 feet up the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers.  The second was in Jamaica in the 2ooo, when it missed us by about 90 miles on the north coast of Jamaica. But… it RAINED like the ocean was pouring over us.  I’ve never seen so much rain for so long in my life.

The plan today is pretty simple.  Down comes the headsail and sheets.  I’ll remove everything off the deck and bring it below today and tomorrow.  And we will bring our tarps (we use as tents topside) below to cover things down here inside the boat.  JoAnne will pack and we will be ready to bug out sometime on Saturday morning most likely, because the predictions are showing it coming up this way Saturday night and Sunday morning.

The last of the preps will involve moving the boat out, adding lines and hoping for the best.  We’re not going to stay aboard the boat if the hurricane approaches us.  We’ll head inland and stay out of the path as much as we can.  I’m planning to take most of our clothes, our foulies, food, water, electronics, important papers, car and our mortal bodies away from here.  We went through a Nor’easter in the Bay… and that was not good, with the shallow Bay, short chop, poor JoAnne getting sick.  Staying in a Marina is not going to be much better.  And there’s little here to keep us safe, and in fact, it might be pretty unsafe to remain here.

I maybe take one of the ham rigs too, just in case.  We have terrible luck with the phones, so a ham radio might come in handy.

So, all my hoping and my “estimating” isn’t coming true.  All I can say is that the hurricane tarried a bit too long in the Southern Caribbean Sea and the weather that would have push him off is long gone now….

This sort of thing is, by the way, why I have been a “prepper” most of my life and even wrote a book about it.  I sure hope it all works right this time. 🙂

I guess that’s it for now.

If y’all believe in prayers… better get busy.  The entire coast of the US, Bahamas, Haiti and other poor people in between are all in danger’s path.

Update July 1: C-Head, Solar, Sails, HF Radio

C-Head:  Over the course of the past couple of weeks I have been busy digging in the lockers, getting parts together, ordering things and repairing a few things.

We ordered and receieved the standard “C-Head” toilet a couple of weeks ago.

Unpacking it was easy.  The parts inside are standard parts.  The most expensive piece I suppose was the C-Head container which is a box like plastic container.  It holds a standard sized 5 gallon bucket which has been modified for use inside, with a frame that holds a paddle that you crank around to mix up the composting material.

The number 1 bucket (pee bucket) is a simple 1 gallon water/milk jug.

The device is well built, but personally I still feel it much more expensive than it needs to be.  Everything can be back engineered however to make your own if you wanted to.  In our case, after looking over the forward head, that appears to be our next option.  I’ll just reverse engineer this thing to fit a new, home built device in the forward head.  Reason being is this standard one will not fit.

Installation was easy.  Taking the old electric head out was a bit more difficult, but it took me a couple of hours.  I still have not actually removed the hoses.  I plugged them all, and left everything in place “just in case”.

The new head doesn’t quite fit right, but after playing with the various angles of the head we were able to mount the toilet in there.  It’s been in use for over a week without any issues at all.  I make it a point to empty the urine jug daily though.

So far, so good.  It doesn’t smell at all, especially not like the still-existing holding tank.

Wiping it down is easy.  Emptying the tank is easy.  I have yet to attempt the emptying of the bucket (the “Number TWO” container, haha).  That will be soon so I can make sure it’s done once and I’ve gotten the hang of it.

Solar:  Solar panels and some parts arrived a week ago as well.  I have installed them on the Bimimi frame.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the money to buy all the cool, fancy stainless steel fixtures I actually needed, which would have been clamp on stand offs.  Instead, I manufactured my own.  Cost me about $20 dollars for stainless steel bolts, nuts, washers and some aluminum stock (yeah, I know steel and aluminum don’t mix in sea water, but these are physically under the bimini anyway).

I will add pictures when I have time to this blog entry.  I have to take them, upload them to the host, then post the images in the text here.  It will not be today.

The solar panels are working very well, but, they aren’t hooked up, so there’s no place for all that beautiful sunlight to be stored as electricity at the moment.  However, the Charge Controller is mounted already in a closet in the aft quarters.  I have a plan together to run the wires through an existing deck entry which contains an apparently non-working GPS antenna.  I’ll be tracing wires shortly to make sure it’s not being used somehow.  There’s a second one mounted on the aft taffrail area, and it blinks a green light when operational, orange when searching, so I’m pretty sure it’s the operational antenna.

Here the charge controller is wired in and operational.  Taken 2 July 16 at 0800

Yesterday in the US Postal mail a letter came addressed to me from Dick Stapleton who used to own Duna.  Duna is now Adventure (and we did have a naming ceremony and all that, in case anyone wonders).  In the letter was a very short note on a yellow sticky from Mr. Stapleton.  The most important part was the single sheet inside the envelop.  It was something that engineers love.

An electrical schematic for the sailboat’s systems!  I had been mulling over how to trace everything and this schematic is pretty accurate from the parts I already chased down.  The only thing different on the schematic I can find is the fact that there were only two 6V batteries when we purchased the boat, and there are four of them now, in two 12v banks tied in parallel.

Funny part is, the schematic shows four batteries.  So, now it is about as accurate as I could have drawn it.  Obviously there aren’t all the connections shown on the page, but it does tell me a lot of things I was unsure about, like the battery/service/engine switch and how it actually was wired.  I checked it last night and the meters and sure enough, it’s wired as it says.

Tying in the solar panels will be simple, or rather, relatively simple.  I need to feed wires down below from the panels, I need to attach connectors (some of the parts I bought) to tie the panels to the controller.  Then I need to feed wires from the controller over to the batteries and tie those in.  Pretty much all I need to do.  I could add a small inverter to the load link, in case we wanted to have a separate AC load in the bedroom area, but I’ll consider that later.  I do have a 400 watt inverter we carry in the car when traveling and might put it in the bedroom as back up to the large one.

We have a several hundred watts inverter in the boat.  It’s part of the Xantrex Heart monitor system.  I’ve not really taken a close look at it, and don’t remember the model, but it is capable of running a fridge, coffee pot and a few others things, but not necessarily all at once.

Thanks to Dick Stapleton for sending that schematic.  That was very helpful!

Sails:  All of our sails are roller furling sails and the main and mizzen live inside the masts, on a furler built inside.  A few weeks go when I looked over the sails I realized the UV covers were in tatters and weren’t really doing much any more but flapping in a breeze, so Kurt Seastead, the owner of the Transworld 41 Facebook Group  suggested I contact Ullman Sails and drop off the sails for repairs.  Instead I opted for them to come visit the boat, help me take them down and look things over.  I ended up sending the working jib, main and mizzen sails to have new covers installed, repairs done and so forth.  Wasn’t cheap.

Yesterday I drove to Deltaville VA to collect the sails.  Unfortunately, they lost the one bag I have for my sails, but were nice enough to give me a new one as replacement.  Thanks Jerry!

They did good work.  I wasn’t happy that they called me later to tell me they “forgot to charge me for the washing” – because the initial conversation said “wash, repair, etc” and then I got the invoice later and it added a few hundred dollars to the bill I wasn’t expecting.  Other than that over sight, things were fine.

Until I went to install the mizzen sail.

Apparently the halyard was weakened near the bottom.  As I hoisted the sail something bound up and before I could reverse everything, the halyard snapped just inside the mast opening.  I had my hands full of broken line, winch handle and suddenly sail…. the sail pulled the halyard up and out of the mast assemble, leaving me with no halyard inside the mast now.

So, until I either get up the nerve to climb us and thread the needle, or bite the bullet and hire someone, I’ll use the outside track and spare halyard to use the mizzen sail.  Might be easier anyway.  The thing always seems to bind or act funny.  Putting a sail on in a NORMAL manner might be a change of pace and give me a chance to actually USE the mizzen now.

HF Radio: JoAnne and I are both Ham Radio Operators.  She is KB0IRW and I hold call sign N0NJY.  She doesn’t really do much with ham radio these days but used to get on the VHF and chat, or do Skywarn stuff in Colorado.  Since we started refurbishing the house a couple of years ago all my ham gear had been packed up and disconnected.  I don’t even have a rig in the car any more.  The only times we’ve used it was around marinas to talk to each other or in the car traveling on the handhelds.

So a couple weeks ago while waiting on parts to arrive, I ran some wiring back to the backstay antenna and connected up the HF rig.  I have been able to do a bunch of contacts on a digital mode called BPSK31 on 14070Khz with numerous hams around the US, Caribbean and even Europe.  The rig is only Amateur Radio and I don’t marine HF (SSB as the mariners call it) right now.  Going to change that soon.

The reason for having HF in the first place to call for help if we get into trouble, or pass email traffic through Airmail and a pactor modem.  We don’t have a pactor modem though, so I use a Tigertronics SignaLink external sound card (box) connected to the computer to feed data in and out of the laptop.  Using linux as my OS.  One day, I’ll write about that.  Should be educational if not boring as hell. Ha!

That’s what’s been going on lately.  Well, off to dig in the bulkheads, cabinets and wiring to see what’s actually connected, and what isn’t, start pulling in wires, and get these solar panels doing what they were designed to do… give me MORE POWER!

 

Of Toilets, Sails and Electric Power

Sails:

Three jobs I want done.  Sails repaired (the UV damage I can’t really fix, I’ll need a sail loft to do, as I have no sewing machine and I’m not sure how to go about replacing pieces of the sails yet).  The toilets; time for a composting head.  And power.  I like power.  JoAnne and I have our computers, my ham radio gear and we like to have lighting at night most evenings for reading.

Today I spoke to a local sail loft, and someone will come out to the boat this week to assist me in unsticking and checking the internal rigging for the mizzen.  It’s been giving me fits since the first day.  It’s pretty stuck again.  Maybe it’s me.  Maybe it’s the internal rigging.  I did have it working once pretty well, but it’s acting up again.

The main and mizzen are both suffering pretty badly on the clew where it hangs out of the mast.  On the main mast furling (for those who don’t know) the clew (the bottom corner part of the head sail farthest from the mast) sticks out about 10-12 inches when the sail is rolled all the way in.  That part of this particular sail has no UV cover or protection and it’s sat for many years in the sun.

Amazingly, the sails inside are clean and pretty.  Though, could use a good washing.

The mizzen sail (again, for the non-sailors that follow us, the rear most mast on the boat) is the same way (and the mechanism is the same, only smaller).

When I talked to Jerry from the sail loft he told me I could either remove the sails and bring them down and they’d price it out for me, or someone could come to the ship and assist if necessary.  When I explained the problems with the mizzen, he said he’d probably come out personally.

At this point, I’m going to hand over the working jib, main and mizzen and not worry about the genoa.  I let it out and examined it pretty carefully again today.  I’ve had it up and down a few times and looked it over.  The only real wear is at the clew where you attach the sheets.  However, it’s nothing at all to worry about right now.

Before we head for the Bahamas (under sail we hope) we will have decent sails.

Toilets:

On the toilets.  I really like the electric head.  But, I HATE that it uses electricity.  I hate that there is a holding tank.  I hate the plumbing.  I hate when we have to use it and put anything in the tank.  We have literally no smells aboard the boat except when the tank gets something added to it.  The tanks are old (original) and are stainless steel.  Worst possible thing they could be for holding waste.  Even stainless steel “stains” around urine.  I don’t even want to think about what it will be like to remove that tank….

On Facebook in the Sailing and Cruising group, and on several of the online sailing groups, composting toilets have been discussed to death.  There are two, absolute views on them.

A) Hateful, evil, nasty

B) Loving relationships

Those who use them on their boats love them.  Those who don’t like them have either had little experience with them or none at all.  Of course, like everyone else, I’m somewhat generalizing, but this is truly what I have read from the masses online.  Of the several people we’ve met using them, and having them on a cruising boat we found that without exception they state they are 1) clean, 2) do NOT smell, 3) do not have to worry about if your Y-valve is locked or not, 4) easy to clean and care for.

Of those whom I’ve personally had discussions who didn’t like them, they have said “They stink”, “they are nasty”, “They can flip upside down” (so can your boat with a holding tank), “I wouldn’t own one”, “I’ve never used one” and various other remarks that lead one to believe they are horrible.  But, in almost ALL cases, there is no experience with them at all, or minimal.

In all, we’ve probably spent a couple of hundred hours of research, reading and talking to the various companies, and friends about this subject.  One one never imagine having to talk about poop so much.

Finally though, we decided that we’re going to replace ONE of the toilets on the boat with a composting toilet.  We’re going to go with the C-head – because it’s half the cost of the others.  But it also uses easy to find parts if something goes bad or breaks.  The truth is I could go up the hard ware store and buy a bucket, some play wood, some glass and build my own given the pictures and knowledge I have now.  I just don’t have a full service wood shop on the boat (though I have a lot of tools) I don’t relish the idea of building something and taking a couple weeks to do it and then maybe mismeasuring one thing.

So we will purchase one and install it.  If all goes well, we’ll replace the second before the time to depart in the fall.  Sometime next year I’ll have the boat hauled when we do our painting and cut out the ancient tanks, plumbing and remove those through hulls and have the hull repaired, fared and painted.  That will remove several through hulls and the associated plumbing, and a large space in the bilge will be emptied out for us.  Next year.

Electricity:

What a mess.  My house bank is really for the windlass and the bow thrusters.  Everything else in the house actually appears to run on the starter battery.  Oh. My. Wow.

I will need to get under the bed, the aft head, the bilge, and the port bulkheads to locate wires and figure out what goes where and draw schematics.  What a mess.  I want to add solar and a wind generator, but I’m not even sure where I’ll put solar panels on this boat.  No real place to do it.  The taffrail on the aft might hold them, except for the mizzen mast rigging.  The davits might hold them, IF I have something built up above them.

A wind generator can be mounted on the mizzen.  Except for the big issue of making connections to everything, needed a specialized charge controller to handle both solar and wind generator.

As much as I hate to do it, I’m going to have to find a consultant to assist me to dig through the wiring and figure this mess out.  I’m not sure this is going to be an easy thing to do anyway.  I DO know I can rewiring some things, I just don’t have a good handle on it yet.  Going to take me a few days of measuring voltages and tracing wires.

The toilet, in comparison to the electrical issues is going to be a cake wake.