27 August 2017
It's your turn.
I've been thinking about this for a long time..............
Every morning I awake and just before my feet touch the ground I think "it's going to be a great day".
That is followed by a trip to the scale, throwing on last nights clothes and making my way to the kitchen to put the coffee on. A bit of chess on the way via internet and a few minutes in the "library" with a glass of lemon water. Following that it's back to the coffee.....a slice of sprouted grain bread in the toaster and an egg in the pan.
As that is being put together our cat, Alfonso, arrives at the door after an all-nighter, is let in and a can of "fancy feast, sliced" is prepared for him, he's such a guy. As he begins to dine I join him; check email, Drudge, make a few more chess moves via Chess with Friends, Realclearpolitics and Facebook. Around 7am Alaska Standard Time the "Daily Cruiser" email arrives with 10-13 questions for new sailors interested in "cruising". I love this time of day.
Why do I love those questions so much posted on the "Daily Cruiser", which ones do I look for? It's the "newbies". They are so raw, naive, and earnest.
As I look over I'm taken back to a time when I was there. Long ago I looked at the passage from Stonington Connecticut to Block Island as Columbus or Magellan must have looked at their passages. The first time I was out of sight of land, terror. The first time an island arose on the horizon, heaven.
A few years later the Bahamas. We planned for WEEKS. Back then paper charts, current vectors, weather faxes, pencil, parallel rules and dividers. That first trip we left Fort Lauderdale before sunrise and spotted Cat, or Gun, or Bimini as the sun set (who knew, today the plotter drives us right it). We came though the cut pitch dark, no moon, with a friend on the beach talking us through via VHF and anchored in a slippery marl where we just couldn't get purchase.
Late that night we motored across the cut and found our way into Cat Cay and tied up at what was then a little marina, it isn't anymore. The next morning as I came up to check the lines I found a girl onboard, I've forgotten her name, literally crying in the cockpit. (in order to charter a boat I rounded up a group of Florida State students from our sailing team to share the costs of which she was one) She had never seen a sunrise. Never.
The lows and the highs.
On that same crossing my friend was in the cockpit bragging how he "never got sick". I didn't fully understand "wind on current" at that point in my sailing career and the Gulf Stream was rough. I was down below working at the tiny chart table under a red light as the Morgan 41 did her dance. I couldn't take it anymore, between swells I popped my head up and proceeded to upchuck into the center cockpit....too much work to do to go topside and let her rip overboard.
Like dominos everyone else out there followed suit, including my friend "who never got sick".
A few years later he and I bought a Hughes Northstar 40 together, the infamous "Scarlett". To be fair he bought it as I was broke and I offered up my limited skills in exchange for his financial ones. It was a marriage made in heaven (see earlier posts). On that boat we learned everything the newbie is experiencing today. Back then it was "our turn".
My father has an extensive library of all things nautical. He is gone now and from time to time I sit in his library and look over all those volumes (my "inheritance" he called it, God bless him). One day one book in particular caught my eye, "A History of Yachting". This was a compilation of articles from Yachting Magazine from the early 1900s to the late 90's. I took that book off the shelf just before a solo trip to the Bahamas, as I crossed the Stream, alone this time, I opened those yellowed pages and began to read. They were stories of small vessels going out upon the ocean and the misadventures of the same (what all good stories are made of).
The 1900's rolled out, the 20's, the wartime 40's and so on. The theme? We all made the same mistakes. Much tougher back then but the same when you get right down to it. Back then people died, today not so much. Back then everything took A LONG TIME. Today not so much. That's progress.
So as I read those questions posted today by "newbies" and "wannabies" I think to myself, it's their turn. I do my best to answer respectfully and to help where I can.
If you are new to "cruising" you will:
Have contaminated diesel fuel
Learn to change a fuel filter and the finer points of bleeding an engine
Run aground, sometimes hard
Lose a dinghy or something
Run out of beer
Lose ALL your electronics just when you need them most
Fight with your autopilot
Learn about calcification of your head and associated hoses
Get night sweats
Dive on a fouled prop mid ocean
Drag, in a pitch black anchorage, surrounded by others also dragging
Repair a carburetor on a dock and watch that one last bolt fall into the ocean
Hitchhike in a third world country from auto parts store to auto parts store
Anchor next to the beach bar at 2pm and realize why that was a bad idea at 11pm
Sweat like you have never sweated before
Dock in front of a crowd and screw it up
You will spend more than you budgeted
Comfort your wife or girlfriend when you are the one needing comforting
Screw up customs and immigration
Get the weather wrong
Spend hours holding a brush, grinder, wrench, etc.
Learn basic Spanish, French and maybe German.
You will also:
See sunrises and sunsets like you never saw before
Know the joy of a reliable diesel
Run a dinghy through a maze of coral
Catch a 150lb tuna
Enjoy a sunset G&T, really enjoy it having earned it
Reflect on life like few others
Not drag, in a pitch dark anchorage, surrounded by other
Treasure those emails that come in from far away in the middle of the ocean
Walk to the bathroom of a far away marina, toilet kit in hand, passage behind you
Coffee each morning to the most spectacular panoramas ever
Meet the most amazing people
Get the weather right (more times than not)
Dive into turquoise waters to check a perfectly placed anchor
Anchor where you don't want to be at 2pm and move to where you do want to be at 6pm
(if you're already experienced you'll get that, see "nesting")
Read like you have never read before
Make friendships that will last a lifetime (one just called me! Iain Gow!)
Sit with your wife, who was your girlfriend, as your kids play on the trampoline and think "it was all worth it."
I'll add more as time goes by. All this being said, go (read "Courage" posted earlier.)
Life is short, it's your turn now. If you got this far you get it. You have that first boat and you're scouring the internet at 1am looking for support. Are you crazy? Yes, the good kind. Will it all work out? Maybe not, but you'll never forget why it didn't.
A caution. Check yourself. "cruising" is not for the faint of heart and the skills you'll develop are massive. Do a real gut check before putting yourself, your friends, family and others at risk. The ocean is dangerous and unforgiving to fools. She tolerates those who truly respect her, most of the time, but she is capricious.
In the meantime meet each challenge your vessel and the sea throws at you with an attitude of gratitude, priceless.
What about the stuff???
24 March 2017
Each morning I wake to find a bunch of questions posted on "Cruisers and Sailing Forums". I love taking the time to read and respond where I can. A common question is what to "get rid of" before moving aboard. We're all for minimization, a pair of socks comes on, a pair goes off. That being said when closing up a household we did not consider that we may one day move back, which we did. This little post is in respect to this topic :-)
Most of the posts that I have seen here on CF since I've joined last year all talk about moving aboard (myself included). But what happens if you have to, want to, return to a land-based lifestyle? I only remember seeing one recent post concerning life after cruising (but I am sure there are more in older posts).
I like this perspective on considering this very question. We did move aboard and sailed/lived for a decade overseas. We sold the house and all the furniture in it along with most of my larger power tools (that was a minor mistake).
We did keep our real estate holdings and in one of the buildings I carved out a storage area for our more treasured belongings. We had traveled a lot before the "big trip" and had lots of little reminders with special meanings, lots of books (classics and rare) and lots of artwork etc.
After 3 years we ended up in New Zealand where we obtained residency and put our girls in school. On a business trip back to Alaska I arranged to have all that "stuff" sent down. It was like Christmas opening up those boxes and although a bit on the expensive side, putting those items in our new home in NZ made it really feel like home.
7 years later we moved back to the States for a number of reasons which we do not regret at all. This time we hired a 20' container and sent what had been accumulated in NZ back after a BIG GARAGE SALE. Now our Alaskan home has a twenty years worth of history and it's nice to look back over all those memories and tell stories through all those small little items.
REGRET? I should have stored all the big stuff we gave away. Tools first-table saw (2000 sold for probably 500) and lots of stuff like that. All the sports gear, bikes, kayaks, skis, winter wear, Jeep, etc. Perhaps even some of the furniture.
The truth is most all new live aboard cruisers return to land at some point. That would be an interesting survey. The math is pretty straight forward, value of replacing items with storage costs for a given period of time. The sentimental value something different.
So there you go, food for thought :-) Enjoy the journey!
A day long ago, just a day.
26 February 2017
Found this while muddling through an old laptop. Just a few weeks ago we were back at Rudder Cay. Madison is now 18 and we are short one hull (Catamaran Pun, please forgive).
The rhythm felt the same, right down to the dinner :-) The pic above is from that night fourteen years ago and of the "plastic chairs" we found on the beach.
May 23, 2003
5:30 Awake, check position and remember to turn off anchor light. Indicator light burned out so placed post-it with big A on it to remind me. Read “Prey” until…
6:10 Kelsey cries, wet diaper. Changed and made a break for my book. Had large glass of water, neglected to put coffee on.
6:20 Kelsey up, book over. Asking for mama but wants me. Played on settee and brought her down to help wake mama up.
6:30 Madison awake, wet her bed which I discovered earlier. She informs me of the same and apologizes. Hard to get mad at her. Making plan to clean sheets using washing contraption.
7:00 Clifford, big red dog playing since 6:35 while I tried to sneak in a little more book before Becky awoke. She’s up now and wondering where coffee is and why the dishes are not done. Put coffee on, should boil over within 5 minutes.
7:05 Boiled over.
7:06 to 8:00 Made breakfast for self and did dishes. Cleared deck from previous day and made dinghy ready to be lifted. While lifting took the time to spray out the sand. Checked both bilges and pumped port.
8:00 to 9:00 Talked about future plans and summer housing. Also plans for the day and where we would like to go. Declined offer to go spear fishing, anxious to get moving north. Decided to sail inside of islands, read up on route and made ready. Started engines to make hot water for Becky’s shower and charge batteries. Also turned on watermaker and checked its output. Had Beck bring up the anchor as a drill. She also took the time to raise the main but I finished the heavy lifting.
9:00-10:00 Beautiful sail from Rat Cay to Adderley. Shallow area, on high alert! Crystal clear water and perfect wind ghosting along at 6 knots over 6 feet of water. Some minor nail biting. Looked hard for El McPherson’s house.
10:00-11:00 Out the cut and into deep water. Lots of current! Jib down and messed around with the spinnaker for a while. Girls playing in fort on cockpit. Must be a million degrees out here! Sweating through everything and a lot of running around.
12:00-1:00 Find our way into Rudder Cut and Darby. Trouble deciding which way to go. Saw some nudies heading to Rudder so decided on Darby. Shallow anchorage so dove on anchor, looked ok. Set anchor watch on GPS. Dove on speed transducer and freed it. Also measured depth of water precisely.
1:00-2:00 Ate extra macaroni and cheese and had a cold Kalik. Worked on this and now hoping to sneak in a little more reading.
2:00-2:30 Kelsey napping, Maddie playing quietly, Beck in cockpit having a peaceful moment. Sneak into cabin and finish Prey! Now I can think again!
2:30-3:00 Empty dinghy and lower into water, think upper body workout. Called Little Darby for permission to hike up to castle. Got kids lubed up with sunscreen and gear.
3:00-5:00 Off to island to explore castle. Everything going well until we get out of the dinghy and are assaulted by three dogs! Kids terrified, mom upset and we are out of there. Would have been nice if the caretaker had mentioned these!
Motored over to Rudder and the round house. Second highlight of the day, the first being the sail from Rat to Adderly. We landed on the beach and walked up to the house. Pretty much just as we had left it eight years ago. The limo was gone however. Back to the beach where two plastic chairs were left behind and amazingly in semi working condition! We were able to sit and the girls played with a stick. Boy have things changed! Hung out until the sun started to get low. Spent a fair amount of time with some lizards as well.
5:00-6:00 Family trampoline time and happy hour! Noticed how low the tide was and decided to “walk” around the boat! Took the time to scrub the exhaust stains of off the transoms. Sun dipped and I climbed back aboard to help with dinner.
6:00-7:00 Dinner, chicken and rice, and evening routine. LOTS of dishes. Tooth brushing and beginning of book reading. I read to Kelsey, about 8 books and she wanted to keep going. She was asleep by 7:30 and I dosed off with her. Continue journal around 8:30
8:30-10:30 Going through West Marine catalog making up large wish list. Going page by page. Spent and hour putting together screens for the boat. Well worth the effort. Purchased some screen before we left. That and a little duck tape do the trick. Took measurement for some more Lewmar screens. Wrote several eMails and sent. At least an hour spent on reading business stuff from Anchorage and responding. In bed by 10:30
10:30 to 1:00 am Ghost on the boat, long story.
21 January 2017
Ok, do you have that song in your head yet (Night Ranger, Sister Christian)? MOTORING, What's your price for flight, in finding mister right, you'll be alright tonight....
I'm a closet "motorer" and now that I think about it, a proud one. I have a feeling I am not alone.
There is a certain glamour to the idea of sailing, there is a certain practicality to actually "getting there".
First let's talk about sailing, the act of actually putting up sails and going. For many years I raced and this was all that was allowed. Perhaps that explains my canvas rebellion. Now before I get too far ahead of myself I must say good advice to any "newbie" is RACE. Being wet, cold, injured, verbally abused while inebriated will prepare you for much of what the ocean has in store. I personally was never entrusted with much aft of the foredeck so "cold and wet" pretty much encapsulate those formative years.
Racing prepares one for the inevitable and constant failures that plague even modern rigs. There is a degree of physical fitness, a step or two up from golf, and a large amount of problem solving under pressure. Racing also has a large social component which forces one to pledge allegiance to all things canvas. The part that is kind of funny is anytime we had to actually GET the boat anywhere we MOTORED.
That part I REALLY liked :-)
So how much do we motor over sail? I'd say 80/20 (ah Pareto's Law). Yes folks this sailing blog should be a powerboat blog. Heresy you say. Now this was not the case in the Pacific and the tradewinds. One of the most wonderful qualities of that stretch of ocean is the consistent beam to broad reach. The dirty little secret, however, was that the problem was rarely too much wind, the challenge, more times than not, was too little. At these times rather than sit there clanging around in the swell we would "fire em up".
Ohana (the catamaran) had two 27hp yanmars and with one ticking away a few things would happen. First, the boat would start moving, from four knots to seven. This alone was a great motivator to captain and crew. The boat would "quiet down" except for the hum of the diesel of course, but that was oddly comforting. On a light air trip from Fiji to New Zealand we had one engine on ALL THE TIME. That's seven days! It was me and a friend and as I recall he said "it made him comfortable" to hear the purring of a well tuned diesel. I'm all about making our crew comfortable.
The second reason I'm not shy about firing up an engine or two is safety. Generally I'm sailing short handed and being at anchor is a lot safer than being on the ocean. A well maintained diesel can run for thousands of hours and the engines LIKE being used. The key words "well maintained" opens up a whole new entertainment center for the cruiser. Maintaining a diesel engine is fun in itself and rewarding, at least in my world of limited entertainment.
This piece is basically a rationalization piece to those of us who like the hear the hum of a motor and are looking for an excuse to come out of the shadows and share our enthusiasm for the same. It is also a call to those who have the "dream" to consider not just looking up, but also looking down, into the darkness of their engine rooms and embrace that warm lovable hunk of iron. Let's take a few brief minutes to discuss what the little darling needs and what the benefits are of making her your best friend.
The ONE THING a diesel engine needs is CLEAN FUEL. That's pretty much it. An intimate knowledge of your fuel system is a must and if you bought a used boat, particularly one that has seen little use, you already have a challenge. Your fuel is dirty, just make that assumption. What to do? Filtration.
Now I'm not a fuel expert and I'm not recommending any particular products. I have used Raycor filters on just about every boat I can recall and the cartridges are EASY to obtain WORLDWIDE, carry lots. Now the best setup is one that has two filters in parallel and allows you to switch to the second filter as the first becomes fouled. I don't have this on the current Ohana nor on the previous (cheap bastard).
The key to know when your filter is on its way out is a vacuum gauge. Mount this invaluable gadget where it is easily seen and check it often. I watch ours regularly and for the first couple of 100 hours on Ohana 2 she would gum up fairly quickly. What was happening was we were essentially "polishing" the fuel. After two hundred hours or so this has become much less frequent. There is a filter on your engine as well and is often neglected. This filter does not need to be changed as often as the Raycor filter, which does most of the heavy lifting, but does need to be attended to on occasion.
The second key is keeping the tools needed to change the filter right next to the filter. This includes in our case a plastic folgers coffee can and a one gallon jug of clean diesel to fill the new filter. I do the same thing for the alternator belt. All three wrenches to change the belt are in their own pocket in our tool bag. Changing that belt should be able to be accomplished in 3 minutes or less (the replacement is hanging in the engine room ready to go).
The dreaded "bleeding" of the engine. For some reason this little operation strikes more fear into the hearts of mariners than warranted. Air is the enemy to your diesel and if a bit gets in, usually during the filter changing process, she won't want to run. If you change your filter, add fuel before reinstalling and generally do a tidy job, odds are she will fire right up, burp a few times and then purr like a kitten. If you don't and you find you have to bleed, fret not. It's an easy operation best done first at the dock on a nice calm day close to a NAPA store. If you are really hesitant to touch your engine hire a diesel mechanic the first time and "pay your tuition". While he is there question him down about every little trick and do your best to keep him well hydrated and happy. Start with a water/soda combination, transition to beer as the job appears to be reaching its natural conclusion. Money well spent.
After this it's oil and oxygen. Change oil often, engine AND transmission. Again have all the tools at the ready, no searching involved for the oil, as far as the oxygen goes make sure your baby can get it. I have not had a proper air filter on any our last few motors so have not worried about much.
Odds are you will leave your boat for periods of time unattended. Do yourself a favor and top up the diesel just before putting her to bed. This helps prevent condensation and depending on what climate you leave her in this could be considerable. Condensation equals water and water to diesel is like.......any suggestions? Let's just say it ain't good!
One final note regarding your power set up is that expensive bronze thing that sits at the end of the shaft, your prop. Successful long distance motoring is dramatically enhanced with the right one. This topic is so loaded and passions run so high that I will defer to your good sense to do your research and come to your own conclusions. For me I've stuck with a fixed three bladed prop, the largest that makes sense and it appeals to my sense of simple. This in on our monohulls, the cat came with two adjustable pitch max props. When we first got her she was terribly over pitched with the engines not able to get over 2100 rpm. Again setting up props and deciding on the right pitch is way beyond the scope of this short story but is something you must understand and address. Once you get it right you will motor with confidence into wind and sea and be able to back up like a pro. Take the time.
Back to motoring....
Enjoy it, for a few delightful years I had the opportunity to drive an Auckland New Zealand Harbor Ferry, the Osprey. Two BIG twin caterpillar diesel, great crew (nod to Captains Kent, Gordon, Alan, John and Jackie (stewardess who may actually read this if she finds it on FB), plenty of waterline, 24 knots at cruise. Three stories above the water, in the full beam pilot house, life couldn't get better. We would dock thirty eight times a shift in all sorts of conditions and get to see the harbor in every mood and season. Did I mention three stories up and climate controlled (sort of)?
Flash forward to the fall of 2015 delivering a little forty footer (Ohana 2) from Noank to Nassau. Out on Long Island Sound heading west into a brisk breeze, little Yanmar ticking away, foulies zipped up tight. As I listened to the engine hum "that" thought crossed my mind, as it crosses many seasoned sailors................memories of the ferry................and the idea that perhaps it's time to look for a Trawler ;-)
Have a blessed day all and fair winds! Use em when you get em, when you don't, smile and turn the key!
P.S. Speaking of Motoring Madison and I will be doing the same around the Bahamas from about January 25th 2017 to February 20th 2017. If you see us do stop on by!!!
19 January 2017
Now I have met folks cruising on an ultra budget who were doing a great job of it.
A couple we met in Tonga come to mind. They were young and on a 40 some odd foot non-descript monohull. At the beach party in Vavauu, anchorage 14, they were roasting some fish on the fire for their dinner. We had a great talk about their travels and "living off the land".
My wife's cousin and his partner are another example. At a Christmas party two decades ago he asked me, with great enthusiasm coupled with little sailing experience, what kind of boat he could get cheap and sail offshore with. I thought about it and said "Crealock Dreadnaught 32" and left it at that.
A few months later he called and said he bought one (I about fell of my chair!), they left from Juneau Alaska with a 50lb bag of rice and a spear gun (I'm exaggerating, but not too much) and ended up in Japan where they sold the boat. They went on to buy a 40' steel hull at a scrap yard, lived in it at the scrap yard while they "built it". A year or two later took off again for Mexico, Hawaii, Midway (where they worked for a year to build up their funds) and then back to Alaska. He even built the MAST from a pipe!!!
These kind of folks can and do cruise on a budget of 500.00 per month.
Now for the rest of us........ When I see an online post saying "I want to buy a $20,000.00 ocean going boat and cruise on 800.00 per month and I need to learn how to sail" I kind of wince. The advice that comes out on the chat room is good and it can be done, see the above, but is it likely?
The two examples earlier were of folks who lived off the land well before going cruising and who were predisposed to doing lots with very little. Those of us who come from fairly comfortable land based occupations with partners and children who are accustomed to certain "comforts" this notion of spending next to nothing each month generally ends prematurely and poorly.
One day I was walking back to Ohana at Palm Harbor Marina in West Palm and saw a man sitting on the dock literally in tears. I walked up to ask if all was ok and struck up "the conversation" about what happened. This is not the first conversation like this I have had, in fact, had the same one just last year in Cape May with a man on a nice Pacific Seacraft Crealock 34 (I detect a theme). The conversation goes something like this:
"I've dreamed of cruising my whole life. I read everything, researched everything, bought the boat and had a great couple of years outfitting her and fixing her up. Finally we decided to go and headed down to Florida in anticipation of sailing to the Bahamas and points south. Somewhere around Charleston my wife quit. She said it's too.........fill in all the "too's", too hot, expensive, cold, boring, terrifying, lonely, far from the kids, claustrophobic......you get the idea. So here I am with my dream and I have to sell it."
The Cape May guy was more to the point of finances. He had done all of the same and had a VERY specific monthly budget. His transmission gave up in Cape May (see upcoming post on "motoring" to know why) and he literally could not afford to replace and nor afford to keep her at a dock or haul her out and store her. He was selling and he was having a fire sale. For a brief moment, as he told his story, I considered offering to help and pay for a transmission but as he kept talking I changed my mind. It would only be subsidizing what he was already ill prepared for and would just end a little further down the ditch.
The point, for most folks, it's going to "cost" a lot more than you think. Nothing makes me happier than to see folks out there really ENJOYING the life and not constantly on the wrong side of the ledger.
Speaking of which I better get to work so we can go off sailing next week!
Have a blessed day all!
The pic above is of Andy and Lisa aboard "Indefatigable", the steel cutter mentioned earlier in Seward Alaska after just arriving from a crossing from Midway Island.
The best "advice"
18 May 2016
The best "advice"
Early on we shared a boat with a good friend and sailed about six months a year (he sailed the other six). Read earlier post "back story" for the details.
Here's the story.
One afternoon I found myself sitting on a remote beach, Scarlett anchored just offshore with a Nordhavn 60' anchored nearby. We were the only two. We had brought the dinghy in for some afternoon exploring and a swim. Soon after we arrived the Nordhavn launched their tender (we had a dinghy, they had a tender) and they headed to our beach.
I've forgotten the man's name but this scene played out many times over the years. We'd say hello and each couple would begin to tell their story. He would be late 50's to early 60's. Second marriage and they were "living the dream". Where from, where going, etc. After a few minutes the ladies would walk off to chat and we would sit down in the shade and talk a bit more.
The next question would be "what do you do?" I'm sure you've been there and you have your story. I'd share ours. Given our tender ages there was some genuine interest in how we managed to get there and be able to spend several months "living the dream". We would then proceed to share stories of business and finances and experiences.
At some point in the conversation I would ask my question, what's your best advice? Being 30 years old on a beach with a man who has led his life is such an opportunity. On more than one occasion the advice would be similar to the advice the man from the 60' Nordhavn gave.
Paul, see that boat there and my beautiful wife?
I would trade it all to have my family. You see Paul I worked 24/7 for twenty years to build my business. We were wildly successful. I provided every material want my family needed, all except one........me. Time went by, divorce, estrangement from my children and now grandchildren.
Paul, if you can, and it seems you might be able to, take the years your children are growing up and spend it with them.
That was the advice and this happened on more than one occasion.
Those days of childless wandering did come to a close. Scarlett was sold and we settled into life in Anchorage Alaska. We continued to grow our business, built a house, had our first daughter in 1998. Our second arrived in 2001.
Those words stuck with me...............................
One day I came home from another 14 hour day to find my lovely wife sitting in our "playroom" staring at the world map (that map sits behind me right now 15 years later). We had a conversation about "what we were doing and what we could do". That advice, "take the years your children are growing up and spend it with them." was ringing in my head.
We then made the worst financial decision of our lives.
Fifteen years later, thousands of ocean miles, residents of a new country, we still eat and travel and pay taxes. Are we as "wealthy" as we could have been? Not by a long shot, but I'm convinced if we stayed on the track we were on and failed to heed that wise advice, I would have ended up sitting on a beach giving advice to a young man to, if at all possible, "take those precious years that your family is growing up and spend it with them."
Here's the quote I read just last night from Seneca:
"He who needs riches least, enjoys riches most"
Side note, the other "best advice" I ever had with respect to buying a catamaran was "buy as much waterline as you can afford." That's a freebie :-)
"The Plan" (or lack there of)
27 March 2016
So what's your plan?
How often have you heard this? Now I have always been a destination guy. Always "moving" towards some distant goal and the places in between were on "The Plan". I never really thought much about this until this last month when I found myself with absolutely NO PLAN.
Now Steve and Jim at Loggerhead Marina (Highly recommend) in Stuart did not like this as it really messes with the paperwork! More on that shortly for those who dare to read this whole post.
The rough plan this month was to come down to Florida for spring break with Madison our oldest. I was to fly down early and get the boat ready including all new mast and rigging with some golf thrown in. Madison would fly down solo for her first time and together we would spend 10 days "doing our thing".
Well the rigging and mast plan went great and when she arrived we sat down to come up with "The Plan". We had nothing :-) The decision was made to sail out and see what the conditions dictated and take it from there. This is new territory for dear Captain and honestly, was kind of refreshing. Rather than some epic goal we would just go.
So on Wednesday morning we dropped lines, pumped the poop and let Steve and Jim know we were leaving for good, or not. We headed out Stuart inlet and turned ESE for West End Bahamas (habit).
About 20 miles out and well into the Gulf Stream Madison said "I'd really like to have ice cream at Sloans". See we purchased Ohana 1 (the cat) in West Palm Beach in 2002 (Madison was 4 at the time) and spent the better part of two years in and out of Palm Harbor Marina as we prepared her for the Caribbean and Pacific. West Palm holds many fond memories: Two Girls Pizza, Clematis Street, The "Fountain" where the kids could play and Sloans Ice Cream.
But what about "The Plan"??? There was none! We turned to the South West, a pod of dolphins joined us and off we went to get ice cream.
Now I had visions of waking to a Bahamas sunrise in West End and working our way to Marsh Harbor, leaving the boat there. We ended up visiting the Four Arts and meditating in the botanical gardens. We toured the Flagler Estate (memories of Newport) and the Breakers (she has never seen anything like that). We considered stopping by Mar a Lago to visit with Donald but knew he was busy :-) Rush would have to wait as well. Although is wasn't the Bahamas we anchored at Peanut Island, walked the whole perimeter, swam, snorkeled and read.
We did spend Saint Patrick's day on Clematis, danced in a green street "rave", enjoyed pizza at Two Girls and yes.............had ice cream at Sloans. We snuck in and out of the international boat show with the password "banana" and generally had a great, un-planned, time.
Steve and Jim? Well we did end up back in Stuart cause it's close to grandma (after enduring the WORST WEATHER EVENT of my sailing life, another story) and they smiled and didn't ask any questions. True Professionals.
I'm still a destination guy, always will be, but this little interlude will always be a reminder to sometimes just let it all go.
Blessings all and happy Easter!
(See Photo Gallery for lots of Pics)
18 February 2016
I've had a lot of thoughts about this post......
I walked past the mega yachts that surrounded little Ohana at the Viaduct Marina in Auckland. One in particular, I've forgotten the name, stood out. I looked at the table set on the afterdeck, it was spectacular. Three crew members were in attendance, the guests soon to arrive.............lighting perfect, settings perfect............what were they going to discuss, I would never know.
At first I thought about the "consumption." Who needs all that, how did they "get" it, why does it matter? To be honest I had a bit of envy along with a bit of curiosity. So much........why? I thought about it. I would have loved to have been a fly on that wall. Here's what I came up with:
It's not about the boat.....................
It's about the table...................and who is around it.
It is ALL ABOUT THE TABLE. (and for those of you thinking about another room in the boat you don't get there till you sit at the table.)
The conversations that take place around a table are the fuel. The people that contribute are the engine. If we're blessed we can enjoy many evenings with many people who make our lives richer and fuller for having sat there. The photo gallery on this blog home page entitled "Happy Hours"
captures a few of these evenings we had the honor to enjoy aboard Ohana. I have a feeling that if a boat might be a measure of one's material success, the quality of the conversations around those tables, such as the yacht I was looking at, might be a good measure of a one's hospitality, curiosity and inquisitiveness.
So that gets us back to our humble little table. It is easy for a man to look "up" to bigger and better. Our "table" wasn't on a mega yacht but for us may as well have been. It has entertained a wide variety of characters from all over the world. Who would have thought a boy and girl from humble beginnings in New York and Alaska would sit with corporate giants, financiers, pastors, hippies, singers, actors, tech moguls, eccentrics, escapists...........the list goes on. It all happened around our little table.
Speaking of "happy hour" I've had a few so will sign off early. Invite people.............they make it oh so colorful.
One last story. This fall I was sailing south and found myself in Sandy Hook (Atlantic Highlands NJ). Earlier in the day the engine died and was an afternoon of back and forth to NAPA to sort things out. At first I hitched a ride with a local, his wife and brother in law. I realized soon after that NAPA was a short walk and made several trips back and forth as I diagnosed the problem. It's part of the deal and those folks were great!
Well 6pm was rolling around and I was sitting in the cockpit looking around and a noticed a dinghy going boat to boat inviting people over for happy hour. I thought "I'd like to have happy hour" but kept my hand down. Well Scott came by Ohana and invited me! I hopped aboard and soon realized his other passenger was the fellow who drove me to NAPA!
We ended up aboard Tamure and enjoyed a great evening with every single hander in the harbor along with Scott and Kitty who it turns out are a bit of legends in the sailing world. Their boat was a living museum. Check out their site for Tamure
by clicking on the link. Along with these two links Great Escape
and Atlantic Circle
We sat in the cockpit around their "table" and as the evening progressed moved down below. It was magic.
They took the time to invite and that is an encouragement to me to do the same. At times I resist but I know that all that is good occurs around that place, the table.
Have a blessed evening all.
If you read this far and enjoy these posts please feel free to comment and make suggestions as to content :-)
Catamaran Storm Tactics
04 February 2016
has a lot of questions regarding storm tactics with Catamarans. I have to confess I asked many of the same when we first bought Ohana and went as far as purchasing a monster parachute anchor which we carried all over the Caribbean and Pacific. We never deployed it. This is my stab at answering, at least, how we did it.
The question is always "what were the worst conditions you were ever in." That answer is a four hour period between Tonga and New Zealand in 2005 where we were averaging 16 knots in some pretty big seas. The video above is from a trip to Tonga in 2010 with the aforementioned Vito onboard. It looks rough but the boat could handle that and much more. That was pretty much it. Of the tens of thousands of miles I've covered those four hours and 60 some odd miles were the most lively.
The 2005 experience? Well later on I'll discuss my philosophy of sailing "with the storm", suffice it to say we were doing just that and the wind was off our quarter where we wanted it and the seas were with us so to speak....and they were big. Reef early (that's a tip), and we had, but even with a triple reef in the main and a handkerchief of jib out we were FLYING and it was loud. The sound a big cat makes going over 10 knots is like living in a waterfall. Going 15-16 is a whole other story.
Down each wave she accelerates and it was those few moments at the bottom where I had pause. Bows please come up.........and each time they would and I would say "elevator up!" This went on for four hours or so as we ducked under the lower part of the system on our way south. That was the most tense I've been while offshore. Believe it or not the girls played quietly on the deck in the main salon and Becky looked up every now and then and asked if we were ok, amazing.
Disclaimer: The advise here is free and you get what you pay for. Take it for it is, know your boat well and be honest about your skill set. I would also equip much differently for sailing in high latitudes or off season.
The other thing I've learned is the boat can take a lot more than the crew. We were in conditions like the video for several days after leaving Opua, several large monohulls actually turned back. Ohana kept skipping along. One night Garth, who was along for his first offshore passage, wanted to go on deck and put one final reef in. My advise to him was "nothing good can happen out there." At 2am, pitch black, blowing stink better to run off a little and let the boat take care of herself.
So-Point 1, trust your boat.
Point 2-Sail on the Fronts. Cats have one distinct advantage when it comes to offshore passagemaking and that is speed. Averaging 8-10 knots or better over a 24hr period is much different than 5knts. What I found was most boats, particularly in the Bahamas, wait for the fronts to pass glued to Chris Parker
then motor like crazy to the next spot (click on the link for his book, great guy!). When a low comes through the winds will clock predictably and if you pay attention you can use these strong winds, from the right direction (off the quarter, not on the nose), to fly you to your destination. The weather will likely be cold, rainy and miserable but the sail will be great and when hunkered down at the end of a long day you can bet it will be followed by a bright clear one as High Pressure fills in behind. Great for short passages, 50-100 miles.
Longer passages same deal but we would pay much closer attention. Here is where the speed advantage comes into play and staying on the leading edge of the storm. The idea being to stay in the favorable winds while NOT getting run over by the front which will result in very un-favorable winds on the other side. What happens to most monohulls on a 1000 mile passage is they get run over at least once. No way around it at 5 knots. It's in those conditions where the horror stories are born.
Point 3-I'm scratching my chin here. All that comes to mind is how important it is to know your personal limits and not put your crew or yourself in a situation you or the boat are not truly prepared to handle. That and DO NOT sail on a schedule if at all possible.
This is about catamarans and if you've read this far you probably own one so here is the final dirty little secret, they all slam (some more than others), they all take 15 knots of wind to really get moving and none of them really go to weather nor should they. All the more reason to sail the fronts in my opinion and keep her moving, when the wind falls below 10 knots and the boat slows to 4 time to kick on an engine.
Time to hit the sack internet friends! Have a blessed day and many happy and safe miles.
03 February 2016
Why a Hunter? (why a Hyundai)
I am the most unlikely Hunter owner.
Back in the "day" selling boats was the game and Hunter was a big no-no. I was a Hunter Snob with no real reason to be so, short of a little conversation at a boat show. I was actually looking at the Hunters and commenting on how nice they were for the money. At twenty some odd years old what did I know? Let's call him Crusty, the broker who had taken me under his wing, said "boat show boat". That was all it took to turn me off to Hunters. Three words.
What does "boat show boat" mean? Basically a boat the wife likes at the boat show, huge interiors, ticks all the boxes, priced well and falls apart after a few years in the Florida sun.
Soon after, as a young yacht broker, I actually sold a Hunter and it looked just like Crusty described, weather beaten and tired. Tied up behind a house in Port Orange Florida we limped it up to Seven Seas Marina in Daytona for haul out and inspection. All I believed about Hunters seemed to be true.
That was the last I thought of Hunters until I met Vito but, before we introduce this character, one has to ask why was I looking for a boat like a Hunter in the first place.
This past Alaska winter our oldest daughter looked at me and said "Dad, what good is all this experience if you don't share it?" followed with, "can we get a boat and just you and I spend the summer sailing together." Annie get your gun! I was off to the races. This coincided with an article in Cruising Outpost issue #8 entitled "The Whole Nine Yards" the story of two girls, a dog, a cat and a 27' boat (support Bob Bitchin and buy the mag, it's worth the eight bucks).
That question and article set the Berger wheels in motion. Let's find a small "beater boat", not too fancy and easily handled by one or two. Something the girls could grow into and make it their own should they have the desire. The usual suspects came to mind, Catalina 30, J 30, C&C 30 or up a little to the 35' range. After a good talk with long suffering wife (who, bless her heart, generally supports a good ole adventure after the idea has a little time to marinate) gave her approval and I began the search.
Now there is a whole other post on buying boats and I wrote it a few days ago and it was summarily VAPORIZED by sailblogs.
Here is the cliff note version:
Identify two to three specific boats
Locate all of them in the region of interest (in this case Maryland to Cape Cod).
Build spreadsheet with all of them listed to easily compare prices, locations and features.
Go and start looking at all of them and become an expert on that particular market.
Adjust as desires and reality change.
Know that as you look "the one" will likely show up and don't be afraid to buy it.
That's basically it.
The "one" is easier to see after you've been on a few and start to get a feel for what's out there. In the case of this project the size quickly grew to 40' as we adjusted and thought about family vacations with all four of us and the prospect of having a relatively inexpensive floating condo. Fair enough and in our experience 40' still met the expectation of being easily handled by one or two.
I flew into Annapolis late April and started the hunt. This took me from Deltaville Virginia as far north as Westport Connecticut. I looked at Beneteaus, Catalina, Jenneaus and two newer Hunters. Nothing was "clicking" although the Hunters were cool they had the new B&R rigs (no backstay) and one had the expected deck leaks that I had been warned of.
Remember Vito? Picture a Sicilian bull dog with a heart of gold. We met Vito, Madeline and their daughter Amanda in Bora Bora back in 2005. At the time they were aboard Wanderer, a beautiful and capable Amel 53. My father was onboard Ohana, he had grown up in the Bronx and worked in New York City for most of his career. As soon as he heard Vito's deep Italian voice on the VHF he had to meet him. Kind of a cross between CarTalk and a Corleone. Just made you feel safe and nervous at the same time.
Now Vito and I became quick friends and have remained so for over a decade. I TRUST him and value his opinion and on one topic in particular he was adamant and unwavering............Hunter Legends. As soon as I mentioned this idea of a small beater boat for the east coast he said "Paully, you got ta look at da Hunter Legend!" He had one for over a decade (two actually if memory serves, a 37' and a 40.5) and just would not stop raving about the boat. I still had my 1987 snob hat on and kept politely deferring. Finally, I broke, as nothing was really feeling right on my search so far. I located a Hunter Legend 40.5 on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and invested the time to drive over one cold spring day if for no other reason than to respect Vito's desire to have me at least see one (respect an important character trait in his native Sicily).
I met the broker and we trudged out against the north wind and as I walked up to Hunter Legend 40.5 for the first time the thing that struck me was that she was big. Just big compared to all the other 40's I had been looking at. She had a 7/8th fractional rig which you J sailors know is a great set up for short handed sailing and powerful. The cockpit had a cutout transom (wife request) and there were hatches galore! What's going on here, it must leak like a sieve.
We climbed aboard (they have a high freeboard and are beamy which explains the interior volume) and I mean climbed. Slid open the companionway hatch and I was just blown away by the cabin, oh my goodness, I was falling into the "boat show boat" trap! This boat was twenty years old however and had not yet melted as Crusty had promised, good sign.
A 50hp Yanmar diesel-yea, tons of cabinet space, plenty of light, a well laid out galley, two heads..........................Vito was right, this boat was incredible. There must be a catch.
With that many opening hatches let's look for leaks, there were none. This particular boat was poorly maintained and run hard. The bones though looked great and it was time to find all the Hunter 40.5s on the East Coast and have a real look.
That took an evening with Yachtworld along with one more drive up and down the coast looking at four examples of the boat. I had evidently seen the worst of the lot first and the other three I found were all in terrific condition. All were mid 90's boats with light use and well maintained. The last of the bunch had an offer on it already and was a tri-cabin which I felt was superior with a family and left a cabin just for storing stuff. At first it was off the list given its pending sale put that sale fell through and I was able to finally get onboard. She was "the one", you just know it. I have to thank Cherie Startner of Great Blue Yachts for just calling. I bugged her about the boat for a few days while the Annapolis Boat show was going on (she was in the middle of it and having done boat shows I get it) and gave up, the fact she thought of me when the deal fell through, although not amazing, was professional and set the rest in motion.
What made it "the one?" It's a combination of ingredients that together just feel right. An owner who had taken the time to do lots of the ugly things that should be done, replacing older tanks, newer electronics, upgrading canvas, replacing hatch glass and gaskets, etc. Just a vibe. It is price, which was attractive, as it had just been negotiated on and the owner was ready to move on. It's just a feeling with the knowledge that you have looked at everything else in that range and this boat stands out.
But it was still a Hunter.
A little bit of research gave a good history of the company and Warren Luhrs, put my mind at ease. Google him, it's worth the time. The Legend series in particular was a unique model in the line-up prior to the company adopting the B&R rig. I can't speak to the later boats as I have no experience on them. I will say this little spot in their history was a gem.
So here we are Hunter owners..........who would have thought? At this point we've put about 3000 plus miles on her in a variety of conditions from Nantucket to Nassau. She has proved to be fast, seaworthy, comfortable at the dock and anchor as well as very easy to handle.
That's the story. I think at the end of the day whatever boat you find yourself in will work for almost anything. What they take is care, feeding and love...........perhaps that's the part you feel......the love.
Blessed day all, thanks for reading.
Check out the photo gallery for lots of pics.