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Water & Wine
Sailor since the age of seven. Wine importer. Returning to the ocean & sailing July 2013, living aboard a Catalina 42 in Cabrillo Marina, San Pedro, CA. Working, wandering, wondering, sailing as much as possible.
A yesterday ago filled with years of experiences
Tom / Perfect
08/02/2014, Cabrillo Marina, San Pedro

Wow, it has been a long time...

A long time since I posted last (November 2013), and a long time since I cast off the lines in San Diego and initiated living aboard, boat transportation to LA, and shake-down cruise all in one day (not a highly recommended combination, for future reference).

But it also wasn't long ago at all - a yesterday ago filled with many years worth of experiences.

Time-wise, there is no debate - 365 days ago. Life-wise, it has easily been one of the most intense and laid back, empty and fulfilling, closing-in and expansive, letting go and retaining 365 days of my life. I am altered and renewed.

August 2, 2013 started the way every day should. The way I wish every day could. It was filled with joy, adventure, surprises, nature, connection, isolation, introspection, retrospection, exploration, aggravation, bravery, fear, and a sort of love that is hard to describe. And ended with shared friends, good food and wine, and exhaustion. In those ways, not much different from all the best of 365 days that followed.

I got to live aboard for for nearly 8 months with an amazing young woman. My daughter's gap year from college ended up being spent mainly aboard Windrunner. Her transition to adulthood, my transition to single man, and our shared transition to a relationship of two people much closer to equals. She's been one of my favorite people for years, and only grew more so this past year. I will cherish this year for many reasons, but none more than the time and interaction with Mo.

Others I must mention who have been very important this past year include my friends Michelle L and John O - I'm not sure what I'd have done without either of you this year. I love you both dearly. And there were also solid contributions from Heaney, Neruda, Don Casey, Keroac, Vedder, Bono, and wonderful welcome, friendship, advice and assistance from new neighbors Steve, Murray, Tom, Brida, Owen, Patty, John, and Dennis. I am a lucky person.

Then, in addition to those people and other wonderful friends, at some point a few weeks ago while considering the last year, Henry Kunitz was sent to me in the form of his poem The Layers. As most good poems, I needed time with it, but that was easy, as it drew me in with whispers and exhortations like the peaks and troughs of open ocean waves rolling toward a distant yet visible and approaching shore. A great epitaph to my first year aboard Windrunner.

The Layers
Stanley Kunitz, 1905 - 2006

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Liveaboard, California, Catalina 42, sailboat, San Pedro, wine, live aboard, sailing
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08/02/2014 | Lon Bubeck
So nice to hear it is all working out well.
The flip side
Tom L, perfect weather
11/03/2013, Cabrillo Marina, San Pedro, CA

For a while now I've been meaning to write about the flip side of living on a sailboat. The ability to sail off to an island like Catalina for just about any weekend, or wrap up work by 6:00pm and be sailing by 6:30 to beautiful sunsets, etc. is absolutely amazing. But there is a flip side that makes this a lifestyle ill-suited to most, no matter how nice the sails and how pretty the photos and how exciting the destinations.

I decided to write this today because one of those flip-side issues came up big today. Last weekend I had some problems with the engine. Turns out it's the cutlass bearing, which can't be replaced when the boat is in the water. And I can't live aboard while she is in dry-dock. So, I've got to pay to have her hauled out, and will be without my home for several days while a little bearing is replaced. There are few house repairs that require one to be without access to their home, and certainly none as small as a cutlass bearing.

The other flip side items are less dramatic, but very prevalent. The list I came up with over the last few weeks includes:

- Hand pump toilets. Every time, you have to lean over, grab the handle next to the bowl, and pump in some sea water, and pump out whatever went into the bowl. It all goes into a holding tank. In my instance, one is under my bunk. Keeping that smelling fresh is not always easy. Emptying it requires paying someone with a pump and the ability to dispose of it. It's sort of like having manual pump toilets that go to a septic tank that is inside your house.

- No dishwasher. Every single dish is hand washed. In a small sink. And hand dried. And put away in relatively small storage spaces.

- No washing machine. I walk about 100 yards to a set of washing machines and dryers shared by the people who have boats at the marina. They're fine, and are much less expensive than the ones at a normal pay laundry, but I still have to wash my laundry elsewhere.

- Showers. I have two on the boat. One is even a decent size. And I have a hot water heater that makes very hot water. 11 gallons of it. So, I take quick showers aboard, or longer showers in the marina showers. They're cleaned daily and very nice (and have all the hot water you could want). But they are also 100 yards away and are shared.

- Parking. My car is about 60 yards away, which is fine most days, but on the occasion it rains, it's not great. And hauling groceries, etc. is a bit of a chore.

- Storage. There is no storage, really. I have a small locker at my slip, but for the most part, my third cabin has become "the garage" for holding everything from my camera equipment to oars, to cockpit seat cushions, to the suitcases I need regularly for travel to wine. Lack of storage extends to the refrigerator that is about 3' X 2' X 3' with a small freezer space included in that. Regular grocery store trips are demanded. Same for limited pantry space. There just isn't much room.

- Mildew. Boats are simply mildew breeding grounds. I'm good with staying in front of mildew (and have been lucky). And I live-aboard, which means she's almost never closed for weeks on end, which is when mildew goes nuts. And Southern California is a fairly dry place for an ocean. But even with that, I've had my bouts with mildew. And it is not fun.

- Tiny stove and oven. Powered by propane (and propane accessories). Technically there are three burners, but only if you're using 3 small pots/pans can you use all three at once. The oven has temperature numbers that I am sure approximate some oven somewhere, but none I've ever come across. And it is tiny. I cook good stuff on it, but it isn't always easy.

I'm not complaining at all. I LOVE this lifestyle. I really love it. But, I'm sharing this experience, and wanted to give the people a sense of the entire experience, including the parts that are difficult. So, the next time you see photos of an amazing sail or sunset or mooring in a beautiful cove, remember, I likely just finished pumping my toilet and hand washing dishes before I posted the photo.


Liveaboard, California, Catalina 42, sailboat, San Pedro, wine, live aboard, sailing
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My first Catalina Island trip - WOW!
Tom L. Spectacularly perfect
09/05/2013, Cabrillo Marina, San Pedro, CA

My last blog was about the trip over. This one completes the stay and return to San Pedro.

I'll just start by saying that if you've not been to Catalina, you have to go. Just beautiful. Far enough away to feel like you're disconnected, but only 20 miles from San Pedro, so not too far (averaging about 6 knots, we were there and back in a bit over 3.5 hours each way). The water and wind on the way there and back are awesome. It was a fantastic sail.

The coves and moorings and anchorages are quite diverse. And if all you can do it take the Express, go to Two Harbors, which has several little coves, Catalina Harbor, and a marine reserve, all within walking distance. It is much more quite, family-oriented, and less "party central" than Avalon (which is also beautiful).

We also sailed down the coast of the island, from Two Harbors to While's Landing (Moonstone Cove, actually) - we being my friend John O, who took the Express out Saturday to join me and sail back. WOW. Bluest water I've ever seen. Amazing cliffs and mountains down to the ocean. Seals, dolphins, etc. all over.

I flew the gennaker for the first time. That was great! Windrunner really sails well; she likes to get in her groove, with well set sails, not pinched or driving too hard. Just give her a good set and a steady helm and wind in the mid- to upper teens, and she will give you a steady 7 knots. She is really fun to sail.

Check out the additional pics I uploaded to the gallery to see what I mean about how pretty the island and ocean are. Then make your plans to go.


Catalina Island, Two Harbors, Isthmus Harbor, Catalina 42, liveaboard, Windrunner, San Pedro, Califo
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The shortest distance between two points is a straight line - My first trip to Catalina Island.
Tom L. Spectacularly perfect
08/31/2013, Two Harbors, Catalina Island

One of the first "truisms" I learned about sailing; find your mark and sail to it. That isn't exactly how this weekend in Catalina turned out. "A sailor can't control the wind, but he/she can adjust their sails." Would be a more appropriate saying. Or, actually, the best one would be, "Damn, this place is pretty."

All of this started when a group of people from F Gangway at Cabrillo said they were going to White's Landing for the long weekend, and I assumed going over there with some others would be a more safe and less stressful first trip. But I didn't want to anchor because I'd likely be single handing the boat, which meant I needed a mooring. That meant I'd have to leave Thursday afternoon to have a good chance of getting one on the long weekend. So, the plan became that I'd leave about the same time as Wil and possibly one other boat Thursday afternoon.

Then, Thursday, things came up at work, etc. and I realized I really needed to be in contact with people Friday and over the weekend. White's has no cell or internet connections. So, last minute course correction, I head for Two Harbors. Solo; no one else aboard, no other boats going with me. I'm happy I did.

I was ready, and Windrunner was ready. The weather was perfect, and I could sail line of sight if needed, since Two Harbors is a visible valley in the island from the mainland. The sail over was perfect; 13-19 knot winds, easy 3-4' swells, and no tacking required, just a close haul the entire way. Windrunner averaged 5.5 knots, and I made it in under 4 hours slip to mooring ball. The sunset was beautiful, but I did get in at dark. No worries, though, as Harbor Patrol met me and led me to my ball, and even put the bow Hawser on the cleat for me. That set the tone for the entire time so fat at Two Harbors - nice, laid-back, mostly families, no party boats moored next to you, beautiful, well protected. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to go to Avalon any time soon...

So, here are some pics so far. 2.5 days still to go!!

Catalina Island, Two Harbors, Isthmus Harbor, Catalina 42, liveaboard, Windrunner, San Pedro, Califo
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08/31/2013 | Idaho Dave
The minor arc of a great circle between two points is the shortest surface-path between them. In this sense the minor arc is analogous to “straight lines” The shortest distance is not always a straight line, Navigating in the northern seas where the arc is great, you will sail an arc.
09/03/2013 | Sexy in Germany
•If you live a life of make-believe, your life isn't worth anything until you do something that does challenge your reality. And to me, sailing the open ocean is a real challenge, because it's life or death.
Morgan Freeman
Sailing with friends
Tom L, Hurricane Gulch perfect...
08/19/2013, San Pedro, CA and west...

So, two full weeks in, I was going to write about the fact that my ratio of working on the boat vs. sailing on the boat isn't what I want (though I did expect a lot more work initially). While I've had some great sails (solo and with friends), I was going to write about a blog post called The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, highlighting the mix of great sailing with all the stuff to be repaired or fixed, and the downright disgusting stuff that can happen on a boat.

But then I started thinking about just the first part - The Good - and realized I don't want that to be watered down with the other stuff. As frequent as I'd like or not, it's still pretty awesome. So, I'll get to the parts that will help my landlocked friends get over their jealousy at my life on a sailboat (really, some of this stuff is just nasty!), but for now...

There is something about being on a sailboat - the quiet of the wind and waves, the tranquility of moving through ocean in such an ancient and simple way, the closeness of a cockpit, the distance and openness of being 30+ feet away with nothing but a bow pulpit between you and the end of the world - all of it lends to great conversations and sharing and joy. A sailboat is a great place to deepen existing relationships, and make new ones. I've been lucky so far to do a good bit more of that than is normal (even if I'm not sailing as much as I'd like to yet).

Lon is with Flying Cloud Yachts, and was my broker (think real estate agent), working with me between Atlanta and SoCal for many months to find my new boat/home. He was awesome. And, I found him to be nice and interesting as well. So I got to take him out with his wife, Liv, and their friend Velvet. It was great to get to know them all better in just a few hours out for a short jib-only sail on a windy afternoon.

I've known John for nearly 30 years (damn, you're old, Dude!), and his kids since they were tiny. We set sail generally in that direction one afternoon, and the time went so pleasantly and well, that before we knew it we were closer to Catalina than San Pedro.

Brooke and I worked together in Atlanta about 14 years ago and I hadn't seen her or her husband David in that long (though we kept up on Facebook, email, etc.), and I'd not met her kids. Couldn't have been a different sailing day - we bobbed around in little to no air (going "zerohundred point zero knots" as their son Tre said), but saw dolphins feeding, and a shark swim by, and watched the kids take turns at the helm (Tre skippering much more than me), and catching up. It was really nice.

So, I'm feeling really lucky to have been sailing as often as I have, with people like that. And feeling really lucky about how wonderful it is to have friends over to your house, when your house is a sailboat, and the ocean your back yard.


Liveaboard, California, Catalina 42, sailboat, San Pedro, wine, live aboard, sailing
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08/20/2013 | Brooke
What a great way to reconnect with old friends without the interruption of a TV, a knock at the door or the such. As always, great hanging out with you and catching up. And I know that Dave is super excited to have another Saints fan watching some games with him this fall. Thanks again!
08/20/2013 | Peter
Just ran across your blog and am enjoying reading it. I had to do a double take because I saw your Peachtree road race T shirt and recognized it as the same as the one I wear. I also am in my 50's, just bought a large sailing boat to live and cruise on. Have been sailing since a kid and have lived in north Atlanta for 20 years, recently divorced and have grown kids. Peter
On the ocean - Delivery
Tom, sunny and 72 degrees, cool breeze
08/06/2013, San Diego -> Oceanside -> San Pedro

I departed from San Diego's Harbor Island Friday afternoon, after getting Windrunner out of dry dock the night before (Bill and the guys at Nielsen-Beaumont did a great job with the work).

As I'm leaving San Diego Bay, I pass a huge modern naval ship, and a very old sailboat within minutes (check out the photo galley from the two days). It was an awesome welcome back to the open ocean.

As shake-down cruises go, it was about normal; unexpected things didn't work, and sometimes they didn't work at the same time, and sometimes at wrong ends of the boat at the wrong time, etc. The biggest things discovered were that the jib (sail in the front) would not roll back up around the front stay, and while engaging the autopilot to go 42' away to the bow to try to fix it, I discovered the autopilot won't hold course for more than a couple of minutes. Not a great combination. So, the jib ended up being taken down the old fashioned way, and rode into Oceanside laying on the deck. The autopilot manual and I are becoming deeply acquainted (however, it can only be tested while under sail, so...).

Both times I had to do night port entries, and Oceanside is a small port with lots of lights behind it, and shoaling that happens across the harbor entrance due to currents. A great first port for me to be pulling into after years away from doing it. So I called harbor police on VHF and asked for some guidance. They gave me the advice I needed, but then the next thing I know the harbor police boat is out at the breakwater LITERALLY giving me guidance. Must have been a slow night, but it was very nice of them.

Day 2 saw my buddy, and excellent sailor, Eric Day join me. The wind was dead as a door nail when we left early in the morning, but picked up nicely and we had a great sail most of the day. As we got closer to San Pedro and "Hurricane Gulch" the wind did what it does there - come hard from a very consistent direction - dead ahead to our setting. So we cranked up the very reliable (so far - knocking on wood) engine, and plowed right through some decent wind-driven chop as the sun set.

Man, LA Harbor is huge and busy, and right next to Long Beach Harbor which is also huge and busy. I'm very glad EDay was there with modern navigation tools in hand (both of us checking our different gps/plotting programs regularly) as we made our way around more non-channel-marker lights and container cargo ships and big fishing boats than I'd have preferred for my first entry into port (at night again).

But now Windrunner and I are in our home port. Lessons learned. An expanded list of things to work on. And a "house" on which to have friends visit. Nice.

Liveaboard, California, Catalina 42, sailboat, San Pedro, wine, live aboard, sailing
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08/06/2013 | Phil Anderson
Good for you, the real life ! following the blog from the if you need crew somewhere along the way, Phil A
08/07/2013 | Lisa Brock
OK. NOW I'm caught up. I didn't see your blog until today. This is so awesome I can't stand it. I love what you're doing and am really looking forward to keeping up with your adventures. Cheers!

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