Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Preparations for Holiday cruise!

I have completed my first semester teaching at Dine College. It has been a wonderful experience and as of Dec. 8th, I am finished until Jan 10th! Sailing time.

So what needs to happen before I cast off the lines about Dec. 14?
Main mast sheaves (the cover of my new main halyard is pulling threads out- wear is bad).
Install wheel autopilot- I bought a refurbished Autohelm 4000 to replace the one that had
been stolen from the boat before our purchase. Installation seems straightforward and
hopefully plug and play from the previous install. Calibration will wait until out in the
Gulf, but basic operation can be verified at the dock.
Clean, de-mildew, air out cabin.

Clean out engine compartment, figure out how to get my big ole body down there if I have to
repair something!
Clean engine/oil, engine pan, bilge, v-drive, transmission. Start her up!
Tighten stuffing box (too many drips).
Check out Dinghy outboard.
Load in soft goods from storage locker- mattress, cushions, clothes, etc.
Provision for 3 week cruise.
Install repaired bimini/dodger.
Apply new name to transom- Istana has been redocumented JOY!

Davits for dinghy.
Repair folding bikes. They don't look like this right now- have 2!

Two days sail down to Tampa prior to Kathleen joining Joy.
Four days down ICW with hops off-shore to Ft. Myers, visit K's Uncle Fred and Aunt JoAnn.
Three days down to SW corner of Everglades.
Two days across to the Middle Keys.
Gunkhole the Keys for a week.
Find a place to keep the boat until summer and drive to the airport, ETD Jan 5.

Have tried to emphasize to K the need for "flexibility" in "planning." May wait to buy the tickets back until after the cruise is underway (still get advanced purchase deals).

We welcome any local knowledge, secret anchorages, etc. Post below!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Shakedown cruise in the Very Thin Gulf of Mexico or a boy runs aground several times with old boat while girl becoming somewhat cross.

The shakedown cruise begins! To clarify, a shakedown cruise is a trip where you move a newly acquired boat and do things waiting to see what breaks. To give you the punchline- this was successful in this context. We moved, saw things and things broke. The following is un-expurgated, non-romanticized and only a little softened. If you’re looking for “sailing is fabulous and relaxing”, look elsewhere, this is reality.

The boat in question is a 1979 Pearson 365, purchased inexpensively two months ago after having been brought to life by the previous owner after about 10 years of real neglect. The survey and purchase trip had revealed the systems worked, the hull was solid, the sails were intact but she is not the belle of the ball. One of the repairs made during the time away was a refinished cabin sole (nice, thanks Tom).

I had driven with a load of stuff and Lola, the ancient Springer Spaniel, from Phoenix in three+ days. This is likely Lola’s last big adventure (she’s 13) so we decided to drive and bring her with us rather than kennelize her in Phoenix. I had some business in Austin and Birmingham and a wonderful meal in Northern Louisiana, but otherwise the trip was uneventful. I arrived in Yankeetown Thursday before Kathleen’s arrival on Saturday.

Day -3- Spent the day putting the boat back together, moving foam for the salon setees (that probably sounds better than they are (more like benches in a good-sized closet)), bedding and the new mattress to the boat, assessing systems and doing some cleaning. The NO-SEE-UMS are horrible from about 6-8 pm. Sleep on the boat on the new mattress (pretty wonderful).

Day -2- Kathleen was due at the Tampa airport at 5 pm. My plan was to give the boat a final cleaning and get things shipshape before heading to Tampa. Best laid plans… We (Lola, the ancient Springer Spaniel and I) woke to a classic Florida rainstorm. Hmm, boat cleaning was on the agenda for the morning but mother nature intervened, so we got in the car and headed off to West Marine. Having bought a pack of flares (USCG required) for 2.5x the WalMart price, I got back into the car (still raining kittens and puppies) and pulled out of my spot. The car died completely in 20 ft. Started right up again, and died again in 50 ft. and would not start. Problem, but Kathleen wasn’t due for 8 hours so time to recover. Called AAA for a tow to a local AAA-recommended service place, they would be here in one hour. Went into Wendy’s for some chili and called the garage AAA recommended. Found they were busy and probably couldn’t do anything on the car til Monday. Called AAA again and asked for a garage on the way to Tampa so at least I would be moving in the desired direction. Found one in Tampa that instilled some confidence over the phone and was put on the flatbed and taken to Tampa. 80 miles on a tow truck, closer to the airport but the boat would get no shape shipping (ship shaping?).

When we got to the garage the mechanic recognized the problem immediately, fixed it for free and I was on the road in 30 minutes. A little shopping and it was time to pick up Kathleen. Everything went smoothly at the airport, easy drive home and a FANTASTIC dinner at a seafood bar in Homosassa called “the Freezer.” A bucket of mussels in garlic sauce, 2 lbs of shrimp and a couple cold beers and the day’s stress was gone. On to the boat- would she or wouldn’t she?
Quick answer- she would!!! She saw the value and the utility. Istana (now re-documented, but not completed “Joy”) is not a beauty pagent winner, but the galley passes muster, the salon is comfey, the new mattress in the V berth is A HIT! And not having the day to get the boat polished meant I didn’t take the hit for not having polished well enough! (lemons/lemonade, silver lining/grey clouds)

Day -1- Boat cleaning and organizing, trips to Wal-Mart, West Marine, Harbor Freight, Winn-Dixie and the storage locker. By the end of the long day we were ready to push away from the dock with the early high tide. Tom (the guy who has done a lot of work on the boat for the PO and for me) came over and chatted with K and I and among other things started the engine (immediately, with no hesitation) with a comforting diesel rumble.

Day 1!!- Missed the high tide, but plenty of water to get away from the dock. The high tide was at 6, we left the dock about 7:30 and were hard aground by 9:30!! The water is thin (not deep, shallow) and I strayed a few feet to the right of the channel. Nothing serious, Kathleen took advantage of the stable pause to take a shower (shower is a plus, good pressure, etc.) Only problem was one of the pipes in the cold water side of the system pulled loose and we pumped one tank (of 3) of fresh water into the bilge before we had it diagnosed. Spent a significant amount of time while aground trouble shooting and were level and floating again before we knew it. At this point I made my second error of the day and decided to continue for our planned destination- Tarpon Springs, about 40 miles (maybe 55) away.
Had a great day sailing on the starboard tack, jib, main and mizzen all drawing and moving us at 6+ knots. Smiles all around, although we had some testy moments figuring out the delay as the compass moved more slowly than the sailboat changed course with the wheel and learning to sail to the wind. But sunset came before Tarpon Springs and we still had 15 miles to go. Altered course for Hernando Beach and we were aground again, literally in the channel. Did I mention thin water? On this occassion it was just after high tide, the water wouldn’t lift us off the bar until 5:30 the next morning and we spent a terrible night on our side, in the channel, with commercial shrimping boats going out around us and coming back around us 7 hours later. Kathleen took the first watch on deck, the boat was on its side at 28 degrees and now saltwater was coming in through one of the (normally) above water-line through-hulls. Still safe, the bilge pump handled the inflow fine, but not a perfect ending to not-a-perfect first day with our new old boat.

Day 2- As I took the second watch about 2 am, I assessed the tide state and the timing of high tide and realized the next high tide wasn’t very and if we didn’t make it off with the next tide it was going to be another 12 hours until the high high tide of the day. I called TowBoatUS and arranged to have them on site an hour before the high tide to be sure we made it off. They were there, got us off and Day 2 was looking up! More beautiful sailing, both Captain and crew enjoyed a beautiful sail and we motored into Tarpon Springs to Turtle Cove Marina about 1 pm.
Got in the channel without running aground! First time docking this boat in a marina, no problems, a little mis-communication, but the dock guys got us secure easily. Turtle Cove is a pretty amazing facility with four-story racks and forklifts for big motor boats and slips all around an artificial island. Very convenient to the old part of Tarpon Springs and we were enjoying more great seafood at the Rusty Belly Restaurant by 4 pm!
Took Uber to Ace Hardware for parts, was able to find what we needed to replace the through-hull for $9 at Ace (respectable marine section in this historically marine industry community). Other purchases brought the tab to about $100, but we felt pretty good and started the repair that evening. Late night swim and hot shower made the day seem pretty successful.

Day 3- In port. More repair, mission accomplished, laundry, some additional provisions, more tourist activity, more seafood and a great relaxing day.

Day 4- We planned to sail out to Anclote Key, anchor for the night, dinghy ashore with Lola. Got away from the slip about 4 pm after getting the holding tank pumped, lunch at the Rusty Belly, more provisioning, etc. Got out the channel without incident (other than one wrong turn), raised the sails and had a great sail over to the east side of Anclote Key. Realized when we got there that the easterly wind was making the anchorage quite rough and we would be only a few hundred feet from 1 ft depths and another grounding.
Changed course and decided to anchor on the west side of the island, which was about a 1 hour sail. As we rounded the south end of the island the wind rose to 15-20 knots with some white caps.
Great sailing, but we decided to reduce sail by rolling in the jib (for you non-sailors this is normally a trivial tug of one line). We tugged the furling line, the furler turned, but the sail didn’t roll up. Yikes. Dropped the main and the mizzen, started the engine for control and assessed the situation. Back in my M-16 days on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis dropping the jib was trivial, but this was un-familiar equipment and a big jib. Going up to the bow and examining the furling system, it was apparent that a 40-foot long nylon zipper was wrapping the forward part of the jib around the furler. To drop the jib I needed to unzip this zipper while Kathleen held the bow into the wind to de-power the jib. All went as planned, the jib came down, but another boost of adrenaline we really didn’t need. Then we realized we were aground again! Calm water, smooth sand, and the tide was coming in, no problem, we would float again. Fifteen minutes later we realized our reading of the tide info was wrong and if we didn’t get off the sand quickly it was going to be another night on our side! Yikes. Fortunately, the boat still swiveled on the keel, so it wasn’t stuck hard, revved the mighty Westerbeke and broke free! Alleluia! By the time we were anchored again we were about a half mile off-shore, the chop was much rougher than it would have been if we were closer in, but we were in 7 feet of water, had 70 feet of anchor rode out and laid safely through the rough night. And if the anchor dragged we had 500 miles of sea room before we went aground in Mexico.

Day 5- Motor-sailed from Anclote to Crystal River (about 50 miles), arrived in King’s Bay by about 6 pm, anchored in about 7 ft of water. Not much sailing as we hadn’t raised our somewhat funked up jib, but still … Crystal River is where I had hauled the boat during the purchase process, so I had seen the channel going in. We read all the markers correctly, dolphins sounded beside us, somewhat magical!! Success! A full day of moving boat without crisis. Got the dinghy in the water and rowed Lola to an island nearby. She promptly ran off into the undergrowth and I feared (sort of) never seeing the old dog again. But just as I stumbled through the mud back to the water somewhere the dinghy wasn’t Lola popped through the grass and swam out to come along. Back to the dinghy and the boat and only a little wetter than I had been after spending a couple hours doing boat repairs in the FL humidity (that is soaked to the skin).

Day 6- At anchor in King’s Bay, Crystal River. Mounted the motor on the dinghy, tried on the snorkeling equipment and struck out for a day of aquatic adventure! The little 4 hp Johnson outboard worked GREAT! I was somewhat shocked at how the Crystal Springs experience had degraded in the 40 years since I scuba’d Crystal River as a senior in high school. The water was cloudy, the spring bowls full of debris, and development threatening the whole eco-system. State government is in the process of approving a further residential use of up to 11% of the flow from the 30 springs in the watershed! Insane, this is a preferred mating and wintering ground for the manatee and it’s clearly under pressure as it is, less water flow certainly won’t be good. Used the dinghy to do a little more boat repair shopping. Got back to the boat about 4 pm.
If you’ve never crawled over the transom of a big sailboat from a small, tippy, dinghy you can’t imagine how hard it is. And our dinghy, while seaworthy, easily rowed, efficiently motored, and other great qualities, is quite tippy. As Kathleen arose from the dinghy like Venus from the half shell, the dinghy had the temerity to whack her on the shin causing a yelp and a bruise! “I’m never getting into that dinghy again!” So I got Lola onto the dinghy for her potty trip ashore, ordered takeout from Cracker’s Restaurant (yummy) and dinghied back with yummy hot food to go with cold beer from our (wonderful) cold refrigerator to find Kathleen back to her even-keeled self looking up dinghy’s and boarding a sailboat on Google and our Kindle reference materials! Yummy dinner, more boat jobs (changing oil in V-drive for the second time on the trip) and exhausted from a good somewhat painful day! New mattress is awesome!

Day 6- Got underway early for the trip back to Yankeetown, motored the whole way, no incidents (other than that very brief grounding (hardly counts)). Left Crystal River about 8 am and were back in the lagoon by 1:30 or so. Started cleaning up, went in to Yankeetown for a pizza, got the sails off the boat, washed, folded and into the car, the bimini and dodger taken down and the canvas in the car, packed more stuff into the car, got a motel room for 2 nights. Excellent move, a nicer hotel would have gotten me more points. Is this a vacation? Not really, shakedown cruises are painful.

Day 7- Monday in Yankeetown. After unloading stuff at the storage locker, we rented a jeep for Kathleen to be mobile while I drove to St. Pete with the damaged jib and the canvas for repair. Trip went smoothly, can’t say enough about Peke at Adriatic Lux Canvas in Tarpon Springs and Tom and Mike at Sail Technologies in St. Pete. I know the valuable boat parts I’ve entrusted to them will be better when they’re done working on them. Got back to Crystal River, met Kathleen at McDonald’s for ice cream sundaes and resumed cleaning and preparing the boat for hurricane season in Yankeetown. We’re not planning on being back to the boat until November, so we stripped the boat of extra windage, rigged lines across the lagoon for holding the boat off the dock and swinging in the lagoon rather than against damaging hard parts. Good stout lines tied around trees and strung back to strong cleats on the boat. Ran an anchor out to the mouth of the lagoon, talked to our waterlords about our preparations and they suggested we put the dinghy under their house- PERFECT. Very late night, Kathleen went back to the storage locker with her last load while I worked to finish so we could leave Tuesday morning.
When I got to the motel and went over our list Kathleen asked a couple questions I didn’t know the answers to. We would have to go back to the boat Tuesday morning.

Day 8- Woke early, took my load to the storage locker while Kathleen enjoyed hot water and shampoo. When I got back to the motel, I loaded our travel equipment into the car (just) and we returned the Jeep to Enterprise. Thank you, Enterprise Crystal River! Great service.
Back to the boat, short list quickly completed and we were on the road for Savannah, GA for a day of sightseeing. Some Vacation after a Shakedown cruise (not vacation)!

Summary- Shakedown cruises are not vacations! Things break, other things are learned. This is a big, powerful sailboat and lots of the systems worked perfectly- the engine, the galley, the head (almost). Some things broke and we were able to fix them or stabilize them and minimize the impact. Our navigation system with Android tablets, laptops and OpenCPN worked beautifully. Didn’t use some of the gadgets (wind speed is too little, just right or too much, you don’t have to know whether it’s 18 or 23 knots). Binoculars, cell phones, VHF were all essential to navigation and calling for information and assistance.

Would like to addruise before the winter c-
Better dinghy/yacht boarding system- wider ladder, swim platform?
Autopilot- we sailed and motor sailed about 150 miles. 10 hours of steering is tedious and inattention results in bad things happening.

Still to fix-
Cold water connection for shower (obscure parts)
V- drive (water in oil)??

Water is very, very thin on Florida’s west coast north of Tampa. This was a shock to this Puget Sound sailor, where I could be in 400 ft of water 100 ft off shore. Mexico they say the gain a foot of depth with every mile off shore. That’s about right. We’re both bruised, tired and bug-bitten. I hope Kathleen is not down on the dream. She is way more valuable and crucial to my happiness than a 38 year old boat and a 30 year old dream.

Hope you enjoyed the story.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Starting on our first cruising adventure!

Yes, it's been about six weeks since I bought the boat. I have been back in Phoenix buying supplies and safety items to build a safety net for our shakedown cruise. There are still items coming in from Amazon.com and Tom (my boots on the ground in Yankeetown) is ticking things off his list. All new halyards, the outboard for the dinghy is running, the cables to the engine (shift and speed) are changed out, the engine starts and runs. These are good things.

The plan is for me to leave this Monday and drive to Florida (with Lola) via my sisters' in Austin, Tx; a property we have a loan on in Oxford, MS and our rental in Birmingham, AL to put eyes on them. Should be in Yankeetown by Thursday. Then I'm buying a new memory foam mattress at Wally World to cut to shape for more comfort and clean in the V-Berth. Will try to get mildew and cleaning accomplished before Kathleen arrives in Tampa about 5 pm on Saturday. Hopefully, the boat will be ready to catch the high tide out of the lagoon on Sunday morning (5:09 am) or 4 pm Sunday afternoon. Time and Tide wait for no man, Kathleen! We plan to hop down the coast to Tampa with our farthest south being Manatee River just south of Tampa Bay. There are three good harbors between Yankeetown and Manatee River. Thinking 1,3,5 down, extended stay in St. Pete harbor- museums, beach, swimming, bars, food (fish), food (shrimp), food (seafood). Sorry, I got distracted there. Then back starting on day 6 to Tarpon Springs, then Crystal River again and home to the dock on about Saturday, May 20. Pack up the boat and start driving north to NY Tuesday am.

Liz graduates on Saturday, May 27th! Yay, Baby Girl!! So proud, then she is going hiking on the Appalachian Trail with friends from Bard after Andy's wedding.

Andy and Sydney get married on June 2 in Brooklyn! Sisters Ginny and Marilyn are joining us at an AirBNB in Brooklyn for the wedding! Kathleen catches a jet out of Newark Sunday, June 4 and I start the road trip home! I hope to stop and see Falling Water in western PA on the drive back, but other than that- ??

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Prepping for the Shakedown cruise

I've been back in Phoenix for the three weeks since buying the boat in Florida. We've been remodeling our kitchen, so we've got quite a mess going. I've spent too much time and money reading sailing articles and prepping for our shakedown cruise. I've decided that we're not refitting the electronics on Istana. They're old, but technology is changing so dramatically that I don't want to buy anything I don't need until I really need it. We're also not 100% committed to the sailing "lifestyle" so I don't want to "invest" in permanent high-cost upgrades. What I've bought is portable and relatively inexpensive. To give you an idea what the sailing press considers "inexpensive"- I just read a Cruising World article about upgrading the electronics on a sailboat and their "inexpensive" package was $5000, their intermediate package- $15,000 and their dream package- sky's the limit, if you have to ask you can't afford it.

It is essential to know where you are (and I don't know how to use a sextant) so I've got three redundant navigation "systems", all of which run on hardware I already have. #1, My MacBook Air with OpenCpn, an open-source software product that is FREE, has FREE chart downloads, can interface with a $20 plug-in GPS puck, and is great for planning trips, getting details about anchorages, etc.
#2, My Samsung Tab 8" tablet, with Navionics Marine, a $49/yr software package that has charts for all the US marine areas, trip planning and real-time navigation using the BUILT-IN GPS in the tablet. Awesome! I input boat specifics, draft, sailing characteristics, fuel consumption, etc. and it will automatically plot a route from where I am to where I want to be! Of course, I can alter the route or do one manually, but it calculates time, speed, fuel costs and lots more stuff. This will be the in-cockpit system when we need help. #3, a handheld GPS that came with the boat. I will tell us where we are and we can plot that on the paper charts that I routinely have for our cruising area. Cost for Navigation $49 plus about $50 for charts and chartplotting tools. Also a hand-bearing compass for $31 (with a light!)

Communications- This is not a necessity, people sailed for millenia without a two-way radio! But radio communication is now ubiquitous. A hand-held VHF unit came with Istana and I had one from previous trips. This is line-of-sight, handhelds will reach out about 2 miles to other boats or 20 miles to Coast Guard high antennae. VHF also is a weather information source (very important). Weather info is now one of the main justifications for multi-$1000 communications. I have bought a SDR radio that plugs into the USB port on my laptop and it will receive weatherfax transmissions, weather maps, warnings, etc. Cost- $25. I have splurged a bit on a satellite phone ($150+$25 for 2nd battery) and an ePIRB- a satellite distress beacon- $50+200 for a new battery (over $400 new).
These are emergency equipment, they will allow us to talk to anyone from anywhere in the world (Sat phone) and ask for rescue (ePIRB). I have mixed feelings about being tethered everywhere we sail, but they're cool. I also bought a long-range wifi antenna ($50) that should give us wifi signals several miles from shore- great for email and running our business from the boat (a dream).

Motive force- I love to sail and the sails are super expensive to replace with new, so taking care of the ones we have is essential. Sail tape, heavy thread, massive needles, a sailing palm. (Cost about $50)
A sailing palm is analagous to a full-hand thimble! You push the needle through several layers if sailcloth with it. This is really old school! We have some leather patches to sew in place where there has been wear on our nice bimini, and our mainsail cover zipper is torn out, but this is an investment in staying sailing when the sails tear. If we decide to commit to the sailing life, we will get a heavy duty sewing machine called a SailRite. It can sew upholstery, canvas, sails and more. This could be a business afloat with Kathleen's careful design and execution skills.

I've also had Tom replace all the halyards (5- Main, Jib, Spinnaker, Mizzen, and Mizzen foresail!) ($350 plus labor) Another sail-related expense is a hand-held anemometer! This little thing was about $80, tells wind speed, direction, humidity, barometric pressure, temperature, wind-chill and more! And it connects to my phone or ipad via bluetooth! Cool.
Part B of motive force is the engine. I have enrolled for a diesel mechanics course, but I don't take this until August. In the meantime, I have bought a couple diesel engine books to "troubleshoot". Cost- $15

Speaking of books- I've bought some. Hard tellin, not knowin' but a few-cruising lifestyle stories, how-to, fixing old boats, coastal navigation, fishing, emergency medicine, etc. Particularly enjoyed Dungda de Island by Charles Dougherty, an author from Maine who also wrote a wonderful book about cruising the Intracoastal Waterway. I have to say- reading about it is WAY cheaper than buying a boat!

Monday, March 20, 2017

How's this going to work?

This is the $64,000 question. We live in Phoenix, love our home, but now own a boat in Yankeetown, Florida. How does this fit?

We're not retired, I'm still working in our business, but one of the main attractions to this business is that it's pretty portable, no store front, and few face-to-face customer interactions. For those of you who don't know or have forgotten- we buy and sell mortgages, so internet and phone connections are our essential tools. We have great vendors who do a lot of the work and we communicate with them primarily by email and phone. So we can maintain an ongoing cash trickle from the business. We would, perhaps, rent the house in Phoenix for the winter months and use those funds for the dream (and peanut butter.)

My highest priority is maintaining my wonderful relationship with Kathleen. She has sailed before and has enthusiasm for the project, although it's clearly my "dream" not hers. I have listened to her concerns during the boat hunt, and this boat seems to meet her basic criteria (at least until she sees it in person). Assuming that she's not immediately repulsed, the plan is to do a week-long shakedown cruise in late April. 6 days of sailing/motoring gives us a round trip distance of about 500 miles. Sanibel Island is about 250 miles one way, so that would be the outside of a trip diameter. Take it slow and easy, sail when we can, anchor at night, swim on reefs and wrecks, enjoy the wildlife. Return the boat to Yankeetown for the summer and planning for the next adventure.

Then assess. Do we want to do more? It is certainly possible that the one week tells us all we ever want to know about cruising- too slow, too icky, to cramped, not for us. But I hope we are thrilled by the shakedown cruise. Then, what needs to happen with the boat? If we try it and don't like it, we sell it. If we like it, what do we need to change about the boat to take the next step.

After the hurricane season, I hope we will be ready for a longer cruise, maybe a month or two (or longer??) The Dry Tortugas, Keys, Bahamas. Then probably find a home port on the East Coast of Fla or farther north for adventures in the Mid-Atlantic states. Recently read up on the Grand Loop and this boat would do that well, 4.5 ft draft, efficient diesel for motoring! Or how about Maine and Down East?

In short, this isn't a plan for weekend trips. This is a boat built for comfort and hopefully easy living with coffee and cereal in the cockpit under the bimini. The plan is for periodic week-long or longer trips with the boat not necessarily returning to the same home port as we voyage around the country.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

And now 2045 miles away ...

So I'm back in Phoenix in body if not in soul. I've communicated with PO a number of times, he is doing some work to the boat to ensure it is mechanically reliable as he represented at the time of sale. He has changed the starter button and the solenoid. Hopefully, that returns it to 100%.

It's so exciting seeing Kathleen start to buy in! She's reading Kindle sailing books and asked about Chapman's Piloting and Sensible Cruising. I think she was a little surprised that they were on the bookshelves in the house! I've been reading and studying and preparing for this adventure for decades! We're trying to figure out when the shake-down cruise fits in our schedule. I'm working on April 26-May 6. Have found reasonable airfares for those dates, and would like to have the extra days to give us some breathing room on our weather windows and voyage planning.

Signed up for a Marine Diesel course in San Diego- unfortunately the early April session was sold out, I'm waitlisted for that and registered for one in early May. The engine compartment is tight and I'm not, so being trained up will save me

Also discussed the next tasks with Jay. We're trying to remove as much Icky from the boat as we can before the end of April. We settled on removing the loose veneer from the cabin sole, sanding and polyurethaning the remaining plywood for smoothness, appearance and water-resistance. Decided not to paint the deck and cabin because there are obvious leaks and fiberglass repairs to accomplish before painting.

Talked to Tom yesterday about working on the rigging. I'm having the halyards replaced so I know their history. Ropes for sailboat running rigging is several grades up from what you see at Home Depot and commensurately more expensive. The Main halyards (x2) are 86' and the mizzen halyards (x2) are 62 ft. That's about 300' of rope at about $1/ft if I win the bids I've placed on EBay for spool ends. Plus Tom's time. I am also having Dale from Pearson365.com (a rigger in Buffalo) give me a quote on new forestay and top shrouds for the main. The boat has the original NavTec turnbuckles which are stainless on stainless and have had a history of problems with failure. They should have been stainless on bronze. The new stays will have the appropriate turnbuckles. Tom will install the new running rigging but needs to evaluate the difficulty of doing the forstay given it's inside the roller furling (also why the forestay was Dale's first priority recommendation). Generally Pearsons have oversized rigging and I haven't seen any reports of Pearson rigging failures online and have looked. Don't want to do too much expensive replacements until Kathleen and I have spent time on the boat together and she gives me a smiling thumbs-up.

Got a call from the PO at 7:30 today (10:30 Florida time) that they were motoring over to the Yankeetown dock. Success! Wish I was there to confirm results, but I'm sure all is good. Confirmed the work had been accomplished.

Also talked to the owners of the home dock this morning. They understood the shore power need so that is accomplished inexpensively. We will be paying $75 per month for dockage with shorepower! Very happy about this. The dock savings pays for 2 RT airfares every two months! They were also happy that we will have insurance in place as of April 1. Boat US insurance is our least expensive option, but still $1000 more than it would be any place other than Florida!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

And on the Sabbath ...

Not sure that Jesus would have called this resting, but ...

Drove to Gainesville (about 50 miles) to go to church. It was the morning Daylight Savings Time started, so I felt a little more tired than I should have at 9.30. Got there and found out that it was the 150th Anniversary of the church that I had joined 49 years previously! I was a little late, so sat in the balcony where I was able to be a bit of a fly on the back wall. The sanctuary is beautiful, had just been updated with four huge brass chandeliers a la Williamsburg. First Presbyterian holds a ton of memories for me and I visited the sites of a lot of them, my first Sunday School room in Gainesville, the room the youth painted each wall a different bright color (it was the 70s), the high school room where I took guitar lessons (a little), and the choir room where I learned to sing with Willis Bodine (a lot). The Gordon Memorial Hall was packed with at least 400 people and a sit down lunch of BBQ chicken and the fixins. Lovely event, yet the only people I knew were the spirits. The last time I was in the pulpit there I was delivering my Dad's eulogy.

After lunch I met the PO and his family at Sonny's BBQ for (another) lunch. Yum, chicken and pork with cole slaw, baked beans, corn bread and sweet tea! PO and wife are nice folk, had a great lunch conversation and then went over to their house to get a variety of boat stuff he had stored there! More sails- a main, jib, spinnaker), lots of rope, eisenglass window and screens for the bimini, some safety items- flares, flags, first aid kit, etc. In short, I filled the car and would have to figure out what to do with this in Yankeetown without putting it back on the boat. About 4 pm left POs house and drove by my old neighborhood. Our house had had a recent attic fire, so was in considerable disrepair, but the house was a brick and steel US Steel house, so the fire was contained. They are having to do an extensive renovation with new sheetrock, etc.

Then back on the highway to Bushnell, FL, the home of the Florida National Cemetery and the final resting place of my parents- Lt. Col. and Mrs. Frederick T Boyd, Sr. buried head to head in the military fashion. I picked up a couple small bouquets to put on their graves. They're under a spreading Live Oak tree on rolling ground as they had been so many of their years together. They lived in Gainesville for almost 30 years. My father's gravestone notes his service in WW II, Korea and Vietnam- he must have been prouder of his service than I ever realized as this was his choice of eternity. My mother's inscription notes- "Loving wife and mother." That describes her perfectly. I found the gravesite from memory, and was again shocked by the finality of this life. I won't see them again on this earth and there's no one between me and the abyss. I cried, I prayed, I told them about Kathleen and the church anniversary and the fire at our house. I didn't try to explain my divorce, but I told them about the kids and how wonderfully they were doing- their loves, lives, jobs, passions. They had never really understood me and boats, so we didn't talk about that much.
Drove back to Crystal River in the rain. The weather suits my mood. Get to the boat, climb up, light the little brass kerosene lantern and the warmth and coziness suffuses me and the gray lifts. I lie down on the settee, call Kathleen, process the day and life is warm and loving and close to perfect- if only for the drips coming off the handrails. There will always be more to do on a boat, the trick is to enjoy the voyage.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Commenced to cleanin'

I “commenced to cleanin’ ”.

The preferred cleaning agent to remove mildew is bleach. I had gotten a big squirt bottle of Tilex and started at the chain locker and did the forward stateroom, quick satisfying progress and I could hear the anguished cries of the mildew legion as they succumbed to my chemical warfare.

Took the cushions outside to air out and let the sun kill more mildew (radiation warfare). Lifted the hatch covers under the V-berth to reveal a coil of huge rope (hurricane strength, thank you PO) and HUGE Water tanks. This boat has 150 gallons of water storage and 50 gallons of diesel. And a 15 gallon grey water tank right under the starboard side of the V-berth. I’ll give Kathleen the port side (chivalry is not dead). Fired up the pressure washer and blasted the mildew legion with kinetic weapons, Dawn and more bleach. It’s definitely less icky than it was yesterday.

Jey arrived and started installing the stuffing box hose. I went outside, climbed down and started on the second coat of bottom paint. With this coat the bottom painting is completed and black paint covers a multitude of sins. It looks pretty sharp. Will get the spots under the jack pads and under the keel when the slings pick it up again.

After the morning’s work the stuffing gland is good as new, the bottom is waaaay better than it was and we’re pretty satisfied. Lunch at a very successful Irish chain restaurant, a fish sandwich for me (not quite up to Gator Cove standards and back to the boat.

Jey scrubbed down the bilges. These are deep pockets in the keel where water goes when it gets into the boat- a certain amount of water is intended (i.e. constantly dripping stuffing box, water from the sea water cooled V-drive, pressure washing, etc.; a certain amount is probably unavoidable; and a certain amount happens and needs to be minimized. At any rate, the bilge is not dry and was pretty icky when Jey commenced. A wonderful product called OrPine (from West Marine), an industrial cleaner that smells like pine, Simple Green and water and the bilges are sparkling! Oh, and Jey’s sweat and effort. We put a half cup of Ore Pine into the clean bilge to mix with water that we will run into the bilge prior to the voyage back to Yankeetown to slosh around and complete the washing job.

After Jey knocked off for the day, I resumed my unskilled attack on mildew in the head, and main cabin and galley. I took particular pride in the nav station which is commodious, has the radar screen, a chart drawer, a night vision red light and is the nerve center (I suspect Kath will keep track of our progress and my wiggling course from that location) of the boat. I need to replace the 12V outlet there so we can have the tablet with the navigation program plugged in and charging.

A quick note- we will not spend thousands of dollars on electronics. We have the radar previously noted- not new, but works better than I know how to interpret the information, two hand-held VHFs, a Magellan GPS, and a Samsung Note Android Tablet with iNavX for charting and navigation. iNavX is made by Navionics and is very powerful, yet easy to use app. You tell it your boat’s essential characteristics- draft, fuel consumption at speed, max speed and it can automatically create a good course from Point A to Point B. It plots it one the chart and tells you the heading to the next mark as well as tells you your speed over ground (SOG) which is the actual progress and is different than a speedometer type speed which in a boat is often only part of the SOG story which includes currents, wind, etc. iNavX can use all the NOAA charts which are free and include depth info, details about aids to navigation, etc. A pretty impressive solution for about $20 per year. For this application good Android tablets are superior to iPads because iPads don’t have actual GPS chips. They give your location well, but use cell tower, internet information, not actual satellite info like a GPS or Android. We may also use a mac laptop with OpenCPN, a free very, very powerful open source program that does similar things to iNavX but on a laptop which has a bigger screen.

I have also started offloading bags of the previous owner’s treasures. There is some truly wonderful stuff (I like the hookah tank and 40’ scuba line) but a huge amount of detritus. There’s also the difficult decisions- expensive, good product that really doesn’t fit my idea of life on a boat, like this huge recliner-type cockpit chair that’s very, very comfortable, but takes a ton of volume when not in use. The PO owned a hardware store, so there are tons of old tools (I have new screwdrivers, I don’t need or want these old rusty ones) and boxes of wonderful stainless steel parts. There are also some spares like an alternator, propeller, belts, filters, hose clamps, O-rings, gaskets and more. Those I’m keeping. Over the course of this phase I have thrown away more than 10 yard-sized trash bags into the dumpster. I am also washing lines, anything fabric, throwing most fabric out, and trying to figure out what to do with the foam cushions which are mildewed but unreasonably expensive to just replace.
The boat is dramatically less icky after today, but tomorrow I’m taking off to go to my hometown for church, have lunch with the PO and his family at Sonny’s, and drive to the cometary my Mom and Dad are buried in. I haven’t been to the grave for at least 9 years (so says my daughter), so that’s a must do.

Outside the box ...

The stuffing box was critical. That needed to be replaced. Fortunately, I'd read up on the process, it was important but not expensive if we could find the hose that needed to be replaced. I had had a good talk with PeteW from pearson365.com who lives in my neighborhood in Phoenix. Pete has owned his boat for almost 20 years, is a professional electrical engineer, and is Kareful. He told me he had a stuffing box hose if I needed one. I called him and took him up on his offer. He overnighted the $20 hose ($79 shipping). THANKS PETE!!! and Jey got the old one off and the metal parts separated and lubed up for the install.

I was expecting the box in the 10 am delivery- it didn't arrive. If this didn't make it, we needed a plan B. We called around town- no one had the exact specification, but there was a Goodyear Rubber distributor in St. Pete (85 miles away) that had a 6-ply marine hose, not the exact part, but pretty close. I drove down and had just paid for the Goodyear hose when Jey called and said the box had arrived in the 4 pm delivery and he was done for the day.

Jey had done the first coat of bottom paint and sent this beautiful picture. Pa Freddy’s Black Bottom.

I now had a spare stuffing box hose (Holy mackeral, stainless steel hose clamps can be EXPENSIVE). Rumor was there was a wonderful Friday night all-you-can eat fish dinner at Gator Cove in Homossassa. The place was packed and I ate while reading up on boat projects online in the pool room. Great food, ambiance different than my usual and I was back to the boat by 9:30.

Again, sleeping on the boat with my wonderful sleeping bag. Again worrying about the boat’s Icky quotient. And the blisters, and the soft spots. Sleep came and went. Finally got out of my warm spot and “commenced to cleanin’ ”.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The survey and reservations and a plan.

I had contacted a guy through Craigslist named Jey. Jey has done a lot in his life, is about my age, has been an engineer on a 105 ft motor yacht, expressed confidence in his abilities to check through and fix anything in the mechanical systems on the boat. Jey was at the Marina by 8 am, shook hands and talked about what we "wanted to do with the boat." This is a critical question as the tasks for a trophy yacht is very different from the tasks and budget for a sailboat for coastal cruising. It is also an answer that many people who know us don't fully understand.

Why would we buy a boat in Florida when we live in Arizona? I look at this boat as a big first step to a sailing hobby with Kathleen. My sailing passion had a significant role in the disintegration of my first marriage. My wife wasn't comfortable with "tipping" and always wanted to get there and then move on. We chartered a number of times when our plans accommodated sailing, but there was always drama. I've been told I yelled too much (Me?). Sailing was fine for the family as long it was my activity and they could opt out for the soccer game. The kids were caught up in the parental stress and so when I retired (at 44) while I thought we would buy a nice catamaran (shopped the Miami Boat Show, but couldn't convince myself $250,000 represented a reasonable family boat) and sail off into the sunset. The wife had a job and the kids had jr. high and high school. It wasn't going to happen. I read ‘the full series of Patrick O’Brien books (Master and Commander, etc.) and lived in the historical fiction of early 19th century British Navy. Wonderful books, I highly recommend them.

This time needs to be different. Kathleen is very different- she is strong and up for many things, she has sailed before there was us. We discussed my dream on our first date and she was up to give it a try. We've spent the last four+ years learning each other’s ways of doing things- Kareful Kathleen and Ready, shoot, aim Fred. She has a huge security need that I understand and try to fulfill. She loves beauty and values things done well. Everything has value. The boat needs to not be "Icky".

Went to Harbor Freight and bought cleaning supplies and power tools. Power buffer, sander, sandpaper, (did I mention cleaning supplies?) and other miscellaneous bits. Love Harbor Freight, about $150 with my new Harbor Freight membership.

Jey had been pressure washing the hull while I was away, it needed to dry before we painted. It was now obvious there were some “blisters.” Generally blistering is not structural but cosmetic and this boat was 38 years old, certainly not unexpected, but it would have been nice to see a perfect hull.

The surveyor shows up about noon and his first words were- "this boat won't insure." Why? "It's too old and not in good enough condition." Well, let’s go through the survey process. "If you don't need an insurance report I'll only charge you half." OK. So we go through the boat- through hulls are good, motor is good, plumbing in general is good (The boat has built-in AC and a dehumdifier (it was bought in Houston) which are in good shape, Surveyor smiled with arched eyebrows). Then he starts with the meter and the hammer. Now boat surveyors are like home inspectors. They have no liability if they miss something, but if something is out there in front of God and everyone they're expected to find bad stuff. Thus, the hammer and the moisture meter. There are obvious changes in tone at different places on the deck, cabin top near the mast, and the hull (there are also blisters). This is a 38 year old boat- I didn't expect perfection and none of these weaknesses worry me individually, but he seems to be puckered and shaking his head. Obviously, he wouldn't buy the boat (he doesn't own any boat). I ask the summary question- Given what we want to do with the boat where does it rate on a scale of 1-10? "Probably a 7 or an 8." Good enough.

Huddled up with Jey and Tom (previous owner's boat guy), went over the surveyor's comments and mapped out a plan of attack. The one truly hazardous finding (as in sink the boat hazardous) was the stuffing gland- the hole in the boat where the propeller shaft exits. Obviously, we had hauled the boat to see and work on the bottom- bottom paint, zincs, check through hulls, etc. Those would all be high on the list and were easy to execute.

Went to West Marine, bought West Marine CCP ablative bottom paint (cheaper than name brand, but still $125/gallon, needed 2 gallons.) And more cleaning supplies, and a Boat US tow membership. Total about $500.

Then I cleaned the slime off the hull. As with any Red-blooded American I used a power tool- the buffer with Scotchbright pad whirling at 600 RPM. It was amazing how readily the slime gave up. A couple hours and the hull was impressively clean and ready for bottom paint. And I looked like I was ready to be in the Blue Man Group!

With that task completed, I needed to revert to my natural coloring. I had heard about a Gulf beach nearby, drove over, stripped my blue man clothes, and used the outside shower with shampoo to remove the worst of the blue, then a quick swim in the 75 degree water, another shower and the picture below!

Warning- I'm not that pretty even in my natural coloring.

Climbed into my sleeping bag in the V-berth for my first night on the boat! I woke up about 3 am with major misgivings- was this boat "Icky?" Undoubtedly, but if I got going I could make it less icky and hopefully not “too icky."

I got to work.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

First sight, maybe not love but certainly like.

It's Wednesday, March 8th. 11 pm, I'm in Crystal River, Florida. About 50 miles from the town I grew up in. I flew into Tampa, rented a car ($8/day- love you Priceline), and as soon as I was on the state roads I was home! Haven't been in Fla for at least 15 years, but it felt like I was 17 and driving to the beach in my old Fury III. Spanish moss, crooked roads because thare is a lake behind every pine tree. I had a WONDERFUL fried fish, shrimp and oyster dinner last night at the Gator Cove Restaurant. With a beer- $18. Go, Gators!

Today I met the boat owner and his neighbor to move the boat over to the Twin Rivers Marina for a haul out to see the bottom. Robert is from my hometown and used to own the local hardware store! When I found that out I had an immediate comfort level with him as a partner in this transaction. He had posted a number of videos of other potential buyers walking the boat, so I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking at. When we got to Yankeetown, the boat was waiting and just as I expected. There's standing headroom (pretty much) (I'm 6'3"), a nice galley, a separate shower! (a Kathleen requirement), and really pretty decent. It's not the Pharoah's barge, but it's workable. It's a ketch, so that'll be a bit of a learning curve, draws 4.5' so it'll get through thin water in the Keys and Bahamas (if we go there) (hopefully), nice cockpit, wheel steering, heavy, comfortable manners underway. A true cruiser. This model has sailed around the world. I certainly wouldn't suggest it with this boat as it is, but its possible ...

We toured the boat and got underway. It is moored on a private dock on the Withlacoochee River so we motored about a mile till we were in the Gulf and another four miles until the water was deep enough to turn South to Crystal River. We unrolled the jib and hoisted the main and mizzen in a light breeze. The sails are intact. I'm not a sail technician and wouldn't presume to grade these sails as to cruising ability, but they're intact, no broken seams, the main has two reef points, the roller furler works and there's a "mizzen staysail!" I'm psyched. We got to the marina, they weren't ready to haul us and didn't really have a space to put us if they did haul us. So ... it took five hours, but we went to "Crackers" for lunch, had a grouper sandwhich with hush puppies, cole slaw and a beer! Did I mention I'm back home? Fun.

Back to the marina and more waiting, watching, chatting and we were ready to move into the slings. The boat weighs almost 20,000 lbs., so the slings were loaded! There were lift points specified by the manufacturer on the hull, so we got the slings positioned after three tries and up she came! The hull was amazing! This boat hasn't been hauled for 19 years, but has been kept in fresh water. There were no barnacles, only a layer of slime which will come off with the pressure washer. After a quick once over we thanked the lift man and his assistant, got in the car and drove Robert and Dale back over to their vehicle at the dock (15 minute drive vs 4.5 hour boat trip). Robert introduced me to the dock owner, had a nice chat with Ann and paid her for the next two months moorage. Want to get off on the right foot with Ann because two months moorage is one bill! Yay.

The surveyer didn't understand we wanted him today, but with the delays in getting the boat dry it was fine, he's coming tomorrow and will fine-tooth-comb the boat. I don't think he'll find anything major, I'm sure he'll call out some things to earn his fee, but I think this will be our boat by tomorrow evening!

Went back to the boat after hanging out at McD's for an hour using wifi and having a fish sandwich (not quite like dinner and lunch, but on my diet. Gave Kathleen a pretty thorough rundown of the day's events (I can lay down stretched out in the vee berth and my feet don't touch! That's awesome!) I think we'll be able to sleep together on the boat! Then I went back to the boat to see what progress had happened after we left- not much, the boat is still in the slings, the jack stands are in place, but walked around the boat in the dark and it's still wonderful! Not beautiful yet, but it'll be better by the time I put it back in the water on Monday morning for the trip back to Yankeetown. (I was 19 before I knew damnedyankee was two words).

What's right with the boat is eveything works. That's huge. It's not "stinky" or "icky." It is cosmetically rough, but that's fixable- and kind of fun.

I'm at the hotel for the night, but intend to sleep on the boat the rest of my trip. More tomorrow.

Friday, March 3, 2017

And so, now what?

Hello, friends- If you're like me you've read hundreds of sailing blogs, asked the "what's the best boat?" question dozens of times and ordered cruising guides, charts and boat stuff for decades. Life has been lived, choices made and yet, the dream persists. My marriage was satisfying, my children wonderful and smart, my career successful- and then the world changed.

I'll try not to rehash common ground, but the theme is probably universal. Best-sellers have been written, motivational speakers made wealthy, and dreams dreamt. "What color is my parachute?" "How did I get here?" "Is this all there is?" After the meltdown, I rebuilt the essential things, a happy relationship, a home that I love, work that is enough and have dared to revisit The Dream.

I fell in love with sailing on Long Island Sound in a twelve foot long styrofoam boat called a Sea Snark. One sail, unsinkable and, for that time and place, sufficient and satisfying. The ability to harness free energy and move more or less where I wished was amazing. The sea was large and my boat was small. And the smiles Oh, so large. After a time at Yale doing a postdoc I moved on to UMass Medical School for a fellowship and took my large disposable coffee cup to Lake Quinsigamond, a long narrow lake just down the hill from the lab. During long incubations I would drive the van down to the park, drag the little vessel to lakeside and learn about tacking, gybing, running and wind. The wind always was coming down the lake I was trying to go up, so lots of tacking.

Bliss on the water, bliss in the lab and bliss at home. After one winter in a triple decker in Worcester, we bought the cheapest POS shack in Massachusetts, shoveled the detritus out, tore down walls, installed various housekeeping necessities and moved to our Shack in Swamp. The swamp was the shoreline of Turkey Hill Pond and the shack was a summer cottage originally built in the 40s. The Sea Snark came with us and lived down on the beach. Happy summer days sailing on the pond, watching my buddy Dave sail on the pond and many more smiles. My oldest was born into that home and attention shifted from boats to baby Boyd boys and career. A year later, the lab moved to NYC and the Sea Snark was left on the beach. We lived in a 38 story apartment complex on the East River while I completed an exciting scientific result and started developing a new research direction while enjoying NYC and looking out on the boats passing our apartment... Boats in Minneapolis followed, then Tacoma, owning, chartering, trying catamarans, but mostly puttering on the O'Day 25 in Commencement Bay. Then the beach house where the boat was on the mooring, but mostly more of an accessory than a focus.

Career disappointments, new directions, success and retirement at 44. The sailing plan was presented and dismissed by my life (sic) partner and 3 children. Re-initiated the career path, lost a ton of money in the GR and found a new and happy life with a great girl. She had sailed earlier in life but we had, of course, not sailed together. We bought a small daysailer that we kept at the beach house and realized we were bigger, older and less enthused about ducking the boom. Then moved to Phoenix and lived a happy semi-retirement on a golf course looking at South Mountain.

And again, a young man's thoughts turn to boats. As you may know, Phoenix is in the desert. The nearest good cruising ground is in the Sea of Cortez. We visited a little beach town of San Carlos last year about this time a year ago and fell in love with it. Cute, Mexican, drivable from Phoenix, but no airport so not tons of Americans. Two nice boat harbors and seemingly lots of sailboats for sale. The hunt commenced. We looked at a number of boats. Our criteria were 1) inexpensive 2) cruise safe, 3) heavier.

Cutting to the chase-

We have settled on a Pearson 365- I am going to Florida this week to look at, and probably buy ISTANA. Istana is a 1978 36 ft, "classic plastic" boat. We'll see.

"Even our son Eric who grew up sailing performance dingies, sails Hobies and has raced on boats such as Mumm 30's, Beneteau 367's J22's on up to J40's and even Farr 40's thinks the Pearson is cool. He is sold on the ketch rig because he can single hand the boat alone or take a group of friends out sailing that haven't a clue what a sail is and handle the boat with out their help.

The boat is a comfortable stable platform when company is aboard and very predictable. She is built to last and built to take it. Accommodations are pretty darn good for a 36 footer of her vintage and most of all a 365 is for me anyway... affordable."
-An online review of a Pearson 365.