Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A New Year and a New Commitment to Keeping Up With this Thing

So, okay.  I've been derelict in my blogging duties.  Oops!
Frankly, I've become lax in realizing just how many people enjoy reading about the foibles of living on and working on boats.  I've been at it long enough that it's old hat to me.
I'll do better.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Robert Burns from his poem, “To a Mouse” and the source to John Steinbeck’s title, “Of Mice and Men.”

Or

“All dressed up and nowhere to go.”

Insert your favorite platitude here.

I’m still at the dock after all these months. The plan was to leave in January after quitting the day job in December. Lucky thing I didn’t leave. The transmission conked out and required several boat bucks (a measurement of money in thousand-dollar increments) to repair. It’s just as well. I would have ended up in a foreign boat yard trying to negotiate a deal.  As it is I worked with the local guys that I already have a working relationship with. While a good thing, I’m still out many boat bucks and the cruising kitty is reduced.

Next on the horizon is hurricane season. It’s a little lottery we on the gulf coast look forward to every year hoping we don’t win. Maybe ‘looking forward to’ isn’t exactly accurate and in my particular case I’m enduring it. It will set my evil scheme back another six months.

So here I sit at the dock working on various boat projects and trying not to fry in the Texas gulf coast sun (106°F heat index today).  Fortunately I’ve picked up with the band again and found work on a work boat during the week. “What about the office?” you say. Not a chance. While my wallet would thank me my nerves just wouldn’t. I’ve become accustomed to not commuting and the negative atmosphere would do me in.

Why would I want to do that? I’m driving a paid-off pickup truck that suits my needs and living on a boat that I’ve rebuilt, made more close friends than I’ve ever had and hanging out with a bunch of quirky retirees that entertain me daily. I’ve seen my first alligator in the wild and more fish than I can count.

We all cuss the ducks and their duck byproducts they leave on the docks and argue when the next high tide will be. My favorite is the “who’s laundry day is it?” conversation. You’d never guess the level of interest in laundry machine availability. Go to the office and miss this?

I wake up with the sun and often go to bed by it too. I’m more relaxed and my blood pressure has dropped. I’m eating a little better and the neighbor that drives the big rig occasionally brings fruits and veggies from his trips to the valley. We share here and look out for each other.

So I don't grouse about not getting away just yet. I already have. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

There's Right and Wrong and This Ain't Right

Usually the lessons learned under stress are the lessons that stay with you for a lifetime.

During my expedition into the mud while trying to enter the channel I tried to use the jib to heel the boat over enough to get the keel out of the muck. What I wound up with was the jib falling all around me on the foredeck.

Here is the reason for that.

Wire Tie Used to Seize the Shackle
The shackles were seized using plastic wire ties. The plastic breaks down in the sunlight and they let go at the first chance to endanger or, at least, embarrass the owner of the boat.

Once I had the furler and the top of the jib reunited on the deck (thank you Kelly Waterhouse!) I found the offending wire ties. Actually, wire tie. The other had disappeared like a teenager after dinner when the dishes need washing.

Shackle Pin and Wire Tie Consigned to the Depths
The proper way to ensure this doesn't happen again is to seize the shackle pin using stainless steel wire wrapped through the pin hole and shackle. I'm certain there is a more appealing way to do this but this bad boy ain't a'goin' nowhere!

Seized Shackels
Yeppers. I won't soon forget that lesson. I've gone over the rest of the boat for more of these little surprises. I can only hope I've got them all.

Okay Now. Enough is Enough!

We get a peek at warmer weather and then it gets cold and wet again. Sheesh!

Many things have happened and much money has been spent in the last couple is weeks.

I called the Yanmar rep here in town because when I revved the engine up to full power in gear I got this nasty black goo out of the tailpipe. In addition, the tachometer wasn’t giving me the honest truth when it came to RPM readings. To top it off, it still shuddered a lot and gave the impression that the engine wasn’t happy in its space and wanted to leave…NOW!

Hence, the call to the factory guys. Well Eric, (that’s the local mechanic and a really good one at that) showed up and started troubleshooting and asking a lot of questions. The engine is sound but needs a bit of TLC. TLC is a technical term that translates to Truck Loads of Cash. Those truck loads are measured in Boat Bucks. Now boat bucks are spoken of in increments of $1,000 and are tossed around like napkins in a pizza restaurant.

The possibility of the engine needing aligning was discussed and that the mixing elbow may have had a clog in it. The tachometer was condemned and a new one was ordered. And the propeller being over pitched came up for consideration. There’s also a propeller shaft and cutlass bearing to look over.

And that was only the first hour!

The decision was made to pull the boat out of the water. That’s yard time plus the price of actually lifting the boat out of the water and placing it on stands. Start your calculators!

I explained to the yard manager that I live on the boat and could he give me a place in the yard with a nice view? He said he’d expedite the work if he could. As busy as this yard is I was lucky to get a place in the parking lot.

Remember now, it’s January and we’ve had a long cold one so far. Here I am at the top of a ten foot ladder, the boat on stands with winds gusting to 20 or so miles an hour in 30° F weather. Add to that that there is no power to the light sockets in the yard so there’s no heat on the boat. I get points added for dedication to the live aboard lifestyle but many deducted for not being too bright.

The three days in the yard were a bit like being tossed out of your house for the carpet guys to come in and work. I had to find myself someplace to be during the day. I hung out at my marina office, wandered around town and sat in the truck perusing the web in the parking lot.

I checked in regularly at the yard to assess the progress on the boat. There was much inactivity. And some activity that turned out to be nothing to see and then some actual work being performed.

On Wednesday I got the phone call to come get the boat. They’d already put it in the water so I wasn’t able to see for myself the finished work below the waterline. But being the trusting soul that I am, I paid the bill, cast off and headed for home port.

Mistake #1: Getthereitis.

Hindsight being 20/20 I should have stayed in the shipyard marina for the remainder of the day and overnight. But, no. I headed back home at low tide. On top of that I had to work with the band that night.

Four PM. I got firmly stuck in the muck at the channel entrance of my marina. After an hour of pushing and pulling trying to get out of the mud, I called the marina office to see if there was anyone willing to pull me free. I figured I needed to be pulled 100 feet to the main channel. This, of course, comes on the heels of not renewing my towing membership for the first time in many years. That was Mistake #2. In this area always have towing insurance.

I would have just tossed out the anchor and waited till midnight for the tide to rise if not for the whole needing to get to work thing. Mistake #3: trying to keep a schedule.

A friend on his way to an appointment at the bar across the lake stopped and offered a hand. He suggested raising the jib to heel the boat over a bit. A reasonable suggestion. Unfortunately, unknown to me the shackle that holds the jib had parted and was only waiting until I needed it to fall around me on the foredeck. Yep. Now I had a pile of sail trying to fall into the water. I wrestled it to the deck and tied it off to keep it on board.

A neighbor that had just finished washing his boat, now came to my rescue. After much conversation and planning (and pulling) we had my boat out of the muck and I was on my way back to the shipyard marina.

After all of the pushing and pulling and being stuck the engine again sounded as if it wasn’t at all happy and that it was going to leave me in the middle of the lake. One of those, “Stop the car right here, I’m getting out you bastard!” kind of moments. I cooed, I nursed, I implored it not to be hasty and that we could work it all out.

At about six PM I pulled into an empty slip and tied off the boat. I had to be at the club at seven or so to start playing at eight. I called the fellow that had volunteered to come get me and got no reply. I was concerned since he had taken a swim a few days prior and now had a new phone. I tried another friend that is always at the marina and he was in Houston at a friend’s place. Another call to a friend down my dock that never goes out was at a get together for a coworker that had just crossed the Atlantic. I started walking. I figured that if I hustled, I could get back to my marina where my truck was and make it to work in plenty of time.

I almost made it. My first volunteer pulled up behind me a mile from my destination and picked me up. He had left his phone in the marina office and wasn’t able to get it after closing time at 5 PM while he was still helping me out of the mud.

He was waiting for me at the yard parking lot but got impatient and went looking for me. We figure I passed him by but because of buildings, he didn’t see me. He finally decided to come looking for me and that’s when he found me just up the street from home.

Next day, I return to pick the boat up at high tide and put it in my slip. Later in the day I get a call from Eric, the mechanic. He asks me when I’ll be ready for him to align the engine! I told him the boat was back in the slip and I thought he had already done the work. Here I thought I screwed his work up digging in the mud and it turns out the boat should not have been released to me because the work was not complete!

Eric worked the rest of that day and most of the next finishing the project up.

A very expensive week, it was. While I know I have added many years to the life of the boat I have shortened the life of my checking account by about four months of cruising money!

And so it goes.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

How Cold Was It?


It has been a ridiculously cold winter here in Houston. Unnecessarily cold. “Dammit!” quality cold. Today was the first day in weeks that didn’t require a jacket of some kind.
When it’s this cold I lose the will to work on the boat. Most boat tasks require taking large quantities of stuff out of the boat and placing them on the dock or in the cockpit. The hatches are open and the companionway is open and it’s just too cold for that. So I sit inside and eat. And nap. It’s rough. Don’t try this at home kids. Leave it to the professionals.
Right now the air temperature is in the 60s and I have the boat opened up to air it out. What a relief. Even the cat is acting a little less crazy.
Now that I have quit the day job I have the time for the next part of my nefarious scheme. I’ll begin anchoring out for a night or two at a time to make sure I have things sorted out. I need more time sailing and getting offshore is a requirement. I have got to get my sea legs under me. I can’t just “read” that part away. Getting used to the motion of the boat is something that can’t be done at the dock.
So it’s off to various anchorages around the area. I’ll mix in forays off into the Gulf and back to get more comfortable with being in bigger water. Nothing serious – I’ll leave the anchorage in the morning, sail out a few miles and come back in for the night. After a few trips, I’ll return to the home port and think about what happened. Easy. Right?
Easy or not, it's got to be done. Until I have the sea legs under me, there's really no trip. And no trip is not an option.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Deed is Done

I’ve given notice at work. At first my boss was tentative. His concern was that I was going to a competitor. There’s all that do-I-try-to-outbid-the-other-place-to-keep-him talk. I cut that conversation short by telling him my plan of sailing for a year. He visibly relaxed and expressed his envy. With a child in college and all of the expenses he couldn’t even think about a long vacation much less taking off for a year.
 
He’s a gracious loser. No way can he compete with floating about in a sailboat in the Florida Keys or the Bahamas. 
 
I mean, it’s a nice company but be real.
 
So now the next phase of the plan begins. I’ll be spending time doing final checks on the boat and then taking off for points unknown.
I've had so many people support me on this project. I can't thank them enough. It is truly a new beginning for me. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Clock is Ticking


I’m still counting the days.

The wind vane installation is going slowly. The fabricator has delivered the mounting parts but the fellow I have preparing the transom is taking his time. Well, that, and the weather isn’t cooperating. The boarding ladder had to be removed in order to fit the mounting bracket. I called on the fiberglass guy to come fill the holes and clean up the paint and now I have one coat of gelcoat in place and am hoping for a clear weather window for him to finish the job.

Once done, it’s off to the races to get the steering gear set up and dialed in.

I am getting so much support from neighbors. Three have loaned me books and travel guides to help with the trip planning. One has given me a copy of his trip log to Florida to use as a guide. Everyone is really enthusiastic and cheering me on.

I, on the other hand, am feeling a bit unsure about this whole thing. I’m not sure why but I’m becoming apprehensive. I suppose it’s the whole “journey into the unknown” thing but it has me bugged. I’m putting it down to “normal jitters about big changes” and moving forward.

This is what I’m going with: Here I’m living in the known world and no longer happy with it. Out there I’ll be experiencing new things and seeing new stuff and people. I really do believe it will be for the best. And hey; If I don’t like it I can reinsert myself into this place and try something else.
But I’m really rooting for liking it and continuing the project. I don’t know how long I’ve got. Do you?