Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Empty Nest

Adorable Jewel
A few weeks ago our house swarmed with life. It practically bulged with the sounds, sights, and smells of two kids, a dog, two cats, ten tadpoles, two chickens, and at least twenty monarch caterpillars.

This morning it is quiet. The girls and cats are asleep. The tadpoles turned frog and are on Roosevelt Island, busily gobbling bugs and looking for protected places to hibernate. The caterpillars sprouted gorgeous wings and flew away (we'll meet up with them in Mexico!). The chickens moved across the alley to live with our good friends Jana and Shawn. And the dog, Honey, even she's gone.
We didn't expect Honey to live to sixteen, yet somehow we also didn't expect her to ever die. For years Mike has been saying, "What about Honey?" For about three years I said, "Don't worry, there's no chance she'll be around when it's time to leave. She's so old. She's so big." But over time I began to question our situation myself.
Over the past few years Honey had had two strokes and one strange period of several days, probably also some sort of stroke, where she lay, unmoving in her bed. (Mike and the girls were away and I feared she'd die and they'd return to bad news.) Yet, for all of these strokes--each time I absolutely knew it was the end--she recovered. In fact, for a dog in her teens she recovered brilliantly.

So it was a surprise when, on a day like any other, with no signs of infirmity, she quietly passed away. And it was sad. I felt no sense of relief, just loss. The girls and I cuddled up and we read The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, which a friend loaned us.
A while back I wrote about our pets and our tentative plans for them as we transition to the boat life. Seemingly overnight our pet predicament is resolved. Even the cats, that we will keep until just before we leave, have a good home waiting for them with Jana and Shawn.
Mexico Bound

Our home is getting quieter. The early morning sounds of clucking hens and the clicking of nails on hardwood floors are gone, soon to be replaced by the creaking sounds of our old boat and the gentle slap of water against her hull.

Spinnaker Fun

After we bought our Fuji 40, the gracious seller offered us a bunch of nautical stuff in his Arizona (read: climate preserved) garage--for nothing more than the cost of shipping. We are grateful that he took the time and effort to do this. (Thank you Merritt!)

Anyway, what showed up in two very large boxes (one weighed over 100 pounds) was three sets of foul weather gear, a Pacific Northwest chart guide, a hank-on fore sail, a furling-track-ready genoa, spliced sheets with shackles, and a lovely .75-ounce symetrical spinnaker.

Windy confirmed that two of the foul weather gear sets fit her beautifully. I confirmed that the sails and sheets are all in excellent condition. Then, on a warm, late summer evening, we and our good friends and their kids, took the spinnaker to the park next to our house.
We unfurled the sail and took a good look at her. There are a few minor tears in the nylon, but they will be easy to repair. The adults grabbed the corners and we lifted and lowered that sail until our arms were sore, the five girls running underneath and out, screaming with delight.

I've never flown a spinnaker--certainly not a real, symetrical spinnaker. Just the 110 genoa on my Newport 27 was a handful when the wind piped up. I've heard a million spinnaker-twisting, blow-out horror stories. Until I heard we had a spinnaker for this boat, for the asking, I had pretty much written off the idea of ever owning one. It seems every collection of racing pictures that Latitude 38 publishes includes at least one dramatic "crash" of a boat trying to fly a symetrical spinnaker. But, on the flip side, Lin and Larry Pardey praise the virtues of this old-school sail in their writings and videos, and that means a lot to me.

That night I watched as many YouTube videos as I could find that showed how to fly a symetrical spinnaker. In the end, I am much less daunted. We've got a solid pole aboard and the only question that remains is whether to buy a sock (or douser). I can probably get a used one at a fair price. I will first ask Merritt how he managed things.


Friday, October 15, 2010

We Left All Our Money at the 2010 Annapolis Sailboat Show

I’m surprised Jimmy Buffet hasn’t yet written a song called, “I Left All My Money at the Boat Show.”
As I wrote in another post: One of the responses we heard from a few people when they heard we were going to the boat show this year was, "But you already have a boat; why are you going this year?" Not only did we go this year, we went three days in a row (and in that time, we went aboard only a few boats).
Our main focus this year was acquiring the expensive gear we know we'll need, at boat-show-discounted prices. As you would expect at the largest in-the-water sailboat show in North America (the world?), more than just boats are on display. There are several large circus tents filled with vendors and exhibitors. Outside of these, there are vendors and exhibitors under smaller tents around the show grounds, and there are vendors and exibitors in open-air booths outside, everywhere. Literally hundreds of booths. I estimate that 75% of them are merchants with marine stuff to sell and 25% are manufacturers there just to offer information. For example, we purchased Standard Horizon radios from a vendor at the show after talking to the manufacturer in another booth. Same with our ACR EPIRB. I learned a ton of valuable info about our particular Yanmar diesel auxillary from talking to the guys at the Mack Boring booth. Same from talking to the PSS shaft seal folks. Same from talking to the Lofrans windless folks.
Our secondary focus was getting the girls on and around boats. On this front, we were able to get them rides in an 8-foot sailing dinghy, sponsored by a local sailing school. Then, after talking for a bit with the U.S. importer of the Torqeedo electric outboard we are considering buying one day, she tossed me the keys and the four of us jumped in an 11-foot inflatable to demo the thing (very nice motor, eerily quiet). Finally, we took the girls aboard a few boats just to further orient them and to hear their impressions.

Accordingly, we prepared for this show, our last show before heading out. We did our homework reviewing our vessel survey and my notes from the pre-purchase trip to Mexico. We created a laundry list of things we needed. We combed the Internet and Practical Sailor back issues to determine the exact makes/models we wanted.
  • Day One: We visited just about every booth that interested us, grabbing brochures, talking to people, taking notes, and taking pictures of price tags. It was a full day, but we did manage to enjoy a couple Pusser’s Pain Killers.
  • Day Two: We brought the girls. We made sure they went aboard a few boats, got rides in sailing dinghies, and got a ride in a regular dinghy—before they melted down in the heat. We left early and did not drink enough Pusser’s Pain Killers.
  • Day Three: Alone again, we arrived early to see Lee Chesneau’s seminar on marine weather forecasting (Windy loved it and plans to sign up for his marine meteorology seminar). After this, we stormed the show, armed with the information we gathered Day 1 and our knowledge from two nights of study, ensuring that every dollar we spent was spent on the right gear at the best possible price. We left all of our money at the show and did not drink enough Pusser’s Pain Killers.
What did we buy? Following is the list of our 2010 boat show purchases (gads!):
  • Auto-inflating life vest with integrated harness (Revere ComfortMax x2)
  • Auto-loading bit driver (Autoloader x2)
  • Boat knife (West Marine)
  • Boat knives (Wichard x2)
  • Boom brake (Winchard Gyb’Easy)
  • Deck key (Davis)
  • Ditch Bag (ACR)
  • Double lifeline tethers (Wichard x2)
  • Electronic LED candle (SmartCandle)
  • Emergency locator lights (Revere SeeMe x2)
  • Emergency strobe (ACR)
  • EPIRB with GPS (ACR GlobalFix 406 Cat 2)
  • Flare container (Pains Wessex)
  • Fixed-mount GPS (Standard Horizon CP-180)
  • Fixed-mount VHF (Standard Horizon Matrix 2100 with AIS)
  • Foam hull plug (Forespar TruPlug)
  • Handheld GPS (Garmin 76CS)
  • Handheld VHF (Standard Horizon HX751)
  • Headlamps (no-name cheapos x2)
  • Masthead tri-color with anchor light (Signal Mate 2NM LED Tri-Color w/ Anchor Light)
  • Men’s foul weather bib (Henri Lloyd TP1)
  • Men’s foul weather Jacket (Henri Lloyd TP1)
  • Opening stainless steel portlights (New Found Metals 3"x17" x7)
  • Ratcheting wire crimpers (Cruising Solutions)
  • Sailing gloves for Windy (Gill)
  • Sewing awl (Sailrite Speedy Stitcher)
  • Signal horn (West Marine)
  • Silicone repair tape (Rescue Tape! x2)
  • Stereo system (Fusion RA-200 with IPOD Dock and 2 speakers)
  • Two chart tubes (Weems & Plath)
  • Vinyl boat lettering (Del Viento 8" x2 and Washington, DC 4")
  • Water-tight plastic “wallets” with lanyard (Davis x3)
Damage? About 5 Boat Bucks. Ouch, but all of it anticipated.


Can't Escape Our Destiny

What is it with these fortune cookies? This is Frances's fortune from a DC restaurant tonight.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Getting Ready for the Big Life Change

This week we sent picture cards to friends, family, and acquaintances. This picture card is a formal announcement of the new 25,000-pound member of our family sitting in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
While we’ve talked about our "big life change" plans with many over the past 5 years, we’ve largely kept it behind the scenes and many are unaware. (Even people to whom we mentioned it early on, have forgotten, or doubted us!)
We are eager to keep in touch with the people who have been a part of our lives as dirt dwellers: friends, distant relatives, family, neighbors, and passersby. Hopefully this blog will help us to do that, to some extent, no matter where we are in the world.
So, you've found our blog, book mark it! Come with us, virtually. Totally upending our lives and doing something that is contrary to all conventional wisdom (and totally insane from a financial best interests standpoint) ain't easy, but it is surely going to make for good tales. You will find them here.
Of course, before the craziness can begin, we have a lot to do over the next many months. It seems as though nearly every aspect of our lives is geared towards getting ready. Time is flying by. Over the past few of weeks: 
·         We met with and hired our real estate agent for next spring’s sale.
·         We had a consultation with a designer recommended by our agent. (Life lesson: do this before spending 10 years in a home, not months before you move.)
·         I am organizing and moving digital media (pictures, videos, documents) to online storage so that we can sell our desktop computer/monitor and buy a second laptop.
·         I am learning everything I can about our Yanmar 4JH-TE motor so that I know what spares to buy and bring. (Just purchased a $42 impeller!)
·         Windy is getting ready for her December trip to Puerto Vallarta to check on the boat and take a million more measurements and pictures.
·         We are both making lists and otherwise planning for the 3 consecutive days we will spend at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis this week. (Most common question from sailing neophytes: “Why are you going to the boat show if you already bought a boat?”)
·         I am prioritizing all of my house-prep work to those things that need to be done before we paint, so that we can paint sooner and enjoy the new paint for longer.
·         I installed new struts and springs on the back of the car last week, in preparation for the trailer and extra load we will carry on our big road trip to the boat after the house sells (will do the front soon).
·         Windy is digitizing all of our contacts (she is eager to toss the well-worn physical address book, we compromised that she will keep it in a drawer for 3 months to see how her new system works out).
·         Windy is sorting through the dozens hundreds of kid books to eliminate what is no longer age-appropriate.
·         I bought several heavy-duty, watertight, ice-chest-sized plastic containers into which we are beginning to put those things that will be going to the boat, and that we will not need until we get on the boat (boat show purchases, spare parts, winter clothes after winter, etc).
·         We sold our massive computer armoire and put in place a small corner table for the office.
·         Windy is working on a categorized, master list of things to do and buy (A=essentials, B=important, C=future project).
·         I cleared out and re-seeded the front and back lawns last week so that when the house is on the market in the spring, it will have the nicest lawn for miles.
It feels good to be organizing and lightening our load, less stuff. But at the same time, we are in consumer mode too, generating a long list of purchases necessary to transition to the new life—this in spite of our joint resolve to not get caught up in the frenzy of marketing to boat owners that demands we spend every penny we have to ensure we bring the comforts of land life aboard and that we are insulated from every calamity, however unlikely.
Life changes this big require lots of getting ready. It's a process we've been involved in for the past 5 years, but which is now accelerating.
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