Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Retaining Hope
By Michael

This is not a cruising-related post.
My mom and my girls, 2010
On top of all the dire current events from around the world, it was widely reported that Geraldine Ferraro succummed to multiple myeloma this weekend at age 75. This news is especially significant to Americans because Ms. Ferraro helped us to make a giant leap forward in our ability to normalize the perception of women in powerful leadership roles. This news is especially poignant to me and my family because my mom is afflicted with the same disease that defeated the health of this powerful woman.
Ms. Ferraro lived with the incurable blood cancer for as long as anyone I've read about. I was painting our house and listening to the radio when the first reports of her death were broadcast. I caught my breath and realized I'd internalized quite a bit of hope in Ms. Ferraro's life. She was the most famous person with the rare disease and so long as she continued on, staving off the cancer with one drug after another, it seemed to me that anyone could. I'd accepted that multiple myeloma is incurable, but I'd allowed myself to believe that it was already defeatable.
My mom was diagnosed in 2002, four years after Ms. Ferraro. She wants to continue to hold back multiple myeloma for yet another decade, to see her six grandchildren graduate high school. That will make her roughly 76 years old and see her living with the disease longer than Ms. Ferraro and perhaps longer than anyone living with the disease today. Her wish is not unrealistic. The same kinds of strides were made with HIV, transforming the still incurable disease from a death sentence to a managed condition. With adequate funding, it is reasonable to assume the same kinds of strides may be made with multiple myeloma.
Everyone reading this post is bombarded with pleas for charitable donations. It is neither reasonable nor possible for any of us to accommodate them all. But I am writing with a proposition that you will be hard pressed to find a better way to maximize the effectiveness of a donation.
My mom is in training to walk a half marathon to support the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). This is a charity with a very successful record, momentum on its side, and better certifications for responsible and effective stewardship of funds than any other I am aware of (in fact it is the only organization in the world to achieve these accreditations).
If you can spare the time and some funds to make a donation, please take a minute to read my mom's statement, use the links above to validate my claims about the MMRF, and rest assurred that any money you choose to donate will be very responsibly used to try and extend the lives of many.
Thank you,


Monday, March 28, 2011

Galley Swap
By Michael

All of the puddle jump provisioning posts of late remind me of a great site intended for galley-based cooks: Galley Swap.

Did you know that separating bananas from the common stalk slows their ripening? Me neither, I read it at Galley Swap.

Did you know that the “disposable” salt grinder sold at Trader Joes for a couple bucks is excellent aboard because its all-acrylic construction prevents clumping—and that it is refillable? Me neither, I read it at Galley Swap.
Do you know where to find 12 helpful galley resource links for the "relentlless galley enthusiast" and 22 at-sea recipes? Me too, Galley Swap.

This site is a good resource, I hope it flourishes.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

By Windy

Packing up the house in preparation for moving is a huge task. My focus now is clearing the attic to create a staging area for stuff. What looks like an avalanche of crap (okay it is) is the beginning of our Boat, Storage, and Sell/Give piles.

At the same time that I'm sorting everything, I'm also trying to repackage things for the limited space we'll have on board. For the board games we are taking with us, I'm stacking all of the boards, bagging up their individual pieces, and chucking the boxes they came in. Repackaging games is unexpectedly satisfying.


All that packaging for what amounts
to a fistful of cards

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

S&S Blog Entry
By Michael

On the Sparkman & Stephens corporate blog, they feature short descriptions of their designs, roughly one per day, just a bit about the design and the boats that were produced from it. Yesterday, on March 21, it was time for S&S design 2292, also known as the Fuji 40! It is a short post, and I am already familiar with the Stanley Rosenfeld photos and yacht specs. What was new to me is the early set of interior renderings (below) and mention that “…15 boats were built to this design, 7 before the plans were even completed.

Early renderings of the Fuji 40 interior, very similar to what it became
In the post, the author is not definitive that the total count is 15, but this is the most credible figure I have ever seen (isn’t that amazing, that this info is not known?). Also, if 7 were built before the plans were complete, that means our hull #4 is part of that group. “Hey Takumi, they just finished the Fuji 40 plans. Beginning with hull #8, go ahead and move the mast forward a couple feet where it should be, completely change the rudder shape, and it looks like we’ve been making the hull much too thin…”

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ready to Float
By Michael

It is kind of an arcane reference, but it keeps occurring to me, so I'm sharing it here: 
Eleanor looking forward to the ride
At Disneyland last month, after waiting in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, we stepped aboard our “boat.” Of course, it didn’t rock or anything as we boarded, it’s on tracks after all, a big roller coaster car in very shallow water. Then, when the operator pushed the right button, there was a bit of a jerk and we rattled forward on the tracks until…that feeling, when that big roller coaster car becomes a boat, driven off the end of the rigid tracks, sinking down a couple inches as it finds its waterline, bobbing just a bit, the unmistakable sensation of floating.
In addition to being an obvious metaphor for our big, pending life change, that Disneyland transition to floating reminds me of a real world transition: of the moment you get offshore in a sailboat and shut off the auxiliary. You know: the sails are up, you are underway with water moving past, heeled a bit, little bubbles left behind in the wake. But your ears and body tuned out the noise and vibration of the diesel 15 minutes ago. It’s only when someone cuts off the fuel, and the oil pressure alarm squawks, and the key is turned off, that it then really feels right, pulled and pushed along by unseen forces, only sailing sounds remaining....ahhhh.
The crews of other boats in Mexico are now writing interesting posts about their final preparations for South Pacific voyages, their fascination with the culture and food that surrounds them, and even the real stresses of family life afloat. In that context, it is pretty pathetic that I am easily stirred by the sensation of floating on a Disneyland ride. But that is an indication of how eager I am to get underway.
Sara of s/v Wondertime just wrote an excellent, manic piece on the stresses of preparing to cast off, to break the ties of land life. She’s got 104 days left on her counter and I’m with her every sentence, feeling the anxiety. In 40 days, our house goes on the market and there is so much to do between now and then...
But I know that when we drive away from it all, enroute to PV, I’ll feel our Ford, with a trailer in tow, jerk a bit as we rattle forward until…that feeling…finding a smooth road, swaying just a bit, the unmistakable sensation of floating…away.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Decision Mentality
By Michael

Windy driving us down the coast, propelled by the Santa Anas (1997)
A large number of the blogging cruisers on the west coast of North America have by now written posts about the effects of the recent tsunami and their individual responses. Two cruising families in Puerto Vallarta, aboard Eyoni and Watcha Gonna Do, are among these blogging cruisers. Each wrote about the events of the day, detailing their thought processes and actions (we would have responded in the same manner had we been in Mexico; deep water beats all in the case of a tsunami). But each, in similar posts, also described the reactions and decision-making processes of other cruisers in the area, as the bloggers perceived them.
Both of these posts reminded me of a incident of fourteen years ago that not only informed my boating skills, but permanently changed the way I've approached every decision in my life since.

Windy and I departed San Diego the second week of December 1996, headed south for Cabo San Lucas and places beyond. On our second day out, powerful Santa Anas picked up and pushed us forward. As the intensity increased overnight, so did the height of the following seas. We were surfing down these building, breaking swells faster than our hull speed and with a full main, but no head sail. Steering was a challenge in the moonless night as we usually only heard the breakers, without seeing them. A couple times, waves broke over the cockpit, once washing an eight-inch squid through the open companionway and down onto the forward cabin sole.
Even after several accidental jibes, we failed to rig any kind of preventer and eventually, after a particularly nasty jibe, the main ripped open crosswise, just beneath the third reef point. We took shelter the next afternoon in the lee of Isla San Benito. After finding that the sail tape and needle and thread I'd carefully provisioned was no remedy for the length of tear we had to fix, we sailed (under triple reef) to the next outpost: Isla Cedros.

Del Viento at right, tentatively anchored at Cedros (1997)
In the tiny manmade harbor, defined by a breakwater, we found three other sailboats, all taking refuge from the very strong winds and big seas off the Baja coastline. One boat was a 40-foot C&C headed north on a delivery, her two-person crew waiting for more favorable conditions for the slog north. The other two were stout cruising boats headed south like us, each a boat like I wished I had.

Windy and I had an unusually hard time setting our 22-pound Bruce. I even pulled it back up at one point to check and see whether it was somehow fouled. We finally got it set, but then ended up dragging a couple of times through the night. This was something I'd never encountered in the dozens of times I'd anchored off California's Channel Islands. Talking to everyone the next day, we learned that they were having the same problems.

Windy and I made the decision to get out of Dodge and to sail over to Bahia Tortuga, where the holding is fine and where we could likely get the help we needed to repair our main. Cedros harbor is small and the last place I wanted to be, surrounded as we were by dragging neighbors and breakwater. After starting the motor, packing everything up, and retrieving the anchor, the couple on the beautiful, 35-foot blue water sailing vessel hailed us on the VHF.

"Del Viento, Del Viento. You guys re-anchoring?"

"No, we're headed out, over to Turtle Bay."

"I wouldn't make that crossing now if I were you, and winds are expected to increase."
"We're concerned about the holding here..."

I don't recall how the rest of the conversation went, but we didn't leave Cedros that day. I remember very clearly that I heeded the advice of the other sailor to stay, not because it was one input in my decision making process and I ultimately reached the same conclusion, but because I reasoned he must know more than I do. He was older and his boat was better: that was the basis for my decision making. I dismissed all of my own thoughts on the matter and felt reassured I was doing the right thing, happy to have the lead of this more experienced sailor to follow. Besides, nobody else was pulling anchor and heading out, what the hell was I thinking?
I was no longer captain of my own ship, just this other sailor's crew, but on a separate boat.

That night, we four boats did receive permission from the port captain to raft up alongside the concrete quay. We potlucked and talked and drank late into the night. After not too many drinks, I learned that I had significantly more sailing experience than anyone aboard the 35-foot blue water sailing vessel. Windy and I were shocked to learn that this couple motored down from Seattle, and had not once raised a sail. In Windy, the woman confided that her husband wanted to abandon this (his) dream by the time they reached Southern California, and that they continued on only at her urging.

Rafted and tied to the quay at Cedros, Del Viento visible foward and to the left (1997)
The next day, after a good night's sleep, we two boats departed Cedros about the same time. The winds were 10-15 knots, but the seas were little diminished and presented a large, steep, slightly aft cross swell on the heading to Turtle Bay. It was a fast, glorious sail. The force of wind in our sails was counterbalanced by the keel, and our motion underway was pleasant. This was in stark contrast to the wild, even violent, arcs inscribed in the sky by the two masts of our ketch-based would-be mentors.
During the 3-hour passage, we twice urged them over VHF to remove their sailcover and hoist their main, assurring them that the rocking motion they were experiencing would ease.
"We're thinking about it Del Viento, thank you!"
Today, I never fail to consider other points of view, but I am careful to qualify them and to give due weight to my own reasoned thoughts. I think that that is what being a captain means.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pink & Blue?
By Michael

Windy hanging laundry aboard the first Del Viento in Mazatlan, 1997
It was a boating/cruising environment where I first heard the descriptions “pink jobs” and “blue jobs” attributed to the division of boat chores among male and female crew. It was about 1994 and it came from my marina liveaboard friend and neighbor Dar of s/v Mimosa. I’ve seen the terms used in cruising blogs and in forums since, and Betsy Morris of s/v Salsa wrote about them in the May 2010 issue of SAIL magazine.
From personal experience and observation, I acknowledge that it is most often the male crew who undertakes maintenance and repair of the iron genny. But after engines, can the rest of the work aboard be so broadly classified? And, just because the grease is found most often under men’s fingernails, does the corresponding work warrant a gender classification?

I would bet that Lin Pardey could do anything aboard a boat better than I could. But I think her descriptions of the cruising life—and those of other cruising pioneers such as the Roths and Hiscocks—regularly align the work aboard a cruising sailboat into “traditional” roles based on gender, reinforcing the pink and blue construct. I think those perceptions are attributable to both the time (their generation) and maritime tradition. Yet, outside the writings of these cruising pioneers, I think that the gender distinctions are blurring, echoing the land-based culture.  

Aboard Del Viento, I suspect Windy and I will follow in the wake of most of today’s cruisers: we will each take the lead on tasks to which we are inclined or most suited, but helping each other whenever needed--and ensuring that either one of us is prepared to take on all critical roles and responsibilities in the event the other is incapacitated.

When we begin our voyage, the girls will be 5- and 7-years-old. We are both eager to involve them in the daily maintenance and operation of the boat. I am eager to see what roles and responsibilities they are each attracted to as they get older. Cruising World columnist Wendy Mitman Clarke often describes her daughter as the fishing enthusiast aboard Osprey, battling the big catch alongside her father. I remember reading in Tom Neale’s book, All In The Same Boat, of a months-long project his daughter undertook to completely disassemble, clean-up, and reassemble an old genset engine that would have been appropriately used as an anchor. She did all of the work on her own, with his guidance, as part of a correspondence school project. I don’t know if it is really in the book, or just an image I created, but I can see the picture of a beaming teenage girl standing next to her engine after it fired up for the first time. (If anyone has any small, non-functioning motors, please save them for me and my girls.) I suspect already that Frances will work alongside me in the galley. Roughly by the time she turns seven, she will have learned to embrace my recipes-be-damned approach to baking and meal preparation. Eleanor will lead her mom on long hikes ashore ahead of the proper waking hour, reveling in the life sciences.

Toast cruised Mexico with three daughters aboard and has her own perspective and story of triumph over the blue jobs. And of course, there is another class of cruiser who tackles all jobs aboard, without respect to color: the singlehander.  To wit, grandmother Jeanne Socrates is currently sailing her Najad 380 Nereida on a second solo circumnavigation and Liz Clark is the inspirational young surfer gal who has been out for five years aboard her Cal 40 Swell. I’ve no doubt both have cleaned pounds of grease out from under their fingernails.

I think the most accurate perspective comes from cruiser Barb on La Luna: “Doesn't matter whether you wore pink or blue as an infant. If you cruise someone has to do the tough jobs. Sometimes you both do.” I agree with Barb, so long as she isn’t talking about unclogging the head; that has got to be a pink job, right?


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Port Lights!
By Michael

My mom and a port
While in California last month visiting all of our SoCal relatives, we got to see for the first time the seven new stainless steel port lights we ordered at the boat show last October. I asked the vendor, New Found Metals, to send them directly to my parent’s house. The plan is to pick them up from there on our road trip to Mexico, one less thing to schlep across the country.
Wow, are they beautiful—and heavy like cast iron. Three of the ten 1978-vintage ports on the boat are opening, but the rest are fixed, plastic, show evidence of leaking, and are no longer clear. I can’t stand the thought of removing and re-bedding the old port lights and we are eager for the additional ventilation these will offer.
Wow, are they expensive. But because they are an odd size (3x17), I was glad NFM stocks them as standard. But still, and even at boat show prices, the seven gorgeous port lights, screens, teak spacers, ss fasteners, countersink, and butyl cost more than two boat bucks. Putting aside the tangible benefits of ventilation and strength—and even putting aside the intangible benefits of aesthetic improvements and anticipated reduced maintenance—I justified the cost on the basis that we will get it back someday in higher resale value…no, stop laughing…c’mon…stop laughing...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Leaving, Not Rejecting
By Michael

It really is a small world: the girls at Disneyland, February 2011
This blog is a celebration of the cruising lifestyle we are adopting, a lifestyle that requires preparations and decisions that are in stark contrast to Western socio-economic systemic expectations. We will not be paying much (if anything) in taxes in the coming years. We will not be good consumers. Our children will not be exclusively a product of the U.S. culture. Yet while I am excited about what we are doing, I don't see this blog, nor our decision to voyage, as a rejection of the socio-economic system we are abandoning.
Rather, even from afar, Windy and I will remain members and products of our society. In fact, even in our departure, I see us contributing to our society--not in the economic sense, but culturally. I think that our endeavor, our willingness to be radical, introduces a diversity that is healthy for our society (however small the scale). Everyone who is exposed to our story, even if they do not agree with us nor follow in our wake, is affected by it. It will color, in some way, their life perspective. I don't know what that means, but I don't think it is insignificant.

Windy and I are raising two future citizens who will be shaped by a very different environment than their peers--a very different environment than shaped either of us growing up. This will undoubtedly influence them and they will thusly affect and color the people with whom they come into contact throughout their lives. I'm not suggesting that this will make them better people in any way (I've wondered the opposite), but it will undoubtedly make them different.

Cruising World columnist Fatty Goodlander regularly bemusingly bemoans the fact that his daughter, his only child Roma, left her home afloat to become a landlubber. My guess is that as she came of age, the prospect of a life ashore was as exotic and necessary to her as the cruising life is to me today. And I suspect that her fresh eyes on the culture she adopted are meaningful to the people in her life today: her friends, her co-workers, her husband.

A fortune cookie we opened on our Disneyland trip
As this world of ours continues to shrink, I can't help but think it benefits from the relatively small population of global-oriented folks who inhabit it. My personal impressions of Russia, China, and especially India, are almost wholly a product of the nationals of those countries with whom I've had the pleasure to work over the past eight years. Toast wrote recently about how the eldest daughter of the s/v Don Quixote crew is considering beginning her undergraduate studies in New Zealand. I marvel at how the life of this young American gal--who just a few years ago was oriented to the expected path of her suburban Pacific Northwestern life--is unfolding. Again, not because her cruising life is necessarily richer than her life that might have been, but because we are all richer for how her life is different.
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