Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Terrified vs Excited??

March 31, 2015

Adrenalin rushing, the stomach churning, brain switching from one subject to another, no chance of sleeping....... So am I terrified or excited?    According to my younger son, Josh, the only difference between terror and excitement is attitude.    So at the moment I am working on my attitude. Tomorrow morning we head south for 3 weeks. Admittedly we will have access to land, humanity, restaurants and marine stores (ie Help!); however, the whole idea is to get the feel of cruising in out-of -the-way places and being as self sufficient as possible.  Even though we will be traveling with a couple of buddy boats, I still think it sounds scary...no, no I mean fun and challenging.  Right?  
First round of provisioning
The provisioning part of it has been fun and challenging.  Really! It has been an interesting exercise trying to calculate everything we will need for 3 weeks, sorting out how to store it so we can find it (not as easy as it sounds) and deciding just how we can prepare it.(also not as easy as it sounds).  We hope to be anchored or on a mooring ball most of the time, not at a marina with all of the "conveniences" of home.  Therefore, because our boat is almost totally dependent on electricity for cooking, we have to determine our power source:  the inverter, the generator, or power from the engine.  If those fail, we have a small propane grill that we can attach to a lifeline stanchion.  If that, too, fails, we'll just eat cold hot dogs and beans!

In any case, we are almost fully provisioned.  We carry 215 gallons of water in our tanks and 95 gallons of diesel.  But, just in case something quite unforeseen happens we are carrying a small emergency supply of both water and diesel on deck.  

So just when we think we are pretty well prepared, "Murphy" strikes.  I woke up in the middle of the night last night listening to a hum; a hum that I had heard the night before but one that Jim and I both sort of ignored.  (First mistake of sailing!)  But in the middle of the night it was much louder and much more ominous and sounded slightly different and seemed to involve some sort of slurping.  I lifted up the bilge cover and there was the source of the noise!  Not much water in the bilge, but it appeared that the pump was trying to pump it out anyhow.  Time to wake Jim!!  After fiddling around for awhile, he disconnected a wire, the noise stopped and he decided it was quite safe to go back to bed and deal with it in the morning!  What??  He, of course, slept.  I didn't.
See the blue (non working) box that says "sure bail"?
Jim replacing the blue with the white (new) !
Turned out that the problem was the float switch - a little piece of equipment that tells the bilge pump to start pumping.  And, it is also supposed to tell it to stop pumping.  Only this switch didn't do that and the pump just kept on pumping.   Jim figured it out, bought a new part, and installed it.  All is well ..... until the next thing!

Ok, so I am not terrified, just a little nervous.  But I'm sure my "attitude" will improve as we have some successes under our belts and we are no longer doing everything for the "first" time.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Flying Trapeze - Almost!

"He flies through the air with the greatest of ease, 
The daring young man on the flying trapeze."

This song has been running through my mind for the last week, prompted by 3 boaters making trips up their masts.  Some did it with enthusiasm, some with fear and trepidation, some with the resignation that it just had to be done.  Jim was just curious.  While the climbers are not exactly flying through the air, neither are they stable and stationary.  Boats rock, the mast swings, and the "climbers" swing from side to side. And, they are anywhere from 40 - 60 ft up in the air.  It seemed very high looking up, but I imagine it seemed even higher looking down.
Jim helping Linn ascend the mast.
That was as far as he went

There are different ways of rigging the whole process, but basically it involves a bosun's chair, a 5 to 1 ratio on a pulley system, a spotter, a helper to pull and generally wives or girlfriends standing around anxiously until the procedure is over.
Jim getting ready to go up
Jim coming down

Steve, who is among other things a rock climber, uses a bosun's chair but also uses a climbing harness with stirrups and ascenders.
He made it all look very easy - hard to believe it was his first time up!   
Steve climbing

Up at the top

A different perspective

Friday, March 27, 2015

Oh, No!! The Dreaded Stuffed up Head!

March 27, 2015

And “no”, I don’t mean a nasty cold that leaves your head stuffed up and miserable.  I mean the stuff of which sailing nightmares are made:  a head that no longer flushes because the hose is blocked.  Apparently calcium builds up in the hose that runs from the head to the holding tank or straight overboard until one fine day the hose says “enough is enough” and refuses to let anything pass through.  Despite our being very careful and judicious in the use of our forward head, and abiding by the no toilet paper thrown in the head rule, it finally reached that point.  

I won’t dwell on the gory details….just the facts.  Jim spent 3 days tearing apart every piece of the head that he could access.  He now knows all about joker valves, seals, “Y” valves, vent loops (none of which was the problem).  He can draw a schematic (more like a flow chart) of the hose that runs from the head. It looks rather like the pipes in the kids’ game “Waterworks”.  Example: from the head down to a 90 degree angle up, to another 90 degree angle to the right, straight ahead for 2 feet or so and then another 90 degree angle straight up and then a curve to form the vent loop, then down, then 90 degrees left, then right, etc – well over 15 feet of hose to travel no more than a net 3 feet.  We know, because we bought a 15 foot “snake” and it never made it all of the way through.  Jim had to run it from opposite ends.  Meanwhile, there are 2 “Y” valves interspersed which make life difficult, not to mention access holes that provide access in name only.  

Jim is nothing if not tenacious.  I on the other hand spent the time researching composting heads.  I wasn’t sure I could deal with the mess or the odors again!  But when there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel, (literally and figuratively) Jim poured vinegar into all parts of the hose.  It sat overnight and voila, problem solved.  Lesson learned.  Regular flushing with vinegar.  Who knew?

For obvious reasons, there are no photos of this little episode.  So I'll leave you with this image of "Well, Why Not?" at anchor in Hulk Harbor last weekend.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Entertainment at the Dock

March 24, 2015

One of the joys of dock life is the variety of people you meet: the deep sea diver, the truck driver, the policeman, the tec-nerd, the musician, the young, the restless, the adventurer, the seamstress, the hairdresser, the educator, the bodybuilder, the sailor who has turned his boat into a "condo" that never leaves the dock, the visitors who sail in from all over the world for a brief stop at the marina.  It is the proverbial "salad bowl" of people and I love listening to them, getting to know them a little, and I continue to marvel at how quickly one becomes connected in some way with people who in different circumstances I would probably never have the chance to meet. 


The morning begins with a nautical version of a "coffee klatsch". Here I call it the "Circle of Wisdom".   It is a group of guys (I am usually the lone female) sitting around trying to avoid sun in the eyes, enjoying the never ending pot of coffee, solving the world's problems. The amount of wisdom dispensed varies from day to day and can range from "guy talk"  (amusing and entertaining, but not overly useful) to some serious discussions of sailing, boats, boat repair, interesting trips to make, past sailing adventures and a few misadventures. The collective expertise and knowledge is impressive. Jim and I are notably silent as we absorb as much as possible.

The Circle of Wisdom
During the day it is impossible to make a nonstop trip down the dock.  There is always someone to talk to or some interesting work being done on a boat that is worth paying attention to.  This is such a fun change for us!  Where we come from, living at least a half mile from the nearest neighbor, no one stops by for a chat, a cup of coffee, or a cup of sugar or anything else without advanced planning!  

Sometimes we have impromptu entertainment on the dock.  One night it was Bill playing the oldies, but goodies on his electric piano. No music needed, just playing and improvising in his own special style.  
Bill, sharing his talents at the dock

Occasionally in the evenings there is another circle - I'm not sure what to call this one.  It takes place on our dock. Sometimes it is a happy hour and sometimes it segues into a potluck.  Everyone on the dock is invited and the decibel level rises as the number of attendees increases.  Fortunately no one seems to be a night owl and we all head home at a relatively civil hour.

"C" Dock

There are only a few dock neighbors who are here permanently - most, including us will be moving on but it would be my guess that altho the personalities may change, the general synergy and spirit of community will remain.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Some Things Just Aren't That Easy!

March 9, 2014

I have made my bed most of my life (except maybe during my rebellious adolescence)  It was never all that difficult.  But I confess to flumuxation!  (and if that is not a word, it should be)  In theory we have a walk-around queen bed.  Translated that means that we can each climb into or out of bed from our own side without having to climb over the other person.  But only the foot of the bed can be walked around, the rest is tightly packed against the sides of the boat.  So tucking in sheets or blankets is impossibly tight.  

And to further complicate the matter, there is very little headroom at the head of the bed.  Essentially, the only option is to make the bed while lying on top of it or on all fours.  Or, as we do in the morning, make the bed while still lying in it and then ever so carefully sliding out and crawling off.  A walk-around bed was very high on my list of "must have's" when we were boat searching.  I am not going to complain about how hard it is to make.  No, I'm not!

tucking in the bottom fitted sheet

pulling up the top sheet from underneath it

finished  and ready for bedtime

remaking the bed in the morning

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Engine Room

March 6, 2015

The engine room is a veritable anatomical maze which contains many of the vital inner workings of the boat.  It houses the Yanmar 4JHE 44 horsepower engine, the Westerbeke 5 KW generator, 3 4 D AGM batteries, the controller for the solar panels, the sump pump for the aft shower, a manual bilge pump,  the air conditioner and reverse cycle heat, the inverter, a small hot water heater, access to the backside of the electrical panels, the fuel tank selector and probably other things whose acquaintance we have not yet made. 

engine room
Relatively speaking the engine room is huge.  Think "walk-in closet". The main entrance is through a door in the companionway between the salon and the aft cabin.  You can climb in and get up close and personal with everything housed there.  The whole room appears stuffed full of all sorts of mysterious things: hoses, wires, strange looking equipment etc.  But not so stuffed that there isn't enough room to deal with required regular servicing of equipment and those dreaded repairs as they might arise.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hulk Harbor Rendevous

March 3, 2015

A beautiful afternoon of sailing in Tampa Bay with great wind and a warm sun was followed by going aground…again…in the same place...again, with me at the helm…again.   (I don’t think I wrote about the first time – but trust me, I am not a “virgin” running-a-grounder)   This is getting annoying, but for some reason I just don’t line up my channel buoys right – the ones behind me, not the ones in front.  You would think I’d learn!

Anyhow, we worked our way loose, headed back up the Manatee River and anchored in “Hulk Harbor".   We joined Chris and Linn, other cruisers from C-Dock, who were already there.  We lowered the dinghies and met up at the small beach. It was a shallow approach and they arrived just fine by shutting off the outboard, tilting it up and gliding to shore.   We tried to copy that, but ran aground!  Jim couldn’t get the outboard tilted up so Linn waded out and in thigh deep water, they both struggled to figure out the secret. Finally success!  There was a nice picnic area and we decided to return the next day when others from C-Dock were joining us.  Soon the fog started rolling in and it was time to head back to the boat. 

The tide had gone out and shallow water was shallower.  Jim had to walk our dinghy quite a ways out before he could tip the outboard back into the water.  Linn joined him and together they walked out farther and farther.  It began to look like they were going to walk half way out to the boats.  Finally Jim got the outboard in position and got it started, but the shallows seemed to be everywhere and he kept getting stuck in the mud.  Then Linn couldn’t get his outboard started.  After an amazing number of pulls, probably constituting a great upperbody workout, he got his motor going and we eventually got free of the mud.   Chris and I thought it was funnier and more entertaining than the men did!  A You-tube video would have proven us right!!
Resting on our dinghy after the docking ordeal!
The next day 3 other couples (Tim and Leslie, Mike and Betty and Carlos and Lucy) from C-Dock joined us for a BBQ potluck on the beach.  (Our first cruisers potluck!) 
Hanging around after the BBQ
Late afternoon, with very little warning a wall of fog rolled in and by the time we were back on the boats, there was zero visibility.  It was quiet and a little eerie, but we felt safe tucked into our own private cocoon of fog.  The next morning Tim rowed over in his dinghy – from his boat he could not tell if we were still there!!
Tim checking on us in the morning  
We headed back to the marina when the morning fog lifted.  It was a great chance to enjoy what boating is all about and even more fun to do it with dock neighbors!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Outboard

March 1, 2015

We were pleased that a 10’3” Rigid Inflatable Boat (dinghy), known as an RIB and a 15 hp Yamaha outboard motor came with our boat.  There was some discussion that perhaps the motor had more power than we needed.  We really had no basis for comparison so we figured we would just wait and see.

Our sailboat has stainless steel davits on the stern which lift the dinghy out of the water, hold it up in the air behind the boat when not in use and then lower it down again when ready to be used.  There is also a dedicated davit and pulley system for the motor. 

Dinghy and Outboard on Davits
Our first opportunity to use the dinghy was our first night spent at anchor at “Hulk Harbor”.  Our plan was to go ashore and explore.  Despite many pulls on the starter cord, Jim could not get the outboard started.  A few grumblings and we just inflated the kayaks and rowed to shore.  Problem solved for the moment.

The consensus was that the carburetor needed a good cleaning.  But the real challenge was how to get the motor to someone who could work on it.  We discovered that it was close to 125 pounds and under ideal conditions Jim and I might have been able to manhandle it.  But given the lines and miscellaneous paraphernalia on the deck to work around, there was actually no way we could do it.  Turns out that Tarpon Pointe Marina picked it up by boat! That is not commonly done, but when I suggested it, they were willing.  We are just across the Manatee River from them.  I thought it was a brilliant solution!! 

Bringing Back the Outboard

 Helping to Mount the Motor on the Dinghy
Apparently there is a learning curve associated with “driving” an outboard!  After a few jerky starts, some rather erratic changes in speed, a few wheelies, going backwards in circles, and bumping into the back of the boat, Jim seems to have gotten the hang of it.  I am happy to be chauffeured.