Sunday, December 30, 2012

Almost!

December 30th 2012

Position N 27° 22.225’.
                W 82° 37.075’.

Longboat Key Club Moorings, FL





Well, here we are still in the Sarasota area, our delay to ‘get going’ and be in the Bahamas for Christmas begot more commitments! When we found out we were to be at our marina here in Longboat Key for Christmas we obviously made plans and the plans have committed us to be here now until at least the 15th. My planning goes on and the spending goes on. Eric our canvas man stopped by ‘Partners’ a week ago and a conversation concerning the window covers around our pilot house turned into an order! We had and still have solid matching blue custom covers that completely block all light from entering the pilothouse and make the area unusable as it is so dark and any view is obliterated. Eric made a suggestion of screens that give 95% protection of the harmful UV sun rays, obscure being able to see in but allow us to see out, oh, and not to mention, light comes in. Long and short, we ordered them! They arrived yesterday and look beautiful; we had them made in white so they are far less noticeable as the solid blue ones they are replacing. Now we have our pilot house back! We can now enjoy the new cushions on our pilot house bench seat and as a bonus have a view!
 
I am filling the time we have here at the dock with going over the possible routes we can take to wend our way through the Bahamas and continually refresh myself with the coastal hopping methods and skills using the nocturnal katabatic wind effects as suggested by Bruce Van Sant in his book the ‘The Thornless Path’ for traversing east along the north coast of Hispaniola. I am only educating myself on the voyage to the Virgin Islands and am not concerned with the journey beyond. I think that we will spend a good time in the Virgins and probably will not head south from there until May. We realize that we will not be able to stop at all the islands on our way to Trinidad where we will be spending the hurricane season; it is our intention to return north through the Windward and Leeward Islands come November and have extended visits to all the Islands in the chain on our way back to the Virgins. (Our insurance company requires us to be south of 10° N between July 1st – Oct 31st during what they consider to be the worst of the Caribbean hurricane season). The Bahamas are a concern because of the shallow water, ‘Partners’ has a draft of 5’ plus which will restrict us from many areas. I am not experienced at ‘reading’ the water yet and while I learn want to be sure that we choose safe routes across the numerous shallow banks that we will be encountering.

Tomorrow is Saturday 29th December and HT and I have bought tickets for 11 of our family to attend the Sailor Circus in Sarasota. Known as the “Circus Capital of the World,” from the John Ringling days, now Sarasota claims its own resident hometown circus. The Sailor Circus Originated in 1949 as a small high school gymnastics class, Sailor Circus has grown into a spectacular, youth training program serving students 4th to 12th grades. Through extremely rigorous, interdisciplinary performing arts and psychomotor skills programs, students develop life management skills, gain self-discipline and bolster confidence, all in a circus atmosphere. For over six decades, thousands of students have completed the Sailor Circus program. Each year, students train countless hours per week with dedicated coaches and volunteers to create performances that have become a major tourist attraction in the Southwest Florida region.

Sailor Circus is known worldwide as, The Greatest “Little” Show on Earth with more than 1 million spectators attending performances of America’s oldest youth circus. Sailor Circus students are recognized as future leaders and major contributors to the circus legacy in Sarasota. The Sailor Circus is most definitely worth a visit if you are visiting the Sarasota area. It is about a one mile walk from the bay front, Marina Jack, mooring balls and anchoring area.

http://www.flickr.com//photos/30679683@N02/sets/72157631367233442/show/
http://www.flickr.com//photos/30679683@N02/sets/72157607396217268/show/

It is getting cold and I can’t help wishing we were a little further south, last night we had temperatures in the mid 40’s whereas Key West, for example, had a low of 68°, a big difference. Georgetown in the Bahamas was 73°, wow! The cold cramps our style, boating and cruising to us is all about being in warm weather and warm water our water temp here is down to 69° which is uncomfortable! Not long to wait though we will be on our way soon... 

Sunday 30th


After the Circus 11 of us having fun back on 'Partners'!
The Sailor Circus was well worth the visit; the children absolutely loved it and were totally engaged for two hours. I was impressed with the level of accomplishment these young performers have attained, they were really good! At the end they all stood around the edge of the arena to receive the crowd as we all left. They were, without exception, so gracious in receiving their praise, as I said before – very impressive.

I really can’t add much more to this other than to wish you all a very Happy New Year and may your dream, whatever it is, get a little closer in 2013. We will begin 2013 and our dream by sailing away into the sunset on our own personal adventure. Please remember the inimitable words of John Mason..."You're born an original. Don't die a copy."


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Stalled!

December 22th 2012

Position N 27° 22.225’.
                 W 82° 37.075’.

Longboat Key Club Moorings, FL



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Black Friday – not normally a day which would gain much of my attention, I am not a shopper and definitely have not in the past been a ‘bargain’ shopper. To document our travels I have felt for some time that we should have a decent camera. A good friend of mine Bill owns a Nikon and has travelled extensively capturing some wonderful memories and has produced some fantastic coffee table books where he has added narrative to connect everything together. I am thinking that I could do this not only to produce a record of our photography but also to keep my blog organized. I, like most other people with a mailing address, pawed through numerous flyers advertising Black Friday deals. In one of them I saw a D5100 Nikon ‘bundle’ which included the camera, two lenses, a carrying case and a few other accessories, wow, was this the deal that, for the first time, would get me to go shopping on Black Friday. Well, it did, not one minute after midnight I hasten to add but at 10:30. Soooo, I am now the proud owner of a beautiful Nikon camera. Good digital cameras are now mini computers and are capable of far more than the average user understands. It came with two CD’s offering instruction and tips, neither of which I have had time to view yet but will. During the exploratory and learning period there is an automatic mode, thank goodness! 

Jim from Marina Electronics in Port Charlotte is installing a redundant autopilot along with an AIS unit both to interface with our Nobeltec navigation software. The team arrived...well, they initially proceeded to ‘tear’ the boat apart; from our closet in the master stateroom to the lazerette was affected. The reason, wire runs. The pilot head is obviously in the pilot house and the rudder control is in the lazerette so everywhere in between is affected as far as laying the cables for all components to ‘talk’ to each other. By the end of the day the installation was complete but in the process the steering system, a Capilano/Teleflex system had to be tied into; there lies a problem! After connecting the new hydraulic hoses to the steering system first Jim and the ‘team’ could not get the air out of the lines. No matter how many times the upper and lower helms were turned lock to lock the presence of air remained. A phone call to Teleflex enlightened Jim that some systems require an electric purging unit to be connected to achieve success. After enquiring about the availability in the area of a machine and finding out the cost of the daily rental it didn't take long for Jim to determine that it would be more economical for him to buy one. After waiting a week for the machine to arrive an appointment was set to finish off the job, or so we all thought! Jim did get the air out of the steering system but when he performed the autopilot set-up tests the autopilot advised that the test failed due to the rudder moving too slowly. After talking to Simrad they determined that, perhaps, a larger pump on the new pilot would be the solution. We are still waiting for the larger pump! A word of warning to those who may see an advantage to having a redundant pilot...put plenty of absorbent blankets down under any parts of the steering that could leak steering fluid while being worked on and connected to. We unfortunately were not fully prepared and a large quantity of fluid escaped the system both at the upper and lower helm, from the lower helm area the fluid found its way down to the guest cabin and made quite a mess there! On the boat deck the fluid drained from the flying bridge helm station all over the deck and down to the companionways on the main deck. The admiral was beside herself! (Mild description). Our plan to be in the Bahamas for Christmas has obviously been scraped; the latest news from Jim is that because of the ‘Holidays’ it is unlikely that the new larger autopilot pump that we need will arrive before the New Year, so we are 'Stalled!' and are making plans for Christmas and New Year here in Sarasota. Not all bad but we are anxious to get going and we are ready!

We had arranged  to sell our cars, both of them to the same person which is very convenient, yesterday was the day for my car to go. I have owned one of the last diesel 'big' bodied Mercedes, a 1993 300 SD, that were imported to the US, she has been the most wonderful car, to the point that I have not wanted a different car and have not thought to change since I bought her; my trusty friend has safely and reliably delivered 317,000 miles! Well, the day before yesterday, one day before the sale 'Murphy' paid a visit, I caught the front of the car on one of those big parking blocks and yes, you guessed it...ripped the @%&$%#;* front air dam off! The net result was a reduction of mucho dineros, $500 to be precise - not a good day. I explained the delay in us leaving and requested a delay in giving up Lavinia's car so we would at least be able to get around while the autopilot and steering debacle gets fixed. No problem...our buyer is Sam Hazeltine of S & S Mercedes Service & Repair, great people by the way, they have serviced both our cars for us over the years. So, we still have Lavinia's car, a Toyota Corolla station wagon which we bought new in November of 1991! Yes, from reading this you can see we have not been 'car people' over the last 20 years. Have always had better things to spend our money on...boats for example! 

The WirieAP
All cruisers would like to have an Internet connection all of the time for weather information easy e-mail capability and just for general information. The cost, however, is prohibitive for most as to receive this kind of service it requires satellite connection at an exorbitant cost. The WirieAP is a wifi booster which will find and amplify signals from great distances. Whereas not providing a continuous service it certainly increases the ability to have an Internet connection much more of the time than would normally be the case. The unit is of good quality and is specifically made for outdoor installation and the marine environment. As we cruise I will report more specifically concerning the effective operating range and its durability. Installation is simple and the unit’s performance so far is great, with a signal being obtained from approximately two miles distant. I would recommend to anyone. http://www.thewirie.com/ 

I ordered a Warn 800 Hoist which we will install on the mast boom to assist in the raising and lowering of the dinghy. I ordered a remote control accessory too. Installation is planned for next week sometime so more to follow. Oh, the decision to buy the Warn was as a result of reading other cruisers reports on the Krogen Cruisers net, a great resource and most helpful.  

Lavinia, (aka HT, the Admiral) made an executive decision to have the pilot house bench seat and convertible pilot berth recovered, she also, after a visit to the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show last fall, envied one particular boat we boarded which had a beautiful decor and in particular a certain type of wallpaper in its pilot house. I found out only recently that she has a good memory and one day last week she arrived home after a shopping expedition with the very same wallpaper? Sooo, by deduction I guess I had better get on board with the notion that the pilot house is going to be redecorated to match the new cushions! The ultra suede really looks great and does transform the appearance of the space. 

Dock Party (Dec 1st) Jeff, Ron & Pam our neighbours suggested that all of us who have boats on N dock should have a dock party...so we did! About twelve brave souls attended and we had a great time, everyone brought their beverage of choice and we had fruit and veggie platters, homemade sausage rolls, made by Lavinia, some with curry in them (ooh, yummy!) my favourite, hamburgers on the grill (we christened our new grill), various salads, potato and pasta and last but not least Pam’s baked beans! We started at around 15:00 and, I have no idea how, but managed to keep it going until 23:00. Yes, you guessed it a thumping headache the next morning...was it worth it, you bet, we had so much fun with great stories and cheek aching laughter. 

As we near our leaving date it is appropriate to remind readers of our purpose here. I started this blog as I wanted to record our lives in retirement, our adventures and travels; secondly to encourage other would be cruisers to take the plunge. We have firsthand experience of the difficulties to actually ‘do this’, by taking the first step of buying the boat, then actually selling everything to completely free one’s self from the land and finally, actually leaving the dock. We personally feel that not having any land ties is the way to go but to be fair there are many cruiser who do maintain a land base and return to it, usually, for periods of each year and continue to alternate between home and boat. With no disrespect to those cruisers who do this successfully, we feel the total freedom route is the one. ‘Partners’ our 42’ Kadey Krogen boat is our home not just a boat on which we spend part of a year, it is the only home we have and that makes the approach different, all of a sudden we have become a citizen of the world and to have the ability to move her to new horizons on a whim is thrilling and exciting. If we owned a home too I don’t think our approach would be quite the same. To us we would still feel tied to and tied up in the land lubbers’ rut and only a citizen of that particular country who was temporarily taking a sabbatical to cruise for a while. Going back a number of years our retirement plan was to sell the family home in Sarasota, FL keep the small condo, also in Sarasota, and buy my dreamboat a 50’ Flush Deck Grand Banks and eventually, once retired, follow the sun south. My dream became Lavinia’s dream too so in 1998 we bought a 50’ Grand Banks and names her ‘Partners’. We sold the family home and indeed bought the small condo, we were on our way. Both of us were working full time and contented ourselves with local weekend trips. We did decide to renovate the boat and ‘Partners’ spent two years at Marlow Marine in Palmetto, FL being made brand new again. What a wonderfully job they did, the boat was magnificent. Our dream faced a setback and in 2002 I was diagnosed with prostate and bladder cancer, on the same day! The two years of treatment and surgeries I received took its toll and the upkeep of the boat became too much so she was sold. An Englishman bought her and took her to the UK. Our dream became shelved for several years. Gradually as time passed we started to plan ‘the dream’ again and in 2011 we bought our Kadey Krogen 42’ and named her ‘Partners’, (we firmly believe we are), and our dream was back on track again. We gave ourselves a year to move aboard and dispose of all the land based trappings. We became full time live aboards in December 2011. Our next goal was to become long distant cruisers by the end of 2012. We are now fully retired and, for us, have made the right decision. We now can't imagine not to have taken the plunge to become free and totally in charge of our lives. If you are tempted to follow this lifestyle do it as soon as you possibly can don’t stay working just to accumulate a few more dollars. A fellow long range cruiser Scott Flanders who has completed a circumnavigation in his 46’ Nordhavn once wrote “We all learn from each other particularly from ourselves. The one person you can never fool is yourself.” He further wrote… 

“A prime example, we had good friends from the Keys who retired 4 years ahead of us. He was a boat builder building beautiful wood/epoxy custom sport fishermen. He sold his business and property then bought his Keys house paying cash, had previously built three fishing boats for the Keys and had bought a new Porsche for his wife. Within three years they were the unhappiest people you could imagine. Yes, they lived in paradise but when you get up each day and ask yourself 'what's next?' it really gets boring. When picking up palm fronds and driving to town to pick up the paper become part of your routine, it's sad. This is just one example of lessons learned among many that fostered our decision.” 

A friend of mine Bernie, during one of our regular breakfast meetings, said to me “you are the only person I know who is actually following and living their dream”. Wow, really, pretty sad too! If you have a dream, a real passion to do something with your life and time, please, as Nike would say, just do it! You’ll figure it out, what I am saying here is don’t stall at the dreaming and planning stage; I think so many people do and never get going and you too will end up “picking up palm fronds and driving to town to pick up the paper” Remember familiarity breeds contempt, it is so easy to just continue working, living the same routing accumulating more money, so many people just think they need more and more of it, you don’t! Change is exciting, it is good for your relationship and I don’t think that Lavinia and I have talked to another cruiser who has not been ecstatic about their decision to ‘go cruising’. I am sure that it will extend our lives as we are active every day. Living on ‘Partners’ is like being on a stair walker 24/7, up and down, up and down, it absolutely amazes me how many time a day one actually uses all the steps we have! I have lost 22 lbs in a year… 

Going to close now and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy & Healthy New Year…

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Final Stages!

November 20th 2012

Position N 27° 22.225’.
               W 82° 37.075’.
 
Longboat Key Club Moorings, FL


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Leaving! The time is looming...it seems there is not enough time to accomplish everything that is necessary to enable actually casting off. It has become apparent that more ‘stuff’ has to go as we will not have enough room to store all the provisions, spare parts and, of course, the beer and wine! Our guest cabin, den, office is pivotal in the storage department; it is our pantry, computer centre and, what needs to change, our ‘junk’ room! We have both realized there is no junk room on a boat! We had been keeping all our old tax returns and ‘important’ papers which have been stacked in files occupying valuable shelf space, do we really need it? The answer is no, in most cases one only needs to hold onto tax returns for three years. While we owned a large home and had a dedicated office, storage of all this stuff was not a problem, now things are different...old tax returns, more food, old tax returns, more food, get it! So, we are busy paring; it is refreshing actually, don’t be scared of doing it when your time comes, getting rid of stuff is one of the events that Lavinia and I have enjoyed the most and have talk to others about affectionately, strange but true. What we are doing is freeing, shedding the unnecessary trappings of life enables one to focus on life the very living of it, the smaller and arguably the more important things that go on around us all day that in shore side life we all miss or choose to miss. It seems the human race is so focused on financial progress/survival that simple life is passed by. Transiting to a lesser fixed income and not having a daily job to focus on enables one to wake up to life. All of a sudden there is nothing to worry about! I say nothing to worry about; of course there are things, the engine, the generator the water maker...the necessities to our life on board. There isn’t the social station to maintain the expenses of one’s station to meet. What a change, I love it, HT and I have time to talk, time to enjoy each other, what a concept! Meals are no longer a rush we really are able to take time and smell the roses. I have spent so much of my life serving others and attending to their needs, either as a business owner, manager or employee, don’t get me wrong I have loved it. It is, however, such a pleasant change to be able to be a little selfish and focus on self and the things important to me.  Life is in stages and I thank all the clients, customers and all the people who have made mine and HT’s dream possible and above all, become a reality. Retirement is a stage of life every person deserves, a time to be a little selfish, a time to fulfil all the things that, for a life time have been subordinated in favour of raising a family, maintaining a career and generally providing to others, retirement is ‘our’ time!  

Although both Lavinia and I have travelled the world extensively we feel that we have barely scraped the surface. For the first time now we have the ability to take as much time as we want to explore fascinating places and really get to know the people of the countries we visit. Travelling by boat is still the safest form of transportation and travelling on one’s home makes the ‘journey’ so much more enjoyable.  

The Bimini top is due next week and the engine room will be fully attended to with both ‘Stonewall Jackson’ and ‘Faraday’ having had a ‘birthday’. I changed all fuel filters, including the four Racors. Although functioning perfectly I serviced the heat exchangers and water pumps on both engines too – she is ready to go! We are having the pilot house cushions recovered too and the Admiral and I have chosen a beige ultra suede material which will go well with all the wood trim. Jim Ingram from Marine Electronics Installation, Inc dropped me an e-mail this week to say that the auto pilot equipment and the AIS should be in from the manufacturers soon so I am expecting a call any time to set the installation day! We also have a WirieAP which will increase our range for picking up a wifi connection to about 5 miles. Danny the rigger we are using to install an electric hoist to our mast boom for lowering and lifting the dinghy has set me the task of choosing the hoist I want and ordering it. The choice is mind boggling and I have stalled! I even wrote a post on the Krogen Cruisers Net asking for advice. I received much help and can now narrow down the choices. The job is not difficult and should be done in a day once the hoist arrives. The davits that we had mounted on the swimming platform and the transom are gone, sold the first day they were advertised on Craig’s List, amazing! Two beautiful new stainless steel fishing rod holders are now mounted on the aft deck stanchions; an additional one is mounted on the port side for the new Magma grill we have just bought! There are a lot of barbeques ahead in our future, grilled fish, grilled fish and more grilled fish – sounds good doesn’t it. Of course though, that will all be predicated on whether I can catch anything!

 
Jeff, from ‘Now and Then’ two boats down the dock, helped me lay out my two anchor chains which needed re-marking. Of course, the dock police spotted the operation and issued the mandatory words: “You are not supposed to be doing that on the dock; you will end up getting paint on it”. The marina employees here are all really friendly and helpful they want to be accommodating ‘all of the time’. The dock master doesn’t venture out much from his office and rarely comes to the docks, so what he doesn’t see he doesn’t grieve. We successfully completed the job, had time to let the paint dry, and had the anchors re-stowed in no time, no paint on the docks either. Somehow or other the Chelsea Ships Strike clock chimed 8 bells for midday! What did that mean you might ask, well, getting the job done in the AM and the sun now passed the yardarm, time for a beer of course, in fact two! Jeff and I sat on the ‘back porch’ enjoying the beer and the superb weather we had that day. 

 
The Holidays are looming and we would love to spend them in the Bahamas, whether that will be possible we don’t know yet? It seems hard to throw off the lines, there always seems to be another job that needs to be addressed. Lavinia had a good point though, “Some of these jobs can be done on the way as long as you have the parts” what a concept; of course we are taking our home with us and it is not like I have another job!   


Thursday 15th The replacement horns I mentioned back in September, which did arrive, have been sitting in my pilothouse until yesterday. The reason for the procrastination in getting them installed is that they are different! I thought that I was ordering the exact same ones and it would be a simple matter of swapping them out...oh no! Yesterday was the day to once and for all end the procrastination. Not long after I had carried all the necessary tools to the boat deck and had begun to try and fathom out how to remove the old horns Jeff my knowledgeable and very helpful neighbour stopped by and asked “what are you up to”? From that point on there were two pairs of eyes and minds on the job. Between the two of us we got the job finished, not easy I might say as much modification to the mounting block and general installation was necessary. It took three hours in the end. Oh, what a great sound – I think ‘Partners’ smiled when the new horns sounded, she was a real boat again now with her voice back...more beer on the back deck! Lavinia joined us too having spent the whole day below sorting through papers etc., in the guest cabin, trying to pare down the amount of unnecessary ‘stuff’ we have in there so that the space can be used for our provisions. The cabin doubles as our pantry too. Enough work for one day so the three of us sat on our back ‘porch’ enjoying the beer, conversation and the great weather.

Saturday 17th Our new Magma grill is here! I installed another fishing rod holder on the port side of the aft deck to accommodate the installation and ‘hey presto’ we are ready to grill!  
 
The new Bimini top is installed! We're almost complete!
 
The Lexan which covers the flying bridge instruments has, over the years, clouded up to the point of where it is now difficult to see through it...so, now is the time to replace it. A trip to Sarasota Glass & Mirror quickly provided the replacement pieces. Whilst there, I am in the process of making a looky bucket, I bought a ¼’’ x 9½” circular glass which I will 5200 onto the outside of the bottom of my 5 gallon bucket. We will then be able to look at our anchor to ensure it is set properly and anything else in the clear waters of the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
 
Monday 27th HT continues to provision! We are taking on so much that because the majority of the available storage is on the starboard side we are developing a list! I will be trying to compensate by moving engine room supplies and spare parts over to the port side. Lavinia is constantly worried and in fear of not doing a good job...I guess this responsibility will become second nature as time goes by.  (I am having the same concerns with my weather forecasting skills!)

Today I retired from real estate! I have decided to put my license in a voluntary inactivate state while we cruise. I thought about keeping it active in a referral mode but communication while we are cruising will be difficult and in reality I really won’t be able to provide a service. I visited the office to see my broker Gloria and all the support staff to say goodbye, sad but exciting. I could not have wished for a more pleasant bunch of people to work with. In fact without their patience and watchful eye I would have been in ‘trouble’ many times. Thank you to you all...I’ll miss youL.


Monday, November 5, 2012

The importance of timing!

October 20th 2012

Position  N 27° 22.225’.
              W 82° 37.075’.

Longboat Key Club Moorings, FL

 
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There is one thing that cannot be stopped and that is the passage of time. For any of you reading this and other cruising blogs you will come across a theme. What I am referring to is ‘get going’, the passage of time brings on a much higher probability of failing health. Most of us work and work until we think we have enough money to retire. A better plan is to set the date that you will retire and begin following your life time dream at a level you can afford then; don’t continue to accumulate wealth and strive for perfection. For example, in our case, to own an affordable boat and be cruising, is better than striving to own a larger more expensive one. The point I am making is, as follows, and I hate bringing it up and only do so in the interest of making the point that time is so valuable and that there is no time like the present to get going. I am in generally good health am active and can perform the daily chores required as a cruiser, although I have had a near miss with bladder cancer, I am now on a two year interval visit to my urologist for checkups and have been clear of cancer for 10 years. I have had prostate cancer too and that has required me to have several two year treatment regimens consisting of three month interval injections of a hormone drug which has kept the cancer at bay and still allows me to function normally although a little more fatigued than I would like. These treatments occur with approximately two year breaks in-between. Our cruising has to revolve around these inconveniences’ and longer treks are difficult to do so in the future some of our ‘dream’ trips may not become reality. Yesterday I was diagnosed with a melanoma on my right shoulder and will be having it removed next week. The prognosis is good as the dermatologist advises me that it has been caught early. The inconvenience, even if the worry of the cancer returning does not become a reality, is now I have another thing to watch over that requires a three month check-up and provides more interruption to our cruising plans. I can see how so many boats are advertised for sale with the note in the description “change of owner’s plans due to health”. Don’t let this be you, if you and your spouse/significant other, if you have one, are among the lucky ones enjoying good unrestrictive health get out there and live! To not have the health worry is a breath of fresh air, something which unfortunately is in my past. I will continue to cruise but have to live with the inconveniences and the knowledge that the incurable prostate cancer I have will eventually become resistant to the available treatments and I will have to face finishing our cruising days earlier than I would like. No sympathy required I am fine and am living my dream; I just want any of you planning to become adventure seeking cruisers to get out there sooner rather than later! Tempus fugit!
 

This blog entry’s techno is toilet related, I wrote in September about servicing the sewage system and that George from Delmar would, upon his return from vacation, come back and replace the holding tank vent pipe. Yesterday was the day...George arrived at 10:30 and went to work, together we first cleaned the hull vent fitting by removing a panel in the starboard aft corner of the master stateroom to give access to the vent pipe where it connects to the hull fitting which actually was brass and not ‘pot metal’ as I wrote in the Sept 15th entry. George removed the hose from the fitting and began cleaning the crud out and then he went to the outboard side and, with me literally holding his legs, leant over the side of ‘Partners’ and cleaned the vent from the outside too. All not easy as the vent is a 90° fitting and required a variety of tools to reach all the way in and through. George then connected a pump to the inboard side of the fitting and made sure that air was passing through freely, it was. Now a decision had to be made to either try and remove and replace the vent hose or just blow it through with the pump to ensure the flow of air. George decided that even though he may be able to remove the hose clamp holding the hose to the tank fitting, that once disconnected, he may not be able to reconnect it. The contortions necessary to reach the vent pipe position on the holding tank were extreme, and there was no visibility. We both agreed to not attempt a replacement of the hose. George checked the airflow through the vent pipe using a manual dinghy inflator pump and all was good. We quickly reassembled the hose to the fitting and checked the system operation. Finally George checked the vacuum pressure in the Vacuflush toilet we have in the forward head and it was fine. It has now been 24 hours since George’s service visit and all is well. The Admiral is a happy camper! 
 

I did manage to finish off varnishing the four aft deck chairs last week so now we have ‘like new’ furniture on the back porch! The table and chairs really do look good although I say it myself. With the painting over, last Saturday was cleaning day so from top to bottom ‘Partners’ received a ‘birthday’. Lavinia and I hosed and washed all surfaces and scrubbed the teak decks, across the grain of course, and boy did she look good after. The job took us all day and we were both tired out at the end; it was nice though to stand back and admire our labours! Somehow, we both agreed, the cold beer ‘sundowners’ that evening tasted the best!
 

We will be heading to Chevy Chase Maryland on Thursday to visit HT’s younger sister P Kaye and family, well actually her husband Greg and son Jack 17; Tess their daughter has just started university in Gainesville, FL at the University of Florida...she’s a Gator now and won’t be there!  This is a very important trip as we will be taking the last of our belongings, the impossible to part with items, the priceless treasuresJ, to their basement for storage until our return. ‘Partners’ will then be at her cruising weight having shed all excess pounds. We will drive nonstop in one day and will be staying through Sunday driving back nonstop on Monday; I love to drive and it will be the last long road trip we will make before selling our cars.  
 

October 26th. We are safely home at Longboat Key from our Washington DC trip, we had a great time, Greg & P Kaye, as usual, were very generous hosts. We attended their son Jacks Friday night football game, watched him play and win! Jack’s girlfriend is one of the cheerleaders so our curiosity of ‘who our 16 year old nephew was dating’ was satisfied, she seemed a great girl and pretty too! On Saturday it was football again, Greg works for the University of Maryland and is able to obtain good tickets for the games. The ‘Terrapins’ played the University of NC, the game was very even and exciting with end to end plays, sadly the home team lost in the last seconds as a result of a missed field goal attempt which would have won them the game. The score was 20 to 18. Lavinia’s cousin Henry, Pulitzer prize winner and now retired from the Washington Post, came over with his wife Deborah, one of his sons and two of his grandchildren for a visit and dinner on Sunday night; we had a great meal and, of course, a lot of fun. All in all we had a super visit and I know Lavinia and P Kaye enjoyed seeing each other; these rare get-togethers are precious...
 

This week we have been busy continuing our preparation for beginning our cruising life and at the weekend we will be off to the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show. We have a list of things to buy which include a new outboard motor for our Novurania dinghy; we have decided to not buy a whole new rig, we were considering an A/B with a consol and bigger motor but we just can’t justify the expense. We will be looking for LED bulb replacements for our incandescent ones, also a good deal on C-Map Extra Wide charts for the Caribbean and as far north as the Canadian Maritimes. Oh, and two new fishing rods and reels! We are also hoping to find a deal on a magma grill, we’ll see! We will take time out to look at the newer boats too as they always provide idea’s that we can or may incorporate into ‘Partners’, it is fun to watch the evolution and improvements that occur every year. In the boat industry most changes and improvements are as a result of owner input and I have been amazed over the years of how attentive the better manufacturers are to listening to their owner base and implementing changes. No one boat is the same as the next, at least in the larger boats, manufactures are always willing to modify interior designs and accommodation layout changes, it is fascinating to see each owners ‘ideal’ layout and decor tastes. 

The sights we see...
Last night we had a gathering on board ‘Partners’, quite spontaneously Ron and Pam, Rudy and Teresa from the two boats either side of us and Jeff a little farther down the dock all appeared to enjoy the wonderful weather and sundowners. Sooo, before too long all were on our foredeck and we just talked and talked, laughed and joked until 20:00hrs! Lavinia managed to find some snacks, chips and nut mix but the hit was the Cajun crab and lobster dip it had just the required ‘kick’ to go with the alcohol! By now the 151 rum was out!  Funny how a party can get going when a bunch of boaters get together. Hurricane Sandy in the Atlantic is bringing us NW to NE winds up to about 30 Knots at times it is also drying out the air. Yesterday and last night in particular was perfect, today I think will be the same, 81° is the forecast high.
 

The Boat Show was tiring as usual but productive; first we have decided to look into putting a St. Croix consol and seat into our 10’ Novuania dinghy and installing a 20 hp Tohatsu outboard with power tilt and trim. We bought several cruising guides and electronic charts; Bluewater Books had discounts that ensured we made a trip to their store off 17th street and oh yes...a few hundred dollars later we escaped!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Admiral has retired!


October 12th 2012
 

View Larger Map
Position N 27° 22.225’.
               W 82° 37.075’.  

Longboat Key Club Moorings, FL 


Lavinia is now a full time Admiral! At long last she has given up her nursing job at Sarasota Memorial Hospital; last January was her 20th anniversary. This is ‘big’, the ultimate test for us lays just ahead, can we put up with each other in close proximity all the time? While living on ‘Partners’ full time for the past year every morning at 07:00 I have walked ahead of HT up the pilot house steps to open the door and see her off the boat and off to work. A routine that marked our separation for the day, the beginning of our own worlds, the part of the day where each of us had the options of what we did and then communicated about later. Now each of us watches the other all the time, is aware of where the other is at all times, both of us are listening and deciding to say something or not. It is different and I know both of us are conscious of not stepping on each other’s toes. This is just an adjustment however and both of us knew it was coming. All couples have to experience this sooner or later and it is a new era. It is like the ‘vacation’ test but forever! We are very compatible and have long ago found our place, very few words are needed any more to discuss various tasks and the division of the same, the duties each of us have just seem to fall in place when the task presented itself. I am sure we will be okay although the new dinghy which we want is very important to Lavinia and she has, many times, said how it must be easy for her to use as she will need to go ashore by herself from time to time not only to shop but to get away from me! It’s okay; a little separation is fine from time to time.  

 

My oldest friend from England is visiting Sarasota at the moment. Pete and I virtually grew up together from the time we got married and began our course along the road of life. We had started families at the same time and continued to live in the same area. We drove sports cars together on Sunday afternoons before we had young families. In other words we were close and continuous friends. Before too long I bought a boat and then a bigger one; we took vacations together and generally enjoyed each other’s company. Pete and his wife Melanie came cruising with us as we took vacations to the British Channel Isles and France. We had fun and of course in those days there was no GPS only paper charts a depth finder and a compass, oh we did have radar. Somehow we made it everywhere we wanted to go. In fact I remember the calculations I had to do for the strong tides in the English Channel in order to arrive at the harbour entrance for Cherbourg; I surprised myself on more than one occasion by actually getting very close to where I had planned to be! Many times the English Channel was rough but we were young and, after all, we were on vacation, so we crossed anyway. Somehow we survived and live to tell the tales. Pete’s bother Dave is now a Canadian having immigrated to Canada 45 years ago. Well, he and his wife bought a holiday home here in Sarasota which I helped them buy. So, after many years of only occasional visits to UK to see each other here Pete is in Sarasota visiting me. Sadly (happily) HT and I will be sailing off soon so will not be in the area any more to take advantage of Pete having somewhere to stay in Florida, such is life. I am hoping that Pete will take advantage of his brother’s accommodations nevertheless and enjoy some R & R here in Florida.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mothers 90th!

September 25th 2012


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Position N 27° 22.225’.
               W 82° 37.075’. 
Longboat Key Club Moorings, FL.
 

My brother Doug, granddaughter Victoria,
Mother, YT & HT. In the front:
Bryony my eldest daughter and   
granddaughter Christina.
The 16th September was my Mothers 90th birthday. My parents were married in 1946 and remained happy and together until my Father died in 1994. My mother did well on her own living in their flat in Winchester, England until the age of 80 when it was felt she needed some assistance and she willingly sold the flat and moved into an assisted living home where she is today. My parents were the greatest loving parents and I always felt that I had a wonderful upbringing and so much support. I went to a private boarding school and upon graduation at the age of 16 went to sea as an indentured navigation cadet with P & O Shipping Company. My life was full of adventure, my parents really tried hard to give me a happy childhood but with some memorable events along the way. I was a boy scout and participated in a number of the The Duke of Edinburgh's Outward bound events, all exciting stuff. I am sad today however...over the years I have spoken to my Mother weekly on a Sunday, she started the routine by calling me at the same time every Sunday, it was nice and very motherly, she would check on me and ask me what mischief I had been up to since we last spoke then she would deliver all the UK news, complain about the weather, all the usual things and we did this, initiated by her, for years; in fact until 2008. During the early 2000’s she visited us several times and flew across the Atlantic without concern all by herself. However, on her last visit it was apparent that it would be her last. She was finally showing age and complained mildly about the flight. Her memory was failing and life appeared not as much fun to her, she was far more content to just sit and gaze while listening to her collection of classical music that she had collected over the years and adored. For a while after her return I initiated the call on Sundays and we continued for a few more years with this routine. Of late the calls have stopped. Lavinia and I visited England earlier in May this year and, of course paid several visits to see her. Since that visit she has rapidly gone downhill and the onset of deafness is becoming severe. The sadness refers to me calling her on her birthday to congratulate her on the achievement of making it to 90! Sadly, when the nurse took the phone to her all she said was “I can’t hear anything but thank you for calling” she didn’t even know it was me. I realized we had had our last conversation, there would not be any more listening to her laugh and tell me the news of the week, complaining that she hadn’t met any eligible good looking 60 year olds to take her out on a date! I said to Lavinia that I was so glad we were able to make our trip in May this year... 

The latest big news is that the Admiral is no longer working at Sarasota Memorial Hospital; last Thursday was her last day! This is a significant step towards casting off the lines. With mixed emotions after 20 years there she said her goodbye's and that was that. We will still be at the dock for another six months though as it is our plan to finish equipping ‘Partners’ then travel north to spend the Summer of 2013 in the Canadian Maritimes and New England, travelling slowly back towards Florida from where we will cross to the Bahamas in late November and carry on South to the Caribbean. No more getting up at 5:20 A.M. or at least having to, which was the time HT had to turn to in order to be ready for work. We still wake up fairly early although now it is because of habit as opposed to being woken by the alarm clock.
 
Our new Viking offshore life raft.
FOJ arrived this morning with the life raft in his truck. He brought a protective cloth so as not to scuff the decks, a trolley to transport the raft along the pier to ‘Partners’ berth, his tools, in other words, as usual, he arrived prepared. John’s background is an electrician and I don’t think that I could have managed many of the jobs and project's that I have undertaken on board without him; he has been a really good friend. We successfully installed the Life raft in spite of the worst instructions we had ever seen. Considering how expensive these rafts are I am a little surprised that there aren’t more clearly written and explicit instructions provided. In spite of the forgoing, logic prevailed and we got the job done in no time.
 

In readiness for next year and the beginning of our cruising lives I am preparing a budget for the retirement stage of our lives. Included in our annual budget is, of course, the cost of ‘Partners’ insurance. We are currently insured with Pantaenius and until now have been satisfied with the premium and the coverage given. I am proposing to be, at all times, during the period Jul. 1st to Oct. 31st, outside the hurricane zone, which is usually considered between 31.00° N and 10.50° N, not with Pantaenius; they have come up with requiring a hurricane plan for travel to the Caribbean at any time of the year and do not have a specified southern limit to the hurricane belt? They even consider as far south as 15° S still requiring a hurricane plan. Any tropical disturbance is extremely rare in the South Atlantic, it is known as the calmest ocean in the world and I don’t think the rare likelihood of a cyclone forming should be overlooked by an insurance company. Some risk has to fall back to the insurance provider. In other words we would be subject to higher deductibles and premium in order to spend the hurricane season, in say Trinidad, where we would be anchored or moored alongside other boats insured by different companies where a hurricane plan was not required. They would not have higher deductibles and would not have been levied a higher premium. The hurricane plan is a ‘catch’ as any deviation from it gives the insurance company an out. To me it seems too one sided a relationship and I am currently shopping for an alternative to Pantaenius. A fellow cruiser who owns an identical boat to mine is now in Granada, he is insured with Pantaenius as well and is also considering changing insurance companies. He was once insured with Markel who do have a southern limit to their hurricane zone and he is thinking of changing back. I have applied to Markel for insurance too and will report again when I know the result. 

Many of you following cruising blogs are familiar with Scott & Mary Flanders and their travels in ‘Egret’ their Norhavn 46’. I have just found out that they are insured with Markel and have been since 2006. They are extremely happy with the service and coverage. Okay, that has clinched it for me and as we now have been accepted by Markel I will be changing to them on November 1st this year. As an aside the lady I have been corresponding with at International Marine Insurance Services (IMIS), her name is Susan, is currently using Sailmail over her SSB radio to e-mail me as she is in the Pacific Ocean travelling between Fakarava Atoll and Tahiti; technology has come a long way! Pretty cool!

Cheerio for now...

Monday, September 17, 2012

My other Job!


View Larger Map
Position N 27° 22.225’.
               W 82° 37.075’. 

Longboat Key Club Moorings, FL 
 
September 15th 2012
 
Many people ask us “how we are doing on the boat?” Well, just fine, in fact we really are passed comparing to our previous land lubber life of house ownership and stuff. Last evening we celebrated a good friend’s birthday and “how we are doing on the boat?” came up “how are you coping with living in a small space?” also came up! Well, again, just fine. The requirements for a comfortable life are actually minimal and we have all those things on our 42’ boat. We have two full bathrooms (heads), a master cabin with very comfortable bed, a guest cabin that doubles as a den and office when guests are not on board (nearly all the time), a small but adequate galley (kitchen) and a salon with sitting for six or seven. The pilot house really doesn’t have a purpose when we are in port but when at sea obviously becomes the most important area. It does have a seat that converts to a large double bed. The boat deck and flying bridge area is our vantage spot, not unlike an elevated deck or terrace area in a house it is also the place to be to catch the breeze and we have a bimini top, sort of like an umbrella on a patio, for shade. The aft covered deck is our ‘back porch’ where we can sit in the shade while experiencing the outdoors watching a sunrise or sunset or just gazing at the wake as we cruise. There is a table that will seat up to six for al fresco dinning and we can enclose the area completely with custom screens for comfort when we are in colder climes. Lastly, the foredeck has a bench seat where we can sit while under way or to have our sundowners’ when at dock. Equipment wise we have more conveniences than a house – we have a reverse osmoses Watermaker which makes up to 500 gallons of great water a day, we have a large generator so are never without the capability of making all the electricity we need. All in all, as you can see, we have more than the basic requirement we humans need for a comfortable life and all without having the grass to cut! Of course there are other tasks to compensate like deck swabbing, engine room maintenance, stainless steel polishing, varnishing the bright work and polishing the hull and super structure to prevent fibreglass oxidation. Plenty of jobs to compensate for not cutting the grass, don't you think? All of them though, can be done with beautiful vistas in view and while visiting exotic places, a definite plus. 
 
This week I ordered a new set of Fiamm air horns, the originals, simply, have had better days. They are ‘tired’ and make a ‘tired’ and embarrassingly pathetic noise.  I have tried to clean and polish the diaphragms but to no avail, so I am looking forward to their arrival soon so that ‘Partners’ can once again hold her head up high when it is necessary to ‘honk’ the horns. Slowly but surely the equipment we must have to cruise in comfort and safety is coming together. 

I also purchased the 10th edition of Bruce van Sant’s book ‘The Thornless path to Windward’. I have read the book, previous editions, several times and it is, in my opinion the bible. Any cruiser or yachtsman considering an extended cruise to the Eastern Caribbean should read and study this book. To travel against the ‘Trades’ and the waves that come with them is hard and uncomfortable. Using the suggestions in Bruce’s book will provide a much more pleasant and relaxing solution to the alternate of arriving dishevelled at ones destinations. Cruising is supposed to be pleasant not a daily battle with the elements Bruce explains how to read the weather and be patient for the right ‘window’, learning the use of weather fronts, he also explains, in detail, the use of the night winds, both nocturnal and katabatic. In addition to how to get there in comfort he gives details on what to do when you get there and how to ‘check in’ with immigration and all the other authorities. Small chartlets illustrate the entrances to the different destinations and I can see the value of them as opposed to entering blind for the first time, essentially learning the hard way all the things that Bruce lays out for you. The authors experience of the numerous towns and villages along the way are written about to assist the cruiser with re-provisioning locations and the sources for repairs etc., unbelievably useful.
 
As you can see from reading this blog drivel to own a boat certainly a cruising boat, is a full time job thus the title of this entry; I’m also a Realtor which makes big demands on my time too. Just keeping ‘Partners’ clean and keeping up with the jobs related to the general weathering of things around the boat is very time consuming. Take the aft deck table for instance, it is a varnished circular drop leaf table and it sits in sun and rain plus a salt laden atmosphere all the time. The time has arrived for it to be refinished. Now remember the aft deck is the main entrance to the accommodations and the boat deck above, it is a high traffic area and yet it is the work area of the boat too. In the house we used to own we had a three car garage and two cars so there was a constantly unoccupied work and storage area. If I was still there and had the table refinishing project to hand I would simply set up the table there and the materials needed and proceed to do the job. Every time a coat of varnish went on about the only thing I would need to do would be to open the garage door to ventilate. On ‘Partners’ however, it is a different story, I lay out a large protective plastic sheet so that the teak decking is protected and fetch the materials needed from their storage place and proceed to work. When finished I pray it doesn’t rain! The materials are put away again and when dry the table is folded and moved aside so we are able to transit the deck area again. So, you can see that working in the elements affects the project and all in all every job takes longer. I plan to put 13 coats of varnish on the table so I will have to repeat the process that many times, all the time hoping a coat is not ruined by an unexpected rain shower. Everything takes longer. Washing the boat is a chore frequently undertaken as like any boat owner knows birds like to roost in rigging and we have some. The birds, especially crows in our marina, like the rigging as their roost. The sailing boats are first choice with their multiple stanchions and spreader bars. Then cometh us! We have three stanchions a mast and boom with block and tackle rigging so we offer similar ‘comforts’ to the birds, just not as tall as the sailing boats! After their ‘visit’ the boat deck needs cleaning which is always a chore. Many of us who live aboard go outside at the time the birds swoop in to roost and try to make sure they land on someone else’s boat by clapping and screeching to scare them away, something a home owner would rarely if never do.
 
I discovered another tip to be passed on to other boat owners who are marina bound and use the services of a diver. As I have mentioned before sitting here in a marina in 90°F water causes much growth on the bottom of ‘Partners’. At the end of last month my diver came round to clean underwater. The tip I am passing on is “don’t leave your A/C on”. I did and when doing my usual engine room check shortly after he had finished to my horror discovered the A/C sea strainer almost completely clogged with mud and slim which had been sucked up into the strainer as soon as it was scrapped off the bottom; another chore! Actually, I shouldn’t complain a bit as I am still able to carry out most of the jobs on ‘Partners’ myself , climb vertical ladders to the flying bridge and the engine room then contort to conform to the ‘yoga like’ positions needed to carry out engine room tasks. The boating life is good for ones physical health, at least if you do your own maintenance and cleaning.
 
Last night Friday we tried out the refinished table...six friends came onboard for hors d'oeuvres and a drinks evening. The four ladies each contributed and, of course, we ended up with too much food! All eight of us shared a boating interest and the conversation was non-stop throughout, the stories just kept on coming; at some points we were laughing so hard, my face, at least, was aching and all of us had tears running down our cheeks! We had a really splendid evening enjoying the slightly cooler, I should say less humid evenings that mid September has brought enabled us to open the boat up and sit outside comfortably. Somehow or other being on a boat with friends is always a happy time, it was Saturday A.M. before we turned in...
 
I had decided some time ago that I would have the toilet system overhauled before we went cruising and this was the week. George from Delmar arrived this morning, I had been spurred on to call him as the vacuflush toilet system we have in the forward master head had been cycling more frequently than it should. There is a pump that creates a vacuum in a chamber so that when the toilet is flushed it sucks the waste from the bowl to the holding tank. In addition to the over cycling of the vacuum pump we had an odour! Yes, the dreaded sewage odour, HT was not happy! Our vacuflush toilet is forward and the mechanism, tank etcetera are below the master cabin floor in the forward bilge section. George, who I knew, I had used him once before on our GB50 about 10 years ago, he has been in the toilet system maintenance business for about 20 years here in the Sarasota area, arrived and went to work with me watching intently. I wanted to learn as much as I could in case I had to perform maintenance while we are cruising. George asked me when the system was last serviced; I shrugged my shoulders and gave him a blank look. When the odour started I contacted Chet the previous owner to find out if he had had a similar problem and had ever serviced the system, his answer was no to both questions; the deduction from this was that Chet bought the boat in 2003 and here we are now at the end of 2012 so if Chet didn’t work on it the system had been in service for at least 10 years without being touched! George was horrified and exclaimed! “Service should be administered at 3 year intervals”, he said! Within 20 minutes George had the whole Vacuflush tank out and had disassembled the pump which is attached to it. He took it all out onto the dock, thank goodness, and proceeded to dismantle the pump completely, thoroughly clean and service all components. He ended up replacing the bellows inside the vacuum pump and scraped all the crud from inside the vacuum tank about an hour later he was ready to reassemble the parts. He did also replace one piece of hose that was ‘sweating’ and obviously was a source of some of the odour, a hole in the vacuum pump bellows was the main culprit, however. I gave him a hand to hose out the bilge area and give it all a good clean. George still felt that the vent pipe going from the holding tank to the starboard side of the hull would need replacing and was part of the odour problem and more than likely would need a new vent fitting on the outside of the hull. The hull fittings are made from ‘pot’ metal and have a limited life span. When corrosion sets in the vent fitting simply blocks itself with corrosion. The problem was that George did not have time on this visit due to another appointment and ‘to boot’ was going on vacation for three and a half weeks to Europe. He offered for me to have someone else complete the job but I agreed to wait for his return. So, in conclusion the toilets are working fine and the odour is almost nonexistent, not quite though, so I’m hoping the vent pipe replacement will fix that. To warn any of you who own a KK42 that may experience the necessity to replace a vent pipe on your toilet system, it ain't easy and requires major disassembly of the master bed and the storage under to get at the pipe, it, again helps to be proficient in advanced yoga! 
 
That is all for now...