Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mothers 90th!

September 25th 2012

View Larger Map

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...

Friday, September 7, 2012

Tropical Storm Isaac.

August 29th 2012  

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

Longboat Key Club Moorings, FL 

Pre Dawn while drinking a 'Cuppa'
The Hurricane we were threatened with did not materialize! For days everyone was expecting ‘Isaac’ but as each day passed the storm track moved gradually further to the West. The good news, ‘Isaac’ would not affect Florida too badly, yes some moderate wind and in some areas plenty of rain but Florida handles rain pretty well, it’s sandy soil allows the rain to soak in quickly and the water ends up in our aquifer which is the supply of most of our potable water; the bad news, it looked like ‘Isaac’ would make landfall with a direct hit on New Orleans, almost 7 years to the day after ‘Katrina’. Stepping back a few days to Saturday the marina became a hive of activity as owners, crew and marina staff busied themselves putting out extra mooring lines and fenders, much canvas was being removed lest the wind gusts rip it off. We really didn’t know how bad it might be as the weather forecast could not, 4 – 5 days out confirm the path of the storm so we all prepared for the worst. As the weekend passed and we hunkered down aboard each forecast brought a small sigh of relief as the track moved out into the Gulf. When ‘Isaac’, still a tropical storm, was due west of us and getting a little better organized, our thoughts more focused on the misfortunes of the people in and around the New Orleans area as it became very apparent that they were going to feel the full force of this strengthening storm. Although the wind speeds were not as high as ‘Katrina’ the storm was big and the storm force damaging winds extended out 200 miles from the centre. We were seeing a small storm surge with a tide about one foot above normal.  

Some good news! All the work I did on tracing and fixing the sources of the few leaks we had in our decks which manifested themselves in some water ingress around three of the four prisms we have were holding up. The frequent heavy rain events we were experiencing gave the repairs a very good test and we were fine! I got an ‘attaboy’ from the Admiral! 

To be a cruiser, is to be travelling to wherever you want, is being focused on the now not concerned about the past, is looking forward to the adventure ahead, the unknown! It is easy to complicate one’s life and to grow ones belongings, we all do that over a lifetime, it is far more difficult to scale down to unshackle one’s self and set yourself free. Getting back to the now, this day, immersing in this day not waiting for the weekend or a specific day in the future but this day, this hour, this minute…I’m telling you it is a discovery. I think that throughout the brainwashing of life one becomes programmed and totally unequipped to cope with the raw material of life, in fact life totally. I was reminded while watching a documentary film that if we all lived next door to a power plant, a coal mine, an oil refinery, I could go on, we would all have a much better handle on the necessity to conserve and to protect, to become much more green. I certainly will be paying penance and doing my bit to help; throughout life I just haven’t thought enough about the over indulgence that I have exhibited and the total disregard I have had for the destruction of our planet which is continually being done. Instead we live far removed from the man made scars on our planet. Imagine being a farmer and being told that the river that flowed through your land was going to be dammed as a new hydro electric plant was needed to supply electricity to the expanding metropolis some hundreds of miles away and that the government was to compulsorily purchase his farm, a farm that possibly may have been in his family for many generations which the farmer had visions of remaining in his family for many future generations. We never see the effects of these scars and the destruction to life that it causes, often in the most beautiful rural areas of our planet. As we cruise one cannot help but think about these things…we are participating in and have reconnected with what we think are the more important thing in and to life. The power of corporate greed, their money that can buy the destruction of nature, it is a pitiful crime. So much of this takes place in under populated parts of the globe where the people, land dwellers, simple people living off the land cannot defend themselves and their land from the agreements that have been made by greedy prosperous corporations and in some cases corrupt governments. Material things are the clutter of your life, discard some of them and free yourself to the joy of a life of freedom and days of exploration and amazement…long range cruisers in general, sail boaters or power tend to seek out the quieter unpopulated parts of the world, the self sufficiency skills which come with this lifestyle encourage most of us to find the deserted cove, the empty bay, the small village at the end of the creek, the places that are definitely off the beaten path, the places that are simply a name on the map and would most certainly not be in the tourist guide. Just a thought for you…I know it is a bit ‘heavy’ but this my latest awareness and I guess it really grabbed me… 

September 7th  

Guess what…if you have been listening to the weather broadcasts lately you’ll know, the storm ‘Isaac’ that travelled from the Gulf of Mexico and up the Mississippi to the Midwest has come back down to the Gulf of Mexico and now may form back into an organized storm! It is going to sit in the NE corner of the Gulf for a few day just like ‘Debby’ did and then follow the same course as ‘Debby’ across North Florida and out into the Atlantic. North Florida does not need more rain but it looks like there is some on the way for the weekend. On the Sun Coast here, where we are, we will feel the effects with some rain and wind and heightened surf. The Tropics are active with two full blown hurricanes in the Atlantic, ‘Leslie’ and ‘Michael’ both, fortunately, east of Bermuda and traveling north harmlessly to their extinction.  

‘Partners’ last had her bottom painted with antifouling last October and we are now having to have a diver go down once a month to clean off the growth and any barnacles which have started to grow. Our water temperature is 90° F (32° C) so everything is growing like mad. It is also important to ensure that the through hull orifices are clear too. I am hoping that I can keep the bottom in a satisfactory condition with the diver until late spring next year and then have her re-painted just before summer when we leave to begin our cruising adventure. I want the paint fresh as summer is the growth time when the water is warmest and to have the paint fresh and at its most active is desirable.  

Our new Viking life Raft arrived yesterday at our friends John & Carols house it is in a weather proof canister with an automatic hydrostatic release. It will sit on our boat deck in the starboard aft corner. FOJ has agreed to give me a hand to install it. The installation is easy, however, the canister itself is both awkward and heavy to manhandle around the boat as it is too wide to be brought aboard so will have to be passed up onto the boat deck from the foredeck. In other words it is a two man job. Slowly but surely we are getting our cruising essentials together. I say ours as each person may put a priority on a different piece of equipment; for example some owners insist on redundant radar considering it to be very important to their navigation needs. I in contrast value the radar immensely and have one but I value, as a long distance cruiser, my autopilot more so will be having a second fully independent unit installed soon. My worst fear it to have to steer ‘Partners’ for any length of time plus ‘George’ (see glossary) can do a better job than any human and he can do it non-stop day after day indefinitely without complaining! So, you see everyone has a slightly different approach to equipping their boats with what they consider ‘the essentials’.  

Until next time…