Sunday, November 12, 2017

Dollar Bill on the Bulletin Board

Grandma and Granddad were teachers, and in retirement they spent their winters at an RV resort in Nokomis, FL. When they arrived, Grandma would pin a dollar bill to her bulletin board to send the first grandkid who wrote them at their Florida address that year! We kids seemed to forget the surreptitious reward over the summer for the first several years, but it later became a competition. I might have had bragging rights one year or two.

I’ve had a dollar pinned to my imaginary bulletin board on Emma, but time’s up - the contest is over. And, dear reader, I really shouldn’t be telling you this anyway because no one called me on it.

Last week, I posted a picture on Instagram and Facebook bragging on my engineering skills in cutting a
new dropboard for Emma’s companionway and a funky shaped shelf for the engine room. Using a couple three foot lengths of aluminum angle, a trio of spring clamps, and a couple c-clamps, I had set-up a straight-edge for my saw. I even used a metal yard stick under the plywood, so that the pressure from the clamps wouldn’t mar the nice birch plywood.

It was just then that I snapped and shared a picture.

I made a smooth straight cut with my little cordless circular saw. The 18-tooth carbide blade easily cut through the ¾” plywood -- and my metal yardstick!  Ugh.

Just as I was getting into the meat of the plywood, I heard the little ‘clink-clink’ as a 2” chunk of the ruler fell on the ground at my feet. Ah, well -- we can’t all be carpentry engineers.

And actually, I’ve been using the little 2” ruler offal. It’s a perfectly convenient size for measuring the ⅞” offset for the base of the saw.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Five Crows, a Bald Eagle, a Skunk, and an Umbrella

Two posts ago, I described my travels to Annapolis for a couple seminars. I stayed at an AirBnB which was about 2.5 miles from where the seminars were held. I decided to walk it; though I did get a ride home on Friday. The last part of my morning walk was down Edgewood Road; a pretty major road with apartment complexes on either side leading out to a cluster of marinas and marine service vendors at the water.

On Saturday during my walk home, a woman coming the other direction in a Prius, slammed on her brakes as she got even with me and screamed: “There’s a bald eagle! That was a bald eagle!! Did you see it?”

I hadn’t seen her eagle that time, but on Sunday along the same stretch of road, I saw five crows chasing a bald eagle with a limp squirrel in its talons. The eagle really is a majestic bird when it is flying for all its worth!

And … that wasn’t the strangest thing to happen on my walks.

I had arrived in Annapolis Thursday evening. As I settled into the house, I met Storm, the house dog.
We became fast friends and I got my dog fix for the month. Friday morning I had a leisurely bagel and coffee with my host. As we chatted, I was scratching Storm behind her ears. I had a friend for life.

In the last quarter mile of walking to the first day of the seminar, I came across an umbrella beside the road -- open. Just the week before I was walking back from the grocery store as the fringes of Hurricane Maria passed by and the wind bent one whole side of my umbrella. I was in the market for another.

The umbrella on the side of the road was a nice one; well built, not cheap. And it was one of those that collapsed down to about a foot long. As I moved the umbrella around, opening, closing and collapsing, I caught a whiff of skunk. Was it the umbrella … or something on the wind? Just to be sure, I sniffed the umbrella.

Yes -- standing on the side of Edgewood Road, Annapolis, MD, under a stand of pines, midday Friday, for all the world to see, or anyone else attending the same seminar, I sniffed an umbrella.

I decided it must have been the wind and I stuffed my new umbrella -- courtesy of a benevolent universe -- into the front pocket of my backpack.

The seminar started at the Port of Annapolis Marina and we finished the day at Chesapeake Sailmakers’ sail loft. The seminar was packed with twenty two sailors of all shapes and sizes with boats from all categories attending. I met a super nice couple from New York. They had driven down in their sleek red Tesla and gave me a ride -- me and my backpack -- from Port Annapolis to the loft. In fact, they sort of adopted me that day and gave me a ride back to the AirBnB on Friday evening too.

Back at the house, I went upstairs to my room, threw down the backpack, checked my email and began thinking about dinner. Storm came up to greet me and poked her nose, and then the rest of herself, through my un-closed bedroom door. I heard her coming in and turned to greet her. She came through the door and halfway across the room sheepish, but wagging her tail like crazy.  Until, that is, she got even with my backpack, when she froze and started sniffing at the front of it. I shooed her out of the room and with some trepidation, I retrieved the umbrella.

Precious Umbrella, an auspicious Buddhist symbol
After having been closed up in my backpack all day long, I could REALLY smell skunk! I don’t think the umbrella took a full, direct hit from the skunk, but I think someone must have fended off a glancing skunk spray somehow. Luckily, I had brought a couple trash bags with me. The forecast had called for rain and if it had, I would have kept my notebook and everything dry in a trash bag inside the backpack. I wrapped the umbrella tightly inside a trash bag and put it back in the backpack. Since Storm already knew it was around, I didn’t want to put it in the garbage at the house. On my walk to the seminar the next morning, I found a trash can along the way and got rid of my precious umbrella. I thanked the Universe for thinking of me, but I passed on that particular one.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Tweaking the Plan

Based on my most recent overall plan, I hit the road really hard for the last 14 months. I was staying out in the truck three weeks at a time and socking money away for the boat refit budget. I planned to focus on the boat full time all winter and stretch what savings I had as far as I could. This month, I tweaked the plan.

Part of that original plan had me going back to work at some point early next year. By my calculations, try as I might over the last year, there wasn’t quite enough cash to finish the boatwork I wanted to do. In addition, if I was going to take off sailing, I was going to need some cash for that as well. Further, I have never done well with a wide-open schedule. I was a bit concerned about maintaining my discipline and momentum on the boat project.

I truly believe that when you are finally on the right path -- when you are living your most authentic life -- things start to come together just when you need them. I was watching for part time trucking jobs on Craigslist and there was an ad that would pop up for a week or so and then disappear. I really thought it was some kind of scam. Part time or full time, home every night, not drop & hook, but a little bit physical. It sounded too good, I had to find out more.

My first few calls went unanswered, but I finally made contact and the whole thing came crashing together just before and during my long weekend in Annapolis. I actually did my drug screen for this Florida job in Glen Burnie, MD while I was up there. It is totally legit and fairly lucrative for a vagabond like me. I started last week and will be making retail store deliveries off a trailer with a lift gate; three days a week, sometimes four.

Nevertheless, I worked 41 hours last week as I finished up training and started going out on my own.
Nestle is evil. 
My first solo load was to a store in Miami Beach. In addition to the standard store stock on rolling carts, I had six full pallets of bottled water. It was sink or swim time. Each pallet was almost 2000 lbs. and I had to get them to the back of the trailer and down the lift gate with a pallet jack.

Were they trying to kill me? Indeed, there were a couple moments I wasn’t sure I had the strength to finish. But I did, dammit! I was looking for a job with more exercise and I got it, boy!! The dispatch office manager said that if six pallets of water didn’t run me off -- nothing would. True that.

I’m committed now anyway. This part time gig will carry me all the way through to when I take off sailing. I won’t have to stop and go back to work. With a slightly tighter weekly schedule, I’ll be more disciplined and get more boatwork done. Emma will be a better boat and we’ll have the cash in hand to be able to stay out there longer. The last part of the plan I had to change -- I was never going to own another car, but this new gig is 20 miles away.
My little beater Corolla. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Learning the Ropes in a Sailor's Town

So … this weekend I learned the Rogerson Variation of the the McDonald Brummel splice for high modulus polyethylene fiber cordage! Woo! I attended the 59 North Sailing seminars on rigging and sail repair. Hanging out with a bunch of sailors can never be bad, but the intense learning we did along the way made for an incredibly productive time.

Brion Toss, renown rigger and author, was the speaker Friday afternoon and Saturday. We dove deep into rigging with his talks, a couple dock walks, some hands-on knots and splices, and an incline test and critique of a student’s boat at the marina. There was only two math formulas, but all kinds of juicy, red meat, technical information about keeping your mast up and control of your sails.

Nearly everyone has furling gear on their boat. Some of both the rigging and the sail repair seminars
Rigging Shop, Port of Annapolis Marina
began with the assumption that all of our boats had furlers; at least on the bow. One great moment for me came when I confessed in front of the class that I don’t like furlers. “Am I a fool or a luddite?” I asked Mr. Toss. He didn't flinch and seemed to sympathize with my philosophy.

Most of our ‘class time’ was in the shop at Chesapeake Sailmakers. Chuck O’Malley, founder of the loft, spoke to us on Sunday. He went over materials, methods, and designs early, and in the afternoon talked at length about lifespan, damage, abuse, and repair of sails. Chuck says he doesn’t make “white triangles,” he makes sails. Developing a relationship with a boat and her sailors, Chuck brings his knowledge and experience to bear and offers just the right solution. “Up to the point where the boat will still notice the difference.”

I came away with all kinds of new knowledge and some new friends. Details of rope and wire and Dacron; knots and splices and sail shapes are still oozing out my ears -- my brain is full!! Yet, I know exactly what I’m going to do with my rig and have a great idea to make my main sail track buttery smooth.

And(!) I got to chat with Matt Rutherford, he was the first to sail non-stop around the Americas. He sailed an Albin Vega, like my Bella, non-stop from Annapolis, up and over the top of Canada, down the Pacific Coast to Cape Horn, around and up past South America and back to Annapolis. He now does ocean research for NASA and the Smithsonian aboard his 42’ steel schooner.

The seminars were almost three miles away from the house where I got an AirBnB room; a fabulously funky, little artist-owned, art-filled bungalow. It was really enjoyable to walk more than five miles a day, all weekend. I also had some great seafood and got to hang around a great sailor’s town. It’s been incredible, and soul satisfying, how much of the small talk at the next table, in the store, even just out on the sidewalk was about boats; most often sailboats.

Two and half years ago, Alex and I spent a night at anchor up Weems Creek in Annapolis on our way south with his Westsail, Eleanor. Now I know a couple even better places. I’ll be back. Emma’s gonna love to visit.