Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Actual Boatwork Getting Done

Trucking to support my boat habit
Though I have only scheduled a couple days a month at home, I managed to get some actual boatwork done in this week while I was in town. My schedule was to be home a couple days next week, but trucking is really slow between the holidays and so I took them this week. While I’m concentrating on filling in the boat budget, I’m not putting any pressure on myself to get things done. Mostly, I fiddle around when I’m home. I’m not sure what got into me this week but I was motivated to get busy.


I have written before that the depth sounder on Emma was a useless and flaky. There was a little Hawkeye depth sounder attached to a door hinge so it could swing out into the companionway. The transducer, meant to hang off the transom a small boat, was unceremoniously glued inside the hull
under the starboard bunks. Further, the transducer was glued a fair distance above the keel on the
Flaky Hawkeye mount
curve of the hull. Hence, it was pointed well to starboard. The transducer works like most people imagine sonar does; a pulse is sent from the transducer and the depth is measured by how long it takes for the pulse to return. With it aimed off to the side, the pulse will either measure too much depth or the pulse will simply not return.


Last spring as I helped prep and deliver a Westsail, we found that the Westsail hulls are too thick for a depth transducer to work from the inside; even with a proper set up. When Emma’s flaky transducer seemed to be working at one point down in Miami, I tied a piece of bronze pipe to a flag halyard as a lead line. The actual depth I measured was at least four feet shallower(!) than the readings from the Hawkeye. Yesterday, I removed the silly hinge mount, unstrung the wire from its run through the cabinetry and knocked the transducer off the inside of the hull.


Yanked transducer and nut
When Emma was hauled here in Ft. P, lo and behold, I found another transducer from outside the hull. I located it from the inside this week. This one was a proper through-the-hull transducer. I have to assume that it wasn’t working. Not only was it replaced with the elaborately useless Hawkeye, but they snipped the wires so close to the bronze that it would be impossible to rewire even if it could be tested. I yanked it out too.


The seacocks in the picture are not mine but a picture from the web. My cockpit drains each have an identical Groco seacock. The one to port was open but not operable. I took it apart and fixed it. They are old school with the rubber cylinder inside and no longer made. This type of seacock is prone to
Someone else's seacocks
weep a little bit of water. I may replace them, but keeping them would be a couple hundred dollars I don’t have to spend. I’ll do some research. They are robust which seems good.


I also took up the floor in the main cabin to inspect the bilges and the tankage underneath. I’ve only been able to spy a small area from the access hatch for the tanks. The floors are sturdy, but just plywood. Right at the bottom of the companionway is a section of the original planked floor which looks salty but is well worn. Into the main cabin, the floors are plywood all the way forward to the V berth. I would like to redo the floors with a little more care.


The "Beam"
In taking up the floors, I found a small “beam” placed between the hull beams. This kind of stuff drives me a little crazy. I don’t know what the intended use of this “beam” was, but it is two pieces of wood with plywood gussets and a whopping four screws. It may have been intended to help hold the smaller piece of floor in place. However, when I stepped on it, I thought it was rotten. It isn’t rotten, but the four screws holding the pieces together are just not enough to be structural. It just bends there.

I don’t know much about Emma’s history. Two owners back was quite a vagabond I understand. I can’t really blame him for the seemingly slapdash approach to boat maintenance. He must have been really living on the edge and for that I can commend him. However, I’m now having to catch up and fix this approach. There was some creative salvaging going on to keep the boat going. Things like this “beam,” the extensive wiring done with old school 22/4 phone wire, the odd color choices of interior paint, the 2x4 boomkin and its 2x6 cousin, the bowsprit. Even the interior lights which are blindingly bright LEDs look as if they might have been stolen out of a call center office. I am just thankful to have been able to find her and bring her back to fashion. Granted I am aiming for “Shrimp Boat Finish” rather than “Bristol Yacht Fashion,” but Emma will soon be a lovely girl again -- and safe and seaworthy too.
Main, Staysail and Yankee

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Patience Grasshopper


[Editor’s Note: The author owns the box set of Kung Fu show episodes]


December has been hard on my brain; and my heart. I didn’t spend much time with Emma in November and December and my brain started to wander. Three months into my boat fund building schedule was starting to wear on me - I only see Emma a couple days a month for now. I started to think that I could afford a better-equipped boat for the money that I’m going to spend on Emma this year. After abstaining for months, I started looking at used boats online. There was a boat nearby that has been on the market a while but hadn’t sold. The owner already lowered the price a couple times and was probably willing to make a deal. The boat wasn’t exactly what I wanted but was well equipped. And, in my patience-deprived brain, I could be sailing again -- this year!


I got to spend a couple days with Mom and Dad in November. They brought me some boat things
Can't beat the Mahi Sliders! 
that I still had in Michigan. After running me all over town doing errands, we had lunch at my new favorite place, 12a Bouy. It was wonderful to hang out a while as I hadn’t seen them since moving in February.


I had been worried that Emma had termites or something, and on an errand with Mom and Dad I picked up a box of insect bombs. In two places down below, small amounts of what looked like sawdust kept appearing. I had swept the dust from the forward bench of the dinette and from the top step of the companionway, only to see the dust had reappeared on my return. The fear of what insect damage might be happening aboard added to the doubts about my plan.


It is a difficult thing to keep your mind, and your efforts, focused on a long term goal. Even with a prioritized project list and steady work, there will be moments when doubt will creep in. When those moments soak into days, doubt sets up camp and stays. My goal remains to spend as much time as I can cruising under sail -- sailing.  And yet here I am again with a fair stretch of boatwork ahead of me. Nine years of working toward my goal of sailing, I am still working on a damn boat. Nevertheless Emma is the best, most ocean-capable of the three I’ve owned. With her, here on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, I am closer than I have ever been to achieving my goal. Nevertheless, my vagabond heart complains that I am still not sailing; still not doing that one thing that I want to be doing.


Pete at the tiller
Pining for sea time does make me appreciate the wonderful sail from Miami. Sailing at night is like going to church for me. It was a great sail and Pete was good company and great crew. I can’t wait to get back on the water -- on this beautiful cutter that I own.  


The downside of driving for a living is the 12 hours a day in my own head. Rolling down the highway this last month, one moment I was configuring an offer on another boat. The next moment, I was staying with Emma. For a natural born, daydreamer, such vivid thoughts are all consuming. The flip-flops are disruptive and painful. The grinding indecision even affected my sleep.  


The upside of driving for a living is the 12 hours a day in my own head. I deactivated my Facebook profile in August in order to take a personal retreat into my analog life. It was a chance to concentrate on accomplishing things that I really wanted to be doing. These projects included reinvigorating my
Who says truckin' ain't pretty? 
meditation practice, writing more often and finishing several books I had with me in the truck. It was this time, gaining control of life in my own head that may have allowed me to think openly about whether I was on the right track. In the end, I believe that the unencumbered time in my analog life helped to solve my conundrum.


After taking a deep breath, I fell back on the careful analysis of pro and con that I learned from my coach back in 2006 and 2007. This new task was a welcome replacement to a brain flipping and flopping aimlessly down the highway. Realistically, comparing how well equipped an unknown used boat might be with the funds I might invest in Emma’s refit is just apples and oranges. There are so many potential hidden problems on a used boat that any comparison without a close look or a real survey is empty conjecture. Emma needs a lot of work but, for me, she is a known quantity. The Westsail 32 is exactly the boat that I wanted after helping to sail Eleanor, a Westsail 42, down the East Coast in 2015. Emma is everything that I want in a boat; a heavy displacement, full keel, transom-hung rudder, commodious, ocean capable, liveaboard sailboat. The fact that she is rigged as a cutter is a welcome bonus.


After the highway-head analysis, the fact that Emma is the devil I know tipped the scales in her favor.
Sailing north in July
There will no longer be any unknowns when I have finished. I will know her intimately and everything required to make a safe and comfortable voyage -- anywhere in the world -- will be aboard. We might not have radar or pressurized hot water, but my original plan never included those things anyway. Mindless comparisons don’t hold water.


There will always be surprises buying a used boat. The scale, and especially the cost, of used boat surprises cannot be known, of course. By definition, comparing the money I plan to spend refitting Emma to the asking price of some other used boat ignores these potential surprises. Just a small number of surprises could drastically change this already faulty sense of equivalence. Further, none of the boats I looked at aligned very well with my stated criteria.


Whatever your passion is, whatever path you have chosen to pursue, eventually you will be haunted by doubt. Blazing your own trail was never for the faint-hearted. If you are on your path, you don’t have to be distracted by doubt. Accept that it was inevitable and that you can work through it. When the moment is right, take a deep breath and drop into your analysis. For me, nothing beats writing out all the pros and cons.


It’s just as important to be reflective as it is to be ambitious and persistent. Your analysis should be thorough. It’s OK if you end up deciding to make a change. Your plans should never be so rigid that you can’t steer toward your goal in changing conditions. And plans should also be open enough that if it becomes apparent through careful consideration that you need a new plan, you will need to let this one go.


I have a good plan and a great boat. Emma may be a diamond-in-the-rough, but she is mine. Looking at the current asking prices for Westsail 32s online, I could spend twice what I plan to and still break even selling her in the middle of the price range.  Sometimes, I just have to write it all out to remind myself.
Livin' the Life, summer 2016


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

You can be Happy and Free

Rowing out to Eleanor, Spring 2015
When I got to Florida my plan did not come together nearly as fast as I'd hoped and, subsequently, it got expensive. I bought the boat sight unseen from Michigan, quit my job and moved to Florida. Before I moved from Michigan, I had a job in Fort Pierce where I wanted to keep the boat. When I got here, I got a storage unit. I didn't think I needed a place to stay as my plan was to sleep on the boat. That first job was so busy when I first arrived that I couldn't get the boat ready enough to move her. Boat money was going into my gas tank to drive to Miami to work on the boat when I could, and for a room in a cheap motel whenever I couldn't.  I wasn’t home every night and the cheap motels really only added up to about what it would cost to have rented a room. Nevertheless, if I'd been able to move the boat to Fort Pierce sooner, I wouldn’t have spent much money on rooms at all.

I'm on my third job in Florida and I've found the right place. I've taken an Over the Road trucking job where for the next several months I'll be mostly just driving; home a couple nights a month. When I get my boat budget in the bank, I will quit the road to concentrate on the boatwork, with just a local part time job for food money.

Along the way, my Lincoln Town Car died; had to be put to sleep really. I hadn't moved the boat yet and still needed haul stuff. I had been driving around with a rolled up inflatable dinghy in the backseat and the trunk
My Emma in Miami
chock full of stuff for the boat as well as my trucking life. I had just a few hours to find a replacement vehicle and made a crappy deal on a old S10 pickup, but it had a cap on the bed and I could haul all my stuff. Just to make matters worse, the night Pete and I sailed Emma to Fort Pierce, someone broke into the pickup at the marina and got my backpack, my laptop and my checkbook.

In a stroke of luck that restored my faith in humanity, I got the bag back; minus the laptop, the checkbook and other random contents, of course. It’s a strange feeling of violation to know that stuff is missing but not know exactly what stuff is missing. A guy, nay a saint named Glenn was working construction down in the Grove and found my bag in the bushes. He called and emailed from the business card inside and then brought the bag to his office in Delray Beach, much closer to me. Though with a new job and no wheels, it actually took me some weeks to get down there to pick it up. He must have wondered about me.
[Editor's Note: E.M. - the Snoopy thumbdrive lives to tell another tale!]

When I got the boat moved, the S10 was really falling apart; after a month. The transmission linkage had slipped, the brakes were leaking and the power steering pump went out. I was not happy and the truck spent over a month back at the car lot getting fixed. The weeks without a vehicle were enlightening. I realized that I didn't need a car. I managed to make a deal with the devil and got the car lot to keep the truck. I got about half my money back if I count not having to pay for the repairs they had already done. Further, I don't have to put gas in it, don't have to maintain it and I don't have to insure it; such freedom.

I cannot afford a good car while dedicating the funds necessary for fixing up the boat. Further, a bad car is an expensive option. Moreover, the lifestyle that I aspire to does not require a vehicle. I have new, stronger criteria to hold my options against. It also happens that the current job allows me to operate without a vehicle. I am happily carless, saving boat money and shopping for a bicycle.

One of the reasons I've rambled on is that I am motivated to show that I am doing this on very little money. What I invest in the boat, I am earning as I go along. The important thing is the clarity of purpose I have reached. Anyone can pursue their dreams, develop and live a lifestyle that is of their own choosing.

What other people think you should do, or worse -- what you think other people think you should do is pure bullshit; immaterial to your happiness. Much of the stress and discontent that people feel in our culture is a latent dissatisfaction with the “matrix” that we live in. It doesn’t take very many small decisions to get trapped in the system. "The system" is a web of social pressures to conform; to follow along like sheep. Decisions that feel inconsequential and seem normal because everyone else seems to be making them are deadly and evil.

Living the life with Emma
Human beings were not made to be conformists. I understand that one's freedom can seem inhibited by marriage, kids, mortgage and debt. These are stones in the path not fences. I accept that my situation is not like anyone else's situation. However, the work can be done to pursue your dream regardless of where you are today.

It is not a compromise to work with your vision to fit it into the resources you have at your disposal. You have already compromised your life to the social pressure to conform. Fulfilling your dream in some way that is possible to you is not only realistic, it is life affirming and will set you free. An old saw says "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." In the same way, don't let a huge unrealistic dream be the enemy of living a life of your own choosing.

I want to show that it can be done. It doesn’t have to be a sailboat. In most cases, it shouldn’t be a sailboat. Your passion is as unique as you are. Whatever it is, pursue it. If it seems unaffordable or unattainable, keep
Swiss Mountain Roller Coaster, Spring 2016.
working at it, nibble away at possibilities and reimagine your priorities until you find a way to do it. Yes, it can be done. It might not become exactly what you are imagining today but if you get your intentions and motivations whittled down to their essence, there will be a way to accomplish your goals with what you have access to. You can be happy and free.

Sticking to a Good Plan

I was on a night watch as we jumped from Charleston to Jacksonville; avoiding the shallow Georgia ICW. The full moon hung over the horizon like an old silver coin. The moonlight shattered against the Atlantic and glistened across the waves like a trail of mirror shards. It was holy and sublime. I was smitten.

It had been building inside me for the whole trip. I had been impressed with the boat’s construction as I helped Alex with the final preparations and launch of Eleanor. We were sailing her from Stony Point, NY on the Hudson River down the East Coast to Fort Pierce, Florida. This was actually my second night watch offshore guiding Eleanor, a Westsail 42, as she sailed with confidence and comfort. As she gently made her way across the sea, all I really had to do was mind the autopilot. I decided I never wanted another boat. I had to find a Westsail of my own.

With a little more patience, financial and otherwise, I could be sailing already. Yet instead of already hanging out in the Bahamas, or wandering the Chesapeake, I have a couple years of boatwork ahead of me … again. All because of that life-changing trip aboard Eleanor. So like any other heartsick fool, I've made some rash decisions to get what I want. If my life with this boat is a poker game, I'm all in. This is, however, the way to get it done. I am living the exact life that I want to live. Everything, absolutely everything, is contingent on getting Emma to sea. There is no longer any room for things I don't need or want. Beside that as philosophy, my new home is a floating ellipse, just 32 by 11 feet.

After some searching, I found a Westsail 32 that I could afford. That meant that I found one that needed a lot of work. The owner then had supposedly bought the boat from a young vagabond. The boat, a work in progress, had been swinging from one of the better mooring locations at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club. The club is kind of swanky. He called it a “drinking club with a sailing problem.” However, my impression
was that the club considered the boat an eyesore and wanted the Westsail out of their mooring field. I met the owner just at the right moment when he was fed up with the Westsail project, had found another boat, and just wanted to get rid of her.

I told the story before but someone put a link to the Miami Craigslist on the Westsail Facebook page. The short version is that I got a Westsail 32 for $6000 floating on a mooring in Miami. W32's, polished and painted, have been selling for over $20,000; some for much more depending on how they are equipped.  Essentially, I bought the hull; anything else that works is gravy. Well … and she has no engine.

I could have waited a little longer, saved more money, and bought a boat that seemed more ready. The truth of the matter is that I will never be able to buy a new boat or even a recent one. Therefore, no matter what older used boat I bought, I would inherit a certain number of problems and things that needed fixed. I have a lot of work to do on my Westsail, but I am starting with a  rock solid hull of a proven design; no compromise. When I am finished with the Emma's refit, I will know her intimately and will have personally fixed or replaced everything necessary for safe voyaging. The Westsail 32, like the WS28 and WS42, is a proven ocean capable ship that has been sailed all over and indeed around the world.

So, I could have done it differently, but I am doing it the best way I know. I have the boat and the plan and I'm living the dream. All it takes is sticking to a good plan; see the next post. Thanks.