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.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Late Night Storm Prep

19:30 the night before. 
Hurricane Matthew passed by Fort Pierce last night; a fair distance offshore luckily. A week ago, it became forecast that he would come pretty close to Riverside Marina where I keep Emma. I asked my dispatcher that one of my next couple loads be to Fort Pierce so I could sneak 30 or 40 minutes to prep the boat for the storm. With a Walmart Distribution Center right in Fort Pierce, it is fairly easy for me to get a load there. The dispatchers at this company seem to take good care of me. My very next load assignment was to Fort Pierce from Savannah, GA.

I've discovered a spot on a nearby side street where I can park my semi, trailer and all, and walk a few hundred feet into the marina gate. After I delivered my load, it was about 3:00 in the morning and I had the streets to myself. Out past the Publix on the north side of town, I turned down Naco Road and coasted down the hill. Right before the stop sign there is a patch of cement that used to be a driveway. Pulling into the grass and parking the cab over the cement, I could get out of the way and off the street. Several times I've parked here for an hour or two and had no trouble.

I punched "Off Duty" on the eLog terminal and climbed out of the cab. Right by the door, I keep a headlamp and I pulled it on. The street is always quiet out here. The marina is on Old Dixie Highway. When a street is named Old Dixie Highway you know that traffic has been usurped by some newer thoroughfare. Federal Highway (US 1) is just a block up the hill.

I crossed the street and walked around the huge puddle that always collects just outside the railroad tracks from the marina after a rain. In the gate, I stepped into the jungle of boats on cradles. Lots of puddles and loose wet sand let me know a good rain had passed by recently. Crunching through the gravel, I glanced at a few boats where I knew others were living aboard in the yard. Several boats have permanent residents. Some of these boats are here for a couple weeks and quick projects. Other boats may never leave, but several in various stages of repair or neglect are lived in. I was hoping that I wouldn't wake anyone but the crunching of my feet was soon drowned out as a train roared by reverberating the steel on steel thrum of the train's wheels and the screech of her horn in the heavy humid air.

I can't tell you the gentle swell I feel in my heart when I come around the catamaran from Thunder Bay, Ontario and see my girl sitting there in the moonlight. Emma was waiting patiently. She seemed to understand that I have to stay away for a time to fund her resurrection. When Emma was first hauled out, I borrowed an eight foot orphan section of an extension ladder. I told Jason in the yard that I had it. He thanked me and said they would come get it if they needed it. Whenever I come home, I worry that they've needed the little ladder, but tonight it still leans against Emma's ribs, tied at the top to a couple stanchions.

My mission that night was to prep Emma for the coming storm. I climbed the ladder and stepped onto her deck. It is good to be here, my girl. The tarps that have kept the heat of the sun off the cabin roof came down. I folded them and collected the lines and bungie cords that had held them. Its amazing how much differene the shade has made to the temperature inside the boat. Next, the dinghy had been leaning against the port side lifelines in perfect wind catching position. I hauled it toward the bow and tied it down against the sampson posts. The forward hatch doesn't have a latch and I was concerned about it getting lifted in the wind. The dinghy was now tightly lashed over the top of it. Two birds, one stone. I went below.

In the cabin, I double checked that all the portlights were shut and dogged tight. I checked the bilges and  did a walkthrough just to recheck all that I thought needed checked. I decided to disconnect the solar panels from the charge controller. I wasn't sure how much that would help or hurt but if panels got blown down and were shorting out, maybe it would prevent catastrophic damage to the battery bank.

Back in the cockpit, I thought I heard someone stirring about. An older guy lives on a close boat back toward the fence. I didn't want to look over there, squinting in the dark but shining my headlamp directly toward his boat. No one said anything and I was busy, so I carried on. I took a long look around the deck. Everything looked as good as I thought it could get, but I grabbed spare python strap and snugged up the lines holding the dinghy down.

I climbed down my little ladder and did a walk around Emma from the ground. From the corner of the Thunder Bay catamaran, I gave her a good look. Puffing my chest, I tried to imagine hurricane winds, or at least the big bad wolf, blowing across her bow. There didn't seem to be anything more for me to do. I walked back through the maze of boats; crunching as I went.

The ground is a crusty blend of packed earth and leftover concrete. The property used to be a cement plant. On top of this crust is a blend of human and boat trash. As I walked back to my semi, I passed extension chords running every which way, pieces of rope, bits of hose, various bottle caps and crushed cans, a right foot sandal, a maxi pad, the lid to a shoe box, several chunks of rigid foam insulation, some boards and the frame for a bimini. Not everyone here are slobs, and I can empathize with getting distracted after having set something down "for just a minute." Nevertheless, some are not taking the care they should. That is exactly the reason, especially on a small boat, that everything have a place and everything get put away when not needed. Its a part of good seamanship actually and that should extend to the boatyard. I'm not perfect either. There is a stainless steel aft pulpit I left hugging Emma's bow on the ground and a bucket with about forty feet of chain under her hip. Its more out of the way there than on deck, but still a little low class.

The air was heavy with the humidity of the recent rain, but there was no sign of the approaching storm on the wind or in the clouds obscuring the stars. I walked out onto the street and climbed back up into the cab of my semi. There wasn't anything else I could do but hope that Matthew would go easy on me. And I had to hit the road for Savannah.

Just by chance I had asked for the next Sunday and Monday off. I'll be home right after the storm to assess if any damage occurred.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Miami to Fort Pierce, Part II

Sunset over SE Florida
This is Part II of the Miami to Fort Pierce trip. For Part I, please click here.

Pete and I watched the sun go down over Boca Raton and then come back up over the Atlantic Horizon as we passed Jupiter (not the planet, the town in Florida). The night was clear and billions of amazing stars twinkled in every corner of the sky. My crew saw a dolphin, but there wasn't much for wildlife other than the phosphorescence we saw at night as nearby waves disturbed the water. No ships were near enough during the night to cause us any concern.

Being able to watch a beautiful sunset and still be there when the sun rises is like going to church for me. In the morning, a fuzzy line at the horizon began to emerge out of the darkness. Gradually the line hardened in soft colors, clouds became discernible and the sky changed from black to blue and grey. Soon the whole horizon splashed with purple, peach and orange. And finally, with the sun peaking through, the sky filled with the yellows and oranges of a new day. It was sublime and holy.

Once we got to Fort Pierce, the wind was blowing straight down the channel [Editor's Note: sound
Ft. Pierce Inlet
?] Damned if I didn't try to sail in anyway. While Pete was telling me it couldn't be done, I inched my way toward the last pair of day markers. We were out of the channel a bit as I tried to slice the wind thin enough to make it in under sail. The Fort Pierce Inlet has a dogleg turn about a third of the way in from the Atlantic. If I just could have made it to that turn, we might have sailed all the way in. Alas, Pete was right – dammit – it couldn't be done. After gently bumping the bottom, testing Emma's patience, I pushed the tiller over and we spun back into open water. We were starting to get the hang of sailing a cutter. Patience with the jib sheet is critical, but even with a couple rank amateur cutter sailors, Emma tacked nicely for a heavy girl.

And we called for another tow. Happily, this one was considered an emergency. Pete and I made a big lazy circle toward open water and just as we headed back toward the inlet, our tow was already steaming toward us.

The Cormorant, Fort Pierce, FL
As I was pushing my luck trying to sail through, a Coast Guard cutter (same term, but not a sailboat) came by, passing us as she headed in. As we were towed past the Coast Guard Station, home to the cutter we'd seen, the Commanding Officer spotted us and sent a launch to investigate. The Coasties later told us the CO was convinced on seeing an old sailboat getting towed, we must be drug smugglers.

I had told the marina that we would arrive Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. Having arrived at 8:30 Thursday morning, we were really early (thanks, Gulf Stream). Further, there is some kind of friction between the tow boat company and my marina. Towboat/US wasn't going to tow me in until they talked to the marina manager. Apparently, the tow guys were worried about being able to maneuver Emma, or any boat, into the slipway without damaging theirs or anyone else's boat. Riverside's channel is tight and the docks are full of boats of every variety; sailboats, fishing boats, catamarans, trawlers, etc.

When it was all said and done, I couldn't get into the marina at 8:30 am because Emma and I were
Riverside and the spoil island.
scheduled for the afternoon; they had a full schedule for the day. Fair enough. They planned their day based on when I said I would be there. Towboat/US towed us to a spot off the Intracoastal Waterway, next to a spoil island and right across from the marina. We dropped anchor and as I signed the tow bill the USCG launch hovered nearby.

“Don't worry, they're just training,” the tow captain assured us.

When the launch arrived, however, we learned we were suspected drug smugglers. The Petty Officer chuckled and said “I could see how high your boat was floating in the water. I knew you weren't smuggling anything.” We got the inspection; PFDs, fire extinguisher and – oh, shit – a signaling device. I meant to grab a bag out of storage that was stuffed with miscellaneous boat stuff – including a couple air horns and a whistle – regulation signaling devices. I had no such device; a USCG requirement. On top of that, my crew's passport and license were Canadian; a whole different number to call; a different system to check.

Nevertheless, since we were nice guys and cooperative, despite the boat being a mess from the overnight passage, but mostly because the Petty Officer knew from our conversation that I was headed right across the river to be hauled out for more than a year, we got a pass for the missing signaling devices.

Mid-afternoon, Towboat/US came back to tow us in. Emma was skillfully nudged into the slipway. Riverside Marina hauled her out of the water, pressure washed her hull, and parked her out back on jackstands. We're in the northwest corner of their yard. I can't say enough how well I was treated by Towboat/US at each end of the trip. Riverside not only took care of setting Emma in a safe spot 'on the hard', but they have been great to work with ever since.

Emma is in her new temporary home and my work has begun. Finally, all my stuff is in the same

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Miami to Fort Pierce, Part I

 I'd been spread out all over Florida since February. Emma, my boat, in Miami, the job in Fort Pierce, a rolled up inflatable dinghy in the back seat, and half my life in the trunk. I've been living out of a bag since I started driving a truck, so that went without saying.

In the meantime, I'd been trying to work on the boat whenever I had some free time. But she was almost three hours away in traffic and I had tripped into working 6 days a week. Most of my boat money was going toward cheap motel rooms because often I didn't have enough time off to make a trip to the boat. It's a funny thing for a vagabond to feel rootless and spread out.

The previous mess.
 After switching jobs, it only took a couple weeks to get the boat set up to be able to move her. I wired just enough to have running lights for the trip. Emma's wiring is so bad, I'll have to replace nearly all of it eventually. Nevertheless, the solar panels that were on the boat have been keeping my new battery bank well charged. Also, the composting toilet that I installed has worked great and is super easy to maintain.

As I got close to being able to move Emma, my buddy Pete from Canada contacted me about a big motorcycle trip that he had been planning. He was going to be in Florida and wanted to come by for a beer and to catch up. As his timing began to converge with my need to move Emma, I offered to take him sailing on my decrepit boat. Emma was neglected enough that I could afford her, but she was in the water, floating, dry inside and ready for a new life. I was just the man for the job, but sailing her without an engine 120 miles from Miami to Fort Pierce was safer and more practical with some crew. Pete didn't hesitate and he didn't abandon ship once he saw Emma's current basic accommodations.

Emma has a few chunks of foam in her cabin but no upholstered cushions. The dinette would fold
The Galley
down to make a double bed but has no table. The head is solid and installed but a little too high off the floor in its temporary position. The galley is a one burner swing stove that I brought from my much smaller previous boat. She has no refrigerator or sink. As mentioned above, she has no engine; no motive power other than sails in the wind. (Editor's Note: Sound Familiar?)

And she sails like a dream, but we'll get into that later.

I got back from my week of trucking and met up with Pete on Monday, July Fourth. Pete parked his motorcycle at the marina. We ran a few errands in town, forgot to grab a bag out of my storage unit, and took off for Miami in my vehicle.
Pete, hard at work at the tiller

Poor Pete, a Canadian remember, had already been on the road for 4000 miles and I drug him into the thick tropical swelter of Miami in July. After provisioning, we dinghied out to the boat Monday night. We didn't do much but organize ourselves and get ready to crash. Auspiciously it was the Fourth of July. As we sat in the cockpit, having a beer, we could see six different fireworks displays. What looked like the main Miami display was fantastic but the display toward Kendall or Pinecrest seemed to go on all night long. Mother Nature even got in the game flashing lightning off of huge thunderclouds that gathered over the Everglades.

Tuesday we did some boatwork; tuned the rig, taped off all the cotter pins, got the jib sheet and the downhaul installed, and generally got ready. We were feeling ready so soon that I called and moved our tow appointment up to Wednesday morning from Wednesday afternoon.

Yeah, towing. In addition to having no engine, Emma was moored deep on the wrong side of the
Emma was four rows down from the top right corner.
Dinner Key Mooring Field. Without a tow, I would have had to get through the maze of other moored boats, sail across Biscayne Bay, and make it out one of the channels through the shallows and into the Straits of Florida (the Atlantic) – under sail – the first time I'd ever sailed my boat. It was much safer and efficient to get towed out.

In no hurry, our tow captain talked our ears off before he even tied a line to Emma. After the chat, he decided to tie up at Emma's hip to get us out of the mooring field. Which meant he was beside us rather than in front of us, but we were “attached at the hip” and easier for him to control in close quarters. Once in the channel, he untied and tossed a line to tow us from the bow. We were attached off center from the starboard hawse, so I had to steer toward the tow boat to keep Emma in his wake.
Someone else's starboard hawse

Originally, the Miami Towboat/US franchise had told me that they thought I'd be covered by my insurance for the tow out. When I called Boat/US corporate to have the tow dispatched, they informed me that their service is for emergencies and I didn't have one. They determined that because I had purchased a boat without an engine, Ihad known all along I'd need a tow. I did, however, get a good discount from the Miami guys for being a Boat/US member. And it sounds like the office newbie gave me a pretty low quote to begin with. They were all great and stood by the quote.

We had a pleasant ride across Biscayne Bay and down the channel between Key Biscayne and Stiltsville. Just past the last marker, we were set free. The towboat captain hung around to watch us
hoist sail and get underway. We set the yankee, the staysail and raised the main. The wind was easy, 5 to 10 knots, and Emma began to sail gently straight north. As soon as I could feel that surge of wind against sail, I was in my element. Emma sails wonderfully well for a heavy, wide bottom girl.

I had set up some waypoints and researched the waters about five miles offshore. Unfortunately, the wind we had wouldn't let us get farther offshore without pointing the boat almost perfectly south – the wrong direction. I hadn't really studied this particular patch of
The Sail Plan
water, but we sailed on. There was lots of water underneath us and not much traffic around us. And Emma was just happy to be back in the ocean!

We made it past the Port of Miami without having much ship traffic. Port Everglades was busier but we only had to watch one ship as it crossed our bow a good distance away. Several ships and a tug towing a huge barge were offshore heading north and would be no trouble to us.
Nine Knots!!

The sailing was glorious. The wind piped up on a few occasions but was steady and went easy on us. We might have had some gusts to 20 knots but the wind stayed 10 to 15 knots most of the way. Once or twice we were nearly becalmed; just gurgling along, but we only tacked once the whole trip. Though I had expected the wind to shift behind us, it never did. We were on a beam reach nearly the whole time. Check out the screenshot of Emma making 9 knots over the ground. Pretty nice for a 20,000 pound boat. The Gulf Stream current almost doubled our speed even as the ride was smooth as silk.

Below, forty seconds of our peaceful trip:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

If it was easy .... Part II

Yet another sunset ...
I gave myself a twinge the other day when I posted yet another beautiful sunset picture on Facebook. It felt like I was committing a lie of omission. I really was enjoying the sunset, however, I don’t want to leave the impression that everything in my boat life is peachy keen either. Eventually, I’d like this blog to be a rather honest portrayal of one man’s escape into the life he wanted. By keeping it honest, I think that I can show that anyone can find their passion and escape from the mundane existence that has them bogged down. To stay in that spirit, I will add some details to my boat report about the condition of Emma and the work to be done. The following will occasionally sound like a bitch session, but that is not my intention. I hope to illustrate that while l have learned to pause and soak up the occasion sunset, there is still a lot of work to be done. I intend to show that by force of will, doing my own work as much as is feasible, and by being too stubborn to quit, that a fairly humble man can create the life he dreams of. Further, my current goal is to get the boat ready, to be able to wander. This is not an end point, a destination, rather this goal is the point of departure for another set of goals; the wandering itself.

I am bogged down right now with the electrics of the boat. All I really need is running lights and a radio to sail her from Miami to Fort Pierce. To accomplish that, however, I had to replace the battery bank. And because of the unpredictability of my previous schedule, I had purchased new batteries a month ago, but just got them to the boat. Once there, I realized the ‘kitbash’ nature of the wiring on the boat. There is Romex house wire in a couple places; which is really bad on a boat. Worse yet, the majority of the wiring is old school quad phone station wire, probably pulled out of a dumpster and repurposed. Anything more than a small light bulb at the end of such thin wire is a fire hazard. I am just rewiring now what I have to in order to move the boat, and will end up taking all the wiring out and redoing it from scratch.

Two of the three solar panels aboard are from a Miami company with a less-than-stellar reputation for either selling good panels or standing behind them; according to my Googling anyway. Occasionally, their panels are grounded differently than everyone else’s. Yet I have three panels all wired together. None of which was connected to the charge controller or battery bank. Further, the panels are wired together in what looks like a great mess of gooey, old school electricians tape. I have yet to tackle that. I don’t know if this wiring mess was working at one time or was slapped together and then abandoned without ever being tested.

There is a VHF radio onboard, but no antenna on the masthead. If anyone has pressed the transmit button on the mic without the antenna, the radio is probably blown. I have a handheld radio that will suffice, but really wanted the stronger reach of a full size radio. I may attach an antenna to the stern pulpit to see if it will work.  Cheap enough redundancy again.

The rig is OK to get to Fort Pierce, but I will replace it rather than trust it any further than that. In the photos, Emma obviously had a wooden boomkin and bowsprit. However, they are not the original, but a home constructed replacement. I was going to replace them with the stainless steel versions anyway. The bowsprit is fairly loose right now. The bobstay is chain which is not as stable as cable. The whisker stays are also loose, and I hope that they will tighten before the turnbuckles bottom out. The forestay needs tightening but will have to be balanced with the backstay to keep the mast plum.  The stainless steel chainplates are rust stained on the outside. I dread seeing the inside but will replace them during the refit. Various hardware at attachment points for the the stays on the bowsprit and the boomkin are not appropriately sized. Luckily, most of them are too big, but occasionally that is causing some scarring on the hull.  

The running rigging has been baking in the sun for some time. I hope it will get me to Fort Pierce. This will all be tested a little more before I leave. I haven’t raised all the sails to get a look at them yet. At that time, I can evaluate the halyards and sheets.

The depthsounder that is so elegantly installed in the companionway will not likely work. The transponder is unceremoniously glued inside the hull with a great blob of what is likely 3M 5200.
When Alex and I painstakingly installed an inside-the-hull transducer on his W42, complete with the oil filled PVC pipe, the hull was too thick to get a signal through. I can hang the transducer off the stern as we did on Eleanor, but the readings of depth right behind the boat are far less valuable than a reading right under the boat, for obvious reasons.

Nevertheless, I am super happy with the composting head that I installed. And I have cooked aboard on my single burner swing stove. There is lots of work ahead, but, hell, life is good. A bad day on the boat still beats a good day at the office.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Epilogue: Whatever is going on with you, take time to pause and really enjoy a sunset when you catch a good one. Then get back at it, and make your life your own.

Reflecting on Swiss Time

Hiking with the kids and Presley.

Long before I found the boat, long before I found the Florida job, my brother and his family invited me to visit them in Switzerland. It was great fun to hang out with them and hike around the Alps. Of course, going from sea level to hiking at 6000 feet can almost kill a crusty old truck driver. Besides hiking, we went to a water park in the Italian part of Switzerland, went to a park with rope bridges and various swinging things on a trail through the trees, went to a concert, and I ate more cheese and chocolate in a week than I had in the previous couple years. Thanks, DT’s!!

It was also good to finally be able to take a deep breath and evaluate what was going on in my life. Nine hours each way in a plane will help you do that. When I came to Florida I had a new-to-me boat in Miami, a storage unit and a seasonal job hauling sod in Fort Pierce, where I wanted to eventually keep the boat. It all seemed to fit together so well.  

Crewing on Alex’s W42 down the East Coast last spring, we ended up at the Riverside Marina in Fort Pierce. Ironically, I had picked out that very marina on the web. My original plan with the Michigan boat was to sail out and down the coast to spend a few months in the Bahamas, and then backtrack to Florida and Riverside Marina(!) to find a job and do some boatwork. Riverside Marina is where I hope to keep Emma, my Westsail 32; as soon as I can get her there.

So, I’ve been here since mid February, hip deep in ‘sod season’ and running so hard that I’ve only seen my boat a few times. I bought new batteries, an inflatable dinghy and an outboard engine. The batteries finally made it to Emma - just two weekends ago. Hopefully, they haven’t completely self discharged. Twice I drove more than two hours to Miami just to pay for my mooring ball and peak at the boat from the bayfront.

Truthfully, I always have a Plan B. And even though the sod company might have kept me on, I had been keeping track of employment opportunities in Fort Pierce, and in Miami where the boat still lies. When I found a trucking gig that was 7 days on and 7 off, I simply had to take the opportunity.  Staying true to my boat project occasionally means making tough decisions. I was working for a good little company, but I never intended to get pulled into a six days a week schedule. There was no malice and I have no hard feelings but, just the same, it is an unforgivable sin that I haven’t been able to work on my boat.  

I started the new gig last Monday.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Long Awaited Boat Report

The long awaited boat report:
[Click on Pictures for bigger image]

It’s sod season in Florida and I’ve been really busy at work. Of course, that means I haven’t had as much time to work on Emma as I’d like. This morning, I’m nursing a sore shoulder and decided to write the “Long Awaited Boat Report” rather than go to Miami for the day and wrestle four 60 pound batteries onto the boat and down below.

I bought Emma, sight unseen, from Michigan. The Westsail 32 was exactly the boat that I wanted. I’d been looking at all types of heavy displacement, full keel boats, but what I really wanted was a Westsail. I found Emma on the Miami Craigslist, through the Westsail group on Facebook. That story is here.   For $6000, I was really just buying the hull. Having worked on Eleanor, a Westsail 42, I knew the quality of construction and the seakindliness of the Westsails. Anything else that was in good working order, beyond the ‘bulletproof’ hull, was gravy.

I admit to having the rose-colored glasses of a dreamer. The interior was a little rougher than I had dreamed up, but there are no heartaches. There is nothing that some sweat equity won’t fix.  Two previous owners back had painted the interior a stange green color. I imagine he found a good deal on some paint that happened to be green. It’s not bad, it’s just not for me. The most recent previous owner was painting some of the interior panels white. White panels with dark-stained trim is a classic Herreshoff interior and looks good on an old school boat like Emma.

Original Floor
The original planked floor is just below the companionway steps. The rest of the interior floor has been replaced with plywood. It’s in good shape, and is stained, but I would like more and easier access to the bilges. I’ll work on that.  
Looking Aft

The interior layout is the standard Westsail 32 layout. Down the companionway, the navigation station is to starboard with a U-shaped galley to port. A very interesting galvanized plumbing sculpture now occupies the counter. I think they must have been using a pail as a sink and needed the height to accommodate. There is no stove, but a good space for installing a good gimbaled stove/oven. I can’t wait to smell fresh baked bread aboard.

Forward of the galley and nav station is a dinette to port and two berths to starboard. The bottom bunk slides out to a full single. Above that is a pilot berth. I need to find or construct a dinette table. The dinette also becomes a double berth when folded down.  There are no cushions, so I’ll be hunting up foam to shape and upholster.

Next going forward is the head where I have installed a composting head to port as discussed here. Across from the head is a nice built in cabinet to starboard. With a little clean up and stain, all the woodwork is going to be great!

The Westsail is a large boat. On most boats, the V berth is crammed into the bow and sleeps two, one on each side with their feet converging in the small space toward the anchor locker.  Emma is large enough that the V berth has a double bunk to port with a single to starboard.  And more woodwork.
V Berth

The batteries were basically killed by neglect. The four batteries, three different types, were dead enough that I bought new batteries. As mentioned above, I bought four 6V 225 Ah golf cart batteries for my battery bank. The wiring needs some attention as well. There is some Romex house wire to tear out and the battery switch and breaker panel need to be properly used.

Built In Cabinet
The sails are in decent shape. Good enough to get me to Fort Pierce. I’d really like to make a set of tan bark sails for her.   Emma is a cutter, so she has two headsails and a main. The effect is to spread the sail area over more, and smaller, sails which makes for easier handling. Still the genoa is a really big sail!  I’ve always been a hank on guy, but might have to consider roller furling to safely handle that big sail.
Nav Station

The standing rigging was done recently and has mechanical fittings rather than swage. It appears to be in good shape. The chainplates are stained a bit with rust. I'll take them off to inspect and will probably replace them. The running rigging is OK, but will be replaced during the refit. With the mast down, I will thoroughly inspect all the fittings. Further, using the "Things That Break" section of Bud Taplin's Repair Manual, I'll carefully inspect the bowsprit and boomkin fittings.

Further, Emma has no engine. The good news is that there is no old engine to take out before I can install a new one. Repowering is one of the main projects to accomplish while she is out of the water.

Toward Bowsprit
Above deck, she is a big, beautiful, old school lady. A bowsprit graces her bow and a cute little boomkin on the stern. These have been replaced and modified. I will purchase the stainless steel versions available from the Worldcruiser Yacht Company.
Toward Boomkin

Lastly, there is at least six months worth of growth on her bottom. I’m hiring a professional scuba boat cleaner to do the first hull cleaning.  Once I get the electrical system straight enough to have running lights and a radio, and get the bottom cleaned, I’ll move her to Riverside Marina[][] here in Fort Pierce. Hopefully, I’ll have her there in early May or sooner.