'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

Discovery time

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When you store a boat, you really have no idea what you’ll find when you return. By their very nature, boats operate at an accelerated rate of entropy – degrading into chaos much faster than you expect and generally requiring constant vigilance to remain trustworthy – and Sionna is no exception.

Still, our return to the boat has been, generally, a relief, and most of our fears unfounded. Filthy, she is/was (we spent a full first day , scrubbing every inch of topsides and cockpit, and once again she is off-white instead of dirty gray!), but that comes off, and though there is a bit of mold showing inside, it’s very light and comes off with just a little elbow grease and “Simple Green” cleaner. That and a wipe with our favorite mold treatment – a product called “Concrobium” (no, we don’t get paid to say that, the stuff really works) – and we’ll be breathing easy again.

On the other hand, we’ve found a LOT of failed finishes in the exterior varnish and paint. This is no surprise – direct exposure to the sun is deadly – and the addition of heat building up on those surfaces means we’ve got deck paint coming off in sheets.

The trim along toe-rail and rub-rail – once a lovely forest green – is now nearly gray where the paint remains, and we’re showing our underwear (bare wood and old varnish layers) in many spots. Lines that we couldn’t take off and store are green with mildew, and there were streaks of brown anywhere the rain ran along bronze cleats and fasteners onto the deck.

But all of that is basically cosmetic, and pretty easily corrected with time and effort. Structurally there’s very little to cause concern, with one exception: Fasteners.

There are dozens of places on deck where screws are installed through the deck, and are now showing at the surface. In one area, in fact, one screw head has actually popped off and is nowhere to be found, leaving a gaping hole atop the coach roof. Curiously this is an area where I’ve been chasing a leak for four years, so perhaps I’ve finally found the source, but I sure couldn’t see it before! That repair is going to take some time, because those screws hold one of the bulkheads inside the cabin that enclose the head. It’s an important piece.

We’ve made progress! Those fasteners have been cleaned out and removed, the holes patched with epoxy, and soon new screws will be installed, sealed with epoxy, and the area faired and repainted.

The rudder-post repair that I started before we left 20 months ago is complete, much to my relief, and the steering system reassembled. That was a big one, so we’re mighty glad to have it off the list.

So that’s what we’ve found. Yesterday we took one item off the to-do list, but I added three more. That’s as expected, too. Where I began by saying “2-3 weeks” before we get her in the water, now I’m thinking “At least 3 weeks”, and I’m saying it very softly, so as not to tempt the Gods into testing us. We’ll get there.

And meanwhile it’s warm, and there’s light… I wore shorts yesterday, and was comfortably barefoot most of the day.

What’s not to like?

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Packing up

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When you start trying to decide what you’re going to fit in your baggage allowance, you start to figure out your priorities in a big way.

Two Ukuleles? Of course. But how? Well, one will be in place of my “purse”as my carried-on personal item, and the other must ride deep between the layers of clothing in our large checked bag. Thank goodness Southwest Airlines allows two checked bags per passenger without charge.

The fact that we left a good selection of clothes with the boat helps, but this trip has the potential for consistently cooler (but not cold!) weather – mid-sixties to mid-seventies – so we’re adding layers to our wardrobes in anticipation.

Passports, important papers, keys for the boat, eye meds, toiletries, easy-to-remove shoes…

And then there’s the house. Stow, secure, plug where the birds nested last spring so they can’t do that again. Wash, gas and oil the cars for storage, update our charts (both electronic and paper). Find plant-sitters, empty the fridge (we’ve had some pretty weird meals using up open containers!)

And then visit friends and neighbors to say goodbye, and to receive “Bon Voyage!” Breakfast one more time at our favorite spot. Maybe dine tomorrow night at the other one…

And all this on pins and needles, looking forward with anticipation and a bit of nervousness, not knowing exactly what we’ll find when we open up the boat for the first time in 20 months.

It’s a lot of work.

But we’re going cruising – and that makes all the difference.

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Fun with Travel Plans

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It’s at times like this that I need to remind myself of the “Why” of our current “How”.

Because the “How” of moving ourselves and everything we’ll need in the next five months from here in Maine to the boat in Florida – including two Ukuleles – is nothing less than obscure from my vantage point.

Are we crazy? Naa… Well, no more-so than usual, anyway.

Some of it is relatively easy. There were three or four things we needed to order online – a new flare kit (we’ve upgraded to an electronic version, so no more nasty toxic flares to dispose of!), a couple of books, a boom bail for the main boom – so those we just had shipped to Nicki’s folks in Florida, where they can wait for us.

Other things are more problematical. Like the aforementioned Ukuleles. But we think we’ve found a way. We’ve bought a new suitcase which is actually vastly larger then we need, and into which said Ukes will fit. Properly padded, I’m reasonably confident that they can make the trip without being bent.

Reasonably confident. Baggage handlers are – in general – a careful and conscientious lot, but there are also a few true Apes that work the airport ramps.

We’re hoping those few are off the day we fly south.

So the count-down continues, it’s 11 days before we head south. Here’s hoping we get everything set before the time comes.

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The Curse of the Morning-Person

As we wind down our land sojourn and plan for some time on the boat again (January 15 flight is booked!), I’ve been looking back at some past posts, and this one caught my eye. Hope you enjoy a little stroll down memory lane too!

'Til the butter melts

It’s not fair, really.

No laying about in bed of a morning, stretching and dozing and just generally relaxing for me. And late nights out on the town with friends? Hah!

The midnight train leaves the station promptly at 9pm, Bucko, and I’m going to be on it, like it or no.

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time, not so long ago, when I could pretty much set my own hours, but that was when I was sleeping from home. Shoot, I could show up for bed at 2am in my birthday suit, and as long as I put in my 8 hours, it didn’t matter a wit.
No more those carefree days – I work for the (sand)Man now.
In truth, it’s a minor inconvenience, generally. The biggest drawback is that my partner in life is definitively NOT a morning person. When I’m winding down, she’s…

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“…it’s five-year mission…”

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There are days that feel like those opening words from the original “Star Trek” series, full of drama and promise of high adventure. And there are also days – way too many days recently – that feel more like “The Munsters”. Or maybe “The Simpsons”.

At least I think that’s what they feel like. In truth I have almost no knowledge of the last two – I’d given up TV entirely by the time I became aware they existed – but I watched a LOT of Star Trek, back in the day.

But to put it all into current context, Nicki and I are getting ready to return to the boat! Airline tickets have been purchased, phone calls have been made, and thoughts of packing, house rentals/sitters have been considered, etc. We’ve been telling people for the last month that we planned to head south “mid-January”, so to make that official, I booked us two seats on Southwest Airlines (one of the last airlines that lets you travel with a checked bag without charging you a fortune-plus-your-first-born for the privilege).

And we found this darling little table in a local antique shop, exactly the right size for our very small house.

Things are shaping up!

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Still crazy, after all these months

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Believe it or not, we’re still here. Not “here”, as in”on the boat”, but here as in still alive, still kicking, still working toward getting back to cruising.

The current plan (written in the sand at low tide, as they say) is a return to the boat in Florida in January, 2020, get her back in shape (we’re mighty worried about what two summers in the Florida sun may have done to her), and get her launched, then begin moving her – and us – back to Maine.

It seems unlikely that we’ll be able to make it to the Bahamas this time around, and the way things are shaping up in those islands, we may have missed our chance entirely. Fees are multiplying, anchorages are disappearing, Disney is buying up entire islands, and the whole country is sounding way too much like south Florida all the sudden.

In any case, the little house is taking all our energy, time and money for the rest of the summer, and then – with luck – we’ll at least get a chance for some extended boat time while we bring her back to the most beautiful cruising grounds in the world; The Penobscot Bay.

In other boat news, I (Keith) did manage to hitch a ride on one – as crew aboard a friend’s boat headed for Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was my longest passage to date – 46 hours underway from Rockland Maine to Lunenburg, NS – and then an additional 10 hours the next day over to Halifax.

On that trip I learned that the Atlantic Ocean is COLD, even in July; that having an autopilot aboard a sailing vessel is a total game changer when doing overnights, and that Nova Scotia may be the most beautiful, friendliest place in the known universe.

I’d go back in a heartbeat. Next time with Nicki, and on our own boat.

That’s called “foreshadowing”.

Stay tuned!

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Tucked in for the Summer

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Note: This post was written in May, just after we arrived back in Maine for the summer, but for reasons that are unlikely to be made clear in the near future it disappeared shortly after it was published. You may note that when I wrote it, we still intended to return to the boat in the fall – but that plan changed abruptly in June.

Meanwhile the rumors are flying. Even had some friends call and say “We just heard you’ve given up Cruising!?”

No.

No, we are not done cruising, but there are some things that need to be accomplished ashore before we venture out again. It’s quite possible that our future cruising will look very different than before, but we and Sionna are very definitely headed out again.

Anyway, this blog is – at best – mired in my shore-side lethargy. The unknowns of the situation, and my discontent with how things stand, have sapped my will to write, and you, dear reader have had nothing to read as a result. My apologies.

So consider this post a flashback to a simpler time. Meanwhile I’m a one-handed carpenter as I recover from shoulder surgery, Nicki’s new business in Real Estate Investment is developing slowly, and the house we are rebuilding in Maine is progressing, albeit slowly now with my shoulder…

Life happens when you make other plans.

It always feels like a mixed blessing, this seasonal cruising thing.

On one hand, Sionna is tucked away in a safe place, securely tied to the ground and well inland. She’s as safe in our absence as we can make her.

On the other hand, our home and magic carpet of nautical dreams is alone, baking in the sun, while we are waiting for summer, layering clothing, and looking for work.

And here we are, in “the most beautiful cruising grounds in the world” (as we were told by some folks in the British Virgin Islands) with no boat. It feels strange, and disjointed, and not a little disquieting.

But of course, this last season wasn’t without it’s challenges and down days. The two months we spent in Maine for eye surgery meant that we got to experience a real slice of winter again – a very good reminder of why we decided to do our cruising in the south in the first place. Being away from it made the whole season feel really disjointed though. We’d just about got used to being on the boat, the pace of the day, and then packed everything up and moved ashore. Then moved back…

So naturally we’re looking ahead, wondering how to arrange our next season aboard, but more immediately we’re trying to line up our summer work, so that we can afford to HAVE our next season on the boat.

There are uncertainties. There are concerns and quandaries, and choices to be made. Our trip back north took 7 days, and included a visit with my (Keith’s) brother and sister-in-law at their new home in a clothing-optional community in western Florida – a very new but surprisingly comfortable experience for us – as well as visits with three sets of cruising friends in three separate cities. It was a social whirlwind from which I think I’m still recovering, but it sure was nice to see those folks again. It reminds us why we cruise.

Oh, and the sunsets, of course. We do miss those sunsets.

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