'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch


Update on “Something to Sail”

Honfleur is for sale. Now.

After I wrote the last post, I actually sat down to an accounting of the expenses we’d accrue with the care & feeding of the second boat, and had to admit that it makes no sense to hold on – as attractive as the idea may be from an emotional standpoint.

Sionna must have her Genoa replaced before we can cruise again, and the cost of that sail nearly matches the cost of keeping the little boat – whether we actually launch her or not.  It’s time to release those memories and move on.  We have friends here in Rockland who have boats, so we won’t be entirely land-locked without the Tanzer. 

Farewell, Honfleur. May you find a loving home and able hand for your next 39 years. 

It’s been a lovely cruise.

(Update of the Update: The boat sold the day after we listed her on Craigslist.  Wonderful thing, the internet!  She goes on to another couple, just starting out in the sailing world. Just as we were when Honfleur came to live with us.  Very cool.)


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Something to Sail

We related back last summer the process we went through of selling our prior boat, “Honfleur”. She’s a Tanzer 7.5 (meter), a basic classic-plastic coastal cruiser from 1978.  I’d been given the boat back in 2008 (“If you can get her out of my pasture, you can have her!”), and had sailed her every season since, until we bought Sionna in 2015. 

Clearly we didn’t need two boats to maintain, so it made sense to find her a new home. The buyer who found us was motivated and determined, but lacking in experience and knowledge, so we spent a good bit of time preparing both the buyer and the boat before we left for our cruise. Sadly the burden of boat ownership became overwhelming as other life challenges presented, and eventually Honfleur came back to us – a little older, a little dirtier, but basically intact – so we’re a two-boat family again.

Eventually I expect we’ll try to find her a new owner again, but for now, we’re feeling like we owe her better than we’ve given her lately. We’ve been cleaning and painting the bottom and putting things in order, intending to launch her soon, and do a little small-boat sailing this summer, right here close to home.  Small boats are fun, and though she used to feel very big to me, after two years aboard Sionna she seems quite small indeed! 

It feels a bit like a return to our roots.  Now, if we can just get the outboard motor to cooperate…


Learning to live on land

Since we’ve lived on land our entire lives until recently, one would think that we’d make the transition back to Maine seamlessly. Sadly, no, as I began to describe in the last post.

Certainly part of it is the simple sensory overload of living in a techno-focused consumer society. But an equal measure must be laid at the feet of finance.  It is incredibly expensive to live ashore, and we are, at the moment, at the ebb point of our income season.  Carpenters work outside, and the weather in Maine the last four weeks has been cold and wet in a way that’s unprecedented in living memory.  If we can’t work, we don’t get paid, and in this cold, we can’t work.

But of course the expenses don’t stop. Insurance, medical bills still outstanding, repairs to both cars when we got back, a dental emergency…  They just keep coming.

It’s my desire to guard against this blog becoming a whining lament of all that goes wrong in life, but it occurred to me that many sailing blogs – probably far too many – concentrate on the good times at the expense of an accurate portrayal of “Cruising” as a lifestyle.  

Perhaps that’s human nature: We feel a need to justify our choices in life, and the better cruising sounds, the easier it is to answer those for whom the very concept is anathema.  When others think we’re crazy, we get defensive.

But it seems to me that painting a too-rosy picture is a disservice to all those cruisers who successfully forge a life on the water. There ARE challenges. There ARE bad days. There ARE days when you look in the mirror (if your boat has a mirror) and think “Why am I doing this?’

But that’s life, too. Right now we’re in Maine, back “home”, back in the “real world” of running water, automobiles and cheap plastic crap. It’s been miserable and cold for most of the three weeks we’ve been here, propane (for heat) is breaking the budget, and neither of us is working reliably yet.  This morning I looked at the space in my mouth where there was – until yesterday – a molar, and thought: “Why am I doing this?”

Living on the boat was so much easier. Living on the boat, most things make sense. Living on the boat, most of the challenges can be successfully managed by the two of us and some ingenuity.

At least, that’s how it seems when I’m freezing my tush off in New England.  Happy Spring!

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Among cruisers there are a number of acronyms and terms used to describe the conditions and situations that are unique to the cruising life.  It’s the same amongst R.V. Folks or pilots or quilt makers – a unique area of interest invites a unique vocabulary. 

Hence my title: C.L.O.D. Stands for “Cruiser Living On Dirt”.  And that would be us.

There are others, of course, but not many that have found their way into our lexicon. “Swallow the anchor” describes the act of giving up cruising entirely, selling the boat, getting a house, accepting a job…  Scary stuff.  

And then there’s “DH”, used by female sailors to refer to their male partners. Sometimes it stands for “Dear Husband”, sometimes “Dumb Husband”, and sometimes…  Well, you get the idea.

But being a CLOD is assumed to be temporary. Some CLOD’s, it’s true, have actually sold their boat, but they are understood to be between boats, not through with them. 

In the case of Sionna’s crew, however, we are literally “between” boats. “Boats” plural!

Sionna is, of course, stored in Florida, and we hope she’s safe and sound and eagerly awaiting our return. In the meantime, however, we’ve got this other boat here in Maine, a boat we thought had left our lives for good.

Honfleur is a Tanzer 7.5 (meter).  She came to me back in 2008 as a “free” boat – and I’ve been spending money on her ever since.  We sold her last spring, but some big life changes happened for the woman who bought her, and by last November she’d come back to us, looking for a home… 

So in between working at carpentry and heat pump installations for me and job searches for Nicki, we’ve been working on cleaning up the “Little Boat”, as we’ve come to call her, and are rather looking forward to having a boat to play with around the harbor on a nice day.  Working and income creation come first, but it’ll be nice to slip out for an afternoon on the water now and gain, while we prepare for the next phase of Commuter Cruising.
CLOD’s we may be, but we’re also TBNH’s: “Two Boats, No House”!


Real? Really?

Since we left the boat and returned to Maine, many, many people have said something similar to “Welcome back to the real world”. I realize now that I can’t agree…. 

Real world? I don’t think so.
I think what most people call the “real world” is in fact a cultural construct designed to strangle the spirit and drown the soul in despair, all while distracting the ego with the meaningless candy of consumerism.
The REAL real world is sunrise and moonset, rain and wind, sand bars and sunshine and light so pure it brings tears to your eyes and a song to your lips and you can hardly breathe for the beauty of it.
That’s what I learned from 9 months on a boat.


On the Road Again…

We’re traveling!  

We left Bradenton FL about 10am Tuesday, and spent that night in Florence, South Carolina.  It was sunny, it was warm.

Today we got a slightly earlier start and traversed the rest of SC, all of North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland (those two are pretty skinny when you’re on interstate 81!) plus a bit of Pennsylvania, landing just south of Harrisburg PA.  

63 degrees. Partly cloudy. Yuck.  I’m beginning to think leaving Florida wasn’t such a good idea…

But you know, we lucked out!  There’s a diner just across the road from the Budget Inn which – it turns out – is a combined effort between a mom & pop diner and an Indian restaurant. The Tika Masala was awesome!   Gotta love little surprises!

We sure do miss real life, though. You know – Cruising?


“It’s been a lovely Cruise”

…to quote Jimmy Buffet, of course.

But what after the cruise? What happens then?  Well, you put the boat in storage, of course.

Which is more complicated than it sounds.

The problem with storing a boat, anywhere, is that it likes to collect moisture when it’s all closed up, and that moisture is almost certain to lead to mold and mildew growing inside. The problem is compounded when you store it in a humid, hot climate – say, Florida.  So of course that’s what we’ve done.

But there are steps one can take to minimize the risks of mold and insects and rodents, and all those creepy-crawly things we’d rather not think about.  

First, you get the boat away from the water.  In our case, that meant a trip up the Myaka River in central Florida, passing  through a lock into a fresh-water canal, and motoring 9 miles around a huge development area to a little boat yard that had very good rates for long-term storage (cost is ALWAYS an issue on Sionna!) and a good reputation. And that fresh water canal served a very important purpose – it washed all the corrosive salt water out of Siona’s engine and the dinghy’s outboard motor.  We also took the opportunity to run both anchor chains out into the water to take the salt off of them, the anchors, and then – in a fit of rinsing – Nicki took bucket and brush and washed down the decks and such.  There’s nothing like a clean boat to make you feel happy!

So one of the neat things about having the boat lifted out of the water this way is that the machine used (called a “Travel-lift”) has a scale which can tell you how much your boat weighs.  This is significant because we’ve never known what Sionna weighs, and we were curious.  The manufacturer’s specs say 12000 pounds, but that’s usually derived from the engineer’s plans, and actual boats are usually heavier than that. In addition, Sionna is fitted out for cruising, with all the extra gear and personal effects that collect when you live aboard for an extended period.  I’ve mentioned before that before we launched her in June 2016 we raised the waterline 1.5″, anticipating that she’d sit a little lower in the water once we were loaded, and sure enough, that inch and a half disappeared by the time we were ready to leave Maine last summer.  My mental guesstimate said that we were probably about 14000#, and darned if that’s not just what we learned!  Of course we had empty water tanks and half fuel, so add another 700, plus food. And wine… Figure the better part of a ton-and-a-half of stuff, all told. It’s no wonder she sails just a little slower these days than she once did!
Anyway, in spite of our nervousness, the haul-out went without a hitch, they washed the bottom off (much less fouling than we expected – I guess that Neptune V bottom paint works better than we feared!), and Sionna was set in a truck and hauled by road a mile to the storage yard.

Where the work began.

Everything soft –  clothes, food, cushions – anything that could hold moisture and mold or molder was removed. That turned into two full loads in a Honda Pilot which – if you haven’t seen one – is NOT the little Honda I grew up with!

 Then while I was filling the diesel tank, packing up the sails, securing the rigging and stuffing coarse stainless steel wool into every possible rodent or insect entry port, Nicki was busy scrubbing the inside surfaces of the boat to prevent mildew, washing the bilge, and just generally doing a total make-over kind of spring cleaning so that – hopefully – when we return to Sionna in October, she’ll be immediately habitable. 

And our last task before bidding her farewell was to lock up (she had no way to lock the hatches – I added that too) and cover the deck with shade cloth to keep the temperature down inside during the Florida summer. All that stuff we took out was transported to Nicki’s parent’s house, where it now occupies an entire spare room.  How did we ever get that much stuff into a 32′ boat? And how are we going to get it all back in??

Ah, the glamor of the cruising lifestyle.  Tiki bars and umbrella drinks, my sweet aunt!