'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

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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”!



Out of time

(This post was actually written prior to the one just published about hauling out, but due to a freak wormhole which opened up in the space-time continuum, the publishing order was reversed. I hate wet paper bags…). (That was an inside joke for you Douglas Adams fans out there. The rest of you can just pretend it didn’t happen.)
It appears that I’ll be breaking my own rule about this blog.

I’ve made it a policy to post chronologically these last couple of years. It seemed the fairest way to present the story, easier for readers to follow, and easier for me to avoid repetition.

But as our time in this first cruise runs down, I’ve become strangely reticent about investing the time in keeping the story current. In part, that may be due to the temperature: it’s May 3rd as I write this, and it’s been 90 degrees this afternoon, even in the shade under the sun awning. It’s hot, and there’s hardly a breeze. Weather like that doesn’t give you much motivation.

Or perhaps it’s just an unwillingness to spend time behind the keyboard when I could be spending it watching the pelicans, or the osprey, or the sardines that congregate in the shadow of Sionna whenever we stop for more than a few minutes…

Today we moved Sionna into the canal which leads to the boat yard where we’ll be storing her – on the hard (out of the water) – while we return to Maine for the summer, more eye surgeries, and hopefully some paid work. When we set out for this trip, we had many expectations that we tried to suppress, and we had dreams and plans which we have – largely – followed. Much of that we’ve accomplished, while some – like sudden blindness and surgeries – was more adventure than we’d ever have chosen. It’s been good.

But we’re left wondering, too. Wondering about the paths we didn’t take. Wondering how we may have changed in this 9-month odyssey. Wondering how Maine and Rockland may have changed, and who we’ll see first as we greet old friends? 
And we wonder how it’ll feel to leave Sionna – very much our home, and now very much our partner and friend – in the hands and land of strangers.


Roll, roll, roll your boat…

We love our boat. She’s strong, capable, amazingly roomy for her 32 feet, well built and well equipped. Sionna is the perfect boat for us. But she does have one vice.

She likes to roll.
Any time the wake of a boat or a sea comes along at anything close to broadside to our old fat boat, she sets up a motion that’s like riding a round-barreled pony who’s determined to roll in the grass. Baaack and forth, Baaack and forth…. Every boat around us is gently riding to the swell, and Sionna is tossing dishes across the cabin while Nicki and I hold on for dear life. And sleeping? I don’t think so.

Hence my latest project – creating a “flopper stopper” – a device to catch hold of the water next to the hull and use its weight to reduce and dampen the roll.

The idea isn’t new, and it isn’t original. I’ve read several articles over the years about various designs, and a couple of fellow cruisers have shared ideas as well. The one I made is based pretty closely on a recent article in “Good Old Boat” magazine, so here’s a shoutout to a truly excellent publication!  

Materials are all found items: An old milk crate Nicki’s had since childhood is the base, the fabric is an old sail from the boat we didn’t restore (thank you Renaissance!) the weight was in Sionna’s bilge when we got her, and the line and clips were repurposed from various corners of the boat.

Once deployed, the flopper-stopper is below the waters surface, but it acts like a weighted bucket with a one-way valve in the bottom. Water can come up into the bottom easily, but is slowed significantly in escaping, using the weight of the water to slow the roll of the boat side-to-side.

The horizontal pole just holds the unit at a distance from the hull, creating leverage, and the two lower lines keep the whole works out perpendicular to the hull. The support is a halyard from the top of the mast.

Does it work? Certainly it helps, but there hasn’t been a huge amount of wake or swell this afternoon to test it. Mostly we seem to be riding up and down on the swells, with only a little roll thrown in.

 Cautious optimism reigns until proven unfounded!


That old devil Sound

Ah that old devil, the Long Island Sound. There must be a song about that.

Not that Buzzards Bay, Rhode Island Sound, Block Island Sound and Long Island Sound aren’t – in their own right – beautiful stretches of water. They most certainly are. But for a boat – particularly a sailboat – with a desire to actually go somewhere, they are proving to be a most challenging and awkward set of mini-seas.

We are so done with the Sounds.

The reasons we’re ready for something different are Three: Depth, current, and population. Let me explain.

Depth: This area between Cape Cod at the east end and New York City to the west is, on average, very shallow. In Buzzards Bay we found depths less than 35 feet in areas where we were nearly out of sight of all land, and there are much shallower areas – sometimes alarmingly shallow – out in what we Maine sailors would think to be “safe” water. 

This isn’t a safety issue, as we have good charts and maintain a watch on our position as a matter of course, but shallow water has other vices, particularly when combined with:

Current: We have currents in Maine, but not like they have here. In Maine waters, there are generally two currents in a day – in and out – and they follow the rise and fall of the tides within an hour or so. 

(A brief aside to define terms: Tide – the cyclical increase and decrease of water depth caused by the gravitational effect of the moon and – to a lesser extent – the sun. Current: the movement of water horizontally through an area as a result of the change in the tide and – less often – the effect of wind.)

But not so in the Sounds, where each tide change seems to be nearly divorced from the current it produces. The current charts in my “Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book” look like a pot of pasta gone bad, and reference a tide as much as five hours prior or hence – madness!

But in addition to dictating our movements (it’s not worth sailing against a current over a knot – you get nowhere), current over a shallow bottom crates waves and rips and eddies that make life miserable, rough and wet, and current against the wind creates waves completely out of proportion to the wind itself. You can quickly find yourself at a complete standstill as each wall of water slams the bow of the boat and reduces your speed over the ground to a crawl. It’s just not pleasant, though the resulting salt bath can be very refreshing!

It was never like this back in dear old Maine.

Population: There are people down here. Lots of people. And power boats. Lots of power boats. They all seem to want to go from point A to point B very fast, and they almost never seem to think about what the wake they’re creating is going to do to other boats and people on shore. 

Now I recognize that this is something I’m going to have to accept, or at least learn to deal with – the ICW is chock full of boaters who’s total knowledge of nautical lore and boating etiquette is how to turn the key – they’re completely clueless. Are powerboaters truly a lower form of life than sailors, as many suggest? Well, the jury’s still out on that one. I hope not, but some days I wonder…

So the last four days have consisted of lots of motoring. Depart the anchorage at a time that should give a favorable current, sail as long as there’s wind AND the wind against current hasn’t created a ludicrous chop, then give up and motor straight into the chop to the next anchorage. In the process we’ve discovered a slow leak from the raw water pump for the engine cooling system that’s going to require a replacement pump. Getting parts to a yacht in transit is the subject of an entire post, but we’re hoping to rendezvous with a new pump in Manhasset, NY in a few days so we can install it before our transit of the East River and New York Harbor. With luck, the new pump will also cure the old ones habit of eating drive belts – a maintenance two-fer!  

Fingers crossed.


“Storage” – the A to Z Challenge

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“Storage”, in the context of cruising, gets divided into two major sub-issues.

First, there’s the issue of owning a boat, and where you’re going to put it when it’s not in the water. The other quandary is what to do with your “stuff” when you move out of your house/apartment/hovel and onto the boat.

For anyone not familiar with boats, the question of where to put it when it’s not in the water might come as a surprise. I mean, it’s a boat, right?  So… it’s meant to be, like, in the water, right?

Well, yes and no.   At the moment, we live in Maine. We have this thing called “winter” up here, and during the winter water does this weird thing where it gets stiff and sharp and unpredictable…  You can leave a boat in the water here, yes, if it’s a sheltered location, but the risk of damage to the boat is significant, so as a general rule no one does – boats are hauled out when it gets too cold to be comfortable on the water (usually sometime in October, depending on the year) and stored ashore, hopefully under some sort of shelter, or at least a tarp to keep the snow and rain off.  The picture above is of Sionna in our greenhouse-style boatshed. (We closed off the end of the shed after putting her inside.)

But we’re leaving this rental house in July this year, taking Sionna down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) to Florida, and next summer will be leaving her in Florida while we come back to Maine to work for the summer.  Oops, storage again!  Where do you put your boat when you’re going to be 1500 miles away for the 5 months of summer?

And what about your stuff? Furniture and clothing and knick-knacks and tools…

That’s where the storage unit picture comes in.  We don’t have a whole lot of stuff, really, (see “D” – Downsizing) but we have some, and we’re hoping we can wedge it all into a 5′ x 10′ storage unit in town. Except for the tools and boat parts, which will be packed into a 7′ x 8′ utility trailer and parked at a friend’s house.  For free – but he gets to borrow my tools any time he wants.

As for Sionna, she’ll be staying in a boat yard in south-central Florida while we’re gone, out of the water, and we’ll be watching the weather forecasts and praying no hurricanes decide to make a Florida landfall.  Cruising does have its share of worries, just like real life.


“Reality” – the A to Z Challenge

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So what’s your reality?  In my experience, Basset Hounds don’t fly – but does that mean they can’t?

Is the glass half full, or half empty? Are you a victim of life, or a creator of your experience? Do you make things happen, or does everything happen to you?

Nicki and I are strong believers in the concept of “manifestation”. This is A largely Buddhist concept, the basic premise being that humans – by their thoughts and intentions – gradually shape their experience and environment to their will. And while we’re not Buddhists by any stretch, we’ve both had enough experiences of dearly held desires becoming our reality to feel that we better be pretty careful what we wish for.

And conversely, if I get into a negative frame of mind (yeah, that happens!), it’s amazing and  frightening what painful, unsettling and downright unpleasant experiences I can create if I try. It works both ways.

Now, if you’re thinking this is all hooey and voodoo, you might find a quick introduction to  Quantum Physics intriguing.  I’d recommend the movie What the Bleep Do We Know?” (That’s a link to a 4-minute trailer). The movie itself is entertaining, enlightening, and thought-provoking.

Or you might decide it’s a load of crap, or just too confusing, or it might offend your sense of order or your religious beliefs or the gut need you have to know that everything is pre-ordained and beyond your control.  That’s ok too.

After all, you’re creating your reality right now.  But if I might make one suggestion?

Make it a good reality.


Life’s too short to write yourself into a bad novel.

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Follow the Bouncing Ball


Where in the world is Sionna?

“Where are you headed?”  “How will we know where you are?” “I wish we could come…”

These are the sorts of questions you hear when you announce your intention to unplug from the ordinary and follow a dream.  Friends and family, and sometimes imperfect strangers; all would like to have a way to follow along.

Perhaps it’s to live vicariously through your adventures. Maybe they’d like to reassure themselves that you’re safe – the logic being that if you’re still moving, you must be ok. (Is that really logical?)

Whatever the reason, those questions, combined with the pleasure I’ve had following OTHER people’s adventures through their blogs and trackers, led us to search for some sort of affordable tracking system for our trip, so that we could let interested parties of all sorts know our position and kind of ride along with us.

Sionna does have AIS (Automatic Identification System) aboard, and there are several sites on the web that allow you to check in on all the AIS equipped vessels in a given area and see what they’re up to. (Marine Traffic AIS map is one)   The down side of Marine Traffic is that it’s not tracking any specific vessel – just every vessel (with AIS) that’s in range.

There are also paid services, such as that offered by DeLorme with their Inreach  system, but given our fetish with frugality, we’re not likely to go there.

However there is another option – it’s called Farkwar.

Ok, I don’t know how he came up with the name. But the basic idea of the service is that you create your own position reports when you have internet capability, add a comment if you like, then post it, and anyone who’s signed up to receive your updates will get an email telling them you’ve updated your position.

If you didn’t click on that Farkwar link already, check it out – that’s Sionna’s page, which shows that she’s currently parked in our yard in Warren, eagerly awaiting spring, and a completion of her pre-cruise refit.

As we all are.

So if you too would be interested in seeing where we get to and how long it takes, head on over to the Farkwar site and sign up to follow the sailing vessel Sionna: we’d be happy to have you along.