'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

Leave a comment


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?


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.


“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!

1 Comment

MORE “In Exotic Places”

I’ve mentioned before that favorite cruiser quip; “Cruising is just fixing your boat in exotic places” – and so of course, here we go again.

About 1000 miles and several months ago I mentioned having lost a fiberglass batten from Sionna’s mainsail, and my most excellent “Scotty moment” (that’s a reference to the Chief Engineer in the original Star Trek TV series, for you non-Trekies out there) as I fashioned a replacement from some wood I had aboard for another project.  

That first fix actually lasted about a month, but the batten I’d made was too light, and it broke during a boisterous sail.  

So the second attempt was more robust, nearly twice the width, and it lasted nearly twice as long before snapping in half at the same point. Clearly, Ash is not the wood for this particular application! So what to do? Not fixing it isn’t an option – the purpose of a batten is to control the shape of the sail for maximum efficiency, and it’s lack was obvious in Sionna’s sail ability.  

The original batten (similar to the one pictured here) was a specially priced fiberglass rod, intended for a yacht. Could a similar rod NOT priced to sail be pressed into service for the same purpose? A rod from – say – Home Depot? A $1.99 version?
It’s worth a try!

Up in the north we use these for marking our lawns so that the snowplow driver knows when to stop pushing the snow. Trying to describe what I needed to the folks at Home Depot here in Florida in those terms was going pretty much nowhere until I mentioned you could also use it to mark the edge of your driveway…

So I brought it back to the boat, measured it twice, and cut it once, with excellent results, at least visually.
We won’t know until the next time we sail whether it gives the best shape to the sail, but certainly it will be better than nothing, and much stronger than the ash prototypes. (Initial attempts at a repair are always “prototypes”, not failures!). I’m hopeful that we’ve got a long-term solution to “The Case of the Missing Batten”.

Here’s to another “Scotty Moment”! 


Traveling On

When last we left our heros, they had narrowly escaped the clutches of the evil Dr. Marathon and the dreaded “Field of Moorings”. But what now?  Let’s join them and find out!

End of drama simulation. Because really, when you choose to live on a boat and travel 2800 miles at 5 miles an hour, you don’t need to invent drama – it just kind of happens.

We departed Marathon on March 25th, and since then have been kind of quiet. The occasional sunset picture on Facebook, of course, and a brief mention of another rum-based beverage in paradise, and that’s about it for the last three weeks. I’m speculating that it was those pictures and mentions that caused my going from over 300 Facebook friends to less than 20. All my former FBfriends are from the north, and along about the end of February they finally realized that the one thing they really couldn’t stand was someone living on a boat somewhere warm.

I feel their pain.
But I digress. From Marathon, Sionna made her way westward along the Keys, with two-day stops at Bahia Honda Key, Saddlebunch Key, and finally Key West. Those stops gave us an opportunity to slow down, re-learn about sailing and cruising, and just basically get used to being mobile again. 

Yes, one of those boats is Sionna, anchored off Bahia Honda Key!

Bahia Honda is a State Park, which on the plus side means there are services (heads or “bathrooms” in land-speak), but on the minus side, there are also people. LOTS of people. And it was Spring Break.  

And of course what comes with people? Trash.

As we walked the beach, we’d look down and see, not shells, but plastic bottled water lids. Not jelly fish, but plastic bags. 

Ok, to be fair we also saw jelly fish and shells and sea beans and kelp and all those things, but the amount of plastic crap that’s washing up on the beaches EVERYWHERE we go is just plain obscene. Yes, obscene.

We pick it up when we see it, as much as we can, but it feels like a very small effort because from 50’ of beach we carried everything our hands could hold back to the trash can 3 times, and still didn’t get it all. And then there are the micro-pieces, the bits too small to easily see, but which sea creatures love to eat, thinking they’re food – which can kill the fish and turtles and whales and ultimately us. We (and by “we” I mean you and me and the other 7.6 billion humans on this planet) need to do better. 

Next stop for us was Saddlebunch Key. Here, we get to talk about a bit of that natural drama I mentioned earlier. Tornados.

Tornados are generally pretty dramatic, and it was from our anchorage in the Saddlebunch Keys that we got to watch a funny little weather system which – according to the National Weather Service – spawned “at least” 12 water spouts, which is what they call a tornado that forms over water.

Just let me say that – for the record – there were a lot more than 12 of them. Nicki and I counted at least 25 of the little suckers. And that’s just what the one in the picture is doing: Sucking water up off the surface and into the cloud above. See the guy in the kayak, next to the red marker? Do you think he might be having his daily dose of drama-induced nervous energy right about now? Me too.

Next, we headed over to Key West and found – surprise – more drama! We broke something! You’re probably beginning to think that cruising is all about drama, aren’t you? Well luckily it’s usually not, but it does have its moments, and we had a couple of them, quite close together.
 We don’t have many breakage problems on Sionna, largely because we did a pretty good job of looking for potential weak spots before we left Maine. We replaced and reinforced where we could, and it’s paid off.

Still there were a couple of instances where I said “That’ll be fine” that I’ve wished right along I hadn’t, and one of those was the main halyard shackle.

For those of you who aren’t sailors, the main halyard is the line (which on Sionna is actually part wire) that attaches to the top (the “head”) of the main sail, and is used to hoist the sail up the main mast for use. The shackle is what attaches the halyard to the sail, like this:

Except that’s the new shackle. The old one looks like this: Broken.

The awesome news is that because I was concerned about that shackle, at least subconsciously, I’d packed in our spare parts bin an almost brand new shackle to replace it “someday”. And some day came as we were heading into Key West. A motor boat went by, way to fast (Floridians get a kick out of making sailboats roll radically – it seems to be in their genes), the sail filled suddenly with the roll, and that shackle pin I was concerned about said “bye-bye” and snapped the shackle in parting.

So, we picked as sheltered a spot to anchor as we could find, and waited for the calm of evening, at which time I strapped on my rock-climbing harness, and Nicki helped crank me up the mast, 42’ above the water surface, to retrieve the end of the halyard. 3 minutes at the top and I was on the way down, mission accomplished.

We only stayed in Key West two nights. Even anchored, if you go to town they all but charge you for the air you breathe, and we really didn’t need much. A few groceries, one very nice meal out in an almost reasonably priced hole-in-the-wall brew-pub (it’s been a while since we dared have that splurge), and early on March 31st we hauled anchor for the 26-hour overnight passage to Fort Myers.

But that’s a story for another day.