Thursday, September 18, 2014

Out With the Old, And.... That's It!

“You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you." Tyler DurdenFight Club

Clutter wears many different hats. It can be physical "stuff" that demands and consumes space. It can be multiple responsibilities that pull you in many directions at the same time. It can be things like traffic, television, YouTube, Facebook, etc. that creep into your life and steal your precious time. However, clutter is nearly always a distraction that prevents you from experiencing life to the fullest.

One of the major appeals of cruising is that it provides an opportunity to de-clutter my life. There is no cable television at sea. There are no soccer games, homeowners' associations, night meetings for work or traffic jams. And there is no room for piles and piles of boxes!

I haven't used the VAST majority of my possessions in well over 10 or 12 years. Seriously, short of moving them from state to state and house to house, I haven't touched 90% of my belongings for so long that I've forgotten what I even own. In fact, if you said that I own a bunch of full boxes, you'd be correct. I'd be willing to be that most of my readers are in the same predicament. Shit accumulates. It's stuffed into storage. And then more shit accumulates. Eventually, managing the volume of your crap becomes a full-time job. Or, more likely, you're too busy and nothing gets accomplished. 

I've been on the downsizing path for a few years now... ever since I made the decision to buy a boat and sail over the horizon. Boats are small spaces and storage units cost money. So, taking it with me is out of the question, and why waste money storing stuff that I don't even use? Most of the big stuff (like the furniture, stereo, lawnmower, grill, etc.) has been gone since I sold the house 2 years ago. The big-screen television was gone before that (what a time-suck that thing was). Heck, I even got rid of the dining room table last year because it wouldn't fit in my tiny new apartment. 

Now, besides of few boxes of donation worthy stuff, all I'm left with is my bedroom furniture and music-making equipment: guitars, amplifiers, recording equipment, etc. Getting rid of this stuff has been difficult on several fronts. First of all, if you play guitar, then you know how easy it is to become emotionally attached to your guitars.  Secondly, a lot of my stuff is hard to sell because it's specialized and, therefore, has a smaller market. For example, not everyone that plays guitar needs a recording studio or a giant, melt your face off, amplifier. So, I've been doing the craigslist/eBay dance for a few months. What a pain in the ass! I don't see how most of these folks even have jobs - they're ridiculously unreliable.

However, I'm almost there. My possessions are becoming leaner and leaner by the day, and it's a VERY liberating experience. Tyler Durden was right; your stuff really does end up owning you. More importantly, if you're not careful, the next big opportunity will be hidden inside one of those full boxes.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What's In a Name?

"Don't pay the ransom? Is this guy nuts?"

I have to admit that the name does seem a little reckless - particularly when you consider that our plans will lead us far from the relatively safe confines of the continental United States. One lovely assbag on an internet discussion forum actually commended me for the name... suggesting that it was an authorization for "would be" saviors to spend their money on more important things. While I'm not sure what could be more important, my guess is that he would pay for cable TV service. Hmph. We did toss around the idea of calling the blog something sappy and corny, à la Blue Water Dream Fantasy Miracle Adventure, however, we (read: I) decided that it would be better to sound like a badass than to get beat up. Sometimes machismo is paramount.


So where did I get the name? If you Google the term, you'll find a reference to an inspired country/western ditty from 1972 by the artist, Nat Stuckey. Yeah; I've never heard of him either. The song actually made it to #18 on the US country charts, but that doesn't mean anything here because I had never heard the song. While the tune may have long since faded from the charts, its message is timeless... if you get caught doing something that you're not supposed to be doing, lie about it. Pretty wholesome, huh? Though I had never heard the song before, there is a really good chance that my late stepfather, Terry, had.

Terry was a huge fan of music, and he seemed to know every song ever recorded. As such, he probably also knew Nat Stuckey's number. Terry also frequently used the phrase "don't pay the ransom." Are these two facts related? I cannot say for sure, but it seems likely. He had a knack for identifying and incorporating humorous lines from movies into his own vernacular. So, it's not too much of a stretch to assume that he also "borrowed" this phrase. However, unlike Nat Stuckey (who used the phrase to get out of trouble), Terry would say it before he got into any. For example, while walking out the door to visit friends, he'd say, "I'm off to the bar. Don't pay the ransom!" And then he would belt out his trademark laugh. The memory of it still makes me smile.

So, that's the story of the name - Terry (probably) borrowed it from Nat, and I'm borrowing it from him. It's my way of paying tribute to Terry - a wonderful man that brought a lot of joy into the world. So, here's to Terry... we're off to the bar! The beach. The tropics. We're calling in kidnapped, so don't expect us at the office on Monday.

And, just to be clear, we're using it as a figure of speech!

P.S. It bears repeating; the name of the blog is merely a figure of speech! If you ever receive a message demanding a ransom for our safe return, then, by all means... PAY THE DAMN RANSOM! You'll find seed money in our storage unit... it's in a box labeled, " Open In Case of Kidnapping."

Monday, September 8, 2014

Down With the Sickness

Whenever you're buying boat, new or used, it's always advisable to get a survey before you fork over your duckets. A survey is like a home inspection for a boat. And, like a home inspection, most banks and insurers won't even do business with you unless you've had a survey completed.

Here is how it works. After you've found a boat that you like and have negotiated a selling price, you then find and pay an "expert" a lot of money to inspect it. Ideally, the surveyor will find everything that is wrong with the boat. Of course, that's not very realistic. Boats are complex vehicles with many different and interrelated systems - mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fuel, sails, rigging, etc. You only have a few hours of the surveyor's time, and it's inevitable that he/she will miss something. I was lucky and got a decent surveyor. He found most of the problems, and, thankfully, there weren't that many.

While I didn't know it at the time; the list of problems he found was one the greatest things that could have happened. Why in the world would a list of problems be a good thing? Simple, it was a list of problems Or, put another way, it was a list of instructions that I could follow for the first year of ownership. All I had to do was fix the problems. It was mindless work in many respects because the analysis was already done.

Well, let me tell you... those days are over! I've got a sickness, and it's called "Analysis Paralysis."

With 95% of the survey-identified problems out of the way, I've moved on to the "outfitting" stage of the refit. The options at this stage will drive you mad. Which anchors to select? Electric windlass? Or, stick with the manual variety? Arch? No arch? Wind instruments? Or, saliva covered finger? Refrigeration? Or warm rum? LED light fixtures? Or, incandescent? Cockpit shower? Or, solar shower? Hire a crane to pull the mast now? Or, wait until next year and sail the boat to a yard with a crane?

It's like walking down the breakfast cereal aisle at the supermarket; it should be easy. You know you want the Cap'n Crunch. You went to the store for the Cap'n Crunch. And, you've even put the Cap'n Crunch in your shopping cart. But, what's this? Lucky Charms? Cinnamon Life? Nine different flavors of Honey Bunches of Oats? What's a man to do? Do you know how many cows are needed to moisten all of that cereal?

I've hit a wall, and I don't know where to begin. I've been pouring over these questions for months, but I feel like I'm nowhere near a starting point.  Cap'n Fatty suggests polishing tools whenever you're stumped with a problem. Well, I'm now dipping my tools in oil so I'll have some to polish. I'm hauling the boat this weekend, and I've even secured a parking spot near the electrical outlet. So, I'm prepared should clarity strike.

In the meantime, I'm going to start taking random things apart. That way, if nothing else, I can worry about misplacing screws instead of my mind. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

You'll Thank Me for the Lack of Photos

Hey, ladies. I'm about to let you in on little secret about men. It's not a big secret, and you could have probably guessed it all on your own. But, whenever us guys get together without our women, 99.9% of all of our conversations eventually devolve into a discussion about poop.

Yep; poop. #2. A deuce. Meadow muffins. 

Why, you ask? For the same reason that we laugh at fart jokes. Because it's funny; that's why. Also, men are simple.  

You wanna know what is NOT funny about poop? No? I'm going to tell you anyway. Being full of it. That's right; being full of poop is not funny. And, I'm not speaking figuratively. I'm mean literally full of poop.

No, not you. I'm talking about a boat's holding tank. 

You see, in your home, you have a wonderful sanitation system that whisks your business out of sight and out of mind. Never to been seen or heard from again... at least by you. On a boat, there is no such luxury. That crap has gotta go somewhere, and that somewhere is typically a tank hidden somewhere on the boat. Think of a septic tank that follows you wherever you go. Actually, don't think about that; it's disgusting.  

Anyway, a tank, by definition, has a finite volume. On our boat, that volume is 15 gallons. How many potty breaks does it take to fill a 15 gallon tank? I'm not sure, but, until recently, I've never seriously pondered the volume of a typical flush. And, frankly, I really don't care to spend any more time thinking about it. But, I don't have that luxury, because the stupid "Tank Full" indicator on my boat doesn't work. Unfortunately, I know why it doesn't work. I've done some troubleshooting and have narrowed down the problem to the float switch inside the tank. 

That means the float switch has to be replaced. Preferably by something that is non-mechanical in nature. Something that doesn't get gummed up with you know what. I don't really care to fix it, because that holding tank is as old as the boat. And, it's never been opened before. I guarantee you that I'll find a bigger prize in that tank than they found in Capone's vault.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

An Arch is Golden

The Fixx said it best; one thing leads to another. Indeed it does. Figuring out how to escape on an extended cruise is like trying to solve one long series of puzzles - each more complicated than the last. Of course, it seems easy at first blush:
  1. Buy a boat
  2. Quit your job
  3. Drink rum
Easy peasy, right?

Then, like a surprise positive on a pregnancy test, reality hits.

I'm sure there are a lot of different ways to crack the cruising nut, but I believe the first thing that most people think of is the boat. What kind of boat, you ask? Well, where are you going to cruise? Are you crossing oceans? Dancing around the Caribbean? Zipping up and down the coast? Or, are you just farting around the bay? How long will you be gone? How many people are going? What weather/sea conditions do you anticipate? Will you live at anchor? Or, will you snuggle up in a marina every night? New or used? Monohull or catamaran? Fiberglass? Wood? Steel? Aluminum? Ferro-cement? What type of rig? Sloop? Cutter? Ketch? Yawl? Gaff rigged?

Think you've got the boat riddle solved? Alright then, Mr. Smarty, how are you going to pay for it? Are you paying cash, taking out a loan or are you hijacking it? How much work will it take to make it "cruise-ready?" Where will you keep it during the refit? Who is doing the work? If it's you, do you know what you're doing? Do you have the tools? Will your marina allow you to do the work? When will you do it?

On and on the questions come - each answer in the form of another question that demands yet another answer. Usually money. And always time.

We have already answered many of the questions listed above and have moved on to others. Right now we find ourselves answering lifestyle and safety questions. The answers to these questions will define the whirlwind of work that is about to occur over the next 12 months. The budget and departure date define the boundaries. "Just Go" is one of the most offered nuggets of advice doled out by those that have gone before. The rationale behind this advice is solid - in many respects, you wont know what you "need" until you've been "out there" for awhile. And, more importantly, there will ALWAYS be work to do. If you wait until everything is done, you'll never leave. So, we are very cautiously trying to bite off only what we can chew without choking.

Luckily, we found a boat that was in very good condition overall. Therefore, most of our work is simply deciding on and installing the equipment we'll need to live aboard comfortably and safely. For example, we have to make a decision about whether or not we want to install a SSB (single side band) radio - both for convenience and safety. We have to decide if we want to install a dedicated chartplotter, or, will we simply use a laptop computer for navigation. Refrigeration? AIS (Automatic Identification System)? Should we modernize our autopilot or install a windvane self-steering device?

All of these things cost money to buy and maintain, and most of them consume electricity - sometimes a lot of it - and that electricity has to be generated somehow. Sigh. More questions needing answers. How much battery capacity do we need? Should we charge them with solar panels? The engine? A wind generator? Gasoline generator? A combination of all (or at least some) of them?

Because most of our remaining work revolves around those items that consume energy, we need to decide what we want quickly so we can move forward with the refit. I'm all for simplicity and low operational costs, so solar panels will be our primary method for charging our batteries. How many panels we need will be determined by our energy demands, but, one thing is for certain - we need to put the darn things somewhere!

Enter the "Arch." An arch on a cruising boat is a structure that spans the aft portion of the cockpit - often times extending past the transom. Most cruisers use them for mounting a radar radome, various antennae and solar panels. On a sailboat, the arch is an excellent place to mount solar panels because it keeps the panels out of the shade created by the boat's rigging.  Constructing an arch is outside of my skill set, so this is one of the few jobs that must be farmed out. Sure, I could probably mash something together, but I want it to be strong, functional and attractive.

So, the search is on for a manufacturer. Fortunately, I live a stone's throw from the sailing capital of America - Annapolis, MD. Certainly I can find someone there that can help with a design, and I'm sure that process will start with, you guessed it, a ton of questions demanding answers!

Oh, yeah, you're welcome for the earworm.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Morgan Restrained

I bought the Morgan in mid-March 2013, and for the next few months we sailed her as often as possible. Barely a weekend passed that she wasn't out of her slip bounding up and down the tidal Potomac River. We made several overnight trips to Breton Bay, Tall Timbers, a jaunt to St. Mary's and as many day trips as we could squeeze into the summer. While I chipped away at the post-survey project list throughout the summer, we still had a sizable and invasive "to do" list looming. In addition, we had an early-October trip to Eastern Europe scheduled. Our home port marina is VERY small and few of the boat "parking" spots on land are close to the one (and necessary) electrical outlet. For these reasons, we needed to get the boat out of the water earlier than I would have liked. By late-September, the Morgan was balanced on her jack stands. Let me tell you, it's a very sad day when you find yourself plucking the boat out of the water while the weather is still beautiful.

She spent the next 8.5 months on the hard suffering through countless major surgeries. Her rudder lay like a fallen soldier on the ground beside her. Her propeller was amputated and its corroded shaft extracted. Engine mounts were transplanted with new ones. She had six gaping holes in her cabin top where the original plastic ports had been removed. The head was relocated to the galley sink while its hoses were replaced and pump rebuilt. Stuffing boxes were stripped of their packing. Winches torn apart for servicing. The leaking water heater removed and replaced. And, her boom was whisked 70 miles away to spend an absolutely miserable winter on my balcony (the neighbors loved that)!

Spring 2014 finally bloomed in late May. The travel lift roared to life. And, after nearly 3/4's of a year drying out, the Morgan was again bobbing in her slip. It felt good to see her floating again after such a long and labor-filled winter. Unfortunately, she has pretty much been bobbing in her slip ever since. Sure, we've taken her out on a few occasions, but, I've spent less time on the water this year than I have since I started sailing. And it absolutely stinks. Work is partly to blame - mine and Ludi's. If you enjoy leisure time, then I strongly suggest you avoid either of our jobs. However, most of the blame lies in the grand plan, and as painful as it is to admit, we knew it would be this way.

At any rate, the end of summer is fast-approaching. The weather will soon turn cool and then cold, and the comfortable working conditions will fade with the early setting sun. That choice parking spot near the electrical outlet is first come-first serve, so, in a few short weeks, I'll gather the jack stands and summon the travel lift.  With most of the critical surgeries already complete, the Morgan will begin her metamorphosis from a production boat into a cruising home. While this sailing season was far too short and dry, the endless summer is nearly upon us. And, by sometime next spring, we'll no longer refer to her as "the Morgan" - she'll have been re-christened with a new name!