Bucking the system one sunset at a time!

We Came for the Unemployment; We Stayed for the Butter

Well, it’s official! After years of planning, saving and sacrifice, we are both now unemployed and pseudo-homeless! Who knew that not having a job or an official home could be so exciting… and difficult to achieve? We have saved enough scratch to put food on the table for the next few years… after that, I suppose we’ll start shooting down birds. Or, we’ll start gnawing on our shoes. Or, we’ll swipe food off of your plate when you’re not looking. Whatever, we’re free and are living in the moment!!!!!

Well, what do you think? Do beards and blue bottom paint make for handsome?

My last day of work was Friday, June 26th; my last paycheck followed shortly thereafter. Getting your last check kind of sucks, but, it’s an easier pill to swallow when you know that it’s coming than if you were simply 86’ed. I immediately moved onboard the boat with my buddy, Keith, and we’ve been busting-out boat projects for several weeks. We were really behind on getting things done thanks to the aforementioned job.

To be honest, I sort of feel like I’m cheating. I mean, this is the first time in my life where I’m doing exactly what I want, when I want. Weekends now start on Sunday and end on Saturday. It’s delish. Whenever I go somewhere during the normal workday, I feel like people are staring at me. For example, we went out to eat a few days ago, and I half-expected people to start pointing and saying:

“I know what you did, and I’m telling.”

Silly, huh? I’m sure it will pass once we really get into the groove of cruising. Because, frankly, this freedom business is the bee’s knees.

“The Admiral” only quit her job a few days ago, and the shock hasn’t completely worn off… in fact, she looks like she just got shot out of a cannon. I’m sure she’ll be fine once she comes to a complete stop. But, for now, she may take your leg off if you get too close. I may wait a few weeks before I tell her that we’re now doing our laundry in a 5-gallon bucket. To talk her down from the ledge, her friend Gary took her to the waterfront on her first day of unemployment. She practiced lounging. In a hammock. Yeah, she’ll be fine.

Slacker Training

Slacker Training

For now we’re going to take a few weeks away from boat work to visit family and friends in the Midwest. I had really hoped to leave the dock by the end of July, but, it’s not gonna work out that way. We should be back onboard by August 8th, and we’ll knock out the remaining projects. That’s fine – there isn’t much sailing happening on the Chesapeake Bay in August anyway. And, we will still have plenty of time to cruise the Bay before heading south in October. The tropics are calling our names! Can you hear it, too?

Keep Marching

Man. We’re less than 45-days away from quitting our jobs and moving aboard the boat. Unfortunately, we’re nowhere near ready to leave the dock. In fact, the boat isn’t even in the water yet! Hell, the boat doesn’t even have a mast or boom ready to install. Not exactly where we wanted to be at this point. Unfortunately, some projects have taken far too long to complete, and some unanticipated projects have reared their ugly heads. But, beyond that, our normal jobs and the 70-mile drive to the marina have been the biggest obstacles to progress. It sucks. And the worst part is that I’m entering the busy season at work. I’ll have even less time to get things done!!

The original plan was to leave the dock in early July and spend a few months cruising the Chesapeake Bay before pointing our bow south. Now? We’ll likely spend a good portion of July finishing some critical projects… things like re-installing the mast, electrical system upgrades, windlass installation, etc. In the grand scheme of things it’s no big deal. I mean, let’s be honest, we’re quitting our jobs to live on a yacht in the tropics! You don’t want to hear me complain any more than I want to complain. But, it still stinks.

That’s why things have been quiet around here. I’ve been feeling a bit defeated lately, and, frankly, I haven’t had anything to write about. A lot of backwards progress and very little forward. I’ve been here before though, and, while dim, there is light at the end of this tunnel. I was given some advice when I was much younger that has served me well through the years. I was still in the Marine Corps and had just broken my leg in training. My platoon and friends were leaving me behind, and my spirit was crushed. My platoon sergeant looked me in the eye and said, “Ferrari, you’ve got to keep marching!” He was right, and I did. So, that’s what we’re going to do.

One immediate bright side? We’re quitting our jobs in less than 45 days!! Can I get a “Hell Yeah!”?

Boat Projects: Stupid Is

I knew back when I ginned up Don’t Pay the Ransom that I did not want to write too many articles about boat projects.  Because, really, who wants to read yet another blog about someone working on their boat? Boring. However, considering that projects are our world right now, that is easier said than done. Don’t get me wrong; project blogs have their place. And they have been very helpful to us as we struggle through our own refit. However, most of them get pretty old fairly quickly, and, aside from people like us (me), I’m guessing that not many people are reading them. But, the main reason that I don’t want to write about boat projects is that I’m not an expert. If you want technical, find someone qualified.

I am, however, a certified crackerjack on stupidity. If someone were to actually employ stupid, my resume would quickly rise to the top of the applicant pool. When it comes to stupid, I’m the cream of the crap! I can’t even begin to count the number of times that I’ve done something the wrong stupid way. Wait until you hear what we’re naming our dinghy! Boy, is it ever stupid! Can you imagine what would happen if I tried to write about technical stuff? Someone may actually try to replicate what I’ve done! Why, they might very well saw off their own arm! Or, hit themselves in the face with a hammer! It’s best that I steer well clear of technical articles and focus instead on writing nonsense about nonsense.

Don't let dangle your extensions cords across the exhaust of a diesel heater!

Don’t dangle your extension cords across the exhaust of a diesel heater!

See where that leaves us? We’re not yet doing anything that most people would find remotely interesting. Like traveling to bitchin’ places. Or, eating bugs. Or, manually pumping our bathroom business into a tank hidden beneath our living room. We’re just working on boat projects. Lots of them, in fact. So, you’re stuck with reading my best attempt at boat work nonsense. For your own safety,  I’ll report a handful of things that we’ve been working on without providing any details regarding how we did it.

Cruising sailboats tend to have lots of gear and instruments – radios, navigation equipment, battery monitoring, etc. Unfortunately, our Morgan does not have a lot of space to mount this stuff. Rather than cutting into structural bulkheads to mount this equipment, we decided to construct our own instrument panel. With the help of a few friends, we spent last weekend knocking one out using a scrap piece of plywood.  I still have to install a few more items and then stain it. It will also get some fancy-pants trim around the edges. I ain’t a carpenter, but I have to admit that I’m pretty pleased with the way it turned out. I’m also happy to report that, despite the frequent use of power tools, everybody still has all 10 of their original fingers.

Boat helper, Keith, modeling with the new (and not yet finished) instrument panel.

Boat helper, Keith, modeling with the new (but not yet finished) instrument panel.

Last fall I mentioned that we discovered a few small cracks in our mast. Masts on a sailboat are pretty important. As you might imagine, the situation really bothered me. I lost sleep while struggling with what to do about them; buying a new mast would really jack-up our plans. I received a few different opinions from various riggers – none of them devastating. However, it was difficult to weigh the alternatives when the opinions varied so wildly. Having no experience, I was relying on theirs. Those in the sailing community will probably recognize the name, Brion Toss. He, quite literally, wrote the book on sailboat rigging, The Complete Rigger’s Apprentice. Unfortunately, he is on the other side of the country. He did, however, offer a positive opinion and a recommendation for a local rigger that he trusted. Steve Madden, from M Yacht Services, answered the call and shepherded in piece of mind. The mast will be fine with only a small, inexpensive and minimally invasive procedure!

Rig inspections go on despite an outside temperature of 3 degrees.

Rig inspections go on despite an outside temperature of 3 degrees.

Let’s see… what else to report? Oh, we gave the entire steering system a once over and will soon replace the steering cable…  even installed a new wheel brake, too. Though it worked fine, I sent the autopilot back to the factory for refurbishing – you know, for good measure (and to spend more money, sigh). Lots of work has begun on the electrical system. New wiring on a few things. Some battery bank modifications. We yanked out the old through-hull speed and depth sensors. We removed the broken sensor from the wastewater holding tank and quickly put it right back. Blech. Disgusting! We’ve also sold a bunch of things and are well on our way towards having a lot of nothing! If you know someone that wants to buy a car, I’ve got a deal for you!!

That’s all for now. Until next time… wear your helmet and don’t flush the toilet paper!

No, seriously, come and buy this car!

No, seriously, come and buy this car!

Whips and Chainplates

The Morgan is getting a little long in the tooth. In fact, she turns 34 this year. If she were a dog, she’d be 238 years old and messing on the carpet! While things aren’t that bad yet, she ain’t no spring chicken. She has a few age-related maladies that are, for the most part, easily remedied. For example, she has some issues with her waste-water holding tank. It’s not that she can’t “hold it,” her problem lies in knowing that she has to go. Luckily for us, our awesome sponsor, Electrosense, has us covered in the “medical devices” column – unfortunately, the surgery is on me. I still need to schedule that job. Blech!

Another age-related problem that we have to address has to do with her rig – the mast, the rigging wires that hold it up and the associated hardware. All three are original equipment and need to be inspected/repaired/replaced. Late last year I wrote an article about discovering some cracks in the mast. While I’m still working on the details about what to do about the cracks, the good news is that it looks like I can do something. Talk about a HUGE financial relief. Masts are expensive! That leaves the rigging wires and hardware.

Deep Concentration!

Deep Concentration!

With the help of my cabin boy, Keith, I started the chainplate removal/inspection process last weekend. It’s funny; the projects that I assume will be easy turn out to be miserable, and the “I’m dreading this” projects usually aren’t so bad. Removing the chainplates was one of the latter. Other than experience, I have no good explanation as to why I thought that the chainplates would be difficult to remove. But, aside from being time-consuming, the project wasn’t too bad. Things got a bit invasive when we had to remove the cabinets in the head, but even that went well. Of course, I had Keith doing the grunt work, so he probably has a very different opinion. Now that I think about, Keith doesn’t usually swear as much as he did last weekend.

See? How hard is this?

See? How hard is this?

Anywho, 8 of the 9 chainplates have been extracted and are ready for inspection/polishing. Getting the 9th one out will very likely be painful. That’s where Chris comes in. You may remember Chris from the “Teach a Man to Fish” project last month. It turns out that Chris is super flexible and is easily crammed into tiny spaces. Keith and I should be able to jam him and a wrench into the anchor locker in short order – especially if we grease him up first. Assuming that he doesn’t actually read this blog, I hope to stuff his ass into the forepeak in the next few weeks. Yep, we’re cooking with lard now!!

They're Out!!

They’re Out!!

Aside from the chainplates, we spent a fair amount of time planning the particulars of the electrical system upgrades. We’ve got lots of new gear that will need a home and power, and the electrical system needs some upgrading. No time like the present to get it mapped out!



All Is Frozen on the Eastern Front

Things have been quiet here at Don’t Pay the Ransom lately. That’s because the weather outside if frightful. What I mean by frightful is that things are frozen solid, and it’s really starting to piss me off. Stupid winter. However, I’ve been working really hard on finding the silver lining to things, and this is what I’ve come up with: the color silver is sort of gray in appearance… just like the stupid sky. I like gray just as much as the next guy, especially when it’s blue. And warm. This cold gray business is for the birds, though. How’s that? Rosy enough for you?

The view from my office. If I had better glasses, I might be able to see the coast of Tortola.

The view from my office. If I had better glasses, I might be able to see the coast of Tortola.

While we haven’t been working on the boat, we have been working on boat related things. For example, I’ve been reading a bit about weather forecasting. This is sailboat related for obvious reasons. However, weather forecasting is also important because it helps me to understand when it’s going to thaw. And who doesn’t want that? We’ve also been working on downsizing our things. We’ve now crammed everything we own into an itsy-bitsy apartment. Which is cozy. Cozy is warm. It’s also great practice for living on a boat. The downside to downsizing is that it’s difficult to reach the thermostat. The silver lining to not having access to the thermostat? We can burn those things that we need to get rid of, and burning is warm. Also, if you get close enough to the fire, it feels like you’re in the tropics.

If you can’t tell, I remain optimistic that the spring will arrive. My guess is that when it does finally show up, it will fall from the sky. Slowly. Looking like a tiny little ice doily. But I’m ready for it. I’ve converted my snow shoes to double as SCUBA fins, and, I’ve been wearing my wetsuit to work since Thanksgiving. Why am I wearing my wetsuit to work? Well, for one, it’s a suit. Two, it keeps me warm when it’s cold and wet outside. Three, it’s stylish, and who doesn’t want to look like a sea lion? Finally, my fellow scuba divers will know that wetsuits have a built-in heating apparatus.

That’s all the news worth reporting, however, you might stay tuned to your local media outlets. I’m driving to Punxsutawney, PA this weekend to find that damn groundhog. By Monday, I guarantee you that he’ll see things my way!

Happy New Year!!

It’s 2015!?!? Uh-oh.

It was just yesterday that I could say to people, “We’re leaving next year.” While intellectually I understood that the summer of 2015 wasn’t that far away, combining the words “next” and “year” implied all kinds of time. Don’t misunderstand me; we’ve been busy as beavers working on projects and ironing-out details for what seems like an eternity. And our schedule has felt pretty compressed for at least two years. It’s just that some items on our “to do” list, like figuring out what to do with our mail and selecting fishing tackle, were simply afterthoughts. Now those afterthoughts are just as pressing as re-installing the mast and purchasing a life raft.

So, here we are in 2015 (a mere six or seven months from unemployment), and now I can/have to say that we’re leaving this year. I’m not a very sentimental guy, and I’ve never really been one to appreciate the symbolism of a new year. However, this changing of the calendar actually feels different to me. We’re not resolving to lose 10 lbs. We’re not committing ourselves to getting more sleep or pledging to not let traffic get the best of us. This year our lives will change in ways that we cannot yet comprehend. This year our horizons will expand beyond the day-to-day routine of which we’ve grown so weary. This time next year, for better or for worse, we will be different people living in a very different world. It’s amazing how one tick of the second hand can change your perspective!

So, Happy New Year! I hope the following months bring you exciting adventures, positive change and the tastiest rum drinks that have ever crossed your lips. Here’s mud in your eye!

Happy New Year!!

Beat Down (but not Out)

We came. We started. We quit.

I successfully bamboozled two buddies into helping me sand off the old and flaking bottom paint from the boat. After about 1 1/2 hours of futile labor, we successfully quit. That job is for the birds… we made nearly zero progress. We did, however, make a giant mess. My best estimate is that there are 1,923 layers of anti-fouling paint on the boat, and they were likely applied with some sort of space-age miracle adhesive and a medieval curse. I’m gonna need a Plan B, a wrecking ball and maybe a fire-breathing dragon.

This is what failure looks like.

This is what failure looks like.

Sure, we could have kept at it. And, eventually, we would have removed all of the paint. However, we ain’t got that kind of time – we’re supposed to leave in 2015. In fact, I called the sandpaper manufacturers to request a quote for an appropriate amount of sanding disks, and they said that if they could dedicate their entire production to me, I should have product in hand by the fall of 2031, +/- a day or two. Yep, I’m gonna have to re-think this.

I have a few options here. The two that have percolated to the top of my wee little brain are chemical stripping and soda blasting. From what I’ve read, chemical stripping is a nasty, filthy and only pseudo-effective method of stripping bottom paint – and I’d probably still have to sand off the last bits of evil. Soda blasting is just like sand blasting except you use Orange Fanta instead of sand. However, soda blasting is purported to be an entirely effective and expensive method. It’s got to be good if it’s expensive. I don’t know how many 2-liter bottles of Fanta would be required to strip a 38′ sailboat of 4 inches of bottom paint, but I could probably save a few pennies by using store brand pop.

Of course, if I can talk my buddies into helping me with the chemical stripping, it should be fairly easy to convince them to once again pick-up the sanders to finish the job… particularly once they’re in a toxic-fume induced delirium.

Those that have gone before me… what do you suggest? Keep in mind that I’m on a budget and currently have a good rapport with my dentist.

Blue Racoon

Blue Raccoon (aka Stupid Bottom Paint)


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