Boat Maintenance Feed

Updating the Chart Table

IMG_1041Chart tables are beautiful things. Ours is teak with a heavy lid and amazing hinges. Of course our chart table was created for La Luna when she was built 30 years ago. Before we bought her in 2002, various accoutrements had been installed that made it difficult to raise the lid past coiled microphone cords. In addition – well, charts.

Chart tables of yore (and maybe of today) are designed to hold charts for storage, and to allow space for working with charts and plotters and dividers and parallel rules on the slightly angled top. When EW and I took the Power Squadron’s Advanced Navigation Class, we more often spread the charts on the table because it’s bigger. The charts in storage were kept under the table with the tools mentioned above, and all were difficult to retrieve due to the cords mentioned above above. When we sailed in Maine, and all the way down the coast, through the Bahamas and to the Caribbean we used both electronic navigation and charts. The chart in use is usually on deck in a plastic cover, not on the chart table. The laptop, running navigation software, is on the chart table.

A chart table isn’t usually an optimum place for a laptop. In our case, it was a bit  too high to be ergonomically correct when seating and much too low for standing. When we lived aboard in Maine and I worked from home, my “office” was my seat at the dinette, because it was just too uncomfortable to use the laptop at the chart table. In addition, the large top and 1.5” fiddles caused us to worry that the laptop wasn’t secure in rough seas.

IMG_0545On our way to the Azores last spring, I had one of those epiphanies EW has come to dread: the kind that means A New Project! A New Project he had never considered! Knowing that he would have to do most of the actual work for this project, I presented it softly (for me), but I sold it very well. While we were on the dock in Horta, our first port of call, I convinced him to remove the heavy teak lid. (Sometimes I surprise myself with my powers.) We had no idea how marvelous the hinges were until we had to remove them. One of us held the lid, while the other worked on un-screwing many tiny-headed, long screws. Part way through the process we wondered if we’d be able to actually remove the table without destroying something.

So, now that we had removed this lovely, heavy piece of teak? What to do?  We knew that this project would not be completed for months, and we wanted to field test it, so the lid and hinges, charts, and tools were stored in a safe place, and I went in search of something about 2” tall that would serve as an interim base for the laptop. I found a cheap ugly green silverware drawer liner. Hey, it worked.

Here’s what I knew from the start:

  1. if we doubled the height of the seat cushion, we could sit comfortably and be at the right height for the laptop…
  2. if we  set the laptop inside the table, but raised 2 inches so that it was almost even with the front edge of the table everything would be at an ergonomically correct and comfortable height;
  3. plus the laptop would be set down inside the table, which would reduce it’s propensity to slide off the table top.

It worked great, and gave us an accessible place to store all the power cords for charging two cameras, a Kindle, an iPad, and an iPod.

Sweet!

So, that brings us to this time of puttering and “fun” boat projects in St. Thomas. (DEFINITION: “Fun” projects may not actually be fun to do, but are projects mainly dealing with the beautification of the boat, or to enhance our enjoyment of the living space. The person or persons undertaking the projects may not consider them fun in process.) I’ve been constructing cardboard models of laptop bases – ones that would allow us to raise it up 2 inches, have a place for a mouse pad, and provide the ability to tie the laptop down for really rough seas (seas that I never want to experience, but still).  I also wanted better storage for that charging gear, and other things frequently used in this location.

And note, we had to work around big honkin’ bolts that hold the Pactor Modem in place under the chart table. (Fortunately placed far enough outboard to still allow room for our legs under the table.) My first prototype (after the ugly green silverware compartment) was a bit elaborate, including the construction of multiple boxes. I knew he’d never go for it, so I set the idea aside and moved on to thinking of other projects, particularly one I’m contemplating using material from the old jib in order to make various open top fabric “boxes for open storage.

Image result for free light bulb clip artBrilliant Idea! Instead of asking EW to make wooden boxes or have me go from store to store to find bins or baskets to exactly fit the space, I could make small sail cloth boxes, to corral the stuff. On a passage, most of the stuff will be moved to a cupboard, so I don’t have to worry about it flying around. But cruising sailors spend more time at anchor than at sea, so that’s no biggie. This week, I planned the laptop pad, and presented the finished idea to EW, who promptly improved it. IMG_0502-001

Instead of a strong shelf supported by three braces running along the length, EW took two sheets of 1” PVC board, cut a rectangular hole out of one to allow the bolts from the modem, and  screwed them together from the bottom. At my suggestion, the top board is 1” wider than the bottom with the overhang at the back to allow for the cords to run to that side of the laptop. (One power, one USB for AIS.) One of the challenges I’d discovered during 9 months of using the prototype is that we had to protect the cords going into the laptop. The wide shelf will prevent the baskets from pushing onto the cords and memory sticks.

IMG_0530And the piece de resistance for the whole project: a little bridge to go over the USB connection on the starboard side of the laptop. It protects that port from damage, and provides an excellent rest for one’s wrist. Double Sweet!

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IMG_0542This is still a work in progress.

  • Before our next passage, EW will screw the laptop support to the bottom of the chart table. He’ll be inserting the screws up from underneath the table just so he doesn’t hit the Pactor Modem. That would be a bad thing. Very bad.
  • I will make the sail cloth open boxes.
  • EW wants to replace the rough teak surrounding the instruments just behind the laptop with a piece of black starboard. When he does that, the far end (now an ugly hole) will also be covered in black but with an access port to the important wires back there.
  • At some point in time, we’ll install a little LED light, because the only illumination here is one of the high-powered 30-year old lights still on-board.
  • We’ll varnish the teak.

But in the meantime this works much better than it did when we had a chart table and lid, and it looks much better than it did with an ugly green silverware holder under the laptop.

AND! I love writing here. I’m writing more and now I can work without moving the laptop to the table, and we can eat dinner without moving everything back to the navigation zone.

I am a happy sailor. We are an outstanding team. Seriously. We each have different areas of expertise, and we each come up with ideas for all areas of the boat. He will have a sewing project for me, and I’ll have a power tool project for EW. It all works. And it looks wicked good!

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Spring Cleaning

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The act of … I don’t know, cleaning spring? I’ve never understood “spring cleaning”, though my parents certainly did. My dad used to clean the barn and attics twice a year, meticulously moving every box in both attics, from one side to the other, sweeping and discarding six months of dust, debris, the occasional animal droppings, and any items finally deemed to be unworthy or unneeded.

When I moved in with EW, Daddy saw it as his opportunity to finally get rid of my stuff. Of course, he had found and tagged every item and box before we arrived. Two tightly taped boxes were particularly heavy, and I questioned their provenance. “Say’s Barb’s Box,” said my dad. And they did, in large clear letters. I borrowed his knife and opened one to find that for the last ten year or so he had been dusting and moving – from one side of the barn attic to the other --- two hefty boxes containing my eighth grade rock collection. Trust me, the collection wasn’t worth it. He could have tossed both boxes with the spring or fall cleaning at any time and I’d never have missed it. Dad looked at EW and said, “She’s all yours now.” I was never really sure whether he meant me or the boxes of rocks. (Mainahs tend assign gender to inanimate objects in strange and wondrous ways.) He did make EW take both me and the rocks back to Portland.

To me, “spring cleaning” is the time for opening up the home, taking off the storm windows and putting on the screens; or for taking the winter cover off the boat and putting the dodger back on it. Sure, cleaning is involved but only as part of a greater process. So I was a bit flip in answer to a question posed by one of my Facebook friends back home in Maine:

FB MM

Of course I offered a comment:

my comment

That isn’t precisely true, and it implies some disrespect of the friend and her post. In truth, I have a great deal of respect for her. She’s talented, very nice, cooks unbelievable meals and shares recipes, and even cooks interesting meals for herself when her husband is away. She’s impressive, and I am in awe of her, so I was  sorry for being flip, but I will probably never look at spring cleaning as she does, nor will my abode, whether on sea or land, ever meet the standards she sets for herself.

IMG_0482That’s OK. But it occurred to me that perhaps “spring cleaning” is a natural human instinct, more finely honed in some than in others, but still present. Because, really, I have been spring cleaning. In the past week, I’ve cleaned the oven and stove top, “deep cleaned” the galley counters, sink, and cupboards, created new containers for flavored salts we had purchased in the Canaries, designed a new configuration for our chart table to make it laptop friendly, and completed all of my regular weekly cleaning.

IMG_0504Furthermore, I’ve been happy about it. Joyful. I’ve been cleaning with glee, gazing up on the newly organized spice rack with pride and a sense of accomplishment. Face it, this is a psych. I don’t do “spring cleaning”, I do projects. I do projects in the spring. I do projects in the spring that require me to clean. I don’t like “spring cleaning, but I do like projects.

EW got caught up in the ritual, He is so delighted with how his varnish work is turning out that he decided to polish our old  light fixtures and the Cheoy Lee sign. He does the sign every few months or so whether it needs it or not. (Of course it does.) But we figured the lights hadn’t been polished for eight years. That’s what I meant by saying “I don’t do spring cleaning.” Over the past eight years I’ve dusted and cleaned those lights, but it never occurred to me to polish them. “M” would have done that at least once a year during her spring cleaning with a special non-toxic metal polish. I have a lot of respect for that.

We are delighted with how the lights look. So much so that EW said, “Note to Self and Spousal Unit: we should polish these again in five years or so.”

That’s probably tongue in cheek and we (he) will probably clean them again in three years.  I love the way they look and would like to say that I’ll keep them in Bristol condition, with regular seasonal cleaning. We all know that isn’t going to happen  Daddy would not be proud of this, nor would he be surprised. Sometimes I want to be more like my parents, my cousins, and “M”.

Ah well. as that great sailor, Popeye would say, “I yam what I yam”.

Toot-Toot!


Rockin' the Boat Projects

Since we arrived in the Caribbean, EW and I have been either working on boat projects that are both Urgent and Important or worrying about boat projects that are both Urgent and Important. If you remember the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People  by Steven Covey, then you may remember the difference between “Important” tasks and “Urgent” tasks.

On a boat, “Urgent and Important” tasks are those that jump up and down and say, “Fix me! Fix me! Or you won’t be able to sail/run the engine/pump the head/keep yourself from sinking.” “Important” but not Urgent  tasks may nor may not be more fun/creative/satisfying, but they need to be done, sometimes only so they don’t become Urgent. Important tasks can be ugly such as servicing the head or the engine, or creative like making new cushion covers or curtains, or both ugly and creative such as varnishing teak or cleaning the oven.  

This month, EW and I have taken the time to set aside some of the Urgent and Important items to work on those that are Important. I’m still working on getting the laptop up and running, and I still had to submit our taxes to the IRS, but it was time to take a break from the corner office; similarly, EW is somewhat patiently waiting for the new jib, and will have to go up the mast soon to attach the new mid-stay, and his Urgent and Important things are still calling, “Me! Me! Me!”– but this past weekend, we started moving away from Urgent and Important, to the Important.

And we found that working on Important is much more empowering. Even if it’s drudgery, such as cleaning the oven. (Cleaning the oven is only urgent if it lights on fire due to the mess. That hasn't happened to me in a long time.)

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IMG_0460EW chose to start The Varnish Job. This will be a Big Important Job as pretty much the whole interior needs to be brought to life. La Luna will be 30 years old this year; she deserves to be babied. I’ve been dreading this job, thinking we’d have to move off in order to sand and strip the wood, but EW has been thinking about it, evaluating the wood, and identifying the problem areas. He wisely opted to work on problems areas first, in little bites. A week ago he began his first project: the forward head, with just a bit of Project Creep to include the hatch surround just outside the head, and he has since expanded the job to include the dining table and a small shelf along the back of the dinette.

There will be more discussion about some aspects of this job as we go along, but let me pause to reveal his superior project segmenting idea. Some teak areas, such as the hatch surrounds, and the dining table, will need to be varnished with poly that provides UV protection. Other areas, such as interior trim and the teak cabinets will not need to be stripped and will receive satin varnish. (This may change as EW learned of and found a satin poly that has UV – something he didn’t know existed.) In any case, the special areas that will need stripping and UV poly can each be easily tackled in a few days. The plan is to identify such areas and work on a few at a time at a time, sandwiching in Urgent and Important tasks, such as moving the boat to the San Blas before hurricane season, and saving the cabinetry for later.

I have  a lot of writing to do, and need to tackle a number of on-line Urgent and Important tasks while we have Wi-Fi, so while sewing is on my list, I’m waiting until we are settled for hurricane season to begin major projects. Still, I have a long list of Important To-Do’s and this weekend I opted to clean the stove and oven. We each assembled our tools and protected the surrounding areas, and EW put on some tunes, choosing to play our rather extensive “60’s Mix.” 

As EW stripped and sanded the teak, and as I disassembled the stove top and began to clean, we listened to Chuck Berry, Patsy Cline, Duane Eddy, the Everly Brothers, a IMG_0325number of Motown acts, Elvis, and the IMG_0309early Beatles. The Beatles were followed by early Dylan, then more Beatles, who were followed by Peter Paul and Mary. And then I was delighted to hear The Monkees. It should surprise no one that I could sing along with the Beatles and the Monkees, while EW knows nearly every Bob Dylan Song.

And that’s how it went: the scritch of sand paper, the scrub of a good brush on stainless steel, and our off-key rendition of “When I’m 64”; or me dancing and singing, “Then I saw her face. Now I’m a believer.”  Peter Bonta, our friend, EW’s guitar mentor, and excellent musician, has said that he has a lot of respect for Michael Nesmith, and I reminded EW of this as I sang along with the Monkees. Of course, I didn’t remember every song, and a couple of lines surprised me. In particular one segment from “She” (written by Michael Dewolf, David Gavurin, Stephen Richards, Jarrod Montague, Philip Lipscomb, and Harriet Wheeler.)

And now I know just why she
Keeps me hangin' 'round.
She needs someone to walk on,
So her feet don't touch the ground.

Ouch.

So we worked and we sang along with more of the Beatles, and a lot more Dylan, and Tom Rush, and Booker T and the MGs, and Joni Mitchell; and we laughed and he made fun of “Bubblegum music” and I told him Dylan couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket but that his lyrics were poetry; and we did good work. Important work. Work that wasn’t required because something broke, but because we love the boat.

It was a good day.


Why La Luna Doesn't Have a Composting Head (And Why I Want One)

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This post has been “stopped up” for over a year. Seriously, I felt that it had to be written for the edification of other boaters and because … well because s*!t happens. But I didn’t want to relive the moment and I hesitated to actually post this front and center on the blog. 

So, today’s actual post “Barbara Does Do Gooky” can be found on a page in the column at right. If you want a frank discussion about a head disaster aboard a cruising vessel, then click on the link above, or simply go to the page and open it. However this extra post is not recommend for the following readers

· Those who are eating

· Those who are squeamish

· Those who do not need to know how a marine toilet works

· Those who do not want to know what happens if a marine toilet doesn’t work

· Anyone who has never changed a diaper and gets sick thinking about it

You have been warned. Read, cringe and learn at your own risk. For the rest of you, the information below is much easier to take.

Why La Luna Still Doesn’t Have a Composting Head

If you choose not to head to the dark or gooky side, let’s discuss heads in a more oblique fashion. When we purchased La Luna 2002 there was a tiny, old holding tank under the chart table. We don’t think anyone had used it. More importantly, the boat wasn’t in compliance with Maine and US laws. EW liked Lectra San electronic marine sanitation devices, and had installed one in our SeaFarer-26 in 1987. Neither of us like holding tanks, and while in 2002 composting heads were presented at the local boat show, neither of us wanted to be the first on our block to try one. They were still a novelty among cruising sailors in Maine.

So we bought and installed a Lectra San in the aft head. A few years later, use of these devices was (we believe unfairly) made illegal in our location and we once again were not in compliance. By then, composting heads were more prominent and I suggested we look into it. EW was not interested and, since I don’t like “gooky” and didn’t know anyone who had a compositing head I didn’t press and I’ve regretted it. Instead, we kept the Lectra San in the aft head, and installed a holding tank in former storage space in the forward cabin, connecting that to the forward head. We should have purchased a composting head.

The Lectra San gave us problems every other year or so and  fixing it was messy and expensive. (Think a box of ick with electronics in it.) When it died in the Bahamas I vetoed spending more money on it, and we eventually pulled it, later using the at space for the new inverter.

As for my aversion to “gooky” I talked with a lot of people who have composting heads -- both Air Head and Nature's Head --  and knew that I can handle it – even if the inevitable issuess. I came this close (holds thumb and pointing figure ½ inch apart)] to buying one from a friend who had purchased a new cruising boat and found a brand new composting head in a box in the forward cabin. She would have sold it for a song. To me. I said yes, but then I had to ruin it by being honest. “Are you really sure you don’t want this?” “Oh yes. I think it would be gross!” And I replied (dammit) “You better talk with Boater A and to Boater B before you sell it to me. You may want to keep it.” She thanked me later. She was delighted with her composting head. I like being right, but that’s only a small consolation.

And that is why La Luna still doesn’t have a composting head, despite the universe giving me three opportunities to get one. So here we are with a hated holding tank, and two working marine heads, requiring four thru hulls and a deck port. (For a blast from the past about emptying the holding tank in Fort Lauderdale, check out this post.) While EW will continue to undertake necessary maintenance on both heads, when one of these goes, we will finally install a composting head and get rid of the hated holding tank.

This completes today’s normal blog post. For the informative yet gooky post, go to the link for the page. If you can handle the truth. No shame if you can’t (I couldn’t for years.)

The only time I’ve envied Cruise Ship Passengers: They visit Sint Maarten and get to play. I dealt with Gooky.

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And that sunset at top? That's today's "pretty" and my apology for posting about heads and gooky. Sunset on April 12th at Honeymoon Beach, Water Island, St. Thomas.


The Dawning of Facebook and Other Recipes

This week's posts are fall in the category of fix-it/clean-it/cook-it. Fixing, cleaning, and cooking take up much of our "spare" time on the boat. We had Fix-it Monday, so here's Clean-it Wednesday.

Now that we are back in St. Thomas and have unlimited Wi-Fi (not necessarily a good thing for productivity) I’ve had the opportunity to notice number of cleaning recipes posted that use Dawn dish detergent as a primary ingredient. In fact, at least among my friends, it’s rare to see a posted cleaning recipe that doesn’t include Dawn.

Dawn ArticleIf one simply Googles “Dawn cleaning recipe”, one finds that a whole lot of bloggers post recipes that include Dawn as a major ingredient. No wonder it shows up on Facebook all the time. Since we and a number of our friends are cheap cruisers, and since Dawn is the most expensive regular brand on the shelves here in the Caribbean, I wondered whether Dawn was really required in these recipes. In fact, I wondered whether Dawn just had better press than the other leading brands of dish detergent and whether it wasn’t truly appreciably better. Guess it depends on your definition of “appreciably”. This post by Home Sweet Home, indicates that Dawn Ultra is one of the best dish detergents, though they recommend Seventh Generation higher because it also is a good dish detergent and because they conduct no animal testing. I have to confess, I skimmed most of this article because it was so long, but I do appreciate their attention to detail. Really. <Yawn>

Here’s the thing: There are a number of recipes for home cleaning products available in the Internet, many of which list Dawn as a major ingredient, though you can others which call for castile soap as well. This all started for me because of how friends and family and evidently the entire Facebook community posts recipes. A savvy blogger posts a recipe and tells you to “repost this so you can find it on your timeline”, then all of you (not me!) repost it without trying it out, essentially endorsing a recipe you haven’t used. I don’t do that. When a recipe for cleaning products, dinner, or dessert looks good, I copy it and paste it into Word. If I like it, I may remember to let you know, though it’s more likely that you’ll hear about it in a cockpit discussion than on Facebook. As for a cleaning recipe, whether with Dawn or castile soap, they all seem to use water and vinegar. Some add tea tree oil, and others add lemon juice. My general cleaner spray bottle currently has a mixture made up of 10 ounces of water, eight ounces of vinegar, and  2 ounces of Joy, because it was cheaper than Dawn. I may look for Seventh Generation and I always have castile soap on board, so I may switch to that the next time.

As for Dawn, when I was in a St. Thomas warehouse store this week (Thanks to Barb Hart the First for taking me.) there was a display of large bottles of both Dawn and Joy. The Dawn cost several dollars more than the Joy. Two ladies were standing near me and I asked them, “Do you think Dawn is worth that much more?” They answered in the Caribbean version of a Maine “Da-ow!” which is a polite way of saying “Hell, no!” And followed up with, “But the Joy is finished.” That is the Caribbean version of “all gone”. Indeed, while the shelf had signs for both detergents, the savvy Caribbean shoppers had purchased all of the Joy, leaving cases of Dawn for the rest of us.

IMG_0165I’m currently using one of the household cleaning recipes and have a spray bottle of the stuff made up with the following: 10 ounces water, 8 ounces white vinegar, 4 ounces of lemon juice and 2 ounces of dish detergent (Of course the original recipe called for Dawn.)  I use this in the heads, on the galley counters, and on the bane-of-my-existence companionway steps.

 

 

 

IMG_0167Spray liberally with the stuff, let is sit for a bit, scrub, rinse with fresh water. Works as good as any of the more expensive and abrasive cleaners, is cheaper, and is better for the environment. If something is severely stained, I sprinkle the area with baking soda, spray with the home-made cleaner, swirl it around a bit with my fingers and let it bubble before scrubbing.

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Finally, just today one of my FB friends posted something from “Northern Belle” (I didn’t know there were northern belles) with instructions on getting oily stains out of clothing. I’ve saved it to Word, but haven’t tried it, yet. (I did include the link so you can find it if you want to try it). Of course, one of the ingredients is Dawn.

Procter and Gamble have a powerful marketing department.

Wicked powerful.

Happy Anniversary to La Luna. Thirteen years ago, we signed the papers and closed on the boat, and that is no April Fool story. 


Posting At Sea

Lately, I’ve had a few phone, on-line, and Facebook conversations about posting blogs while cruising. Since I am still organizing the new laptop and haven’t tackled photos yet, this is a good time to post one final essay that doesn’t require pretty photos of Caribbean harbors and sights.  And honestly, if you aren’t planning to cruise on a boat, you really don’t need to read this post. It’s all about boat stuff and isn’t funny.

While back in Maine, with help from our dear friend Lynnelle, I opted to move my cruising blog from Blogger to  the Typepad platform. I wanted more control over it and thought that I wanted the option to make money on the blog in the future. Typepad seemed easier than Wordpress, and I was very pleased with an on-line course they offered. At the time, we were living on the boat in a slip with Time Warner cable wired in, so I had excellent Internet access.

I would write a post and post it.

I would write a post on-line, send up photos one by one, and post it.

Those were the days.

Once we started cruising in 2010, I learned that all Internet access isn’t equal and that it’s difficult to get on-line when one wants to. Connectivity was a challenge as we sailed down the eastern seaboard. I rarely had Wi-Fi on the boat, but usually found bars, laundry mats, and other places where I could gain access to the Internet. Still, writing posts on-line in real time was no longer feasible.

Somewhere along the way I was introduced to Windows Live Writer. It is my favorite Windows program and it’s free. When we first met, Windows Live Writer was a stand-alone program. Now, it’s bundled with Windows Live Esssentials, but you an opt to download only this one portion of the bundle. Windows Live Writer allows me (and you) to write posts, complete with formatting and photos, while off line. In Grenada I would write three or four posts a week, usually on Sunday morning, and post them from the bar on Sunday afternoon during the music jam. Windows Live lets me post them to the blog as drafts, and then I open each draft, check for formatting, add keywords and categories, and post  it. Typepad lets me post immediately or schedule it for later. When I’m doing things right (writing three or four wildly inventive posts with photos, sending them up all at once as drafts, and scheduling them) I can have a week’s worth of posts up with less than an hour of actually time on-line. Windows Live Writer works with Wordpress, Typepad, and other blogging platforms. Seriously. Don’t leave home without it.

But none of that works when we are truly At Sea. For that, I use the SSB, a Pactor Modem, and Sailmail.

The SSB radio was one of the items that was “in the box” when we left Maine. As in, folks would ask, “Do you have a wind generator?” We would reply, “Yes, it’s in the box.” Same thing for the SSB, the Pactor Modem, and a myriad of other important boat items EW honestly didn’t have time to install before we left. The Wind Generator, AKA Gramps, became one with La Luna while we were in Hampton, Virginia. The SSB/Pactor Modem did not truly become a part of our life until EW got help with the final part of the installation in Georgetown, the Bahamas.

Prior to that, we were largely unconnected in the Bahamas, a problem that caused me to panic a bit while in Berry Islands in the Bahamas.

While we used the SSB/Pactor/SailMail combination for weather, emailing, and the occasional blog post prior to our Atlantic Crossing, the system truly became the heart of La Luna while we were really at sea and at anchor across the Atlantic.

The SSB and Pactor Modem are units one (such as EW) purchases, installs, and connects on the boat.

Sailmail is our chosen hub, because we don’t have HAM licenses and we sometimes must email for business.  Many folks who have their license and don’t need to email editors opt for Winlink.

In either case, post no photos, keep the emails short, and try to teach friends and family to forget that there is a “reply” button on their email page. Typepad provided my blog with an email address for posting, so I simply have that address in my contacts list on the installed Sailmail software and write posts while at sea. The subject line becomes the title of the post. Easy-peasy. Family and friends are given our Sailmail address so we can receive email – something that is very important to me – and we can order daily weather reports and Grib files.

If we had installed the SSB/Pactor combination prior to getting stuck in the Berry Islands, I might not have panicked.

I like being connected.

Next on my list here in St. Thomas: 1. Making photos happen on the new laptop.  2. Editing posts from the crossing. 3. Editing posts when I was without laptop.

Staying connected takes work.


Fortunately We Are On the Dock in Tenerife

IMG_8366Unfortunately, we may be here longer than anticipated. The past four days have been interesting – mostly in a good way, and when not in exactly a “good” way we can resort to “Thank Goodness it Happened Here!”

Fortunately, we had a great sail for the first 24 hours from Graciosa, and we and our sailing friends (and extra weather support) believed that we had a shot of making our way west and south to beat the nasty front moving in.

Unfortunately, the front came early, and the winds shifted two days sooner than had been predicted by all sources. On Wednesday morning, we found ourselves beating north of Tenerife, which should have been a clue, especially when we had to tack to avoid getting too close to the island. Shortly after noon  I was able to get the day’s GRIB files and realized that we were skunked.

Fortunately, we were only 40 miles from Marina Santa Cruz in Tenerife.

Unfortunately, the wind and waves increased  immediately after we had tacked to our new course, and we found ourselves beating in 20-35 knot winds and 6-8 foot seas.

Fortunately, we main and jib were already reefed.

Unfortunately, Casey, the auto-pilot does not like (is not set up to like) handling a beat in strong seas, so we had to hand steer. EW took the first shift and I worried about being able to handle it when he tired. We had to prepare for 4-5 hours of this.

Fortunately, EW dumped the main (let out the mainsheet so that sail wasn’t pulling – much) and we were still able to sail at 5.5 – 6.5 knots though it was much easier to steer the boat. When my turn came, I held her just fine for over an hour and a half until we had gone far enough past the point of the island for the waves to diminish. At that point we used the autopilot again and tootled along for another hour or more. (It all runs together.) At some point I opened two cans of chili and served it up with butter bread. We felt better.

Unfortunately, we would have to motor the last 12 miles as we had not been able to hug the coast on the way south. We took in the jib and turned to the west in 40 knot gusts. The winds come off the mountains and do strange and amazing things in the Canaries.

Fortunately, we were close enough for cell coverage and I was able to call the marine before they closed at 1900 (7:00 PM) and confirm they had a slip.

Unfortunately, EW realized on our way in that the alternator wasn’t charging the batteries. We are once again on a European dock with no access to local power.

Fortunately, locals told us about Jose, the alternator expert who is amazing.

Unfortunately, he may not be able to find the needed part on the island.

Fortunately, all of our neighbors are OK with us using the generator in the afternoon because ..

Unfortunately, while we are in the midst of a storm and very glad not to be outside, there is no sun and the wind swings from 8 knots to over 30. The wind generator doesn’t charge the boat with fewer than 15 knots and it cuts out when the winds top 30.

Fortunately, all Spanish, French, and German sailors – most of whom hardly hear the generator over the wind – were very forgiving.

Even more fortunately, of the two boats we would bother most, one is not living aboard and we’ve already made friends with and broken bread with the captain and crew of the other boat.IMG_8415

IMG_8421Most fortunately of all … on Thursday morning, I scooted to one of the most wonderful food markets we’ve seen and purchased everything needed to create a Thanksgiving for two: grande pollo, butterflied by the butcher, potatoes, squash, apples, fresh herbs, and white wine. I made a small feast, the first Thanksgiving I’ve commanded since the year we moved aboard. We shared two pieces of pie for Jose to take home to his wife, and invited our new best Irish friends, Kevin and Irene over for pie and wine after dinner. I’m going to keep feeding them because they are closest to the generator.

 

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So on this day after Thanksgiving, I am grateful for many things:

  • The opportunity to seen many parts of this side of the world on our boat with the love of my life.
  • La Luna once again offered up a broken part where we were safe and able to get a repair or replacement – someday.
  • Tenerife is a lovely island, with public art, some greenery, and  if we lived here we would have a dog.
  • In fact, we have a neighbor dog, Canello who is a beautiful, multi-lingual, 9-year-old Golden. He likes to have his ears scratched. I like doing it.IMG_8368
  • We are tied to the dock in a protected marina. (We heard one sail boat battled 30 foot waves off of Lanzarote and called for assistance. They were safely towed into the harbor.)
  • Family and friends who love us from far away, and keep us up to date on what’s going on in Maine, Florida, Buffalo, Boston, California (hint, Favorite), the Caribbean, and the Pacific.
  • Someday … someday … we’ll actually leave the Canaries and sail west to the Caribbean.

IMG_8394In the meantime, we wait to hear about the availability of parts, make new friends, and – once the weather clears – visit a bit of this island. This town has a tram! How cool is that?

POST SCRIPT: Yes, you will note that we have not moved the bed back. We thought it was too much work to remove the dinghy motor from the master stateroom, and move the mattress, and put it back in four days. We take turns. Last night I had the lovely sea bunk and EW had the settee. Tonight we swap. We occasionally meet each morning for a cuddle in the sea bunk. (Once again with the oversharing.)

 

POST-POST SCRIPT – Finally getting this up on Sunday morning here (0940 my time, 0440 your time). Storm, rain after the storm and spotty Wi-Fi as a result prevented getting on-line at the marina. The alternator is working perfectly. Jose is brilliant! We plan to leave for Guadeloupe on Tuesday, December 2. Today, we are sight-seeing in two cities (One just a tram ride away.). Won’t get to the mountains as they are horribly clouded over still. Next time. If we visit the Azores again as planned, we will head straight for Tenerife after Santa Maria –despite the ridiculous tax.


What Would You Have Done?

Here are some multiple choice questions for you sailors and cruisers out there.

1. If you need to repair the dinghy, using various forms of toxic substances and goop would you..

A. Wear quality shorts – the kind that have zip off legs and become pants?

B. Change into work shorts that have been stained and torn?

2. If you opted for B and gotten white 5200 Fast Cure on both legs of the shorts, would you?

A. Ball them up and place them in the sun in the cockpit in a manner that does not allow the 5200 from adhering to the wood?

B. Tell the half of the crew that is adept at removing stains so that she may work on them?

Note, in both cases, B is the right answer.

As you may have surmised, EW opted for A. In both cases. At least he prevented anything else from getting gooped.

I was nearing the end of my laundry morning, and was heading up to put the final load into the drier, when I discovered the shorts. Truthfully, EW had mentioned that he’d gotten stuff on his shorts and “should have changed before starting this job.”

Ya THINK?

He also said that he was planning on throwing out those shorts on his next trip ashore. First, he was going to make and eat his lunch.

I, being the consummate sailing partner stopped everything, got out some work gloves and towels, and used toluene (proffered by EW between bites), to get almost all of the goop off the shorts. (In fact, if he had been able to answer “B” in question 2. I might have been able to remove all of the goop. Then I put them in my small bucket to soak in a lot of water and a bit of Amazing Roll-Off.

I am reminded of when Favorite lived with us. Early in his high school years he opted for the low-hanging, three- sizes-too-big, and six-inches-too-long pants. As girls became more important, he developed a desire to not look like an idiot and chose a great pair of jeans that actually fit. (His three parental units were thrilled.) Unfortunately he wore them to work at the chandlery (not a bad choice) and spilled a can of bottom paint on them (An accident, but not a good move), went home and called me immediately. (Excellent choice.)

I directed him in soaking the pants until I got home from work. It took three washings and a huge amount of an organic cleaner we had on hand, but those jeans looked like new when I was done. Favorite did it right.  EW knew all about it, but apparently didn’t learn from Favorite’s example.

Good thing I love him.

There are three reasons I wrote this post:

1.  It seems on this cruise that we have been getting along so well and acting so in tune that I find little to complain about in my usual funny manner. I miss that – and I can think of a few friends who miss it, too.

2. When I nominated Neil Strenge and his blog Mishaps and Memories for the Liebster Award he was very kind in mentioning my book and blog, saying: Barbara is living the dream, and set off from Maine for  life aboard. Barbara writes with a witty, easily read style that will have you laughing our loud!.. and has a book, Harts at sea, that I highly recommend. Her descriptions of the obviously, ever so patient, EW are entertainment in their own right!

That “ever so patient” description of EW is a lie. EW is loving, talented, and good-looking; he has a great sense of humor, has only once ever complained about a blog post, and is resigned to being “the topic.’ He is not patient. (Neither am I but I haven’t been described as such in a popular blog.)

3. I forget the third reason – guess only two were important.

I’m not sure whether the shorts will be entirely 5200-free, but they will be wearable in public and will not yet become boat project only shorts. That’s the important thing.

Well, that and I still love EW.

Ciao!

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Squalls

IMG_0517When we were hand-steering back to Sint Maarten, over a week ago, I had a lot of time to observe our surroundings. In fact, when one is hand-steering at sea, it is one’s job to observe the sea, sky, sails, and instruments – and to maintain our course, of course. Off-watch, both of us slept, so much of each watch was spent alone on deck, contemplating life, looking at clouds, and trying to stay awake. (Not necessarily in that order.)  About 20-30 miles north of the Mona Passage, I watched a line of squalls head East to West as we were moving South.

Have you ever been at sea and observed a line of squalls? These were rather benign little things; a row of puffy gray clouds, white on top, and darker below. The darker clouds held rain, some of which was released in our direction. There are wind squalls, rain squalls, and squalls that provide lots of wind and rain and excitement. These were unexciting squalls, but still required adjusting the sails and donning a light jacket. They marched in an uneven line; some went ahead of us and some went behind; others went right over the top of us.

I thought of how life can provide some squally moments. Some squalls are benign and hard to dodge. Those are the things that won’t matter tomorrow or next week: an argument, spilled milk, a bad day at work. You move through them and move on. Other squalls can cause havoc and damage the boat or sails. These are things that may not be important a month or a year from now, but certainly make you change course or adjust your immediate goals: a fender bender, a failing grade, an illness, or a broken auto-pilot. Whether on land or on sea, some of these larger squalls can be avoided, others have to be endured. How we handle ourselves during the squally moments is an excellent test of our maturity, sense of humor, and adaptability.

IMG_0452For the most part, both EW and I have been handling this well, but I had a bitchy moment this morning. I can’t easily get into my clothing drawers, I can’t put the sewing stuff away, the master stateroom has been torn apart for over a week and, as Mandy from Secret Smile would say, bits and bobs that have been displaced from our cabin have made their way to every other part of the boat. It’s a mess. This morning I wouldn’t let EW make a pot of coffee until I had neatened what could be neatened and cleaned the surfaces I could see. He wisely vacated to the deck and gave me ninety minutes to create my own cleaning squall below. Now he’s off to FKG to get an answer on the viability of this second non-working part. My fingers are crossed that it can be repaired by tomorrow and we can leave this weekend. It’s still not too late to head across, but we will be one of the last fewIMG_0548 boats to leave Sint Maarten for the Azores this season. I didn’t want to be one of the last boats.

Still, this has allowed me to stock up on some good story ideas, evaluate my provisioning (I did good.), make new friends, and visit with ones we haven’t seen for a year. EW got to participate in two open mike nights at Lagoonies. I have upgraded the sea bunk lee cloth, repaired the main sail, and reorganized a few cupboards. As squalls go, having to turn back at 377 miles is much better than losing the auto pilot half way across the Atlantic. (Knock wood, people. Right now. I mean it.) I loved our time at sea (before Casey broke) and look forward to the crossing with more excitement than I did before we left the first time.

Some folks have pointed out that this auto-pilot squall could have been avoided if we had a wind vane. (For you non-sailors: an Auto-Pilot attaches to your steering system and uses electronics and electrical power to steer the boat in the compass direction you choose. A wind vane attaches to the rudder and steers the boat using a hard “sail” to keep the rudder working with the sails to move the boat forward. Many boats have both; some have one or the other.) It can be difficult to attach a wind vane to a center cockpit boat, it had not been done by La Luna’s previous owners, and we chose not to the invest time and money before we set sail. A wind vane is one of many things we would install in an ideal world, but we live in the real world of squalls, and had to make choices. We opted to leave Maine in 2010 in a safe, working boat, instead of  working for two or three more years during an uncertain economy with the hope of making  La Luna perfect. We decided to sail, and it was a great decision.

Thanks for all of your kind words, thoughts, and prayers. We are fine; we are safe, we are eating very well, and we are weathering this squall.

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Photos: 

  • La Luna at sunset in Sint Maartin
  • Master Stateroom amidst the Auto Pilot Squall
  • EW at Lagoonies
  • Shana, S/V Quartette, Mandy, S/V Secret Smile,  and me doing the “Fish Dance”
  • Dave and Trudy, S/V Persephone
  • Gavin, S/V Secret Smile
  • Gavin, EW, and Art – musician, ad man, emcee extraordinaire – leader of Lagoonies Open Mike Night.l

Blood on the Vinyl and Other Tales

Yep. We’re still in St. Martin and it’s been by turns:  busy, relaxing, friendly, frustrating, fun, exhausting, productive, and expensive.

Some boats have left for the Azores, while we and others weren’t ready or didn’t like the weather window. The “Jackrabbits” who left last week are complaining that there is no wind. Some have run their engines to the point that they’ll have to go into Bermuda to get (very expensive) diesel.Some were caught in storms with 35 to 40 knots of wind. We hope to avoid both of those scenarios.

There have been highs and lows out there meeting up and that is never a good thing. The result is that weather guru Chris Parker suggested last week that we hold here for a bit. (I really regret falling asleep during his on-line course a few years ago. EW says he understands grib files. Oh god, I hope so.)

In the meantime,  we are working on the boat, provisioning, working on the boat, meeting new sailing friends, working on the boat, getting things done.

Best thing that happened:

S/V Kookaburra showed up on Sunday morning!  It was so great to see Jaime and Keith again, though the new good-byes will be even more bittersweet.P1000428

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Worst thing that happened:

For the first time since moving aboard I have clogged the head. I am dealing with it. It was not a good day. You do not want a photo. <Shudder>

Here are more palatable bits about the past few weeks.

  • We bought and installed the Nimble Navigator and connected our AIS to the laptop. Very cool.
  • I’ve been working on provisioning – including medications – and got a skin check from a local dermatologist. He zapped the one suspicious spot I had with – I keep wanting to call it nitro glycerin, but I know that isn’t right. The literature he gave me called it “cryotherapy”, which is when a very cold liquid is sprayed onto the spot for 10-25 seconds. Burned like heck and I can’t swim before we leave – dang it – but I’m delighted to have been checked and treated. Life is good. As I told the taxi driver on the way back to the dinghy, “We white folks don’t always tolerate this Caribbean sun well.”
  • EW has been the energizer bunny of fixers. His list is long. His talents are many. In fact, I truly believe that I’ll nominate him for the best boat husband of the year and that he would give Keith from S/V Kookaburra a run for the gold. He has fixed so many things that I would have to ask him for a list because I can’t keep count. His list is so big that he deserves his own post. P1000424
  • My list is very short in comparison. I made covers for the water, gas, and diesel containers and a bag for when the awning poles are lashed on deck. This last project resulted in a boo-boo and my declaration that there was “blood on the vinyl”. EW thought that made a great mystery book title. I thought it would be better for a blog post.
  • I initiated “tool creep”.  Tool creep is when the fixer of all things on board needs more room for tools P1000411and parts. Tool creep can be a huge bone of contention on a boat. After assisting EW with some of his projects, mostly as go-fer, I realized that his tool storage was untenable and offered to provide him with new space in the forward head. He was surprised and delighted.P1000400

 

  • We’ve walked the new bridge, had drinks at the yacht club, visited with Mike and Sally at Shrimpy’s, and enjoyed a wonderful French breakfast with savory crepes and smoked salmon. I love St. Martin. 
  • We also popped the anchor during one of the squalls. No harm, no foul, but I did actually wear my real foul weather jacked when I worked on the foredeck. Haven’t worn that since Cape Fear three years ago.
  • I have made meal plans, massive lists, checked everything twice and provisioned the boat (except for the produce). As important, I have found places for all food we brought aboard. Well, EW helped with that. I had room for about half of every canned product we brought aboard. He offered me the storage under the chart table. It is the perfect extra food storage area and I was humbled and delighted. Apparently except for one group of spray bottles and a few other things, that stuff didn’t need to be as accessible. He did not have to mess up the spaces I had ceded earlier in the week.

Right now, it looks like we’ll be here until the 24th.  In the meantime, EW will get better at reading weather files; I’ll cook and freeze more meals, clean more and  write more; and we’ll both contact friends and family before we go. Last night we met up with other Grenada cruisers and were introduced to a couple who are also planning on heading off for the Azores soon. We’ll touch base with them and talk weather, buddy boating, weather, and departure dates. Their boat is called Wanda. That’s right, when we call them on the VHF we say, “Wanda, Wanda, Wanda”. You know I want to continue with “Wanda WHO! Who wrote the book of love?”

I’ll refrain.

Really.