Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Into the Chute

Origin of Pic
Well... this is it!  We're loading the chute.  And like cattle, we don't know exactly what's coming up next.  But unlike cattle, we're going willingly!

I vacillate between calm and frenzy.  There are so many things that we haven't done yet to get ready.  And yet, the boat was really ready enough when we bought her.  All of the "things" are just MY things.

We gave our 30 day notice to vacate our slip yesterday.  Yes, early, but we're set to be homeless on October 1.  If we have unfinished business, we'll anchor out in Ingleside Cove, or we'll take a transient slip in Rockport.  But on the first day of October, our adventure will begin.

Living in the Marina has been a luxury that will soon end.  These last weeks will be filled with selling cars, finalizing our banking issues, finding permanent places on the boat for all the stuff we need out of the garage and dock box, and forcing our minds into this next phase.

I think we're ready.  I have made peace with the leaving.  I know that any drama that occurs will be all in my head.  In reality, it will be just one day on the water after another.  Only difference is, we will not be going home.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Second Sewing Success!

The white stuff is tape residue
Even with yesterday's success to our credit... I was hardly able to sleep last night.  My mind was spinning with all of the possible ways I could do this project, and all of the possible ways it could go wrong.

Our boom has rubbed an awful gash in the top of our bimini.  When we bought the boat there was a lovely piece of silver duct tape "protecting" (read hiding) the wound.  This is one of the primary reasons we bought our new Sailrite machine.  This and all future canvas issues will be swiftly dealt with as we now have the POWER!

Playing with my new hot knife
OK, now back to reality...  I was nervous about how much "pull" would be applied to my repair and whether or not I would be able to wrangle this giant piece of very stiff bimini into the machine so that I could even BEGIN to sew it.

But I stifled my fears and we dove in.  Luckily, we had some pieces of Sunbrella material that we had harvested from an old bow dodger. It was the wrong color, but I could use it as a patch on the underside of the affected area, which would be zipped inside the pole brace.  Only we would know it was there...

I took the new hot knife for it's inaugural spin (Wheeeeee!) by cutting the patch fabric into 1 1/2 inch strips the length of my repair.

Sewing the first patch on the underside of the bimini
With Bruce's help, we were able to roll the bimini in such a way as to allow it to be fitted onto the sewing platform.  It wasn't easy, but we figured out a way that carried us through the entire project.  The lengths a human will go to, just to keep from having to move a project outside into the heat are awesome...

We chose to sew the patch on the back part of the bimini first, as it wasn't worn as badly as the front, which took the majority of the abuse from the boom.  In other words, we started with the easier part.  It went very well and we were encouraged.

Easy to cut with scissors, no hot knife needed.
Once we finished admiring our handiwork, we discussed our game plan.  We would be limited in the distance we could overlap our patch fore and aft by the way the bimini was put together.  We could go towards the center of the bimini a bit more, but didn't want the rub patch to be too conspicuous.  We decided to cut a three inch strip, 48 inches long, of the black Shelter Rite material we had chosen for the job.

Once again, the basting tape we got from Matt at Coastal Bend Yacht Services saved us.  I cut and placed strips ladder style along the black material.  I stuck them to the topside of the bimini and we were ready to sew.

Sewing the black material went much better than I had imagined.  It didn't pucker or try to escape.  I won't say that my stitches are totally straight, but they are within acceptable limits.  We used the three different "foot positions" to get the stitch close to the edges.

Suddenly, we were finished with the first edge!  Ahh!  Halfway there!  We were feeling pretty good right about now...

But we still had to deal with the "gash"...  And it wasn't pretty.  The split in the material was all crusty and crumbly.  How would I bring the edges together long enough to allow for sewing?

Bring on the trusty basting tape once again!  I cut small strips and used them to tape the split closed "Frankenstein Style".

I stitched along the split with a wide zig-zag stitch right over the basting strips.

Then we took the paper off of the basting strips and stuck down the patch material to hold it in place for sewing.  It went on without a hitch continuing with the zig-zag.  This time, we sewed another line down the middle to hold the patch material to the split underneath.

The last step was sewing the vinyl rub patch over the top of the bimini just like we had done on the aft end and that's IT!  We're done!

We put the bimini and enclosure panels back onto the frame and once we got it all centered and adjusted right, it looked marvelous.

It doesn't look quite like it would if we had paid a professional to do it.  I'm not sure what they would have done differently, but with the tools we have available and for the cost differential, we're totally happy with the outcome of this project... and inspired  on towards the next one!
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The Monkey's Fist

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Couple That Sews Together...

Attaching the snaps and fastners

well… gets the job finished!  I will begin by saying that I would NEVER have been able to do what I did today without Bruce.  Sewing... it's not just for women anymore.

When we took possession of Dos Libras over a year ago, Bruce did some very rudimentary repairs on our bimini while making way towards home.  He used some kind of white twine that looked like it would be better for kite flying than for sewing.  But, it has kept the zippers on our enclosure for all these many months.  

Harvesting the twist locks for reuse
We got a quote from a local canvas shop that set us thinking it would be better to buy a Sailrite machine and do the repairs ourselves, than to pay someone to do it every time we needed something stitched.  I stalled for months before buying the machine, mostly because I was finding it difficult to put my order together considering how little I actually know about sewing.  

Cutting a basting strip 
I had some help from another blogger, The Seamless Sailor, who has encouraged me along the way.  Well, I may be looking Annette up again, because my machine has come in!  For days it sat there.  We were afraid to touch it.  Finally,  Bruce and I watched the instructional video.  What a neat thing!  Sailrite sends a step by step video of all the setup and maintenance, as well as getting you started with demonstrations showing how the machine is used.  It has some really handy features!  Watching the video got us all psyched up to get going!

We started with replacing the straps that hold the enclosure panels in the rolled up position.  There were several missing and a couple that were barely hanging on.  Luckily we had an old bow dodger from a previous boat in the attic to use for parts.  We used eisenglass from that to create new straps.  Don't ask me why we had a box of snaps with the tool to install them in our possession, but we did.  Maybe they came with the boat.  But the twist locks that hold the panels in the rolled position had to be reused as we didn't have any new ones available.   

White strip along the top.  The white paper is removed to expose the sticky side.
I have to thank Matt over at Coastal Bend Yacht Services for this tip.  Matt sold me several rolls of basting tape which made the job SO much more easy.  I used these double stick strips to keep the two surfaces together until they are sewn.  They were especially helpful in keeping the zipper in place leaving all hands free to wrangle the big panels instead of having to keep one hand on the zipper all the time.  I hope I never have to find out what it's like to sew without them.  Bruce had tacked the two worst sections of zipper together, but there were some shorter areas that had more recently come loose.  I went ahead and sewed the entire edge with new thread.  

These panels have hung caddywhompus for the entire time we've owned the boat, whacking us in the head as we duck underneath.  The job was more involved that I would have thought.  We worked all day and at the end, my back was aching. and my hands were sore.  Perhaps a professional would have had the proper tools accessible, but we got by, and in the end, got a huge kick out of having done the job ourselves.  Now all of our panels can be rolled up and secured nicely. 

We made it through our first sewing project and will be on to the next one... repairing the split bimini top where the boom has rubbed.  Tomorrow...

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The Monkey's Fist

Monday, August 19, 2013

Birding In Port A

I have been known to become somewhat worthless after a full morning of bike riding around town, so today seemed like a perfect opportunity for a longish trek.  I had planned to spend my afternoon figuring out what we would do with our money when we're cruising.  Since that shouldn't be a very physically strenuous activity, we took off in the cool of the morning for some two wheel exploring.

There is a part of Charlie's Pasture that we have yet to explore.  I wanted to find it, but it required a bike ride along the highway, which could prove fatal considering the crazy vacationers running our roads these days.  We were just about to turn back when we found the entrance and dove in.

It began very similarly to the parts of the Pasture we have previously enjoyed, but we were happy to finally get to check out the other observation tower we had been viewing from a distance.

The trail looked as if it is less travelled and perhaps less well maintained than the other half of the trail, but it was still a pretty smooth ride.  I was on the lookout for snakes or any other critters we might see, but with the exception of a BUNCH of spider webs and maybe some poop, we saw no sign of anything but birds.

We enjoyed our breakfast of cereal bars and water from atop the tower.  The winds were a whisper and we spent long moments staring off into the distance trying to catch a glimpse of my favorite Roseate Spoonbills.

I would love to know what these are

I finally did see a couple flying by, but the closest we came to birdwatching were a group of black and white birds lounging in one of the few watering holes not left barren by the drought.

We saw a fellow cyclist coming up the path and came down from the tower to try to get back on our way before he passed.  Lucky for us, he was able to stay in front of us.  We took the left fork in the path to his right and found ourselves at a dead end on the edge of a vast ocean of cattails.

A sign indicated that the path was in progress and it all made sense.  This path would someday join the more familiar pathway so that it would make a larger loop through the wetlands.

We turned to follow the lone cyclist and caught a glimpse of him far across the salt flats.  We knew that if we hadn't seen him go that way, we would have turned back.

We walked and biked across the vast and barren salt flats until we came to a familiar road.  This lead to another of Port A's birding pathways and we took it.  The boardwalk took us right through the middle of that cattail field we had seen from the other side.  There was another observation tower at the edge of a bizarre pond.

It was the strangest color of green and very shallow.  The bottom was riddled with deeper trenches in which huge fish could be seen swimming lazily along.  It was so quiet except for the sounds of dozens of different birds.

We could hear them out in the cattails.  We suddenly heard a splash followed by the sound of a bird meeting his death as one of the alligators, advertised by signs along the path, must have snatched him up. GULP...

It was amazing to stand here in the middle of this place and see the wildlife just doin' their thing as if we weren't there.

A heron swoops low over the water.
These cormorants were drying themselves in the middle of the pond.

I think this is some kind of night heron.  He ignored us and continued with his grooming while we wandered up and down the boardwalk.

First one, and then a second frigate bird began dipping, soaring and swooping over the far end of the pond.

Just when I thought they would come over to our end, they would bank and go back to the other side.

I took a walk to the far end of the boardwalk.  I couldn't hear my footfalls as I crept along.  I peered into the cattails and was rewarded by a glimpse of a tiny bird hopping around from one reed to another.  He was also grooming himself as if he couldn't see me.

Two baby duckies came through as I sat and stared.  I could hear their mother off to my left calling them.  They would each answer with a peep of their own one by one.  I worried about seeing one of them get eaten by that gator.  I could see an area where the cattails seemed to be somewhat flattened and wondered if it was from the alligators.  I climbed back to the top of the tower to take a look and sure enough, there was a large area flattened out.  I guess I'll never know why...

We could have spent hours there watching the animals come and go.  There are many others listed on the boardwalk that we saw no sign of.  We wondered how it was that we had never been to this place.  We love to explore and today was such fun but it was time to get back to the boat and the endless "to do" list.  A couple on our dock have invited us to this place to hear their talk on birding.  Maybe we'll have to make time to come back and hear what they have to say...

What To Do With All That Money

Origin of Pic
Lets be honest... I feel intimidated by High Finance.  Well... maybe applying the term "High Finance" to our little pot of money is a bit pretentious, but whatever.  The world of investing is foreign to me and I think I like it that way.

The thought of spending hours doing online searches and on phone calls asking probing and relevant questions while comparing financial services simply turns me to jelly.  But today I did it!  My goal was to divine the name of the financial institution that will provide us with the most advantageous pot in which to place our pennies.  I want to share this with you but first, you must read my disclaimer:  I am in no way advising anyone about what they should or should not do with their finances.  I know next to nothing about it and following my advice could lead you to swift and certain financial ruin with only yourself to blame.

My Sources:  I have been compiling information from the following sources, literally for MONTHS leading up to this day.
*  Facebook (OK calm down!  I am a member of several relevant FB groups, namely Women Who Sail and SSCA, where I have participated in real life threads concerning Cruising and finance.  Real cruisers provided up to date information about what they have done while cruising.)
*  Cruiser's Forums - I found that sorting by descending date was most useful as much of what is out there is old and therefore IMHO, out of date and not worth my time.  Financial institutions change their policies daily so a Forum thread from 2009 isn't worth reading. Go to the newer dates.
*  Simple word of mouth.  Contacts you know and trust can be invaluable in cutting through the crap.  Banking policy can be very misleading  If you know someone who has had personal experience with a bank, good or bad, it is better than all the online propaganda.
*  Lastly, today's fun... pouring over individual Financial Institution's websites and making those phone calls.  None of the three companies I chose to compare told you everything on their website.  You have to get your questions together and call them.

My Needs:  I need a checking account and a savings account that meet the following criteria:
 1.   Zero (or low) maintenance fee.
 2.   Zero or low minimum balance requirement.  (This allows me to minimize risk.  We will transfer only what we anticipate using from a savings account to our checking account.  If our checking account is compromised, they won't get much.)
 3.   Easy online banking.  I need to be able to transfer money between accounts within the bank as well as from an outside bank.
 4.   Multiple account owners.  Some banks limit the number of persons signing on an account to two.
 5.   Individual Visa Debit Cards.  Each debit card should have it's own number.  If one card is lost, the other card(s) can continue to be used while the lost card is being replaced.  The account is not shut   down when a card is lost.
 6.   The ability to have replacement Debit cards shipped to an address other than the address of record.
 7.   Reasonable daily withdrawal limits with override capability.
 8.   Toll free international phone number.
 9.   Security
 10. Attractive interest rate
 11.   ZERO ATM FEES for either your bank or from the bank machine you're using.
 12.  ZERO FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEES for ATM withdrawals, bank withdrawals or point of service purchases.

I first called the bank where my 401k is managed to give them the opportunity to keep me.  They offered no type of account that came close to the above criteria, so they were crossed off the list.

I investigated Capital One next, as I had heard that many cruisers use their services with positive reviews.  I read on SSCA forum that you have to contact them every 60 days to update your travel notice but I'm sure that keeping in contact with any banking institution will be necessary.  The reasons I chose to pass on Capital One are:  The ATM fees on Capital One's side are waived, but the fees assessed by the bank whose machine you're using are not waived.  Secondly, Capital One would not allow me to link my Money Market accounts from another bank for transfers.

The next bank I looked at was Bank of America.  I didn't find much information on their website, so I called them to ask my questions.  They had no attractive claims of waiving ATM or conversion fees, but if you are traveling in an area that has one of their international affiliates, you can get around that.  Scotia Banks are found throughout the Caribbean (although one Forum says the French Islands don't have SB).  I asked about the French Islands and was told that they do have a bank affiliate in WestPac Bank.  This information is unconfirmed by me.  I chose not to use B of A because I didn't want to be locked down to using Scotia Bank if another institution could do better.

And the winner is... Schwab.  I will say that I was a bit nervous about their requirement that you must have a Brokerage account in order to open a checking or savings account.  I was relieved to know that you do not have to use the Brokerage account or even have a balance in it.  Merely a technicality...  The only other downside was that their interest rate for checking and savings was slightly lower than the next competitor (Capital One) but since we aren't keeping a lot of money in the account, it doesn't bother us.  That's it!  The rest is free!  No fees, no nothing!  They don't even charge for paper checks!  We will keep our ATM receipts, just in case our monthly credit is incorrect, but that's the extent of the hassle.  Now my pessimistic side has kicked in and tells me to wait and see if it's as good as it sounds... but I grilled the New Account Rep. mercilessly!  (Gone is the fearful timid girl.  I'm a shark!)

OK, so I'm NOT a shark!  But I think the information I was able to ferret out has enabled me to make a (semi)informed decision with which we are comfortable.  Now I can tick another project OFF the list!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

I'm Beginning To Develop A Complex

I have struggled with the growing list of things to do in order to be ready to set sail when October comes.  We have made a list.  We have added to the list.  We have even been able to cross many things off the list.  But still the list looms, ever-menacing, over us.  We just can NOT work all the time!  We need to have some fun.  Today, we tried mixing it up by having some fun doing things on the list!  If this is a blatant rationalization... So. Be. IT!

The calm morning beckoned for us to take a dinghy ride.  The waters here are almost NEVER this flat!  What could we DO?

Our rationalization was that we needed to use up our dinghy fuel so it wouldn't go bad... and that we need to run the dinghy after recent repairs. It is still not acting just right... and lastly, we wanted to install the dinghy wheels and motor fins.

We couldn't do these last two things from the boat.  We decided to do them "Cruiser Style"!

We beached the dinghy on a nearby island and got to work.  We found a board to prop the dinghy up and dug the instructions and tools out of our dry bag for installing the dinghy wheels.

Bruce has wanted these wheels for months.  Finally we would have them!

(sound of scratching record)

It was not to be...  When it got down to it... our transom was not going to allow for proper installation.  The wheels should be placed as far apart as they can, and 1/2 inch up from the lowest part of the dinghy.  Our V-bottom and the fact that our fiberglass hull is one piece with built in reinforcement struts inside the back wall, would just not allow for proper placement of the wheels.  We were so bummed out!  Shake it off!  Shit happens!  At least we're not WORKING!

OK, next up, we install the dinghy motor fins.  We were all set to place the fins when first, we had to take off the zinc and had to go back to the boat for the right tool...  Hey, we wanted to run the motor, right?

So, we're back on the sand, ready to drill when... we can't get a straight angle on the holes due to the way the motor is made... DAMN!  We are going to have to do this on the boat where we can use our electric drill.  This project isn't going to happen.

So... we decide to take advantage of the day and PLAY!

There is a nearby wrecked sailboat just up the beach from where we are.

Bruce swam over while I walked the beach.  The last time we were here, this boat was a real sailboat, just sitting on the bottom.  Now it has all but worked its way down into the sand, nearly disappearing under the water.

I was too worried about what might be lurking in that hole to get any closer.  I'm going to have to work on that...

We spent some time floating in the beautiful waters before moving on.  I think this fat ring around my belly has improved my buoyancy...

We could see another sailboat wreck on the other side of the Lydia Ann Channel.  I wonder what's going on with all of these wrecked boats!

So.... Off we went!

We disturbed this heron as we picked the perfect spot to anchor the dinghy on the other side...

Cool bottle full of beach

Anyone need a nice cap?

Natural Pumice.

Mermaids could use these shells for fake nails!

A little beach combing was in order as there were scads of shoes and other stuff washed upon this shore...

We walked up into a cove to see if we could find my favorite, the Roseate Spoonbill.  There were none to be found.

We knew they had been here however... Bruce found a great feather for his hat...

We next turned our attention to the wrecked boat.  This boat was once a nice sailing Cat.  Months of wind and wave have reduced it to this.  We are still curious as to why this happened...

Do you think we have salvage rights?  I'm thinking we don't WANT any...

We splashed around some more, then headed back to the boat to get some lunch and have a nap.

We eventually did finish installing the fins on the motor.  We mounted it backwards on it's rail mount block.  Bruce found a drill bit that was long enough to get the job done.   We are happy to have accomplished something today!

By this time, it was well after "5 o'clock" so we joined the felines on the deck for a beverage and made plans for what we would (try to) get done next week.

We have GOT to stop beating ourselves up for work not done, and realized that we need some play time, and that it must be done when the weather is good for it.

There are some "real life" things I need to do, such as figuring out which bank we will transfer our accounts to what has no foreign transaction or ATM fees... And what to do with my 401k... And figuring our what insurance policy will be best for health and for the boat when traveling internationally...

All of these things are weighting heavily on my mind.  Please leave a comment if you have found success in these and I'll be eternally grateful!