Saturday, March 30, 2013

Head Aches

Sorry... I had to go there.  A friend of ours went off cruising a number of years ago.  Upon his return, we eagerly asked him to tell us all about it.  His words:  Something breaks every day... EVERY DAY...

So, my plan was to move onto the boat before we cut the dock lines so that if things were going to break, they would all get it over with while we are still on familiar ground and with income to make fixing them a bit less stressful.

Lucky that!  I won't say that something has broken EVERY day, but we sure have put the hurts on the systems in these four months.

Friday night, it was the aft head.  Just before bedtime, I was pumping it out and suddenly something inside gave it up and it no longer moved what was inside the bowl to the nether regions where it is supposed to go.  Bright and early on Saturday morning, Bruce got busy taking it apart.

As you might expect, this involved some physical contortions and not a little bit of cussing.  He got the thing apart and found that the bar you see coming out of the top of the cylinder had come unscrewed from the plunger piece inside.  No more pumpey de poopie.

Since buying this boat over a year ago... Bruce has raised his eyes to the heavens and thanked John Shinn for providing us with so many wonderful spares and today was another of those days.  We had a rebuild kit.  YAY!  This wasn't going to cost us ANYTHING!

I made myself a bucket of cleaning solution and crawled into the tub where Bruce plunked the parts covered in some substance that I felt it was better not to consider to closely...  I got my old toothbrush and a scrubber and went to work cleaning layers of gunk off of the reusable parts.  Some of the stuff even had to be scraped off with a knife it was so caked on there.

I've read many stories of rebuilding the head and I don't know if we were just lucky, or what... but it was really nothing like I though it would be.  The smell wasn't even that bad.  I think I kept the mess contained and cleaned it all up with some bleach and Pine Sol... Now the head smells like pine and the potty works SMOOOOOTH!  I'm hoping that whatever it is that has everyone talking about how horrible it all is, never happens to us!  One thing I learned from this, is that regular maintenance is SO important.  Soaking the hoses in vinegar and lubing them with some cheap cooking oil at least weekly will become a part of our routine.  So I wonder what is going to break tomorrow...

UPDATE  April 6, 2013

Well, that's what I get for being cocky!  After a day or two, I noticed that my little bathroom rug was rather damp... and by rather damp, I mean WET!  Must investigate...

The yoke that holds on the fitting where the joker valve is housed was leaking like a sieve.  So, this morning we took a look at it.  There is a tiny crack where the bolts hold the yoke to the fitting that MUST be causing water to pour out due to improper sealing.  There isn't a gasket.  The only thing causing this must be that tiny crack.  So this morning, I spent some time and some money on the Raritan website.  So Carolyn, I've now got the replacement parts as well as a new Overhaul kit on their way...  Sigh...

Four Months In...

If I close my eyes and it's very quiet… nothing but the sound of the water lapping against the stern…  I can take myself to a place where it's warm.  I remember a day when we motored across Corpus Christi Bay on Elan.  The Bay was absolutely like glass.  The only ripple was our wake.  I can feel the immense heat on the top of my head as it radiates from the brutal sun beating down on the bimini.  Bruce used the cockpit shower to wet his hat and his shirt.  I took the hose and sprayed the top of the bimini to give us some short-lived relief from the heat.  We continued to swelter as sweat poured down my neck and slid down my chest.  

THERE!  I did it!  I'm sure that I will regret longing for warmer weather (soon, very soon).  But I've reached that point where I just can't take another cool front.  Usually this happens in February.  Here we are at the end of March and the Norther's are still coming!  Once again, I'm hoping that THIS cool spell will be the LAST ONE!  No doubt I'll be eating these words, but right now… I'll risk it!  

We have made it through winter on the boat.  We have huddled in the warm cabin below.  We have enjoyed sitting in the cockpit solarium in comfort while the winds howled just inches away.  We have taken advantage of those few warm weekends by taking nature walks and strolls on the beach.  We suffered through Spring Break Week when I sat in my car for an extra 25 minutes waiting for beach goers to get to wherever they were going.  NOW comes the good times.

I can't wait to form new patterns and workflows as we take down the enclosure and send it for repairs.  We have a set of new insulated hatch covers on order to keep that sun for super heating our refuge down below.  I will get some sun on my pasty white skin and maybe shed a few winter pounds.  

The only trouble is, it will be even more difficult to go to work each weekday.  There are so many projects that I can't wait to get started.  The list grows and grows.  Only two and a half months to go until we're Real Cruisers!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

You Aught'a Marry That Girl

The winds were predicted to be 10 to 15 knots for our return from Ingleside cove to Port Aransas.  Anyone who has lived in the Corpus Christi Bay area for any length of time with sailing as a hobby, or anything outdoors for that matter…. should know that you might just as well go ahead and add 5 to 10 knots to any forecast.  Throw in an extra 3 to 5 for the gusts and call it even.  Every now and then, that formula doesn't work and the winds are light… but that seldom happens.

So we were cruising East bound in the Ship Channel, 1 knot current against us, winds pretty steady 25 knots, doing 6 knots (Speed Over Ground).  I was lounging and Bruce was looking like the "Happy-Guy-On-His-Boat".  Life is good.  He absently muses that with the Stays'l and a reefed main… 25 knots doesn't feel so bad.  We reminded ourselves that we hardly ever ventured out on Elan with a 25 knot forecast.  It just wasn't fun.  We would be soaking wet, beat up and frazzled by the time we got to the slip.  No… 20 knots was my personal limit on our old CS36.  

That got me to thinking… Bruce recently made longing mention of the way Elan "sailed like a dream" and other such things.  He obviously enjoyed sailing that most nimble of vessels…  Nothing like the heavy and roomy Morgan 45, who sails like a Boat-A-Bago…  (but she's comfortable he said…)  Wait a dawgone minute!!!!  Do my eyes deceive me?  Is that Bruce sitting behind the wheel in 25 knot winds…NOT wrestling with ferocious weather helm…. NOT covered in salt spray… and actually smiling as he holds out his arms and says "Look!  She sails herself!"?

I tell him I think that he owes Dos Libras an apology.  He looks sheepish.  "But Elan was FUN" he says.  Nope!  Elan was a SKANK!  Skanks are FUN but you don't bring them home to your Momma!  Apologize and then I think you aught'a marry that girl!  And thus, Dos Libras received the level of esteem she deserves in her Master's eyes… and a new catch phrase is born!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

She Still Sails!

We have had Dos Libras for a year now and those first months since Bruce brought her home are a blur.  The endless procession of cold, cloudy, windy days we've seen since November have my mind feeling fuzzy.  It has all begun to run together..  I was beginning to feel like there will be no return of the happy summer days of our dreams… 

It has been weeks since we have had the boat out of the slip.  Suddenly, things are looking up.  We have no plans and a forecast of SUN!  The winds may be high but I don't CARE!  We're blowin' this pop-stand…  We got our laundry done on Friday evening.  Our modest marina facility was deserted.  We lounged on the back deck while waiting for our loads to finish.  We were ready to go on Saturday morning.

Shortly after 8 am, Bruce was first in line to use the portable waste pump.  We took care of some housekeeping chores and were off by 10:30.  The winds were forecast to be high and I wanted to be off early so that we could have the anchor down before they really kicked in.  We would be sailing in flat water but things are still iffy with the cats.    

We hooked up our cutter rig and used our hanked on storm sail.  Overkill, yes, but we haven't used it yet and Bruce wanted to try it out.  It's a pretty nice looking little sail.  I've never sailed on a boat with a cutter rig before.  It's cool that we can either use it, or disconnected and stored it out of the way.  It's a pretty neat setup.

Jez huddling in the galley looking green...
The boat continues to prove herself a comfortable ride.  We had winds between 15 and 25 knots and with the full enclosure and the reefed main, never felt overpowered in the gusts.  Unfortunately, even with reduced sails, it was too much for Jezabelle and she finally succumbed to Mal-de-Mer again.  

I guess this makes Jetsam the "good cat" for the day.  She continues to seem unaffected by the motion of the boat and just lounged on the settee much as she does all day in the slip.

We arrived at our anchorage at Ingleside Cove where we found only one other boat.  I guess the winds kept everyone away for the weekend.  Fine with us.  We dropped the hook and opened the two back isinglass panels so that we could poke our legs out onto the back deck for some sun while continuing to enjoy the protection of the enclosure.  

The boat was fishtailing through more than an 80 degree swing.  This will not do!  Bruce rummaged around in the deck bag and found our old riding sail from Elan.  It has seen little use because it was kind of a pain to hoist on Elan.  I was worried that it wouldn't work on DL because we have a split backstay.  I was wrong!  We popped it up in minutes and reduced the swing to about 15-20 degrees.  So we whiled away the afternoon in sunny comfort! 

There were plenty of things we could have done, but we did none of them.  We just sat there, watching the wind blow the tops off the tiny waves in our anchorage and the odd bird flapping against the wind.  It was so nice…

My natural drive to be doing something all the time finally kicked in and I went below to see if I could come up with a cookie recipe.  I found one but wanted to get rid of some granola we've had for a while, so I improvised.  The cookies came out a bit floury but Bruce didn't seem to notice.  The cookies were done just in time to start dinner.  

So this is how we'll spend our days in the weeks and months to come….  So what if there was too much wind to make a dinghy ride to shore sound like fun. So what if the weather is still just a bit cool for swimming off the transom.  Those days are coming and for now, it's just nice to get out and find out if She still sails!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Size Matters - Our Last Boat

Our CS36 Élan 
This is our LAST BOAT...  At least that's what we thought when we bought our CS36, Élan...

And for a while... she was!  Bruce had a very nice CS33 when I met him.  In fact, it was what first attracted me to him.  He invited me sailing one sunny February day, and we just continued on from there...  We played for months aboard Artemesia, beginning our lives together.

Soon after that, we took a vacation charter in the BVI's and had an extra day to kill.  We went over to Nanny Cay and took a look at the CS36.  Bruce was smitten... I was not.  It had been chartered and was in terrible shape but Bruce saw potential.  He got on the Internet when we returned home and found our new boat in Michigan.  Ahhhh when he got the 36 ft boat home and cleaned her up...  What a HUGE difference that extra three feet made!  I was SO happy with the extra weight and all the room inside...

Élan fit our lives perfectly.  We spent almost all of our free time on the boat exploring the area with friends and alone.  We talked a LOT about going cruising while we sat on the deck watching the sun go down.  One of the sticking points between us was whether or not we could cruise on THIS boat.  Bruce was not too happy when I started talking about selling her.  It was like I was talking ugly about his CHILD!  He would light up in defense of his baby.  He wanted to try cruising the boat we have, and if we liked it, THEN consider getting a bigger boat.  I was sure that if we went cruising on the smaller boat, there was less of a chance that I would like cruising...  There just wasn't enough ROOM on a 36 ft. boat with only one sleeping cabin.

I also felt that Élan was HIS boat, not ours.  I knew this every time I put my stuff into a cubby, only to come back to find it had been removed and replaced with Bruce's stuff.  There just weren't enough cubbies to hold all of our stuff.  We were only trying to pack on enough stuff to last the weekend... maybe a week at the most... and ALREADY there wasn't enough room.  (And we won't even TALK about the times Bruce removed almost EVERYTHING from the boat in preparation for a race...)  After countless conversations, Bruce finally began to relent.  If we plan on going cruising, we will need a bigger boat.

Bruce wanted to keep under the 40 ft mark so I started looking.  I was primarily interested in an aft cabin and more storage space.  We looked at several 38 ft boats and one or two rose to the top of our list... on paper.  We took a road trip to Kemah to see some boats and I felt dread when I stepped aboard the ones that I thought would be perfect.  They were too small, too cramped, too dark.  If this is going to be my home, I can't live in a hole!  Even if it IS a hole in the water....

I know!  I know!  I realize that there are SO many Cruisers out there on boats smaller than 38 feet, having the time of their lives.  I just can't do it!

We trashed our boat list and started a new list of the wants and needs we were looking for in a boat.  Bruce trembled in fear at my upward spiral in length... It came to a halt when the Liberty 49 ft caught my interest.  We actually boarded one and even I felt that it was too big for us to handle...  You see, I can be reasonable.  (I did love the interior though.)

I was feeling hopeless.  Will there EVER be a boat that both of us could love?  I had submitted a seemingly endless parade of "possibles" to Bruce and he only perked at a few.  It wasn't until we got an offer on our boat that he started paying attention.  He asked me for my "short list", and went to work...  He examined every detail of each boat on the list and came up with the same conclusion I did!  Our Morgan 45.

There is no such thing as the "perfect boat".  At least not in our budget range...  But, this boat is THE ONE.  She has so many of the things we want and really none of the things we didn't want.  I will admit that I suffered a shock when that first slip payment came due.  It's a bit more hefty than our old 40 ft slip.  I also have concerns that the price of sails will be exponentially higher on this boat.  But, Bruce shops the consignment market and finds great deals so maybe it won't be so bad when the time comes for baby to have a new set of finery.

Pics Prior to Moving Aboard... You think I'm going to let you see the STUFF?
The best thing about our 45 that the 36 ft boat didn't have... all of the lovely cubbies.  There are actual closets!  We have cabinets and floor hidey holes...  Bruce has a "garage" across from the engine room where he is free to store all of his stuff.  We no longer have to fight over storage space.  The interior is bright and roomy.  Our aft cabin is a dream.  It's a "real" bedroom.  A refuge where I can hang out and be at home.  Our galley is more than twice the size of that on our 36.  I'm in heaven.

I know that there will be changes in our lifestyle once we leave the dock... but I just don't think I could be happy on a much smaller boat.  I really really really DO think that THIS is our last boat!

Bruce's Note:  If you ask me... Elan was like a sports car and competed successfully in local regattas.  She handled like a dream and was capable of blue water.  Our Morgan is more like an RV.  But, it's still a sailboat.  We set a course and enjoy the scenery and the company, but pay less attention to tweaking sails for that extra half a knot...  We've changed direction in life.  This bigger boat is now our home.  It will take us where we want to go in comfort and a LOT of stuff!

Tammy's Post Note Note:  If you ask me... Bruce will NEVER quit tweaking sails for that extra half a knot and any two boats going in the same direction within eyeshot of one another... is a RACE!

Click on the monkey's fist to read others bloggers on this topic.
The Monkey's Fist

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Can Controversy

Who knew?...  So we bought a few canned good staples... peeled off the labels... wrote the contents on the cans and stuffed them into the Port Settee hullside locker...  This sparked a rousing round of commentary on the Dos Libras Facebook page...

You just never know what's gonna set one of these things off!  But!  It got us thinking... we were reminded of things that helped us to clarify our thoughts about what and how to stockpile.

I will admit that in our life on land, I had a large pantry full of stuff that went in there to die.  I would buy an ingredient or a few cans of something and never see them again.  Now and then we would sort through and throw out the expired stuff... and there was a LOT of expired stuff!  This is something I vowed to work on once we moved aboard... and I would say that while not cured, I'm certainly recovering.

Yes... I know that there will be food everywhere we go... (at least I hope there will...).  But here's the thing.  I would like to ease into this and need to have a stock of staple ingredients on hand that I think will allow us to make familiar and easy meals, with the addition of a few fresh items purchased along the way.  We will be stocking a few of our "go to" meals for those times when we don't really have anything great to fix.  Bruce just can't live without canned chili.  Sometimes he just wants it!

I have a Sam's Club membership through my work that will expire at about the same time I quit my job.   I have found their stock limited but the few things they have that we DO use can be purchased in bulk for less than we would pay in a regular grocery store.  Especially with small town store prices like here in Port A.  So, we have made a couple of trips to Sam's... and will probably make one more run.

Cleaning the grime and mildew from the hull.
We are still learning to use our space.  Thus far, we have left many of the little cubbies and lockers alone.  The space in our galley has been sufficient for our needs.  But... we need to explore the storage options and this takes time.  I'm a clean freak and must first make sure that the proposed storage nook is clean, dry (mostly) and free of grime and mildew.  I cleaned the boat when we got her but have found that it is time to do it again...  This means we drag out stuff, find new places for it, go to work with the cleaning supplies and follow up with a spritz of Tea Tree oil & water to discourage future mildew growth.  Then it has to dry naturally.  Finally, I'm using that rubbery mesh stuff found in the shelf-paper aisle along the hull as a cushion to reduce noise and so that air can circulate between the cans and the hull.

We will be taking a stock of paper goods along as well.  I've purchased TP, tissue and paper towels but haven't decided where we will store them yet.  They'll probably go behind or beneath our bed in the aft cabin but I haven't found sturdy waterproof bags to store them in or devised a way to secure them yet.  We can't have them moving around in stormy seas and working their way over to the steering quadrant causing havoc...

And what's the deal with removing the labels from the cans?  I have done a lot of reading about storage issues while cruising.   One helpful hint that I picked up is that the cans can often move around causing their labels to come off.  If this happens, it's mystery meals for us!  I'm being proactive in removing the labels from cans stored in the less accessible lockers so that this doesn't happen to us.  Also, if the labels come off, they have to go somewhere... I'm thinking this would be a soggy mess to clean up in the bowels of the boat.  If the labels don't come off... they may become mildewy and nasty looking which is a turnoff to me.  I'd rather remove them from the onset than deal with possible future complications.

My next round of purchases will be things like powdered milk and eggs.  I just need to know they are there when I need them.  Rice, pasta and baking ingredients will need to be transferred from their original packaging to moisture proof containers.  I haven't decided what I will use for those things but will probably be using storage boxes to further protect them from moisture.  Those will most likely be stored in the v-berth when we don't have guests.

Lastly, there are some foods that we just love and are brand specific.  I will cruise the aisles of the HEB super store and load the basket with those things that make us happy.  I know that I will develop new loves in our travels... but it helps me to know that for a while, there will be at least SOME of the comforts of home....

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Relieved! And Back On Track

To me, the offending blob looks just like the rest of the blobs!
I'm awake... I'm up from a deep sleep induced by my earlier ingestion of an anti-anxiety medicaition given to me to make it possible for me to go willingly to an appointment I had this morning.

It all started when I dutifully presented myself for my yearly mammogram... Dup de-du, no biggie.  I have no family history and no breasts to speak of anyway... how could I have a problem?

But wait... the nurse tells me there was an abnormality.  What?  I'm sent to the radiology place to have a second mammogram and possibly an ultrasound.  At this point, I'm still not frightened.  I hear all the time that the incidence of false positives is high... so the place just wants to generate some income to pay for that nice facility they have over there...  I'm not happy but OK...

I arrive to the facility on the day of my workup mammo and guess what?  They DO want to do the ultrasound.  I guessed that one... So I submit to the ultrasound, which was totally not painful, just weird... My mind flits from the indignity of it all, to wondering why the tech is making so many clicking sounds over on the machine, to just wanting to spring off the table and bolt for the door.  The tech finishes and I am asked to wait in my private cubicle while she shows the results to the radiologist.
Tick Tock, finally she comes back and says I'm free to go, but that she thinks they're going to want to re-do the test in 3 to 6 months.

Ok, so I'm not dying now...but in six months it could be a different story!?  Whoa there!  We have plans!  We are sailing off into the sunrise in four months.  I can't be having this!  I convince myself that its just another of those many false positives and I'm quite able to sleep at night with that!

The next week I have my scheduled visit with my Gyn.  She reviews the results but feels nothing in the exam.  I have no symptoms no pain, nothing!  I'm thinking I'm going to get away...  But she tells me that SINCE I'm leaving soon and will have no coverage for this type of thing... she wants me to get a second opinion.  She sends me to the surgeon who did my recent appendectomy.  I'm comfortable with him so I submit.

Another week goes by and my mind is working on me some... but I'm good at convincing myself that it's going to go my way... this is just a formality, an inconvenience to be endured...  I hear about a patient at work who gets scheduled for a needle biopsy but when she shows up and they do the ultrasound, there's no nodule so she goes free!  This will happen to me!

The surgeon does his exam and looks the films over... he says "we need to get something under a microscope" SCREEEECH  Stop!  There is NO NODULE!  Just a smudge!  I tell him the story about the case at work.  He tells me... "if they have measured it, they can biopsy it".  I have to be a big girl and swallow my needle phobia.  OK, I'll do it.  I guess I DO want to know if it IS nothing before we leave...

Another five horrible days go by... my mind is doing bad things to me.  I'm tense and snappy and closed off.  I'm like the lion with the thorn in it's paw.  I get through the weekend and make it through Monday with the help of a Xanax.  The call from the technician to give me my prep instructions throws me over the edge.  I'm a nutcase.  If it weren't for Xanax I don't know how I would have made it.

Morning dawns and I am quiet and sullen.  I'm not happy about this.  I pop a pill and begin showering and dressing to leave.  Bruce takes me to the facility where I present myself at the desk.  I'm mellow so no drama...  I'm soon called in and Bruce trails behind me.  He has instructions not to let me see any needles and to scratch my forehead while they're doing the extraction... you know, like we do to the cats at the vet to keep them from realizing that there's a thermometer in their booty?  Oh, yes and he's forbidden to make any "gasping" noises...

I undress and don the robe.  The girl tells me that the radiologist has reviewed the films and doesn't think he can do the biopsy because there is NO NODULE!!!!!!   What?  Did I hear her right.  Those bastards!

Into the room I go and stretch out on the exam table.  She does another ultrasound...  click click click.  She takes those out and returns with the radiologist.  He's very nice and puts his hand on my shin... it's warm and I feel a soothing influence wash over me.  He watches the technician do a few more views and he says "there's nothing there".  Nothing to biopsy.  It's NORMAL!  I can't stop the grin and they don't have to ask me twice to get out of there!

In the car, I start to shake and tears well up in my eyes, threatening to spill over.  I'm dressed like a bum and drugged up woozy but I call my assistant to tell her what is happening.  I'm a MESS!  She tells me to go home and sleep it off... so I do.  Days of tension left me drained and I slept all afternoon.

Now that my head is clearing... I'm struggling not to be mad that I've gone through all of this for nothing.  I'm grateful that it was nothing... but I can't help think of the expense and the worry for a mere "maybe".  I'm mad that with all the modern miracles at our disposal, patients are drug through all of this on the off chance that something might be wrong.

Maybe I shouldn't examine the reasons for this too closely... greed?  Surely.  Fear of malpractice suits?  Surely.  These things are driving the cost of medical care to dizzying heights.  If it weren't for the fact that I might sue someone if they don't find my problem and fix it... maybe I could have waited. Maybe medical care wouldn't be so expensive as to make it necessary for me to do this now because I won't be able to afford it later.

Yes, I'm glad it turned out alright and I feel much better knowing.  But, wouldn't it have been nice to have skipped about half of this little exercise and be in the same spot?  So now, I'm back to planning our escape!  With NO WORRIES!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I Dream In Motion

Ocean Dream

                                                                        Ocean Dream

The transition for me has been seamless... like slipping from waking to a dream.  Only now the dream is my reality.  

Nearly four months....  Such a short time really, and yet, it seems as if we've lived here in our little cocoon forever.  Maybe we didn't have as far to go as others... like those people who just decide one day that they're going to buy a boat and get on it.  Cold Turkey, total emersion.... No, for us, this has been the best part of our lives for a long time.  So when people ask us "how can you live in such a small space?", we've stopped trying to explain.

The time has passed so quickly.  Suddenly, Winter is coming to a close.  Perhaps moving aboard in Winter has helped us along.   The South Texas Winter hardly deserves to be called a season.  It is nothing like real winter...but it does often have us holed up inside.  Has it has really been unseasonably cold, wet and dreary this year, or are we just more keenly aware of the day to day changes, living out in it as we do?  Maybe a little of both... 

I do know that it has given us the time to bond with our new home.  We've fallen into step with the daily life.  When I say I'm going home... I mean Dos Libras.  I no longer dream  of life on land... I dream in motion.  

This is my post for the Monthly Raft-Up series.  The topic for March is:  Moving Aboard.  Please click HERE to read my earlier post on the subject.

Please follow the icons below if you would like to see what the other Bloggers have to say about it.  There will be a new post every day so check back later in the month to read their new posts.