Monday, April 21, 2014

A Force of Nature

We took a break from rebuilding the boat and getting a house ready to sell to celebrate Kitty's birthday. She is now 4. 4 years old and a whirlwind of energy, confidence, determination and fearlessness. Our own little Hurricane Kitty. I am not sure how we, who tend to be more laid back- ended up with the most driven little person ever but I have to say, I am pretty happy that we did. It's tough to keep up with this one but she never fails to amuse us and she brings so much laughter and happiness to all of us.

 Her birthday was a decidedly by-the-seat-of-our-pants affair. She and Maura made her birthday shortcake. She had 2 little friends over to play trains and dress up and then an ambling walk to the boardwalk for a ride on the carousel. Lunch at T-Bone Toms with a big stage to dance and sing on. It might have been cobbled together but as I was putting Kitty to bed for the night, she told me" I have to tell you a secret.". She pulled me close and whispered in my ear "This is the best birthday I have ever seen."

Happy birthday Rat Bag.

And since we are celebrating Kitty, let's take a peek at her last week as a 3 year old.

Of course Super Girl needs a crown of flowers. And a cape. Do not forget the cape.
 Kitty definitely has her own fashion sense. This girl has definite ideas about what she wears. Sometimes you need to wear a Batman rash guard with a neon tutu because going to the grocery store is too mundane without a little color. Bonus if you have learned to cross your eyes and do so every time your mom tries to take a picture. Because its funny and makes mom and dad laugh. That's why.

Oh my little wild thing. You do indeed make my heart sing. Happy birthday.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Little Work Here, A Little Work There

It would be nice to just move from one area of the boat to another, but that's too simple, straight forward and linear. If we have learned anything its that nothing to do withe boats is straight forward and linear. You throw a boat into the equation and you get thrown in many directions at once. So it is with the refit. You get ready to complete a project and then you realize that you are at the mercy of shipping times for necessary equipment so while you wait on delivery, its best to move to another project rather than waste time.
Kitty still loves to "help" Give her tools, any tools and she will happily play for hours

One of the bigger projects is redoing the deck hardware layout. For some reason, a PO thought it would be fun to change up the layout so that every time you need to hoist or tweak a sail. it was an difficult as possible. Perhaps they wanted to make it hard in order to save money on a gym membership but it has not been working for us. The goal all along has been for each of us to be able to single hand the boat. I am a mighty girl RAWR! but not quite that mighty. For this to happen, I need a bit more assistance from our winches and a little less chafe on the sheets.

Armed with his CAD software, hardware catalogs and the original boat design drawings, Mark has been carefully mapping out the deck layout. First up was figuring out the new deck organizers.

 Originally after much research, Mark had really wanted to use Spinlock organizers and clutches so he emailed Spinlock to get more technical information and sizing information. The guy at Spinlock emailed Mark back and instead of answering his questions said " this is over specced for your boat". This REALLY annoyed Mark. Not only did Spinlock not answer his question but the one thing you do not do is tell an engineer that his carefully made choices are wrong. Oh Spinlock, have you not realized that EVERYTHING on our boat is overspecced? So, Mark made a solemn vow to have no Spinlock equipment what so ever on our boat because yeah, it annoyed him and an annoyed Mark can hold a grudge like you would not believe. Bye bye Spinlock, hello Antal, Selden and Lewmar.

We still can not understand why the PO removed the 55 winches specced by Bob Perry for genoa/jib sheets and replaced them with 44s and then really undersized the main sheet winches but this is being rectified. The 44s are being repurposed for the mains and we have shiny new Lewmar 55s on their way. These will be installed once we get the deck under the winches recored.

 That's right, another instance of the infallibility of moisture meters and more cursing at the PO for not bedding the hardware properly in the first place. If you are going to be bedding hardware, please please for the love of future refitters check out this how to from Compass Marine . Do it. Buy some butyl tape from them. Use it. Yes, it does matter because while soft spots can be recored, its a major pain in the butt to do it correctly and you can save yourself from curses being thrown at you from a future owner, a man up to his elbows in balsa and fiberglass.

While we wait for delivery of equipment, Mark milled a new hand rail for the front cabin. We laughingly call this turning dollars to dust because yeah, teak. Not cheap but functional, sturdy, perfectly sized and aesthetically beautiful. No sense in half measures when we have spent so much time and effort on the front cabin. If you want it done right, have Mark do it.
Some see a pile of sawdust, boat owners see money blowing in the wind.
Here's hoping we can get the all the equipment delivered  installed before it becomes unbearably hot around here. Working on the decks in July and August is cruel and unusual punishment so fingers crossed the rest of the shiny bits get here soon, the recoring (thankfully a small area) is straight forward and we can keep on keeping on.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Rebel Heart is not just a news item

By now everyone who is not living in a caveh as heard the news of the rescue mission to save the crew of the Rebel Heart. Armchair admirals are weighing in on the "mistakes" made by the crew. People who have never even seen a sailboat, let alone sailed have their pitchforks and torches out with screams of irresponsible parenting and demands for retribution for the crew in the form of a bill or an investigation from CPS. THEY MUST PAY!!!

For me, this is not an interesting news item to discuss in hushed whispers at the local coffee clatch. This is the story of my dear friend Charlotte and her beloved family who have been through a horrifying ordeal while I sit thousands of miles away unable to do anything but think of them constantly, await word...and pray.

People who have heard the news clips and know we are set to leave the dock worry about us. They wonder why we would undertake such a dangerous thing as sailing the seas with our children. As I sit with the realization that my friend has been dealing with the fright of a seriously ill baby and then tragically, has lost the only home she has known for years I can understand the worry but the truth is, many many more families are out sailing with no major issues.

To be sure, every time a friend has a big passage, I worry a little too. Not overly much, but sailors are very aware of the risks involved and also that no matter how carefully you prepare sometimes bad things happen.

 When Tucker and Victoria were on their passage to the Marquesas, my friend Cindy and I would check their progress and be gladdened at every uneventful day. We did the same when Diane and Evan were crossing and when they dropped a rudder, we reassured each other it would be okay- and it was. We watch carefully everytime Behan and Jamie and their kids make another big passage. Thankfully, for the most part it becomes routine. How'd the weather look for them? Good. Any update? Crew happy and healthy? Good. This is what sailing families do. They cross oceans. With kids. And their friends watch from afar and cheer enthusiastically as the share the glorious first photos of landfall, with the kids joyfully discovering the beauties and mysteries of each new port. This is the norm. A little bit of worry, a little bit of cheering as the crews deal with set backs and a huge celebration when the safely pull into port. Watching from afar, helpless to do anything but pray as a boat full of people you truly care about are in harm's way is NOT the norm. It is such an unusual occurrence that there are no helpful books written on how to handle it when your friends have a real crisis. There is also no helpful book telling you how to cope when ignorant and ill informed people paint your friend as evil incarnate as loudly as possible and as in their face as they can get all because they hit the unlucky lottery.

I am trying to remain positive. Its tough when all I want is to hear from Charlotte to know that they are all okay. No need to tell me what happened or why or what you would do differently. Just tell me you are okay and I will tell you how much I love, admire and respect you and offer you support, a smile and encouragement to do what ever you need to do to heal.

Then and only then, can I go back to watching only slightly nervously as another one of our sailing tribe gets ready to make what will most likely turn out to be a very boring passage. Then I can go back to planning out our routing for the fall, ordering up the deck hardware we need to finish the deck layout and choosing our final bits of gear and getting ready to leave. THAT is positive. I am shaken to the core by what my friends have endured but I know that it really is a 1 in 1,000 event.

I am choosing to not react in anger to the ignorance and hate I am seeing thrown around. If anything, its serving as a motivation to get my kids as far away from truly ugly people who would see someone in crisis and make a choice to spew anger, hatred and vitriol all out of complete ignorance. Instead of listening to those who are unenlightened, I choose to surround myself with fellow sailors who understand that the risks are greatly outweighed by the rewards of living a life outside the suburban box. People who understand that life is not measured by breaths but by the moments that take our breath away. Such joy that is ours, they can never comprehend.

In a show of solidarity and love for our fellow sailors on Rebel Heart, I made the video below. I was aided in making this video by a few hundred sailing mamas who shared photos of their children. On boats. Sailing the seas. Discovering the beauty that lies hidden in the world. With their children. They understand. They are my people.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

To the left, to the left....

Yes. I have been singing a little Miss Beyonce as of late. "Everything you own in a box to the left....don't you ever get to thinking, you're irreplaceable."

I am just beginning the task of boxing everything up in order to empty the house to get it ready to go on the market. We are pretty fortunate that there is not a whole lot of work to do to make the house ready (because another major refit project would kill me!), just a little paint here and there, a bit of spit and polish and removing all bits of my whack a  doodle decorating personality to make it Neutral (with a capital N).The walls are starting to look very bare though and as I pack, my brain starts working over time because that's what you do when you are engaged in a routine task.

I won't miss the house. I realized that I have lived in this house longer than I have ever lived in any house- 8.5 years. Growing up, we moved often for my dad's job and staying somewhere more than 3 years was worthy of note. A tendency towards Gypsy wandering was ingrained in me early I suppose. We've certainly had some wonderful times here, but we could have just as easily had them anywhere else so there is no longing for place as I start to pack things away.

I'm sorting through accumulated possessions- to donate, to sell, to pack away and as I pack I came to the realization that really, its just stuff for the most part. As I sealed up a box, I realized that if everything else were to go, this one small box contains all of the material possessions that I can not bear to part with. The monetary value of the contents of this box is probably somewhere around $5. Photographs, press clippings from back in the day, a baby blanket crocheted for my girls by my aunt, a throw made by my great grandmother, recordings from my days as a musician, the greatest writing assignment Maura ever did ( at age 8) and a couple of small lacquer boxes given to me by my best friend. It was a very strange feeling to realize that this one small box contains everything I would want to hold on to. Stranger still to realize that with half of my life over, this small box contains the essence of me, but even if I were to lose this I would be okay. Its the memories I hold that can never be replaced and also, can never be taken away.

 Isn't accumulation of stuff the American way? Perhaps I should take a look at my passport again, just to be sure.

I think what this means on a deeper level is that I am ready. Ready for the next chapter of our life and ready to create something of real value, memories.

So I continue to pack things away. I plan on having it all boxed up save for what we need day to day by the beginning of April. Then it will be time to paint, plant and pretty up the house and put the house on the market. I thought it would be harder to leave it all but truthfully, its not as hard as I was worried it might be. Stuff can be replaced, memories and the people we make them with are what's really important. Yep, I think I am really, really ready.

The writing assignment Maura did at age 8 that I absolutely treasure. It still makes me giggle every time I read it. Its carefully packed into the VIP box because its just too good to get rid of.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

I Was Told There Would Be Beaches And Sunsets.

I never wanted to write a refit blog. What I wanted was a travel blog. A place to write about all the amazing places we were seeing. A place to keep all of those happy memories intact so that we could look back over them in years to come and remember where we had been. The colossal mistakes I made in executing this plan was A: buying a boat to travel on and B: buying a boat with my darling, perfectionist, Type A engineer Captain. Until this fall, a refit blog it is. Le sigh.

Work continues on the front cabin. If you recall, this wasn't going to be on our to do list as we hired a shipwright to do the work. The shipwright was a very charming, affable guy who unfortunately did not possess the necessary skill needed to fit out the cabin to our standards (granted, we KNOW we are picky) nor did he seem interested in doing things in a cost effective manner. Lesson learned. If you want something done right, have Mark do it. Just try not to look too closely at the calendar.

Mark has been finishing out the cabinetry in the front cabin. We had seen a couple of sisterships who removed the cramped, front head to open up the cabin but it seems no one else took the time to or spent the money to improve the functionality by increasing the storage and providing a secure place to sit while underway. We needed more storage, a place to sit to while getting dressed and most of all, a beautiful finish. We are well on our way. The cabinetry work is just about done and soon, very soon it will be time to insulate the cabin roof and install the headliner. Then it will be my turn to have a go at the soft goods to turn the cabin into something worthy of a couple who has lavished care, love, blood, sweat and a whole lot of tears on a little boat.

When you are working with teak, there is a level of anxiety that comes anytime you fire up a power tool or take a planer in hand that you just do not get when working with another wood. Teak is incredibly expensive, a diminishing resource and can behave in unexpected ways. Given this, you can maybe understand why Mark was so very chuffed to have perfectly cut, routed and shaped this piece of molding-

I know, I know. It's a piece of wood and not a sunset on a beach. Sometimes, you have to take the happy where you find it. We were similarly excited about...wood when Mark managed to nail the construction of the fiddle around shelf here.

Sitting on the work bench, it doesn't look like much but once you see it all coming together...

Then you start to think, maybe a refit blog isn't quite so bad after all. Beaches and sunsets are beautiful but you know what? My front cabin is starting to be pretty darned beautiful too.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Plan is a four letter word.

Why yes, I am forced to recycle an old photo. I have not bit the bullet to rebuy my photo software. Having to buy a new laptop was painful enough. Kitty decided that my laptop needed cleaning, a through cleaning to make my "keys sparkly". For the record, Mrs. Meyers will make your smoking laptop smell very lemony. Also for the record, I will never fail to back up my software ever again.

Some people like to make plans. We used to like to make plans. Then we bought a boat and realized plans and boats go together like gravy and strawberry jam.

When ever anyone would ask Mark what his plans were, he would say "I hope to get out of Galveston Bay". He was hesitant to commit to anything more concrete because there seemed to be no end in sight for the refit of the boat. Now that we are making some progress on the check list (we now have a functional toilet. THIS IS BIG!) its time to start thinking about where we want to go with this soon to be sea worthy boat of ours. Mark has left the route planning to me which is great but also a bit daunting. You want bureaucracy and red tape? Start trying to make an itinerary which involves multiple countries, a boat, a crew of varying citizenship/passports and ages and then throw in treaties, Visa requirements, weather patterns, etc and you see why I now have a project to keep me busy for quite some time.

Originally, we thought we would tool around the Caribbean for a bit, then head across the Pacific. Now we are not so sure that this the best route for us. I know its what we are "supposed" to do. A run from the west coast of Mexico to the Marquesas is kind of like a sailing requirement. By looking at other options we know we are going to lose all of our sail cred. Wait a minute. We never had any sail cred so let's drag that map out again...

Mark has always wanted to sail to French Polynesia. Always as in from the time he first learned to sail almost 30 years ago. I am sort of an "okay, let's do it" kind of gal so I always assumed that would be the case. Now, we aren't so certain this is what we want to do. I know a Pacific crossing is de rigeur for cruising boats but we have a couple of reasons to reconsider at this point.

The first reason is that when pressed, Mark admitted his desire to do the South Pacfic has less to do with an interest in anthropology and more to do with the idea of being in an utterly gorgeous tropical location. The crossing would take the better part of a month to make landfall on said gorgeous tropical location. Meanwhile, the Caribbean is definitely happening and while it might not be quite so exotic and doesn't have the tropical mountain majesty of French Polynesia, it does have the advantage of requiring a heck of a lot less time in crossing. Heck of a lot as in you can hit a new island every other day or so.

The second reason? The big draw for a Pacific crossing for me was the lure of India. I have been seriously in love with the culture, art, religions and history of India since I was a little girl. India is my bucket list destination to be sure. I have heard from expat Indian friends over and over that I need to rethink visiting India with a teen aged daughter. The reasons why I need to rethink this are pretty well documented. Just Google "Eve teasing" and you see this is not a silly concern. Its something to seriously consider. I want to go to India more than anything, but this isn't just about me. I have two young daughters to consider and one would be 17 by the time we reach India.The prime target for Eve teasing- young, foreign and female. Everything could be fine but if luck is not on our side, it could be a seriously bad experience for my daughter. Since the area I want most to explore is inland and would require frequent use of public transportation and since public transit is ground zero for some really heinous behavior towards women, ts losing its appeal.

The third reason? After getting to India we would be faced with a whole bunch of suck. Heading through the upper Red Sea area and hoping its a quiet pirate season from the Somalis? Suck. Making it through the Red Sea up to the Suez canal? I am thinking that being on an American flagged vessel in Egypt right now might also be full of suck. The other option is to sail around the Cape and while I would love to see South Africa, the Cape is for serious sailors. That is certainly not me at this point in time. I might consider rounding the Cape after a few years of blue water sailing but today, where I sit just now with 2 young girls its sounding like something better left off the itinerary for now.

So. What are we thinking? Currently we are planning to have a 6 month shakedown in the Caribbean. We will figure out what equipment we really need to add, what changes we need to make to the boat and whether or not we need additional crew for a big passage. We are thinking of then returning to the US during hurricane season to make those changes and adjustments. After that, hopefully an abbreviated run through the upper Caribbean before heading for Bermuda, the Azores, Europe and the Mediterranean.

We are thinking of Europe for a few reasons. First of all, we want Maura to get a good feel for it before she leaves for University. There is a very good likelihood we will go back to work in Europe after our sabbatical and we want her to have a feel for it so she can make an informed decision after University as to whether she wants to live in the US or the UK as an adult. Another reason is that there are opportunities for Mark to pick up some consulting work in the UK or Norway which would help to replenish the coffers a bit. After looking at prices in Europe, this might be more important than any other! Then there is the added bonus of being in close proximity to our family in Scotland. The thought of them being able to just hop over and meet us is a very enticing thought indeed.

So there ya have it. Not really a "plan" but an idea we are seriously looking into and as close to a plan as we can get right now. I am in the midst of not only figuring out routing and weather patterns, but digging into VAT laws and Schengen treaty issues. (So far what I have learned is that the EU really, really loves paperwork and forms) Nothing is written in stone and we are just beginning to really firm up our "ideas" and at this point we refuse to use the P word. Stay tuned...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Some Place In Between....

We did manage a little together time to go for a walk in the woods....

Let me tell you a little secret about life once the cruise count down move to under one year. It is HARD. Not hard in a "oh my there are so many things to do" kind of hard. That can be daunting, but every completed project ticked off the list comes with a satisfying sense of accomplishment. Its not hard in an "oh my we are going to be leaving bay and forth sailing and heading out into the ocean and it kinda freaks me out" way. Anytime I start to feel a little nervous about sailing far from land, I have the assurances of friends who have done it remind me that you are safer far from the coast than closer to it. Being a little nervous and therefore respectful of the power of the ocean is a good thing and that respect is what is going to keep Ceol Mor safely sailing. No, its hard existing in this bizarre half life of waiting.

Mark just finished is official last day of work. He might have a few days of consult work here and there, but the next 10 months or so are going to be dedicated to finishing up projects and getting the boat ready to go. Its more than a little scary to be looking at a year with no income but its part of the plan. I think perhaps it was not the brightest idea to end full time employment the month of Christmas. We do not go crazy at all, but any kind of Christmas is going to be an outlay of cash and now its time to remember fun today means less fun tomorrow. Because Murphy lives in our house, of course this was the month Kitty decided to clean my laptop thoroughly with Mrs Meyers. I will say that Mrs. Meyers makes the smoke pouring forth from a dying laptop smell all lemony fresh. Not exactly a great month for the budget, but we will be okay its just a little nerve racking.

Then there are the kids and this is one of the really tough things. I want them to really enjoy all that land life has to offer them for these last 10 months. With Mark pouring his heart and soul into Ceol Mor and me running kids to and fro, this means we have a lot of "divide and conquer" going on. I keep telling myself that we are counting down to possibly more togetherness than either of us want (ha!) but it can be a little lonely trying to play Mighty Mom Of Suburbia on your own.

Mark gets to feel chuffed when he redoes, say the plumbing on the boat. Anyone who has owned a boat applauds his Herculean efforts on the boat and every project he completes is met with a  "WOW! Awesome work!" from the folks who see his work. Any mom trying to be full on Super Mom knows that no matter how good a job you do, nobody gives you high fives. I know the girls are doing well so that is thanks enough but it does contribute to making this final countdown feel a bit tough at times.The kids are doing great and are engaged, busy and happy but I have this weird 'in flux ' feeling going on. I am not really connected with everything going on in suburbia because we are leaving. Its this really bizarre feeling of being here, but at the same time NOT being here. It is existing some place in between,

Its not a place of sadness. Nor is it a place of disappointment or anxiety. Its just this really strange place to be. In all of the writings I have read, I've never seen anyone discuss how weird it is to be neither here nor there in the last year. In one on one conversation, it seems that EVERYONE has this feeling. They just never talk about it. Not certain exactly why, but there it is.

So we are rolling into 2014. 2014, the year that we will no longer be living in the in between but will be actively cruising. I am looking forward to it more than I can say. Not just because we have been actively pursuing this for over 4 years now but because it will mean that I will be living a little more in the here and now. And that is the whole point of this adventure.