Shrouds, halyards & sheets, oh my!

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Be wary of the man who asks you to wash his boat, especially if it’s bigger than your own because it can only go two ways. sailing blog

You quickly grow to admire his more spacious cockpit, cabin, and his options for heat. You begin to envy his top of the line gear and electronics. You start to think about what a smaller boat lacks rather than it’s advantages.

But if you’re like me you’ll just become even more enamored with your own vessel for her size and simplicity.

Two hours into scrubbing and rinsing I realized I’d only just then finished the starboard side. It was beginning to rain. The GPS and radar were both on as the boat bobbed gently in her slip, and I hadn’t the slightest clue how to turn them off (or really how to use them at all).

While this boat, a Westerly 32, was seriously awesome and outfitted (the owner did a huge refit and pretty much everything from standing and running rigging to the engine is brand spanking new) and could probably take you to exotic destinations just fine, it’s just not the boat for me.

Too beamy, too long, and way too time consuming to clean. The side deck space was so limited I pretty much had to balance on my big toe as I moved astern with the scrub brush.

This boat, awaiting her new owner, hadn’t been washed in a long time. This was probably a major reason for the length of time it took for me to make her sparkle and shine. The more often you wash your boat the less time it will take.

Despite being ten feet shorter, Sookie has wider decks and I don’t have to climb a jungle gym of lines and shrouds to go forward or aft. I can’t imagine trying to reef the mainsail on the Westerly in weather, as I could barely keep my balance at the dock.

Sookie’s interior has so many secret compartments that we could load up a three month’s supply of food or more before she will even begin to sit on her water line. And while we may have to shuffle around each other while standing indoors and use commercial kitchen talk like “behind you!” when one person wants a glass of water and the other is cooking, I find our tiny-home’s interior charming. I like cramming as many friends as possible inside and hearing no complaints into the late hours of the night even though the headroom where they sit in the quarter berths is, err, lacking.

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The igloo looking cabin top on the Westerly does make for a bigger galley, more space to entertain, and yes, the aft cabin is a nice touch (I wouldn’t mind sending Alan in there sometimes)—but anytime I begin to lust after a bigger living space I remember that 22-feet is just the right amount to clean.

“We owned the whole world. So we never thought of her as small.” Lin Pardey on Seraffyn

 

Growing Pains

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Walking barefoot down a desolite beach in Costa Rica golden sand squished between my toes as the morning light warmed my body.  It had been nearly 6 months since I had traded my sandals for a machete, it was a good trade.  Everything I owned in the world fit in a tiny pack on my back.  I was free both mentally and physically but it didn’t start out that way. sailing blog

I was petrified when I landed in San Jose, alone in a foreign place where I didn’t speak the language.   I nearly suffocated that first night in my one man tent, hot and humid, raining harder than I knew was possible.  Bugs, I didn’t know so many could exist, some larger than my hand, I didn’t get any sleep that night or for many after.  I was an alien in a foreign land, my pack heavy and cumbersome pulled my aching shoulders, the blistering hot sun cooked my pale skin, more than anything I wanted to quit, to fly home and sleep in a real bed, eat food I recognized and have real conversations with people I understood.

From day one I started jettisoning things from my pack that previously was sure I couldn’t  live without.  It was a good 2 weeks before almost everything had been bartered or given away including the pack.  As my load lighted so did my mind and spirit.  I was no longer afraid of being robbed, or getting lost, or drinking the water.  I started to understand the language and culture, I was no longer a tourist.  Somewhere down that long lonely stretch of beach I had become a wanderer, at home in my enviornment and as comfortable in my skin as I was in my bare feet.

Late last night I crawled into our v-berth trying not to wake Emily.  I’m still getting used to how deeply she sleeps these days, it wasn’t always this way.  It has taken a solid 10 months for her to get comfortable on this little boat.  Her insomnia was making us both crazy, something you really want to avoid in such a small place during the long dark months of winter.

No longer is she afraid of our stove, or things that go bump in the night.  She is all settled in and found a place for each and every thing she possesses.  To fit aboard she has had to become a mnimalist but now her scant few possessions fit her life like a glove, she has all the necessities from her little string bikini to full expedition weight warmies and crappy but water proof foulies.  From day one I knew she could make that transition but there were many days and nights I think she was ready to throw in the towel.

Sharing our morning coffee with a good friend she is where Emily was a year ago, her boat is huge, but size has nothing to do with it.  Her growing pains are no different than mine were, or Emilys or anybody’s for that matter.  Change is a good thing but scary for all humans.  We all have different visions of what an adventure is but regardless of the size of the challenge it will never be met unless we are willing to suffer through the tiny space in our mind that tells us we can’t do it.  I don’t remember the challenge of learning to tie my shoes or ride a bike or drive a car, they are all as natural to me as breathing.  When I find myself in a situation well beyond my comfort zone I take deep breath, scream at the top of my lungs and ride that wave  for everything it is worth.

I thought that I was retired for the third time in my life but it seems that I am not.  I have found a new challange, it scares me and is as daunting as climbing Mount Everest.  My mind tries to play tricks on me, to tell me I can’t do it.  Its too difficult, there is too much competition, I don’t have what it takes…

Every-time my mind tries to take over I smile and chuckle to myself, this isn’t my first rodeo.

Coconut Telegraph

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The pitter-patter of deck shoes and chirping of happy voices was a great way to start the day.  An extended arm passed us a hot and tasty home made zucchini and banana bread pie that was gone in a matter of minutes.  These kids are awesome I say.

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Marina and Conrad in their very young twentys are doing everything right.  They have blocked a huge chunk of the summer to push North to the Desolation Sound with their beautiful pocket cruiser and we miss them already.  The only thing we could find missing from their finely fitted yacht was a Ukulele for Marina but I’m sure Conrad will find her a good one.

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Charlie and Hailey came and left the pervious day, we seem to run into them everywhere on their beautiful Flicka.  Alaska is their halfway mark and we hope to cross wakes with them many times over the next few months even though our plans are not quite as ambitious. We’ve already made a dozen new friends all heading north.  Emily is putting together a pineapple telegraph to email out every few weeks with everyones locations so we can all keep in touch.

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Captain Emily just took her first solo sail did awesome from the get go.  The wind really started to pick up and we could hear her screams as she zoomed past us again and again.  So life goes on, the scavenger hunt for our last bits of flotsam and jetsam continues and each day we fall a little deeper into the spell. The cruising season is upon us.

From the time we are born to the time we die we are free. That is all we have in this world is time. The value that we put on money, stock, bonds, land and toys is all circumstantial. So we get groomed into chasing the all mighty dollar to be able to enjoy the life we want only to work so much that we forget to live. And by the time we do it would have been too late. In the end don’t live your life looking back saying, “I wish that I had worked more.”

Live your life now. Sometimes “Later” becomes “Never”

Fun-DUH-mentals

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Be careful what you wish for because it might come true. I might be the first person in crowd-funding history to admit this (thought I certainly can’t be the only one who’s felt it) but I’m indebted.

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Not financially in the way one curses their student loans or regrets a purchase that overextended their wallet. No, it’s more of a pressure to succeed—a pressure to deliver print worthy photos and words, and ultimately make a living doing so. It’s a pressure that I’ve not only put on myself but have now involved other people in, which is causing a buildup so fierce it can only be described as one thing: writer’s block.

For the most part I live in a perpetual state of insecurity and fear. Like the little green man that haunts Ed Chigliak when he’s truly onto something as a filmmaker, my unwelcomed intruder has me thinking that I officially have the artist’s temperament but no accompanying art.

Yet somehow despite my vague and unpromising Go Fund Me campaign description, written with little effort on purpose so I could keep the wall up and not be judged as a “writer,” people saw through my attempts at ambiguity.

Raising over half of my goal in nine short days, with most donations from complete strangers, I’m in awe (funny how the old English origin of that word translates to dread, terror…just saying). Actually, I’m completely stupefied as to how these people managed to believe in me, and my abilities as a writer, enough to reach into their pockets and donate their own hard-earned cash.

Now if only I could adopt the generous sentiments of my donors and start to believe in myself.

Seaman

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I said that’s life (that’s life), and as funny as it may seem
Some people get their kicks stompin’ on a dream
But I don’t let it, let it get me down
’cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin’ around.

I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing
Each time I find myself flat on my face
I pick myself up and get back in the race.

That’s life (that’s life), I tell you I can’t deny it
I thought of quitting, baby, but my heart just ain’t gonna buy it. ~Frank Sinatra

Freelance Isn’t Free

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Knee deep in porcelain and rubber gloves, I chuckled to myself. I can’t believe I’m making fifty percent more scrubbing toilets than I was as the island’s only professional journalist. So much for my $50,000 college education!

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Stormy: You’re a great photographer. Why don’t you have a little confidence in yourself, do a gofundme to get some gear and start freelancing?

Emily: I’m scared!

Stormy: Two grand will get you a perfect kit that will last you for the next ten years, get on it!

Emily: Why would complete strangers give me $2000?

Stormy: Don’t expect a free ride in life, put it up for $1000 and put the other half in on your own. You’ll never get anywhere if you’re not personally vested.

Emily: I’ll never raise a thousand dollars.

He takes a one-dollar bill out of his pocket, crumples it up and throws it at me.

Stormy: There’s my life savings, you’re started.

So here I remain on my hands and knees, face in the toilet. I’m both too young and too old for this shit. There’s got to be something else out there.

I’m not asking you to pay my bills, I’m asking for a little help to fund my dream of no longer being chained to a desk, or a toilet .

Click to Donate :)

If you can spare a buck, righteous. If not, perhaps consider sharing this on your facebook.

I know it’s customary to offer something in return for crowd funding. What do I have to give? Nothing really, except an unedited, continuing voyeuristic look into an unorthodox lifestyle, through the lens and written word.

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Click to Donate :)

My name is Stormy and I approve this message.

The Greatest Show On Earth

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Every morning just before sunrise I crawl my lazy butt out of bed take a peek at the morning light and determine if its time to put on a cup of coffee and go light stalking or crawl back into big brown, my super snugly warm and toasty blanket.

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Spring has arrived  here in the Salish Sea we are blessed with the greatest light show on earth.  for the next month or so storms will roll through fast and furious with the beautiful calms that always follow.  Big black low hanging clouds, crystal clear air and if we are truly lucky one or two lightning storms will push through scaring us but also awakening are sleeping souls.

Every spring since I was 21 I have made a point of finding spring nirvana.  Death Valley and the Southwest still top my list but the Pacific Northwest comes a very dear second.  The frogs are awake, the drone of bugs flying about fills the air and the sweet scent of the natural world waking up is as pungent as my strong morning brew.

Our self imposed deadline is in 34 short days away.  There is no destination, no schedule and no time to waste.  My summer will be spent chasing light, writing freelance for National Geographic and a few other top publications that have taught me everything I know about writing, photography and the art of adventure.  Of course for every big story there is a little one and while I prefer to start at the top and compete with the pro’s, Emily wants to write short essays for local papers and continue a journey she started 8 years ago when she joined her college newspaper.  So a perfect team we will make, I will try and capture the big story while she gets the small one.  Its the people we meet  that shape our lives more than what we are actually doing when we meet them.  Emily has created quite a name for herself in the local writing world and has a natural eye for photography even is she is still a student.

Emily has been turning out some pretty excellent results with my old point and shoot but is rapidly outgrowning it so its almost time for her fist DSLR.  I’ve spent the last few months failing at bartering a new camera for her so she is looking into crowd funding and with a little bit of luck she will have a new used camera before we set out.  CHECK IT OUT :)

“A photographer is like a cod, which produces a million eggs in order that one may reach maturity.”
~ George Bernard Shaw

B.O.A.T.

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The acronym B.O.A.T stands for break out another thousand but in our case it should stand for bankruptcy on a trailer.  We are not shipping the boat!  The Caribbean will have to wait but all is good on the hipster  waterfront.

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We had our hearts set on shipping the boat to Florida at the end of summer and sailing south but the math just doesn’t add up so Port Townsend it will be and we are stoked. Like most boaters we have completely blown the budget for our 100 day drift but neither of us could care in the least.  The boat is stocked we have a hand full of charts and no curfew.  Things are getting downright interesting around here and there is so much good going on it feels like we have gone to fantasy camp.  Its almost time to put the lists away and I have fallen into a slow groove.

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Emily’s last day at at work is next week and we are throwing a Pirate bash to celebrate, of course I started early but its just because I’m really excited for her.  Sewing sails, splicing lines lots of naps and sundowners in the jacuzzi is a pretty good way shake the winter tedium.

Kramer goes to a Fantasy camp? His whole life is a fantasy camp! People should plunk down $2,000 to live like him for a week. Do nothing, fall ass backwards in the money, mooch food off your neighbors and have sex without dating; now that’s a fantasy camp. ~George Costanza

The Son Of Man

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No self respecting man, woman, pirate or pirate wench would be caught without their faithful blade.  These are just a smattering of the knifes that have found their way shipboard.  I give knives away often knowing that if I only have one razor sharp edge with me I have the tool for every job.

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When I was 5 years old I lived a stones throw from the trail head at the very top of Lake Street in Altadena California.  We were a hippie family, raised our own chickens and farmed our own fruit and vegetables.  My father loved to take us into the woods and teach us how it was our natural home.  I can still remember that cool fall day when he told me if I could walk all the way to the top of the mountain and back without crying or being carried he would buy me my first survival knife.  We met many hikers in those days.  We never hiked, the mountains were our yard so we only walked, climbed and occasionally skipped.

It was a long hard day that seemed to never end but like a pirate ever seeking that elusive treasure their was a bounty waiting for me at the end of the trailhead were I had begun.  The next weekend found me a the local gun shop eyeing all the different shapes and sizes of shiny new knifes.  I settled on a nice 4″ blade with a bone handle and leather sheath.  I thought the lesson being taught was how to climb a mountain but it wasn’t, it was one of many in self sufficiency, respect and caring for my tools.

He taught me that my knife was mine and mine alone to never share it or even let anyone touch it as it was my most important tool.  I cared for and carried  that knife for nearly 20 years before it was stolen.  These days my knife is always firmly attached and I use it about a hundred times a day.

Soon after, he taught me to make fire.  Not by striking a match but by rubbing two sticks together.  Each lesson had its purpose but it had nothing to do with with the tools at hand, the lessons were how to become a man, how to grow to be so self sufficient and that I can survive anywhere with only tow things.

Strung around my neck under my shirt or stealthily lashed in a horizontal carrying position on the back of my belt I know its always there.  Sharp enough to shave my face, light enough that it doesn’t pull my pants down and the perfect fit for my hand.

Like fire, the knife is a symbol of man passed from one generation to the next, of freedom, of choice, of wild.  It doesn’t give me freedom but it represents the one thing about life that we seem so soon to forget.  I was born wild and I fully intend to die that way but not before I have passed the knowledge handed to me.

“…no woman can love a weak man hard enough to make him strong.” ~Unknown

Cosmetic Surgery

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Its been nearly two years now since we have seen the protection of a real marina.  Bumping from one place to the next we easily find semi protected moorage but winter has taken its toll on Sookie so its time for a little cosmetic surgery.

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Its a hard knock life for cursing boats but a little “read a lot” of elbow grease will have them new and shiny ready for another year of bashing around this inland Sea.   It was Captain Leah my first real sailing instructor who taught me that there is no such thing as cosmetic maintenance on a boat, everything is structural.  Oiling our bulwarks  and cover boards gives them a nice piratey look but also protects the soft layers of teak and keeps our bungs sealed so no leaks on this boat.

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Varnish looks snappy and gives a real classic feel to our new teak boomkin and taff-rail but it also protects that wood from a constant assault of dog claws, dropping winch hands, foot traffic, flailing mainsheet blocks and the just plain anarchy that ensues in the cockpit.

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Wax makes our old gel coat shine like a new boat on opening day but also protects the gel coat and fiberglass beneath it.  It also makes cleaning the boat easier and just plan looks pretty at sunset when you can see your refection in it.

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Clean lines last longer as does periodically rinsed anchor chain and annually cleaned and polished standing rigging.  Sookie isn’t just our home, she is also our calling card.  I might bitch and groan every spring when its time to get on my hands and knees and scrub from bow to stern but an almost cold beer at the end of a hard days work  is the perfect excuse to sit back and admire the fruits of our labor.

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Every time I think I want a bigger boat which is often all I have to do is take a look at Sookie and her perfectly maintained simple clean lines.  She is the largest yacht I can afford to maintain not just financially but physically.  Now where did I put that beer?

“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”
― Lao Tzu

Motley Crew

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Four boats quietly sit at the docks gently tugging at their lines.  Each in its own time will set off in a different direction all on their own journey.  While these four boats are as different from one another as their captains and itineraries they all share one thing in common. sailing blog

Ranging in size from 22′ to 47′ each boat is set up with long term voyaging in mind.  Each one is as off the grid as the captain can make it and each one is paid in full.

Sitting in the warm salon a stare up at the Cedar ceiling boards and follow along the lines of the magnificent craftsmanship.  The charts have been pulled out while fingers trace favorite anchorages and unknown obstacles.

The bottle of whiskey is less than half full by now and we all laugh and tease one another for our hair brained way of getting  through life. Where we all fall in line is that we all insist on being 100% debt free, we each work as hard as we can at not having to work.  Chris is Headed North, Kevin just soloed in from Japan, Adam is planning a family expedition and Sookie… well She can only sail where the winds and tide will take her.

Stumbling back to Sookie I try and not wake Emily who is sick and sound a sleep.  I accidentally kick the beer can alarm she has set for me in the cockpit and the silence is broken.  One single candle lights our main cabin with a warm glow and even though I have spent the last several hours in a ship that is as beautiful as any I have ever seen It feels good to be home sung in our tiny cabin, I want for nothing.

Freedom is our bond, the sea our guide and life our heroine.  I was recently reading an article titled buy experiences not things.  The study showed that purchasing things gives us a short term high but rapid wears off leaving us in a post consumer depression while experiences last a lifetime.  I don’t have any answers but the search continues for the golden recipe of minimum investment with maximum return.  I may never figure this one out on my own but I don’t even have to try, their is a worldwide network of rebels showing us the way.

“To find yourself, think for yourself.” ~ Socrates

Living Aboard A Pocket Cruiser

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Box by box, case by case we load up little Sookie.  A 6 month supply of dog food just arrived and our faithful little cutter swallowed everything whole.  A 100 days is all we are stocking for this year and we have a place for everything.

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Two humans and one extra terrestrial dog is the maximum limit for comfortable living aboard a micro ship but we not only do it but love doing it.  Its a constant challenge making this boat as big as she can be given our tiny 5 net ton displacement.

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Our rig is almost as done as she will be this year and it feels good to have pages crossed off the list.  There are still a few missing parts and living on this tiny Island it may be a while before we scrounge them up but minus our finicky outboard Sookie is in fine shape and its finally time to start turning our attention towards making this boat shine again after the long dismal winter.  I’m contemplating robbing our small savings for a new outboard but it just may result in mutiny so each day I pull the cover off our 2005 outboard with its 35 original hours and scratch my head cursing this so called modern convenience.

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For the first time in exactly 4 years since I took stewardship of Sookie she has a proper topping lift and one set of reef lines, no more sailing with our port lights under water.  The second set is ready to go as soon as I find one small padeye and everything has been set up to work with Emily’s tiny elfin hands.

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Our gimablled alcohol stove got kiboshed again due to budget constraints but a good friend made up this beautiful counter to hold our camp stove for one more season giving us back our valuable counter space.   It was designed to be lowered so when the new stove does appear it will turn into a fine catchall for all the food Emily lovingly flings out of our cast iron skilled.  Our galley is nearing perfection,  water tanks will tie her all together but they are far off in our future so we continue to happily use our 2 gallon gravity  tank that sits on the counter.  When Sookie arrived on her trailer she had a bit of road damage and we lost was our beautiful refrigeration system.  Along with removing her propane stove our little home has had two gaping holes in her cabin but by end of year they will both be covered and a good 20% of our shipboard storage will be reclaimed.  We are still using the bilge as a fridge and happy enough with this set up.

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I feel a bit guilty getting to do all the fun work while Emily is out beating the mean streets topping off our cruising kitty but soon enough she will trade in her press badge for  captains hat.  It was less than a year ago that I was so reluctant to open my mind to sharing my life and home with anyone but now that our little world is complete I realize I could never have done it without her.

“It takes two flints to make a fire.”
~ Louisa May Alcott

Island Life 2.0

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Less than two years ago a good friend of mine was over having cocktails on Sookie in a dead calm Marina and yep he was getting seasick.  Last year he moved aboard full time to show his son a better life.

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Today is his one year anniversary living aboard and yes he still gets seasick but now its from the deck of his own ship.  It took him 6 boats and hundreds of miles sailing to find his home but Slappin Halyards has arrived.

Just do it ~Unkown

The Wind Is Angry

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I hear a gust roaring down on us like a freight train, the boat strains, spray lashes at our deck, we lurch and Sookie rights herself ready to shake off the next round.  “I’m scared” Emily chirps from beneath her warm covers.  When I ask her what she is afraid of she doesn’t know, I understand these words as if they are my own.

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We’re at the guest dock fully exposed to the South West, we are not alone.  By morning there will be one boat on the beach, frayed nerves, frayed dock lines and tired souls everywhere from a sleepless night, I slept like a baby.  When the mind goes to sleep the brain turns off all of our senses, as sailors we learn to let our mind hibernate so we can find rest on a fitful night but over the years we develop a 6th sense that tells us exactly what to feel, hear and sense even from a deep slumber like living simultaneously in two worlds.

I love the motion, the sound of the driven rain battling against the oceans spray cleaning my decks and the feel of the sea surging beneath our little floating home. Sookie is an Island but also much more than that.  Pulled by the wind she guides us down watery highways bringing the drawings on our paper charts to reality.  For everything we love about the ocean there is something else to fear but sailors have short memories and soon enough the weather will turn pleasant again and our shore bound expedition will continue.

People sail for many reason, ours are pure and simple; we are treasure hunters.  Our ship, driven by nothing other wind and tide is mighty.  Our crew strong and brave and our wanderlust as powerful as any elixir.  We are bounty hunters, our bounty is a reasonanble life and freedom and everything opposite of the American dream.  There is a new treasure map sitting on my chart table, tracing a route with my finger I have a pretty good idea where our search will resume.  This treasure isn’t buried but right in plain sight, all we have to do is find it.

“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” ― Anonymous

A Failures Guide To Soft Landings

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They say that the eyes are a gateway to the soul. Photography means different things to different people from point and shooters to the pro’s I don’t know a single human being that doesn’t possess a camera.  The eyes may well be the gateway but the photograph is the medium of archival.  The photograph is the only true and indisputable evidence of history that exists in this world.

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The oldest known picture of me is at the age of 4 with my uncles camera strapped around my body, you couldn’t get the thing away from me, we were destined to be together for better or worse.. It would be another 10 years before I would fully understand how complex and simple photography actually is, or maybe thats how long it took me to learn basic math.  

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It was about that time that I was discovering something else that would shape the rest of my life. I wasn’t like everybody else, I had a serious handicap, my eyes were broken and because of this my brain was essentially broken. I have two distinctive brain patters, one learned form my right eye and one learned from my left and they never agree on anything. So I spent the better part of the first 17 years of my life listening to people tell me what I would never be able to achieve. It went something like this, well with your eyesight Alan you will never be able to do…According to my teachers I was a pre failure.

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It was my father who taught me the single most valuable lesson I have ever learned in life when he told me don’t do anything well that you don’t enjoy. From that day foreword my life would be spent focusing on the things I love in life, which all turned out to be my personal strengths and completely ignoring all the things I detest in life which have always been my biggest weaknesses.  You don’t have to be the best at anything is this world, just good enough that there is somebody below you to clean up the mess.

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It was through this process that I learned that my biggest strength is to bear witness to my own life, to document and share the tiny and seemingly insicnificant story of my simply journey.  As a child I was taught by my peers that to be successful you must be the fastest, the strongest, to climb the highest mountain or explore the deepest valley.  Society taught me that I must be the richest and most beautiful person to have the most, earn the most and be the most to be successful.  Life has taught me that all of these things are true but only when compared to myself. It’s who and what I am compared to who I was and where I have come from that makes me successful.  I may never be the best at anything but there is no limit for personal growth no matter who we are.

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To do what you love more anything else in the world on your own terms makes you more powerful than any world leader, more successful than any Fortune 500 company founder and happier than all those people who write the bagillions of books we are suppose to read telling us everything that is inherently wrong with our lives and how to fix them.  All of those above have to answer to a higher power, when you follow your truest passion even if you suck at it the only person you ever have to answer to is yourself.  Its when we cease to compete against, perform for and attempt to please others that we completely remove the ability to fail from our lives.

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So I have this friend who graduated from photography school and did everything they taught him but he couldn’t find success competing against all the others who’s path he was following.  He put down his camera and picked up a hammer and started banging nails.  Time went on and he missed his inner creative so again he picked up his camera but this time he did it under his own terms and only for himself.  Today he is one of the most talented and successful photographers in the world.  Rather than follow someone else’s path and attempt do it better he chose to make his own and let masses follow him.

No man can fail at that which he loves the most.

Making The Break

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When I met Emily I didn’t have to convince her into a sailing life, long term voyaging or cutting the lines and sailing away.  Sitting in the sun like a turtle on a log I was happy as a clam living my days dockside with my old dog.  It was her that had to do the convincing.

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I had my eyes set on Costa Rica and the same life I was living but in a more tropical climate.  I love day sailing and coming back to my plug and endless water.  When we think of blue water voyaging just about any boat will do but not any just set up will do. Sookie needs relatively little to continue in any direction she chooses and our  southerly migrations to the Caribbean is right on track but its not the set up and rig that is the most difficult part, it isn’t spares, charts, backups and emergency equipment, thats all just a few greenbacks away.

The hard part for us is Family and convincing them that we are not completely insane. I come from an educated upper middle class family as does Emily but they are all convinced that the world is flat and we will sail right off the end of it.  For all would be cruisers we reach a point where its no longer someday but a very near reality.  All of our ducks are in a row, our shore side lives far behind us and and our thinking is 100% one dimensional, one year lots of stuff to do, easy peasy Japaneasey.

Sea trails will be shaking out the boat, our selfs and really learning how minimal we can comfortably go.  Our shake down will also be training our families that we are off the grid and can’t simply pick up a phone and call to say hi or instantly respond to texts and emails.  This will be hard on all sides but neither of us would find all of this much fun if we knew our families were sitting white knuckled by the phone waiting for it to ring.  Of all the trials and tribulations we have gone through to get where we are, timing has proved to be the most difficult.  It isn’t cutting the dock lines, that was easy, its cutting the umbilical cord.

“The common man prays, ‘I want a cookie right now!’ And the universe responds, ‘If you’d listen to what I say, tomorrow it will bring you 100 cookies.”

Another Shitty Day In Paradise

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We rode the last of the flood quietly sailing into the large protected bay on the heels of a storm.  The dog is sick, our staysail torn, engine broken again and were almost out of fresh food.  Eyes wide open the two of us couldn’t be more excited to be as close as we have ever been to being completely free, for now at least.

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Its 11;30 Am and I haven’t done a single thing today other than walk and feed the dog and make a hot cup of coffee. Emily is in a sleep coma and Chloe is curled up snoring, after a long sleepless night we are all a bit out of sorts. I should be working on the boat, sewing my sail, looking for a few pickup days of employment or even writing professionallly rather than waste my precious time on the blog.

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I guess thats what writers do, we write.  Without a constantly evolving story we can’t write, get paid, or continue the long slow drift we have come to know as life.  There are times when I almost feel guilty for not lifting more than a single finger in the search for gainful employment.  I say gainful because we make so little writing it almost doesn’t seem to be worthwhile.   Then again we don’t consider writing to be work, for us its not only fun but a way of life that perpetuates our way of life.

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The freedom dance continues and its a constant balancing act.  This week I had to forgo my favorite coffee and buy bulk discount coffee.  It sucks but I have to say shitty coffee in the islands beats grommet coffee in the the city any day.  At either end of the spectrum it all comes with a  price. like everything in life freedom can be negotiated. I haven’t given up my quest for the worlds best coffee, wine and cheese but due to current circumstances for the next few weeks it will be Folger’s, cheap beers and a vegan diet.  So is life in the islands and you won’t hear any complaints from us.

From the log of Sookie March 2015.  Its entirely possible that we have become trapped in the most beautiful place on earth.

The Frugal Mariner

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I want a bigger boat, no I don’t, yes I do, no I don’t…  On the inside cover of my journal I wrote these simple words by Lao Tzu  “Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”   

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Every year I block out 2 weeks for routine maintenance, one in the spring and one in the fall.  I stretch that week into a month not because I have to but because I can.  This slow process gives me time to clean out the cobwebs not only on Sookie but in my brain.  By the time I’m finished I have literally touched, inspected and maintained every inch of her in and out.  Sookie is about as simple in theory as she can be but if you were to deconstruct her on paper you would see that she is highly complex, certainly more complex than  an airplane or spaceship in design.

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Living in a  space the size of a refrigerator box with two adults and a sick dog often makes me wonder if I want a larger boat, I say want because I certainly don’t need one.  I could easily buy a larger boat but time would pass and that too would grow small.  The possibilities for change are endless but the question is do they really add anything to the experience or do they take the experience away by making it all too easy and  comfortable thereby taking the challenge away and inducing cruisers depression, boredom and discontent.

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I borrowed this picture from Liz Clark because to me at least it paints the picture I want.  Not the location necessarily but the freedom to live day to day with little more than the shirt on my back.  Its the frugal mariner that has found the perfect balance in life be-it on a 20′ pocket cruiser or 50′ yacht.  We all have different needs and wants, and just like a new pair of shoes we all seek that perfect fit.  It was Sterling Hayden who wrote some of the truest words I have ever read, The years thunder by… For us it isn’t that we necessarily want a small boat but that we need one because she compliments our lifestyle.  Just like that new pair of shoes may give us blisters in the beginning we wear into them until they are so comfortable that we don’t even know they are there.

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“Three Rules of Life: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” — Albert Einstein

The Moveable Feast

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Saturday morning found me lazy and not wanting to do much more than drill and tap holes in the boom all day.  Emily persisted and by noon we were running across the bay, a warm 8 knot breeze had us steady at 4.8 knots.  We didn’t know it at the time but we won’t be heading back to San Juan anytime soon.

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With a bang the back end of the pickup truck we were riding in slammed open and we both nearly tumbled out onto the hwy at 40mph.  In the dark foggy morning we had been hitchhiking hoping to catch the ferry and reclaim everything we had left at our slip and say goodbye to San Juan for now.

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I can’t say when the decision was made but I suspect it had something to do with the bubbling Jacuzzi and ice cold Samuel Adams we were enjoying as the sun slowly slipped into the Pacific.  I would like to send a very special thank you the the anonymous donor of these beers, we have tried to email you but it keeps bouncing back to us.

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Emily has been experiencing some growing pains but we run a very patient ship and always take it slow and easy.  I remember my first boat when a guy in the marina came over after watching me attempt to dock it.  It’s almost as if you have never done this before, he said to me.  I smiled back and replied, I haven’t.

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So the good ship Sookie has found a new place to call home for a bit while we continue  our attempt at getting paid to do nothing.

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Its amazing how much fun you can have on a  22′ sailboat.  Emily was in her element, sails nice and trim when she said, I wish we never had to go back.  I smiled back at her, well you have your home with you so you don’t.  The world is yours just point her in the direction you want to go.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Rocna Vulcan

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The very first night I used my new Rocna Anchor we got hit with 30 knots sustained winds gusting much higher.  The weather guessers had called for a 10 knot breeze through the night yet there we were anchored 75 yards above a solid rock sea wall pitching like a bucking bronco.  By morning I had coined the term Rocna’d to sleep. Rocna Vulcan

Since that night I have been a kool-aid drinking Rocna convert.  There was a time when anchoring was a pretty big ordeal, now we set it and forget it.  The Salish Sea in summer is about as tame as it gets but we still get a good bit of breeze now and then. I don’t have a single complaint with my anchor, infact I haven’t thought about it once since that first night and we’ve seen some good ones blow through.

rocna anchor review

We expect to spend at least a hundred nights on the hook this year and while shopping for chain I came across the new Vulcan.  If I had to find a fault with our current bower it would be that that big roll bar won’t let us stow the anchor on our roller so we just hook it over the bob stay.  This system isn’t idea but it works.  I love Sookie more than words can tell and would never consider using a new product without years of testing behind it.  Having said that I have so much confidence in Rocna that I have no problem adding a new Vucan.  The 22lb Rocna has always seemed a bit over kill and the new 20lb could be a perfect fit and perfect one more challenge of sailing a small boat, anchor storage.

Our anchor is the single best piece of insurance we carry.  Their are people who think my love for the Rocna is just plain crazy, whats crazy to me is spending a hundred grand on a boat and not having the best damn anchor money can buy to protect not only your boat but your family.

You may not be able to buy happiness but you sure as hell can buy a good nights sleep.

Sheet To Tiller Steering

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Over the years I’ve experienced many scary situations from having a boat fire to  being on a sinking vessel and everything in-between.  While these situations were scary they weren’t inherently dangerous.  If you asked me what the most dangerous situation I have ever experienced at sea was It would be hands down having a tired crew.

Sheet to tiller steering

Self steering tops our list for safety items to add to Sookie.  There are only two known wind vanes that will fit with our boomkin and not completely destroy Lyle Hess’s lovely lines.  One has been out of business for about 20 years and the other costs nearly 10K.  If I had a modern boat I would just slap a Moniter on the back and even add a huge roll bar with solar and wind generator but not on this boat.

I’ve been experimenting with sheet to tiller for years but the cluster fuck of lines all over the cockpit is not only a death trap for Chloe but also for us.  Emily is clumsy and I am not only clumsy but also have some brain malfunction where I regularly lose balance and simply fall over, not exactly a good combination for safety at sea.  If we fail miserably at all other options we will suck it up, go back to work and have a custom vane made but thats will be our last resort, even if it seems the smartest.

We both love the challenges of sailing on a budget, we are fine with crappy coffee, shit wine and eating potatoes and onions for every meal but its times like these when we really start pulling our hair out.  The most difficult task I have ever set about is to simplify my life.

A young woman began preparing a roast of while the man was preparing the vegetables. As they worked, the man noticed that the wife sliced off both ends of the roast. Curious, he asked, “Why did you do that?” “Do what?” “Slice the ends off the roast,” he responded, “Does that make it juicier or something?”
“Well, I don’t really know. Mom always does that when she cooks a roast.” So they called her mother and were amused to hear that she also didn’t know why the ends should be cut off the roast. It turns out it was because “your Grandmother always did that and so I do too.” Of course they called Grandmother and heard a hearty laugh when they asked her “why do we always cut the ends off the roast of beef before cooking it?” After Grandmother got control of her laughter, she exclaimed, “I can’t believe you guys are doing that! The only reason I did that because your Grandfather and I had only one roasting pan and it was too short for a roast big enough to feed us all.” ~Unknown

I’m not exactly a creative person and my shipboard skills could fit in a fortune cookie but we make due.  I have been playing with a new idea that will keep the cockpit mostly clear and might actually work.  When I built the mainsheet set up on Sookie I could have put a Harken traveler with a top of the line mainsheet control system that would have not only made sheet control easier and more precise but it also would have saved a fortune compared to our bronze and teak blocks, so is the joy of traditional sailing craft.  The beauty I am finding much after the fact is that having a double ended mainsheet I can use the windward end to control the tiller.  At least thats what I’m working on.

When I find myself trapped in a box and falling into that old idea that there is only one way to do things I try and remember that there is no point in reinventing the wheel “tiller” she just need fresh set of eyes and a little refining.

Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich…  Bubba ~Forrest Gump

Thinking Outside The Cubicle

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I’m watching my youth slip away right before me eyes. My days are numbered.

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While I thought working for a local newspaper would solidify the fact that I was a writer, it seems to have done just the opposite. I’ve gotten really good at telling other people’s stories, but have completely failed in telling my own.

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Since graduating from college I’d never had a “real job.” While I spent my post graduation days confined to coffee shops writing a thousand cover letters and resumes for different media jobs, a freak encounter landed me as a winemaker’s apprentice. I soon found another path to travel.

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Winemaking was never my true passion, but a way to work for three months and play for six. Outside crushing grapes until midnight there were times I would have killed to be sitting in the warm office of a small newspaper. But now that I have that there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to be outside, hauling pumps and hoses around a concrete cellar to earn a living. Such is life, I suppose. The grass is always greener.

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I was on a straight shot to fulfilling what I call the “metropolitan dream,” where tri-state area kids beat down the doors of any New York City office that will have them. But even during those days of arduous coffee shop inquiries, I knew I was destined for something else. If not something great, at least something interesting. So two years later when I found myself on a yacht delivery crew in the south pacific, I got the first glimpse of what I was destined for.

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We’ve hit the 60 day mark. Spring is slinking in like a beautiful but unattainable mistress—she is not to be trusted. The winter was freakishly mild yet equally miserable and I wonder—could it really be over so soon?

Sailing Sookie together in 20-25 knot gusts, heeled over 30 degrees, rocks on either side of us I felt something that I wouldn’t quite describe as fear—but more as a deep respect, for both the vessel and her captain. It’s that feeling of something greater, something that cannot be controlled but must be finessed.

And I wondered is this not what draws every sailor to the sea? That sublime feeling of absolute beauty and absolute fear? It’s surely something that can’t be found in any office. Or any winery either.

We don’t have a lot of time on this earth! We weren’t meant to spend it this way! Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements!  ~ Office Space

Down Island

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Sitting in the cockpit a million stars stare back at me.  The forrest s alive with a symphony of frogs silenced by the occasional shrieking we still haven’t been able to identify.  The trees are budding, the eagles have returned and spring is rapidly creeping in.

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The increase of traffic on the docks tells us the seasons have changed.  Today is the 4 year anniversary of the day I made a hand shake deal on Sookie without a single penny in my pocket.  I didn’t take delivery until April 2, 2011, the delivery company literally stole the boat but we got her back in relatively good form.  There was nothing wrong with the boat when I purchased her but she was old and tired.

Having a dog in tow makes finding any job nearly impossible, I refuse to leave her locked in the boat, a back yard or anywhere; she is and always has been my constant companion so I knew refitting this boat would go slow.  I made a very conservative 5 year plan, not to make her perfect but to bring her back to her most basic form of glory.  The past 4 years have had their fair share of struggle but every second has been worth it and now we are finally sitting at the edge ready to take the next step.

We have a small handful of charts and keep finding new ones.  There is no plan, no destination, no… Sookie is literally 90% done and we have  few glorious months to get her out for sea trials and to truly learn how much we need and what we can get away without.  Next year will be the last we have to really do her right.  Fort Meyers has wonderful boat yards, riggers, sailmakers everything at our finger tips and will make the best of them but that is a long way off from where we are now.

Sitting on my galley counter is a box filled with fasteners, cotter pins, stray lengths of pre measured lines, all sort of this and that.  My job these days is to complete the puzzle, when the box is empty the next stage of the journey begins.

Sitting bug eyed under fluorescent lights, stifeled by her office environment Emily is ready to snap, every day could be her last but she is holding on well all things considered.  She suffers through knowing full well that this may be the last time she ever has to live in a cubicle.  I feel her pain but I’ve been there.  I also know its a good pain to have, that quiet form of desperation the teaches us that we will do anything to be free.

We might not feel it now but I know we will both miss living on old San Juan.  Today she is just another pit stop to re-filling the kitty but she will always be the place we set off from, together.

“We can’t stop here, this is bat country!”
~ Hunter S. Thompson

Cabin Fever

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In five short days I reach my self imposed cut off for this seasons upgrades.  We can finally say we have survived winter together in a 22′ sailboat without killing each other, it was close.  Mark my words, we will never spend another winter living aboard in northern waters.

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So we have learned to share in each others insanity, forgive and forget all of our short commings and somehow through it all are not only still friends but lovers.  As a team we are growing strong and quickly moving towards becoming a single unit.  We have put our short list away again unfinished and can finally turn our attention towards spring.  Another season using a camp stove, 5 gallon water jugs, candle light, hand steering and using what ever paper charts we are fortunate enough to come across.  Chloe is still going down hill but comfortable and happy, its a constant emotional roller coaster but this little fur ball means the world to us.

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With so few Falmouth Cutters ever built we have had to come up with our own ideas for her rebuild which is quite evident by her painfully slow progress.  On the rare ocassions that we cross one of her sisterships, the camera and tape measure come out and its exciting comparing all the small differences.  While all FC’s we built to the owners spec’s Sookie is one of a kind for better and worse.

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I’m loving our new lifelines and quarter berth cushions and while we are still mid refit Sookie is really starting to feel like a proper yacht.  We learned along time ago that she will never be finished but she is perfect for summer gunk holing in the Salish Sea. I can hear Emily reading this and saying I‘m not the one who is batshit crazy he is!  But we both know the truth about that ;)

Dispute not with her: she is lunatic.”
― William Shakespeare

Bike Friday And Brompton

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Natural power, simplicity and time to smell the roses.  We ask for very little and we get it, unfortunately most people we know don’t get it, us, or our minimalist wanderings.  We have chosen to move slowly and immerse ourselves in every place we visit rather that to just take a passing glimpse.

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Sookie is the best mobile home base we can imagine but we are all to often pulled away from her by a call to explore further inland.  Every fall I buy a new bike and every spring I reluctantly sell it, all available space is at a premium when you live aboard a 22′ sailboat.  We have downsized our mountain backpacks to day packs large enough for simple 24 hour getaways and we are pleased with these small diversions.  Try as we may our little boat is just too small to take our bikes with us, enter Bike Friday and Brompton  In the very near future Sookie will sport two new folding touring bikes finally enabling us to take our most prized posesions our bikes, with us.

These small additions to our lives will open an entirely new world of touring and exploration to the journey and enable us to leave the boat in the Salish Sea when winter creeps in, to explore warmer climates further afield.  They are small and light enough to fit in our aft lazarette and strong and efficient enough to carry our minimalist loads for touring.

I wish I could take credit for this brilliant desicion but it was all Emily spurred by her refusal to let cycling take a backseat in our lives just because we are sailors.  We work harder and harder each day in an attempt to completely sail of the grid and into full time lives as explorers.

I know of no other financial decision more sound than selling your car and replacing it with a bike.  It will save you in the immediate future and add the most most valuable of all commodities in the world, quality of life both mental and physical.

Tens of thousands who could never afford to own, feed and stable a horse, had by this bright invention enjoyed the swiftness of motion which is perhaps the most fascinating feature of material life. ~Frances Willard, How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle

Frog Boiling

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The boiling frog story is a widespread anecdote describing a frog slowly being boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to significant changes that occur gradually.falmouth cutter 22

Call it what you want but we should be shoveling snow at this time of year not out sailing.  Each year winter has been easier and warmer here in the Pacific Northwest, we aren’t complaining.  Like the frog analogy I have been slowly sneaking new experiences into Emily’s quiver.  Her last trip was the windiest she has seen on Sookie even though it was little more than a moderate breeze.  By gradually upping the ante each mile further off shore is nothing more than business as usual.  By the time she loses sight of land she has already forgotten it was ever there.  I have so many friends who have taken their loved ones out for the first time, scared the hell out of them and now sail alone.

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A big puff hit us and we heard something crash inside the boat, we both wondered what we forgot to stow.  It turned out that it was Chloe who fell into a pile of pillows on the cabin sole.  She got the last laugh as my breakfast ended up on her head and soon in her satisfied belly.  A bit later as the wind picked up she fell back into her berth and all was well in her world.  There was a good bit of traffic in the straits and we joined in with the Race around Shaw Island.  There were quite a few annoyed stares from racers when they couldn’t shake our fat little boat but we were careful to stay out of their way and had to de-power the main as not to pass them.

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Back at the dock I asked Emily how she felt out there and her only reply was that the motor scared her.  Every day she is begging to get back out on the water.  By the time she gets to experience her first gale it will be just another day on the water.  It might be sneaky always leaving her a bit hungry but I’ve got her hook, line and sinker, my days of catch and release are over.

“Anyone can be a fisherman in May.”  ~ Ernest Hemingway

Wild

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Sitting in a paper dress in my doctors office I could tell by the look on his face that it wasn’t good news.  I was told that if I didn’t make drastic and immediate changes in my life my days were numbered.  My stress levels were through the roof back then, I was literally killing myself for money, a lot of it.  I’ve never been afraid of dying but I don’t want to, I choose life.

Wild

After giving them half my blood I changed into my running clothes in my car and ran 18 miles home.  With six months to live I had to choose my days wisely.  I used the run to plan everything I would do before my big dirt nap.  The one thing I wouldn’t even consider was giving up my income, I couldn’t live without it.

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I took a one month leave and set out to get lost for a while, one month turned into two.

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Somewhere in the process of it all I became wild.  Money took a backseat as I found a new drug to replace it, living on the fringe.

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I explored every inch of my soul, and a good bit of the country while I was at it.

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Chloe and I became hermits, the clock was ticking and we had a lot of ground to cover.

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We didn’t have any great expectations we just wanted to squeese every day out of our remaining life.

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Six months came and went.  We bought a little boat and took nearly a year to explore as far south as Mexico and all the way to the Keys and my second year came and went.

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We climbed as many mountains as we could find.

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We lived in a Teepee and bathed ourselves in a frozen river.

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We kept sailing and another year passed.

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We spent a year snowed in, deep in the woods.

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We honed our survival skills and learned to live off the land.

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We squatted in an abandoned clam plant while rebuilding a little sailboat.

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We sailed more and yet another year passed still living every day as my last.

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Ten years has come and gone, I’m still here and I’m still living every day to its fullest.  Its been a wonderful journey with many hard times but also amazing in more ways than I can remember.  Its Valentines day and this journey has finally brought me home.  Home to a place I love, a girl I love and a life I still love living one day at a time.  Every night when I close my eyes I wonder if I will rise to see one more day and every day when I wake I feel blessed for all that is placed in front of me.  I look back on all these years and the ones before them.  I now realize I wasn’t making enough mistakes.  I wasn’t taking enough chances.  I had listened to fools when they told me I couldn’t follow my dreams, live by my heart or realize my truest passion.  If you were only given six months to live what would you do with your last days?  If your not already doing it why not?

If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

The Day We Became Sailors

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My first sialboat a 1969 Seaquest 26 didn’t come with a motor.  I was young and inexperienced, I figured people didn’t use engines on small sailboats.  Through the years I have experimented on all of my boats with engine-less sailing.  If I’ve learned anything through this process its that I’m no Larry Pardey.

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Sookie is coming along well and I’m very pleased with her new lifeline installation, even if it took me seven full days to make it perfect.  The budget called for 3 strand so thats what I used although I did come in short and will need to order another 50′ to complete the rat lines.  Eventually Sookie will sport Dynex lifelines but not this year.

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All the pieces are coming together for a Valentines Day cruise.  I left getting the fickle motor started for last and again the issues that have been plaguing me for two years piped up.  I have a brand new fuel tank and fittings but every time we hook them up the fittings break.  To date I have gotten no more than a single use out of them.  I hate gas and I’m tired of paying a $8.00 tax every time I use the boat so the new tank is GONE!  With one less system to be reliant on the boat just became a bit simpler and safer.  We have a 1.3 liter built in tank that will give us about 30 minutes or so of motoring at 60% throttle at about 4.3 knots in flat water.  I purchased a new one gallon tank to fill it with and think we may add a second for the summer.   If the outboard keeps giving me flack I will huck it off the back of the boat and become a sailor again.

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I don’t know when I became so reliant on a motor but just like moving ashore last winter made me soft, having a semi reliable motor has done the same thing.  I’m seriously missing my Yuloh that warped and thinking of replacing it with a sculling oar which will store much better on the boat.  I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of sailing engine-less but in my crusty old age I also really love having a motor for those oh shit moments, even if its just a 6hp kicker.

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Among all of the challenges we are facing in the day to day re-learning to become engne-less sailors again will be one of them.  The adventure has just gotten a bit bigger and the challenge a bit more serious which also raises the fun meter.  One of my all-time favorite quotes by Larry Pardey when asked how long he will keep sailing.

As Long as its Fun.

An $8000 Piece Of String

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When I purchased Sookie 46 months ago I knew I was getting in over my head.  This little boat had been sailed hard and put away wet.  With a boat like the Falmouth Cutter you can’t just stroll into your local West Marine and expect to find what you need.  Virtually every piece of her rebuild has been fabricated and designed both for her and for us.

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On my extremely limited budget it can and often does feel like it has taken forever.  My choices were finance a perfect boat and be tied to the dock with mortgage payments for 20 years or find a boat I could afford to pay cash for and rebuild her as I go.  I expected a slow process in the beginning but also knew her progress would be exponential.

New quarter berth cushions and lee cloths cost us a fortune but they also represent the fact that we have or are near finishing a major stage of our project.  My philosophy when it comes to boats has been unchanged since my first boat purchase back in the 80’s  My hard and fast rule is pay cash, after that it goes in stages.  First I make it a safe boat, then I make it a comfortable boat then I make it a pretty boat.

Aligning my priorities is often like trying to solve a rubiks cube.  Sookie was home built and while the builder in my opinion came up with the best and safest Falmouth Cutter ever built he also strayed for Lyle Hess’s design a bit including not building a boomkin.  We have a boomkin on the boat now but our boom is 18″ too short to finish the boom gallows which will finish our lifelines, our current main is cut low so it won’t fit with the new gallows.  I have a entire chandlery worth of fittings on the boat but the process is going painfully slow.  In order to add lifelines the way I want them I also need a new boom and a new mainsail which literally will end up costing $8000 to add a piece of string.

Like all projects I have been doing them in stages.  Our new stanchions and bases just arrived so when I finish installing them I will have lifelines from the front end of the cockpit to the bow.  I scored a descent old main sail cut to Lyle’s specs and have most of the parts for the boomkin but Le Feil has gone out of business  so the search for a boom continues.  As each new piece of gear is fabricated and installed it literally doubles our pleasure.  I knew full well this boat would end up costing me 100K from start to finish and take 10-15 years to complete but I also had no doubt that she would well worth the investment.

We have given ourselves till the end of February to finish paying for this years projects then we start saving a few bucks for play time.  The remainder of this years projects will be done as we cruise.  Looking back on my choice to rebuild an old boat I’m pleased with my decision.  Had I chosen to finance one of Sookies sisterships ready to cruise I would still owe 55k on her and have 16 more years of payments.

I’m often asked why I need such fancy boat.  Needs got nothing to do with it.

Poaching In Paradise

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Pedaling down a lonely stretch of dirt road we came across a sign reading private property, no trespassing.  It was one of many we would see as we poached a secret stretch of Old San Juan searching for a hidden beach campground I had almost found last summer.

Topo Designs Klettersack 15

My single speed is virtually silent.  The dry crackling sound of gravel, the smell of a wood burning stove in the woods somewhere, an eagles cry off in the distance.  It could have been any day but today was special, it was Super Bowl Weekend and it seemed as if we were the only two humans on the planet earth.

surly cross check

Curiosity got the better part of us and no mans roadblock would stop us.  We talked about signs, fences and rules in a woods with not a single soul to witness them.

Kona Paddywagon

If we had a map we might have been able to find a better route but once you bring a map and compass the adventure is over.

topo designs klettersack 15

Snacks at an abandoned and derelict beach front home were a welcome break. danger girl

We haven’t seen a single flake of snow this year but today surely must ave been the coldest day of the year.

Topo Designs Klettersack

My trusty Topo designs Klettersack 15 carried our moveable feast powered by our legs and driven by our desire to explore every inch of this place at a snails pace.

topo designs klettersack

Neither of us are good cooks but we are both pros at slicing summer sausage and stacking it on dry bread.

topo designs klettersack 15

Pondering our future I try and figure out how to fit it all in, sailing, bike touring, backpacking and exploring with little more than the clothes on our back.  Emily has turned out to be the best parter in the world and will happily follow me down the path less pedaled.  She makes up the adventures and its my job to bring them to fruition.

“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”
― Nelson Mandela

Falmouth Cutter 22 Honu For Sale

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Ferenc Mate in his book The Worlds Best Sailboats remarked “the Bristol Channel Cutter and the Falmouth Cutter are the most beautiful 28 and 22 foot fibreglass sailboats in the world”. This so exciting, I just got permission to assist with the sale of Honu, she is a 1981 Sam Morse factory finished Falmouth Cutter.  If you have ever dreamed of owning one of these fine ships run don’t walk before this ship sails away.

Falmouth Cutter 22 for sale

She is listed at a very reasonable $59,900. and worth every penny.  Below is a just a sneak peak, a full listing will be up at Boatyard Pirates as soon as I can get a real internet connection.

Running Rigging:
Halyards, save the staysail halyard, replaced in 2007. Sheets replaced in 2007/2008 with the exception of the staysail sheets. Jib roller furler (Harken) installed in June 2011. Roller furler mated to a 110% high clew 6.5 dacron yankee built by North in February 2011. Remaining sail inventory; main with two reef points, stay sail with one reef point, jib topper and drifter all original as of my purchase of the boat in 2005 and all in service- able condition.

Engine:
BMW 7 HP diesel, rebuilt February 2012

Standing Rigging:
New head stay June 2011, uppers replaced 2006, boom and mast and remaining rigger in good shape.

Electronics:
VHF and Autohelm tiller pilot.
Batteries:
Two, one deep cycle, 2010

Ground tackle:
Bruce on bow, danforth on stern, manual windlass, chain rode on bow, chain and line combo on bow , Line on stern.

Other Equipment:
10 amp battery charger, 2 burner stove and oven (propane) new in 2007, Adler Barber refrigeration, 3 bilge pumps, one auto, one large electric, one hand pump, porta potti, 3 fire extinguishers including engine compartment halon, solar panel for battery charging, full awning and mosquito netting.
General condition and other notes:
New bottom June 2011, 3 coats Pettit ultimum 60 ablative, New cutlass bearing June 2011, New Rudder 2008 (7 layers five ply 1/4inch Okume marine ply, epoxied and barrier coated).
Trailer: 2 axle fully braked trailer with extension tongue. Completely disassembled, sand blasted and coated with expoxy shipcoat in 2008. Just serviced and ready to travel. Tires new in 2008.

She, like her big sister the Bristol Channel Cutter, is built by hand and to the same standards only with one less lay‐up on the hull. She carries very similar lines with a shallow full keel that is swept back so it does not disturb the movement of water and will go aground gently. The large sail area and long waterline provide excellent per- formance in both light and heavy airs. Like all Hess boats, this is a remarkably big boat for her length.

For Whom The Bell Tolls

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“There will always be people who say it does not exist because they cannot have it. But I tell you it is true and that you have it and that you are lucky even if you die tomorrow.  “There’s no one thing that’s true. It’s all true.”.  

falmouth cutter 22

My best writing is done in my head, there are no witnesses only the sound of my fingers pecking at my keyboard, perhaps it should stay that way. Its late, not for me but its late.  I poke my head out the companionway for a smoke and a cold chill blows across my face, I pull the hatch door to block the cool breeze and stare at the island behind me. There are several boats anchored out but I can see the high tide mark like a black line painted across the land. The water is low maybe 10 feet down, its quiet out there but in my head a loud voice roars. There is a story in here, one that will be forgotten by morning but right now it feels important. I want to tell it but I’m my only witness so I listen to the key strokes that tell me what I already know. I think about about Hemmingway.  I’m not alone, I’m the just the lone witness…

I’m drowning and nobody can help me. Eyes and ears bare witness but they have no arms to pull me out of they gyre.  Lead feet, tired arms, I want to give in but my mind is there still there, why?

Perhaps I’m just high on red wine but I think about alternate universes and the path I chose vers that path that could have been. Did I know more then than I do now or is it something else? Have I blindly followed my instinct for so many years not knowing where I’m going but just following a feeling? I look down at my old fat and wrinkled fingers stroking the keys, I don’t recognize them but they know my story better than I do so I listen to them hanging on to every word. I want to see where they go, where I go, I want to know my story.

I’ve never really looked at my hands before, they are old, rough and weathered. Covered with scars they are working mans hands, I’ve never been a working man but I listen… they are my story, my history my…

Do I look old? I don’t feel that way but surely these aren’t my hands, my fingers, my scars…  Have I become my father? or my fathers father?  I wonder who I am.  I dare not look in the mirror, I haven’t in twenty or thirty years. Who might I see?  Who is that stranger staring at me? I blow out the candles and continue through the dark. There are three distinct voices now, me, myself and I. I know them all intimately but they are also strangers, or am I the stranger?

To write well one needs more than than the ability to write well.  The story is everything, never ending yet always beginning.  You don’t need to understand my story but its evolving as am I because man cannot live on bread alone.

“There is nothing else than now. There is neither yesterday, certainly, nor is there any tomorrow. How old must you be before you know that? There is only now, and if now is only two days, then two days is your life and everything in it will be in proportion. This is how you live a life in two days. And if you stop complaining and asking for what you never will get, you will have a good life. A good life is not measured by any biblical span.” 

~ Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Good Old Boat

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Today will go down in my personal history book as another day of my life that I will never get back.  Every once in a while I need a day off and today has slipped through my fingers like the sands of time.  Its cold today and Blah out, I have very little motivation beyond the scope of my sketch book.

Lyle Hess 29'6"

My faithful rubber boots and wool sweater sit in the corner waiting in vain.  Emily is working and Chloe fast asleep.  I should be crossing items off my work list but I’m not.  Today I’m playing Hooke from my life of Hookie.  Paper charts, dividers and my lead line.  Hank on sails, oil lamps and wood oars.  I can see my two sided compass from my quarter berth.  My rigging knife hangs from the companionway step right next to one of the many flashlights strategically hung around the boat.  My tide book and binoculars sit in their rack easy to grab from the cockpit, everything has its place.  Our little boat is simple and simple is good.

I’m nesting today, cleaning up our tiny home and getting ready to cook Emily a simple but extravagant feast complete with wine and dark chocolate.  Today like all days revolves around all the small things.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things  ~Oscar Hammerstein

Go Small Go Simple Go Now

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When Lin and Larry Pardey Wrote Go small Go simple Go now, they never said go broke.  Skimming through one of the many Pardey books I own I came across their 1977 monthly budget of $450.00 Today that equals $1750.00, or over three times our pathetic budget.

go small go simple go now

A question: Can you give us some specifics on your voyaging for $500 a month. I’ve done a fair bit, but when I subtract the moorage fee there’s not a lot left to live on. After our moorage bill, there is about $9.17 per day for two people (some of which I have to spend on the boat!). Your islands moorage must be in a similar range to ours in Squalicum. What’s the trick?!

This is a great question and one I’m asked often.  With our complete lack of internet I’m backed up over 150 emails today many of which asking this same question.  The simple answer is we can’t and its almost impossible.  Regardless of your budget rare is the sailor who can live within it.  For us the $500.00 is a simple target and it is representative our choices, Go small, go broke or don’t go.

18 months ago when I cut the dock lines completely pennyless I wasn’t looking to circumnavigate, in fact I had no plans other to simply move on and start a new learning process.  Now a year and a half later I’m still only half done with the boat and less than 30 miles as the crow flys  from where I left but it hasn’t stopped me.  We have visited countless anchorages on a dozen islands.  There have been calms and storms both on the water and off.  What I have learned by setting out broke is that its actually quite easy to make a go of it.  As of today I am 3.5 years into my 5 year plan and right on target but thats a old story.

On Lopez Island I watched a few youtube videos on how to do construction and BS’d my way onto a $25.00 and hour roofing job that kept going when the roofing ended.  I also got to work alongside a top secret Lyle Hess being built and picked up lots of yacht work.  On Orcas Island  I have done everything from cleaning yards to window washing averaging 200 bucks for 6 hours work.  On San Juan island I taught sailing, drove the Cabulance and ran Island tours meeting many amazing people.  I always buy and sell boats and Emily has also had wonderful success finding work so we have learned we can earn and live anywhere but the key is you have to be there to find the sweet jobs.  If we can earn as much as the locals we can live like them.

As far as actual money in and out goes, this year saw many financial crisis’s that were completely out of our hands.  It set us way back but were still out here living as we choose and I can assure you Living on Lopez or any of the other islands is a million miles away from where we started.  With an old doggie we can’t go offshore anyways so we cruise locally which we both actually prefer.  Although we would still both prefer to cruise locally in the Caribbean.   This weekend we will sail all day but anchor less than two miles from where we left on what will be our own private island for the whole weekend.

Budgets budgets budgets… we save 12k which takes very little time or effort between the two of us.  That gives us 3k a year for 4 years.  All we have to do is earn an additional $1500 each per year to make our budget.  When we have bad years like 2014 we just start over.  Last year working and living based out of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island was a dream come true, we could practically feed deer by hand from the back of the boat and pluck eagle feathers out of the sky.

We have boat insurance but only because we are required to.  We don’t have any other debt period.  Right now we live quite well on $900 per month, over half of that cost of living will go away when we leave our little marina, “its costs us $500 for moorage and insurance” and again come back at the end of summer.  We do our best not to buy any packaged foods but its a struggle.  There is nothing on the boat I can’t fix myself and we don’t have many luxuries in life.  Among other things Emily is my best friend.  We find quite a bit of luxury between the two of us rarely needing more in life to happily occupy our time.  Our boat is small but also very simple and fun.  We eat very basic but whole foods and always have at least two drinks with every meal, actually Emily doesn’t drink but I do.  We buy top notch gear and it lasts forever.

We also get lots of free stuff from anchors to charts and everything in-between.  I say free but in reality we work very hard to get the freebees that find their way into our lives.  Someday we may sail off into the sunset but right now we are both quite content drifting about on our meager budget.  Fall will find us in the Thousand Islands and again we will work just enough to play for 6-9 months of the year.  There you have it, the no answer answer that I am so famous for.  While I wouldn’t recommend our lifestyle to anyone I would recommend this lifestyle to anyone interested in recapturing their lives.

Based on my Mr banker calculations we would need an average of $1500 per month to live as extravagantly as we can imagine on simple Sookie, we both expect to hit that budget someday and work hard towards it.  For now potatoes, onions and cheap beer and wine keep us happy, fat and free.

“It costs what you have”. ~Bernard Moitessier

Sailing Naked

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It isn’t about the boat or how far and fast we can sail.  It isn’t about the Islands or the many harbors we have visited.  It isn’t about food nor drink nor any other carnal pleasure.  Its all about the sun, the freedom and the very essence of summer.  The sun, sea, salt caked bodies and the icy cold chill of salt water as we shiver dry once again warm, alive, invigorated.  Vitamin D overload at its best, straight from the source and as pure and natural as the life we breath.

sailing naked

Winter is dead and the sun and the moon sometimes argue over who will tuck me in at night. I’m hungry, my hibernation is over. In 58 short days our sunset will be at 7:08pm giving us more than 12 hours a day of pure golden light.  Spring is coming early this year.  Golden sun kissed bodies, hair as blonde as the balmy winds that caress our bare skin and for all of nature new life is blooming.  Nake butt season is coming

Last night we crossed most of the refit Items off of our list, pushed our departure date up 60 days and made one final list of must haves, for our last season in Washington.  I have started shopping for new Bikinis for Emily and found Mankini for myself for when we need to be modest.  Less clothes, less laundry less hauling water.  Our little floating Island is tugging at her lines, Emily is near her breaking point of being chained to a desk under florescent lights.  I am ready to take my small family north into the Banana belt.  We’ve started tightening our belts, the more self sufficient we become the longer we can play before chasing summer South and East.

The time has come to Clean up little Sookie, burn our winter fat and turn this boat from a live-aboard to a cruising boat.  Saying Goodbye to San Juan’s and the Salish Sea will be hard but a new world is calling us.  Its going to be one hellova going away party.

“Here I came to the very edge
where nothing at all needs saying,
everything is absorbed through weather and the sea,
and the moon swam back,
its rays all silvered,
and time and again the darkness would be broken
by the crash of a wave,
and every day on the balcony of the sea,
wings open, fire is born,
and everything is blue again like morning. ”
~ Pablo Neruda

Sailing Blogs, Bloggers and the Bloggess

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Good people, travel and freedom thats my heroin and I’m addicted.  People often look at addictions as a bad thing but not me, I eat, drink and breath them.  Every night when I crawl into our snug little bunk I get super excited to wake the next day, make a hot cup of joe and see how our lives will unfold.

sailing Blogs

We have been absolutely spoiled rotten Lately.  Our good friend Ken “thanks Ken :)” sent us an entire library of charts and guidebooks for Florida which will be our stepping off point for the world.  We crawl into bed each night and pour over thousands of islands, hundreds of marinas and day dream about the perfect little shipyard for the last major part of Sookies refit, her bottom and rudder.  Between our romantic interludes of crinkling charts and the old familiar smell of new used charts life dances around us like a parade.

falmouth Cutter 22

This little blog has been like a guardian angel for us.  We write and write and wonderful people who read our little journal appear from here there and everywhere.  The gathering was short one dog but we still managed to stuff 6 full grown adults and Chloe into Sookies little cabin.  Our good friends Chris and Miss Daq showed up with a giant platter of Chicken enchiladas and a bottle of wine.  We pulled a few bottles out of our wine locker to add to the mix and when Michael and Susanna from Adventure Freaks showed up with two bottle of rum and a huge bar of chocolate it turned into a party.

falmouth cutter

Michael and Susana by far the most experienced sailors in the group shared stories of Alaska and high adventure.  They described it as the last frontier and told of high paying temp jobs and creative sources to keep the journey going.  Chis is only a few short months from retiring and heading north and Julie our newbie sailorette soaked it all up like a sponge.  The hours passed like seconds and before we knew it the late night turned into early morning as all our new friends slipped into the inky dark of night finding their way back to their little escape pods.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. Dr. Seuss

Instantly we felt alone, the quiet stood still as we tucked in for the night.  Chloe stayed up for a bit after reclaiming her spot to catch up the Florida’s flotsam and jetsum.  If it wasn’t for this little blog we would never be blessed with such encounters.  We work very hard at continuing this simple journey and are rewarded almost daily.  If we had to put a negative on this little life we have created it would be always saying goodbye to all the wonderful people we meet.  We miss them all but live vicariously through their blogs so we can always keep tabs on our new friends.

“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life’.”
― Maya Angelou

Keeping Up With The Joneses

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Our friends are appalled with our lifestyle.  Our families are distraught and everyone we know thinks were bat shit crazy.  Emily’s mother can’t figure out why we deprive ourselves while mine patiently waits for my temporary insanity to end.

The Joneses

It goes something like this with every sailor we have ever known or met. Just insert diesel engine, radar, GPS, life-raft, AIS, E-pirb, water maker, outboard for our dingy, wind generator, solar, pressure water, hot water, reefer, windlass, 15 anchors, insurance, insurance, insurance, wind instruments, depth sounder, knot log, abandon ship kit, digital charts, chart plotter, RDF, Ham radio, single side band, weather fax, chart plotter, heat, head, shower…

Sailor, What do you mean you don’t have refridgeration?

Us, We keep our food in the bilges

Sailor, WTF???

It never ends and while we fight it as best we can the Jones always get us.  Emily was bitching about our new dehumidifier that I swore to her wouldn’t work when WHAM, a lightbulb clicked in.  Do you realize what just happened I asked her?  Those Damn Canadians just cost us 55 bucks!  My best friends just sailed up from Mazatlan with the sole propose of buying us a beer and cooking us a wonderful dinner, which was amazing.  The booze flowed and it didn’t take long for boat shit to come up.  We went back and forth on whether or not dehumidifiers do anything on a boat and while I swore they didn’t they swore they did.  Emily wanted one and while I protested. I figured the best lesson would be to let her figure it out on her own.

And so the story goes, Jones:1, Crew of 2: 0, as we continue to fight an often loosing battle.  We can’t have it all and while we work hard at having enough, who is to say just what that is.  I’m currently writing the minimalists guide to voyaging.  Line one for the voyaging sailor, If I want something and I don’t have it, I don’t need it.

We are human and have needs and wants just like the Joneses do but thats the thing… This is our starting point not the end of it all.  We make do knowing that someday we might actually have an ice box or something to potty in nicer than a bucket but those things are luxuries not necessities.  Given the choice between roller furling or a nice used DLSR to document our travels I’ll take the camera.  My back serves as a great windlass and while I’m not exactly fond of warm beer it beats the shit out of no beer.

Some day I will write the Book Of Emily and all the many reasons why she is so fucking awesome.  For now I feel fortunate for my stunning good looks and Adonis like body that keeps her coming back to pee in my bucket, eat my crappy cooking, and drift about in my spinaker-less boat.

“Sometimes you just have to pee in the sink.”
― Charles Bukowski

That Special Place That Smells Like The Sea

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We arrived back at the boat, it was 17 degrees out and very late.  I cranked our little electric heater knowing it would take hours to get above freezing.  With the sudenness of a broken shoe lace  everything went dark, the silence was deafening.  I knew we only had an hour or so before what little heat we had would be gone.  We had no where to go and there is no way we could survive the cold that night.  I worried about Chloe who can’t walk and Emily who’s blood is as thin as mine.  The clock was ticking.

Falmouth Cutter 22

With a click the crisis ended as quickly as it began and the hum of our little heater soothed the soul.  We woke up in the most comfortable bed known to man, Emily squeaks to life but pulls the covers up snuggles in and closes her eyes.  I’m now wide a wake, coffee is calling my name as I slither out into the new day, and new year, our tiny world feels complete.

I recently made an offer on a Dana 24 that isn’t for sale.  I did this for two reasons, one it has a diesel furnace and two I had a guy begging to buy my boat even though it isn’t for sale.  He declined my offer but promised me first right of refusal.  He told me ten years although we both know it will only be five.  Safe and warm in the boat I stare at the ice crystals forming on my varnish and want to be out sailing.  If I long for anything in this world its heat but I’m patient.  I pull out my ukulele and settle into the salon that we have completely demolished in less than 12 hours, its a disaster and makes me feel at home.

I turn my attention to Emily, I’m the captain but she plays a much more important role, she is chief navigator.  With my failing vision I can no longer read our charts without the aid of a magnifying glass, without each other we are nothing.  She makes messes I clean them.  I try and suck every penny out of our meager savings while she holds on to our small security blanket like a man at the end of his rope.  She cooks and I clean or vice versa.  If I am her right hand then she is my left.  Each day she learns a new skill and while I have many to teach her I need to continue learning myself.  We are safe and secure in the harbor but like a ship we are meant for the sea.

We drive people crazy when they ask us our plans and we tell them we have none.  We are working hard at something but only the weather knows what.  I stare at the pale blue sky and see hints of amber, the days each a few minutes longer; summer is coming.  There is a cut off date but neither of us knows it.  The Carribean is in our very near future not our present which is where all eyes are focused.

“In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Twas the night before Christmas

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“Twas the night before Christmas, living on our boat
A lifetime of dreaming, we’re finally afloat.
We rebuilt her for three years with care,
With dreams of Mexico, soon we’ll be there.

Small boat galley

Chloe was nestled all snug in her bed.                                                          While visions of doggie treats danced in her head.                                      While she is her warmies and I in my cap.                                                     Safe in our slip for a long winters nap.

When out on the deck there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the berth to see what was the matter.
the boat swayed and danced in the chop,
the halyards slapping at our mast top.

The wind driven snow lashed at our deck
I climbed out the hatch to put things in check.                                        Slipping and sliding I climbed to the mast,                                           Tightened all the halyards, quiet at last.

I climbed back below,                                                                                          to our warm glowing cabin,
The kettle whistled, the time had come,
for Christmas cookies and hot buttered rum.

Our tiny home was warm and dry
I peered out the porthole and stared at the sky
I heard a whisper and felt a warm tug,
Its our first Christmas afloat she said with a hug.

We snuggled in our bunk and talked of warm beaches.                                      Of sailing around on perfect broad reaches.                                                      Of all the things we would do and places to see.                                             Soon our little home would be out at sea.

South till the butter melts then turn right.
The South Pacific what a wonderful sight.
Tonga, Fiji, and Vanuatu
The Solomon Islands then Nauru.

Downhill with wind at our backs.
We’ll follow the sun and never look back.
What a wonderful dream, soon it will be.
A whole new life out on the sea.

We talked and laughed till late in the night.
Our boat might be small but everything’s right.
Dreaming and scheming about taking flight.
Till the sandamn came and took us away.

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Minimalist Travel

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I wake with the morning sun and lay my head on my pillow at the end of the day when I feel tired.  There are no schedules, routines, meetings or any other diversions.  My life is my own.  Living such a simple life might seem desirable and it is but even I need the occasional diversion from nirvana.  When I start to feel trapped by all that I love and desire I take mental vacation.

topo designs klettersack

There is a growing movement towards simplicity and the simple life.  The one hundred things challenge is an interesting one but I could put those people to shame with my 20 things travel pack.

1, Day pack

2, Ukulele

3, camera

4, Moleskini Journal

5, writing utensil

6/7, 2 shirts

8,  manpris

9, Uberlight running shoes

10/11, light weight warmie and water resistant wind shirt

moleskine travel journal

12, running shorts

13/14/15 tooth brush, toothpaste, floss

16, passport

17, reading glasses

18, small knife

19, sarong

20, open mind; anything else I can build, make or find laying around when I get there.

Thats it for extended travel.  I can always buy a wool blanket or sweater if it gets cold.  For an open-ended world journey I might add one or two more items but not much.  I may actually take less so I can acquire the necessities as I roam.

When ever I get bored or lonely I’ll pull out my Klettersack and pack for a future vagabond expedition.  Should a bout of insomnia creep up on me I will lay in bed, eyes closed and mentally pack my sack, it puts me to sleep instantly.  It isn’t always necessary to escape the mundane but knowing you can in a moments notice makes all the difference in the world.

I’m deep in the throws of packing right now but this journey isn’t imagined.  Its as real as the moon and stars and has already started.

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Making Her Bluewater Ready

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I woke up in a cold sweat, immediately sprung up in my bunk hitting my head on the under deck locker with a thud and fell back into my pillow laughing. A ships horn in the harbor had me half a sleep being run down by a tanker in the inky black of night.  I know the time is near because these dreams are happening more frequently.

DSC_8657Self steering for sailing craft

Miracles happen every day, for the man with eyes wide open they just seem to happen more often.  If it weren’t for a chance meeting with a half homeless ragamuffin drifter I wouldn’t be having these nightmares and like everything in my life I am thankful for her.

Our short list of blue water necessities is long but shorter than its ever been.  We need a new boom, sails, lifelines, boom gallows to hold them and some form of self steering.  Pintles and gudgeons top the list followed by a good light wind sail and a bit more ground tackle. A stove and water tank would be nice but not a necessity.   We bounce from project to project as time and budget permit but it isn’t the gear so much as the crew.  Every day new lessons are taught and learned and Emily has jumped in feet first.  I could throw her in and see if she can swim but I have learned the errors of that method the hard way.  Its baby steps that keep her coming back for more.  Every day a is new opportunity to set the sails and take her just a bit further into the deep end.

It seemed like winter would never end, but now spring is on our doorstep.  So much to do with so little time.  The last few months have been spent sorting through every piece of gear on Sookie from old dock lines and fenders to our foul weather wardrobe.  A massive cleansing of the old and useless has taken place making room for the bits of this and that that make life on a 22′ boat comfy and delightful.  We have been dropping piles and piles of stuff in the free bin and just like that a miracle fell into our hands.  An old moldy and damp copy of self steering for sailing craft has made its way into our lives.

For the budget voyager, if your not a MacGyver you won’t make it far.  We have found an old self steering wind vane. While we patiently try and convince the owner that we need it on our boat as much as he needs a bit more space in his garage we have turned our sights on a backup plan.  Maybe we will have to make one or live with sheet to tiller steering, who knows.  Each day one more piece of the puzzle is fitting into place.  We can see the big picture but all these scraggly little pieces have to be carefully put into place before we can frame it.

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
~Winston S. Churchill

The Morning After

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As plans began to solidify for shipping the boat to Florida, our homeport began to seem all the more beautiful. When fate decided we would stay, for now, all hell broke loose on majesty’s Richter scale.

Katie

I poked my head out of the hatch and on the empty slip next to us stood a lean heron, all leggy and dinosaur like, catching some fish for breakfast.

As I walked to the shower in the light drizzle, the industrial crane being used to rebuild the marina stood tall above hundreds of masts. Pretty boats seemed everywhere. Tightly secured in their berths, patiently awaiting spring’s reprieve.

Town stood staunchly on the hill overlooking the marina. I felt grateful for it’s quaintness and inherent safeness, for our short walking distance to the grocery store, and our favorite bar.

Daydreaming all the way to the showers I arrive to an empty room, heat blowing fiercely out of the vents. When it was summer, the mirrors were lined with ladies blow drying their hair and applying makeup. No one seemed to walk around naked, so I brought my clothes into the stall as well.

With no one there I can lay my clean clothes out on the bench, undress in peace and look at myself in the mirror without shame. Am I getting too fat? Nah, just that extra layer of winter warmth.

I treat myself to two extra minutes in the shower, which each cost .25 cents. Now that we don’t have to sell everything and move across country, such luxuries are affordable.

Walking back to Sookie the rain has began to fall steadily. I see two eagles above the trees across the harbor. Jumping into the cockpit I grab the binoculars, just in time before they disappear into the forest.

A duck lands on the water like a floatplane, it’s webbed feet like pontoons, wings steady…I guess she didn’t fly south for the winter either.

Of Mice And Men

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The evil spell has finally been broken.  We woke this morning to yet another gale but this one is different.  Well rested and at peace we have survived the worst of it.  The calendar might call December 21st the beginning of winter but we know better.  The growing days have started and won’t stop till we have a full 18 hours of beautiful golden sunlight.

Of mice and men

We all have a special talent.  If you ask me, mine would be failure.  I have achieved failure more often and consistently than any person I have ever met or read about.  It may be that I’m just not good at anything or maybe its that I’m always ready and willing to take big chances as often as I need to find my way.

pocket cruiser gslley

Regardless of our outcome its a win win situation.  We were so pumped to land in Florida and  very slowly work our way south ending in the A,B,C, Islands for Hurricane season.  We had all our ducks in a row but one and it was the straw that broke the camels back.  We haven’t given up on endless summer but it has been pushed back till the next opportunity which we both know is right around the corner.

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We both woke with a new perspective on our situation and while the whirlwind of moving the boat half way around the world on a moments notice was fun and exciting it was also a bit stressful and exhausting.  We have landed back on earth and all is right in our world.

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. ~Robert Burns

Pissing Into The Wind

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It took little more than one miserable, cold and wet induced temper tantrum to change the entire course of our existence.  Once the universe got hold of our plans everything started falling into place.  Wait for us Caribbean, here we come.

Falmouth Cutter

Several years ago on my way to Alaska I stopped for 5 minutes in Bellingham Washington, a town I had never heard of before that day. Before the sun set I had spent every penny I had on a sailboat one month before winter hit and the rest was history.

Were scratching our heads, rubbing two nickels together and trying to figure out how we can possibly afford to ship Sookie 3500 miles to the south coast of the west coast of the east coast of America.

I think getting the boat there is almost within our reach but getting two of us and the dog might be a stretch.  6 months ago before Chloe got sick we would have just hitchhiked and we still may.  We don’t know a single thing about Pensacola Florida other than thats where a very generous Shipper has an empty trailer headed.

If you want a real adventure sell everything you own to pay for a reduced rate to ship your boat across the country.  Hitchhike in winter for 3500 miles.  Arrive in a strange and foreign land, penniless and yes still in the middle of winter.  Add in a few alligators and hurricanes to the scary mix, shake well and you have what we are staring down the barrel of.  If only I had something to write about.

“The journey is the destination.”
― Dan Eldon

Voyaging On $500 Per Month

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!8 months ago I cut the dock lines without a single penny to my name.  I had enough charts to cover a small portion of the Salish Sea and a few months of provisions.  I didn’t know where I was headed or how I would survive but it didn’t matter, I chose life.

Private Beach

Looking back it seems like a lifetime ago but feels like it was just yesterday.  Hundreds of setting suns, storms and calms both in life and on the water.  Slow days, fast days, days I can’t remember and days I’ll never forget.  Sailors come and go but new friendships made in the Islands will last forever.  This body of water has become my home, her mood swings guide my life. I could spend a thousand years exploring her endless coastlines but the time to move on is near.

It never gets any easier but it does become routine.  Family affairs, work, money, boat maintenance, like the seasons, life’s little challenges come and go.  It’s all a constant but also manageable.  I have no cell phone or internet.  My tide book is my calander and my pocket my bank account.  Today I have cream in my coffee so it must be a good week or maybe I’m just being a bit careless with the budget.

When you come from nothing, something seems pretty wonderful.  I started outlining a new writing project today but its roots stem back nearly 30 years.  You can’t voyage forever on nothing but you can get out and live and when its time to swallow the anchor for a few weeks or months you do it knowing its only a matter of time before you pull the anchor and set off again free as a bird.  Today we are holding on to this chapter of our lives as hard as we can but as it slips through our fingers like the sands of time we know change is coming.  The barometer will eventually bottom out and start climbing and when it does we will slip the lines for the hundredth time and drift off with little more than each other an and an unquenchable thirst for life.  It isn’t just another year coming to and end but another decade.  Where does the time go…

From the Log of Sookie, December 2014 San Juan Island~ All our ducks are in a row, Sookie waits patently tugging at her dock lines.  I can’t help but to wonder where we will be floating at this time next year or even next week.

Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner

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We are experiencing a changing of the guard so to speak.  While I have settled a little now its Emily’s turn to go batshit crazy.  She wants out and she wants out now.  Her job is suffocating her and coming home to the same place every day is proving to be more than my little wandering hippie can take.

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The storms have slowed their pace and now tis the calms haunting us.  We have both agreed to be on the water every second we can to fight the winter blues but with our opposite schedules and painfully short days this is easier said than done.

Falmouth Cutter 22

Drifting through a sea of despair Emily has started looking for a shipper to take us somewhere warm TODAY!  The cold has gone but the condensation literally has our cabin sole buckling and our ceiling boards are warping faster than our minds.

Falmouth Cutter

We fight winter and as usual its one step foreword two steps back.  Ventura is still number one on our list but its actually cheaper to ship to Florida and just a quick hop across the Gulf Stream to Paradise.

Falmouth Cutter

We want to swim and prefer to do it somewhere where we can see the bottom.  I don’t know where this temporary insanity will find us next week but the wheels are in motion.

 

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again  and expecting different results.  Albert Einstein

Go Big Or Go Home

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I’ve never once wished for a larger boat while out sailing and voyaging but living aboard at the dock in winter is an entirely different thing.  I should be writing, or working on the boat or… but I’m not, I’m surfing the web for my dream 50’er.

pocket cruiser

The Crealock 31 is the largest boat in the small boat spectrum I would ever consider owning.  It also happens to be the smallest boat in the large boat spectrum I would ever consider owning.  There must be something very special about that boat to be dead center of all boats that I love.  Or is it simply the most mundane of choices when it comes to extremes both large or small.

I have officially started my annual winter descent into madness.  If I can just hold out 10 more days I may survive but its going to be a long 10 days.  Emily thinks my brain is starved for oxygen from my 8 day beer and pop tart diet but now 4 days off the blueberry delight I find myself well beyond the withdrawal symptomms and feeling as normal as a person can who has been locked in a small box for the better part of 60 days and nights.

I have two jobs, my real job is as doggie nurse and caretaker but I have also been moonlighting as an unpaid intern for myself.  Cabin fever is at its extreme but the weather has been fun and exciting keeping me on my toes as 50 mph squalls roll through almost twice daily.  As I sit here waiting for the next blow to attack, my mind turns towards serveral larger boats that I am seriously considering purchasing despite Emily’s best efforts.

I recently got to sail a very large new Nauticat and fell in love.  Pilot houses, diesel stoves and enough space to have every person I know aboard sounds delicious.  A huge square bed would put an end to our nightly kicking wars for that prime real-estate where our bed goes to a tiny point.  Why not make it an aft centerline berth so Emily doesn’t have to steamroller over me every 5 minutes all night long for emergency midnight potty breaks.  We could carry not only a real dingy on deck but would also have room for a real life-raft and maybe a few kayaks.  I dream of an 80 HP 4 cylinder inboard diesel engine so quiet you never need to shut it off and a cruising chute with a foot print the size of a mansion pulling us along in the light zephyrs of summer that I miss so much.

The thing about losing your mind, I’m talking put me in a straight jacket and lock me in a padded room nuts is that you never see it coming.  It feels totally normal despite the fact that the ones closest too you see it and feel it coming.  Despite their most dedicated efforts nobody can help you, you need to hit rock bottom before you can start your climb back to the top and see the light.  A good friend once told me, you can’t dig your way out of a hole, if you have dug yourself in stop digging.  Say what you want but it just may be too late.  By a week from tomorrow I may be laying my head in my new Crealock, falling asleep to the muted hum of my diesel furnace and enjoying ice cold beers from her reefer and fresh hot and gooey chocolate chip cookies from her full size oven.  I’m not teetering over the edge, I’m shooting the falls.

“THE EDGE, there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”

~Hunter S. Thompson

She’s Only Half Right.

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Three and a half years ago standing in an obscure storage area deep in the bowels of The Port Of Los Angeles I made a hand shake deal on I boat I didn’t have the money to pay for.  I couldn’t afford to ship her home, let alone to a complete refit on the then 27 year old boat.

falmaouth cutter 22

In hindsight I should of moved myself to Southern California with its 340 days a year of golden sunshine, dry weather endless summer.  I brought the boat to Washington because of the access I had to good do-it yourself boat yards, reasonable long term storage rates and of course the best sailing the world has to offer.  Unfortunately for us little guys the days of the do-it yourself boatyards are coming to an end.

Falmouth Cutter 22

As much as we bitch about the weather around here winters in the Salish are pretty wonderful and short enough that we can sail a full 9 months of the year in reasonable comfort.  We had hoped to hang the boat in Port Townsend for the winter of 2015 to dry her hull out while we stomped around the tropics looking for winter employment to build our kitty for the last and worst part of our refit.  Sookie needs a new barrier coat,  and her 30 year old stainless steel pintles and gudgeons are begging to be replaced along with her original cockpit thru hulls.  We also want to fill in her prop cut out.  This is an easy 6 months on the hard, six winter months would be ideal.

falmouth cutter 22

We’ve been hearing rumors for quite some time but it seems 2015 will be the year dragon so to speak.  If the rumors are true we won’t be able to afford to leave the boat in Port Port Townsend nor will we be allowed to do our own work so our eyes are looking south.  For us its a damned if you do and damned if you don’t.  We are both really excited about sailing south down the west coast but not until we have our steering system rebuilt.  We have found only one yard in California where we can afford long term rates so Ventura may become or home for next winter.  If Southern California fails it will be straight to Mexico, back on the hard and finally the last major piece to this puzzle will be complete.

Falmouth Cutter 22

Neither of us are ready to leave these beautiful waters but both of us desperately want year round sailing and  prefer to live off the hook rather than the dock.  So our calendar has three big red question marks on it.  One on July 1st, one on September 1st and one on October 1st. Only time will tell how and when we set off to start the next phase of our refit but we both are ok with a half fished boat carrying us from boatyard to boatyard in search of endless summer and crystal clear waters.

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Our search for a wind vane continues.  The constant fight with condensation and mold continues.  Winter storms are stacked one on top of the other, but this system is almost warm and balmy and a full 40 degrees warmer than the last, summer is coming and life is good.

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” ~ John Steinbeck

When The Cats Away The Mice Will Play

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Emily has flown the coop leaving me to my own devices for 7 straight days now.  I haven’t showered once since she left, have been sleeping less than 4 hours a day and have been living off of pop tarts and beers.  I’ve  literarily torn the entire boat apart on a risky but daring mold hunt.  Now I have less than 24 hours to put it all back together before she comes home.

living in the boatyard

She is actually only a block away, her mom came to visit and the two of them have been out doing whatever it is that little girls do when they get together.  Her parents have adopted an ostrich strategy when it comes to our relationship.  Their heads are buried deep in the sand completely ignoring the fact that I exist.  While I don’t blame them for their issues with our age difference I simply don’t let it or them get to me.  There is an old saying no man can serve two masters.  I learned a very long time ago to live by life by my rules regardless of what others think, life is just too short.

I have been playing my own ostrich game  when it comes to our now 30 year old stainless steel pintles and gudgeons.  They are the bane of my existence, nothing would make me feel like a bigger douche than to loose my rudder.  While it may seem like a little fix its not.  Having custom hardwear fabricated is relatively easy and almost affordable but there is more too it.  When I replace them I also want to fill the prop aperture cut out and replace my now aging barrier coat.  Sookie doesn’t have a single zit or void on her hull and before we take her into warmer water this needs to be attended to.  Sure we could haul out for the summer dry and strip the hull and be on our way but neither of us is willing to forgo summer in the San Juan’s.  We discussed sailing all summer then shipping the boat somewhere warm to do the work but shipping would kill our yard budget.  The beauty of stainless steel is that it rots from the inside out so while they look nice and shiny on the outside they could be completely effed on the inside.  Its a good thing we love this area so much because at the rate we are going on our refit we will be sailing these waters for quite some time.  I’ve been banging on my calculator all day.  When ever I put together a project I make an estimate double it then add 50%.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Benjamin Franklyn

The Perfect Storm

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Within minutes of my divorce becoming final I called my title agent and told her to push the button on Sookie.  She was a gift to myself and to new beginnings, a new life and a new adventure.  Deep down I knew I wouldn’t be making any far off voyages in the near future with my aging dog but I needed a life raft and a therapist and this little old boat seemed to be the perfect diversion from me.

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As much as I hated the thought of going it alone deep down It made sense.  Relationships came and went and with each one I turned closer and closer to a life as a solo sailor and began to embrace it.  By early spring I had cut the dock lines of life completely and headed towards my new existence of a solo life and was quite happy to stay that way.  I had taken myself off the market and was completely embracing my oneness.

sailing singles

Like a perfect storm all the elements came together and Hurricane Emily knocked me flat on my ass.  I pushed her away as hard as I could, not because she wasn’t awesome but because I had become quite accustomed to being the most irresponsible person on the planet earth.  I didn’t have to answer to anybody and I was loving it.  My life had no bounds, no schedules and not pre conceived notions of future, the present moment in time was all I could see and all I needed.  There is something very powerful about a man and his dog.

sailing dog

Having not a care in the world also meant I could live my life by my own terms and take what ever risks I felt reasonable and nobody could fault me for living true to my own nature.  Those days are gone and now there are two souls on this boat to contend with but it isn’t just the two souls on the boat that matter, there are is a very long line of family members on her side who I am now responsible for and with this unexpected new family comes unexpected responsibility.  I have always attended the school of self reliance and that means If I’m foolish enough to find myself in trouble out on the big blue I damn well be capable of undoing what ever fool hardy mess I have gotten myself into.  I have never once considered a life raft or EPIRB but now that Emily’s name sits inked into my log book I’m changing the way I think.  Sookie is as safe as any boat on the high sea’s and that has always been fine for me. Sookie is my life-raft, from the sea, the nations massively failing economy and the complete insanity of the world.  She is my master and servant, home, insurance policy, savings account, and escape pod all rolled into one.

Montgomery 6'8"

My new Montgomery 6’8″ hard dingy was meant to be my last ditch effort at staying afloat but no amount of trying would find her a way to safely mount on the deck of Sookie.  I studyied every dingy known to man and came up with a total Loss and here is where the traditional sailor in me turns an eye towards the future.  If you see the name Switlik appearing around here in the near future its because I’m hoping to find a way to add her as a new crew member in the very near future.  They say the spots on a leopard never change.  I’m not a leopard, I’m a sailor and now you might say a modern traditionalist.

May you live in interesting times.  ~Chinese proverb, curse

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