Building a better Brompton

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I was up early and ready for my sea to summit ride.  I packed water and a few snacks in my light day pack.  Adding a sweat shirt while sweltering in the tropical stink seemed un natural but I knew all to well that it snows in Hawaii and was unsure of what weather I would get.  As long as I kept moving my body heat would keep me safe.  Of corse every journey I’ve ever taken has thrown me for a loop and freezing rain was one of today’s many lessons learned.  I didn’t make the summit of Mt Haleakala but the ride in general was a success. My little Brompton, was straight out of the box and pure riding perfection.

A year later I had learned quite a bit about touring on these marvelous bikes.  That’s the thing about bicycle touring, you have all day to contemplate things.  I consider my stock Brompty to be the best of the best but the titanium model keeps calling to me.  With this upgrade and if I lose the rack I can drop almost 5 lbs.  nothing else will change, the six speed with 12% gear reduction is perfect for my body.  I love the fit and feel of my two 16″ wheels and love the people I meet on my “clown bike” as it’s often referred to.

My tent order has failed twice and I’m beginning to think this is the universes was of telling me to cowboy camp, with a small emergency tarp and ground cloth. My end game is fully self supported touring with just my Brompton T bag but for now the Relevate Designs Pika will be joining me.  It’s absolute perfection on the trail but in transitioning from bike to public transportation it’s one too many things to carry.

Today I’m taking a break from Sookie to give Brompty a little loving and lashing care, after a bombing ride that is.  I have to mentally prepare for tomorrow, were drilling 8 holes in Sookies deck, the $10,000.00 piece of string continues.

Size doesn’t matter

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To begin” implies “to search for some kind of ending” – Lin Pardey.  I’m  knee deep into spring cleaning for my upcoming marine survey.  I’m continually shocked at how much I can cram into this little ship, everything is out of eye sight and has its place. I’ve never actually loaded her to her LWL but I’m sure someday I will.  My dream is for an empty BCC to pull up next to me and see if it can pile away all my stuff, I doubt it can.  I fear my grog alone would be a challenge.

Storage on Sookie is everywhere, under her berths all lockers are beneath the water line and it’s easy to distribute her weight, I usually have a minimum of 1,000 lbs of moveable ballast in the form of water, booze, books, beans and…I tribute this to serveral key factors, the biggest one is that Lyle Hess intentionally designed the boat to be 700lbs light in the lead department. She also has lockers under her deck completely surrounding the boat with the exception of her anchor locker.  This is where I store clothes and Chips and toilet paper, anything light. Lastly here is the garage, it’s far too large, I have my ships batteries wedged in under the aft end of the cockpit and a few other heavy items like fastener boxes and huge barrels of all things stainless steel. She is like Felix’s magic bag of tricks, I can reach in and pull anything out.

It’s not so much that she is some kind of giant monster, she just doesn’t have all the things most people need that take so much space.  I’m pretty sure she will swallow everything from a Flcka 20, Dana 24 and Nor’sea 27 combined. When the apocalypse hits come find me, we’ll be fine ;).  It is a bit of a puzzle, my bike goes where the engine should be.  My backpacking and cycle touring gear tuck into that spot designated for the head right next to a hundred paper charts and my foulies. And my two moonshine smuggling lockers are, well… that’s none of your damn business.

Unlike a fin keel where the weight starts at the keel joint and extends to the bottom of the keel, all of Sookies ballast is in the very bottom.  I don’t know if this has anything to do with her motion but I am continually shocked by her pleasant ride.  When the shit hits the fan I’m always waiting for it but it never comes.  Sookie handles like a lady… UM except for the death rolls which absolutely suck ass but a bigger sail budget could help in that department.

Still, she is a light boat that only displaces 7400 lbs full. There are three schools of thought. People that have never sailed them believe they are some golden chariot based off of all the hype and sensationalism they have read.  Then there are the true blue water sailors who think they are cute coastal cruisers.  There is a third opionion, those of people who have owned and sailed them thousands of miles, we tend to be the maniacs.  By design she was intended for blue water cruising and while I’ve never crossed an ocean in her I wouldn’t hesitate if that was my choice.  For me she is the perfect gunkholer but even more importantly has proven the be a delightful writers lair which is what most of her time is spent as.  Small enough to tuck in anywhere but large enough to point her nose out when all the big boats stay in. The question is can she ever be a real home without the homey festures that her big sister offers, I’ve been living aboard for the better part of six straight years.

I never have understood the definition of what makes a boat a yacht but I would guess Sookie has her bowsprite through the door.  She always has enough booze and beans to feed a crowd, does everything I ask of her and this year is seeming to have the proud distinction of changing that old acronym  B.O.A.T “break out another thousand” to “break out another ten thousand”, sheesh. I’ve never really looked at Sookie in terms of cost, she is what she is.  When I turn my eye towards her sister who is much younger than her I can’t help but to wonder in terms of cost, not only monitary but in time.  If I had the money I could easily drop a 100K on her by sunset, yes she is a yacht but I’m no yachter…

From the log of Sookie, I watch a 50’er with two screws and bow and stern thrusters struggle to dock on the end tie in 15 knots of wind with 5 crew members. I was always astonished at how much fun Chloe could have with a fucking stick. Like my ex girlfriend always used to tell me, size doesn’t matter… 😉 or does it???

Occam’s razor

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My sailmaker has Sookie lust, eveytime we set to work another of her finely fitted appointments catches his eye. There is no other like Sookie, she is one in a million. He’s as bad as me but somehow we get to the task at hand.  A good friend writes “I need the whole ocean to feed my dreams.”  I close my eyes and see him st the helm of his ship, he belongs there. Im content here sitting in my boat, I had the hose out by 8:00am with the I intent on doing something productive when I stumbled across my ukulele, there went half my day.

I irk people I know I do but I simply don’t care, my intent is to be content which I am more often than not.  Sookies sister is calling to me and this is what I can’t settle from the confines of my massively oversimplified mind.  Why? Why would I possibly want more than I already have.

People always try and tell me I need a Diesel engine.  For all of my displeasure with all internal combustion engines I love mine deerely.  Call it bragging rights but I love when I sail past other boats that look obviously faster than mine for them to see my outboard up and out of this water, proof that I’m sailing unassisted.  Proof that my little brick just kicked thier ass across the bay.

My neighbors at the dock are always teasing that I need a larger boat, the truth is I don’t need it, I may at times want one but need has nothing to do with it. Due to the fact that I’ve kept Sookie simple she has enough and then some.  Personal living space has yet to be an issue, for me at least, I can’t speak for the young lasses that have shared my space.

My sails are so small they almost seem a joke. Small and easy to handle yet large enough that I’ve spent hours on end watching the sheets attached to them strangle my winch wondering at what point that tiny sail will literally rip it from the deck. The wind scares me often, it’s shocking how much power can be derived from it, certainly more than the wimpy 30hp Diesel I’m contemplating adopting.

Removing Sookies bronze ABI windlass and her 200′ of chain was I think the most difficult decision, one I don’t regret, again simplicity and she sails a hell of a lot better now having removed nearly 300lbs from her bow.  Regardless of what the system is systems piss me off and that’s why you won’t find many on my boat.

My dad is a bit bent on my cruising direction and the fact that I don’t  carry a life raft or any form of distress signaling device.  It’s true I could die at sea without these things but earning the money to pay for them just may insure that I die of boredom in some damn cubical under a flickering fluorescent light.  Christopher Mc Candles wrote “I don’t like money, it’s makes people cautious” brilliant but also the opposite applies, poverty also makes one conscious, Occam’s razor.

The islands are exploding, the winter suffrage has been mentally blocked. I have  much to do but find laying around like a lazy dog to be the biggest achievement as of yet today.  A friend pulled up in his new flicka, we don’t know what for sure it is but it’s beautiful beyond compare, maybe it’s an old Norstar. It’s for sure the most distinctive flicka I’ve ever laid eyes on. He bought it for a friend who plans to sail it to the South Pacific, Occam’s razor… the signs are everywhere as is the lure, the constant battle for more at the expense of having less time to use the more.  Occam’s razor, I say it again and again and again…

The North Face Storm Break One

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Wrapped and toasty in my Western Moutaineering Carabou there was a storm raging outside my tent.  Unlike all of my other tents, my little storm break one had been doing a reasonable job and protecting me from the elements.  The popping sound of my aluminum tent pole got my attention.  Then there was a horrible ripping of fabric and a waterfall cascading through my new sky light, no extra charge.

I’ve never considered The North Face to be a real manufacturer of outdoor gear.  They are more of a hipster niche providing useless gear to those who like to set up thier tents in their backyards or need shelter from the PNW mist running from their Subarus to the front door of the local co-op.  They also seem to be a statice symbol around new age colleges with no majors or stated cariculum.  Truly a sign of which children are more loved by thier parents.

Why would I choose such a beast you ask?  My budget is flatlined more than often and this little tent turned out to be near gem like for almost 100 days before it died a bitter death.  That’s actually a 20 year equivalent lifespan for the actual backpacker.  At $119.00, and a smidge over 3lbs this was the smallest package I could find.  It met all three of my major criteria’s and yes I would recommend it if your on a budget.

A new one is in the mail and my plan B is fully geared and ready to rumble.  Within the week my Brompton touring set up will be complete.  It all easily fits in my backpack as well but I’ve got bike brain today.

This tent is an oddity as I can almost sit up, but not quite.  At 5’10” I hit the average male form but I guess TNF couldn’t figure that one out.  It has exactly enough room for me and with a little creativity I can bring my Brompton T-bag in and sort of use it as a backrest/pillow.  To easy enough to set up but came with 9 crap tent stakes but the set up calls for 12, go figure.  It stood up to days on end of some of the greatest deluges I’ve ever experienced and was ok at keeping the water at bay. Multiple nights of 50 knot winds were no match for this little tent but when the guts hit much higher than that, well…

All around it did an ok job at a good price, we’ll see how it handles the South Pacific later this year.  I know no tent can hold out a swarm of a billion fire ants but short of that I consider this to be a good but disposable quality tent.  I really want to do the hammock thing but I just can’t warp my brain around those damn things.

Each item is strictly scrutinized, my load is much lighter than the last journey but it’s constantly evolving. I’ve decided to hold off just for a bit on a titanium Brompton even though it’s at the top of my list.  My goal is to build the ultimate go anywhere at anytime minimalist set up that can transition from bike to plane in 30 seconds with no hassle. I’m close but still learning all the little nuances of this and that.

Sea of love

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A girl I know sent me these words. “Just today someone asked me if I knew of a poem filled with free winds and small gusts and thin moons that pulled the words easily over the water. Did I know of such a poem? I thought of you standing by the mast, hair blowing, and sent your name.”  I’m expecting company but right now I’m alone with the still of the night.

A flock of tiny birds fill the rigging of all the boats. Seagulls Perched on every piling, eerily silent as the sun sets to a dead calm, rhythm exits even in the silent places. A lone eagle circles the bay but soon my resident owl will show up to take over the night shift. I’m going to miss this place but something deep inside me is calling to pull my anchor and let the tides carry me to my new home, wherever that is.

My exit date is etched in stone, I’m almost retired and it feels good.  Freeer yes but not free, the second I clock out for the last time the clock starts ticking backwards until the cruising kitty is depleted.  I’m not sure where I’ll haul Sookie but I need to install her new wind vane if it ever arrives. Too many projects not enough time or money but that’s the nature of this beast. I haven’t said no but I’m starting to waver on oppertunity that has been generously handed to me, it scares me as much as it excites me.

Sometimes it freaks me out how much I’m attached to Sookie, I talk to her often. Some people believe that boats have a soul, some don’t; I know they do.  My box wine tastes especially good tonight as we gently bob around on a cloud of good music. The ocean never stops moving, she is my blood sister. The tides of my heart rise and fall, sometimes calm others with a tempest of emotion. I’ve been tied down too long but moving is as easy as untying the lines, hoisting my sails and watching the horizon come to me like a well trained puppy. Keep your lantern lit, I’m coming to find you.

Society, have mercy on me
I hope you’re not angry if I disagree
Society, crazy and deep
I hope you’re not lonely without me – Eddy Vedder

White squall

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The rhythmic swooshing of sandpaper on varnish soothes my mind.  I’ve always been good at simple respetitive tasks.  Golden varnish streaks across bare wood, l often feel I’m alone in this world with such simple pleasures. My bush stokes are never perfect but they are mine, my art, my contribution, my way of showing how much I love these good old boats that have all but fallen from grace.

I Spent the day with a sailmaker, Sookie is getting a third stitch on all her sails and a third reef in her main.  The staysail is getting one or two Reefs, still undecided and I orederd new sail bags.  I went with linen Coler, it’s one shade darker than Sookies hull and very plain as these boats should be as to not detract from her impossibly perfect lines.

logic would didctate that I save every single cent right now but nothing going on in my life is logical.  It’s fun and easy to dream of winning the lottery but what happens when you actually do? Will it make your life any better or destroy it.  My every want and dream in the world has been handed to me on a silver plater and while my mouth is saying yes, yes, yes there is this part in the back of my brain saying WTF.  Either way I can’t say no, I don’t want to say no, the challange alone is worthy of a great novel.

Six years of sailing Sookie and I still have not a single complaint.  Sure she can’t muster the power to drive into a gale and still has no water tank.  It’s true, I’m still using a plastic bucket and cooking on a camp stove.  Her lack of heat sucks but her warm and inviting interior makes this one easily overlooked.  She needs many things which give me a purpose in life, she just may be the greatest boat ever built, I certainly think she is.

So why? Why am I about to jump a plane and fly half way around the world when I have everything I want in the world floating under my tanned bare feet?  Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.  It’s no longer up to me, I’ve said yes and if it all works out great, if it doesn’t, great.  You know the old saying a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.  Well I have no plans of sailing Sookie out of the PNW but my goal of turning her into the perfect little offshore racer and voyaging yacht is still my number one goal until my future changes.

The last 6 years have been a monumental struggle for reasons I’m not at liberty to share here, the emotional roller coaster of first losing my wife and then my dog has worn me thin but life goes on.  I’m feeling reborn and ready to move on and start living a little.  I’m not rich but I’m free, free in a way few will ever know.  Free to move half way around the world, dust of my captains credentials and secure a crew of film makers and misfits. I’m also free enough to simply pass on the opportunity and continue on with my own little ship and my simple life.

The day Sookie arrived in Bellingham a fellow Hess owner said to me ” you have no idea what you have there” I smiled and said yes I do.  My words couldn’t be further from the truth, until you have set out on an open ended voyage on one of these little ships you can never understand how close Lyle Hess came to perfection with this design.  I wouldn’t expect any less from a guy that never sold out to make money, he designed boats he loved, the Falmouth was 52 years into his designing career and built to his own personal specs for the hypothetical what is the perfect yacht for a couple to sail around the world in.

Her perfection is not measured by the size of her engine or how many berths she has, it’s measured in her pure sailing elements.  She wasn’t designed with an enclosed head or a hot shower but has the perfect spot for a brass lantern within reach of her day berths where I often nap between wood working projects.  Each and every one of her spaces was designed for safe, comefortable sailing.  No she’ll never have a depth sounder or radar, her interior will always smell of hard woods, not Diesel and holding tanks.  She is everything a sailor needs but nothing more.  She is perfection but her sister keeps calling my name, sometimes you just have to experience it all to know not where your headed but where you came from.

There once was a beggar who sat on a box by the side of the road for many, many years.

Day in and day out, swarms of strangers would pass him on their way and the beggar did what all beggars do: ask for money.

One day a traveler was passing through town and the beggar shouted “Please give me some money!”

The traveler said “Sorry, I don’t have any money to spare, but I am curious about your box.”

“What about my box?” the beggar replied.

“Well, what’s in it?”

The beggar responded, “I don’t know, it’s just an old box I found here that I’ve been sitting on for years.”

Persistent in his inquiry, the traveler once again asked what was in the box. The beggar replied, “I’ve never looked.” The traveler said “Why not?

“Because there is nothing there!” the beggar howled back. The traveler said “Well let’s take a look, shall we?”

Finally, to appease the traveler’s insistence, the beggar split the box open and amazingly, a treasure of gold burst onto the ground. He’d be sitting on it for years and never even knew it.

And off the traveler went.

What treasure are you sitting on?

And what will you do with it?

Seeking crew, meet me in Papeete

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The lure of pilot boats, sailing and blue water. I’m not talking crossing oceans, I’m talking blue water.  The kind you can see your toes through and the kind warm and inviting enough to keep you in and out of it all day.  Balmy trade winds, fresh fruit and… The dream is as real as the reoccurring nightmares I have of nearly starving to death on my last trip to the tropics.

I found this picture while creeping a wooden Falmouth cutter 26 for sale on the east coast, then a glass 26 Hess appeared for sale, one of 9 built, I know of 4 others out there, none of them for sail.  Why look if you aren’t going to buy?  Perhalps I was just listening to my instincts, some inner feeling that forces me to walk away from every pilot boat that crosses my path but still I’m hooked.  Hooked on sailing them, living on them and it goes without saying working on them.

If I sell everything I own that won’t fit in my backpack I can scrape enough money to fly one way to Papeete mid June.  I’ll arrive flat broke and hungry after 24 hours  of travel by thumb, bus, train, ferry and 4 flights.  Why would I do this? Did Hawaii teach me nothing?  Well all I’m saying is opportunity only knocks once and my destiny is calling me. On a piece of scratch paper I have two lists, pros and cons.  I’ve been staring at it intently for days but have not put a single word on either side.  I’m leaving this one up to the universe. If I’m still aboard Sookie  by the middle of June I guess I’ll know the answer I’ve been seeking my entire adult life.

I’m scared, really scared and excited, really excited.  Every experience I’ve had up until this point has been preparing me for the next voyage.  The thought of selling Sookie makes me want to throw up. I could just sail her there but then again I could just arrive by plane. Sometimes I think I’m like the dog looking at the reflection of his bone is the water.  He opens his mouth to bite the bigger one and loses both. I have to contain myself, I’m freaking out.

“There are winds of destiny that blow when we least expect them. Sometimes they gust with the fury of a hurricane, sometimes they barely fan one’s cheek. But the winds cannot be denied, bringing as they often do a future that is impossible to ignore.”
― Nicholas Sparks, Message in a Bottle

Nowhere man

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Sookies dimunitive cabin the cleanest it’s been in years but I keep on with mold patrol, It just feels fresh inside and makes me smile.  I half expect a little mouse mouse to show up but somebody must have moved her cheese. One glass of wine an apple with sharp cheese and a small piece of chocolate, the evenings spoils.  I unplug everything on the boat and crawl into my little cocoon, I’m beat, the wind rocks me to sleep.

There are no answers but an extreme calm has come over my life.  Memories keep flashing into my mind, years gone by, places, things, people. They are all good and they all make me smile.  I’m starting to realize that I haven’t taken a step back since I was 17.  Always moving foreword, my hands in many baskets, always taking care of something or someone.  The writing is on the wall, I need a break, a sabbatical with nothing to do but exist.  This new slowness feels right and I’m letting it flow.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.
—Marcel Proust

I sold everything for my tiny home and got paid but that’s one thing that doesn’t feel right.  A square bed for the winters, a small heat source, books and light perfect for reading and writing.  Natural by day and the soft amber glow of my lantern by night. I sit on the dock staring at a full moon rising, I’m lost… it’s not a bad thing, it’s just where I am. I need change and change is a good thing.  Bare feet, hot summer days, a cold stream and time, lots of time to ponder, space to wander…

To the man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail.
—Abraham Maslow

Messing about in boats

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In my eyes pilot cutters, hookers and workboats are the most beautiful of all yachts.  I silently rung in the New Years alone and with it entered into my 30th year on the water front.  I’ve been fortunate enough in those years to skipper all manor of boats from my little Potter 15 to 12 meter AC yachts. While being mentored by one of the top racers of the time a chance meeting with a salt crusted voyager changed everything my young eyes saw when it came to beauty of sail.

I found this while researching a 26′ wooden Falmouth cutter, perfection

Tan bark sails, perfectly oiled and varnished teak, full bodied hulls, plum bows and long water lines. There is no right or wrong way when it comes to boating but to me comparing a modern design to those of the old days when sails drove our boats is like comparing a bottle of Jack Tar Cab to a bottle of bud light. I understand the appeal of huge engines, massive interiors and boats without a splinter of wood but they just don’t meet my needs.  Its the love, commitment and more often than not the frustration of these old bags that form the bond between a sailor and his ship.

Wide decks, cozy cabins, the rich aroma of teak.  These are a few of the things that match my calloused and weathered hands. The smell of burning surfer triggers something magical in my brain as the soft warm glow of my kerosene lantern sets the mood worthy of a blood red cab and loaf of fresh bread. I’ll take a tiller over a wheel. All my halliards terminate at the mast.  A bucket for a toilet and a lead line for depth have never failed me. Marlin spikes and shackle keys hang within easy grasp.  The bowsprite and staysail are two of the most traditional elements you will find on a yacht and now considered to be the most modern tools for sail performance.

It all starts with a brilliant design, a quality build and simple yet efficient sail plan. I prefer a deck stepped mast with a solid post beneath it.  Balsa cored decks are great for saving money in construction but good old hard wood laminate is my preference.  A stern hung rudder is not only beautiful but reliable, virtually maintenece free and easy to remove in or out of the water.  Outboard hull mounted chainplates are a must as are big working bits and dual purpose cleats. Sookie carries the tall rig preferred by her designer Lyle Hess, a rudder larger than most 40’ers and no inboard engine.  I can fully appreciate the convienience of a good inboard diesel but I’ll stick with a skulling oar and kicker for the occasional times when there isn’t enough wind to keep the boat moving.

I love all sailboats, large and small, plastic, wood and metal. It isn’t that I think any boat or design is particularly better than the other, perhalps practical is a better word. achieving my theoretical hull speed, my hand gently nudging the tiller, working into a small cove under sail.  Perfection and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I think Sookie is the finest boat on the planet when it comes to all these charicteristics although I could easily have said that about all of the boats I’ve owned over the years. Time on the water has been my greatest teacher. I’ve taken a step back from my life, my plans and my someday dreams to regroup.  Lately I’ve been feeling like a slave to the almighty dollar and while I can fully appreciate its value I know deep inside of me there is a better way.

I had been living in my car far too long, traveling and exploring marinas from Mexico and slowly working north towards Alaska.  Boat ownership was the last thing on my mind, I was burned out and wanting nothing more than to crew on other people’s boats.  To discover and appreciate the last of a dying breed, to become one with the world of classic wooden boats. I love crewing, cooking aboard, making coffee for crew undersail.  Taking my turn at the helm of a boat I have no responsibility in maintaining and walking away at the end of a long day on the water wanting more but knowing I was blessed to have what I did.

In 1995 I sold my yacht photography buisiness, it wasn’t that I was burned out on boats or photography back then, it was just that the the whole industry was boring me.  I set off to sail the South Pacific  and find all those old elusive trade schooners.  Over the last few years I’ve noticed a huge surge in interest for wooden boat restoration, classic yachts are still one in a million but they are out here. If you happen to own a Vertue and sail her locally in the Salish I’d love to chat and an opportunity to sail and photograph her for a new writing project I’m muddling through although I’ll jump at any opportunity to sail on your wooden boat regardless of design.

From the log of Sookie Row row row your boat, gently down the stream. This surely was written by a great sailor, one who lived life according to the wind and tides.

I hate boats!

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The Pacific Northwest is literally killing Sookie.  It was bound to happen and today I finally woke up, dug my heels in and started my spring outfitting.  I’m shocked by the destruction from the jet fuel, two dozen more gel coat cracks have appeared and my wood is looking like miserable hell.  It’s almost like starting the race over but from ten miles behind the starting line.  I’ve been doing this far too long to be bummed about the whole of it.  Its far easier to dig into my winter stash, pull a stack of C-notes and dive in. Today the local pirates, um chandlery gave me 5 gold stars and greedily took my winter in the tropics away.

This is what it feels like when every thing is going your way

The only thing I can get on the radio is sports, I fucking hate sports.  I can’t imagine how so many people waste so much of thier time watching and listening to sports, I’d rather shave my ass with a dull cheese grater.  I walk to the shower, the stream of hot water washes the salty brine from my tired body, it all ends too soon.  I return from what was a clean and shining boat.  In less than twenty minutes it’s covered with bird shit, it looks like it hasn’t been cleaned all winter.  I’ve been dealing with this daily.  This was the most brutal and isolating winter of my life, spring sailing was the only thing that got me through, now it looks like I’ll be working for an eternity to make this right.  Another summer of my life I’ll never get back, another year of…

This is what the world feels like today.

Winters are atrocious here, my cabin sole is buckling from the constant wet. The ceiling boards lining the hull in my V berth have completely buckled.  Black mold grows faster than I can keep up with, I wake up every day coughing up a lung, wet dank, dark and crewel, that’s how I’d describe winters aboard around here.  Add another 5k in costs to the list.  Whatever, it is what it is.  I spent the day scrubbing and flushing my bilges from stem to stern.  I was hoping my anchor line would last another year but a very close inspection says add new line to the list, the top of the list.  I have 42 days till I get kicked out of here and far too many decisions to make. My bosprite needs to be pulled inspected and painted before I leave the dock.  This is better done in the yard but I don’t have time if I want to ride south in September.  By that time of year every day counts with winter riding me like a monkey on my back.

With one email I sell all the supplies I’ve been gathering for my tiny home, if I actually get paid I’ll make a few hundred bucks in profit. The tiny home is scratched for now, the plane is scratched for now, Sookie is always my priority.  If it sounds like I’ve been necgleting Sookie I haven’t she is always the most loved and maintained yacht wherever she goes.  Old boats and bad climates is what is, it never stops. The northern climates literally eat your boat alive, the winters swallow your soul whole.

I’ve got the best fiberglass guy in the world in Bellingham but need to have the boat in Port Townsend for the winter to take care of all the wood and rigging projects. I’m an hours work away from completing the boom fix and can sail anywhere but work might be more easily found here and there is no chance of moorage in either Bellingham or Port Townsend which would mean pulling Sookie and no sailing.

I had asked a young sailing couple to sail south with me in August, now I’m thinking I’m better off staying here where I know everybody, have all the tools I could possibly need at my beck and call and a network of knowledgeable sailors to share my scotch and join me in my thinking chair for the have to do, should do and would like to do lists.  I’m exhausted, the sun has set and tonight my biggest choice is do I pull a glass of wine from my secret stash or the box.

From the log of Sookie, one step foreward two steps back.  As much as all of this sucks it beats the shit out of sitting in my cubicle, surfing YouTube and counting the days of my twenty year plan. Today I erased my entire future and put all my eggs in one basket, maybe I should have done this Twenty years ago.

The minimalist traveler

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To say that I live a minimalist life on Sookie would be a bit of an overstatement, simple yes, minimalist no.  I could probably raise 15k if I sold all the crap I have on this boat.  Travel and bike touring is a different story. My first Brompton tour was on a whim, half hazard and zero planning went into it.  I landed after dark in Maui to a damn near hurricane and torrential down pour.  I would wake up with less than $400.00 in my pocket and no return ticket.  My heart was raging with pain and I needed some serious living, I got it.

Getting all my ducks in a row

That trip would have been more successful had I brought nothing but the shirt on my back, a three ounce daypack for snacks and a hammock.  My pack was way too heavy and I literally used less than 10 percent of the contents.  I just took what I had and left.  The set up was less than ideal and most days were spent in stages. The early mornings were for making art in the sand and nibbling on coconut.  I’d spend a few hours searching for the perfect stealth camp and ditch my gear for the day.  Usually by 10:00 am it was just me and Brompty out exploring, always searching for the next day’s camp area based on my days findings. Dark came early and fast, I’d be in bed by 8:00 with a tin cup of wine, it was always warm enough to sleep naked.

This set up was less than ideal but got the job done, I spent less than 50 bucks preparing for this trip.

I nearly starved to death on that trip but learned as much about touring on a Brompton as I did about myself.  My tent was useless against the elements but as small as it was it held me, the bike and all my crap. My main staple was coconuts so I never has to carry too much in the way of food and most of my dumpster diving treasures were eaten on the spot.  I did save one can of beef for my thanksgiving dinner which I shared with a local kitty I wanted to adopt.  I was more than ready to leave the islands when I finally had an opportunity and regretted leaving the second the plane touched down in a frozen land.

This tent held in more water than it held out I literally almost drowned in it one night

9 months later I was back out on the Brompton, on the road and while I still brought way too much crap the second time around was much freer, and with my better, lighter set up it was much more fun as I wasn’t always backtracking to find my crap.  My daily mileages averaged 50 give or take but sub 40 days gave me the most latitude for side exploring.  I didn’t have any way go gauge my day to day runs other than the very old guide book I carried but I would guess an easy 20 additional miles a day were spent exploring side roads, these side journeys were one of the best parts of the trip.

Taken on IPhone with a bit of heat stroke after 25 miles of hot tropical sun and headwinds, day one

Certain pieces of gear like my DSLR, ukulele and way too much in the way of just in case stuff turned out to be more of a burden than a boon.  Still, most of the cyclists thought I was bat shit crazy carrying so little gear.  If my budget was different I’d buy a titanium Brompty with no rear rack which would save me over five lbs.  in addition to that my load on the next tour will be 10lbs lighter.  My iPhone 4 worked in Hawaii, it was all I had.  I’m thinking about 5se for the next trip as they are cheap and have a better camera, im pretty sure the DSLR and iPad will not be coming.  It’s hard to not carry a real camera as the images it produces are very important to me but the weight, space and complexity are a nightmare as is the risk of theft or damage.

My second tour would have much more adverse conditions but also top end gear for the most part

The blog is too much effort for the minimal return so it will be all but abandoned on my next trip and the few posts I do put up will be easy enough with a smart phone.  I’m also leaving all my extra warm clothes behind and potentially my cooking gear but more about that later.  I’ve added a gear button to the top of this page where I will very slowly add all of the contents for my next journey.

This stove works well enough but was expensive. Advertised at 3 ounces it’s useless in any breeze without the heavy windscreen not included. I spent a fortune on a ti pot that I never used save to boil water. It’s also an awkward shape to pack in my small bag

For me bicycle touring is about a very slow exploration with minimal distractions. The Brompton is part of the genious of the journey and makes friends every step of the way, my complete lack of anything helps to make the cycling more enjoyable and a lot less work in camp.  I’m always up before the sun, shivering and attempting to make hot coffee to compliment a few pieces of fruit and my morning stretching session.  I’m on the road within 15 minutes of the rising sun as that’s where I prefer to be.

Taken the last day of my ride, everything I carried is pictured here minus the uke I dropped off. My tent blew up the previous night and split wide open drenching my down bag, almost froze to death

Today was set to be my first short tour of the year but I got jacked out of it.  Either way, the season for both bikes and boats is at hand.  A year from today I fully expect Sookie to be ready to point her bow anywhere in the world but Brompty is already there.  Now that my boat budget is busted I’ve pulled out the envelope with bike penned on the side.  It has $300.00 in it and that is more than enough to add the last few articles that I killed on my last journey.

“If your not cold while wearing everything you own you brought too much stuff” unknown but the truest words ever spoken of minimalist travel. 

I could tell you but then I would have to kill you

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There is a price we pay for freedom and sometimes freedom is that price. Winter has done me in time wise, the ticking clock has me wondering if it’s time to throw in the towel for this year, re group and start the process all over again at a later date. I love a good challange but I’m on the line and ready to back out.

If I put every ounce of my effort, every minute of my spare time and every last dollar I posses and earn in the coming months I have a chance of breaking free and a potential residual income to support my freedom.  It’s six ways this, half a dozen the other.  If I fail I’m trapped on the boat for another winter in a merciless and hostile environment.  This past winter took its toll and I don’t think I can take another. Desperation is the best of motivators but change is the best desperation eraser.

I could call it off now, work the summer and continue to install all my new gear with a few good months for sea trials.  Heading out on Brompty September first is always a very exciting option and one that would wind my way south to warmer climates but again find me broke with a 10 page list of must haves for Sookie in the spring. My commitment level to either of these options is as high as it is low.  I’m feeling lost, burned out, tired and fairly unmotivated.

Brompty sits collecting dust, Sookie sits patiently waiting for her spring outfitting, and the clock of time is backspinning at an alarming rate.  It’s been exactly 2 years since I set off on my last long cruise on the boat. I still deal with daily bouts of depression over the loss of Chloe and even though I have every option on the planet, I can’t seem to commit to a single one of them.  I’m so sick of being cold but it’s the very nature of why this is the most magical place on earth.

“Until the lions learn to write every story will glorify the hunter.” – African proverb

Overkill

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“look at those girly chain plates” I poke as I’m helping a friend measure for new cruising sails.  His boat weighs over 40,000 lbs and his chain plates are the same thickness as Sookies.  None of this matters but it’s fun to tease. Back on Sookie I’m hitting it hard. Tomorrow is opening day, a day I usually spend paying my last coat of varnish for the season.  This year has been so horrible I’m just getting started today.

I bent Sookies main back on today, I’m still working in her boom but I couldn’t stand one more day with bare spars.  I need to add a third reef point and also a third stitch to all of her sails which I’m slowly coming to the realization will be with me for quite some time.  Her total sail inventory is main, Yankee, staysail, storm jib and cruising chute.  All my sails need a bit of love but they are all in great condition for a person on a small budget.

I took measurements for my new sun awning and jib bags.  Pulled tool bags, rigging bags, line bags, all my fastener bins and stared to prepare this boat to sail.  I’m not shooting for day sailing but I will.  I’m not shooting for gunkholing but I will.  I’m getting Sookie ready to fly to the moon.

Yes 1/4 backing plates through a section of deck that is over an inch thick is overkill but my life depends on these baby’s keeping me on board.  Every single addition to Sookie and there have been many have this same and completely insane level of finish.  Upsizing to 1/4 inch rigging only added 11lbs to the entire system but now each fitting is strong enough to lift the entire boat out of the water as is each of the cleats I’ve added.  New chainplates will be stronger yet and prettier although I’m still torn between bronze and titanium.

Now that’s a flat sail, I’ve wished for a third reef on more than one occasion.  My staysail will get two sets and then I can sell my storm jib, when you live on a 22′ sailboat every inch of storage counts.  The days are long, the nights quiet and new sailors are starting to swing through on their way north, I truly hope to follow in their wake but right now all my attention is on how to navigate solo with my shit eyes, I’ve actually contemplated a 5″ chart plotter but that’s just crazy talk.

I love the quiet of night, time to pull the logbook and remind myself not only how far I’ve gone but how far I’ve come.  Today was one of those days that make the bitter winter nights worth it all.  I never feel alone or lonely but when I start to get Sookie all dressed up and ready to go I can’t help but to wonder if all of this is better shared.

This lovely pocket cruiser is owned by a young sailorette on her way north.  I met both her and her husband earlier this year, both good people, sailors and touring cyclists, they have 60 days off and a fine boat to chase the wild of the north.  I’m not the only one out here with multiple loves but on days like today I’m equally pulled between my bike and Sookie.

From the log of Sookie, I write  a bunch of private numbers in my log, lat and long if you must know but this journal entry is very private and my next personal goal…

Fish lips

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It seems a bit idiotic to have a perfectly good boat but to be chasing the hustle and bustle of inter-island travel on the ferry system. Sookie is still winterized, taken apart and in general a complete shambles but that is about to change. Well, at least head in the right direction.

Any day now her bow Sprite is getting pulled for inspection and paint. The new boom is not coming along well, looks like I may have to do this one on my own as all the manufactures are putting out amazingly strong and beautiful booms at a very reasonable price but that would completely ruin Sookie. For now I’m going to rebuild my frail gooseneck again and pray it holds together till I can create a boom worthy of putting on my fine little ship. Making one out of wood is easy enough but I already have enough to maintain so Ive started shopping for a used mast with the right proportions that will be cut down and powder coated to match what was just a few years ago a freshly painted mast section. If I had a million dollars I’d replace that also with a tapered mast for both strength, beauty and a bit of weight savings. Boat restoration can be almost as volatile as drug addiction at times.

Either way I’m hoping to bend the main back on this week, service my engine if I can find a outboard stand otherwise I’ll slap one together with 2×4’s and I need to schedule a haul out to install the new windvane once I have completely rebuilt it. All fun projects but today I’m playing tourist and chilling on the ferry with a black cup of coffee on my way to pick up my new cushions.

The money dance continues, I’m hoping to have all the stove parts and new water tank parts on the boat by June first, even if they aren’t installed it will give me something to do during the lazy windless afternoons of spring and everything can be done with a simple hand drill, add that one to the list. The real water tank and new cabin sole won’t come yet but a 6 gallon installed tank under the companionway will give me a real faucet for the first time in six years and clear my galley counter. With this and 4 portable 5 gallon tanks I have enough water all out of eye sight to cruise anywhere from here to Glacier Bay without a worry in the world. I have an additional four 5 gallon tanks and could add two to the cockpit if necessary giving me a total of 55 gallons of water all of it mostly out of the way. Everything on a small boat is like a puzzle, I can’t image how wonderful my real tank will be but I’m a patient man.

Running north though the Straights of Georgia was the wrong place to realize I forgot to add a preventer but it was easy to jury rig and my new one will cost about 25 bucks, be simple and very efficient, another thing on today’s shopping list in the big city of Friday Harbor I love how if you time it right it’s down wind all the way to Alaska and downwind all the way home, just one of the many reasons I love it here so much.

I look out the window at  Shaw island, last time I was here we were buried in a blizzard of snow, where does the time go. I arrive in Friday Harbor with a long list and a pocket full of money. Going home I have a pile of sailors gold and empty pockets but it’s the only way when your trying to do this stuff on minimalist budget. Another week of lentils and onions but now I have a killer bottle of habanero and lots of fresh spices to fancy it up a bit. It was hard being back in Friday Harbor, so many memories and everybody asking about Chloe, she was loved by all. I walked up the steep razor sharp ramp and wondered how many times I carried her up and down that horrible thing, I feel my time growing short in this part of the islands…

The days of my life are slow, boring and predictable, just how I like them. Fall will be here all to soon but for now it’s one thing at a time, working in circles around my spring varnish and paint and lots of lazy afternoon naps after a mid day cool beer pulled from the bilge. It’s Island time kids, climb aboard your spaceship and come find me, I’ll cook you an average meal, pour a fresh glass of wine from my box and do my best to entertain you in this little place we call the Islands…

From the log of Sookie Note to self, don’t walk into the county office with your sailors knife on. You’d of thought I was wearing a bomb vest, what has happened to this world???

My last blog post

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Who are we kidding, I couldn’t stop now if I wanted to, the gauntlet has been set.  We don’t choose our boats, they choose us, Sookie certainly choose me. Despite the thousands of unloved boats littering the planet there are still a crazy few who love their boats and who are loved by their boats. Let’s face it, it shows. How we care for our boats is a reflection of how we respect and care for all things that matter in life.  Like the love of a good woman a well loved boat will keep you safe, she will shelter you and carry you through the storms and the tests that life throws your way, commitment is something few in this world will ever learn or know the power of.

I just ended another 14 hour day in the bar, by 7:00AM I told my company was quitting, at 10:00AM didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to a stranger who feels more like a friend, and at 5:20 I felt the pangs of loosing what I never had. I clocked out at 10:00PM bought a friend a beer and another friend bought me one. But those are just bullet points. I stared into her eyes welled up with tears, I know her pain all to well but I couldn’t say a word, I just listened helplessly . She mentioned wanting to sail away to Baja, I bit my lip. I’m 600 years older than her, have nothing to offer but a piece of pocket link, a half finished boat and a button. Her heart has been shattered to pieces I don’t know how to pick them up and help her piece them back together.

I just want go sailing with a friend, nothing but two kindred spirits exploring in small leaps and bounds,  I could have done a thousand things but I didn’t, she appeared and disappeared with the suddenness of a broken shoe lace. Fuck it life goes on, I’m headed to Port Townsend the long way, I have friends I need to sail with, to drink with and boats to inspect, boats my hands have changed, boats that are as much a part of me as they are their of thier owners.

Sookie is too small, too old, too simple and flawed in as many ways as I am which is what makes her so special to me. The hands that have contributed to her, Roger Olsen built her hull and deck, a man I’ve never met finished her out, Larry Pardey deigned and built her cranz iron, Mike Anderson designed  and built all her finer fittings. I rebuilt her mast, I literally took her apart and put her back together only better, a handful of friends and sailors have helped in the process and I’m saving the glory of drilling the last 8 holes in her deck for my big bro who has lived on her, sailed on her and contributed greatly to her moveable ballast, wine., it takes a village to raise a child and to build a proper boat.

Im alone tonight but not lonely, my life is far to complete to ever believe those feelings that occasionally try to break through. The universe has been slam-dunking good people into my life, she has always been good to me and hard on me.  I guess what I’m saying is fuck yeah, let’s go sailing…

From the log of Sookie.  Let’s get down to brass tacks, my time is worth more than your money…

Take this job and shove it

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I was more than a little shocked to hear the words coming out of my mouth.  Hearing them both in reality and in my brain was sort of like an omen. My life is pretty cush and I could stay here forever and chill but once again as I get to comefortable I’m reminded how little my life’s units are really worth when it comes to employment.

It had been an incredibly long week and quite a rewarding one in so many ways.  I had more or less come to the conclusion that sucking it up for the summer would earn enough freedom chips for a nice winter bike tour but then what? I sure as hell don’t want to enter into a potential cycle of working the tourist season, I’m far too old for this shit.  Without crew sailing would be a lonely boring afair.  I could store the boat and have an amazing summer of bike touring but that would lead right back to another winter on the boat.  What about… I scanned my brain till it hurt wrote a few notes in my log book and put it to rest for the night.

Perhaps  it was a 14 hour day of bartending that had my brain scrambled but when talking with one of the visiting sailors the words slipped right out and as I heard them I wondered if they were my only real choice. I’m usually the most laid back guy in the room but some things just get to me and this was going to be one of those weeks.  The easy way forward is just, well never mind, I hate talking about what I’m going to do as opposed to what I am doing, let’s just say my priorities are changing faster than the weather around here.

The month of August is etched into my brain, I’m not sure why as July seems an all together better month but… The words totally unprepared could describe every endeavor I’ve set out on in the life but somehow now more than ever even even with a lifetime of travel under my belt they seem to fit today like a glove. By the light of my lantern I make a list of all the stupid shit I’ve done in my life, it’s a long list and takes all night.  Have I learned anything, or nothing? I ponder it all night; really, there is only one way to find out.  The words penned into the cover of my journal, every journey begins with a single step. For the first time in my life I’m feeling a bit uneasy, maybe I have learned. Thing or two.

From the log of Sookie. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy.

Dumpster diving

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I pull the contents from my pocket, two crisp dollar bills, twenty some odd cents a piece of Pocket lint and a button.  I’m not sure where the button came from but certainly it’s a sign from the gods.  A windfall of cash came my way this week proving that not only can writers make money but sometimes they can make good money.  Like the sands of time through an hourglass it’s all slipped through my fingers…

The glass half empty crowd will see this as a foolish expenditure of resources but the glass half full type like me, well; I feel like the richest man in Babylon. I think I have enough food on the boat to last till the end of September, my new windvane parts are in the mail or at least being lovingly packaged and all my ducks are almost in a row.  If I can complete the whole boom gallows I’ll actually be able to have a sun and rain awning under sail. I’m not a fan of not seeing my main but there are times when you just need protection.  I still dream about a Iverson Dodger but today it’s only a dream.

For the life of me I can’t figure out how I’m still alive having been more or less unemployed for the better part of the last 14 years but it’s been more of a dream than a nightmare as far as I’m concerned. I’m beginning to think this writing and photography hobby of mine might have a future in it for me.  It’s not that I think I’m a better writer or photographer than anybody but being there is 90% of the battle and I’m living on the front lines.  I’m sure there are a thousand better ways to do it but I found diving in headfirst worked best for me.  I have so much more to write about but an email from a old friend just popped through and…

“Every dream has a process and a price tag. Those who embrace the process and pay the price, live the dream. Those who don’t, just dream.” Unknown 

48 north

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The sun is setting on another perfect day somewhere but here it’s just rising.  My life is a product of its design and it’s almost all mine. In six weeks I get kicked out of the marina for the summer, a good thing in my book.  I pour a pinch of whiskey in my coffee and survey my surroundings, I’m the only human in the marina. My life is stretched, my constant drive for financial freedom has taken its toll on me.  I package up all of my project books except  for Sookies log book.  I flip through the pages, they are far better than any book I have read but unfinished.

Everything in this picture has been replaced, all the wood is new, the ABI blocks, the cleats, the motor, the haws holes, pad eyes, everything…

The morning was spent going round and round on my new anchor rode, another year of 1/2″ by 300′ of three strand with 30′ of 5/16 chain. I’ve been staying on top of my boat bills but this month has been a real killer, the joys of owning a traditional sailboat.  I’m still working on the boom design but it won’t be from Le Feill… if I can’t pull it off by the end of the month I’ll push it to fall, Sookies going to Port Townsend or Bellingham for the winter but I haven’t flipped that coin yet. Water tanks, stove, restitch all my sails till the new ones can be cut, cushions, lighting, solar, it never ends.

I stop everything, crawl into my quarter berth and take a nap.  The stainless steel backing plates will be here by the middle of the week which means I’ve got lots to do. When I replaced Sookies standing rigging my budget fell short so I rebuilt her lowers instead of replacing them, their done.  Add new lowers and inner and fixed backs to the list, six weeks, shit. I haven’t even begun her annual maintence but Im almost ready to start.  At some point I have to pull Sookies pintles and gudgeons which means another gallon of bottom paint and through hulls, add that to list also right next to lifelines and boom vang and after send watch to Switzerland for cleaning.

My electrical panel is failing rapidly as are all the switches to my light fixtures.  Lots of gel coat work also, all those tiny cracks in the corners are growing fast up here form all the moisture, the longer I wait the more it will cost.  All the cover boards need to be re cocked as do the bullworks.  I plan my day’s and the hours of the day around the weather.   You can’t push it, these things can’t be rushed.  Properly maintaining a boat like Sookie is easy but every season I’ve pushed projects back so I could sail and it’s all caught up to me. Oops, dingy pump and oars, flares, my Herschoff is close but I don’t have time to get it, maybe that should be my priority.  A quick pb&j with a big glass of water and I’m off to find where I stored my varnish, paint, brushes, sand paper, steel and glass polish, it’s all here somewhere.

A package arrives is the mail, it says peanuts but it’s a new down poofy, an early b-day gift from my big bro and my now most prized possesion.  It’s blue and squishy and warm and crazy light, perfect for travel, perfect for PNW spring sundowners and perfect for bike touring.  My taxes are paid, my slip rent is payed it’s all payed.  16 years ago, standing in my office with my face pressed against the glass dreaming of a better life as the snow fell.  Face shaved, hair cut neat and combed wardrobe from the cover of GQ.  All I wanted was to live on a small boat, to live a slow life attached to an island to have time to sip my coffee and ponder life.  I traded my leather attaché for a canvas tool bucket.  My gold watch for a steel one and my fancy leather shoes for dirty bare feet.

The  boat  smells of fresh teak, stinky boy and black coffee.  My feet are filthy, my hair is sweaty and covered in saw dust, my hands dark with grease and sealant.  I should be doing many things right now but I think a glass of whiskey with the sunset and the realization that dreams can come true but they won’t come looking for you. Sixteen years ago I had a dream and made it happen, there is a new dream in the making but just like everything in my life it can’t be rushed…

My new red G-string

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I look down the long road ahead and can’t help but to wonder if this is going to kill me.  My eyes opened wide a full hour before my 6:00 alarm.  I feel like shit, I’m so comfy and snuggled up I try and close my eyes and go back to sleep. It’s futal, I pull myself from my warm fluffy cocoon, my back hurts so badly that I hunch over like a caveman.

Coffee black, a huge glass of lemon water and morning news. I stretch and breath, in the corner I spy my pink running socks, I was packing my bags last night and now there they are calling to me. I find it odd that having spent the better part of my life as an ultra endurance athlete that I can’t even remember the last time I ran. It was probably to the liqour store for a six pack and ciggies trying to beat the winter early closing hours, or maybe running from the sergeants in Hawaii as they chased me into the jungle, whenever it was it certainly wasn’t for fun.

I pull out my ukulele and try to avoid the inevitable.  Yesterday I snapped my G string and after replacing it with a new wound low G I accidentally clipped my C string while trimming my G and replaced it with the only one I had, A white one, its stiff and unnatural.  I pluck a new tune I’m working on but my brain isn’t there, it’s in my running shoes.  The morning is quiet, cloudy and humid with just a slight chill.  This could kill me so I put on my Sunday’s best running clothes just in case they find my stiff corpse on the side of the road.

I walk slowly to the restroom, wash my face, scrub my hands extra well, stretch, I’m doing everything in my power to prolong the pain.  It doesn’t take long to find my stride, my tired rumply body glides down the side of the road.  Even on this quiet morning the exhaust of left wing wackos driving their Subarus with bumper stickers that say keep America green piss me off to no end.  I know all these people, they complain about the state of the world non stop while shoveling piles of red meat down their throats, buying everything from China and those damn cars, they think somehow they are saving the environmentment and have all the bumper stickers in the world to prove it.

I fucking hate cars, the noise, the stink, they are everywhere. God forbid these Subaru pilots ever feel the cold or the burn of human power, or take a little time out for themselfs to simply slow down and walk somewhere. No fucking way, these bumper sticker protesters are convinced that a their Subarus will save the planet, stop climate change and free Tibet, oh wait, what… I miss the mountains where I could run for six straight hours and not cross paths with anything other than a deer, or bear, or lion.  Everything out there makes sense, nothing In society makes sense to me. I keep running, there is a tiny barrier between me and the cool of the morning,, I strip my jumper and keep on down the road, I’m in my groove.

23 munites amd I’m back at the boat, I feel like I’ve just run a marathon.  I feel good, endorphins flowing, my head clear and back to the dock where I’m safe from all the traffic on this little island.  I ponder this blog, why do I even write it, I’m ruining people’s life’s, you can read the words look at the pictures and they might even make you feel good, those little endorphins of hope but is that a good thing.  You can read about it but you can never feel it.  Not how hard my 23 minute run was. Not what it’s like to wake up at 200 am to 10 degree temperatures and 60 mile per hour gusts.  You can’t feel the cold of setting extra lines in these conditions.  You can never feel how hungry I was when I was literally starving to death in Hawaii or how good it felt to share my tiny meals with my adopted kitty.  You can’t feel the adrenaline of almost being talken out head on by a truck doing 70 pulling a 40′ trailer and trying to pass a car at the near expense of your life.  Or what it feels like to be lost in the dark on a lee shore while the wind is over powering you boat, these feeling are real.  These feeling prevent cancer, premature aging and make our minds strong and capable of more. Outside is where we are meant to be, cold, tired hungry, free. My coffee is empty, it’s time to go, I have to ride my bike to the ferry to meet a person I’m selling some shit to, then it’s back to the resort to play bartender to a pile of unhappy, stressed out tourists who don’t know how to leave the city behind and I wonder to myself, do I…

The 80’s called, they want their shorts back

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When I returned from my bike tour just a few months ago I had 2% body fat and was fit enough to climb Mt Everest. Winter has crushed me and my 30″ waist is now more like a 33, front butt and back fat included.  Thanks to the joys of eBay I’ve found these relics that went out of style in the late 80’s and yes they are that short.

Thats the great thing about being a Gen-X pre hipster, dirt bag drop out, I actually owned these things when they were in style if that’s even possible and yes I couldn’t fucking care less what anyone thinks about me and I’m going to rock these things like an 80’s hair band. When I can actually fit into them that is… yes, that’s right, yet another reason I am single, short shorts, a daddy belly, hair that hasnt seen a brush, shampoo or scissors in over a year and a half and… I fear the 80’s might want their hair back too.

Spring has exploded here but my pasty white skin still resembles the color of a zombie rather than a bronzed Bay Watch life guard. Um yeah, among other things I’m a life guard for the summer, I’m pretty sure I’ll take as many jobs as I’m offered because I have a date with Bali and my continued search for treasure and head huntreses at the end of the summer.  I’ve been too careless and need to restock the kitty for my next travel disaster.

PS For all you judemenatal cubicle dwellers who are bent because I’m not living the life you wish you were, here is a bit of spring gold to keep you warm at night… ;)~

The death rolls

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The death rolls are the most annoying part of sailing to me.  Take steep breaking short period swells and a low aspect keel with a 21′ water line and your in for the ride of your life. Looking back through the years I wonder how I ever sailed this boat without lifelines. The only thing to hold onto is her tiller and with no combing I always wonder if I’m literally going to be hurled into the sea when we find these conditions. My $10,000.00 piece of string is coming along well.

For all the days that I feel like I’ll never get this boat the way I want her I have my ships log to remind me of all the shenanigans I’ve put Sookie through.  When I was engineless it was more out of poverty than tradition.  Spending my first winter with no heat sucked ass.  Try and reef a boat without a topping lift or winches, sail without proper charts or anchor in a hundred feet without a windlass.  Boat love is a twisted and sickening affair but hey, I’m single, don’t do drugs, Hookers or gambling so my money has to go somewhere.

Ive had installing a boom gallows on my list for six damn years but now I’m almost ready to start drilling holes in Sookies deck, yum!  To complete this project, I need the new longer boom and a higher cut main with a longer foot, this is going to be a bank breaker for sure but in my log book worth every penny. Not only will it make the boom clear my head but it will also clean up the angle of my main sheet making starting the outboard easier.  The Lee clothes will give a bit of privacy for showers and a chill spot to lean into while sailing.

Sookie has the tall rig mast and the extra squares on the new sail will be much appreciated, for those light winded days we find between the summer gales. Sure there are lots of benefits to this but feeling all cozy and safety tucked into the cockpit is my number one goal.  Over the last 30 years I’ve sailed all over the world and this place is by far the most challenging.  I’m constantly sunprised when world class sailors lose their boats up here but getting back out into the thick of it every spring I’m reminded of the old saying ” if you haven’t been aground you haven’t been around”. We’ve had many close calls but so far Sookies bottom hasn’t so much as kissed anything other than an errant deadhead.

By design, I have been rebuilding her slowly are surely to be the best of the best. Her lack of instruments can be frightening at times but it forces me to be a safer sailor and raises the bar for satisfaction on every trip. I fully enjoy the labor of sailing, the sound the chain makes as it rattles out the pipe.  Canvas fluttering in the wind.  The eerie moan in the rigging.  Corse calloused hands pulling thick sheets and the rush of water as it races past my bunk while I’m rocked to sleep in my comfy quarter berth.

My hands on approach to doing things right as opposed to doing them.  This long tedious process has had the hands of many fine sailors involved, each project that is over my head adds the experience of one more set of hands and a bit of sailors karma to my trusty little ship.  In a world where everything has to be now I take great pride in the slowness of my life.  A good bottle of scotch and Sookies lantern have been my soul mate for over 2000 nights while I slowly sketch each new  addition to this wonderful little ship. The next project on the list is pulling the cabin sole and adding a water tank which will also add a few hundred pounds of extra ballast when it’s full. Bare teak floor boards will top it all off.  Most people will never get why I do all this but I’m not most people.  If your reading these words I’m guessing your brain is aligned pretty closely to mine and that’s where these words come and go, in a tiny water tribe of people who still actually care about the wind…

Outfitting for blue water

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When I was a broker I would tell prospective clients to get three quotes on the upgrades they need.  You notice I said need and not want, the wants come later.  Take the highest bid, double it and then add 50%, this is half of what it will really cost.  So why am I outfitting for blue water when I have no intentions of blue water sailing? Options I say, I like options and besides, a ship like Sookie should be whole.

I’ve been working with Brian Toss on my new boom, it will be 16″ longer and give me the space to install a proper boom gallows on Sookie and finally have full coverage in the cockpit including lee cloths. The real delema is my new head sails.  My preference is a roller furling lapper and staysail. Roller furling instantly ruins the sailing performance on any boat, add two and your doubling your trouble.  Not just with added windage aloft but also added weight to the rig, poor sail shape if furled and a measure of fragility. I love my hank ones but due to Sookies narrow beam there just isn’t room in her rat lines to work up there so I’m always riding the bowsprite like a bucking bronco, very exciting at times.

When I replaced all my upper standing rigging and spar shrouds I went with 1/4″ wire.  This is complete over kill for Sookie but only added 11 lbs total to her rig, a very acceptable compromise in my opinion.  In the fall Sookie will get new chain plates, she has split lowers unlike the factory single.  When I do this I’ll be replacing all of her cover boards and re fastening her deck.  Because the deck is fiberglassed to the hull she doesn’t leak a drop but I’m redesigning her toe rail so this is a great time to do it.  I don’t know of any other boat that has a sealed deck joint like Sookie, just one of the many brilliant additions that makes her one In a million.

I’ve never considered things like electronics, liferafts, engines… to add to the seaworthiness of a boat, in fact they detract from it. I’m still waiting on my quote for pintles and gudegons but they will be installed this year and well worth the beans and rice diet that will pay for them. Some day I may add fancy things to Sookie but this year it’s all about blue water safety, and all new cushions but hey, a guys got to get a good nights sleep, both in the bed and in the head…

I’ve borrowed this from landlpardey.com enjoy

You Can’t Buy Safety

This chapter, from our book the Capable Cruiser, 3rd edition was originally written in response to a magazine editorial. It was printed in Latitudes and Attitudes several years ago but nothing has changed as far as the heavy marketing of so called Safety equipment. So Larry and I think it is worth sharing it with folks who getting ready to set off cruising.

The list of safety gear you “should” buy is endless; the potential to sink your cruising budget by buying it is definitely real. Some safety gear is essential, some is useful, most of it will never get used so where do you draw the line? It’s a hard call even for experienced sailors. The only way to make wise choices is by getting out sailing and racking up lots of sea time in lots of different weather situations so you can truly evaluate what equipment you need. In the rush to ready your boat and shore life so you can get out cruising, it is hard to gain this experience/sea time.
Here are some thoughts to keep in mind when you consider safety gear:
The first and most important piece of safety gear you have on board is a partner who has the knowledge and skills to handle the boat. There is not one piece of man-overboard gear that is going to help if the person left on the boat does not know how to get the boat back to you.
Your boat is your life raft. That rubber thing in a valise or canister is an abandon-ship raft, a flimsy replacement for the strong boat you are thinking of leaving and only a hopeful last chance. The vast majority of boats abandoned by their owners are later found drifting crew-less and afloat.
The harness you may or may not use on deck is just that, a harness to back up
your hands. It does not insure safety, nor is it a substitute for learning to move around on deck using the old fashioned sounding seaman’s adage; one hand for you, one hand for the ship.
The only sure way of avoiding collisions at sea is by having someone stand watch in the cockpit. A watch keeper on deck will be able to spot that violent squall approaching in time to drop sail before it hits. Because he/she will have lots of time to look around the boat the watch keeper might notice a potential gear failure before it causes a serious problem. The more reasons (or excuses) you have for staying below deck, the less safe you become.
Gear that is used only in emergencies may not function properly if you and the crew have not practiced using it. Inflatable items like liferafts may also fail to inflate/deploy/work due to ingress of salt water, exposure to sun and heat or human error when it was originally packed or repacked.
Think prevention instead of cure. I.e. improving the non-skid on your deck and cabin-top could prevent crew from skidding overboard. Improving your
boomvang/preventer-tackle-system could prevent an injury-causing accidental gybe.
Over the past few months we have had the pleasure of rendezvous with some highly experienced cruising sailors, folks who have each circumnavigated twice and sailed far beyond the normal routes including Noel and Litara Barrett winners of the Blue Water Medal, Alvah and Diana Simons, Beth Leonard and Evans Starzinger. Interestingly the topic of safety brought the same reactions from each of these master sailors, “it’s far safer at sea than on the freeways. Car’s whizzing past you at 60 miles an hour, only three or four feet to spare. Out at sea you are rarely moving more than 6 or 8 knots.” But we all agreed; with experience comes confidence, with confidence comes the ability to access safety or accept risks. Almost everyone who sets off cruising has far more experience on freeways than at sea. If you had a look at the boats each of these remarkable people sail you’d be surprised at how
 Spartan their “safety gear” list appears. Each of their boats is highly geared towards efficient sailing, each has very clear deck areas and an extensive system of handholds throughout the cabin, in the cockpit and on deck, and each has all essential systems independent of electricity. Each carries a plethora of back up rigging and sail repair equipment. Each has an abundance of anchors, anchor-rodes and a powerful windlass.
If you are outfitting for your first foray offshore, consider spending some of the funds you put aside for safety equipment on a learn- to- cruise charter. Invite that salty old guy who sailed around the world ten years back to go out sailing with you for a weekend and assess your gear, or lack of it, through his eyes. Hire a professional delivery skipper to join you for a day or two of sea-trails before you invest in any more “safety” gear. You will be buying something far more dependable than a piece of gear that might theoretically save your life in a theoretical situation; you’ll be buying first-hand experience that could prevent that theoretical catastrophe from happening in the first place.

Sailing around the world?

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I hobble back to Sookie, I’m wrecked.  I barely have enough energy to pull a cool beer from the bilge and tuck into my quarter berth.  I wake early to a half finished beer and a beautiful day.  An early morning spending spree and my bank account has run dry and I couldn’t be happier, Sookie is covered for another year and her registration is payed till June 2018.  I have enough boat supplies to keep me busy for a month but the paint for my bowsprite is still AWOL.  I need to pull it and inspect and paint under her cranz iron.

The number one letter I get from this site is how do you afford it.  The plain and simple truth is I can’t but I do it anyway.  I’m a minimalist for sure but between the boat, my Brompton and my Nikon there aren’t enough hours in the day with all the mini adventures I find my way into.  Last year I had a boat full of food and less than $150.00 to last me from February till the end of June, it was a struggle but I did it.  Having just come off a sailing trip up the inside passage and straight into a bike tour of the Hawaiian islands I doubt anyone felt sorry for my predicament, I certainly didn’t, it was all just part of the dirt bag life I live.

I feel like a millionaire these days but unlike last year when my only choice was basic survival I have too many now and too many choices is a bad thing.  I’ve been promoted to lead bartender at the resort I work for and they want me to stay forever… it’s interesting watching kids in the restaurant melt down at all the choices on the menue but when given only one they are instantly happy again.  I wonder if we ever grow out of this.  When I set sail north I had few choices.  When it was cold, I was cold.  When it was stormy I dealt with it.  When I was lost, I found my way.  It was all so simple because it was my only choice and I loved every second of it.

Freedom is a lie, we are never free, it isn’t the tax income the big wheel wants from us, it’s our labor.  We are trained from birth to be endentured survants to the system.  I fight this battle every day but if I want new paint for Sookies bowsprite I have to sign over X amount of the best days of my life in exchange, my youth slipping through my fingers as quickly as my dollars slip though my checking account and the cycle continues.

I’m constantly asked if I’m going to sail around the world and the answer is no, I simply can’t afford it and to be honest I don’t want it badly enough to trade my remaining life’s units being a slave to society to earn the money to accomplish the task.  I’d much rather sail in my current region when I can and travel on my Brompton when the weather turns cold.  Returning to Sookie at the end of a long journey is pure heaven.  She does everything I ask of her and each year gets a little better and more comfortable.

Over the last decade Ive become increasingly disallsioned with the prospect of budget long term voyaging.  I wonder if it’s even possible to cruise on the mini budget I used to do it on.  The abundance of big boats and big budgets has raised the prices of everything, everywhere.  I’m currently living in one of the most expensive places in the United States but according to friends I have out there, I’m living cheaper here than they are in Mexico.  I’m beginning to see through the illusion and the more I do the more I love this wonderful area even if I do freeze my ass off 4 months out of the year.

It’s a shorts and tee shirt day and while I should be scrubbing the daily barrage of bird shit off of Sookie I’m still in the boat sipping on coffee and exploring a paper chart of the northern islands.  I cleaned and oiled Brompty after my morning ride and am content with the world.  The headline news is nuclear war, its interesting how little I care about what I hear on the news, Sookie isn’t just my home and bug out boat, she is an island of her own.  I have loaded enough food and booze aboard that I could sail her half way around the world with 5 minutes notice.  Yes it’s nice to know that I can but there is a secret little anchorage about 5 miles from here that seems much more enticing and after a few days out I can come back to my little world, plug in my heater and trade a few more days of my youth for a new roller furling unit.  It’s all an illusion…

“Today as always, men fall into two groups: slaves and free men. Whoever does not have two-thirds of his day for himself, is a slave, whatever he may be: a statesman, a businessman, an official, or a scholar.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

The Dove

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The Dove, by Robin Lee Graham was the first book I read, I actually learned to read from that book.  When I was 9 I tracked him down and called him to interview him about his trip.  Over the years I collected all of his articles that appeared in National Geographic.  Many years later, in 2001 I was living in my truck traveling around America when I decided to pay him a visit.  I was having nachos amd margaritas in his town when I found a full article on him in the local daily paper, I decided it was time to let go and drove straight to Ventura California to sea trial Mariko, the Falmouth Cutter I thought I was destined to own.

My life has thrown me a thousand curve balls since that beautiful day on the sea but I never gave up and soon enough Sookie literally fell into my lap just shy of about 12 years after first meeting her.  It’s warm tonight, my kerosene lantern is burning bright and the music is draining my last bits of energy from a long day and lulling me to sleep. I can’t say I have the best life in the world but I have the one I’ve chosen.  I’d choose it again if I could go back in time…

I love my tiny space, the freedom she represents and the hard work she commands to keep her looking and sailing smart.  Both my master and my servant she is a good home and a brilliant travel companion.  It’s been a few years now since I discovered a mysterious box sealed under an un accessible spot under her floor boards.  I was drilling holes for an exploratory mission to create a new water tank when I found it but still have no idea what’s in this mysterious treasure chest.  With a little luck her old sole will be removed this summer reavealing the mystery of a thousand dreams.  I can’t even begin to wonder what could be inside.  A new water tank and bare teak floor boards will replace the hidden treasure with an even more valuable treasure, water…

“Life would be pretty monotonous if the sky was always blue.”
― Robin Lee Graham, Dove

Falmouth cutter 22 for sale

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The old tune shave and a haircut, 2 bits is ringing through my head as I walk into the local barber shop…  Funny how the tables have turned, in 2001 it was me making ridicules offers on Sookie, she wasn’t for sale, the owners last words, I’ll never sell my boat were painful to listen to.  Now sixteen years later, those same words came out of my mouth.  All I can say is famous last words.

Sookies previous owner upgraded to a BCC, now sailing the South Pacific and after selling her to me admitted that he had sellers remorse.  Her builder and former owner of Sam L Morse also sent a letter to me and in finishing admitted that the Falmouth had always been his favorite boat, a fairly large statement for a guy who sailed over 40,000 miles between his two BCC’s.  Those same words also came out of the mouth of Lyle Hess, her designer. I love Sookie for far too many reasons to list here but the care and feeding I give her tells the story.

If I ever was going to sell her, now would be the time, April has always been my most expensive month of the year when it comes to boat work and annual boat bills. I also have an as is cash offer well over her surveyed value by a local couple  that has been hell bent on sailing her since a chance meeting near Toba Inlet.  Boats are funny like that, they steal our hearts and consume our lives.

It seems a bit ironic, now that winter is waning I find myself warm for the first time since October.  I returned from Friday Harbor with an empty wallet and a brand new heater, piles of supplies for my spring fitting out and my new custom quarter berth cushions will be done in a few short weeks, another 2500 big ones will find a new mattress in my v-berth.  I’ve been going all out on Sookie and there is no end in slight.  My full lifelines will be complete by the end of the month and I’ve finally committed to a roller furling unit and a new lapper by Carol Hassee in cruise cream, YUM!

I wait impatiently for news from the Port Townsend Foundary on my pointless and gudgens but I have plenty of projects on my plate to occupy my time while I continue to write checks and send them off in the post. Sookie is loaded with provisions to just two inches above her water lines which means I can only add 1100 hundred more pounds minus crew weight.  The ongoing saga is self steering which will sort itself out at some point, I hope. Boxes of marine supplies are piled everywhere and more arrive every day as I try and map out the perfect location for each new item.

The one and only question looming is will I push out and sail north or continue to work and put the money into the boat.  Soon enough I’ll flip that coin but I have an idea that my future has already been mapped.  For now it’s early to bed, early to rise and lots of priority shifting, you only live once. Sail now and be broke for winter or work now and be bankrupt of purse…

From the log of Sookie, the islands.  I have a boat full of stores, work now or play now??? Decisions decisions… My log book is filled with thousands of calculations, ship her here, there or well, anywhere at the end of summer or just sail till I’m broke and figure it out when my summer tan starts to fade.

Bora Bora

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I stand on Sookies deck squinting into the inky darkness, the wind is torrenting, rain lashing at me, blinding my already poor night vision, the sea is throwing a tantrum.  I face my palms foreword like a ninja warrior and press them into the wind. There is little resistance I am stronger the the opposing force although this seems to be true it isn’t because I’m not on terra firma, my hands press forward but Sookie is slipping backwards through the sea, the reality my brain tells me couldn’t be further from the truth, I’m being set back onto a lee shore.

At sea there are times that you are so desperate you will try anything to overcome the situation.  I can’t help but to wonder why once we set foot on the shore, the theoretically obvious safe place for all humans that we throw caution into the wind and choose to live our lives so dangerously; excuse me while I pause for a ciggi and a sip of scotch.

April 2nd was my six year anniversary with the day Sookie arrived, how time flys. It took me two full years with many failed attempts to get her to the islands which was my only goal. I set sail without a single penny to my name. I’m here but what next, life has become far too comfortable.  As far as island life goes Ive attained it all but as usual the grass “water” is always greener “Bluer”…

Its been an interesting week, I received a very generous offer on Sookie, she’s not for sale.  I’ve found an interesting BCC in Bora Bora and travel plans are coming along slowly.  Why would I fly half way around the world to look at a boat I doubt I will buy?  Perspective wields a sharp knife, it’s not that I want to make this trip, it’s that I need to, my soul has wanderlust and sea trailing a BCC in the South Pacific is sounding pretty delightful on this stormy day.

My life has become too complacent, too easy, too predictable.  I’ve amassed half the money I need to ship Sookie to Florida and exactly enough to ship her to Southern California where our journey began.  I have very little desire to cruise Mexico again but my time sailing the Caribbean was far too short, I’ve dreamed of returning since the day I left.  I could drop the boat in November and follow the thorny path till I find a new group of islands to call home, my desire for Long distance sailing has slipped though the cracks.  Through the years I’ve become a puddle jumper and gunk-holing is where my heart lies. As much as I love being anchored out having a solid dock to return to from time to time is my new life, for now.

The  dream of two boats and endless summer is closer to dreams than reality but my plan is coming along well, all my ducks are in a row. For today it’s tiny homes and small planes but there is a system to this madness.  In the meantime its spring, sailing season, well the weather guesser is calling for wind to top 40 knots tomorrow. Still it’s sailing season with a bit of cat and mouse as far as the weather goes.

I’ve been on land too long, to be pushed and pulled by the wind is in my genetic code, back to that horrible night, yes I was on a lee shore but I was out there, living as close to the edge as one can get and learning another valuable lesson when it comes to Sookies limits, she is a small boat and physics will always win.  Then again the right mixture of skill and luck goes a long way out here.

From the log of Sookie, I can’t help but to wonder… if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now would I still be dreaming about doing what I’m doing now.

New world tourist

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I stepped off the plane expecting to ride my bike to the campground for the night.  Mother Nature had other plans, the warm humid air was inviting but the near hurricane force winds and torrential rains had me second guessing trying to find and set up a stealth camp in the dark.  A short cab ride and nearly a hundred bucks out of my tiny stash found me reclining in a nice comfy couch chilling with travelers from all over the world sipping on red wine.

Each new trip is a learning experience and I get a little better at packing and more importantly leaving things behind.  It’s easy to let the mind run wild with all the things you will need on bike tour but in reality there are very few.  We live in a new world and bike parts can be overnighted virtually anywhere if you can find Internet which is almost everywhere these days and this is the genious of touring on a folding bike.  If catastrophe does strike just fold it up and hitch to the next town which is a new adventure in itself.  I meet people on the road touring in America and they carry enough spares to almost build a new bike.  I carry a scant few extras and in 3000 miles haven’t had to use a single one.  Someday I might but Im trying to leave someday for when it actually arrives.

Sure bringing the ukulele was a bit idiotic and I won’t do that again nor will I carry so much food or all of the little things that never got used.  My micro Swiss Army knife was one of my most used items and carelessly lost somewhere, next time it will have a little string to hang around my neck.  I didn’t use my uber expensive titanium cooker either, preferring fresh food and snacks all day long over cooking in camp.  I carried just a bit too much of everything but ounces add up to pounds.

The big killer was my iPad and dslr but I love those things as I like to blog for my family as often as I can so they know all is well.  As a photographer it’s hard to leave these things behind but I’m pretty sure the next trip will be with an iPhone. My old POS iPhone 4 did ok in Hawaii but it’s heavy and the battery sucks so maybe I’ll update to an iPhone 5.  Phones are an issue with keeping the battery charged but also easily fit into my accessory pouch for more photo ops.

Less gear, lighter gear and more reliable gear make for more fun on the bike which is what the tour is all about which brings me to bikes.  When I committed to a folding bike it wasn’t to tour with, it was for the boat and small trips.  I had from the beginning of time thought that I wanted a Bike Friday but that all changed once I went to the factory and checked them out.

The Bike Friday rides very nice and every wheel upsize adds to the quality of the ride but they are also heavy, extremely complex and in my opinion would be fragile on tour, they also are difficult or maybe awkward to fold is a better description.  It’s more of a take apart bike than a folding bike.  For the price I could buy a Norco and tour in a full size folding bike which brings me back to the whole boat bike… the little Brompton turned out to be the Swiss Army knife of folding bikes, it does everything perfectly for my needs and is unbelievably reliable, comfy to ride, cute and dorky which makes every journey a social expedition. When it comes to boating and biking all I can say is choose your battles wisely.  I have so much more to share on this but the sun is out and I’d rather be out riding my bike than sitting in Sookie writing about it.

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
― Albert Einstein

Give me shelter

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The weather guesser was wrong again, it shouldn’t surprise me but it always catches me off gaurd.  Riding twelve miles though the inky black night in the pouring rain with no light was a challange, my body shivered uncontrollably.  I climbed into sookies cabin flung my wet clothes off in a pile and pulled on my warmies.  I left my rain soaked down bag for morning.  I love Sleeping under the stars but there is something so reassuring about having a good dry shelter.

I’m shellshocked from a brutal winter without protection from the wind and seas, it’s been a challange and will be my last winter aboard but it’s spring now so those things are far from my mind, sort of.  In exactly 5 months I will start hunkering down for a different type of winter, it sounds like such a short journey from here to there but it’s easy to stretch those distances. I could drive a car 50 miles in the blink if an eye and see and learn nothing.  By making the same journey on my bike it would easily stretch from an hour to a day or two and I could walk that same distance and turn it into a weeks journey.  My goal as always is to have a slow lazy spring summer and fall stuffed to the brim with fun and new experiences.

My days of carting around a one man tent that’s alsmost small enough to fit in my back pocket arent over but finding a good tent that’s also strong, water resistant and light isn’t easy.  I recently wrote a review of my last tent based off of nearly 100 straight days of use for REI, they refused to post it preferring reviews like… this is the best tent ever, I used it one night in my backyard and I highly recomend this tent to anyone.  Finding anything of quality at a reasonable price is difficult these days but finding something that will last a over a hundred days is near impossible.

The old tarp is hard to beat, small, extremely weather proof and light, they do the job.  Unfortunately I’m like a little girl when it comes to bugs and need a solid shelter to keep the night critters at bay.  It’s hard to describe what it’s like waking up with a tarantula crawling across your face or a rattle snake snuggling up to you for warmth, yes I’ve gone soft. Funnel web spiders, foot long centipedes, scorpions, fire ants… screw that, this homey don’t play that game.

I’ve turned Sookies two full sized chart tables into drafting boards and locked myself inside for the day.  It’s in the fifties and thunderstorms with hail slowly march to the north occasionally hammering down on us reminding me that our painfully short spring is here.  The coffee is hot and I have a pile of fresh fruit to nourish me for the day.  Life in the islands isn’t an easy one but it fulfills my every desire, challanges me on a near daily basis and feeds the ever expanding desires of my A.D.D. Scattered brain.

All of this started with one simple question, can a bicycle truly replace my car.  My plate is full and I feel a bit scattered but all this is only the training grounds for a much bigger journey, one of 100% financial stability without working, freedom to roam but also to come home at anytime I choose. It’s taken years of struggle but I’ve built a solid foundation, it’s time to start banging nails…

From the log of Sookie, I stare at my compass and wonder why it’s always pointed north, unwaveringly; there is much to be learned from this simple device.

First world poverty

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Ive collected my 2016 income documents and again have sucessfuly earned less than the US poverty level in America, score!  To add insult to injury of the complelty backwards ass way Americans live or think they need to live im upping the ante.  My goal is to continue on at this income, I’ve also decided I need a plane, I have access to a grass strip and also Holly has convinced me to build her a tiny home so that project is up and rolling.

You can blame my parents for teaching me the value of the dollar and a litttle bit of income discretion but most of all it’s that while they have thought I was bat shit crazy since the day I was born they have always if ever reluctantly supported my happiness. I’ll have to check but now that their are two of us in this crazy bandwagon I might be allowed to earn a bit more which will help cause Av gas ain’t cheap.

I know so many who struggle financially, not because they don’t make enough money but because they spend too much, often far more than they earn. As an ex banker my number one rule for all purchases is cash and carry.  If you can’t afford to pay cash you can’t afford it and yes that goes for houses and planes. Debt freedom is the truest freedom you will ever know.

So I’ve been collecting treasures for constructing the new house, I have my feelers out for a sweet plane and yes Sookie is coming along quite well but as can be expected slowly but surely.  Land is still unaffordable but it’s not a matter of if the ecomeny will crash, its when will it crash, its inevitable and that’s when we’ll find our land deal.  When the market goes land in these islands is almost free. Statistically a full blown depression is on our doorstep. Yes I live in poverty but I also live in America where living in poverty is little more than a first world problem based off of our personal choices not circumstance, winter is coming…

 “Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” Warren Buffett 

Ukulele underground

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I’m sitting in the cockpit plucking my uke and enjoying my free time in the warm afternoon sun.  A guy walks by with his bongo and it’s on.  The sun on my face, the rhythmic beat of his drums, it captures my soul and takes me back to Little Beach and my naked fire girls.  I rip into Wipeout and he jams with me till I completely fuckup and lose myself, I’m still learning it.  The scotch comes out and we talk about boats, independent travel and freedom.

Boats come in all shapes and sizes, some with big clean and white spaces , others lined with dark cozy aged teak.  I’ve been on a boat that reminded me of the inside of a violin, with every joint fitted to perfection.  Sookie is more like a ukulele, small, easy and ready for anything the world can throw at her.  Her sophistication is in her simplicity and while I never stop dreaming of a larger boat I’ve turned down every offer made on her and some have been pretty amazing.

Buzzed on a tall glass of aged nectar I walk up to drop a load of laundry, my uke strung over my back just in case I find a perfect spot of shade or decide to give an impromptu show at the bar.  My little uke literally saved my life last winter in Hawaii when a made nearly a hundred bucks busking, that night I have one of the most appreciated meals I’ve ever experienced but starvation will do that to a person.

Strapped to the back of my Brompton I carried my uke through the rainforests of Washington and down the wind swept Oregon coast, it made me no shortage of friends and seemed to get the party started everynight.

Like boats ukes come in all shapes and sizes, I like simple ukes, nothing fancy but the patterns of the wood.  I love sapranos as their sound is magical.  The tenor has always felt too large and more like a mini guitar.  My little Koaloha concert hits every sweet spot both for a full voice, perfect sound and playability in the best size for travel.  To prove my love for her she is getting a bath and new strings tonight when my fingers give out and the laundry is done.

Lifes simple pleasers come in many forms, for me it’s on a scale of the smaller side, a good boat, my uke and all the time in the world to do a whole lot of nothing. Should you feel inclined these guys will treat you like King Kamehameha…

Cutters

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The late winter sun hangs lazily to the west, we’re trapped on a mountain palteau, it’s beautiful. We are stuck surrounded by wet crumbly sheer cliffs, the sun will set soon, there is no way out of here. We pull out our cameras and start shooting pictures of each other, they may be our last.  We tease and giggle poke fun at our situation, we lost the trail an hour ago and kept pushing through, higher and higher, the million dollar view may just cost us everything.

I glance at my watch, we have two hours of light on our side.  I’ve carried a few beers to drink at the top, decisions, decisions.  We could drink them at the bottom  in celebration of surviving the ordeal or drink them now, a possible catilist to our death by a speedy gravity assisted trip down. We slip and slide making fun of each other, always one arm extended making a human chain to stretch the distance to elusive hand holds.

Sitting safely on  the beach we have our victory beers, walking back to the road a slippery tree I’m scaling takes me down hard, a reminder of how quickly our situation can change. The gods have been good to us today.

Up and down and round and round our Bromptons  carry us through quiet country roads.  Muddy fields with lazy cows paint our scenery, lambs, goats and even a free boat are just the tip of our island forey.

The air feels warmer than it looks, spring has taken hold, daylight savings has generously given us more time in the saddle.  The south end store provides us with cheesy poofs and more cold beers…

Pink noses and brightly colored bikes shine like our smiles, we ride and endless island loop, this could go on forever, I hope it does.

From surf to turf and back again, I’ve explored all these places before but today they are all very different, the island light is magical.

Back at the boat for warm soup, cheese quesadillas and a well earned nap, life is good in the islands.

From the log of Sookie, Sookie looks like a bomb has gone off inside of her. Neatly folded bikes, warmies piled high and tasty snacks lining every inch of available space…

Bedrock sandles

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My salty dogs are singing praise to my new minimalist Bedrock sandles.  They just arrived, hand delivered and are spot on, even for my OCD brain they are pure perfection.  The icing on the cake is that they are made in the USA and pretty kewl if I do say so myself. I’ve done everything from bike touring to section hiking the PCT for most of the length of California and even running a marathon in sandles, they are as close to barefoot as I can get with my crusty and well worn dogs which are appropriately nicknamed Tom and Jerry. The simple act of strapping them on my feet has me feeling like the Tarahumara in Born to run.

I’m a walker, I walk everywhere unless I’m on my faithful Brompty but even having that amazing steel horse I still love to walk.  People are always pulling over to offer me a ride and I’m like why the hell would I want to get in that piece of shit, planet destroying vehicle on such a beautiful day, or any day for that matter.  Light or dark, rain or shine I’m like Forrest Gump only a little slower in the brain.

I’ve been faithful to Chacos since 2001 but over the years I’ve noticed a very steep decline in the quality, then they moved to china which pissed me off to no end but by then I was addicted and in love even if each successive pair cost more and literally lasted me half as long.  I’m not cheap by any measure but I am thrifty as hell and dropping a C-note a year to China on foot wear doesn’t really meet my values.

I sent a letter to Chacos and while it was nice it was full of questions about quality  and the direction of their now offshore company.  Well it’s been a year and they still haven’t responded, nothing pisses me off more than customer service no service.  I felt as if they had broken up with me and thrown me in the trash, then I found Bedrock sandles and joy of joy I’ve found true love again.

They are light, tough and comfy, not to mention super sexy and they even match Brompty and my Topo designs day pack SCORE!  I’ll try not to get too gushy with all my lovydovy hyper-excitability over these sandles till I’ve dropped a few hundred miles on them but they are pretty cush. On top of all that they are members of 1% for the planet which puts them straight to the top of my I love you list.

Disclaimer As always on the very rare occasion that I actually find a product that I like enough to write about and stand behind 100% I will add that I am not affiliated in any way shape or form with the Bedrock sandles company, although, truthfully I wish I was.  Check them out on Instagram, they will blow your mind.

Minimalist exposure

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Ive finally given away all of my camera gear with the exception on one body and a 50mm lens.  I’d say back to basics but that would have me drawing pictures in the sand with a stick.  I’ve never liked the zoom lens, it seems to steal all of my creativity and lock me down into a technical world of dials, buttons, settings and a complete lack of what I’m really trying to do, to slow down time until it stops for just a 125th of a second.

My aprature is always preset to f16 a setting I never use but old habits die young and that’s where I would back calculate my exposure from 1/125, the old sunny 16 rule.  My life mirrors my photography I’m many ways.  I start with the very basics, some times I add to them and some times I subtract but always I have an equal quality of life to create that perfect balance between shadow and darkness, be-it work or play.

I watch a photographer on the dock pushing and pulling his subjects around, they have shelled out a pile of cash to make them look like something they are not, something they never will be.  He has an assistant with a flash and a reflector and tries to pull emotion out of their dead souls. Techniacally his numbers are perfect but life like great photography has very little to to with numbers, his over priced snapshots will result in digital images of fake people who can’t even bring a real smile and who really cares, do we always have to be smiling?  Why is it that the first word we learn is no, followed by cheese?  Are we being taught from birth that there will be no cheese?

I dry the snow from my camera and drop it back into its bag.  I’m drawing pictures and diagrams to send off to Holly who is very visual.  I don’t really use my camera for any relevant propose, I just use it to document my irrelevant life and often wonder if anyone really cares about images and words or If I’ve just become a 2 minute sidetrack to tedium and boredom.

I look at my watch, I have 2 hours to kill before my three hour work day begins, breakfast, coffee, stretch, ride, stretch, coffee, lunch.  I’ve pruned my life’s possessions to only the basics, time, energy and light.  By taking everything out of my life my most valuable tools now are time and freedom and yes there will be snapshots, with a few meaningless words…

A temple to the sea

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In all my life I’ve yet to sail a boat more fun than Sookie, from our first sail together on a beautiful full moon though all of our rough passages she has never let me down.  I would wait till the world was asleep and push her back from her slip, sailing engineless out of Bellingham bay can be difficult and the first half dozen attempts were unsuccessful but being alone at the helm of my ship even in those short midnight sails I felt like the king of the world.

I always took her at night just in case… engineless sailing certainly has its risks. Eventually I did make it out of the bay and those brilliantly dark inky nights left only the stars to guide us. Always a lady Sookie responds as a ship or a dinghy depending on what you ask her to do.  As much as I love charging along at or above hull speed it’s those balmy lazy afternoons where she gently pulls along always making way but in my favorite lazy fashion that I live for.

It’s hard to believe but today is our 6 year anniversary “happy anniversary baby”. She wouldn’t arrive until April second having literally been stolen by the shippers but six years ago today I was given my freedom and Sookie would be my magic carpet to the tiny world of the Salish Sea, my backyard. Bit by bit over the years I’ve added this and that.  What was to be a 2 year hundred thousand dollar complete rebuild turned into a 30 year scrap her together as I go and sail as often as I can project. The economy literally left me high and dry one day after she arrived.

My friend Sara was the first to spot her in her trailer making way into town but within an hour the whole boatyard was buzzing with congratulations on Bellingham’s newest sweetheart.  I nearly froze to death that week while the snow fell on my new home in the boatyeard and me with no heat but I didn’t care.  I piled on everything I owned and snuggled in tight with Chloe. She arrived on a Sunday, Monday morning three deals had crashed and burned turning my 13k commission into zero and leaving me with a life savings of 13 cents and not a drop of hope in sight.

It’s  snowing today  and chilly aboard, some things never change.  There is a long story about how Sookie found me again but I’ll save that one for later.  Ten years before she found me I found her and would often sit with her and drink wine admiring her beautiful lines while she gently tugged at her bits and as always when I said goodbye to her, I’d place my hand on her bowsprit and say someday… someday.

From the log of Horizon – I’ve found my new girl but today she is with another, I know this will test my patience but someday we will sail together, someday…

The #sailing life

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Somewhere deep in the recesses of Sookie I have thousands of pretty sailing images locked away for a future project I was supposed to finish months ago. The bilge pump is going off again, I’m not sinking and Sookie doesn’t leak a single drop, it’s condensation.  The same condensation keeps everything damp and feeds the mold that has me waking up with sore lungs.  Keeping the boat dry is a constant battle.  Protoecting my camera gear, computer gear, keeping my clothes dry enough that mold doesn’t start to grow on them, this is a few of the many realities of living aboard.

On the flip side, I’m clean and showered.  It’s laundry day and I have piles of warm clean clothes and sheets.  Fresh potatoes and onions are steaming in the hobb, hard boiled eggs chilling in cold water and I have a bottle of whiskey given to me by a very generous sailing couple who came knocking in my hatch at the suggestion of a good friend. The #sailing life can be a good one with the right attitude.

I’m always questioning what real freedom is.  Most of us have either comefort and safety or true freedom.  A very small percentage of us might experience both but even for those fortunate few more often than not it’s very short lived.  I push play on my new song list and blast music while I continue in my sketch book trying to create the almost perfect life.  I sidetrack to Instagram and enter #thesailinglife and look at really pretty pictures, snapshots in time and am reminded that those images only represent a millisecond of reality and just like my own pictures there is a ton of hard work and hardship between all the payday moments.

Freelancing has given me the freedom to roam, to go anywhere I want for as long as I want as long as I tote my minimalist digital office with me. I have enough money, enough food, enough freedom, enough… Im alone again for now, I send off a letter and sign it with the L word, patience I remind  myself, anything worth having is worth fighting for…

Some people never find it, some… only pretend.  But me: I just want to live happily ever after, now and then.  -jimmy Buffett 

Somewhere in Oregon

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Today I did my longest ride since returning from the Oregon coast, a very easy 25 miles, my knee is still janked.  I’m seriously considering a bionic knee or getting clipless pedals and continuing on with one leg.  I threw a pity party in the spa and now I have to face my upcoming reality, my long distance cycling career may be over.  I’m a little bent but have nothing but time on my hands to figure this out.

Living in the damp dank PNW my body always aches, funny how just hours off the plane in the tropics I feel like I’ve been given the body of a 25 year old, maybe I should start listening.  My only reason for the new steed is the amount of cactus the Baja divide will offer up to my tiny rubber tires.  Flashing back to my seven flats in one miserably soaking wet and wind torn day somewhere in Washington and I know I will need a different monster for Baja. I’m slightly limping around but the real pain is my potential reality of not making this trip.

To be honest I have felt terrible, like I’m two timing Brompty, my all time favorite touring bike but still, Baja looms.  I love dessert riding, the wild weather and being so far off the beaten path that nobody can save me but myself.  Self reliance has always been one of my better traits, not that I have many.  A gallon of water a day, more stretching and more slow riding will fill the rest of my week.  The winter weather has broken, spring is here in its full glory and Ive got a massive dose of wander lust.

I have all my ducks in a row but one, maybe a bike, train tour of Southern Europe  with short days is in order.  I could train from city to city and just be a damn tourist while sneaking in a few banging rides and ignoring the pain till it’s too much and then hop to the next city.  The thought of traveling without my bike is an impossibility. It’s desision time which is why I have a cup of noodles and a bottle of whisky, I’m really good at ignoring reality.  Either way if I taste defeat it won’t be from my warm perch by the fire overlooking the bay.  It will be out there, on my hands and knees facing the point where I can’t turn one more rotation…

“Passion and drive are not the same at all. Passion pulls you toward something you cannot resist. Drive pushes you toward something you feel compelled or obligated to do. If you know nothing about yourself, you can’t tell the difference. Once you gain a modicum of self-knowledge, you can express your passion…..It’s not about jumping through someone else’s hoops. That’s drive.” -Randy Komisar

Mi gusta tacos muchas porfavore

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The fastest I’ve ever gone on my bike is 65.7 mph.  My biggest air, about six stories and my days best run 135 miles.  I’ve been mountain biking since before it was a sport.  Back in the good old days the rangers would threaten us with arrest and heavy fines but it never stopped me. I pioneered El Prieto in 1984 and have never looked back.  Bikes have grown a millennia from my old custom built 5 speed Schwann beach cruiser but I still ride for the same old reason, because it’s fun.

Ive ordered my new karate monkey but still am working on the build.  I love riding single speed and rigid and have been since 2005 but my cranky old body is asking for a bit of plushness so I’m considering upgrading to something like the image alone which I bamboozled off of the web.  This bike and it’s luggage is rapidly growing in price and since I’ve already gone a cool grand over budget I’ve decided to top it all off with a Chris Bling pink headset, why the hell not.  I’ve also rented a cabana to store it and a place where I can focus on my knee with plenty of space to stretch out.

I’ve invented a new type of yoga, called angry yoga, when I enter my studio there is a yoga dummy hanging by the front enterence, every time I enter I say namaste and then punch the dummy in the face.  Angry yoga is a cross between San Soo and yoga and is great for strength training and relaxation.

I chose the Surly because I’m a creature of habit and my old Surly was the bomb.  Strong, fastish and relatively nimble, it also tracks like a freight train and those big 3″ tires will float through the Baja desert.  Staying true to my now 8 year boycott of cars I will ride my bike to the trail and that’s my biggest fear.  My complete failure at making it to the Mexican border last year is hanging heavy on my mind.  If I fail this trip I’m going to give up everything, grow a daddy belly and make crazy kids in a suburban hell and go back into banking.  What I’m getting at is that I have everything riding on this trip, aging sucks balls!

In the meantime I don’t want any anchors so I’m culling my life until there is nothing to distract me from focusing on making my body unstoppable.  My gear list is mostly complete and I’ll be adding a page here soon enough but that elusive pink riding skirt is still on the top of my list.

Baja divide 2017

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Its on!  It took about 6 hours of soul searching to commit to it.  The choices are simple, spend my summer sailing around solo and in complete isolation and lonely as shit, or jump on my iron horse and hit the road. It’s a really tough choice with so many great bikes out there but I’ve decided a Surly Karate Monkey with a 1×11  gearing will be the bike for the journey. I don’t want to hit Mexico before the end of October so I’ve got 7 months to kill depending on where I start.

If I start from Dead Horse Alaska it will be on or before May 14th.  If I start from Juno it will be early July and if I start from somewhere around here it will be towards the end of August unless I decide to to a quick Oregon tour in which case I’m already running late.  I’m still not sure if I’ll take a stock bike or build one from the frame up.  I’d like front suspension but it’s pricy, heavy and somewhat fragile.  I’ll be rolling 3″ tubeless tires and just like on Brompty all frame bags with the lightest load I can muster.

There is an old saying, if your not cold while wearing everything you have, you brought too much.  I was minimalist on Brompty, I’m going for full maximum minimalist on Monkey.  I’m not sure how to get to Seattle and back to pick up the new steed and all the crap that goes with it but this new journey has already started in the gear stage and by Monday morning I’ll be sending a doposite off on the new bike.

Ive  been in this weird depression induced funk since the day I gave in to my shit knee and that won’t happen again, I’ll be in the best shape of my life before I start this ride and progressively grow from there.  My wanderlust is peaking these days and I wish I could leave today, shit, maybe I will. I’m not much of a planner or a prepper but this ride will be one accompanied by gps, new lighter and smaller camera gear and fuck yes, open ended, I’m done with boats and boating for now. I need me a good taste of terra firma, camp fires and desert sunsets accompanied by my old friend that salty sweaty skank that only a touring cyclist can know.  Warm beers, tequila and cabbage tacos will be my dangling carrot all the way to the cape.

For anyone curious about the Baja divide, search it on Instagram or check out gypsybytrade the creater of this route and the single best blog in the planet earth.

I’m a moron but it was fun as shit

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This is beginning to be my life’s story.  It all started with a shower, a broken shower to be exact.  I wandered from stall to stall, though the boys locker room, the girls and finally settled on a quick dip in the spa as all the showers were broken.  I hadn’t really noticed that I was naked until going back to towel off when I spied my body in the tall mirrors. FUCK, how did I get so out of shape?  When I arrived just a few months ago I had 2% body fat, now I look like a sea monkey.

Ive been contemplating riding the Baja divide for quite some time, the question is when will I start and from where.  Do I take the Brompty or swap up to 650b Karate Monkey. Both have been rocking good touring bikes for me but the truth is the Brompton is more fun on all accounts. The Surly can carry more, as is more water and I don’t have to take care of it, I can just bash my brains out with its 2×10 gearing and fat tires but still.

A new Titanium Brompton will set me back exactly the same as a fully loaded Surly so price wise it’s a wash. On the moron adventure scale the Brompton will be a much bigger challange off road which equates to way better writing, or in my case at least more interesting writing. My last remaining neurons are firing like crazy at the prospect of a new expedition. Minimalist, ultralight and more than likely solo and with a tiny budget, I mean really what the hell could go wrong.

Im thinking Victoria in late August for a starting point but I could just as easily pick up in Newport where my last ride ended.  For me this is a big scary journey, being lost and out of water in the Sierra Nevadas of Baja Norte can be deadly.  I’m always lost so it’s inevitable that this ride will be one of the bigger challanges of my life. You know, the kind that after all is said and done your like, I’m a moron but it was fun as shit.

“Let them get lost, sunburnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches – that is the right and privilege of any free American.”-Edward Abbey

Forty hours of sheer terror

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Of all the things that I have experienced on a boat at sea, being with someone who is loosing their shit in heavy weather is by far the scariest.  It’s hard enough to take care of yourself and the boat but finding myself in this situation is something I work hard at avoiding.  I was solo in the worst Gale I’ve ever experienced and in many ways it was a good thing because it’s the most frightened I’ve ever been in my life.

The mental fatigue wears at you, the motion feels like you are slowly being beaten to death and physically things go south surprisingly fast.  For all my love of the sea, heavy weather sailing has never been something I enjoy although being caught in it has its finer points.  It’s impossible to understand the power and beauty of the sea unless you have been a spec on the ocean caught in her mighty fury.

At some point in our lives we call it and say enough is enough and decide to live a more sedate and comefortable life.  In thirty years of sailing I’ve met thousands of people who call them selfs sailors but less than a dozen with the skills to safely sail solo in Gale conditions in a small boat, it’s a whole different game. It’s a test 99.99% of sailors would fail if they had the courage “read stupidity” to show up. I’ve found my solace in this tiny sea that I dwell in but still the ocean calls.

My desire for a much larger and heavier sailboat is primarily based off of age and experience, I can’t tolerate what I could when I was 25 or 35.  I get fatigued easier, cold faster and my brain goes stupid in half the amount of time, this latter point is the most dangerous place a sailor can ever be and where most bad things happen out there.  To understand my position all you have to do is take your small boat, or any boat into a full blown gale in the straits a time and place very few will ever see.

I sent this amazing journey …continued in part two.

Brompton files

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I was rudely awakened by objects being thrown around the cabin at 3:00AM while Sookie was buffeted with 40 mile per hour gusts, it’s going to be a long stormy week, same as most of the winter has been.  With a poof I lit the hob pulled out my cycling luggage and made another round of cuts in the pre dawn darkness.  My next bicycle tour will be the ultimate in sophistication, minimalism and simplicity.

I’ve spent the last week, scrutinizing every piece of gear, studying every inch of Brompty and putting together the ultimate touring bicycle.  You learn a lot pedaling 2500 miles and my system is near perfect.

There is nothing I can do to make Brompty better, she is already flawless but the idea of upgrading to a titanium version has my mouth watering with dropping another 5 pounds off my load, I’ve already shed 15.  I have everything I need and not a gram more.  My only conflict is that they discontinued the orange frame this year and I can’t see dropping so much cash on a bike that isn’t the perfect coler for me.  As much as I love the rear rack its coming off for my next journey and that alone will save the equivent or two giant beers for the end of each day.

My tent is the other big WTF, I killed my brand new North Face tent in Gale force winds on the Oregon coast and am thinking a hammock might be an option but I honestly loved that little coffin of a tent till they day it died and other than it’s bright yellow color it was so tiny I could stealth camp easily in those creepy thick woods with out a problem.

Im going back to work for real so this may be my last hurrah till I can save enough for the new boat so this is a super big deal to me.  My knee is still not 100% but a lighter load and slower pace should see many beautiful miles out on the road.  I’ll be living very close to the edge without any backup clothing or parts  but I’m not worried about it, I don’t think it’s possible fo find worse weather than I did in my last trip.

Each day is three minutes longer, a smidge closer to our amazing early spring days and and I’m jonesing hard for the open road and the freedom of exploration it provides.  Long days in the saddle with big climbs, nasty headwinds and all those morons in thier cars, I’m so close I can almost taste the next journey.

Working under sail

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It’s hard to believe that my fifth summer in the islands is creeping up on me.  In that time I’ve slowly explored from Bellingham to the Desolation Sound and everywhere in between. While I’ve been on my slow journey I’ve watched friends circumnavigate, sail the Pacific Rim and cross as many oceans as exist on this big blue marble.

My journey has been a little different, than many but for the most part we all have one very similar obstacle, making money while we play.  Ive watched sailors like the kids from Sailing La Vagabond Crush it while others have flat run out of money and turned to scrubbing boat bottoms for 5 bucks an hour to keep their dreams alive. One friend of mine left with 500 bucks and sailed nearly 40,000 miles finding work along the way while others have had to hang up their boats for a year or two and return home to make ends meet.

Creativity and flexibility will get you father than anything.  I have some good friends who circumnavigated in sections always flying home to their real jobs and then back for the next leg. Then there are the ones who found their calling on land half way around the world, sold the boat, swallowed the hook and became expats. We all have different paths and different road maps but one singular goal, to experience the most our life’s have to offer before our fun meter runs out of tokens.

A very long time ago I gave up on the idea of ever meeting someone who adventures spirit can come even close to mine so I let those dreams of distant lands take a back seat to what I do have, the Salish Sea and all of her glory.  I love the challange this area represents with her wild swings in weather, insane currents and bagillions of navigational hazards.  I’m reminded of the old story, Who moved my cheese. If we aren’t constantly adapting to our new enviourmnets  the vortex of time will steal our youth and replace it with regret and stagnation. I literally am afraid of my own shadow but it’s never stopped me from chasing it.

 

Limitless

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It’s been a few amazing years now, but I remember her words like it was yesterday.  “Stormy, you’ve just lost everything you have in the world, what makes you think you can just aquire your dream boat and sail off into the sunset”. I gave her the only response I have ever known. “What makes you think I can’t”.

Sookie is loaded to the brim and trim, I can still drop another thousand pounds of crap in her and everything will find it’s place, I like a tidy boat.  I’m convinced that after the last smattering of bitter cold and piles of snow quietly dissolve  into nothing but a distant memory that spring will be creeping in. Boat maintenance, a few thoughtful upgrades and 9 months of near perfect sailing weather is hanging in the balance.

She is my mobile office, time transport and therapist all rolled into one. I have a date with my destiny far north from here and need to do some negotiating and sea trails.  What I’ve learned this year is that while I love all boats new and old, large and small, that I have become a complete boat snob when it comes to my personal tastes.  As of yet I’ve not sailed any boat that is half as much fun as Sookie and I’ll never call anything short of perfection my home.  I guess I feel that after a lifetime on the sea that I finally deserve what’s best for me.

When done right sailing is of the most romantic ventures in the world and in many ways extremely sexy.  My old sea boots, a razor sharp knife on my hip and my shiny, sparkly chronometer on my wrist is all I need out there, anything else is just fluff. Paper charts guide me with age old tools including my hand me down lead line and puck compass. A good pair of oil skins and super thick wool socks get me through the hard days and my Mankini gets me through the hot lazy days of summer.

Its true, I don’t have any plans to head anywhere but I also don’t have any to stay here.  Spring will guide me to summer and summer to fall. Any day now Sookies main will get bent back on, her jibs hanked and bagged and her anchor line replaced. I’m getting all my ducks in a row for the slow lallygag life I love living as a summer sailor.

Lyle Hess 34

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They slowly sailed by bailing about half a gallon a minute, sometimes you just have to get out and sail, the boat will never be finished.  Last night tucked in two sleeping bags, all my blankets and still cold I pulled out my backup heater, it’s not safe but desperation got the best of me, it was cold as hell and my main heater is shorting out, guess that one isn’t very safe either.

Snow is blowing sideways, the island is a complete white out but soon it will get up to 50 degrees, I pray that this is the last of it and again I’m shopping a wood stove that will do justice to Sookies warm cozy interior.  It has to be artful and traditional as well as functional, Sookie only gets the best.  So another day of freezing my ass of while I contemplate and dream of the warm days of summer.

Life is easy and smooth these days, I have nothing to worry about, not a want in the world, Sookie is loaded down on her lines with good drink, good food, her boom is almost done. I’ve somehow found success in doing nothing more than staying true to my heart and following my dreams.  Her lifelines will be finished this year, finally.  Lee cloths, a collapsible simple spray dodger and a sunshade will have her salty and comfy.

After so many years Packed away I dug out my bible for success, it has taken me a lifetime to write and dates all the way back to my paper route.  While most kids were still wetting their beds I was out pre dawn working and earning and saving, learning, always learning.  Yachting is an expensive buisiness and everything about Sookie is yacht-like.  She sails from port to port in her quiet dignity, every inch of her shows how much she is loved. She always has a skip in her stride knowing she is the prettiest girl at the dance.

My long slumber is over, I feel energized, re-vitalized and ready to crush it again. My next boat will be big, powerful, a true home for half the year.  A Lyle Hess 34, I’ve made my commitment and now the search has begun. Not a fixer upper, not a cleaner upper, a true turn key yacht with a hot shower, heat, and a bed fit for a lifetime of lazy Sundays.

 “Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” —Jim Rohn

The gold standard

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I’ve never once measured my life or lifestyle with anyone or anything.  From my first day on this planet earth I’ve gone against the grain, finding my own path for reasons I often haven’t known until well into my journey.  When I decided to tone my life down and live well below the poverty standard, half of it to be exact it was a self experiment in what is really important to me in life.

I never expected to continue beyond that first year but it just felt right.  As easily as I slipped into that lifestyle and with as little thought as I had put into it back then I’ve decided to crawl out of the muck and re enter my destined glide path.  Having already lived at the top I have my impressions of that lifestyle and in comparison to my current lifestyle it has its desirable and undesirable traits.  I’ve slipped back into reinventing my life again and now I’m in search of that middle ground and setting some roots.

Possession wise I seek to have very little in this world although if I do aquire something it has be a usable tool, manufactured to the highest standards on earth and must be serviceable for a lifetime, you get what you pay for and each item represents a form of real wealth not only as an asset but also in the quality of life returned through the years of reliable service and fun. This middle ground I’m seeking comes with many risks, most of all to the freedom I’ve been afforded but I’m not too worried about stepping in a slightly more normal existence or home ownership. Sound as it might I’m not settling down, I’m ramping up.

From the log of Sookie – All the stars have lined up in the heavens above, I’ve taken a left onto easy street and from here on out it’s smooth sailing.  

Love shack

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Its snowing buckets but Sookie is warm inside. I’ve been squirreling away yummi treats, carefully nestling my growing wine collection and trying to make the boat just the right amount of comfy without losing the romantic notion of her being the salty vessel that she is.  Each week I hide more dark chocolate, laced with sea salt for those times when nothing else will suffice.

Bags of organic lentils cradle the wine, boxes of salty crackers by the dozen are finding their homes, tall jars of gourmet olives, canned cheese, and butter all being tucked away for those special nights.  I’m down to my last candle but more will come, the light they cast in Sookie is indescribable, my play list is slowly being refined and a few new books of poetry have found thier prospective homes within easy reach from anywhere in the boat.

Sookie may be small but that’s part of her charm, everything has its place and she is almost always neat and tidy, ready and waiting to pop a great bottle of wine and serve up a feast be-it just a few of us or the whole damn dock.

My budget is wrecked but it was worth it.  One van, a small cabin, Brompty  and a yacht fit for an adventure not bad for a guy who lives below the stated poverty line in America. I’m now entering the third of what was only supposed to be a year of living in poverty and finding it quite enjoyable.  Not  just the abondance of free time but also the freedom of it all. It’s a dream come true now that my writing is covering this lifestyle I’m enjoying a new type freedom that Ive never experienced before and it’s only cost is that I continue to live the life I’ve chosen.

“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.” —Roald Dahl

Only fools rush in

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In a complete and defiant act of total chickenshitery I postponed our first date but by now that’s old news.  Of all the things I’m afraid of in this world, even more than water its girls. Old habits are hard to kill I suppose.

I’ve been nicknamed the gingerbread man for being able to completely elude the forces of nature and society pressing us flailing into a mediocre relationship based off of little more than mutual desperation.  I guess I’m old school and prefer a life where are no rules, no expectations, no judgements, total freedom, Peter Pan, eat your heart out.

Sky is grey Sky is grey sky is grey

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But I’m dancing in the rain.  Sookie is as clean as she’s ever been, I’ve pulled her winter tarp and now I can enter and exit without getting down in my belly and slithering in and out.  Her acoustics are amazing, I’ve got my favorite play list booming on her new wifi speaker, a hot cup of black coffee and a pile of unfinished writing and editing to do.  Her tiny cabin smells of sandle wood and teak, a steady stream of smoke rises from an incense stick hand delivered to me from India.

My camera bag is packed, I’m down to my two favorite body’s and lenses but half my kit is on the chopping block.  From now on it’s just one body and my 50mm, life is getting simpler by the day.  I understand how all working pros need piles of gear, backup body’s, extra film and mega backups.  My life is far to simple for that.  I don’t work on assignment ever.  If my brick packs it up I’ll pull out a pencil and piece of paper and draw my world, photography is one of the largest parts of my life but it’s a passion, not my day job.  I love snap shots, it’s what I specialize in.  My images are so plain and natural and mundane that they alsmost feel real, that’s my style, controlled monotony, like my life.

My company is shutting down for a while, it’s hard to survive the island winters, not just for us frail humans.  Most businesses on these islands only turn a profit 75 days a year.  If you don’t love this life you better get out because it will eat you alive.  There is a journey in the making, my day pack, one camera and my iPad.  This journey has no start point, no destination and no pre conceived end.  Nothing more than a simple journey for my inner creative to explore a very tiny spec of this planet, my mind and a chance to have a long slow chat with my future.

I can’t help but to wonder what a much younger me would think of how we’ve  progressed in this life. Would she approve of where I’ve  gone or be disappointed at how slow my life is.  I’m exactly where I started.  Way back then I had little more than the contents of my small sailboat, camera bag and as always on old uke in tow.  Now much older and a bit wiser I look back and admire my young determined mind , how someone so young and nieve could know exactly what they want out of this world and why. My one dimensional life has proven how truly wise she was.

Good music, laugher, the love of a good woman when the timing is right and my arts.  My camera and ukulele have shaped my life.  I’ve never progressed beyond those first days of simple chords and simple camera settings but they fit my simple life.  I’ve spent the better portion of this journey watching my dreams manifest before my eyes.  Maybe it’s finally my time to sit back and do a little bit of settling down, to enjoy the simple fruits of my labor.

From the log of Sookie, dancing in the rain.  Maybe I’ve always known this or maybe I’m just figuring out how I made my way here now. One thing I know for sure is that my success has always been controlled luck. I find that the smarter I work, the luckier I get.

Greenhorn

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Sookies deck is covered with blood as are my now mangled hands which can only mean one thing, I’m actually working on the boat.  No work today, I was given a reprieve, it’s actually warm, there is no wind, no rain and I have a few bucks in my pocket, it’s like the perfect storm of yacht maintence.  It’s rare that all of elements align for me but today is that day and I’ve been going at it since dawn.

Exactly two years ago I was doing exactly what I’m doing today, working on the damn boat.  Back then I had a greenhorn and a secret plan.  The boat was scheduled to leave the dock by May to dink around the islands, the secret plan was to sail to Alaska in a trial by fire all inclusive sailing school for the greenhorn, then to abscond with her and sail the boat to the South Pacific via Mexico.  Ahh the finest laid plans of mice and men… I figure I’d be in the South Pacific by now working some shit job to restock the kitty.

Turns out that plan was for shit and I realized it within a few short days, life goes on and about a year later having done very little in the way of upgrades to Sookie I did have another plan.  Along with that plan I had my man drawer filled with fasteners that had literally taken me years to aquire from all over the world.  Special sizes and shapes and…  I knew I would get around to them soon enough and actually had finally aquaired ever single piece I needed to finish all the petty BS projects that never seem to end on a sailboat.  Summer was rapidly approaching, I had a pocket full of money and was ready to rumble.  I came back to the boat one night to find my then girl friend had undone 4 years of my sea proofing of Sookie, completely rearranging everything in to the form of a house, not a boat.

She was so excited to show me how she had made the boat perfect.  I smiled gave her a hug and tried to sensitively explain why everything had to go back the way it was, this conversation didn’t go over well.  The next day when I dug into my man drawer I was horrified.  Turns out she had thrown away everything on the boat she didn’t understand which was, well… everything.  Another year has passed, I’ve more or less lost the desire to go through all the shopping and measuring and… so Sookie sits and waits, I sit and wait, but time marches on.

Pieces of you

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Sometimes a certain smell will take me back to when I was young.  Songs transport me to other times and places I have been.  The unknown has been my backyard for the better part of my life.  I don’t think I’ve actually ever planned anything, ever.  I find it far more exciting to simply dive in and swim around in it. Control is something I’m porously out of.  I’m time rich, far too intelligent to care about the outside world as it has zero effect on my life. Breathing, running, laughing and screaming at the top of my lungs when I’m scared which is often, this is where my heart lives.

I cant imagine how horrible a life it must be to wake up to Facebook and all the lies and hate only to be baraged by the media all day, it’s such a toxic life.  I woke up early with a smile, pulled the body pillow I share my bed with in tightly,  smiled and drifted off into my dream world.  Eventually I did make it out of that wonderful cocoon, I cooked a cup of coffee, cranked my stereo and rocked out on my uke.  There will be time for everything today, to take a few snap shots, read a bit of one of the two books im simultaneously reading, both written about the same boat by two different sailors.

It was being an actor the prepared me to be a writer, you have to be able to strip one hundred percent of your ego until there is nothing left, only then can you step into character; writing is the same way, I often refer to it as standing naked on a pedestal while thousands of people Judge you and that’s what good writing is.  To truly open yourself to love you must do the same thing, strip every layer away until nothing is left but pieces of you. A puzzle that only one person who can make you whole can piece together with thier spare parts.

“-She said “Don’t get to close. It’s dark inside. It’s where my demons hide.”

-And I answered. Get too close, there is a hell inside of me, it’s where your demons can live.”

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