House Of The Rising Sun

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For three weeks the weather guesser when we could get it was reporting Gales to the north of us and strong wind warnings to the south.  We tucked in and out, around and behind the weather usually finding idlyic sailing in the process.  We were heading across the Straits Of Georgia and they had been throwing a tantrum for days. falling down I pulled myself around Sookie in my dinghy inspecting each chain plate and all the lower terminals on the boat.  When I was satisfied I announced that we would set sail in the morning.  I’ll do anything to avoid sailing in heavy weather but when  it catches me I become alive, a strange feeling of calmness, fear and excitement take over.  These same characteristics are the what has gotten me through life virtually unscathed.  I say virtually because lets be real no matter how well you stack your deck of cards there is always some fool blindly staggering through life who will bump your table and bring the whole house down. I can’t protect my table any more than I can control the weather, what I can do is build a strong foundation and keep pushing foreword.I screamed over the howling wind to Emily, now do know why I put so much love and attention into Sookie, tears were streaming from her eyes but thats her story not mine.

Its official I have an offer for a two year contact starting in January and all the fringe benefits that go along with it.  Sure there is a bunch of mandatory hand shaking, grip and grin, BS dinners blah, blah, blah but if I want the false security its mine for the taking.  My chest is constricted my heart hurts and that short two year contact feels like I’m selling my soul to the devil.  Your money or your life, you can’t have both. At the age of 25 I couldn’t even comprehend the span of two years, I was a time millionaire.  Now at the crusty age of 47 I measure and live my life in dog years  and 14 years seems intolerable.  In 2005 I was poised to retire a wealthy man, two years later I was living in my car.  Two years later I was back on top, two years after that married to the right woman.  Two years after that building our dream boat together and two years after that living alone on said boat and selling it.  The whole world could end in two years…

I’m clairvoyant, but you already know that.  I’m sensing you don’t believe me.  While I can’t guarantee that I can tell you everything about your future I can tell you that time is running out and that no amount of money will buy you anymore. Sitting in complete and utter silence I watched the candles flicker on Sookies Butternut ceiling boards, tears running down my face.  They weren’t tears of sadness, they were tears of sheer paralytic fear.  At sea I don’t have time to be afraid but back here in the boatyard the damn is bursting.  My tan bare feet are proof that I still can’t find my shoes or maybe on some level I’m not prepared to put them back on.  Waiting for the train is one of my all-time favorite essays and I have to wonder if I’m on a train bound for nowhere.

My dream was never to circumnavigate although I’d like to.  Its not to sail to the South Pacific although it would be nice.  I love living aboard, even in winter no matter how much I bitch about the cold.  I love sailing local and always having a plug to come back to.  My dreams are simple and attainable which is why they all come to fruition.  When people ask me what I would want If I could have anything in the world it all comes back to a solid foundation and I’m still working hard on it.  Nothing worth doing in this world is worth doing alone.

I’ve got one foot on the platform, the other foot on the train.  I’m heading back to New Orleans to wear that ball and chain.  ~Ted Anthony

Heading towards the station …

Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long, long trip that almost spans the continent. We’re traveling by passenger train, and out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hills, of biting winter and blazing summer and cavorting spring and docile fall.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. There sill be bands playing, and flags waving. And once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true. So many wishes will be fulfilled and so many pieces of our lives finally will be neatly fitted together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering … waiting, waiting, waiting, for the station.

However, sooner or later we must realize there is no one station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

“When we reach the station, that will be it !” we cry. Translated it means, “When I’m 18, that will be it ! When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz, that will be it ! When I put the last kid through college, that will be it ! When I have paid off the mortgage, that will be it ! When I win a promotion, that will be it ! When I reach the age of retirement, that will be it ! I shall live happily ever after !”

Unfortunately, once we get it, then it disappears. The station somehow hides itself at the end of an endless track. “Relish the moment” is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.

So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot oftener, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.

~Found as published in Dear Abby, The Station, By Robert J. Hastings

Ukulele Traveler

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Hours of searching confirmed that my stealth campsite so so stealth that even I couldn’t find it.  I had left just hours earlier to hitchhike to the Pack and Save for food while I planned my journey to the volcano.  I sat on a rock and the heavens opened up on me, I couldn’t have been wetter if I was swimming.  I had literally lost every single possession I had on the planet earth.  I pulled a can of juice out of my plastic grocery sac and contemplated my future.

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With nothing but the clothes on my back I started my new adventure.  Within 24 hours I had a place to stay, met a nice girl and was given an invitation to travel in style to one of the outlying islands.  Sometimes we get so attached to our stuff it becomes more important than our lives.  Its a murky line between owning our possessions and having them own us.  I was a little suprised when everything I own in the world that isn’t attached to the boat fit inside my 48 liter pack.  This pack is way to large for me but I’m not going on vacation, she is my tiny home, turtle shell and life support sytem while I set off to buy my freedom.

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The more I research the Bristol Channel Cutter the more I wonder if i’m getting in over my head.  I know I can sail her and maintain her and upgrade her.  My biggest fear is that I might be buying the farm with her.  I can rig up and sail Sookie in about 10 minutes, she is easy to dock, fun to sail and always can fit into this or than little nook.  The BCC is a ship and while its always been my dream to own and sail my own ship I wonder if the romance and challenge will be lost.  I slung my pack over my shoulder with my Ukulele strapped to the back and my trusty Nikon slung around my shoulder to take a test run.  I didn’t make it far before setting eyes on a gorgeous Nor’sea 27 at the guest dock.  Studying her lines made me smile, Lyle Hess sure could draw a pretty boat.

Stormy

When I set out on this voyage I knew that there was no safety net at the end of the journey, perhaps thats what made it all so special.  Without risk there is no reward, the open road calls my name and a new journey is underfoot.  Sookie feels cold and lonely in this forlorn little yard but she is safe and soon enough I will return to put her back together.  Step off the cliff and a net will appear.

I aint afraid of nothin.  ~Adam nash

Back In The Saddle Again

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Sprawled out on all four’s the distinctive smell of shit was overpowering.  I’m barfing my guts out in a grass drainage ditch at the top of some un-named hill.  Snot dripping from my nose and foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog.  The most fucked up part is whats going through my mind each time I wretch.  I keep thinking, man my stomach is going to be so ripped from this and thats how I met her but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Bike Love

When Emily left the boat she took a piece of my heart with her.  I feel distinctly alone but not lonely.  I’ve been busy wrapping up the boat but it was just to hot to work, I stepped into the cockpit for a ciggi and there they were… There is a camp ground literally 20 feet from Sookie and in it were two young coeds in the smallest bikinis I have ever see.  Normally I would sneak a peek and go about my business but not today, I’m jacked, I need a woman and  none of this was helping.  I ducked into the boat grabbed my helmet and hit the road on Katie, my fixie.  The next best thing to a cold shower is a good hard ride.

Lets face it I don’t do well when confronted with stupid people like the girl who refused to sell me ciggis without ID on my 47th Birthday.  Today it was a group of spandex clad hipsters on $10,000.00 bikes hogging up the winding road pedaling at a snails pace.  There was a long climb coming and I needed to punish myself on it to clear my mind.  I kept remembering my good friend Wayne Dyers words, Stormy, there are no justified grievances.  My frustration got the best of me, I called out on your left as I passed team spandex, I was wearing my chaco’s hiking shorts and a cotton tee shirt as I passed them on the climb.  The only thing more humiliating to a cyclist than being passed by a guy on a single speed would be if the bike was pink, yes Katie is getting powder coated. When I lived in Hawaii I learned a fun trick, if you want to race somebody you blow a snot rocket at their front tire and its on.  I could hear the lead rider rolling his gears and with it started the Tour De Lopez.  One by one every one of them passed me I couldn’t keep up with their gears.  I was feeling light headed as I rounded the top of the hill, stepped off my bike and fell to me knees.

Nothing could be more humiliating than being beaten by spandex hipster cyclists except one thing, a witness.  I heard the distinctive unclipping of riding cleats, felt a pat on the back and heard her soft soothing words, take it easy friend, I’m a nurse you might have heat stroke.  I don’t have heat stroke I blurted out half muffled by my hand from wiping barf off my face, I haven’t eaten in four days and pushed it a little hard.  A little hard?  I saw you racing that cycling team. on your fixie, and you haven’t eaten in how many days?  What the hell is wrong with you?  Where should I start I replied, a single tear rolled down my cheek.  She smiled reached out her hand and as I reached out mine she retracted, I suddenly knew when the smell of shit was coming from.

I cleaned myself up and she offered to buy me a slice of Pizza and a beer at the local food store.   She is staying at the hotel next to the boat yard and invited me in for a shower.  I was too dense to know if she was offering me a shower to clean up or attempting to get me into the shower with her.  I made up some lame story why I had to leave and thanked her for dinner and good company.  She went in for a hug, her warm breath whispered in my ear, you have no idea what you are missing.  As she pulled back she snuck in a peck on the lips…

My head was a little higher when I threw my leg over my bike and pedaled into the sunset.

From the log of Sookie – Alone in the islands  `Breaking up sucks, but not half as badly as re-entry.

Sailing The Inside Passage

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I heard it before I saw it, looking back I saw white water crumbling over my head.  The wind was up and the sea as steep and angry as I have seen in this area. The wave slapped Sookie with an explosion of white water, streaks of foam blew off the crests of the waves and for the first time on this journey I almost wished I had added a reef point to my 80 square foot staysail the only canvas I had up.  I was is heaven caught in the belly of the tempest. Sookie was doing what I built her to do, keep me alive.  I couldn’t of known it at the time but in less than 48 hours I would come as close to losing Sookie as I could on a dead calm windless day. sailing blogs People who sail with me know if anything that I’m not easily rattled, some day I will write about our near fateful encounter but honestly weeks later I’m still too shaken up.  I can teach any good student 80% of sailing in a week.  The other 20%, the part we call seamanship takes the rest of your life.  Sookie turned out to be the absolutely ideal boat for the voyage, she never failed to tack, beat into steep short period sea’s like a witch, was super comfy at anchor and as fun to sail as any boat I have ever been on.  It took me 4 years but her running rigging is finally perfect, i can reef her in under a minute, she heaves to instantly and no matter what the weather she handled like a lady. sailing blogs The only complaint I have is that while she may be able to claw off a lee shore getting her to make weatherly progress in anything over 40 knots of true wind is beyond her or my ability.  I’ve been doing my research and I think a furling jib might be in my future.  I’m convinced that if I could roll just a scooch of her jib out in combination with a reefed staysail we might find a middle ground when the wind turns grumpy.  A third reef in my main is also in the makings  I ask a lot of this 22′ boat but due to her small size she does have limitations although they are few and far between. sailing blogs I was told you can’t sail the inside passage  so many times I got paranoid and added 5 gallons to my 4 gallon total fuel capacity, I never used it and could have done the whole trip with 2.  I was also really beaten up for continuing to sail without a depth sounder but it was never an issue.  I did however meet 6 people who all had hard groundings with their depth sounders on.  I have to admit our fun meters were pegged on more than one occasion trying to negotiate small rock strewn passes but it was the constant challenge that made the trip what it was.  Our little 6hp outboard would have been the perfect size engine had she run properly for us.  One hour into the trip she started to faultier and got worse every day, ONE HOUR!  The final insult was when her prop spun its ring while we were being sucked backwards into the rocks at 10.2 knots by a rapid that was going north south and west all at the same time. sailing blog We carried 34 gallons of water but never used more than 14 between refills.  Our meager budget of 100 a week and a fairly well stocked boat was easy to stick to and we never ran over it until the last week when disaster came looking for us, the motor runs perfectly now that we are back thanks to the wonderful people at Roche Marine.  The prices in Canada were ludicrous and there are three taxes on everything. With a little bit of luck I will set off again April 2nd 2016 with a windvane so I can completely skip the Gulf Islands which didnt do much for me other than all the wonderful people I met.  My goal is Glacier Bay and a full 8 months to do it in.  Had circumstances been different this year I would have gone all the way but I’m still working hard at that last 20%. falmouth Cutter 22 We didn’t have heat and were cold and wet for half of the trip, heat is number 2 on my list followed by a good light air sail that our tiny budget couldn’t afford.  Our anchoring system was flawless easy to use and even though we couldn’t set our amor or use the engine for anchoring we never dragged and inch, not even during a full gales in soft squishy mud.  We would drop the anchor in silence doing about half a knot down wind which was enough to straighten her chain but never enough to set it.  We witnessed many boats dragging even some with all chain.  I would like to go to 100′ so we don’t swing so much but thats mostly due to boneheads who don’t know how to anchor and drop their hook right on top of us in a deserted bay. sailing blog And what about crew?  We had more fun than any boat we came across but the universe has different plans for both of us.  I will never sail solo again so its back to the boatyard for now which gives me the opportunity to work on Sookies almost legondary cozy factor. falmouth cutter 22 I loved the early mornings and daily routine of setting up the boat.  We rarely sailed over 12 miles in any day and almost always found safe quiet empty anchorages. Before we left many sailors tried to give me advice and tell me of their favorite spots, I refused to listen to any of them.  I wanted my own trip, my own adventure and boy did I get it.  Each morning I would pull out my compas and make a 20 mile circle on my chart from our anchorage, only then would we have any idea of where we were headed.  We never made a single plan or destination some days we sailed north, others south, east or west. DSC_1049falmouth cutter 22 We didn’t see a single whale but we were whitness on  regular basis to the brutality of nature.  We never saw the bears we were warned of but did hear them.  We met up with a super pissed off mountain lion but missed the wolves.  Having a Sasquatch encounter was the scariest part of the trip but awesome.  Now that were back its time to look for a bit of work to buy my freedom.  I carefully bottled up enough selective memories to carry me though another winter and this one is going to be a wild wet one. falmouth cutter 22 The hardest part of the journey was remembering to put clothes on, we sailed out of the cold and into 100 degree temperatures that followed us for the remainder of the trip. Rowing naked across our anchorage Emily looked down and asked do you think we should have clothes on?  More often than not we had wide open empty anchorages.  Sookie was our own private island the surrounding nature our universe.  While I loved every aspect of the voyage the sound of chain rattling through the haws hole was the most satisfying.  I would crack a warm beer sit on the scuttle hatch and scan my new horizon  content with yet another successful day at sea, more lessons learned and the best damn boat in the world firmly planted under my tan bare feet.

You’ve learned everything about sailing but nothing about seamanship. 

One Cup Of Coffee

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Sitting on the set of the movie One Cup of Coffee, nose buried in my book I was the last place I should have ever been.  I had backpacking plans that seemed awfully important at the time.  I hate night shoots and had just come off of a week shooting a horror film called Mirror Mirror. Somehow my a friend talked me into taking his place as an extra on the overnight shoot so he could go out on a date.

Nikon VS Canon

The previus week I had made friends with one of the actors that got me bumped from extra to day player, a huge pay upgrade and another line on my resume that wasn’t total BS.  I was pulled from the jaws of the storm i was fighting with Tania Aebi in Maiden Voyage when the Stunt coordinator introduced himself to me asking if I had ever done any stunt work.  My lack of experience didn’t seem to matter much to him as he excused himself announcing that he would return later to talk more with me about it.  Minutes later the director came up to me introduced himself and offered me a bump to day player if I was ok doing my own stunt work.  My friend Ricky from last week was in this movie as well and convinced them to bump me. Two roles in one week and my resume was almost all real.  I never did watch either movie and don’t know if I made it to the big screen or ended up on the cutting room floor, of the hundreds of movies I have worked on I have actually watched less than a dozen.

So thats how it all happened, I had been traveling till I ran out of money and fell ass backwards into Hollywood.  Talk about dumb fucking luck, but thats my life.  I never sweat the small stuff knowing the Universe will always provide for me if I let it.  Sipping my coffee in the morning sun my mind wandered off to where I might land next when I was smacked square in the face with the 2×4 of life.  My mind exploded with ideas for a new photography project that is just up my alley and Portandia is the prefect place to pull it off.  I’m headed to Hipsterville with everything I own on my back  and not s single care in the world.

One Cup Of Coffee was a movie about a washed up minor league pitcher who had one shot at the majors.  We all get one shot in life, what me make of it is who we become. Because I don’t have to skill or talent as a photographer to pull this one off I will have to rely on my passion and yes again my best friend dumb fucking luck.

The harder I work, the luckier I get.

STORmY TELLER

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In thirty years of sailing and voyaging our journey engine-less up the inside passage was far and away the greatest adventure I have ever had.  Someday I will tell the story.

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I’m often asked what it takes to be a really great writer and while I don’t consider myself to be one I will answer the question. I will because I’m Stormy and thats how I roll.  I love when grammar nazi’s attack my blog, lets face it any putz other than me can edit, truly great writers are one in a billion.

If you really want to be a great writer its easy. Tell the truth or at least the truth as you perceived it.  You can put 4 people through the same situation and have 4 completely different perceptions of what happened.

Stop trying so hard if it doesn’t flow you don’t have a story.  I recently read the worst sailing book of my life, not only did she not have a story to tell even though she had sailed across the Pacific, but her writing was straight out of a how to become a writer workshop and was literally painful to read.

Forget about everything they taught you in school a good writer can have run on sentences, make up words and pretty much do anything they want to convey the story, writers are artists, color outside of the lines often.

Have a good story, just because you did something everybody in the world is doing doesn’t mean its interesting, A great story is great to write about once but keep making them up, change is a good thing.

Thats it, it isn’t rocket science.  Live the good life and write about it.

So I’m sitting in the laundry room pirating internet.  The washer is banging around below me, it sounds like I am on a roller coaster but feels like I’m on a train.  Yesterday was a sad day around here for all as Emily moved off the boat.  I woke up alone today without her little chirping protests of starting a new day.  In one more day my new backpack will arrive in the mail, I’m headed to Portland for a bit and then setting out to create my masterpiece.  Its taken me a lifetime summon the courage for the next journey but it has already begun.

Its not an adventure until something goes wrong.  ~Yvon Chouinard

Spinning My Wheels

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I just bought my bike back from my LBS.  When we sailed out of Lopez I was damn near crippled and could barely walk, now in the best shape of my life I am strong like ox and ready to put some serious miles on my trusted steed.

Kona Paddywagon

The journey to my new Bristol Channel Cutter 28 will take place on my simple old Fixie, everything I own in tow with Chloe as my navigator.  The beauty of being such a minimalist is that I am free as a bird to pursue any opportunity  at the drop of a dime.  I failed miserably at integration and have sailed on.  My life savings is 400 bucks, there are no employment opportunities  here for me.  I have a sick dog and everything I own is hanging on a half inch piece of string.  Am I scared?  Hell no, I say bring it!  From here on out there is no path to follow, there are no  charts to guide me and no relief from the helm.  I’m setting out into uncharted waters  on little more than a wing and a prayer.  A challenged life is a fulfilled one.

There is nothing more efficient than a scared man with a bucket.  Unknown

180 Degrees South

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I tap my quarter against the metal box like a gambling junkie seeking instant self gratification from a one armed bandit.  My last one drops with a plink and an almost endless supply of water erupts from the shower head.  Hot water scalds my naked shivering body.  Soapy sudsy bubbles  swirl around my feet cascading down the drain taking days, weeks and months of salt with them.

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No man can fully appreciate the luxury of a hot shower the way a sailor fresh in from weeks at sea can.  My mind drifts off to the first really big storm I experienced solo.  I was so afraid no amount of water could quench my dry mouth.  I wanted off that boat so badly I would have done anything but the sea had different plans for me.  You can’t watch the miles tick off or stare at a motionless clock hoping the time will miraculously  wind forward until the seas are calm again.  All you can do is tuck in and enjoy what I can only describe as beautiful and frightening at the same time.

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Shoreside life moves in the same mysterious ways. the weather patterns are different but reintegration is frightening.  I still can’t find my shoes, I’m land sick, time moves to quickly here, everybody is in such a hurry.  I need to find a slip for Chloe a bit of work for me and a new boat for Emily.  Like that fateful day nearly 30 years ago this storm to will pass, i could try and fight it but I prefer down wind sailing.

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream.

Falmouth Cutter 22 Sookie For Sale

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As I slip into my 47th year on this planet if nothing else I know I want to continue to push further and further in my adventures ways.  The toll of time marches on and with every year I feel the need for life to be just a bit more managable.

Sailing the inside passage

In less than a week I will pull Sookie for some much needed TLC. Emily is moving on to pursue blue water destinations while I am committed to continuing on with my push north to explore the last frontier.  Sookie has been listed for sale and my search for a new boat begins.

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I still can’t find a single fault in this fine little ship and while my cruising dreams haven’t changed I have.  The new boat will have heat, a diesel engine, a giant chart platter that I  can actually see and just a smudge more space.  I don’t know where I’m headed for now but it will be somewhere between Port Townsend and the San Juan Islands or Bellingham.  Chloe needs a bit of dry land and thats what she will get.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.  ~Lao Tzu

Riders On The Storm

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We must be the luckiest sailors in the world.  We were told you can’t sail the inside passage but we have sailed more than 95% of the 350 miles we have covered.  There hasn’t been a single day that we aren’t running from, hiding from or caught out in the weather.

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Running the Malaspina Straights we were averaging 5.8 to 6.8 with an opposing tide, our theoretical hull speed is 6.12

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Slow easy days have filled in the gaps and given us much needed rest from long hours at the tiller without self steering.

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Most nights we have found beautiful little hurricane holes which inspired Emily to write another song about playing hide and seek with the weather.

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The more we explore this region the more I realize I don’t want to leave, a lifetime could be spent here and never touch the tip.

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The water is warm and inviting and crystal clear.

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Emily does a farewell dance in Lund as we set our sights south in search of work and a good place in Port Townsend to hang Sookie for the winter to do a few improvement to her interior.

Wedged in  my quarter berth I hear the water rushing by as Sookie charges south Emily screams when the largest of the rollers lift Sookie and attempt to throw her off course but she holds true and lifts to every one.  I should tuck a reef but she is having way too much fun.  Once again the weather guesser has been wrong but we always feel safe  and cozy in our little ship.  If I could bottle this freedom I could have made my fortune on this trip. From the Log of Sookie June, Malaspina Straights

Changes In Latitudes

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43 days ago we set sail with no plan, destination or preconcieved notion as to what, when, where or why.  Nothing in life gets in the way more than a good solid plan.

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Somewhere down that watery road we fell into a rythim with the sun and moon.  Guided by the stars our memories faded until nothing existed except the present.

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Our freedom is felt through sandy bare feet, sun kissed smiles and the golden locks of salt washed hair.  In seeking nothing we have found everything but is it ever enough.

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Sailing south from the 50th parallel, we know it is coming, we don’t have to seek it out, our future waits patiently for us and in it lies simple changes we call life.

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Change is a good thing.

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”

Voyaging On $400 A Month

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You know Jimmy Buffett was a voyaging sailor, no song describes our wandering hunger more than cheese burger in paradise.  We sailed too quickly through the San Juan’s and too slowly through the gulf Islands but here we are at the end of the road.

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There will always be some dweeb who has never sailed more than 15 miles from his home port telling us that we are doing everything wrong.  We may be doing everything wrong but we are having a hell of a lot of fun doing it.  Our budget is tight but totally manageable as long as nothing breaks and you don’t mind being tortured every time you visit a new port with smell of cheeseburgers wafting through the air and the sight of dozens of people sharing iced cold pints of Ale.  On 400 a month you won’t even get to lick the glass but for us at least this voyage isn’t about beer, burgers, or crispy well done perfectly salted fries.

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We wanted a new adventure together and from day one it has been everything and much more than we could have asked for.  We never planned on sailing past the gulf islands but here we are on the edge of grizzly territory and still pushing North.  Some days we have good charts, some days we have none.  Some days we bask in the sun while others we shiver from dusk till dawn.  The wind has for the most part been under 5 knots or over 20 almost always on the nose but she has given us more than our fair share of down wind backhanded smack downs.  We are motoring substantially more than we hoped too but still under 10% of the time.

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The most water we have used before finding more has been 9 gallons, I just topped off with piss colored water that I was assured was potable, I let Emily try it first, we will see if she is still with us in the morning.  If I had to choose my favorite thing about Canada so far its hard to say as there are so many wonderful things but I love the fact that they named their one dollar coin after George Clooney.  Everybody is crazy nice here except for the jerks.  The weather has been perfect except when it sucks.  Everything on the boat is working perfectly except for the outboard that didn’t go a single hour before it started to sputter and die.

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The rockstars so far of this voyage are the small things that make our life so enjoyable like our little short wave radio that gives us classical music (thanks Ken :) )as we drift mile after mile off the wind taking turns at napping in the sun, munching on snacks and trying to make coffee on our non gimbaled non mounted camp stove.  I pulled the tiny GPS off my bike, who knew micro chart platters could be so much fun.  Our Ukuleles which get used almost as much as our cameras and of course our trustily Rocna anchor that in over 150 nights of use has yet to fail us, I can assure you that it has more than been put to the test.

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If we truly miss anything on this trip other than a proper diesel engine, heat, food, clean water, a bigger boat… its warm dry clothes.  Getting Chloe from the boat to the dingy is like a slow motion train wreck always leaving both us and the dog salty,damp and cold.

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So where are we heading?  We don’t know and we don’t care, our world is perfect, except for everything listed above.

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Row row row your boat gently down the stream.  Unknown

 

Box of good measures

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I tack for the first time by myself with Alan sleeping down below. A fishing boat is starboard of the bow, dropping pots for prawns, we’re getting closer and closer. He yells something out the window as I lash the tiller over, the luffing sails and wind drown out his call. “Sorry, mate” I think to myself. I should have changed course earlier perhaps, but we needed to lay as close to the island as possible. The passage was pushing near eight hours, and Chloe needed a potty break.

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I push the tiller from side to side, adjusting ever so often to remain on the compass course. Which way the the boat moves and where the compass lands is lost on my mind while my hands grasps the concept. They seem to know what to do the less I think.

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The anchorage is the first we find where we think “this is what we’re looking for.” It’s remote and rugged, very Alaska-y. The village is one dilapidated dock and and a bar with red pleather booths and flies buzzing around.

We see the fisherman from earlier tied up at the dock and he’s petting Chloe. He tells me he was laying pots down and that once he starts he can’t stop, that’s why he was trying to get my attention. We make amends and in his thick, north Canadian accent he laughs and says no worries and asks where we’re headed.

“Well, you have a reliable motor, right?” he says.

Sort of.

“Well, you have charts?”

Some.

“You’re not going up around the west side, are you?”

Planning on it.

He warns about the north end of, where it gets “narsty.” The forecast, subsequently, is calling for 30 knots.

Heeding the fisherman’s warnings we decide to call the next days sail and wait it out in the anchorage. Alan says it’s up to me, the big blow might not even come and that he can get us there safely but it might not be pretty. Despite my confidence in Sookie and her captain, and my desire to learn some heavy weather sailing tactics I figure that being out at sea when there’s no choice but to weather a storm is better than going out looking for it.

I figure deciding to stay goes into my box of good measures. Plus, why not spend some time in the place we looked so hard to find?

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Canada Canada, or city Canada?

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After two nights trapped in the rolling anchorage of the half hippie town half tourist trap of Ganges Harbor on Saltspring Island, we were stoked to pull in to the more pristine, quiet waters of Montague Harbor on Galiano Island.

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Rowing over to the fuel dock to top up our 1 gallon jerry can we’re greeted by Big Dan (not to be confused with Big Mike, his look alike brother. They say they’re not twins, but we think they’re lying).  By far these two brothers are top notch Canadians we’ve met on our adventures in the land of the maple leaf flag.

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Dan and Mike are the new owners of the Montague Harbour Marina, a rustic and secluded set of docks in the beautiful Gulf Islands of British Columbia. The marina has full amenities, a water front café, and a marine store with guide books and charts. If it was time to top up our ship’s batteries, the bros’ marina would have been the ideal location. We kind of just wanted to tie up for the night for fun, but we only just recently came out of dock withdrawal and didn’t want all those nights of cold sweats to have been for nothing.

In fact, the marina would be a great place to hole up and find work in the winter, but alas, we’re not Canadian.

Dan gave us the scoop about where to snag some fresh water (the Gulf Islands can be scarce for water, even the marinas), didn’t mind my studying of the charts and guide books in the store without buying them, and it only took a little bit of flirting to get him to give me the marina wi-fi code for free (non-marina people have to pay for wi-fi—sorry ya’ll, guy’s gotta eat).

Dan the Man commandeered the marina one year ago and lives in a permanent tent structure on the hill. He plans on building a house overlooking the wonderful harbor one day, but we think he should live on a boat.

If you’re in the area and want an authentic place to gather, stop by Montague Harbor Marina on Galiano Island, BC and experience some down home Canadian hospitality.

 

Lovely people, lovely places

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Rode the current up San Juan Channel between Cliff and Shaw Islands. Through the narrow pass on a starboard tack, trying to decipher the chart I could barely tell which island was which. As we enter Deer Harbor the most beautiful wooden boats, most under 30-feet, are silently racing. Their drifters like white clouds, colorful spinnakers like hot air balloons. If only Sookie had a light air sail. Crewing in the silent race is Duncan, the Flicka owner we are sailing in to see.

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Back aboard the boat we meet two real hippies, the authentic kind, Leo & Christine. Leo is gregarious and tells us we’re “not close enough!” when we ask him if our boat is crowding his in the anchorage. Later, I express my apprehensions about checking in to Canada (blame my authority issues) and he tells me not to worry, we look like Canadian youth. He tells wild stories about San Francisco in the 60s, how it used to be a place of culture, like most cities back then. Now they’re filled with people trading their lives for money, their youths for a paycheck.

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Christine, soft-spoken with kind eyes tells me the story about her first boat, a Cornodo 25. She lost it one stormy night anchored in Fish Bay. It wound up on the rocks. She lost everything. We know lots of people who have dragged anchor in that spot. The whole time I keep thinking what I would have done during those different moments, to prevent the same outcome. I give her my Kombucha starters. Now that we’re away from our trusted dock I can’t make frivolous fermentations with our precious water supply. Christine is a healer and very conscious of what she eats, so I knew my magic health elixir was going to a good home.

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We hear a whistle from the Duncan on the dock as our new friends shuffle off and I row out to get him. It’s windy and choppy but in my favor on the way to shore. I anticipate he will row back, since he’s a big guy. Turns out he’s a worse rower than I am, so I thunder on pulling the oars through the chop, the wind hard against us. With our collective weight in the deflating dinghy and deteriorating conditions the yachters in the marina are getting quite a show. They, along with us, probably thought we’d never make it out of the slip we were stuck in. Duncan is ready to throw in the towel when we clear the big power boat to port and are on a straight course back to Sookie.

Duncan has similar sentiments to us. We talk about the DNR “cleaning up” the harbors in the islands, displacing so many live aboards, all because of the vacation home owners and their waterfront view. The islands are changing. The more money comes in the more community is pushed out.

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A few days earlier, en route to Shaw, we decide to go to Friday Harbor. We poach the breakwater and buy sunscreen in town. The breakwater is a miserable rolling motion for nearly 24 hours. The next morning I buy a plastic chart holder at the swap meet from Kevin, the first friend I ever had in Friday Harbor. He took me sailing and that was the day I met Alan. Funny how it all comes full circle.

Wind

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Sookie bobs at her anchor rode hobby horsing, pitching and rolling.  The harbor is a crazy mix of huge power yachts and sailboats.  The drone of sea planes buzz in our ears like mosquitos while wind gusts through the harbor mercilessly.  Once again we have chosen the wrong anchorage.

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We must be cold because heat is almost all we talk about.  We look like aliens walking the town in our foulies where is out warm and dry but out in the anchorage its a different story.  The dingy leaps and tumbles as we attempt to transfer Chloe for her third walk of the day.  This simple act is made extremely labor intensive by the weather but must be quite an amusing sight to those on shore.  Chloe is tolerant of our floating home as long as she gets shore leave every 6 hours.

For the first time in my life I can’t write, I don’t have writers block, there is so much to share I don’t know where to begin.  Sitting in the cockpit we watch boats dragging their anchors across the harbor, there is nothing we can do, if we leave the boat we won’t be able to row back so we call the harbor on the VHF, they are useless.  A Vancouver 27 is being pounded on the sea wall, we can’t understand why the guy doesn’t move his boat, then we watch him shove the boat off in a break between the gusts, he beats his engine-less boat through the mooring field and we are quite impressed.  I feel fear for him as we watch the whole scene unfold.  We shout encouragement, deep down I know that I have changed, my engineless days are over and I’m ok with it.

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My tired canvas has pulled me on a thousand journeys all different yet somehow the same, this is Emily’s first real voyage on Sookie,  Two weeks ago when we set off she was a a greenhorn,  I watch her stare off at the horizon tiller in hand, for the first time ever I can go below and sleep in complete peace, Emily has become a sailor.

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

New salt

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There’s a Scandinavian word for looking out the window anticipating someone’s arrival. The word doesn’t translate directly to English, but the feeling does. 20150508-DSC_0622

We waited for our friends to arrive in the harbor by boat. It would be the last time we’d see them. For how long? We didn’t know.

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Aboard our neighbor and good friend Adam’s Ketch, this small community of sailors were as different as the boats they came in on. The smell of fish tacos and oysters frying wafted through the companionway. The sound of laughter echoed deep into the bellows of the ship.

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That saloon had become a second home. We went around in circles teasing and provoking each other, basking in the collective’s idiosyncrasies. Countless nights were spent beneath the warm glow of the lantern. Sometimes there were six of us, sometimes only three, but the open door policy was a constant. We could count on our friend sending his precocious seven-year-old son over whenever there was left over chocolate chip waffle mix. We could count on a ride anywhere on the island if we needed parts, groceries, or were late for work.

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On the other side of the marina was another friend, Kevin. A true voyager with stories of south pacific landfalls, encounters with the unknown, and an endless ability to stir the wanderlust in me. But his story is his own. You’ll have to read his book.

We had the pleasure of running into Chris time and time again, as he made it a point to come and visit us wherever we were moored. Always sharing the bounty of his wild harvests and his unrelenting enthusiasm for our local waters.

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Then there’s Julie. On the cusp of her first summer in the islands she reminds me of myself one year ago, only more focused and determined. She’s never sought anyone to show her the way to a life on the water, but has such a genuine openness that those people seem to find her.

The following morning we pushed out of the protection of the harbor at 7 a.m. As I watched my friends’ boats get smaller and smaller I knew I wouldn’t be looking out the window anymore to see if they had arrived for the weekend, or were ready to come over for dinner. Familiarity was left behind in our wake and it was time to tell a new story.

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“Everything is better with other people.”

All My Ducks In A Row

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They say a picture is worth a thousands words.  It was bound to happen and when it did it was like watching a puppy fall asleep mid-stride as its spastic being is running around one second and stone cold asleep the next.

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Emily went down hard and was down for the count.  Day 34 without our engine came and went, wrapping up this and that wasn’t overly stressful or tiring but at the end of a 6 month stretch it finally caught up to us.  I grabbed her camera and took what was quite possibly the best photo I have ever taken.  You will never get to see it as she accidentally formatted her card before downloading it but it told a story well worth a thousand words…

All our ducks are in a row.  The engine is back and starts on the first pull after a few warm ups.  We have 24 gallons of water, 4 gallons of fuel and what was an ice cold six pack of beer sitting in our bilge.  When we sailed into Lopez 60 days ago we decided that this would be our new short term home while we finished up the boat.  All along we had planned on leaving today and now that we are finally ready to go… well were not going anywhere.  Two good friends are sailing in to see us so like good little sailors we have thrown our schedule out the window and now our lives depend on little more than the wind and tides.

“Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.”
― Ray Cummings

Cut from the same cloth

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Rowing out to the pirate ship our friend says, “the moon is full tonight.” It’s not. Siren pirate He comes aboard Sookie and gives me photo editing lessons into the evening. My new camera is smarter than me, but as I learn the ropes of post editing I begin to understand how it thinks. Helm Us live aboards have commandeered the corner of the dock. We lean against the slippery breakwater, rolling cigarettes and talking about running aground. golden tuwamish dink On opening weekend yachters from around the island line the marina with big white boats, offering gin and tonics to us self-proclaimed riff-raff. I get a navigation lesson from one of the sailors in the group and finally get a better understanding of what I’m talking about when I say where we’re headed.

“North,” we’ve said for six months now. North.DSC_0443Not wanting to disturb the beautiful evening with the engine we hoisted the yankee and ghosted silently into the dock.

I’ve learned you can’t go out looking for sailors, you have to become one.

Blue Collar Sailing Budgets

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The term mortgage translated from Old French, literally ‘death pledge,’ from mort (from Latin mortuus ‘dead’) This is a cash and carry boat, neither of us have any form of credit card nor are we willing to extend a single penny on credit, so much for a golden parachute.sailing blog

Budgets are like schedules and we refuse to have one but what we do have is a limited fund and when its gone we have to go back to scrubbing toilets.  Aside from our cash and carry rule cash depletion avoidance is a pretty simple.  Guest docks cost money so with the exception of the need to recharge or batteries they are out as are mooring balls.  I found this boat grounded with its ball still attached.  On our budget we have to work hard at not having too many emergencies that could rob us of the precious and small amount of gold we carry in our treasure chest.

While we don’t budget we do use simple math on a regular basis.  We add all our expenses annually rather than on a one time occurrence to put the real cost of things into perspective.  I am at day 60 on my no poo experiment “shampoo” and my long hair has never felt or looked so good.  I wear the same chlothes for a few days preferring to change my location rather than my clothes.  In the islands its 6 bucks a load for laundry and a buck a minute for a hot shower so these things are luxuries not necessities.

Emily thought I would break when she asked me to switch to Folgers from my premium coffee but I didn’t flinch nor did I when I stopped using sugar and cream, something is always better than nothing.  We use cast iron in our galley which will cook long after the heat is off to save fuel and the less mess we make the less water we use to clean so less hauling and searching for water.  Every upgrade on the boat has been premium and while its costs a bit more upfront it lasts twice as long.  We drink cheap booze “Emily doesn’t drink at all” and ration each can and bottle leaving us a surplus of cash should we need to splurge and pay for a pint in town.

With the exception of my $@% &@*^ motor I install and maintain everything myself.  I threw in the towel on the outboard after 30 frustration days, they have had it 31 and are no closer than I was which is yet another lesson to be learned.  We use two principals for everything on the boat, cost vs worth and pennywise pound foolish.  I could have and still could easily get 800 bucks for our old motor and buy a new one for 1500, I’m 150 into it already, loosing precious days and haven’t seen the bill that will arrive if our outboard ever does run properly again.  Where we sit now we are committed to the project but in hindsight a new one would have made more sense.

Being on a budget also means being creative, we don’t have all the charts we need but we were able to beg, barter or steal enough to get us started, I can and have used hand drawn charts and we will do it again this year with a lot of caution it works just fine in a pinch.  At nearly five bucks a gallon we use the outboard as infrequently as we can although ours is dangerously close becoming our new anchor.

Every season I go through every bit of gear on the boat from rigging to sails to the tools that keep them smart, you know the old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Buying when its cheep is another big money saver for us.  100% of all food stores with the exception of Chloe’s food which is imported at a premium was purchased at a huge discount.  Two or three times a week all winter long we went scavenging for what we call bug out food.  When its dirt cheap we will buy half a dozen and store them in our huge lockers.

Our tiny budget also keeps us uber healthy.  Well over 80 percent of our food is completely unprocessed and comes packaging free.  Our favorite snack is home made kettle corn that cost about 50 cents a bowl and our drink of choice is water which while you can pay quite a bit for,  ours falls out of the sky.  I have and entire locker of junk food for those days when we just feel the need to eat like crap.  A can of chili with a bit of cheese and a hand full of fresh local onions satisfies that need.  We use Fritos scoops to eat it with and are instantly replenished with all the fat and sodium our healthier diet lacks.  Fritos are pure junk food but still only have three ingredients, corn, corn oil and salt.  They have more calories per ounce than any other food on the planet and are a much needed treat after a long hot and sweaty day in the sun.

Do we need to live like this??? Need has nothing to do with it.  Emily might be batshit crazy but I like her a lot and really enjoy spending as much time with her as I can, the more frugaly we live the more of our very precious time we can spend enriching our lives together rather than enriching someone else’s business.

We both admittedly have much to learn when it comes to being frugal sailors but the challenge and joy we get from it makes our days and lives more fun and interesting.  It also leaves a few bucks in the bank for the occasional special night out.

“Things do not change, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.”  ~Henry David Thoreau

Conspiracy Theory

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Several years ago a  good friend said to me “You just lost everything you have in the world, what makes you think you can just buy a boat and sail to the Islands?”  My simple reply, “what makes you think I can’t?”Beer koozie I was recently told that my blog is a bit whiney, he continued on, “do you know how many people slammed their computers shut when you guys didn’t move the boat to Florida”  We both laughed, now so far in the past its funny to us but back then it wasn’t, we were within pennies of being able to make the transition putting us on the brink of warm clear water but any sailor knows that life is often little more than one big conspiracy of challenge.  Anything and everything will get in the way often bringing us to our knees.  If your refitting a boat you know exactly what I’m talking about. sailing blog I don’t know how to write honestly about our lives without it occasionally sounding whiny.  I guess I can blame this new nirvana syndrome on social media where everybody is climbing all over themselves to prove how awesome their lives are posting fun pictures and comments and all form of rah rah look at me shit.  We may be the only ones left on this planet but occasionally our life sucks, thank god its not often.

Aside from waiting on one single item we had all of our ducks in a row.  We left getting Chloe’s health certificate till the last minute so it wasn’t until the weekend that we learned that her rabies shot was due.  A quick google search informed us that in her failing health her immune system couldn’t handle one.  I can see the headliner now, The Cruise Is Off, more slamming computers.  Actually we immediately started talking about plan B, C, D, E, and F.  Fortune smiled on us and Chloe is all ready to go but it easily could haver gone the other way.

So the conspiracy we are learning isn’t against sailors, its against quitters.  Deep in the bowels of my hard drive I have an almost completed story nearly 80,000 words long.  It has all the logs and journeys that never made it to these pages, hundreds of pictures and many incredible encounters.  This blog was never meant to be a sailing blog, it just transformed into one.  My book yet to be titled is not a sailing book although it takes place on a sailboat.  Its a book about the struggle to achive a better life.  We all have one unwritten chapter, make the best of it.

“Your dreams minus your doubts equals your net worth”

On A Wing And A Prayer

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Theres and old saying that if you ask any two sailors the same question you will get three answers.  We’ve been asking the same question, if you had 4 or 5 months to play where would you do it.

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I was the only six year old pirate in my school, my zebra eye patch had me looking like Captain Ron’s mini me.  Reconstructive eye surgery left me with a bit of a limp, I see the world through the eyes of double vision, backwards, crooked and blurry.  I’ve gotten so used to this that I almost don’t realize it anymore until I pull out my charts.  Before I met Emily route planning was a bit of a challenge, I would have to memorize my charts through a magnifying glass squinting with one eye closed.  Navigation for me has always been on a wing and a prayer.

Somewhere way back when on a dark and stormy night I not so gently reminded Emily that in a  blink of an eye it would be spring and she was the chief and soul navigator on this boat.  All sailors myself included suffer from what we refer to as Parkinson’s law.  In a nut shell we will wait till the last minute and every job will take exactly as much allotted time as we have to complete it.  Emily has been working hard for the last few days on her navigation but it will be trail by fire at 5 knots.

And so it happened with the suddenness of a broken shoe lace.  There are no more projects to be crossed off the list.  I took my first shower is over 45 days and put on clean clothes.  Were still in hurry up and wait mode but now we have time to turn the galley back into a galley from a work bench.  Organize tools and put them back into their lockers.  Out comes all the summer clothing and away with our winter warmies.  Counters are being cleared.  Everything has its place if we can only remember where. As we prepare to leave the grid lanterns are replacing our 12 volt lights, we never got around to adding solar or water tanks or…

We are going on a scavenger hunt in search of all the things we never got around to finding over the winter.  We will scavenge every boat yard and used marine chandalry from here to, well we don’t really know.  Call it what you want but the next 4 or 5 months of voyaging will scanty differ from what we are doing now.  Wake up make coffee, walk the dog, do a bit of writing, tinker on this and that, read a book, take a nap…  The word journey has a thousand meaning to a thousand people.  To us we have no idea what it means because this is our first true voyage, together.

Besides, if we get lost, we pull in somewhere and ask directions. ~Captain Ron

A Salty Seaman’s Wet Dream

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Help me.  Help me, help you.  Help me help you.  Thats right, I’m going to give one of my readers one thousand dollars.  Why?  ‘Cause I dig you and also because I want you to help spread the word about The Salish Sea’s most beautiful and distinctive Micro Ship, Siren.  She needs a new steward.

36' Pinky Schooner for sale

Who hasn’t dreamed of sailing over the horizon or maybe just across the bay?  Siren is ready to set sail today for any place on earth.  The is finely fitted with every option known to man from her water maker to her hydraulic steering.

This boat has essentially never been used and all her systems are brand spanking new.  Add a few cases of beer and a couple cans of beans and you are off.  She has refrigeration, diesel heat and everything in between.

Siren is 100% turn key and built just for you.

36'Colvin Pinky Schooner For Sale

All you have to do is spread the word, if you help me ring a new steward for Siren I will give you a cool grand. 1000 smackaroonies. See full spec’s here.

36' Pinky Schooner for sale

36' Pinky Schooner for sale

36' Pinky Schooner for sale

36' Pinky Schooner for sale

36' Pinky Schooner for sale

“To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea… “cruising” it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

“I’ve always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can’t afford it.” What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of “security.” And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone.

What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life? ”
― Sterling Hayden, Wanderer

Falmouth Cutter 22 for sale

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Good news on the FC waterfront.  Honu has had a price redution just in time for spring sailing.  We wish we could take you along with us on Sookie but the next best thing is having your own and Honu is ready to go.

Falmouth Ctuuter 22 for sale

I could go on and on about how great those boats are but all you have to do is read my last 500 posts about our little Falmouth Cutter to know that Honu is among the most beautiful and well designed boats in the world.  She is turn key, on her Trailer and ready to go when and where you are.  Your destiny is in your own hands, buy this ship and sail away.

The cure for anything is saltwater – sweat, tears, or the sea.
– Isak Dinesen

And that’s why so many sailors are single…

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It’s a common scenario, the young sailor takes his new girlfriend out in a gale and she’s scarred for life. The seasoned seamen brings a woman aboard his boat with no standing headroom, and merely a bucket for a toilet.

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Not all woman are nautical, and some need coaxing and comfort to ease into life on board.

My first time sailing was as a crew member for the delivery of a 43-foot charter catamaran from Tonga to New Zealand.  While I knew nothing of boats at the time, and it’s plush, spacious interior was fun for a few weeks at anchor and ten days crossing the ditch, I knew right away it wasn’t really my style of boat. It was those three weeks anchored in Vava’u harbor, however, that I got my first taste of the sailing lifestyle and met cruisers from around the world.

It was smack dab in the middle of cyclone season and my naivety had me enjoying our waiting period in the small island group, not biting my nails in anticipation for a weather window. The good weather eventually came and off we went, never encountering storm-like conditions and the giant waves and winds I now more knowingly fear and respect. I can’t help but wonder though–had we hit nasty weather or had something else gone wrong on my first ever sailing trip, would I too have been turned off from sailing forever?

I was lucky. I had a magical first time experienced and eventually eased into life on board a sailboat.

My favorite uncle grew up on boats and owned a few small sailing vessels in his formative years. As he enters into the next stage of life it’s his dream to be a retired live aboard on a Grand Banks in his native waters of the Long Island sound. In the early days of his marriage to my aunt he hadn’t quite mastered the art of coaxing and comfort and her first night on the boat would be her last. This is his story…

I Spent my twenty’s getting on board Friday night, taking a cold shower Monday morning and going right to work, (for one summer with an Akita on board). Other than one summer where I had a housemate (she left the Akita) who was totally into the boat and “got it,” I kind of always dug being out for the weekend alone, as opposed to hearing one of the uninitiated piping up with, “what are we going to do now?” ( Um, we’re going to ferry your ass back to the dock, before your ignorance takes the shine off a perfect day)

Mia (my wife) loved my Catalina 22 and we had a lot of great days and nights on it. We had a slip 5 minutes from the house back then. In her defense, the first and last night she stayed on the boat over night with me was a comedy of errors.

It was this hot humid night in Port Jeff Harbor. I had yet to pick up a new Magna Kettle (grill) so I stupidly made this horrible, indigestible pasta and sauce deal on the alcohol stove. We had drinks, enjoyed the night, and I happily passed out in the v-berth. Well, a few hours later, the rain coming through the hatch woke me up.

As I took stock of the situation through the haze of Dewars and fog, I heard quiet sobbing. With a quick flop of the arm I determined that the crew was not in her berth. I headed for the cockpit, to see what was the matter.

It was hot, humid, and dinner refused to go quietly in to the night. The Catalina lacked a proper bulkhead between the engine room and the main salon, rather a snap on cushion in the aft dinette seat was all that was between you and 10 gallons of mixed gas and its accompanying fumes. This was no big deal on a breezy evening, but on one of those dead hot humid nights it could get anyone feeling a bit claustrophobic.

She never minded if I went out for a weekend overnighter, and we had many pleasant evenings in Stony Brook Harbor, but she’d never sleep on that boat again.”

Up shit creek without a paddle

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At 5:56 AM the sun unceremoniously rose somewhere behind a dark cloak of storm clouds.  It wont set again until 8:22 PM giving me nearly 15 grey hours to contemplate our current location,  up shit creek without a paddle.

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Every-time we leave the dock its like the great escape.  Contrary currents and wind don’t make a good combination when your engine hates you.  It is the most consistent engine I have ever seen always stalling as soon as we are exactly half way out of the guest docks.  Sookie is small and manageable but still has a long keel and doesn’t like to do anything as much as she likes to go straight foreward.

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I crawl back into our tiny cabin and retreat from the world, I’ve lost all confidence in this mechanical beast, the bane of my existence.  Mechanical aids are suppose to serve man, to make our lives easier but they don’t, they make us slaves.  So I have become a servant to convenience although I can’t think of a single convenience our little outboard offers us.

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I can build and rebuild boats of any size shape or design, I can wire a boat, rig a boat, sew sails, install plumbing, paint varnish hammer and screw.  When it comes to internal combustion my eyes glaze over and everything turns Chinese.  Im missing my warped Yuloh but the design never fit on our tiny boat, a sculling oar would but I doubt I can make one with my Swiss Army knife in our time frame.  June 21 is right around the corner, a rude reminder that winter is on the way and I am still here.

Some men wish to be rich, others powerful.  I wish I was Larry Pardey.  From the log of Sookie somewhere up shit creek without a paddle.

Shrouds, halyards & sheets, oh my!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Growing Pains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coconut Telegraph

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun-DUH-mentals

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seaman

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

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

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

The Greatest Show On Earth

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

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

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

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

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

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

B.O.A.T.

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

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

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

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

The Son Of Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cosmetic Surgery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motley Crew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living Aboard A Pocket Cruiser

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Island Life 2.0

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

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

Just do it ~Unkown

The Wind Is Angry

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

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

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

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

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

A Failures Guide To Soft Landings

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

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

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

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

San Juan Islands

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

Nor Wester

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

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

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

Making The Break

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

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

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

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

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

Another Shitty Day In Paradise

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

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

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

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

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

The Frugal Mariner

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

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

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

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

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

The Moveable Feast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rocna Vulcan

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

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

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

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

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

Sheet To Tiller Steering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking Outside The Cubicle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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