Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Marathon: Carol: a love story


        You are looking at the scene of one of the great passions ever known.  I did not say the greatest.  I am sure there have been equals.  I hope that you yourself have known such passion.  But I am confident that there have been none greater.
        Twenty-three years ago today, Carol and I left THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, who was anchored—this was before the mooring field existed—here in Boot Key Harbor, rowed ashore, and drove down to Key West where we were married.  I believe we have lived rather happily ever since.
        We had known one another for only two months,
meeting when I flew to Boston to take her and the man then in her life, a German born physician, and his Peterson 44 across the Atlantic.
        I don’t like to sail boats I have not myself prepared and have done only three boat deliveries.  One from San Diego to San Francisco.  One San Diego to Cabo San Lucas.  And the one with Carol.  
        I did the first two because I needed the money.  I made the one with Carol to meet Carol.  There was then no woman in my life, and I agreed to make the delivery because I thought I might meet someone along the way.
        I flew into Boston on a Monday.  The three of us lived on the boat from the beginning.  Carol and Henry in the aft cabin.  I in the forepeak.
        Two evenings later, on Wednesday there was a bon voyage party on the boat, after which Carol’s best friend said to her, “Henry is a good match maker.”
        The three of us set off.  There was a problem with the self-steering vane, which I fixed.  We stood watches and during mine one night an NBA play-off game I was listening to on radio headphones was interrupted by the police chase of O.J. Simpson down an LA freeway.  By the time we reached the Azores, alliances had changed.  I flew back.  Carol continued on to Portugal, from where she flew back.
        It was a great risk for Carol to marry a much-divorced man.  I am so glad she made that leap into the unknown.
        We will share a video call this evening and a drink at distance.
        To love and passion.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Marathon: too damn many rules


        GANNET moved this morning, but not to a mooring.  She is tied along side the narrow channel leading to the travel lift at Marathon Boat Yard, where she will in a few weeks be lifted from the water and stored ashore while I return to Evanston for the rest of the year.
        She is at a right angle to her position at the Marathon Marina and there is more clear space around her, particularly to the east.  She is definitely getting more breeze.  Still at 2:00 p.m. it is 100ºF/37.7C in the Great Cabin.
        When I returned yesterday from the Marathon City mooring office the cabin which had been closed was 112.6ºF/47.7C.
        All went well at the mooring office until the petty bureaucrat asked about GANNET’s holding tank.  I told him that GANNET has no plumbing, no through hull fittings, and a PortaPotti.  He said that does not meet their regulations, which require a permanently fixed mounted head and holding tank.  
        As those of you who have viewed photos of GANNET’s interior, the only place such a device could be installed is on the floor of the Great Cabin, either directly under the companionway or where I am presently sitting at Central.  It would also require cutting holes in the deck and hull to vent and pump the holding tank.
        That I have sailed GANNET most of the way around the world as she is without encountering this problem, that in port I use shore facilities, which I do, counted for nothing.
        I am not going to repeat our entire discussion, which ended when I said, “That is a stupid regulation.  When you accept a job that requires you to enforce stupidity, you define yourself.”  And turned and left.
        Fortunately, Marathon Boat Yard again came to my rescue and found space for the little boat.
        Here is a warning, something of which I have long been aware, but this may happen in Panama, too.  And, if so, the attempt at sixth circumnavigation might be over.  I might just turn and sail back to the east coast of the U.S., though probably not to Florida.

————

        You may recall BE AS YOU ARE, the boat on land off GANNET’s bow at the Marathon Marina.  Roger heard a song with that title sung by Kenny Chesney that he thinks may be the source of the boat name. I thank him for bringing it to my attention.  He may well be right.

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        A couple of evenings ago while listening to music and sipping warm boxed wine on deck, I watched a dragon fly clinging to one of GANNET’s running backstays.  He balanced there, elegant wings spread, for more than an hour before I went below.  Perhaps he enjoyed the music.

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        This is one of Jackson Pollack’s paintings from his blue period, titled, “GANNET:  Water off port beam.”
        The image is dated last night, which is odd for Jackson Pollack died in 1956.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Marathon: a new record; 3Di; absurd; buffalo traces

        When I returned this afternoon from biking to shop the Great Cabin was 108ºF/42ºF.

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        Several sailors have written that they were unaware of molded sails.  One wrote welcoming me to the 21st Century.
        The sails are made by North Sails 3Di process.  If you google that you will find lots more information. 
        Zach, the North sailmaker who delivered the sails to me, said that the process requires low humidity which is why they are made in a facility in Nevada.  He also said that 3Di sails have lasted two successive races on some Volvo round the world race boats.  That is 50,000 hard miles, which should be enough for me.
        Their finish is hard and slippery, and the mainsail does not flake down as compactly as the old sail and will require a new cover.  

————

        If you have been paying the slightest attention, you may have observed that life is absurd.
        Three small added proofs:  GANNET now has a Torqeedo outboard stowed at the end of each pipe berth.  And I noticed that my K-Mart bike is a mountain bike.  The highest mountain on Marathon is a curb. 
        Not long ago I received an email from a man writing a book about extreme sailing.  He asked several questions, including what I think is the difference between racers and cruisers.  Regular readers will know that I reject dividing all sailors into one of those two boxes.  One difference is that according to what I read the average cruiser uses his engine 25% to 33% of the time, and I got to wondering what percentage I have used GANNET’s Torqeedo since leaving San Diego.
        I am not sure of the exact number, but it is less than 1/1000th.  Our daily runs San Diego to Marathon total 23,339.  I have definitely not powered 23.3 miles total since then.  The number is closer to 5 or 6 miles, not counting one day of flat calm in the Bay of Islands when I tried to power from Opua to Russell.
        At that distance, now having bought two Torqeedos and two spare batteries, my motoring costs are a staggering $1,000 a mile.  Which I am sure you will agree is absurd.

————

        From the label on the now empty bottle of Buffalo Trace:

        The ancient paths of countless buffalo led America westward.  Legendary explorers, pioneers, and settlers alike followed these trails, known as traces, through rugged wilderness to new lands, new adventures, and new-found freedom.
        One such trace, called the Great Buffalo Trace, crossed the Kentucky River at a spot just north of present-day Frankfort.  Early pioneers settled here in 1775 and, with plentiful pure limestone water and rich bottom loam for growing exceptional grains, distillation quickly followed.  With unparalleled reputation for creating outstanding bourbon whiskey, the Buffalo Trace Distillery today stands as one of America’s oldest distilling sites.

        I have always thought of buffalo on the western plains and did not know they were once east of the Mississippi as well.
        I will buy another bottle.
        At present I am sitting on a pipe berth in front of a fan, waiting for the sun to go down.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Marathon: visitors; changing plans; too much stuff; Christmas in August


        Can you identify the above blobs which appeared off GANNET's stern this afternoon?  The following may help. 

If you are still stuck, they are manatees, similar to Australia’s dugongs.
        They had come a fair way in from the main channel to get to GANNET.  The little boat attracts attention and I suppose they wanted to see for themselves.
        They quietly bobbed around for ten or fifteen minutes, expressed no opinion, and disappeared.

————

        Being a man of steely determination, I changed plans three times in twenty-four hours.
        When I leave GANNET to return to spend the rest of the year with Carol, my preference is to store her ashore.  She has been continuously in the water for several years and I’d like to let her dry out.  However, on Monday when I checked with boat yards, including the one at this marina, there was no room.  So I decided I would leave GANNET in her current slip.
        No sooner had I told the marina staff that we were staying beyond August 16, the date through which I have already paid, than Tom, a fellow sailor, emailed offering free dock space in front of his house on another of the Florida Keys.  After determining that there was enough water for GANNET to reach his dock, I gratefully accepted.
        The following morning Marathon Boat Yard, which had said they had no room on Monday, called me and said they had checked more carefully and could squeeze GANNET in.  Another of the virtues of small boats.  So I biked over, signed papers and began paying for the yard space immediately so no one else takes it, though GANNET is not coming out of the water for another month.
        I am pleased to be so decisive.

————

        I spent this morning productively re-stowing stuff.
        GANNET has too much stuff on her.
        Clearly stuff multiplies spontaneously when I’m not looking.
        I am not a hoarder.  I take real satisfaction in throwing out stuff.  Yet still there is too much, now including two Torqeedo electric outboards and a bicycle pump.

        This is the new Torqeedo.  If you think It looks a lot like the old Torqeedo, you are right.  It differs only in that it has a short shaft.  My first had an unnecessary long shaft.
        It came this afternoon and was unpacked, mounted and started in a few minutes.  I checked and both old and new tillers work.  
        The bicycle pump was bought along with a $99 bicycle from K-Mart.  I was paying almost that much to rent a bicycle.  I will use the bike around here for a month, lock it to GANNET in the boat yard when I leave, use it again in January, then when I sail for Panama give it to a charity or church to pass on.
        The bicycle has eighteen speeds.  I use only one.  Marathon is flat, flat, flat.

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        The new sails are to be delivered tomorrow.
        Christmas in August.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Marathon: changed plans; Battle of the Ants; rain scoop

        I have changed my plans and am going to keep GANNET here in the Florida Keys rather than sail north.  There are several reasons for this among them that, despite the heat, I like Marathon.  It is a convenient place to provision and prepare for the passage to Panama.  And GANNET is already settled in a safe slip in a marina run by friendly and responsible people.
        I would rather store GANNET ashore.  There are three yards where I might do that here, including this one, but as I expected all are already full until after the hurricane season ends in November.
        I am told that my new sails will be delivered not later than a week from today.
        Once I have them I will sail around some.  Certainly out to snorkel on the reef.  Possibly down to Key West and out to the Dry Tortugas and back.  It depends on the wind and the weather.
        Even though I will be paying for this slip, I also intend to rent one of the municipal moorings in Boot Key Harbor for a week or two.  Carol and I were living on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA at anchor there in 1994 when we drove down to Key West to be married. 
        Most of the remaining work on my to do list is cosmetic.
        I managed to get metal polished this morning.
        I apologize for creating expectations I will not fulfill.

————

        A few days ago I noticed that there were dozens, perhaps hundreds of tiny ants in the cockpit.  I usually have a plastic trash bag out there that I dispose of each day and sometimes it has food in it.  To reach it they made an epic ant trek.  By comparative size a thousand or even a ten thousand mile march.  There is no sign of an ant colony anywhere nearby ashore, and they had to make the final leg crawling along one of the dock lines.
        I don’t take pleasure in killing, but I was not going to live with these.
        One of the things I do not understand is that consciousness instinctively resists unconsciousness.  I also don't understand DNA's imperative to be projected into the future.  When I reached down with a paper towel to crush the ants, they took off, zig-zagging along the groves in the diamond pattern Treadmaster on the cockpit sole. 
        I now throw out the trash more quickly.  I bought ant spray and have sprayed the area they frequented, around the companionway, and the dock lines.
        I’ve only seen three lost survivors today, and they are no longer surviving.
        I may have won.

————

         An unexpected heavy shower at 2 a.m. established that my wind scoop is also a superior rain scoop.  Sleeping partially under the forward hatch, I was awakened by a splash.  Rather than go on deck, I released the four snaps that secure the bottom of the scoop and let it fly so I could close the hatch.  It was still attached at the top to the spinnaker halyard and a line running to the forestay.
        That was fine until the rain passed and the wind died and the scoop begin dragging across the deck.  I reached up, brought the tabs back in and rescured it.  Until a second shower a couple of hours later.  This time I went on deck and lowered the scoop.
        I put it back up this morning.
        I will check the forecast before I go to sleep tonight.

————

        In the above photo you can see some of the reasons little breeze reaches GANNET.   Boats stored ashore and beside her block most of it.  You can also see that for a while we were sitting in our own personal Sargasso Sea.
         I like the name of the boat stored off GANNET’s starboard bow.  BE AS YOU ARE. 
        I am about to go ashore to find a bowl of conch chowder, a big glass of ice tea, and shade.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Marathon: admirer; a new Torqeedo; explorers


        GANNET is near the head of a long marina dock.  Many people pass and admire her.  When I am on deck in the evening they often stop and chat.  
        I returned from biking to the supermarket and West Marine the other day to find the above18”/.5 meter long iguana on the dock staring at GANNET, perhaps contemplating a sea voyage and a change of scene.
        He let me get within ten feet before he turned and took off across the boat yard in an odd run, his body jolting from side to side on short legs, pausing once to look back at me in suspicion and GANNET perhaps with longing, before disappearing into the mangroves.

————

        Except for some tasks that once started have to be completed, such as the solar panel wiring ordeal two days ago, I work on GANNET for just a few hours in the morning, then bike away to have lunch and shop, if necessary, and spend the afternoons sitting ashore reading and writing in comfortable chairs the marina provides in the shade of a thatched roof.  
        Among my weather apps is Dark Sky which gives among other things the ‘feels like’ temperature.  Now, just after 8 a.m. it shows a true temperature of 85ºF/29.4C that feels like 96ºF/35.5C.   The afternoons here are generally 88º true that feels like 102º.   I don’t even want to imagine what the 103º true in The Great Cabin feels like.
        Yesterday my morning tasks went well until I decided to drag the Torqeedo out and see if it still works.
        I removed the bolt that secures the boom to the mast gooseneck and added washers to both ends.  I glued mounts to secure solar panel wiring.  Many adhesives, including those on the back of velcro fail in tropical heat.  I am now using Gorilla Glue, which seems to be holding up.  It doesn’t set instantly and I have to duct tape the mounts in place for a couple of hours before it does.  I’ll let you know if it fails.  And I touched up a few spots on the topsides paint near the bow.
        Then I removed the duffle bags containing food and clothes from the port pipe berth and crawled aft to fetch the Torqeedo and outboard bracket, which I then assembled on the stern, only to be presented with the dreaded ‘Error 30’, despite this being a brand new battery.  
        The problem is in the connection of the tiller arm to the battery.  I removed the tiller arm, cleaned the points gently with sandpaper and a tiny screw driver, sprayed with WD 40, reattached the tiller, got the same error, and did it all again and this time the motor started.
        I left the Torqeedo on the stern all day and started it again at intervals.  Always with success.
        GANNET is in a slip from which it is impossible to sail.  You may recall that she was towed in.
        I was grateful to be towed, but I don’t like being dependent on others and in the future GANNET is going to be increasingly in marinas rather than on a mooring or at anchor and need reliable motor power.
         I considered trying to buy a new tiller arm for the Torqeedo, but when I went to Defender’s website I found that they are selling the Travel 1003 for $1600, $400 off list price, so I ordered one.  It is due to be delivered next Wednesday.
        Mixing and matching, one way or the other, I better bleeping well have engine power for those last few hundred yards when I need it.

————

        I am long on record that we are not an intelligent species.  We have survived because we eat almost anything, like to reproduce, have a vast capacity to endure suffering, and because a tiny minority of us are gifted engineers and technicians.
        Truly admirable men and women and great explorers.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Marathon: scooped

        I finally rigged the wind scoop I bought while in Evanston.  I wasn’t sure I could use it with the hatch screen in place.  I can.  I will have to lower it when it rains.  This one has the advantage of catching wind from any direction, particularly useful when tied to a dock.
        It is not air-conditioning, but it helps.
        Nevertheless GANNET’s cabin is still intolerably hot in the afternoon.  I am writing under a thatched hut ashore.

        Yesterday I removed everything from the starboard pipe berth and slithered aft to rewire the stern solar panels.  The work itself went well, but the heat back there was atrocious.  Repeatedly I had to slide forward and stand in the companionway to cool—relatively.  Sliding became easier as the pipe berth naugahyde became slippery with sweat.
        That was the worst task on my to do list and I am very glad it is over.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Marathon: thanks to Emily

        Yesterday was cloudy and cooler—only 83ºF/28C in the Great Cabin at 4 p.m.—thanks to Tropical Storm/Depression Emily.  I do not see any television here or listen to the radio and so did not know of Emily until Carol mentioned the storm in an email.  The Florida Keys were on the far southern edge of the disturbance.  We had scattered light rain early in the day and an hour or two of downpour in the evening with no significant wind.
        I managed to paint the areas on deck uncovered by the removal of the Aurinco panels, but they are now much whiter than the rest of the deck, so I should repaint the whole thing.
        And I did my laundry.  Clothes become sweat soaked here in minutes.
        I also started an article I promised CLASSIC SAILOR magazine in England about CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE.
        This morning I re-glued a sheet bag I use for stowage in the Great Cabin, cleaned the bilge, changed some wiring in preparation for rewiring the stern solar panels with the new charge boosters/controllers that FedEx emails they have just delivered.
        That will wait until tomorrow morning.  I don’t work in the afternoon.
        Today is again sunny and hot.  
        When I returned from biking to shop the 
Great Cabin was 103F/almost 40C.
        I am writing in shade ashore.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Marathon: Iceland; the whale's path

        Zane writes from Auckland that it is unusually cold there 3ºC/37F and in Opua it is 2º/35.6F.  Sounds good to me.
        While my sixth circumnavigation still has 5,000 miles to go, I have thought what I might do after, time and chance permitting, I complete it.  Guy Dickinson recently walked across part of Iceland.  I checked the weather and found that Reykjavik’s summers are similar to Opua’s usual winters:  lows about 10C/50F and highs about 15C/59F.  Right now it is 62F in Reykjavik.  It is 96F/35.5C in GANNET’s cabin.  A voyage to Iceland is increasingly attractive.
        A west breeze is reaching GANNET today.  A Calfamo MiniMax fan is on constantly when I am below deck.  It is presently blowing on me at Central.  I take it forward to the v-berth at night.  Depending on the speed setting, four D cell batteries last more than 100 hours.  I keep an ample supply on hand.  Without a fan, life in the Great Cabin would be intolerable.
        I am not wearing my Apple watch or my hearing aids.  Both would almost instantly be gummed up with sweat.
        You may wonder how I would get GANNET to Iceland from San Diego.
        It is increasingly likely that GANNET will become an east coast boat.  It would be easier and considerably less expensive for me just to leave her here; but I started in San Diego and unless I can’t get across Panama, I’ll end there and have the little boat towed back.

————

        I have managed to get the two new solar panels installed and wired.  
        Today I filled with epoxy the holes left in the deck by the defunct Aurinco panels, sanded the areas covered by the last two panels that I removed yesterday, and used my Dremel tool to cut the end off a bolt that almost invariably sliced me whenever I crawled aft on the port pipe berth.
        Tomorrow I’ll paint the deck where the Aurinco panels used to be.
        Two more charge booster/controllers are due to be delivered on Tuesday.  After they arrive, I’ll crawl aft and wire each of the stern mounted Solbian panels individually.  
        Each of the Solbian panels is rated at 50 watts, so GANNET now has nominally 200 watts of solar charging, far in excess of her needs.  
        I have heard from Zach at North Sails that my new sails will probably not be delivered until August 14.  I have paid for this slip through August 16.  
        I’ve rented a bicycle for two weeks.  
        Marathon is about five miles long and two blocks wide.  Marathon Marina, where I am staying, is at the far west end of Marathon.  A few restaurants and a West Marine store are within a mile, but the supermarket and most shops are almost three miles away.
        I pedaled to the supermarket and Home Depot yesterday.  I  bought a sandwich for lunch and a salad for dinner, but I don’t have much appetite in this heat and only ate the sandwich.  
        I am drinking about a gallon/4 liters of liquid a day.

————

        I love the whale’s path, the long waves, the wind flecking the world with blown spray, the dip of a ship’s prow into a swelling sea and the explosion of white and the splatter of saltwater on sail and timbers, and the green heart of a great sea rolling behind the ship, rearing up, threatening, the broken crest curling, and then the stern lifts to the surge and the hull lunges forward and the sea seethes along the strakes as the wave roars past.  I love the birds skimming the gray water, the wind as friend and as enemy, the oars lifting and falling.  I love the sea.  I have lived long and I know the turbulence of life, the cares that weigh a man’s soul and the sorrows that turn the hair white and the heart heavy, but all those are lifted along the whale’s path.  Only at sea is a man truly free.

        —from THE PAGAN LORD, the seventh of The Last Kingdom novels by Bernard Cornwall

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Marathon: brutal; Buffalo Trace


        2:00 p.m.  I am sitting in shade ashore.  The temperature in GANNET’s Great Cabin is 104ºF/40ºC with the hatches open.  Even with the fan blowing hot air onto me, I just couldn’t stand it any longer.  I have solar panels to install.  Maybe tomorrow morning.
        I arrived back two evenings ago to find GANNET musty and with batteries reading 11.8 volts, but otherwise in good condition.  I switched the wires from the Solar Boost 3000i to the back-up regulator and the battery charge is slowing rising.  It is possible that the regulators are limiting the charge because of their own temperature.
        The two new Solbian solar panels were here on my arrival, as was the box with the repaired Raymarine tiller pilots and masthead wind unit I shipped to myself.
        The three tiller pilots work as does the wind unit.
        The Solbian panels will be individually wired to Genasun charge boosters and I have decided rewire the two panels already on the boat that way, too.  Presently wired in series, if one panel is partially shaded it reduces the output of both.  Wired individually, it won’t.
        I have no idea when that will happen.  Perhaps when hell freezes over.  As hot as is the Great Cabin, the dead space in the stern where I will have to crawl to rewire those panels is even hotter.

————

        One evening in Hilton Head, I decided that since I was in the South I should taste some bourbon, which I do not usually drink.  I told the bartender to decide for me.  He asked unnecessarily, “Do you want good or bad?”  When I naturally said good—who would want bad?—he poured something called Buffalo Trace.  While it is not going to replace Laphroaig in my affection, it is good.  I bought a bottle here yesterday, though 104º is not exactly whiskey weather.  

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        The above photo was taken from the Keys Shuttle van on the way from Ft. Lauderdale airport.  The distance is about 140 miles and the trip took four hours, longer than my flying time from Hilton Head to Ft. Lauderdale.