Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Goodbye Seattle



Leaving and me have always had a unique relationship. Like most, I want to be liked, wanted, have friends, a place to stay, places to go, and have things to do.

Leaving these things is always hard for me, for many of them were in such scarcity when I was younger. That meant that leaving was not only a way to seek things I need, but to discard things that no longer serve me.

So, while remembering the good things I have had -- I bring those with me as much as possible -- the lessons, the relationships, the new goals...

All the while, looking back for a moment, and set down the things that I don't need or want anymore. See that pile of dishonest people, the gentrification of this city, the increasing traffic, former friends or lovers who were not what they seemed. AS a matter of fact, they were horrible in how they treated others, including me. This would include the companies and managers who lied to me, those that didn't support me when I needed it, the lover who dumped me the day after my father died (forever connecting her to his death); the list isn't long but it is painful. If you can see this post, you are not on that list. So, discardia serves me well in this case.

I moved up to Seattle with a dream in late 1988, with hopes of starting a new career and, well, I did. Starting early 1989, I picked up a career path that led me where I am today. It isn't where I belong -- I know that now -- but it's served me and my family financially. That has allowed me step into a beautifully intricate trap in order to provide for my family. I didn't know it was a trap at the time but, regardless, it was what I needed at the time.

From 1988 to 2007, I never was able to live in Seattle, though I came here frequently. We had friends here. We opened a business on Capitol Hill (Beyond the Edge Cafe). We failed at that business within a year. But, hey, I learned a lot. But I had to live outside of Seattle for a very long time. But I made a promise to my family to be employed and to live in the Kent School District for the better schools.

Then I was finally able to move here. I bought a condo on Capitol Hill in 2007 (the year dad died), married my Kerry in 2009, and moved aboard Brigadoon in 2010.

This coming Saturday, we slip the lines at Tillicum Marina for the last time, head west, raising tree drawbridges and navigating the locks for the last time. We head south for Foss Harbor Marina in Tacoma. We aren't leaving Seattle all together just yet. We still plan to commute here (by train or express bus) for a while.

It's been a while Seattle. You were the jewel in my eye for so long. In many ways you still are. You will always be one of my favorite places to live and, well, I've lived in many.

And to all the people who cared for me, who treated me well, who worked with me on art at LRS, who played music with me, who shared themselves and allowed me to do the same; thank you and I love you.

Here's to taking the first step towards the new dream.

To See the World -- eventually.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A time of change (post by Kerry)

So we’re moving.  I know we've mentioned this a couple of times now, but the stuff going on inside, the emotions around this particular step in our journey have been knocking around my brain for the last couple of weeks as it becomes more and more real.  I’ve lived in Seattle (and a few outlying neighborhoods) since 1978.  I spent a couple years in Minnesota after high school and one year in Idaho after college… but otherwise – this has been home.  In order: There was the small rental cottage on Mercer Island that my mom and I moved to from Massachusetts when I was nine; the house my mom bought in North Bend, where we lived for about three years during middle school; then the one bedroom condo in Rainier Beach we moved into, when Mom married Ray, right over the water on Lake Washington.  Next, during my Senior year in High School – we rented a beautiful brick tudor in the Seward Park area while the owners were on sabbatical in France.  I spent the summer after high school with my parents in an apartment overlooking Southcenter Mall.
 
This is when I left for a couple of years and while I was gone, my parents and grandparents built a wonderful Cape Cod style house out in Woodinville.  When I returned at the age of 19, I lived there in a three generation household for two years while working and starting at Cornish.  At the end of my first year of Cornish College, I began my apartment years – first on Capitol Hill in a small studio for $350 per month (crazy right?), then on Queen Anne with a couple of my classmates in a duplex with a view to die for. 

Cue another year away – falling in love and working in a theater in Sun Valley Idaho.  I moved back to Washington with Rob and lived with my family again out in Woodinville until we married in 1995.  Then there were our houses as a couple – the two rentals in Northgate, literally three houses away from each other, and then our first home ownership – a cute three bedroom rambler in Top Hat, nestled between Burien and White Center.

After the divorce, I sold my car and moved downtown into Tower 801 – a pie shaped apartment where I started to figure out who I wanted to be at the age of 36.  My sister, Zanne, decided to move to Seattle at this point and after two years on my own, we decided to shack up as roommates – first in a beautiful three story rental house on 25th and Madison, then in a townhouse Zanne purchased over on Yesler.  It was at this point that Donn and I got engaged, married, and moved in together in the winter of 2008/2009.  We lived in his condo at 24th and Madison for almost two years before we made our last move – onto the boat in a gorgeous slip on Lake Union in Fremont. 

It’s been almost five years.  And now, although I’ll still be working in South Lake Union, my life and focus are moving away from Seattle to Tacoma.  My actual home won’t be changing, which is kind of cool – no need to pack or clean or any of the typical “moving” activities.  Just untie the lines, and head for our last pass through the bridges and locks out into Puget Sound this coming Saturday.  Six hours or so later, we should be in our new slip in Foss Harbor Marina.
 

I’ve had a truly amazing life in this city – filled with theater, dance, friends, lovers, family, and so many adventures and escapades.  I am lucky - I have some incredible memories to carry with me and so many friends who will always be in my heart.  But I feel ready for this shift, this turning away from my history here.  This move marks the next step, the beginning of our effort to pull away – point our bow towards our future of sailing, travelling, seeing more of this world beyond the Northwest.  For now, we aim for Tacoma and exploring the South Sound as much as possible before we cut the dock lines for good and go on the Grand Adventure that awaits….

Friday, July 24, 2015

Standing in Two Worlds




I'm sitting at a desk in a corporate environment. Yet, my mind sometimes drifts to somewhere else, to being someone else entirely. There is this almost overwhelming desire to get up and just -- well, just leave.

Not just yet though. Not just yet. I am grounded here, both feet firmly planted on the ground, in this place, by my responsibilities, by my commitments and promises. I don't take those lightly. It's gotten me where I am today; financially successful by most standards. But, more importantly, it allows me to start placing one of my feet somewhere else.

Somewhere else that is different indeed. Forced socialization is left behind. I answer to no one with the exception of myself. I am responsible to no one but myself and my lovely First Mate. There are no schedules to keep. Deadlines do not dominate my life. Politics, dealing with it, navigating around it in this dysfunctional tribe called a corporation; they exist no more. My biggest problem is dying at sea.

I started working at 18. That was thirty-eight years ago. For thirty-eight years I have worked for someone else, running the rat race in some form or another, trying to be a good, responsible citizen. I've raised two children, held down good, gainful, employment. I've bought houses. I've been a good father, employee, and neighbor. I did all the things I was told I'm supposed to do. Get a job, start a family, keep up with bills, try to save money, try to retire...you know the drill. There was never a time in that 38 years where I was not in debt.

I'm sitting in a desk at a corporate environment. There is a reason I'm here but it's not the reason they think I'm here.

I'm here to be free. I'll take their money and spend parts of my life here because, in the end, it will serve me.

So, lightly, but not just yet, I'm stepping into a new world.

Years from now, I'm sure I'll be laughing while on watch, gazing out over the moonlit seas. I'll look back on my wonderful life, my beautiful children, their mother (whom I still do love by the way), my basically good health, and good opportunities. I will silently thank the sea for carrying me, Brigadoon for keeping us safe, my beautiful and loving First Mate who is off-watch and sleeping.

I will thank them for allowing me to leave parts of my life behind that no longer serve me.

Gazing down at the dolphins playing in our bow wave, watching the backbone of the sky light up the night sky, I will give thanks to all around me.


For the freedom to die at sea.





Speed. There are many kinds...



I sometimes answer questions on facebook and realized some of them might be useful to share here.

For example, in the photo above, we are making a whopping 1.8 knots. That is GPS, or actual speed. Water speed was about 5 knots.

There are different kinds of speed indicators for your boat.

Knowing the difference is useful when you are dealing with currents, be they caused by rivers, tides or wind.

Boat speed in water is the actual speed that the water is passing by the sensor and the actual speed your boat is making though the water. This is a combination of your boat progress and any currents. Those currents can add speed or take it away. One knot current against you will show the same water speed because your boat is moving though the water, and water is flowing past the hull.

GPS speed is measured against the surface of the earth. It is the actual speed, actual progress, you are making over the earth. It's your true speed.

If you are directly facing a one knot current and are showing five knots of water speed, your true speed would be about four knots.

If you are facing a five knot current, in a five knot boat, your true speed can be zero.

This is why it's useful to know the difference between the two numbers. They can tell you a lot about your surroundings.

Remember, your water speed is relative. The sum of your water speed and currents is your actual speed.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Where is Home?







Brigadoon is our home. It’s been our home for the last five years. Over those five years we have been fortunate enough to live on Lake Union, here in Seattle. We have a great spot on the end of the dock, our marina is old but run well, we get along well with the owner, and our neighbors have (mostly) been good neighbors. They’re definitely a mixed bag. There was the guy who rode his motorcycle down the dock to park it next to his boat. There was the crazy cat lady who had flower pots all over her side of the dock for her cats to shit in. Entertaining us was the drunk Aussie who was offensive at times but overall a really nice guy. But they were all nice people – truly.

Then, there’s the shipyard…

Where is home? It’s where the boat is moored.

That is about to change.

A couple weeks ago, we were out on the Sound, returning from a friend’s place up north. Another friend was headed south also. As we sailed away, we had a nice northerly at 8-10, which made our asymmetrical spinnaker pull us along at a good 6 knots. Everything was going superb as we worked our way from Port Susan down past Hat Island, just off Everett. Our good friend, Kim, was sailing ahead of us about 3 nautical miles. The forecast was for possible dry lightning in the afternoon. We did get some, with flashes happening over the Cascades to the east, along with some between clouds. 

It wasn’t that severe and it wasn’t close, so we sailed on.

We had planned well for this trip, deciding to set watches for ourselves. This was the suggestion of my lovely and very smart First Mate. Kerry thought it would make for good practice. I agreed. So, we set watches of one hour on and one hour off. This kept us from standing around, fidgeting together, not resting, and basically not getting any time off. Kerry was below, off watch, when I saw the black line on the water.

It was about 5 nautical miles away.

I walked to the foredeck to get a better look. It was closer now. I could see black water, with ever increasing white caps behind it, like white horses climbing out of the Sound. Then I looked up. I looked up at our brand new spinnaker, full with only eight knots of wind filling it from behind. I knew that spinnaker had to come down right now. “Kerry! I need you on deck now!” I shouted as I moved forward to douse the spinnaker. The dark line on the horizon was now less than a mile away. 

There was a wall of wind coming at us, a squall, if you will, and it was going to hit us right on the nose. I completed the fastest spinnaker douse in my entire sailing career. Thank god I had an ATN sock on that spinnaker. It was doused and then down on deck in less than 2 minutes. And that’s when the storm hit us. Looking back I could see Kerry in the cockpit at the wheel.  She yelled out “What course should I take?” I looked over at Kim’s boat. I saw what he was doing. Turning back to Kerry, I shouted “Do you see Kim? Do exactly what he is doing!”

And she did.

We were fine. The winds were 25-30 knots. The seas were very confused. But we were just fine. We didn’t make any big mistakes and no one was hurt. The thing that most comes to mind is that, while not completely incompetent, we weren’t exactly relaxed in the process. Because, we should have been. We were in solid boat with good gear and enough experience where we should have been comfortable.

That’s the lesson. We need more of this. We need to be out there in the Puget Sound sailing in salt water and running into storms. Right now, we have a minimum of three drawbridges and the Ballard Locks to transit just to go sailing in Puget Sound. It’s a two hour trip on a good day. Lake Union is a little small and busy sometimes for Brigadoon. All this adds up to; We don’t get out often enough.

As of August 1st, we’ll be in our new slip on the Sound. We looked at many different marinas, some of them quite shabby but endearing nonetheless. Which begs the question – why would anyone, no matter how beautiful the marina might be, live in such a place with a dirty rundown bathroom and no laundry facilities anywhere in town? Three other marinas we researched were all in close proximity to each other.  Two of those were within walking distance of the Bainbridge Island Ferry.  We would have access to the Sound, a manageable commute, and a nice, modern, rich, town. Why didn’t we choose Bainbridge?

We found a better marina in Commencement Bay on the edges of the city of Tacoma. One cannot deny that Tacoma has revitalized the waterfront and, excepting its reputation, it’s actually quite a pleasant neighborhood. Oh, and the paper mill smell seems to have gone. The Foss Harbor Marina is clean, modern, well managed, amenity rich, and populated by some really nice people. There is a large liveaboard population, which is to our advantage.

This puts us within 200 yards from the entrance of Commencement Bay. At that point, we are in the South Puget Sound. We will have the time, the access, the desire, and the wherewithal to actually sail this boat as much as we need. The South Sound awaits us. We’re gonna do some sailing.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Well, it's belongs to the lake now..."

I really wish I had been that mature, that calm, that wise when a errant job sheet wrapped itself around our port dorade box, tearing it loose from the deck, and tossing it into Lake Union.

It was our first daysail of the season and it was going well. We have not been off the dock for months, due to heavy schedules, some maintenance work, and really uncooperative weather. But we need to get off the dock, as our sail last weekend so aptly demonstrates.

Skill that we had developed over the previous season(s) have gotten rusty. I didn't communicate well to Kerry and we weren't watching the jibsheet well enough when we tacked.

This is what an intact dorade box and vent look like. We used to have two:

Intact starboard dorade box and vent.

The port side? It doesn't quite look as good.

Missing dorade box and vent, apparently held down by a few screws and some rotting plywood??!

Sometimes, sometimes, I just want to strangle whoever did this. Now, I could follow suit and just put the screws for the new box and vent into a place where the wood isn't rotted. Yeah, that would work just fine.

I think now.

So, I'm redesigning the whole mess.

I'm going with solid teak boxes, two brand new ones. I'm also shopping for the vents. I can get them in plastic, stainless, brass or bronze, in order of ascending co$t. In addition, I'm designing, and will have made, a set of rails that prevent sheets from snagging the vents again.

Nothing is more heartbreaking than ripping a piece of your lovely home off the deck and tossing it into the deep, especially if it's completely preventable.

Welcome to the not so fun aspect of owning a boat. It's not all sipping margaritas at anchor and watching the sun set.

More to come on this, what may end up being, a thousand-dollar saga -- and that is by budgeting and doing all the work myself.

Did I mention that the solid, cast-bronze vents can cost as much as a $1,000.00 each?

You bet I'm budgeting.

Monday, March 2, 2015

No One is Coming to Save You


I found this graffiti on Capitol Hill, here in Seattle. I was walking among the raucous and busy streets late at night when I spied this.

I stood there thinking, "This is, indeed, a truth."

There is a recent story of a father and son who arrived in Rhode Island late last year. They paid $10,000.00 for a 20 year old racing boat off eBay. They purchased this boat sight unseen. Their plans were to sail it back to Australia. When they told the seller their plans to leave and enter the North Atlantic in February, they were strongly cautioned not to leave in winter conditions.

"When he told me what he wanted to do, it didn't seem like a good idea to start with," the previous owner, said. "There's a reason there's no boats on the ocean in February. That's because it's not a safe place to be."

They didn't listen.

Now, after rescue, the sailors, both father and son, are spending a lot of time defending their choices and deflecting criticism. They have dismissed seasoned sailor's opinions that their rescue should have been unnecessary because their departure shouldn't have occurred in the first place.

They had planned to leave earlier, but repairs kept piling up, which pushed their schedule. They knew they were getting into times of bad weather but they let the schedule, along with their desire to get the boat home, influence their "go" decision.

So the USCG, in true competence and every-day heroics, rescued them off shore, in the middle of a snow storm.

Someone came to save them. We saved them.

Now, before we go any further, I'll state flat out that I am not discussing rescues, who pays for them and, if we all pay for them (mostly we do), who stops these people from 'wasting' resources with poor decisions. It's a waste of time to argue this. Nothing but circles and circles of rationalizations, victim blaming, Randian rationalizations about the convenience of 'personal responsibility' until the responsible person needs help, etc. Add the cries of glee by some that call this a Darwin award (like no stupid decisions were ever made by the speaker in their lifetime) and you have an almost perfect trifecta. One of narrow mindedness, armchair quarterbacking and an almost sociopathy in the disdain for the plights of others. Not going there, in this article at least.

I'm writing to talk about self-sufficiency and independence and the impacts on our decisions that inter-dependence engenders.

As the story above demonstrates, many are willing to 'take their chances' out there, on the understanding that, if something goes wrong, they can make a call, push a button, and someone will come and save them.

In many cases, boats that were abandoned have washed up on shore, or found floating intact and seaworthy. It's fear that drives people off boats in situations they don't understand and try to tackle in ignorance and unpreparedness. This is a common story, one that illustrates how unprepared many people are for the sea.

What if no one was coming to save you? What would you do then?

Perish at sea?

or...

Rescue yourself.

You rescue yourself every time you upgrade a critical system on your boat. You rescue yourself every time you learn more about weather, navigation and weather routing. You rescue yourself by carefully planning your routes without the driving date of a (sometimes arbitrary) schedule. In a hundred decisions before you leave, and hundreds after, you rescue yourself from ignorance, arrogance, hubris and laziness.

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”

—Bertrand Russell (British mathematician and philosopher, 1872-1970)

When you read the stories of rescues, one common theme seems to rise up above all the other noise. The sailors being rescued were very confident, very sure of themselves, cannot be dissuaded by more experienced sailors; they aren't interested in information that flies in the face of what they want to do. These people are the same type who enter the wilderness without training, equipment and experience, ending up with a rescue by SAR volunteers. The arrogance of ignorance is poison to taking on endevours such as sailing.

"Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect."

— Captain A. G. Lamplugh, British Aviation Insurance Group, London. c. early 1930's.

The problem with this, as documented as the Dunning-Kruger effect, is that the incompetent don't know they are incompetent. They are often the ones so sure, so without doubt, as they stumble along to their eventual failure and doom. The sad part of, because of that self-blindness, that lack of doubt, they can never really get any better.

A good sailor (or aviator for that matter -- of which I am both), doubts. I'm not talking about the paralytic doubt that freezes one into inaction. I mean the kind of doubts that fuel us to redouble our efforts to sail a safe and seaworthy boat. We doubt our knowledge is good enough, so we study. Our skill set may not be there yet, so we work on our engines, our systems, our rigging and ourselves.

We see the trap of expecting someone else to help us in our darkest hour, so we do every single thing we can do to plot a course where that darkest hour doesn't come to pass. We rescue ourselves in every decision we make because, deep down, in our bones, we know, we really know...

"No one is coming to save you."

We have to save ourselves.