Monday, September 15, 2014

I've taken pictures...

I have a rather long relationship with photography. When we moved aboard Brigadoon, I couldn't help myself.  Here are some photos taken over this, so far, four year journey.


Friday, September 12, 2014

On being a Captain

There's an old joke that I have always enjoyed. It's more a barb, really. One uses it in response to someone claiming the title of "Dr." somewhere near their name because they have a Ph.D in some field and insisting that you use and recognize that title.

"Sure, you're a Doctor but, to a Doctor are you a Doctor."

Titles are nice and all. They are a convenience for understanding, really. Titles can communicate what a person is, what they can do and what we can expect from them. They also can carry a lot of other baggage and assumptions that hinder understanding and communication too.

So, let's talk about Captain.

I am not an officially titled Captain (OUPV, commonly called a "Six Pack" or a Master) by the United States Coast Guard. I have not the required hours under way, nor have I passed the written test for any official license. This means I cannot reasonably insist that people refer to me as Captain, nor do I offer that title in any context where it does not apply. I have no business cards with the title, it isn't in an email signature, and I don't claim the title where it's inappropriate.

I am, however, Captain of Brigadoon.

This doesn't mean that I get to be in charge. It means that I have to be in charge. There is a subtle difference in those two concepts that is important to understand. One gets to have dessert, to go on vacation, to have a day off, to do any number of things that we would like to do. Some people like to be in charge and, for them, being a Captain means they get to tell others what to do. In any arena where a person makes decisions, be they a police officer, a judge, a manager at a company, a parent, they exercise power over others. That is why some people who find it agreeable to wield power are drawn to roles in which they have control. The problem with this kind of person is, they also have to wield responsibility. If you are a Captain, you are responsible. There is no escaping this fact.

I am the Captain of Brigadoon, not because of a desire to wield power. I am Captain because I am responsible for the safety of the vessel and all those aboard. I am responsible for the operation of the vessel so that it is in compliance with all maritime laws. I am responsible for ensuring that my vessel is operated in a manner that reduces risk to other vessels.

It doesn't mean I'm right all the time, or that my decisions are above question. It means that, when something is happening now, that requires a decision, that I have to make it. I'm responsible.

This also means that if anything happens to Brigadoon, to others on board, or to something I damage with Brigadoon (another boat, a dock, you name it) that I'm also responsible. I don't get to make excuses for my lack of knowledge, preparedness, decision making, or competence. Something happens. I own it. This is very unlike most of the news stories you read in the press about Very Important people shirking the very thing they wanted in the first place; being important and the responsibility that comes with it.

It keeps me on my toes. I constantly study. I assess my abilities. I look for shortcomings in my boat, boat systems, my crew, my safety equipment, my education and my capabilities.

I'm the Captain of Brigadoon. It's not just a title. It's a job.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Anchoring in Juanita Bay

Juanita Bay

Sunset from Juanita Bay
We had not been away from the dock for an overnight in a long while. Our lives have been busy with boat upgrades, various projects, and just a general business that kept us at the dock. We had planned this outing for a few weeks, having finally had a free weekend to get away.

Kerry really enjoyed the trip. There wasn't much to do once we had the hook set and lunch made. She was very very good at doing nothing that afternoon. It's a skill set worth mastering.

Happy, pretty girl relaxing in the cockpit.

The new kite.

This trip was to serve a few purposes.

A new sail was the first. We had recently purchased a used (very new used actually) Asymmetrical Cruising Spinnaker. We've needed to add this sail to our inventory and a new one was going to be about $4,000. This one was the correct size, had the accessories we wanted and was much, much less. We had picked it up a couple weekends ago but hadn't flown it yet. This trip was to use the expected light airs to fly the chute and see if it met our expectations. Well, it exceeded them. There was one problem. The previous owner had rigged it backwards (tack and clew swapped). I didn't know that until we got it aloft. Fortunately I was able to swap the tack and clew while underway and all was right with the world.  The sail drew well, giving us 2.5 knots of boat speed in less than 5 knots of wind. It's just what Brigadoon needs to move in light airs.

Love this thing. Love it.

The second was the get away from the dock and practice anchoring again.  By the way, this Ultra anchor rocks. It bit into the mud bottom and held extremely well, but was easy to retrieve. I have no regrets spending the money on this premium anchor.

The third, the realization of which came later, was increasing our sense of confidence again in Brigadoon. We re-familiarized ourselves with our anchor, and our skill sets. Brigadoon ran extremely well, both on the leg out and the return trip. The engine fired right off and ran smoothly the entire trip. I didn't notice any reduction in our boat speed, as expected, due to weed growth on the hull. The hull must be cleaner than I thought. I'm glad we moor if fresh water right now.

The main salon, lit by lamp light.

We spent a very quiet evening, relaxing and reading to each other. Our current book is about the story of the Essex, a whaling ship that was destroyed by a sperm whale in the 1800's. It served as the inspiration for Melville's Moby Dick.

Observations from our night at anchor in Juanita Bay:
  • Powerboats attract a certain demographic; mostly white, mostly male, mostly young along with little girls in bikinis.
  • Alcohol seems to be heavily involved in this recreational pursuit.
  • Rap music seems popular with the white guys. I recall hearing the strains of a rapper singing something along the lines of, "bitches be sucking my dick," or some such throughout the afternoon, emanating from various wake boats. 
  • Some power boaters think it's perfectly fine to use a 42' long anchored sailboat as turning point (sometimes all 360 degrees) when towing wake boards and generating huge wakes.
  • Other power boaters think we could have seen their two girls having hot girl on girl something, or just nude sunbathing, on the cabin sole of their wake boat. We couldn't as we passed by but, it was amusing to watch the ladies scramble to sit up and get their bikini tops secured.
  • Personally, I don't understand the practice of tearing through a collection of anchored boats at 40+ knots with kayaks and paddle boats all over the bay.
  • In the evening 99% of the power boats leave.
  • In the morning it's dead quiet.
  • By 0930 hrs, the power boats and the gansta rap blaring from their speakers, returns.
The night we spent in Juanita bay was characterized by boaters like this.  They would start at the beach, a half mile away, and tear through the anchorage to Lk. Washington -- in speeds frequently exceeding 30 knots. The anchorage was full of paddle boarders, swimmers, kids and families on smaller boats.

In spite of this stupidity on the part of some power boaters, it was a great overnight. Brigadoon is a good boat. We have a great anchor. Kerry suggested we come back in the fall, when the water is cold, the temperatures much cooler and all the wake boards are safely put to bed on shore. I think this is a capital idea. 

Getting there early and having absolutely nothing to do but nap and relax was exactly what we needed and good practice for the future.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Winches Installed

Brand new, right out of the box.

I have finally completed the installation of new winches aboard Brigadoon.  These are five that I picked up from Defender at about 1/2 off. We saved thousands of dollars (literally), because they were demonstration models returned from retail stores. This means they were abused by people touching them and making them do "clicky" noises in the stores. We purchased five in total; mainsheet, two Genoa sheet, and two Staysail sheet winches.

Do you know how the story goes, that no job is easy on a boat? This install supported that story -- in spades. It basically boiled down to two things; 1) everything is hard to reach and, 2) everything is really hard to reach.

If it weren't for that, this job would not have been that bad.

The original and very nice Barients.

The first thing was to remove the old Barient non-tailing winches. That was actually not that difficult. They were sealed to the caprails with 5200, so the bolts were fixed security in place. All I had to do was crawl down inside a very small space and get the bolts off. Once that struggling and cursing was over, all that was left was the prying, the cursing, and the careful work with a chisel to get the winches and pads off.

Large winch removed.
I had planned on reusing the large pads, as they were fine for the larger genoa winches. I needed to use larger pads for the smaller staysail winches.

Staysail winch on new pad.
The gray stuff you see is butyl tape. I've decided to go with this instead of 5200 or some other adhesive because the adhesive is: a) messy, b) not necessary and, c) dries out over time. Butyl should perform better in a bolt-on application.

The view from underneath.
This is the underside of the caprail. This is the easiest spot to reach. All the others were harder. Each winch got brand new stainless hardware and nyloc nuts.

To put on one winch?  That took all damn day.

What it takes to install one winch on a boat.

But, after a few days, we had a finished product.

The finished product.
Port side install.

Varnish stripped, new pads installed for the staysail winches, and all four winches installed and bolted down.

Overall, it was a really tough job. Words cannot express the difficulty of fitting my body into very small places, the numerous cuts and bruises I have and how much I appreciate the help of my daughter, Sarah. Simple fact is, I can't tighten bolts when I'm deep inside the aft compartment without someone above to keep the screws from turning.

Thank you, Sarah.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Adventures in yachting, fucking up, and lessons learned.

As I thought about posting this, I thought of a talk by Brene.

Brene Brown on critics and the arena.

I fucked up yesterday. It was a small fuckup that was compounded by another wholly preventable fuckup, which then made Kerry and me tackle the whole mess together.

The good news is that no one got hurt, we didn't damage Brigadoon or any other boats, we didn't fight; we solved the problem.

We had been invited to a party at the Tyee Yacht Club, here on Lake Union. We had the bright idea of taking Brigadoon over to the party -- arrive at fancy theater fund raiser in our yacht. Wonderful idea, actually.  Life and been busy and we had not been off the dock in pretty much months.

So we prepared for the short journey. We cleaned the boat up a little and, while Kerry showered, I started stowing the dock lines, checked the fuel level, stowed various things and got her ready for departure.  When Kerry arrived, everything was ready. I wanted to leave by 6:00 before it got dark. I didn't want to dock at an unfamiliar marina at night. This turned out to be a good idea.

So, with the wind blowing 10-15 from the south, we started the engine for the first time in weeks. Everything seemed fine (it wasn't as we will find out shortly) as I slowly worked Brigadoon backwards along the dock -- the wind holding us pretty firm against the fenders. This technique works because, was we move backwards, our stern hangs off the point of the dock, balanced on a nice set of fenders and, at one point, the bow points out in the lake and we can leave. It worked great. With a close pass to the boat in front of us we were finally under way out into Lake Union.  Whew!

We steadied up into the headwinds and I took a minute to look around. That's when I yelled "Fuck!"

Trailing behind us was an anchor rode. Remember the cool storm anchor I have set our into the lake? Well, I didn't take it off the starboard side of Brigadoon. I forgot it and Kerry didn't double check our readiness to leave the dock, because I didn't ask her to.  So I pulled the boat into neutral before we hit the end of the line. At that moment Brigadoon started drifting back towards the shipyards, pushed by the wind. The anchor rode is led through our midships starboard fairlead.  It was trailing out and away from that side of the boat. I made a decision to put us back in gear with enough power to hold station while I headed to the bow to get a bouy.  I was going to toss the bouy on the anchor rode and retrieve it later. As I pulled the line to me to attach the bouy Kerry yelled out, "The engine has stopped."

Yes, you know what happened.  Brigadoon pulled too hard, drawing the line along the hull and into the prop.  We had sails stowed, were on a lee shore (that being some very large drydocks about 50 yards off our stern) with no engine. Fortunately we had fouled on the end of the line, not 10 feet from where it was secured to the boat. We had rode to work with.

I was not happy. However, we had a problem to solve. 

The anchor is well set, about 200 feet from the dock, in 40' of water. That gives us a 5:1 scope usually. Well, I was now about 50 yards out so, with a 4:1 scope on an anchor that has been well set for a year. Thank god the rode didn't fail or part at a shackle but that's another thing to check. So I started winching the rode in until we were about 60 yards off the beam of a very expensive motor yacht located near our dock.  We were about 75 feet from our dock.

So, this is what I did, besides cursing a lot. We considered calling vessel assist but, I thought we could self rescue from this stupid and avoidable mistake on my part.

Get the boat stable on the anchor. We did that. We were dead with no engine and our prop fouled but, we were riding on the anchor well.

Get the Portland Pudgy into the water. NOW. I was able to do this in about five minutes, even though she was completely stowed, with davit harness, spring lines and all.

Deploy the stern tie line fROM the Quickreel we recently spent a lot of money on and tie it to the dingy. As I looked at that reel, and the 400 yards of line it contained, I knew this would work.

I then rowed to our Dock, trailing the floating webbing behind me.  Soon I was at the dock. I secured the line to a strong cleat and rowed back to Brigadoon.  We were now riding on the storm anchor from our stern and had a line to our dock.  I secured the Pudgy to the stern with the painter and concentrated on getting our disabled boat home.

Haul Brigadoon back to the dock. We hauled on the webbing, pulling us slowly back to the dock while we slowly let out the anchor rode. It took a little while but we took our time. We got there. Kerry was letting the rode out while hauling on the webbing as I stood on the bowsprit. As we got within ten feet of the dock, I was standing in the pulpit, ready to step off. It worked like a charm.

Soon we had the bow secured and, with a little effort, swung the stern around and had Brigadoon tied up securely.

I then struggled with the fouled line for about an hour. To her credit, though we were now late for the big gala, where she was going to show off her new dress and dance with me, she said, "it's OK, we have to learn to fix things like this for ourselves."

So she stood by while I cursed, struggled and, eventually, got the line cut free. I wasn't able to get it all off. There is still some part wrapped around the shaft between the prop and the cutlass bearing.

We did get out last night. We had a great time at the party. I made her smile by dancing with her a lot. 

This morning, we are dealing with finishing the job. I could go back into the dinghy and try to cut the rest off, but I broke off the tine on the knife by using it wrong, so all I have is a sawing blade and it's not very effective. I've since ordered two new knives as replacements and will know not to put side loads on it in the future.

We have called our brother in law, who is a diver. He is coming over to dive on the boat and free the remainder and inspect the prop and shaft for me. He should arrive shortly.

Lessons learned:

1) check the boat properly for departure -- both of us. 
2) recognize the situation and the options I have.
3) make a plan and execute on those options with the primary goal of the safety of us and the boat in mind.
4) recognize that cursing and yelling happen and not to take it personal.
5) Fix the problem now -- beat yourself up for the mistake later, when you have time.

I hope this was useful to you.

Since all of you are in the arena with me, you may now point and laugh. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Money Trap vs. Freedom

Brigadoon, reaching.

Once Upon a Time...on a sea far far away...

Brigadoon courses along, pushing salt water aside, riding the pace and timing of the waves, in her element, in her home. We ride with her, on her, within her, between this place and that, on this ocean crossing; ten days behind us and maybe fifteen more to go. We've gotten used to this schedule by now, resting when it is time, working and letting the other rest when it is time. Seabirds occasionally come to rest aboard her. We are welcome for the company. Dolphins sometimes join us too, riding her bow wave, playing with us as we head ever farther west -- ever farther. It's been two years now, since we cast off the lines and headed south. We've learned much. One of those things is that our preparations were the right ones, that we made the right decisions, tool the right chances and paid the right price in sacrifices to get here -- freedom. I'm happy. We are happy. We worked hard to get here, to this place where the horizon of our past is behind us and our future lies ahead. Our past is merely what led us to this moment. Our future? Who knows but, it's our future...ours alone.

I remember all those years, working for a living, falling into the money trap. You get a job, you buy some stuff, you get some credit, and you go in debt. You work to get a better job, so you can buy more stuff on credit, going into even more debt. At some point, during that trap, I turned around and wondered how I got there, so beholding to others for what I owed them. I worked jobs I did not like for bosses who I did not respect and at companies that did not care about anything else but the bottom line.

Many times I tried to get out of debt but, I never got there. Prices rise, one has to have a home, a vehicle, and then there are the toys. Many of these things are built on debt, because we have to have them now or we are unfulfilled, unsatisfied. What a fool I was.

Then I met Kerry and we found Brigadoon. Living aboard was, at first, merely a different way to live. In finding her, we discarded many of the things we couldn't have. Living on a boat gives you only so much space to keep things. Things started to lose their grip on us. At first we sold and sold and sold things to get Brigadoon. Then we placed items we thought we would still need in a nice heated storage unit just blocks up the road. We visited it sometimes, then less and less. Finally, another price increase drove us to get rid of the storage unit and move to a smaller one at our marina. We discarded even more things and we had less.  Less burden, less obligation, and less debt.

Then we made the plan. We decided to see the world instead of just living aboard and cruising the Puget Sound for five years. Brigadoon was capable. We just needed to become capable and ready. A financial plan was developed to get us debt free. Once we owed no money, once we were beholding to no one financially, questions started to raise themselves.

If we had no obligations, and Brigadoon is a solid and seaworthy vessel, just how much income do we really need? The answer was surprising. Instead of the job that brings in large sums -- oddly connected to large amounts of stress, insanity, working in an environment that wasn't healthy for us, we could literally do whatever we want. Our choices opened up. The plan was solid. We hit benchmarks. This vehicle paid off, those credit cards cleared, and finally a last payment to the bank for Brigadoon.

Freedom. Any income we had was ours. All we had to spend money on was the actual cost of living simply aboard Brigadoon, plus any frivolity we chose to afford. We saved money, finalized upgrades to Brigadoon, closed the task list of "must-dos" and were done. Done. Nothing was keeping us here.

We quit the jobs that satisfied neither of us.

Quit. Resigned. No longer obligated to work in toxic corporate environments, with people or companies we didn't respect, for the paycheck to support debt  -- the debt was gone and so was the need. We broke the bonds of the Money Trap, the debt to others, the obligations, the control others had on our lives -- control we gave them. We gave it to them through our actions. But now? Done. Finished. Free.



I finished and self-published my fifth book -- the others were selling just fine. This would help. Kerry had played in the theater the last few years, building a foundation where we just might be performing in some foreign land someday. 


And so we finalized our plans, readied ourselves, let go the dock lines to the marina that was our home for over five years.  We left. We raised two bridges, transited the locks, spent a last night at Shilshole and headed north. Four days later we entered the open Pacific, gained sea space and headed offshore, turning left and south to see the world together.

And they lived happily ever after.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Why is this man smiling?

Why is this man smiling?  He can't hear her yell at him.  Why? 

The bluetooth communicator handset he installed in these noise-suppressor ear muffs is turned off.  When it's turned on, she can talk to him in a normal voice.

No yelling when anchoring.  No yelling when someone goes up the mast.  No yelling.  On a boat? Where's the fun in that?

Kerry and I saved our scooter/motorcycle communicator sets when we sold the scooters.  I have always thought they would be really useful on the boat, especially when anchoring.  

The Cardo Systems communicators, which are attached on the left side of the muffs, have a range between 1/4 to 1/2 a mile (verified on a trip or two on the scooters last year).  The talk to transmit capabilities are excellent.  Battery life is great.  They are also waterproof. 

The problem was, they were meant to clamp to a motorcycle helmet and the ear speakers were meant to mount inside.  So, I just needed to get something else.  The hearing protectors seem to work fine. 

It's common to see a lot of yelling as a boat is trying to anchor.  It makes sense on one level.  One person is at the helm (funny thing is, it's usually the man) and one person is a whole boat away handling the anchor (usually the woman).  So, in order to be heard, people yell.  Well, you raise your voice to ensure clear communications.  This works great if each person understands why the voice is loud (to be heard).  At the same time, there is another kind of yelling.  It's the yelling of frustration, order giving, defensive responses, and other unpleasantness.

We hope this will improve our communications during anchoring and allow us to clearly communicate when it's necessary without all the shouting.

Oh and, when anchoring, it's usually Kerry at the helm and me handling the 46lb anchor.  That makes sense to us.