Thursday, December 11, 2014

Limbo...sort of...mostly impatience.

I have never wanted to travel and explore the world more than I do now. Part of it is the collective national fairy story that we keep lying, er...telling, ourselves about racism. Another is the pack/tribe blindness we have regarding income inequity in this country. It's also hard not to notice the mass resistance, heels being dug in, about sexism and race culture in this country with talking head after talking head (many of them women working for the Man and therefore dependent on the regular paycheck and monetary validation) pretending it isn't a real problem. Then there are the very unsurprising and long long awaited report that this country tortured many people in our zealous headlong rush to revenge for 9/11.

Among the many many blind voices, constantly crying, "America is Awesome!," I can't help but imagine a very large, unattractive pig in a very muddy dress, eating everything in sight while others starve, proclaiming they are beautiful -- all evidence to the contrary. To see it, all you have to do is take off your America sunglasses for just one moment. Just one moment.

I'll not delude myself by imagining that other places are 'better'. The grass won't be greener elsewhere -- it will be different.

I want to see that grass. Different. Maybe better in ways significant. Maybe.

It's this seeming limbo, in the midst of a plan called The Freedom Project. It's not really limbo. We have a plan that is in execution and, to be honest, executing well.

With deliberate and singular focus, we are eliminating debt. We are maintaining and building Brigadoon, with even more plans to upgrade her, make her more seaworthy, make us more seaworthy, so we can execute the last steps of the plan.

I have never wanted to travel and explore the world more than I do now.

Biding my time, executing the plan, looking towards distant horizons, new places, and people other than this.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Hold Fast -- a promise.

My lovely first mate and I have talked for quite a while about getting a tattoo together. Some say that doing so is poison to a relationship. As soon as you do something so permanent, then the relationship will be temporary. 

Well, life is temporary my friends. Whatever we have, whatever we become, this is a reminder of our commitment to teach other -- in the here and now.

We talked about this design for a couple years. It started out with a sketch or two:

This was a good start, but I wasn't happy with the fluke, It was turned the wrong direction. So, I told Kerry I'd work on it and get the design better. We were staying in Poulsbo shortly after I announced that I knew what we needed and the design was done. Stepping into the door of "Thor's Hammer and Needle" we talked to Zak. After showing him some pictures he agreed to send us a sketch. He also made some good suggestions on the orientation and placement. He did an excellent job.

We are very happy with the final result.

As Kerry put it just recently, "It means Hold Fast to each other, Hold Fast to our plans, Hold fast to our dreams."

And that is what it means to me too. She put it better than I had ever hoped. 

These words have been promise, prayer, and commitment to not give up for as long as sailors have been at sea.

It will also be true for us.

A Stitch in Time...

One of the goals of being a "Self Sufficient Sailor" as Lin and Larry Pardey speak of in their book of the same name, is to be able to support yourself and your boat without having to rely on others. It's a noble ambition, attainable to some degree (depends on your willingness to invest in self-sufficiency), and worth doing.

Your boat is built, maintained and spares-provisioned in such a way that you need not turn to others to solve your problems.

We took one such step a couple weeks ago when we purchased a Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 PREMIUM Walking Foot Sewing Machine direct from Sailrite. This provides us with capabilities that we need; the ability to make or repair any canvas/fabric on Brigadoon.

My first project, after unpacking this 70lb monster, was a cover for our stern tie reel we purchased last year from Quickline. This is the same company that manufactures our Ultra Anchor.

Up until now, all my sewing was by hand. Yes, one can hand sew anything. That's how clipper ship sails were made; by hand, on deck, with care. The problem with hand sewing is that it's tedious, not as necessarily as strong as machine sewing, takes a lot of work to be consistent, and is sometimes hard.

Here are some examples of my hand work, repairing some chafe holes in the binnacle/wheel cover.

 I've also replaced some stitching on an older sail cover. The fabric is fine but the stitching degrades in UV so the thing is just coming apart.

So, my repair work isn't bad. It could do for making new items but, for the reason I stated above, I wanted a powerful machine.

With a day to myself, I decided to tackle the cover for the reel. The reel is stainless but the webbing it encases is polypropylene which, while treated for UV resistance, could use a cover to help extend it's life. I'm already noticing some fading on the edges of the webbing after almost a year.

With some quick measurements out of the way, and some thinking on the shape I needed to create, I dug out some surplus Sunbrella and webbing left over from our "no sewing machine necessary" bimini project.

I barely took any measurements and just decided to dive in. "It's a practice piece," I tell myself as I do a bunch of steps out of order, making the job a little harder than it should be but, I did it.

Not all the stitching is straight and I had a couple tangles but, as you can see, it's serviceable. I'm not ready to charge people exorbitant prices for canvas work just yet (never plan to actually) but, I can envision and make something we need. Maybe with enough practice and my machine on board as we cruise, I'll be able to supplement our income with repairing or making canvas stuff for others.

The almost finished product. As I did not get the edges right, they have to be hand stitched to hold the edges of the webbing down but, overall I'm happy.

Here's to another step in being a self-sufficient sailor.

Monday, October 27, 2014

It's Been a Long Time, But my Time is Finally Here

Man, it's been an interesting last few weeks. Kerry has been away at rehearsals for a production of Fiddler on the Roof. I've spent many an evening alone, and have been passing the time working on various projects, but mostly relaxing in and watching some streaming TV. I've picked watching the Star Trek Enterprise TV series on Amazon. Anyway, the point is, as I listen to this song, I've learned to sing it. As I've looked out the pilot house windows in the evening, this song really seems to speak to me. Cheesy, simplistic lyrics can still be inspirational at times.
It's been a long road
Get'n from there to here 
It's been a long time 
But my time is finally near
I will see my dreams come alive at last 
I will touch the sky
And they're not gonna hold me down no more 
No they're not gonna change my mind
'Cause I've got faith of the heart 
I'm going where my heart will take me 
I've got faith to believe
I can do anything 
I've got strength of the soul 
No one's going to bend nor break me 
I can reach any star
I've got faith
I've got faith
Faith of the heart
I've so many dreams in my life where I let others hold me down, where I let others change my mind. Fortunately for me, I'm a dreamer so, if one gets quashed another magically appears. It's a Phoenix-way of reinventing myself when necessary. I once wanted to learn to sail, then own a boat, then really sail to far off places. I learned to sail, eventually owned my first boat but never really thought my dream would come alive at last. It got sidetracked for reasons many but, my time is finally near.
I've been immensely fortunate to have been partnered with someone who loves adventures and traveling. She is willing to take risks with me, to plan a grand adventure, and to work to execute that adventure. 

As I sit there, in the pilot house, looking out over the waters of Lake Union, I imagine them as being in a different place. Maybe it's an anchorage in the South Pacific, a dock in Australia, or some harbor in Scandinavia. It doesn't matter where it is so much as the journey of going, of arriving having seen and done things never before.

I can sense it. The journey approaches, slowly but surely. It will arrive and we will depart. Some day.
I can sense it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

When opportunity knocks….

A Post from Kerry (First Mate, SV Brigadoon)

Last February I was attending the Annual Women’s Boating Seminar being held on the North Seattle Community College campus.  It’s a wonderful day full of seminars and talks about boating – both sail and power.  For women, by women.  A great chance to chat up fellow female boaters and learn a few things.  It wasn’t my first time attending, and at this point I’ve been around enough boat shows and seminars in the last four years that I’m starting to get on a first name basis with some of the region’s most inspiring female boaters.  At lunch I found myself sitting around a table with many of the speakers from the day – Wendy Hinman, Judy Nasmith (who also organizes this fun event), Nancy Erley, and Linda Lewis.  All women I’d seen speak before – full of knowledge, experience, and a lot of passion for being on the water.  Later in the afternoon, Linda approached me between sessions and casually asked if I had any extra vacation time to use up this summer.  I smiled and told her that yes, actually, there was a chance I might have some extra time I could use….  “Why?”  She said she was planning to take her annual trip up to the Broughton Islands and was looking for crew – would I be interested?  My first instinct was to step back and tell her that I couldn’t possibly take the time off necessary to go with her, but then I thought better of it and just said that I’d love to chat more about it when she was ready to start planning out her trip. 

Four months went by and I completely forgot about this conversation.  Then I got her phone call.  Linda called me in June and told me she was starting to put together her roster and itinerary and did I still have time off I could use?  I said I’d have to talk to my managers and Donn, but that yes, it was possible.   We narrowed it down to a vague time frame and I told her I’d get back to her in a day or so.  As I checked at work and with Donn, I was met with complete support and excitement for me to go on an adventure.  When all was said and done, Linda and I agreed that I would fly up to Blind Channel, meet her as she was making her way back south at the end of August, and crew for her for seven days, ending up in Anacortes on Labor Day if all went well.  As we chatted on the phone about the logistics, I asked “who else will be on the boat?” – She replied that it would just be her and me. 
Captain Linda Lewis teaches boating.  She teaches navigation classes through the Coast Guard Auxiliary, which is how I met her in the first place.  I knew that this opportunity would afford me some amazing one on one time, with her, on her boat, learning about new waters and soaking in everything I could in seven days.  The weeks went by as I waited for the day I was to fly out on a float plane from Kenmore Air on Lake Washington.  The morning of August 25th was beautiful.  Donn dropped me off at the docks and we parted ways.  I was nervous and excited – having never been on a float plane before.

We landed in Nanaimo as we made our way north, so we could check in to Canada, and the pilot could refuel.  Taking off again, the pilot informed me we’d be in Blind Channel in about 45 minutes.  I can’t express how beautiful the world below looked.  I followed on the rudimentary map they provide, as I picked out which islands were which as we glided over them.  Tiny specks of boats were below me, making their way north or south, through the Strait of Georgia.  I knew that’d be us soon enough.

I realized we were now flying over the island just south of Blind Channel – East Thurlow Island.  The hills full of trees were getting closer as the small plane followed the curves of the land down to the channel below, making another smooth landing.  We snugged up to the dock, I grabbed my bags and stepped off to find Linda waiting for me with a big smile on her face. 

She led me back to her 45 foot trawler – “Royal Sounder”.   A 1978 KhaShing power boat.  She’s got classic lines and a beautiful bow.  Linda and her husband have maintained her beautifully and she really is a comfortable and sturdy vessel.  Linda showed me around, showed me where I’d be sleeping and where I could stow my belongings.  She pointed out a few things that we’d get more in depth on later.  Then as we stepped out on the deck to head up to land for lunch, a couple on one of the neighboring boats told us to look out in the channel.  A small pod of orcas were swimming through.  I’m pretty sure I saw at least one adult and two babies – my first sighting of whales in the wild ever!  I figured it was a good sign to be welcomed so warmly by the orcas just after arriving.  J
After a nice lunch and some texts to Donn to let him know I’d arrived safely, we headed back to the boat.  We discussed our route for the next day.  We had a bit of a dilemma because of the currents the next morning.  As we talked over our options, I felt a strong pull to head east towards Dent Rapids.  It seemed like a more interesting choice.  She agreed with me, but also acknowledged that we couldn’t make it to Dent in time for slack from where we were, even if we left at first light.  So the decision was made to make it a short trip to Shoal Bay, leaving around 9:30 or 10, catching the current east and easily reaching Shoal Bay before Noon.  We would then proceed through Dent and the other passes the following day, easily accomplished from the closer location.  Then Linda started explaining in more detail what our respective roles would be around docking, anchoring, and while underway.  Her processes were detailed, clear, and very thorough.  I knew I was in good hands.
We awoke early – she whispered down to me to see if I was awake yet and asked if I wanted to see something amazing.  I hopped up quickly and went out on deck to see one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever witnessed (photo above!).  As the pace of the city started to fade away a bit, I began to truly breathe in the beauty and quiet around me.  It was gorgeous up there.

As she had shown me the night before, I got the lines ready for departure.  In Canada, most of the docks use “bull rails” and not cleats as we’re used to in the States.  I had used bull rails before, but not often and hadn’t yet mastered a good process.  That was about to change.  In seven days, I learned, struggled and somewhat conquered bull rails and how best to work the lines around them when docking and departing.   I think we had conversations almost every single day while we were under way about techniques and tricks on how best to work with them.  Cleats are like a walk in the park now!

Another cool tool she uses is headsets.  These are AWESOME!  Donn had reconfigured some motorcycle headsets for use on our boat, but we hadn’t had a chance to use them yet.  On this trip I learned just how much they can help keep things calm, and organized.  So we had on our headsets, she was at the helm, and I was on the boat ready to release the lines.  Everything went smoothly as we pulled away from the dock.  Then we switched places.  I manned the helm as she went outside to release the skiff away from the boat’s port side hip and back behind to the end of the towing line, where it stayed while underway.

Dock at Shoal Bay

Shoal Bay was beautiful and quiet.  A small community of volunteers run a small pub out of a living room and maintain a garden and a chicken coop.  For a donation you can garden a bit, harvest a few things, and possibly get a few eggs if you so desire.  We wandered, then headed back for the daily happy hour on board.  These were some of my favorite times – we’d sit back, we’d each have one beverage of choice, along with a few snacks and just talk.  This was our first chance to really get to know each other, as we’d never spent time together outside of a boating class.  As the days wore on we laughed a LOT and were delighted with how many things we seemed to have in common.
The next day we timed our departure to catch Dent Rapids at slack.  She made sure I was at the helm, so she could get the requisite photo of me yawning through the boring waterway, which only a few hours before had been running at 9 knots.  Gillard Pass and Yaculta Rapids were equally as exciting.  We made our way to Von Donop Inlet where we had decided to spend the night at anchor.  As we eased in to the Inlet, following two other boats, we worried it might be crowded.  We made it to a wonderful spot where other boats had settled in, but where there was still plenty of room.  I was at the helm, with Linda at the bow looking for just the right spot.  I read out depths to her as we circled around slowly like a cat picking its spot in the sun.  She directed me at the helm as she lowered the anchor.  Soon enough we were dug in and ready to relax for the rest of the afternoon and evening.  It was warm out and I was so tempted to get my bathing suit on and go for a swim, but she dissuaded me with a warning about the coldness of the water.  I grabbed a PFD and tether and climbed down to the swim step.  Rolling up my pants, I stuck my feet in the water.  It was cold, but felt so good.  I stayed down there a while, just lying on the swim step, looking up at clouds quietly drifting by.  Being at anchor, especially in a protected, quiet anchorage, is incredibly peaceful.  I slept well, knowing we’d be up with the sun again to get underway by 6:30am.

Westview Marina - looking back at the entrance

The next day brought us closer to civilization.  We made it to the Westview Marina, near Powell River on the BC mainland.  After docking and getting the boat squared away, I headed up in search of a shower and a chance to walk around a bit.  Later that night we found a great Italian restaurant “Snickers”.  We were craving pizza and each ordered our own personal pizzas.  I went on to amaze Linda with my ability to put away food.  This became a running joke for the rest of the trip….   
Another early departure started us off on our longest day of the week.  We had hit a perfect weather window to cross the Strait of Georgia and head to Nanaimo.  We maintained a shift schedule of one hour on, one hour off.  It was a long day, with waves coming at us from the north as we crossed SW, but they never got too strong and we maintained an excellent course.   I think we made it in about six and half hours.

Each day of the journey I learned more about the various instruments and tools at the helm and how I could best use them to help make decisions about other boats, our course, etc.  We were using the autopilot much of the time, which was nice.  I kept watch by looking outside, then glancing at the radar, and then at our course on the navigation software on her laptop.  I learned how best to use the radar to determine whether other boats around us posed a threat if they were heading our direction.  So simple, but so effective – and reassuring.

Radar shot while at anchor in Monague Harbor

We arrived in Nanaimo tired and the docking process ended up being a touch stressful, with a strong current pushing us away from the dock and a marina employee who was less than helpful.  But we managed to get tied up safely and settled in.  I realized that after such a long day I needed some alone time, so I bid Linda adieu and headed out in search of a shower and some comfort food.  I also allowed myself to call Donn for the first time since leaving.  Up until then we had texted at least once or twice a day when I had cell coverage.  By the time I got back to the boat in the early evening, I felt more rested and relaxed.  Linda showed up a little while later and we enjoyed another nice evening talking and sharing stories.

The next morning we left on the early side to make it to another pass at slack time.   Once again I was at the helm as we made our way slowly through Dodd Narrows.  Then it was a straight shot down to Montague Harbor where we anchored for our second time, surrounded by boats enjoying the end of the summer.  It was Saturday of Labor Day weekend.  Once we had anchored securely, we realized we had a nice quiet afternoon stretching in front of us.  We separated to our respective berths.  I napped, watched a movie I had downloaded onto my Kindle Fire for the trip, and read a bit.  It rained off and on and created an incredibly cozy day.  There was no doubt in my mind – I was in love with this life on the water and I couldn’t wait to come back up here with Donn on our own boat.
Sunday brought us back into the US, where we checked in at Roche Harbor and anchored close by in Garrison Bay.  Then we hopped into Linda’s 17 foot skiff, built by her husband, and motored back to Roche to get some ice cream and check out the sights.  I went on walkabout and explored the Sculpture Park and the Mausoleum.  It’s a beautiful place, and being Labor Day weekend, the marina itself was packed with boats.   We headed back to the boat before sunset, had a nice final dinner together and went to bed early, ready for another early morning to head out on our last leg to Anacortes.

Grinning like a cheshire cat as we glide through Pole Pass

Monday’s trip to Anacortes stared off with the sun shining directly at us from the sky and the water.  It was blinding and I wasn’t quite sure how to keep watch.  I used my sunglasses when looking out and then pushed them down my nose when I needed to see the instruments.  An hour or so in, we changed direction just enough to change the angles for the better.  One more pass – Pole Pass on the south end of Orcas Island and then we were home free.  We made it to the dock at Anacortes by 11:30am with Donn waiting for us at the dock, ready to catch our lines.  It was a pretty awesome way to arrive back to the mainland.

Happy Reunion!

Overall we had amazing weather and for the most part were able to use currents to our advantage.  We kept our speeds between six and eight knots for the most part.  I worked hard, relaxed deeply, and truly enjoyed getting to know Linda better in the seven days we were together.  I also came home with a list of ideas and processes I hope to adapt for us and our boat.  Some of these include docking practices, others include timing of keeping watch and manning the helm.  I think the most valuable thing I brought home with me was a sense of inspiration and accomplishment.  I feel empowered and capable in ways I haven’t before.

It’s been two weeks since my return.  This past weekend, I suggested we take our boat out into the lake early on Sunday morning so I could practice docking at Ivar’s dock just east of Gasworks.  No other boats around and hardly a whisper of wind – perfect conditions.  We used our headsets, I was at the helm the entire time.  Donn talked me through departure from our dock and then docking and undocking at Ivar’s.  Then we came home and I docked at our own dock, which has its own challenges.  I glanced our pulpit off of one of the posts that stick up from our dock, but otherwise, nothing damaged, and no one hurt.  All good.  After four years, I finally got up the courage to dock my own boat.  And that’s huge. 

Many thanks to Linda for the opportunity to join her, the encouragement, and the wonderful fellowship.  

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.