Saturday, May 20, 2017

You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave...

Written by: Kerry

Nanaimo, home of the Nanaimo Bar.

This beautiful port city on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island has been a major goal/planned stopover, ever since we started thinking about our trip north.

The Original Plan:  Work our way up through the San Juan Islands and the Gulf Islands in 2-3 weeks, time our passing through Dodd Narrows at slack water and come up to Nanaimo to provision, get a few things done, enjoy the last city we're going to see in awhile and rest up before crossing the Strait of Georgia to the Sunshine Coast and up to Desolation Sound.  This plan involved anchoring out by Newcastle Island (free) and taking the dinghy back and forth to shore as needed, staying for 2-4 or more days to prep for the crossing.

Plan B:  Two nights before our arrival in Nanaimo, I suggested we may want to stay on the dock for one night when we arrived to make it easier to get laundry and provisioning done, then move to a nearby anchorage.  Donn agreed.  We called ahead one day before to reserve a spot for Wednesday night, May 17th.

H Dock at Port of Nanaimo

Plan C:  Two hours after arriving:

    Donn - "What if we stayed at the dock until Saturday?  We could get a few projects done, enjoy the showers, and take our time."

     Kerry - "That sounds nice - we could also maybe find a movie theater and hit a matinee tomorrow and see the city a bit"

Plan D:  Ninety minutes after we awoke on Saturday:

     Donn - (mostly joking) "Shall we stay one more night?"

     Kerry - (starts crying) "Don't even joke if you aren't seriously offering that up..."

     Donn - "We can stay one more night if you want to.  Go up and talk to the office."

     Kerry - "OK.  Thank you!"  (Goes to office and pays for one more night)

Now you're probably wondering why the heck I was crying on a beautiful Saturday morning the day we were scheduled to leave.  Let me back up a bit.

Five and half years ago when we hatched this crazy big idea, I did what I do best, I organized a plan, stayed focused on executing said plan, and dreamt about the future sailing the world on our little boat.  As the time went by I did my best to keep my expectations as realistic as possible and to not romanticize our future adventures.  I would continually remind myself (and others) that I was consciously choosing this to challenge myself, to invite growth, to open myself to new paths and adventures in ways I could not even imagine yet.  I have never been a huge risk taker or daredevil.  I tend to play by the rules and not place myself in unnecessary danger.  The boat is well thought out and outfitted for safety as a result.

So yes, I knew I would face internal challenges - that has not surprised me at all.  But the truth of the matter is that no matter how "prepared" I was, I have been a little blindsided by the emotional roller coaster I have experienced in only the first three weeks.  Yes, I am out of my comfort zone - again - not unexpected, but still not easy.  Thank god for the moments of true beauty and rest we have been gifted along the way at Jones and Sucia Islands, and in Herring Bay, our last stop before arriving in Nanaimo.  I have made my share of mistakes.  I have experienced loneliness.  I have experienced fear and stress, in relatively safe situations by most sailors' standards.  But here's the thing, this is my journey, and I am not most sailors.  All the planning in the world cannot replace true experience and the trust and knowledge that comes along with that.  The highs of the roller coaster are filled with beauty, a feeling of competence, and connection with my partner and captain, Donn.  The lows are filled with self doubt, fear, and feeling completely out of my comfort zone.

Back to today, in Nanaimo.  Being at the dock here is so much like being at home at our dock back on Lake Union.  It's comfortable and safe.  And I hate to say it, but it's hard to push off and leave.  Ahead of us we have a fairly large crossing of a large body of water - nothing we haven't done before (we've crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca three times), but still a bit formidable.  Then from there it's a lot of unknowns as we head into the wilderness of the Inside Passage...  there will be beauty and there will be miserable moments.  That's about all I can guarantee.  I am still extremely committed to this journey.  I am willing to walk through this personal fire, always have been.  But the reality of sitting in the middle of this uncomfortable space and feeling all the things?  It's tough.

I am grateful for Donn.  I am grateful for this incredible opportunity to find out what I'm made of and to learn and grow and feel.  One day at a time.

Sunset at Herring Bay

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Portland Pudgy: How to Ruin a Otherwise Good Product

Not our boat, but a perfect representation of how I feel about it right now.

I can be very patient and understanding with challenges facing small companies, especially if they have a good product but, I have no patience with shoddy customer service and a continuing failure to deliver. 
This was my original review, not built on satisfaction but a desire to just let things go and make do the best we can with a product we believed in. When I wrote this, we were just leaving on our world cruise. We finally had all the parts to our Pudgy. I didn't want to fault the product, even if we had some challenges with delivery and communication. My review wasn't as glowing but, I didn't want to be that customer, you know? 
"Portland Pudgy provided us with a literal lifeboat. Instead of a liferaft, we carry a Pudgy, with sail kit and lifeboat canopy. It’s a small company, and you have to take that into account but, Dave really cares about delivering. Though we had to wait a bit for the original boat and, later, the lifeboat canopy, Dave worked diligently to get us the product we needed. He deserves your business.
It was with great anticipation I ordered our Portland Pudgy a few years ago. We had researched the options for offshore safety. Portland Pudgy seemed to have the answer, attached to what seemed to be tough little dinghy that actually functioned as a lifeboat. It wasn't inexpensive for a dinghy, but we could get it with a sail kit and an actual lifeboat canopy. This seemed to make a lot of sense to us, so we ordered one.
I spent the last couple years praising this product to others. When Dave asked, I even agreed to show other potential customers the boat. I raved about it. It made so much sense. I was an advocate for this idea and product. 
Here are my challenges with Portland Pudgy, specifically Dave, the owner. Here are the stories he told me as he failed, time and time again, to deliver what is otherwise a good product. But, is it? I don't know anymore.
1) Ordering the actual boat. 
I talked to Dave in February of 2010 with initial questions and placed our order in November of 2013, with the promise of a December 2013, delivery.
It arrived three months late. At first, we were told the boat would be delivered in about a month, that they had them in stock. Then we received notice that they were doing a new mold formulation, that it was an improvement, and that it would be delayed. It wasn't what I was originally promised, but Dave did call and, while we were disappointed, we waited. While I didn't get the product I paid for when it was promised, I was getting it. I saw no reason to be a jerk to Dave so I shrugged and waited. Things happen. People have challenges. I understood that. 
When the Pudgy was finally delivered, it seemed to be everything promised so I just let the delays go. I considered the late delivery a glitch and planned to order the Lifeboat Canopy with enough lead time in case there was a delay. Little did I know what that would entail.
2) Ordering the Lifeboat Canopy.
We placed our order and sent the deposit in February of 2016. 
Based on our previous experience, we ordered this item a year in advance. We were told to order early, so we could be "in the queue" and ensure we received it in time. We eagerly awaited the delivery of the canopy while we continued to prepare for our departure.
Then the first delay came. Their seamstress was pregnant and was on maternity leave. Apparently, at the time, only one person had the knowledge, skills and responsibility to create this canopy. Like some women do, she went on maternity leave, and decided she could not return. I get it. This happens. Companies have to deal with this all the time, right?
Again, I was disappointed but, we still had time.
Then Dave went dark, sometimes for months. I had to call him multiple times to get status, and longer stories, more reasons until I finally had to tell him, "Dave, I understand your challenges, and I believe you when you say you are working diligently to fix them but, your customers will stop caring about that if you cannot deliver. They will also stop caring if you don't communicate with them. If you don't resolve this, someone will take this to social media and you will have to deal with that too."
In September of 2016,  Dave was still making promises, interwoven with a business sob story that was no longer interesting to me, nor effective. Yes, I understood his predicament but at the same time, April of 2017 was fast approaching. Were we to receive our product in time? He promised that we would be first in the queue.
Then he went dark again. We had to call him again and again. 
The stories and what I finally considered excuses got more involved until I finally had to tell him they didn't matter anymore. I had heard them all by now. 
  • The seamstress was gone. She hand cut all the patters and was the only person who knew how to sew the canopies. It took her ten hours to cut them -- a laborious process to be sure. 
  • Truly skilled seamstresses were hard to come by.
  • They were investigating a new laser cutting machine to make the canopies faster and were having problems with the CAD files. 
  • They had problems sewing the canopy together. It wasn't right and they were delayed.
  • Then they were working on the prototype and it still wasn't right but -- get this -- I could have the stitched and re-stitched prototype if I needed it in time...
All I was really interested in was when he was going to deliver what I paid for -- when.
When was he going to deliver? That was all I wanted to know. 
He made promises to update us via email. We waited. He made promises to call. We waited. Time and time again he failed to communicate with us.
We had to call him. We did. I wasn't rude with him in our conversations, though I had to get pretty direct.
"When are you going to call us with the next status, Dave?"
"Next week...I'll call next week."
"When next week, Dave?"
"Dave, will you call me one week from today, on this day? How about this time of day? Can I hear from you then?"
He agreed. Then Dave didn't call. When Kerry called him (I didn't want to lose my temper), he said he was 'afraid to call and give us bad news."
At that point, Kerry was dealing with Dave. 
In March of 2017, our canopy had still not arrived, but a bunch of promises did. 
On Mon, Jan 30, 2017 at 2:48 PM, Portland Pudgy wrote:
Hi Don,  I have not in the past committed to a final date for the exposure canopy, but I now do feel certain we will be able to get you a canopy in time for your trip.  We have a hand cut prototype built that fits the boat perfectly.  We have Rhino computer drawings completed ready to be cut out by a computerized cutting machine, and we have a seamstress (maybe even two) lined up for fabrication.  The prototype is exactly the same as the computer cut pieces will be.  The difference is that some of the fabric for the prototype was folded for a long time and has the fold marks in it.  Another piece is quite wrinkled with a little irregularity around one of the seams.  Not really important, but not our best.  If in the very unlikely chance something extraterrestrial happens we can get you the prototype.  All fabric, valves, bladders, valves are new.  Thanks,
David H., Pres.
It's a good thing that other work delayed our departure on April 1st. Otherwise we would be sitting here, still waiting, delayed, for the canopy.
It finally arrived. We received two boxes, one containing the pressure canisters and one containing a beaten up box with three canopy parts in side. 
There were no instructions, no note, and no followup call of any sort from Dave. We searched the box for instructions, anything to guide us in the installation. Nope. Nothing.
And Dave accepted the final payment for the full amount for the canopy. We said we would pay on time and we did. 
We went online and downloaded the instructions for installing the canopy.
There were no mounting pad eyes delivered with the canopy. I didn't want to call Dave again and, frankly, we were out of time and patience. I had to find some.
I took some measurements and purchased some pad eyes, planning to do the install work on the Pudgy. At least I had everything else and I did like how the boat sailed and rowed.
Today, in Echo Bay, on Sucia Island, at anchor, more than a year of frustrating phone calls, missed commitments, reasons and excuses, I climbed down into the Pudgy with a screw driver and the pad eyes. I'd finally start the install. I'd have this installed and ready before we turned south in August. We had time.
The first pad eye didn't fit. The screw holes were 1/8 to 1/4" off. 
So, if Portland Pudgy pre-drills holes in the boat, obviously for the pad eyes, and they are crucial to the function of the canopy, and I'm, supposed to 'trust my life' (Dave's words over and over and over) to it, why not provide the actual pad eyes that fit? Why have your customer discover they don't fit 10 days into a world cruise? 
Dave, meet my last straw.
What am I supposed to do now? Is Dave going to ship me pad eyes that fit? Where to? Canada? Alaska? Will he fly them into some desolate bay in the Broughtons or wherever we might be in the next few weeks?
I am done dealing with this company or recommending them. Their product is great but, Dave is awful at following up and delivering what he promises. We waited one YEAR for our lifeboat canopy to be delivered. One Year. It was sob story after excuse after some reason as we waited. He was going to send us his prototype but eventually sent the next model produced. After it arrived, we heard nothing. No question if it arrived or if we had any other concerns.
I was going to let this go, even though he provided no actual mounting hardware for the straps and eye hooks to attach to the boat mounting points. I purchased my own and -- they don't fit. It's too bad that a decent product, one that we like so much, has to be supported in such a shoddy and unprofessional manner.
I really wanted to like this company and their product. I shouldn't have to screw around buying the wrong $20.00 worth of stainless steel eyes after I've spent $6,000 on his product.
Now, as I awake at dawn, I wonder, I doubt, about that canopy. What else might I discover? Will it actually fit and inflate properly? 
Can I trust my life to it, as Dave claims?
I don't know if I can believe anything Dave says anymore.

There's only one thing I really resent. It's paying good money, full price, on time, as I promised, for an experience like this.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

No Man is an Island

Written by: Donn

As we begin this journey, both north to Alaska and into our new lives as sailing vagabonds, we are filled with gratitude for the many great businesses and fine people that have helped us along the way. We could not have done this alone.

Thank you to...

Tori Parrot (Signature Yachts), our broker. She gave us all the time we needed to fall in love with Brigadoon over a Saturday and Sunday in October of 2010. Tori walked us though the negotiation and purchase in a way that seemed almost effortless. Tori was a great sport when, on the day the deal was finally closed (Nov 1), we excitedly asked her to help us deliver Brigadoon to our slip at Tillicum Marina. It was a blustery 15-20kt northerly and, even if she didn’t have her proper boat shoes, she jumped aboard without complaint and got us to our berth safe and sound.

Mark Nelson, owner and manager of Tillicum Marina. He gladly caught our lines on that blustery day and helped us land Brigadoon on our beautiful end tie slip, where we lived for five years. We always appreciated Mark’s approach, that of treating us like adults and expecting us to act like it. It was a good foundation for our relationship. He even offered up his own parking space when our scooters were hit by battery thieves, so we could park closer to the marina. Mark has since passed away after a long battle with cancer. We’ll always remember him for his good humor and wry smile.

Brion Toss completed our first rigging survey, setting us on the path to make Brigadoon stronger and safer. We have attended numerous talks and workshops held by Brion over the years.

Carol Hasse (Port Townsend Sails) built the current sails for Brigadoon. The set that came on the boat were likely the original and were well past their “turn into nifty nautical bags” date. While we could have spent less on a set of sails, which was argued by more than one experienced sailor, I doubt we would have been as happy. Not only are they the engine that drives Brigadoon, they are also a work of hand-made art.

Gabriel Marine, for coming out to the Perry Rendezvous in 2011, on a Saturday, to save my incompetent ass. We had lost our engine due to fuel contamination on our way to our first Rendezvous. In the process of trying to restart the engine, while under sail in busy shipping lanes off Whidbey island, I flooded the rear cylinder with seawater. This hydrostatically locked the motor, making it impossible to start. The “thunk” of the starter when I pressed the button matched the feeling of dread in my heart. He walked me through the troubleshooting process as we pumped the cylinder out, changed the oil, assuring me I didn’t destroy the engine. Years of reliable performance by the same engine proved him right.

Foss Harbor Marina, our last dockside home. After an arduous search for a new marina (we wanted to be in salt water) outside the locks, we found Foss Harbor in Tacoma. Ian and his crew, to a one, were helpful and friendly, always willing to make things happen for us. The facilities are excellent and the tenant lounge was a little home away from boat for me as I spent the first part of my retirement working on Brigadoon and my first novel.

Jeff Galey, one of the co-owners at Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-op, was a most excellent project manager for our Port Townsend refit. He was the epitome of “Yes, and.” Whatever we needed, he had a solution. When things didn’t go just right, he made it right. I’ll never forget the moment when he cracked one of our pilot house windows. He wasn’t being careless. Things happen when you work on boats. Looking positively heartbroken and without skipping a beat he committed to replacing that window. He had it in the next day. Jeff is an awesome guy. We will never forget his friendship and commitment to our plan and dream.

Anders Kulin, was the rigger Jeff brought in to teach us how to rig our boat. When we explained what we wanted, he didn’t hesitate a second. He provided ongoing guidance and support as we tackled strengthening Brigadoon’s rig, and educating ourselves on its creation. Anders’ easygoing manner made him a gem to work with. His respect for Kerry was hard to miss. I thoroughly enjoyed watching him interact with her, as an equal, and student at the same time. We learned a lot from Anders. Engage him if you need rigging services.

Pete and Kathy Langley at Port Townsend Foundry, created and supplied our new bronze chain plates and spurling pipe. They even turned out a quick replacement cap for our primary surpling pipe as part of the work. Our original plan was to pull the chain plates, inspect them, and order replacements if necessary. They didn't sell on anything but, though our discussions, it made sense just to order new and have it made. I like dealing with competent and friendly crafts folk.

Hydrovane was our choice in a self-steering system, for many reasons. John & Karen and Will & Sarah were very generous with their time, every boat show, for four years, as we finalized our plans and pulled the trigger on their product. I don’t think we will regret this decision one bit.

Thor and Kerry Radford were the first to show us their liveaboard Catalina 36. They were encouraging at every turn, ending up being good friends and neighbors over the five years we lived on Lake Union.

Kim and Susan Bottles, for allowing us to moor off their water side home more than once. They’ve been kind, informative, and supportive in ways that are hard to express without getting all gushy. People of that quality are hard to find. It’s heartening to know we have their support and friendship.

Peter and Ginger Niemann of SV Irene took an evening out of their own very busy refit to host us aboard the Irene. During that night, we learned that they had crossed Cape Horn, the Mt. Everest of sailing. It was in that moment that I actually imagined Kerry and I doing the same. Ginger had quite an impact on Kerry, who came away imagining the possible in much broader terms than before.

Teresa and Rob Sicade of SV Yohelah, shared their south sea voyaging experience with us early on. Hosting us on their capable and beautiful Baba 40, they walked us though many of the practicalities of crossing oceans and voyaging.

Bruce Christianson, Kerry’s father, who started us down a serious path of exploration with his casual, “You guys should live on a boat.” Yes, the Freedom Project is Bruce’s fault.

Pete McGonagle (Swiftsure Yachts) was the first broker to look us straight in the face and say, “Of course you should live aboard,” with such truth and clarity. He showed us our first possible boat (a Brewer 40) and warned us off her at the same time (blisters and leaking pilot house windows). But Pete wasn’t trying to sell us a boat. He was showing us the possible.

Captain Linda Lewis, taught a class in navigation spanning eleven weeks. Her approach to modern navigation was practical and thorough.  A few years ago, she invited Kerry to crew on her trawler from Blind Channel in BC to Anacortes.  Kerry still talks about things she learned during that week, and many of those protocols have become part of our routine as well.

Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-op (PTSC) was everything we needed in a place to refit Brigadoon and get her and us ready for our adventure. Our standards of customer service and delivering on commitments is pretty high. To a one, they surpassed our expectations. It was clear, from the start, that everyone there is committed to doing quality work. It showed in every aspect of our interactions with them. Their open shop policy made so much possible.

Port Townsend Rigging provided invaluable secondary support to the fine rigging work of Anders. Whether it was our new running backstays, shackles, or climbing gear, they had what we needed and were happy to help.

Admiral Ship Supply, and all the nice folks who work there, were a crucial point of support as we toiled during the four-month refit at PTSC. Most of the time, they had what we needed, all doled out with a friendly and helpful attitude. Whether it was fasteners, a cool stainless steel grappling hook, new foulies for Kerry, or a twinkie and a soda when all I wanted was a bad snack on my walk home; they were all there for us. We also really appreciate the swag tossed our way when we closed our account. I love the soft beanie hat, that was originally given to Kerry.

The Parents (Ray, Gail and Barbara) gave us a place to stay, food, hot showers, love and care. It would have been impossible to do this refit while living aboard. Having them share their brand new, just built home with us was a gift. Just knowing that, no matter how beat we were, we had a place to go, made this doable. Their commitment to our adventure was clear and present in everything they did.

Donald Pedro, my father, for teaching me how to sail and showing me that I could be competent and capable in whatever I chose. All I had to do was look beyond the problem until I found a solution.


Portland Pudgy --This mostly positive review has been removed and updated in a separate post here:

And So It Begins

Written by: Kerry

We have left Port Townsend.  It was about a month later than we had hoped/planned on, but you know what?  Considering all the years of planning and months of hard work, being a month late is not something to be ashamed of.  In fact, I'm kind of in a state of happy shock that we're actually out here, doing this - finally.

Day one was overcast, but dry with a 10-15 knot wind forecast from the SE.  We figured this would be a perfect day of sailing.  We timed our departure with the ebb current and headed out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca with our sights set on Hunter Bay on SE Lopez Island.  Under mainsail alone and with a strong ebb current, we found ourselves doing 8-10 knots (crazy fast for us).

The wind quickly picked up to 20+ knots and stayed that way our entire journey.  We attempted to balance the boat a bit by rolling out the staysail, but soon realized we simply had too much sail out for the weather.  Rolling in the staysail, we debated reefing the main and Donn decided to go for it.  This helped a bit, but by the time we passed Smith Island the seas were in the 3-4 foot range and the winds felt relentless off our starboard quarter.  We plowed along, knowing we'd reach a sheltered harbor soon.

Hunter Bay was a perfect choice.  We motored into to a calm bay protected from the South and proceeded to anchor with no problems.  But overnight the wind clocked around to the west.  All day Sunday Brigadoon tugged at her anchor in 20 knots coming over the trees from the shore.  We both knew we were anchored well and our equipment is basically brand new, but when you're not used to sitting in winds in a rolly anchorage it can kind of mess with your head.  I spent Sunday in a mixed state of knowing deep down I could trust in our ground tackle and feeling a bit nervous about what would happen if we did start to drag.  It was a long day.

We awoke on the third day, Monday, May 1st to a beautiful sunrise and extremely calm weather.

It was glorious and did a lot for our mood.  Donn tackled a few small boat projects during a beautiful day at anchor.  We finished our day early and turned in knowing we'd be up by 0600 to catch the flood current north.

Tuesday we motored for two hours in dead calm as the sun rose and were safely anchored in Blind Bay, just off the Shaw Island Ferry landing, by 0930.  We lowered the dinghy and visited the Shaw Island store next to the Ferry and took a short walk before heading back to the boat to enjoy another quiet evening at anchor.

For our fifth day out, we decided to splurge a bit on a marina and hopped up to Deer Harbor on Orcas Island to get some laundry done, enjoy showers, and procure some groceries.  They are still charging winter rates, so we are staying for two nights, which allowed us to get one more major project done (running the wire for our Iridium Go antenna) today while it was beautiful and sunny out.

Tomorrow?  We're debating about stopping in at Jones Island or possibly straight up to Sucia, which I'm very excited to finally visit after hearing so much about it.  We'll most likely check in to Canada sometime next week.

So - you may wonder how I'm feeling about finally being out here and starting this new life.  I think mostly, I'm relieved to begin.  There are many new things to learn and get used to, and so many unknowns - which I always realized would be the case.  This is not a long term vacation, we both agreed that's not what this is about.  It's a new way of living, of learning and seeing our world.  For me this is about deliberately putting myself in the way of challenge, so I can grow and learn what I'm capable of.  I have no illusions this will be easy.  Fortunately I have a partner who understands and encourages me at every turn.  I know together we'll enjoy some amazing moments and get through some equally terrifying ones.  This is the journey we're now on, and I couldn't be more thrilled.