New horizons ahead. Sold the S.V. Flying Cloud

Diane and Wayne are going to eat tomatoes, basil, and rosemary this summer!

     On Saturday a random passer by came, and was told about the boat by Tom. He looked and went home. On Sunday he bought the boat. Imagine my relief that with so little effort and without waiting, and squandering time here in south Texas, I was able to sell the boat. There are no words that can express my relief at not having to worry about the sixty thing that were on my list of to-do’s before this boat had someone else’s name attached to it. No longer do I have to think about what else I need to do to get the boat ready for a long journey, much of which I didn’t have funds for. I don’t have to worry about the spare bilge pump, integrity of the standing rigging, or the keel falling off any longer. I will be excited to try again with another boat, but we will see how long it is before I am able to procure the funds that I need for a descent one.
     I learned a lot here, and was all that I was truly expecting when I came down. I learned about the raw water system in boats, navigation tricks, using a sextant, some excellent adhesives (NP1 is one of the craziest adhesives I have ever seen-works on everything!), practiced fiberglass work, how to tune rigging, and many many other intricacies of boat life. There are groups of boat owners by the sea that can’t see themselves ever being a land-lubber! I can. I love hiking up hill. I love the dense green forest, with crystal clear cold creeks. I am excited to perhaps get some skiing in before the season is over. There is yet some surfing to do on the gulf in the wind swell waves that show up. The peaks are erratic, but it is a very casual swim out compared with other places.
     I think Muddy Waters, my dog, will enjoy the change of pace. He has not had nearly the amount of exercise and free reign that he was used to back in Colorado. I wonder how his coat will react. Will he still shed in the frigid night time temperatures that he is about to be immersed in, or hold of on shedding until may when things warm up.
     I enjoyed very much getting to know the fine people of south Texas. Despite their tendency to support our current president, they are kind hearted and loving people. They voted for the person they thought would run the country best. They also don’t believe there is anything wrong with fossil fuels, and the jobs go right along with them. When you are surrounded by oil platforms and refineries, how else could you be expected to think?
One thing that I realized about myself while being down here is that I am a gardener at heart. I need to get my hands in the dirt and interact with plants from time to time. It was nice that Wayne had so much planter work while I was here, but I will be extra excited to get back to Colorado and plant a Pondorosa Pine forest on my property. Perhaps also some hardy apple trees. I am wondering if the thyme that I planted last fall in a swale made it over the winter. Oh so many seeds to get going!  It was never my intention so spend the summer working in Texas trying to save enough money for the boat.  I will enjoy setting some roots down for a while, though it seems in my nature to be a wanderer.  
     I am thinking that I will reshape the blog in the vein of gardening until I decide Muddy and myself are ready for another bid at adventure sailing. Life is too short to not live on a whim. 

Sprouts are an excellent way of staving of scurvy in a sailboat. Even in Port!

I sure do hope my keel stays attatched…

     I have a laptop once again, and one that may be better overall for all the editing of videos and music that I will need to be doing while on the journey. It still feels a little unbelievable that we could be embarking by the end of next month. After close to three weeks of having no laptop to write with, it will be a slight effort to get back into the routine. So many things have gotten a little closer to being ready that it would be impossible to list them all. The new toilet is installed in the head, though we are still waiting on a waste storage tank to plumb her in. I have been varnishing a lot recently, an inexpensive way to kill time and make the boat look better by ten fold. The engine is all but properly tested (I was recommended to run it under a load, here at the slip, for six hours to ensure that there aren’t any surprises later on). The whisker pole, which had a jammed and corroded pin, is finally mounted on the deck once again. My van had a pivot joint that rusted beyond operability in the dense foggy climate, and so had to be disassembled and repaired. I took off the cover to the water tank, cleaned and inspected it. Potentially some cracks, but don’t think that it is leaking. There is a bit of standing water in the bilge, but from all I can determine it is from the melting Ice in the ice box that is failing to discharge into the aft bilge, and instead seeping through the wood more forward. I still hate electronics, but was able to wire in the two batteries that we got from my ranching friend, Wayne. I have yet to discover why the compressor for the refrigeration system on board is not operable, but maybe with a little time chasing wires I’ll be able to figure it out.

     There are a few more crucial things to fix before setting off, most importantly being the backing plates to the keel which are all but corroded into a solid mass of Fe 2+ and Fe 3+. We are going to have a guy on board to take a look who knows metal, an artistic welder type, but I think from the core j-bolts being charcoal grey we may have some structural integrity issues with the keel staying on the boat. The ballast of the boat, which balances the sails, is about 8200 lbs, a large majority of which being the lead keel bolted to the bottom of the boat of which we are speaking. You can look up pictures and videos of what happens when a keel falls of, but the short story is that the boat capsizes immediately. Perhaps this is the reason that many sailors would think myself a little on the crazy side for taking this boat into the gulf. The good news is that there is not a constant seawater leakage into the boat at this point, so the keel is not departing. Everything is stable now, safely in the slip, but as we hit heavy seas and are bouncing about in the gulf, or if we run aground while we are trolling around the cays in Belize, the keel may show it’s weaknesses instantaneously and more or less ruin our day. In order to feel somewhat secure out there we will have our rubber dingy with a dry bag loaded with all of the essentials for open ocean survival, along with an Epirb GPS device. We will also be making amendments to the keel stability by adding additional backing plates in between the old and corroded ones. As well we will be painting some anti corrosion paint on the top of the old backing plates in order to prevent further degradation.

     The last couple of weeks I had another guy live aboard in exchange for buying food. He has since left for Cancun, and we are going to try and meet up with him on our way to Belize. Robert apparently has a few properties that he is renting out in Idaho, so has little need to find work, a great person to have on board when your keel falls of in the shallows of Belize. I know for sure that things are going to break as we go along, this boat being over forty years old, and having somebody who would willingly help fund fixing a few things may be crucial to the trip.  Robert may be slightly off his rocker, but one think I’m sure of is he has no desire to murder me, he has a good heart.  

     Since it is a little uncertain how our auto steering system of surgical tubing, pulleys, and line will manage the boat, and in light of the fact that she will still need a watch stander to make sure all is right, I recruited a crew member who was walking the docks one morning. Randy, who knew nothing of sailing until we sailed around the bay recently, is stoked on the plan to sail to Belize. He is currently collecting alimony, and also has no financial obligations. When the seas are rough, and the winds are high, it will be randy and myself who are taking turns at the helm.

     Being the captain of a boat is a big responsibility. I am responsible for the knowledge of all parts of the boat. I am the navigator, though I’ve never navigated on the open seas. When we have water coming into a broken through hull, or when the head starts syphoning water, I am the guy who has to come up with the solution to fix it; ever the more so difficult at sea when you have only what you brought. Overall it is my responsibility for everyone’s safety. I made Randy well aware of the potential for calamity with the keel, and the fact that he is still excited for the journey brings light to his willingness to adventure. Probably the most important necessity of crew onboard the flying cloud is their willingness to adventure.

     In other news….Trump is ruling as dictator by executive order. All my biologist friends are out of work for the next four years due to Trumps stance on the environment (certainly he will stop funding any research that conflicts with his world view). Oil pipelines will be fast tracked, federal land is going to be leased or sold to petroleum companies, and environmental protections such as the endangered species act are going to be subverted. I think it unlikely that our differences (red and blue, left and right, environmentalist and corporatist) can be resolved without civil war.  All the more reason to leave the country via sailboat. At least I have the ability to quickly set up my silks and enjoy some playtime in the sky. I am counting on them to stave off boredom while at anchor in paradise, along with books and guitars of course.

Coffee is acidic, the solder on the motherboard of laptops is not

    I am at the library now, a short distance from the boat.  A lot is getting done on the boat, but as you may read by the headline, I spilled coffee and my laptop absorbed it like a sponge.  I will be getting back to a regular writing routine once I am able to procure another laptop.  Which shouldn’t be too much longer, since it is such a vital part of my life, and is hard to live without it ordering and researching so much online.

     As far as the boat goes, I have been trucking along.  Took it out three days ago (without much exhaust in the cockpit) and had a swell time on a light wind day.   We did however manage to hook our danforth anchor on the starboard bow railing as we backed out of the slip, lucky it was ready to be dropped and just fed out chain.  Quite the hilarious event after the fact.  The engine is up to par for the trip, the fresh water tank is bleached, some of the woodwork is being varnished day by day, anode and head are ready to be installed today, I got a few light wind sails and a storm jib from the neighbor, and I’m scraping the bottom a little at a time.  Still a lot to do, as always on a boat.  A waste tank, installing solar panels, a second bilge pump, and a bimini for the cockpit seem to be the last of the tasks to really have the boat ready to sail away(more will arise surely).  Wish us luck!  We will be keeping a close eye on the backing plates which support the 9200 pounds of ballast in the keel.  Hopefully it is all sound.  Love and light from the wonderful climate of Rockport, TX.

Midsadventure sailing

     Today the boat and myself, along with one other new to sailing sailor, made a trip into Aransas Bay. This probably would be classified more under the misadventure category than the adventure category. By the time we rounded the jetty which protects our harbor entrance we had burned a hole in our exhaust tubing and had billowing smoke coming from the cabin. I took a deep breath as if diving into water and went below to bring to the cockpit two of the fire extinguishers so that they would be in a place close at hand if flames exploded. Myself being as afraid of maneuvering my new boat in the confines of a harbor with multiple yachts worth several hundred thousand dollars was enough for me to continue, hoping to gain some semblance of how my boat handles before I head back(I grazed the adjacent boat, without damage, while pulling out since I had the wheel cranked and also was not really sure where center – straight – was). The wind speed was somewhere around seventeen knots, though I heard on the radio somebody report twenty-four (perhaps in the main shipping channel?). Having a new sailor on the boat, as well as never having taken her out deterred me from ever raising the mainsail, which was prepared to be raised. On our first tack the main was blown to leeward, port, and filled that side of the boat with a jumbled sail mess. This amplified the problem that the genoa was running through the safety line on the port side. We sailed out a ways and tacked. My boat has A LOT of freeboard, and with the new sailor at the helm, Robert, we had trouble keeping our momentum through the tack. Teaching Robert how to sail as well as learning the intricacies of my boat was quite the task indeed. Once I explained how to keep momentum through the tack things went much more smoothly. All together we probably tacked six or eight times, and jibed once, each time bettering our ability to work together to complete the task. On the jibe we werent quick enough getting the sheet in and the sail was folded over the forestay(furler). At another point while tacking, the sheet to be brought in cought up on the standing rigging at the level of the deck on the windward side. After a bit I was able, while we were on a starboard tack, to untie the genoa sheet and rethread it outside of the standing rigging as it was supposed to be. In general, I had trouble getting the genoa tight enough that we were really making progress upwind, perhaps having something to do with the fact that we never raised the mainsail, and also have so much windage due to the boats freeboard. Lucky for the two of us, the wind was blowing from the south, so the entrance to the harbor was downwind. On our last several tacks we furled the genoa, slowly, since I had replaced the aging line of insufficient length with an old climbing rope. The climbing rope had lots of stretch, but seemed to do the job reasonably well (I just don’t want to fork over the cash for a new line). With our Genoa a small triangle at the front of the boat we slowly made our way back to the slip. My neighbor Tom, whom I’ve been borrowing tools from, was particularly concerned about our adventure out. His worries as it turns out were unwarrented, as we floated into the slip as well as a seasoned forty year veteran of the ocean. I only started the engine at the very, very end of the journey, in order to put it in reverse and halt our forward momentum. With the sailing in the bay, and the downwind sailing to the harbor, in which I really payed attention to how the boat reacted at slow speeds to tiller changes, I had enough feel for the boat to maneuver her safely to her slip. I wish I had pictures, but wasn’t really thinking about that when the smoke was billowing out of the cabin. Here I am now though, safely moored, and with more work to do, as always. The first problem that I had to attend to upon returning was the leaking packing gland on the driveshaft, which was causing my aging bilge pump to unload about a gallon every four minutes. A bike ride to the hardware store, with Muddy Waters in tow for exercise, and I had my hose clamps (one had broken upon inspection). It only took me an hour in the oil inflicted bilge water to adjust the hose clamps such that there was no more packing leakage. Whether or not I overtightened them is yet to be determined. I guess we will see the next time that I decide to take this boat for a stroll what happens.

     Needless to say, my next couple days will be of engine work. I need to get the raw water system working properly, as well as replace the exhaust tubing that I burned out. This is supposed to be a learning adventure anyhow, and every day is a learning experience. Only with hardship can one grow.

Being a boat owner and how to eat an elephant one bite at a time


Well, I pulled the trigger on the sailboat, the 39′ Columbia. She is certainly a piece of work: a project boat. The guy who owned her previously was going to leave her at the docks and let the marina auction her off, there was a seizure notice on the vessel the first time I checked her out. The hull is certainly worth five grand anyhow, and it was five years ago or so that an old man was single handing her. The owner I bought from only owned the boat for a year, and the bottom paint was done just before he got her. It looked good to my untrained eye, aside from the barnacles that had started to build. I probably would have backed out of the deal except I couldn’t because I just paid eighteen hundred dollars in back slip fees to get the boat at all. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder I guess: with a little work she will be a cruising machine.

I have itemized the list in my head of things that need immediate attention and fixing. First and foremost would be the engine, I was told that she needed injection work, nothing more. Second would be cleaning out the potable water tank and fixing the cap, which looks like a piece of forged iron that broke off in the fill tubing. Third is the toilet, which I was told also does not work. The winch was removed by the previous guy because it was jamming up, so I’ll need a new one of those, along with an anchor chain to match. The boat comes with a danforth and plow anchor, so I will be close to ready to set sail and anchor outside of a beach with minimal extra cash. Which is good, because at two-hundred and seventy dollars a month slip fees and one hundred dollars extra for live-aboard, I can’t afford to stay in the marina long. All the running rigging that I can see, aside from the main halyard, which is brand new, look like junk. I will certainly want a new furling line for the furling jib if I want to use it for a storm jib in heavy weather without it snapping. The previous owner told me that he took it out only once and that the mast had a bend in it; this makes sense since the only piece of standing rigging that I found to be loose was a lower shroud. Of course this doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the standing rigging is good, there is obvious rust here and there. I will have to look over everything much closer before taking off. I don’t know how kosher it is to use climbing ropes for my running rigging, since they are more elastic likely than normal running rigging(I assume), but I will certainly be salvaging all of my climbing ropes to make it happen.

More than what the boat is now, where it is currently bent me toward buying it. I drove to Port Aransas one day and was pleased to discover there were surfers in the water. This east facing coastline gets much more surf than where I was previously in Freeport, the pier and jetty there help to shape the sand beneath of course too. Also, everybody that I was meeting at that live-aboard marina was nice and offering a hand when needed. They all realize what work a boat can be. I have two five gallon batches of homemade wine right now, and I was thinking I should take them as my bartering tool for labor. I will also be able to feed a few people, since I’ll be harvesting the totality of my garden while I’m back home in Grand Junction. Most of the people in Rockport are dead broke though, not much of an economy in the winter is the word that I got. The guy on a trawler next to me tried to sell me a bag of tools, possibly one that was taken from the boat I bought. In the repossession, or perhaps another time, the lock was removed from the cabin. The previous owner told me that he had a bag of tools on the boat, which weren’t there. Stolen as well was standing rigging and running rigging that he said were in a shed which was available to all the other people with a slip at his previous marina. Someone is being dishonest, but I can’t really tell whom. I have come to expect some dishonesty in people more and more. A damn shame, and one reason that I want to set sail. I try to be candid.

I drove back from Texas yesterday and of course had to stop in on the ten acres of raw land that I bought to hopefully homestead on. I made mention of the two three hundred gallon water tanks that were stolen from the property at the county store and the two there told me it was probably those texans, and maybe if I talked around I could find them and get them back if they weren’t sold off already. The store clerks were older, with weathered skin, looking to be in their sixties. The lady told me that she “lived on a boats for twenty years!” I don’t know that I’m headed on that Dhamma path but it was sure fun to find some camaraderie in her. She reminded me that b-o-a-t stands for “break out another thousand.” Fair enough.

Today while driving I serendipitously found a ribbed inflatable boat for only seven hundred dollars; keep in mind these often sell for two thousand. This guy only does two days of selling every year, and I happened to get back from Texas one day before he quit, and had that very morning been looking at life rafts(with the rusted standing rigging in mind). Is it bad to make big life decisions on the whim of a feeling of auspicious happenings? I don’t think so. But it sure doesn’t help my budget. I probably shouldn’t have, yet I know that if I need to sell it when I get down there and am hungry, starving, from depleting my resources with no work, then I can. Also I think there is a church nearby that does meals, so I heard a little birdie say. Rice and beans every day. Rice and beans.

I still think sometimes if the 31 ft seafarer would have not been a better boat, but then reminisce on her loose stations and failing mizzen rigging and I think I made the right choice. Also that lead keel she’s got doesn’t make her fast. When I first boarded I had noticed how it rocked a lot with the narrower beam. That coupled with the statement by the previous owner that “you gotta worry about getting seasick” made me think that it may have been an issue for muddy or myself. Not that I’m not buying the ‘behind the ear’ sea sickness patches before I depart.

Saw this quote recently and it made me smile:

img_0163 img_0161 The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – William A. Ward

My nuclear days, and my hope for single handing glory

More and more I’m starting to harden my conviction to leave on a sailboat. The maximum amount of cash in hand that I will be able to accumulate by my departure date comes to the sum of eight thousand dollars. Most of the boats that I have seen that would be “comfortable” to travel in for five months are selling for between five and ten thousand dollars. Something with a tiller, and preferably a gimbled stove would be nice, but at this point I’ll leave on the least of the seaworthy boats available. When I was in the navy I raced laser’s and 420’s on the Chesapeake bay. My hope is that I have enough experience to ride on when a storm picks up and I have to head up into the wind during gusts, or reef the mainsail when I see ominous clouds on the horizon. My single-handing experience leaves a lot to be desired. It has always been with a crew that I’ve sailed, with exception to racing the lasers. Just thinking of all the fun I had crashing through chop and small waves makes me soooo excited to depart on my own larger boat. I’ve been reading through Andrew Evans “Thoughts, Tips, Techniques & Tactics for Singlehanded Sailing” and broaden my perspective and knowledge on the subject daily. Still my gravest concern is financial. Not being able to pay for repair of a ripped sail (going to buy an awl), or some piece of failing standing rigging, or poor running rigging. I only plan to spend five months out there, but I don’t have any basis for expenditure aside from reading a blog or travel writeup on the internet. Most of those sailors appear to be affluent, and spend lots on docking fees and booze at foreign ports. All of them have it in common with me that they want to run away from real life to a sailboat. I don’t consider myself to be “well off” but certainly I carry many of those traits. My parents have always provided a roof over my head, until my embarkment upon my navy adventure. Their cushion allowed me during my high school days to put all of my saving into games. I would play paintball, golf, hockey, ski, and do all sorts of other fun recreational activities. When I was six months short of sixteen I got a workers permit to work on the food prep line at Taco Bell; some summer days even riding my BMX bike 5 miles to get to work. That only lasted one summer. The next year I worked at the local city golf course, driving the tractor to pick up range balls and washing golf carts. This was during my obsession with golf, and I could not have chosen any better way to spend my time. At the end of high school I worked bagging groceries and mopping the isles occasionally at City Market, until they had lay offs due to other grocers opening up downtown. I even got a job cutting diodes, led’s, installing bracket mounts, and other miscellaneous tasks at a factory which built the circuit boards which are installed in the Diesel tractor trailers that are currently taking our food and other goods from point A to point B all across the country. This was perhaps the most boring and therefore hardest jobs I have ever had. The monotony was incredible. Of course I fell into the pitfall of wanting to make more money and looking for more of a career, so I didn’t return to the golf course and went off to join the navy. There I learned the trade’s which are associated with nuclear reactors, mainly chemistry and contamination mitigation. I also got the benefit of two years of a sort of crash course in physics, electrical theory, mechanical theory, steam turbines, piping systems, fluid dynamics, and of course fission and decay reactions. I consider myself a sort of honorary engineer. I never got a degree (and don’t believe that such pieces of paper entitle you to anything aside from being pompous) though I could have taken a few credits with an online university, Thomas Edison University, which readily provides degrees for the “nukes” as we called ourselves. Not a glamorous position, in the belly of the ship making steam for hot water, electricity, catapults, and propulsion. During some point on my time on board National Geographic was doing a documentary of sorts on the carrier, which of course focused mainly on the airplanes and pilots and flight deck “skittles” and the control tower, etc, etc. They only saw half of the ship!

I don’t want a career. I don’t want a job (though I like to work). I want to see the planet taken care of by the stewards which are here currently, you and I. My uncle, from SLC, asked me “what are you contributing to society?” to which I replied in somewhat of a rant that by not making a bunch of money I was not using resources and therefore having less of an impact on the planet by not purchasing a bunch of junk I don’t need. My own sister and her husband have decided to have seven children, in accordance with the scripture “be fruitful and populate the earth”. It is my job to at least counteract her fertility somewhat by not spreading my own seed, then the average will come out as 3.5 kids for the two of us. All of her kids have the same mitochondria that I have anyhow (maternal lineage), and I am going to enjoy helping mould them into wonderful critical thinking human beings. I’m not sure if we as a race can remain “fruitful”, or if our constant attack on the environment with estrogen mimics and other hormone disrupters will render the population sterile. I hope for the latter. I do also hope that my writing will be some kind of contribution to society as a whole, hopefully as a mirror in everybody’s face showing where our major societal faults lie. I do think there is a chance for a healthy thriving planet, but that It involves local agriculture and close knit communities. Sustainability starts at the local level.

I can honestly say that I didn’t even like the ocean until I found a girl in Charleston, SC who was a beach bum in all regards. We spent many days on the beach, some of my most memorable. I remember distinctly reading all day long while watching the tides go in and out; we moved our chairs along with it so that our feet were always being touched by the cool waves. We watched baby turtles in their escape toward the white curling waves. I didn’t learn to surf until I moved to connecticut, where my buddy jeff gave me a really old fish board to get me started. I also broke the skeg off of his long board when learning because I didn’t realize that the tide was going out with all the fun I was having and clipped a rock pretty good. Sorry Jeff! Love you buddy! We would surf just over the Rhode Island border in Westerly. I can’t say that I was any good, but I got a few short rides before getting crumpled up by the huge sets. There was a beach bar in New Haven that I would frequent for two-man volleyball, and just plain good beach vibes and entertainment. I had a Suzuki GSXR 600 at the time, and it was also a great excuse to go for a ride. My last three years of duty in the navy was spent in San Diego, where I continued to surf, in lieu of concurrent advancement examinations, and took on the nickname Ronjohn. Well, thats about enough about myself, but I did want to give some background so that It was less of a mystery how I came to have the demeanor that I do. Love YOU. I hope that we can change all this together so I don’t have to isolate myself on the open ocean indefinitely.