Monday, August 21, 2017

All the big stuff is done!

[Hilde's log]

Quick post to show you the non-skid and the solar panels. Next chore is emptying the workshop, which happens a bit here and a bit there, most mornings. How on earth did we collect so much stuff??

Warning to those of you planning to do this: I didn't use the 3M blue tape because it didn't make a tight enough seal in the head and my paint found its way under the tape in places. I used the 3M green on the deck and the darn stuff doesn't all come off. Mostly, but not all. What's left leaves a stain. I am NOT happy. David bought some 3M adhesive remover, but it wasn't strong enough. He is going back to by 3M Death in a Can. Fingers crossed.

Looking forward, toward the bow. So pretty! You can see one bit of reluctant adhesive right in the middle of the white gelcoat in the middle of this photo.
Side decks, too...unfortunately beautiful new non-skid shows dirt really well.

Cap'n Dave and his solar array - he built the frame himself!

Empty shelves, empty boxes...we're getting there. The far shelf on the left has to be carried on Raven. Yeah, right. I see more culling in our future. Fortunately a lot of it gets lashed to the deck.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tick tock

[Hilde’s log]

I got a text from a friend the other day saying, “You haven’t posted in awhile. Where are you?”

So...time to fess up. We’re still in Kemah. Still working on the boat. Wondering when we will get away. In equal parts frantic and lethargic in the August heat.

Since my last post, David has 

1.  Made and installed an exhaust vent for the galley, a 3-day project constructed of black Starboard and computer fans that is just awesome!! It pulls the heat and smoke out from the stove – see photo.

2. Installed a solar panel arch for the panels that have just come; he is on the couch reading the installation instructions as I write this.

3. Reinstalled the cockpit table, a two-day project because he had to cut, readjust, and realign things.

4.  Repaired a tear in an awning, which entailed finding the sewing machine in storage, setting it up, doing the work, finding a place for the sewing machine on the boat, and cleaning up – two days.

5. Installed the remaining doors we had taken out to varnish

6. Installed a helm seat and a foot rest to take the place of the small plastic stool we have used all this time. That took about 5 days – see photo.

7. Reinstalled the single side band radio, a three-day effort to pull and reinsert electrics, using KISS (tuned radials - and now you know what I know) for the ground plane instead of the ineffective 2" copper strips that corrode in about 6 months. All you HAMs out there probably appreciate this more than I do.

My favorite upgrade. Sucks the heat and smoke and steam from cooking right out of the cabin.

New helm chair and folding step. Far superior to the plastic stool...

 “All” I’ve done is sand and clean the decks and paint new non-skid on the port and starboard decks. I still have to do the coach roof and the cockpit. Non-skid is paint with sand-like crystals mixed in. It gives a nubby texture to the deck to keep feet from slipping. It’s a blue-gray color that we like very much (see photo). It’s not hard to do, but very time consuming. You have to put it on when the decks are less than 90 degrees, which on the coast in August is between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. I have to tape off the areas not to be painted, and there are lots of those. The taping takes the majority of the time. Then I paint two coats, separated by 24 hours. Not hard, if the weather cooperates, which it does, intermittently. 

The old non-skid was cracked and slick. After 24 years, it just couldn't be put off any longer.
Rolling away on the port deck. The non-skid area is taped off to keep the gray from bleeding into the white.
We have managed to go out twice in the bay to test our instruments and confirm that Raven still floats. One day the wind was just honking, 25 knots (about 30 mph), and it was a lot of work for two rusty old sailors. We had to sit around and rest the next day! The second time, the wind was moderate (20 knots) and we had a fine time and remembered this can be fun.

We had a good head of steam up on the refit, and then came the trip to Oregon (see photo) to meet our three-month-old grandson (ridiculously cute, naturally - see photo) and a side trip to Montana to see old friends who have relocated up there. In the middle of that visit, we learned of a death in the immediate family and spent two days traveling in order to get to the funeral. After 10 days, we’re just now back, exhausted from visiting and travel and sorrow. We took the day off yesterday, and today planned to get back in the saddle. So it rained.

Am working to roll with it and to ignore the clock I have ticking in the background.

In Portland with the Most Remarkable Grandson.

Everyone in Portland went to the beach because it was "so hot." Yeah. Not. So beautiful there.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Home Sweet Boat

Here are a few shots of our floating nest, together with some interesting storage solutions.

The most useful idea so far (and not one of mine) is to buy pillow covers and stuff them with your off season clothes! We have four so far, and two more on the way. They are working really well and saving us all sorts of storage trouble.

The yellow pillow holds two winter jackets, a vest, and two mufflers. The blue cushion holds two sets of winter sheets, 2 pairs of leggings, a long sweater and a winter headband.

The orange pillow holds two of David's winter jackets (his are bigger, of course) and the blue one has two winter blankets, a shawl and one of my sweaters. Two more cushions are on the way...
One big storage problem is fresh food that doesn't need refrigeration. Last time we went out, we had one of those net hammocks that hung from one side of my settee to the other and which took every opportunity to whap me in the head. It ended up holding everything from onions to dishcloths and looked horrible. This time, I am trying individual net bags that I got from HEB. So far, so good. (Update: the tomatoes leaked. Ick.)

The net bag solution. One for onions, garlic, and ginger and one for tomatoes, so far.
Last time, I had all sorts of hooks put into the galley to hold my utensils. They were always in the way when you tried to access the cupboards and swung wildly with the boat's motion. This time, we are trying a slanted utensil holder. Works great at the dock, but I am sure I will have to stow it underway.

In easy reach at the dock or at anchor. Underway...probably a guided missile system.
On a boat, we end up sharing space for convenience, which is a detriment to decor. This is my settee with all my books, and Wilda's beautiful pillow on the bottom shelf, and our ridiculous collection of teas on the top. Just couldn't wedge the teas into the galley and we HAVE to have the teas.

The essentials...tea and books.
Most of my clothes are stored in the v-berth in these small plastic boxes. I do have lots of storage in my new shelves!! Knitting yarn, purse, long pants,'s great!! So much better than the old hanging locker.

V-berth boxes containing my wardrobe and other odds and ends.
Three deep shelves are making my life easier.

And finally, the head. The paint is dodgy, as I suspected, but I'll live with it. The door is back in place with a hook to hang the towel. The back brush has migrated to my shelf in the v-berth.

It all fits...somehow.
Now that we are more or less organized below, the focus is on emptying the "garage" storage. Like everything else, it's taking a lot longer than we hoped, but we are making progress.

I am enjoying being at the marina for the most part. Things are more physical here. When I go shopping, the groceries have to be lugged down the dock. The laundry and the toilet and bath house are about 300 feet from the boat. Big deal, you say, but we try to use the toilet up there to keep from having to empty our on board black water tanks very often, so there is a lot of going to and fro. Mostly the weather has been kind, but I got drenched twice yesterday from little unexpected shower bursts. We have A/C on board, so that really helps morale when it is hot, as it is so many days when thunderstorms come in off the coast. Portofino is located right on the Kemah channel, just a hop, skip and a jump from the Bay. Hopefully we will be going out soon for some small and then large shakedown cruises (Offat's Bayou and then Corpus Christi). What works on the dock often does not work on the water, and it's good to find that out before you are committed to a voyage.

In the meantime, I am working out some pain in my shoulder from a fall I had in January and working to build up general fitness levels. I fear I will need the summer to come up to par. Too many years sitting at a desk and in an RV. Voyaging is very physical.

We had originally planned to go down the coast to Port Aransas for the summer, just to get out of here, but with all the doctor, dentist, massage therapist, and lab appointments to deal with (almost done) and then the hassle with getting a new postal address, and the time needed to upgrade my physical strength, and the things David still needs to do (helm chair, solar panels), AND the trips we need to take (still haven’t seen our grandson), two of which require flights out of Houston, and our very elderly cars, we decided just to stay put. David is going to England in September to visit his 93 year old mom, so we will probably head out across the Gulf toward Florida in early October. After that, who knows? Maybe Florida for the winter, or we might cross to the Bahamas.

Floating around yesterday in the bright sun (in between showers), watching a flight of pelicans soar overhead, and looking at the sunlight on the palm trees and the water all around, I felt very much divorced from our land life and very much on the road again. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Moving Daze

First you sort it. Pile on the left to boat. Pile on the right to storage. Because I NEED that green bowl, that's why.

We’re aboard! We've been sleeping on the boat for about 10 days, but spending the daylight hours at the rig. After more than a week of hard, hard work, the RV has been cleaned and emptied and moved to a consignment lot.

You’d think I’d have some nostalgia for our home of the last four years, but I was just relieved to get it fixed up, cleaned, emptied, and moved. David did the fixing up and a lot of the cleaning, I did cleaning and lots of the trips to Goodwill and the boat, and we both sorted, tossed, agonized, and tossed some more. In between times we gasped in the humid heat of a Houston summer and wondered who on earth moves in June. Evidently, we do. Bad idea, but the year has just slipped away from us.

Moving from a 33’ RV to a 36’ sailboat is somewhat like forcing a size 14 body into a size 10 girdle. I was astonished at what we had accumulated in four years in such a small space – I swear, inanimate objects have sex in the cupboards and multiply like mice. 

We’re still not done. The overflow boxes have gone to the second storage unit to be sorted through yet again. The rule is supposed to be: if you can buy it again and it doesn’t have some sort of emotional attachment, out it goes. We have both fallen into the trap of “but it’s a perfectly good ___.” Hopefully all of the "perfectly good" contents of those boxes will head for Goodwill next week. We want to be rid of the second storage unit (the "garage" where David has worked on our cars and where we varnished the doors, etc.) as soon as possible.

Of the things that made it to the boat, some have had to be taken right back off again (my big green metal bowl was replaced by collapsible plastic bowls) and other things I really need (like my reading glasses!) are hiding. We have sorted through and organized and put into boxes and have mostly succeeded in making a home out of what has looked like an upturned wastebasket for days (see below). I only had to move 3 boxes to sit down at the nav station so I could compose this blog post. :)

After working 8 to 12 hours a day for almost a week, we’ve given our exhausted selves the weekend off and have started to enjoy being home at last. The marina's pool is lovely, the weather has been good most days (although yesterday it was brick-oven hot), and we watched the Friday night fireworks from the cockpit last night. Day before yesterday, I sat out next to the Kemah channel around 6:30 in the cool morning air and watched our feathered neighbors go about the business of catching (or, in the case of the gulls, stealing) their breakfasts. I even saw a dolphin in the channel for the first time ever!

Then you schlep it. Or get your awesome husband to schlep it.
Then you stack it all over the settees...

And the galley...
And the nav station...
Then you sort and label boxes to stow under the settees.

Then you DRIVE the 300 yards to the pool and do some serious floating. And that's how you move to a boat in June in Kemah.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Goodbyes and Hellos

June 4, 2017

The Kemah Channel at dusk. A familiar sight, to be traded in for new places and new experiences.

We are about 10 days from moving back aboard. Yes, I know, we keep saying that! But the only things left to do are 1) 3 more coats of varnish on the repaired cabin sole, 2) opening the drain in the refrigerator so we can drain out condensation (huge improvement), 3) polishing the hinges for the doors in the v-berth and the head, and 4) hanging the doors. All that should be accomplished this week.

We’ve had a rush of things to deal with – unexpected surgery and recovery, retirement, a new grandbaby...and now the trauma of moving. Sometimes it feels like trying to run through wet cement. Other times it feels as though we are rushing over a waterfall.

The good news is that we are moving! Goodwill has received a carload of our accumulated bounty and will get more this coming week. The church garage sale was the recipient of a lot of nice, gently used household goods. The RV is going to a consignment lot, the truck to another consignment lot. We enjoyed them but are not sad to see them go. Two fewer things to pay for, keep up with, and fix.

Other things are not so easy to let go of. I will sing my last Sunday in my church choir this coming Sunday and I am more than grief-stricken to let that go. It was the one place I truly belonged, and the place that made my spirit soar. I know that I will be blessed again out on the water, but it’s hard to let this particular soul solace go. I’m taking my hymnal and will yodel on the water on night watch.

We are letting go of the predictable. Now you would think that would be easy, but it can be comforting to know that on Thursday you go to work, make supper, then head off to choir. You know what’s next and are spared the flailing around that no schedule can produce. The exoskeleton of a schedule keeps you ordered and moving in a particular direction. No schedule is the ultimate freedom and can be hard to navigate. It’s easy to move in circles and to let being busy overwhelm a sense of purpose.

We are also letting go of the comfort of the familiar. We know all the side streets, short cuts, shops, professionals, and traffic patterns here. All the new places we go will be, well, new. The fun of discovery, the frustration of doing everything blind and on foot.

I am letting go of space. My personal space aboard Raven is basically a fiddle rail in the v-berth, a locker, and the fiddle rails in the main cabin (which I often share with the galley). I am culling books and it’s like cutting off fingers. I have no idea how I am going to store my knitting, but by golly, it’s going with me.

I am letting go of personal items. They are very sticky. Lots of perfectly good clothes are going to new homes, because there is simply no room for them. My beautiful blue dish is going to storage. It’s pottery, and pottery doesn’t do too well in the humpty-bumpty of a boat. My excellent collection of wide mouth storage jars are headed for the recycling bin. Big deal, you say, but it took a few years to collect them and I use them all the time.

I am letting go of being known. People here know me, in the places I frequent. Store clerks say hi, people at church know me, people in the community recognize me. I’ll be a stranger wherever we go next, a passing observer but likely not a participant, unless we find a “home port” where we stay part of the year.

So, it’s the season of goodbye/hello, of letting go of one life to welcome the next. You’d think it would be easier each time, but even though I recognize the whole cycle, it’s not any easier. I do trust that regardless of the discomfort of letting go, it’s going to be just fine. Breathe in, breathe out, next step.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ten Years Ago and Right Now

[Hilde's log]

A happy birthday, 10 years ago today.

Ten years ago, on my 55th birthday, I was baking a loaf of bread as we bobbed around in Great Sale Cay in the Abacos, Bahamas. See above photo for proof. This year, I'm not.

This year, I am seven weeks shy of my last day of work (well, of paid work), and am spending a lot of time sorting and tossing my belongings, an activity that seems to be a never-ending pursuit. We are trying to shrink our inventory yet again so David can get all his tools to fit in the smaller of our two storage spaces. The larger one is sort of a “garage” where he does work on the cars and where we have been varnishing the large doors. (see photo) It's a workshop, more than a storage space, but it needs to be shut down before we leave. So...more sorting and tossing. Thankfully, things that were vital to me eight years ago are much less so now, so I have been able to let go of more.

The "workshop" minus cars...varnishing in progress. All that stuff either has to be put on the boat, in our other tiny storage space, or tossed.
I must admit, I had no idea last June that we would still be working on the boat in March, and still working on storage, and still winding up, and still, well, everything. I have some acquaintances at church who were to set sail in February. They were at services last Sunday. I know exactly why, too. Same as us - “one more thing.”

Since the last post, we've had the mast pulled for repairs and upgrades (new radar, a radar “cage” to keep the sails from snagging on the radar, steps for climbing the mast, new spreaders, and a new mast step) and had the boat hauled for a rudder inspection, sea cock replacement, instrument fit, sole repair, and a bottom job. In between those large projects the cabin was full of folded sails and David was beavering away at the instruments and wiring and battery voltmeter. And, of course, the varnish work, which is getting very old.

Raven at Seabrook Shipyard, getting her mast pulled (that huge crane is pulling it up out of the deck).
But as of next Wednesday, Raven will be splashed again, the cabin will be clear of sails, one door and our table will be rehung and the rest of the varnish work will be almost finished. We actually do see the end of this year-long refit approaching. I am admiring the fact that the leaks from the sea cocks are a thing of the past, that the splintered floor is replaced, and that the cabin looks, well, finished. I might start looking for new couch pillows or something. Big shout out of thanks to Stix N Rigging and to Mockingbird Marine, who have done a fabulous job, and to the folks at Seabrook Shipyard, also an excellent group.

Raven "on the hard" at Seabrook Shipyard. Like an iceberg, most of the body of a sailboat is under the water! She looks naked with no mast, no boom, and no sails.
This is an interesting shot. See David's left hand? It's on our very tiny rudder. Note the flat finish of the new bottom paint. Every five years you get to do it again.

So, we're done, right? But, oh, wait, there's the non-skid to be re-done. And the instruments installed. And the solar panels. So it goes.

Still, starting next weekend, I will be hauling everything out of every crevice on board for a deep cleaning (no more construction dust) and yet another sort and throw party. Then we will begin moving back aboard. After we are back aboard, yet another deep cleaning and sort and throw party in the 5th wheel prior to putting it on the market.

At some point in this process we will both be officially retired (!!!) and will move forward more quickly.

Except: the whole process is happening amid the arrival of our first grandchild and requisite trip(s) to Portland, Oregon, and in between all the other financial bits and pieces and medical bits and pieces that must be seen to in conjunction with leaving our pre-retirement lives...but that's okay. It will be on our time, for things that matter to us.

When you want to change your life in a major way, it's always a lot more complicated than you thought, even when you have done it before. But, one step at a time, you get closer and closer and then… then you find yourself baking bread while bobbing at Great Sale Cay.

THIS. Raven underway.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

David's log

Some jobs take a long time. A very long time. Some three years after installing a new windlass I finally installed a backing plate. It is custom made from ¼"-thick 316 stainless steel, formed to the manufacturer's template. That template, however, could not foresee the below-deck supports in Raven and the backing plate needed trimming, read "cutting". Not knowing how I might do this myself, I put it off.

This particular job, if it were not done, is something of a shop-stopper for a safe departure. I had to come to terms with it.

Not really sure if it would work, I splashed $19 on a 4" angle grinder from Harbor Freight Tools and the same amount on edge cutting disks. I measured, marked, and re-checked at least six times before making any cuts.. Covered in ear-protectors and safety glasses I began to cut, a process that took about half an hour to cut about eight inches of metal.

Sparks flew. The floor was covered in grey dust. Burning smells filled the cabin.

It took only one disc to do the job. It was slow, steady work, but effective.

I offered the modified backing plate up to the windlass. It fit perfectly. Job done!

Initial installation.
Improved with backing plate.

This'd better work.