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.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

[Hilde's log]

A neighbor of ours had an interesting experience on her way across the Gulf recently. About 90 miles out, the step on the main mast disintegrated and the mast dropped about two inches into the keel. When the mast goes down, the tension on the standing rigging disappears, and so the base of the mast can move around on the keel. Main masts are big and heavy (ours is a modest 47' tall) so when they come down, they come down with a resounding whump. Fortunately no one was hurt, and she was able to limp back to Kemah using the motor. We found out about all this when she reappeared at Portofino, and David saw her drying out her jib on the berm instead of sending us post cards from Belize.

Neither David nor I had ever heard of a mast step disintegrating. Our neighbor's was made of mild steel, which tends to rot in sea water. Ours is not made of mild steel, but the rigging check showed….a rusted, disintegrating mast step. While it is not in immediate danger of breaking down, there is no way of knowing when it would reach the end of its life. Maybe a year from now? Five years? We decided to get it fixed and have one less thing to worry about. After all, it's reasonable maintenance for a 33 year old boat. Below are some photos that show the problem (and the dirt) and another photo of what a mast step should look like. 

Nasty mess.

Nasty mess #2.

This is what it will look like once replaced.
I am very grateful we were alerted to this problem and had enough sense to follow through with checking it out on Raven. Having the mast collapse in a calm sea is bad enough, but imagine if you had some rough weather, or were too far offshore to motor to port, or it happened at 2 a.m., which is when trouble delights in appearing. I keep this in mind as we write the check for the fix. It is a large check.

We need to schedule boat yard time to fix that problem and to install the various radar, upgrades, etc. that will be on the mast. The good news is, we can do a lot of the prep ourselves which will cut down on labor cost and we can kill two birds with one stone, labor-wise – all the things that need to be added to the mast can be done at one time while the step is being repaired/replaced.

Despite this new issue, things are moving on apace. David has finished one of the new instrument pods, wiring and all. This pod will be mounted vertically beside the helm pedestal for easy viewing (see photo below). There is a second pod in progress which will be mounted at eye level, horizontally, with the GPS, wind speed/heading indicator, etc.

Looks kind of like R2D2.
The main cabin has reverted to being workshop space, but will soon be clear again. David has finished the quarterberth shelves, complete with supports. We are thinking of making the lower portion a sleeping berth for a 3rd person on board. A snug fit, but doable, and nicer than having to share a “hot bunk” with another crewmate.

At the beginning...

Finished! David fits in the space below, so it's a good length for sleeping. Just don't jolt upright in the night!

Looking up to the bottom of the shelves, you can see the supports and bolts to hold the shelves in place.

David has also finished wiring the starboard side with AC voltage, and has moved the battery charger from an inaccessible nook at the back of the quarterberth to a snug home he can easily reach from the deck access hatch. The switch panel was completed earlier in December, but it looks so nice I wanted to post a photo. The first photo below shows the mass of wiring; the one below that shows the finished product. David has spent hours stripping out extraneous wiring from 30 years and two previous owners and is happy that what is left is necessary and neatly laid out, instead of a tangled mess.

The guts of the thing, with wires everywhere. All these wires belong here. Wads of wires that went nowhere have been removed.

Neat and functional! We even have USB ports for the phones!
I keep trying to get David to add some commentary to the log, but he says he's too busy with his projects, so all the technical details will have to wait til he comes up for air.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Closer and closer...

[Hilde's log]

Thought you might like to see the cabin...we're not quite there yet, but you can see where we're going.

The inside is done, except for a few doors.

We might even [gasp] go sailing this week! Or at least go out and float around a little. It's literally been 8 months since we've done anything on the water, other than move Raven from one marina to another.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Baby, it's cold outside....

[Hilde's log]

As I write this, it is cold out there (well, for us) at about 40 with a nasty wind chill. We are still not aboard, which is the good news and the bad news. The bad news is just that we miss being on the boat, which is still under construction, so to speak. The good news is, we are much more comfortable than we would be at the marina. It is not fun to walk to the cars, or to the outside (!) laundry, or to the bath house in cold weather. Not only is it a bit of a hike from our new slip, but we also have to walk past the open water of the Kemah channel, and when the wind blows it's some kind of freezing out there.

December was pretty much of a loss as far as the boat goes. We were both flattened for three weeks with the Great Gulf Coast Plague of 2016. Mine devolved into pneumonia! We are both fine now, but neither of us had any energy for doing anything but being sick for most of the month. The last week we traveled for Christmas and had a wonderful time, but again, not much time for the boat.

Before I was felled by the Plague, I did manage to finish the v-berth and the head. Since I took the photos below, we have put the cushions back in the berth and all doors are installed in the head. Such an improvement! The varnish is 90% finished below decks. I think I am down to a small door, a medium sized door, and two big doors. I'll post another photo when it's all done and liveable.



Shiny new head, missing a door which has since been installed

Since we returned from our Christmas travels, David has been at full steam with the remaining repairs/upgrades. One of the huge upgrades is our new instrument array. David just built the new pedestal guard from scratch. Our old one was rusted in too many places and the new ones cost $200! So he built his own – check out the photo below (note the dark...he is working in the dark a lot right now). Next up is installing the new instruments and running wires hither and yon. 

David's new pedestal guard

The revised move-on date, hopefully the last one, is mid to late February. It usually warms up considerably here by that time and usually there is a lot more sun. Fingers crossed.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Behind, but movin' forward - New Digs

Raven in her new slip. David admiring the fine job he did stripping the toerail. We're getting there...
Mid-November and we're still in the 5th wheel. Plans deferred are plans gone awry.

We somehow got sidetracked in October. Mostly we were just tired and wanted to do Something Else with our limited free time. So, we enjoyed the month and did do quite a bit on the boat, but not enough to get us back on board.

I have spent hours in the head, taping, painting, getting paint in my hair, wiping bits of paint off every conceivable surface, some of which weren't even in the head, removing paint from under the tape that was supposed to block the paint...Did I mention I really don't like to paint?? To add insult to injury, I think I did it wrong and I am anticipating the whole of the painted surface peeling off in my hand at the first scratch. Demoralizing, yes. But it does look nice, temporarily or not. Clean! The paint got rid of old stains, old yellowing, bits of mildew I couldn't reach, etc. If it stays put, I'm a happy woman. If not, gee, I just don't want to think about it. If you could stand in there with me, which you can't because there isn't enough floor space, we'd fill it up. But that tiny room took me about two weeks to finish.

So much for October. Now, with the time change, our time after work to do anything aboard is really, really limited.

On the positive side, we moved to a new marina. We'd been at Watergate Marina for eight years and had a really nice slip. We'd have stayed, had they allowed us to move back aboard. But they have instituted a new rule which decrees that your boat must be 40 feet long if you want to live aboard. So...36 feet is not long enough, and the fact that we have been there for 8 years and have been exemplary tenants makes not a whit of difference. Fine. I feel completely dissed.

They'll miss us now we're gone! Probably not. Bye bye.
In the long run, though, it was a blessing, as these things usually are. We have moved to PortoFino, right off the south side of the Kemah channel, and it has a completely different atmosphere. For one thing, the marina has mostly sailboats. For another, there is a lot of activity. We sat in the cockpit yesterday doing various tasks and watched a number of boats go in and out. We have a great view of the channel from the berm right in front of the boat. We met two very friendly couples who walked over to introduce themselves and welcome us to the neighborhood.

The new neighborhood. Kemah channel in the background. Raven's slip is off to the right and back about 30 feet.

Sitting out on the swing watching the Sunday night traffic, I felt my heart light within me. This is a good move. It sort of feels like the first step in setting off, in getting my life back again, in loving what I do. This is a good move.

View from the edge of the channel. Across the way there is Seabrook Marina. You can just see our slip, where we left on our first cruising adventure in April 2006. My fingernail tracks are still in the pier. :)