Saturday, November 14, 2015

Planning the refit

Howdy Folks,

We've been busy getting things rolling with refit projects for Vela.  Our local sail loft, Banks Sails here in Kemah, is working on our new set of $ail$.  So we're looking forward to putting those to use pretty soon.  As part of that project we're still working on the design for the Asymetric spinnaker, stay tuned for that one.

As part of the new sail project, we'll be removing the staysail boom to free-up some deck space.
According to the rigger who came by today, we'll be able to keep the sail self tacking (with the new sail cut correctly) and get rid of the boom, so it feels like a big win.  In the past, having a dinghy on deck has meant the staysail was out of commission, this will address that.  What's the use of a cutter rig if you can't use your staysail offshore...when you need it most?

We've also been working with a local stainless shop to build an arch for our new solar panels and  wind generator.  It will also include a new set of davits.  Vela came with a set of davits but they don't really get the dinghy up high enough for our taste, and they're not the most sturdy design.  Moving them up to the arch and removing the stern ladder will allow us to open up the stern pulpit a bit.  As part of the project we're also planning to add a removable swim platform with it own ladder.  We'll also be replacing our existing stern rail seats, in an effort to get a more usable shape (deeper) and move them further back to gain some room.  Last but not least, we'll also be raising the back of bimini a bit to gain a bit of headroom when using the stern seats.  It currently hits me about mid-forehead when sitting in the seats.  It's turning out to be MUCH more expensive than we where originally thinking, but it's an important addition and we want to ensure it all works well and is solidly built.

It looks like we've also found someone to help us with the planning and installation of all the electronics upgrades.  One of the things Kara and I are both adamant about is that we're involved in the refit and know where EVERYTHING is.  Every connection, component, wire, splice, etc...  Someday, we know we'll be out there when something stops working and we want to be able to troubleshoot it on our own.  After talking with several other local sailors, we found Gary and he's going to help us with the entire process.  So there's some big changes in place for Vela in the coming months.  Our current 'plan' is:
  • Arch - local custom
  • Solar Panels - TBD
  • Wind Generator - Silent Wind
  • Chart Plotter - B&G Zeus 2
  • B&G WiFi Module for phone/tablet control/visibility
  • Move wind/depth/knot meter to companionway (from helm) - B&G Triton 41
  • Charge controller - Battery monitor
  • Radar - B&G 4G
  • Water Maker - TBD, Likely Spectra 12v
  • Much larger next-gen Anchor - TBD - Mantus or Rocna (73lb)
  • Much larger Windlass - Lighthouse 1501
  • Updated battery bank - Currently all lifeline
  • AIS send/recieve - TBD
Essentially our plan is to hemorrhage as much $$$ as possible for the next year and if we survive some cruising...or at least that's what it feel like at this point ;)

Friday, November 13, 2015

4-26-2017 By Kara

"Four, twenty-six seventeen" Like Dorothy clicking her heals to get home, I repeat my chant hoping that my mind will take me to a better place then the present stressful rat race.  April 26th, 2017 is our target date to leave our current life behind, to transform and to explore the world.  

“I can put up with just about anything for 18 months if I know it will all change”, I think as I receive another elbow jab from my fellow airplane passenger while on the way home from everlasting work travel.   I’m not quite sure what happened, my career used to be important to me; it used to be fulfilling.  I was excited to help my customers solve a challenge or to ‘own the room’ with a 500 person audience.   Maybe it was process or lack of resources, but something killed my motivation.   Perhaps, it was when I took a step back, looked at the bigger picture of life and asked, “I am alive, but am I really living?”

My old soccer coach was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a few weeks ago and is under going Chemotherapy.  She was fit and lived a healthy lifestyle, but is still staring death in the face.   My dad died of cancer before 60 and I have numerous relatives and in-laws that either succumbed to health issues before their time or have trouble doing everyday tasks because of their declining health.  I am often reminded that you are only guaranteed this moment; the next might not happen.  Life is too short not to live out your dreams so we are going sailing and are untying the lines in April of 2017.

What’s the significance of 4/2017?   Our original goal was to retire early and go sail.   We could possibly leave in 5 years and 2020 sounded like a nice round, safe number to shoot for if we had to put a number on it.  The more that we researched the more we kept hearing “Go small, Go cheap, Go now!”  Not a single item we read made us think that we needed to wait longer or that cruising was a bad decision.  Advice from our cruising friends that are in mid-circumnavigation was to put a specific day month year on our plan to leave.  After careful consideration on Vela’s necessary improvements, the best time of year to sail through the gulf, and personal preparations (house / condo / family) we decided on 4/2017.  The 26th just happened to be a random date in the last week of the month and we aren’t necessarily set on that date, but it gives us a day to shoot and plan for.

Yes some parts of this will be difficult, yes there is real work involved, yes we are not nearly prepared, yes I’m nervous yet excited, but also yes, we can do this!  As Walt Disney stated  “The way to get started is to quit talking and get doing” and thus I am going to stop typing and get doing.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Fireworks, Sailing, and Appeasing the Gods

Howdy again folks,

As I mentioned in the last post, we've had a busy couple weeks.  While it's great to catch-up on boat projects, we kept hearing rumors about folks that actually....(gasp)...left the docks with their boats and did fun things on them.  So instead of just talking about all the cool things we wanted to do, Kara and I decided to dedicate this last weekend to actually enjoying some time on the boat.

Kara was in Houston for work and had a hotel right next to our office Thursday night as a result,  As it turned out, all my meetings where all virtual on Friday, so after work Thursday night I loaded up the truck with boat stuff and drove down to join her in her hotel room.  We both had pretty busy afternoons but where able to leave the office around 4 and head down to Kemah (it's about an hour drive).  So Kara headed to the boat and kicked on the AC and fridge so they'd have time to cool down.  We hit the liquor store, grocery store, and Home depot for a new deck wash hose...way cheaper than West Marine for that kinda stuff.

Then we got down to the boat, got everything stowed, grabbed a bag of ice which the marina sells pretty cheap, reviewed the charts to figure out where we wanted to anchor for the fireworks, fired up the Yanmar, untied the boat and headed out.  We where pleasantly surprised at how much cooler it was once we got out of our protected marina.  The wind was a good 15+ knots and not as humid as we've come to expect from Houston, which was great.  We headed out through the Clearlake channel, under the the 146 bridge and into Galveston bay.  The wind had been blowing long enough that there was a pretty decent wind chop, so we opted to just head over about 1/2 mile off the kemah boardwalk and set the hook.  Once we got the anchor set and the boat settled into the wind and waves, it was pretty darn comfortable.  So we made a couple rum and diets, fired up the grill and cooked a few beef kabobs, which despite my hatred for our current magma gas grill, turned out pretty well.  I know I shouldn't hate something as simple as a grill and it's nothing against magma but I really miss charcoal and am so spoiled with my big green egg, that I find the lake of temperature control on this grill to be frustrating.  But by flipping the kabobs every 5 min or so, they turned out pretty well and we just had time to finish our dinner and make another drink before the fireworks started.  We've been talking about going out to watch the fireworks for so long, that it was really nice to finally be out, sitting up on deck with a cold drink just enjoying the cool(ish) breeze and a full (blue) moon.  It was also nice of the Kemah boardwalk to sponsor these fireworks which they seem to do every Friday night in June/July.  We can usually see them just by walking across the little street at our marina, but it's way nicer to enjoy them from the boat on the hook away from the dock...for a change.

After the fireworks we just sat and talked for a while and watched as all the boats went in.  Once the herd had thinned out a bit we pulled up the anchor and the deckwash and did our best to get all the chain back in without bringing up half of Galveston bay with it.  The bottom is a really fine black mud and it's almost impossible to get it all off in the dark.  We where thankful for our newly installed LED deck light which definitely made the job easier.   Once the anchor was stowed, we motored back to the marina and safely tied up back at the dock to conclude our first night time docking process with just Kara and I as crew.  Obviously this was a pretty simple little trip, but we really needed it and it felt great.  So did the AC and showers once we where back at the dock.

The next day we got up early, cleaned the remaining mud off the ground tackle and deck.  We then went out to pick up a few things for the day.  Jason and Autumn (Kara's brother and sister-in-law) had called and wanted to come join us for a sail and the renaming ceremony later that night.  So we picked up some champagne, snacks and got the boat ready to leave the dock for a second time in less than 24 hours...crazy stuff.

Once Jason and Autumn got there, we fired up the boat cast off the lines and motored out to the bay again.  This time though, we raised the sails and noticed how much easier it all was with our nice clean winches.  Yep, should have done that one a long time ago!  At first we only had 5-8 knots of breeze but it was enough that we where at least moving, so we where finally able to shut off the motor and enjoy the piece and quiet.  As the afternoon went on the wind picked up a bit and we where able to maintain a good 5-6 knots which was nice.  That in combination with good weather, great company, and some excellent beers that Jason brought along, made for an excellent afternoon of sailing.  We where out for about 4 hours and as the wind was dieing down, decided to head in and get ready for the renaming ceremony.

Once back at the dock, we got the AC cranking and got out of the heat for a while(100F / 37-38C).  While we where picking up food for the evening we heard from our friends Heather and Michelle and they wanted to join us for the festivities, which was great.  We all met back at the marina and as the sun was setting had our renaming ceremony.  Where we thanked the gods for taking care of our boat (previously known as Baboo) and requested they strike the old name from their roster and that she hereby be known as Vela...and may your watchful eye always bless her in her new life with us.  The full ceremony we used is here, it was the perfect combo of fun/silly/respectful that we where looking for.  In the process we got to meet a few new marina neighbors, who stopped by to share in the fun, food and cold beverages.

Welcome Vela - We're looking forward to many adventures together in the future.

All in all it was a great time and instead of being known generically as the boat, she will from now on be referred to by her new simple and beautiful name Vela.  Which we chose because we wanted a short simple and pretty sounding name.  It also means has several meanings.  One being Latin for the sails of a ship, which is where the name of the constellation comes from.  The other being "she who watches over" (which is the one I really love).  So for us it works on many levels, plus we just like the how it sounds and spelling it phonetically on the radio couldn't be much easier.

So, welcome Vela!  Long may we sail safely with her and may her new life with us take her to far away lands and be filled with love, laughter, happiness and of course adventure.

Of course first, we need new sails...and a few other things but more on time!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Maintenance in the heat that is Houston

Howdy Folks,

Thought I'd check in after what's been a very busy June for us.  For various reasons we weren't able to get down to the boat for about a month, so for the last 3 weekends we've made the 8 hour round trip drive from the house to Kemah and have been whittling away on the projects.

The first two weekends, we pretty much didn't do anything fun and just worked on the boat.  We've cleaned and lubed all 8 winches (4 self tailing and 4 standard).  This was a fairly nasty job that we'd been putting off but we knew it needed to be done.  Essentially we just dissembled the winches 1 at a time and tossed the parts in a bucket to let them soak in either gasoline or mineral spirits to degrease it a bit and took everything up the one of the deck area our marina provides.  The decks are elevated so they get a decent breeze, the view is good and most importantly they provide a bit of share.  Then we scrubbed them clean with green scrub pads and a toothbrush.  Then after a quick rinse in some warm (as if there's another choice for anything outdoors during the Houston summer) soapy water.  We re-greased the gears (lightly with a brush) and oiled the pawls and springs and reassembled everything.  This really isn't a challenging job, but it's fairly time consuming and was super nasty.  Our goal is to do them more regularly form now one and to just tackle them 1 at a time so it's not such a downer.  But hey, the winches truly sing now and are much easier to use.

Winch disassembly

Dirty pawls, these should not have been greased, just lightly oiled.

Kara, finishing this one off the right way

We also got both settees in the main saloon re-upholstered and are super happy with them.  We used a very light colored Ultra leather, we went with their Brissa Distressed and really like the feel of it.  It feels like really buttery soft leather but has all the benefits of Ultraleather, so should last for a long time.  We also had the cushions redone, so it's much more comfortable now.

Kara went up the mast to the spreaders (We've been taking turns on this one) the mast climber really makes this nice as mentioned previously, but this was her first time up the mast.  So she climbed while I spotted with a safety line on the winch (not required but well worth the effort for the piece of mind).  She replaced the steaming light and deck lights, so for the first time since we've owned the boat, we have a functional deck light...nice.  We've now replaced almost every bulb on the boat with a new LED and have several spares squirreled away, so our power consumption and heat generation from the lights has come WAY down.

Kara on her way up to replace some light bulbs.

We also re-sealed the fridge doors with some new rubber (weather) stripping.  Kara cut and shaped a new gel infused memory foam mattress topper for the forward bunk that we sleep on.  This thing is great, much more comfortable and the gel means it sleeps cooler, which is a welcome improvement for me ;)

Then we finally took the time to position permanent dock lines to make it easier when bringing the boat back in.  We'd been using extra long dock lines and using them for double duty, so our bow line would come to the dock cleat and then back to the boat as a rear spring, with a similar process on the stern.  This meant we needed fewer lines, but was a huge PITA if you need to adjust either line.  To say we should have made this change,  much MUCH sooner is a massive understatement.  We've gone out several times since and putting the boat away is now about a 5-10 minute process compared to...well longer before. 

We've also been working to narrow down our list of "Must do" boat projects before we can leave.  I'll share more detail on this later but one of the things that's been on the list for a while now is to have our chainplates inspected and potentially replaced, since the boat is 15 years old, we where assuming this would need to be done before leaving.  We've been dreading this, since Island Packet used internal chainplates that are fiberglassed in place.  This is great from a protection perspective as long as they are well sealed and bedded but makes them very expensive (~$10K) if you need to replace them.  Anyway, we had a rigger come out that's experienced with IP chainplate replacement and he inspected ours and showed us what great shape they where in.  We couldn't see the entire chainplate (fiber glassed over) but we could tell that the exposed areas below the deck where in great shape.  He said based on how they looked and that they're made out of 316 stainless, that he didn't see any reason to replace them.  Prior to 1998/1999 they where made out of 308, which doesn't hold up nearly as well.  We just need to keep them well bedded and should be in good shape moving forward.  Thank you Mr Bob Johnson, we love the quality and attention to detail that went into our boat!  Not to mention, saving $10k on not having to replace the chainplates, means more for the cruising kitty!

Inspecting the chainplates.  We also checked them out from the inside.

Here's a bad chainplate from an IP he did earlier this month.  They used to make them out of 308 stainless, ours are 316 and fortunately in almost perfect condition.

The other big job we finally got done was a getting our new name on the boat.  We originally where just going to order some generic vinyl lettering of the web, but didn't like how they turned out and realized that for a little bit more we could work with a local artist who worked with us nailing a design we really liked and then custom cut everything in his shop and applied it all, and we both love it.

Putting on our new hailing port

So that was two full weekends of boat chores and maintenance, without ever even having the time to leave the marina...which kinda sucked to do, but the progress has been great.  We decided that this weekend we'd focus on actually getting out and enjoying the boat.  So stay tuned, the next post will have anchoring, fireworks, sailing and the renaming ceremony.  But more on time.

I also made my first trip to the top of the mast, to check our halyards and a few connections up there.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A little morning inspiration

Howdy Folks,

It's been a while since I've updated the blog.  Kara and I have been spending a lot of time away from the boat lately. Spending time with friends and family, dealing with work drama, and enjoying some time at the lake while we still have the place.  We've also started selling things that we no longer need/use and that of course has led to a lot of talking and planning about our eventual leaving.  

We've been talking a lot about moving up our time frame from 5 years to the 2-3 year range and while that seems daunting at the moment, I think in our hearts we both no it makes the most sense for us.  Before we can leave we have some big projects to tackle but we'll get into that later.  For now I just wanted to share a quote that I find really inspiring.  For Kara and I it's easy to get wrapped up in prepping for the journey, you always feel like if you work just a little longer you'll be able to afford X or be more secure in your future.  But the future is always uncertain, and there's more important thing in life than a big fat bank account.  I think this quote from Sterling Hayden does a great job of capturing that, and while it's hard advice to follow, that doesn't take away from the value of the message.


“To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea... "cruising" it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

"I've always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can't afford it." What these men can't afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of "security." And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine - and before we know it our lives are gone.

What does a man need - really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in - and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all - in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life? ”

Friday, May 8, 2015

Busy with boat projects

This seems like a good place for some random baby marina ducks

Well we've managed a few weekend trips to the boat recently and have knocked out a ton of projects that have been on the list since bringing the boat back.

First, I installed a set of new companionway doors.  We where a bit tired of having to mess with the hatch boards all the time.  They're great for offshore work, but once you're back in the marina having to either pull 3 boards out, or climb over them when going in and a bit of a drag.  So after some reading we got in touch with the folks from Zarcor and ordered a pair of new doors.  I spent a surprising amount of time measuring and remeasuring one weekend to ensure I got it right the first time.  For some reason I was ultra paranoid about the fit and probably over did it but hey it all turned out great.  The folks at Zarcor purposely fabricate the doors to be a tight fit and warn you that you'll probably be doing some sanding to get the final fit, which honestly is a great thing in my book, since it allowed me to really dial in the fit.  It took close to two months for them to show up but the finished product is great.  They have a set of inserts that will take either a smoked plexiglass panel, solid star board or a set of screens which is great for airflow.  We also opted for a stainless steel security bar that attached to the inside.  Once you close the companionway slider and lock the doors it makes the door much more secure.  I'm sure they could still be bashed in, but you'd have to be pretty damn determined.

Measuring for the new doors
Measuring the lip for more detail

I was pretty sure the top side of the boards was a straight 90 degree angle but needed to be sure

And the finished product, with smoked inserts.  The hinges are great, you can just lift the doors right off and insert the hatch boards.  Pretty slick setup and much easier going in and out now.

We're really liking the added view.  You can see how with the screens in this would add a good bit of ventilation.  We'll try it once it cools down or we spend a night anchored out.

The next project we knocked out was the dock steps...see The Unplanned Swim for why that one got bumped up on the list.  I just couldn't bring myself to spend the $250+ that places like West Marine get for a crappy set of plastic dock steps, so we built a set at home and took them up to the boat.

We also had air conditioning installed.  I know that's not a decision everyone likes, but for us the only way we could possibly consider spending weekends on the boat through a Houston summer...was to have AC.  So we had a local yacht services company install it.  We really like doing our own work when it makes sense, but for something this involved, we needed it to be super clean and to match the rest of the beautiful interior, so we asked around and after a few solid recommendations for the same company we gave them a call and got it done.  The negative is, we had to add another through-hull for the AC, but the good news is it's in a place we'll be able to tap into the same one for the water maker, when the time comes.  We went with a cruiseair 1600BTU unit.  We wanted something that would be enough to cool the interior a bit during the day and enough to sleep at night but didn't want to have to give up too much storage space in the process.  To really cool down the boat in the heat of the day we would have needed a 1600 and an 8000 BTU unit, but we didn't want the cost or to dedicate that much space.  With a single 16k unit we only lost space  under one cushion of the settee and a small space behind it, there's actually still a several open storage spaces behind it, so we're happy with the compramise.  Oh and it's nice and cool in the boat these days.  Unfortunately I don't have any pics yet but I'll take a few the next time we're there and I'll update this then.

Last weekend I re-wired the propane solenoid that we had to put in as a band aid fix on for out first offshore trip after we bought her.  I've been putting that project off for quit a while and even though I wasn't looking forward to it, it was time to get it done the right way.  So I removed the old sealant around the wiring in the propane locker and removed the pigtail from the dead solenoid.  So the new one could be wired directly to the boat wiring.  It took some doing, but with a little whipping line I was able to pull the wiring through to the inside.  Once I wormed my way into the access hatch under the electrical panel I was able to completely remove the old pigtail and connect the new one with fresh marine crimp connections and heat shrink them to make them waterproof...just in case.  So now the new solenoid is in done correctly and I'm hoping that means we're good for many years to come.

To wrap up a weekend completely dedicated to boat projects, I also went ahead and climbed the mast for the first time last weekend.  OK, so I actually climbed a little over half way...for the first time.  During our survey we discovered our foredeck light was burned out.  Since we didn't have the time then and didn't know for sure what bulb type it took we just decided to wait until we got her home.  It was a bit of a nuisance a few times in the Bahamas and we wished we had it coming up the Houston ship channel, in the dark.  I know, not technically a legit navigation combo, but when surrounded by huge ships and tugs...anything you can do to increase visibility is appreciated.

We had picked up a Mast Climber and a harness a few months back and this was my chance to use them both.  The mast climber really is a great piece of gear but I wasn't crazy about the idea of using it with a typical bosuns chair, since it would be fairly easy to fall out of if things got out of whack on my climb and I really like the idea of either Kara or I being able to go up the mast solo if required.  That being said, for my first climb I really wanted a spotter and I was glad to have Kara there.  We attached the spinnaker halyard to the harness via the 316 stainless climbing rated carabiner that came with the mast climber and then for good measure also attached another spare halyard directly to the harness.  I was able to climb the spinnaker halyard solo and Kara was there to spot me with the spare halyard by keeping it relatively tight as I inch-wormed my way up.  The climbing works great, essentially the two ascenders consist of a rope channel and a toothed lever.  We you put even a little bit of weight on the end of the lever the teeth lock onto the rope allowing you to comfortably hang in place.  One ascender is connected directly to the harness and placed above the other.   The second is connected to a pair of straps that you stick your feet through and can stand one.  By alternating where your weight is, either standing on the lower strap or hanging from the harness, you're easily able to take all weight of the other and simply slide it up the rope.  It's a decent workout but honestly not as tough as it sounds.  So I was able to get up to the lights, just above the spreaders and pulled the dead foredeck light, and while I was in the neighborhood, also pulled the steaming light.  We ordered a set of new LED bulbs to replace them, along with some spares and next time we're down in Houston. we'll replace them both and if all goes according to plan should finally be able to light the foredeck.

View from above

My beautiful wife from above

How many wanna be sailors does it take to change a light bulb?

In between all the projects we even got out to do a little day sailing in the bay.  So I'll leave off this marathon post with a little of the good stuff.  Thanks for stopping by - Erin

Hey look...a staysail

For some reason, this view always make s me smile

The unplanned swim

I've been meaning to right this update for a while now but have been so busy with work and boat projects that I kept putting it off. It will be a little light on pictures for reasons that should become obvious.

A little over a month ago, Kara and I had planned to latch onto a naming ceremony that a couple boats from our pier at the marina where having as a last hurrah before leaving on their cruising adventures (bastards).  We had been planning our own renaming ceremony and when they heard about it they invited us to join them.  So we took the old name off and got everything ready for the new name.

We took off a little early from work on Friday afternoon and headed down to Houston for a fun filled weekend of boating adventure.  One of Kara's long time friends, we'll call her Ren, decided to join us for the weekend and come see what this whole sailboat/cruising dream she's heard us talk about for so long was all about.  So despite some pretty crappy weather reports, we headed down for a weekend on the boat.

I think most of us probably have a friend or two, who when we get together it's just one big party.  For Kara, that friend is Ren.  When they get together it's like a perfect storm and given the weather we where expecting, I knew it was going to be an interesting weekend.

So we got to the boat a little after 6:00 and the rum started flowing.  Since the weather Friday night was actually fairly nice, we decided to just relax in the cockpit and enjoy a few drinks.  Once we learned that Dominoes delivers to boats in our marina we just kicked back and relaxed for the evening.  The next morning we got up, enjoyed some bad marina coffee and...watched the rain pour down.  It rained pretty much all day, it rained so much we couldn't even consider putting the new name on that day, so we called our other friends and family that where coming for the naming ceremony and told them not to bother, we'd do it another day.  It rained almost 9 freaking inches that day.  We went out to eat some late breakfast...ok lunch and then decided to go back to the boat and get out of the rain for a while.

So we ended up spending about 4 hours drinking rum and playing poker in the saloon.  Thank you giant bulkhead mounted table and of course, Flor de Cana for the delicious rum.  By the time the rain started to slow down we decided to go join the festivities.  Despite the rain the party was in full swing for both Migration and Helios, so we joined them for some delicious food and yep, even more booze.  Then it was time for a pair of renaming ceremonies, more on this when we do ours.

By the time 11PM rolled around we where all feeling pretty good but neither Kara or I had noticed just how much booze Ren had been putting away.  So we decided to head up to the marina hot tub for a bit.  As Kara and I where wrapping up our changing, Ren decided to grab a few more diet cokes and on her way out...promptly fell off the boat and into the water between the boat and dock.  Evidently, on the way down she hit her face on the dock because by the time we jumped up the companionway and hauled her out of the water, she had a very bloody nose.

Incidentally, we now have new dock steps to make it a bit easier getting on and off of the boat...and everyone is fine

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Name removal and some new tunes

Howdy Folks,

As I've mentioned in the past, Kara and I have been planning to rename Baboo since we bought her.  Despite the superstitions, neither of us is crazy about the name and we want to love everything about our little cruising casa, including the it has to go.
During one of our recent trips to the marina, a couple folks on our pier who are both preparing to leave on their open ended cruises (in 2-3 weeks...bastards), mentioned that they where planning a renaming party for their two boats the weekend of March 21-22.  Since we've been dragging our heals on getting this done, we decided to join in the festivities and do our renaming at the same time.  So to get things ready in time, our plans where to remove the old name this weekend.

Since I was in Houston for work at the end of last week, the plan was for me to meet Kara and Buster, our German Shorthaired Pointer at Baboo and spend the weekend taking care of a few projects and maybe get in a little day sail.  This was going to be Buster's first time aboard Baboo and while he's always loved spending time on our boats, he's never spent any real time on a sailboat and we weren't really sure what to expect.  Unfortunately, Kara came down with food poisoning when she went out to dinner with her mom Thursday night, so she and Buster stayed home.  Since I was already in Houston, I broke away Friday afternoon and headed down to visit Baboo.

In preparation for removing the old name which was painted on, I had read several threads on CruisersForum and to double check, posted a question on the IP owners forum (IPYOA) and the general consensus was that EasyOff oven cleaner was the way to go.  Evidently it doesn't harm the gelcoat and does as good a job of removing pant as it does baked on pizza cheese...mmm Pizza.

So still a bit nervous, I stopped at the local Randal's grocery store picked up some EasyOff and other essentials (beer and snacks).  Then dropped by West Marine to pick up a fine scotch brite pad (essentially very fine artificial steel wool) that's great for scrubbing stains without scratching the surface.  I also picked up some rubbing compound and surface polish to restore the shine to the gelcoat before we apply the new name and are able to wax the transom again.  Waxing before applying the name can cause issues with the vinyl lettering not sticking properly.

Then I headed down to the boat hoping I'd have enough time to remove the old name before it got too dark.  After chatting with a few folks and reassuring them (and myself) that I wasn't crazy, and was in fact about to apply oven cleaner to our transom.  I lowered the dingy down into the water from the davits so I'd have a place to work and coated the old name with oven cleaner. 

Soaking in EasyOff

The guidance I got from IPYOA said to let it sit for 5 minutes or so and then scrub with the Scotch Brite pad.  So that's what I did, I was absolutely amazed at how easily the old paint came off using this method.

I was pretty proud of myself for remembering to stop mid way and take this picture.

As you can see it worked like a charm.

I'd say the total time scrubbing was about 1-2 minutes.  Speaking of which, oven cleaner is nasty stuff, I wore disposable gloves for all this scrubbing, you don't want want this stuff on your skin.  By this time the paint was really more of greasy smear, very easy to get off.  Since the paint went so smoothly, I decided I'd press my luck a bit and try the same thing on the vinyl lettering for the previous hailing port.  I wasn't looking forward to breaking out the heat gun and meticulously peeling them all off.  So I coated the whole thing in oven cleaner and stepped next door to chat with me neigbors who where putting a new bimini on their beautiful Pacific Seacraft 40.  When I came back and scrubbed at the vinyl lettering all I really got was a ton of green foamy mess. The top layer of the vinyl came away, along with the dye but must of the vinyl remained.  So I re-coated and went back to chat with the neighbors.  The second application and scrubbing took most of the lettering off but there where still spots here and there, so I re-applied a third coat.

After the second coat and scubbing

I let the 3rd coat sit for a few minutes and was able to get all the lettering off this time.  All total I'd say it took about 20-30 minutes to remove all the vinyl.  Of which, 5-10 minutes was actual scrubbing, the rest was waiting for the oven cleaner to work it's magic.  Overall I was really pleased with how well this works, thanks CF and IPYOA.

The finished product

Once I was sure I'd cleaned away all the oven cleaner, I then washed and dried the transom.  As expected the finish was a bit splotchy with areas of low and high gloss from the removal of the wax.  So I spent a good deal of time compounding and polishing it back to a finish I was happy with.  This was the long part of the project and the compound took much more elbow grease than the paint and vinyl removal.  The finished product looked pretty good but since the sun was hesitant to show itself, I'll reserve judgement on if we'll need to do another round of polishing before applying the new name and hailing port info.  If I had to do it again, I'd have no hesitation using the oven cleaner, it worked great.

Enjoying a beer and a break in the clouds.

So that project being done, I enjoyed a couple cold beers from a local Houston microbrewery and contemplated what to do with the rest of the day.  During the name removal project I got a call from a couple I'd "met" via email from a thread on CruisersForum.  They also have an IP40 and keep her literally 5 minutes away in a nearby marina and invited me over for drinks.  Since I was planning to head back to lake LBJ that night, I packed up the truck grabbed the 4 remaining beers of from my 6-pack of Hopadillo and drove over.

Tasty stuff - I'm enjoying the last of it while writing this entry on the deck (lake LBJ)

I met them on their boat, a beautiful and well equipped IP40 Carpe Diem and since they have a full enclosure (it was chilly by Texas standards) we relaxed in the cockpit and got to know each other over a few drinks.  They were super friendly folks and I'm sure the next time we're all 4 down in Kemah, we'll get together for dinner, drinks, sailing...or some combination there-of.  It's always nice to meet other interested cruisers and benefit from the perspective of folks who have been sailing for so much longer than we have.  I believe John mentioned he's been sailing for 40 years.  With that many years of experience, they're bound to be able to teach us a few things.  Plus they where super cool and have exceptionally good taste in boats ;) what more could you ask for.

By the time we decided to break for the evening, it was 10 PM and I was no longer interested in making the 4 hour drive back home.  So I grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed back to Baboo (sounds better than nameless) and started relaxed with Airborne - by William F. Buckley, to wind down with a little rum before bed.

The next morning I got up early'sh 7 AM and walked up to the marina lounge for a little coffee to try and decide what I was going to do.  On our way back to Texas from Abaco, we took a wave on deck and didn't realize we had failed to properly close a hatch all the way (rookie mistake) and of course the splash was a direct hit on our tired old Alpine stereo that came with Baboo.  We where already planning to replace it, since we use our phones for everything musical and wanted something with Bluetooth capabilities.  Still it was a complete loss and we where very luck nothing else was damaged, the SSB is about 2 feet away.  I'd been putting this project off since we got back because I wasn't sure how painful it would be to get the old stereo out.  As much as I wanted to go home, being the only one on the boat and knowing that we where hoping to have some friends down to visit us on the boat next weekend, I decided now was the time.  The new stereo was just sitting there waiting on me, it would be nice to have a better option than the portable bluetooth speaker we'd been using.

So, I wandered back to Baboo and started crawling around looking for the best access to remove the old system and check all the wiring.  Fortunately, like everything else I've found on Baboo (knock wood) access was fairly convenient, Island Packet did it right.  Removing the old unit was fairly easy and the wiring was nice and clean.  I even found the old manual and wiring diagram for the original stereo, so after a brief trip to Home Depot for some waterproof crimping butt-splices the ones with heat-shrink tubing, I was ready to go.  Side-note: it really is nice being in Kemah, we're 5 minutes from just about anything you could need for a boat project.  Really lowers the stress level when working under a weekend time crunch.

Checking all the old connections and labeling

Crimping the new connections

Anyway, I got back to Baboo and wired up the new stereo, taking time to check every connection before heat-shrinking it.  By noon all the speakers where working and the Bluetooth and Pandora control worked like a charm.  I wired it so that both "front" speakers where in the Salon and the "rears" where in the cockpit so using the fader we can isolate output to either area.  That way we can turn it up inside without annoying our neighbors when in the marina and if anyone wants to sit outside in the cockpit, you won't annoy folks down below.

Tested and ready to go

Overall, I'd consider this to be a successful weekend.  It's nice to knock out a few little projects, though next time I really want to get out for an actual sail.

On the plus side, when I got home Saturday afternoon Kara was feeling better and we where able to go out for a relaxing dinner and came back home for a movie.  And a bit of rum.

We woke up this morning to a really nice quiet day on lake LBJ.  After a couple cups of fresh coffee we worked on another frame for Kara's garden, we have a bit of a deer problem so it has to be completely covered.  When that was done we actually got out for a bit of sailing on our little Catalina.  The lake is definitely not the same as ocean or even bay sailing, but it was great to get out and enjoy being outside.

Oh and the sun even graced us with it's presence today.  So yeah, all in all, a pretty nice little weekend.

My chicky - Chauffeuring me around lake LBJ at a blistering 3 knots

And me at every bit of 4 knots ;)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Well, fridge works...really well

Fridge - Soda Bomb

Today, Thursday Jan 30th I left Austin after work and drove down to Kemah for a little quality time with BABOO.  She's due for an oil change after the trip home from Maryland and my plan was to knock that out tonight, work from our Houston office Friday and then spend the weekend knocking out a few other projects.

Projects to include:
1) Measuring for new companionway doors.  The company we've been planning to use is running a special through the end of the month for a saving of $300.  Since that's 30% of the total cost, that was significant enough for me to justify the trip.
2) Need to treat our fuel with Biocide to ensure we keep the tank nice and clean since she'll be sitting again for a while, and treat the water tank to keep it from getting funky as well.
3) I also wanted to address a few of the sticking doors we have.  Evidently Island Packet builds these boats to such tight tolerances that big changes in humidity really make a difference.  Since BABOO has spent the last 15 years in the Chesapeake, Houston is a big change and we have a few sticking doors.  I'm planning to plane them down a tiny bit and then sand them a bit to address this issue.

Anyway, after fighting some nasty Houston traffic, I finally made it down to the marina, carted a load of goodies down the dock and said hello to BABOO after leaving her alone for a couple weeks.  Everything aboard was as it should be, or so I thought.  I changed out of my work clothes and into something comfy and boaty, unpacked a few things and decided I'd treat myself to a cold beer before starting the oil change.

That's when I discovered that leaving our SeaFrost freezer block running, with a load of beer and soda, while we where gone...maybe wasn't the best idea we ever had.  We had a handful (6-8) of sodas left in the fridge about a foot from the freezer block and every single one of them had exploded...violently.  So the entire inside of the fridge, and everything else it it was covered in nasty frozen soda.

I thought it was crazy how it blew the top of the cans right off.

So instead of the oil change and a well deserved beer, I spent the night emptying the fridge and cleaning everything.  Not too horrible, but not the productive night I was hoping for. Sounds like we'll have to add another item to the todo list.  We need a divider in the fridge to separate the freezer from the fridge.  I knew that block was super efficient once it got going, just didn't realize to what extent.  Overall a good problem to have though...I think.

Anyway, time for bed.  Tomorrow I have a full day of actual work that they pay me for and then it's time for that oil change and hopefully the rest of the ToDo list on Sat.

Not the most exciting night, but thought I'd share!

Goodnight folks,

Friday, January 23, 2015

GoM passage Day 6 - Wed Jan 14th

Our last day of the passage is by far the coldest.  I don’t think it ever got above the mid-40s.  Kara and I have talked about it and both agree that the worst part of this passage has been the cold weather.  It’s so cold that you really don’t feel like being in the cockpit if you don’t have too, which results in all watches being solo watches, which is a bit of a downer.  Usually, during the day we’re both up in the cockpit enjoying the view and the fresh salt air, chatting and just relaxing in general.  For this trip, if you’re not on watch, you actually need to be down below warming up so you don’t freeze on your next watch.  The overall sea state has been fine, and even our little 30 knot gale with the 10ft quartering waves, while it made us both nervous since it was our first time in these conditions, wasn’t really that bad.  But having to do it all solo, in 5-6 layers, in the cold wind just wasn’t that much fun.

We never expected this passage to be fun, and it lived up to expectations.  What it really drove home for both of us was that there’s a good reason why most passages have a recommended time of year to undertake them.  We knew we where choosing to cross the gulf outside that time but it was time to get BABOO home.  Now the worst time of year would have been during hurricane season and there’s no way we where going to do that, but winter in the gulf, while not overly dangerous, is far less than comfortable.  The next time we cross the gulf (Mexico…New Orleans ?) it will be in warmer conditions, so that it’s actually enjoyable.

Anyway, we followed the safety fairway all the way into Galveston.  The closer we got to Galveston, the more shipping traffic we began to see.  It really is amazing how big some of those ships are and how fast they’re moving.  25 knots may not seem like much but when you’re moving at 6-7 knots…that’s freaking fast.

We made it to the ship anchorage outside the Galveston jetties about 2 hours before sunset.  It was incredible to see the massive number of ships that where anchored outside.  I really wish I’d gotten more pictures, but it was so cold that I just didn’t feel like taking my gloves off to mess with the camera.  I did get one short iphone video that I’ll post if it’s not too crappy, we’ll see.  We motorsailed just outside the channel and up between the jetties and made the turn north towards Trinity bay and Clearlake.  As the sun set we opted to continue to the marina since we had captain Blaine with us and he’s pretty comfortable with this kind of thing.  To be clear, if it had been just Kara and I we would have found a spot to anchor and just waited until daylight to continue.  Since we where inside the water was super calm and even though the wind had shifted to pretty much right in our face, we where able to motor at 7+ knots pretty easily.  As always we left the main up to stabilize us, but also used it to increase our visibility, hitting it with a light every time one of those tugs, pushing the massive barges decided to bee-line straight for us.  It was nice, for the most part as soon as we lit up the sail, they would adjust course around us.  I’m still not sure if that’s because they didn’t see us before or if they realized we really where a little sailboat, and new we could exactly get out of there way quickly.  We where almost always outside the red side of the channel, having to duck in briefly to avoid a couple shoals but then got right out.  We’d had a close encounter with a ship a couple days prior and did everything possible to avoid a repeat of that.

As we got close to the Clearlake area it was all hands on deck with someone always monitoring the depth sounder, someone spot lighting and helping look for the unlit markers while Blaine piloted us through.  On a related note, we really need to move our instruments off the binnacle and over the companionway.  We almost never drive from the helm when offshore.  It’s nice to be up behind the dodger out of the wind and spray and since our trusty B&G auto pilot has a wired remote we can adjust course from anywhere in the cockpit or even down below.  The problem is with our wind instrument, knot meter, and depth sounder all mounted at the helm, you have to walk back every time you want to check any of them.  We’ve seen many other IPs with the instruments mounted just above the companionway and really like this setup, since you can read everything from anywhere in the cockpit.

We finally got into the Waterford harbor marina about 9:30 PM, found our slip and tied up.  Then it was time for a nice LONG hot shower and some rum.  Now that we where on shore power we saved the propane and fired up our electric space heater to take some of the chill out of the air and got some sleep.

Kara and BABOO - Glad to be home!

GoM passage Day 5 - Tues Jan 13th

Howdy folks,


Writing these entires from the saloon on the passage has been fun for me, since it will function as part logbook for Kara and I down the road.  I’m sure we’ll look back on our 30 knot (storm…ok gale) and the 10ft seas that came with it later and laugh but at the time, it was 1 part stressful, and 1 part exciting.

Still writing this I wonder if anyone else will find it the slightest bit interesting or helpful. So do us a favor and if you’re actually reading my meandering commentary and are still awake, drop us a comment or something to let us know you’re out there.

--OK back to our regularly scheduled program--

We’ve been sailing since last night around 10:30-11 when Kara noticed we had enough wind to unfurl the jib and shut off the motor.  We actually keep the main out pretty much the whole time, even when sailing since it stabilizes the boat and keeps us from rolling.  This makes the motion much more comfortable, particularly when dealing with a beam sea as we have been for the last day or so.

It cooled down quite a bit late last night/early this AM and today has remained cold and cloudy, but with a nice wind out of the N to NE.  We’ve been making between 5-7 knots all day and are getting close to make our turn to the NNE so we can follow the safety fairway all the way up to Galveston.

Yours truly from the cockpit on a cold nasty day.

Kara and I just had our watch change, so I’m down below enjoying the hot chocolate she made and trying to warm up while she’s in the cockpit making sure we don’t hit any uncharted rigs or get squashed by a super tanker or container ship.  Houston is a massive shipping port and we’ve been noticing more and more ship traffic as we get closer.  The safety fairway is pretty much the only sane way to approach, particularly once it gets dark, so it really focuses all the traffic into a little 2 mile corridor.  We typically try to stick just outside the corridor so we don’t get run down but since in many places the rigs are actually right on the line, we’ll have to duck into the actual lane from time to time, always nice in a tiny 40ft sailboat going 6 knots when surrounded by massive tankers and cargo vessels running 25 knots.  BABOO is likely pretty tough for them to pick out when they’re really focused on the rigs and other ships, so we follow collregs and always keep in mind the rule of gross tonnage.

Tonight, looks like it will be another cold one.  Which stinks but then again, no-one ever said the Gulf of Mexico would be fun in January.  Probably a big reason why most folks take the ICW for this trip, and go when it’s a bit warmer…stupid work.  At this point we’re just hoping the wind will allow us to sail up the fairway to the Galveston entrance vs having to motor.  We’re much faster under sail but if we don’t have enough of a wind angle, it can make maneuvering around ships and rigs a bit challenging.

Stay tuned, we’re hoping to make the entrance at Galveston tomorrow in daylight, so we don’t have to wait outside.

Thanks and more to come,

GoM passage Day 4 - Mon Jan 12th

Morning update.  Last night, right around the time Kara was starting dinner, the seas began building and the wind really picked up.  We where seeing 25-30 knots out of the SW and with so much fetch, the seas where getting big (by our current standards) 8-10ft.  BABOO was doing great but surfing some of those bigger waves really got…exciting.  We reefed down a bit on both sails to slow us down a bit and speed our recovery as we had a tendency to round up a bit when we surfed.  Of course right about then I spotted our first oil rig (drilling platform for you non-Texans).  Fortunately, we where still on a broad reach, so we had plenty of steering options and altered course to port (slightly more southerly) to help keep us out of the bulk of the platforms.  From that first rig, it was like a dam broke, we where seeing anywhere from 12-15 rigs at all times and gradually altered course more and more to port (S) until we seemed to be taking them all on our starboard side (NW towards shore).  It was going to be an exciting night for Kara and I since this was by far the most weather we had seen.  The winds weren’t too bad at 25-30 on our beam to port quarter depending.  But the seas really made it a challenge to judge our course relative to the rigs.  We also started seeing lighting all around, for the most part it was just cloud lightening, not much actually striking the surface, but it added to our overall feeling of apprehension.

Fortunately, the rigs are huge and for the most part super well lit, so seeing them was easy.  Choosing a course that allowed us to miss the greatest number of them with the minimal amount of course corrections, was a bit more challenging.  I see now why so many people consider radar, essential equipment for sailing the gulf.  The added visibility for course selection would have been great last night, and today, and tomorrow…oh and possibly Wednesday.

Over the course of the night we got hit with some pretty heavy rain showers, so it was a fun introduction to as Blaine likes to call it “moderate weather sailing”.  I actually think the weather alone would have been fine but adding in the stress of having to maneuver, under sail in those conditions around 100s of oil rigs, in 10 ft seas, in the dark, in a driving rain, with lighting all around, was fairly stressful for both of us.

Still, we did fine and this is exactly the reason why we wanted to be here, on the boat, standing our solo watches bringing her home vs. just paying someone to drop her at the dock for us.  If we’re going to do some cruising, it’s time to start building up some relevant experience.  I have to admit though, I was glad to have someone aboard with plenty of experience who could look at those conditions and say, meh no big deal y’all got this.  I’m going to catch some sleep, wake me if you need me.

Which brings us to today.  We’re now motoring WSW, because the light NW winds we where expecting finally showed up around  0430 this morning.  The seas have calmed significantly 1-2 ft.  Kara, and I just had a couple cinnamon raisin bagles with peanut butter for breakfast, cleaned up and got ready for the day.  My 4 hour day watch begins in about 30 minutes, so I need to get hoping here.  I’ll do my best to get some pictures of the rigs today. I tried last night but the conditions and the fact that we try to avoid them by a wide margin, made it tough to capture the moment with my iphone.

Until next time, wish us luck and above all – Excellent weather

--Evening update--

We motored most of the day and once we worked our way into the “safety fairway”, a two mile wide corridor with no rigs, life got much simpler.  Once the wind shifted a bit and with by adjusting our course to stay in the fairway, we where even able to raise sail...WOOHOO.  It’s not the most direct route, forcing us to continue WSW off the coast but it makes up for it in lack of stress dodging all those freaking rigs, and the fact that we can continue to sail.

Tonight, we had a very simple dinner, frozen family style meal warmed up on the stove.  Not our favorite food, but it was easy and relatively tasty...and hot.  If you’re prepping for a trip like this, a supply of simple, easy to cook in any conditions meals are a great idea.  For lunch though, Kara made an excellent shrimp ceviche that we scarfed down in the cockpit.  It was great with lots of fresh Florida veggies, so we did have a nice fresh meal...don’t worry mom!  For the most part we eat really well on our trips.  While we ate lunch in the cockpit, we actually had a pod of very small dolphins (porpoises) drop by to play in our wake and bow wave.  They didn’t stay more than about 5 minutes, but it was a nice surprise.  I broke out the gopro and hope to have gotten some footage of them swimming, we’ll see how it turns out once we’re back home.

Our one nice sunset during the crossing came at a good time.