Thursday, November 28, 2013

Flash to bang

We are tucked in at Boot Key Harbor and preparing for the cruisers' Thanksgiving Day Potluck in a few hours.  We are all strangers who share a common bond and obligation.  Like when lightning strikes.

Two nights ago a fierce cold front bashed through here in the wee hours with many direct strikes in the harbor.  I remember one especially close strike allowed me to see through from the inside of my eyelids while trying to sleep through it.  I should have taken a clue from the unpercievable flash-to-bang time. 

We learned the next morning on the cruisers' radio net that two boats were hit, one lost their chart plotter electronics, another lost a lot more.  Somehow (in the oven?) they had saved their handheld VHF and put out a request on the net for any available assistance.  Boats all over the harbor responded with 12 volt fridges, spare parts, etc.   Others' dinghies were swamped and kayaks blown away in the corresponding torrential rain.  National Weather Service reported 40 kt gusts in the outer channel.

I thought we had escaped with just a dinghy full of rain water but last night we found our masthead anchor light (and later found our masthead navigation tri-color) were blown.  It is mercifully a modular (=$$$'s!) part and we happen to have one aboard.  But it means a trip to the very tip top of the 60' mast out in the harbor, a spooky task with which we have very little experience, to secure small screws against loosening, juggling a very expensive spare part, and trying to get the wiring joint all sealed against the weather up there.  That will will have to wait for Saturday when the weather is expected to back off a lot. 

In the meantime we are watching for our window to get Across and at least it doesn't look like it will arrive before I have a chance to get up the mast. 

So we wish you all a happy Thanskgiving, we are missing our families yet thankful ourselves for where we are and who we are with. 


Monday, November 11, 2013

Learning how little we actually need

Western culture is all about consumerist comfort.  Cruising is all about seeing the world under your own steam within a budget.  And boating adds a lot of cost to comfortable things that land-dwellers nearly take for granted.  So it boils down to how little can you take with you and still be happy enough to keep going. 

It starts with the boat.  The old saw says  "Get the smallest boat that will let you do what you want to do."  But what do you want to do, how do you know until you are Out There?  And you won't be Out There until after you have the boat, so what you are going to experience will be pre-constrained by the boat  you pick.  Many cruisers quit because their boat is just too cumbersome and troublesome.  But many never even get started becasue the boat is so small they can't comfortably live aboard it.  For us, we set some metrics ahead of time such as the boat had to have a built-in shower, not one of those hose-n-sink systems, anything less was extended camping.  But that means a watermaker to supply it, and that means a generator to power the watermaker, and that means extra diesel and spare parts, and all of that requires a larger boat to carry it all, ...   

And knowing the difference between what you need and what you are used to is a kicker, too.  Just because you like to chat with your kids and grandkids three times a day doesn't mean you need to.  And need becomes expensive, exponentially.  Coveniently (?!) there is now an enormous spectrum of options.  Chatting by phone requires a landline (ie ties you to a $100/night dock), a local cellphone ($0.80/minute and not more than 5 miles from established towns), or skype (free but ties you to <200 yds from a wifi hitspot, which are rare).  For getting completely off the beaten path radio-telephone services work literally anywhere on the Earth ($3000 radio gear and $1/min via WLO, but the connections are bad and cranky), satelite messaging like our InReach ($0.25 per txt mesage), or satelite phones ($10,000 for the gear and $2/min for the Iridium services).  So, how badly do you really need to reach out and touch people?

And it goes on from there.  How much do you need tabasco on your fried eggs?  Cheerios and fresh milk at every breakfast?  Weekly pedicures?   The presence of your favorite family antiques?  All those are possible on a boat, at some breathtakingly high costs. 

We think we have found our happy medium, we have certainly made our choices, and are about to find out where that line betwen Need and Want really lies for us... 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dream vs Reality

The dream is becoming real.  Within two weeks we should be off the docks and underway.  So, of course, we are experiencing the reality behind the dream.  Loss of easy connection to loved ones.  Loss of ready access to communications and critical information (like weather).  Walking(sailing) away from life-time careers and colleagues.  And all those what-if-X-happens worries.  Our final trip to Texas starts today, for final visits to family, friends, and doctors.  Then .. yikes .. we are going to finally light this candle.

To paraphrase the Colonel in "Ender's Game", you are never totally ready but we think we are ready enough.