Where Did the Summer Go??!!

October 8, 2016

It’s the end of summer, darn it. Hurricane Matthew is pushing its way north, Halcyon is on the hard, and we’re taking a break before beginning Winter Boat Project Mode.

Until last weekend our plan was to sail down to Annapolis yesterday and meet up with friends and possibly go to the Annapolis Sailboat Show. Thanks to Matthew that didn’t happen. We aren’t typically out of the water this early as September starts what is generally considered the second sailing season of the year after the hot days of July and August, but John is working weekends the rest of October. I can’t get the sails off of Halcyon by myself and last weekend was the only chance he had to help me prepare it for the storm that might not even reach us as I write this. Last weekend there was more uncertainty and we felt that it was better to be prepared.

We had a good season. We never sail as much as we want to but the sails we did have were good. One hot weekend in July we joined Blue Marsh Sailing members for a weekend on the Corsica River. The Corsica is off of the Chester River just as it turns towards Chestertown. The Corsica is not far from Rock Hall but it was our first time. We left Rock Hall on Friday and anchored out in Queenstown Creek, at the bottom of the Chester River, with plans to start for the Corsica River the next morning.

I’ve been mildly curious about Queenstown Creek ever since I read in John Barth’s book Once Upon a Time: A Floating Opera (a memoir disguised as a novel) that he anchored in the creek overnight before beginning any sail farther down the bay. Barth was a professor at Johns Hopkins University. He and his wife lived in Baltimore during the week. Each Thursday night they went to their house on Langford Creek on the Eastern Shore where they kept a sailboat at their dock. During the summers they stayed full time on Langford Creek and sailed the bay. Although Langford Creek isn’t that far from Queenstown, anchoring close by that first night before any long sail allowed them to get away from the house as soon as possible and be on the boat while they organized their supplies and relaxed.

To get to Queenstown Creek with a boat that has more than a 3-foot draft you first have to be either incredibly lucky, experienced, or stupid. We were not experienced. Only once have I navigated in a channel in which moving too far to either side meant going aground. That was when we sailed up Bodkin Creek. That was also the weekend the GPS system was off by as much as 20 feet. There was a known issue with the satellites. I was more nervous motoring up the nearly straight line channel to Queenstown Creek.

On both sides of the channel to Queenstown (pictured below) the depth dropped to two feet. Halcyon’s draft is 5’3″. You do the math. A few weeks before I had been given advice on lining up our boat with targets on land and other local knowledge that proved extremely helpful. Our track is in yellow. By the time we exited the channel and the navigable water opened up, my feet were numb from standing, tense, in the same spot at the helm. I didn’t dare move in case my weight shifted the boat just enough to put us aground. Illogical I know, but it worked.


Entrance to Queenstown Creek from the Chester River

Once in the creek, we turned to port away from the little town of Queenstown and headed upriver. Like most tributaries on the Chesapeake, it was peaceful and absolutely beautiful. The only other boat, a fairly large powerboat, was anchored at least a half mile or more away. A few hours later another power boat anchored not far from us. We had set out from Rock Hall on one of the hottest weekends of the summer. Although the temperature was in the high 90s, the winds were blowing hard enough to move Halcyon at a good clip and to make the heat more bearable. At night in the anchorage a good breeze still persisted and blew through our open V berth hatch. It was lovely.

Anchored boat in the distance

Queenstown Creek

The next morning in the cockpit as we drank our morning coffee and tea, we watched an older gentleman in a rowing shell glide our way. He started out from the town, rowed past the anchored power boat and headed towards a crab boat about 50 feet off our stern. From the greetings and snippets of conversation they obviously knew each other. Finally he rowed over to us. I called out a good morning as his shell slipped up to our hull. He welcomed us and said how happy he was to see a sailboat in the creek. He sailed a Tartan 28, if I remember correctly, that he kept at a Queenstown dock. He invited us to Queenstown and added “The town doesn’t have many amenities but there is a Royal Farms.” We chatted some more before he rowed away, gliding past the anchored powerboat without stopping.

Queenstown local

Queenstown local

Before we left, three Blue Marsh Sailing boats came in and rafted up long enough to have some cold beverages and conversation. Finally, all the boats shoved off and headed up the Chester River to the Corsica River, our next stop for the weekend.


Boat Makeover

June 9, 2016

A few weeks ago while staying on the boat I poked my head out of the galley to see a woman standing on the dock next to our shore power pedestal. She stared hard at our hull.

I climbed into the cockpit wondering if she was a SailNetter or former USCG Auxiliary boating safety student. Both have approached me in the past. I welcome former students or those I meet online in my role as one of several SailNet forum moderators. But on this day I was somewhat sensitive about Halcyon’s present condition this late into the beginning of the sailing season.

“Hi,” I said and joined her on the dock.

It turned out that she recognized Halcyon from when it was kept in Annapolis, its former home port. Eastport Yacht Club to be precise. Changing the home port on the transom from Annapolis to Rock Hall is very far down on our To Do list and we kept the name Halcyon as it wasn’t offensive or silly. The original name was Sea Hag. I would have chanced my remaining lung (another story) to rename the boat before buying a boat named Sea Hag.

Standing on the dock I looked sheepishly at the dirty hull, the blue showing through the non-skid sections that needed to be painted, the tape covering the spot where the mast should be, the boom lashed to the deck, the dodger and bimini tubing laying in the cockpit and thought “This is why my dad moved out of the suburbs.” I wondered if the woman saw me as the neighbor that rarely cut her lawn or had paint peeling off the house shutters while everyone else on the block kept manicured lawns and rose gardens that won prizes. To a stranger I’m sure it appeared as if John and I weren’t keeping up with the Joneses. So to speak. Did she look at our boat and remember a time when Halcyon was regularly waxed and the teak varnished and not peeling down to bare wood as it is now? Did she think we were not worthy caretakers of this boat?


Next to us (not in its slip at the time) is a nice Lippincott 30, hull #2 named Sea Chase 2. In the slip on the other side of Sea Chase 2 is a lovingly kept Catalina 387. The prize of the dock (in my eyes) is a Bob Perry-designed Tayana 38 restored by the owner who works at the marina and lives aboard. The brightwork gleams. The cowl vents appear to strain down bay as if sniffing the Atlantic salt water past Norfolk and yearning for the open ocean. It looks ready to sail out of the slip and continue around the world, which the owner was preparing to do until a new girlfriend came along. Not around the world entirely but back to his homeland of New Zealand (which might as well be around the world).

Never mind that I was putting pressure on myself for no reason. It clearly looked like the boat was being repaired. Over the winter the marina removed the mast so that we could get the standing rigging inspected and replaced. We added a new dusk to dawn anchor light (the previous owners chose not to have an anchor light at all), fixed the steaming light and the deck light. We bought a new windex to replace the one bent by a bird. The old Shakespeare radio antenna was replaced with a recommended Metz antenna and new RG-8X coax cable run. John replaced all the electrical wires and changed to LED bulbs. He removed a gross nest of abandoned wire and rotted sponges from previous owner projects.

Once the mast is reunited with the boat all the wire will neatly enter the deck through two low-profile fittings. I cleaned Rock Hall out of sponges and cable ties so the wires inside the mast will (should) be silent with no clanging heard from inside the cabin. We bought new halyards that will actually fit the sheaves. Hopefully John won’t have as hard a time raising the mainsail as he had been having.

Over the winter we planned to have my nephew’s newly trained welder friend repair our bent bow rail. Instead, the welder friend fell in love and fell off our radar. Every now and then I ask my nephew how the relationship is going so that I can get the rail repaired. Darn those 20-something hormones.

As of today the mast is due to be stepped by the end of the week. Halcyon will be whole again. Next week the new canvas (bimini, dodger, sail cover) will be installed. With luck and no wind for the next two days (can’t put the mast on if it is too windy), we should be ready for a shakedown sail next weekend. Fluff has already packed her bag for the short sail across the bay to meet fellow Blue Marsh Sailing sailors at Baltimore Yacht Club for the weekend.

God help the winds if they don’t calm down enough for the mast to be stepped so Fluff can start her sailing season.

Zero Beat

April 22, 2015

Here we are a week past Halcyon’s launch date and (as far as I know) she is still in the marina yard. Due to unforeseen circumstances the marina is late getting the boats in the water this year. On the other hand as someone said to me, “At least you’re going in this year.” True, but now we wait impatiently for the call saying our boat is floating in her slip.

John and I have not been idle. A few weeks ago we both passed our amateur radio General Class license tests. Phew! I don’t do well on multiple choice tests no matter how well I know the material. All the answers look correct to me unless you throw in one that is so clearly wrong I deserve to be laughed at by the examiner if I choose it. Therefore, if an answer choice is “Donald Duck,” that leaves only three answers that look correct to me.

So now that we each have this license, what will we do with them? My original purpose was to use it on Next Boat. My plan was (and still is) to participate on the HF cruising nets once we’re out there. I also wanted to be able to communicate with a designated family member back home when we are out of Internet or cell phone range. All part of the Next Boat Project Plan. Another task completed.

Then things sorta got away from us. Me. Us. OK. If it wasn’t for me, John wouldn’t have done this at all.

Last year I bought a Kaito shortwave receiver. Inexpensive. Small. I wanted to listen even if (at the time) I couldn’t transmit without a license. Wandering around the yard excitedly listening to the crackle of static and proud that I heard even that, I somehow managed to get the little radio to receive a signal from an African radio station. That led me to ask John to dig into his tool bag in his truck where he found some hot pink (!) 14 gauge wire. He went onto the roof of the house and attached one end of the wire to the top of a tree. We soldered a connector on to the other end and Voila! Not the most elegant antenna but it works. I haven’t been able to tune into that same radio show but I can sometimes hear the Maritime Mobile Service Network in the afternoons.

Moving on.

Mid-way through studying for the General Class license test a friend loaned us his HF radio and power supply after I expressed an interest in buying a transceiver for the house. He was nice enough to let me try before I put a lot of money into new equipment so I can make sure this is an investment I want to make. These two pieces of equipment are heavy. The radio is a Kenwood TS-450S and the Astron RS-35M power supply has different colored beefy cables attached to it. Both are a bit intimidating. His last words to us before we drove away were, “Don’t turn it on before connecting the antenna!”

By the time we took our test I was terrified to turn on the loaner equipment. After reading how too much of this would fry that, I had myself convinced that I would end up replacing it all after flipping the “on” switch sent out a puff of smoke and sparks. After expressing my concerns, being told to “Just get the antenna up and turn it on!” did nothing to make me worry less. It’s always so easy to the person who has been doing something for 50 years.

In the meantime John was excited in an inner 7-year old in a toy store way about getting a dipole antenna into the trees before the leaves come out. This involved using a bow and arrow over the course of two weekends to get the line up high enough. The small diameter string he first used caused the arrows to get hung up in the branches. Someone suggested fishing line would cause less friction and that was the key. Arrow went up and over, arrow came down. Two trees are now sprouting arrows, string, and fishing line but he was successful. Our next steps are to hoist the antenna and solder the connectors to the coax and I’ll be set! She says confidently.



It doesn’t end there. Oh, how I wish it could. Oh, how I wish it wasn’t my idea.

John plans to install a dedicated electric panel for the radio equipment (that part is his idea). I’m trying to figure out power cord management as I look at the spaghetti bowl of cords and cables already connected to my computer. I have not one but two multimeters. John wasn’t happy with the meter he bought me for Valentine’s Day so he bought a second. I know I need to purchase other meters and analyzers and whatnot to ensure things don’t go pop and sizzle. Various connectors are floating around the room in their packaging. Clearly I also need a tool and small bits storage system. I decided that I want to power the radio equipment using solar panels. Another friend is putting together lithium battery packs that I will buy from him when he’s ready.

I think perhaps I’d also like a vertical antenna installed on the deck. Then I’ll be done.

Lest you wonder, “What happened to using the radio on the boat?” I haven’t forgotten but we do need to buy the boat first. In the meantime, I believe I want to name Next Boat Zero Beat.

Requiem for a Grill

January 3, 2015

Boat Fluff. Miss Fluff to you. Mom to me and my brother. Dee Dee to the grandkids. But on Halcyon she is Fluff.

Fluff sold her beach house in 2014. The 3-hour drive to Ocean City, MD was getting too long for her 77-year old bones and mental health (she’s 80 when she feels the need to pull out the “I’m old” card). Thankfully, she has a daughter who owns a boat so she won’t be far from the water she loves. She’ll just be on it rather than beside it.

And thus begins the 2015 sailing adventures of Fluff and the end of our Magma grill.

At home Fluff bought a Big Ass Grill (BAG). Not that she has grilled anything since 1987, or for that matter, cooks all that much since her last child, me, turned 18. She wanted this grill. It’s big. It’s shiny. It has lots of knobs. It pummels its chest screaming “Look at me!!!” And she’s waiting for me to figure out how to use it so that “she” can grill. So far I’ve connected the gas tank and learned how to make the knobs light up. Since the delivery men hoisted it up the deck stairs six days ago it has been too damn cold to stand outside reading the half-inch thick manual for more than a few minutes at a time. I’m working on it. It’s raining today and the forecast for tomorrow is the same, although the temperature tomorrow is forecast to rise about 30 degrees for the day. I’ll get back to the grill manual on Monday when the temperature goes back down to the 20s so that I can continue my martyrdom.

In the meantime I use John’s 10-plus year old Kenmore grill that he brought to our relationship along with his electrical skills. It stands stoically in the shadow of BAG readily accessible and easy to use. Even if it is falling apart bit by charred bit and we have to use pliers to turn on two of the burners, it still cooks the food I put on it.


Standing on the deck eyeing the BAG my thoughts naturally turned south towards Halcyon and its Magma gas grill. The Magma is tiny. It is the smallest in the Magma line and was nearly free at $5.00 from our sail club auction, donated by a club member who had sold his boat. It grills food just fine, if a bit awkwardly. It only seems to have one temperature, super hot, so I had to be very careful not to burn our food. Regardless of its crankiness, routing through the stuff stored in the quarter berth and bringing out the Magma signaled the end of a day’s sail when we anchored, opened the wine and beer, and I prepared a hot meal as we contentedly watched whatever winged, gilled, four-legged, or human wildlife surrounded us. The Magma fed us well.

During the heat of summer having a grill on deck means that I don’t have to turn on the propane 3-burner galley stove. The stove heats up the cabin so that those guests who don’t feel evil towards air conditioning like John and I do, aren’t made more uncomfortable.

A few years ago I started buying meat at Wyebrook Farm, just down the road. The cows are grass fed and look happy when I drive past them down the driveway towards the farm house. The pigs are the largest I’ve ever seen in person. Not that I’ve spent a lot of time around live pigs. The resulting pork chops are huge. Huge enough, as I discovered anchored in Worton Creek one summer, that only one chop at a time can be grilled on the Magma. Add Fluff to the crew count and the Ship’s Cook – me – gets moved further away from eating with everyone else on board.

The Magma looks like it has at least two boat-owner’s worth of grilling under its cover. It ain’t shiny. I don’t even know what its original color was. I know, because I tried, that I can no longer buy spare parts for it. The newer versions are just different enough that their parts don’t fit.

Before Fluff sails with us this season I will have bought a Dickinson Marine Sea-B-Que gas grill. Yes. I’m bowing so far down to self-induced pressure that my nose is scraping the gravel. It’s a daughter thing. In my head I can see her raised eyebrows as she sits in her spot in the cockpit and looks disapprovingly at the blackened Magma while I mount it on the rail. I can hear her say to me “You’re cooking on that?” quietly yet oh so brimming with meaning. I can anticipate the words “It sure doesn’t look like my Weber.” Nevermind that I use foil on top of the grate. To her the food will be close enough to the danger zone.

The Sea-B-Que was recommended by our sailing friend Dave. He uses one on his sailboat, Auspicious. Besides being new and shiny, Fluff won’t sneer at something Dave recommends. She likes him. We had lunch together and after, during the chef’s tour of the kitchen (Chef Shawn is another sailing friend), Dave carried Fluff’s coat for her. Now she thinks Dave is the bee’s knees.

Forget Peace on Earth, I’m angling for Peace on Board with my Big Ass Boat Grill. Since I’m nobody’s bee, I’ll take it any way I can get it.

Greetings from KB3ZCB and KB3ZCA

December 1, 2014

Sailing stretches the boundaries of my comfort zone even when we’re not on the boat. When we set sail on Next Boat our offshore communications options are satellite phone and single sideband (SSB) radio. Writing this blog post helps me organize the bits and pieces of information I gathered from my research to decide which option best suits us. I may update this post should those more knowledgeable provide different information.

The satellite phone itself is expensive and then we have to pay a per minute plus airtime fee to talk. The fee ranges from $0.15 to $2.00 (approximately). Incoming calls are quite a bit more. We can use the phone to obtain email and weather faxes. The sat phone does not require a license to use. Finally, it may not work in overcast or storm conditions as the phone needs to communicate with a satellite.

SSB radio communication is free after the initial hardware purchase but we need licenses to use it. We can also download weather data and email for free using the SSB radio. Local radio “nets” allow boats to check in with each other and are particularly helpful when traveling in a group and for obtaining local knowledge.

We are leaning towards relying on the radio and having a sat phone as backup.

When I was a search and rescue volunteer the team used Family Radio Service (FRS) radios. FRS radios are small, hand-held radios that enabled us to communicate over very short distances. I remember as a kid they were referred to as “walkie-talkies.” No license is required to operate an FRS. In SAR I was notorious for avoiding using the radio. I can’t explain why. It wasn’t fear. More that I just didn’t want to deal with yet another piece of equipment. I relied on my team for communications.

Halcyon is equipped with a fixed marine VHF radio and multiple hand-held marine VHF radios. We use the marine radio to talk to other boats, marinas, and restaurants. The radio is also our primary way of (hopefully never) contacting the U.S. Coast Guard in an emergency. No license is required to operate marine channels on a VHF radio as long as we use them on U.S. waters.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates radio communications in the U.S. There are three amateur radio (ham) license classes: Technician, General and Extra. Technician class is the entry-level license and allows us access to certain amateur radio frequencies. The General class license allows us additional operating privileges. The Extra class license allows us to operate on all amateur radio bands. We have to pass a test at each level of license in order to sit for the next level. John and I sat for the amateur radio Technician class license test a few years ago. Now we’re studying to upgrade to the General class and Extra class licenses.

Seriously, there is very little you need to learn to get a ham license you shouldn’t know anyway to be a self-sufficient cruiser. -Dave Skolnick

Because we intend to sail Next Boat outside of the United States, it is our responsibility to know and follow the laws of the countries we intend to visit. Knowing the laws is part of leaving a clean wake and Plan A for not going to jail and/or potentially incurring massive fines. Outside of the U.S. we need licenses to operate both the VHF radio and SSB radio. The boat also needs a ship’s station license for VHF and SSB radio. Each country that we visit may require a license fee but that’s research for another day.

Researching the regulations is a joy.

The U.S. and Canada share an automatic reciprocal agreement. The U.S. national association for amateur radio, the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL), says that we need to carry proof of U.S. citizenship and our valid amateur radio license. However, the Radio Amateurs of Canada website states “There is no need for paperwork or other formalities when exchanging visits between Canada and the United States.” In any case, privileges extended depend on the class of license and we must abide by Industry Canada rules.

The ARRL link to Mexico’s reciprocal regulations took me to this lovely site that provides instructions for obtaining a visitor’s license: Licensing Information for Mexico. In one sentence it says “It should be easy and streight forward [sic]” and the very next sentence says “The comment…’This is not an easy, or inexpensive, process’ is still relevant today.”

Most European countries allow U.S. citizens to operate an amateur radio under the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) Agreement. This agreement states that, like with Canada, U.S. citizens do not need additional licenses or permits, but are granted operating privileges that more or less match the General or Extra class levels of license obtained in the U.S. If we want limited reciprocal operating privileges we need our General class licenses. If we want full reciprocal operating privileges we need our Extra class licenses. Our Technician class licenses do not allow us any privileges.

In order to reach a personal preparedness level that matches the range of Next Boat, we need to go the distance with the licenses. This is where my comfort zone gets shaky.

I admit that I ignored advice to learn the material for the Technician class test and not just study to pass the test. I read the first two chapters of the study guide then I took the practice exams until I consistently achieved a passing score. If Morse code was still required, I’d still be sitting here trying to get my words per minute count up before taking the test.

Now we’re studying to upgrade to the General class license and I have to backtrack and learn the theory behind what I memorized for the Technician class test. Topics for this test include electrical principals, circuit components and radio wave propagation. It assumes knowledge of the Technician class topics. John works with this stuff every day and it should be a breeze for him.

I have a syllabus for an Extra class training course. Beads of sweat broke out just reading that required for the course is a “scientific calculator that you can operate.” Huh. AND I need to know trigonometry. Egad.

Math doesn’t come easy to me. I took Advanced Placement (AP) math in high school. I can say with confidence that I’ve never experimented with illegal substances so I’ll attribute agreeing to take those AP math classes to momentary lapses in judgment that occurred repeatedly over two years. Or aliens. John and my 18-year old niece are going to be my tutors to get me through these last two tests. Unlike in high school I now have the discipline to learn the math. I’m still going to struggle but it helps that I have a real life application for it.

We bought an inexpensive VHF radio that I can program as well as a shortwave radio receiver. I listen to the local radio clubs on the VHF. The shortwave is to listen to the marine nets and to learn how to obtain weather fax and email over the radio and get comfortable with how it works way before we need it on Next Boat. I’m practicing all of this using my Linux machine so one of John’s tasks is to make sure that Next Boat has a laptop with Linux installed. Having the radios in hand also helps me retain and apply what I read in the study guides.

Soon you’ll be listening to all the Persian hip hop you can stand. -Bubs

Not so long ago I made fun of the car with the fourteen 10-foot whip antennas on the roof. No way would I ever be that nerdy. When we got our Technician licenses I pooh-poohed my friends who asked “So when are you putting up the radio antenna tower on your property??!!” Sigh. Not only are we searching the Internet for DIY antennas, but John, bless his heart, brought home 300 feet of wire for an antenna. PINK wire. That is probably why it was never used. Also, who knew that the then-obsolete TV antenna my friend cut off the roof almost 15 years ago could have been useful now?? Despite our pink antenna only being about 25 feet in the air, we did hear Radio Africa one day.

We still need to get the wire antenna at least 100 feet up. We were sent instructions for using a slingshot and building a potato launcher. The guy who hunts on our property with his crossbow said the bow would send it into orbit. Oh well. It was worth a try.

KB3ZCB and KB3ZCA 73

It’s the Journey Together

November 17, 2014

Someone told me that our blog is easy to follow because I post a new message every three years. What an exaggeration! Well Bubs, challenge accepted. Game on.

Since I last posted we haven’t been idle although the 2014 sailing season was a mixed bag. On the one hand it was sad because we never put Halcyon in the water. On the other hand it was exciting because we began making plans for Next Boat. On the other other hand, John and I met some very interesting people and had a few fun adventures.

Beginning in March of this year John worked out of town so often and anticipated having to work out of town in the foreseeable future so we decided to delay our normal April-ish splash date. April came and went. June came and went. All the while John spent more time out of town than he spent at home. In July he spent a few weeks in Italy. When August rolled around with more out of town jobs scheduled we decided to bag the season. We usually pull the boat out of the water at the end of October anyway so we just couldn’t justify the cost of putting it in the water just to turn around and pay to have it hauled in three months for the few times we would actually sail. So instead of gathering barnacles in the water, she sat in the yard.

John’s schedule this year did cause me to seriously consider single handing. Until now I never really thought about taking the boat out by myself beyond being prepared to handle it if there was an emergency. But darned if I want to have another season like this one completely reliant upon other sailors taking pity on me! Although I greatly appreciated the times I did get to sail on other people’s boats, it just wasn’t the same as being on Halcyon.

So that brings me to Next Boat. Our friends have been hearing about Next Boat for over a year now but posting about it here makes it seem more solid. Like a commitment.

We love Halcyon. It’s the perfect boat for the sailing we do right now and the perfect boat for where we sail right now. We don’t regret our choice. I am a firm believer in buying the boat you will use now, not ten years from now. However (and I’m going to blame John for allowing my dream to hatch and begin to grow into a goal), we started to seriously think about the world beyond the Chesapeake Bay. A world where Halcyon would not be the best choice of boats.

The seed rattled around my head while on Melissa’s boat, settled down a bit after experiencing the strong cruising community in St. Augustine, but became firmly planted when last fall we attended the Seven Seas Cruising Association Annapolis Gam. Before then I sort of felt like I was being indulged while waiting for the notion to blow over. Beth Leonard and her husband Evans Starzinger are cruisers. Their custom-built expedition boat Hawk (currently for sale) has taken them to some extremely remote locations. Beth Leonard provided a great presentation and talked about their boat and the many places they sailed. She spoke about building Hawk to suit their high latitude cruising needs. At one point when yet another slide flashed showing a South American anchorage in which Hawk was the sole boat, I heard John mutter “I’d like to do that.” Then I won a signed copy of her book in the raffle. It was a sign.

For the most part I make our plans and John just wants to know the date, time, and what he should wear. Rarely does he initiate an outing. I believe the last time was about six years ago when he wanted to go to a national park in Virginia. When he casually says that he would like us to do something that’s the same as another person putting it on a billboard and declaring their plans to the cars that pass by.

I jumped on those mumbled words and was off to the races doing more research. I made a list of places to which we could sail and I read books and blogs of cruisers who were sailing to those places. I read history books with more on the piles. I asked questions. I made more lists: Boat lists, training lists, equipment lists, lists of questions still to be answered, lists of lists. I added to my project plan.

For the most part I researched Next Boat alone. We first considered a production boat. Since we’re familiar with Catalina, the company, the great owner support, I thought we’d buy a larger Catalina and refit it for our needs. Then my brain came on line. Why not take the money we would spend to refit a boat that is not designed to go where we might want to go and instead buy a boat designed for our needs? Simple right? Trust me to find our “perfect” boat…and there are only two for sale on the U.S. east coast that I can locate. And I’ve looked. AND, since I found those two, one sold about a month later.

I kept this boat under wraps from John for a long time before I finally decided he needed to know. Especially since it will cost considerably more than Halcyon. I am sure this will be our last boat. I spent a month preparing a list of pros and cons. I listed the things that frustrate him about Halcyon and how those things are addressed on Next Boat in a way he’ll love. I studied line drawings and wrote down how the systems are well laid out and well planned. Then I came up with the genius idea of turning the information into a slide presentation. One day while he was already sitting preparing to watch the baseball game I connected my iPad to the TV before I lost my nerve. I made ready a YouTube video presented by Yachting World. Thinking that I should get the cost of the boat over with immediately, that was my first slide. After showing the first slide, butterflies in my stomach, I told him that the rest of the presentation was in support of my decision and his response:

“Why don’t we just buy a new one?”

…absolutely floored me. I knew how much a new, semi-custom factory built boat would cost. Even I wasn’t prepared for that expense. After working myself up over this for the past month, I made him sit there and look at my presentation.

Our journey officially began when John and I both had a chance to crawl around one of the boats for sale that happened to be about three hours away. I enlisted a sailing friend while John was in Italy and we went to see it together. Ken and his wife Kathy have since become friends and Ken is following in our wake as potential crew. The two of us opened every storage compartment, looked at the engine and all that was connected to it, figured out how to connect the emergency tiller (which is an odd one), poked and prodded. The quality of the woodwork was extraordinary. It was solid wood. After we finished inside and on deck we climbed down and I stood staring at the blue bottom paint like a besotted fool. I went home and made notes to report back to John, who, when he finally got on the boat fell in love, too. OK. Maybe not love, yet, but he agreed with my assessment. I’m sure love will happen very, very soon.

We’re still discussing that particular boat while weighing our options in Europe. Just in case, we are preparing for the possibility that we end up buying and sailing Next Boat home from any number of European countries where used ones are for sale.  The one in Turkey falls off the bottom of the list periodically depending on how Turkey is acting on any particular day. “It will be an adventure” John says. Because each one is semi-custom from the factory no two are exactly alike. Not major differences, but enough to make us carefully consider those differences. We still haven’t decided on the length. In case something happens to one of us, the other must be comfortable sailing it alone. That’s not negotiable. Too large and not only does the initial cost go up but so does the maintenance and storage costs.

In the meantime we still have Halcyon to sail, to learn on, to push our envelopes in protected waters, and most importantly to make more memories.

Shrimp Boats

Still Sailing and Bound for…Where…Exactly??

March 4, 2014

Oh, how time flies. John and I are still putzing around the upper Chesapeake Bay in Halcyon. We never stopped sailing, I just stopped writing about it. Time to get back to it.

Since I last wrote we chartered a sailboat in the British Virgin Islands. It was a fantastic week full of firsts: Our first sail outside of the Chesapeake; our first time operating a sailboat other than Halcyon; our first time in the BVI. It was everything the Sunsail brochures promised and more. I’ll write about the “more” later. For now I’m just playing catch up.

Another fun adventure happened last summer when I helped a friend deliver her Hunter 36 from Key Biscayne, Florida to Saint Simons Island, Georgia. Another fantastic week. There were four of us on board: the boat’s owner and another couple. The owner needed help sailing the Hunter to her broker in Georgia before taking delivery of her new, semi-custom boat. We spent time in the Gulf Stream, on the Intracoastal Waterway, in calm seas and in one rather large storm. Fortunately, we just made it to a marina for the “huge” storm. Thankfully my first storm in the ocean was only “large” (and I was passed out from being seasick so couldn’t fully appreciate it). The others have far more sailing experience so I saw the week as an adventure with training. I’m sure I got much more out of it than they did as I was the novice.

My only disappointment on that trip was not swimming in the Stream. After it was mentioned casually that a bull shark might have passed under the boat (based on the depth sounder reading going from maxed out at 300+ feet to 30 feet), I put that goal on indefinite hold. We were sailing in over a thousand feet of water. Thirty feet was waaaay too close.

In between all that John and I had fun sailing Halcyon, discovering new anchorages on the Bay, meeting new people, and discovering St. Augustine, Florida. Again, more about all that later.

Where are we now (besides being sick of the cold)?

It began with the concept of “paying it forward.” Someone who I consider a sailing mentor and who continues to give me a lot of wonderfully useful advice based on his experience lives this every day. Basically, it’s do something good for someone and in return that someone does something good for someone else as “payment” for whatever it was that you did. Looking at it that way, John and I have a LOT of payments to make, so, I volunteer John’s services a lot. This is how he got stuck working at the top of a mast last summer for six…solid…hours.

Last fall we attended a wedding of a fellow sailor where we met a woman who bought a Morgan Out Island 416 ketch. She sailed it from North Carolina to where she is currently located on the C&D Canal. The boat is solid but needs work. Her plan is to live aboard with her Third Ager* parents and cruise so she wants to make sure it is as good as she can get it. She mentioned that her electrical system suffers from Previous Owner-itis. Seeing an opportunity I offered to ask John if he would help her troubleshoot. It worked out well. She’s a race car mechanic and product specialist for Chevy trucks and has a solid grasp of what is involved. In other words, John isn’t rewiring Fluffy’s boat while she teeters around on stilettos. We’ve made a couple of trips to her boat and she and John do their thing in the bilge and engine compartment while I putter around the marina looking at other boats, watching wildlife, reading in the cockpit, and waiting for them to finish so we can go to the awesome restaurant at the marina. Everyone’s happy.

During our last working visit to the boat, she had another friend helping her. Roy is retired from the British Navy and full of stories. While he worked I stayed out of the way and listened. Every now and then he’d pop up and look around. After about an hour I recognized the bemused “What the heck did I do with that X?” look on his face and helped him backtrack so we could find whatever it was that was missing. That was my contribution.

When my sundowner alarm sounded on my iPhone, Roy very generously decided to treat us to his “extra special” rum. This rum isn’t sold in the U.S. and he brought it back from his last trip to England. Because sundowners followed the chocolate wine tasting and I hadn’t had lunch, well, I’ll blame the rest on that.

The four of us chatted about sailing, the history of grog, and other nautical stuff while we sipped and sampled. I mentioned a vague plan to some day sail to Ascension Island, St. Helena. I don’t remember the conversation verbatim but the gist was “Why stop there? Go to Tristan da Cunha!” And Roy gave us a brief history of the islands.

I never heard of this island. My original plan had been to sail to Ascension Island, stop at the pub, sail home. Roy upped the ante. I pulled out my iPhone and did a quick search. Calling itself “the remotest island” Tristan da Cunha’s economy is centered around fishing, the sale of postage stamps, and woolens knitted by its “elite knitting team.” The population is roughly 300 people. There are probably more sheep than people. They print and offer subscriptions to their bi-annual 40-page newsletter. How cool is that??

My limited early research says that the island was originally discovered by a Portuguese navigator who passed by on his way from Brazil to Cape of Good Hope. He couldn’t find a place to land so he kept going. Later the British set up there when they thought the French were going to attempt to rescue Napoleon from St. Helena. The next person who trundled along was a Corporal William Glass from Scotland. His family settled on the island and he named the main town Edinburgh of the Seven Seas. Today the islanders are a mix of English, American, Italian, Dutch and African. One website says about the language: “English is the native tongue, albeit a slightly strange, preserved Georgian dialect laced with a few early Americanisms.” I’m envisioning something akin to what we’d hear in Appalachia where Old English is still spoken due to their isolation.

So. That’s where we are today. John’s on board with the idea. He spent some time watching Youtube videos about the island, which surprised me. He knows more about the history than I do at this point.

This isn’t happening any time soon but it is our first concrete, long-distance goal. Our first “voyage.” There are a zillion things that have to fall into place and a zillion more to do before we sail into Edinburgh of the Seven Seas harbor. In the meantime, I’ve started adding tasks to a project plan (someone said to me “Nothing says fun like a Gantt chart.”), re-researching the Next Boat based on using it for this trip, and having fun with it all. Oh – and convincing Boat Fluff that she does want to meet the elite knitting team of Tristan Da Cunha.

In the meantime, watch this space for the official unveiling of our “raiding” flag and more adventures on Halcyon.

*Thanks to NPR I learned that older adults are no longer called “Senior Citizens.” The new term is “Third Agers.” My membership dollars at work.

And We’re Off!

March 31, 2012

It has been a rough week but in the end…our new Beta Marine engine. Sea trials are next week. I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl. John gets his gauges. As an instrumentation guy, he’d put a gauge on me if I stood still long enough. Now to make the rest of the boat look as good!

New Addition…

March 11, 2012

Halcyon’s new Beta Marine diesel.

Beta Marine

2012 Here We Come! But Are We Ready?

March 4, 2012

Boating season is almost here and John and I have yet to start on our winter project list. The sails are still folded and have not been cleaned, the anchor hatch cover is still propped up against the garage wall and has not yet been reinforced like I intended, the reefing line has not been replaced… Ah well. Why should this year be any different?

Although the temperature is still chilly and I’m not about to abandon my socks yet, I know that the boating season is just around the corner because the West Marine and Defender catalogues have arrived. The internet is convenient, but nothing beats a chilly, rainy March day curled up with a glass of wine, my Post-its, highlighters, and a boating supply catalogue. Without the background noise of my laptop’s fan or the distraction of the internet, I can mark items in yellow for my Wish List, pink for Must Buys, green for More Research and blue for What the Heck?

My first item of business in the newest catalogue is to see what’s new in the world of VHF handheld radios. Blue tooth? Done. GPS? Done. Integrated FRS? Done a long time ago. What will be the new gimmick this year? Next are life jackets (formerly called PFDs by the U.S. Coast Guard until they realized that the acronym just wasn’t catching on with the boating public). It’s hard to beat the inflatable vests. Perhaps this year I may try one of those pouches. I’m skeptical so maybe it’s time for me to investigate why they are popular and what use they would really be in a MOB situation.

We’re still not ready to spend thousands of dollars on chartplotters and radar so I skip those sections other than a brief glance to be able to speak about what’s new in my boating classes.

One problem with perusing the catalogues is that the To Do list gets longer. I think of lines that should be replaced, blocks that might be tired, and should we change the anchor rode?

I guess it doesn’t matter. Nothing on the list seems to be getting done anyway.