Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Head scratchers

Skip to the pic of Fred with the orange thing if you don't want to read boring boy stuff. 
It was a weekend spent in the marina as we caught up on some maintenance work. I finally pulled everything apart and went through the engine. The first mystery of the weekend was this.

That's the vented loop in the raw water circuit. However, instead of just having a vent on the elbow, it has another hose clamped on that runs off into the darkness. I don't know what that does or why. Any ideas?

Then there's this. (My apologies for the poor focus.)

The breather hose from the dripless shaft seal is just plugged with a nut. This was mentioned on the survey, so I wanted to get it remedied and vented correctly. However, I have no idea where this hose is supposed to go or what it should vent to.

Then we found this thing rolled up in the closet.

At first I thought it was a dive flag or something, but as I unrolled it I realized it wasn't a flag at all. It's made of spinnaker material and has a little label in the middle that says something like "Nautic Sails", but it has no information about what it is. My best guess is one of those parachute anchors you drag, but I have no real idea. I've never actually seen one.  My guess is...hamock, or tiny spinnaker.

Then we finally dug out the bimini and attached it to the dodger.

It's a very odd design. It has metal ribs and zips onto the dodger, but there is no rear frame, so it just ties onto the backstay and the rear rail. However, there are zippers on the back of it.  It's not the best, but it works, and doesn't need immediate replacement, so I'll take that as a win. 

Forensic science and my CSI instinct leads me to believe there was more to the bimini and some sort of frame in back, but I guess we'll never know.

The bimini is pretty ragged, but luckily Mary sews. This is the perfect reason to bring my Brother sail-right sewing machine down to the boat.  We got this machine a couple years ago from some sailing friends.  It does the zig zag and the straight stitch that you need to do sails, and it works plugged in or with a hand crank.  It's a really cool machine, but I am trying to downsize so after I finish doing all our patch work I'll probably take it to the boaters resale, and try to make some new air-conditioner money. I think you're just trying to talk up this old machine in hopes someone will make you an offer ...

It rained all day and night Saturday, but that wasn't too bad because that rain also helped us solve a few mysteries.  It was great!  Nothing like being in a boat during a storm.  Little bit of scary, little bit of snuggles, little bit of fun with friends.  

The previous owner left tupperware sitting on top of the drawers in the v-berth.  This should have been super obvious.  I mean, you just came into all this boat sale money, why wouldn't you take your tupperware and fill it full of steaks while you're living the high life?

Thankfully we didn't move it since it became very obvious very fast that it sits under the port with a broken latch for a reason. I think we had about three inches of water in that tupperware by Sunday morning.

Sadly, even though I spent quite a while poking through everything and discovering mysteries, I haven't actually fixed anything yet. We've been so lazy.  I'll feel better when I can finish all my research and can start ticking things off my survey report.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Cats versus dogs

Pets are a common sight at our marina. We have both cat and dog owners, but on our pier, dogs outnumber cats 9-to-1.

I'm not sure why we have so many more dogs than cats. I once read, "The Internet is full of cats because dog people go outside." I'm not sure if that's the real explanation, but it seems odd because you would think cats would be more conducive to life aboard.

I'm a lazy pet owner. I love my dog, but when we're at home, all I have to do is let her outside into the backyard to use the restroom. When she's being annoying? Let her outside. When she starts running circles around the house like a crazy person? Let her outside.

When we're on the boat there's no escaping her and no easy solutions. When she has to go out it involves a 15-20 minute walk, no matter the weather, and both dogs are extremely picky as to where they poop when on a leash. And because walks are much more exciting than sitting on the boat, they constantly bug me for walks all weekend.

While taxing of my patience, walking is simple enough when we're at the marina. We have yet to take them on an overnight trip, which requires them to either go on the boat or to ride in a dinghy to shore.  I'm sure Tex would love to poop on the boat. He poops on the carpet all the time. It's one of his favorite activities along with barking in your ears at night.

Our friends took their schnauser with them last year, and despite puppy pads, astro turf, containers of dirt, etc., they just couldn't get him to relieve himself on the boat. He went three long days before he finally gave in to nature, and even then, after recieving loving pets and treats for pooping on the boat, he was still reluctant to ever do it again. They ended up having to dinghy him around to find some type of land for him to use twice a day for the rest of their trip. Plus, he was very prone to skin infections.

The tradeoff with a cat is that I can't stand the smell of a litter box, and the kitty litter ends up everywhere. I've been reading about some cruisers attempting to train their cats to use the toilet, but I haven't seen any posts on that in a while.

While our dogs love sailing, I don't think I'd want to take dogs or cats cruising with me. The question keeps coming up, "What do we do if Tex goes overboard?" (For some reason, Mary never worries about Dixie going overboard. I don't know if that's because she loves Tex more if she just knows Tex is the only dog stupid enough to fall overboard.)

We usually keep a lifejacket on him just in case, but we can't really tie him in because he constantly tangles himself around everything.

So what is the MOB drill for a 5 pound dog? Does one of you jump in after him? Do you turn on the engines, turn around and try to fish him out with a pole before he disappears? Do you just keep going and chalk another one up to Darwin and the circle of life?  FRED! 

But seriously, as we spend more and more time on the boat, we've definitely got to set both a MOB plan for the dogs and we've got to set an emergency first aid plan for them as well in case something happens in the middle of the night when we're anchored out hours from anywhere.

Hopefully once we've got a plan in place, Tex will be able to sleep better at night.  Oh man that's cute. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

2013 BP MS 150

It's a shame that most fun outdoor hobbies require the same weather conditions to be pleasant. There's only so much time when you've got good weather, and all the activities are vying for the same amount of time. Why does it seem like there's nothing to do when it's pouring rain with 40 knot winds?

The weather was absolutely amazing this weekend, so it was with much sadness we had to tear ourselves away from the new boat for the 2013 BP MS 150.  Much, much sadness.

The MS 150 is an annual event where cyclists ride from Houston to Austin to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and to raise awareness of those living with MS. This was my sixth year involved with the event and third year as team captain. I'd ridden it twice before in 2009 and 2010, and I guess I'd forgotten the misery of riding what is actually 183 miles over the course of two days, so instead of just volunteering this year, I was back in the saddle.

I had meant to do more training. I started doing a lot of squats and leg work back in December, but I kind got busy. Plus, it's way more fun to hang out on the boat than it is to get up early on Saturday and drive out to the bike trails and exhaust myself, etc. I did spend at least an hour a week on a spin trainer, which is better than nothing, but I'll admit, I wasn't really prepared for the ride.  Fred is a hard worker, and is never afraid to go the extra mile to do something right, it's just his self control that is lacking.  His biggest weaknesses happen to be doughnuts, beer and pizza.  

Mary has volunteered with me for the past two years, and I gave her a pass this year since I probably wouldn't get to La Grange, the day 1 stop, or Austin, the day 2 stop until late. However, knowing I was riding on sheer willpower, she volunteered anyway. (I'm pretty sure she thought I might have a heart attack along the route and didn't want to live with the guilt if she was having a boat party, and I died during a charity event.)  This is more than 100% true.  

I did not ride it fast, but I did ride it. I left Houston at 7 a.m. and arrived in La Grange at 4:30 p.m. Saturday -- the grueling 100-mile stretch. Then we left La Grange around 7:20 a.m. Sunday after waking up at 4:30 because some overly-excited volunteer decided to turn on the generator and switch on the lights. Plus I was awake all night due to the freezing cold. There is no cuddling for warmth when everyone has to sleep on old military style cots. Thank goodness there was hot coffee catered to the tent this year.

I made it into Austin around 2:30 p.m.  He was right in the middle of the riders. I was super proud.  

It was an amazing feeling to have someone cheering for me at the finish line both days. It's very exciting to see the relief and happiness on hundreds of riders faces as they pass the finish line. I just wish they would have avoided making any loud explosion type sounds in Austin. No one seemed worried though, it was all together a great time. Nothing like seeing small children cheering for their Dad.  

I was extra thankful that she was there in Austin to drive me and my bicycle back to Houston, so I didn't have to wait another four hours to come back on the bus.

The MS 150 weekend is incredibly tiring, but it feels good that I raised $625 for MS research, and my team has raised more than $50,000 so far this year. However, I'll be very happy to be back on the boat this weekend.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Systems failure

With most of our marina friends out of town, it was our first weekend to spend some time with Gimme Shelter and start getting to know her.  We were much in need of a relaxing weekend, after stressing about buying the boat, and then immediately jumping into planning the boat warming party.  Of course every weekend it feels like we're in need of a relaxing weekend ... I mean that's why we keep coming back after all. 

We were stuck in the marina Friday night and Saturday because I had appointments to show the Seahorse to potential new seafaring adventurers all day. I didn't know what to expect because I'd only had her on craiglist since that Monday, and I was hoping some of the alleged interested parties actually showed up. Craigslist being craigslist, you just never know what you're going to get.

I was pleased to have a steady stream of lookers all day, and they were all very nice, but the only "offer" I got was from a family who had "come into some car wreck money" and offered to pay half in cash if I would finance the rest. I politely declined, but he called me back twice Saturday evening just to make sure I hadn't changed my mind.

To jump forward and end the story of the Seahorse before I get back to Gimme Shelter, I ended up with two real offers by Sunday night and another one Monday morning. By Monday night the papers were signed and the deal was done.  I was really cheering for the father and son team, but Fred decided to go for the guy buying his first boat.  It is easy to get excited for him, and I kind of hope he sticks around Marina Del Sol.  I hope the Seahorse and her new captain have many great adventures together. Hopefully we'll see her again out on the bay.

Friday night was quiet and kind of romantic. You know if a guy notices it was romantic it must have been SUPER romantic.  Mary flipped some burgers we had leftover from the boat party the previous weekend. (How great is it having a refrigerator on the boat to store food from weekend to weekend?!!!) Super great!!! :)!!1

We ate dinner in the cockpit before finally opening that bottle of champagne from the broker and toasting to "new beginnings."  We tried to time it with the sunset and had some minor success. 

We pulled out the couch in the salon, flipped on the television and were snuggling up watching Antiques Roadshow when the smell hit us for the first time. It was a completely overwhelming smell of sewage.  Not many people get to know that familiar feeling of asking your loved one, "Do you smell raw sewage?"

Our first hypothesis was that the sewage hoses just smelled much worse than we thought and that sliding out the couch somehow opened access to the bilge areas, letting the smell out. But it seemed to get worse. Then Mary went to the bathroom and found the toilet was filled with disgusting water.  Pee water was kind of the true theme of the weekend.  

I thought maybe it had siphoned in from the marina, so I shut off the raw water valve to the toilet. A few minutes later, the smell was back, the toilet was full again, and this time THERE WAS A FISH SWIMMING IN IT! He was kinda cute for a pee fish.  At this point I realized the holding tank had to be completely full to be backing up into the toilet. I also realized that it must have been full a very long time if there had been a fish that was obviously too large to fit through the inlet holes of the toilet to have grown up and be living in there.  It wasn't THAT large.  

I just assumed that someone selling a boat would have pumped it out before handing it off, but I guess not.  Pretty sure we didn't pump ours out either. I totally did!

The smell was overwhelming, but we couldn't get the pump-out cart from the office until 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning. I really thought about retreating to the Seahorse for the night, but I had just washed the sheets and given it a final cleaning. I didn't want to dirty it all up again.

We opened all the windows, and I buried my face in the blankets and attempted to sleep. For some reason Fred's mind always goes to the most difficult solution, especially in the middle of the night.  He suggested going to get the pump out cart, and I suggested shutting the bathroom door and opening all other windows.  I am lazy.  I was very happy to get up and out of the boat when the alarm went off at 7 a.m. So was Tex.

I began to fill the coffee maker with water, but suddenly ... no water. The pressurized pump wasn't quitting, so I switched it off and went to get the hose.

I refilled the water tank and tried it again -- still nothing. I pulled the salon apart looking for the tank. Right beside the pressure pump I saw a T-valve, so I turned it. Voila, water!

It was at that moment I realized we had two water tanks. It was also at that moment I realized I really needed to spend some time getting to know the systems on Gimme Shelter.  Yes, there is so much we don't know about this boat, and at this point it might just end up as a learn as you go thing.  Its just so much more fun sailing it than it is mapping out the toilet tubes.  

As soon as the office opened I got the holding tank pumped out. The smell disappeared. The coffee brewed. Everything was back under control.

The rest of Saturday was spent talking Seahorse and motoring people back and forth in the lake although Mary and I did take a break for lunch at Chile's (the waitress told me I was pretty, which was awesome) and a walk through the Kemah Boater's Resale Shop, and the shop underneath.  They have a lot of cool boat paintings down there. Then we began the night in search of sushi but ended up at Signature Bistro on Nasa Parkway because after dealing with people from craigslist all day, the giant wine glass on the side of the building was calling to me as we drove by.  I wish this was a food blog, because that meal was worth writing about.  

I have to put in a good word for Signature Bistro. Despite the fact that we looked very, um, marina-ish, they welcomed us in, had great service, had excellent food and had live music. It made for a very romantic evening.

Saturday night some of our marina friends appeared on the dock, so we mixed a few rum and cokes and played guitars over on the Tina Marie.  Since our friends, the owners of the Tina Marie, were out of town we had a great time with their son, who was playing host. We didn't forget to send them teasing messages telling them how wild the party on their boat was.  

The weather Sunday was absolutely beautiful. The morning began with a return visitor to the Seahorse (who indeed turned out to be the future owner), so we took him for a ride across the lake and back. Then, once it looked like we were clear of sailboat shoppers, we fired up Gimme Shelter.

Despite the claim that her Universal Atomic Diesel 3-cylinder was completely rebuilt in 2008, she's incredibly hard to start when cold. It took almost three minutes of heating the glow plugs 30 seconds at a time before she came to life. Then once she did start, there was a noticeable amount of white smoke this weekend, especially when I revved her past 2000 rpm. The engine is yet another system that I need to tear apart and get to know before she fails us. Changing the oil, cleaning the heat exchanger, and replacing the impeller and pencil zincs are on my list of things to do next weekend because if the owner didn't even bother to pump out the holding tank before selling, I'm guessing he didn't bother with engine maintenance either.  I don't know what any of that means.  Except glow plugs...they're like little warmer things for a diesel version of a starter...I think that's kinda right. 

Even with calm water and high tide, I still backed her out of the slip the wrong way. However, this time I managed to keep backing her all the way down the dock and into the channel. I know there was at least one couple in a motor boat staring at us like we were crazy as I slowly reversed through the entire marina. Then I shifted into forward, and we were off!

The white smoke was worrying me, but we weren't overheating, and I was way too excited to turn back.

I stayed at the helm while Mary showed off her ASA 101 skills raising the main and unfurling the jib. Oh my gosh, the lines on this boat are soo much harder to work. I had to put my full body weight into working them and even then it was pretty slow. It was a lot of pulling as hard as I can, then cranking the winch, then pulling, repeat. Then we experienced that perfect moment of excellence you feel when you kill the motor and you're greeted with silence as the boat keeps moving along solely under the power of the wind. It was awesome!!!!

We practiced tacking back and forth across the bay with no destination in mind, soaking up the sun, and listening to a Prairie Home Companion through the fancy waterproof speakers in the cockpit.

I was in awe of the space both in the cockpit and walking along the deck when compared to the Seahorse. I can't imagine wanting a bigger boat, but Mary was still noticing all the sailboats bigger than Gimme Shelter on the way in and out. It's just so frustrating that I just spent my life's savings and people still have bigger boats than me!  At least we don't have the smallest boat, and to be fair it is more than enough space for us.  

The dogs also enjoyed the extra space to sprawl out and nap -- their favorite pastime when on the boat.  I think they were a little overly comfortable.  They were not afraid to walk around on the ledges, and they were making me pretty nervous.  I'll have to remember Tex's life vest next weekend. 

After a couple hours of just enjoying life, I crossed my fingers and started the motor back up. Mary dropped the sails, and we chugged back into Clear Lake puffing white smoke all the way.

The time had come to clean up and return to civilization for the week.

While I missed our friends, it was nice to spend a weekend alone with Mary and to finally get a chance to build our confidence sailing the boat.  I'm so happy we faced our fears. It seems so easy now that we've done it once. Fred forcing me to do all the lines really makes me feel a lot safer on the boat. There is something about not knowing that is so scary. Now that the Seahorse is gone, it's time to get down to work and start making repairs on Gimme Shelter, so we don't end up with any serious system failures while out on the water.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I'd love to do some product reviews on here, but the problem with being thrifty (read, "cheap ass") is that I only buy old stuff.

One of the first upgrades in store for Gimme Shelter is the installation of a Robertshaw Shipmate propane stove and oven I picked up at an estate sale last summer. I'd review it, but they haven't been made in over 20 years.  Now this is awesome. Fred has promised to make me bread at the beginning of every weekend. We still have to do some more measuring to ensure it fits in the boat, and I'm hoping and praying it does.  

Theoretically the first money spent on the boat was going to be for new sewage hoses. However, sometimes when a bargain pops up on craigslist, I just can't help myself.  Read: Fred has a serious addiction to Craigslist. It forces us to do things out of order, but we do end up saving money.  

Today I scored a Pelican kayak with paddle for $80. I have to admit this is a pretty good price. I looked at Kayaks forever and never saw a deal like this. I ended up buying one without a paddle, and the paddle alone cost me 30 at West Marine. 

No, it's not going to be a permanent dinghy solution, but you can't beat the price. Plus, it was blue, so it matches Gimme Shelter's stripes and canvas work.

I promise to consult with Mary before I make the next accessory purchase -- unless it's a REALLY good deal. If anyone has any suggestions on dealing with a man with an overactive ebay account, I'd love to hear them.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

First lesson learned - docking a bigger boat

Despite the hangovers from the boat warming party, everyone wanted to go sailing on the new boat Sunday afternoon.  We spent a lot of the morning goofing off while everyone got into place. The girls recited all the lines they knew from Titanic to me. Impressively more than I know myself. 

We disconnected the shore power, fired up the engine and prepared to cast off. I ignored the shallow water alarm that was beeping on the chartplotter thinking, the water is always shallow here, we'll be ok.

I started backing out of the slip, and I ran into a problem. The boat was not turning.

At 27 feet, the Seahorse was short enough that even if you back straight out of the slip, you still had enough space between piers to make a turn. At 34 feet, Gimme Shelter almost bridges the entire space between piers. I pulled forward and attempted to back up again. It still wouldn't back to starboard.

I was also noticing that once moving forward or backward, it took a lot more reverse throttle to get Gimme Shelter to stop moving when compared to the Seahorse. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion and all that.

I was starting to get nervous. I had five passengers watching me struggling at the helm.  The guys were standing on the front, and I'm sure they would have helped, but there was a pretty big language barrier, and I don't blame Fred for being nervous.  

Just as I was about to bump the dock behind us, I pulled forward again.

I slowly backed up again. This time the wheel jerked in my hands, which meant the rudder had plowed into the bottom. This sent our aft to port instead of starboard -- not the direction I was wanting to go, but at least we weren't sideways anymore. I started backing down the lane to the channel, and for a second I thought everything would be ok. Then the wheel jerked in my hands again as the rudder hit more mud, and we were once again turning sideways.

Thank goodness me and Fred now know exactly how to deal with each other in high stress situations. There was a period of time when we first started sailing together where the second anything went wrong everyone paniced and there was a little bit of chaos. We have both learned to at the very least hide our panic from each other in stressful situations. A calm atmosphere is really a must in this kind of situation.  

At this point, I gave up and pulled back into the slip.

I was embarrassed, and I felt like I let everyone down, but trying to back out a large vessel during low tide that I had driven all of one time was just not a good idea. I didn't want to smash into something and end up in one of those "credit card captains" videos on YouTube

In consolation I invited everyone onto the Seahorse, which has a deeper slip further down the pier. Everyone was more than happy to go out on the little boat. It was just the joy of going out on a sailboat that everyone was really looking forward to. I think in the end it was only important to us to take the new boat out. It backed out with no problem, and we were off for a quick cruise through upper Galveston Bay.

Everyone took so many pictures on the way out.  I forget there really is a lot of cool things to see.  

 I asked Buenjy to take pictures of Fred for me since we never get pictures of him. Such is the life of a photographer. It's unfortunate that Fred and I both had crazy hair after drinking all night and sleeping on the boat. He still looks good to me though.  

All in all, everyone had a great time and I was very happy to have everyone on the boat. Anyone and everyone is welcome to come sail with us anytime! There is nothing like sharing the joy of sailing. (Unless we don't like you ... or it's low tide.)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Boat party

With Gimme Shelter safely berthed at Marina Del Sol, it was time to let go of all the anxiety that had been incurred over the past couple weeks of discussing this purchase, surveying, getting loans, finding insurance, etc. This is Mary's boat, so she was taking care of most of that stuff, but not being in control of any of it was stressing me out.  This boat was my first major purchase, and the first time I've ever taken out a loan.  At first the thought of spending this much money really made me sick to my stomach, but as the day got closer and closer all I wanted to do was get it over with and start enjoying my new boat.

Everyone in the marina got a tour Friday night. Then Saturday I went jogging (just had to brag a little, didn't you?) and had a late breakfast with the crew of the Tina Marie while Mary disappeared to Wal-Mart for two hours.  I got super lost.  The Walmart in Kemah is off the google maps.  

We went back into Houston for lunch with my parents who were visiting, and then it was back to the marina just in time to start the boat warming party.

Hamburgers were grilled.

Guitars were played.

Rum was drank.

It doesn't always turn out nice when your friend bubbles collide, but in this case everything went well.  My friends are mostly French speaking, and our friends on the dock happen to be French Canadian, so the conversation flowed nicely.  It was nice that my friends got to hear Freddies singing/guitar playing for the first time. 

I showed my friends the "little" boat and they were impressed.  

I went to bed around midnight, but I'm sure the neighbors hated us because I heard our overnight guests still stirring at 4:30 a.m.  Not everyone goes to bed at 11 on Saturday nights!

Sunday arrived with a ringing in my ears and a pounding in my head. Mary tried to sneak through the salon to make coffee, but with two people on the fold-out and two people in the aft berth, there was no way to be sneaky enough without waking them all. (I knew we should have held out for a center cockpit with an aft cabin!)  You lose the large cabin in a center cockpit, and besides how often do we have three couples on our boat?  Once so far.  

I went to work making pancakes, eggs, and bacon for both our crew and the crew of the Tina Marie. Then Mary served breakfast using her new nautical themed plates from West Marine on the Edson table in the cockpit. I think everyone was quite impressed.  There's nothing like waking up to a sunrise behind palm trees.  You sort of forget how magical it is when you're there every weekend.  It's nice to have fresh eyes look at your life to get some perspective. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I'd read about boat deliveries on other blogs, and a few of my marina friends will regale us with the tales of their weeks at sea and emergencies they overcame while delivering boats various places.

Well, I finally got to make a delivery -- sort of.

We had to move Gimme Shelter across Clear Lake from Seabrook to her new slip at Marina Del Sol.

This seemed like a very simple, straight-forward task. I took Friday afternoon off work thinking we might even take a little sail out on the bay before bringing her in.  Wow that was incredibly hopeful.  

We had only brought one car for the weekend, so we were either going to have to leave the car at Seabrook and beg a ride back or we could catch a ride over in a dinghy. Either way, Mary wanted to go to the new boat first to start getting her ready.  I was excited to get the boat cleaned up and aired out.  Unfortunately I had forgotten all of my cleaning supplies at home, expecting to make a quick run to the store for the essentials on arrival.  

As we arrived at Seabrook, our insurance agent started calling saying he'd never gotten the engine serial number for the insurance policy. I said, no problem, let me read it off to you.

It was at that point I realized the reason he didn't have the serial number was because it had most likely been unreadable for the better part of a decade.

This set off several calls to the broker who began placing calls to the seller who began searching documents to track down this elusive number while I headed to Marina Del Sol to take a dinghy ride back.  He ended up finding the number on a previous survey, and not on the registration papers like you would think.  

The first hitch in our plan came into play when I arrived at Marina Del Sol to find the lowest tide I'd seen since January.

There was no water.

Our neighbor said there hadn't been any water all week, but that MAYBE the tide was coming back tonight.

With Mary busy cleaning the boat, there was nothing to be done except to sit down and have a beer with my friends on the Tina Marie.

Perhaps that was a bad decision since I soon got an angry phone call asking why I hadn't come back to pick Mary up. Oops.  By soon Freddie means well over two hours later.  I was expecting him to come right back to get me, and having no cleaning supplies at all I was quickly lonely and bored on the new boat.  Feeling rather jealous and abandoned I might have been a little overly grouchy.  

I drove back around the lake and retrieved her, the broker retrieved the engine serial number, and soon Mary was on the phone with the insurance company again experiencing first hand why people say "boat" stands for break out another thousand.  I am thoroughly convinced I will never have money again.

I did a little more cleaning on the Seahorse and a little more drinking on the Tina Marie, all the while keeping a close eye on the tide.

Around 7:30 p.m. I said, "I think it's deep enough."

I really wasn't sure that it was deep enough, but the tide was coming in. I figured by the time we got across the lake and back, it would be deeper.

We hopped into our friend's dinghy and set off across the lake.  I just want to say thank you to Ray for taking us across the lake, but that Ray's dinghy is much too fast for me. We will not be putting a 20hp outboard on any dinghy we buy. 

Just as we were pulling up to the boat in Seabrook Marina, the dinghy suddenly died. Our friend Ray attempted to restart it, but it was locked up.

I grabbed a paddle and sculled over to the dock. A quick inspection showed that the painter had gone under the dinghy and gotten tangled in the prop. This seems familiar.  Unfortunately, it was wrapped too tight to untie and none of us were carrying a knife. Nor did we have a knife on Gimme Shelter.

No problem, I said. We'll just fire up Gimme Shelter and tow the dinghy back.

Everyone came aboard, and I began cranking the motor on Gimme Shelter. It cranked and cranked and cranked and cranked, but it never coughed to life.  Your new boat not starting seems like it would be your greatest fear, but after so long on boats you learn to expect problems.  It's the only way to keep your sanity.  
Call number two to the broker then occurred as I had to ask him the correct starting procedure. Embarrassing.

Once I'd heated the glow plugs with the electricity actually turned on to them, she started right up.

The guys helped me with the dock lines, and we were off -- making our delivery across Clear Lake just as the sun began to set.

Pulling into the marina on my new boat, standing on the bow, with all of our friends yelling and waving from the dock, was definitely a high point in my boating career. Nothing is as fun without friends to share it with.  

Even with the dinghy delay and the extended diesel starting procedure, the tide had not come in as high as I'd hoped it would, but we were able to plow through the muddy entrance to Marina Del Sol and get situated in our new slip with no issues.

We (I) finally had (my) our new boat. Just kidding, Freddie!

(And Ray's dinghy was fine. We cut the painter loose, pulled up the motor and had it running again -- no problem.)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sign on the dotted line

Wednesday night we excitedly rushed out of our respective offices, met up at Mary’s house, raced to the car, and then ever-so-slowly drove down to Kemah in Houston’s rush hour traffic.
It was time to sign on the dotted line.
I wasn’t nervous at all – then again, it wasn’t my money.  Thanks, Fred. 
The paperwork at the broker’s office took about ten seconds. Mary signed, and it was a done deal.  Much less than I expected, so weird I got no papers at all on the boat -- not even a receipt.  Hopefully they come in the mail!
We had hoped to move the boat that night, but as it was cold and raining, we just went to sit inside of it for a few minutes and enjoy the ambiance instead.  We got to have that great moment, when you buy something new, where you just run around and open everything. It's even more fun in an old boat because there is so much weird stuff to find!  
The broker left us a bottle of champagne in the boat.

We decided not to pop it open because we immediately had to drive an hour back to Houston. Instead we left it in the refrigerator – something we couldn't do on the Seahorse. However, we probably should have gone for it because by the end of the weekend, we still hadn't had a chance to toast together to this new phase in our life.  Yeah, I don't understand how in a weekend full of celebration there was never the right moment for champagne.  

Monday, April 8, 2013

The survey

Since Mary was dead-set on spending her life savings on the very first boat she looked at, I wanted to make sure we had a thorough survey. She still hadn't convinced me that jumping aboard the O'day was the right thing to do.

Generally, surveys are expensive -- about $500 -- and you never know how skilled or thorough the surveyor will actually be. Since Ben and I purchased the Seahorse tied to a dock and sitting full of water for $1000, we obviously didn't bother getting a survey on that boat, so it was the first time I'd gone through the process.

Thankfully one of our friends who has forgotten more about boats than I ever hope to learn had started doing surveys last summer after returning from a year of cruising. With the promise of some rum he agreed to survey the O'day.

I followed him back and forth throughout the boat as he lifted hatches, flipped switches and checked hoses -- all the while jotting down notes.

Each time he pointed something out to me I'd cautiously ask, "Is that a deal breaker?"

"No, that's not a deal breaker," he'd reply.

Most of the conversation was between the men, which was so frustrating.  When I finally did get them to explain to me what they were talking about I still had no idea how serious the issues were.  Thank goodness me and Freddie are a team. 

We motored over to the Texas Shipyard and they hauled the boat.

The yard crew went to work pressure washing the hull while we analyzed the state of the bottom paint.

Once the spraying had stopped, our surveyor went to work pulling and shaking and checking the rudder and prop.

In the end, the survey report came out something like this:

  • Hoses permeated in head
  • Starboard forward lower shroud corroded in below deck connection
  • Shaft seal breather plugged and lying below water line
  • Galley sink drain has very long, scary looking through hull adapter
  • Rudder post bent at some point, not binding, seems ok
  • Main sail blown out
  • Prop loose -- corrected during haul out
  • Winches dry, need to be lubricated
  • Mast step showing corrosion
  • Mid hatch lens damaged
  • Manual bilge pump leaking at cuff
  • Port aft locker drain hose degarded beyond service
  • Needs bottom paint
One thing and one thing only in that report caused a massive drop in my enthusiasm -- "hoses permeated in head."  Now that the boat is really something I am personally invested in, I am excited to learn how to fix her one piece at a time, but toilet hoses were not where I wanted to start. Especially with someone with as weak a stomach as Fred.  I can't even count the times I've seen him almost throw up while working on the head in the other boat.  At least after spending three years working at a preschool my nose is a seasoned veteran to horrible smells.   

I had just finished changing all the hoses on the Seahorse, and I was soooo incredibly tired of working in poo water. However, when the access hatches were opened, there was no denying that the head stunk. In fact, Mary was in the cockpit and when the smell hit her up there she said, "Did you break something in there?!!!"

The smell is not super obvious if we keep the boat aired out, but after a week of sitting it's pretty bad. Also the smell arrives if you open any access hatch anywhere as the hoses seem to go all over the boat for some reason.

I sadly resolved myself to the reality that if Mary was going to invest in this boat, I needed to man-up and do one more round of head service, so that we finally had a boat that didn't smell. In the huge scheme of things, it was a small price to pay for a future on the water.

Just to be clear, I'm still not excited about it, I'm just resolved to it.

By the way, it's very cool to see a boat being lifted above you through the air.  It reminds you of the children's books where the ship sails off into the sky.  

We went over the survey results as the crane set Gimme Shelter back in the water, and Mary was all smiles since she knew she was getting a new boat.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Our boat shopping wish list

Having spent nearly every weekend for the past four years aboard the Seahorse, I had a very clear idea of what I did and did not want on a new boat. Here was my wish list, with my edits. :) 

1. Higher ceilings: I hit my head in the Seahorse -- often. This oddly has no effect on me at 5 foot 3 and a half. 

2. No sink under the cockpit overhang: The overhang in the Seahorse makes doing dishes a major pain. See 1.  Yes, this combined with the non pressurized water (this means lots of pumping with your foot) leads to doing dishes outside with a hose as a preferred option.  

3. A spacious cockpit with no traveler running through it and a taller boom: We're not racing. Having the traveler cutting the cockpit in half was a pain. I also couldn't stand up in the Seahorse cockpit because of the low boom.  I also apply this same principle to tillers. Some people say you can't feel the boat with a wheel, but it's awkward when you're constantly poking people or asking them to move when you're trying to steer.  You really want to pay attention to where people will sit in your cockpit.  Chances are good that's where guests will be spending most their time.  It makes a difference when you have to invite two less people on every trip.

4. Shallow draft: The Seahorse only drafted 4'11" and still plowed the mud getting in and out of our marina.  It took me a long time to realize the importance of this. We have very low tides in the winter. A shallow keel will give us more months of use out of your boat.

5. A closet: There was not a good place to hang a suit or keep a dress shirt clean in the Seahorse. It made staying aboard on a work night next to impossible.  Along with closet I'd like to add drawers.  I'm always getting cold at night and it will be amazing to keep some extra socks and sweaters aboard.  I'm thinking dry bags for these drawers, but we will see how damp my clothes feel next week.

6. A U-shaped couch on one side of the cabin with a stationary table: I like this design instead of couches down both sides with a fold-down table. I'm not sure it's more space efficient, but sitting around the U, I feel out of the way. Our fold-down table also blocks access to the head. Hard to host a dinner party if you can't use the head.  The table blocking the middle of the room was very awkward, and impossible to entertain, but I honestly haven't seen a table on a sailboat that I really liked.  

7. A shower: Once again, this was purely a luxury I wanted if I stayed aboard on work nights. The idea of hiking 200 yards to share two sinks and two showers with all the liveaboards in the marina while trying to beat Houston traffic was not my idea of fun first thing in the morning. Then there's the days when it's cold or raining or both -- forget that.  Shower wasn't a deal breaker for me either, but I thought it would be nice after a swim when we're anchored out. Going all night with salt water on you isn't fun. I'm looking forward to hooking up a sort of shower in the cockpit for showering and cleaning things as well.  

8. A refrigerator: Buying and hauling ice back and forth at least once every weekend was a pain. You also couldn't leave drinks on the boat during the week because the beer would get crazy skunky in Houston heat. That made for a lot of hauling of coolers and drinks back and forth to Spring.  I love the idea of a fridge because it can be run on solar power pretty easily.  This would be really necessary  for storing food if we were going to go any kind of distance.  Besides nothing like drinking warm drinks when you're sailing in the hot sun.

9. Air-conditioning: This is lower on the list because it's totally uneccessary while sailing but mandatory during the summer at the dock. We used a Cruis-Air CarryOn and then just a regular window unit on the Seahorse. Lugging the unit to the bow, then back inside, then back to the bow, then back inside every time we visited the boat or left the dock got really old. Unfortunately our boat is just about the only one at its length without marine ac, but thanks to reverse global warming that won't be a problem for a while this year.  

10. Sun bathing space: One thing I really wanted was a bow that was big enough for girls to lay out on if they wanted to.  Sitting in the cockpit is fine, but when you're in the sun you want to be in a position where you won't get any awkward tan lines. Wait, what? I thought deck space was for life rafts, jerry cans and solar panels.

11. Separate kitchen: Having the kitchen on a slightly different level, and not one big open room, really makes the boat feel bigger. When I'm serving my guests it's nice to feel the difference between a prep area and a serving area. You get that sort of "ta-da" moment. Like, "ta-da" you did the dishes? 

12. Guest beds:  Since our boat is at least 45 minutes from the city, it was important to me to have at least enough room for a couple guests. After staying late and possibly drinking, the last thing I want is for my friends to drive 45 minutes home. OR they could just buy the Seahorse and stay in their own beds ...

There were other things I wanted like self-tailing winches and an autopilot, but those could be added to any boat. My list of wants had to do with structural issues that required a bigger boat or a specific design implementation. Had I wanted to spend the money I MIGHT have been able to convert the ice box on the Seahorse into a refrigerator, but space under the galley was extremely tight, and I just couldn't justify the expense for the size of the boat.

Overall I think we got all the most important things. We could have continued to wait and save and then buy a boat with all of our dream amenities, but it would have been another year. As is, we get to enjoy our boat while we invest at our own pace into customizing her just how we want.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Saying goodbye to the Seahorse

It all started with the Free Yacht Saga. Four years ago my brother and I decided to buy a derelict 27' sailboat. Four three and a half of those four years, I've wanted a bigger boat.

In the photography world it's called GAS -- Gear Acquisition Syndrome -- you can never have enough. I'm not sure what boaters call it, but it's the same principle. "If only my boat was a couple feet longer, I'd have so much more space," you think. "I'd be able to install that genset with a water maker that I'd definitely need if I ever left the marina or if zombies attack." And all of these rationalizations seem very reasonable. I looked at bigger boats weekly on craigslist and yachtworld.

Four years later, the derelict, sunken boat was more or less done. I mean, a boat is never really done, but all my upgrades had been made, and for the first time I could say, "everything works." She'd been re-powered, re-painted and repented. She was the Seahorse.

When you've spent that long pouring sweat into a boat, you get to know it really well. I crafted the bulkheads. I crated in a motor. I crawled into the depths of every nook and cranny with hoses and wiring. 

I still wanted a bigger boat, but I also wanted new cameras, and I wanted to take a real vacation this year. I'd gotten very zen about it all. I could accept the shortcomings of my 27' vessel. I could live without a refrigerator or an oven. It wasn't so bad for weekends and day sailing. I was comfortable and confident. I knew I could single hand her.

But I wasn't sailing solo anymore. I had a very lovely crew member that was here to stay, and in March we set off together on our first sail of season to Galveston.

It wasn't a bad trip. Yes, we got beat up by the waves all the way there on day one. Yes, everything in the cockpit stayed wet all day. Yes, I almost went overboard trying to drop sails. Yes, we could barely make coffee when our friends were on their dry boat making fresh pumpkin pie. But it wasn't a bad trip. It was an adventure.

Although I was focusing on the zen and thriftiness of the Seahorse, Mary was focused on her phone, sending messages to brokers on Yacht World.  Before we got back to Kemah Sunday night, she had an appointment to see a new boat on Monday.

Owning a boat is not a decision that one makes in a weekend, but great adventure can sometimes lead to sudden clarity. While Fred and I have been sailing for a couple years now, it was not until a very stormy and difficult autumn that I realized how important it was to me to be the captain of my own ship so to speak. My fall was filled with some difficult family times, long hours at work and 17 hours of post-grad classes. There were nights when I was horribly sad and things in my life seemed unendurable. I would find hope by imagining a different life where I had a great job and great friends, and for me, buying the boat symbolized the completion of this picture. Since last August I have seen so many of my goals reached. I hardly feel like the person I was then, but I am so grateful for the hard times. Sometimes we need something to fight against, before we know our own strength.  

During our weekend in Galveston, I think it was the deep reflection that can only be caused by having nowhere else to go that got me to assessing my life. The moment of realization was strangely familiar, like it had been close for some time. The time has come! I felt like I was nearing the top of the mountain I'd been climbing for years, and it was time to claim my prize. Honestly, being a woman, I picked the very first sailboat I looked at. Fred is going to kill me when he reads that! It wasn't completely fool hardy though. We had made a list together of qualities that we needed to have in our new boat. The list was highly practical, and I stuck to most of it.

When I really think about selling the "old boat," I try not to let Freddie see tears welling up in my eyes. After two years on that boat I really owe her a lot. She will always be not just where I fell in love with my boyfriend, but also where I fell in love with a piece of myself that I may have never have seen otherwise. There is something about being caught at sea in a storm, or walking barefoot on a dock that makes you feel rawly genuine. It's difficult to explain how simple, yet real things feel to you when you're out at sea.  

While it's going to be very hard to let go of the Seahorse, I can't wait to see what great adventures Gimme Shelter has in store for us. I hope that in the future, during good times and bad, this boat will remind Fred and me of how much we have already overcome and the strength we have inside of us.