Monday, April 28, 2014

Lazy jack repair

When we arrived to the marina this weekend, the Vberth was dry as a bone, so my anchor locker fix is holding. That meant a day of sailing instead a day of repairs.

The bay wasn't wild enough to be scary, but it was choppy enough to keep us on our toes. I only managed to snap a couple photos with the iPhone while we were out because it was just too rocky to bring up the expensive cameras.

However, no amount of rocking and rolling could deter Tex from napping. He'd get rolled off the cushions and then just climb back on top of them and flop down again.

At some point during the ride, the wind whipped around the lazy jacks enough that they came loose, so I actually paid some attention to them -- or what was left of them -- while cinching them back up.

The U-bolts that held the line in place towards the end of the boom had chafed  the line through on both sides. I dug through our storage bins and found more line of the same size. We don't really use the lazy jacks, but since it was easier to tape one line to the other and work it through the system than it was to climb the mast and remove the dangling blocks, I replaced the line.

For the most part it was smooth operation, but I was a little ticked that the U-bolt tore up the new line a but before I even finished getting it into place.

Despite the nick in the new line, it's now working properly. Dixie Belle kept a strict watch through the entire process.

Another job done -- that I wasn't planning to do.

And afterwards I was rewarded with a steak so fat it was actually too heavy for the neighbor's grill. The arm collapsed halfway through the grilling process, and he barely saved them from ending up in the water!

Lessons learned: Don't bother with lazy jacks, and don't overload cantilevered grills.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


I think I first heard about Bumfuzzle, Pat and Ali Schulte's 35-foot catamaran, over at a few years ago. It was the topic of much debate by overzealous armchair captains fighting in the cats versus mono battles. Boosted by the anonymity of the Internet the debate over Bumfuzzle even wandered into a split between those who admired the Schultes for circumnavigating at such a young age and those who derided Pat for being a money-hungry stockbroker who undeservedly bought his way around the globe.  People on the internet are jerks.  

For the most part, I ignored it all, but the name "Bumfuzzle" kept popping up.

It wasn't long after Mary bought Gimme Shelter that we started discussing the possibility of our own sea voyage, so we started looking for books and blogs for information and encouragement. That's when we picked up their book and read it together.

Not like "together" as in reading it out loud to each other. That would be weird. We just read it to ourselves over the same general time period, so we would have something to talk about during Houston traffic jams.  I remember our shock, as this was the first time we had heard about someone with as little sailing experience as we had, who was leaving on a real adventure. Before this we had always assumed it would take years of honing our sailing skills before we could ever consider doing something so crazy. It was amazing to read them figuring things out as they go, just as we had been doing. For the first time, we thought, "We could do that!" 

Their bravery to step into the unknown and their adventures around the world were inspiring. Pat and Ali came off as two really great people.

Of course, it's easy to come off as a great person when you're writing about yourself -- but even so, they still came off as good people.

The book led us to their blog, which was being written from Mexico while Pat overhauled the monohull they were now cruising in. I was excited that they were still out there and still having the same kind of boat repair issues we were facing on a regular basis.

Then all of the sudden, they quit sailing. They just left Mexico and went back to Minnesota.

It was a little disappointing. We had just found our new sailing heroes, and they had given up sailing.

Then suddenly there was a bus.

The Schultes were still cruising, just not on a sailboat, and I really enjoyed following Pat's renovations of the 1966 Dodge Travco. I also realized Pat had written another book, and I had just started reading, "Live on the Margin."

Never in a million years did I think Mary and I would ever meet them. Then suddenly, they were in Kemah.

We scrapped our plans to anchor out all weekend and headed to Super Target to find something to take to the pot luck barbecue being hosted at the marina next door.

As excited as we were to meet them, the weather was absolutely perfect for sailing, and still not having taken Gimme Shelter out of the slip this year, I began second-guessing the entire thing. I leaned over to Mary and said, "I'm kind of sad we're not sailing. I really hope they're not assholes."

She just gave me a look. He deserved the look. 

As you approached Waterford Harbor Marina, there was no missing the bus. It was proudly parked near the road, a beacon to all Facebook followers clutching their serving dishes and coolers full of beer.

And there they were -- looking just like the photos in their blog.

And guess what? They were some of the nicest people I've ever met.

I took my camera, but I think I was actually a bit star struck and just kind of forgot to take photos.

Pat indulged all my questions about the book and the blog. Ali gave us a tour of the bus. Ouest served us MANY well-decorated sugar cookies. It was a blast. Most people were polite the first time Ouest came around with cookies but then turned her down after that. Fred ate a cookie EVERY SINGLE time she came around, lol. No self control. 

It was also great to meet so many other people from the local sailing community. I met two different cruising couples about to throw off the lines -- one heading east, one heading west. I also reconnected with an old co-worker I hadn't seen in several years. Not to mention the fact that we witnessed the nautical send-off of a pair of newlyweds.  It was so great to hear that we are not the only people trying to figure things out.  It's nice to know everyone does not have such a clear cut plan for escape. Maybe we're over thinking it. 

One thing that absolutely amazed me was the organization of the bus. It was so neat and clean! How do four people live there?  I can't believe Pat and Ali sleep in bunks. I don't know if we would consider that...maybe after a few more years of marriage.  :)

We were only on Gimme Shelter for the weekend, and when we left to drive over to the party, there was already laundry piled up on the couch. Organization is something we're definitely going to have to work on. Nothing is neat and clean in our lives. We need to work on this for sure.  

I asked Pat if there was a secret to keeping things clean. He just said that Ali was a neat freak and that over the years it had rubbed off on him as well. (Neither Mary nor myself are struck with that particular affliction.) I try so hard. 

Eventually the afternoon wound down, and as we were saying goodbye I think I shook Pat's hand about four times. (Yeah, so much for not coming off as a weirdo.) Then it was back to Watergate where we spent the rest of the evening dreaming about sailing around the world.  I'm pretty sure a key part of boating is to sit around with your friends and talk about how you're going to finally make it happen. I feel like with each conversation, we get a little closer.  

Safe travels to the Schultes as they continue their voyage across the country. You can follow their adventures here:

Monday, April 21, 2014

The work you want to do vs the work you HAVE to do

The original plan for the weekend went something like:
  1. Drive to boat Thursday night
  2. Fix anchor light Friday morning
  3. Sail to Redfish Island
  4. Anchor out and enjoy the holiday weekend

We never got past step one.

When we got to the boat late Thursday night, the V-berth sheets and cushions were soaking wet. Reluctantly we pulled out the settee and spare blanket and crashed in the main salon. We spent all of last summer sleeping on that settee because we had no air-conditioning in the V-berth, and it's terrible. Unfortunately, there was no choice.

Friday morning, instead of climbing up the mast, I pulled open the bow locker to investigate the leak, and Mary took the moldy smelling wet sheets to the laundry.

I emptied the anchor locker, which was still full of water, of the anchors, chain and rode. We then unclogged the drain and scooped out all the mud, sediment and rust flakes that had built up over the years from the bottom of the locker. (I have no idea why Mary has started closing her eyes in every photo. I don't even use a flash.)

There was no obvious leak coming from the anchor locker. The hose seemed ok, and it ran down through some carpet, then out the front. When we unclogged the drain in the anchor locker, water would come out the hole in the bow of the boat. It all seemed to be fine, but the floor of the bow locker was sopping wet. The anchor locker drain line was actually leaking behind the carpet somewhere.

I made an executive decision and decided the bow locker, which had never been opened until today, did not need decorative carpet and proceeded to rip it out.

As I ripped the carpet out, I discovered two things. First, the anchor locker drain line was connected to a 3/8" piece of metal tubing that wasn't actually connected to anything and just kind of butted up against the hole in the front of the boat. Secondly, there was a foam padding under the carpet that was growing black mold like it was going out of style.

This seemed like an easy fix. I ran to West Marine for new tubing, new clamps, and a mushroom through-hull. However, when I got back I found that the smallest through-hull they had still wouldn't fit through the hole in the bow. And not only would it not fit through, but the angle of the bow on the inside meant I wasn't going to be able to get any kind of nut on the back of it. I also couldn't drill the hole any bigger or it would drill out into the sides and wouldn't seal.

It was back to West Marine to return the mushroom through-hull and discuss my other options. I explained the situation to two different salesmen who both pondered it and wandered up and down the aisles. Nobody could come up with an idea.

Of course, I could fill the hole in the bow and drill a hole in the side, and then use any size through-hull I wanted, but if O'day built the boat this way, surely there was a solution.

After West Marine I headed over to Home Depot to see what I could find there. I put together a complex contraption using threaded 1/4" pipe to a 3/8" converter to 3/8" pipe to fit the hose. I thought I could slide the 1/4" through the front of the boat and put a nut on it. Unfortunately, the 1/4" pipe was too small for the hole in the bow and the 1/4" to 3/8" coupler was too fat for the space on the inside. That plan was also a total fail.

While trying to decide what to do next I grabbed a paint scraper and spent an hour trying to remove the moldy foam from the fiberglass. The wet moldy parts came off fairly easy, but I was never able to get all of it off.

After three trips to the store and several hours spent on this project, I grabbed the 5200, gooped the end of the 3/8" pipe, and then hammered it into the hole in the bow. Once it was in, I gooped it again and clamped on the hose.

My entire Friday had disappeared, and the leak was only temporarily fixed. The anchor light remains untouched.

So does anybody know what fitting actually goes in that hole?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

First Sail of the Season

So two weekends ago while Freddie was gone to London, I had an AMAZING weekend on the boat with my family!

My family was in town last weekend, as my cousin Alex was singing in the local Houston Opera.  My aunt had asked me in advance if I would be interested in taking the family all out on my boat Saturday afternoon.  My aunt and uncle used to have a small Hunter a few years ago and were excited to get the chance to do a little sailing.  I have to be honest, I was worrying about taking them out without Freddie all day Friday during the Opera, and all Saturday morning as I picked my cousins up and we all had lunch together.

We waited for my uncle to arrive, who would be my co-captain for the day.  Me and Uncle Arty had a brief meeting on weather (it was looking like rain), and decided that we had a window of good weather, and we should take it.  We went over the basics of the boat, and what our different roles would be, and with the help of our neighbors, Tina and Ray, we were backing the boat out of the slip.  As soon as I had jumped aboard I took over driving and steered us out of the Marina.  My first time!  All by myself!

At the mouth of the bay we had some choppy waves, where everyone had a blast riding the front of the boat.

Everyone took turns taking pictures on the bow.  Soon we were on the bay, and it was time  we set the sails.   We were soon on Gimme Shelter's first sail of the season.  As the engine slowly turned off we got to enjoy the real peace and joy of the water.

My Uncle Art was sooo happy driving the boat that he opted to take us all the way back into the slip.  With friends waiting to help us into the slip, and plenty of people aboard to throw lines, we had no problems coming in at all.

This weekend really helped me get over my fear of sailing without Freddie, and helped me feel like I knew my boat more than I thought.  I remembered that you don't always need to do everything the best, fastest, most efficient way.  In the end, it's just supposed to be fun. Sometimes it's ok if your boat does a few 360s while you are taking the sails down.  :)  They still come down, and no one really notices anything went wrong.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Photo walk

Before most of my trips I post to the Leica User Forum to see if any fellow photographers have any advice or want to meet up for a drink. I don't know if it was the fact that this time I shared a language with the locals or if the people of London are just friendlier, but Sunday morning I met up with not one, but four photographers for a walk around Brick Lane.

From wikipedia: Brick Lane is a street in East LondonEngland, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It runs from Swanfield Street in the northern part of Bethnal Green, crosses Bethnal Green Road, passes through Spitalfields and is linked to Whitechapel High Street to the south by the short stretch of Osborn Street. Today, it is the heart of the city'sBangladeshi-Sylheti community and is known to some as Banglatown.[1] It is famous for its many curry houses.

I had spent Saturday staring at the Thames with all the other tourists, so it was great to get this guided tour of a part of London I would have never seen if left to my own devices.

I've never been much of a "street photographer," but I did my best to capture the feel of the area -- and to show the fact that you could buy literally anything at this seemingly endless flea market.

The restaurants really overemphasized the fact that they had a license to operate. However, I was warned that a license was no guarantee against food poisoning.

But food poisoning did not seem to be a deterrent to the locals. While the curry shops sat empty with sidewalk salesmen trying to entice you in with the offer of free appetizers and beers, most of the street vendors were selling like crazy.

We came across the Pearly Kings and Queens, which are an established charity group raising money for ... something.

We also ran across this guy riffing through Jimi Hendrix like it was no big thing. I assumed he was collecting money for new guitar strings.

After a break for some authentic Brick Lane Curry (I went with the sweet, mild stuff as I was worried what the spicy stuff might do to my digestive system while spending the afternoon walking), we wandered into an area that had once been government housing with a soup kitchen for the Jewish poor.

The dichotomy and contrast of the old London versus the new, modern London hit you right in the face.

And strangely enough, as it started raining again, our walk had taken us right to the door of Dirty Dicks Pub, so we made our way upstairs, swapped stories, and talked about cameras over a few pints.

A big thanks to Dr. John Cartwright for taking the lead to organize the photo walk, being such a great host, and for snapping this photo of me with the Pearlies.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


When the adventure is over, it's the most difficult, miserable parts of your journey that you find yourself retelling with a peculiar fondness and recalling with the most joy.
A few days before I left for London I posted to the Leica User Forum "meet and greet" section to see if there were any English photographers who wanted to grab a beer and wander around the city with me. In response I got a private message inviting me to the April meeting of the Globetrotter's Club at Church of Scotland where one of our forum photographers, Dan Bachmann, was giving a presentation on his trip through Georgia -- the country, not the state.

Dan's photos were beautiful, and his presentation was full of history and the culture of the Svanetti region of Georgia. However, his tales of early morning hikes couldn't compare to the raw sense of adventure presented by the other speaker, Leon McCarron.

Leon, who bills himself as a "modern-day adventurer," walked 3,000 miles from Mongolia to Hong Kong, crossing the Gobi Desert in winter, getting arrested by Chinese authorities multiple times, and producing a four-part series for National Geographic.

"Adventure" is a term that's been coming up quite frequently at our house. Working office jobs and living in the suburbs is not what Mary or myself envisioned, but as we made career choices, it just kind of happened. The idea of continuing to work the same jobs for the next 30 years in hopes to have saved enough to retire and travel is daunting. You can't do much adventuring when you only have 80 hours of vacation per year. However, the idea of giving up our good jobs that we actually like to jump into the unknown is equally scary.

There was no "purpose" to Leon's voyage. He'd been biking around the world, and one of his acquaintances invited him along on this adventure, which they were able to sell to National Geographic. They walked across China just for the sake of walking across China.

After the Globetrotter's meeting, we all migrated to a pub just down the road, and I was able to pick Leon's brain for a bit. I told him about our blog, and our hope to sail the Caribbean, but that we really didn't have any funding or following.

After chatting with Leon, I began to realize how close I was to many other "adventurers." In fact, there were two from my company doing things like sailing across the Atlantic for charity or diving under the polar ice for science.

Meanwhile, another one of our offices was sponsoring a man who was going to row across the Atlantic to raise money for mental health.

Here I am, literally surrounded by adventurers, but what have I done? Ridden my bike from Houston to Austin with 14,000 other people every year? Taken planes to Paris, London, Rome and Rio just like thousands of other tourists? Sailed back and forth from Kemah to Redfish Island 25 times?

I haven't put on my backpack or climbed a mountain in almost 15 years!

It probably didn't help things that "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" was playing on the plane when I was flying home.

That just got me further mourning the death of photojournalism and the fact that I didn't grow up to be "Sean O'Connel" or a fellow of any Geographic Society, Royal or National. 

So now the question sits staring at me, how do we resolve this lack of adventure?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Dreamliner

The trip from Houston to London was my first time aboard one of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

There's nothing quite like flying on a brand new plane.

The dreamliners got some bad press for catching on fire, but I have to say, the designers did a great job. The seats were so much more comfortable than the 747s and 777s.

The new digital entertainment system had on-demand movies and TV shows with much improved screens and USB charging ports and power outlets at every seat.

One of the coolest features of the dreamliner was that there were no window shades. Instead the windows have buttons that electronically adjust the tint from translucent to an opaque blue color. The blue theme is carried throughout with blue LEDs in the walkway and the restrooms.

The new public address system is also a huge improvement. Announcements from the pilot and crew are clear and understandable.

As an economy passenger, my meals were pretty bland, but the crew was very nice, and I ended up getting an entire row to myself.

I saw two other flights as we passed over Ireland but never saw the island through the clouds.

It was just after breakfast was served that I finally got my first glimpse of England through the clouds.

Upon entering the airport I was floored by HSBC ads plastered onto every available surface. Of course, those ads were tame to the big advertisement in my taxi.

Lost the perk-in your gherkin? Welcome to London.

Friday, April 4, 2014

On tour

Well, this is one of those weeks where Mary and I part ways while I venture overseas for work while she holds down the fort in Houston.

I would normally document my travels on my old blog, but as we're working to keep this blog more interesting and up to date, I'll be posting my adventures in London here each day.

The trip began with a morning at the office, an after lunch meeting with my MS 150 volunteers, and then an afternoon in the United Club at IAH while I wait for my flight to Heathrow.

Meanwhile Mary is partying with her relatives who are all going to see her very talented cousin at the Houston Opera tonight. As her aunt and uncle are sailors, they may even take Gimme Shelter for the first sail of the year without me tomorrow.

Hopefully the flight to London will be smooth, and I'll be able to get some sleep. I'm slated to join the Globetrotters Club tomorrow for their monthly meeting for a lecture regarding a photo project in Georgia and a lecture from a photographer who walked 1,000 miles across Asia. 

Sunday I have a friend from the Leica User Forum meeting me at the hotel for a photowalk through Brick Lane and some fish and chips.

Monday, I actually have to report to the London office and do some work.

Photos of the adventures will be forthcoming. We'll see if Mary actually keeps up her end of the blog from the Americas.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Boat Show High

Why do we even own a house when we could be waking up on the water every morning living the dream?

There's nothing like a spring boat show to get you contemplating whether or not to sell it all and move aboard.  Spring has always been a good season for change.  Something about going outside for the first time in ages really gives you wanderlust.  

Of course, the imagination runs wild with the dreams of living aboard one of the brand new Catalina 445s or Jenneau Sun Odysseys we had just toured, and which we absolutely could not afford to purchase.  After looking at older boats on all day it is hard to see the prices on those brand new boats.  They are pretty though! 

Then you've run the numbers and you strike the new boat from the plans and start wondering, couldn't I live aboard the boat that I've got? I mean, it's easy enough on the weekends. Think how much money we'd save and all the improvements we could make!  We could have every boat thing we've ever wanted! 

That's an easy dream as well when it's sunny and 75 outside. When you start thinking about cramming life's necessities into the boat, it gets more complicated. Where do the clothes go? And the food? How long can Mary put up with my guitar noise and the hours of off-key singing it takes to learn a new song each week? Who is going to walk the dog at 5 a.m. when it's cold and raining? Not it! What about the fact that it only takes the two of us four days to fill the holding tank?  Not to mention many other unseen expenses.  

Could we make it happen? I just don't know.  

I've spent decades acquiring things with sentimental value. I've got almost a dozen guitars, basses, and mandolins. I've got so many great power tools and a garage in which to use them. It's going to be hard to give those things up.  It's so easy to think that you won't really miss your stuff...I mean it's just stuff.  But when you sit down to get rid of things, knowing you'll never see them again, it is pretty hard. It's going to be even harder to give up the ability to just read in another room if I want some alone time. It's a complete lifestyle change.

My biggest fear is that we'd overload the boat with junk we couldn't bring ourselves to throwaway, living like hoarders in a tiny cramped space, unable to ever sail the boat again.

Despite the buzz brought on by the boat show, perhaps it is not yet the time to move aboard.  Not just yet anyway.