From Sailboat to Trawler

From Sailboat to Trawler

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Journey Begins--Finally

At 0530 I (Dave) and our friend Dave Koplin departed Waterford Harbor for day 1 of the journey. The "plan" is now the reality. Dave and I will cruise the ICW to Intracoastal City, in Louisiana, where we will be met by another friend, Gene Wallin. Dave will then drive home in Gene's car and Gene will join me for the rest of the trip to New Orleans.
Right now, we are at anchor in Taylor Bayou, just south of Beaumont, at the southwest end of Sabine Lake (I've fixed the SPOT link--I think--so you can just click on that link to see where we are) We are anchored in about 18 feet of very pretty blue water---(you don't have to go very far to get out of the muddy brown water that we are used to in Galveston Bay) having put on around 70 statute, or 65 nautical miles today. We got to the anchorage about 1700 hrs.
It's a very nice and protected anchorage--only two problems---1: Immediately upon arrival we were met with the biggest swarm of mosquitos I've ever encountered. Even after closing ourselves in the cabin we swatted bugs for the next hour--probably killed 50 or so. Finally I found some bug spray and sprayed everywhere we thought they might be coming in and it seemed to do the trick. Peace at last----But not until we had contributed heftily to the nourishment of the bug population.
2: At 0130 on Tues an expected northerly front blew in with winds gusting as high as 30 knots. We are sitting on the hook swinging back and forth and listening to the wind howl---couldn't sleep with the wind and tension over whether or not the anchor will hold in this wind, so I'm up posting this blog at 4 AM. Oh well--I'll try to get some rack time while we're underway today.
It's really a shame about the bugs because this is truly a very nice anchorage and it would have been nice to have a sundowner in the cockpit after arrival as we watched the sunset. But then, there will be plenty of those evenings ahead.
I know it doesn't sound like a lot of fun so far, but truly the enjoyment is in the adventure---what's around the next corner, what's the weather going to do tomorrow?? What's the scenery going to be like? It really is fun---especially knowing that every day will be different. Of course I miss Diane, and am anxious for her to come aboard in N O.
What's that!!?? Quiet?? I think the wind is beginning to subside. Maybe I'll get some sleep after all. Hope so--we have another long day ahead of us tom0rrow to get to Lake Charles, Louisiana.
By the way, I've added a couple more links of blog sites of friends or acquaintances of ours doing what we are doing or about to do it. Check them out. S/V (sailing vessel) Kaleo, or "the kids" (sorry kids, but you'll soon learn how old we are and understand why we refer to you as "the kids")) as we refer to them are about a month ahead of us on the same route. Their site is really good, with lots of pics. Rusty and Linda Sitton--sittononthebeach-- went to the Exumas last winter and have been our mentors for our trip for everything from food, to navigation, to clothing--every aspect. We really owe them our gratitude. The same with Dave and Debbie Koplin. They went to Isla Mujeres and points south last year and have done the Bahamas thing previously--They've been a font of helpful information as well. Without the encouragement of these people I'm not sure we would be doing this as confidently as we are. Good night...

Friday, November 26, 2010

SPOT---GPS Tracking Link

I think I've figured it out-----Look to the left and find the LINKS section and click on "SPOT-GPS Tracking". Please write and let me know that it does or does not work---It has worked for me. But -- right now there is nothing showing on it as it has not been activated recently. Hopefully, there will soon be some tracking.

Weather, Weather, Weather

Weather to leave or weather to wait-----That is the question. Well, obviously we didn't leave on the 20th as last predicted. Actually, that decision was not weather related. Scott was still in town and we didn't want to lose this opportunity to spend as much time with him as possible before he went back to China. (He ran into some delays acquiring his China work visa and we were the very happy beneficiaries of his extended stay)Then, having decided to stay a while longer, we decided to just hang around and spend Thanksgiving with friends--a decision well made as we had a wonderful day of thanksgiving with our friends the Dormers and their youngest son, Jon. We had a great time watching the Cowboys get beat and the Aggies win over Texas.
The revised plan, however, had been to leave the Saturday after Thanksgiving---but---now weather has become a very significant factor. We are in the middle of a very strong northerly cold front with high winds and frigid temperatures. We could leave as scheduled but it would be a very uncomfortable trip, especially off-shore where it is predicted that the winds will be in excess of 30 knots and the waves 5 to 8 feet. Having waited this long the weather will govern. The only thing predictable about the weather now is its unpredictability. Thus, I have decided to stay in the "ditch" to New Orleans. The "ditch" for you landlubbers is the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), or as its called in this section--Texas/ Louisiana-- the "Gulf Intracoastal Waterway" or GIWW for short. We like to refer to it as merely the ICW.
The ICW runs along the coast, but inland in mostly protected waters. The downside is that it is very busy with industrial barge traffic, tugs pushing or pulling long barges sometimes 2 and 3 wide. The other disadvantage is that it is imprudent to navigate at night, particularly because of the barge traffic but also because falling just a little bit off course in the narrow channel can cause you to run aground---so---you end up anchoring or tying up at a marina for the night, losing valuable hours on your goal of getting past New Orleans where the trip becomes quite a bit more enjoyable. Nonetheless, with the arrival of winter weather, I think it will be prudent to "take the ditch" and I am now anxious to get going as soon as possible. The other downside to me is that because of the extended time it will take to get to New Orleans I will probably lose at least some of my crew---they have JOB's. So---again just waiting on word from the crew to see if I am to have any help on this part of the journey.
In the meantime we have made the most of our down time. We've actually moved onto the boat, have stowed away all the clothes and toys and necessities and now have only the first week's provisioning and, of course, the wine supply, to worry about. We had the boat completely compounded and waxed by Alfredo and it looks like new. Our friend (and possible crew member, Dave Koplin, a licensed captain with scads of cruising experieince) will get together on Sunday to go over the boat from top to bottom, stem to stern, to check out all the systems, rigging etc--he'll even go up the mast to examine al the fittings up there--to make sure everything is a "go" and to fix anything that needs attention.
Once the journey begins this blog should start to become a bit more interesting to you with photos and descriptions of events along the way. Traveling the ICW can actually be fun as you transit the canal through swing bridges, locks, lift bridges, wildlife sanctuaries, towns and cities.
Until then---again---wish us fair weather and friendly winds.
I'll also reactivate the GPS tracking device --SPOT-- so you can follow our progress juxtaposed on a satellite earth image--Google Earth. The URL for our SPOT is: (I'm working on how to copy and paste it here but I've sent it to you in a prior email. I'm also trying to figure out how to post a link on the opening page of this blog site. If you don't have it and would like me to forward it to you in an email, send me an email--I know how to do that, at least.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

About the Boat

A friend of mine, Gunnar Lonson, wrote recently and suggested that I write some descriptive information about the boat. I guess I've taken for granted that everyone would have some familiarity with sailboats---Now that I think about it and have considered my distribution list, that assumption is probably incorrect.

"Assisted Living" is 2001 Catalina 36 MKII monohull sailboat. We purchased her right after my 60th birthday in 2007 when I realized the cause of my latest mid-life crisis. It had been almost 20 years since we had last owned a boat, a 34 foot O'Day sailboat named KRISCO (Kristin--Scott--get it?) When we got in to spending so much time in Colorado we kind of fell out of the sailing thing.

Asisted Living is a single masted sloop--It has a main sail and a head sail or jib. If we were going to do a lot of off shore sailing--blue water sailing where the weather would be too far out to be able to plan around we would carry a larger compliment of sails--including a "storm jib." As it is, we don't intend to be at sea any longer than a couple of days and this only on a couple of occasions. If the weather's bad we won't go--not being on a schedule will be very conducive to this kind of planning. Both the main sail and the jib are reducable in size to accomodate for wind changes. She sails very stabily with reduced head sail and reefed main.

She is approximately 37 1/2 feet long and about 34 feet at the water line. She is approximately 12 feet wide and draws only 4 1/2 feet of depth with a winged keel. One of the reasons we selected this boat is the unusually (for her size) large cockpit (the outside area in the back of the boat where the helm is). It has very large and comfortable seats and is actualy quite comfortable with as many as 6 people at one time. The helm, or steering station is located here. We have a very nice array of instrumentation right at the helm---navigation GPS chartplotter, radar, VHF radio, wind speed and direction, water depth, and boat speed. The chart plotter is quite a sophisticated instrument--it displays the boat in correlation with an electronic map of the sea, much like an automobile GPS system. But the plotter also shows the obstructions and hazards, and allows automatic steering to various points or over a course. You can set waypoints and the autohelm will take you there (as long as there is nothing in the path between you and the destination point--like a piece of dirt. It also displays the water depth around you, provides tide tables and other useful information as well as info about shoreside services--restaurants, marinas etc--come to think of it its exactly like an automobile GPS--just has more functions--and it all interrelates with the other instruments through an interconnection called "Seatalk".
The cockpit has storage underneath the seats and has a cover/awning called a "bimini". It also has a windshield, or "dodger" that is to protect from wind and water. All the working "ropes" or "lines" lead back to the cockpit so that most sail handling can be done from the protection and comfort of that area. There is an electric windlass for handling the anchors and I carry two large anchors of differrent types for different bottom conditions.
The cabin or salon (below) is really quite spacious and comfortable. It has seating for as many as 8 people or even more, a large dining table that folds up out of the way, a chart table and instrument or switch panel that has all the breakers that operate all the various electrical items--lights, pumps, fans, TV, instruments, exterior lights--running lights, anchor light, deck lights, etc. . There is a galley (kitchen) with double sink, 2 burner propane stove and nice sized oven, a microwave and refigerator with small freezer. Its what we call a "one butt" kitchen but it works. There is a full head, or bathroom, with sink, toilet and shower.
There are 2 sleeping cabins--one forward called the V berth and one aft the size of a king sized bed. Since we like to sleep in the V berth we use the aft stateroom for storage including the plastic bins that will hold all the stuff we're not using at the moment. Each stateroom has a small hanging locker and drawers--actually a surprising amount of storage. The boat has air conditioning and heat that runs off of either shore power or the Honda generators that I recently added and that we will use if we need air when "on the hook". We have approximately 80 gallons of fresh water--enough to last us around 4 to 5 days if used prudently--ie no long showers. There are many hatches and ports that open and provide excellent ventilation. The bimini has attached screens that completely enclose the cockpit to protect from skeeters and those noseeums that I'm sure we'll encounter in Florida. (We Texans rid ourselves of those nasty varmints along with other nasty varmints like those carpet baggers and democrats a long time ago). The boat really provides a very comfortable platform for seeing the world--or at least that limited part of it in our plans.
Under sail and in the right conditions the boat will cruise between 6 and 7 1/2 knots --Sailboats are not the fastest means of travel but provide a thrill nonetheless. In sailboats its the getting there as opposed to the being there that matters most. We have a 25 HP diesel engine that will push us along at around 6 1/2 knots at a fuel consumption rate of about 1/2 gallon per hour. With extra fuel cans I carry about 40 gallons of diesel, for 80 hours of cruising. At 6 knots (a knot is roughly 1.1 statute miles per hour) that covers about 500 miles--plenty to cover us for any long passage we have planned.
Soooo--that's our boat. We love her. If this post has bored you--blame Gunnar. If you've enjoyed it--thank me.
BTW---Gunnar and I go way back to when he was a clerk and I was a new associate attorney at my first law firm. He sailed with us on our early boats and in fact was one of the other 4 that were with us on our very first bare boat charter in the British Virgin Islands around 1980. He moved onward and upward to fame and fortune in Santa Barbara, Cal with his wife Carol-Anne but we've stayed in touch over the years---in fact did a bareboat charter in the Abacos a couple of years ago. Oh the stories we could tell!!!!!

Abacos October 2010---With Bernie and Jane

Well, as I think I mentioned in an earlier post, we made our 2nd (my 3rd) trip to the Abacos for a week long bareboat charter--this time with my old (and I do mean "old") Army buddy and wife Bernie and Jane Boryc from Madison (that hot bed of liberalism), Wisconsin. Bernie recently retired from a career with Sears and Jane, as a teacher. When I emailed an invitation to join us on this trip they immediately jumped on it---a great leap of faith considering a. they had very little sailing experience and b. we had only seen each other once in the last 30? years, and that for just a couple of days. "Bernie? Do you think Dave is still the great fun loving wonderful and generous in every way Dave that we remember from Fort Hood????" : "And that Diane---I just don't know!!!" It was GREAT!!! We had a wonderful time. The weather, as you can see from the photos, was perfect. What a wonderful way to renew a dear relationship with 2 really fantastic people from our past--Oh the stories we could tell!!

Well, we're back now and back into preparations for our upcoming life change. Because of all that lay ahead in preparations, on our return we decided to put off our departure another week--to the 20th of November. This we did not knowing at the time that our son, Scott, was going to have such trouble getting his work visa to return to Beijing and his new job with his new firm. (As I'm sure most of you know, Scott has spent the better part of 3 years living and studying in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan with a brief sojourn of 3 years at the University of Texas School of Law . He recently completed a 1 year intensive language course of study at Taipai University
in Taiwan and then landed himself a position with a "small" (350 lawyers) Chinese law firm--The Allbright Law Office---They are actually located in Shanghai but are establishing a new Beijing office under the managemant of another American attorney who has hired Scott to assist) Since it now looks like Scott won't be returning to China for another week or so we decided to just put the whole departure off until after Thanksgiving---Soooooo--looks like I'l be leaving around the Friday or Saturday following TG.

So far it looks like I'l be joined by a couple of sailing friends from the marina for the first leg of the trip which I hope will be offshore from Galveston to south of Morgan City (Atchafalaya Bay), then inland to New Orleans. This will take 3 to 4 days depending upon wind and weather. (Diane is not keen on encountering all the offshore rigs and the inland barge traffic on this part of the trip--so she'll join up with me in NO and the crew will then use the same car to drive back to Houston.) Anyway--thats the curent plan. In the meantime preparations go on. I've had the steering checked out by professionals; we've added a new charger inverter that will allow us to have 110 volt electric capability when "on the hook" (not secured to shore electric power at a marina) and to much more rapidly recharge the batteries once they've run down; also to assist in this process we've added 2 Honda 200 watt generators that do everything we require electrically, from recharging batteries to running all the energy draining appliances even (and especially) our on-board air conditioning system-----Hurray!!!!! I don't intend to use it much for this purpose given the time of year that we'll be out, but I know we'll encounter some muggy, buggy nights from time to time and it will sure be nice to be able to go below into cool, dry air when necessary. We've aded a small convection/toaster oven. We've purchased a bunch of see-through plastic bins for storing everything from clothes to shoes to paper products to our precious wine. I suspect we've about doubled our ballast, but she doesn't appear to be riding too low on the water line. We purchased a new folding, 6 speed bicycle--really cool---it folds up to about 1/3 the size of a regular bike and stores easily. Last week-end I purchased a bunch of spare parts for the inevitable breakdown---fuel filters, oil filters, fuel injector, water pump, bilge pump, macerator pump (that's the thing that grinds up the youknowwhat before its dumped overboard--offshore---in deep, deep water), serpentine belts. We hung our cockpit screens. This week I'll install some boards along the lifeline stanchions to secure our numerous gas and diesel cans to. Still need to overhaul the anchor windlass. We've been obtaining all the charts and cruising guides we'll need for all the places we'll be going. Our friends, Rusty and Linda' turned us on to a free download of over 400 NOAA and Coast Guard charts through a free program called "Seaclear". You add a usb connection GPS antenna and the software and the GPS integrate to where you have automatic GPS tracking on an actual navigation chart on your lap-top. Really cool!!! (We will have 5 usable GPS systems on the boat---our Raymarine GPS Chartplotter at the helm, a handheld Garmin, the Seaclear program on the lap-top, my TomTom and navigation software app on my new Droid phone. If we get lost it will be because a. we are really stupid, or b. the world as we know it has come to an end.) Oh yeah!! Almost forgot--Even if we do get lost (or something should happen) we will have our "SPOT" sending out a signal to the rescue authorities to come find us at Lat and Lon xxxx. So--those of you who are worrying for us---Don't.

Well--fingers getting tired now so will post again soon. Remember what that famous sage, Bob Bitchin said---"Don't dream your life--live your dream"

Abacos October 2010