Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Without a Paddle

While thoroughly enjoying everything about our sailing trip, paddling was always never too far from my mind.  Much of our route I'd previously paddled and there were some great memories.  Down time was spent reading the new book ‘Without a Paddle’ by Warren Richey.  Without a doubt, this is now my new favorite book, and not just because I am mentioned in it a few times :)

Richey, known as Sharckchow among the WaterTribe, was the winner of the 2006 Ultimate Florida Challenge, a 1200 mile circumnavigation kayak and small boat race around Florida (a race I also participated in). The book is a great adventure story, detailing a remarkable physical and emotional journey, and it’s a love story. You’ve just got to read it.

Some of the comments regards the book and posted on the WaterTribe Discussion Forum:

“This might be the best report of a paddling adventure ever. Sharkchow has captured perfectly the ongoing struggle between the illusion of fear in our minds and the reality of our human quest to overcome it. Thanks Warren for opening up the most personal aspects of your life to us! Your story has added a new level to this life changing adventure we simply call a "Challenge". ”  MaitouCruiser
“Sharkchow captured the essence of a WaterTribe challenge and the essence of life. The really nice thing about Without a Paddle is the title. You don't need to be paddler or sailor to really enjoy this book.” Chief
“There are many things that go on inside the cockpit during a 1200 mile race, some are race issues (camping, eating, etc) but many are not. The book touches on all the issues- including the myriad of emotions and sometimes truly odd thoughts that go through one’s mind. “  SnoreBringGator
“It made me laugh and it brought tears to my eyes. I think all of the Watertribe events change our lives in some way.”  Nitenavigator
When you've finished with the book (it's really quite a page turner) there are also some great short stories and trip reports of other WaterTribe Challenges, published on the WaterTribe Magazine.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Our Sailing Cruise: A Brief Summary

Our sailing trip covered a total of 210 miles (183 nautical miles).  The 8 days on the water varied in distance.  In order from day 1 to day 8 our daily distances were 15, 30, 29, 45, 22, 16, 40, and 13 miles.

Quite an ambitious trip overall, we were up before sunrise each morning, on the water often by 6:30, one morning at 5:30 for our longest day, and anchored by 4:30, asleep each night by 9.

The route included camping at anchor 5 nights (Dixon Creek, Dipping Vat Creek, the Swash, Cape Lookout, and Beard Creek) and in slips at marinas in Oriental, Beaufort, and New Bern. We sailed on creeks, canals, rivers, bays, and sounds.   Heavy seas kept us out of the ocean and Beaufort Inlet as originally planned. 

One afternoon, Paul and I even visited with Graham Byrnes at his boat shop 4 miles west of Vandemere. Graham designed our sailboat, a Core Sound 20.

Dawn visits Graham as he works on the award-winning "Marissa" power boat

During our trip we experienced low winds, high winds, no winds, and a few menacing thunder storms.  On Core Sound we sailed through a tiny dry whirl-wind (what you'd call a "dust devil" on land.)  Days were filled with short tacks, long tacks, fast downwind rides, and lots of wet rides beating upwind. Winds were primarily 10-15 mph SW or WSW throughout. Luckily, we had enough winds in the evening to have had no problems with bugs  --wonderful!   A few evenings’ temperatures were in the 70’s, but overall it was a very hot week with 90’s and heat indexes near 100+.

There was no plan or assumption that the two boats “Spartina” (above) and “Dawn Patrol” would stay together beyond the first night, when we’d planned a meal together (hosted by Spartina). But we found the boats to be quite compatible, and the crews to be of similar sensibilities.  Almost always within a few miles of each other, and within sight of each other, it was just more fun. We’d tie up together each night, have a beer or glass of wine, share our days experiences on the boats, previous sailing and paddling experiences, and just enjoying each other’s company getting to know each other and becoming fast friends.

We had borrowed Ken Pott's 2hp 28lb Honda motor, and did use it occasionally. For the type of touring we planned, it seems almost a requirement. We followed a planned route (including very protected wind-less areas of the ICW and some small canals), and managed to stay within our original schedule. The motor was also handy, if not essential, entering and leaving the various marinas and passing under the drawbridge in New Bern (where they asked about auxillary power).  In the end, we used less than a gallon of gas.

Our boat was built during a 4 month non-stop frenzy in 2008.  Paul and our son Alan built it in time to race in the March 2008 Everglades Challenge and other  WaterTribe Challenges  --most recently the Septermber 2009 WaterTribe NC Challenge (about 100 miles).  But our cruise with “Spartina” was exactly the kind of cruise I had hoped and dreamed our boat would allow us to do.  I'm thrilled that it was such a wonderful success.

I'll be posting photos and more stories over the next couple of weeks, and make sure to check "The Log of Spartina" blog for additional trip reports.  Steve's been writing great trip reports of his annual sailing trips on his John Welsford designed Pathfinder for a few years now.  That is how we met, blogging and via e-mail.   Paul and I snapped about 700 photos (maybe 1 in 20 worth looking at), but Steve and Bruce's photos will be of professional quality, and really worth looking at.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

We're Back

What a great trip and a wonderful vacation!  Any apprehension (and fear) I might have had about sailing is gone.  It was all fun, excitement, and adventure, everything I love.  Best of all, the 24/7 for 8 days on our small sailboat with Paul was not only a lot of fun, we really enjoyed each other.

The joint venture with Steve and Bruce on “Spartina” was a great success. Both boats and crew became quick good friends really adding to my first big sailing adventure.  

How much fun did I have? We’ll, I certainly didn't bother with blogging or the planned updates during the trip, a real vacation I suppose.  There will be lots of stories to tell and pictures to share, both on the "The Log of Spartina" blog and this one.  And of course I’m already thinking about weekend trips and even our next big trip.  

Did I mention I’m now a sailor?  I really liked it!  I'm not putting the paddle away, I'll likely always be a paddler first and foremost, but I've found another fun sport to find time for, and one Paul and I can enjoy together.  Boy this work thing is really getting in the way of my life.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ready or Not

Still busy packing and making a few modifications to the boat to hold the motor (Ken was here last night helping us work it all out).  We are scheduled to sail just before noon tomorrow, so ready or not here we come.

We'll have our SPOT tracking on, you can check our location here.

Steve and Bruce on Spartina will also have SPOT tracking here

We should be in the same general area, as we're all sailing the same route and schedule (below) .  But you never know how things pan out.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Some Blog Updates

I’ve put in a few new blog updates to accommodate our trip that will help us occasionally report to family and friends. On the sidebar to the right I’ve added “mobile updates”, these will be short status reports made from my cell phone through twitter.

Also created a drop box photo album in Picasa which will keep a slide show running (below the mobile updates) from photos taken via cell. I’m lucky enough to have a new Android Incredible phone. I’m still trying to figure it out, they don’t make smart phones for dummies :(  It takes great pictures, but it’s not waterproof, and I’ll have to use it sparingly to save on battery life.

We’ll have our SPOT tracking going.  I’ll post the link and any other last minute information on Thursday.

Still a few things to finish up. We’ve got the house sitter all lined up. Ken’s coming over Wed night to help mount his motor he’s lending us. And I’m holding off till last minute buying any perishables.



We are all looking for our own little slice of Paradise.  

My son Alan is currently sailing the Pacific Ocean on his way to the Samoan Islands.  Yesterday they made land on the island of Ofu, said to be one of the world's best beaches.  They'll spend a day before sailing another 50 miles over to Pago Pago.

A little closer to home, Paul and I continue to prepare for our big sailing adventure at the coast.  The beaches on the North Carolina Outer Banks area are ranked among the best beaches in the USA. 

That works for me.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Menu Plans

The only real shopping left for our sailing trip next week is the perishable food stuff, I’ll get that done right before the trip.  Still packing though.

Steve and I continue to email to compare packing and other ideas.  He described how he keeps foods frozen and fresh on Spartina (he's also just put up a blog post on this as well.  I plan to do the same if our coolers will work together.   Our dinner meals will also include some pre-frozen meats, an assortment of fresh vegetables, some canned goods, and lots of great spices.

I spend a week each March during my WaterTribe paddling races eating enough breakfast and nutrition bars to last me a year, so our breakfasts will be a bit more varied than Steve's;  doctored up oatmeal, hard boiled eggs and english muffins, cereal and powdered milk.   Lunches will alternate between PBJs on bagels, tuna or cheese sandwiches on tortillas, and sardines and cheese on crackers.  I'll bring some fresh apples and oranges (I just love apples and peanut butter for lunch) for the first few days before switching to fruit cups or dried fruit.

When packing food in my kayak, I often pack my drybags with ziplocks containing all the food needed for a whole day, it's the easiest and most efficient way to unpack the drybags.  For our sailboat, I'll pack according to meals.  I'll have a plastic container (not too large) with all that's needed for breakfasts, another for lunches, and another for dinners.  Fresh fruits and vegetables will be packed in mesh bags, and frozen or cold foods in a cooler.  There is no real overlap in foods needed between the 3 meals of the day.

I'll also have 2 kitchen bags (I may be going overboard trying to keep everything waterproof).  One is a larger bag that contains cooking equipment that will only be needed for dinner, our large 2 burner camping stove and fuel containers, cookset (pots and plates), frying pan, and cutting board.  I have these really cute tall and round waterproof canister (below) that I ordered from antigravity gear, I'll bring one to hold all my cooking and eating utensils, and including spices and oils.  My friend Lee uses his to pack his camp breakfast foods, and even uses the top as a bowl to eat his oatmeal in.  A second small bag will contain my jetboil, for boiling water for coffee and oatmeal.  It boils water so fast, I'll likely get the water started in the jetboil for the rice and pasta for dinners too.

My weeks dinner menu includes 5 entre's.  In addition, I hope to eat out at least one night (maybe Oriental or Beaufort), and purchase some fresh shrimp or seafood during the trip to add to one of the meals, and I'll be fishing too, and we’ll have a nights worth of freeze dried and heater meals for emergencies.  

Our first night  Spartina has invited is to dinner. All the unknowns about this "kind-of" joint trip with two sailboats makes it difficult to really plan a reciprocation during the week. We’ll just have to figure out another way of hosting them.

My dinner menus includes:
  • Chicken and Pesto Linguini
  • Pork, sweet potato, and black bean stew
  • Shrimp fried rice
  • Peppered steack with curried rice pilaf
  • Pasta primavera in clam sauce.

Desserts will just likely just involve something with nutella :)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Time Flies When Having Fun

Today Paul and I have been married for 28 years.  I love (and enjoy) him more today than ever.

Tradition has it that wedding anniversary gifts should follow a certain format according to the number of years of marriage. Twenty-eight years calls for orchids. Our gifts to each other were some very nice Seattle Sports Navigator Roll Top Duffle dry bags.  They'll be perfect for packing on our sail boat and they are kind of purple like an orchid :)

Friday, June 11, 2010


This post derives from a comment left on my blog yesterday after my Row Row Row your Boat posting.

“Do these people who row across oceans, sail around the world, and do other "great stunts" actually ever work like real people? I mean really, how many people out there could take say six months off work to sail around the world and STILL HAVE A JOB? Get a life, people. These are either filthy rich people or people who get sponsored by rich people as an advertising gimmick. Nothing of any real VALUE to see here, move on! “

I really do understand what the commenter is thinking.  But it was the “get a life, people” that really hit me.  Certainly different strokes for different folks. I’m a parent of two young (20-something) adults. They’ve been raised to understand the importance of hard work and the value of money, and we expect them to be contributing adults.  But we’ve also raised them to know the importance of “getting a life”; a life filled with travel, knowing and learning about the world and it’s varied people, adventure, and even ‘stunts”.  Our son has already started living that life with the Eye of the World, our daughter is still in school and figuring it all out.  Me, I just use up vacation time, and can't wait for my future retirement.

I am just thankful that the adventurers (including those doing “great stunts”), regardless of where their resources derive, share their lives with us on blogs, in books, movies, and other media.  Certainly as the commenter notes, many of us cannot choose to live that life (for whatever reason) even for a short time, so how wonderful to at least have the opportunity to live it through another.

Now..., back to preparing for my own little itty bitty adventure on the high seas of Core Sound, the Neuse River, and the Intra Coastal Waterway of NC’s Outer Banks in our own homemade boat.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Row Row Row Your Boat

My friend Ginger just lent me another book to read on my sailing trip.  This one is Roz Savage's book 'Rowing the Atlantic".  I certainly know about her and her accomplishments, but didn't actually start following her blog until her trip rowing to Hawaii, and now she's on her way to Australia.  This should be an interesting read.

Other favorites of mine have included Audrey Southerland's 'Paddling Hawai'i' (You may not know that I'm originally from Hawaii, and still with parents and family there), and Jill Fredston's book "Rowing to Latitude" (one of my all time favorites).  I'm guessing you see a theme here. 

This book on rowing is also quite apropos.  Paul is a bit of a purist with 'Dawn Patrol', and does not want to put a motor on her.  We have a very nice long set of oars.  This is fine, and fun, and our boat rows well (if not a bit slow ~2mph).  WaterTribe challenges do not allow motor's, so Paul's keeps thinking I would want to adhere to that philosophy.  But, this is cruising and vacation, not a race, and I'm really not happy when docking, especially in places like Oriental and Beaufort with such boat traffic, and small narrrow creeks and cuts.  And we are planning a trip with a schedule and destinations. 

I've been rallying for a small 2.5hp motor ever since we bought the boat.  Our friend Ken has offered to lend us his for our trip.  He's even coming over to help Paul figure out how to temporarily mount it without doing too much damage to our transom (is that even possible).  I don't think it's a done deal but Paul's at least considering it for my sake.  And I'm good with the challenge of trying not to use it except for those very short moments.

Still working on a few of my chores getting things ready.  I'm in the middle of sewing a new red cabin door, and a second inside door that will be a no-seeum and mosquito net curtain that can be tied up when not in use.  I've some great ideas for a cockpit tent but no time to do it right.  Paul's to-do list still includes adding rub rails which I need for the tent.  He's finally decided exactly how he wants to do them (if you build a boat, you should customize it to your likings).  That will likely be a project for the winter. 

In the meantime I've a large piece of mosquito netting, you know the kind you see advertised to curtain off a bed.  I'm going to just rig something simple to put in place over a small area between the mizzen mast and cockpit to give us a small outside screened-in area if needed.  The mesh won't work for nats or no-seeums, so wish us luck on that.  And I'll use a tarp to put together a simple cockpit covering for rain to extend our usable space in inclement weather.  We have the small cabin so something simple and jury rigged till I can do it right will be fine.

Just added lemon pepper to my kitchen list, this in case were cooking some fresh caught fish :)

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

It is a Vacation after all

In addition to all the gear packing and preparation getting ready for our upcoming Sailing trip.  I've been preparing for some rest and relaxation time.  After all, this is a vacation. 

So, I've got my copy of 'Without a Paddle' that I'm planning to read.  I'd posted an announcement last January about this book.  It is the book Warren Richey (SharkChow) winner of the 2006 WaterTribe Ultimate Florida Challenge wrote.   I'm really excited about reading it.  Shhhh, I've also registered for this event again in 2012 :)

And I've got my temporary NC Coastal Fishing license.  I've never really fished much, but I think casting away on a late afternoon sounds very relaxing.  Thinking positively, I'll even make sure to bring any necessary spices to cook my catch.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Rescue Drills

When my paddling progressed to expedition trips, I’d spend time before each trip practicing rescue drills and scenarios with my paddling partners. Similarly, Paul and I headed to the lake today with a plan to do some rescue work in our sailboat ‘Dawn Patrol’ as we prepare for our upcoming sailing trip.

What a day! Sorry, we forgot the camera, so I’ve no proof, but, there were some at the lake who would probably vouch for our surprise antics.

Winds were easily 15 knots in the middle of the lake, with white caps breaking over. We met a guy with a Sea Pearl taking his family out for their first sail in about 5 years. He’d reefed his sails (rolled around the mast and mizzen) such that only about 6 sq ft of sail was showing on each mast they moved very slowly.

Alan and Paul with sail reefs in 2008 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge

We too decided this afforded an opportunity to practice some reefing in our sails. Simple reefing lines allow us to tie up the bottom sail reducing the sail area. We put 2 reefs in the main sail, and 1 in the mizzen. We still showed more sail area with our two masts than many on the lake today, and we managing speeds averaging about 4.5-6.5 mph. I found it quite comfortable sailing in today’s winds with sails reefed, but we both agreed we could have easily let one of the main reefs out.

We sailed around for an hour or so, found and visited briefly with KiwiBird who was camping with the ‘wee one’.  He’s becoming quite the camper these days, and has recently been lent an Optimus sailboat to grow into soon.  But they were starting to pack up, and no time for a short sail.

Leaving the campsite and heading into the main part of the lake, we were ready to start our safety drills. First up, the man-over-board drill. We had a large jug (it wasn’t really heavy enough) that while sailing full on, Paul threw out, and I was to figure out how to get to it. I immediately heaved-to, keeping my eyes on the jug. I was a bit taken aback when releasing the mizzen to start sailing towards the jug and realizing I had no idea which way I’d end up going, but I got us turned around and sailed right along side the jug which was now moving quickly downwind.

Paul almost got his hands on it, but I was moving pretty quickly, and didn’t stop. Hmmm, stopping would be necessary to allow the swimmer to get back in. So around I went again, and then sailed downwind towards our jug. Planning to stop at/near the jug, my attempts totally failed. I let the main go, and pulled in the mizzen (correctly), but the main started twist around all over the place, we hadn’t stopped at all, and it was a bit of a mess. I forgot to head upwind before heaving-to. Attempts to again try and correct the situation had me losing my cool this time, (remember it was pretty windy), and we were now very quickly moving downwind and towards a rocky beach. Paul got us turned around, and sailed up to the jug, which I had trouble reaching and bringing in. “Help”.

There was a Hobie sailor beached on the shore taking a break, and watching our maneuverings (and appearing to be scratching his head). The jug was quickly floating to him on shore. He picked it up and started walking out in the shallows to hand it over. Of course now I’m a bit freaked because we are in very shallow water, near shore, still heading towards shore, and there are these 8 telephone poles (marking off a swimming area I think) about 25 yards off shore, and about 25 yards apart, which we are now inside of.

Our helper on the beach quickly handed over the jug and asked us what kind of boat we had. He said “you guys are amazing”. We grabbed the jug, Paul quickly tacked, and I couldn’t even look as he does another couple of very short tacks through these poles to head out to the open water. After that maneuver, our audience shouted again “absolutely amazing”. I started to realize that I’ve not really given Paul enough credit for his sailing skills. Something that would really help me relax a bit.

We sailing around for awhile longer, with me taking the tiller again and discussed the man-over-board drill and mistakes made. We didn’t really have time for another (and especially since the jug didn’t really work) but we talked about the necessary steps needed in that situation, heaving-to, and what we would plan to do in the event one of us went over. The exercise was full of lessons learned. Another related discussion we’ve been having is whether we need a safety tether in rough weather. It was the last going away present we gave Alan before he sailed off with the Eye (a big hint towards his safety). But we are still debating the safety vs. hazard issues of a tether on our dingy sailboat, with both of us on the boat.

Returning back towards the dock, we sailed into the beach cove, and set anchor in about 6-7 feet of water not too far offshore. Put things away and closed all the hatches. Time for our capsize recovery drill. We’d been talking about needing to do it and always put it off. It’s hard to force yourself to do it (hard work, and the clean up afterwards), when your having a nice sail. But this would be our last day on the water before our trip, so… now or never.

With both of us standing midship on the starboard coaming, I could hear the gasps from folks swimming near shore as the boat slowly came over. The boat capsized on its starboard side largely supported by the cabin. We swam around to the centerboard which was really quite high out of the water. I thought it took both of us to pull on the board (Paul’s pretty sure he could do it solo), but without too much work, the boat slowly worked its way upright. No water in the cabin or its hatches, but the hatches on the starboard side did take on water, and the cockpit took on about 4 inches. (Neoprene gaskets in the lids of the cockpit hatches is still on Paul’s to-do list.) We stated pumping, but decided to give it one more go, this time seeing if I could stay on the boat, and swing around onto the centerboard without going for a swim. It was tough hanging on, but I did it, and standing on the board with Paul pulling down, we were again up. I was not as successful getting back in the boat the same way. A bit more water now, maybe 6 inches, but our bailing bucket, D-battery-powered pump, and hand pumps made for quick work.

With the day getting quite late, we took down the sails and I rowed us back around to the docks. All in all, a very fun and successful day. We’re still working a few chores getting the boat ready, and next weekend we’ll pack and organizing gear.

Then we’ll be all ready to go.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Different Strokes (or Vacations)

Our friend Ken (and my recent sailing instructor) came over to dinner Friday evening with his friend Anthea who is visiting from Australia. They left Sat morning for a week long sailing trip at the coast. We spent the evening visiting, talking about sailboats (Ken has a Core Sound 17 similar to our 20), about each of our respective sailing vacation plans, and poured over charts and routing.

The differences in terms of planning and preparation of the 2 upcoming trips (theirs and ours) were quite interesting. Ken’s a real go with the flow kind of guy, he’s all geared up, but with not much in the way of plans, other than sailing, vacationing, and fun. He still wasn’t even sure where they were going to start their trip, waiting and wanting to base it on the weather predictions. He’d thought to spend time around Lookout and Core Sound, or possibly sail over to Oacracoke. But most important he wanted to try and start and finish at the same location where he leaves his car.

We discussed options such as Shell Point on Harkers Island, or Cedar Island. We even thought that the Cedar Island, Oacracoke, and/or Swan Quarter Ferry could provide some possible bailouts that could help get back to the car and trailer depending on where he was. We quickly read some of the reports of the recent OBX130 on the Duckworks Magazine website, and he noted some waypoints from some of their camp sites, particularly the Old Gun Club which is just north of the Swatch on the Southern Core Banks. The OBX130 had some really bad luck with weather during their trip. They seemed to have been much more effected by it in their sailboats than I was in my kayak on my paddling vacation just a bit north of them during that same week.

The weather for this coming week was primarily typical coastal 10-15, but a couple of fronts were expected to blow through with higher winds on a few of the days. One option we discussed was starting at Cedar Island. If weather was too big, they could ferry over to Oacracoke for a day trip, and spend the week sailing around the Neuse River, even taking the ICW down to Beaufort. It would afford more protection from big winds in the open, both Oriental and Beaufort would be very nice places to visit, and I knew of a couple of nice sandy beaches where they could camp out in those areas.

They were planning to camp on shore. Though he’d built a very nice cockpit tent a couple years ago (complete with no-seeum panels and even plastic window panels), it has issues in wind, and he thought they’d have more fun camping in a tent on shore, and he has an addiitonal screen shelter as well for mosquito protection. Anthea was not liking the joking we were all doing regards mosquitoes and no-seeums, and was quick to take me up on my lend of mesh pants.

He’s without a SPOT so we’ll have to wait till he’s back before knowing about his trip. I can hardly wait to hear all about it. Upon returning, he’s offered to help Paul get a temporary motor mount set up, so we could borrow his small 2.5 HP Honda motor for our trip. YES!

Clearly Ken’s approach is a bit more laid back than the trip Steve, Bruce, Paul and I have been discussing for many months. We have a definite route planned, but with many alternate and backups. We all include the trip planning and preparation as part of the fun of the event. I think our approach would be considered overly obsessive about all the details by Ken. His attitude was to wait and see what the wind direction is that day, and then figure out which way to go. His sailing will likely be optimized, while ours may offer some navigational challenges dealing with what we encounter while trying to maintain a plan.

In the end, it’s all good, just some fun days on the water.

I"m over worrying about our trip.  Every time I look for some sailing pictures to post, all I find are ones where I've got a big smile on my face, and am having lots of fun.   Today's winds will be 10-15 mph, we'll be sailing :)

Saturday, June 05, 2010

A Friend's Passing

Tana with our beloved cat Calico in the year 2000.

Our beautiful cat Calico joined our previous family pets, Maggie and Springer (both English Springer Spaniels), and our first cat Higgins, along with a few other various turtles, parakets, frogs, gerbels, snakes, etc... in pet heaven today.

Calico was 19 years old, about 93 in cat-years. Cats typically live 15-18 years, so we have been very lucky to have her this long. She lived a very happy and long family life.

This past year she has not been that well with a thyroid condition (hyperthyroidism common in older cats). And this past week we noticed she'd taken a turn for the worst. This morning the vet said told us “She really wants to go to kitty heaven now”. Snuggled in a soft warm towel blanket, Calico was given an anesthesia overdose. She peacefully went to sleep and took her last breaths while being petted and thanked her for being such a wonderful cat all these many years.

We buried her in our front yard, near Maggie, in a spot I can imagine her sitting and watching the squirrels or waiting for a mouse.

She was very a beautiful, and loving pet, and we will miss her purring and kneading and lying on my stomach whenever I napped on the couch.

Calico is survived by her buddies, Amber and Winston (Golden Retriver and English Springer Spanies), Mr. Bird (pet parakeet) and 5 fish.

We'll all miss you terribly Calico.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect

But practice takes time, and we are running out of that.

A thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail is at the top of my bucket list with retirement looming in a couple years. I’ve read many times that one need only to get used to the pack weight on your back, that the start of this long hike will be training enough in the end. Paul and I will have our first real sailing adventure together in a couple of weeks. I’m not feeling totally skilled, prepared, or ready for this adventure, so am hoping its also okay to let this trip be some of the added lessons towards my training.

Paul and I, like Steve who keeps the blog 'The Log of Spartina', (and who we hope to see a good bit during our sailing trip), all like the anticipation, enjoyment, and fun, of planning and even training for our upcoming trips.  Makes the event last much longer than just the week of travel, and the planning is done in a way that's fun rather than hard work right before the trip.  But it can be a double edged sword if not enough time is given, or you run out of time.

Our sailing season this year has had a bit of a late start. When Paul and Alan did their marathon build of our Core Sound 20 “Dawn Patrol” in time to race it in the 2008 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge (EC), they never REALLY finished it. Paul has been determined to get a few things done on it before this season. Then this past winter, I’d kept him pretty busy with the build of a new wooden kayak (a B&B Yachts Grand Diva) hoping to use it in this year’s EC. That’s another story, and the unfinished kayak still sadly calls us from the basement.

So Paul’s been spending all his free time the past couple months trying to get his boat work completed. Much of this involved epoxy work needing the warmer temps of spring. His very long list is not finished, but it’s good enough for now. Boat maintenance never gets finished, and I’m learning the hobby is not just about sailing, but also includes all the boat work too :)

Anyway, this past weekend was really the first time Dawn Patrol hit the water this year. With our week long sailing trip coming up in 2 weeks (YIKES), we really needed to get out there, get some sailing in, and start some equipment/packing/organizing dry runs for our trip. And either this coming weekend, or next, we are planning some rescue scenarios, a man over-board drill, and even flipping and righting the boat as final preparation.  I’m still a bit concerned about my being able to rescue Paul if he’s swimming and I’m solo in the boat (but I guess the warmer summer water temperatures help my concerns a bit). And I keep trying to remember, this is a vacation, not a race or challenge, we’ll just sit tight, relax and enjoy the down time of inclement weather.

I returned from my paddling trip Friday, lots of chores to do etc…, we finally got to the lake on Sat. All weekend we had 5-10 mph winds, luckily none of the predicted rain or t-storms, and quite a bit of heavy chop with all the holiday boat traffic on the water. The sailing was great, my preferred wind speed these days is 10-12 (I've not had that much experience during either my lessons or other sailing in high winds). In fact I’d had so much fun, both sailing and relaxing, that on the way home I realized for the first time in our sailboat, I’d had more fun than stress. This is a very good thing, my increasing experience and confidence is allowing me to enjoy our sailing so much more.  And I love to camp, and am really looking forward to the late afternoons reading books and chilling.

My complaints are usually about leaving and returning from the dock. I WANT a motor. We left from a small bay with headwinds, and with lots of other boat traffic leaving the boat ramps/docks. Getting out to the open lake required lots of tacking. I just hate it when it seems you actually lose forward headway with some points of tack, and especially when that lose seems to direct you back to shore. In a small bay the winds get squirrely too, making it even more a challenge. The return was a bit easier as we practiced taking the sails down and rowing in a few hundred yards from the ramp.

I do think I’m making some headway in my arguments for a small motor, this based on a few discussions with Paul.  Unfortunately it won’t happen before our trip.  I believe our lack of motor will make some of the planned routing difficult for us within the timed schedule, and we are planning to be able to quickly make some routing changes during the trip if necessary.  Both Beaufort or Oriental could present some challenges without a motor, especially Beaufort with its narrow Taylors Creek and strong currents, and of course there is the bridge into Nelson Bay (with lots of tidal current).  Most of this Paul has already done with Alan in the previous WaterTribe North Carolina Challenge sans engine, so he sees no problems.  It's all my problem, in my head, but after all, this trip is a vacation not a challenge.

Our back up system is rowing, and we have some beautiful oars.  'Dawn Patrol' is set up nicely for rowing with oar locks in 3 different locations, the third at the transom which would allow for sculling.   In general I’m okay with rowing as our backup system, it’s a nice workout and I like to row, but it’s not without it's challenges if sails are up and still effected somewhat by the wind (even when set loose). The person rowing in our boat can’t see where they are going (sitting in front of the cabin) so it’s a two person process requiring some really good communication (not easy for me when I start getting stressed).  It’s not always fun.  Did I tell you Paul is a saint and has lots of patience. We’ll be married 28 years next week :)

Many of my fears about sailing really make little to no sense, and are based in ignorance and lack of experience.  None of the horrific problems my very creative imagination creates would really result in our  being seriously hurt.  But our sailboat would be (and possibly another boat), leaving us okay, but with all the unexpected, and having to deal with what to do next.  It's the feeling of being out of control that often has me so fearful.  I always feel in control of my kayak, even in big winds, big waves, and strong currents.  I can choose what to do and where to go, and can easily make it happen.  In the sailboat, I still feel totally at the mercy of the wind (or lack of when in irons) and the current.  Though I’m told this will change over time with experience, and indeed my comfort level has greatly improved.

Back to our weekend; I spent much of the time as Captain, and took the opportunity to experiment a lot (it’s not like we had a destination), comparing jibing vs. tacking in different situations, seeing if I can make a particular direction, and working on optimizing sail angles. There is so much more to learn, and get comfortable with, I’m actually looking forward to a whole week of working on it. Paul seems to have all the knowledge and experience we need with anchoring so no worries there (that will be more future lessons for me), and he’s explained about anchoring and wind direction, and the need for 2 and or 3 points of stability, so I get the basics.

We camped in the boat Sat night in a nice little cove, experimenting with some camping gear, sleep systems, our kitchen gear, and cooking on board (shrimp stir-fry over rice), etc…  I’m kicking myself a bit for not having made our cabin cushions yet.  I’ve priced out all the materials, and to do it right with marine quality foam and fabrics, it’s quite costly; I’d rather save towards a motor :)  Our camping gear includes quite a bit of different options regards sleep pads and bags, and all will work nicely, it just makes for some extra work each evening and morning taking out and putting away that permanent cushions would save on. Not to mention adding color and decoration to a very stark cuddy cabin.

We also bought a portable potty system for the boat.  I’m a fan of Wag Bags, so we bought the PETT system (more comfortable than a bucket), and will modify it slightly to work nicely in the privacy of the cabin.

Planning packing for a kayaking trip is a bit simpler, as I really minimize that gear, and packing options are limited, either back or front hatch.  We also try and minimize gear for the sailboat, but it’s still a bit bigger in scale (i.e. a larger tool kit etc…), and the bigger boat allows more for comforts.  We still have some work to do to maximize efficiency in where things are packed.  This past weekend was a great run through for that.  Paul has adopted one of Steve’s ideas, using a diagram of the boat, we document on it where things are packed, makes for much easier remembering and searching for stuff,  our boat has lots of hatches (5 in cockpit, and 5 in cabin).

We’ll get in some sailing again in this weekend (maybe even next), possibly another camping night Saturday (helps with packing plans).  I’m still waiting on delivery of some materials I need to make the small screened in area of the cockpit I plan, this mosquito and no-seeum protection (but a luxury we could do without if needed), and I'd like to make a new cabin door.

There is still some research and planning needed for our dinner meals.  A nice dinner while camping can really add pleasure to the trip.  Breakfast and lunch will be easy and simple camping food.

We’re back debating about spending $$ on inflatable vests. I’m a believer in wearing PFD’s, but our kayaking PFD’s are bulky for the movements we do in the sailboat.  Our hesitation has always been the difficulty of adding some necessary (as we see it) safety gear onto the inflatable models.  We may decide it’s just not worth the $$ spent yet, but are thinking about it.

Paul’s done a bit of chart work, I’m fairly familiar with most of the area we’ll be sailing, but I’d like to make a nice notebook with some laminated pages from Google earth and NOAA charts covering some of the areas, in addition to our waterproof Charts, and the Blue Chart maps on our GPS.  This mostly for fun than actual navigation.

So... still lots to do, and likely time better spent than blogging :)