Friday, December 27, 2013

Spirit of Christmas

During the past few weeks, Christmas was alive in Oriental and we took full advantage of every oppertunity to make the most of the magic.  

Not only did we attend a few parties, a parade, and give a go at caroling, the kids were stars in TWO nativity plays.  Such is possible in a small town with a limited younger crowd.  
We are enjoying this precious community to the fullest.  On New Years, we will go chasing the dragon and try to tap it for good luck with pots and pans in hand.  When in Oriental... Do as the Oriental-ans do!  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Steady as she goes

Well we got a lot done during the last two weeks. New hatches, plumbing, smart charger, etc...  But we have a ways to go yet. 

The new hatches look great and they are water tight. The batteries are doing their job while the charger is keeping them strong. The new bilge pump also works well but it has only had to do anything one time during the test. 
The kids even like to pitch in. 

Fun in the dink. 

For Christmas we received a new family member and guard dog. 

View of Chicago on approach. Time to head back to the great white North. 

Lighthouse in St Joe, Michigan. Credit to whoever took the picture. Likely one of the local fish wraps. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pimpin the crib

We had a glitch in the bilge pump matrix and as a result, our batteries took a hit. Had to instal all new batteries compliments of the warranty. Since there wasn't such a rush this time I went ahead and replaced all the wiring, terminals, and put in a new smart charger. 

New acrylic on the hatches. This job took much longer than expected removing the old glue. Hopefully it will stop the one or two leaks we have. 

Everything is cleaned and prepped. New glass gets caulked today. 

These are the old diaphram pumps. Obviously not in the best condition. Replacing them with modern technology and all new hoses. 

Today's project, caulking in the new hatches with Sika-flex. Luckily the temperature today should be in the high 60's. 

Even with all the work going on we still have time for adventures. Fun is awesome!  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Free from indenture

When I'm not sailing, I'm sailing. 30 days in the hole and now I'm heading home. 
Chomping at the bits. Winter gales and storms make for interesting voyages. 

Time for a siesta. Then back to work on the sailboat. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

On and on until the break of dawn

Refitting a vintage sailboat, even one previously owned by a meticulous airline pilot, can be daunting. In a rush to splash the boat, before I had to fly out for work, I chose to overlook one crucial aspect (wished away actually) and that was the PSS dripless shaft seal. I hoped it would be fine and against my better judgement put the boat in the water anyway. Due to the boat sitting on the hard for two years it seems as though the shaft seal is questionable. Of course it is. So now we must haul the boat out again and have a traditional packing gland installed. BTW, a shaft seal is where the propeller shaft goes through the hull of the boat. It is supposed to keep the ocean from coming in. The good news is we can also replace the cutlass bearing and prop shaft while we're at it. I think that is good news. Anyway when you sail offshore with children, the vessel and its systems must obviously be bullet proof. 

Fortunately the engine has very low hours but it still needs to be updated with all new pipes, hoses, hose clamps, filters, pumps, lube, lines, valve adjustment, etc..etc..luckily this is work I can do myself. Once she is tuned up and running right we will be one more step toward our departure. 

There are other items that need to be updated too. Before we can even make the quick trip to Florida we need to replace the aft stay (holds mast up), dye test the other stays and chain plates, replace 4 acrylic hatches, replumb all new fresh water lines throughout the boat, two new bilge pumps, and instal a new refrigeration system. We will still need to replace the freezer later on. We need an 80 pound anchor and 300 feet of high tensile chain. And before we leave, a new chart plotter plus recertification of the liferaft, fire fighting equipment, and EPIRB.   All of these things are pretty mundane and basic. Just like buying an older home some items need to be replaced and updated. 

Once we arrive at our next staging area we will focus on creature comforts which is Jenny's department. I imagine she'll replace the counter tops, all three sinks, curtains, cushions, pilothouse enclosure, and carpetting. The Stuart Fl area is a good place to have this type of work done as there are many talented contractors available.  From that point we will be ready to venture elsewhere. 

We still have to sell our dinghy though. It is too big for our davits. If anyone is interested in a 16 ft Novurania just leave a comment. We are looking for something a bit smaller and hopefully newer. But we'll see. This dinghy has been a wonderful member of our family. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

A word on Yacht Brokers

Over the years we've bought and sold a number of sailboats, power boats, and dinghies. Never once have we utilized a brokerage service. It's not that we didn't want to or didn't try, but because we were put off by the same old sales wrap and pushy, self-serving attitude of the brokers we encountered. 

That was until we had a change of luck and were introduced to Captain Steve Hedrick of Manatee Pocket Yacht Sales in Stuart, Florida. 

Steve completely renewed our faith in yacht brokerage. His level of professionalism, courtesy, and attention to detail was shocking. At times during the purchase of our new-to-us sailboat I almost felt guilty because the service was so outstanding. It was like what did I do to deserve such attention. Steve seemlessly handled the entire transaction. He developed a relationship with the selling broker and negotiated a deal that left everyone smiling. 
If you are looking to buy or sell a boat, whether in Florida or not, Steve Hedrick comes with the highest recommendations. He will not only earn your respect as a genuinely professional broker for life, but also as a friend. 

Thanks Steve!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Message in a Bottle

Quite often in daily life we are in such a rush that we fail to listen to what the Universe is teaching us. God, the Creator, the quantum matrix, aliens, (whatever your choice) provides signposts along the way, guiding us in the right direction if we choose to look. If we choose to see. 

We were anchored in a secluded bay one evening in the Bahamas. The kids had eaten their dinner and were settling down from a day of swimming and snorkling when we decided to do the old message in a bottle thing. The kids wrote a nice letter to no one in particular, we put our email address on there, stuffed it in an empty wine bottle, and chucked it over the side. 

A few months later, much to our surprise, we received an email from a lady hundreds of miles away who had found our bottle washed up on a beach. I immediately bought a lottery ticket. Even more surprising, it was the third message in a bottle she had found in her life. She told us that she regularly walks the beaches just looking. 

There are messages out there for all of us to find. For me the message was not to go gambling, but I did learn something about paying closer attention to the world, nature, and the universe. 

Like most kids, ours are entralled by finding treasure. They are constantly scanning the ground and can spot a dime 50 yards out. I'm always telling them, 'don't pick up trash.'  But they are looking because they EXPECT something to be there, and more often than not, there is. They have found many great treasures, lots of coins, random junk, and on one occasion a very old diamond engagement ring buried deep in some mud. Don't ask. We never appraised the ring.  It remains in their collection.  Its true value being the reminder that if ye seek, then truly ye shall find. 


Monday, November 25, 2013

The Itinerary

Keeping a schedule while cruising under sail is a lesson in futility. Most cruisers will attest to this. For said reason, we like to make all of our plans tentatively, going where the eratic jet stream forces us. When you take your home with you everywhere, it's easy to keep a relaxed schedule. 

After the initial refit of Refuge, we will likely make our way south to Cayo Hueso, aka Key West, a special place we like consider our fourth home. Many people recoil in shock at the thought of bringing young kids to KW, but you might be surprised to learn it is as tame as any other small town in America. But if blacking out in a street gutter is your thing, they will be more than happy to accomodate you all the same. Destinations beyond the keys for the near future include the Bahamas. That's it, we don't want to over extend ourselves. Next year perhaps Cuba (sshhh), Belize, and the Mexican coast.

Ultimately we'd like to make Georgetown, Bahamas by March, but this may require some help from our friend Bill Gates. Not holding our breath though as he is currently off vaccinating half of Africa. Nevertheless, the Exumas are where we will end up, the good Lord willing.

Meanwhile there's lots of work to do on the boat. More posts to come on that. 

Like grains of sand through the hour glass, so go the days of our lives. 


Friday, November 22, 2013

The Iron Jenny

Much to the chagrin of my wife Jenny, the title address of our blog is a play on her name. After all she is the engine that keeps us going. 

Kai, Kayden, and Fallon (left to right) are the rambunctious brood. Always seeking that new experience and living life to the fullest extent the law. 

The kids even cook, if you are carbo loading. 

In between boats the driveway made a great home. 


Thursday, November 21, 2013


The fun never stops. As our children learn cruising virtues like dependability, honesty, conservancy, proper seamanship, and respect for other cultures, they are also enrolled in an intensive homeschool program. Jenny spends 8 hours each day with them as their instructor. In addition to the traditional lessons, they also take many educational field trips to museums, lectures, and nature outings.

Niagara Falls

For families that can accommodate a program, homeschooling can be highly successful. Properly homeschooled children, quite often, excel in their studies and go on to Ivy League levels of higher education. Jenny works hard to orchestrate peer time for their expanding social needs. As a fast growing alternative to traditional school, there is a vast network of resources available to families such as ours.

Ecology Field Trip

While sailing the tropics, we take frequent dinghy excursions to learn about mangroves, coral reefs, sea life, and our oceans. The kids observe, study, and collect specimens for experiments and reports, all of which go into their permanent file. At an early age they are aspiring experts on many different species of sea life and vegetation as well as their habitats. Learning CAN be fun.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The refit begins

New bottom paint
One of the first things we had to do was paint the bottom with protective anti-foul. This keeps growth and barnacles to a minimum so the boat sails fast and true. The process took about four days in all. Cleaning, sanding, more cleaning, and painting.

New Battery Bank
The next task before launch was to replace the entire battery bank. The boat requires eight, 6-Volt deep cycle batteries to power our systems when we are away from shore. We charge these batteries with solar and wind power. On cloudy, windless days we have a small gas powered generator that will run everything on the boat. The battery bank will supply our home with energy for about three days before needing a recharge.

On the move

On her way to the water. A large travel lift picks all 38,000 pounds up like a toy and moves her to the launch slip, lowers her gently into the water, and away we go. Sort of.

Lot's of work to be done yet. The Perkins diesel needs outfitting. We bug bombed to be safe. Cleaned every inch inside and out. Inventoried tools and supplies, set up the kids' staterooms, tested the systems, installed new pumps and hoses (ongoing), and organized what we currently have. Pretty soon we will bring in our mobile garage (12 foot trailer) and load up everything else we need for cruising- fishing gear, lobster hunting equipment, water maker, extra anchors & line, tropical wear, washer & dryer, etc...
It will be a couple more weeks before the job is complete. When everything
is ship shape, we will depart from our friends
in North Carolina and sail offshore for Fort
Pierce, FL where we will visit the kids' other
grandma and grandpa while we continue
more upgrades to the vessel.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Home away from home

After spending the summer in Ohio with Grandma and Grandpa it was time to continue on with our cruising plans. We spent a couple of months looking at many different sailboats to replace The Aslan, our previous boat, and finally found Refuge.

She is a 3 stateroom Gulf Star 50 that had spent 15 years cruising from the West Coast. Since 1980, Refuge has sailed the world's oceans and now she will continue her life with us as we explore the islands of South Florida, the Bahamas, Mexico, and beyond. 

Truck and dinghy in tow

We packed our things and hit the road for North Carolina where we will begin the arduous task of refurbishing the vessel. Everything from batteries to countertops will eventually be replaced to turn this ocean cruiser into a safe and comfortable home.

Up on stilts. Refuge has all the conveniences of a modern home and can function off grid for extended periods of time. In the open ocean she is capable of covering 200 miles per day.