Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Meal Planning Update

Hello everyone.  Yes, I'm still alive.  I've actually been working on a post I thought I would have had done months ago, but am finding it a difficult one to write.  Part of the issue is how up in the air any potential plans are right now.  In the meantime, I thought I would write about some things that I used while on the boat and still use on land.

One of these that gets regular usage is meal planning.  Unfortunately the meal planning tool I had been using has decided to make the planning portion of the online tool a pay service.  While I am fine with adding recipes I've created and contribute reviews and ratings as well as endure advertisements, I (like many cruisers) just don't have the money to pay for annual subscriptions for such things.  So, I've been looking for alternatives.

A recipe I created and manually entered into Pepperplate.

Thus far, my favorite is a service called Pepperplate. The meal planning portion of the service is similar to BigOven and the grocery list generation is actually a little better about grouping similar items together so it makes the grocery store trip a bit easier. Recipe access is better as it doesn't link to other sources for the contents or instructions but imports them into the application.  By doing this, it also allows for offline access on tablets and other devices where you have downloaded their app.

The one thing Pepperplate doesn't have is an integrated database of public recipes.  Instead, it utilizes other recipe sites and can automatically import from many sites (AllRecipes, Better Homes and Gardens, Chow, Food Network,, and Simply Recipes just to name a few). It has a browser bookmark applet that makes recipe import simple.  On sites where it doesn't automatically import, pulling in a recipe is a simple matter of a few cut-and pastes using the same browser applet.  This is all similar to how BigOven worked and so far I've found Pepperplate a bit easier to use.

If you are looking for an option to aid in meal planning and provisioning, you might want to give Pepperplate a try.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Boat Listing

Oops.  I know I was going to post a link to the boat listing once it was corrected.  Well, time got away from me and I'm just getting around to it.

So, for those interested, here is the listing on Yachtworld:

The listing has a number of pictures as well as a video that my broker put together.  Unless the listing somehow reverts back to the old one, the information should be correct now.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Departures, Bad Omens, and Bad Internet

I know it has once again been a while since I made a post.  Sorry, but it has been difficult to find time or the motivation.  Then when I had the time, other things conspired against me.  So, to catch everyone up with what is happening…

After getting the cushions done, I wrapped up a little outstanding maintenance and we finished cleaning up the boat so it would be presentable for sale.  I think it now looks better than anytime we have owned it. Our broker made the trek up from St. Augustine and took some pictures and videos for the listing. He seemed very impressed with the current shape of the boat. We met with and hired Carolina Yacht Care to watch over our boat in our absence.  We divided up everything we owned into things we wanted to keep and things we could give away or donate (we already sold a few things like the folding bikes). After finding homes for the donations, we packed up all but a couple of the boxes of stuff to keep into the two cars. The extra boxes were taken to the post office and shipped back to Colorado.

Ready for her next owners.

A couple days before we left, our eldest dog started getting sick. We put her on a bland diet and that seemed to help. We departed Southport on the 17th, despite the threatening potential ice storms that were predicted to block our path.  Fortunately, we left late enough that we missed most of the ice and only found heavy rains. Unfortunately, this was when one of the clips holding the driver’s side windshield wiper blade on my car decided to fail. I noticed it was at an odd angle and pulled over in the rain to investigate.  Finding the failed clip, I managed to tape the broken wiper clip to the arm and it held until we could find a replacement blade in the next town.

That evening at the hotel, our eldest dog got sick again.  This was a pattern that ended up repeating itself pretty much every evening for the remainder of the trip. The driving marathon ended up taking 4 very tiring days of getting up, getting in the car, driving as far as we could manage, find a hotel, and repeat the next day.

After arriving in Denver, the very next morning I was hit hard by a nasty chest cold.  For those that don’t remember, pretty much the exact same thing happened the last time I was in town. If I were a superstitious sailing type, all of these things might be telling me this might be a mistake.

There was a bit of a communications snafu with the broker, but the boat listing should be up shortly. That is if the spotty internet we have where we are currently staying will manage to work long enough to work out the details with the brokerage company. 

The path ahead seems quite clouded and the sea and warm breezes continue to beckon to me.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Much Improved Salon

Well, like most projects, the settee cushions took a bit longer than I anticipated. After getting the foam cut and test fit, I started cutting out the fabric. The wood burning tool I used to cut the Sunbrella material worked well, but it is a slow process. Not having the material unravel is well worth the effort.  I used a permanent marker to trace around the plate (top and bottom) patterns of the cushions. The straight boxing (side pieces) were just measured, but patterns were used for the curved boxing of the back cushions. Although the fabric doesn't have stripes per-se, it does have a pattern or grain so care had to be taken while positioning the patterns to make it all look right.

The old, cracking salon cushions.
Sewing the pieces together to make the cushion covers is fairly straight forward and there are plenty of tutorials at Sailrite on how it is done.  The trick was getting the zippers installed along the seams the same way it was done on the original cushions. The trick I found that worked best was to sew the boxing together, then starting about an inch from the end of the back seam, sew a couple inches of the boxing on, placing marks on the material.  I would then temporarily sew the gap in the middle where the zipper would be using the largest stitch possible.  From that, I could position and add the zipper without things moving around too much.  Once the zipper tape was attached, I would install the slider, rip open the seam and sew across the ends of the zipper to lock everything in place.  From there, I could sew the remaining boxing to the plate.

Making new foam inserts for the cushions.

The Sailrite machine works very well for sewing heavy materials and zippers together. Although not a fancy, computer controlled machine, I have no doubt that these machines will last a lifetime even under pretty heavy usage. I think we will be holding onto it even after the boat is gone.

I applied polyester batting to the foam using 3M 77 spray adhesive.  Then began the process of wrestling the foam into the covers.  Since the covers are actually a bit smaller than the foam itself, this can be a bit of a process, but having the foam fit tight makes the cushion look a lot better.

After the bottom cushions were done and test-fit on the boat, I checked the patterns for the seat back cushions. The original back cushions didn't line up all that well, and I hoped to at least improve upon the alignment.  I adjusted the patterns a bit and went to work on the seat backs.  Sewing the large curved cushions was the most difficult as there are no corners to align.  The front plates are longer vertically and shorter horizontally than the back plates.  I had to make center marks and pre-pin the pieces together before sewing them up.

The new cushions. I think they are a vast improvement.

So, it was a bit more time consuming than I thought, but I think the result was well worth the effort.  The new cushions look far better than the old cracked vinyl ones and I think are quite a bit more comfortable too.  Hopefully the new owners of the boat will appreciate them.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Finally Putting the Sailrite to Work

One of the bigger tasks (ok, two) that we needed to get done was upholstery on the boat. We bought a memory foam mattress with the intention of modifying it to fit the "owners" berth and that requires a new mattress cover. The salon cushions are the original blue-green vinyl and, as vinyl tends to do with age, is cracking and needs to be replaced.  So, one of my bigger tasks recently was to resolve these two issues.

The mattress required an angle be cut in the foam so it would fit and then a new mattress cover be created to fit the modified foam.  Cutting foam is a relatively straight-forward process.  Sailrite and other outlets sell a special cutter for foam that is a bit pricey, but a simple electric kitchen knife does exactly the same thing. Going to the local thrift store, we found an electric knife for $4...saving over $100 for that tool. Carefully measuring the angle and marking lines on both sides (adding just a bit of size for a better fit once in the cover), it was an easy matter for the two of us to cut the foam by guiding the knife along the line. The result is a nice fitting memory foam block for the cushion.

Cutting the new mattress to size

For the cover we found a nice charcoal gray Sunbrella material.  It is recommended that, to prevent raveling, Sunbrella be cut with a hot knife.  Just like cutting synthetic rope, a hot knife fuses the edges of the cut fabric to prevent it from coming apart. Naturally, Sailrite sells a hot knife for this purpose and, naturally, it is a $100+ tool. Not wanting to spend that much money and since Sailrite even mentioned this alternative in their videos, I bought a wood burning tool at the local big-box hardware store at a savings of over $80. The wood burning tool is essentially a soldering iron with a flat blade tip. Using this tool and a metal ruler (for straight lines) or freehand (for curves) the knife does a great job of cutting the material. It is a bit slower than using scissors, but not having to worry about the fabric coming apart at the edges is worth the effort. I used a large metal ruler as a backing to cut against and it worked well.  Sewing up the edges and adding the zipper were very straight forward when using the tricks outlined in several of the Sailrite how-to videos.  We are very happy with the result and now the boat has a nice, new, comfortable master berth mattress.

New owners berth mattress in place

I'm working on the salon cushions now. It started by copying some patterns that a fellow Leopard 38 owner had.  Unfortunately, these patterns didn't quite fit our boat (I would have thought that the boats would be the same but these patterns would have left a couple inch gap in a couple places) so I had to modify the patterns to improve the fit. I again used techniques outlined in the Sailrite videos, except I used normal brown paper instead of the fancy fiber-reinforced plastic sold by Sailrite. With the seat cushion patterns complete, we cut new foam for the seats and did a test fit and they look good.  We found another Sunbrella upholstery material that looks good and I'm now in the process of cutting the pieces to make the seat cushions.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

An Anchor is Hard to Digest

I've been trying to figure out what to write for a while now.  It isn't easy these days. When someone stops cruising and moves back to shore, they call it swallowing the anchor. Having not done many of the things I had hoped we would, I'm finding this process rather difficult.

After weighing our options, we decided to stay in Southport and put the boat up for sale here. It is probably not the ideal scenario, but neither was hurricane Matthew. Finding a place to stay further south just wasn't a financially viable option.  Maybe after more of the area rebuilds and more dock space is available we will reevaluate the situation. If so, maybe I can get one last sail on her.

In the meantime, we have been working on plans to move off of the boat, finish a couple of projects, and clean up so we can put Rover up for sale. In order to clean up the boat and finish the projects, it made sense to get another place to stay so we rented a furnished condo. We have partially moved off the boat and have been staying at the condo while we work on the boat.

A presidential election has come and gone since my last post and it only serves to make me question if selling the boat is the right thing to do.  Part of me certainly wants to sail off down through the islands and stay there for the next four or more years. The cruising community is far more appealing than all of the silliness happening on that spec of dirt that was once my home. Of course, being a Caucasian male, I can imagine a great many others in the country find this sort of exit plan to be more of a necessity. But I'm pretty sure I would rather spend the next years among cruisers than integrated back into what passes as U.S. society these days. I guess if anything, this whole thing may have increased the value of my boat.

Meanwhile, the work continues.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Back in Southport Again

We departed Beaufort for an overnight sail to Southport just before 4 PM in order to make the Beaufort bridge opening (saving us a little time having to backtrack and take the other route through Morehead City). The drawbridge opening had us and a couple fishing boats heading out for the evening.  I don't know exactly what it is about the Beaufort inlet, but for the second time in as many passages, it was a rough ride.  I guess the outgoing current combined with the easterly swell to make for a choppy entrance.  We bounced our way out and after turning on course, the sea mellowed out...somewhat.

The forecast was for 1 to 2 foot waves on a 12 second period and light winds from the Southwest.  While the winds would be directly on our nose, the seas should make for a fairly comfortable ride.  Of course, what to weather forecasters know about the weather.  The actual winds were around 15 knots, but it was from the south-southwest. There was a swell from the east that was probably a foot or two on 12 seconds, but the higher winds were also creating waves from the south that were also a couple feet on a six second period.  Not quite as smooth as forecast.

Still, the winds gave us an opportunity to sail, just not directly toward our destination.  We were making about 5 knots, with 2 or 3 of those in the actual direction we wanted to go (VMG). We sailed all night and by early in the morning we had made it a little over half-way.  At that point, we decided to fire up an engine and motor sail to get a better angle.  As the wind shifted around to be right on our nose, the sails came down and the other motor was started so we could make it to Southport before nightfall.

Our planned route (blue) and our actual course (magenta).
Tacking across the Onslow Bay danger area.
We arrived at the Masonboro inlet around noon, a couple hours later than planned...but at least we got to sail some so it was worth it.  The down side of being late was that we missed the ideal timing window for the trip through Snow's Cut and on to the Cape Fear river.  In an ideal case, I would have liked to have been at Snow's Cut at high tide so there wouldn't be a lot of current and then we could ride the falling current down the river.  Since we were late, we found we were fighting a 3+ knot current from the Carolina Beach inlet through the entrance to Snow's cut.  Something very noticeable when you are only traveling at 6 or 7 knots to begin with.  After only making 3 knots over the ground as we approached the cut, we did pick up another knot in the cut.

Once into the Cape Fear river and heading downstream, our speed was up to a brisk 8 or 9 knots even though the waves and wind were (as usual) directly on our nose.  It didn't take long until we were in Southport.

Normally I would stay at Deep Point marina as I like the combination of amenities and price.  Unfortunately, the number of cruisers heading south combined with the damage caused by Matthew and they didn't have any space available.  Fortunately, they did have one space left at their other marina, Indigo Plantation.  We made our way there, found the one last space for a wide-beam boat, and we were tied up and secure in Southport.

The following days we retrieved the car left at Dowry Creek, met some friends for dinner, met a couple fellow Leopard owners that were in the area, and started looking into what we should do about the remaining trip.  With all the damage in St. Augustine, dock space is at more of a premium than it is here and that comes with a premium price. At this point, we are considering leaving the boat here in Southport.  We have a dock at a reasonable rate and it is fairly well protected for the area. The down side is that it is a bit far from our broker and we will need to see about finding someone to keep an eye on the boat.

We haven't made any decisions yet, but we are running out of time so we will need to come up with a plan soon. Meanwhile, we are enjoying this charming town.