Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

A brief break from the posts about the Florida trip...I only have one or two left anyway...

A wish to all my friends, both sailing and not, for 2013.

May you find the sun on your face, the wind at your back, and safe harbor when you need it.  May you find that which inspires you...and chase it.

Have a happy new year.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Charter Day 5 - Last Sail and more on the Catalina 309

It was the last day of our charter of the Catalina 309 and the weather continues pretty much as it has the last couple days.  Moderately strong winds from the North.  But the Catalina is a bit expensive just as a hotel room so we go out for another sail.

We don't go far since we don't have a lot of time, but we again set sails, do maneuvers, and  continue to get more comfortable with the boat and more sailing practice.  Since we have to return the boat with full fuel, we stop by the fuel dock and "fill up".  With all the motoring between the docking lessons, the motor running the majority of the time during the infamous day two, and the steaming thru the channnel at the anchorage and back the prior day, we still used less than two gallons of fuel.  Those diesels are efficient.

This was the last sail we took on our boat-tel.  After this we cleaned up, packed up and were on our way to a hotel...spending our first night on solid land in 10 days.

Now that we had spent several days on a boat by ourselves, here are some thoughts about the whole experience.  As I mentioned in a previous post, spending time on both a catamaran and a mono-hull we've decided that a catamaran is the way we'll likely go.  I'm not completely sure it is a fair comparison, a 30ft mono and a 40ft cat, but the cat definitely seemed more stable and comfortable.  I can only assume a smaller (35ft?) cat will only be slightly less stable of a platform and that a 40 ft mono would only be a little more stable than the 30ft.  Anyone out there have any thoughts on this assumption?

The Catalina 309 was quite a comfortable boat for our stay.  In the aft of the boat tucked under the cockpit was a "mostly" queen size berth.  I say mostly as it tapers slightly at the foot.  We found all but the headroom to be comfortable (you can't sit up on the side of the bed under the floor of the cockpit).  The bed was actually the same size as the one we had on the catamaran and the cabin was definitely more private.

Moving forward from the main berth you enter the main saloon with a small U shaped galley on the left.  The galley has a bar-sized refrigerator, a two burner propane stove and a single basin sink.  The refrigerator is DC, but I don't know how long that would last on batteries.  Ditto on the hot water, though it has an engine heat exchanger as well (I think).

In front of the galley is the main seating area.  This boat also has a LCD TV mounted on the forward bulkhead, a reasonable place for it.  The whole saloon area is actually quite spacious, bright and airy, for sitting "down in the hull" of a 30ft boat.  The light interior and woods do help.

In front of the saloon, right behind the bulkhead where the TV hangs, is the head (bathroom).  I labeled it "tiny" in the picture I previously posted (also below), and it is.  There is enough room for the typical marine head (toilet) and a small sink basin.  The room is a little larger than the typical airline bathroom.  All in all it is workable, until you realize it is a shower as well.  There is a shower curtain track in the ceiling that blocks water from getting out the door or all over the cabinet.  The sink spigot becomes a handheld shower sprayer.  I tried the shower once.  When you get wet, you are essentially wearing the shower curtain.  The separate shower on the cat was a much better option...although bathing off the back of the boat is a nice option too, and there's plenty of room there.

Finally, at the front of the boat is a V berth.  We didn't spend any time in the V-berth, it was mostly used as storage for the cockpit cushions, some racheting recliner cushions, and some of our larger provisions (soda, etc.).  I wouldn't think the berth would have enough leg room for two, but should be sufficient for one.

Overall the boat would be a good choice for a couple or a small family.  I think it may be a be a bit small for a long-term live-aboard (not the largest tanks, and not enough storage space for long term provisioning), but would certainly be good for shorter coastal cruising trips (as well as bare-boat charters).  Of course, take this analysis for what it is...someone with very little sailing experience telling you about 5 days we spent on one.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Charter Day 4 - Part 2, The Return Trip and A Decision

So, when I left off we were at anchor, but not a comfortable anchor.  Even in this "protected" cove, the wind was coming over the land and blowing us around pretty good.  We accomplished our impromptu goal of heading somewhere and anchoring (even if it was just for lunch so far) so we decide to pull anchor and head back.  No reason to spend an uncomfortable night when you have better options, right?

So with my wife at the helm motoring slowly forward, I begin to haul up the anchor.  Do you recall I mentioned that there is no windlass on this boat?  Or that we had out more rode than we needed?  Well those two bits of information combine to make for a bit of a workout. Good hand signals are a necessity when doing this, and so is remembering that you can't hold the boat still by hand when being blown by 20 knot winds (note to self: don't have wife shift into idle with high winds). After a little work and a couple mistakes that caused us to lose ground, the anchor was back on board AND I still had all my fingers.  I'm definitely proving this lifestyle will be healthier for me than sitting behind a desk all day.

We might have been able to sail the channel from the anchorage to the main part of Tampa Bay, but it was rather narrow and we didn't want to chance it.  We decide to motor down the narrow channel cut into the shallow bay until we hit the deeper water.  We then unfurl the main just as we did for the trip down and we are again sailing.  This time we did add a bit of headsail as well.

Our course back to the marina puts us close hauled for much of the trip.  For those not familiar with what this means, basically we are sailing at an angle into the wind.  This means the wind "feels" stronger as you are moving into it.  The position of the sail on this point of sail also means that a larger percentage of the force created by the sail is perpendicular to the direction of the boat, causing the boat to heal a bit more.  Heading into the wind also means you are heading into the waves.  Of course by now we pretty comfortable with the boat so none of this is an issue.  It does teach me that a mono-hull, or specifically the angled deck when healing, can be more fatiguing to sail than I expected it would be.

On this trip we were accompanied by some dolphins, but they seemed to try and avoid being seen by my wife.  I'd see them on one side of the boat, she'd run over to look, and they would switch sides.  Not sure if they were having more fun playing in the pressure wave or playing hide-n-seek with my wife but both they and my wife seemed to be having fun.

Other than the dolphins, the trip back to the marina was uneventful and we made pretty good time under reefed sails.  We made it back to the marina just after 5pm.  From the time we left the marina to the time we returned was around 8 hours total.  A couple hours of local practice, the trip down and back, and a little time spent at anchor for lunch sure added up.

We got a lot accomplished and did learn quite a bit on this little trip.  We learned that yes, we can manage to navigate ourselves.  It wasn't that far and it was within sight of land at all times, but it was something we hadn't done by ourselves before.

In addition to my wife being initially uncomfortable with the heeling of a mono-hull, we also learned that heeling can be quite a bit more fatiguing than we estimated.  On our trip down when we were on a broad reach it wasn't too bad, but the close hauled course coming back caused some deck angles and bounce that really do make it difficult to just sit or stand at the helm.  Walking around and working the lines isn't any easier.

Now I don't know if it was the relatively short length of this boat or the difference between a mono- and a multi-hull, but this Catalina 309 was what I could only describe as "squirreley"... more so than the J22's we learned on.  At anchor it seemed much less stable than the cat, "sailing on the hulls" or swinging thru about 120 degrees.  And when it swings so the waves hit the beam instead of on the bow, it can really rock the boat.  We also found the boat very easy to oversteer when tacking.

So it seems we have fulfilled one goal of our trip - an important decision has been made at this point.  While the mono-hull sailboat has that classic, sexy look; the practicality of comfort in most conditions has us voting in favor of a catamaran for a long term live-aboard platform.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Charter Day 4 - Back on the Boat

When we booked this trip, our original plan was to do some cruising around the bay and the gulf coast and spend several days at anchor.  Unfortunately hurricane Sandy and our experience a couple days back took care of most of that. Now we only have two days left, having to return the boat by 5pm the second day.

Fortunately we awoke to lighter winds, in the 15 to 20 knot range.  My wife and I talked about taking the boat out for a sail again.  Since things seem to be calming down, we agreed that we should, knowing if we didn't feel comfortable we would just head back. So, we have breakfast, head over to the hotel for a shower, and then prepare to head out to try again.

We left the marina just as we did two days prior, without incident.  As we made our way out of the marina and past the St. Petersburg Pier, the swell did pick up a bit, but nowhere near as bad as it was the last couple days.  We again head into the wind, unfurl the roller furling main to a reefed point that was about 3/4 of the total sail area.  We bear away and I reduce the motor to idle.  This configuration was giving us reasonable power so I shut down the motor.  We were sailing!  I think we'll forgo any headsail for now.

I'm pretty sure my wife was a bit nervous at first.  But the conditions were calmer and I think we had the mainsail set better for the conditions so we seemed to fall into the groove of sailing the boat pretty quickly this day.  We did a number of maneuvers not too far from the marina and everything went smoothly.  So after one of our tacks we were heading south...and I was thinking that there's an anchorage only a couple hours or so away at the rate we were going.  My wife seemed comfortable now, so why not see if we can get a little more experience in these last two days?

After sailing along in the same direction for a bit I think my wife was on to me.  I had looked at the charts previously and knew of this anchorage.   It is a small bay created by Pinellas Point and the Sunshine Skyway bridge approach.  Not the ideal scenic anchorage or the longer trip we had initially planned, but it will do.  It appears to be protected from the northeast winds at least.  So when she asked, I confessed the  idea.  She was fine with it so off we went on our abbreviated adventure.

View Tampa Bay Short Trip in a larger map

We sailed south for a while, found the channel that we needed to get to the anchorage (at least without running aground) and motored thru the channel.  We made it to the anchorage in a couple hours and do a spin around the little cove to see where we think we should anchor.  Closer to the highway and deal with the noise or a bit further away where it seems less protected from the wind?  We end up choosing a point about half way between.

Have I mentioned yet that this boat doesn't have an anchor windlass?  Well. it doesn't.  It was quite a bit of fun to try dropping the anchor by hand.  We were in about 10 feet of water and my wife was trying to keep the boat in position as I lowered it.  After the anchor contacts the bottom, I had my wife put the engine in idle.  Given the winds, this was a bit of a mistake.  The boat started getting blown away from the anchor fast enough I wasn't able to keep a count on how much rode (chain/rope) was let out.  I had my wife give it a little more power and I was able to tie off the anchor at what I estimate was about 100 ft.  Since we only needed 7:1, a 10:1 scope should be more than adequate to keep us put.

After setting the anchor I watch a couple poles abeam us to verify we were not dragging the anchor.  I then set the anchor watch feature of the chart plotter as an extra safety measure.  Two lessons learned here: 1) we need to work on our hand signals during anchoring and 2) any boat we get will definitely have a windlass (at least a manual one).

While we are making ourselves lunch, we realize that the "protected" anchorage is still allowing the boat to blow around a bit.  Ok, it's swinging in an arch of about 120 degrees. This exposes the broadside of the boat to the chop a good percentage of the time. While I know what to do to prevent sailing at anchor on a cat, without another anchor or extra rode, there didn't seem to be much that can be done about the situation on this boat.

My wife and I talk about the situation and decide that maybe we didn't want to spend the night like this.  We've spent the night at anchor several times on this trip and this boat just feels unstable when it is at rest.  Add the swing and chop from the winds and  it just doesn't seem like a good idea at this juncture.

Since this post is getting rather long, I'll cover the return trip and some of the lessons learned in the next post.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Charter Day 3 - Our Boat-tel

It's nice to have some wind to sail...but this was getting a bit ridiculous. Hurricane Sandy was continuing to give us high winds, in the 25 gusting to 40 knot range.  Probably just as well though...given yesterday's experience.  No sailing today.

Now that we've had a chance to calm down and reflect on the prior days events, we talked about "the plan".  While she wasn't 100% on the idea of living full time on a boat, she definitely wanted to go sailing again.  The whole "when you fall off a horse, you have to get right back on" attitude.  Just not today.  One decision appears to have been made though.  We will probably be getting a catamaran and not a monohull.

St. Pete Pier with the Vinoy Marina Behind

Since we were going to be in port all day and I have an old friend that kinda lives in the area, it made sense to see if we could get together.  He hadn't been to St. Pete in a while so it was a good excuse.  So after visiting the local farmers market, we met up with my friend and his daughter.  We showed them our accommodations (my wife started calling our boat/hotel the boat-tel), took the $0.50 trolley tour of downtown, and then went out to the St. Petersburg Pier for lunch.  It was good to see them again.

And to try to give this post a little sailing content, here's our "boat-tel".  The Catalina 309 "It's About Time II" chartered from Sailing Florida.
The Saloon Looking Aft
The Saloon Looing Forward
The "Master" Berth
"Tiny" The Head

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Charter Day 2 - What Have I Done?

The past few days tropical storm/hurricane Sandy had been approaching the US and we awoke this day to the storm starting her pass by Florida.  Yes, she was well east of us (all the way across the width  of Florida and a good distance out to sea) as well as a bit south of us, but because she was a big storm, this was still causing some stronger winds all the way over in Tampa Bay.

After breakfast and making use of the showers at the Vinoy hotel, we see a couple sailboats out in the bay sailing with reefed sails.  We decide to get going thinking that, if we don't like the conditions, we can always come back to the marina.  So we get ready to go...for the first time by ourselves in a large-enough-to-live-in boat.  Taking into account the direction the wind will blow the boat while we were in the slip, we remove the spring lines  and all but the one dock line that will help us keep the boat under control until we get a bit of speed coming out of the dock (when the rudder becomes effective).  We set the one line as a running line so my wife could cast it off while standing on the boat as I motor the boat out.

We leave the slip without incident and make our way out of the marina and the protected cove. As we leave the protection of the cove we notice the seas were choppier than the previous day.  By the time we made it far enough away from the St. Petersburg pier, it seemed we were in 3 ft seas...and this was in Tampa Bay.  The winds were from the northeast, so the fetch was all the way across the  bay.

Raising the main on this boat is a little different, as the main rolls up inside the mast.  Since the winds were a steady 20kts and gusting higher, we wanted to reef the main, so we prepare to partially unfurl the main.  Unlike having reef points, with a roller you have an infinite ability to reef the sail.  So, we take our best guess and bring the main sail part way out.  We get the main set, and I shut down the engine.

With the rough water the boat slowed and we started losing directional control.  So, I started the engine again and I opted to bring out a little of the head sail so hopefully it would give us a bit of power without overpowering the boat.  Since I was at the helm at the time I asked my wife to do it, but she seemed to be having some difficulty with the rigging of this boat, so I set the autopilot and went to help.  We got the head sail about 50% unfurled and I set a broad reach  course and put the engine in idle.  This time we were getting some power.

The roughness of the seas  combined with our control difficulties made the decision to just head back to the marina an easy one.  Maybe this wasn't the best day to be making our first leg of a trip by ourselves on a boat with which we have little experience. I head the boat up into the wind to get us heading back in the general direction of the marina and ask my wife to re-trim the sail. Again she was having difficulty.  It was about this time that I start to realize that something more was wrong.

The rough sea, the gusting wind, and the rolling and healing of the smaller mono-hull boat all combined to scare my wife much more than I had realized.  Add in the urgency of needing to get the sails set before we lost steerage, and I was apparently more barking orders than calmly discussing them, and the combination of it all was too much for her.  What have I done?  Have I just pulled the rug out from under all of this?  To my wife, I am very sorry for being part of the problem.

After getting the sails trimmed, I decided the best action we could take was to start the engine, drop the sails, and just motor back to the marina.  I start the motor, head the boat into the wind and set the autopilot, and then furl the sails.  On the bright side we didn't have a problem with the roller furling head sail, but I apparently got it rolled so tight that there was about a one foot triangle still out when I ran out of furling line.  I was able to get the main furled and we motored back to the dock.

At the end of our lesson the prior day, we were told that we could pick up a Sailing Florida employee to help return the boat to the slip, so that is what we did.  I figured having someone else take over at this point was the prudent move.  The boat was uneventfully returned to it's slip, but the damage may have already been done to our long term plan.

We decided the best course of action for the rest of the day was to get off the boat and look around the St. Petersburg area instead.  As the day came to an end, we watched the sun set on the gulf side.
A pretty sunset and much calmer on the lee (protected from the wind) side..and you can still see some surf.  Not a bad end to a rather trying day.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Our First Sailboat Charter - Day 1

So, what do you do the day after you get your ASA 104 and 114 certification?  You do your first bareboat charter of course.  So after waking up and bidding Tracey's catamaran and our classmates farewell, off we went to the Vinoy Marina in St. Petersburg to pick up the Catalina 309 we booked for 5 days from Sailing Florida Charters.
Going from a 41' catamaran to a 30' monohull is quite a downsize, but going from a crew of seven to a crew of two makes up for it.  The boat is actually quite spacious for it's size, with a queen size berth tucked under the cockpit, a V-berth up front and a nice size salon/galley area.  The only thing that was small was the head, but who wants to spend much time there.

After we arrived, we had an orientation where we went through all the boat systems and signed the paperwork.  What I've heard about renting seems to be true.  They didn't ask to see our credentials (maybe this was just an oversight this one time) but they did want to see the credit card.

Since this was our first charter and I think it always makes sense to have help familiarizing yourself with something new like this, we arranged for an instructor for half a day.  The instructor met us at the boat shortly after we completed the orientation and got our bags aboard.  Now we've been on a 30' boat before...once.  So, seemed like a first thing to practice was docking.  After we were comfortable with getting the boat back in its slot, we took her out on the water to do a few maneuvers.

Just as with the latter part of our catamaran trip, we had pretty decent winds.  We raised the sails and were immediately reminded we were not on a catamaran anymore.  Yep, monohulls heel.

Consistent winds and large bodies of water are not things we had to work with in Colorado, so this is exactly the experience we've needed on a mono.  It definitely feels a bit different.  We practice the usual maneuvers and get comfortable with them.  Everything went fine...until we went to furl the genoa.  Normally roller furling is easy: pull the furling line while keeping some tension on the sheet and it rolls up nicely.  Someone needed to tell this particular rig that.  About half furled, the thing jams up on us.  We go forward to see what the problem is and find that one loop of the furling line has somehow found it's way around the outside of the drum.  We try to free it up, but since we are almost at the marina it would be easier to get the boat tied up and then deal with it.

One of the other Sailing Florida employees sees the issue and we end up picking him up at the dock.  We then do a little more docking practice while he works on the roller furler.  The lesson was over, and this guy is still working on the stubborn furler.  In the end he was able to get it fixed, and he changed the lines path to hopefully resolve the issue.  Kind of a bummer that the problem occurred, but the customer service aspect the Sailing Florida employees exhibited was a very refreshing change from the usual service I get, or don't get, back home.

We figured that this first day would be spent with the instructor and provisioning the boat and then we would take off for other anchorages after a night at the marina.  So, we come up with a plan for the next few days meals and head to the grocery store.  Provisioning for such a short period is difficult, and we try to figure out things that will make a couple varied meals without a lot of waste...don't want to eat the same thing for every meal and can't pack stuff back on the airplane.  We came back with bread, lunchmeat, hamburger, and spaghetti, milk, cereal, fruit and vegetables, chips, and rum of course.

Back to the boat, time for a sundowner, and off to bed so we can get an early start on our adventure the next day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cruising Course Day 5 - ASA 104/114 Tests and Maneuvers

Every day so far Captain Tracey making coffee has been our alarm clock...but not this day.  Since we were in Bradenton, he spent the night at his place in Bradenton, so it was just us students on the boat.  I got up and made the coffee.  My wife says I'm an early riser...I've just not been good at sleeping when the sun is up since I left college.

Being in port, we were once again able to take advantage of marina showers.  The Twin Dolphin Marina has a nice setup with a number of nice clean private bathrooms upstairs with plenty of hot water.  After the shower we had eggs and bacon with potatoes for breakfast, finishing up some of the provisions.

We then took our ASA 104 (bareboat chartering) and 114 (cruising catamaran) written exams.  Both exams covered the material out of the respective books (Cruising Fundamentals for 104 and Multihull Cruising Fundamentals for 114). The 104 exam was a similar format to the 101 and 103 tests with 50 true/false questions and the remainder as multiple choice.  Unlike the earlier tests, these focus more on the various systems found on a larger boat (engines, plumbing, electrical, propane), trip planning and navigation, weather and emergencies.  Here are a few examples of the types of stuff on the test:
  • True or False: Diesel engines use special spark plugs.
  • True or False: Float plans are filed with the Coast guard.
  • Multiple Choice: What should you do if you find yourself dragging anchor?
  • Multiple Choice: Using a supplied chart, plan a course between different points and determine your ETA and fuel requirements.  Provided performance specifics, calculate your speed and fuel used.
  • Multiple Choice: What is the proper phraseology to hail someone on the VHF radio.

The 114 exam was a bit different.  It consisted of less than 50 questions with point values ranging from 1/2 point to 2 points (100 point total).  There were true/false questions, multiple choice questions, and short answer questions.  The test focuses on the differences between a cruising monohull and a catamaran.  Here are a few examples of the types of questions found on this test:
  • True or False: Jack lines are not needed on a multihull because they are more stable.
  • True or False: Catamarans have good windward ability.
  • Multiple Choice: How can you reduce sailing on the hulls while at anchor?
  • Multiple Choice: Excessive speed in heavy seas can cause what to happen?
  • Short Answer: Explain the various types of bridge decks found on catamarans.
  • Short Answer: How does the stability of a multihull differ from a monohull?
After taking the tests, we took the catamaran out for some maneuvers.  We went out and practiced heaving to, which is a tiny bit different in a catamaran due to the limited travel of the mailsail boom, mostly just a bit touchier in getting the boat to stabilize.  Then we practiced man overboard drills...and practiced, and practiced.  It's a good thing though, as my wife and I as well as the other couple will eventually be the sole crew on a boat, getting this maneuver right when short-handed is an important skill.

After the maneuvers, we went back to the marina and those of us that didn't get to take the boat out of the marina now got our chance to maneuver the boat in the marina.  With the breakwater that protects the marina, there are a couple of pretty tight 90 degree turns...especially tight for a 41' long, 23' wide boat.  With the twin engines, even a catamaran that large is pretty maneuverable.  I was able to put it back in the slip without too much difficulty.

We then sat down and went thru the tests.  Unlike our other course, we got to find out exactly which questions we missed...not that there were many.  Neither of us recall our exact scores on the 104 exam other than they were both above 90% (and I think my wife did slightly better than I did).  I got a 95% and my wife got 87.5% on the second.  So, we both passed and now have our 104 and 114 certifications.  Yea!

Technically this is the end of our course, but we weren't scheduled to pick up our charter until the next day.  Tracey let us and the other couple that was there for the 104/114 course stay on the boat an additional evening so we didn't have to go hunt down a last minute hotel.  We're getting a lot of experience with what it is like living on a boat.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cruising Course Day 4 - Cabbage Key to Bradenton

Do I need to say it?  Coffee, anchor, and away we go once again.  Same start as all the previous days...but we did sleep in just a bit later.  The winds were again with us, up slightly from the previous day so after motoring out of the bay, we were able to raise the sails and travel by the power of the wind.  Apparently much of Tracey's earlier trip was missing the wind so we've been pretty lucky the last few days.

As with the previous days, we again took turns manning the various lines to raise the sails and then each of us took turns at the helm.  We've also taken turns cooking, washing dishes, and of course lounging around on the boat as we travel.  Yeah, it's a rough life.

I haven't really mentioned it yet, but thus far we've made breakfast, lunch, and all but yesterday's dinner while en route.  Breakfast ranged from fresh fruit and yogurt to omelets, lunches were generally just sandwiches, with hot dinners as varied as corned beef and cabbage to a spaghetti casserole.  All in all, we've been eating well and cooking has been easier than one might think.  The boat came with a 3 burner propane stove as well as a refrigerator and a freezer (we're told it doesn't keep ice cream well though) that runs on the house batteries.  Having a seawater pump for the sink helps save fresh water supplies while washing dishes and the Dawn dish soap didn't seem to have problems with it.

We made good time on this leg and arrived in Bradenton in the afternoon.  While this was the end of our 282 nautical mile trek, it was not the end of the course.  We will be staying on board another night and doing some maneuvers that we didn't have the chance to do during the trip the following day.  Having done a fair amount of cooking we chose to eat at the restaurant at the marina.

One other thing happened that day: After disappearing for a while, Captain Tracey came back with our tests for the 104 and 114 course.  Nobody really wanted to take the test while we were sailing (I personally wanted a little more time to study), so we postponed it until the next morning.

Thus far we have learned quite a bit about what it is like to live aboard a sailboat while traveling.

Here's the rough map of this leg of the trip:
View Cabbage Key to Bradenton in a larger map

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cruising Course Day 3 - Marco Island to Cabbage Key

As has become the routine, we awoke to the morning coffee making ritual followed by raising the anchor and continuing our journey.  Our winds from the prior day continued so after motoring out of the nice protected anchorage, we were able to again raise the sails.

Anchorage near Cabbage Key

As seems to be the case when you are actually going somewhere in a sailboat (instead of just puttering around a reservoir), we set and trim the sails and head on without having to do much adjustment or re-trimming.  The hardest part of sailing these past couple legs have been avoiding the crab pots. The captain must be getting more comfortable with his student's skills too as he disappeared into his cabin for a little while during this trip.

A little while after we were underway, we see a powerboat heading straight for us from about our 2 o'clock.  As they get closer you can tell the boat has that gray "government issued" look to it and indeed it was the coast guard.  They swing around behind us and come up along side.  We've been intercepted.  As it turns out, they were looking for another sailboat that had radioed a mayday and then contact was lost.  They asked if we had seen them and when we said we had not they asked us to let them know if we see this boat.  I hope those folks are OK.  It is nice to know that the fine men and women of the Coast Guard are out there, and it is also a stark reminder that everything worth doing has some risks.

We sail up the coast past Naples, Fort Myers Beach and pass by Sanibel Island to enter Pine Island Sound as we head toward our planned anchorage across from Cabbage Key.  I'm once again at the helm and bring the boat into the anchorage and drop the anchor.  We set out the proper 7:1 scope for an overnight anchor and I take a range-like sighting off a couple trees (one behind the other) on an island off our right to watch for dragging.  We don't appear to be moving and so we set the chart plotter's anchor alarm and call it a day.

Several folks go for a swim off the back of the boat.  Two of our group head a bit closer to the nice homes at our anchorage.  A "nice" lady apparently comes out of her house and asks them if they are aware there are crocodiles around.  Yeah, we get it, you don't want us peasants swimming near your fancy abode...well sorry, but the waters are public here.

Cabbage Key
After the swim we break out the dinghy and head over to Cabbage Key for dinner at their restaurant and to watch the sunset from their water tower.  After a few minutes at the water tower, the mosquitoes change our mind and we take refuge back at the restaurant for dinner.  After dinner, we hop back in our little rubber floating "car" and head back to our floating "house".  Another nice day in the books.

And trying something new...a rough map of this leg of the trip:
View Marco Island to Cabbage Key in a larger map

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cruising Course Day 2 - Sandy Key to Marco Island

After a good night's sleep anchored near Sandy Key, we were awoken by Captain Tracey making coffee in the galley before the sun was up (he has a nice metal thermal coffee press, seems particularly good for a boat).  As would be a familiar theme on this trip, in addition to the lessons, we were also on a schedule to get the boat up to Bradenton by the 25th so we would once again get an early start.  We raised the anchor and continued our journey as the sun rose over Florida Bay.
The winds were still light and so we continued steaming along the ICW in Florida Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.  As we got to the more open waters of the gulf and made our turn northward, we were greeted with better winds out of the northeast.  Finally, we could sail!

Raising the main on a 41 foot Catamaran is quite a chore by hand.  Fortunately the boat had an electric self tailing winch, so after we made sure the sail's battens weren't getting hung up in the lazy jack system, push the button and up the main went.  If it weren't for all the main halyard on the deck to deal with, it couldn't have been easier.  We also unrolled the 150% genoa and the result was 6~8 knots on a broad reach with no drone of the engines.  Much better.

Sailing on the ocean actually seems easier than all the sailing on reservoirs that have made up much of our prior experience.  On our reservoirs near the mountains the winds would often be inconsistent, blowing from different directions at different times.  This left us constantly tweaking sails to get the right trim for decent power.  Ocean breezes, as one might expect, tend to be more consistent in direction if not in speed.  Of course, the chop of the waves was not something we generally had to deal with...but in a 41' catamaran, they weren't much of an issue either.

While underway my wife went down into one of the hulls and it made her a bit queasy.  She took some Bonine and pretty much went to sleep at the saloon table for a little while.  The other couple didn't seem too interested in a lot of learning either , so we just had a nice relaxing sail up the coast.  I was at the helm a fair amount of the time, dodging the occasional string of crab pots along the way.

We ended our sailing day anchoring off the northwest shore of Marco Island.  Unlike the previous night, we anchored in the light this front of some expensive homes.
Of course, the view the other direction at sunset was a bit better...
While a boat floats in water, fresh water on a boat is a very limited resource so another thing we tried that evening was bathing off the back of the boat.  Basically, it is swimming with a little soap and a fresh water rinse from a hand shower mounted in the transom.  It works fairly well and definitely saves on the fresh water use.  Our regular soaps and shampoos don't work great in salt water though, so we'll have to try some of the specially formulated ones at some point.

It was a nice relaxing day...something I can definitely get used to.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

ASA 104/114 Live Aboard Course, Day 1

I know, I know...haven't been posting anything the last couple weeks...but I have a good wife and I were in Florida working on our Intermediate Cruising/Bareboat Chartering/Cruising Catamaran combined course and our first bare-boat charter.  So, I'll be catching up over the next several posts.

On Friday October 19th we flew to Miami to meet Tracey and his Maine Cat 41 for the last leg of his annual migration bringing the boat from it's summer home in New Jersey to it's winter home in Bradenton, Florida.  My wife and I and another couple are taking a combination ASA 104/114 course as we crew the cat down thru the keys and then up the Gulf Coast.  There are also two other gals on the boat that are accompanying Tracey just for fun.

We don't arrive in Miami until the afternoon, so we spend a little time going over the particulars of the boat and getting settled in.  The Maine Cat is a very utilitarian designed boat, you won't find a lot of pretty woodwork on it...or doors separating the berths.  But it has ample galley space, enough room for 6~7 to live aboard for several days, and a nice open patio style saloon/cockpit.

We spend the night on the boat at Dinner Key Marina, enjoy our last infinite hot water shower, and head out early the next morning as the sun rises.  We depart the marina and motor across Biscayne Bay, passing Stiltsville as the sun rises.

We follow the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW) thru the upper Keys and over to Florida Bay.  Winds were light and we tried putting up the sails, but other than a small leg, we were forced to motor-sail or steam (play motorboat) most of the day.  From a learning perspective we each got our turn at the wheel and coaching on how to stay in a channel when there are currents, etc. to deal with.  We also did a fair amount of navigation work, looking for appropriate anchoring spots using the charts, Skipper Bob's guides, etc.

It ended up being a long day and at dusk we still had a little bit more to go.  To make things more difficult, it is stone crab season and the area we were in just adjacent to the Everglades park was full of crab pots.

So, motoring slowly with spotters at both bow pulpits we made our way over to the park boundary (where fishing isn't allowed so there shouldn't be pots to get wrapped in the props).  We make our way to the lee side of Sandy Key (a small dot of uninhabited land in the Everglades park boundary) and drop the anchor in the light of the moon...and the steaming light.  We then learn how to set a bridle for the anchor so we don't sail on the anchor (wind will catch the hull and cause the boat to swing excessively).

We then hung out on the cat's trampoline enjoying the pristine night.  Not a bad ending to the first day of class.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Annapolis Sailboat Show, the Traditional Sailboats

The final installment of the Annapolis Sailboat Show posts, here are the traditional mono-hull boats that we looked at. Included is our favorite or our vote for "best in show".  Again, these impressions are based on our naive eye with a focus on the livability aspects of the boats and are again boats we should be able to least used.  As the specific details of each day fade, these are in alphabetical order.  Unlike the catamarans, we often looked at two or three models of each in the 35~42 foot range.

In the Beneteau line, we looked at the Oceanis series 37 and 41.

The Oceanis 37 was a nice two-berth layout.  As is typical on a mono-hull, the forward berth is a V-berth (think triangular shaped bed to fit into the pointy end of the boat), the salon takes the center portion of the boat including an L shaped galley and head, and another larger berth that tucks under the cockpit.  One thing I didn't expect was how light it was inside the cabin.  Often people describe the interior of a traditional sailboat as "entering the basement", but I found these to have a lot of light for a basement.
The 41 was similar, but instead of a single berth there were two berths aft and a little larger salon.  Both boats were well appointed with  a lot more wood accents than I recall seeing on the cats.

At Catalina we started off looking at the new 311, which is the newer edition of the 309.  This seems a bit small for a long-term live-aboard, but we will be renting one soon and wanted to see one in person ahead of time.  It should be suitable for a few days.  Stepping up to the 387, the space improves as it should.  The rear berth is a better size and other than the headroom would make a fair owners cabin.

The berth is angled, so it may not be quite as comfortable as it appears in this image.  stepping up again to the 440, everything seems to improve space wise, except the berths.

We also saw a couple Hunters and an Island Packet 370.  Given Hunter's reputation, we didn't really spend a lot of time looking at them.  The Island Packets, having exactly the opposite reputation was more interesting.  The design was rather old-school in general with smaller portholes instead of the larger windows found on most newer boats.  The forward berth is quite different than the typical v-berth as it has a more respectable shaped bed instead of the typical wedge.
I do wonder why they didn't use some of the space to the sides of the pedestal as storage/nightstand space though.   While most boats seem to have a larger rear berth when there are only  two, the IP 370's rear berth is smaller than the forward berth.

Our final contender were offerings from Jeanneau.  We got a chance to sail the Sun Odyssey 379 as part of our Take the Wheel seminar and found it quite a nice boat to sail.  Taking a little more time at their booth, we found the interior to be a pretty typical layout for this size boat: a v-berth at front, a salon seating area behind that, followed by an L shaped galley on one side and head on the other, and finally a berth aft.  Then we took a look at the Sun Odyssey 41 DS.  This is our pick for best in show. They raised the deck so the lower spaces have bigger windows and the most light below deck of any of the traditional sailboats we checked out.
Don't know what they were thinking with orange in this picture.
The V-berth in front is pretty standard fare.  But the aft owners cabin is quite impressive.  A queen size berth with two seats, plenty of storage make this a space you don't see on many boats.
With the aft cockpit, the headroom is still lacking.  My only real concern with this layout is the same concern I have with most of the boats we got to see at the show and that is how well you can take advantage of cooling breezes at anchor (the bow points into the wind at anchor which puts the aft berth at the lee side of the boat).  But the space of the owners berth and the windows and light that rival some of the catamarans make this boat an overall winner.  Of course, this boat is new for 2013, so no used boats making it unlikely we'll end up with one.  Maybe we can find something similar.

So, you may be wondering if there was any progress towards a decision between catamaran and mono-hull.  Sadly, not too much.  Each have advantages and disadvantages and we're still having a bit of a hard time determining which items are essential and which are not.  Hopefully we will gain more insight during our ASA 104/114 course.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Catamarans at the Annapolis Boat Show

As promised, here is more information and impressions from the boats we saw at the show.  Remember we don't know a lot about buying a it will be very interesting to see what we think about these comments in a few months or years.  We will likely not buy new, but that's most of what is at the show.  At this point we didn't know if we would prefer a catamaran or mono-hull, so we were looking at both.  Here are the catamarans:

The first catamaran we looked at was a Gemini Legacy 35.

This is a newer variant of the popular Gemini 105MC.  I can see why these boats are popular.  They are a reasonable size at 35' length and with a 14' beam they should be a bit easier to find a slip for than the average cat.  In this small space they have a queen size master berth which is impressive.  This berth is up front where cooling breezes should be easily obtainable at anchor.

 There is a double berth and an option for either a second double berth or a second head.  The boat is a "galley down" which means that the galley is located down in one of the hulls.  It doesn't seem all that separated as the floor in the hull isn't that far below the salon deck.  As with most catamarans, there is a lot of window and light in the salon and since the master berth is in front of the salon it shares the same features.  The boat does have some items that feel a bit cheap...such as a number of hatches that explicitly state "no step"...wonder if that would be a concern if stumbling about on a rolling deck trying to correct a fouled sail or line.  Overall, this floor plan would work nicely for us.  The difference between the 105MC and the Legacy appears that the Legacy now has two diesel engines and has replaced the centerboards with shoal draft keels.

Other than the Fountaine Pajot 41 we were able to sail on during the take the wheel course, we also looked at the Mahe 36.
This boat was a "galley up" design with a smaller galley space than the Gemini located in the main salon area on the bridge deck.  Again light and airy as one would expect on a cat.  The model we saw was the two stateroom version, but I understand that it comes with a three stateroom version that looses one of the heads.  Going from the salon down into either hull you found a cabin with a tapered near queen size berth in the rear of the hull and a head in the forward part.

Unlike the Gemini, you were pretty isolated when down in one of the hulls...a good thing since they are basically the bedrooms.  Outside we found it easier to get from cockpit to the fore-deck as the walkway widths were wider than the Gemini.  The view at the helm was better too, although I'm not sure if a bimini or dodger is available for the helm station (and I imagine it would suck to be baking in the sun or drenched when manning the wheel).

We also saw another small catamaran we hadn't heard of prior to the show called a Tomcat 9.7.  The layout was fairly similar to the Gemini, with a couple of quirky exceptions.  The master cabin was open to the salon area and the access to the master cabin was through the head.  The boat did have a trampoline on the fore-deck while the Gemini had a hard deck.  It also had two outboard gasoline engines instead of the inboard diesel(s) of the Gemini  and Fountaine Pajot models.  The quirks are just not something we felt we could live with, so we didn't look at this boat very long.

The final cat we took a reasonably serious look at was the Lagoon 380.
The largest of the cats we would consider (without winning the lottery anyway).  The one at the show was the 4 stateroom version with the two smaller heads.  This is also a galley-up design.  The space in the salon is nice and the galley was a bit larger than the Fountain Pajot, but I'm not sure it was larger counter space wise than the Gemini.  The berths were all contained in the two hulls.  The aft berths were larger, but I think they were shy of queen size.  The forward berths were closer to v-berths.  Overall, for the increased size of this boat, it seemed that the space was not very efficiently used.

Of the catamarans, I think our favorites that would be within our budget (at least used) would be the Gemini and the Fountaine Pajot.  The master stateroom, overall size, and galley space are the big winners for the Gemini while the deck space and guest room space were the winners for the Fountaine Pajot.  I'm wondering how important having the master berth be at the front of the boat where it can take advantage of any breeze at anchor will be.  In the tropics I assume this will be important.

Next time I'll go through the mono-hulls we looked at as well as our favorite boat overall.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

If you want to see a sailboat

It's no secret that we really don't know a lot about all the various live-aboard sailboats out there.  So, what do you do when you want to know about go to the largest sailboat show in the world*...the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis.  So, that is what we did this past weekend.
Not of the show itself...but Annapolis is a sailing town
It was quite an experience.  You can look at pictures and floor plans, but until you actually see them in person, walk the decks, stand (or hunch over) in the berths, climb around and generally experience them in person, you really never know.  You can find boats of all sizes and price ranges at the show, but with our limited amount of time we focused on the sizes and makers we thought would likely fit our needs.  On the monohull side, we looked at Beneteau, Catalina, Hunter, Island Packet and Jeanneau.  On the catamaran side, we looked at boats from Fountaine Pajot, Gemini, Lagoon, Tomcat.

Most of our first full day at the show was participating in their "Take The Wheel" workshop. This consisted of breakfast, presentations for new sailors on purchasing your first boat, lunch, taking two boats out for a demonstration sail, and a wine and cheese party.  The presentations contained a fair amount of information we recently learned in class but had some other good information. We got to take a Fountaine Pajot 41 and a Jenneau 379 out for a spin.  The catamaran was having some issues, so we motor-sailed it.  It was fairly maneuverable with the engines, but I don't know how she would be under sail alone.  The Jenneau on the other hand wasn't having problems and we had a real chance to see how it performed.  It was fun to sail and I could easily see sailing it just the two of us.  Despite the issues on the first boat, they were both good experiences and I would highly recommend taking this workshop for anyone new to sailing that would like to experience larger boats.

In my next post, I'll cover more details on the boats we saw at the show, and what we've determined so far about our future boat.  Stay tuned...

*this is a claim that was made at the idea how true it is...but the show is pretty big.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Grades, Practice, and Oops.

We heard back from the sailing school.  I got a 100 and a 95 on the first two tests and my wife got 99 and 91.  Since anything over 80 was passing, I'd say we did rather well.

We've passed our first two classes and are studying for our third but I thought it would be a good idea not to lose those practical skills, so as a last minute idea this past weekend we rented a boat for an afternoon of sailing.

Unlike most of our classes, we again had a reasonable amount of wind.  We did all the usual maneuvers.  At one point I was having some fun doing figure 8's around two of the reservoir center-line buoys.  We even hove-to so we could enjoy our sandwiches for lunch.  It was good to get out and sail again.

Everything went well...until we came in to dock.  Now, I remember in the first class that the instructor said when you get on and off the boat that you have to commit to one or the other.  I was at the helm and my wife was ready with the dock line...but when she stepped onto the dock she was leaning back a bit and fell back so she was half on the boat and half on the dock.  Well, when one doesn't commit to one or the other she found that you are automatically the water.

It took a bit to secure the boat (an unsecured boat seemed especially dangerous with someone in the water around unforgiving docks) and then get her out of the water.  Docks don't have safety stairs and the easiest option was to use a neighboring boats swim platform (we did try using a line on the winch to create a makeshift ladder stair first).  Other than a bruise, the only damage I think was her pride.  She's a trooper though and all is well.

Overall, other than the unanticipated swim, it was a good day.  So, I guess now it is back to studying for our next class.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Talk Like a Sailor

A few days ago was International Talk Like A Pirate day.  Since we started to learn to sail, it has amazed me how much of our vernacular appears to come from the sailing days of old. While going through some of the sailing blogs I read (I hope this is the one I found it on), I just happened to come across a link to a pretty good list of terms and phrases used today that can trace their origins to sailing.  Many of these you would not even expect came from sailing ("devil to pay"...really?).  When you have a little time, take a look at the list:

Hope you find it as interesting as I did.  And who knows, maybe you did talk like a pirate...or at least a sailor....that day.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

We Passed! least I think we did.  Today we received our ASA log books in the mail.  No test scores, no notes, no other communication from the school at all, just the two logs in an envelope.  In the logs are entries for each course and the 101 and 103 entries were signed by the owner of the school and each entry states "Provisional certification for (3) months until seal is affixed".

My understanding is that the official seal (read: sticker) for the log is mailed from the ASA after they receive some sort of report from the school (along with the all important fees to join the ASA and take the tests).  Any bets on if the seals arrive before or after the first issue of the complimentary ASA sailing magazine (that comes with the not-so-complimentary ASA membership)?

I'd really like to know how well we did and what, if any, questions we may have missed.  Hopefully I can get the details from the school.  After all the goal for us here is the education, not the sticker.  When we have our own boat, I doubt it will care if we have a log book with a will only care that we don't sink it (and we don't want that either).

Now to start reading the textbooks for the 104 (Bareboat Cruising)/114 (Cruising Catamaran) combined course we will be taking soon.  Looking forward to that course!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Taking the ASA 101 and ASA 103 Written Exams

Since we finally decided on a school that is affiliated with the American Sailing Association for our next course, we just completed the ASA 101 (Basic Keelboat) and ASA 103 (Basic Coastal Cruising) written exams with our current school.  Now, it's been a little while since I've taken a test and even longer since my wife has so we weren't quite sure what to expect.  Add in that our last classroom lecture was close to 4 months ago and we were a little nervous.

After work we make the trek across town to take the test.  As we're grabbing a quick bite to eat before we start the test we realize that we left the navigation chart we were supposed to bring at home.  This was not starting so well.

The ASA 101 test was a 100 question, multiple choice test and wasn't very difficult. It contained questions on identifying parts of a boat, right of way, knots, basic sail handling and points of sail.  Nothing too technical.  I breezed through the test fairly quickly, only really questioning my answers on a couple of the questions.

The second test, ASA 103, was another 100 questions and they were a little more technical. Buoys and channel markers, safety requirements and equipment, sound signals and lighting, as well as more boat part identification and more questions on knots.  It had a few questions on basic chart markings, but nothing that I think required us to have the chart.  Overall it was more difficult, but I think we did well enough.

Both tests took about 2 hours.  We don't know how we did yet...but I think we both managed passing grades (80% or better).  Hopefully should know pretty soon.

Update: We did get our grades and I posted them in this entry.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Decision!

After looking at and talking with a bunch of sailing schools for our 3rd class (ASA 104), and suffering from a little analysis paralysis, we've finally made a decision.  Having spent all of our time thus far sailing on reservoirs in Colorado, our goal was to spend some time on the ocean and living aboard the boat in the process.  The school we chose was the Tracey School of Sailing Instruction.

Most of the schools we found had choices of single courses or "fast track" courses that combined the two classes we had already taken with the course we wanted to take.  While single classes would work for us, the fast track courses seemed like a waste of time and money.

The Tracy option is technically a single course but we believe they will provide us with a more unique opportunity.  The school operates in two locations during different parts of the year and they take their Maine Cat when they move locations.  So twice a year instead of their normal sailing classes, they divide their trip between New Jersey and Bradenton, Florida, into four live-aboard classes.  Yes, we'll actually get to travel some distance in the course of the course.  In addition, instead of just the 104 course, we will also be doing the 114 (Catamaran) course.  We think this should give us a better breadth of experience than the courses that essentially stay in the same location.

The Tracey School appears to be a smaller school.  My wife and I always like to support smaller businesses when we can.  We've found that smaller businesses seem to understand customer service far better than larger ones, so hopefully this will be the case here as well.

We are SOOOOOOOOO looking forward to this trip...we just need to finish planning it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A First

I'm sure there will be a number of firsts as we make our way toward this goal (and we have already had several) but yesterday was definitely an important one.  This past weekend was the first time we took a sailboat out by ourselves.

It started out like a lot of our lessons, lacking any significant amount of wind.  That was probably best as we had a couple mis-steps, fortunately they were pretty minor.  We took most of our lessons at one particular reservoir, so of course the only available boats were at the other reservoir...and it is a bit trickier to get out of those slips.  After some maneuvering issues (somewhat equivalent to the 3 point turn in a car when it takes about 12 points) we were out of the marina and ready to raise the sails.  Oops...we forgot to rig the main halyard before we left dock.  Oh well, easy enough to correct that as well.

Of course, once we got the sails up there wasn't enough wind to fill them.  The interesting thing is that the water is apparently choppy on this reservoir even when there is no does this happen (the power boats I guess).  So we bobbed around for a little while, then decided to fire the engine back up and see if we could find a little wind elsewhere on the reservoir.  After a few attempts we found a very light breeze starting so we sailed...very slowly.  Good practice in light wind sailing anyway.

Fortunately the winds did pick up slowly so the last half of our 4-hour rental provided some decent sailing experience.  The winds were a bit variable in intensity and direction, but it was fun with full sails up.

Docking was uneventful, we returned the boat safely back to it's slip.

It is definitely a bit different only having the two of us on the boat.  Typically on the lessons we had at least three, so there was someone to handle the bow dock line, the stern line, and a third at the tiller.  While underway having someone work the jib, another on the main, and again a third on the tiller.  With only two of us, tasks are definitely more interesting, but very manageable.  Not sure how people do some of this stuff solo, at least on a crowded reservoir.

I guess we are now sailors...with a lot left to learn.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Last ASA 103 Class...Attempt Two

A couple days ago we again made the trek to the reservoir for our last ASA 103 course...again.  Instead of too much wind, if anything it looked like we were in for another light wind day.

My wife and I were the only two scheduled for our second attempt at the "graduation cruise".  The owner was there and decided we needed another person, so he grabbed a student from one of the regular classes.  As it turned out, I think this was a mistake.

Everything on this sail was pretty straight forward, just a little larger scale.  Since I docked the boat last time, I took the boat out of the marina this time.  While the boat is a fair amount larger, it doesn't really feel that much larger than the other boats.  We raised the main and unfurled the Genoa (I like the roller furling headsail) and were able to catch just enough wind to sail.  We did some basic maneuvers and a couple of man overboard drills.  A little more room on this boat made it a bit more comfortable with three students and an instructor than is typically the case on the smaller boats.  The lesson ended with my wife bringing the boat back to the slip.

The problem was that the other student the owner had grabbed was only on his 3rd lesson of the ASA 101 course...and he hadn't been on a boat for over a couple months.  So, instead of helping the situation, he was actually more of an obstacle.  The instructor had to spend a majority of the time explaining the basics to this student and the student didn't seem to be "getting it" at all.  This made it a little frustrating all the way around.  I felt sorry for this student as he was getting a LOT of information thrown at him quickly and I think this frustrated him.  Having the instructor spend the majority of his time with this student frustrated my wife and I as we had hoped to learn more about larger boat handling.  I think having students of such different levels of experience also frustrated the instructor.

All in all I think the lesson was worthwhile.  We did get to sail a larger boat, see how it maneuvers in a marina, and got to experience a couple of new mechanisms.  I do think the experience would have been better had the owner left the classes as they were.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

I Just Couldn't...

Well, if any post does it, this one might just get some comments.  Most of the people we've discussed our plan with thus far have been supportive, and more than a couple have said they wished they could do something like this.  My usual response is "why not do it?"

It has been interesting to hear the responses.  I've been able to group them into three basic responses and want to take a look at them.

"I can't afford it."  Live-aboard boats can be had for relatively low cost.  Certainly much lower than the typical house.  While maintenance may be higher per square foot of livable space, the total amount of space is lower so the overall cost can be lower.  In addition there is less space to furnish, so you save on the cost of furnishings.  Certainly, just as there are houses of all sizes and costs, there are boats of the affordability does depend on the choices made.  Affordable choices are out there.  When we were in the Florida Keys last, the live-aboards were often referred to as the low-rent district.  I recall seeing a story a little while back about folks in several spots in California moving onto boats at marinas as a cost saving measure (here is one example).

"I have a family."  There are a number of families that live aboard boats.  There are a couple of examples here and here.  If you are cruising, things like homeschooling may need to be addressed.  But I think it would be far more educational for kids to actually visit other places and experience other cultures instead of just reading about it in a book.  While this isn't a particular concern of ours, there is a fair amount of evidence to prove that this isn't a roadblock if you don't want it to be one.

"I have obligations."  I think this actually means, "I have bills to pay" and I think that is closer to the real reason most people fear this sort of change.  American society has trained us from birth that we need to have the biggest and the most and to be the ultimate consumers. Large homes with granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances. New cars every few years. Have you seen the 80 inch 3-D television.  And who could live without a new cell phone every year or two.  All of this comes with a cost, and we take out loans and run up credit card bills trying to buy this "American happiness".  These are our obligations...and we really don't need most of it.

This is the real catch: you have to be willing to give up the idea of collecting a lot of "things".  Do that, and the need to work 50 hours a week for 50 weeks a year to pay for those "things" disappears too.  I'll be the first to admit, I was (am?) that way too.  We own a house big enough that we don't really even use half of it.  We own more vehicles than members of our household and a big damn TV too.  But, not that long long ago I realized I was spending a lot of my lifetime earning the wages to buy these things. I believe I can give a lot of it up in trade for a simpler lifestyle and a lot more free time.

He who dies with the most toys does not win...he who dies with the most experiences does.  The real question is how do you want to spend the majority of your life?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Our Last ASA 103 Sailing Lession...almost.

Yesterday evening was supposed to be our last Basic Coastal Cruising class...the one on the larger J/30.

We arrived at the marina at 5:30pm, met the instructor and the one other student in that class and prepared the boat as some rain clouds were building over the nearby hills.  We went over the differences between the smaller J/22's we had been using and this boat.  It is a larger two cabin boat with a kitchen, V-berth, head, and internal engine.  It is set up as more of a bareboat charter boat and even has conveniences such as a roller furling jib.

 As we left the dock, the clouds looked fairly dark, but we saw no lightening and heard no thunder so we continued.  The wind was a little stiffer than we had for any of our previous lessons, so we set a reef before we raised the main sail.  We had no more than raised it and turned off the engine when the rain started and the wind picked up and was gusting over 30 knots.

In those conditions, there wasn't going to be any chance of us getting to use the fancy jib or familiarize ourselves with any other sailing aspects of the boat so the instructor decided to call it short.  We dropped the main, fired up the engine and headed back to the marina.  Since the other student took the boat out, the instructor asked my wife and I which one of us would like to take it in.  My wife immediately volunteered me for the task.

I have to admit, maneuvering a 30ft boat in a tight marina is quite a bit different than maneuvering a 22 ft one.  They want this boat backed into the slip...and did I mention the slip is at the dead end of rather narrow dock channel?  So, here I am slowly maneuvering the school owner's pride and joy about a foot away from other boats (that made an artificial lee shore) as we make the approach.  But I remember the advice to keep just enough speed to maintain steerageway and be mindful of how the wind will push the boat and was able to successfully maneuver it into it's slip. I even made sure we didn't run the rudder into the dock.  I actually got a compliment from both the instructor and one of the guys on one of the "lee shore" boats we passed on the approach.  Guess I am learning something after all.

Kind of a bummer the class was cut short, but we will get to reschedule the course so we will get to take the boat out again.  Getting to dock the boat and making a good show of it almost made it worth the trip down there for what was otherwise about a 30 minute lesson.  Looking forward to another chance to take the J/30 out for a sail.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

This One is Good

A little while back I ran across a blog that had a very similar story to ours.  A couple with no sailing experience that heads off cruising.  Sound familiar?

I've been going through this blog "from the beginning" and have finally caught up with the current postings.  Thus far it has to be one of the best sites I've found for both information and inspiration related to our plans.  As of today their site states they have been cruising for 718 days and they make posts just about every day (where do they find the time?).

So, if you have some time, check out Mike and Rebecca's story on Zero To Cruising.  And for those that think my wife and I are crazy...we are definitely not alone.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Options, options, and more options.

As mentioned in my last post, we need to decide on the class(es), location for those classes, and the type of boat we want to learn on for the next step after we complete our current course.

So, starting with the last one first, what type of boat.  For lesson purposes the size should be similar to what we intend to own, but a few feet shouldn't be too big of a deal.  The number of hulls, on the other hand, is a bigger question.
Of course, not having any significant experience on either type of boat, we are not sure which way to go here.  Each has advantages and disadvantages.  Ideally, we would like to be able to spend a little time on each in hopes of helping us decide.

As far as location is concerned, we definitely want a course that spends all of it's time on the ocean.  While learning on a reservoir was fine for basic sailing skills, it just isn't realistic for our intended goal.  To get a better feel for living aboard a boat, we want the next course(s) to be multi-day and live-aboard.  For these options, there seems to be two main locations, either Florida or the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

And finally the classes.  Beyond the minor differences between the two competing sailing organizations, there are multiple classes that can be taken from where we are now:
  • Intermediate Coastal Cruising (ASA 104) / Bareboat Cruising (US)
  • Coastal Navigation (ASA and US)
  • Offshore Passage Making (ASA and US)
  • Celestial Navigation (ASA and US)
Various schools offer multiple class options.  Of course, they are usually starting with the two courses we have already taken (101, 103, and 104 combos are common).  If we want to do multiple courses starting with the Intermediate/Bareboat Cruising class, it seems we will be doing a more custom (read: expensive) option.  At a minimum we definitely want to go with the coastal cruising course, and I would think the passage making course would be the next logical choice.  I've got some experience with navigation, so I'm thinking those can be learned at home or online.

Choices in schools seem to range from large schools run by famous sailors to smaller mom & pop operations.  Most are smaller classes between two and six students per boat with the smaller operations typically having the smaller class sizes.  Since it will eventually just be the two of us (and the dogs), I would think the smaller classes would be better.  Of course, more students may present more situations leading to more learning.

Lots of choices...what to do...what to do.