Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lesson 2: Knots Not Knots

Our second classroom session last night was all about knots.  A knot is a measurement of speed in nautical miles and is approximately 1.15 standard miles, but this is not the knot I'm talking about.  Knots are also the things you use to keep the myriad of lines (ropes) on a sailboat in order.

Now the only knot I really knew how to tie well was the one you accidentally create in your tennis shoe know the one that takes a forever to get untied...and usually occurs when you are in a hurry.

Well, the ones we learned last night differ a great deal as they both serve a useful purpose and can be untied easily.  Here are the ones we learned that the ASA wants us to know:
And a few other useful items that aren't on the ASA exam:
  • Cow Hitch - Useful for stowing reefing lines (or, I guess cows).
  • Prusik - Can apply force to an existing line when you can't access the ends.
  • Truckers Hitch -  Multiply pulling power (cheap block and tackle).
Here is a site I found that has a bunch of animated knots if anyone is interested:

The most interesting thing I learned though, is that there are different ways to tie a given knot, but some are much easier than others.  When you are on a rocking boat, I assume the easier the better.

Now if I can ever get over this cold, next lessons are on a boat.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sailing Lessons Day 1

Had our first sailing lesson on Monday evening from 7~10pm.  No, we didn't go sailing in the dark, the lessons include two classroom sessions and this was the first.  The school hasn't actually launched their boats yet...they apparently don't have ice skates.  I guess they will be available starting sometime next month.

As would be my usual luck, I ended up coming down with a cold over the weekend, so sitting thru a 3 hour class wasn't the best.  The class was an OK introduction to sailing and sailing terms but the instructor skipped around his slides a lot.  The claim is there are only four maneuvers in sailing:
  • Heading Up: Turning toward the wind.
  • Bearing Away: Turning away from the wind.
  • Tacking: Turning the bow thru the  wind.
  • Gybing: Turning the stern thru the wind.
On a sailboat everything seems to be based on the wind (yeah, duh, just call me captian obvious). We also got our course materials at this first class.  Fortunately I had been doing research ahead of time, so it was mostly review of what I had already read...good comprehension definitely goes down on cold meds.

One of the "materials" for the class is a Personal Flotation Device (PFD). A basic one is included in the tuition as I guess a student drowning would be bad for business.  The thing I didn't know ahead of time is they had three "better" options to choose from for a small additional fee (the total cost for students is below retail).  We decided to go with the auto-inflating ones with integrated safety harnesses.  Since the plan is offshore cruising, these sounded like better options than the basic ones that were manual inflation only and didn't have an integrated harness.  Hope it was a reasonable choice.

Next classroom class is all about knots (tying ones, not measurement ones)...then we'll finally go sailing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

We're Dummies

Our sailing class is just under a week away.  We don't get our course materials until the first class, but we wanted to get a jump on things so we went to the local library in search of books on sailing. After flipping through several of them, we ended up with "Sailing For Dummies".  It's the first time I've looked at a "for Dummies" book. It is actually seems pretty good so far.

Chapter two of the book talks about picking a good sailing school.  They didn't cover that if you only really have one within any reasonable makes the choice fairly simple. :-) The problem with starting this in Colorado, not too many choices...but we can't afford to move to a coastal location for lessons right now.  Eventually, we will take lessons in a more appropriate location...but this should definitely suffice for the basics.

Meanwhile, the book should get us a jump on learning the basics and the amazing amount of terminology.  A rope is called a line, and a line can be a't we just call a rope a rope?

Monday, March 19, 2012

How it all began (part 2)

Continuing from the previous post...employed again, I was back on the rat wheel.  But a bit more determined to figure out an alternative lifestyle that didn't need to wait for retirement.

During the next scheduled 2 week rat race reprieve (aka vacation) we went to Marathon, Florida.  While there, we came across a brochure for a dinner cruise offered by Sunny Sail Charters.  We had a great time, and it was there that we found out that our hosts Bill and Laura actually lived aboard the boat we were on full time. The seed was planted.

I came back from vacation and started looking into what it would "really be like" to live on a sailboat.  I started reading e-books and blogs of people who have done it.  The more I researched, the more I realized that living aboard a sailboat ticked a lot of the boxes we've been wanting to include in our lifestyle change:
  • Energy efficient, off-grid - check (with solar and/or wind, watermaker).
  • Get rid of excess space that just collects junk - big check.
  • Reduced cost of living - check.
  • Living where we vacation - check.
  • Travel - check.
Of course there are downsides as well (more maintenance, a house that rocks with the waves, hurricanes, and I'm pretty sure my current house won't sink among others), but I think this may be just what we need.  Of course, I guess the downsides are part of what I'll be discovering while I document all of this.

So, that is how this crazy idea got started.  Looking forward to the journey.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How it all began

If you have found this blog, chances are you already have similar ideas or we have finally told our families and you are one of them trying to answer the question posed yesterday.

Well, for a while my wife and I have known that we wanted to change our lifestyle.  We have the typical larger-than-needed suburban home, 3 mid-priced cars, and all the usual stuff society expects us to have.  And we spend 50 weeks a year working so we can afford these "things" and only 2 weeks a year really having fun and enjoying life.  Work, spend, consume...just another rat on the wheel.

A couple years ago we started looking for property that would allow us to build a more modest, likely off-grid, ultra energy efficient home away from the city.  This was going to be our retirement home, and since I was a telecommuter at the time, we figured we could likely move there early (as long as we could get internet access). axiom I've found in my career came to pass again...I lost my job.  It seems the typical software engineering job tends to only last about 5 years for one reason or another.  While this was an advantage in my early career, now each time this happens, I'm 5 years older and "the right job" seems a bit harder to find.  Do I want to go through this 4 or 5 more times before I retire?  Um, no.

I did find another job (rather quickly considering the economy) but the luster of my career choice only continues to erode.  In addition, sitting behind a desk 50 hours a week at a stressful job my whole life has started taking a bit of a toll that I need to reverse.

Continued next time....

Saturday, March 17, 2012

You're doing WHAT?

That is the response I expect from our family, when we tell them.  But as of yet, this is as public of a place as I've confessed this idea.  And for the moment I'm keeping our identity a bit of a secret.

Yes, my wife and I plan to leave our careers 20+ years before "normal" retirement, liquidate almost everything we have, take our dogs and go live on a sailboat in the what many in the know call a "cruiser".  Oh, and did I mention that we don't know how to sail and don't (yet) own a boat?

I would like to say that we are charting unknown territory, and for us it certainly is, but we are far from the first to have this idea.  After a couple months worth of serious research, we have found a number of people that are currently planning, or are already enjoying, this lifestyle.  We hope to be well on our way to joining them within the next year.

But...first things first...our sailing lessons start in a week.  So, stay tuned for more on our attempt to escape the rat race.

And I'll leave you with this thought from Mark Twain that seems rather fitting:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.