Monday, July 22, 2013

Inspirations and Oversights

Not too long after this notion of sailing away started, I ran across a blog about a couple from Canada with no sailing experience who learned to sail, bought a catamaran, and went cruising down the eastern coast of North America and off through the Caribbean.  Since this was our intention, it definitely got my attention.  When I first found their blog I went back to their first post and began reading. I continue to follow them today.

I have found them to be an inspiration in our quest to throw off the dock lines of our land-based life and sail along a different path.  I could have sworn I had mentioned them in a post or two (other than just my research page), but after a quick review of my past entries, I couldn't find one.  So I will correct that oversight now.

Zero To Cruising is exactly as their blog name indicates.  Mike and Rebecca went from complete sailing newbies to seasoned cruisers.  They are an excellent resource for those interested in cruising as well as those who just want to see what it might be like, both good and bad, to live on a sailboat in the Caribbean.

Why am I bringing this up now?  Well, I had always hoped we might eventually run into them in some anchorage in the Caribbean and swap stories over sundowners.  I would have never thought that we would end up meeting them before we had a boat and certainly not in Colorado.  But that is exactly what happened.  This past weekend we got the chance to hang out with them and a few other of their blog readers at an open house.

Wondering why a couple cruising the Caribbean ended up finding their way to Colorado?  Well, after about three years of cruising on their PDQ 32, they are embarking on a new adventure as the crew for a Leopard 4600 charter sailboat in the Caribbean.  The soon to be owner of that catamaran is right here in Colorado and so Mike and Rebecca are here with the owner making plans and preparing to take possession of the boat.

Having read pretty much every entry on their blog, it seemed that Mike and Rebecca were a pretty cool, down to earth couple.  Getting to meet them in person only confirmed that fact. I can definitely see why the owner of the Leopard wants them to be the charter crew for his boat.  Between the nice layout of the Leopard and the obvious dedication and very personable nature of Mike and Rebecca, I would imagine that anyone chartering this boat and her crew for a vacation would have an absolutely wonderful time.

We had a great time talking about sailing and plans and other topics with everyone who was there.  We were also treated to something that the owner, Mike and Rebecca are intending to do occasionally on their charter...they made ice cream (imagine how great it would be to be on vacation in the Caribbean, sitting on a boat, watching the sun set with some home-made ice cream). The open house was a lot of fun and I'd like to thank Mike, Rebecca, Michael and Julie (the new catamaran owners and hosts) as well as everyone who attended...we had a great time.

UPDATE: The charter boat's web site is now live (still a work in progress as of 7/30/2013). You can find it here: One Love Catamaran Charters

UPDATE 2: I'm not crazy...just forgetful.  I did write a post about Zero To Cruising almost a year ago.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New Leads From an Unexpected Source

A few weeks ago I finally managed to post a question to the Cruisers Forum asking for any thoughts regarding what we consider our top two choices for "our boat".  There were some interesting comments, so if you are interested in the Fountaine Pajot Tobago or Lagoon 37, click the link above and check them out.

It seems that the overall consensus was that either boat would be a good option.  Each has pros and cons and it is a very close race in our minds even though the boats are fairly different configurations.  In the end I think we really prefer the Lagoon.

One thing that I didn't expect from my post was to be contacted by a couple of people that owned boats and wanted to sell them and both were Lagoons.  Now ideally we would like to buy a boat that is in the US as it makes the logistics much easier, but both were in the Caribbean. Since we are not finding one in the US, I guess we do need to "broaden  our horizon".

 I had seen the first boat listed on a for sale by owner web site.  I contacted the owner by email and they sent me a couple links to more pictures of the boat.  None of the pictures were high detail and it was unclear when they were taken, so while the boat seemed it could fit the bill, I could not really assess the condition.  Given the advertised price, I assumed the boat would require some work and was curious what it was.  So, I sent another email and asked the owner if they could provide more details about the boat including their assessment of it's condition so neither of us would waste traveling to see it just to find out it wasn't the level of project I was comfortable with.  Unfortunately, instead of getting responses to my questions, the owner decided it was unlikely the boat would work for me. Oh well, I guess if he changes his mind we could pick up the conversation where we left off.

The owner of the second boat left his phone number, so I gave him a call.  We had a nice conversation about his Lagoon and got the impression that this boat was in very good (or to use the proper sailing term "Bristol") condition.  He sent me a number of pictures including some higher resolution ones that support my impression of it's condition.  Of course, this does come at a price.  It is the highest price of any Lagoon I've seen by a pretty fair margin but may well be worth it.  I don't really want to say much more about this boat at this time...but hopefully we are coming one step closer to our new home on the water.

If you've been following for long, you may recall that I was working with a broker.  When I told him about the second boat, he said "go for it" knowing that he may be out a commission because he knows how difficult it has been finding a good Lagoon.  How's that for integrity.  I'm trying to figure if there is a way to keep him in the deal where I would pay his fee without breaking the bank.  I really need to write another post about our broker as he has been great to work with. But for now if you happen to be looking for a decent and honest boat broker that will help you with any size of catamaran purchase, you might want to give Pete Gulick at the Catamaran Company a call.

Update: Unfortunately I can no longer recommend Pete (and never really could recommend the Catamaran Company and its affiliates).

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Teaching a Not So Old Dog a New Trick

I previously wrote about our dogs' first swimming lesson.  As I had mentioned, our younger dog is very timid and for the first lesson it was all we could do to get him to walk down the pool ramp far enough to get his paws wet.  We had been thinking about this issue. One of the problems with the "public dog pool" is that it is for employees and dogs only. We couldn't be in the pool to help coax him in. Another problem is that we couldn't bring treats into the pool area so that wouldn't be any help (not that he was as food motivated as our other dog anyway).  We figured at the apparent rate of progress, his learning to swim may cost us a fortune.

Well, while at a local discount store, we found an 8 foot round by 30 inch deep Easy Set pool (a.k.a. big blue blob) on sale for $35.  Hmmm...the cost of getting one of these and filling it would be about the same cost as a single half hour swimming lesson.  That might be worth giving a try to reduce the time and cost of introducing our timid dog to the water.  It's not really enough to swim laps in, even for a 40 lb. dog, but it should at least allow us to introduce him to the water and swimming at his own pace.  So, while I would prefer to be getting rid of things at this stage, we bought one.

Dog Training Pool - A.K.A. The Big Blue Blob

Since the dogs will need life jackets on the boat, we picked up those as well.  An internet/sailing/blogging friend on s/v Smitty recommended the Outward Hound jacket. The design appears to have changed from the one pictured, and we found the newer style was exactly the same as the one sold at our local Petsmart so we picked them up there (and they were even on sale, yay).

We set the pool up on a tarp on our patio as it was the only reasonably flat space that wouldn't kill grass. The blue blob is, as the name suggests, easy to set up.  You lay it out, blow up the inflatable ring around the top, and fill with water.  The result is a pool big enough to float a medium sized dog.  We then put the vest on our older dog and used it to lift her into the pool with one of us outside the pool and one in the pool.  The new dual handle design of the vest is handy for lifting a 40 lb. least into a pool.  When our older dog touches the water, she immediately begins trying to swim.  I don't think she likes water...or at least the pool...but she definitely can swim.  We wanted her to go first so our more timid dog would see and maybe think it isn't that scary...yeah, trying to play psychological games with our dogs.

We then put the vest on our timid dog and brought him over to the pool.  We slowly put him in the water with my wife in the pool. Lots of praise, but he just floats there as we hold on to the handle of the jacket.  And when he starts to tremble a bit, we take him out.  That's enough for the first day.  In the following days our timid dog and the pool meet several more times and each time he becomes more comfortable with the life jacket and the pool.  The last time he was in the pool my wife was able to take him to one side and I would call him and he would swim the 6 or so feet over to me unassisted.  He doesn't really seem much more comfortable than our other dog, but is definitely making good progress.  Thus far the pool seems to be to be a success.
Our older dog in her lifejacket
Our younger, timid dog

One thing we have noticed is that the life vests don't provide as much buoyancy as I thought they might.  Specifically, they don't seem to hold the dogs head as high as I would have thought they would with the extra flap of foam up front.  They do seem to keep them afloat and maybe we're just being nervous parents. The pool is fresh water, and salt water is more buoyant, so I'm sure they will work out just fine.

The other thing to note about this experiment is that even these small pools require constant maintenance if you intend to keep them filled for more than a day or two. The pool holds 640 gallons of water, so we don't want to keep refilling this thing.  And this pool doesn't have a pump, much less chemical systems to help out. We only intend to have it filled for two or three weeks, so we buy the less accurate test strips to test the basic chemical balance.  For chemicals, instead of buying pool specific chemicals, you can use a few household chemicals such as bottled bleach and borax.  To figure out what you need to do, there is a handy online pool calculator where you enter in your test info and it will tell you how much of what chemicals to add to keep your pool safe.

Thus far, the pool is working out well.  We will likely empty the pool this upcoming weekend and take the dogs back to the public pool for more of a real swim. Based on all the information I've been able to find, the treated water should be fine for the lawn, so it will serve one last purpose watering our lawn. Hopefully our dogs, and particularly our timid one, will find the pool a more comfortable experience on their next visit. Who knows, maybe soon our dogs will be as comfortable in the water as some dogs another internet friend has mentioned in their recent post.