Saturday, December 28, 2013

Goodbye Colorado

Now that we have a boat, the next step is to get it ready to be our home.  While the boat is in pretty good condition, thers are items that need some attention as well as a couple refit upgrades that need to occur. But it is a bit difficult to do that from Colorado, so today I departed on a cross country road trip so I could work on the boat and/or oversee repairs and upgrades and learn.  I'm writing this from my hotel room in Boonville, MO. and it is very late so I will keep this fairly short.

I am driving from Colorado to Florida so I will have a car while I work on the boat. In addition to working on the boat, since I currently work from home I will be continuing with my current software engineering job while on the boat in Florida. One of the advantages to the software can do it from anywhere. Unfortunately, we still have things to deal with in Colorado, so my wife is staying behind to work on wrapping all of that up.

This means that today was a somewhat bittersweet day. I am making positive steps to realize our dream, but it is coming at the cost of being away from my family. This will be the first time my wife and I will be apart for more than a week since we got married over twenty years ago.  Even though I have visited a lot of places, I have also lived in Denver my whole life.  While I know I will be flying back to Denver to help out a few times, these things combined to make me feel a bit sad as I watched the Rocky mountains disappear in the rear view mirror.

Well, I had better get some sleep since I have another long drive ahead of me tomorrow.  Ought to be interesting since some of the states I will be driving through are ones I have not visited yet.  Wish I had a bit more time to explore...maybe next time when my wife and our dogs will be with me.

I will post some pictures of the trip when I have a bit more time and a real computer to post from.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays

Honestly, up to this point it didn't even really feel like Christmas this year.  The past month or two we have been so preoccupied with the purchase of our new (to us) boat and now the planning to refit and move aboard, that if it weren't for the cold and snow outside, it feels just like most of the rest of the last 8 months.

But we have cleared the first big hurdle, we are proud owners of our floating home.  And what kind of sailing blog would this be if the boat didn't have it's own page, so I've created one with a few pictures and videos.  You can find it next to the research link at the top of any of the pages or by clicking here.

We are realizing our dream and one can't ask for a better Christmas present than that.  This holiday and the following year may you all find your passion and pursue it!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Mike and the rest of the crew at This Rat Sailed.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What's in a Name

I haven't really mentioned this yet, but we have decided to rename our Leopard 38.  The previous owner had named it Breathe.

He was a doctor, so I'm not sure if there is a correlation there, if it was just a reminder that we all need to stop and take a breath from time to time, or what the story behind the name was.  Since we never actually met the prior owner (unfortunately timing and schedules just never seemed to work out so I only know his broker), we may never know.  All I can tell you is that it didn't really hold any special meaning for us, and we feel it needs to change to better reflect us.

I know a lot of people have blogs named after their boats...or is it boats named after their blogs.  While I like the name of my blog because it did speak to our intentions, I just don't think it makes for a good boat name. So what to name our boat.

Lots of people with catamarans give their boats "cat" names.  The other Leopard we looked at was Catzpaw.  I know of a Lagoon in St Pete named Meow.  Catatonic, Catatude, Catalyst, Aristicat, Magnificat, get the idea.  We really didn't want to go that route.

We also needed a name that would pass the "mayday" test.  In other words, it needs to be a name that you can see using if you ever need to make that mayday call.  While Breaking Wind might be funny, how does "Mayday Mayday Mayday, we are Breaking Wind two miles off the coast of...." work for you?

Since we are more dog people than cat people (we have two that will be joining us aboard), we thought a more dog based name might work.  Dog Sled (a catamaran kinda looks sled-like, right) or Dogonit, Dingo, Fido (or to be confusing, spell it Phideaux) or Woof. We bounced around a lot of names, but in the end, it was actually Pete's suggestion that won out.

Our boat will be named...

It seems to work on several levels.  It is simple to say and easy to spell. It conveys the more nomadic life we seek. It pays homage to our furry companions that have enriched our lives.  And when I first told my wife we could have "a cat named Rover" it made her laugh.  Good enough reasons for me.

Now I guess I need to come up with a design...or at least a good font...for the decal. Have I mentioned that I'm an engineer...not really an this might be interesting. And then there is the whole boat renaming ceremony.  And I guess I need to go look how the current name is affixed so I can figure out how to remove it. Hmm...this might become a bigger job than I thought.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A New Temporary Home

After getting stuff we think we need and doing some cleaning, it was time to move our Leopard 38 from the back yard dock that was its home to the marina that will be its new home for a couple months as we refit and supply, and I continue to learn. We get up early and drive up to St. Augustine to pick up the captain/ASA instructor and bring him back to Daytona for our trip.

We go through the boat and do some safety checks and start the engines...well...try to anyway. The starboard engine won't start. Actually, it shows absolutely no signs of life whatsoever. Funny...worked just fine during the survey and sea trial. The instrument panel shows no voltage at the battery...I mean ZERO, and the alarm isn't sounding either. Out comes the multi-tester (thankfully the prior owner left it behind, and with some exercising of the selector, it started working) and it shows the battery is good. Huh. I wiggle a connector that looks like it may be coming from the instrument panel and voila, we hear the buzzer at the helm. Guess I'll need to look at that connector when I have a little time. We fire up the engine and finish our checks and everything looks good.

While the engines are idling, we do a refresher talk on maneuvering a catamaran. As we are talking the port engine alarm goes off. Doh! We look over and it is overheating so we quickly shut it down and go inspect. Check the sea strainer again and look around and find nothing amiss. So we start the engine back up and the temp drops to 180°F (where it is supposed to be) and holds steady. Best guess is that something floated or swam by and plugged the cooling water intake and it was freed as soon as we shut down the engine...but we keep a watchful eye on it for a little bit. It has been an interesting day so far, and we haven't even left the dock yet.

We do finally leave the dock. We make our way "through the ditch" (the intercoastal waterway or ICW) for this trip, no real sailing to be done today as the winds are light and our destination is on the ICW. My wife gets a refresher on the basics of navigation and markers, and we otherwise have a pretty uneventful trip swapping time at the helm. The only thing of note is that the starbord engine temperature is running just a bit high. Guess I'll need to add checking the heat exchanger to "the list". By the time we get to our marina, the long days with little sleep have caught up with my wife and she nods off on the settee. I practice docking with the instructor. We make several "touch and goes", and I seem to be getting the hang of it. The instructor thinks the stiffness in the controls might be hampering my efforts and suggests we get the cables replaced. Guess I'll add that to "the list" as well. Yep, boat ownership is already looking exactly as others have described...the art of fixing your boat in exotic locations...we just seem to be lacking the exotic locations thus far.

We get our boat (yeah, I like saying that) into the slip (ok, two is over 21 foot wide) and tied off. This will become her new home for a little while. It is a pretty nice place to be holed up for some repairs. It is in a fairly protected location, the facilities are nice, and the price is even better. The only real drawback is that it is a pretty long distance from an inlet so I won't be getting much sailing in...but we are here more for maintenance and docking practice so that will be OK for now.

Of course I quickly learn why people joke that boat stands for Bring Out Another Thousand, our slip has 50A electrical service, but our boat only has a 30A cord. We try to locate an adapter, and the only one we could find was at the West Marine in Daytona. We get the adapter and get the boat plugged in (we really want to get solar added, but for now any electrical will be nice...and is included in our dock rate). Our first night aboard was good although I think my wife was less happy since we didn't yet have a blanket and she was cold. The next day we grab a throw at the local Big Lots and that did the trick for her. It did seem a bit more like camping or a hotel room though, as we didn't have any propane or a pot to cook in. But that is OK -- we were busy enough without having to worry about making dinner.

We got to spend a couple nights on our boat before heading back to Denver to get our affairs in order there. And we did get to have drinks with our broker and his wife before we left. I really need to stop calling him our broker as he has really become our friend Pete.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

First Days of Boat Ownership

Closing occurred late in the day, and with all the traveling, we were pretty wiped out so we just went to the hotel, checked in and crashed.  I guess technically, that was day one, but it didn't feel like it to us so I'll call day one the actual first full day of ownership.

The first thing we do after breakfast is go to the boat and take a bit more detailed inventory of what was left on board.  We weren't exactly sure what, if anything would be left behind by the current owner so we figured we would be doing a combination of cleaning and shopping the next couple days...just not sure of the ratios. There were a few things I figured the owner might leave but did not.  They said all the "boat related" stuff was included...but I guess that is a matter of interpretation.  Other than the dehumidifier, handheld VHF radio, and binoculars, it was all small stuff anyway so no worries.

We spend the rest of the day shopping for "boat things" and "home things" so we can spend time on our boat.  We hunt down some sheets (good thread count on sale at KMart...yea) and a mattress pad and pillows for one of the bunks. We find some dishes at a local thrift store next to the store we were heading to that looked nice, roughly matched the interior, and were $3 so we got them in case we got ambitious about dining aboard. We need to investigate a few gremlins (the power for the lights in the starboard forward berth and head now seems to have disappeared....another item for "the list") so we stop by Harbor Freight for a couple throw away tools (I have a bunch of better tools at home but how do you explain a bag of tools to the sir, I don't intend to take the airplane apart in-flight but thanks for asking), an air horn from a local sporting goods store and a flare kit from the local West Marine so we would be legal  (remind me not to shop at West Marine when it can be avoided...the prices seem worse than most aviation prices). Oh, and we can't forget a couple cleaners (my broker recommended vinegar and water for a decent light duty cleaner for mold and mildew). By that time it was getting late, so we had dinner and returned to the hotel.

The next day we do a bit more shopping (it is amazing the things you have at home and forget you need until they are not scissors...gee...would love to get into the annoyingly tough plastic packaging everything seems to come in these days) and spend most of the day cleaning up the boat. The vinegar and water really seemed to do the trick...after the initial vinegar smell dissipated. We also got some upholstery cleaner for the cushions in the berth. After cleaning them, they had to dry so again no sleeping on the boat tonight.  The interior is cleaning up well.  I know my broker prefers more wood but so far we are happy with the ease of cleaning the plastic surfaces.

We also continue to explore the contents of the outside lockers.  Extra lines and fenders, the classic orange life jackets, and other assorted items.  In the rear lazarette above the battery compartment we find most of the spare engine fluids (oil, coolant, transmission fluid, etc.) and the spare filters I had hoped were on board but hadn't located until now.  In the propane locker we found the propane and the bottles...kinda wished the propane was in the bottles but apparently something leaked (yet another item for "the list"...and I guess that rules out cooking for now). I also need to refresh my memory on identifying the inspection dates on these bottles as I think one certainly looks like it might be in need of inspection.  In what was once the liferaft locker (we knew it wasn't aboard) we found a couple more life jackets, a couple type IV throwables, some mosquito netting, two old pairs of swim fins that went straight into the trash can, and a gizmo I hadn't seen before...
This gizmo is used to fresh water flush outboards.
It's a bit of a treasure hunt.  Just a few small surprises like the one above. The important thing here is to remember what we have and where it is.  To that end I am shuffling some stuff around so "like" items are in the same location.

Oh, and at my brokers request, we had to stop by the local liquor store so we could have a celebratory drink on the back of our boat in his absence (we are to have drinks with him as soon as he gets back from the boat show). We get the ABC store brand rum and some Sprite and have those drinks. It was OK...but I cannot recommend the ABC house brand rum...unless you need some lighter fluid (or perhaps it was that in our rush we got the diet any case, the combination was not the best).  But we did sit down for a bit and just enjoy the fact we were sitting on OUR boat.

We finally retire to the hotel and try to get some sleep, but we have an early start in the morning as we have hired a captain/instructor to help us move the boat up the ICW to its new, temporary home.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

We Own A Boat!

We depart Denver as we have done numerous times before on this boat buying expedition, but this time it is decidedly different.

The view from my airplane seat.
Ok, so it wasn't snowing when we left before...but that's not it.  This time, by the time we return, we should be the owners of our future floating home.

Over the past week or two we have been mulling over our options for where to dock the boat short term, what repairs and upgrades we really want to do right away, where to get insurance, as well as all the things left to do at our current house and our recently inherited one.  It has been a bit crazy.  I can't be the first person to buy a boat with limited experience, but many of the insurance companies I contacted did seem to act that way (even though we did take all those classes).  I also thought it shouldn't be too hard to find a dock or slip since so many cruisers are heading south towards the islands right now, but finding a home for a 21+ foot beam boat isn't as easy as one for the average mono hull.

Our broker comes through yet again and has hooked us up with an insurance guy that works the east coast and found us what seems to be a decent policy at about 1% of the hull value. He has also hooked us up with a very nice and well protected marina in which to dock the boat while we do some refit (and at what seems to be a very good price for the area as well).  He also helped locate an instructor to help us get used to our new boat and help us get it moved to its temporary home. The only downside of this trip is that our broker has to work a boat show in St. Petersburg so we won't see him until after we close and move the boat.

We arrive and make our way to Daytona to take a look at the repairs that were part of our conditional acceptance of vessel (our broker had taken a peek at them the day before...but I wanted to do it myself...even if I didn't know a whole lot about the repairs. I do like to think I have some decent general mechanical aptitude). We meet the selling agent at the boat and verify the transmission is now shifting as it should and that the leaking transmission cooler is replaced.

Everything looks good so I send the closing company the authorization-to-close paperwork and they proceeded with the closing. We wired money into escrow and scanned in a signed authorization to close before we left, so within a couple hours of sending the authorization email, we owned a 1999 Leopard 38. No sitting down with the current owner and pouring over reams of paperwork to sign your life away as is done with a house. It is OURS! I think we needed some fireworks. Of course, by the time we closed it was dark and we had been traveling all day so the fresh baked cookies at the hotel will have to do.

Weather is a bit better in Daytona
I really need to write more about the process and all the people who helped us get to this point, but that will have to wait for another time as this will be a busy week.

How interesting.  I just noticed this is post 100.  Seems like a good milestone for a nice round number.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

You Would Have Thought We Would Have Been More Prepared

But you would be wrong.  We've been looking for a boat for so long that you would have thought that we would have worked out a lot of the details by now.  And there certainly are few that we could have figured out before now, but there are a number of things that needed to wait until we had a specific boat locked in.

As the closing day on our boat approaches, we are scrambling to get a lot of things lined up. We couldn't determine a good place to temporarily store the boat until we knew where we were going to take possession.  We wouldn't know how long the refit was likely to take until we knew which boat we were going to buy. In fact we couldn't even get an insurance quote until we could give the insurance company the make and model of the boat and where we were going to keep it.

We now know most of this information, so the scramble to get everything lined up begins.  Our broker, Pete Gulick, has been a huge help with all of this.  Again he has gone above and beyond to help us find dockage and insurance options that didn't break the bank, an instructor to help us move the boat from its current home, and a bunch of other odds and ends to make this transition go as smoothly as possible.

We will be taking posession in Daytona Florida and will do some initial refit somewhere in the St. Augustine area. We will then depart Florida before the greedy tax man decides to extract his 6 pounds of flesh from us (we are not Florida residents nor do we want to be...) and cruise up the east coast this summer.  That is all the "plan" that we have so far.

We are trying to avoid making too many plans as this is supposed to be a more carefree lifestyle and as someone recently told me "schedules kill sailors" (and we don't want that). So sorry for the lack of posts recently, but know that progress is being made and more will be coming soon.