Thursday, March 26, 2015

Twang Goes The Dock Line

They call the act of heading off cruising "cutting the dock lines".  Untethering yourself from your previous land-based life as it were. Well, that twang was the sound of another dock line of ours being cut. Not the last one, but an important one nonetheless. You see, yesterday was my wife's last day at work.

Goodbye card signed by her coworkers

I think this was a particularly tough day for her.  She's had this job since shortly after she graduated from college and has spent the last 23.5 years there.  She has seen a lot in her time there (personally I'm not sure how anyone can watch laws being made for that long) and made many friends there. And given she had no less than three going away gatherings at work, I'm pretty sure that (as the above card stated) she will be missed there. But this morning she no longer has to drive to the office.

A bit more picturesque than the average office building
(Picture by Chris Gonzalez, released under GFDL)

I didn't really realize it until recently, but the way we divided up our tasks was probably more difficult for her. While I was living and working on the boat, she was in Colorado wrapping things up here.  So, while I was seeing positive progress (albeit sometimes VERY slow progress), she mostly dealt with things going away.  Fortunately only a few more days remain of those tasks, then we all head back to the east coast and to our new floating home.

After the party, of course.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bon Voyage Gathering - You're Invited

Now that things are finally coming down to the wire back in Colorado, I think it is time to have a party.  But...there is just one empty house isn't exactly the best venue for throwing a party.  The lack of tables...and chairs...and just about everything else just won't work for a gathering.

We thought about doing a cruiser style party...those are typically pot-luck affairs where you bring your own favorite drink and some food to share...but I don't think that would work out as well with guests all across the Denver area as it does in a marina or anchorage.

So, we decided to try a hybrid approach.  We are going to try to meet up with a bunch of folks at a new brewpub that recently (at least to me) opened in the area to say farewell over a couple beers.  They have about a dozen different beers on tap at any given time so you should be able to find something to your liking.

If you are hungry, this place doesn't have a kitchen itself but schedules a variety of food trucks to provide the food, and reports are that they are good.  On Sunday it will be Taj Palace (Indian).

If you are reading this and will be in the Denver area on Sunday, March 29th, please drop in.  Here is some information on the Wonderland Brewing Company:

Wonderland Brewing Company
5450 W 120th Ave
Broomfield, Colorado 80020

2~4pm Sunday March 29th


Come join us for a beer, chat about our upcoming adventure, and say bon voyage!

P.S. If you think you might be coming, please let us know so we know how many tables to hoard.  If you don't have other contact information for us, the email form at the bottom of the right hand column will work just fine.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Being Slug-ish

A week or two ago one of the blogs I regularly read did a monthly recap.  In the recap they had mentioned that they spent a couple days as "complete and utter slugs" while waiting out some bad weather.  According to their account they didn't do anything except read, work on their blog, snack and catch up on some TV shows.  Usually tossing out the term "slug" implies a negative connotation, that somehow they should have been doing something more with their time.  So, naturally (and with tongue-in-cheek), I had to respond.  I quipped something about the virtues of the slug lifestyle and that it must be OK because you never hear of slugs having heart attacks.

While my comment was intended with a hearty veil of humor, there was also a little bit of a lesson that life has been trying to teach me mixed in.  You see, my career in the software industry has always been fast paced and fairly stressful.  It was pretty rare when I would have the chance to unwind and it seems I had just about forgotten how to do that.  When I used to go on vacation, at best I may have just started to unwind a bit by the time the vacation was over.  And I'm pretty sure I am far from alone on this.  Otherwise this clip from CitySlickers might have been left on the cutting room floor...

For me, the worst part is the irony between what my industry was supposed to do and what it has actually done.  Remember how these "computing devices" I've worked on my whole life were supposed to make life easier?  It doesn't really seem they have done that, have they?  Sure, it makes some things easier.  You can make phone calls more easily, and check your email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, and other things at any time from virtually anywhere.  You now have the internet at your fingertips and can instantly find the answers to most of our questions. Yes, we have certainly made communications easier.  But making communication easier doesn't seem to have made life any easier...instead it seems to have made life more fast-paced and hectic. Now that you can receive calls and email from just about anywhere, your boss or your customers now expect instant answers at any time.  As a society, we seem to have lost patience.  And the stress from all of this seems to be killing us.

So, back to the idea of the slug.  I don't think there is anything wrong with being a slug, if that is what you want to call it.  A little slower paced, more deliberate lifestyle is something I think we all could use.  It is something I continue to struggle with but keep striving for in my own life.  My friends over at The Cynical Sailor & His Salty Sidekick just completed another post on "The Art of Being a Slug" and, while being another humor infused post, I think it does have some pretty good lessons to offer if you just think about it.  So I will ask you to go and embrace your inner slug...the life you save may be your own.

And I'll leave you with something appropriate from the Eagles...

Learn To Be Still by siouxnavajo

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A New Look

In case you couldn't tell, I got a bit bored with the old look of the blog and so I'm doing a bit of experimenting with alternate templates and looks.  I'm trying to come up with something that still fits the title image and banner yet freshen it up a bit.

So, what do you think of this one (ocean sunset background with semi-transparent fields)?  Does the background image cause the page to load slowly for you?  Do you find it readable?  Annoying?

Leave me a comment and let me know.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Game I Surely Will Not Win

It's a game every person that moves from being a dirt dweller to a first-time cruiser plays.  And based on the blogs I read, it is a game that no one who plays ever really wins.  That game?  It's called "Will I need this?" and it is played as you try to downsize your life from your relatively large stationary home to your new and much smaller floating one.

To win this game you need to figure out what you should sell/give away/throw away, what needs to be stored with family (hopefully very little), and what will be needed and can fit on the boat.  It is a game we have actually been playing for a while.  It started when I first drove from Colorado to Florida to move onto the boat.  It continued as we planned and held our estate sale.  And it continues today as we try to empty the house of the last of our stuff and prepare for the final move onto the boat.

To make the game a bit more challenging, I added an additional rule to our version of the game.  Everything we plan to take to the boat needs to fit in the Prius that we intend to take on the drive back to to the boat.  That includes the two human and two canine passengers.  I figure this way we definitely won't arrive at the boat with more stuff than will fit on her.  After all, I've been living on it for the better part of a year so it already has many of the necessities for day-to-day life.

Image result for red 2005 prius picture

This is a challenging game.  You know there are some things you will need, there are other things you think you would like to have, some you can do without, and there are others that fall under the "what was I thinking when I bought that" category (anyone that ever owned a bread maker want to chime in here?).  These needs and wants are stacked against the very limited space available to store things on a boat.  Because, lets admit it, if you are storing your canned goods underneath your sofa, you just don't have an excess of storage space.

Some things are easy...while that clothes dryer might be nice, it definitely won't fit and I can't power it from the inverter (so, it left to a new owner just a few hours ago).  The ski rack, while it might fit somewhere on the boat, isn't exactly useful on a sailboat. But what about our bicycles?  They are hybrid bikes (part road and part mountain bike) and have quick release hubs so they can partially collapse for storage...but not as much as a folding bike would.  They are likely more comfortable to ride than the folding bikes...but would definitely be more difficult to dinghy to shore.

Some clothes we definitely want to take. Swimsuits, wet-suits, t-shirts, and shorts generally make the least a few good ones.  But do I need a dress suit?  How about a nice sports coat...and where will I store it on the boat if I take it.  I've never been much of a dress up kinda guy and Colorado is pretty casual, so I've only needed these things on maybe a dozen occasions my entire lifetime.

There have been a few things I've already lost this game on.  When we had the estate sale, I sold a heat gun and had to buy one for the boat.  Same with a car buffer and a few other tools.  And with the colder temperatures that I wasn't expecting to be around in, some sweatshirts needed to be acquired in Virginia and Georgia as well.  And there are other items that I already carted across the country that I have yet to use on the boat.  Don't know if I will...but haven't thrown many of them away just yet.

In any case, we keep on playing the game. Pairing down the things we need in hopes that our choices keep us from getting rid of too many items that we will later have to reacquire. And just as bad, carrying stuff half way across the U.S. just to toss it in a few months on the East coast.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Little Oven Meet Big Oven

Even while living at the dock I've had a couple problems with provisioning.  One was figuring out what to make for dinner and the other was remembering to get everything I need when I'm at the grocery store. Knowing that both of these items will become exponentially larger problems when I'm not tied to a dock with access to a car, I've been trying to figure out how to better deal with these problems.

A number of weeks ago I stumbled upon a service that I thought might just help out with both of these issues. The service is called Big Oven and is a combination online recipe book/organizer, meal planner, and grocery list creator.  Something like this sounded like it could help, and since the basic level of membership is free, I decided to give it a try.

They have a bunch of different recipes to try.  You can search for specific recipes if you want, or you can browse by different groupings such as a seasonal collection, quick and easy suggestions, best ratings, etc. The application allows you to review and read reviews of the recipes to help you decide which ones to try. It also lets you flag recipes you want to try and this is handy when building a menu plan. If you have your own favorite recipes, you can also add them as either publicly available or private (up to 50 in the free version) and it can also import recipes found elsewhere on the web so you can include them in any meal planning efforts.

I was able to create a couple week-long menu plans and then have it generate shopping lists from the menus.  By installing their app on my phone, I was able to sync up the shopping list on my phone so I could take it to the store and make sure I bought everything I needed.  The application attempts to organize the shopping list by departments so that you aren't running back and forth across the store or constantly scrolling through the list.  As you put items in your cart, you can then check them off of the list so you can keep track of it all.

I tried several recipes from the site as well as entered a few of my own.  Overall I think the application is handy and did help me organize a weekly menu as well as keep me on track at the grocery store.  And some of the recipes on the site are fantastic, my favorite one thus far is this Chicken Tikka Masala one.

Chicken Tikka Masala, Baingan bharta, and Naan

The application does have some drawbacks though.  When generating shopping lists, it didn't seem to combine ingredients from multiple recipes into a single shopping list I ended up with three listings for "1 onion" instead of a shopping list that read "3 onions"...and this can make the shopping list rather long if you have a large menu plan.  The big catch for cruisers though, is that everything is stored online.  This means that once you are done planning, you will need to make copies of your plan and all the recipes before you head out of internet range.  Not impossible to overcome, but would be nice if the application could save this stuff for you without having to resort to screen captures or cut-and-paste.

Still, it is a tool worth having in your meal planning and provisioning arsenal.  So, if you cruise, do you have any special apps or techniques you use to help with these tasks?  Leave a comment and let me know.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Waitress I Need Two More Boat....Cards?

Sorry Jimmy, I know that's not how the lyrics go...but we could really use some boat cards.

Boat cards are like business cards for cruisers.  In this lifestyle you meet people and become friends so quickly that it is very handy to have these little gems.  And with my less than perfect memory (I am notoriously bad at remembering names) I've found that boat cards can be a great aid to my lacking gray matter.  Unfortunately I have not had ones to hand out.

I had been procrastinating about creating cards because one of the items I wanted to include on the cards was a picture of us, the crew of s/v Rover including our furry members, sitting together on the transom or some other appropriate sort of scene.  The reason for the picture is that I've found it to be one of the most beneficial features of some of the boat cards I've I can match cards to faces (I can generally recognize a face as someone that I'm supposed to know...even if I can't remember their name).  So, I definitely wanted to include this feature for others like me that can't always remember names.  But as of yet, the whole crew has not been on the boat together.

I was also trying to figure out if I wanted to have cards printed or just print them myself with a color inkjet printer.  I've been finding some need for a printer on-board (as I've had to print out forms for things like dinghy registration or letters when my credit card information was compromised), so it seemed to make sense to just print them as we need them and they would remain relatively up to date that way. Unfortunately, having owned an inkjet printer before, I also know how cantankerous they can be if not used regularly (and I don't see me using the printer on a monthly, much less weekly, basis).  Looking into having business cards printed, I also found that I could have 250~500 cards done for about the same cost as a single inkjet cartridge set for most printers. So, it seems to me that having them done is a better option for us.

So, fast forward to my current trip back to Denver.  As we wrap up our land-based life here in Colorado, one of the things we would like to do is have a Bon voyage party of sorts before we leave.  I came to the realization that it would be handy to have some boat cards for that party so I could give people our contact information since we would soon be without some of our classic means of contact (our home address, home phone).  Getting this task done now would also alleviate the need to deal with it once we got back to the boat.  We also thought about how small the portrait image would be on a business card and decided that a more close up picture or pictures would be better than trying to have one that was more "sailing oriented".  In the end, there doesn't seem to be a good reason to wait any longer.

This weekend, as I continue to get over my "Denver sinus infection", I decided to design our boat cards.  Typically, people have the name of their boat, maybe a picture of their boat or themselves, the name of the crew, email addresses and phone numbers, possibly a mailing address or a blog link.  In our case, we almost have two different personas that need to be represented on the card.  There is the classic information about boat and crew that is on most cards.  In our case there is also the blog that existed well before we had the boat. Unlike most sailing blogs, it doesn't bear the name of the boat and goes beyond just our time on the boat so I felt it deserved a bit of a showcase on the card.  In the end, we decided that a two sided card was in order where the blog and email contact was on one side, the boat and crew information was on the other. Here is the result of our design efforts:


I think the design turned out fairly well. So, what do you think?  Hopefully the printed cards will look good.  Now...waitress, where's that drink.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Under The Weather

Sorry for going silent for a few days.  It wasn't my intention...but neither was getting sick just after getting back to Denver.  I'm now two for two on getting sick after returning to Denver.  It must be the combination of my sinuses (having become accustomed to humidity when I'm on the boat) being thrust into the very dry air of Colorado and being stuffed in a small metal tube (airplane) with a few hundred fellow humans (some of who I'm sure were the guy sitting in front of me that coughed and hacked the whole flight).  In any case, I've been feeling pretty lousy and not getting too much accomplished...including writing.

I have managed to get a few things done, though.  I decided on a new cell phone service and handset and will do a detailed write up on that once I have a chance to use it.  I do hope it works well enough because, if it does, it will be half the price of our current service with T-Mobile and give us a bit better coverage.

I would also like to get a waterproof camera that can take some decent pictures and video for the blog. Trying to decide if the low end GoPro Hero would work, or if the Fuji FinePix XP70 would be sufficient, or if I really need to spring for the better GoPro cameras that are 3 to 5 times the price.  Looking at sample pictures and video online, I think I may be leaning toward the Fuji even though it is only good to 10 meters below the water.

Fujifilm FinePix 16.4MP Waterproof WiFi Camera      Gopro Hero - Black

I've also been trying to help go through what is left in the house and divide it up into the categories of take, store, sell, donate, and trash.  The take pile will definitely be small, as it will have to be carried back to the boat in the Prius (along with the two of us and the dogs).  I figured that would be the only way we would be able to get back to the boat without having more than we can store on board. The store pile will be some paperwork that we need to keep and a few sentimental items that will be stored with family.  The rest all needs to depart the premises soon so we can get the house on the market and head back to the boat.

This would all be easier without the pain and head congestion, but I will try and push on so I don't further delay our departure.  Wish us luck.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

It's Not Home Anymore

Coming back to the house in Colorado this time has been a very different experience than the previous trips. Yes, it was great to see my wife and the dogs again.  But it just didn't feel like home.

Since I was last here my wife has continued to get rid of all our "stuff" and the house is pretty empty.  In addition to everything that found a new home during the estate sale, now several other larger pieces of furniture were now gone.  A large entertainment center, the piano, a coffee table, and even the entire bedroom set were no longer here.  It almost reminds me of our first know, the one you move into before you ever owned any furniture.

The ghost of living-room past.

The family room is empty except for a couple boxes.  The kitchen is the most furnished with a card table and couple of ratty chairs taking the place of our old dinette set (however, the cupboards are pretty empty, so no entertaining or complex cooking can be done).  There is one sectional sofa in the living room...and it is promised to a friend once we are ready to leave.  My computer sits on a TV tray stand that is also promised to someone else.  The lamp, the dog beds, and the computer are all that is really still ours.

In our bedroom there is only the mattress laying on the floor, an old tube television set with HD converter box, and some boxes and laundry baskets that contain some clothing and serve as makeshift nightstands and dressers.  The only other items that can be found in the house are a few odds and ends we need to take to the boat (like clothing and some tools) and stuff that will be donated to various charities or given to friends over the next few days.

Having been my home for the past 18 years, this space now seems quite foreign to me.  It feels like we are camping in the ghost of our previous home.  But it definitely isn't home anymore. I can't wait to get back the boat.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Problem with Normal

I don't recall who said it, but there is a quote that goes something like "The problem with normal is it usually gets worse." Seems that has been the theme the last day or so.

I made it back to Denver.  The flight was about what I expected...crammed like sardine in a little metal tube hurling through the air at 400 knots or more. Of all the airlines I've flown on in the past few years, I have to say that Delta is helping lead the pack on the "make flying as miserable an experienced as possible" front. Glad I expect to be driving back.

After landing, I try to call my wife to let her know I'm in and to figure out where she would pick me up. My phone instantly goes from 50% power to 8% and refuses to make a call or send a text. Rebooting the phone doesn't help and I search for a power plug in the terminal. After about 10 minutes or so I get the phone charged up enough to make the call.  Guess my procrastination on finding a new phone will now be at an end and added to my tasks while I am in Colorado.

The next morning I find out that my wife has been having increasing problems with Internet connectivity at the house. I do all the usual troubleshooting with no luck. It seems that my 10 year old DHL modem might be a goner. I call CenturyLink tech support and the technician And I go through all the steps I just completed on my own (I wish they would just trust me when I tell them I already tried that). After 30 minutes, the technician comes to the same conclusion that I made. My replacement modem should be here Wednesday.  Too bad the modem couldn't have held on for just a couple more weeks.

So, it is starting to feel a bit like Deltaville around here. If it weren't for one of my neighbors failing to secure his WiFi, you would not be reading this now. So, it might be a couple days before another post as I try to repair my technology infrastructure. So, things are pretty "normal" around here.