Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Two Days at The Mall

Naturally, if you are in the Washington D.C. area playing tourist, you need to spend some time on the National Mall.  Many of the nations iconic monuments reside here (you know, the ones the aliens or other bad guys always destroy first when attacking in the movies?).  The Capitol building, White House, National Archives, Washington Monument, Jefferson Monument, Lincoln Monument, memorials for several of our wars, as well as many of the museums and holdings of the Smithsonian Institution are all nearby.

Washington and Jefferson monuments.

Getting to the mall from Baltimore and finding parking was expected to be a chore. We decided to drive to a park-and-ride and then take the Metro into the city. During the week, parking is a little over $5 but it is free on the weekend. To use the Metro, we needed a reloadable fare card ($2) and then could put money on it to cover the $3.60 fare to the mall. Once on the mall there is a D.C. Circulator bus that does laps around the mall and monuments. It costs 1$ to ride, but was free as a transfer from the Metro since we had the card.  With the card it seems that rides within a couple hours are considered transfers and are free or a discounted rate.  In the end, it cost us right around $18 to ride the train and a few laps around the mall with the circulator.

Thomas Jefferson Statue.

Washington Monument, Capitol, and gold dome of the
Natural History Museum.

Over the weekend we visited several of the monuments, visited the National Archives, National Gallery of Art, and toured the Smithsonian Institution's Natural History Museum, American History Museum, and the Air and Space Museum,

Statue at the Lincoln Memorial

Vietnam Memorial

A residence I would never want.

A few VanGogh paintings from the National Gallery.

And a couple from Renoir.

The Smithsonian "Castle"
visitors center.

Bert and Ernie at the
American History Museum

A "flash mob" style picnic at the mall.

Hopefully I will find some reason to be back in this area with more time to explore these national treasures.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Birth of an Anthem

In my time here, I haven't found much that Baltimore can brag about.  But one thing it does have is claim to the birthplace of our national anthem.  It was a battle in Baltimore harbor during the war of 1812 where Francis Scott Key was held by the British while they attempted to defeat the troops at Fort McHenry and the citizens of Baltimore. The morning where he found "our flag was still there" was the flag flying over this fort.

With the free National Park Weekend celebrating 100 years of the U.S. National Park Service, it seemed appropriate to go visit the fort (which is actually just down the street from where we have been this entire time). The fort now sits in a harbor surrounded by industry and row houses that appear to be undergoing a gentrification. But in the 1800's it was a key defense for the area.

We were there early in the day and, along with a moderate number of Asian school kids, raised the replica of the flag that Francis Scott Key saw the morning after the battle. The flag is 30 feet by 42 feet and handling this in even a light wind is a task.  It would probably make a really nice spinnaker though.

It is definitely a replica...a few stars shy of the 50 we have today. An impressive size flag though.

If you find yourself in the area and want to go visit the fort, I recommend going early on a day where the weather is supposed to be nice and not too windy.  The you can watch, or help, lower the small flag that flies at night and raise the larger 15 star replica.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Tourist in Baltimore?

The reason we came to Baltimore was to get a bit of work done.  We didn't really intend to be playing tourist here and didn't know if there was much around anyway.  Having spent much more time than I would like here, I can't say that Baltimore is ever a place I would consider for a vacation. Fortunately there are a few interesting things that aren't too far away.

Yesterday we decided we should check out some of the Smithsonian offerings.  It was a bit late in the day and so we decided we would go see the National Air and Space complex out by Dulles airport. This is the facility where they have things that are too large or just would not fit in the museum facilities on the mall and we knew we would need more time to visit the museums there.

Anyway, it was a nice trip and we got to see some interesting aircraft. Here are a few pictures from the trip.

A few planes hanging from the ceiling.  Here is a Swift
and the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer.

A Concorde sits among others.

Hangar full of historically significant airplanes
including the Enola Gay.

The space shuttle Discovery sits
in the middle of the space section

The SR-71 Blackbird spy plane.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Stick It.

Back when we were last in Palm Coast I got fed up with the coil of LED strip lights that were sitting on the settee table. They were, after all, supposed to be providing the cockpit lighting for the new hardtop.  I figured the adhesive backing that came with the strip would likely not stay put in a marine environment so I tried to come up with various ways to mount the strip on the hardtop so it would stay put.  I looked for options to create some sort of holder, but didn't find anything that would work (the biggest obstacle was the turn radius around the 90 degree corner).  In the end, I gave up and decided to just give the adhesive a try and see what would happen.

The LED's set to blue light the cockpit well.

Well, a number of weeks later, my expectation came to pass and the adhesive failed and the strip fell down. It started with the free end curling up a bit, then a few other spots started coming undone.  I would periodically press them back in place, but the failing areas continued to slowly grow. So I ended up taking it down, coiled it back up and set it aside for later.

Fast forward to last week.  A couple slips down from us here in Baltimore a trawler pulls in and we start talking.  They are here to sell their boat.  One evening I notice they have LED strip lights on the boat so I ask how they affixed them.  As it turns out, he tried a couple different approaches (including using the supplied adhesive...that didn't work) and ended up gluing them up with LifeCaulk (a marine adhesive caulk) and holding it in place with tape until the caulking cured. It seems to work, but sounded like a a real pain in the butt.

But it got me thinking.  So, while my wife works on her plan for the ideal trip south, I figured I might as well see if I can find a better solution. After quite a bit of thought, I stumbled upon a possible solution.  The adhesive tape that came on the back of the strip was essentially double-sided scotch tape, but there are other double sided tapes that are stronger and some are weatherproof. In fact, a couple companies make an adhesive tape designed to attach molding onto cars.  If that stuff can put up with rain, snow, salted roads, car wash brushes, and all the other abuses, it should be able to hold an LED strip on the underside of the hardtop.

3M's molding tape.

I check a few auto parts stores and find the tape.  Unfortunately, the commonly stocked width of the tape is 1/2 inch and the LED strip is not quite that wide (I think it is metric and about a centimeter wide...so no English width will likely fit). The adhesive is applied to a thin foam to make the tape so it should better conform to uneven surfaces. Unfortunately, the foam is gray in color, so might be slightly noticeable, but still better than no cockpit lighting.  I peeled the original tape off of the LED strip and then adhered the new tape to it. I then took a razor knife and trimmed it down to be the same width as the LED strip. I was a little worried about this step, but it worked fine.  I then re-adhered the strip to the top (after cleaning the mounting surface, of course).

The tape seems far more promising. It appears to be adhering far better than the original tape did, I have high hopes this is a permanent solution.  So, if you are looking for a way to adhere one of these strips, you might want to give this stuff a try.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thanks!...and stay tuned.

While we are making preparations for one last, hopefully more enjoyable, run down the Chesapeake and east coast, I wanted to take a few moments to say thank you.  We have received a overwhelming amount of support via the blog and email since I announced the unexpected change in plans.

As I guess is often the case in a public forum like this, there are a few that seem to feel it is necessary to point out how you were wrong and they would have done things differently even though they don't know or understand the whole story. Fortunately, in the cruising world, those types seem to be few and far between. That is the thing about the cruising lifestyle, the people out there doing it or dreaming of doing it are simply the best.  To those, I give my sincerest thank you for all of your support.

In other news...

Plans continue for our trip south and move back to land. I'm letting my wife decide the itinerary and timing and expect we will be taking off in the next week or two. In the meantime, believe it or not, there are a few minor things that need to be done on the boat.  This time they are not really necessary for safety as they are desirable for sale.  This has given me the chance to check out a couple stores in nearby Annapolis.

Our first stop was Bacon Sails.  Known for a large inventory of used sails, they also have a large selection of other used and new equipment.  The store is somewhat similar to Sailors Exchange in St. Augustine, but they have a bit less inventory and, well, less junk.  I actually went in looking for, among other things, a replacement handle for one of the hatches.  Somehow I managed to break the handle at the thickest part (I can only assume this is an old manufacturing defect). I didn't really expect to find the old Goiot handle so I was completely flabbergasted when I showed an employee the broken handle and he pointed to 3 baskets and said he thought he saw one in one of them.  Sure enough, we found it and it was even a never-used part.  Not a bad find for $4.

We also stopped by Fawcett. It is a West Marine like store with better prices.  I ended up picking up a cabin fan to replace a noisy and anemic fan we currently have as well as a couple other odds and ends.

I've added entries for these two stores on my Better Marine page. Well worth the stop if you are in the area.

The past week has been a heat wave here on the Chesapeake, so one good thing about being at the dock is we have air conditioning. Stay tuned...we will be heading out sometime soon.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

One Last Cruise?

Well, here is another post I didn't think I would be writing. After the decision to abandon ship (so to speak), we started trying to figure out how we were going to go about moving off the boat, selling it, and moving on. A difficult task at any time, but even more so when emotions are running high.

We are currently sitting at Port Covington in Baltimore. Not a place I would consider scenic by any means. This is a very industrial port in a city that I doubt anyone would consider picturesque. On the bright side, it isn't as pricey as most of the surrounding areas if you are sitting at a dock.  So this was as good a place as any to let things settle a bit and decide how to proceed

On the dock in Baltimore.

Do we move off the boat and put her up for sale right here? As I mentioned, this is a relatively inexpensive place to let Rover sit while up for sale.  The boat would be accessible for anyone who wanted to take a look at her.  With the Annapolis boat show coming up, having it a reasonable drive away might be advantageous, but I'm not sure how many people are actively shopping for used boats while there. Baltimore is quite hot right now, but it doesn't stay that way. If the boat weren't sold by the time it starts getting cold, the boat would need to be hauled and winterized for the season.  Winterized, the boat wouldn't be easy to look at for a potential buyer. We also don't have anyone we trust who could keep an eye on the boat. In the end, it doesn't seem like keeping her up here in the Chesapeake is the best option

The other option is to take the boat south.  When we were shopping, we spent most of our time in Florida.  It seems that is where many of the catamarans tend to reside (at least the ones in the U.S.).  It is also where more services that are familiar with catamarans tend to reside. To top it off, it is where the broker we intend to use for the sale is located. While it is a long way from the Annapolis boat show, I just don't see it generating much more traffic beyond "tire-kickers", so I don't think we will miss much.  On the other hand, being available year-round and well positioned for a new owner to take the hop over to the Bahamas might be more worthwhile.

Of course, there is a bit of a problem with this second option.  Remember that my wife said she didn't want to do this anymore?  Yeah, that might be a problem. This is why I didn't really suggest this option.  Surprisingly, she did.

I've asked her several times now, and it seems she is OK with this.  In fact, the last few days she seems happy (or maybe that is just the hopes of leaving...ahem...scenic Baltimore harbor).  In any case, it appears we may be taking one last cruise.

A while back in St. Augustine

This time I hope all the schedules and pressures are gone and we can have a leisurely trip south...and hopefully we can keep the need for repairs to a minimum too.

And if anyone has any sights not to miss on a trip from the Chesapeake to Florida, let us know.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Sudden End

This is certainly not the post I thought I would start writing just a few days after returning to the boat.

Our brand new Smartplug chordset

We were returning to check on the work that was done in the boatyard and determine our next steps. I thought I would be writing about our brand new custom poly fuel tank that should last significantly longer than the old one. And the new coat of anti-fouling paint and how it should adhere far better now that all the old layers are gone. And the new SmartPlug shore power connector and cord set that make shore power a little safer. I hoped I would not be writing about boatyard screw-ups like those I've experienced in the past. I certainly never expected to be writing this.

Our brand new fuel tank, full and ready to go.
Unfortunately, I'm writing to let you know that our adventure appears to be ending before it even really began. Four days after returning to the boat, my wife tells me she just can't continue living on the boat. 

While I don't recall if I have written about this, it is not a completely new subject around here. Back when we were finishing up the hardtop, my wife first mentioned that she wasn't happy with how our new life was unfolding. Since arriving on the boat, her experience consisted of a few long passages racing our insurance hurricane season requirement up the coast and a lot of time working on the boat. Having lived most of it in a boatyard at that time, I couldn't blame her and can't say I was feeling all that great about those months. Cruisers often speak of this life filled with high highs and low lows and we seemed to be at a low. I, however, had the advantage of good memories of the previous year on the boat to help keep me going. We talked about the issues and decided to press on to the Bahamas next season and then reevaluate after that. I figured once some of the highs could be realized, it would help balance things out.  You know, that whole fun to suck ratio thing.

In fact, one of the reasons I decided to risk trusting a boatyard again (despite my previous experiences) was so that she could take a break from the boat and go see family. The boat still needed the work but we didn't have to be the ones to do it and I figured the break would do us both some good. Up until we arrived back in Baltimore I thought it had helped. During the trip we told stories about life on the boat to friends and she seemed more upbeat in general. Dolphins playing at the bow of the boat, anchored in the Keys, and the mass of lights of cruise ships passing in the night were some of the often repeated stories.

I was more than a bit stunned when, during a discussion of our next steps while sitting on the boat, she exclaimed that she just cant do this anymore. Honestly, it left me reeling. For a long time we have invested a lot of effort learning to sail, chartering boats, searching for a boat, buying it, fixing it up and transitioning to full-time live-aboard cruisers. We've endured time apart, too much time in a boatyard, unexpected repairs, and other roadblocks. To me it feels we are so very close to cresting the maintenance hill left by the prior owner. It is absolutely heartbreaking to give up now.  With the Olympic coverage playing in the background as I write this, the analogy of an athlete training for the Olympics only to suffer a career ending injury just before getting on the plane to Rio seems a good analogy.

Three ducklings adrift on a piece of wood in the marina.
I wonder if they feel like I do right now?
My wife said she felt a wave of anxiety and dread wash over her when we got back to the boat. Even if we were to try and push on to the Bahamas, I see now that it will likely not be a fun experience for either of us. Ever since the discussion at the boatyard in Virginia she did a good job of hiding how bad she was feeling from me, but these feelings seem to have been building ever since that time and have finally boiled over. I wish I had understood how bad she was feeling much earlier, but now I think the damage is well beyond repair if it ever could have been repaired. The only solution seems to be to get rid of the thing causing these feelings. So, it looks like sometime in the near future, Rover will be up for sale.

Another soul adrift in the marina, just hanging on this morning.

We are still trying to figure things out, but I guess we will soon start moving off of Rover and then prepare her for sale. What is next for us, I simply do not know.  Right now we are just working on picking up the pieces.  My hope is that we can still find an escape from the rat race, but...I guess...it will not be on Rover.