Wednesday, July 24, 2019

A 3 Hour Month Tour

"Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale..." a tale of a potential misunderstanding. It has come to my attention that my last post about the Bahamas trip may not have been as clear as it was in my mind.  So, to avoid confusion, I will try again.

At least a couple people have thought that the length of the trip I was trying to put together was in the 6 to 9 month range.  That is not my intention.  The time window I have to make the trip is between 6 and 9 months (sometime in October or November to the beginning of June), but the trip itself will not be that long.  Although I may be crazy, even I'm not crazy enough to believe that most people have a free 6 to 9 months to spend sailing the Bahamas. My goal is to spend a month or more in the Bahamas with the total trip length being up to 3 months from start to finish.

I also know that many people do not have the ability to take 3 months out of their lives to go on a trip, so I am perfectly happy to split up the trip into multiple segments. I believe many of the islands have airports and/or ferry services, so it should be possible to embark or disembark at several locations. Since I have two cabins available for guests, there is also room for some overlap here (or if someone wants to do the whole trip while others cannot). Obviously priority will be given to those who will be available for the larger passage segments (from Southport, NC to Florida to the Bahamas and/or the return).

Right now the big unknown is still the schedule. I have a family trip planned for next month and I won't be able to get out to the boat until after that.  I have a caretaker looking after the boat in my absence and reports are that it is doing fine (engines were started and checked just moments ago in fact), but I assume there will be at least a few things requiring my attention when I get there.  This is just part of life when you have a vehicle that sits in one of the more corrosive environments on the planet. Of course this means that the boat could be ready to go in a week or it could be more than a month and I'll only really know that once I do get out there. Naturally, once the boat is ready, the other variable will be the weather. The winter months tend to become a bit tricky with regard to weather windows. Thus having some flexibility in travel dates is key to joining this adventure.

Of course, I can't expect flexibility from others without having some myself.  So, I'm happy to work with others schedules within that time window as well. I fully understand that Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays fall within that time window and many people will have family obligations, so sliding the start and end dates is not a problem (I may return home and come back out to the boat later if needed). I am also open to suggestions as to where the crew would like to go while in the Bahamas, etc.

If you have already contacted me, do know that I have added you to "the list" and will send out an email to that list in the coming week or two.  If you have not and this clarification has you thinking you may be interested or able to join the adventure, please let me know soon so I can include you in the discussions.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Rebooting The Dream

Well, I could apologize once again for the lack of posts, but it is getting old and tired and I think you all understand there is very little in sailing related stories that can be told from Colorado...particularly in the winter. But I do finally have some news to share...and perhaps an opportunity for someone with an abundance of free time and desire to travel by sailboat.

As you probably know, we tried to sell Rover after moving back to Colorado.  Unfortunately the closing company and broker we used when we bought the boat failed us during the original sale and we did not discover this issue until we tried selling the boat. The combination of this fact, being so far from the boat, and frankly my lack of enthusiasm for selling and we still have her.

One of the original plans that we had when we set out cruising was to make it to the Bahamas. The idea was that trip would be an adequate first real test to see if we would like the longer term cruising lifestyle. Of course, this never happened.

Photo by Gregory Culmer on Usplash
So why am I telling you this...well...I'm reviving the idea of taking the boat to the Bahamas. I still have the boat and I put in all that work on it so I might as well....right?  The only problem is that I'm lacking a crew.  While I have found that I can single-hand the boat, it is much easier to have additional hands to take watches and to help with docking or anchoring.  Besides, a trip like this is far better when shared.

Image by PublicDomainPictures fromPixabay
As of now, I don't have much of a plan for this trip, but as they say "cruising plans are written in sand at low tide" so even if I had one it would likely continue to change. Right now the goal is for me to return to the boat in September or October and spend some time getting the boat back in shape.  I'm not sure how long this will take, but I hope she will be ready in November if there aren't too many surprises. The time window for the trip will be sometime from the time the boat is ready until the start of hurricane season the following June.

Image by buckeyebeth from Pixabay
Once the boat and crew are ready, the trip will start with a cruise down the east coast from North Carolina to southern Florida. From there it is a wait for a weather window to cross the gulf stream to the Bahamas.  Spend a month or three exploring some of the various islands of the Bahamas, then use another weather window to return. Depending on time and weather (and any potential new anchoring restrictions in Florida), we may also spend a little bit of time in the Florida Keys.

The swimming pigs at Staniel Cay
Image by Lisa Larsen from Pixabay
Photo by tavius on Unsplash
In the past when I've looked for help moving the boat, I tried to find people with at least some sailing knowledge since I was paying for room and board while aboard the boat and the goal was to complete the task of re-positioning the boat.  Well, that worked out well at times and other times it did not.  I realize I don't really need people with sailing knowledge or experience for this trip. I just need folks that are honest about their abilities, willing to learn what little I will need them to know to help out with the boat, have a somewhat compatible lifestyle to mine (since we will be living in relatively close quarters - imagine a very small "3 bedroom" apartment), and want to spend some time seeing what it is like to live on a sailing catamaran. The right person/people will also need to be flexible with time, have a passport, and want to spend some time in the beautiful islands of the Bahamas.

Bahamas Lobster and coral. 
Image by Paulo O (Creative Commons)
I'm sure you might be wondering how much a trip like this would cost.  Unfortunately, that is like asking the question "how long is a piece of string".  A lot of it depends on your lifestyle.  I'll provide the boat (two double berths available), cover the costs for any boat maintenance, the first tank of diesel (67 gallons) and other durable supplies.  We will split costs for food and drink on board, stays at marinas, customs and cruising/fishing permit (currently a flat $300, but theoretically changing in 2020) and other group related costs. You would be responsible for getting to and from the boat, your own restaurant and bar tabs, and any other personal purchases.  So, depending on how well we provision the boat before we leave, how much water and diesel we use, and how much time we spend at marinas and restaurants and bars, the costs can vary quite a bit.  I will only say that I'm pretty flexible as far as food and entertainment goes and am happy to anchor out and sail as much as others desire to help keep costs down.  If you want to get an idea of how much this type of trip may cost, you can Google "cost to sail the Bahamas" to get an idea. All I can really say is this should be significantly cheaper than a similar land-based stay in the Bahamas and you will have the chance to go places that are not accessible to those staying in one of the resort hotels.

What the accommodations look like.
Images and videos available at The Boat link.
Does this sound like something you would be interested in doing?  If so, shoot me an email (the tool at the bottom of the right hand column of the blog can do this if you don't already have my email address). Someone able to complete the whole trip would be ideal, but I'm happy to entertain different people for different segments of the trip if we can find others to fill in the empty slots. I'm posting this here first to give those that are following my blog the first chance at this opportunity before I post it on some of the crew wanted sites.

Rover at No Name Harbor...where many people make
the hop to the Bahamas.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Goodbye Dear Friend and Companion

This past Monday we had to say goodbye to our eldest four-legged crew and family member Madison.  After her cancer diagnosis in August we knew this time would come but it still does little to prepare one for it.

Madison entered our lives in 2004 when she was about 8 weeks old. We adopted her from a local rescue and she has been a part of our family ever since.  For 15 years, she was a wonderful, adventurous, smart, loyal, and occasionally mischievous companion. She enjoyed playing in the yard (including chasing cats and squirrels out of it), our daily walks when I worked from home, hiking in the mountains, camping, car rides, and food.  One vet once described her as the most food motivated dog they had ever known.  It was an easy choice to cook special meals of steak and lamb for her the last few months.

Cruising seemed like a natural fit for her.  Getting to see new sights and smell new smells was something I know she liked.  Being able to lay out on deck while the house moved to a new location was something she really seemed to enjoy.  I guess it was like both laying in the yard and going for a car ride at the same time. Although she wasn't a big fan of water (or at least baths), she did like playing in the surf with her brother.

Having moved back to Colorado, we had access to one of the premier veterinary cancer centers at Colorado State University. While her cancer was found too late to cure, they were able to provide her comfort and make her last months with us more comfortable.  Thanks to their efforts in palliative radiation and chemotherapy treatments, she was able to go on one last family vacation, celebrate the holidays, and celebrate her 15th birthday with us. We are grateful to them for the added quality time we got to spend with her.

In her final days, we took her on numerous car rides and walks. Unfortunately the cancer was making her legs hurt and her breathing difficult so the walks were slow and fairly short.  But, just like always, Madison was a determined and independent dog and she seemed to still enjoy checking things out despite her failing body.  In the end she passed on at home surrounded by those who loved her most, her family.

Fair winds and following seas my dear, sweet, crazy little girl.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Approaching Storms

There is currently a storm of which most of my friends and the sailing community in general is aware.  Hurricane Florence is expected to collide with North Carolina in the next couple days.  Unfortunately Rover seems to be right in the middle of the predicted path and there is nothing we can really do about it that hasn't already been done.  Sails and canvas were removed and extra dock lines were added when I left her several months ago.  The caretaker we hired has added additional lines and fenders and done everything else possible to make her as safe as can be for the impending storm.  The marina, and her location within the marina, are about as good as anyone can hope for anywhere in the area. At this point, all we can do now is wait and see what happens. My concern regarding this storm is more for the many friends I have made that will be impacted far worse than us by Florence.

Hurricane Florence image from NOAA as it approaches the U.S.
But, for our family, there is another storm on the horizon that is of much more concern.  This storm is not a weather event at all, but has to do with the health of our eldest four-legged crew member.
Madison sunning herself on deck.
A couple months ago Madison developed a limp.  At first we thought she might have just slept on her leg wrong or pulled a muscle playing.  When it didn't get better, we took her to the vet to see what was going on.  Initially they thought a soft tissue injury and so she was given some pain medications and we were told if it didn't get better in a few more days to let them know.  It didn't. We went back. The vet thought it was arthritis. I pushed back as I didn't believe arthritis was such a sudden onset symptom when recent x-rays didn't show any arthritis.  The doctor said the only thing they could really do was to send x-rays to a radiologist to see if they could see anything.

Her favorite hobby when a big bed is available.
The radiologist report was not conclusive, but thought he saw something in her shoulder bone that would be consistent with cancer.  More x-rays were done and in the process they found a tumor in her lung.  Not wanting to mess around and having one of the premier veterinary oncology centers nearby, we immediately made an appointment at the CSU Veterinary Hospital.

Playing in the ocean.
More examinations and a CT scan later and we had our answers.  Not only did she have osteocarcoma (bone cancer) but there were 8 tumors in her lungs.  In the matter of a few weeks Madison went from "a very healthy dog, particularly for her age" to a terminal diagnosis.  To try and and improve the quality of life for the time she has left, she has now had two radiation treatments and chemotherapy.

Taking Madison and her brother Tucker for
a hike in the Rocky Mountans
Other than a limp (that has improved with treatments and medication), she seems to be in good spirits.  Her appetite certainly has not diminished and I don't know that she is at all aware of the seriousness of her condition. Meanwhile she gets lots of attention and some special treats.  But there are dark clouds on the horizon.

Friday, March 16, 2018


When I arrived at the boat back in January, I had a list of tasks I needed to accomplish and more that were discovered once on board.  At this point all of them have been accomplished and the boat is once again in good cruising condition. One of the things that I didn't expect but found when I got to the boat was the extreme fading of the vinyl boat name graphic.  After only four years, the name was nearly unreadable.

How the boat name looked when I arrived.
The interesting thing is that, while the name was almost completely faded, the hailing port lettering still looked fine.  When I ordered the lettering, I had them add a UV protective film to the lettering and my first thought was that maybe they applied the UV film to the hailing port letters but forgot to apply it to the boat name.  That would certainly account for the vast difference in the fading.

I decided to contact the supplier of the vinyl lettering and ask them if this could have been the case.  When they responded, they explained to me that, since my boat name lettering had a drop shadow of a different color, it was made differently than the single color hailing port lettering.  The former is created by printing the colors onto a white vinyl substrate while the latter is made from a solid color vinyl. The printed vinyl seems to only have a 3 to 5 year lifespan in outdoor applications (even when the UV protection is applied) while the solid color vinyl can last much longer. So, if you are ever in the need of vinyl lettering for long-term outdoor use, this is something to keep in mind...less you experience the same result as I did.

As an effort to make up for the confusion and my disappointment in the name lettering, they offered to send replacement lettering to me for half-off their normal price.  When I told them that I didn't want a repeat experience, they said they could send me letters made from the solid color vinyl in both the primary and drop shadow colors. That way I could apply the drop shadow color letters and then apply the main color letters at an offset to get the same effect.  For an additional fee they offered to align the two sets of letters onto a single application sheet to ease the complexity of the installation.  Since the boat needs a readable name to be a legally documented US vessel, I decided to go ahead and order the two sets of lettering in hopes that their explanation was correct and the new lettering will last.  I did not have them do the alignment.

It only took a few days for the letters to arrive.  While waiting, I removed the faded vinyl lettering using a plastic scraper and heat gun and then cleaned up the glue residue with Goo Gone and denatured alcohol. I made sure to protect the hailing port lettering as I didn't want to cause any problems with it.

In order to get the alignment correct on the boat, I started by attempting to align the two sheets of lettering, using a flashlight to shine through the lettering and backing paper and used a ruler to measure the offset for the drop shadow.  Once I got the alignment the way I wanted it, I used painters tape to hold the two sheets together. Then I used a variation of a sewing trick I learned and cut two V shaped indexing notches at the upper edge of the application sheets making sure the V was cut into both sheets but did not cut into the actual vinyl letters.  By doing this, any time the two V's in the two sheets were aligned the letters would be properly aligned. At this point I could remove the painters tape knowing that I can easily realign the sheets of letters.

From there, I took the yellow letters out and taped them up to the boat, positioning as needed to center over the hailing port sticker while allowing for the slight shift to the lower right for the drop shadow effect.  When I had the letters where I wanted them, I applied two small pieces of tape to the boat directly under the location of the V notches and traced the V into the tape. I then ran a strip of tape along the upper edge of the sheet of letters and applied them to the boat just as I did the last time.  Once I smoothed out the letters as best I could, I removed the application sheet and the large strip of tape so only the yellow letters and the two marked V's remained. I then retrieved the set of blue letters, lined up the V notch with the ones traced onto the tape, and applied the blue letters over the yellow ones. Again I smoothed out the lettering with a squeegee and removed the application sheet and all the tape.

The new lettering, using the two solid color sets of letters.

For reference: Here is what the original looked
like the day it was applied 4 years ago
The end result I think looks just as good as the original did when it was new.  You can see the slight outline of the yellow letters underneath the blue ones, but you have to be very close to even notice.  So, Rover once again has a shiny new name, hopefully this time the lettering will last.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Best Made Plans

If you follow my Facebook page, you know that I finally managed to take the boat out for a sail over the weekend.  But getting to that point was more time consuming and frustrating than I anticipated on this trip.  One of the issues I had that needed to be addressed before I could move the boat was a broken motor mount bracket I discovered while servicing one of the motors.  On the surface, it seemed to be a relatively simple repair.  Remove two bolts to take out the isolator, then remove two more bolts to remove the bracket, bolt the replacement bracket in place, reinstall the isolator, and align the engine.  Sounds easy enough.

A friend and fellow Leopard 38 owner and I took Rover
out for a day sail. 
I don my bilge rat clothes (sweat pants and a sweat shirt I use when crawling around in the engine room), grab some wire brushes and a socket set and make my way to the broken bracket.  Leaning over the motor, I do my best to clean up the the bolts with the brushes,  I remove the isolator with very little trouble.  I then begin working on the bracket bolts themselves.  After cleaning them up with the brush it looks like the bolt heads were welded to the bracket.  I thought this couldn't be, why would someone do that?  I get a cold chisel and attempt to knock this bit that looks like a weld bead off the bolt heads and it comes off.  I guess it was just a combination of corrosion and old paint.  I do my best to clean up the bolt heads and then attempt to remove them.  No luck, the bolts won't budge. Several attempts to clean and then remove the bolts with either sockets or bolt extractors over several days failed to budge the stubborn bolts.

I finally gave up and decided to call one of the marine mechanics in town, Snyder Marine, to come deal with the issue.  Hopefully they had more tools than I and a few tricks to extract the stubborn bolts. This would allow me to continue to work on other projects as I only have a limited amount of time on this trip. The mechanic came out and took a look at the project.  He said it would probably take about 10 hours of work if he could get the bolts out with an extractor and he wasn't sure how much longer if "other" methods would be required.

The mechanic arrived the following morning to start work.  After a short period of time he emerged from the engine room and told me that indeed the bolt heads were welded and that he would cut them off.  Unfortunately he forgot his grinder and had to go back to the shop and get it. He returned after lunch and spent another hour cutting one of the bolt heads off and was about half way through the other.  Before he left he told me he would go look into the replacement part.  Since I had already done the research on the part, I gave him the original part number from the parts manual as well as the number of the part that superseded it. The next day he returned and spent about 40 minutes in the engine room cutting the other bolt head off and freed the bracket. He then attempted to remove the remaining part of the bolts from the engine.  He again emerged and this time said he was having problems with his stud extractor and would have to go get a replacement. He returned a couple hours later and within 40 minutes had the now headless bolts removed.

The mechanic informed me that he called his supplier and was unable to source the replacement bracket, but had a guy in town that could make me a bracket that would likely be cheaper and better than the original part.  I told him to let me know how it would be made and what it would cost and I would decide from there. He responded the next day that it would be constructed from welded stock and painted and would be about half the price of the OEM part. He also said he went ahead and had them make the part, but if I wanted to source the replacement part myself that they could go that route. I went ahead and told him to use the custom part and he said he would be out tomorrow to finish up. I waited for most of that day for the mechanic to arrive, but he never showed.  I finally called and was told that he was waiting for the paint to dry.  It was a Friday, so he said he would come out the next week to complete the job.

It was about a week later when he finally showed up with the part.  I took a look at it and it seemed well made, but the mounting holes did not appear to be offset like the original.  Sure enough, after about 20 minutes the mechanic confirmed that the holes were in the wrong place and the bracket would have to be remade....but not to worry as I would not be responsible for the incorrectly made part.  He would have to go back to the welder and should have the correct part ready to go the following day but with paint it may be the following Monday before it was ready to install.

Nice bracket, too bad the holes were
in the wrong places.
I waited around a couple hours on that Monday and the mechanic didn't show up.  I called and was told that the mechanic had the day off but would be out the following day.  He did arrive on that Tuesday and this time the holes were in the correct locations.  After 20 minutes the mechanic again emerged and told me the bolts he brought were too long and would need to be cut down.  He left and came back about an hour later with shorter bolts and completed the job.

Given my past experience with "marine professionals" I am always a bit wary of new-to-me service providers.  Part of my process now is to track the time spent on a project.  In this case, I tracked all the time from when the mechanic arrived at the marina to when he left.  The total time spent at my boat came out to 7 hours and 20 minutes.  Now, I know that there was some time spent cleaning up the isolator that was removed, talking with the welder about making the bracket, and travel time to and from the marina.  I figured that we were still pretty close to the original estimate of 10 hours.  At this point I was reasonably happy with the work done, if not the timeliness and communication about when the mechanic would actually show up.

Naturally, I received a bit of a surprise when I received the invoice.  The parts and supplies charges were all reasonable, but it listed 19 hours of labor.  So, in addition to the 7 hours and 20 minutes spent actually working at the boat, they somehow came up with another 11 hours and 40 minutes on the bill.  That is a pretty large sum at $109 per hour ($1271 to be exact). Like I said, I expected there to be some time added for travel (shop is 12 minutes away) and work done away from the boat.  But the idea that they spent more time working on my project away from my boat than actually at the boat in the process of replacing an L shaped bracket was something I couldn't justify.

I immediately wrote back and asked if they perhaps billed some time from another project to me and if they would mind reviewing the bill and let me know. It took 6 days for them to respond, and when they did they said they actually had more time on my project than was billed (however, it didn't say what they spent all this time on) but would adjust the bill and send me the update.  The updated bill arrived the following morning and they knocked 5 hours off the bill.  Still a bit higher than I would like, but close enough so I paid the bill.

This was when I received an email from the owner of the company. The email again stated that they had more time on my project than they billed.  The only suggestion provided for the extra time was research into the project.  Since I did the research and provided them with the part numbers and I was told they called their supplier and was told the part wasn't available, I'm not sure how much more research could have been done. Certainly not 11 hours worth. The letter went on to tell me how busy and how sought after they are. That is all great, but they never did justify the extra time they claim they spent on the project. And given they reduced the number of hours charged, I can only assume that they did recognize that the time was excessive.

The email then says they normally don't take on work that someone else has started. Not sure what this has to do with the issue, other than my possibly knowing what the issue is and what it should take to fix.  Maybe it is easier to overcharge hours when the customer doesn't have a clue about a problem. Then the note goes on to tell me that the bill is final and overdue.  Now remember that I already paid the bill.  Looking through my emails, the total amount of time, excluding my time waiting for their response to my question, from the time I received the first bill until I paid the adjusted bill was under 12 hours (and a good portion of that was it sitting in my email while I was off doing other things). Hardly overdue.

My initial recommendation was going to be that they did reasonable work and as long as you get firm time commitments, get written quotes, and track the time they spend on your project they might be an OK solution.  But add in that final email and it proved to me that they are not very customer focused and were upset at getting caught over billing for hours they could not justify. I do not recommend Snyder Marine in Southport.

I'm glad the work is done, but why is it so painful to work with many of the so called professionals in the marine industry?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Working through The List

Progress on the "to-do" list has been slow but mostly continuous up to this point. Speed has been hampered somewhat by the current weather pattern.  Not sure if this is normal, but the pattern is either cold and windy or warm and rainy.  I have to admit that this year my joints are not terribly happy with the weather and folding myself up into the nooks and crannies of the boat has been trying at times.  Yet every day the boat closer to the way we left it.

One issue I've dealt with was a minor fuel leak that the caretaker for our boat recently found.  Apparently over the course of the year (or at least a good portion of it) a tablespoon or so of diesel had made its way into the bilge. We initially tried getting a local company to fix the leak, but they were unable to find anything.  The only "problem" they could identify was that the Racor fuel filter "may" have leaked and offered to rebuild it for a pretty hefty sum.  Since I was unconvinced that this was the problem, I decided I would check on it when I came down. I crawled down into the engine compartment and was rather quickly able to find that the fuel supply hose was showing age and was seeping just a bit.  In the process of removing the hose it became fairly apparent it was the cause. The hose was replaced, new fuel filters and accompanying gaskets were installed and the system was checked for any signs of leaks.  None were found.  I checked fluid levels and then started the engine.  Despite the age and hours on the motor, it started right up and ran like a top.  I let it run for a little while and repeated my leak check and it all checks out great now.

Identifying some of the Kidde recalled extinguishers
(image linked from Kidde recall web site)
Then there is the fact that 5 of the 6 fire extinguishers on board the boat were made by Kidde. Just in case you weren't aware, there was a recall of around 40 million Kidde fire extinguishers. Given boats are required to have working fire extinguishers on board and I had no idea how long it would take to get any warranty replacement, dealing with them was high on my list and one of the early things I checked when I returned to the boat.  Fortunately, I found that none of the extinguishers on board were impacted by the recall and the boat was good to go on that front.

The rainy weather helped to point out another issue, a leak on the boat. The aft berth overhead hatch was leaking.  It was the only hatch that I had yet to re-bed, so it isn't isn't much of a surprise that it would be the one to leak. On one of the few relatively warm and dry days I was able to pull the hatch, clean it up, and re-bed it.  Rains that followed tested my work and confirmed that the leak has been fixed.

Failing West Marine lifeline netting
Another item that I didn't expect to deal with was the lifeline netting.  When I arrived at the boat I was quite surprised to see a number of holes and broken strands in the netting.  At first I thought someone had come along and vandalized it.  But after tugging on it a bit myself, I found the netting to be quite brittle.  Obviously this netting, sold at West Marine, is not UV protected and a couple years in the sun has all but destroyed it.  If anything were to fall against the netting, I have no doubt that it would give way and whatever it was supposed to prevent going overboard would end up in the water.  Since it was now useless and looked ugly to boot, I spent quite a bit of time removing all of the netting that we painstakingly added just two years ago.  So, if you are thinking of adding netting to your lifelines, I think I can safely say you should avoid the stuff sold by West Marine.  Given how long it takes to properly install, you will really want a better netting. Look for netting that clearly states it is protected against UV.

So, work continues, in between rain and wind storms.