Thursday, December 31, 2009

Rolling into 2010

Yesterday morning the sun revealed golden and grey tones, light and shadow against the clouds. Last night a blue moon shone on the water, the sun's light taking one last hop and making the water the moon's mirror. In between, the clouds drizzled and drenched. And for a finale, the water put us on its pendulum and rocked us stern to bow, east to west, with such fervor that none of us slept. This is the transition. It's going to be an interesting year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy Holidays 2009!

We are in a coffee shop at Avalon, sitting out the first rain we've seen since arriving several weeks ago. This reminds me of Seattle; sitting near the window with a latte, glad to be indoors. The weather is forecast to return to 70's and sunny for New Year's Eve and N.Y. Day, so that will take us back outdoors to complete the wooden dinghy we're building. It's been a fun project, and we've entertained a lot of people as we work in our small space, loaned to us by Bob, a generous island resident whom we moored next to when we first arrived.

Once we launch the new dinghy, we'll set sail (wind permitting) for Dana Point and San Diego, where we'll stop for as long as it takes to decide our next best course. Since insurance requires us to be north of 27 degrees by June 1, we may actually decide to stay in San Diego through the end of the coming hurricane season (Nov 1, 2010.) That would make sense if we could find jobs that would cover the expenses. Another option is to head to La Paz and then further south (towards Chile) for the storm season. Our friends Bill and Tracey may be going that way, and we'd love to go with them. Another option would be to go through the Panama Canal and up the eastern seaboard. And another may be to head for Hawaii in March, although we have to check the weather windows for that. All these would allow us to circumnavigate the hurricane zones, and each has its own set of costs and promises of adventure.

We're about to be kicked out and offline, due to closing time here. Hope to post again soon!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Redondo Beach - The Cats Come Full Circle

We are anchored in Redondo Beach, CA. This is where I adopted Mimi and Wolfgang nearly 20 years ago, and I think they remember it: for the first time, Mimi came out and spent time on the foredeck, sniffing the air and listening to the sealife.

We've had wind on the nose most of the way down the southern coast from the Channel Islands. Poor weather for sailing, but the dolphins have been out en masse and we have no complaints. There's a record-breaking hurricane headed for Baja, and that may have a domino effect on our plans but if all goes well we'll head for Catalina on Wednesday, stay there several nights and then sail on to San Diego. When we go into Mexico, we're taking hurricane relief packages with us. If you'd like to participate, contact us on e-mail ( and let us know what you're going to send, then we'll arrange a pick up spot. People need non-perishable items, winter clothing and medical supplies. (Children's clothes are always welcome!) If you want to help but prefer to send cash, please do so through the Mexican Red Cross. (I'll get that address up here a.s.a.p. too.) There are a lot of people in Baja still reeling from the storm that hit a month ago, and this one is reported to have winds over 150mph - the second highest on record. There's sure to be a lot of human need.

We're safe. Love to all of you - Celeste & George

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Santa Barbara and Beyond

Okay, all this is taking soooo much longer than we anticipated ... but we're not complaining; however, we are apologizing for the misapprehension on how often we could get to the internet. Assuming you'll forgive us, we move on to happier subjects.

George is enjoying digital photography's abundance: his is the eye behind the photos and films on this post. The bird images are from Avila Beach, which is adjacent to Port San Luis Obispo. A beautiful spot, and very California: people body surfing (in shorts and bathing suits!) and playing volleyball in the sand. We feel like we've passed through some fantastic portal, and perhaps we have done.

The sunset was photographed at Pt. Cojo, the first anchorage south of Pt. Conception. Pt. Conception has been called, by Coast Pilot, the Cape Horn of the Pacific. That seems exaggerated to me, but Coast Pilot is a respectable source ... so I must be one tough broad. It DID get choppy. (Friends call it "The Maytag Effect.) But, I expected much worse. George has been predicting that once we rounded Pt. Conception we would be in the land of milk and honey - calm seas, sunny skies. I was skeptical, but he was right. (And glad I am of that!)

This trip has been something of a scouring pad; removing some of the corruption that attached itself to my spirit over the past couple of years. As usual, my dream life has blossomed. (Studies indicate that sailors often require less sleep because being on the water mimics the same state of consciousness.) I've been visited by family members who have passed and I've spent time in a court of law due to my association with Cervantes. (Interpretations welcome.)

Regarding sailing, in a nutshell, Nereid is behaving beautifully. She was built for this life.

(Now for the film. It was awesome to be in the dinghy as these birds took off, maneuvered and landed as the sun was setting! These birds, we are told, migrate between California and New Zealand. Can anyone identify them, so we can learn more about them?)

(Okay - since I can't get the video to upload before my last chance to get back to Nereid before dark, I'll leave out the video tonight; try to post it tomorrow.)

Lastly (since we are - no surprise - limited on internet time), I'll attach a photo of George descending the rebar ladder at Port San Luis Obispo, so he can clamber across another person's dinghy and get into ours. Port San Luis is rustic, and we have some stories to tell ... but they'll have to wait for another day. Perhaps, to give you an idea, I'll just mention that the fuel dock attendant told us of another boat named Nereid, which sunk last month when too many seals managed to board her. The Harbor office staff says they've seen seals piggybacking on one another to form a stair for getting onto boats moored in their harbor! Nature continues to impress us with her tendency to innovate.

Until next time ... may be the wind be always at your beam. (We're heading for Santa Cruz Island as soon as our permit comes through from The Nature Conservancy. Once there, we hope to gunkhole for 2-3 weeks, so we will be "quiet" during that time, but probably able to phone in a message or two.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Leaving Monterey

We had a nice stay in, of all places, Oakland where we met up with people we have met on the way and new sailors going to Mexico for the winter. Celeste and I have decided to go easy on ourselves and take short trips rather than racing down, since our insurance company will not permit us to enter Mexico before November 15.Two nights ago we anchored in Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco. Last night we tied up in Monterey to do some work on the anchor. Tomorrow before dawn we are off to San Simeon, then San Luis Obisbo, then round Point Conception, which is the Cape Horn of North America according to the US Coast Pilot. The weather forecast is excellent so far. Point Conception is our big goal. Southern California begins there, with warmer temperatures and gentle weather conditions, which we deserve after the beating we have taken so far.

We plan to explore the many islands between Santa Babara and the Mexican border. Everywhere we go we reunite with other sailors who we have met in the various ports along the way. I thought we were going to turn into loners, but our social life has never been so active. We love the lifestyle and the people we have met.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Alive and Well in San Francisco Bay

Just a note to say we are here and relaxing in the California sun! We were pretty beat when we arrived but will soon be ready to set sail again for Santa Barbara. We'll leave on Sunday if all goes according to plan -- though, of course, everything is fluid in the sailing life.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Blue Water Cruisers We Are

Newport, OR
Wednesday, August 26, 2009

We have been initiated and are, officially, blue water cruisers! Let's hear it for the dreamers: a toast, please! We hope all our friends and family will raise a glass in celebration. It's been quite a ride.

The photo above is leaving Neah Bay and heading out onto the Pacific; the ocean clearly misnamed by some mischevious sailor. But ... I get ahead of the story.

Pt. Townsend - Preparing Nereid

Pt. Townsend hosted us while preparing Nereid for her debut. The haul out went smooth as ice behind a Zamboni: George is going to write an article on the efficiency and skill of the people in charge of haul out services there. He didn't have an ounce of concern for Nereid, the way they handled her and set her up on stands. It was strange climbing into a boat with only air beneath her: I immediately missed having the water nearby, and when I mentioned it George said he felt the same. However, all that space underneath gave Jaqi room to set up her barbering chair and get Tor prepared for his voyaging.

Those few days were non-stop in activity: washing, sanding, wiping down the hull with mineral spirits (so the paint would stick to the hull, not the dust. We'd heard tales of paint falling away when people neglected this arduous task), painting and replacing zincs - which required a special trip into Seattle (thank you, Jaqi!) The business that was just across from our perch is called B.U.M.S. (Bottom Up Marine Services) and they generously lent us scaffolding and a 5-gallon bucket we could use to reach the upper hull; for which we traded a 12-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon (Their choice: "Did you see our name?" they asked.) George wielded the 20lb. sander, working it above his head in an exhausting labor of love. (He didn't mention Michelangelo, but the experience must have been painfully similar in terms of posture.) We met the couple next door, Tracy and Bill, whose boat Zephyr has much the same gear as Nereid, and when we got talking we found uncanny similarities in our plans, destinations and crew. (They have 3 cats aboard!) They've become boating buddies, whom we've met up with now in two subsequent ports. More about them later (and their blog is Jaqi, Tor, George and I all pitched in, and we got Nereid back in the water by the 2:30pm deadline on Thursday. (They charge $1.00 a minute if you're not ready at the appointed time.) Meanwhile, we had nearly completed our provisioning. You know you're in a mariner-related town when no one blinks an eye at shopping carts full of beans and pickles. Unfortunately, we couldn't leave the next day because our shipments from West Marine had been delayed, and we wanted our AIS (Automatic Identification System) and Chart Plotter installed beforehand.

AIS is a satellite-based system mandated on ships over 300 tons and popular on smaller vessels. It transmits and receives position, speed and bearing data as well as the vessel's MMSI (a unique identifier used for SAR - search and rescue. And, if a vessel has Class A software it also sends the ship's name, which is handy when contacting them on VHF. The Chart Plotter translates that into a friendly graphic that alerts you when a vessel (which they call a "target," oddly enough) comes within the distance or time threshold you have set. We don't carry radar, so this is our night time and heavy weather navigational tool.

We tied up at the Pt. Townsend dock and spent our $40.00 a night for two more nights, awaiting the AIS and getting it installed with the help of a seasoned electrician we'd met at the local exchange. It was an 8-hour install with his assistance. (Nothing is simple to install on a boat, despite what the user manuals say. Common wisdom is that the estimates on product packages apply only if you're installing it in a laboratory setting. If it involves running wires, multiply the estimated time to install by 3.) But, the time was rewarding in that we were able to meet up with George's former classmates Christie and Jason (, who looked radiant after having spent 3 months cruising in Alaska. George said that if he had any second thoughts about cruising, being around them cast any doubts to the wind! We met their friends Fischer and Kim (who is the creative force behind the calendar "Sexiest Maritime Women" and Jack Tar magazine.) All of us are headed towards Mexico: this lifestyle seems to be contagious.

Port Angeles - Twilight and the Dawn of a New Adventure

We left Pt. Townsend on a sunny day around Noon, with our first destination being Pt. Angeles, about 7 hours north. There wasn't enough wind to sail, but we were underway and feeling fine. This leg of the trip was easy. We docked at the floating town docks, which rock and rise and have a lot of character. They're $15.00 a night, payable on the honor system. The docks were pretty full with local folks putting down their shrimp pots: one man had two little girls, dressed as cute as could be in their above-the-knee dresses. They were about five years old, and one of them was very proud that she was not afraid of the shrimp.

We settled the boat and walked to the local grocery, passing a tourist shop dedicated to the phenomenon of Twilight. Thanks to Amy, I wasn't clueless about the story: however, we encountered only humans. The night was a quiet one, restless due to the docks, but quiet. We set out the next morning for Neah Bay - our jumping off point for the Pacific!

Neah Bay - Swells and Fog

This was an interesting day! It was clear, with light winds. Light weather sails are high on our wish list. We motored, encountering some chop but having a pretty smooth time of it until we neared Pillar Point. From there, the swells were solid and pretty closely spaced. I had the wheel and enjoyed learning how to take the waves. At Clallam Bay, I maneuvered her through the fishing grounds without drawing a single audible complaint, and then I saw the fog. I called George up to the cockpit for help with navigating, as it wasn't clear to me how far we had before Neah Bay. Soon, we were enveloped in fog. Tor, George and I all took posts in the cockpit; George at the helm, and all of us on watch. We used the air horn to signal our presence and kept an eye on the AIS. There were several fishing vessels on the screen, and it appeared that all were heading in. Slowly, we worked our way westward. After some time, we spotted land and rocks. We moved further offshore and continued our cautious approach. After nearly an hour, the fog began lifting. We were approaching Neah Bay!

We pulled into the bay without incident, the sky blue and the breakwater easy to see. Our first stop was the fuel dock, across from the rows of commercial fishing vessels whose names we recognized from our AIS. Our newfound friends Tracy and Bill were at the dock to greet us. They were anchored in the harbor, and we made plans to meet. It was the evening before Tor's birthday, so while we waited for the fuel dock to become available, I headed to the local store for cake ingredients. Eagles were nesting in the tree near the road, one parent keeping watch from a bough while the youngsters chattered away. It took over an hour for us to get our turn at the fuel line (a large power boat had gone in ahead of us) but the time was well spent. A group of sports fishermen struck up friendly aconversation, showing us their hold full of salmon, a beautiful ling cod and a halibut. They gave us fishing tips, a lure and a fly. Soon enough, we were anchored out in the harbor and dinner was on the table. Bill and Tracy came over just in time for warm chocolate cake with cherry filling. We sang Happy Birthday to Tor and enjoyed a lovely sunset.

Juan de Fuca

Rough! We headed towards the Pacific, thankful that the fog was lifting. The waters were, of course, choppy; but we were elated to be on our way! We soon pulled her into the wind to put up the sails. This was problematic, because the main halyard was wrapped around the mast. George and I went forward, our life vests clipped onto the jacklines that we have set up along the full length of the decks both port and starboard. Unfortunately, the motion of the sea and the attention to detail required for clearing the lines made both of us sick. George was only mildly sick, but I was less fortunate; and would remain that way through the rest of that day and night. Nausea is exhausting, so as soon as possible, I went below to rest. The cats greeted me with eyes that flooded me with guilt. Wolfgang got sick, though only once, and then I was able to rest. Tor took the first 4 hour watch, George the second, then me. Once we got out of the mouth of the strait, the seas were kinder to us. We were hailed by Tracy and Bill aboard Zephyr, and they let us know we were showing up clearly on their AIS. They were headed further offshore than us, though we hoped we might remain in hailing distance.

Tor saw a string of Orca, including juveniles, while George and I rested. The cats each found a place behind the bike bags and settled in for the duration. That night, the winds came up. I was at the helm. George decided we needed to have two people in the cockpit at a time, so we set up some blankets and pillows on a side bench and Tor kept me company. Unfortunately, he then succumbed to the mal de mer. Luckily, I had a bucket nearby. Meanwhile, darkness settled in and the winds continued to pick up. Steering required constant attention to stay on our course of 180 to 210. Soon, George came above decks to say it sounded like he was in a cement mixer up in the v-berth. We shortened the genny and reefed the mainsail, and George returned belowdecks, but none of us would get much rest that night or the next two. Before my watch was out the winds had gusted up to 30 knots. At that point, we had already put in our second reef and fully wound the genoa. George said that steering in the dark, watching the AIS and being constantly attentive to the compass felt like playing a video game (though I don't know how he knows that). He was right - it was much like that (only colder.) Finally, it was George's turn to take the helm. Tor went below and I took up the secondary post in the cockpit. It was a pretty active position that night. It was pitch black, and we weren't seeing boat lights but our AIS was reporting them. We kept an eye on them and learned how to better read the chart plotter where their information popped up. Somewhere around 47 degrees 44 minuites (as I recall) I hailed the Arctic Enterprise on our VHF. I was pleased to get a response from their captain, who didn't see us on his AIS but was able to clear away my concerns: they had already passed us. (I've gotten better at checking coordinates.) A couple hours later, I hailed another vessel that appeared to be on a collision course. Again, I got an immediate reply from their captain, who found us on their radar and promised to avoid us.

When morning arrived, Tor took the helm. He hadn't slept; just rested, so we were all pretty tired. George directed Tor to cut the engines (by this time there was no wind) and let her drift during his watch. We were far enough offshore (about 50 miles) that all he had to do was keep an eye out for other boats. George and I went belowdecks and got some much needed rest.

To our shock, the winds never returned on our second day out. We motored, making our way steadily southward. Swells were present and steering required attention, but it was a good day as far as I was concerned: I was able to eat a granola bar. No one got sick again. Later, I fixed us all toasted ham and cheese sandwiches and minestrone. The cats ate treats from my hand but refused wet food or water; they had pretty much just shut down for the trip thus far; though Wolfgang actually made a few trips up to the cockpit to visit with me while I was on shift. (Brave and tender hearted feline!) Our second day and night were spent motoring. George took an extra long shift and (we found out later) suffered bruises on the backs of his knees from sitting so long on the bench behind the wheel. The weather report showed a storm coming in about 24 hours, so the crew voted to head for Newport. It was the smart thing to do, and we anticipated that we could get there fairly early on our third day. Unfortunately, it took much longer.

Our third day was spent searching for buoys amidst the fog. (They call this month "Fogust" you know.) Our AIS kept us informed, and this time we did get visuals on a few ships, including a NOAA research vessel (McArthur). A frustration was that the charts on our AIS/Chart Plotter were poor; something we hadn't realized until this day, when we were seeking more detailed data. The chart failed to list Newport - the most significant port on this coastal stretch! We had a couple of books that gave us pointers on the approach, but none had waypoints for the markers and buoys. We just had to do the best we could with what we had, and that would have been enough if the fog hadn't added itself to the equation. In the late afternoon, we reached the vicinity of Newport. We could not find the entrance buoys. (There was almost no visibility.) We heard a regular horn, but we were looking for buoys with whistles and a buoy with a gong. George thought he heard the whistle, and then Tor thought so too, but it was difficult to tell whether it was a whistle or a horn. Consulting our books and charts, we explored the waters at a very slow pace. Newport has sandbars and two jettys, and there are always many fishing boats and crab pots. It was a pretty target rich environment. Finally, with it being only about an hour before sunset, George gave me his blessing to call the Coast Guard for some pointers. I radioed them on Channel 16, giving our coordinates and asking for guidance. The dispatcher came back with, "I strongly recommend you move west immediately until you reach 100 feet of water." Just as she said that, the jetty appeared before us in the fog. We moved west.

We had been near the buoy, but too far north, which put us at risk of going aground on the sandbar (not disastrous except for the cold) or onto the rocks of the jetty (disastrous). The Coast Guard came back to ask us our particulars (how many people on board, whether life jackets were on, whether we had any medical emergencies or conditions such as asthma). They informed us they had dispatched one of their boats to guide us into the marina. We waited at the 100 ft. depth until they appeared from the fog - a large, utilitarian boat with 5 guardians on board. Politely and professionally, they instructed us to follow. Thirty minutes later, we were at the dock. (And immediately greeted by Peter, on a neighboring boat, who warned us to move to another slip if we were to avoid grounding on the minus tide. We did.) Two Coast Guard officers inspected our boat, which passed muster except for a blown starboard bow light (which we immediately replaced), a lack of registration numbers on the starboard bow (which I remedied the next day) and no presence of a specific Coast Guard publication (Tracy gave us an extra when we saw them in port the next day.)

So here we are in Newport. We've had fun meeting several other boaters headed south and feel we are part of a "constellation" (for lack of a better word) of yachtistas.

We'll be heading out today for Coos Bay, which may be as far as we can get before the next weather front puts us on hold a few days.

We love you all, and we'll try to get some postings from George up here this week. He said he felt like Odysseus heading for the sirens, when he came up on the jetty.

Probably our biggest hope and task now is to find ways to conserve our energy during any future tough stretches. We'll be able to use our windvane when sailing in reasonable air, and we need to practice hoving to with the sea anchor. Keep an eye out for updates on those.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bon Voyage

l to r: Helio (golden fur), Lauren, Michael (holding Athena, with the golden heart), George, Celeste, Brian, Cyd
Hudson Point Cafe at Pt. Hudson

The time to launch has finally come ... Nereid's scheduled to come out of the water Wednesday for a pressure washing, scraping, sanding, painting and replacing of the sacrificial metals (zinc) on her bottom. Then, it's only the weather between us and the ocean. We're both doing final research and shopping. The salon looks like a college dorm, complete with our "to do" list hung along the wall.

Between finishing up work and preparing, there's hardly a moment to digest the sense that we are approaching a threshold which, upon crossing, will define a moment in which we have been forever changed. I can't do justice to the moment, so I will turn to Alfred Lord Tennyson, who so well conveys the connection between the oceans and our spirit of adventure. This is from his poem Ulysses:

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Of course we will have many years' adventure and, as Lauren said, return by air if not by boat to visit family and friends. We hope, of course, that friends will visit us in ports o' call. Our third crew member, Tor, comes up Tuesday or Wednesday. We'll all post more later ...

Monday, July 20, 2009

5,000 Words

Elana at the Wheel:

Ava takes the Helm:

Lt. Sea Cat:

Sunset at Anderson Island:

Happy Captain:

We Love to Go A'Wandering

"Easier said than done," is a phrase that must have entered the English vocabulary at a very early date. It's certainly been with us for awhile!

We spent June in Seattle, back at Shilshole, and had time to catch up with visiting some of our great neighbors, family members and friends. Shout out to Aunt Genny, who is 81 and still game to out for a chick flick with her nieces. We stayed in Seattle until June 30, so we could join Dawn and Aubrianna for a joint birthday celebration at the zoo then set out for a rendezvous with the captain and crew of Nomadness. Did we sail? Why, yes we did!

One night at Honeymoon Cove then several nights with our new friends, moored off Hope Island - where the fireworks display seems to be one of the best kept secrets around. After a weekend with Steve and Sky I was feeling very "ordinary." I'll have to do something unusual one of these days ...

Just after we passed through Deception Pass for the first time aboard Nereid, a pod of Orca appeared. One or two juveniles jumped clear out of the water! We couldn't catch it on film, but we did get to see the fins and hear them chatting it up.

Looking back over the past 8-10 weeks, it's been mostly about friends, family and fresh air: the stuff that makes you want to live longer. George and I agree that we must be getting more fit ... we're just too tired to feel it yet.

We had a chance to spend an afternoon in Friday Harbor hanging with Dave and Tanya, then a week at Anderson Island with The Graffs and The Beans. Love our family! (Family makes rain in a campground endurable.) Caught plenty o'crab.

Somewhere along the way we (or I should say, George) solved the starting battery issues. Turns out we're wired European-style. Maybe it's a sign. Between then and now we also fixed a leak and George got the first solar panel installed. We're getting ship shape, an amorphous state of being of course.

In Poulsbo, focusing on work. 2-3 weeks and then who knows where the wind will blow us to ... but not knowing is half the fun.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

May 31, 2009

We are in California, though Nereid did not make this trip. We helped our friend Renee move to Ashland (an adventure in itself) and then rented a car to scout SF Bay Area locations. We think we have found our spot for the winter in Sausalito - at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. (Thank you to our Shilshole neighbors Rich and Linda for pointing us in this direction!) If all goes well, we plan to sail down the Washington and Oregon coasts before August 15th and spend September '09 through April 2010 anchored there. The film posted here was taken today at Point Arena lighthouse, on the northern California Coast. Those are pelicans flying in formation, playing on the wind. Of course, the drive up Highway 1 was beautiful: wildflowers and wild life. (We stopped to let a deer and her two wobbly-legged fawns cross the highway.) Tonight we're lodging near the Redwoods and by Tuesday we'll be back home with Wolfe and Mimi. (Thank you Lilli & Barbara, for taking such good care of them while we're away!)

We did get some good sailing time in over Memorial Day weekend, spending a full day out on Admiralty Inlet as we made our way to Hood Canal. We anchored near the home of our friend Kyra Petrovskaya Wayne, and George and Ron (Kyra's son) got out for a sunset sail as well. (We hope to post pictures soon!)

Our anchoring has been going well lately. The current and wind in Hood Canal were a good test - not only for the anchor but for our rowing abilities in the dinghy! (Think current and wind forces opposing each other, while we pull for Nereid.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

George in Oak Harbor

George made it and is docked in Oak Harbor, although the depth meter tells him the boat is on the ground. He's spending the evening testing water depth in the old fashioned way, dropping a line over the side. (Our depth sounder has been a little recalcitrant. But if they're going to read incorrect, it's best to have them read too shallow.) I'm staying in town tonight, to meet with clients.

Day 8

Top of the Mast

Yesterday (Monday) was our rig inspection day. No, we didn't go aloft ... we just cranked the winch! George had met Wendy in a sailmaking class. She and her partner, Daniel, rig and inspect. They are a great couple of people, and we thoroughly enjoyed working with them and visiting over lunch at SeaJay's.

They gave us some tips on improving our rig's stability - primarily mousing the shackles and guarding against chafe. ("Mousing" means putting a wire through to secure the shackle in case the pin drops out.) Since Nereid's rigging is only two years old we're in pretty good shape. There was one fairly serious problem: the radar reflector we'd had installed had shaken loose and was at risk of falling. Any object falling 60+ feet to a deck is sure to do some damage. We decided to stay another day in Port Townsend so Daniel could customize a new brace and reinstall the radar reflector. It was well worth it.

George diagnosed and repaired our water leak on Sunday. There's an unfinished piece of fiberglass (rough edge) where the cold water line leads to the hot water tank. We're not sure if that was the cause or if the original hose had a manufacturing defect, or if something caused the hose to heat and stretch. There was a 1/4" area that had gone thin and a pin size hole was there. Apparently, trouble can come in through a hole that small!

The only repair left to be made is to the Webasto forced-air heating system. George ran some further tests and determined the problem is not at the exhaust but is in the tubing system: either a gap or a blockage. Now that he's done with his sailmaking, he'll have weekdays to work on that.

His class now is in Oak Harbor, at the Skagit Valley College's Marine Technology center. It's an ABYC Electrical Certification course, and he is enjoying it. The instructor's dynamic and the curriculum practical: ideal for George.

George is single-handing it up to Oak Harbor aboard Nereid today, and we'll dock there until mid-May. (I'm transporting the car.) It's a calm, clear day, and I did everything I could think to make it comfortable for a one-at-the-wheel day. Of course I'll worry anyway, but he was happy with the prospect of a beautiful day on the water.

Oak Harbor's a military town. We wouldn't have thought twice about this if the Skagit College administrator hadn't recommended we have breakfast at Frank's Place.

Frank's Place is a shrine to war and warriors. We failed to notice the statuary in the parking lot, as we were in a hurry to eat. The interior walls are plastered with newspapers, photographs, uniforms, posters, etc., only two of them with positive messages about the peaceful conclusion of a war. We got a pretty friendly greeting, but--and maybe this is just in my head--the man who took our order looked like he'd as soon kill us as serve us. SPAM is on the menu, and the poached egg order came back fried, but I think my appetite was cut more by the photos. I recently edited a Vietnam veteran's memoirs, so I've got some pretty grisly images in my head, and the photos of bombing runs on the wall next to the table really brought those up for me. It's sort of "pancakes with a side of PTSD." We got the message that some people around here feel very positive and proud about their participation in a war, and I thought it showed good taste and some wisdom to not spit in their eye, so I removed our "Biodisel: No War Required" sticker from the car. Call me a weenie, but we're not getting biodiesel up here anyway.

The sun came out on Palm Sunday, and an eagle perched by our boat all morning. The otters are not shy, and the mountains are visible. As we said goodbye to Port Townsend this morning, we commented on how much we love the sounds of this place: the steeple clock and the mill whistle. George said in Gloucester the mill whistle always rang at 5 minutes before start/finish and break times and then again at start/finish and break times. It was so regular everyone assumed it was automated, but it turned out that all through the 1950s there was a man whose job it was to blow that whistle - and he always did so, on time.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Day 5

Thursday, 7 pm, George talking.

24 hours and not a single major catastrophy.

I'll give my side, and rants, about the week's events. First the toggle switch on the anchor winch broke. We use an oversized 55 lb storm anchor with 3/8 inch all chain rode. For the landlubbers, this is heavy. It could be hauled up using the manual halyard winch, although it would be a long, difficult job, and in an emergency situation where we had to weigh anchor in a hurry this could be a disaster. The toggle switch stood out from a bench in the walkway. We have to assume something heavy hit it, which could easily happen in that location. We figured out how to work the mechanism without the physical switch present, but it took some time to do so. The switch was a poor type for its location. It was a problem waiting to happen, one of many details the boat manufacturers and their subcontractors have to take the blame for.

Next, the engine would not start. I have recently taken two courses in marine electronics so I got out my multimeter and started looking for the cause. Finally I was exhausted and went to bed without solving the problem.

Then the heater broke. At the dock this would be no big thing because we would have shore power to run our electric heaters but at anchor it meant being cold. The good thing that came out of this was that we found a double sleeping bag hidden in a locker. The bag worked so well we have been using it ever since. I then discoved the heater's exhaust hose had been installed incorrectly but have not had time to fix it yet.

The next morning was still as could be. Then all hell broke loose as the wind picked up. We were dragging anchor and about to slam into another boat. I ran up on deck, started to get out large fenders ready to cushion the blow,and for the fun of it, decided to try the engine again. It started. We now had to weigh anchor without getting the chain in the propeller. Celeste took the wheel and I jury rigged the anchor winch switch and took up the anchor. Celeste did a great job of avoiding both the boat we were almost teaming up with and protecting our prop at the same time.

We traveled 10 miles through the wind to a marina where we were given moorage, although it was a difficult place to get into and they would not give us any assistance with the lines in spite of the fact the wind was blowing us off the dock and they had just suspended haul outs because of the wind.

Safe, electric heaters keeping us toasty, the next day I discovered the bilge was filled with water - as a rule our blige is so dry we have to dust it out. Checking the engine room it seemed as though the water may have been coming in through the sea water cooling system. There is a shut off valve at the through-hull fitting but it is under the engine where I could neither see it nor reach it. Celeste, with her smaller hands was able to reach it but could not close it. Another brilliant piece of engineering by the boat manufacturer. As it turned out this was not the problem. A leak in the hot water tank was the culprit. I had just spent $500 fixing a leak in the hot water tank and now all our fresh water was in the bilge. To make things worse the water maker I had just spent more thousands of dollars than you want to know installing was useless and I had to carry two gallon jugs of water down the dock from Safeway. I tried to pinpoint the problem but with all our personal and business belongings stacked on top of the hot water tank compartment I decided to go to bed. This problem will have to wait at least until my classes are over to be tended to.

Now that all is said and done my sail making class is a joy and I am just amazed at the intricracies of sail making. I will never be a professional sailmaker but I do know how to mend my sails at sea if necessary. And we did find some nice restaurants recommended by the locals, which was good, because all our dishes are dirty.

I am still sore from the marine fire fighting course I took last week and Celeste and I are emotionally and physically exhausted from this week's activities. Now I know how Odysseus felt after matching wits with Poseidon! Saturday I start a class to become certified in marine electronics and-despite it all-in June we plan to head to the west coast of Vancover Island for our ocean shakedown cruise.

As for tonight, we are going to bed. Good night all.

Anyway, we soon got caught dragging anchor in 52 mile an hour winds. I was prepared to use a second anchor, an oversized storm Fortress anchor

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Day 4

Trial by water. We came home to find our water tank down to 2 gallons. That was odd, because we'd set the watermaker to add 6 gallons before leaving this morning, and we'd started with 20. The first question we asked ourselves was, "Where did the water go?!" The main water tank is under our bed. With visions of gallons undernearth our mattress, we hurriedly stripped the bed, lugged out the bulky mattress and got a flashlight. We pulled up every wooden platform covering the compartments: no water. Next we headed to the quarter berth, where the hot water tank is underneath the bed. (That's where you'll sleep when you come to visit!) Recently, the quarter berth has been serving as our storage unit. We pulled everything out and stacked it in our saloon. (Yes, that's the proper name for the living area aboard a yacht.) There were a couple gallons under the hot water tank; some water, but not a flood. There was also some water in the engine compartment and some in the bilge, but no flooding; not enough to trip the automatic bilge pump.

The engine compartment worried us the most. Was it overflow, or did we have a leak in an intake line? We did some Twister-like moves to get a hand (mine fit better) around, over and under the engine to the safety valve for the intake line. We checked the water filter and found it unusually full. We're in choppy water and we're a little heavy in the stern. (No jokes please.) If the water filter lid was at all loose a steady trickle of water moved into the engine compartment. We made sure it was tight, got out the wet/dry vac and dried out the engine compartment.
About this time, I had a flash of insight. The Magic Flute! The prince and his true love are subject to three trials: trial by air, trial by water and trial by fire. We'd had the trial by air yesterday (52 mph winds). Clearly this is our trial by water. Uh-oh. I told George my theory and that it meant we could expect a trial by fire tomorrow. "Don't worry," he said, "I already had that last week!" "What?!" I said. "My firefighting class," he replied with a grin. Phew! I'd forgotten about it, but having that cover the base suits me just fine! (After some thought, George pointed out that the Earth spirit seems to have gotten in on the game as well--yesterday the toggle switch broke on the anchor windlass and the earth would not release us. He also said the fire gods may have something to do with our heater being on the fritz.)

It's 8:30pm, and we've dried every compartment. We didn't refill the tank, so won't have water tonight, but that allows us to do some control testing when we're awake enough to fill the tank and monitor for changes.

The cats seem to be taking this in stride.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Day 1 to Day 3

(*Warning: some of this will be a little graphic. Do not read it near mealtime if you have a sensitive stomach, unless you are the parent of a young child - in which case dealing with bodily fluids is just another day at the office.)

Day 1
We left Shilshole Sunday morning, waving goodbye to our wonderful neighbors who had come out to wish us "Bon Voyage!"

Motoring to make good time, we headed to the fuel dock for a small repair to one of the heads. It was easy to fix, glory be! The attendant at the fuel dock poured me coffee from his thermos, undermining my general cynicism about the state of generosity in our culture. (Mark Twain wrote that travel is lethal to prejudice and bigotry. So far, he was right.)

Then we headed out into Puget Sound. The water was choppy, and Wolfgang got seasick. I spent the morning cleaning up kitty vomit and diarrhea, then soundproofing everything below decks, which helped the cats settle. A couple of hours out, the water calmed, and the sun came out. We had blue sky and a smooth ride the rest of the day.

We pulled into Port Hadlock's dock with a smooth landing at 3:30pm; a good couple of hours earlier than we'd expected. There were at lesat 20 boats already anchored in the harbor, most of them resident. After tying up at the public dock, we walked up to the small 'business district' (one restaurant, 5 cottages and the Wooden Boat Center) to check out the quiet setting. We already felt a world away from stress.

Within 30 minutes Jaqi and Tor met us at the dock with our car, and we all headed for dinner at The Ajax (the sole restaurant at the top of the dock ramp). If you're ever up this way for an evening, call them and make reservations! The food is delicious and the ambience memorable. They have a collection of wild hats that most patrons choose to wear, and they have live music; for us, a pianist/harmonica player whose work covered Tom Waits and ranged into classical.

After dinner, George and Tor took Nereid out to find an anchorage, then George rowed Tor back to the dock in our new Port-a-Boat - it's a foldable, rigid 8' dinghy - much more stable than our inflatable. George rowed back to Nereid, and I drove Jaqi and Tor to the ferry, returning about 9pm. There was a new moon and a boatload of stars. George rowed over to pick me up: the night so dark I had to work at spotting him out on the water. It was reminiscent of Dunkirk, except his boat wasn't painted black. Ten minutes later we were at Nereid, settling in for our first night. George said he was especially happy that he'd been able to spend more quality time with his daughter, Jaqi, of whom he's so proud.

Day 2
We ran the diesel heater to stay warm during the night, the consequence being that the fan brought our amperage down to an unsettling level. George set up the wind generator. (Plug for Duo-Gen! It's been a great investment.) We rowed into the dock, George headed for his sailmaking class, and I went to town to find an internet cafe. At noon, George and I rowed back to Nereid for lunch and to check on the cats, who were doing fine. We rowed back with the laundry, and I spent the afternoon working on my computer at the town suds-n-duds. We both had a good day, operating in our new milleaus. (I was a domestic goddess that day! Cooked 3 meals, did laundry, grocery shopped ... Phew! I'm glad I got that out of my system.)

At 5:30 we rowed home, so I could cook up a game hen. We were keeping an eye on the amperage. The Duo-Gen was giving us a charge, but George decided to run the engines to help us out.

The engine wouldn't start! It would click, begin to turn over, and the fan belt would move an inch. George went into full troubleshooting mode. He got out his electrical equipment and books, me doing what I could to help with research. After a couple of hours he thought he'd narrowed it down to a solenoid. We dragged out the sleeping bag to keep us warm, piled wool blankets out for the cats, and went to bed, planning to call our friends at Miller & Miller in the morning.

Day 3
The day nearly began with a bang! The winds picked up, and our anchor started dragging (muddy bottom). We went into full defensive mode - getting out the Fortress anchor and preparing to fend off from a catamaran we were drifting towards.

I think it was Einstein who said the definition of insanity is trying the same thing again and again thinking you'll get different results. Thankfully, we ignored the stigma and tried our engine again. Thankfully, our engine started! Working as a team, we got our anchor up and headed the boat north. We called ahead and got a slip at Port Townsend's Boat Haven Marina. They had clocked winds up to 52 mph! After several attempts, we were able to get the lines on the dock and tie up.

Then it was below decks to clean up the mess. We'd had to leave too quickly to tie anything down, but we lost only one mug. And Wolfgang had given me another protest poop, but I figure that's fair payback for my hauling her out on the waters.

We're safe and sound. We'll be here until Sunday, then on to Oak Harbor.

George says we're getting exactly what we set out to get: experience. We've just been out in winds twice as high as we'd been in heretofore (and I can still use 3-syllable words!) Plus, we've had experience docking in those winds, troubleshooting (no end to that aboard any boat) and handling a dragging anchor. We are a much better team than when we started, and tonight we're pretty satisfied ... though very tired!