Friday, September 25, 2015

The Final Stretch

After a solid week’s work and some help from my marine industry friends, the boat is getting really close to being ready to leave.

The watermaker is wired up and I ran the pumps for a second or two each. I’m holding off on finishing final commissioning and testing until next week. Once you start using a watermaker, you have to keep using it at least every five days or biological growth fouls the membrane.

The new fresh water flush electric head is installed and working. I tested it with a banana. I laughed to myself while I was selecting the banana at the market, trying to figure out what the appropriate ripeness should be for my flush simulation. I had to use my imagination. You might not every think of bananas the same after this. Sorry.

I worked with Roberto at KKMI to figure out what engine spares to carry and purchased them. Mostly filters and belts, but Roberto thought a spare raw water pump would be a good idea and I agreed. I also had the valves adjusted, a few hundred hours ahead of schedule. It turned out to be a good idea because Roberto said they were pretty far out of adjustment.

The mainsail is at Quantum getting inspected and serviced, promised back for next Wednesday.

We should get most of the house cleared out this weekend. We made good progress last weekend, although it was far more stressful relationship-wise than I would have believed. I think boxing up stuff brought forth a lot of suppressed stress, feelings and emotions. Plus it was 90+ degrees out. Plus we have a LOT of stuff.  Hopefully that’s behind us now and we will be a sounder footing for this weekend’s effort.

Next week will be a busy one. Finishing clearing out the house. Bring the boat to Gilles’ for some rigging upgrades and bend the mainsail back on. Finish the Iridium Go! antenna wire installation. Install padeyes for our tethers and jacklines. See Rose for my last hometown haircut. Officially leave work. Get all the insurance policies confirmed. Start mail forwarding service. Order last items left on purchase list and have them shipped to Jeanne in San Diego.

We’ll bring the boat up the Petaluma River on Thursday to have it closer to home for loading it up with our personal gear and provisions.

There’s a lot to do, but it looks like there is a very good chance we will depart “on schedule” on October 3rd or 4th.  That’s amazing!

I'm starting to say "goodbye" to people. It's a big deal. Especially when saying it to someone who you really care about and will miss.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Coping Strategy

Renee and I hit the wall last weekend, overwhelmed by preparing the boat and house and the ever-decreasing number of days before our planned departure date. After a mutual freak-out and intense “sharing of feelings”, I decided I needed a coping strategy. Renee already has one; she just keeps stoically plugging away, gets up earlier, and goes to bed later.  Hers may not always be the most efficient strategy, but it works for her and she maintains continuous progress.  Me, I need to stop, analyze and develop a plan of attack. My progress tops until I figure something out.  Our strategies tend to reinforce each other, but also can be a source of conflict and frustration.

So my coping strategy was to take paper and pencil and layout two pages in my notebook. The first page is a list of all significant tasks that remained to be done arranged in timeline columns with headings “Must Do to Leave”, “Enroute”, and “Later”.  The second page is a three-week calendar.  I took all the tasks under the “Must Do to Leave” column and fit them into the calendar.  The result: We won’t be leaving on October 1st.  It’s just not possible.  But we can get close.

If all goes per my revised plan, we should be able to depart on October 3rd or 4th. That’s actually a bit better than our original October 1st target because it allows us to leave on a weekend so that people who want to can wave goodbye from the dock. More importantly, they can buy me drinks the evening before!

We’re almost a week into the plan and actual progress is tracking pretty closely, but not perfectly. We hope not to, but we the schedule might end up slipping a few days.  That’s okay, but each day of delay will give us less time to enjoy sailing down the California coast and fewer days to just kick back and relax along the way.

The fixed deadline we need to make is the start of the Baja Ha-Ha rally in San Diego on October 26. Working the schedule backwards, we need to arrive in San Diego by October 21 to re-provision, care for the boat after sailing down the coast, hook up with our Baja crew, and enjoy the pre-rally events. It only takes 3-4 days to sail non-stop for San Francisco to San Diego, but we’re not doing that!  With only the two of us sailing and so that we can pick good weather windows for sailing and for our mental health, we need a minimum of two weeks.  So that means we have to leave no later than October 7.

So we now have a departure window- sometime between October 3 and October 7.

Meanwhile, Renee is finishing house projects, I’m buttoning up boat projects and doing the final outfitting of equipment and supplies and we are both starting to box up the stuff in the house so we can start moving it into storage.

Today I’m going to install and activate our IridiumGo satellite device. This will provide basic communication (text, simple email) and provide weather forecasts and routing while we’re sailing. When I get it working, I’ll send my first blog post “via satellite”.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Watermaker Is Plumbed!

Well, 90% plumbed. I need a different fitting for the seawater intake line and I ran out of nylon tubing for the "product" (i.e. fresh water) line to get water into the tank, but the rest of the piping is done. I really like how things laid out in the starboard bow compartment accessed through shower of the master head. I actually enjoyed installing this piece of equipment.

Now to wire it up, which is a bit tricky as I need big wires to minimize voltage drop to the pumps. I think I have a good design though.  The wires are going to be expensive; I've spent a lot on copper between the inverter, the solar power and now this watermaker.

If I consider the capital investment costs of all the equipment required, I believe we will be making the world's most expensive espresso on Intermezzo.

Tomorrow I take a rest from boat work and tend to administrative, procurement, and paperwork tasks.

I think we're going to make our October 1 deadline!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

This Is No Vacation

The month of August was one of the busiest month's of my life. I'm amazed by the diversity of tasks that need to be completed to set off on a voyage like ours. I've blogged about the boat projects and mentioned Renee's equally arduous house projects, but those are just the main events. Orbiting around them are all the satellite tasks, like figuring out health insurance that works overseas and is Obamacare compliant to avoid penalties, getting boat insurance that allows us to visit countries not favorable to some underwriters, purchasing all the spare parts and miscellaneous gear to be properly equipped for the trip, picking the right communications gear and setting it up, making sure we have complete charts and cruising guides for where we're sailing, arranging for mail forwarding, deciding what to store and what to get rid of from home...and more, on top of "normal" life activities.'s definitely not a vacation.

I don't thinks this trip is going to feel like a vacation very often. With only two of us, when we're sailing we'll be highly engaged with keeping the boat safely heading in the right direction without crashing into something, with only snippets of sleep between watches. I expect we'll have a pretty long list of loose ends to tie up and projects that we still want to get done on the boat to keep us busy when we're at anchor. Plus, we will either be doing preventative maintenance so that stuff doesn't break or be fixing the stuff that does. I have heard some people define cruising as "fixing your boat in exotic places".

So, if it's not a vacation, why are we doing this? Well, primarily because it is an adventure. It's stepping out into unknown territory (for us) where we need to be totally self-reliant, a physical, mental and emotional challenge. It's a learning experience, in many different ways, at many different levels. It's a bonding experience (or perhaps the opposite?) for our relationship.

So far, despite the hard work and stress, I'm finding the experience to be a relief from the boredom of the routine, a healthier, less sedentary lifestyle, and a welcome re-emegence into my love for designing things and the process of turning ideas into useful things. Yep, I'm a engineer geek tweaker at heart (among other things.)

One of my sailing heroes is Webb Chiles. He writes, "People who know of me at all probably do so as a sailor; but I have always thought of myself as an artist, and I believe that the artist’s defining responsibility is to go to the edge of human experience and send back reports." Compared to what Webb has done, sailing-wise, Renee and I are taking a pleasant cruise on a luxury yacht. But for us, it will often be going to the edge of our human experience and so maybe this trip we're taking is a form of artistic expression, at least for me. Regardless, it definitely doesn't feel like a vacation now and I'm pretty sure it will only feel like one in the future on rare occasions.

A few side points: Good progress on the watermaker. It's not piped, wired or tested yet, but I'm happy with how it fits and looks in the starboard bow. Check out my custom made bracket for the gages.  Somehow I drank the case of Lagunitas IPA I had on the boat last month. Time to replenish, but in the interest of maintain my recently arrived at healthy low weight, I'm buying replacements in the tiny bottle size.