29 January 2011

A Year from Tuesday

Bob Bitchin and Randy Deering couldn't be more different.  Bob is the former editor of Biker and Tattoo magazines, both of which he sold to buy a boat and go sailing.  His own boat was the first one he'd ever stepped foot on.  Randy is a minister by trade and has captained charters, delivered yachts, taught sailing, you name it.  One can tell just by looking at these two men that their approaches to sailing and life have little in common. Randy is a practical, button-down kind of guy; Bob is a one dangly earring pirate.

It was good to have seen these salty sailors, both with a hundred thousand miles or more under their rudders, who come at this so differently.  For dirt dwellers dying to get offshore like us, it's inspiring to know that there's more than one way to be successful at sea. Their respective seminars said as much just by dint of what they focused on.  Randy presented a planning overview; Bob said the adventure begins when something goes wrong.  Randy's PowerPoint was black and white, bullet points, the only graphic embellishment a line drawing of a sailboat floating at a random spot on the page.  Bob's was full-color, text-over-photos in the font styles one sees on car and motorcycle decals circa 1960s and 1970s. These two men may sail on the same waters but they undoubtedly live on different planets--except for one bit of advice and that was this: if you're serious about sailing, set a departure date and work your way backward to today.  Having a solid date in mind by which one expects to shove off is the difference between those who go and those who dream of going.  I don't know if Randy and Bob know each other or have ever met, but on this they are in complete agreement.

There is a bit of popular culture wisdom which says that if you see the same headline on the covers of two different tabloids, it must be true.  In that same vein, if you get the same piece of advice from diametrically opposed sources, it must be good.  Well, good enough for us, anyway.

And so we have:  February 1, 2012.  It's a Wednesday.  I have set outlook to remind me that it's an all day event for which I will be "out of the office" and travel will be required. This is good.

Now we can set up schedules: house renovation completion, ASA certification getting, boat broker researching, surveyor finding, equipment shopping, boat and medical insurance buying, house showing, estate-settling, apartment renting, sail planning and provisioning schedules.

So there it is; calendar's ticking.  Here we go.

28 January 2011

Strictly Sail Chicago

I'm sitting in a weather seminar, speaker is Lee Chesneau. He is making me feel d-u-m. Ean is in the diesel maintenance session. Hope he's having more fun than me. We went to George Day's ten things they didn't tell me about cruising. Good stuff. He and his family circumnavigated in late 80s - similar route as Andante, some of the same ports. It feels like I FIT here.

We toured a Hunter 50 - big and beautiful, with a jacuzzi under the master berth, for pete's sake. And, they say, a walk in closet - but really it's more like "edge in sideways" closet. As Ean commented, if you want to walk in, you better not put any clothes in there. But who are we to talk. Boatless dirt dwellers. Wish there were catamarans here.

We're having trouble with PATIENCE. But as I continue to do my executor duties, the money is becoming more real. And as the money becomes more real, so does the boat. Spending the inheritance on a big fat cat. Pretty crazy. But better than a big house, better than a bunch of stuff, better than traveling on airplanes and staying in luxury hotels, better than keeping it invested in the stock market for "a rainy day." So by process of elimination....

But my dad left me something more important than the money. He left me with the idea that we can do this, because he did it. He picked up and changed his life and had a grand adventure. He left me with the impression that The Boat Trip was the most important thing that he ever accomplished - a guy who started and ran a successful business, built launch pads and airports and all manner of buildings that still stand, made lots of money... He considered our time on Andante as the best time of his life.

WE CAN DO THIS. Lucky lucky us. And as we just heard from George Day - it's better to be lucky than to be smart.

23 January 2011


Dinner at our favorite local seafood restaurant, Molly Cool's, discussing our nearing future over Redneck Mai Tais and dirty martinis. I am acutely, even giddily aware of the more pragmatic tone these conversations have taken on lately. I attribute it to Bobby the Broker's entrance into our lives. Outside of family, Bobby is the first person who knows about this, this, thing we're about to do, this thing too big to be explained by any one word. It is more than a plan, more than an adventure, even more than a dream. It's the act of intentionally stopping one's life and pointing it in a completely different direction (insert nearly obligatory nautical metaphor here). Discussing with Jane the boats that she discussed with Bobby has moved this from the realm of the possible to the eventual. There is an exciting ordinariness about it now.

I think the reason I find this life so appealing (aside from the ones you always hear), is that there is something deeply intuitive about it. The "thing" about it that I get is its size. It's limited. I like the idea of a life that's manageable. Having only so much boat to live on and no more; having to know how much water, food, fuel we'll need; having to consider the trade-off between speed and supplies; having to create our lives as we go along, but with no more variables than we want to deal with. Say that I like immediate gratification for my efforts? Say that I find I have trouble keeping track of what transpires between "cause" and "effect?" Say that I can't find my bearings adrift in a sea of humanity? Yes. I'm nearly 50 years old and I have yet to grow into the life I'm living. Seems to me it's time to try a different kind of life on for size.

Cruisers Forum

My first ever forum post. #72. How cool am I?

Technomads Moving from Land to Water... - Page 2 - Cruisers & Sailing Forums

I wanted to add to this thread because I'm fascinated by the sociology of the cruiser world, with its own cliques and hierarchies, loud mouths, silent majorities? - oppressed minorities? It is really fascinating. I wonder if anyone's done a dissertation on this world. An ethnography of course.

Anyway, regarding this particular thread, these Technomads are on the "adventurers but not sailors" end of the spectrum, and I am feeling some.... kinship. More on "cruiser social stratification and social networking" in a later post. Ha. You can take the girl out of school, but you can't take school out of the girl.

22 January 2011

Bobby the Broker

Last Wednesday we filled out an online form with Bay Yacht Agency about what kind of catamaran we wanted - purposes, budget, desired equipment, etc.  We did it together, and it was a good chance for us to talk through our priorities and our vision of what this boat will be like.  Things are firming up pretty fast.  Good for us.  The next day, of course, I got a call from Bobby the Broker.  Bobby calls me Janie and Hon, and I somehow forgive him.  Just as we will accept the mores of the locals wherever we cruise, I will acknowledge that anyone who calls himself Bobby is apt to call me Hon.

17 January 2011


Waiting to start my swimming lessons, waiting to go to Strictly Sail in Chicago, waiting for all this to get underway, we spend hours poring over pictures of cats online. We're pretty sure our first boat will need to be 36 feet or so, have two staterooms (no more), and two heads with separate showers. We want the galley up, non-slanted windows, no louvers.

Of course finding out things like who makes reliable engines, or fuel pumps, or water pumps or light bulbs or any of the other innumerable things that makes boats "go" isn't often listed, or if it is, I still don't know what to look for. So, more reading of more books on basic sailing, more discussing how we'll finance this wacky plan, more getting excited about ebaying all our possessions and sailing into the world. We talk about weaning ourselves off coffee (have even started on this), weaning the cats off kitty litter and onto sand, (not this yet), and how impressive we assuredly will not look pulling our boat away from the marina for the very first time (that should make for a delightful future post).

We really are moving into this life and moving out of our old ones as well--Jane, less so than me as my current schedule has enough commitments to make it impossible to look for or learn how to operate a boat for more than two years. We can't wait that long; our "real" lives fade behind us as this not-as-yet-real-life becomes clearer all the time.

I try to be patient and make do with what progress I can. At least I'm making headway on one of the items on my list...

05 January 2011

A Few Things on My "To-Do" List

Now that that whole profound life-changing decision part is out of the way, it's time to get organized. The more we learn about the sailing life, the more we have to...learn, that is. Here's a few of the things on my list (in no particular order since everything needs to get done almost simultaneously):

1. Get over my extreme fear of water and learn to swim.
2. Find out something about sails, like what they're called and what they do.
3. Figure out how to fix stuff, such as engines and pumps and whatnot.

Then there is another optional list of items in case I get through the first one.

1. Practice tying different kinds of knots.
2. Learn a few sea shanties.
3. Learn to sew (on the off chance that duct tape doesn't work on sails).
4. Cultivate an appreciation for rum.

Sure, it doesn't look like that long of a list, but between learning to swim and memorizing songs, getting ready to relax is going to keep me jumpin.'

04 January 2011

Catching Up On the Timeline

     Ean will write next.  Until then, I will quickly list some tick-marks on our timeline, so that Ean may be inspired.

  • used or new?  catamaran maybe?  starter boat?  Conducting internet searches.
  • found Strictly Sail Chicago online and decided to attend.
  • travel home from the Bahamas.
  • trying to decide whether to join Milwaukee Yacht Club or South Shore Yacht Club.  (NOT SERIOUSLY.)
  • I bet our boat will be 35-37 foot.  Ean thinks 38-39.  We think the catamaran is the only way to go.
  • blogs, blogs, blogs of cruisers - a bit overwhelming
  • created our blog
  • signed up for the Mahina one-day sailing seminar at Strictly Sail Chicago
  • after dipping into Hal Roth's How to Sail Around the World and Gregor Tarjan's Catamarans, I am convinced that bigger is better - I give up on the idea of having a 35-37 footer for blue ocean sailing. 43 + or -.
  • ordered boat shoes - the classic Sperry Topsiders, of course.
  • signed Ean up for swim lessons.
  • BIG: It occurs to us that if we aim for a starter boat we could get it THIS SUMMER, dock it in TC and sail in summer and on vacations.
  • Told Linnea of our plans (we're not telling anyone else yet).  She approves - thinks it sounds sensible.  Her long-term tenant Russell is dead at 62 - cancer.  Live for now.  Don't put off the fun.

Hatching a Plan

     Christmas day.  Sunshine and less wind.  We took a long golf-cart ride with my mom driving, touring along Ocean Drive and out to the end of Brigantine Bay.  A very pleasant day.  We had spaghetti for Christmas dinner (mom didn't want to go to the awesome Spinnaker buffet), and I somehow managed to fatally over-salt the sauce.  It's a mystery, but I will blame it on my mom - she stresses me out.  Had to add another pound of ground beef and an extra can of low-sodium tomatoes to make it edible.  We laughed a lot.
     At some time on this fateful day, one of us asked the other: Are we really going to do this?  

A Plan is Incubating

    December 24, 2010: We're off to Green Turtle Cay.  On the ferry-ride, I felt this wonderful, heart-wrenching pull.  I was breathing with gentle sighs, although I was hardly aware of it at the time.  I think other people feel this way when they return to their childhood homes or their hometowns.  

     Most Green Turtle day-visitors stay in New Plymouth.  It really is an adorable little town.  I have good memories of wandering around in hot weather, the air still and heavy, with the heat reverberating through narrow concrete "streets" and flanking buildings.  I remember visiting with Floey when she was young and spry - she could NOT come to terms with a local goat.  I dimly recall a bit of rum-fueled, happy staggering around that Linnea and I did one time.  All that being said, I find the town to be somewhat claustrophobic, and my preference, when in Green Turtle, is to hang out at the Green Turtle Club.  Sounded like a good idea to Ean (laid back dude that he is), so off we hiked.

    Just out of town, we were offered a ride by a cool ex-pat guy in a gas cart with two big diamond earrings.  (Question: why are golf carts on Green Turtle all gas-driven?)  

At Loose Ends

In the Bahamas, visiting mom for Christmas. December 21, 2010: After a busy day of "home improvement" shopping in Marsh Harbour, we end up at the Jib Room, on the other side of the "harbour." I love the Jib Room. It's that atmosphere of "there is nothing to do, anywhere on the planet, except BE HERE." So we're sitting at a picnic table in the sun, drinking a Kalik (Ean) and the house specialty, Bilge Burner (Jane), and Ean comes up with this gem: "If you don't do anything interesting, you aren't." I know that's what he said, because I actually wrote it down. Many things are profound when you're drinking a Bilge Burner in the sun -

Jib Room: looking out from picnic bench