Tuesday, October 16, 2007

LiLo Update

I warned you that there would be stories of boat maintenance. Well, we have begun.

Two weekends back, Bryan and I traveled to Port Townsend to finalize the paperwork on the new boat. Immediately upon becoming official owners of LiLo, we plunged into the work of rebuilding our rig. The standing rigging that supports the mast had done its job well, but for plenty long enough. We talked about waiting a year or so to have it re-rigged, but concluded that while she was in Port Townsend (aka NW Boating Mecca) we should just get it over with.

Ira, one of the riggers from Port Townsend Rigging, arrived on LiLo just a few minutes after we did and immediately began prepping the boat to have the mast removed. We were a bit surprised at the recommendation to have the rig tuned before we took it off, but once we understood that all measurements for the new rig would be taken from these (now accurately tensioned) stays, we were grateful for the professional help. (I know. Some think boat ownership is a sign we need more professional help.)

The actual mast removal was so smooth and easy, I missed taking a picture.

The boom-truck driver (known to us only by his shop nickname "The Paralyzer"...ask me for the story another time) did a great job and Ira--now joined by Ben--rolled our mast away to the rigging shop. Only then did Bryan and I realize...we had no idea where to find the shop.

The Port Townsend Boat Haven is several city blocks of boat repair bliss. Everywhere you turn you find marine-related industry. Mechanics, riggers, sign carvers, brokers-yes, even a brewery. And lines of boats on stands, some looking as if they were putting down roots, some with bright new blue tarps and busy owners. We wandered through the labyrinth and finally spotted a familiar-looking (if disturbingly horizontal) mast.

Lisa, our guru for all things rigging, walked us through the myriad choices for modern rigging and Ben showed us around the shop. We even got a demonstration of the new swaging machine that connects the steel cable to end fittings by squashing the fitting so tightly around the cable the metal almost fuses. It is way cooler than I make it sound. I found it fascinating, if a bit boggling, to listen to the explanations from these skilled craftsmen/women. It's a good thing the steep learning curve we took on along with the new boat is an enjoyable challenge to both of us. There will be plenty of opportunities to plod upward, but the boating community is a welcoming one and we have met many knowledgeable guides willing to give us a hand up along the way.

Next, we were off to West Marine to consider options for new mast wiring. We didn't know when we would have another opportunity to replace the light fixtures on the mast, so we consulted with several employees and left to get measurements and a good night's sleep.

Back at the boat, I was surprised to hear voices hailing us across the water. Who could know us here? It turned out to be one of the helpful West Marine employees who, along with her husband, had recently arrived from a (unexpectedly extended) passage from Hawaii. They ended up stranded in the NW due to their late arrival and repairs that extended their stay beyond the safe weather window for heading south. We gladly invited them aboard for a look around, feeling a bit strange to be the people with a bigger boat for once. Nissa is 21 feet, so we are used to being the runt. Their blue-water cruiser is 27 feet, so 32-foot LiLo seemed spacious to their eyes. They offered the legendary cruiser's greeting "How about a drink?" and we accepted, following them through the boatyard, past their boat "on the hard" to the brewery where outdoor heaters and live music along with cheap peanuts and good beer (or so I hear) set the stage for a delightful evening of story swapping. We had been almost too busy to be excited on this red-letter day, but it was exhilarating to experience some of the instant camaraderie and companionship we have read so much about. I skipped on the way back "home" for the night. "I feel like a real boat owner now!"

Saturday was full of problem-solving as we fished the old cables out of the mast and pulled in new ones in the gusty winds (up to 30 mph--we measured on our windmeter). We were grateful for grandparents who kept the girls warm and dry at home. We made an impromptu trip to the local marine exchange store and spent far too long poking through piles of curiosities (I got excited anytime I recognized a piece of gear) and chatting with the proprietress who regaled us with stories of her adventures aboard a 29-foot Islander, just a few feet smaller than LiLo. ("If you come to take me off this boat," she told the Coast Guard that stormy night, "come armed!") She congratulated us on our purchase, saying she had made a call trying to buy LiLo soon after we had and suggesting many modifications to the basic Islander design she described as "bulletproof." "If I didn't have 9 boats already (!), I'd be jealous. But you'll have so much fun and she'll always be good to you." Her words followed us like a blessing as we blew back across the boatyard to finish our work.

Sunday, we met the previous owners, Derrell and Lynn, to retrieve the dinghy, the FOUR spare engines, and all the other assorted gear they had collected over the years. Now we were really glad not to have the girls along as there would have been absolutely no room for them in the cab of the truck. As for the bed of the truck...take a look.

But Derrell and Lynn passed on more than just sailing books and gear (including a kitty life jacket. I'm sure Avin will LOVE that...I'll try to get pictures). We are the thankful recipients of their stories and wisdom, and their gracious, full release of LiLo into our care is a blessing beyond telling. We all agree we have found an unbelievable match. We are overwhelmed with LiLo's abundance and Derrell and Lynn have affirmed that the joy we've expressed has tempered their bittersweet choice to let go. (They'll hate that I've published their picture, but it's too good not to share.)

After a final, rather miserable, stop at LiLo's former slip to remove the last bumpers, we returned to Port Townsend, dropped off the dinghy (Lil' Lo) and headed for home.

We're going again this weekend, all of us this time, to re-step the mast and bring LiLo down to her new slip in Olympia. Yes, out in the Puget Sound in a boat with no heater...in October. But you knew we were crazy already. So stick around...there'll be more stories.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What I did on my Summer Vacation

Last week, my family took a sailing/camping trip to Tacoma, Seattle, Sequim and Port Townsend.

We visited the Pacific Science Center,

Our trip included 4 1/2 days on the boat

and 4 1/2 days of camping (here, Meira is playing an Ocarina--a flute-like instrument we found at Pike Place. Hannah is behind the camera, looking through the rungs of the picnic table at our campsite).

We had beautiful weather and lots of fun, but the most exciting part of our trip was the souvenir we purchased.

Yes, we bought a new boat. Yes, we still have Nissa. No, we don't intend to keep her. (This fact elicited many tears from one member of our family as we signed the offer on the new boat.) We have enjoyed many good times aboard, but always knew that when the time was right we would be looking for a more permanent addition to our family. And we have been looking--keeping an eye on the market as we develop our wish list for a boat to fit our family and our dreams. So when we found her, we knew.

Lilo--say "lie-lo", not "lee-lo"--has quite a bit of history. She is a 32 foot Islander built in 1964 and taken through the Panama Canal to California by her first owner. Two more owners eventually followed, the latest owner only acquiring the boat after he introduced the captain to his (available) mother. A wedding ensued.

We wished for ironclad memories as we listened to the owner on our sea trial (test-drive). His family has been involved with Lilo for 26 years and he seemed to know every inch of her systems. He and his wife were so kind and helpful as they demonstrated all the knowledge they have of this particular boat and her individual characteristics. They have customized so many things aboard; we will be blessing them for years as we use their ingenious and thoughtful additions to the living space.

Recently, they decided that it was time to set aside sailing and put Lilo on the market. Thanks to a friend with family in Sequim, we heard about her and decided to take a look while we were in the area. We had already looked at a really nice little Morgan Out Island while we were in Seattle and didn't really think that this boat would top that one. But from the moment we walked up to her slip, we were hooked.

She has a beautiful plank-look hull (the impression of wood with the ease of fiberglass), and her teak brightwork and bronze fittings with their years of patina add appeal to her classic lines. As we explored the boat with the broker, we found even more to love. All the qualities of hull and rudder design we had been looking for combined with a full suit of sails and an impeccable interior with great storage and access. There are double quarterberths, so each of the girls can have her own (albeit small) living space. And in comparison to our 21 foot Nissa, the interior feels so spacious!

So we spent the rest of the evening dreaming and planning and, on our way to the boat festival the next morning, stopped by the brokerage to place an offer. The owner is a teacher, so we didn't expect to hear back until after school got out. But only an hour or so later, as we were sitting in one of the seminars offered at the festival (ironically titled "Fun in Inverse Proportion to Length"), we got the call we had been waiting for. There must have been some wonderment over the eruption of whispered giddiness from our row.

Almost as exciting as the information that our offer was accepted was the fact that the owners were willing to make time for a sea trial before we had to leave town. We were glad to avoid another drive to the area, but also pleased to have this experience as a family. We value the girls' opinions about the boat; they need to be comfortable aboard as well as we do and they noticed things we missed (Meira was excited to be able to reach the sink. She doesn't know how excited I am to have two girls with dish-washing abilities on board!)

If we had any doubts about our decision, the sea trial put them to rest completely. As Bryan got the tour topsides, I went through the interior. The owner and his wife repeated "This comes with the boat" about everything we saw, and told of more boating treasure they had stored at the home. Custom canvas covers and nearly new cushions, bins of tools and navigation equipment, three (THREE!) spare engines with the oil and tools to maintain them. We were staggered by this generosity.

And then we went for a sail.

Oh, but Lilo sails like a dream, straight and easy through the points of sail, just the way a vessel should. She feels secure and trustworthy, graceful, a real lady.
Yes, we're in love and I'm gushing. Please forgive me. It's not every day a dream comes true. I'm sure you will hear more about the repairs and maintenance, the expected frustrations of boat ownership, but indulge me for now as I savor this new grace in our lives.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Day 4

July 8, 2007
We moved slowly away from Tolmie. Bryan made coffee and we motored back to Boston Harbor where we arrived just in time to join the Sunday morning brunch.

After breakfast, Hannah and Meira played in the sand while Bryan and I studied the new knot book we bought "for the girls." While the girls introduced themselves to kids on the beach, Bryan and I sat down on a driftwood log and joined the parent's conversation. They shared recommendations for new places to explore and out-of-the-way parks to visit, even getting out their GPS to show us where they live and to check the tides. After ice cream all around, we said "goodbye" and "see you again" and pointed south to Olympia.
None of us wanted our vacation to end, especially since pulling out means all of the work of putting in, only in reverse and without a good sail to look forward to. So we docked at Percival's Landing in the West bay of Budd inlet instead of motoring straight to the boat launch. We walked past our favorite fountain and browsed a used bookstore before getting a late lunch and heading back to the boat. The launch dock was backed up; someone's engine had died and a few people needed help getting in or out. With all the action, we could see why a few liveaboards brought a picnic dinner and Scrabble board down to watch the show. We pulled out without too much trouble, went through the take-down routines and loaded the truck for the trip home. Olympia to Lafayette, our last leg of the journey. It was just long enough to plan the next adventure!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Day 3

July 7, 2007
We left Longbranch after a (back-by-popular-request) breakfast of eggs-in-a-nest. We tried sailing a bit in Drayton Passage, but couldn't catch much wind until we reached Case Inlet. We stopped in at Zittel's Marina for ice and treats and then sailed Southeast to Tolmie State Park. We were able to sail right in to the mooring buoys, but as we pulled up to one, we realized that they were all private. We weren't where we thought we were! We quickly plotted our location and motored North to the right lagoon and the state park buoys. Bryan rowed us to the beach at a very low tide and we enjoyed the wooded trails and the sandy beach. Can you see Meira's Sand Cat?

Tolmie State Park is a treasure. We were astounded by the fields of sand dollars, some packed so tightly we wound our way through them like walking in a maze. We waded out on the tidal flats around tiny crabs and over slippery seaweed.

We spent several hours-no one was counting-wandering, digging, just being together. We watched clam diggers fill their buckets and then gaped while the bent-nose clams they left behind slid out a tentative foot to dig themselves back into their sandy homes. We learned how to walk barefoot on barnacles, what to call those birds we'd seen, and the convenient fact that flip-flops float. We met other families, some also on vacation, others just there for the day. We took a few last pictures-the precious crab claw was duly recorded-and finally paddled back out in the rising tide to Nissa.

We spent the rest of the evening in our cozy cabin, playing Yahtzee and eating macaroni and cheese (unanimously declared the best ever).

Day 2

July 6, 2007
We left Boston Harbor and headed Northwest in Dana's Passage. The weather was warm, but calm, so we only managed to sail for about 15 minutes. But we enjoyed playing with the compass and binoculars to chart our course and measure our progress.

The harbormaster at Filucy Bay was very helpful, finding us an empty private slip for the night since the guest moorage was expected to be rafted 2 deep on this busy holiday weekend. He found the girls a herring net and we stretched out on the dock and peered into a veritable aquarium of invertebrates. Bryan took the girls for a dinghy-paddling lesson while I sent the aroma of fajitas over the water as a fragrant call to dinner.

We took a walk up the road and back, enjoying the quiet island and peaceful evening.

Apparently the marina is not always this peaceful, because when we returned, we found the way blocked by two dutiful guards. After much questioning and pressing of imaginary buttons, "Marvin" and "Grunzella" were allowed to enter.

Here, the guards tell the story in their own words.

Guard Meira:
"There were some guards and the one that's back behind was not scared; he's dialing the number for the person."

Guard Hannah:
"We were taking a walk. We walked down the road and then we turned around and walked back the way we had come. Then Hannah and Meira were the guards that you see in the pictures."

Raise the Main! Set the Jib!

Every year, the girls grow more helpful on the boat. Here, they are working together to raise the jib sail. They are very cooperative about the safety rules, which require life jackets anytime they are in the cockpit and tethered harnesses whenever the sails are up or the water is choppy. But "Swabbie 1" and "Swabbie 2" don't mind.
They love to set the sails and get going, especially if it means heeling or participating in our new family chant.

"Prepare to come about!," one calls.

The rest answer, "Ready about!"

For now, these tacking instructions just let the girls know when to hang on to their crayons down below and give us a good reason to holler, but on a larger or more complicated boat, proper and efficient communication is essential.

Forecast: Blogging Flurries

My silence on this blog does not reflect a lack of notable events in my life. Surprisingly, it does not even reflect a lack of writing. I have just been writing for other venues, so I will now be flooding you with posts cut-and-pasted from other places on my hard drive and augmented with pictures. Here's the first, some pictures from a sailing trip earlier this year and the log from the first day.

July 5, 2007
We arrived in Olympia after a busy morning of packing and a drive up to Washington in the beautiful weather.
While Bryan put up the mast, Hannah and Meira sat in the shade and looked at books. Bryan's mast system has been revised several times over the last few years and he is now able to safely raise or lower the mast without assistance in just 15 minutes.
We loaded the boat, inflated the dinghy, and were ready to go. However, the tide was too low to allow us to launch, so we used the time to relax with cold drinks and locate some ice.
We finally launched without any more trouble about 6:15 PM. After navigating the channel out of Swantown Marina (in the East bay of Budd Inlet) we came upon a large sailboat race-probably more than 20 boats-and had to sail on the outside of the channel markers to stay out of the way.
We had planned to stay in Filucy Bay or Tolmie State Park that night, but due to the late start and our low fuel supply, we decided to stay in Boston Harbor. The guest moorage was full for the night, so we anchored out near the mooring field west of the marina. By now, we were all ready for homemade clam chowder; we ate a whole pot!
The next morning, as we sat at anchor, some kayakers paddled by. Hannah called out, "How are you?" and before they could answer, Meira yelled, "Good!"
We stopped by the fuel dock as we left and walked to the marina for a few minutes to stretch our legs. The girls were fascinated by the "fried egg" jellyfish and the marina employees filleting fish near the marina store.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Today I...

...cleaned up cat puke, thrice
...broke a plate
...burned my hand (a pretty hefty burn and I am playing for worship at a women's group tomorrow)
...found out that my sister is in jail for a DUI
...got an update on my grandma-in-law who is in the hospital
...spilled a cup of soured milk on my lunch, across the counter and down into the dishtowel drawer
...got an update on my brother who ODed over the weekend (my younger siblings joined my family as older children and brought a lot of difficult baggage they are still sorting through)
but I also...
...went for a walk in the snow with my daughters (laughing all the way)
...snuggled with the aforementioned cat (not her fault someone left a bowl of bean soup within her reach)
...received a conciliatory hug from my eldest
...spent time at the library with my children's librarian buddies
...baked cookies
...caught snow on my tongue
...gave away a frozen meal to someone who needed it more than I
...watched my daughters dance to jazz music
...found the matching lid for my leftovers container on the first try
...sent evites for my 30th birthday party
...made honey-mustard-curry chicken
...treasured (once again) my luminous life