Saturday, January 9, 2010

Winter – This Blog Returns to the Moment

Here we are freezing in Monterey again. I am mostly just standing around waiting to drive Chloe to her next event. School – homework - school – doctor – hair – school – mom's house - party – homework – school. I just stand here in the apartment looking out at the dreary grey uninviting Monterey Bay. I'm making an effort to see all the local friends while I'm here. While my general rule is that no plan is the best plan, I have made a tentative plan because airlines, boat sellers and such see business differently. I will dawdle here in Monterey for a few days. Then go to Mexico to take the old spoiled cheese out of her fridge, check the docklines, pickle the watermaker and have a few fun days with the friends there. I'll return to Mexico at the end of February to sail Eupsychia up to Monterey where she should have an easier time finding a buyer.

When the purchase of Red Sky is completed, and there is nothing simple about international business, I will fly to Malaysia. The current owners are leaving immediately for an extended stay ashore in Thailand. I will take the boat a few hundred miles north to the island of Langkawi. Chloe and I visited there during the Christmas holiday and found Langkawi is a popular yachting center. While there I will haul the '50 out of the water to freshen up the bottom paint. I am planing on having time for a short cruise before I need to fly back to Monterey and Mexico.

This Santa Cruz 50 is presently named Red Sky. She's been cruised by Steve and Carol Easterbrook to Southeast Asia over the past few years after an extensive refit in San Francisco. Prior to that she was sailed in the San Francisco area by Bartz and Bernadette Schneider as Entropy. The records become sketchy, but apparently she was at times sailed as Cara, Clark Kent and Six Belles by various owners perhaps in Florida and on the East Coast. She's hull number 23, built in 1982. Standard size rig plus an inner headstay. Standard keel but a newer carbon elliptical rudder. Her interior is typical. She's encumbered by a good bit of the necessary cruising gear but I believe I can cruise lighter than most people so hope to unload a few hundred pounds to refloat her on her lines.

Of all the things that a boat's name is, from the philosophical to a clever play on words, for a busy cruising boat the name needs to read well over the radio. Eupsychia is a cool word with its new age ring of sweet soul, but it is frustrating on the radio. Some know it but cannot read it - others can hear it but not repeat it - port captains cannot write it even when spelled echo-uniform-papa-sierra-yankee-charlie-hotel-india-alpha in the phonetic alphabet. The pen refuses to form the letters. So I am considering a simple name. Very simple. Something like X. I have several other choices too. Whatever I choose I will explain my own whackiness in this blog. I've got the science to back up my choices.

Summer Fades to Fall

Chloe drags herself back into high school as a junior. Eupsychia and I get ready for another Baja Ha-Ha. The Ha-Ha is best done with some crew. I choose to take some relatively beginning sailors rather than any of the known rabble of sailing friends. I can have my way with them while introducing this very fun event to some new people. I find these two characters, Evan and Christine, by making a posting on the Ha-Ha crew-wanted list. Evan is a eager and well spoken recent college grad. Some sailing experience. Christine is roughly my age, eager, and sails her own big boat on San Francisco Bay. While all the applicants for the positions, and there were about a hundred, express their eagerness and experience I am only looking for people who will not be boring. No experience expected. I can do it myself if necessary and most of the experience claimed is only on paper. I succeeded.

The Ha-Ha starts from San Diego. I choose to make the 3 day sail south from Monterey singlehanded. I had a great trip that was however not without its challenges. In a pretty good evening blow while very close to Santa Cruz Island approaching an anchorage – Bang -all the boat's power went out. No autopilot, compass lights, navigation equipment – nothing - very dark. Windy and bumpy enough that I really couldn't leave the helm to investigate. Fortunately nearby was my new geeky iPhone. The iPhone has a compass, a GPS, and I'd recently loaded a program that has all the California nautical charts. Pretty cool and it sure made the evening safer and easier. Sitting there in complete darkness I pondered just what might cause the power to go out with a bang and what I might do to restore it. Evantually I was able to restore power by simply flipping a nearby switch to a new position. After anchoring I discovered that the liferaft had become unstowed down below and fallen onto the main battery shutoff switch. Swithing it to off, of course.

The next evening, becalmed behind Santa Catalina Island, I start to motor. Bang - the boat becomes a shaking blur. Something bad has happened with the propeller. Forced to motor for 30 minutes because yet again I'm closer to land that I really should be – this time with no wind with which to maneuver. I take a look at the engine. Its just a blur of vibration. But I figure it's maybe not enough shaking to actually damage anything. I very slowly motor out to where the feeble current and breeze will drift me all night away from the island into open water. At morning light I jump in with the mask for a look. Sure enough one of the propeller blades is completely missing. As nice as it is to have a simple and certain diagnosis the prospect is dim for replacing the propeller in the few days remaining before the Ha-Ha start. But I get on the phone to my always supportive sister Sue. Sue gets on the phone and locates a propeller at a San Diego shop. They recommend a diver who can replace it. Christine finds a boatyard to accept us. It all works out great. As an added bonus I get an extra two days at sea sailing very slowly to San Diego. Can I brag here about docking at the unfamiliar boatyard singlehanded under sail? Should I recommend that everyone practice such things as often I have?

The Ha-Ha was great of course. Christine proved she can both cook well and lean on the instrument switches every time she comes on deck. Evan proved he has all the optimistic energy of youth. There was some rather rough weather for a few days. We broke some minor things when sailing went haywire. Some of the watch standing was pathetic. We all learned a lot. The parties were in the tradition of Ha-Ha fun. And the weather got warmer and warmer each day. I was really missing having Heather along like we were the past two years.

Despite my constant ribbing and mild abuse of the crew they decided to stay on for the several day trip from Cabo San Lucas south-east to Bandaras Bay. We spent several fine days in the beach side village of Chacala before dwaddling into La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, my favorite place to idle. But idleness does not happen. Life here is busy and fun. We sail, we race, we party, we wreck kayaks on the beach, we tease women and they tease us. Sometimes we eat bad food other times the alcohol eats us.

Throughout this time I am calling and emailing regarding buying a Santa Cruz 50. On paper Red Sky, the '50 out cruising in Southeast Asia, is by far the best deal. She's all set up for cruising, has a new rig, good rudder, apparently well cared for, and since she's busy cruising must be mostly functional and seaworthy. However her being in Malaysia makes communication, inspection and buying a formidable project. I get serious. Chloe and I decide to take a Christmas break holiday to Malaysia. Wow, I have forgotten just how dreadfully uncomfortable a long flight is. This discomfort becomes a small consideration in moving my cruising venue from nearby Mexico to distant Southeast Asia. I'm thinking an infinity asea is better than 20 hours aloft. On inspection the boat look good. A bit worn, like Eupsychia, from her 3 years and thousands of miles of cruising. But all-in-all in fine shape. She will do just fine. I agree to buy her.

Photo of Red Sky: Yachtdomain, Bundaberg, Australia
Photo of Eupsychia: Richard, Latitude38

A Winter Blog about A Summer

It's mid-winter now. Visiting in Monterey for a few days. No blog updates since summer. A large amount of life has happened. All pretty good. Some a little painful. Saw many local friends at the yacht club last night – its January now. Each remarked that they miss knowing what I'm doing. Their dreams are suffering. Here's a stumbling summary. Spent the summer in Monterey. What the local's call summer. Cleaned and painted Eupsychia's bottom but the weather was so cold the paint wouldn't dry. It might harden in a few days. The sun might even shine. But each day out of the water costs money and there is no time to wait for global warming.

Daughter Chloe and I went to New York. Cool music and hanging out in Washington park. Shopping in Soho and seeing the Hair musical. Viewed the Bodies exhibit. Real bodies stripped of the flesh. Very interesting and somehow not as upsetting as I had expected. Perfect weather, Central park, subways, great pizza, all good.

Worked on the cabin in Big Sur where we are not really keeping up with the decay, bugs and rodents. The worst invasive pests are the fellow humans pretending to be friends and neighbors. But it is a nice place. Maybe someday I'll retire there from cruising. Fortunately, like the sea around my boat, the redwoods, rocks and waterfalls are best left to maintaining themselves.

Pulled the cantankerous engine out of Eupsychia. That greasy relationship was blogged above. The little beast powered us all the way up from Mexico last Spring without a single complaint. But I'd left a redundant bolt out of a part deep inside her. On taking the engine apart to simply replace the bolt I discovered more internal damage. A pile of metal chips. Something not understood was causing havoc. That was a Thursday morning. A couple of phone calls, the checkbook, and Friday saw me up in Sausalito picking up a new engine. On Monday Eupsychia was humming with her new bright red engine.

On the subject of broken: All summer I dragged my broken heart around. Parting with “the world's best girlfriend” so she might pursue her own dreams as I do mine was more painful than I expected. We sure had a good time, as the earlier blogs attest.

While in La Paz last spring Bay Wolf, a Santa Cruz 50 sloop, was out of the water for painting. There's some earlier blogging about the fine sailing family that sails her. At some point I made a now widely reported remark that a Santa Cruz 50 is the only other sailboat I would consider owning. Well that comment echoed around all summer. I spent a good deal of time looking into buying a such a boat while considering if it was a reasonable and sane thing to do. I came around to the idea that neither reasonable or sane was necessary. But buying such a boat proved harder than one might expect. Of the few that were available one has been modified so much as to become useless to probably anyone. Another was maybe for sale and maybe not but either way at an uncompetitive price. The most desirable boat was 8000 miles away actively cruising in Southeast Asia. Nothing came of this all summer.