Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Slice of Life

This story has a bit of an edge to it.

Bad pun.

My humor is not as sharp as some knives.

Ouch. Worse pun.

Okay, let me just cut to the chase.

By now you are writhing in just about as much pain as Jennifer was on Wednesday, the 21st, when she sliced her fingers.

Jen showing off her Mini Mouse fingers. 

She was trying to get one of those annoying, plastic zip ties off some packaging. Scissors weren’t doing the trick, so she picked up one of her brand new, super sharp pairing knives and sliced away.

Right through the tips of her forefinger and middle finger tips.

This was around 7:30 and we trotted off to an immediate care facility. After an hour or so, we finally got to see a doctor who took one look at Jennifer’s fingers and started a professional retreat.

“Wow, hand injury, huh? Well, I might be able to do something for you, but ... well, what’s your profession? Do you use your hands? Is it important to keep your finger tips?”

I’m not making this up.

“I suggest you go to the hospital which specializes in hand injuries. I’ll call ahead and tell them you will need a hand specialist.”

By now, he had Jennifer sufficiently freaked out. I had taken a quick, queasy look at her fingers and couldn’t believe this was all as bad as he was saying. But I felt that maybe this guy was saying he wasn’t that good at suturing.

So, off to the next hospital. Another sitting around for another two hours until we finally got to see a doctor. She was great.

She told us that the outpatient facility gets paid by the number of patients they treat and don’t want to spend more than ten minutes with any given person. So they make up all kinds of excuses to send people who need stitches elsewhere. She reassured us that the cuts were not that bad.

Jennifer was a champ throughout the whole process. She never cried. She was making chatty conversation with everyone along the way. The Novocain shots were incredibly painful but she suffered through them. And she even refused to take the proscribed amount of painkillers for the following week. Something about wanting to be just below the level of comfortable. An attitude I don’t understand, but admire.

Since then, her “Micky Mouse fingers” have not slowed her down. She makes coffee, cooks, does the dishes and the laundry. And generally makes sure we have a clean, warm and wonderful home while we two grunts trot off to the boat every day.

She’s a brave and strong woman.

Today, she and I celebrate four years together. And our relationship is four times better than that first day we met. I love her dearly. And I’m pretty sure she loves me too.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Harbor Jaunt

A few days ago, Jeff and I moved Phoenix from the marina in Essex, MD to a marina in Baltimore city called Tidewater Yacht Service Center.

We had tried the day before, but as we were loading the boat with stuff the day before, I noticed that something was quite right. Something about moving around on the boat didn’t feel natural. It was absolutely still water. There was no wind so the boat was lying still. But still in an odd way. Almost too still. And yet when I stood at the edge to take another tool bag on board, she did move, but more like dipped to the side.

I finally figured it out and stood in the middle of the boat and tried to rock her side to side. (Takes a bit of work with a 23,000 pound boat.) She eventually rocked, but in a very stiff way. That confirm it. She was sitting on the muddy bottom of the marina harbor.

We turned on the depth sounder and sure enough, it showed less than our six feet of draft.

We postponed to the next day. The high tide was going to be around 7:30. And the weather forecast was good. We got to the boat around 8:00 and cast off a bit later.

We had no GPS chartplotter. I had bought a chart book a couple days before, but the scale was pretty small. The local West Marine didn’t have a large scale harbor chart for the area.

So, we turned to Steve Jobs as our navigator. Turns out, he was dead. So we used one of his iPads instead. Well, legally, Jennifer’s iPad. I downloaded Navionics, a chart and routing program. Jennifer has a cell-phone chip in her iPad, so we would get GPS-type of location service on our trip.

The iPad predicted a 24 nautical mile trip. About four hours at our cruising speed of six knots.

The day before, we had asked a local sailor for local knowledge – a crucial thing in the capricious Chesapeake Bay.

“Stay to the right,” was his warning.

We cast off and immediately found ourselves surrounded by fog. That was disturbing. The iPad was updating our position, but not as regularly as one is used to with a standard GPS.

At times, we could see only 500 feet or so. (150 meters.)

This was one of the clearer moments.

The slip of land off to starboard is Fort Howard Park. 
A “Securitee” warning on the radio said one canal was closing due to fog. It was too late for us to turn back. We were committed. Eventually the fog lifted becoming a complete cloud cover over the inlets and harbors of Baltimore.

As we approached the Francis Scott Key bridge, a freighter passed us.

Note the Pilot Boat that is accompanying the ship. We got to watch the pilot climb the freighter’s ladder. 
It didn’t look as if the freighter would fit under the bridge. It’s always a delightful distortion with which foreshortening teases sailors. Regardless of how high the bridge is, it seems as if your mast will smack against the trusses.

And now Phoenix sits in the marina.

For the first time, I noticed her previous hailing port was Rockland, ME.  That is where my sailing experience begun in earnest when I worked on the schooner "J & E Riggin" for a summer as a deckhand.
Tidewater is a full-service marina that is going to help us with all kinds of upgrades, additions and repairs. Unfortunately, it will take much longer than the short two weeks we had hoped. So we are settling in for a month-long stay here in Baltimore.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Moving Phoenix

Not much time to write today. (Some of you are breathing a sigh of relief.) But here's a quick update.

Jeff (Jennifer's brother - aka the Abbot) and I are moving the new boat from its current place: Maryland Marina (in Essex, MD) to Tidewater Yacht Service Center, in downtown Baltimore.

I tried to create a map. Hopefully this works. Look for the blue map markers.,-76.49334&spn=0.196757,0.395851

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Review Of Sailboats and How We Came To Our New Boat

After four months of searching for a boat; after looking online at hundreds, if not thousands, of listings; after meeting with six brokers and visiting dozens of boats; we have a new boat.

It was hard to consistently convince brokers and folks we met that we didn’t want the typical Mediterranean type of sailboat: A Beneteau, Jeanneau or Bavaria. People here love those boats with their large cockpits, spacious cabins and light weights. But they just aren’t built robustly enough for bluewater cruising.

A Bavaria "Cruiser 36" straight from their website. Wow, I didn't think it would that easy to find an example of how ugly her lines are.

When we insisted on a bluewater boat, the Med sailors immediately blurted: Halberg Rassy. To be sure, they are fine boats. We visited one. They are heavy and well-built with lots of solid teak inside. But topsides, they look more like your standard Chlorax bottle than a traditional boats.

When we insisted that we want a traditional-looking boat, the Med sailors immediately blurted: “Oh you mean a Colin Archer type.”

In Europe, any boat that is fat, heavy and double-ended (like the Hans Christian) is called a “Colin Archer type.” Most often, when someone asked us what kind of boat we once had, we got a blank stare when we answered, “Hans Christian.” Eventually, we learned to add, “A Colin Archer type.” Eyes would brighten, heads would nod, and acknowledgment would ensue. “Oh sure, sure. A Colin Archer type.”

Here's a beautiful Colin Archer design. Heavy, double-ended, and this one with a stately pilothouse.

I know I’m using a broad brush right now and painting all “Med sailors” as parochial. But underlying my fun is a more interesting phenomena: that each region of the world has its preference not just for traditional types of boats, but even more modern designs.

Jennifer and I, for instance, had no idea that bluewater boats just are not favored and hard to find here in the Mediterranean. Who would have thought? Nor did I know a darn thing about the most common cruising boat here in Turkey: the gulet.

A Turkish gulet can range in size from 20 feet to over 100. The smaller ones (above) are the old traditional ones. The larger ones (below) are fancy bastardized versions made to accommodate as many staterooms as possible and offer an elegant and romantic way to experience the Aegean islands. 

When I offered to write an article about it for an American sailing magazine, the editors wrote back to say they would have to research what kind of boat that was. Admittedly, the magazine focused on the traditional American sailboats, but still, it points out how different styles, tastes and designs are all around the world.

Who among us, who know what a junk is, doesn’t remember learning of this odd boat and even odder name which still forces us to stifle a snicker every time we talk about one?

Quite a nice photo of a Chinese Junk. The sails are often this shade of color.

During our search, some of the common names we narrowed in on were: Tayana, Westsail, Slocum, other Hans Christians, Formosa, Cheoy Lee, Bruce Roberts, Taiwan Clipper, Vagabond, Ta Chiao.

We toured several Nauticats, which are pilothouse boats. We didn’t like that the pilothouse itself took up so much space without offering well-design usage in return. It was just a lot of wasted space.

A Lord Nelson presented as a viable candidate for a while. And so did a Polaris. Both are quite similar in weight, style and structure to the Hans Christians.

We had a few basic criteria for a boat:

1)  It had to have a large galley. Preferably u-shaped. The worst galleys were what we called “alley galleys;” the ones in a narrow hallway leading back to an aft stateroom.

2)  It had to have an accessible engine. Having drifted in the Hudson River replacing fuel filters and wallowed in shipping lanes while replacing an alternator belt, I have a well-founded preference for quick access to the engine.

3)  The boat had to look traditional. This generally meant that we preferred teak decks to fiberglass ones. We preferred metal cowls to plastic. Reverse transoms were out. Double-enders were in. Bowsprits made up for other ills.

4)  The masterberth had to have a backrest. Jennifer and I enjoy sitting up in bed, reading or doing the crossword, or sharing the laptop between us to watch a movie.

The last criterion was the most difficult to satisfy. In fact, it was so difficult to find a masterberth with a backrest that about 98% of the boats were knocked out of the running from the get-go.

Mathias sleeping in the pullman berth of our former Hans Christian 33. Note crossword. Note perfectly placed reading lamps. Note the sweet pouch hanger which Jennifer made. Note our Ugly Dolls. In shot below, you can see the curtains Jennifer made for the berth.

This is stunning to me. I suppose if we had never had the luxury of the Hans Christian’s roomy pullman berth, we never would have known – and come to love – the benefits of its design. But now that we have lain in the lap of indulgence, we never again want to suffer the awkwardness and claustrophobia of v-berths, dark quarterberths, low-overhead aft staterooms.

Allow me a short tirade on the v-berth. It is a hold-over from the days of yore when cruising was new and all. Sailboats were for sailors and comfort was for wimps. Heads? Nonsense! Buckets were used. So, when berths had to be designed in, they squeezed them into the last undesigned space. But why design boats that way today? It leaves your head laying at an edge. You loose your pillow in the night. Your feet are entangled with your partner's. And the worst: you have to crawl over your clean bed to get to the dirty anchor chain locker. Ok, enough.

There is a Tayana design with a pullman berth, but in order to accommodate it, a quarterberth is sacrificed. We visited two schooners by the designer Daniel Bombigher, which I absolutely fell in love with. The Shpountz had a pullman-style berth, but unfortunately a tiny galley and it lacked decent storage. It was another case, where Jennifer and I had diametrically opposed feelings about the boat. But our feeling is that when it comes to living aboard, each spouse has veto rights.

Us aboard a Daniel Bombigher designed Shpountz, a gorgeous schooner. Men, buy one before you meet your wife. (Jennifer just read this caption and said, "You're already one up by having bought a boat before you met me. Don't get greedy.")
The only other boats we found with a pullman berth, a good galley, accessible motor, and a traditional look were ... quelle surprise: Hans Christians. The HC pilothouses have pullmans, but the 39 Pilothouse’s motor is below the floorboards. The 44 Pilothouse has a cramped aft stateroom and ridiculous aft helmstation from which you can’t see forward. One of the HC38 layouts has a pullman, but the galley is needlessly chopped up (to provide a second access to the salon bench.)

That leaves only the HC41, Molokai edition, and the HC33. We might have considered a 41, but we were spared the agony of deciding on this more expensive boat because none were available on the Atlantic. And that left us with the HC33. What is amazing about the 33 over the 41, is that it offers just about all the 41 does in less space. Except for the workshop. (Sigh.)

It has been a long, winding road to come back home. Cue Beatles. Mash in metaphors from The Wizard of Oz. Reference the Odyssey.

The 33 is the most intelligently designed cruising boat. Period. In 33 feet, you get a separate shower; two enclosed berths: a queen-sized master and double-sized quarter; u-shaped galley; a salon that can host a dinner for eight; nav station; and since the tanks are built into the keel, as much storage room than larger boats.

In Essex, MD, lies a HC33 by the name of Starlight. Last week, we put a deposit on her. In three days, we will pack up our belongings, leave behind this wonderful old stone house by the Mediterranean, and fly to Essex to begin fitting her out for our continued adventure.

We are excited to have a new boat. Frustrated about spending money we already spent on equipment and belongings we lost in the fire. We are nervous and anxious about the stress of working side by side, fitting her out, while living in a hotel room for weeks. We are happy to use this opportunity to visit with friends we haven’t seen in a long time. We are sad to be leaving behind friends we made here in Turkey. We are fulfilled by having gotten to spend the winter in this seaside ancient Mediterranean town. We are looking forward to visiting islands in the Aegean. And beyond.

Starlight, a Hans Christian 33. She lies Essex, MD, awaiting us.