Tuesday, April 24, 2007

To the Pacific!

Ok, so I cheated a little and flew to San Diego first, but I still accomplished a milestone. I’ve been wanting to take Romance out for several weeks now that I have moved to Texas and I just haven’t slipped the lines for some reason. There really is no other excuse other than I have thought about it for too long and let fear of single handing get the upper hand. I decided to do something about that.

I had to come to San Diego on a business trip and found myself pretty well caught up by 4:30 in the afternoon. I ran down to Marina Sailing of Southern California (www.marinasailing.com) and rented a little Hunger 290 called BeesNees. I didn’t know if Marina Sailing had rules about singlehanding or not so when they asked how many life jackets I needed I quickly replied that two should be sufficient. No lie there as two were absolutely more than sufficient.

After a quick walk through I started prepping the boat for a quick run to the line of demarcation where the Bay ends and the Pacific begins. The wind was blowing 15 – 20 and I felt the pang of fear come back as I started considering how to maneuver out of the slip without taking out the boat next to me. The only relief I get from these thoughts are to think the solution right through them. Once I had the girl ready I loosed the port stern line, released the starboard bow line, released the port bow line, and managed to keep her still long enough to crawl aboard and get her out into open water without incident. That’s when the real fun began.

Did I say I had never singlehanded a boat before? Not even a little one. With no crew and no autopilot I wasn’t just real sure how to keep that full batten main head to wind while I was hoisting the halyard. Sure enough, it took several pauses to realign the boat and get the main up, but I did it. Turning for the Coronado Islands of Mexico she heeled over and started close reaching at 4.5 knots. After getting the feel under main alone I tied the helm to hold her and went forward to bring out the jib which quickly brought her up to 7.3 knots and buried the port rail in the water.

Fortunately the main had a reef already tied into it otherwise I would have stuck to main alone, but regardless, this was a great sail. Tacking singlehanded is a bit more difficult, but certainly nothing a determined person can’t accomplish. It was also exactly the confidence boost I was looking for before taking Romance out singlehanded or even with a less experienced short handed crew. I’ve got to admit as well, it was nice to be back in deep, clear blue water.

Fair winds, following seas, and clear blue water.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Settling In

Every now and then you land somewhere new, pause to take a look around and say, “Yeah, this is it”. I spent the week in Kemah settling into my new office and new home, Romance. Many times I’ve moved and told myself I’d make an effort to get more involved in the community and get to know the people I was living around. It never seemed to happen for one reason or another. I was dedicated to doing the same thing with this move and amazingly, the community seems to be pulling me into it more than I’ve gone out looking for them.

The first part of the week was pretty slow even through I have a million things I wanted to get done to the boat. As the week moved on I seemed to pick up steam tackling jobs like removing the old autopilot, installing new Lewmar 40 self tailing winches, replacing the genoa sheets, taking my primary 150% genoa to Cameron Sails, and generally cleaning the place up. At the end of Thursday I ran into the harbor restaurant for a burger and ran into a really cool local couple. I was a little freaked out as the guy looks like the identical twin of my buddy Jeremy in Dallas. They both have the same oversized head and are brilliant when it comes to military history. They were good folks I am hoping to stay in touch with.

The same night I met a Brit who lives locally and was throwing a “black tie optional” St. Georges Party tonight (sat). Long story short, I’ve pulled out my best suit and will be heading up the ramp this evening to meet all kinds of locals out to live up St. Georges. Turns out St. Georges is the British equivalent of the Irish’s St. Patty’s Day. This gave me a great way to meet the locals at what should be a pretty cool event. They even hooked me up with a skipper who is looking for crew on the Sat. and Wed. J109 racing circuit.

Friday, as I am finishing up the winch job, one of my neighbors pulled back into their slip after a week long cruise. Next thing I know I am sitting back in the same bar as the night before having drinks and talking boat projects. I was definitely sorry to see the Razorbacks move off the pier, but turns out I’ve still got some really cool neighbors. These are the kind of people it’s fun to grab a beer with and they have been filling me in on all the local hotspots. I’ve got to get the dink in the water as it looks like that’s the safest way to bar hop around Kemah considering the police force is really, really bored.

Things are coming together in a good way.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Big Changes, Few Words

I’ve been pretty tongue tied lately and haven’t been able to blog. That certainly doesn’t mean things haven’t been happening. I broke up with my girlfriend of 3.5 years three weeks ago tomorrow.

She was and is an amazing woman that I deeply loved, but I knew that if I hadn’t committed myself to the relationship in that amount of time, I wasn’t going to. It may well be that I let myself get spread too thin to dedicate myself to making the relationship work. For some reason I quit talking to her about what was wrong and let things lay to the point that, looking at the relationship from a distance, it made more since to me to go separate directions than to continue trying together.

I’ve been using a large stick to beat back the urge to drink, smoke, and rebound may way back to normalcy. Lots of positives have come out of the past few weeks and I want to keep up the trend. The major change is that I now live aboard Romance! That’s right, considering I had moved from St. Louis, MO into my lady’s house I didn’t really have a place to live. I couldn’t even consider moving back into an apartment after living in great houses for the past six years. Too depressing. That combined with the urge to step up the refit of Romance made the plan pretty clear. Move aboard the boat. So that is exactly what I did. This has presented a few problems.

Of no small matter is the fact I cover the west coast of these United States as a sales rep for Thermo Fisher. I’ve got a new boss that looks very promising, but I sure hope they don’t have a problem with my new commute. In reality, I’ve got better access to most west coast cities from Houston than I did from Albuquerque, NM. To make sure my working conditions are conducive to selling, I’ve rented a 300 sqft office space on the water in the Marina next door. This will let me get some separation from living and working quarters while providing a real office from which I can stay on top of my business. Plus it is only a five minute walk from the boat.

The second trick I’ll need to pull off is graduating from my Executive MBA program in New Mexico while living in Texas. I am currently 32,000 feet above ground on a flight from Houston Hobby to Albuquerque for class this weekend. One more biweekly commute for the calendar, but what the hell. It won’t cut into my work schedule any more than it already did and I’ve been racking up the Southwest Rapid Rewards vouchers so I shouldn’t even be out of pocket for the next couple of months.

For those of you who really know me, you probably are wondering what I’ve done with Georgia, my dog. Well, she is safe and sound on the boat with me. We’ve been slowly learning the ways around the boat like getting up the dock step, down the companionway stairs, and with a little help from yours truly back up the companionway stairs. She has really taken to it extremely well. Seeing her paws slip on the nonskid will force me to raise new and more course nonskid up on the project to do list. It will be much more safe for her and me.

I’ve also stepped up the refit in a big way. This week I finally lowered my gigantic dingy off its davits and into the water. She needed a cleaning in a big way, but actually looks pretty damn good after a scrub. The 15 hp Mercury probably hasn’t been started in a couple years and the fact the spark plugs were corroded and crumbling had me a little worried. Amazingly, she fired right up on the fourth pull. I’ll have to replace some of the electrical lines as they are pretty shot, but once I get a battery in and the running lights up, I think she will serve me well.

The next big step hurt the cruising kitty. I used Froogle (this google product is worthy of its own blog) to find the best deal possible on both a set of Lewmare 40ST Chrome winches and Raymarine Autopilot with the S3 Corepack, ST6002 Control Head, and Type 2 short linear drive arm. This is oversized and can easily handle a boat up to 33,000 lbs. Romance is only 23,000. I shelled out about $5,500 for the lot, but should be getting 2,900 back for the Maxprop that didn’t fit and a nice little tax return for 2,900 so by my math I am ahead $500 bucks. (yeah, I know that doesn’t really add up)

In addition to working on the boat on my off class weekends I really want to make an effort to get involved in the sailing clubs around Kemah. I’ve written a few times about the benefits of racing to learn how to sail a cruising boat more effectively. I’ve had a few invites in the past, but living in New Mexico really prevented me from accepting any of them. If you are in the Clear Lake area and need green racing crew, shoot me an email. I’d love to get involved and race as often as possible. Anyone know if there are Wed. night races?

Fair winds, following seas, and new beginnings.


P.S. I am holding a competition to name the dingy. I am looking for funny, smart, and creative so send me all ideas. Not sure yet what the winner will win, but never you mind. Just keep those ideas rolling.