Sunday, March 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Dad!

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Happy Birthday to Max Winters! That's my Dad.

Short post today. I am just finishing off some breakfast this morning then I am headed up to Houston for a photography class. I put a little money into a really good still camera, a Nikon D40x. The Houston Center for Photography has basic and intermediate classes so I am starting at the most basic class they offer. Hopefully the effort will show up in the pictures I post.

On another note. I am selling the 12 foot, rigid fiberglass dink that come with Romance. It's way too big for the deck when I am offshore and I can't leave it on the davits when I am sailing in open water for fear a wave could crash in it ripping it off the transom. I should get my new AB 10.5 foot dingy next week. My neighbor needed one as well so we pooled our purchasing power and got a pretty good buy. Can't wait to go for a ride. When you are out cruising your dink is just as important as your car is to you today. I got a good one.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Less is more

This is true more often than we might think. It’s a concept I am struggling with almost everyday for the past few weeks. My departure date is almost 8 months away now, but I really feel like it will be here tomorrow.

Six years. I’ve been planning this and working to make it happen for six years. In that time I’ve almost gotten married, but ended a four year relationship, held three different jobs, lived in three different states, lived in four different cities, finished an MBA, learned how to sail, owned two boats, rebuilt and learned to ride a motorcycle, and bought the boat I think can take me around the world.

I am trying to reconcile 8 months with the need to see and spend time with my family and friends, find and secure sponsors, finish the four dozen projects on the boat, make enough money in my present job to pay for all that still needs paying, finish the website and solidify the partnership with SOS Children’s Villages, give up a six figure salary, raise the media machine I need to get donations going to SOS, learn how to take good photographs, hire a professional photog to take pics for the website, take some writing classes, and generally keep a good handle on reality.

I’ve been running more and more lately. I don’t know how to describe it without sounding a little touched, but whatever the thing is that pulls me to go sailing is also pulling me to run. The closer I get to it the more I feel it. Sailing, and running, has become a need. They are no longer a want or desire, but things I know I have to do. I literally feel pulled to do them just like a fish on a hook. Hopefully I won’t end up in a frying pan.

I’ve been using the marketing side of my brain the last few hours trying to figure out how I can add to the draw of the blog and get more readers involved. I think the best idea is to have the site sponsor an individual child from each country I’ll be visiting through SOS Children’s Villages. If I can do this I’ll be able to generate a dialogue with a child under the care of SOS learning about them before I arrive. That way when I do get there we’ve already got something of a relationship and I can get to know them much better in the short time I’ll be at their village. This should also give the readers a chance to get to know the kids better.

The other little known aspect is that my pup, a 10 year old Siberian husky will be making the trip with me. If I can get the some publicity with dog and animal lovers it’s a huge market to break into. That should add huge numbers to the readership. For those who have no idea why I am concerned with readership, well, it all boils down to charitable donations. In the end, part of the measure of success for this trip will be the amount of dollars donated by my readers to the multi-national 501(c)3 non-profit SOS Children’s Villages. I need my trip to be about more than my personal gratification.

It is all coming together. It’s going to be a long push between now and November, but it’s happening. It seems like I’ve lost a little of the whimsy that I usually have and no doubt there is a little stress to pull everything off, but it is all really good. I can’t wait to go sailing.

UPDATE: The above was written last night as I was flying to San Francico for work on Easter Sunday. I’ve been smiling all day. I had a great talk with the folks at SOS Children’s Villages and I got a little more reassurance that we are all on the same page with the project. The sent me a picture of a little girl that lives in Limon, Costa Rica. That is one of the sites I’ll be visiting on my route to the Panama Canal. Kind of pulls at the heart strings huh?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I’ve really got a problem.

But it’s boring to lead a blog with the problem of the day. Despite my problem, want to know how I can tell I am in a good mood? When’s the last time you gave your shopping cart a big shove and jumped on not to jump off again until you almost cream some random car in the parking lot? That was me coming out of the Target today. It’s been awhile since I’ve done that and I used to do it all the time. I highly recommend it.

Now, on to the problem. I already said I set a lot of goals for myself. I just found out there is a single handed race coming up on April 18th. Single handed is when a person sails a boat by themselves. Something I do quite a bit. It’s called the Conundrum because there are 3 oil rigs you have to sail out to and sail back from one at a time. The trick is to determine what order you should go after them. Hence the name Conundrum. I’ve got a lot of work to do to get the boat ready for an overnight sailboat race, but I’d sure like to try my hand at this one. Not so much because of the competitive nature of the race, but just for the experience. It will also make a good shakeout sail before the Veracruz shakeout in June. A shakeout is a sail designed to test the limits of the boat. This would also introduce me to other single handed sailors so I can see how they rig their boats.

Speaking of getting ready, I continue to make progress in spurts. I’ve had minor back pain since I moved onto the boat and I am almost 100% sure it’s from a crappy foam mattress I sleep on. I just lugged my v-birth (the front of boats are pointy so they call it v-birth) mattress to a mattress factory where they are making me a custom mattress. Random note, stomach sleepers should sleep on firm mattresses, not soft mattresses.

Most excitingly, I think I am going to buy two new sails. I am on a sailboat after all and it seems that if I should be investing refit money anywhere, it should be new sails. I met the owner of Banks Sails Clear Lake and he has been extremely helpful. First, I need to replace the 30 year old furling system that rolls up the sail on the front of the boat. Once I do that I’ll make a new headsail (headsail is the front sail) specifically designed for Jargo. (a.k.a. Romance) As of today, I have no means to rig my storm jib which is kind of critical if and when I ever get caught in a storm. Mark from Banks showed me an easy way to bring my inner forestay back into play so that I can use my old hank on sail. This gives me a secure means to fly a very small foresail when winds pick up over 35 knots. I’ll also finish up my sailing rig with a new mizzen for the back of the boat. With a heavy duty cruising mizzen, new 130% genoa foresail, and storm jib this is going to be one hell of a sailboat.

I’ve also kept up with my running. I am in week three of five weeks before the 5K and I am really starting to feel the difference. Not only do I have more energy and am generally in a better mood, but my knees are killing me! I broke down and went to a running specific store to get my feet measured and my stride analyzed for a good pair of shoes. I hope they make the difference. I’ve got chicken legs.

I hope everyone is well and keep in touch!


Jason just sent me a few shots from our sail down to South Padre.
This was the sunset on the first day just as we came around Galveston through the jetties and out to sea.
Of course we hoisted our spinnaker just at dark. Boy, that was stupid. I had to cut the dousing line on the sock that knocks the air out of the sail to get it down. First and last time I ever try to fly a spinnaker at night.
Pretty first night.

One incredible sunset in Padre wasn't a bad pay off. Not to mention fireworks for New Years and meeting some other great cruisers who were hanging out down there.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

I never met a goal I didn’t like.

There is no question I get infinitely more accomplished when I have a well defined goal set in a realistic timeframe. That little statement is a pretty big self insight I am starting to really understand and use. Enter the Regatta de Amigos.

This little race,, is a 630 nautical mile sail due South from Galveston, TX to Veracruz, Mexico. I got turned onto this race by friends of mine looking for crew on their boat. Instinctively I said no way. My immediate thought was I could never get two weeks off work to go sailing, and if I were to take that kind of time off it needed to be spent pulling my own boat together for cruising. About the time this thought solidified in my jello like mind, I remembered that without a real goal, set in stone, I don’t necessarily make the best progress. So, why not take the time off to go to Veracruz?

Here is where my thought process stands today. It’s March 8th, almost exactly three months before this race kicks off. Even if I were to take a week or two off and do nothing but work on the boat, I don’t think I would get as much done as I would if I were preparing it to take myself and crew on this regatta. I’ve already two friends volunteer to crew which give me plenty of hands, help, and makes it a real commitment. It would also be a great trip to build on the experience I gained from sailing to South Padre.

I made up another quick map in Google Earth below. The black line was the Harvest Moon Regatta from Galveston to Port Aransas. The white line was the 520 mile run, down and back, to South Padre. The red line would be 1,260 miles, down and back, from Galveston to Veracruz. This would be another great shake out to test all the work I’ve done since the Padre sail.

Another reason this is looking more appealing is that I don’t think I will have time to hit the western Gulf Coast of Mexico when I go on the big cruise. This way I get to see some of this country before I set off down Central America.

I’ve gone running five days this past week. The Dallas 5k helps keep me focused on getting up each morning to make my progressively longer runs. I think I need this race to keep me focused on getting my boat ready.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Glutton for punishment

I get seasick. I know this. It’s unfortunate, but very manageable. The only reason I mention this is because it prompted a visit to the doctor for some meds. What I wasn’t ready for was stepping on the scale in his office. I am by no means obese, but for the fist time in my life I topped 200 lbs. Not out of the ordinary considering I am 6’1, but still about 15lbs more than I carry at my target weight of 185.

I’ve also notices I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed with everything I need to do to prepare for this trip, including making the money to pay for it. It sounds crazy, but the only thing I could think of to deal with it was to do more. It sounds counter intuitive, but I know I am out of shape right now. I figure if I can spend 45 minutes to an hour every day getting back in shape I’ll be much more productive than I currently am with the rest of the hours in a day.
Of course I signed up for a race. Only the fear of public humiliation can force me to put running shoes on in the morning. Plus, combine that with a chance to spend some time with good friends in Dallas and this is a sure winner. So, April 6th I’ll be heading up to D-town for the Big D Challenge. It also seemed somewhat serendipitous that this race is exactly 5 weeks away and proposes a 5 week training schedule to go from non-runner to 5K ready. That’s three miles. Yeah, I had to look it up too.

On a totally unrelated note, I love me some pork chunks. I tell you what, I was incredibly skeptical about this canned meat idea, but they are actually very good. This wouldn’t have been discovered if I had followed my first instinct to though them all away after taking the lid off the pork chunks. The picture below doesn’t even do justice to how disgusting this tin of meat looked. It almost appeared cancerous with the little white specs of fat clinging onto it. Nevertheless, I put it in a pan with garlic, onion, a can of stewed tomatoes, salt, pepper and served it on top of a bed of couscous. Outstanding. It was really good. I’ve already gone through the beef chunks and boneless chicken and I can seriously give this stuff a good recommendation.

On another front, I’ve been thinking about how I want to document my trip. The blog was the primary outlet for relaying my experiences, but I keep thinking about the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. I agree with this when the photographer is competent. I am not a competent photographer. I also shelled out a few more dollars than I was expecting for a good digital SLR camera. This will let me take some professional quality pictures along the way. To make sure I didn’t just buy a really expensive point and shoot camera I enrolled in three classes at the Houston Center for Photography. First up, camera basics. Followed a month later with basics of composition. Hopefully this will let me bring you, dear reader, a story that is aesthetically pleasing as well.

Now, I am off to hoist myself up the mizzen mast to try and install my new 16 mile radar. Wish me luck. I’ll leave you with a quote from Francis Chichester. Chichester sailed round the world making only one single stop in Australia.

Nobody, I am sure, can be more aware than I am that my time is limited. I don’t think I can escape ageing, buy why beef about it? Our only purpose in life, if we are able to say such a thing, is to put up the best performance we can – in anything, and only in doing so lies satisfaction in living. – Sir Francis Chichester Gipsy Moth Circles the World