Monday, June 30, 2008

Two Weeks

I’ve taken this week and next week off of work and will be focusing on boat projects. I’ve got projects lined up and ready to go as soon as I start giving them some attention. I am kicking today off with the installation of my new Garmin GPSMAP 545. I’ll follow that up with new gauges and alarms for the oil pressure and engine coolant temperature. After that comes another trip up the mast to redo the main boom topping lift. I bought a rebuild kit for the water maker and will try to bring that system back to life. I am excited. Big progress coming.

Not much new on the Cynthia Woods investigation from below. It does look like the keel was brought up with the keel bolts and backing plates still attached. I am not investigator, but that tells me that the fiberglass on the hull of the boat failed where the keel was bolted. It’s rumored that the backing plates were undersized and should have had one large plate for the installation instead of single smaller plates for each bolt. You can think of the backing plates kind of like big washers on smaller nuts and bolts. They distribute the load of the keel across a larger surface area.

Go Sailing.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gulf Coast Sailing Accident

I’ve been reading as many of the news releases as I can find this morning regarding the sailing accident during the Race to Veracruz involving a Texas A & M sailing team. One man lost his life and everyone wants to know why.

No conclusion can be drawn yet, but evidence is surfacing indicating the boat, Cynthia Woods, had been run aground between 3 – 10 times prior to being donated to A & M in 2005. In 2007 the ship was run hard aground doing damage to the keel again. It us unknown at this time how well that damage was repaired prior to the offshore race this June.

The keel was found in ~110 feet of water by the same offshore salvage company that towed the boat out of the gulf. The U.S. Coast Guard and A & M will use the keel to try and determine why the keel separated from the boat.

Those are the facts as I understand them from the available news this morning. First, no boat that gets used along the Texas Gulf Coast is going to avoid running aground. The inland waters are shallow and it is going to happen. I’ve been aground two or three times since I’ve been sailing here the past two years. However, Cynthia Woods is a Cape Fear 38 and has what is knows as a bulb keel. It is bolted onto the boat and has a long stretch of material before it connects to a bulb at the bottom with the majority of the weight that acts as ballast.

This design is a great, fast design for boats operating on deep, open water. I don’t think it belongs in a fleet sailing in shallow Gulf Shore water or going far offshore. This design is the polar opposite of the full keel design I wanted for my cruising boat and found on my Allied Mistress. Bulb keels cannot take repeated grounding and maintain structural integrity.

I want to make it very clear, every boat design is a good design when it is used for sailing where and how it was designed. There is nothing inherently wrong with this design, but I think it was a donated boat put into service in a region unsuited to it. The builder has stepped up and is helping extensively with the investigation.

Changing tacks for a moment, I finally got my boat out of the slip again. Something happens when this boat gets out of the marina and out sailing or lying to anchor. I love this boat. I’ve been confusing everyone calling the boat by both the names Romance & Jargo. I haven’t formally changed her name yet because I want her to be mine, not the boat I bought, before I rename her. I think I am getting close. I am making a list of projects to do that include a few new items. One of them is finding and installing low oil pressure and engine temperature alarms to let me know before major engine damage occurs. I am looking forward to a two week vacation where I can do nothing but focus on boat projects.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Determination and Persistence

In the past few months/weeks I’ve rebuilt the windlass, installed a new starter and solenoid, installed a new macerator pump, purchased and bottom painted the dingy, replaced the dingy davit lines, replaced the spinnaker halyard and block, repaired the main, mizzen, and geneoa, applied for my ships radio and restricted operators permit, found and purchased an auto tuner and pactor modem for the HF, replaced the lazy jacks, replaced the mizzen staysail block, run halyard wrap preventers across the mast steps, replaced the main and mizzen sheets and halyards, lubricated both main and mizzen mast tracks, replaced the radar, purchased, but not yet installed the new GPS, installed the new AM/FM stereo and iPod player, started converting LED lighting, begun sending out sponsorship packets to a few vendors, had the bright work done, got my sextant, almost replaced the shower sump (again), purchased and about to install 300 feet of new secondary anchor line, and last, but certainly not least, gotten the test site up for the new website!

The test site is only an infant, but it represents the change from designing the new site to building it with real, substantial code. There are a lot of tweaks to be done and some fairly complex coding to be built in, but it’s a good start. Check it out over the next few weeks and please give me some feedback on it once it gets filled out a bit more.

One other thing I did this past week was get my first sponsorship rejection. The cool thing is I am almost has happy as if I’d gotten the sponsorship. Not that I am done trying with this particular company, but for everyone that says “No”, I am that much closer to finding the one that says, “YES”.

The one thing that I have not been doing is sailing. It’s a problem that has come to a head. I’ve been so lost in working on the boat I’ve lost sight yet again of how important it is to enjoy her some as well. An old friend of mine is swinging through town this weekend for a job in Houston and I’ve committed to taking us out sailing. It’s about time and come hell or high water, it’s time to fill the sails.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” - President Calvin Coolidge

Monday, June 09, 2008

Tragedy over the weekend.

Word came out Saturday that one of the boats from the Regatta de Amigos or Race to Veracruz ( ) was missing. I think everyone from Galveston to Houston was holding their breath until some news, good or bad came in. Stories like this always remind you of your own mortality. Going offshore is no joke, even in the best of conditions. I think the best thing that can be taken from this is you cannot over prepare yourself or your vessel. Yes, at some point you just have to go, but there is no excuse for not taking every caution and care your budget and time allow.

Sailor called 'hero' for helping save 5 others
By MONICA RHOR, Associated Press Writer

GALVESTON, Texas - Four students and a safety officer had less than a minute to escape their sinking ship once it began taking water during a regatta on the Gulf of Mexico, the safety officer said Monday.

The survivors praised the boat's other safety officer, 53-year-old Roger Stone, for rushing them off the craft within seconds of realizing it was taking water, putting their lives ahead of his own. Divers pulled his body from the boat Sunday afternoon.

"Roger was a friend, a great sailor, a good coach and a true hero," safety officer Steve Conway said on NBC's "Today." "Our hearts and prayers go out to his family in their time of loss."

Conway said the students kept their composure over 26 hours in the choppy water. They used belts and rigging to hook themselves together, with the five men sharing four life vests, Conway said. He told them stories to keep them encouraged.

"They remained positive, they didn't panic," Conway said. "They kept working as a team and helping each other."

Three of the students — Steven Guy, Joe Savana and Travis Wright — attend Texas A&M at Galveston. The fourth, Ross James Buzbee, attends Texas A&M in College Station.

Buzbee said Conway kept their spirits up while they waited for rescue.

"Steve, he told us stories to keep us entertained and to keep us focused," Buzbee said on "Today." "It basically gave us a positive outlook on everything."

The five spent Sunday visiting with family and nursing minor sunburn and dehydration.

R. Bowen Loftin, CEO of Texas A&M at Galveston, expressed condolences to Stone's family — including his wife and two children — in a message posted on the school's Web site.

"We hope they can take some comfort in knowing all five survivors of this tragic accident credit Mr. Stone with heroic efforts that were instrumental in making possible their survival," Loftin said on the school's Web site. "We now know that Roger Stone died a hero in the classic sense of the word."

Conway is the director of computer information services at Texas A&M at Galveston and assistant coach of the school's Offshore Sailing Team, the school said. Stone was another of the team's assistant coaches, according to the school Web site. He also was a logistics officer at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, according to the UTMB Web site.

The search for the sailors began Saturday morning after the 38-foot sailboat Cynthia Woods missed a radio check. The boat, which lost communication around midnight Friday, was one of 26 vessels competing in the Regata de Amigos. The race from Galveston to Veracruz, Mexico, has occurred every even-number year since 1968, according to the regatta's Web site.

Loftin said Conway used a flashlight to signal Coast Guard searchers. The five stayed afloat in 4- to 6-foot seas, Loftin said.

Coast Guard officials said the keel of the overturned vessel was ripped off, indicating the sailboat may have hit something in the water, according to the school. Race director Kevin Box said the loss of the keel can cause a boat to overturn in seconds.

Conway said it was "premature to speculate" about whether the keel broke off before the Coast Guard completes its investigation.

A helicopter crew from Air Station Houston pulled the five men from the water 23 miles south of Freeport about 2 a.m., Coast Guard Petty Officer Renee C. Aiello said Sunday. They had drifted about five miles northwest of their capsized boat.

In an interview Monday, Lt. Justo Rivera, the helicopter pilot, said his crew searched the Gulf of Mexico for two hours before they had to return to their Galveston base to refuel. The crew resumed their search when Petty Officer Louis Bishop, the flight mechanic, spotted the flashlight's tiny glimmer.

Only after Chief Petty Officer Albert Shannon, the rescue swimmer, dove in did the crew learn there were just five people in the group.

"It hurts not being able to save that one individual," Rivera told reporters.

The regatta, sponsored by the Mexican government, continues into next week.


Associated Press writers John Porretto in Houston and Linda Franklin in Dallas contributed to this report.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Smashed it!

No, not the boat. In an effort to keep up the motivation to get in shape I entered into another 5K run. This one was done locally by the Houston Astros. The cool thing is that I recruited two of my friends to come with us and by race day we were a four pack. Three of us ran, one of us walked, and we all had a really great time.

My finish time for this one was 29 minutes and 23 seconds as compared to my last time of 31 minutes and 52 seconds. That’s a 2.5 minute improvement! I am pleased. I also got confirmation that I am the “Ideal” man. At least that’s how I am interpreting the results from the free body fat analysis I got at the race. Apparently I am ideal, I knew it all along, but now I have independent confirmation.

So what’s the next step in the quest for fitness? We are getting the band back together for another 5K on June 28th up in Deer Park, TX. There are a few new additions that will be running this one. Apparently the word has spread how much fun we have at these things. I know, hard to believe considering how much I don’t like to run. Must be the camaraderie of the thing. If anyone wants to come out with us, all are welcome.

There is one other idea brewing that seriously scares me. Somehow, someone got the idea that we should do one of these things called a sprint triathlon. They have three back to back events including a 500 meter swim, 16 mile bike ride, and a 5K run. I don’t have a bike which is my first excuse. I am sure I can come up with more in the next few weeks. There is one scheduled up in Katy on July 13th. Hummm…..

Monday, June 02, 2008

Unabridged Sterling Hayden: What choice will you make?

Ideas can change the world. I’ve always liked quotes because they are typically the distillation of an idea into a single shot of wisdom. The Sterling quote from the last post was from a friend’s blog, but was picked up by another blogger I’ve got a lot of respect for. Her post reminded me of why I started writing in the first place. It isn’t to bore you with details about boat work, but to try and inspire you, even just one of you, to take a chance and go after the dream you may have put on the shelf.

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea... cruising, it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about. I've always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can't afford it." What these men can't afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of security. And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine - and before we know it our lives are gone.

What does a man need - really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in - and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all - in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade. The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life? - Sterling Hayden in Wanderer

Conventional dogma tells us to go to school, get a degree, get a good job, get married, buy a house, have 2.5 kids, and he with the most at the end of it all wins. What if you took a step back and looked at your daily, weekly, and monthly routines? What could you be doing if you didn’t have credit card payments, house payments, car payments, gym payments, HD TV cable bills, and the rest of it? It’s our very desire to accumulate objects that eventually traps us in our routines.

In Walden Thoreau referred to those who chase comforts as though comforts themselves were life like this, “With consummate skill he has set his trap with a hair spring to catch comfort and independence, and then, as he turned away, got his own leg into it. This is the reason he is poor; and for a similar reason we are all poor in respect to a thousand savage comforts, though surrounded by luxuries”.

As I ponder my trip safety often comes to mind. What must I do eliminate risk where I can? All the toys, life jackets, life rafts, EPIRBS, and other things we buy to keep us safe are a poor substitute for taking responsibility for our security. Knowledge and experience are the only real safety nets any of us have. Henry Ford said, “If money is your hope for independence you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability”.

As some point people have to make a choice. Stick to the safe and secure that is known to you. Even if this isn’t providing you happiness or fulfillment it’s the path most people take. The other option? Choose. Choose to make the life you want. This requires thought, effort, and a sustained commitment to your dream. You have to ignore those who tell you that you “can’t” or “shouldn’t” do something. Your true friends will listen to you and encourage you. Whatever your dream is.

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless deeds and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now."

- Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe