Sunday, August 31, 2014

What else we did on our summer vacation

In the midst of all of the summer trips, adventures and events, we also had a few SeaClearly lists to address. Some things were big, some small. We spend a lot of time working on SeaClearly. We have had comments like, "You know you guys are giving sailboats a bad name. All you ever do is work on your boat." and, " Do you think you guys work on your boat more than other people that are cruising on sailboats?"

Well - I don't know. I read a lot of other sailing blogs and it seems to me that they work on their boats a lot. And take on crazier projects than we do. Not everybody has the luxury of having their boat sitting in their backyard. So, I am sure that it just looks like we walk out there every day with tools and bags in our hands.

Solar panels - very happy with our clean install.
What I do know is that, when I compiled a list of the major tasks we did this summer we no longer wondered what we did with our time.

Solar Panels - We were pretty sure that there had been some efficiency improvements in solar panels in the last ten years but we couldn't justify a replacement. Fortunately (not!) one of our panels failed and forced the decision. I thought they were supposed to last longer so I assumed it must be a connection problem. After checking everything with the meter, all the way back to the internal connections in the panel, it became clear that the port panel was outputting zero. We got two new panels from Grape Solar, moved from 150 watts up to 210 watts, smaller footprint, no change required on the ProStar Controller, minor bracket modifications and Bam! we went from 2.4 amps to 9.5 amps output in full sun. Cool!

Refrigeration - The second part of the energy equation is consumption. We did some adjusting on the refrigeration and that reduced our consumption from 9.5 amps 100% of every hour down to about 7 amps 60% of the time. Big, big difference. Between these two changes we bought ourselves an extra day at anchor without recharging batteries.

Radar - OK, this one sucked. The radar died on the way back down the Chesapeake in June. A call to Raymarine Tech Support indicated we had a failure of an optical sensor in the unit. We climbed the mast, took down the radome and mailed it back to Raymarine.

Up in the air
Further up in the air, looking down.

After several weeks and multiple phone calls, they finally evaluated the unit and reported 'Could not replicate'. Having worked in the software industry for a lot of years, I know what that means. "We don't know either." They sent it back, I went through all of the connections (again), climbed the mast (again), and re-installed the unit. It works just fine. Not my favorite resolution. It always leaves me feeling like I haven't seen the last of this problem yet.

Sewing - Junie finally got her Sailrite sewing machine this year. That unleashed a series of projects.
- Fender covers
- Jerry can covers (complete with color coded emblems for water, diesel and gas)
- Dorade box covers (this one was an interesting patterning and geometry problem for me)
- Companionway screen

- Bimini view port fix (the original, very creative sail viewing window leaked in any rain)
Kick-ass sewing machine
Jerry Can UV protection
Dorade boxes

Somewhere, down there is a wheel brake.
Steering Wheel Brake -  This was another interesting project. The Wheel Brake on the Edson steering would not hold the wheel in place anymore. Sometimes, you just need to step away from the wheel for a minute and have the boat keep going in the same direction without the aid of autopilot (ours is named Horatio, by the way. Horatio Hornblower. Who better to take the wheel?). It seems like this should be a simple enough fix but getting into the actual brake requires taking apart the pedestal, the compass, and the engine controls. What a perfect opportunity to inspect the entire steering system! Just a little cleaning and adjustment fixed the problem. And, everything still worked when we put it back together.

We also:
- Repaired the staysail furler. Long story.
- Applied 303 fabric treatment to all of the canvas
- Completed the replacement of the foam for interior cushions
- Replaced primary bilge pump, reclaimed old one (WooHoo! Saved $500)
- Replaced springs in rope clutches

- Added a second jerry can lashing board on deck. We decided we wanted plenty of extra fluids on board.

There is also a fairly substantial list of things we purchased for replacements, updates and safety and comfort improvements. We also have a couple of outstanding projects that we hope to complete before we take off. Plus, we intend to stop in Oriental, NC for a haul-out in October. The rule of thumb for calculating the cost of maintaining a cruising sailboat is to figure 10% of the boat value, per year. Looks like we are tracking to the norm. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

What we did on our Summer Vacation

I thought I would recognize the beginning of another school year by writing the classic 'back-to-school' assignment. I have been pretty slack about updating the blog all summer because we haven't gotten a lot of sailing done. But we have been busy! I'm going to weave my way through the summer starting with our most recent adventure.

Denver! We made a trip to visit middle son Jeffrey and his wife, Alyssa, in the Mile High City. As you may know, it is a much higher city these days. Despite being well aware of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, we were still taken aback by the reality. Seeing 'dispensaries' on the street corners with catchy names like 'StarBuds' is just a riot. We didn't do any 'pot tourism' but, apparently, there is quite a lot of that going on.

Just getting on a plane and flying somewhere was a bit of a flashback for Junie and me. After careers filled with business travel, neither of us has been on a plane for over a year. We figure it has been about thirty years since we have been able to make that statement. Can't say that I have missed it.
Red Rocks

But this flight was just the start of a very full, very active long weekend. Jeffrey and Alyssa put together a packed agenda. As soon as we arrived, we headed directly to Red Rocks Amphitheater to see the Beatles tribute band '1964' playing on the 50th anniversary of the Beatles playing at Red Rocks in 1964.

Vintage 1964
This is such a cool venue and such a milestone event. As you could expect, the crowd was fairly mature (read that as 'old'). We knew almost all of the words to all of the songs. The kids probably didn't have quite the same experience as we did but we appreciated that they took us.

The next day we walked around Denver, visited the big REI store and ate lunch at the Wynkoop Brewing Company. That evening we walked over to see the Rockies play at Coors Field - how convenient to be able to walk to a baseball game! And, Junie and I got $1 tickets in the 'Rockpile' section since we are over 55 - and cheap.

Ski lift to the brunch

And that would have been a very full weekend. But wait there is more! On Sunday, we drove up to 'A Basin' ski area (no skiing today) for a fabulous brunch halfway up the mountain at Black Mountain Lodge. We had to take the ski lift to get up and down. Just a gorgeous setting, great food, excellent band and a great time.
Duane, Alyssa, Jeffrey...

...and Junie

And THEN -we went sailing. That's right. Sailing. Lake Dillon, at 9017 feet above sea level,  recently appeared on a list of  'must sail' destinations. It also claims the highest altitude marina in North America.  Jeffrey had arranged to rent a Catalina 22 Sport, very similar to our first sailboat, to sail this unique location.

There aren't many places you can sail with
a view like this.
The lake also has some unpredictable wind patterns due to the mountains that tower all around. Our sailing ranged from exhilarating to passive (and everything in between) all within our two hour window. It was a wonderful day with several 'firsts' - Junie's first ski lift ride, Alyssa's first time sailing and first time riding down the mountain on a ski lift and our first time sailing at any altitude other than sea level. Unfortunately, not the first time I have eaten too much at a buffet. Jeffrey and Alyssa set up a great time for us and really brought the summer to a close in style.

But, we have been styling all summer! We started in back in June with our sailing excursion around the Chesapeake and the Cabo Rico group get-together.

Back in July, daughter Emily and husband Tyler took us on another adventure. Tyler is an avid fisherman and a graduate of Virginia Military Institute (VMI). As such, he knows some great fly-fishing locations along the Maury River near the school. Junie has wanted to become a more accomplished fly-fisher for a long time. So, as a part of our Christmas present, Emily and Tyler arranged a trip to Lexington, Virginia to visit VMI, stay in a cool downtown hotel (a former stagecoach stop) and fly-fishing instructions from Tyler himself!

In front of Mitchie Tavern
On our way towards Lexington, we stopped for lunch at the Mitchie Tavern, a historic inn that is very near Thomas Jefferson's home at Monticello. We followed that with a wine-tasting at the Rockbridge Vineyard. Then, on to Lexington. It is a neat little town, very old, that is home to both Washington and Lee University and VMI - quite the dichotomy, having one of the most liberal schools in Virginia situated, basically, right next to one of the most conservative.

At Virginia Military Institute

VMI is an experience all its' own. The structure, discipline and tradition are very impressive. Tyler's personal experiences help to provide perspective on what it means to be a VMI grad. He has good reason to be proud. I am sure that I was not cut out for that environment. I once commented to Tyler that I wasn't very military by nature and no one would be inclined to think I was. His observation was that I was more likely to be mistaken for a former drummer in a rock band.  No doubt.

Tyler showing us how it's done
The next day we got out on the river. The Maury River is in a beautiful mountain setting and this time of the year, in early July, turned out to be perfect. The weather was ideal, the bugs were barely an issue and we all caught fish! Several fish! Sure, none of mine were very big but, as you may know, catching anything on a fly rod makes you feel good.
Emily working the river

Tyler's instructions and help got us all fishing (not always gracefully). Junie has graduated from fly-fisher to fly-catcher. Hmm. That doesn't sound quite right. But anyway,
Emily and Tyler put together a nice get-away package.

Holly and Reagan in the cabin
We have been gifted with a nice summer. I can't even begin to capture all of the other stuff we managed to squeeze into the summer - neighborhood dinners and impromptu gatherings, visiting the North Carolina Aquarium with Dusty, Holly and grand-daughter Reagan, catching a Wednesday evening sail, meeting neighbors, boat rides and beach trips. SeaClearly didn't get out nearly as much as she would have liked. Between our busy schedule and our fluctuating water levels, our sailing days were limited. We have done a lot of boat maintenance, repairs and upgrades. I will save that for the next post.
Dusty and Reagan on SeaClearly

Still, somehow, we feel like we are just biding our time.We need to get sailing again. It will be September in just a couple of days. The cornfields over in Currituck County are brown, The days are getting shorter. The school bus went through the neighborhood this morning. And we are starting our countdown to head south again. The target this year - the Virgin Islands.