Surprise – Leak

Howdy Folks,

Since our last update, we’ve been busy both with Vela and at home.   On the Home front, we’ve begun the process of moving back into the condo (now that our renters have moved out) in preparation for the sale of the lake house.  We still don’t have an offer, but we have a couple that seems very interested and is trying to make the financials work.  So we’re hoping something will come of that soon.  Since it would be nice to check that one HUGE item off the list.

Meanwhile, we’ve spent 4 of the last 6 weekends aboard working our butts off to get Vela ready to take us on our voyage.  We’re still waiting on the arch…don’t even get me started on that one, but we’re told it will be back on the boat this week.  Of course, we’ve heard that before, so we’re hopeful it will happen this time.  We also have our mast back in place, which is nice.  As part of that process, we have new backstays, a new SSB antenna, new radar, new whisker pole on a mast mounted track, new masthead tri-color, new windex, new steaming light, new foredeck light, and new spreader lights.  We also replaced all the original wiring in the mast while it was down, just to be safe.

Our plan this weekend was to get down early Friday afternoon and get the sails back on.  We’re planning to sail a race with our sail makers next weekend and needed to get Vela ready to strut her stuff.   We also had plans to complete the wiring of all the lights on the mast and reconnect the new VHF antenna cable.

Wet cabin sole, it looks bad here but once everything dried out, it’s very hard to notice.  We’ll likely refinish 1 small spot but most of what you see here is not visible after thoroughly drying.

So, I got to the the boat and started getting things ready for the weekend.  During the process I noticed that our carpet in the Saloon was a bit…moist.  So I pulled it up and realized the pad underneath it was soaking wet and had been for some time…yep stained cabin sole.  So after a few choice words I got the carpets pulled out and drying in the sun on deck.  Since we had just replaced the mast and the deck seal, I KNEW it had to be the mast. Particularly when I looked up and was able to see daylight between the deck and mast.  So of course that’s where I focused my efforts.  After a bit more cleanup, I noticed water at the base of the starboard settee and traced it back to…yep the AC.  The “daylight” I saw between the deck and mast was just light filtering through the new mast boot.  We’ve since covered it with a Sunbrella boot to keep the UV off it.

Light filtering through the boot.  We dumped a ton of water on the boot using a hose and it definitely is not leaking.  We’ve since covered the boot with Sunbrella to protect it from UV.

When we’re gone, we set our AC unit to de-humidification mode to keep the interior from developing any mold.  This has been great and typically all that water drains down into our shower sump where it gets pumped out.  Much like you may have seen at home, this AC unit has an integrated drain pan and it looked like that had stopped draining and, since it’s in the starboard settee…overflowed from there onto the floor.  Where it sat for the only 2 week period we’ve been off the boat for the last month and a half…Murphy’s anyone?

Some of the zipties we removed pulling the new antenna cable and the real reason for our drain overflowing.

Oddly enough, we had just purchased a wet-vac model that fits a standard 5 gallon bucket for the boat as part of another project (cleaning the bilge) that we’ve yet to tackle.  At the last minute, I threw it in my truck, just in case we had some spare time this weekend.  Glad that we had it, I opened the bilge and used the wet-vac to drain the condensation pan via the hose to ensure it was free of clogs.  By then Kara had made it down and joined in the festivities.  We did our best to clean everything up and locate all the areas the water had run into.  Since we have quit a large amount of storage under that settee, the water was able to run along the settee and get into several of them from above.  So we cleaned them out and decided to leave everything open to allow it to dry.

Kara cleaning a section of the bilge.

Then we went ahead and tackled the re-installation of our nice new (heavy) mainsail.  This took us a while since it was our first time installing it.  Not a complicated process but we took it nice and slow to ensure we got everything clean, lubed and ready to go.  By the time we had it up and furled, we where both hot and frustrated over the AC thing…so we bailed to the marina pool and ordered a few Pina Coladas…which helped our perspective a bit.

After relaxing in the pool and cooling down, we wanted to hit the dock happy hour and chat with some of our neighbors, so headed back for some dry clothes to find…yep a wet boat.  Same problem, pan overflowed, so it wasn’t a clog.  We traced the drain tube and found that unfortunately, we caused the issue.  A couple weeks ago, when we where prepping to replace the mast, we pulled the old VHF antenna cable out so we could replace it with a larger (lower loss) cable.  In the process we had to remove the 8 billion zip ties that bundled it to every surface in the entire boat.  I didn’t notice it at the time, but the hose for that drain was in one of those bundles and the process of removing those zip ties left it hanging lower in the middle and ramping up before dropping into the shower sump.  As a result of the (now) poor routing it wasn’t draining efficiently and backed-up and overflowed again.  Since we didn’t have the parts we needed for a permanent fix we duct taped it in the right spot to get us through the night.  Then we went to happy hour to commiserate with our boat buddies.

After a late night of BS-ing, we got up early the next morning and completed the wiring for all the new lights on the mast, re-routed and terminated the VHF antenna cable (including soldering the connectors) and of course remounted the AC drain hose with a permanent (we hope) fix using a few mounted D-rings.  So all in all it was a pretty productive weekend and we know our Vela even better as a result of another couple days crawling through the bilge and lockers tracing and routing cables.

And hey, we now have pretty new lights on the mast, and this coming weekend…we’re sailing! (weather permitting)

Adding an Arch

Howdy Folks,

As I’ve mentioned a few times here, we’ve been planning an arch for our solar panels and mounting our new wind generator.  To ensure we got this done as early as possible this spring, we even dropped a deposit with the local craftsman that’s custom building for us…last November (6 months ago).  The original agreement was that it would be complete at the end of April (a month ago).

Just a few of the tools they hauled down to the boat for the initial fit.

Nice day for a little welding.

Want to guess where this is going?  Yep it’s now the end of May and we still don’t have an arch on Vela.  On the plus side, work has started and they even brought the initial rough build out and fitted it.  Now it’s back in the shop having the davits added and our (2) new 315W solar panels mounted.  So I’m sure we’ll have it completed, you know…any time now 🙂

Setting the new arch in place for a few last minute tweaks.

They trimmed the legs on the dock for the initial fit and then tacked it to the new stainless base plates.

More pics to follow as it nears completion along with the new stern seats, solid top rail around the  cockpit and a new swim platform.  Once the arch is done we can mount the new higher bimini frame and the canvas shop will be able to complete the new dodger and bimini we’d been waiting for.  Unfortunately, the delays with the arch are holding up that and several other projects…which is why we started so long ago.

The inspiration for the shape of our new stern rail seats (Hunter)

Nothing like a little 316 stainless in the sunset.  Notice all that sweet duct tape that’s currently covering all the holes in Vela.

In all fairness, the guy we’re using does amazing work.  He’s probably more of an artist than a craftsman, so we’re willing to accept the delays.  Still, having a boat with no bimini in the heat and rain of the Kemah spring, has been an adjustment.  Then again, it’s made removing all the sails and dropping the mast a little easier.  But more on that next time…

Thanks for swinging by,

Financing the mast pull (aka – selling the Harley)

My old 2002 Softail Deuce

Howdy Folks,

Kara and I spent yet another weekend away from Vela.  That’s two in a row now and if we’re going to ever get her ready to go, we can’t afford too many streaks like that.  Particularly when you consider we’ll likely miss next weekend too, so we can move some stuff into our little condo.  Our renters moved out this weekend. 

Cleaned up and ready for a new home

We had originally planned to go down to Houston and work on a few things this weekend.  Replacing a few aged hose clamps and drying out the bilge, now that we’ve repacked the stuffing box.  But those plans changed when I got a call last week from an actual person that was interested in buying my old Harley.  I’ve had it listed on Craigslist for sometime and if you’ve ever tried to sell anything of value on CL, you know it’s full of scammers.  “Hi sir, is your Motorcycle still for sale?  I’m traveling for the military right now and visiting my sick aunt in Tawain but I’d like to send you payment via PayPal plus $700 for your trouble, and then of course shipping fees to get it to me”.  So it was refreshing to talk with someone who was actually interested in an honest transaction.  This guy was driving in from Colorado to buy the bike and was bringing cash, so we knew he was serious.  We cancelled our Houston trip, rounded up all the paperwork, cleaned up the bike and then sold it early yesterday morning early.

New owner loading the bike up.

I have mixed feelings on the sale, I loved that bike but the cash we got for it will completely cover a big project we have scheduled for May.  While we’re waiting on the new arch to be completed, allegedly sometime in 2016…we’ve decided to pull the mast to install our radar.  Surprisingly, it’s cheaper to pull the mast and install the radar and associated conduit while the mast is down, than it would be to add the conduit with the mast up.  This will also allow us to replace all our masthead instrumentation, antennas, add a Windex and likely a TV antenna.  While it’s down, we’ll also be adding a whisker pole, track, mast mount and associated rigging.  All those extras add up pretty quick and let’s just say that the bike sold at a great time.  While I’ll definitely miss the bike, I’ve always known I’d be selling it to finance ‘the dream’ and it’s really nice having the cash in hand to cover another project without impacting our efforts on beefing up the cruising kitty (investment account) at the highest rate possible.

Kara and I have been talking a lot this weekend about our little dream and how it’s starting to take shape.  It’s still overwhelming and a bit terrifying to consider the fact that we’re a year away from our planned departure date from the working world…it’s also very VERY exciting.  Still, we have a lot to do between now and then. 

  • Sell our lake house (currently on the market)
  • Move to Condo
  • Remodel condo bathroom to increase rental value
  • Move from condo in Austin aboard Vela in Houston
  • Quit two great jobs (talk about an oh-shit moment)
  • Begin our slow migration to…wherever

So it’s been a good weekend, but we really need to start knocking off some of these major projects.  For now I’m trying to focus on the fact that we can now pay for at least 1 more of them, and once again….that’s a win in my book.

Thanks for stopping by.

Hope the new owner loves this bike as much as I did.

Ripping Vela a New One and Installing a Buzzkill – By Erin

Friday afternoon sail

 Howdy Folks,

Kara and I just got back from a LONG weekend with Vela.  From a calendar perspective, it was just a normal weekend but we where both pretty tired at the end of it, so it felt much longer.

Since we where both down in Houston for work on Thursday, we where actually able to get out for a sail on Friday afternoon/evening.  We knew it was going to be a crazy busy weekend so we made it a point to get out and enjoy the amazing weather while we could.  I should probably share the fact that after a long week at work, neither of us really felt like getting everything ready to go out.  In fact, I think we where both pretty tempted to just be lazy and relax with a few drinks at the dock.  But we’ve been frustrated lately with the fact that all we seem to do is work when we’re down at the boat.  So we drug our lazy asses off the settee and got out for a couple great hours of sailing.

My chicky at the helm and all the new sails drawing.  Happy Friday!

Believe it or not, the weather in Houston in early spring is actually really nice.  So, once we got out there we where both really glad to of the dock and Vela seemed happy for the exercise.  It was the first time we got all the new sails out.  Add in a 10 knot breeze and it was great.  We got in quit a bit of tacking just see how the new sails felt and overall it was great night.

We got back to the dock just before sunset, grabbed some dinner and enjoyed enjoyed sunset in the cockpit before turning in  early to be ready for Saturday’s big project, adding a new secondary bilge pump.

For this project we’re working with Gary Deason, a local boat services guy that is super friendly and actually seems to enjoy working with folks who are prepping to go cruising and want to be involved in the refit process.   Sure it would be easier to just showing up and have it all done for us, but we want to know where every hose, wire, thru-hull and component is located.  Which means this is exactly the kind of help we need.  In addition, Gary comes from a Coast Guard background and brings a ton of experience to the table.  The fact that he’s very relaxed and likes to teach as he goes really helps.  It’s also nice that he takes in our suggestions/requests, incorporates what makes sense and explains when he feels like another option would be better.

Our workspace – planning the project.

So at 9 AM Saturday morning, we started laying out the project, examined several potential hose routes, measured for the final hose run and made a run to West Marine for the parts we knew we needed.  Of course, Kara also made a couple mid-project runs but that’s one of the reasons we chose the marina we’re in now, it’s convenient to everything…except home 😉

  I should probably mention that the rule 4000 (4000 GPH) pump we installed required a 2″ smooth bore inner diameter hose, with a surprisingly high list price per foot.  However, working through Gary meant that we got the hose at about half the list price (thanks to his port supply discount).  So that saved us a good bit which helped cover part of his fees for helping us.

Mounting the new bracket/pump

When we got back aboard, Gary mounted the bracket for the new pump down in the bilge while I drilled the holes under the starboard settee for the auto/manual switch, buzzer/alarm/light and fuse holders.

Drilling new holes for switch, buzzer, and fuses

The concept here is that since this is purely a secondary/emergency pump for us, we want to know anytime it’s running.  So we wired in an obnoxious buzzer and red light that run anytime the pump is running (either manually or automatically via float switch).  We did wire it, so that if we ever had to run the pump for an extended period of time, we can physically disable the buzzer by removing a single connection (which we’re referring to as Buzzkill).  Hey, if we’re ever in a situation where we need to run this thing, it will be stressful enough without having to listen to that buzzer.  But it’s great to get your attention so that, you know there is a potential problem.

Kara laying down on the job (aka boat yoga)

While routing the hose we ran into a good deal of extra hose for the primary pump that was causing us some issues, so Kara and I spent a couple hours shortening and remounting that hose in the giant rear lazerette.   In the picture to the right she’s partially inside the compartment where our hot water heater usually sits.  It’s been removed and is laying beside her on the left.  She had to worm her way in here to help me access the hose we’re re-routing.  I’m in the lazerette on the opposite side, doing my best not to swear to much, like a….sailor.

Down in the lazerette.  Here I’m cutting a bulkhead to route the new hose .

While we where doing that, Gary installed ring terminals on the wires and connected up the pump and switches.  We then reviewed the wiring, tested everything and verified it all worked as expected.

Because who doesn’t love cutting giant holes in their boat?

In the end, this project took the 3 of us about 11 hours from start to finish and by the time we wrapped up about 8 PM Kara and I where way too tired to go checkout the Kemah crashfish and Zydeco festival we had planned to attend.  So, we did our best to scrub the fiberglass off our skin with a shower (never an easy task), ordered some Chinese food delivered to the boat, and relaxed in the cockpit.  Of course we where also cleaning up from the days events as we went.

On Sunday, we finished the cleanup.  Spent a little more time on the windlass and are now happy with how it’s handling the new anchor and chain.  We still have some work do to getting the anchor secured on deck in a way that we’ll be happy with for the long-term, but we’re very close there.

While in the lazerette we also had to add a new thru-hull on the transom to give us a direct exhaust for the new 2″ hose.  So yeah, we ripped Vela a new one.  Here you can see what it looked like when scored from the outside with a 2.5″ holesaw.  We finished the process off from inside the lazerette and installed our new thru-hull fitting.

Overall it was a great…OK successful weekend of boat projects.  It was nice having someone there to guide us through installing the new pump, hoses and wiring.  Kara and I worked well together throughout the day, which is always a big plus.  Particularly given the tight, itchy uncomfortable work.  That in combination with a little sailing makes this a win in my book.

t- 1year-sh….and counting

Tough Decisions – By Erin

My Chicky and Buster, with a few Texas Bluebonnets.

Howdy Folks,

It’s been a while since we’ve posted and that’s mainly due to the fact that Kara and I have had our hands full with a ton of projects both at home and on Vela.  Most of the time we’re pretty upbeat on our little blog here, because for the most part this whole process has been pretty fun and exciting.

But as they say, it’s not all rainbows, unicorns and sunny beaches.  Sometimes the decisions and steps required to prep for the lifestyle we so badly want…is really really tough.  This is one of those times and I just thought I’d share.

Today, we dropped our dog Buster off with two of our best friends…to stay.  We’ve begun the process of selling our lake house, a place that both Kara and I love and if we weren’t planning to cruise, would definitely keep for the long term.  But since we’ll be leaving to cruise, it makes sene to sell the house for several reason.  Primarily, because it’s expensive, far from work, further from the boat and worth a good deal more than when we bought it 5 years ago, which means it will feed the cruising kitty and let us completely payoff Vela (and possibly the condo).  But all that’s just $ and not really the important thing here.

We knew when we began our journey towards cruising, that we would eventually have to give up Buster and that’s honestly been one of the hardest parts of the whole “dream”.  We personally know people that have cruised with their dogs and have read several blogs along those lines as well but we knew that for us and Buster that just wasn’t an option.  You see, Buster is a German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) and is very high energy.  He’s not happy unless he gets an hour (or more) of very high intensity exercise, something we know we can’t provide regularly on the boat.  We also know that we want to go places where his being from the US would cause too many issues due to many countries who are unaffected by rabies requiring serious quarantine time for animals from the US.  Buster’s just not the kind of dog who wants to live on a boat, in fact he hates it on the boat.  So while we completely understand why others would never want to make the decision to give up their trusted friend and choose to take them cruising with them, we knew it wasn’t the right fit for Buster.  He doesn’t even like spending weekends on Vela, much less living there full time.  He needs to run and chase SQUIRRELS and deer and roll in the grass and pee and poop on just about everything.

So yeah, we knew this day was coming.  Of course that doesn’t make it any easier.  The fact that he went to live with our good friends and their two daughters does helps a bit.  He knows them well and loves them and they love him.  In fact, he’s stayed with them many many times in the past when we’ve been traveling.  That and the fact that they recently lost their dog, makes this seem like a natural fit for everyone and we know that Buster will be happy there.  Now we just have to get our heads around it.

So I’m just sitting in the back yard, of a house we both love, staring at the lake and listening to the birds as the sun sets and hoping we’re not crazy to be selling this place…and wondering why it’s so damn quiet.  It’s going to take some time to get used to life without our Buster-dog around.  In my head I know it was the best thing for him, but it still hurts my heart to look down at my feet and not see him curled up there…

Our next major project will be selling the house and moving back into our condo.  We had hoped we could make it work living at the house and while it’s been a great year…the reality is that it’s just too long of a drive for us.  We should be moving things back into the condo at the end of the month one way or the other.  The great news is that we’ll be dogsitting Buster several times over this summer and will see him as often as possible.  Still, this is a tough day.

For me, it’s probably the hardest one I’ve had since we started this whole process.  I’m just completely drained emotionally.

But hey, if it was easy everyone would be doing it. I just have to focus on the fact that it’s the best move for Buster.  Once I can wrap my head around that, it’s back to the never ending list of boat projects.  After all, a year isn’t much time to knock out the rest of the refit list and get ready to start our cruising adventure.  And once you go through something like this as part of that preparation process, it somehow makes you feel more committed to untying those dock lines and going.

So I know we’ll get there eventually but right now all can think is…I miss you Buster Boo.

Me and my buddy

15 minute boat jobs

Howdy Folks,

As mentioned in the previous post, today was a busy day of meeting with boat contractors, to plan our refit.  Between meetings we decided to knock out a few “quick’ projects…when will we learn?

Kara, spent a couple hours brushing on 303 protectant on the current original dodger.  We’re trying to get another year out of it and it leaks when it rains which is a drag.  This should help solve that problem for the immediate future.  We’ll call that one a success, good job chicky!

While she was doing that, I decide to tackle something that’s been bugging me for a while now.  We have an engine driven Sea Frost refrigeration system.  It works great and freezes a huge block very quickly if we’re running the engine.  It will also run off the inverter but takes longer to freeze the block and eats power.  Part of the refit will likely include a DC option…but I digress

So we’ve replaced all the zincs on the boat with the exception of the one for the Sea Frost cooling tower, because much to my own embarrassment…I wasn’t exactly sure where it was…and it’s been eating at me.  So I today I found it in the engine compartment…imagin that…an engine driven refrigeration system that runs of the same raw water input…is actually located next to both of those things…who’d a thunk it.

Yours truly – beginning the zinc removal process

Sweet, changing a zing, I’ll be done in 15 minutes chicky and then maybe we can go sailing.  I consulted the 15 year old xerox copied owners manual for instructions.  Let’s just say they where less than clear, so I took my time interpreting them and finally figured out how to remove the zinc.  The problem was, when I unscrewed the bronze plug that I should hold the zinc, from the housing…no zinc.  Oh shit…am I in the right place or is there a bigger problem?  On closer inspection I realized the zinc had simply snapped of while I was removing the plug, at least I’m in the right place.  How hard could this possibly be?

Now we have two problems to deal with.  1) There’s a big chuck of zinc in the cooling tower and I know if we leave it in there, it’ll clog the system and likely cause major damage.  2) The threaded hole in the bronze fitting appears to be a single solid piece of zinc, the threads for the new zinc aren’t even visible since a half inch of the old one snapped off flush with the plug…good times.

Oh well, one problem at a time.  First let’s get that zinc out of the tower.  Problem is the hole in the tower is small enough you need to be a freaking smurf to reach in and actually do anything.  So I waste a bunch of time trying to fish the cigar shaped zinc out of a little hole.  The small diameter means it’s only coming out if it’s oriented perfectly (picture trying to pull a cigar out of a hole that’s barely large enough to accommodate it’s circumference, upside down and partially obstructed (of course).  After brushing up on my impressive sailor’s (swearing) vocabulary…I ask Kara if she’ll give it a try.  Fortunately, her fingers are small enough she can reach in and feel around a bit.  After removing the intake house from the housing we have a larger hole to work with and more importantly two holes on apposing sides of the tower.

Did I mention this is a stupid design?

So like a racoon with a shiny object, Kara goes to work fishing around inside the housing trying to push the broken pieces out.  After an hour…or more of work and missing a few layers of skin from her fingers, it’s out and we’re good to go.  Did I mention she’s a trooper and this is a stupid design?

The remains of the zinc

So now all that’s left is to remove the broken piece from the plug. so we can screw in the new one.  Problem…it’s perfectly flush with the brass plug that it mounts in.  After a little research I realize that zinc melts at a significantly lower temperature than brass.  Time for a run to Home Depot for a blow torch, this is where I’m really glad we chose Kemah and the marina we did to keep Vela while we prep her for departure.  We thought very hard about going to Port Aransas instead, due to the fact that it’s a cool little town with a  much more chill vibe (which we prefer).  We chose Kemah because it’s close to Houston where our company has an office we can work out of, and it has access to just about every kind of boat related gear/service you could ever need…so yeah that’s paid off 1000 times already.

Let’s get this party started

Fortunately, our marina has a nice little work bench with a table vice for us too use.  After 45 minutes, the majority of the zinc has dripped out on the concrete under the vice.  Problem is…most…is not the same as all.  The threads are still too gunked up with zinc to install the new zinc.  Looks like I’m headed back to the store for a tap and die set.  Oh and I also left my drill at home, because you know…we live there and stuff.  So we find the tap/die kit and sweet talk our way into using a cordless drill and a table clamp in the store (flash back to our departure and bumming a clamp at lowes to replace the propane Solenoid).  But hey, this looks good, lets go knock this out.

Heating the zinc

Finally starting to melt

Bombs away

The aftermath

Back aboard Vela, the Zinc fits perfectly and 10 minutes later, we’re able to run the engine and fridge compressor and…no leaks success!

So that 15 minute job only took…a little over 8 hours.  Sweet, lets grab some grub and drive the 4 hours back home.   Yep, prepping for cruising is pretty freaking glamorous.

Suffice it to say that from now on, I’ll be replacing that zinc on a VERY regular basis, to avoid a repeat.

Anyway, thanks for stopping in and if you actually made it this far, let us hear from you.


Welcome to 2016 – A look ahead

Howdy Folks,

I’m sitting here in front of a nice warm fire New Year’s morning, in Marble Falls TX.  All our friends have just left after our annual New Year’s party and some homemade breakfast tacos.  Now, it’s time to kick back relax a bit and absorbe the fact that it’s freaking 2016.

When Kara and I first seriously discussed the idea of extended cruising, it was always a kind of ethereal ‘plan’.  You know the type…that sounds like fun, we should really figure out a way to make that happen.  Then it settled in that this really was something we could do, but only if we did something to actively make it happen.  So we got serious about actually learning to sail our little Catalina 22 around the lake, saving as much $ as possible and started shopping for a middle boat.  Something bigger (mid 30s) to learn on for a few years before we actually bought a much bigger (we probably need at least 50ft…or so we thought at the time).  We could do all that and aim to actually leave in 2020 (typical 5-6 year plan).  The more we looked and read the more we kept thinking about that old tired advice of go small, go cheap, go now…

The thing is, I think it feels like old tired advice because you see and read it everywhere, once you get serious about really investigating the cruising lifestyle, it’s literally everywhere.  Everyone says, we should have gone sooner.  So we really thought about that and made the decision to give that advice a shot.  The great thing about life and boats is that everyone’s ideas and perceptions are different.  Guaranteed that we all picture something different when we think small and cheap.  For us it meant finding a much smaller boat than we originally pictured for ourselves but that we believed we could be comfortable on.  This originally brought us to Vela (then Baboo).  We figured, this is plenty of boat for us.  I mean sure we’d love a sugar scoop stern, and a pilot house,  and the newer bigger boats for 2-3x the $ are super nice….but we can be happy (we think) with much less.  So we opted to spend less on the boat and start getting her ready for an earlier departure date.

Some of the best advice we got, came from our virtual friends over at Totem.  We’ve never actually met but reached out to Jamie for some advice on new sails and while we ended up going with a local loft to get that local connection, we really appreciated Jamie’s willingness to share what they’ve learned on their voyage.  His advice was to pick a date, not a year and a month but an actual day on the calendar.  Something you can point to and say, we’re going then.  Otherwise it’s just to easy to drag your feet and think we’ll get to that…we still have years.  Once there’s a date and you compare that date against the todo list, shit gets real.  But it also gets exciting.

So this year, we really get rolling.  The new sails should be ready in the next couple weeks and we just removed out staysail boom to get ready for them and clean up the deck a bit..  We have a new dodger and bimini in the planning stages and have started planning the arch that will be built and installed in the March/April timeframe.  We’re hunting down the largest solar panels we can realistically fit, currently thinking 3 large panels in the 300-350W (each) range for the top of the arch.  Followed by a wind gen and davits.   That project will also include a full electronics upgrade, swim platform and windvane…so by far our biggest ticket item.

At the same time, we’re planning to put our pretty little lake house (where we currently live) on the market (April/May) and move into our condo (currently rented out but the lease ends in May).  This start our downsizing process and by getting us back to Austin means we’ll be an hour closer to the Vela, two hours closer on the round trip which will make it easier to get down and be productive on those work weekends.

So for us, 2016 is going to be a big year and that’s really sinking in for me as I sit in front of this fire and think about the year ahead.  I’m pumped and while I know it will be an expensive and likely stressful process, it’s that date that has my attention.

April 26 2017, is right around the corner…lucky us!

Planning the refit

Howdy Folks,

We’ve been busy getting things rolling with refit projects for Vela.  Our local sail loft, Banks Sails here in Kemah, is working on our new set of $ail$.  So we’re looking forward to putting those to use pretty soon.  As part of that project we’re still working on the design for the Asymetric spinnaker, stay tuned for that one.

As part of the new sail project, we’ll be removing the staysail boom to free-up some deck space.
According to the rigger who came by today, we’ll be able to keep the sail self tacking (with the new sail cut correctly) and get rid of the boom, so it feels like a big win.  In the past, having a dinghy on deck has meant the staysail was out of commission, this will address that.  What’s the use of a cutter rig if you can’t use your staysail offshore…when you need it most?

We’ve also been working with a local stainless shop to build an arch for our new solar panels and  wind generator.  It will also include a new set of davits.  Vela came with a set of davits but they don’t really get the dinghy up high enough for our taste, and they’re not the most sturdy design.  Moving them up to the arch and removing the stern ladder will allow us to open up the stern pulpit a bit.  As part of the project we’re also planning to add a removable swim platform with it own ladder.  We’ll also be replacing our existing stern rail seats, in an effort to get a more usable shape (deeper) and move them further back to gain some room.  Last but not least, we’ll also be raising the back of bimini a bit to gain a bit of headroom when using the stern seats.  It currently hits me about mid-forehead when sitting in the seats.  It’s turning out to be MUCH more expensive than we where originally thinking, but it’s an important addition and we want to ensure it all works well and is solidly built.

It looks like we’ve also found someone to help us with the planning and installation of all the electronics upgrades.  One of the things Kara and I are both adamant about is that we’re involved in the refit and know where EVERYTHING is.  Every connection, component, wire, splice, etc…  Someday, we know we’ll be out there when something stops working and we want to be able to troubleshoot it on our own.  After talking with several other local sailors, we found Gary and he’s going to help us with the entire process.  So there’s some big changes in place for Vela in the coming months.  Our current ‘plan’ is:

  • Arch – local custom
  • Solar Panels – TBD
  • Wind Generator – Silent Wind
  • Chart Plotter – B&G Zeus 2
  • B&G WiFi Module for phone/tablet control/visibility
  • Move wind/depth/knot meter to companionway (from helm) – B&G Triton 41
  • Charge controller – Battery monitor
  • Radar – B&G 4G
  • Water Maker – TBD, Likely Spectra 12v
  • Much larger next-gen Anchor – TBD – Mantus or Rocna (73lb)
  • Much larger Windlass – Lighthouse 1501
  • Updated battery bank – Currently all lifeline
  • AIS send/recieve – TBD

Essentially our plan is to hemorrhage as much $$$ as possible for the next year and if we survive that…do some cruising…or at least that’s what it feel like at this point 😉

4-26-2017 By Kara

“Four, twenty-six seventeen” Like Dorothy clicking her heals
to get home, I repeat my chant hoping that my mind will take me to a better
place then the present stressful rat race. 
April 26th, 2017 is our target date to leave our current life
behind, to transform and to explore the world.  
“I can put up with just about anything for 18 months if I
know it will all change”, I think as I receive another elbow jab from my fellow
airplane passenger while on the way home from everlasting work travel.   I’m not quite sure what happened, my career
used to be important to me; it used to be fulfilling.  I was excited to help my customers solve a
challenge or to ‘own the room’ with a 500 person audience.   Maybe it was process or lack of resources,
but something killed my motivation.  
Perhaps, it was when I took a step back, looked at the bigger picture of
life and asked, “I am alive, but am I really living?”
My old soccer coach was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a few
weeks ago and is under going Chemotherapy. 
She was fit and lived a healthy lifestyle, but is still staring death in
the face.   My dad died of cancer before
60 and I have numerous relatives and in-laws that either succumbed to health
issues before their time or have trouble doing everyday tasks because of their declining
health.  I am often reminded that you are
only guaranteed this moment; the next might not happen.  Life is too short not to live out your dreams
so we are going sailing and are untying the lines in April of 2017.
What’s the significance of 4/2017?   Our original goal was to retire early and go
sail.   We could possibly leave in 5
years and 2020 sounded like a nice round, safe number to shoot for if we had to put a number on it.  The more that we researched the more we kept
hearing “Go small, Go cheap, Go now!” 
Not a single item we read made us think that we needed to wait longer or
that cruising was a bad decision.  Advice
from our cruising friends that are in mid-circumnavigation was to put a specific
day month year on our plan to leave. 
After careful consideration on Vela’s necessary improvements, the best
time of year to sail through the gulf, and personal preparations (house / condo
/ family) we decided on 4/2017.  The 26th
just happened to be a random date in the last week of the month and we aren’t
necessarily set on that date, but it gives us a day to shoot and plan for.
Yes some parts of this will be difficult, yes there is real
work involved, yes we are not nearly prepared, yes I’m nervous yet excited, but
also yes, we can do this!  As Walt Disney
stated  “The way to get started is to
quit talking and get doing” and thus I am going to stop typing and get doing.

Fireworks, Sailing, and Appeasing the Gods

Howdy again folks,

As I mentioned in the last post, we’ve had a busy couple weeks.  While it’s great to catch-up on boat projects, we kept hearing rumors about folks that actually….(gasp)…left the docks with their boats and did fun things on them.  So instead of just talking about all the cool things we wanted to do, Kara and I decided to dedicate this last weekend to actually enjoying some time on the boat.

Kara was in Houston for work and had a hotel right next to our office Thursday night as a result,  As it turned out, all my meetings where all virtual on Friday, so after work Thursday night I loaded up the truck with boat stuff and drove down to join her in her hotel room.  We both had pretty busy afternoons but where able to leave the office around 4 and head down to Kemah (it’s about an hour drive).  So Kara headed to the boat and kicked on the AC and fridge so they’d have time to cool down.  We hit the liquor store, grocery store, and Home depot for a new deck wash hose…way cheaper than West Marine for that kinda stuff.

Then we got down to the boat, got everything stowed, grabbed a bag of ice which the marina sells pretty cheap, reviewed the charts to figure out where we wanted to anchor for the fireworks, fired up the Yanmar, untied the boat and headed out.  We where pleasantly surprised at how much cooler it was once we got out of our protected marina.  The wind was a good 15+ knots and not as humid as we’ve come to expect from Houston, which was great.  We headed out through the Clearlake channel, under the the 146 bridge and into Galveston bay.  The wind had been blowing long enough that there was a pretty decent wind chop, so we opted to just head over about 1/2 mile off the kemah boardwalk and set the hook.  Once we got the anchor set and the boat settled into the wind and waves, it was pretty darn comfortable.  So we made a couple rum and diets, fired up the grill and cooked a few beef kabobs, which despite my hatred for our current magma gas grill, turned out pretty well.  I know I shouldn’t hate something as simple as a grill and it’s nothing against magma but I really miss charcoal and am so spoiled with my big green egg, that I find the lake of temperature control on this grill to be frustrating.  But by flipping the kabobs every 5 min or so, they turned out pretty well and we just had time to finish our dinner and make another drink before the fireworks started.  We’ve been talking about going out to watch the fireworks for so long, that it was really nice to finally be out, sitting up on deck with a cold drink just enjoying the cool(ish) breeze and a full (blue) moon.  It was also nice of the Kemah boardwalk to sponsor these fireworks which they seem to do every Friday night in June/July.  We can usually see them just by walking across the little street at our marina, but it’s way nicer to enjoy them from the boat on the hook away from the dock…for a change.

After the fireworks we just sat and talked for a while and watched as all the boats went in.  Once the herd had thinned out a bit we pulled up the anchor and the deckwash and did our best to get all the chain back in without bringing up half of Galveston bay with it.  The bottom is a really fine black mud and it’s almost impossible to get it all off in the dark.  We where thankful for our newly installed LED deck light which definitely made the job easier.   Once the anchor was stowed, we motored back to the marina and safely tied up back at the dock to conclude our first night time docking process with just Kara and I as crew.  Obviously this was a pretty simple little trip, but we really needed it and it felt great.  So did the AC and showers once we where back at the dock.

The next day we got up early, cleaned the remaining mud off the ground tackle and deck.  We then went out to pick up a few things for the day.  Jason and Autumn (Kara’s brother and sister-in-law) had called and wanted to come join us for a sail and the renaming ceremony later that night.  So we picked up some champagne, snacks and got the boat ready to leave the dock for a second time in less than 24 hours…crazy stuff.

Once Jason and Autumn got there, we fired up the boat cast off the lines and motored out to the bay again.  This time though, we raised the sails and noticed how much easier it all was with our nice clean winches.  Yep, should have done that one a long time ago!  At first we only had 5-8 knots of breeze but it was enough that we where at least moving, so we where finally able to shut off the motor and enjoy the piece and quiet.  As the afternoon went on the wind picked up a bit and we where able to maintain a good 5-6 knots which was nice.  That in combination with good weather, great company, and some excellent beers that Jason brought along, made for an excellent afternoon of sailing.  We where out for about 4 hours and as the wind was dieing down, decided to head in and get ready for the renaming ceremony.

Once back at the dock, we got the AC cranking and got out of the heat for a while(100F / 37-38C).  While we where picking up food for the evening we heard from our friends Heather and Michelle and they wanted to join us for the festivities, which was great.  We all met back at the marina and as the sun was setting had our renaming ceremony.  Where we thanked the gods for taking care of our boat (previously known as Baboo) and requested they strike the old name from their roster and that she hereby be known as Vela…and may your watchful eye always bless her in her new life with us.  The full ceremony we used is here, it was the perfect combo of fun/silly/respectful that we where looking for.  In the process we got to meet a few new marina neighbors, who stopped by to share in the fun, food and cold beverages.

Welcome Vela – We’re looking forward to many adventures together in the future.

All in all it was a great time and instead of being known generically as the boat, she will from now on be referred to by her new simple and beautiful name Vela.  Which we chose because we wanted a short simple and pretty sounding name.  It also means has several meanings.  One being Latin for the sails of a ship, which is where the name of the constellation comes from.  The other being “she who watches over” (which is the one I really love).  So for us it works on many levels, plus we just like the how it sounds and spelling it phonetically on the radio couldn’t be much easier.

So, welcome Vela!  Long may we sail safely with her and may her new life with us take her to far away lands and be filled with love, laughter, happiness and of course adventure.

Of course first, we need new sails…and a few other things but more on that…next time!