Maintenance in the heat that is Houston

Howdy Folks,

Thought I’d check in after what’s been a very busy June for us.  For various reasons we weren’t able to get down to the boat for about a month, so for the last 3 weekends we’ve made the 8 hour round trip drive from the house to Kemah and have been whittling away on the projects.

The first two weekends, we pretty much didn’t do anything fun and just worked on the boat.  We’ve cleaned and lubed all 8 winches (4 self tailing and 4 standard).  This was a fairly nasty job that we’d been putting off but we knew it needed to be done.  Essentially we just dissembled the winches 1 at a time and tossed the parts in a bucket to let them soak in either gasoline or mineral spirits to degrease it a bit and took everything up the one of the deck area our marina provides.  The decks are elevated so they get a decent breeze, the view is good and most importantly they provide a bit of share.  Then we scrubbed them clean with green scrub pads and a toothbrush.  Then after a quick rinse in some warm (as if there’s another choice for anything outdoors during the Houston summer) soapy water.  We re-greased the gears (lightly with a brush) and oiled the pawls and springs and reassembled everything.  This really isn’t a challenging job, but it’s fairly time consuming and was super nasty.  Our goal is to do them more regularly form now one and to just tackle them 1 at a time so it’s not such a downer.  But hey, the winches truly sing now and are much easier to use.

Winch disassembly

Dirty pawls, these should not have been greased, just lightly oiled.

Kara, finishing this one off the right way

We also got both settees in the main saloon re-upholstered and are super happy with them.  We used a very light colored Ultra leather, we went with their Brissa Distressed and really like the feel of it.  It feels like really buttery soft leather but has all the benefits of Ultraleather, so should last for a long time.  We also had the cushions redone, so it’s much more comfortable now.

Kara went up the mast to the spreaders (We’ve been taking turns on this one) the mast climber really makes this nice as mentioned previously, but this was her first time up the mast.  So she climbed while I spotted with a safety line on the winch (not required but well worth the effort for the piece of mind).  She replaced the steaming light and deck lights, so for the first time since we’ve owned the boat, we have a functional deck light…nice.  We’ve now replaced almost every bulb on the boat with a new LED and have several spares squirreled away, so our power consumption and heat generation from the lights has come WAY down.

Kara on her way up to replace some light bulbs.

We also re-sealed the fridge doors with some new rubber (weather) stripping.  Kara cut and shaped a new gel infused memory foam mattress topper for the forward bunk that we sleep on.  This thing is great, much more comfortable and the gel means it sleeps cooler, which is a welcome improvement for me 😉

Then we finally took the time to position permanent dock lines to make it easier when bringing the boat back in.  We’d been using extra long dock lines and using them for double duty, so our bow line would come to the dock cleat and then back to the boat as a rear spring, with a similar process on the stern.  This meant we needed fewer lines, but was a huge PITA if you need to adjust either line.  To say we should have made this change,  much MUCH sooner is a massive understatement.  We’ve gone out several times since and putting the boat away is now about a 5-10 minute process compared to…well longer before. 

We’ve also been working to narrow down our list of “Must do” boat projects before we can leave.  I’ll share more detail on this later but one of the things that’s been on the list for a while now is to have our chainplates inspected and potentially replaced, since the boat is 15 years old, we where assuming this would need to be done before leaving.  We’ve been dreading this, since Island Packet used internal chainplates that are fiberglassed in place.  This is great from a protection perspective as long as they are well sealed and bedded but makes them very expensive (~$10K) if you need to replace them.  Anyway, we had a rigger come out that’s experienced with IP chainplate replacement and he inspected ours and showed us what great shape they where in.  We couldn’t see the entire chainplate (fiber glassed over) but we could tell that the exposed areas below the deck where in great shape.  He said based on how they looked and that they’re made out of 316 stainless, that he didn’t see any reason to replace them.  Prior to 1998/1999 they where made out of 308, which doesn’t hold up nearly as well.  We just need to keep them well bedded and should be in good shape moving forward.  Thank you Mr Bob Johnson, we love the quality and attention to detail that went into our boat!  Not to mention, saving $10k on not having to replace the chainplates, means more for the cruising kitty!

Inspecting the chainplates.  We also checked them out from the inside.

Here’s a bad chainplate from an IP he did earlier this month.  They used to make them out of 308 stainless, ours are 316 and fortunately in almost perfect condition.

The other big job we finally got done was a getting our new name on the boat.  We originally where just going to order some generic vinyl lettering of the web, but didn’t like how they turned out and realized that for a little bit more we could work with a local artist who worked with us nailing a design we really liked and then custom cut everything in his shop and applied it all, and we both love it.

Putting on our new hailing port

So that was two full weekends of boat chores and maintenance, without ever even having the time to leave the marina…which kinda sucked to do, but the progress has been great.  We decided that this weekend we’d focus on actually getting out and enjoying the boat.  So stay tuned, the next post will have anchoring, fireworks, sailing and the renaming ceremony.  But more on that…next time.

I also made my first trip to the top of the mast, to check our halyards and a few connections up there.

A little morning inspiration

Howdy Folks,

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog.  Kara and I have been spending a lot of time away from the boat lately. Spending time with friends and family, dealing with work drama, and enjoying some time at the lake while we still have the place.  We’ve also started selling things that we no longer need/use and that of course has led to a lot of talking and planning about our eventual leaving.  

We’ve been talking a lot about moving up our time frame from 5 years to the 2-3 year range and while that seems daunting at the moment, I think in our hearts we both no it makes the most sense for us.  Before we can leave we have some big projects to tackle but we’ll get into that later.  For now I just wanted to share a quote that I find really inspiring.  For Kara and I it’s easy to get wrapped up in prepping for the journey, you always feel like if you work just a little longer you’ll be able to afford X or be more secure in your future.  But the future is always uncertain, and there’s more important thing in life than a big fat bank account.  I think this quote from Sterling Hayden does a great job of capturing that, and while it’s hard advice to follow, that doesn’t take away from the value of the message.

-Enjoy-

“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? ”

Busy with boat projects

This seems like a good place for some random baby marina ducks

Well we’ve managed a few weekend trips to the boat recently and have knocked out a ton of projects that have been on the list since bringing the boat back.

First, I installed a set of new companionway doors.  We where a bit tired of having to mess with the hatch boards all the time.  They’re great for offshore work, but once you’re back in the marina having to either pull 3 boards out, or climb over them when going in and out…is a bit of a drag.  So after some reading we got in touch with the folks from Zarcor and ordered a pair of new doors.  I spent a surprising amount of time measuring and remeasuring one weekend to ensure I got it right the first time.  For some reason I was ultra paranoid about the fit and probably over did it but hey it all turned out great.  The folks at Zarcor purposely fabricate the doors to be a tight fit and warn you that you’ll probably be doing some sanding to get the final fit, which honestly is a great thing in my book, since it allowed me to really dial in the fit.  It took close to two months for them to show up but the finished product is great.  They have a set of inserts that will take either a smoked plexiglass panel, solid star board or a set of screens which is great for airflow.  We also opted for a stainless steel security bar that attached to the inside.  Once you close the companionway slider and lock the doors it makes the door much more secure.  I’m sure they could still be bashed in, but you’d have to be pretty damn determined.

Measuring for the new doors
Measuring the lip for more detail

I was pretty sure the top side of the boards was a straight 90 degree angle but needed to be sure

And the finished product, with smoked inserts.  The hinges are great, you can just lift the doors right off and insert the hatch boards.  Pretty slick setup and much easier going in and out now.

We’re really liking the added view.  You can see how with the screens in this would add a good bit of ventilation.  We’ll try it once it cools down or we spend a night anchored out.

The next project we knocked out was the dock steps…see The Unplanned Swim for why that one got bumped up on the list.  I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the $250+ that places like West Marine get for a crappy set of plastic dock steps, so we built a set at home and took them up to the boat.

We also had air conditioning installed.  I know that’s not a decision everyone likes, but for us the only way we could possibly consider spending weekends on the boat through a Houston summer…was to have AC.  So we had a local yacht services company install it.  We really like doing our own work when it makes sense, but for something this involved, we needed it to be super clean and to match the rest of the beautiful interior, so we asked around and after a few solid recommendations for the same company we gave them a call and got it done.  The negative is, we had to add another through-hull for the AC, but the good news is it’s in a place we’ll be able to tap into the same one for the water maker, when the time comes.  We went with a cruiseair 1600BTU unit.  We wanted something that would be enough to cool the interior a bit during the day and enough to sleep at night but didn’t want to have to give up too much storage space in the process.  To really cool down the boat in the heat of the day we would have needed a 1600 and an 8000 BTU unit, but we didn’t want the cost or to dedicate that much space.  With a single 16k unit we only lost space  under one cushion of the settee and a small space behind it, there’s actually still a several open storage spaces behind it, so we’re happy with the compramise.  Oh and it’s nice and cool in the boat these days.  Unfortunately I don’t have any pics yet but I’ll take a few the next time we’re there and I’ll update this then.

Last weekend I re-wired the propane solenoid that we had to put in as a band aid fix on for out first offshore trip after we bought her.  I’ve been putting that project off for quit a while and even though I wasn’t looking forward to it, it was time to get it done the right way.  So I removed the old sealant around the wiring in the propane locker and removed the pigtail from the dead solenoid.  So the new one could be wired directly to the boat wiring.  It took some doing, but with a little whipping line I was able to pull the wiring through to the inside.  Once I wormed my way into the access hatch under the electrical panel I was able to completely remove the old pigtail and connect the new one with fresh marine crimp connections and heat shrink them to make them waterproof…just in case.  So now the new solenoid is in done correctly and I’m hoping that means we’re good for many years to come.

To wrap up a weekend completely dedicated to boat projects, I also went ahead and climbed the mast for the first time last weekend.  OK, so I actually climbed a little over half way…for the first time.  During our survey we discovered our foredeck light was burned out.  Since we didn’t have the time then and didn’t know for sure what bulb type it took we just decided to wait until we got her home.  It was a bit of a nuisance a few times in the Bahamas and we wished we had it coming up the Houston ship channel, in the dark.  I know, not technically a legit navigation combo, but when surrounded by huge ships and tugs…anything you can do to increase visibility is appreciated.

We had picked up a Mast Climber and a harness a few months back and this was my chance to use them both.  The mast climber really is a great piece of gear but I wasn’t crazy about the idea of using it with a typical bosuns chair, since it would be fairly easy to fall out of if things got out of whack on my climb and I really like the idea of either Kara or I being able to go up the mast solo if required.  That being said, for my first climb I really wanted a spotter and I was glad to have Kara there.  We attached the spinnaker halyard to the harness via the 316 stainless climbing rated carabiner that came with the mast climber and then for good measure also attached another spare halyard directly to the harness.  I was able to climb the spinnaker halyard solo and Kara was there to spot me with the spare halyard by keeping it relatively tight as I inch-wormed my way up.  The climbing works great, essentially the two ascenders consist of a rope channel and a toothed lever.  We you put even a little bit of weight on the end of the lever the teeth lock onto the rope allowing you to comfortably hang in place.  One ascender is connected directly to the harness and placed above the other.   The second is connected to a pair of straps that you stick your feet through and can stand one.  By alternating where your weight is, either standing on the lower strap or hanging from the harness, you’re easily able to take all weight of the other and simply slide it up the rope.  It’s a decent workout but honestly not as tough as it sounds.  So I was able to get up to the lights, just above the spreaders and pulled the dead foredeck light, and while I was in the neighborhood, also pulled the steaming light.  We ordered a set of new LED bulbs to replace them, along with some spares and next time we’re down in Houston. we’ll replace them both and if all goes according to plan should finally be able to light the foredeck.

View from above

My beautiful wife from above

How many wanna be sailors does it take to change a light bulb?

In between all the projects we even got out to do a little day sailing in the bay.  So I’ll leave off this marathon post with a little of the good stuff.  Thanks for stopping by – Erin

Hey look…a staysail

For some reason, this view always make s me smile

The unplanned swim

I’ve been meaning to right this update for a while now but have been so busy with work and boat projects that I kept putting it off. It will be a little light on pictures for reasons that should become obvious.

A little over a month ago, Kara and I had planned to latch onto a naming ceremony that a couple boats from our pier at the marina where having as a last hurrah before leaving on their cruising adventures (bastards).  We had been planning our own renaming ceremony and when they heard about it they invited us to join them.  So we took the old name off and got everything ready for the new name.

We took off a little early from work on Friday afternoon and headed down to Houston for a fun filled weekend of boating adventure.  One of Kara’s long time friends, we’ll call her Ren, decided to join us for the weekend and come see what this whole sailboat/cruising dream she’s heard us talk about for so long was all about.  So despite some pretty crappy weather reports, we headed down for a weekend on the boat.

I think most of us probably have a friend or two, who when we get together it’s just one big party.  For Kara, that friend is Ren.  When they get together it’s like a perfect storm and given the weather we where expecting, I knew it was going to be an interesting weekend.

So we got to the boat a little after 6:00 and the rum started flowing.  Since the weather Friday night was actually fairly nice, we decided to just relax in the cockpit and enjoy a few drinks.  Once we learned that Dominoes delivers to boats in our marina we just kicked back and relaxed for the evening.  The next morning we got up, enjoyed some bad marina coffee and…watched the rain pour down.  It rained pretty much all day, it rained so much we couldn’t even consider putting the new name on that day, so we called our other friends and family that where coming for the naming ceremony and told them not to bother, we’d do it another day.  It rained almost 9 freaking inches that day.  We went out to eat some late breakfast…ok lunch and then decided to go back to the boat and get out of the rain for a while.

So we ended up spending about 4 hours drinking rum and playing poker in the saloon.  Thank you giant bulkhead mounted table and of course, Flor de Cana for the delicious rum.  By the time the rain started to slow down we decided to go join the festivities.  Despite the rain the party was in full swing for both Migration and Helios, so we joined them for some delicious food and yep, even more booze.  Then it was time for a pair of renaming ceremonies, more on this when we do ours.

By the time 11PM rolled around we where all feeling pretty good but neither Kara or I had noticed just how much booze Ren had been putting away.  So we decided to head up to the marina hot tub for a bit.  As Kara and I where wrapping up our changing, Ren decided to grab a few more diet cokes and on her way out…promptly fell off the boat and into the water between the boat and dock.  Evidently, on the way down she hit her face on the dock because by the time we jumped up the companionway and hauled her out of the water, she had a very bloody nose.

Incidentally, we now have new dock steps to make it a bit easier getting on and off of the boat…and everyone is fine

Name removal and some new tunes

Howdy Folks,

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Kara and I have been planning to rename Baboo since we bought her.  Despite the superstitions, neither of us is crazy about the name and we want to love everything about our little cruising casa, including the name…so it has to go.
  
During one of our recent trips to the marina, a couple folks on our pier who are both preparing to leave on their open ended cruises (in 2-3 weeks…bastards), mentioned that they where planning a renaming party for their two boats the weekend of March 21-22.  Since we’ve been dragging our heals on getting this done, we decided to join in the festivities and do our renaming at the same time.  So to get things ready in time, our plans where to remove the old name this weekend.

Since I was in Houston for work at the end of last week, the plan was for me to meet Kara and Buster, our German Shorthaired Pointer at Baboo and spend the weekend taking care of a few projects and maybe get in a little day sail.  This was going to be Buster’s first time aboard Baboo and while he’s always loved spending time on our boats, he’s never spent any real time on a sailboat and we weren’t really sure what to expect.  Unfortunately, Kara came down with food poisoning when she went out to dinner with her mom Thursday night, so she and Buster stayed home.  Since I was already in Houston, I broke away Friday afternoon and headed down to visit Baboo.

In preparation for removing the old name which was painted on, I had read several threads on CruisersForum and to double check, posted a question on the IP owners forum (IPYOA) and the general consensus was that EasyOff oven cleaner was the way to go.  Evidently it doesn’t harm the gelcoat and does as good a job of removing pant as it does baked on pizza cheese…mmm Pizza.

So still a bit nervous, I stopped at the local Randal’s grocery store picked up some EasyOff and other essentials (beer and snacks).  Then dropped by West Marine to pick up a fine scotch brite pad (essentially very fine artificial steel wool) that’s great for scrubbing stains without scratching the surface.  I also picked up some rubbing compound and surface polish to restore the shine to the gelcoat before we apply the new name and are able to wax the transom again.  Waxing before applying the name can cause issues with the vinyl lettering not sticking properly.

Then I headed down to the boat hoping I’d have enough time to remove the old name before it got too dark.  After chatting with a few folks and reassuring them (and myself) that I wasn’t crazy, and was in fact about to apply oven cleaner to our transom.  I lowered the dingy down into the water from the davits so I’d have a place to work and coated the old name with oven cleaner. 

Soaking in EasyOff

The guidance I got from IPYOA said to let it sit for 5 minutes or so and then scrub with the Scotch Brite pad.  So that’s what I did, I was absolutely amazed at how easily the old paint came off using this method.

I was pretty proud of myself for remembering to stop mid way and take this picture.

As you can see it worked like a charm.

I’d say the total time scrubbing was about 1-2 minutes.  Speaking of which, oven cleaner is nasty stuff, I wore disposable gloves for all this scrubbing, you don’t want want this stuff on your skin.  By this time the paint was really more of greasy smear, very easy to get off.  Since the paint went so smoothly, I decided I’d press my luck a bit and try the same thing on the vinyl lettering for the previous hailing port.  I wasn’t looking forward to breaking out the heat gun and meticulously peeling them all off.  So I coated the whole thing in oven cleaner and stepped next door to chat with me neigbors who where putting a new bimini on their beautiful Pacific Seacraft 40.  When I came back and scrubbed at the vinyl lettering all I really got was a ton of green foamy mess. The top layer of the vinyl came away, along with the dye but must of the vinyl remained.  So I re-coated and went back to chat with the neighbors.  The second application and scrubbing took most of the lettering off but there where still spots here and there, so I re-applied a third coat.

After the second coat and scubbing

I let the 3rd coat sit for a few minutes and was able to get all the lettering off this time.  All total I’d say it took about 20-30 minutes to remove all the vinyl.  Of which, 5-10 minutes was actual scrubbing, the rest was waiting for the oven cleaner to work it’s magic.  Overall I was really pleased with how well this works, thanks CF and IPYOA.

The finished product

Once I was sure I’d cleaned away all the oven cleaner, I then washed and dried the transom.  As expected the finish was a bit splotchy with areas of low and high gloss from the removal of the wax.  So I spent a good deal of time compounding and polishing it back to a finish I was happy with.  This was the long part of the project and the compound took much more elbow grease than the paint and vinyl removal.  The finished product looked pretty good but since the sun was hesitant to show itself, I’ll reserve judgement on if we’ll need to do another round of polishing before applying the new name and hailing port info.  If I had to do it again, I’d have no hesitation using the oven cleaner, it worked great.

Enjoying a beer and a break in the clouds.

So that project being done, I enjoyed a couple cold beers from a local Houston microbrewery and contemplated what to do with the rest of the day.  During the name removal project I got a call from a couple I’d “met” via email from a thread on CruisersForum.  They also have an IP40 and keep her literally 5 minutes away in a nearby marina and invited me over for drinks.  Since I was planning to head back to lake LBJ that night, I packed up the truck grabbed the 4 remaining beers of from my 6-pack of Hopadillo and drove over.

Tasty stuff – I’m enjoying the last of it while writing this entry on the deck (lake LBJ)

I met them on their boat, a beautiful and well equipped IP40 Carpe Diem and since they have a full enclosure (it was chilly by Texas standards) we relaxed in the cockpit and got to know each other over a few drinks.  They were super friendly folks and I’m sure the next time we’re all 4 down in Kemah, we’ll get together for dinner, drinks, sailing…or some combination there-of.  It’s always nice to meet other interested cruisers and benefit from the perspective of folks who have been sailing for so much longer than we have.  I believe John mentioned he’s been sailing for 40 years.  With that many years of experience, they’re bound to be able to teach us a few things.  Plus they where super cool and have exceptionally good taste in boats 😉 what more could you ask for.

By the time we decided to break for the evening, it was 10 PM and I was no longer interested in making the 4 hour drive back home.  So I grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed back to Baboo (sounds better than nameless) and started relaxed with Airborne – by William F. Buckley, to wind down with a little rum before bed.

The next morning I got up early’sh 7 AM and walked up to the marina lounge for a little coffee to try and decide what I was going to do.  On our way back to Texas from Abaco, we took a wave on deck and didn’t realize we had failed to properly close a hatch all the way (rookie mistake) and of course the splash was a direct hit on our tired old Alpine stereo that came with Baboo.  We where already planning to replace it, since we use our phones for everything musical and wanted something with Bluetooth capabilities.  Still it was a complete loss and we where very luck nothing else was damaged, the SSB is about 2 feet away.  I’d been putting this project off since we got back because I wasn’t sure how painful it would be to get the old stereo out.  As much as I wanted to go home, being the only one on the boat and knowing that we where hoping to have some friends down to visit us on the boat next weekend, I decided now was the time.  The new stereo was just sitting there waiting on me, it would be nice to have a better option than the portable bluetooth speaker we’d been using.

So, I wandered back to Baboo and started crawling around looking for the best access to remove the old system and check all the wiring.  Fortunately, like everything else I’ve found on Baboo (knock wood) access was fairly convenient, Island Packet did it right.  Removing the old unit was fairly easy and the wiring was nice and clean.  I even found the old manual and wiring diagram for the original stereo, so after a brief trip to Home Depot for some waterproof crimping butt-splices the ones with heat-shrink tubing, I was ready to go.  Side-note: it really is nice being in Kemah, we’re 5 minutes from just about anything you could need for a boat project.  Really lowers the stress level when working under a weekend time crunch.

Checking all the old connections and labeling

Crimping the new connections

Anyway, I got back to Baboo and wired up the new stereo, taking time to check every connection before heat-shrinking it.  By noon all the speakers where working and the Bluetooth and Pandora control worked like a charm.  I wired it so that both “front” speakers where in the Salon and the “rears” where in the cockpit so using the fader we can isolate output to either area.  That way we can turn it up inside without annoying our neighbors when in the marina and if anyone wants to sit outside in the cockpit, you won’t annoy folks down below.

Tested and ready to go

Overall, I’d consider this to be a successful weekend.  It’s nice to knock out a few little projects, though next time I really want to get out for an actual sail.

On the plus side, when I got home Saturday afternoon Kara was feeling better and we where able to go out for a relaxing dinner and came back home for a movie.  And a bit of rum.

We woke up this morning to a really nice quiet day on lake LBJ.  After a couple cups of fresh coffee we worked on another frame for Kara’s garden, we have a bit of a deer problem so it has to be completely covered.  When that was done we actually got out for a bit of sailing on our little Catalina.  The lake is definitely not the same as ocean or even bay sailing, but it was great to get out and enjoy being outside.

Oh and the sun even graced us with it’s presence today.  So yeah, all in all, a pretty nice little weekend.

My chicky – Chauffeuring me around lake LBJ at a blistering 3 knots

And me at every bit of 4 knots 😉

Well, fridge works…really well

Fridge – Soda Bomb

Today, Thursday Jan 30th I left Austin after work and drove down to Kemah for a little quality time with BABOO.  She’s due for an oil change after the trip home from Maryland and my plan was to knock that out tonight, work from our Houston office Friday and then spend the weekend knocking out a few other projects.

Projects to include:
1) Measuring for new companionway doors.  The company we’ve been planning to use is running a special through the end of the month for a saving of $300.  Since that’s 30% of the total cost, that was significant enough for me to justify the trip.
2) Need to treat our fuel with Biocide to ensure we keep the tank nice and clean since she’ll be sitting again for a while, and treat the water tank to keep it from getting funky as well.
3) I also wanted to address a few of the sticking doors we have.  Evidently Island Packet builds these boats to such tight tolerances that big changes in humidity really make a difference.  Since BABOO has spent the last 15 years in the Chesapeake, Houston is a big change and we have a few sticking doors.  I’m planning to plane them down a tiny bit and then sand them a bit to address this issue.

Anyway, after fighting some nasty Houston traffic, I finally made it down to the marina, carted a load of goodies down the dock and said hello to BABOO after leaving her alone for a couple weeks.  Everything aboard was as it should be, or so I thought.  I changed out of my work clothes and into something comfy and boaty, unpacked a few things and decided I’d treat myself to a cold beer before starting the oil change.

That’s when I discovered that leaving our SeaFrost freezer block running, with a load of beer and soda, while we where gone…maybe wasn’t the best idea we ever had.  We had a handful (6-8) of sodas left in the fridge about a foot from the freezer block and every single one of them had exploded…violently.  So the entire inside of the fridge, and everything else it it was covered in nasty frozen soda.

I thought it was crazy how it blew the top of the cans right off.

So instead of the oil change and a well deserved beer, I spent the night emptying the fridge and cleaning everything.  Not too horrible, but not the productive night I was hoping for. Sounds like we’ll have to add another item to the todo list.  We need a divider in the fridge to separate the freezer from the fridge.  I knew that block was super efficient once it got going, just didn’t realize to what extent.  Overall a good problem to have though…I think.

Anyway, time for bed.  Tomorrow I have a full day of actual work that they pay me for and then it’s time for that oil change and hopefully the rest of the ToDo list on Sat.

Not the most exciting night, but thought I’d share!

Goodnight folks,
Erin

GoM passage Day 6 – Wed Jan 14th

Our last day of the passage is by far the coldest.  I don’t think it ever got above the
mid-40s.  Kara and I have talked about it
and both agree that the worst part of this passage has been the cold
weather.  It’s so cold that you really don’t
feel like being in the cockpit if you don’t have too, which results in all
watches being solo watches, which is a bit of a downer.  Usually, during the day we’re both up in the
cockpit enjoying the view and the fresh salt air, chatting and just relaxing in
general.  For this trip, if you’re not on
watch, you actually need to be down below warming up so you don’t freeze on
your next watch.  The overall sea state
has been fine, and even our little 30 knot gale with the 10ft quartering waves,
while it made us both nervous since it was our first time in these conditions,
wasn’t really that bad.  But having to do
it all solo, in 5-6 layers, in the cold wind just wasn’t that much fun.

We never expected this passage to be fun, and it lived up to
expectations.  What it really drove home
for both of us was that there’s a good reason why most passages have a
recommended time of year to undertake them. 
We knew we where choosing to cross the gulf outside that time but it was time to get BABOO home.  Now the worst time of year would have been
during hurricane season and there’s no way we where going to do that, but
winter in the gulf, while not overly dangerous, is far less than comfortable.  The next time we cross the gulf (Mexico…New
Orleans ?) it will be in warmer conditions, so that it’s actually enjoyable.
Anyway, we followed the safety fairway all the way into
Galveston.  The closer we got to
Galveston, the more shipping traffic we began to see.  It really is amazing how big some of those
ships are and how fast they’re moving. 
25 knots may not seem like much but when you’re moving at 6-7
knots…that’s freaking fast.
We made it to the ship anchorage outside the Galveston
jetties about 2 hours before sunset.  It
was incredible to see the massive number of ships that where anchored
outside.  I really wish I’d gotten more
pictures, but it was so cold that I just didn’t feel like taking my gloves off
to mess with the camera.  I did get one
short iphone video that I’ll post if it’s not too crappy, we’ll see.  We motorsailed just outside the channel and
up between the jetties and made the turn north towards Trinity bay and Clearlake.  As the sun set we opted to continue to the
marina since we had captain Blaine with us and he’s pretty comfortable with
this kind of thing.  To be clear, if it
had been just Kara and I we would have found a spot to anchor and just waited
until daylight to continue.  Since we
where inside the water was super calm and even though the wind had shifted to
pretty much right in our face, we where able to motor at 7+ knots pretty
easily.  As always we left the main up to
stabilize us, but also used it to increase our visibility, hitting it with a
light every time one of those tugs, pushing the massive barges decided to
bee-line straight for us.  It was nice,
for the most part as soon as we lit up the sail, they would adjust course
around us.  I’m still not sure if that’s
because they didn’t see us before or if they realized we really where a
little sailboat, and new we could exactly get out of there way quickly.  We where almost always outside the red side
of the channel, having to duck in briefly to avoid a couple shoals but then got
right out.  We’d had a close encounter
with a ship a couple days prior and did everything possible to avoid a repeat
of that.
As we got close to the Clearlake area it was all hands on
deck with someone always monitoring the depth sounder, someone spot lighting
and helping look for the unlit markers while Blaine piloted us through.  On a related note, we really need to move our
instruments off the binnacle and over the companionway.  We almost never drive from the helm when offshore.  It’s nice to be up behind the dodger out of
the wind and spray and since our trusty B&G auto pilot has a wired remote
we can adjust course from anywhere in the cockpit or even down below.  The problem is with our wind instrument, knot
meter, and depth sounder all mounted at the helm, you have to walk back every
time you want to check any of them. 
We’ve seen many other IPs with the instruments mounted just above the
companionway and really like this setup, since you can read everything from
anywhere in the cockpit.
We finally got into the Waterford harbor marina about 9:30
PM, found our slip and tied up.  Then it
was time for a nice LONG hot shower and some rum.  Now that we where on shore power we saved the
propane and fired up our electric space heater to take some of the chill out of
the air and got some sleep.
Kara and BABOO – Glad to be home!

GoM passage Day 5 – Tues Jan 13th

Howdy folks,

–Sidebar–
Writing these entires from the saloon on the passage has been fun for me, since
it will function as part logbook for Kara and I down the road.  I’m sure we’ll look back on our 30 knot
(storm…ok gale) and the 10ft seas that came with it later and laugh but at the
time, it was 1 part stressful, and 1 part exciting.
Still writing this I wonder if anyone else will find it the
slightest bit interesting or helpful. So do us a favor and if you’re actually
reading my meandering commentary and are still awake, drop us a comment or something
to let us know you’re out there.
–OK back to our regularly scheduled program–
We’ve been sailing since last night around 10:30-11 when
Kara noticed we had enough wind to unfurl the jib and shut off the motor.  We actually keep the main out pretty much the
whole time, even when sailing since it stabilizes the boat and keeps us from
rolling.  This makes the motion much more
comfortable, particularly when dealing with a beam sea as we have been for the
last day or so.
It cooled down quite a bit late last night/early this AM and
today has remained cold and cloudy, but with a nice wind out of the N to
NE.  We’ve been making between 5-7 knots
all day and are getting close to make our turn to the NNE so we can follow the
safety fairway all the way up to Galveston.
Yours truly from the cockpit on a cold nasty day.
Kara and I just had our watch change, so I’m down below
enjoying the hot chocolate she made and trying to warm up while she’s in the
cockpit making sure we don’t hit any uncharted rigs or get squashed by a super
tanker or container ship.  Houston is a
massive shipping port and we’ve been noticing more and more ship traffic as we
get closer.  The safety fairway is pretty
much the only sane way to approach, particularly once it gets dark, so it
really focuses all the traffic into a little 2 mile corridor.  We typically try to stick just outside the
corridor so we don’t get run down but since in many places the rigs are
actually right on the line, we’ll have to duck into the actual lane from time
to time, always nice in a tiny 40ft sailboat going 6 knots when surrounded by
massive tankers and cargo vessels running 25 knots.  BABOO is likely pretty tough for them to pick
out when they’re really focused on the rigs and other ships, so we follow
collregs and always keep in mind the rule of gross tonnage.
Tonight, looks like it will be another cold one.  Which stinks but then again, no-one ever said
the Gulf of Mexico would be fun in January. 
Probably a big reason why most folks take the ICW for this trip, and go
when it’s a bit warmer…stupid work.  At
this point we’re just hoping the wind will allow us to sail up the fairway to
the Galveston entrance vs having to motor. 
We’re much faster under sail but if we don’t have enough of a wind
angle, it can make maneuvering around ships and rigs a bit challenging.
Stay tuned, we’re hoping to make the entrance at Galveston
tomorrow in daylight, so we don’t have to wait outside.
Thanks and more to come,
Erin

GoM passage Day 4 – Mon Jan 12th

Morning update.  Last
night, right around the time Kara was starting dinner, the seas began building
and the wind really picked up.  We where
seeing 25-30 knots out of the SW and with so much fetch, the seas where
getting big (by our current standards) 8-10ft. 
BABOO was doing great but surfing some of those bigger waves really
got…exciting.  We reefed down a bit on
both sails to slow us down a bit and speed our recovery as we had a tendency to
round up a bit when we surfed.  Of course
right about then I spotted our first oil rig (drilling platform for you
non-Texans).  Fortunately, we where still on a broad reach, so we had plenty of
steering options and altered course to port (slightly more southerly) to
help keep us out of the bulk of the platforms. 
From that first rig, it was like a dam broke, we where seeing anywhere
from 12-15 rigs at all times and gradually altered course more and more to port (S) until we seemed to be taking them all on our starboard side (NW towards
shore).  It was going to be an exciting
night for Kara and I since this was by far the most weather we had seen.  The winds weren’t too bad at 25-30 on our
beam to port quarter depending.  But the
seas really made it a challenge to judge our course relative to the rigs.  We also started seeing lighting all around,
for the most part it was just cloud lightening, not much actually striking the
surface, but it added to our overall feeling of apprehension.

Fortunately, the rigs are huge and for the most part super
well lit, so seeing them was easy. 
Choosing a course that allowed us to miss the greatest number of them
with the minimal amount of course corrections, was a bit more challenging.  I see now why so many people consider radar,
essential equipment for sailing the gulf. 
The added visibility for course selection would have been great last
night, and today, and tomorrow…oh and possibly Wednesday.
Over the course of the night we got hit with some pretty
heavy rain showers, so it was a fun introduction to as Blaine likes to call it
“moderate weather sailing”.  I actually
think the weather alone would have been fine but adding in the stress of having
to maneuver, under sail in those conditions around 100s of oil rigs, in 10 ft
seas, in the dark, in a driving rain, with lighting all around, was fairly stressful for both of us.
Still, we did fine and this is exactly the reason why we
wanted to be here, on the boat, standing our solo watches bringing her home vs.
just paying someone to drop her at the dock for us.  If we’re going to do some cruising, it’s time
to start building up some relevant experience. 
I have to admit though, I was glad to have someone aboard with plenty of
experience who could look at those conditions and say, meh no big deal y’all
got this.  I’m going to catch some sleep,
wake me if you need me.
Which brings us to today. 
We’re now motoring WSW, because the light NW winds we where expecting
finally showed up around  0430 this
morning.  The seas have calmed
significantly 1-2 ft.  Kara, and I just
had a couple cinnamon raisin bagles with peanut butter for breakfast, cleaned
up and got ready for the day.  My 4 hour
day watch begins in about 30 minutes, so I need to get hoping here.  I’ll do my best to get some pictures of the
rigs today. I tried last night but the conditions and the fact that we try to
avoid them by a wide margin, made it tough to capture the moment with my
iphone.
Until next time, wish us luck and above all – Excellent
weather
–Evening update–
We motored most of the day and once we worked our way into
the “safety fairway”, a two mile wide corridor with no rigs, life got much
simpler.  Once the wind shifted a bit and with by adjusting our course to stay in the fairway, we where even able to raise sail…WOOHOO.  It’s not the most direct route,
forcing us to continue WSW off the coast but it makes up for it in lack of
stress dodging all those freaking rigs, and the fact that we can continue to
sail.
Tonight, we had a very simple dinner, frozen family style
meal warmed up on the stove.  Not our
favorite food, but it was easy and relatively tasty…and hot.  If you’re prepping for a trip like this, a
supply of simple, easy to cook in any conditions meals are a great idea.  For lunch though, Kara made an excellent
shrimp ceviche that we scarfed down in the cockpit.  It was great with lots of fresh Florida
veggies, so we did have a nice fresh meal…don’t worry mom!  For the most part we eat really well on our
trips.  While we ate lunch in the
cockpit, we actually had a pod of very small dolphins (porpoises) drop by to
play in our wake and bow wave.  They
didn’t stay more than about 5 minutes, but it was a nice surprise.  I broke out the gopro and hope to have gotten
some footage of them swimming, we’ll see how it turns out once we’re back home.
Our one nice sunset during the crossing came at a good time.

GoM passage Day 3 – Sun Jan 11th

Last night we cut across the De Soto Canyon (SW of New
Orleans) and after having to motorsail for a few hours early this AM, to keep
our speed in the 6 knot range, we’ve been sailing since around 10 AM when my
day watch started.  It’s now 1430 and
we’ve been doing a confortable 5.5-6.5 knots with the wind ranging from a broad
reach to a beam reach out of the NE.  The
seas have gotten larger at 4-6 ft but since they’re now on the port quarter
it’s been very comfortable so far today and we’re making good time.  We’ve had a few little rain showers, but so
far have been lucky and the big stuff has missed us (knocking on wood as I type
this).  BABOO, as always is handling the
seas with ease, so it’s very comfortable both in the cockpit and down below,
where I’m sitting now while Kara’s on watch, enjoying some chocolate chip
cookies that I decided to break out for us as a snack.
It’s been calm enough today that Kara made us a great
cucumber, tomato, and onion salad to compliment the turkey sandwiches and if it
holds out, she’s promising a little king ranch chicken for dinner, fingers
crossed.
Our goal today has been to head a bit to the ESE in an
attempt to stay outside (offshore) of the bulk of the oil rigs off the
Louisiana coast.  We don’t have radar
(yet) and are wishing we did since it would really improve our visibility when
sailing at night.  Unfortunately,
moonrise isn’t until 11:30’sh tonight and of course gets about an hour later
each night, so we’re going to have some dark nights sailing and I’m sure we’ll
be straining our eyes when on watch to make sure we no rigs sneak up on
us.  Our plan is to head down the coast
following the 4000 ft depth contour line to get us outside the majority of the rigs.  There’s still a few we’ll need to watch out
for here, but it seems a good compromise between staying (relatively) close to
shore and minimizing our oil rig exposure. 
We’re still about 2 days (hopefully less) away from where we’ll make our
turn to the NW to pick up the “safety fairway”, read rig free zone, that leads
into the shipping channel at Galveston. 
From Galveston we’ll head north into Galveston Bay to Trinity Bay.  Then West towards Clear lake and finally into
our Marina.  They’reth.  Since we had to wait in Tampa for 2 days to
let the weather improve, we’re a bit behind what we where hoping for.

supposedly holding a
slip for us, though we where originally hoping to be there around the 12-13

This afternoon, while I was on watch, Kara and Blaine fired
up the SSB (long range High Frequency radio – short for Single SideBand) for a
weather update out of New Orleans.  Looks
like tonight should be favorable, with the wind gradually switching over to NW
at 5-10 sometime tomorrow morning.  NW
wind means it’ll be right in our face, which means we’ll be motoring.  So, heres to hoping that forecast is the
worst case scenario and if we have to fight the wind, the lighter the better.
In the meantime, I have a couple hours to relax and maybe
catch a nap, while I sit here enjoying the feel of BABOO surfing downwind on
the 4-6 foot seas.  Great day so far,
here’s to hoping it stays that way.
–      
I’m sure I’ll check in again later –Erin