Sunday, December 28, 2014

Happy Holidays!

We hope all our friends and loved ones had a very Merry Christmas.  We spent our holiday in Bend this year which provided a welcomed white Christmas -- something very new to all of us.  We're still adjusting to our first winter in central Oregon.  A few weeks ago, we bought our first snow shovel.  Very exciting, I know.

Our tenants' lease expired at the end of November and we finally moved back in to our house.  Since then, we've been busy settling in and preparing for the cold weather.  Millie got an all-wheel-drive Volvo with studded tires, I got a ski pass for Mt. Bachelor, and Colin got a new winter wardrobe complete with flashing Spiderman snow boots.  Santa was good to us this year.

I wish I could say the same for Jean Marie.  She's still sitting in a slip in PV waiting on a transmission.  It will be a short season in Mexico this year.  I'm hoping to get the new transmission next month and then we can finally finish the engine installation and begin putting the boat back in order.  My plan is to fly back down after the baby is born in February and spend a month sailing through the Sea of Cortez to San Carlos, where I'll put the boat away for the summer.  Millie will stay here in Bend with Colin and his new baby brother.  Her parents are planning to stay with her during that time so I can focus on Jean Marie.  It will be a quick visit but I'm hoping to spend a little time with our cruising friends while I'm there.

Until then, we'll be busy up here in our little winter wonderland.  I'm working full-time for Five Talent, Colin is back in pre-school, and Millie is growing bigger by the day.  It's hard to believe we'll have another baby in just six short weeks.  Sleepless nights and poopy diapers -- seems like we just potty-trained Colin and now we get to start all over again.  Oh, the joys of parenthood.  The truth is, we can't wait to see the little guy.

Here's wishing all of you a very Happy New Year.
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Monday, September 22, 2014

A Song About Ninja Turtles

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Growing Family

If you looked closely at the picture in the previous post then this news should come as no surprise:  We're having another baby!  Some time in early February Colin will have a little brother to play with and Jean Marie will have a new crew member.  We're all very excited. 

We've been considering having another one since Colin was about a year old, not because of any burning desire to procreate or a narcissistic need to surround ourselves with little versions of ourselves.  No, this decision was based simply on providing a sibling for Colin -- someone to grow up with, someone to share life's big moments with, someone to confide in and trust in and depend on when his aging parents are no longer there.  Let's face it, I'm not a young man anymore.  It's comforting to know he'll still have immediate family when Dad is gone.  A depressing thought, I know, but no less relevant.

Obviously, this presents some additional challenges to our cruising plans.  We enjoyed having Colin with us as we sailed down the Mexican coast but it wasn't always easy.  Having a small child aboard certainly increases the stress levels associated with safe passage-making.  And, now, we're about to multiply it by two.

We won't, however, be crossing any oceans next year.  Our plan to sail through the South Pacific is on hold for the immediate future.  Instead, we'll stay here in Bend, work for a while, raise our little family, and take time off when we can to explore the Sea of Cortez on Jean Marie.  I haven't given up on a Pacific crossing yet...we just have to wait for the next window of opportunity.

Needless to say, this isn't the way I envisioned it playing out when we left Alameda a few years ago.  In my version, our family has relocated to New Zealand, a tired Jean Marie is tucked away in a marina, and Dad is working for a software company somewhere in the Auckland area.  Our newborn son is born with dual-citizenship and we're all spending the weekends exploring the kiwi countryside in a used camper van.  Funny how destiny gets in the way of well-made plans.  It's good to have a backup.
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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pic of the Day

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

So Close

I just returned from a planned two-week trip to Puerto Vallarta.  Fun and sun in a tropical paradise, right?  Not so much.  Anyone who has spent the summer in Mexico will know what I'm talking about.  This was no vacation.

After months of planning and measuring and measuring and planning my shiny new Beta 43 finally shipped air freight from England bound for Guadalajara.  I flew down on August 3rd to get there before it arrived.  It was a sweltering 95 when I stepped off the plane -- like walking in to a sauna with no exit.  The inside of the boat topped out over 100.  This was going to be a long two weeks.

Before we left Mexico back in April I hired Juan "the paper man" Arias to handle the import documentation and logistics, and Jack Tinsley of PV Marine Group to help me with the installation.  Both were expecting me and ready to assist.  Jack showed up the next day with a large fan in hand.  That would prove to be the most important tool for this job, and my sanity.  We had the old engine out in two days. 

My proud blue Perkins, removed and rebuilt twice in two years, a dependable old friend that saw us through many long days and nights at sea, the engine I was so reluctant to depart with after countless hours of maintenance and repairs, that freshly-painted diesel lay stripped down and in pieces on the dock.  Seemed like such a sad end for a once important and reliable component of Jean Marie.  It was depressing to look at it -- a painful reminder of lost time and wasted money.  Still, I was sorry to see it go.

The next day I received confirmation from Beta that the engine had arrived in Guadalajara and made arrangements with Juan to drive there and get it.   Juan has a big red Ford pickup that he uses for jobs like this.  He picked me up early the next morning for the long drive.  It was a 5 to 6-hour trip one-way, but if all went well we could drive to Guadalajara, get it through Customs, and drive back in one day.  Considering the reputation of government agencies in Mexico, we packed an overnight bag.  That, as it turned out, was a wise choice.

The engine was sitting in the Customs warehouse at the airport.  Security policies prevented Juan from dealing with them directly so we had to hire a Customs agent to act as our middle man.  I paid this guy a significant amount of cash in advance for the privilege of sitting around and waiting for him to do his job, which entailed driving a mile down the road to the airport and pushing some papers through to Customs officials.  Juan had spent many days in advance getting all our documentation in order to avoid any hassles.  And, as hard as they tried, they could find nothing wrong with our papers.  Yet, for two long days, which included a hotel stay for us, they managed to delay the process.  After a number of calls to the agent in PV, who then made a few motivational calls to the agent in Guadalajara, they finally ran out of excuses to hold my engine and loaded the crate in to the back of Juan's truck fifteen minutes before closing.  It was after 7 by the time we got out of there and didn't get back to PV until 2 AM.  I swore never to ship anything through Guadalajara again.

The next day Juan showed up with the engine still in his truck.  We unpacked it and dropped in on the dock using a big crane in the parking lot.  It took two more hours to roll it down the dock on Jack's homemade dolly as we blew out three wheels trying to push it to the boat in the 100-degree heat.  We made a plan to drop it in early the next day before the afternoon temps made it too difficult to work.

The sight of the old Perkins, the unbearable heat, and the long to-do list combined to temper my excitement over the new engine.  I suppose most people would show some enthusiasm over the purchase of a new diesel, but I was more concerned with getting it installed and running with minimal resistance.  This was not going to be an easy repower.  I'd done my homework and had Jack double-check my measurements, but the engine sits in a very tight space with little room for error.  I knew we'd have a few issues to work out, but thought we could get it working without any show-stoppers.  Of course, I was wrong.  Considering my experience with engines to date, I should have known better.

I ordered the Beta 43 with a ZF25 drop-down transmission.  Beta Marine fabricated custom feet to fit the engine space according to the measurements I gave them as part of the ordering process.  I spent a lot of time checking and double-checking the numbers to make sure we'd get it right the first time.  So, you can imagine my disappointment when I realized we needed 3-inch blocks under the front mounts to get the shaft aligned.  OK, no big deal.  The engine will just sit a little higher than I expected.  We can work around it, right?  Wrong.  The engine sits in a cabinet with limited space above.  With the front mounts on blocks we were already at the top of the available space and still needed to move forward 3 inches.  To make it work required installing it further aft and rebuilding the cabinet and floor in the back cabin -- not an ideal solution.  This was a show-stopper.

What followed was a lot of cursing and finger-pointing, with a good deal of self-loathing.  I wasn't happy.  Jack consoled me by pointing out the obvious:  I was attempting to replace a 30-year-old engine inside a small cabinet that was built around it by cramming a new engine in the same space while communicating the process through email to the manufacturer 5,000 miles away.  These things happen.  Setbacks should be expected.  I still wasn't happy.

The next few days were filled with number-checking, picture-taking, and lots of back-and-forth emails with Beta engineers.  They defended their ordering process and I defended my measurements.  They also asked for a few new measurements, which I provided, but we still couldn't determine the source of the error.  The only thing I knew with any degree of certainty was that the current configuration would not fit.  However, if I replaced the transmission with an angled version and moved the feet back and down it would slide in to place.  I knew what I had to do:  send the transmission back and go home.

So, that's what I did.  The transmission is now sitting in a crate at Jack's house waiting for Juan to pick it up and deliver it to DHL for a return flight to the UK, and I'm sitting in our house in Bend enjoying the moderate climate of central Oregon.  I'm still working with Beta Marine to determine what went wrong before placing a new order for an angled transmission and redesigned custom feet.  I'll have to fly back to PV to finish the job when we get all that worked out.  Hopefully, in cooler weather.  More time, more money.  But, eventually, Jean Marie will have a shiny new working engine.  I've come too far to give up now.
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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Three Years Old

We celebrated Colin's third birthday Tuesday on the beach in PV after a special breakfast of French toast, fruit, and chocolate cake.  Colin devoured it by the gooey handful.  Dad had to look away.

It's hard to believe three years have passed since those first days in Alameda.  And, although we haven't travelled very far on the world map, it's been a long journey.  The bouncing little boy we sailed south with is now outrunning dad and talking in full sentences.  It goes by fast -- cliché but true.

Our friends on Velella Velella joined us for the beach party.  Rob and Kai are putting their boat away for the summer on the same dock and took a few hours off to celebrate with us.  Sun, sand, balloons, presents, and cold beer on a busy tourist beach in 90-degree tropical heat -- a great way to end the season.

Happy Birthday, son.  I hope all your years are filled with the joy and laughter you've brought your proud parents in these first three.  It's been an unbelievable journey for us as a family so far -- in a lot of different ways.  I'm looking forward to celebrating the many adventures and many birthdays to come.
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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Rebel Heart

By now I'm sure the entire population has heard about the rescue of the sailboat Rebel Heart nine-hundred miles west of Mexico.  It seems every news feed in the U.S. has latched on to this story and, in the process, stirred up a vocal and opinionated response from a mostly uninformed public.  There seem to be many out there who feel that caring for a sick child on a sailboat, enduring a rescue at sea, and then watching your boat (and home) sink is not enough punishment for such irresponsible parents.  They must also face the backlash of an angry non-sailing community demanding answers and reimbursement of precious tax dollars (because, as we know, the US Coast Guard would otherwise be sitting in port NOT doing anything requiring public funds).  As a sailor and a father I find it absurd.  For the crew of Rebel Heart it must be completely surreal.

We met Rebel Heart last season in La Cruz.  Colin and little Cora were close to the same age and fast friends.  We enjoyed hanging out with Eric and Charlotte and really liked having a playmate for Colin.  So, we made an effort to spend time together before sailing to Mazatlan.

This year we were eager to get back to La Cruz and begin prepping for our Pacific crossing with our friends on Rebel Heart and Bangorang.  Our plan was to sail with them as we all hopped through the South Pacific islands to New Zealand.  We were hoping to leave Mexico around the same time.  Instead, we said goodbye to both boats as they sailed out of La Cruz, and we resigned ourselves to another season in Mexico.

In spite of what Charlotte's clueless brother said to the press, nobody saw this coming.  The news of their rescue came as a shock to all of us who know them.  Eric single-handed Rebel Heart down from San Diego and spent the past year (or more) preparing the boat for their departure.  As a family they spent the summer in Mexico and sailed the boat across the Sea of Cortez to La Cruz, where they began the final prep.  Hans-Christians are proven blue-water boats and Eric seemed a competent and seasoned sailor.  I never doubted their success.

But, as most sailors know, when things go wrong on a boat it can get out of hand quickly.  Keeping the boat in working order on a crossing can be a full-time job.  Add two small children to the mix and it can be overwhelming.  When one of those children becomes seriously ill everything else will have to wait.  With Lyra's health in question, they made the right decision to call for help.

After working our way down the California coast and spending three seasons in Mexico as a cruising family, I would venture to say we understand more than most the challenges involved in sailing with children.  Colin was just five-months-old when we left Alameda and turns 3 next week.  I know many considered our journey foolish and thought we were irresponsible for taking an infant to sea. 

Yes, if we get in to trouble, we will probably ask the US Coast Guard to come to our aid.  But, we also spend a lot of time and money preparing ourselves and our vessel in an effort to avoid such a scenario.  Sometimes accidents happen and we, as a civilized society, pay taxes to fund services with the sole purpose of aiding those people unfortunate enough to suffer an accident.  If someone ventures out to a remote area of the planet and becomes ill or injured should we shame them for it?  Should we bill them for the rescue attempt?  What if it was someone you know, someone you care about?

And, what's the alternative?  Should we only raise our kids within a sheltered community of like-minded individuals?  Is that really the best we can offer our offspring?  As anyone who's met a cruising family can attest, children raised on sailboats are, in general, a mature and well-adjusted group.  And, why wouldn't they be?  They spend their days exploring the wonders of our planet, meeting kids from other countries, learning different cultures and languages along the way.  Isn't that preferable to cell phones, video games, and American pop culture?

I guess none of that matters now.  A sailboat had to be rescued...and there were children on board.  That's all the information required for the average intellect with a computer and something to say.  What most people fail to realize is that many families have crossed oceans without incident, and to the enrichment of their children.  The media only reports on those in distress and, unfortunately, it happened to our friends on Rebel Heart.  So now, all those who lack the courage and passion to fulfill their own dreams have a well-publicized excuse to justify their failures.
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