Thursday, December 29, 2011
We are still in beautiful, snowy New Mexico - otherwise known as The Land Of Enchantment or, as I like to call it, The Land Without Wireless Internet. And for Christmas Vlad's aunt and uncle got us this fabulous sextant as a backup in case our GPS fails and to keep Vlad entertained on long ocean voyages. Gotta love a dual purpose item.
It's amazing to me that someone figured out that you could determine your exact (well, pretty darn close) position by the simple measure of angles and time. And as I've started digging into the history of navigation, I'm even more amazed. The Polynesians, for instance, used a piece of bamboo to measure latitude, and the Arabs revolutionized navigation with the introduction of the astrolabe a thousand years ago while Europeans were still diddling around in the Dark Ages. If a guy two thousand years ago with a stick can sail to Tahiti, it kind of makes the latest chartplotter seem less impressive.
Vlad took our sextant out for a test run one frigid night and figured our position within a hundred miles, which is pretty good considering all the mountains made finding the horizon, let's say, challenging. The ocean doesn't typically have that problem, and we're assuming we'll get a more accurate reading when we get back to the flat-as-a-pancake Galveston Bay Area. But whatever the case, at least it will be warmer!
Friday, December 23, 2011
We will be in New Mexico for Christmas, and one thing that state is not known for is its beach front property. Though there are a few lakes where folks go sailing, the land of enchantment is just that - a lot of really dry land. But that just means people have to get creative! Here's a video of what I mean:
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
'Tis the season to take photos of other people's festive boats! Our version of decorating has been Vlad hanging mistletoe in the galley/nav station/entry way, which I must admit was a nice touch, but since we are leaving Bettie for a few days to go to New Mexico there wasn't much need for extravagant holiday decor. Not that we own any anyway.
Others, however, choose not to emulate Scrooge, and here's a sample of the Christmas spirit that's been floating around the marina of late.
Oh, and while I was typing this I came up with an awesome joke: How do you wish a dolphin happy holidays? ... Merry Fishmas! Is it bad that I can't stop laughing?
Monday, December 19, 2011
|Our table folds up to create an extra berth.|
Because space is limited, sailboat designers and sailors have come up with ingenious ways of creating more space. Throughout any boat, there are hidden compartments, cubbyholes, lockers, berths that double as seating that double as storage chests, and tables that raise or lower depending on what you need. Here's a video of a guy who has an incredibly tiny apartment in Europe. Every part of his apartment pulls out or folds up almost as if he's living in origami, and guess where he got his inspiration? From boats, of course.
Friday, December 16, 2011
If Sid Vicious didn't have such a bad attitude, he'd be the perfect boat pet. He's small, quiet, doesn't need long walks, loves snuggling and eats a small bag of cat food every six months. Yesterday, we figured out one more thing that he hates - me knitting (I'm trying to be crafty for Christmas, and it's not going very well.) - and another addition to the very short list of things that he likes - cheddar cheese.
Unfortunately for him, hedgehogs are mildly lactose intolerant, so the cheese is going to have to be an infrequent treat. The above picture is of him nibbling on a tiny piece of cheddar and totally ignoring the apple we offered him. Way to be unhealthy, hedgehog.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
When we moved aboard Bettie in August, we knew that we'd be in Kemah, Texas, for about a year and a half - working on the boat and building up that cruising kitty. Since Vlad has mad skills, he hasn't had too much of a problem getting work. Me, on the other hand? Not so much.
So far I've had two jobs since moving to the Galveston Bay Area, and please don't laugh too hard when you hear what they were. The first was with a private investigator who then went out of business. The second was as a certified carousel operator at an amusement park. I was also trained on the tilt-a-whirl and the Ferris wheel, but who's counting, right?
A prescient friend of mine in college used to tease me with the phrase, "I'm an English major. Would you like fries with that?" And, in a way, I'll admit he was right. The carousel isn't the most lucrative of endeavors. However, I've been trying to think about the situation in a more positive light and in one that throws out that idea of the set path: college, job that doesn't involved french fries, retirement, going gently into that good night. For whatever career you choose - be it carny or office assistant to a now defunct PI - it's not the amount of money that you make or the prestige that you acquire, but the stories you get to tell. (But don't ask me about the one with the little girl on the tilt-a-whirl who said her belly button hurt. It did not end well!)
Since I find my situation so hilarious, I was wondering if anyone else out there has had a bizarre job experience that they wouldn't mind sharing. And do you know if they're hiring?
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
This is what we woke up to this morning - fog hanging over the marina. Since I am a conservative sailor (translation: a total wimp), my approach to sailing in fog would be to not sail in fog. But since I can't control the weather, it's important to know a few things about navigating through pea soup.
- Reduce your speed. This seems obvious, but if you can't see where you're going, don't haul butt. The slower your speed, the easier it will be to adjust course if you spot an obstacle.
- Make noise. And that doesn't mean just cranking up the ACDC. If your boat is longer than 39 ft. and you are under sail, you are required to give out one long blast followed by two short blasts every couple of minutes. If you're under power, it's just one long blast. Smaller boats also should make some type of noise every two minutes but are not required to follow a set honking structure.
- Use those electronic devices. Though they can't tell you everything and occasionally break, devices such as radar and GPS units come in very handy when sailing through fog. The GPS lets you know where you are even when you can't see your hand in front of your face, and the radar alerts you to possible obstacles. Admittedly, electronics are not essential and are certainly no substitute to the human brain, but they can be a helpful tool, especially in situations where you can't rely on one or more of your senses.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Recently, one of our marina neighbors set off for non-Texas ports, but while traversing the Gulf, which is notorious for being like sailing in a washing machine, they encountered numerous system failures and a nasty bout of seasickness. If just one thing had gone wrong, they might have kept going, but faced with more things breaking by the minute and not so great weather they made the choice to return to the dock, fix the broken hardware and wait for a better weather window.
Knowing when to turn around is a delicate art. One the one hand, you want to reach your destination. You've invested time, money and hours of labor into fulfilling this dream, and all you really want to do is explore distant lands, wander on tropical shores dodging coconuts, and swim through cyclones of zebra fish off the coast of Australia.
But (and there's always a "but," isn't there?) sometimes you have to turn back, and the trick is recognizing that point before the Coast Guard has to get involved. They say that true disasters usually aren't caused by just one mistake, but a series of problems that compound into a major, possibly life-threatening, event. So when one thing goes wrong, no problem. Fix it and move on. But multiples? Not so great, especially when you throw a good dose of fatigue into the mix.
While we can be prepared, we can't control every situation, and I hope that when Vlad and I head out we, too, will be able to know when it's time to turn around.
Friday, December 9, 2011
Thursday, December 8, 2011
The first time I ever went sailing was with my brother on Bull Shoals Lake in North Central Arkansas. We spent an entire day out on the lake, flipping his Laser over (on purpose!), playing in the water and running from a thunderstorm that had rumbled down from Missouri. Maybe it was the combination of the wind and the water and the quiet or maybe it was because my big brother did it. But whatever the case, I loved sailing.
My brother has been sailing all his life, and I mean that literally. He was born in Gibraltar after my mother and her first husband had crossed the Atlantic in a 36' sailboat, and he spent the next two years cruising across the Atlantic and then into the Pacific. He learned how to walk on the boat, which meant that his first land-based attempt resulted in several face plants, and was infamous for throwing things overboard like hammers. Plus, there are pictures of him riding on a Galapagos turtle. I mean, what could be a cooler way to grow up?
So it was very exciting for me to have him come to stay on our boat for Thanksgiving. He taught me a ton of tricks and made me feel more confident and comfortable about our big adventure. And true to form he's still throwing things overboard ... like our winch handle.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Turns out the water dripping down our walls was not the work of a malevolent marine imp, but rather a little process called condensation. Now, condensation is something that we live with on a regular basis. It's the sweat on the outside of our soda cans, the dew on the clover field, the water dripping down the walls of our bathroom. If you can't tell, I'm really not enjoying that last one.
I had, also, never considered how condensation works, but thanks to my awesome live-in science guru I now know the entire process. In the winter when the inside of the boat is warm, the air can hold more moisture, but as that air travels to the sides of the boat where it is cooler it loses energy in the form of heat causing the molecules in the air to become closer together and move more slowly. H2O molecules in the air cool down as well and condense into water via a phase change releasing energy as heat to the cold surface (about 585 cal/g at 20 deg. C - Vlad made me write this part, I swear). The process reverses in the summer (i.e. the water condenses on the outside of the boat where the warm outside air hits the cooler air against the boat.) Hence the reason why the air feels more humid in the summer, but the inside of your boat is like an Amazonian rainforest in the winter.
Solution: A dehumidifier. Sixty dollars from Home Depot.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Tragedy has struck aboard Bettie! Don't worry. The hedgehog's fine, but Vlad has been forced to wear shoes for the first time since we moved aboard. That's right, folks, he blew out a flip flop. It's not been fun for him, believe me, what with the socks and enclosed toes, but he's soldiering through somehow. On a side note, I've posted on this blog 38 times without making a single Jimmy Buffett reference, undoubtedly a record for sailing blogs!
Monday, December 5, 2011
It's the time of year for mass exodus. Hurricane season has subsided, the "cold" (more like a mild chill) is setting in, and several of our neighbors are getting ready to scratch the cruising itch. As you can see by the sad, empty slip, one of them has actually done it, left on a what is sure to be an adventure to Key West and beyond. I'm glad that he's realizing his dream, but we'll sure miss him on the dock. And quite frankly, I'm a little jealous! Of course, they still have to make it out of Galveston, so we'll see what happens. Until then, fair winds, Gary, and stay warm!
Friday, December 2, 2011
So this isn't technically a montage, but I annoyed everyone on our boat so much by paparazzi-ing them doing mundane tasks like steering the boat with their knee while sipping on cheap Mexican beer that I figured I should at least add in a few more photos from our Thanksgiving Galveston Bay sailing extravaganza. Hope you enjoy them!
Thursday, December 1, 2011
My dad and my brother came to visit us over Thanksgiving, and it was a joy to be able to share in this adventure with them. If you can't tell from the way my dad is gripping the tiller with both hands, he has been a little concerned about our new lifestyle choice, and I think this trip gave him at least a modicum of reassurance that our boat actually floats. My brother, on the other hand, was practically born on a sailboat and looked as though he had finally returned to his natural habitat.
We took them on two sails around Galveston Bay, dropped anchor once and ate lunch and generally had an all around grand time. We even went wing on wing for the first time ever! I felt so fancy.
And as an added bonus, we got to see the sun set over the amusement park. Definitely, fun times with family.