Sea legs and watch system

“One thing about the sea. Men will get tired, metal will get tired, anything will get tired before the sea gets tired”

Sitting at anchor enjoying the nice breeze and the shade provided by Kate (and her mom’s) newly designed boom tent is a good payback for all the sweat and effort, all the tense moment when we couldn’t see an end to our work and it seemed that we could never leave. Gazing at the nearby beach, observing any kind of wildlife, from sea birds to dolphins to bros riding jet skis and rude power boaters (there are few kind individuals in the category) put all this preparation labor on perspective. Now it’s time to enjoy.

Blog_Anchor
Sunset at anchor in Sullivan’s Island, SC

Nonetheless to fully enjoy our new life afloat we had to go trough countless details and preparation. A couple of passages in the open ocean and very soon we found where our preparation lacked and how bad our sea legs were. Cooking meals, resting and even personal hygiene can become difficult tasks out there. Exhaustion by sun exposure, waves shaking and wind can bring to episodes of delirious speech with a low deep tone of voice. Auditory hallucinations are not rare either and happen when your brain mistakes a particular sound for a baby’s cry or for somebody calling your name.

It took a long time to get our sea legs and cruising routines back on track. Sea legs are what keep you standing (or sitting) on top of a vessel accelerating and decelerating under the action of wind and waves. I suspect sea legs are a combination of motor control (governed by the cerebellum in the brain) and muscle tone of the core, so it takes training and exercise to establish a harmonic posture in relation with a shaky floor.

The very first offshore legs put us in survival mode, with the rolling and tossing of the boat depriving us of our natural strength, appetite and comfort. Even without being fully seasick, we were carrying a sort of  malaise. We hung in there resting as much as we could and holding on as of we were waiting for the ride to come to a stop.

 

“One thing about the sea. Men will get tired, metal will get tired,
anything will get tired before the sea gets tired”
An engineer’s observation about the collapse of Texas Tower 4 in 1961

 

Gradually we built up some resistance and developed routines. On board Tranquility we use a 4 hours watch system that starts at 20:00 (8 pm, First Watch) and cover the rest of the 24 hours so the boat is never unattended.The person on watch is in charge of navigation duties, making sure the boat stays on course, keeping a proper lookout for hazards and weather change and updating the Ship’s Log. The other crew member lays in the bunk, trying to rest but ready to be summoned in case of “all hands on deck” situation, or “condition one” as we like to call it. We strictly stick to the schedule but we are also flexible in case conditions arise or if it’s time to make landfall.

Beside navigation duties we have daily chores that are split between the two of us and include cooking three meals a day and washing dishes, redding up (Pittsburghese for cleaning), ensuring that the cockpit snack bag is always full, washing and drying rags, towels and clothes,  waste management (composting toilet redd up, trash and recycle locker) and Personal care and Beta care.

The watch schedule and the work routines help to keep us busy and comfortable. When it is properly planned a passage at sea will be mainly smooth, with occasional rougher bits, so it’s important to be ready to face the unpleasant weather in good condition and spirit. If you let the boat get dirty and messy it will affect your well being. If you don’t eat, drink or rest enough you will be tired soon.

As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and so we are picking up with the old habits and safety protocols, by trial and errors. Three years ago, we sailed the opposite route in much worse conditions, during the winter and in a barely fixed boat. Now we remember that trip as if it was not a big deal. Why we became such wimps? It’s probable that memory erases the bad parts and retain the good ones.

We are still learning a lot, and we are lucky that Tranquility behaves so well. She is a tough girl, we have been the weak ones so far. She protected and transported us during the first thousand miles of sailing while experiencing winds in the range of 4 to 40knots, the latter number only briefly during thunderstorm gusts.We have an ample range of sail area available to adapt to different wind and sea conditions and the modifications to the deck and sail controls seem all very successful. The introduction of a third reef in the mainsail, the new boom vang, the sheeting blocks for the staysail, the bowsprit for the cruising gennaker all contributes to a finer sail tuning and ultimately boat handling.

Now we are taking a prolonged stop in the friendly Fairhaven, in the South Coast of Massachussets. This is the place where Joshua Slocum rebuilt his 36ft. gaff rigged sloop Spray, before setting sail for the first ever recorder singlehanded circumnavigation of earth 121 years ago. Incidentally this is where we purchased Tranquility, fixed her up and set sail in November 2013.

We don’t have such an ambitious circumnavigation plan, but we feel the power of the maritime lore of this place. Fairhaven is the fairy tale New England village in front of the rougher city of New Bedford, the “city that lit the world”, the whaling capital of the world portrayed in Melville’s Moby Dick and the city where Tranquility was on stands in a boatyard while we feverishly prepared her for sailing. We have so much connection to this area, friends that keep helping us, favorite places and memories. We are going to keep sailing, visiting other wonders of New England, but this is probably going to be our home base for the next few months. Until winter will force our next move.

 

Two months living aboard and final preparation

We hit the two months mark since we have moved back aboard Tranquility. So far it has been 24/7 work and I suspect it won’t end very soon. The difference with the previous condition is that now we are finally untethered: we sold the car, we have a provisioned and fully mobile boat and we took care of few bureaucratic conundrums strictly related with life on land. So now we can move where it pleases us!

Not too fast, though. The brake at this point is the condition of the boat that keep changing over time. We are making constant improvements in the degree of comfort and sailing performances since the beginning of April. Like the life cycle of a star, the interior and the deck keep going through a alternate state of expansion and contractions. Tools and parts come out of storage, the content of every locker and box has to be moved around, and everything shifts and gets hauled somewhere else. Every time things are put back together we can see the improvements, but then the next job brings more chaos aboard. It is definitely not easy to live and work on a boat, and this is so far limiting our mobility. Luckily we can work at anchor so we don’t have to necessarily be tied to the land, and every trip ashore we unload garbage and unnecessary items gaining more and more living space.

Despite this apparently erratic behavior our preparation happened with a specific spreadsheet-assisted path. Every step put us closer to certain milestones and eventually to the end of the preparation and the beginning of the trip.

The first milestone was to leave the docks. After two years spent running a landlocked life, Tranquility was able to get unchained and make a very slow progress toward the next step, the boatyard. It took us a few days to get there. Our destination was rather close but we experienced issues with some freeloading marine animals and vegetables that were squatting peacefully on the bottom of our boat seriously limiting our speed on the water and ultimately on the ground. Once we were lifted outside of the water they were brutally eliminated, with little or none compassion. This slow pace made for nice time outdoor, timing the tides we moved from anchorage to anchorage, savoring wonderful sceneries between St.Simons and Cumberland Island, all the way into St.Marys and the boatyard.

St. Marys Boat Services became our new home for 1 month. Personally I have been in many boat yards before but this particular one deserves a special mention. It’s very uncommon to find a place where you can both live aboard while working and have free access to their tools. I am not talking about a drill or an angle grinder. Here you have access to a woodwork and a metal shop equipped with table saw, drill press, lathe, welders, belt sanders and other exciting shop tools. The managers are friendly and ready to find a way to help you in every possible way. The community of liveaboards has set some common spaces and rules of cohabitation so it’s easy to meet interesting people, ready to share stories and knowledge.

On the hard we had the opportunity to lose and find again Beta, our cat, who jumped ship for two weeks. We also had a good look at our bottom, dropped the rudder, had a machine shop put a square key in it for a new tiller cap, we replaced the propeller, removed and fiberglassed two thru-hulls, repaired a water intrusion in the deadwood, repainted the topsides, sanded the old bottom paint and put 5 coats of new antifouling, installed a Norvane self steering, new lifelines, interior wood work and painting. I probably forget a lot of other jobs that happened while we were looking for our cat or trying to stay cool in the hot Georgia climate. I have never been a fan of 44oz Jiffy mart fountain drinks, but working in the Georgia heat made me change my mind and I learned how to add more water to the ice after the drink was gone to extend the cooling effect. This is life without refrigeration.

I’d like to go through the details of our work as I did in the past but lately the pace is too high to both work and write about it. I even feel a little guilty in writing this post as the job list is waiting for my attention. You would wonder what possibly is left to do on Tranquility after a two year refit. If you owned a boat before you probably know the answer. If you didn’t, think twice about buying a boat. The reality is that a boat is never fully finished and  wrapping up projects may take more time that you can possibly expect.

Eventually splashing time arrived, after one month exactly. I feel proud of what we did in this amount of time, I am usually pretty unsatisfied with my speed, but not this time! We immediately enjoyed being at anchor in the marshes of Camden and Glynn. The first day at anchor, right in front of the boatyard, we simply laid down and did nothing for the whole day. Then little by little we resumed our course, together with high doses of Battlestar Galactica. Now we are back where we started, saying goodbye to friends and provisioning the boat for a long trip, and of course checking off few more jobs on the list.

If you like to see us on a map, check our Delorme track: https://share.delorme.com/sytranquility

 

 

The good enough boat

There is a lot going on and around Tranquility, even more in our own lives. The final rush to be ready to leave the dock is undergoing, with printed sections of spreadsheets that follow me everywhere I go…

There is a lot going on and around Tranquility, even more in our own lives. The final rush to be ready to leave the dock is undergoing, with printed sections of spreadsheets that follow me everywhere I go. Thankfully Kate is on the organizational side now that she ended her jobs and she is doing an incredible job with boat work and trying to contain  my chaos.

Somehow I am failing to report all of this on the blog. It was difficult to sit and focus on the plan and make time to narrate what was happening. For me writing requires finding an empty space in my mind. There was definitely time and energy to do so, but as the boat required more immediate and interconnected actions, my mind was never really at ease. In fact,  once the big jobs like structural repairs and painting ended we were left with a huge list of smaller tasks and installation that required full attention. Basically we need to put Tranquility back together.

Every single one of these tasks come with decisions, every decision needs a justification. What we liked when we first set step on Tranquility was that the conditions of the boat gave us a very wide freedom of choice. Paul, the previous owner, had suddenly interrupted the refit of the boat and put her up for sale, leaving her bones exposed and unfinished. We liked her structure and her lines and we dreamed about how we could build the rest by ourselves to make her the best possible fit for us. This is the most alluring side of a boat refit, the idea to customize the boat according to your needs and desires. Three years later I just started to realize how this is a big trap we voluntarily threw ourselves in.

For example, at a certain moment you need to install fans to increase the ventilation ability of the cabin, displace moisture and have some cool air pampering your skin when you try to fall asleep, read a book or when you deal with hot pots on the stove. You also need a product that does the job while using 12v DC power frugally and that won’t cost a fortune. Then you check your wallet and try to decide how much money you are comfortable to put in this department.

The quest then starts, researching as many options as you can, scrolling through products lists and supplier catalogs, reading their description, keeping an eye on the price to easily ditch the ones that exceeds your pockets. The market is flooded with products that claim to be the best, or good enough, or just sit there available for purchase and the temptation is always to maximize the outcome, because “you always deserve the best deal”.

I spent a ton of time reading and researching about 12v fans, the ones that swivel and the ones that don’t, multi or single speed, and so on. When this was not enough I sought the opinion of experts and when finally I was very close to hit the Pay Now button the constant fear of settling for something not optimal made me delay the purchase. I was paralyzed by the fact that there could be something better or the same product for a better price, just few clicks away.

On a list of items necessary for a safe passage at sea fans surely sit at its bottom. So try to imagine how this would go for all the more important items an empty boat needs to be fitted for ocean passages. Luckily that process spread through 3 years of pondering, tests and life changes, but it is now, when everything converge to the final preparation that the sunken costs of decision making emerges from the mist of the past. It’s the bottleneck of opportunities, the crossroad of possibilities. All the indecisions and doubts have to disappear because it’s time to go. Why did I ordered two inches wide nylon webbing  instead of one? Why propane leak detectors are so expensive? Where am I going to order those mast winches? When am I finally installing that water maker?

Few years ago I experienced doing boat work and repairs in places of the world where the options were scarce. If I was lucky I could choose between product A and product B, but most of the time I had to go for a single choice, with no alternative on the price. Nonetheless the work was done, and my satisfaction towards the result was boosted by overcoming the challenges of the environment. Feeling like there were no alternatives did a lot for on my perception of the result, feeling heroic to have dealt with such situation.

Doing the same in the US, the bountiful land of opportunity, leave me often with the feeling that the job could have been done better, I look at other boats to seek comparisons, and the spiral of self-doubting keeps spinning. It seems that the number of options alone is not necessarily a good recipe for satisfaction, and instead it generates fatigue and uncertainty. After all, when you have so many options you are the sole responsible of your decisions, and most of the time you end up thinking it could have been better.

Finally the number of options decrease as we are getting close to completion. Most of the equipment is installed or on its way, few items are still missing as we make more space for decisions. Also when things finally fall into place satisfaction for starts to sink in and our good enough boat is looking awesome. I am sure the empty time of writing will be more frequent, and so this blogging adventure will be fueled by the real one. It’s happening!

Video: fair winds to all the sailing couples

There is always a mixture of happiness and sadness when you see your friends leaving. You are sad because you are going to miss them, and you are happy because they are set for an exciting adventure. You are also jealous, because this is ultimately what you want to do, but you have to wait just a little more.

Roberto and Vanessa aboard Tranquility in Fairhaven, MA
Roberto and Vanessa aboard Tranquility in Fairhaven, MA

With these mixed feelings we salute Roberto and Vanessa (check her blog!), and wish them all the best for their life.

Visiting Utopia

Franz Matsch - Triumph of Achilles
Franz Matsch – Triumph of Achilles

Recently Kate and I had a meeting about our finances and cruising budget. The atmosphere in the room was tense, almost as we were on the board of a financial firm who is deciding about their future in a shifting market. The tone of voice was high and the opinions divergent.  When you don’t have a fixed income or personal wealth and you dream about a life afloat it’s no joke. We not only have to figure out the way to make it through the everyday expenses, we have also to plan the future with variable and not predictable income.

Since we are stuck in the mud with bills to pay and things to figure out we feel that the original idea is becoming almost an impossible quest. Even when you have determination, the path is hard and steep, the courage itself doesn’t guarantee your success. Will we be able to resume our trip? What does it take to get financially untangled and self sustained? Will we be able to defeat the Forces of Evil? Of course we will.

We are still in a very priviledge position, we have the luck of being educated, with an ever growing network of good people around us and we are constantly on a learning curve, exposed to interesting situation and people. The only fact that we are contemplating the idea of spending some time cruising puts us among the very few fortunate people on this planet. It may sound silly that this is our biggest challenge, while other people face more dramatic and difficult situations. But still this is our Dragon, our Big Bad Wolf, the challenge we decided to face.

I love adventurers, people that risk their life to achieve impossible dreams. When I follow the sailors of the Volvo Ocean Race I am fully excited by the extreme conditions they face. When I read Moitessier’s and other singlehanded sailors’ recounts I feel the majesty and intensity of their experience. Their toughness is an inspiration. It’s a big boost of tension toward the everyday hassles of life, the fuel to propel us over the obstacles that sit in front of our goals. The danger and harshness of their adventures transcend their particular case becoming an ideal situation people can identify with.

That’s the reason why epic is important in our life. When  intellectual and critical thinking, rational intelligence and aesthetic are not enough, the primeval power of epic is what it takes to shake our soul and squeeze energy out of ourselves. We look at heroes from the bottom to the top, sometimes to distract us from the boring miseries of our existence, sometimes as a way to quench our thirst of energy to keep fighting our demons and enemies. Aim high to hit the target.

These utopias act as a beacon that leads to an unhabited island, where gods and demigods live, where the impossible becomes the norm. The Nobel Prize Wislawa Szymborska told us about this perfect place in one of her most celebrated poems. The island she depicts is ofted visited by humans, but none of them can stay. They all have to go back to the depths, where life happens.

 UTOPIA by Wislawa Szymborska

Island where all becomes clear.

Solid ground beneath your feet.

The only roads are those that offer access.

Bushes bend beneath the weight of proofs.

The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here
with branches disentangled since time immemorial.

The Tree of Understanding, dazzlingly straight and simple,
sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It.

The thicker the woods, the vaster the vista:
the Valley of Obviously.

If any doubts arise, the wind dispels them instantly.

Echoes stir unsummoned
and eagerly explain all the secrets of the worlds.

On the right a cave where Meaning lies.

On the left the Lake of Deep Conviction.
Truth breaks from the bottom and bobs to the surface.

Unshakable Confidence towers over the valley.
Its peak offers an excellent view of the Essence of Things.

For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,
and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches
turn without exception to the sea.

As if all you can do here is leave
and plunge, never to return, into the depths.

Into unfathomable life.

"Daydream" Columbia 9.6 for sale

Daydream is a Columbia 9.6 originally built in 1977 and professionally rebuilt since 2005 by a boat engineer, ready to sail. She is an ideal boat for liveaboard, exceptionally spacious for a 32 footer and with all the possible comforts, and tons of extra. The boat is on the hard in Clinton, CT and will be available from Spring 2014.

Please write me from my contact page if you are interested.

Columbia 9.6 sailboat

Propulsion

  • Engine Volvo MD6B rebuilt
  • New propeller
  • New Prop shaft
  • New diesel tank 12 gallons

Rigging

  • New chain plates
  • Mast inspected and polished
  • New electrical cables inside the mast

Deck

  • New deck paint
  • 4 Andersen self tailing winches 2 speed
  • New hatches and portlights
  • New anchor windlass, 300 ft chain high test 1/4 inch

Sails

  • Mainsail, Jib, Genoa, and Spinnaker in very good conditions

Electrical

  • New Electrical system, DC12v and AC 120v
  • 3 solar panels (100,60,10 watts)
  • New battery charger 30amps
  • Flat screen tv

Galley

  • Stainless steel propane stove
  • Double sink
  • Microwave
  • Fridge 3 stages (freezer, fridge and vegetables cooler)
  • External Barbecue

Plumbing

  • New Thru-hulls
  • Hot/cold pressure water (new boiler)
  • New plumbing system
  • Shower inside and in the cockpit
  • Pressurized sea water for galley, anchor chain wash, cockpit and head
  • 2 original water tank plus 1 new (80 gallons total capacity)
  • New toilet plumbing with holding tank

Heating

  • Force 10 cabin heather (propane)
  • A/C 9000 btu with electric heating
  • Electric heater AC 250 w 1500w

Hanging around Charleston

Today is the winter solstice, when we experience the shortest daylight period and the longest night of the year. From today the daylight will increase every day by a little bit reaching the maximum daylight period during the next solstice, the summer one. Sailing during winter time means having to deal with short days and long nights. If you want to maximize daylight you have to be ready for an early start at dawn, hoping to get in port by the sunset. Usually sailors plan their passages trying to avoid night sailing, expecially in the nearbies of the coast, inlets and waterways. But that’s the theory.

Often the planning and the execution take diverging paths and you end up entering port at night. It happened a lot to us, expecially because we don’t have a powerful engine and we rely mostly on freakish winds. Also sometimes we are not so prompt to leave the dock.

By the way any sailor should be competent in leaving and entering ports with dark and generally in night sailing, using the aids for navigation and the 5 senses. The unexpected is often present on a sailboat and the execution may differ from the plan forcing an approach with the dark. However, if you can sail with the full moon the visibility is great and it’s also a pleasure, but it’s during the darkest nights that you can enjoy a beautiful starry sky.

© Kate Zidar
© Kate Zidar

We left the Intracoastal Waterway in Morehead City, NC and headed offshore again on Thursday 12th December. Our destination was Southport NC with an incursion in the ICW for the last 20 or so miles through the Masonboro Inlet. We wanted to avoid the long sailing around Cape Fear to clear the Frying Pan Shoals.

The day sailing was fun, cold and with some swell, but relatively comfortable. We passed very close to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, and we saw and heard them practice firing. Even if we were relatively clear off their perimeter I have to confess that at any shot you would have seen our compass jerk toward a much more southern course, even if it was ridicoulus to try to escape artillery doing 6 knots.

© Kate Zidar
© Kate Zidar

We arrived at Masonboro Inlet at night even if we had good wind. We knew we could anchor in Wrightsville Beach and continue the next day. The moon that night was bright but the cloudy sky dimmed its light, and as it often happens we encountered more than one unlit buoy, luckily without shaking hands. On our way to the anchorage we kept seeing empty pontoons of the waterfront properties. We were pretty tired and thought that it was no harm to tie up just for the night and so we did, being awakened by a older gentleman in the morning who checked if we were ok and said we could stay as much as we wanted. That’s one of the few perks of sailing during off season.

We left anyway the next morning, pretending we are on a schedule. One more day of boring ICW and we got to Southport, a very little village at the outfall of Cape Fear River. Here we spent one night at the local Marina and one at the public dock where we met a little community of liveaboards, made friends, shared dinner and breakfast and saved some bucks.

© Kate Zidar
© Kate Zidar

Other times it happen that you chose to leave at night because of a weather window, and that’s what happened on Sunday Decemeber 15th. We left Southport with a small group of supporters gathered at the dock to witness our silent electric engine as we pulled out at 6:30 pm, as soon as the southern winds died and the northerlies started to pick up. Pushed by the ebb flow of  Cape Fear River we met force 3 winds that put us in motion on the gentle swell towards our destination, Georgetown, SC.

That was the plan but then we changed it once again.  After a very brief consult we decided to keep going and reach Charleston, putting one more night in front of us. Kate is now a perfect salty dog able to cook on a rocking boat and to peform all the tasks required to stand watch. The last sailing bit entering Ashley River was obviously upwind and against the tide but with patience we made it up to the main anchorage, in front of the City Marina in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. We dropped anchor and slept like logs.

© Kate Zidar
© Kate Zidar

Charleston is a great city and we are enjoying a lot our stay. It also has a convenient airport that will deliver us to Kate’s family for Christmas. That’s the reason why we decided to leave Tranquility here while we commute for holidays. While we were here I also had a fortunate coincidence and met friends who also were sailing south and stopped in Charleston.  We will continue our journey to Florida soon, with possible stops in Beaufort, SC, Savannah, GA and Jacksonville, FL.

Tranquility Voyage: Leg 2 Block Island RI to Norfolk VA – 385 nm

I believe there are mainly three reason that made this long passage possible: Tranquility, the weather and Roberto.

Starting from Tranquility I can only be happy about her. We purchased her following a positive feeling we had when we stepped onboard for the first time in a random yard (and positive reviews, especially on atom voyages website). We were anxious about testing her offshore, to confirm the accuracy of our intuition and the reputation of the Columbia 29 as capable of offshore sailing. The crew feedback is positive and unanimous: easy sail controls (reefing is a piece of cake), no sprays on deck (and on us), well balanced rig and performing sails (made in China) that allow to reach hull speed with winds of 10-15 kts. We felt safe for the entire trip, even during the most challenging moments.

We picked a very fortunate weather window departing Block Island last Tuesday at 11pm with northwesterlys blowing 20kts. The complicate part was leaving Great Salt Pond with the wind on the nose. We motored our way out the channel at about 1 knot, slow but steady, without pushing the throttle too hard worried about loosing charge and finding ourself stuck in a dangerous situation. As soon as we cleared the channel, we were in full sail on a beam reach passing Montauk and Long Island on our starboard side. The forecast was very accurate and we had costant NW winds with temperatures in 30s and 40s, cold but not too much. We experimented occasional light winds but for most of the passage we had constant favorable wind that made us decide to keep going and leave Cape May and Ocean City behind, aiming for Norfolk VA. A plan that SW winds forced us to abandon in favor of a stop in Wachapreague, 65 miles away from Norfolk. The perspective of having a dinner in a restaurant and a hot shower far outweighted one more night and morning at the helm. Navigating the salt marsh inlet was not a joke and we felt the mud under the keel more than once, but we eventually got there and had a great dinner, a deep sleep and a touristic morning waiting for the next high tide. The last portion of the leg was an easy and happy sail down to Cape Charles and the Chesapeake entrance where the approaching cold front got us and forced us to reduce sails and to a “sporty” cut to Elizabeth River and Norfolk; two long, cold and windy hours till we safely moored in Waterside Marina Sunday Morning at 2am.

The third and very important reason was our temporary help, Roberto. This passage wouldn’t be possible without him. Two crew and no autopilot would have been too extreme for a winter passage in the North Atlantic. We would’t have enough stamina and skills to do it. Plus Roberto is a kind of sailor I admire: even though he is a commercial licensed Superyacht captain with many years of experience he still has the enthusiasm and the feel for adventure to accept and enjoy such an unconventional and challenging trip. One image is representative of his contribution to the trip and Kate had the pleasure and the thrill to witness it: when she emerged from down below after her rest time she saw me and Roberto disassembling and reassembling the tiller while simultaneously steering the boat in choppy seas. His contribution was not only in terms of hands on deck, but he also suggested and performed important upgrades while keeping a joyful presence onboard. A fresh pair of eyes like Roberto’s couldn’t have come at a better time, when Kate and I needed a push and new ideas after the long, tiring and winding summer refit.

Now we are sitting in Norfolk, waiting for better weather, resting and upgrading our little home. We feel cozy in here and we can’t wait to continue our trip south along the Intracostal Waterway, a severe and interesting test for our electric engine as motoring will be crucial.

Liveaboard a self built trimaran

Michele and I share the same dream but follow two very different paths. I chose to refit an old slow monohull. He is building a light and fast trimaran from scratch. In both cases the vessels have the purpose to provide their owners with just enough comfort to sail the seas and live aboard.

In the warehouse

Michele and I were introduced by a common connection and started a conversation online. It’s a great sprint for your motivation when you find  someone with whom discuss your projects. Especially when your dream makes you feel like a weirdo among the people that surround you. That’s why the conversation became so intense and we shared a lot of our ideas and experiences about sailing and living aboard.

Sailing has always been in Michele’s DNA. He moved his first steps on Optimists, then he attended to sailing school. He continued to self-educate himself through a lot of miles sailed with his father on a formula 28 and 36 catamaran, and helping in building those boats.

Recently he thought of make sailing more than a hobby. He intends to  get the necessary licenses and start to work as skipper for charter boats, deliveries and teaching sailing.

Michele began the building of his trimaran three years ago, but it’s just recently that Michele is pushing harder as the project looks closer to an end. The 22ft boat named “Trimaranga” is taking shape in an empty warehouse in Bologna that his uncle decided to make available for the project. He says it’s about 70% completed but remains cautious about the final date. As we know very well, it’s hard to make plans with boats.

One thing is for sure: both Michele and I like to dream.

Go simple, go small, go now (but fix the boat first!)

dreamer

I never made a bucket list (false, I have at least “live in Buenos Aires for  a while”) or had a lifetime dream. The truth is that I have always had several dreams running in parallel and connecting randomly one to the other. For example I’ve always wanted to buy a small RV like the old VW van and make long journeys on it. It hasn’t happened yet but what happened is that I bought a small sailboat instead.

A small RV and a small boat have a lot more in common than the mere adjective. Both are vessels that pursue the idea of a nomadic and self sufficient life. That is true even if for most of the people they represent a mean of transportation for the spare time. They share a destination that is beyond the horizon and they give you a cozy and comfortable support during the trip.

I dream small while I could dream of a big luxury RV or a 90ft sailing yacht. Dreams are for free they say so why don’t exaggerate?

Coziness and simplicity of a living space have a great attractive power over me. The smaller and simpler is the shell that separates you from the environment, the less is the interference with the experience. Insulation from elements has always been an important feature for a living space but it seems that today we removed ousel from nature completely.

If you consider yourself limited and defined by the walls of you home why would you buy a mansion? If you want to travel the World why would you watch it from the window?

Going small and simple has many advantages. Simple and affordable equipment put less obstacles in your cruising project. Maintenance,and repairs can be made cheaper and quicker, with less need for technical expertise. That means more time and more money for cruising. Handling is easier and requires less manpower, even when the situation gets gnarly. Small boat are capable of great things, allowing you easier access to shallow anchorages and more available slips in the marinas.

A small cruising boat it was also the only possible option due to a limited budget. The original project was to save at least 80k, necessary to buy a certain model of boat and to invest the rest in a complete refit in order to have a perfect boat ready for ocean adventure. I soon realized that the 80k budget was not a sustainable goal and that if I really wanted to go cruising and live aboard I should reduce my expectations and go as soon as possible.

Saving up for years in order to have the budget someday was a way to avoid the problem so I checked my account balance and started to be aware of what was my real available budget.

Two events participate in the decision of go now. The first one was reading about Matt Rutherford circumnavigating the americas singlehanded non-stop facing the Northwest passage and Cape Horn aboard a 27-footer Albin Vega. This exploit opened my eyes on the fact a certain type of smaller sailboat is able to sail the oceans even in high latitudes.

I inevitably fell in love with the small but sturdy Albin Vega and started to make more and more research about the so called Good Old Boats, small vessels strong enough to take you everywhere you want. Unfortunately, Rutherford’s exploit made the price of Albin Vega’s rise quite a bit  on the used market. Luckily, the Albin Vega is only one of several good old boats on the market, and with 10k$ or less there’s an universe of sailboats that can take you anywhere.

The second event was reading about Daeung Sunim, a 42yrs-old Korean Buddhist monk that is going to bike his way across Canada, the United States, Mexico, and finally on down into South America. Asked why he was doing it, the quiet monk put his hand to his chest and said, “To test my spirit.” The shocking part was for me to learn that the monk was facing this challenge with no previous experience or training and that he just took this challenge on his shoulders because he wanted to see if he was able to do it.

Another event that made go now a feasible projest is the fact that my partner wanted to do it too and so finally Kate and I bought a Columbia 29 with the idea of fix it up, go living aboard and cruising around. It’s our first move to “test our spirit” and I am sure the refit will be a very demanding one.