Thursday, December 19, 2013

life is good...

It is hard to believe that we made the decision to start our retirement less than a year ago and that we have already been in Corpus Christi and living on the boat for seven months.  We are still adjusting but have not been disappointed with all this life style has to offer, not the least of which is the opportunity and time to reconnect as a couple.

Yesterday, we took a break from our "boat work" projects to go for an afternoon sail.  The temperature was in the upper 60's and the wind was moderate but steady.  We were greeted by dolphins immediately after leaving the marina, one of which came up to the boat and dove directly underneath.  We were out for 3 hours, exercised all of our sails, sailed on all points of sail, and learned a little more about our boat.

We still anticipate a little bit of excitement every time we return to the dock but yesterday's docking maneuver was totally without drama.  After the boat is secured, we invariably share a hug and a kiss.  Most days, like yesterday, that is in acknowledgement and appreciation for a nice afternoon spent together.  However, sometimes, it can also be an apologetic kiss for a harsh word spoken during a tense moment during the sail.  Either way, the kiss makes it all good.

Then, it is time to tuck the boat in with all of the covers and lashings that keep things dry and quiet if it should start to rain or the wind blows during the night.  We can't help but step back and admire how pretty S/V Suppose is in this setting.

After the sailing, we were hungry but neither of us was very eager to set up to start cooking supper.  The solution to that problem is obvious - Pizza Hut and box wine.  We ordered carry out and when I returned, I was greeted by a frequent evening visitor on the dock.  He is something over 3 ft. tall and appears to be a crane but we haven't been able to identify the type.  He lets you get to within 20-30 feet, then spreads his long wings and makes an ungainly leap into the air with a hoarse parting squawk to express his displeasure - very amusing and a perfect ending for a magical day.

Last night, I made a Facebook post with a couple of pictures from the day.  My sister, Karen, quickly gave it a Like and posted the comment "Life is good..."  I have to agree. We are very fortunate and extremely thankful that we can be here doing this together.  Life is, indeed, very good.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

supper on S/V Suppse

Cranberry-pork sausage with kale and sauerkraut and whole-wheat caraway seed quick bread. Life on a boat (with my wife), is pretty nice. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

evacuate and exterminate

One of the less romantic aspects of living on a boat is the creepy crawlers. It is a moist environment and the bugs thrive. We are going to evacuate and exterminate today. Hopefully, we will not have any unwelcome guests when new return. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

baking bread

We recently installed an Origo 6000 unpressurized alcohol stove.  The advantage of this type of stove is that fuel fumes cannot accumulate in the bilge for an explosion risk.  The (rumored) disadvantage is that the energy content is low and that adequate heat cannot be generated.  Well, in a week of use for both stove top and oven cooking, our opinion is that it works great.  

For me, the real test is bread. I started baking yeast breads in junior high. In making the transition from house to boat, the loss of my convection oven was up there. I had huge reservations on the ability of the alcohol oven to achieve and maintain the consistent heat needed for yeast bread. 

Today, I baked whole-wheat bread and it is was yummy. I used a recipe from the The Boat Galley Cookbook by Carolyn Shearlock and Jan Irons. Their chapter on yeast breads is scholarly and technical. (Have I said that I am a huge Alton Brown fan and love the science of food and cooking?) 

The first obstacle was the use of water from our tanks. Carolyn and Jan addressed this in their cookbook. Since we do add additional chlorine to our tanks to keep them fresh, I was leery of this as cautioned in The Book Galley Cookbook. Chlorine and yeast are not a good combination. If you have ever had an aquarium and added water directly from the faucet, you understand the dilemma. Kill the yeast (fish), or let it aerate and dissipate for a couple of hours.

Another problem that had to be overcome is that it is a little chilly in our boat on this November afternoon which makes it hard for the dough to rise. I set the pan directly in front of our small ceramic space heater which got things going.

In hindsight, I should have started the oven preheat halfway through the first rise. With the cooler temps, though, I was able to start it at the same time as the second rise in the pan. The oven/stovetop controls are imprecise. The alcohol canisters are like Sterno cans, using lids to reduce/increase or snuff the flame. Since the oven is still so new to us, deciding how to maintain an even oven temp meant that I camped out on the companionway steps, using the flashlight to check the oven temp every few minutes. 

The timer went off after 40 minutes and the internal temp of the bread was 190 degrees as recommended by The Boat Galley Cookbook. In these circumstances, the hollow sound via tapping is less than definitive for determining if the bread is done.

How awesome is this! Good crust and good crumb, the first time out. I'll be baking bread once a week, like the good old days.

locker storage

S/V Suppose has a variety of storage areas.  However, to provide the maximum usefulness, some of those areas need to be reconfigured.  One example is a small "hanging" locker that is not actually big enough to hang things like clothes and jackets.  Its real purpose is to hide the anti-siphon loop for the discharge line from the head and the y-valve and thru-hull seacock in the bottom of the locker.  The locker will work better for us as a storage cabinet with shelves.  

The new shelves will have to be removable to provide access to the seacock and y-valve.  I installed cleats on the cabinet sides to support two shelves and a false back.  The three pieces are installed in a sequence that locks them in place so that no additional bolts and screws are required.  Disassembly only takes a few moments.

The shelves were cut to fit from 1/2 inch plywood, stained, varnished, and covered on one side with a light colored laminate that matches the rest of the trim in the cabin.

The bottom shelf drops in place first.

The false back goes in next. It rests on the bottom shelf and against cleats located behind it.

The top shelf has a fiddle on the front edge that is made from 1/2 inch teak.  I used a router to round the top and to cut a rabbit-joint in the bottom to fit over the shelf edge.  The bottom shelf lies below the front face of the cabinet so that a fiddle is not needed for it.

The top shelf drops in place next. The shelf rests on horizontal cleats and is wedged between the front face of the cabinet and the false back.  This holds the back against the cleats behind it.

Here is the finished project.  The shelves will be much more useful for us than the hanging locker and they can be quickly removed to access the anti-siphon loop and seacock. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

new stove (with storage)

S/V Suppose came with a stove and oven that operated on compressed natural gas (CNG).  CNG is an excellent fuel for heating capacity and sense it is lighter than air, it can't accumulate in the bilge so it is very safe.  The downside is that it is not commonly or conveniently available at most marinas.  For that reason we decided to replace the stove with one that operates on denatured alcohol.  The new stove works great.  Two nights ago, Kathy fixed black-eyed peas that cooked for eight minutes in a pressure cooker and cornbread muffins in the oven.

Both the CNG and alcohol stoves are mounted on gimbals at the top. This allows a stove to swing to stay level when the boat heels to port or starboard.  The alcohol stove is 2 3/4 inches narrower than the CNG stove that it replaced. As a temporary fix, I made a wooden spacer to support the gimbal on the right side.  But, that is 2 3/4 inches of useful space that shouldn't be wasted on a boat the size of Suppose.

This is the new spacer box with a lower drawer that I made from teak and plywood.  The box at the top supports the stove and has a tray built into it that is handy for setting aside a spoon or spice bottle.

The drawer is mounted on slides against the side wall.  Although it is less than 3 inches wide, it is perfect for storing silverware and kitchen (galley) knives.  Small improvements like this on a small boat are very satisfying and give a lot of pleasure.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

how about that!

Years ago, a brother-in-law gave me an old set of golf clubs. Like anyone who wants to learn a new skill, I got a video.  This particular one was pointers from Jack Nicklaus.  For each type of golf shot, Jack would explain the basic elements of the correct technique, step up to a ball and hit an absolutely perfect shot.  Then, invariably, he would turn back to face the camera, give a big grin and say "How about that!" as if it was a surprise every time.  Over the years since watching that video, all of Jack's pointers have been long forgotten but the "How about that!" has become a catch phrase that Kathy and I share whenever we have successfully passed a skill test.

With the exception of bad weather, sailing is generally not that hard.  The basic objective of keeping the boat moving more or less in the desired direction is manageable and usually not very thrilling.  The exception occurs when maneuvering around hard objects such as docks and other boats.  In that case, "more or less in the desired direction" is not good enough and it can definitely become thrilling.  

Last weekend, we participated in the Bay Yacht Club cruise to Red Fish Willy's (really), which is a little over 20 miles from the Corpus Christi Municipal Marina.  The sail over was beautiful with a steady, gentle wind and smooth water.  The challenge for us lay at the destination where we knew we would be going into a new and unfamiliar marina.  Kathy and I have assigned roles for arrivals.  Kathy drives and I jump to the dock, handle the lines and secure the boat. Kathy provides the finesse and I do the physical part.

We called to check-in when we were still a couple of miles out. The marina manager gave vague instructions on where we were to dock and said to watch for a dock hand in a red shirt who would give directions and help with our lines.  As we pulled into the marina, we could see that 15-20 of our club members had already arrived and were lined up along the dock to observe our arrival.  Kathy said "Great!"  As we got closer, we could see three empty slips that could be ours.  We aimed for the 1st one and then saw the red shirt'd guy at the third slip. OK, change of plans.  But, the red shirt is moving. Now, he indicates the second slip.  OK, another change of plans and Kathy is adjusting marvelously.  As she began her turn into the slip, being careful to give clearance to a catamaran tied on the opposite side, the red shirt'd guy observes "You are getting pretty close to that boat!" loudly enough for everyone to hear.  Kathy remained unflustered, turned into the slip and nestled against the dock.  With all of the observers and available hands, all I had to do was pass over the lines and we were tied up, "home and dry."

I looked back at Kathy and said "How about that!" and she replied "Yes, how about that!"  We both had big Nicklaus grins on our faces.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

life on a boat: dinner

Now that we have an easy internet connection, I will be doing a series of posts that give a little bit of a description of "life on the boat."  Tonight's post is about our dinner.

Even though we had our first significant cold front passage last night, the temperature was only in the low 50's this evening.  As our Lubbock friends would point out, that hardly qualifies as a cold spell.  It was easily warm enough for grilling in the boat cockpit.  

At the beginning of the summer, we bought a small LP grill at Home Depot for $20.  That has turned out to be the best money that we have spent so far.  Tonight we had grilled jalapeno salmon burgers with sweet potato slices and steamed broccoli with the best malbec that you can find in a box.  All very tasty.

Pardon the blurry picture, the light was low.  This is our dinette table or rather half of it.  The two sides fold down.  Note the fiddle (lip) on the edge of the table.  That is to hold the dishes on the table if table is is tilting to the starboard (right).  If the boat was tilting to the port (left), we would eat on the other side of the table, which also has a fiddle.  Sailors are very clever about these things.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Corpus Christi provides wireless service that covers most of the city and we have been been able to use it when we are at one of the marina boater's centers.  On S/V Suppose, not so much. However, now we have reliable internet on the boat.  But it's a little complicated.

Our internet service is coming from a transceiver located on top of the Bay Yacht Club.  Normally, the signal is too weak for our laptops to receive and our laptops don't transmit with enough power to be received.  That problem is solved with a Ubiquiti Bullet and a high gain antenna (both recommended by Walter Crawford and International Electronics of Corpus Christi). This device can receive an otherwise weak signal and amplify the output from our computers. Although we have chosen to use the Bay Yacht Club signal, the Bullet allows us to choose from among approximately 30 local (within 2 miles) wireless links.

The Bullet would be sufficient if we just wanted to connect a single computer to the internet.  But we have two computers, two Apple iPhones, and two Barnes & Noble Nook eReaders all of which need internet connections.  To share the internet, we have added a Cisco Linksys 1200 wireless router on the boat.  Now we are our own personal hotspot.  How cool is that?

As I sit in the cabin of S/V Suppose writing this blog entry on my laptop, we are also listening to a cool music stream through Pandora from my iPhone and a Bluetooth speaker.  How about that?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

ham radio: the original tweeter

Onboard communication is important for staying in touch. A single-sideband radio continues to be a significant choice for many sailors. Besides the obvious ability to stay in touch, SSB radios are also good for receiving email, weather faxes and local port/passage information.

 Now, I (Kathy) have never used one, never seen one used, and never really looked closely past the knobs and buttons. But, I am now the designated communications officer aboard s/v Suppose, having achieved the Technician and the General licenses by completing two exams.

What can I say. I crammed. Sometimes, I remembered a smidgen of high school physics and engineering osmosis from Walt. Sometimes, I used my knowledge of multiple-choice test creation bad habits (i.e. the longest answer is the correct answer).

I am now the proud holder of a call sign KF5YGW. Don't try to call yet! Suppose doesn't have her SSB yet! Plus, I would not know how to answer!

navigation lights

Slow but steady progress. These are new LED navigation lights (with extremely low power requirements) mounted on teak pads and wired through the railing. Very seamanly!

Cruising: Port Aransas

September 1, 2013. First overnight trip on S/V Suppose. 17 nm each way. A 6 hr sail in light winds yesterday. Only 3 hrs to return today with a little motoring and better winds. All in all, a very nice weekend.

"nesting" dinghy: s/v . . .

This is our "nesting" dinghy project. It is 10 ft. long when assembled but only 5 ft. when split and nested. We will be able to stow it upside down on the cabin top and below the boom on S/V Suppose.

cockpit cuisine: grilled pizza

Cooking aboard is an ongoing learning experience. This summer's heat kept us from using our galley stove regularly. Walt found an inexpensive propane grill for $20! It's stowable and inexpensive enough to replace when it rusts out.

What's for dinner? Grilled veggies for grilled pizza. Boat cooking in the summertime. Dinner is served, including avocado-watermelon-red onion salad. Yum!

sail struggles 2

We're behind in posting updates. Internet connectivity is not as convenient on a boat. There is a bright spot, literally. Stay tuned for posts about Walt's solution.

In the meantime, here are some updates on our sail remakes.

In January 2013, we made the decision to modify our sail plan and brought the main and genoa sails to Lubbock. We ripped and picked the seams that attached the sacrificial sunshade and the furling wire on the genoa. The main sail lost its battens.

 In June, we purchased a new Sailrite LSZ-1 industrial sewing machine. This heavy-duty machine allows us to modify our sails, make protective covers and a large sun screen, and to reupholster seat cushions.

Because the genoa (140%) is our largest sail and had the most extensive modifications, we started with it. Oh, ambition! It has been a frustrating but satisfying exercise. Here are those modifications:

Triple stitch the broad seams. The broad seams are the ones that go across the body of the sail. Because the Sailrite does not do a true triple stitch (three small stitches to form each leg of the zigzag), we opted to reinforce the seams by adding another row of zigzag stitching. The greatest challenge of sewing on sails is the shear volume of cloth involved. 

Replace furling tape with hanks. Many sailboats use furling systems to dowse their head sails. Our previous two boats had such systems, and we quickly became dissatisfied with them. On both boats, we had furler issues such as jamming that would be incredible issues at sea. For Suppose, we have opted to convert the genoa to an old school hank-on sail. To do this, we replaced the furling tape with a bolt rope on the leech edge of the sail. Then grommets were installed behind the bolt rope and the hanks were "seized" on the bolt rope.

This bolt rope bears all of the tension load when the sail is hoisted rather than the sailcloth. For this reason, Kathy created eyesplices around metal thimbles at both ends. The leather goes around the rope first to protect it from the chafing of the metal thimble. Then, the rope is spliced to hold the thimble in place.

Hand-sewn leathering prevents chafe while the webbing secures the thimbled eyesplice at head (top) of the genoa foresail. The contraption on my hand is a sailmaker's palm to prevent me from impaling my hand with the large needle needed to pierce the numerous layers.

One of three needles I broke or bent while hand sewing the leather chafe guards.

boat refits: head overhaul

On a sailing ship, the term head refers to the toilet and hails from days when sailors would go to the bow (front) of the boat to relieve themselves. (For larger ships, this could be alongside the bowsprit so they could be "christening" the figurehead!)

As most sailors acknowledge, minimizing head odors is an ongoing challenge. Ours came to a head in June when we needed to replace a crucial valve. Between us, we overhauled the head three times.

The first time I simply cleaned everything and put it back together.

It soon became apparent that the flapper valve was not working so we ordered a replacement. With one disassembly under my belt, I tackled the work with confidence and made shorter work of the task. Unfortunately, the last bolts I tightened broke the plastic cover of the pump assembly. The crack leaked. Back to no head.

The third time was the charm. Walt's hand was strong enough by now to tackle the job.

Home maintenance, boat style!

home sweet home

This is the new and hopefully permanent Corpus Christi slip for Suppose. It's at the end of the dock with a nice view of the city.

We love it that Suppose is at the center of interest in many people's vacation photos from Corpus Christi!

a new name

Perhaps even more difficult than naming a child, boat naming (or renaming) is filled with personalities, philosophies, and dreams. During the summer we renamed our boat Suppose. Our friends, George and Sheila, helped us celebrate this important event.

Soon to be Suppose on the lift for a bottom paint job and a new name! Note her traditional full-keel design. Very sea-kindly
Voila! Suppose with her new name and new red stripe!
Walt about to pop the christening cork!
Places to go, sites to see, seas to sail, the possibilities are endless. Suppose we cast off dock lines, suppose we set a compass course, suppose we sail across blue water. Suppose, suppose . . .