“Everything is great!”

The lovely thing about cruising is that planning usually turns out to be of little use.
–  Dom Degnon

It’s been a minute since our blog was updated.  Sorry about that… I don’t want to spoil the story but we’ve been readjusting to life back on land and preparing for this new season in our lives… too many changes to list here.

Cyndee and I sent the kids (and Meeka) off from San Juan on June 16th, made the scenic hour long drive back to Ponce and Kokoro, and began the process of resupplying and prep to leave for the 1,200 NM trip to Marathon Florida – our FIRST offshore passage together.  Not to mention Cyndee’s first EVER voyage offshore – or anywhere really!

The sail loft in Ponce had a great location above a local restaurant and a unique method of getting sails up to the loft.

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The Quantum Sails loft in Ponce lifting the Genoa for repair work.

The guys from the loft repaired the sail and returned it to us at the dock in just a few hours.  We removed the inner forestay – a wire that goes from the deck to the front of the mast at the front of the boat where an additional sail can be hoisted up – because it had started to come undone and was damaging the genoa, tearing one large hole and several smaller holes in the sail.

All the shopping was done, our gear was ready, but we struggled to get the genoa back up on the forward roller furling gear.  We even went up the mast at one point, not an easy undertaking, to try to straighten things out.  In the end we prevailed but in the process one of the winches on the mast came apart… yes… came apart!  Turns out a spring loaded keeper ring inside worked its way out of its groove.  I solved the problem the way any rational individual would…YouTube.  I was able to disassemble and fix the winch but by now it was 12:30 AM and leaving now was out of the question.  I decided on an early morning departure and hit the bunk for the first real rest I’d had in about 48 hours.

On phone with the kids: “Everything is great”

As I went to sleep I was so encouraged! We were able to accomplish so much in preparing the boat – as a team.  I  became suddenly aware that we had passed a few important tests… going up the mast, hoisting sails, anchoring, docking, organizing the various boat systems, and launching and retrieving the dinghy and motor.  We had learned so much in such a brief time.  We were ready enough.

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Together I am pretty sure we could do just about anything.

Early the next morning we were up, a little apprehensive, yet hopeful we had covered our bases with the boat and her provisions for the next week of offshore sailing.  We had perfect conditions and made fantastic progress.  I know it doesn’t sound like much, but we sailed over 150 NM the first day! (1 NM=1.2 Statute Miles) This first leg of the trip took us just West of Puerto Rico and just East of the Dominican Republic through the Mona Passage.

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Sailing “wing and wing” in amazing conditions in the Mona Passage.  Notice small round and larger rectangle patches on the Genoa to the right.

I could not have been more pleased with our progress.  Kokoro was in her element.  Following seas, 20-25 knot sustained winds, kept her moving along at 7-8 knots.  What could possibly go wrong!  Dumb question… never ask this question.  Don’t even THINK this question.  My utopia came to a violent stop when I discovered the same problem with engine flooding that plagued me on the leg to Tortola had happened again!  Looking into the engine room from the cockpit my heart dropped.  Joy turned to despair in just a few seconds.  How do I tell Cyndee?  What are my options?  How do I stop the water from coming into the boat? Just in case you are unaware, water leaking into the boat is usually bad.  To add insult to injury, the electric bilge pump, the thing that gets water leaking into the boat back out of the boat, stopped working.  Yeah, it has a switch that is designed to not work when there is oil present in the water… you know nature conservation and all… and since the engine was flooded and all the oil had made its way into the bilge… you get the picture.

No way to avoid the topic so I just came clean right away.  Cyndee knew something was up because there were more than a few choice expletives pouring out of my mouth.  I explained the situation and our options as I saw them.  She was great.  She never panicked.  Profound isolation on the sea has a way of focusing your attention on what is truly important.  We discussed energy saving strategies since we could no longer charge the batteries with the engine and would be relying only on the solar panels to power the autopilot and other electronics.  I have to add here that I was truly distraught by this point, full on pitty party mode. Cyndee was totally cool and just said, “well it’s a good thing we are a sailboat, we can just sail!’ From that point on I was encouraged although the engine issue loomed large in the back of my mind.

On phone with the kids: “Everything is great”

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Kokoro sailing into the sunset.

Kokoro sailed on and we made great progress toward Florida via The Old Bahama Chanel.  We made the decision not to share the engine failure with our kids and family.  We assured them twice a day that all was fine.  Never sharing the looming engine repair needed.  We got back to business as usual with the exception of regular shifts on the manual bilge pump… remember… still have water coming in through the engine.  Believe me, I was struggling to devise a way to stop the flow.

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Mackerel caught on a hand line! So good with butter and garlic!

Cyndee’s take

After we lost the engine we lost wind.  Well, that’s what I said at the time.  We went from averaging 6 KTS to 4…there will be a time in the Gulf that I would get excited at 2 KTS… Day 3 on the ocean and it was silent.  I don’t mean quiet, but silent.  It was like a form of sensory deprivation.  The only stimulus is the sight of the ocean and sky.  No one speaking, no technology, no options.  By day 4 the winds picked up, as did the ocean.  We were seeing 30′ swells seeming to come over the stern, yet Kokoro just floated over them.  My spirits were not lifting however.  I was quiet, but this day I was acutely aware of what I was doing.  Then panic.

I have  only had two other full blown, I can’t control my emotions, panic attacks in my life.  The first was bungee jumping…lost all Christian witness.  The second was on the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado.  I mean, who carves 2 lanes on the side of a 12,000 ft mountain with no rails!  The Atlantic ocean with no one around, no help if needed, no one, saw the 3rd.  I can’t tell you exactly what sparked it, but I lost all rational thought.  I couldn’t even count to 5. Jack would be so disappointed.

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I know a few of you have had a panic attack and can relate, but for those of you who have not, let me try and explain.  Most of our lives we just enter and do.  We may prepare a bit, but for the most part life hits you and you act based on your training (aka life) until that moment.  Most things we deal with we rarely sit and think about.  Then suddenly all you have is thought.  All you have is a desperate awareness of the situation before you.  An awareness that supersedes all rational norms.  And once rational is lost, no rational offered is able to be applied.  Its like dehydrating.  No amount of water will help and no electrolytes are in site.

We decided that we could stop in Matthew Town and let me breathe. The charts showed we would arrive around 2am.  Jason gave me a small pill and prayed I would sleep.  I did.

Thank God for Matthew Town (and medication).

On phone with the kids: “Everything is great”

Back to Jason

About 4 days in we had an evening with extremely powerful winds and wave action.  Needles to say, Cyndee was not amused. The need for a break, the possibility of getting the engine repaired, and ICE (I love ice) all played into our decision to make for the Bahamian island of Great Inagua.  Following most decisions to head for shore the mood is lifted and this was no exception.  We sailed on through the night toward Mathew Town hoping to arrive in the early morning hours.  As a result of our inability to recharge the batteries with the engine the house batteries died and would no longer drive the autopilot so I hand steered into Mathew Town.

Coming into an unknown place, at dark, no engine, is definitely not ideal.  Exhausted, I got us into about 20 feet of water and ran upfront to drop the anchor with the ELECTRIC windlass.  Yeah, it’s electric so that was a no go.  Still circling the anchorage under sail, Cyndee is mostly asleep saying “let me know if I can help”, I quickly jump below and excavate the 300 foot 1 1/2″ secondary anchor line from the bowels of a forward storage locker.  Back on deck, I rigged the secondary anchor and had us secure in a few minutes.  About this time I remembered the fishing line was still out.  I hauled it in and ended the day with a laugh and set this guy free because I was WAY too tired to clean a fish at this point.  We went to sleep hopeful our stop would provide the rest and repairs we needed.

On phone with the kids: “Everything is great”

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Caught while circling the Mathew Town anchorage under sail. Lucky guy made it home that night!

Next time:
1. Mathew Town
2. Morton Salt
3. Bahama Security Forces
4. Engine Repairs
5. ICE!
6. Moving on to Marathon

Two Paws

The kids (-Ryan) came with Cyndee to spend a week sailing with us in Puerto Rico before we head off to bring Kokoro back to Galveston. Meeka, our Chief Security Officer, came as well.

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Meeka strutting through the airport…oblivious to the air travel to come!

The first day we played around the marina!

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We realized quickly the fake grass was not going to fool her

Sunday we headed to Caja de Muertos , a small, very cool island near Ponce.

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Riley’s first time scuba diving (Thanks Rudy!)

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The shore of Caja de Muertes

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A roll, a roll, a roll in the sand

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Jason and Joey in a cactus forest as we hiked up to the lighthouse

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The lighthouse…I cannot confirm nor deny if we snuck in through a window to see the inside

Monday, about 3:30pm we began our venture to Vieques. “Oh it will be about 12 hours…”

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Captain Riley

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Maggie caught the first fish!

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Before the murder…yes, Maggie cried.

…then seasickness hit

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Seasick sisters

21 hours later we arrived in the most beautiful part of the world any of us had ever seen.

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Wild horses all over Vieques and Maggie thinks she is the horse whisperer!

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We rented scooters to tour the island. Best decision!

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Maggie and Riley

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Lunch at a cool, local hippie place! We fit right in!

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No gravity in Vieques!

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Mama Farra

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We had an amazing time! Sea sickness and all!

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Jason cooked up the Mackrel Maggie caught. One bite and she forgot the murder scene. 

We returned to Ponce Thursday morning and took the kids to the airport  we made the decision to send Meeka home with them. We decided our first time sailing so far we didn’t need the worry of her falling over board!

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…next post…sailing home!

 

The Process

“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I write this I am being serenaded in La Guancia, a small marina and boardwalk area on the coast in Ponce, Puerto Rico listening to a local guitarist overcoming talent with volume!  The past few days have been such a blur of travel and projects.  Traveling was brutal by 21st century standards.  At 6’4” tall an economy seat is just as effective as some Medieval torture device.  I planned on sleeping during the overnight flight but instead kept myself occupied trying to contort my body into a comfortable position.  I’m sure i burned more calories just moving around than if I had worked out so I’m counting that as exercise.

The boat looked great!
I arrived in Ponce, southern coast, from San Juan, northern coast, after about a four hour ride. It’s only an hour drive but the guy I hired to drive me had to wait for another paying customer.  Working out transportation is something I need to get better at… It’s hard to adjust to such a dependent posture when you are used to just hopping in the car to go where you want while siri gives you turn by turn directions. #newskillsneeded  I find this forces me to talk to passers by and get truly engaged with those around me… even if it’s just where can I get a hamburger!

Cleaning and cleaning…
Kokoro was in great shape… mostly.  When I left her in late December 2015 I did my best to leave her well ventilated and shaded from the sun by large heavy duty tarps fore and aft.  I was beyond pleased to find limited spots of mildew after 6 months.  Shout out to Rudolffo for looking out for her!  First day on the boat… after not sleeping and still cramping in muscles I didn’t know even existed… I begin hauling all the cushions up on deck for some fresh air.  One or two of them wanted to dance but I had to decline (you should try wrestling 8 foot berth cushions down a narrow hallway on a moving boat before you judge me).  Every surface got the wipe down treatment and everything was looking, and smelling good.

Maintenance
It occurs to me that when I have said “yeah I’m moving aboard so I don’t have to cut grass and paint and worry about my roof and all that maintenance” I was obviously out of my mind.  The sea is a deceptive place.  It has a way of causing something in my brain to disconnect from the capacity for rational thought.  I’m sure it’s a medical condition as yet to be discovered.  I tackled the engine oil change.  So there’s no way to get below the engine to drain the oil like in a car… that would be far too easy.  A variety of pumps are made to extract the oil through the dipstick tube and mine happens to be the the MOST manual variety causing one to get an amazing forearm and shoulder workout during the 45 minute process of slowly sucking hot oil from the bowels of the diesel.  Again, I count that as exercise, arm day done!  Also changed out the fuel filter, nothing other than I had never done it before and was concerned about allowing air into the fuel lines.  Everything went back together nicely and the big Perkins (that’s the engine brand) was once again in operation and ready to ferociously power us out of trouble or calmly into some remarkable remote anchorage.

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Hand pumping oil… could have been WAY worse!

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The IRON SAIL! 65hp Perkins diesel engine. At least there is room in there.

The sails (these are vital to the proper function of a sailboat)
One of the important components of decommissioning the boat was sail storage to protect them from harmful UV and weather.  Both sails were folded and stored forward in the V-Berth… the pointy bed in the front of the boat.  Once again I did the dance of delivery, contorting and twisting down the narrow hallway while wrestling a two hundred  pound sail.  I may or may to be exaggerating the weight but I’m on a boat and exaggeration comes with the territory.  Again, that counts as exercise, legs and back done!  I knew I would need to do some repairs on the genoa… the front sail… so I hauled it a hundred yards to the “beautiful” La Guancia boardwalk to lay it out to have a look.  The last time I had a chance to really look at it was in Bequia when we stopped to repair the roller furling and put the sail back up in gusts reaching 45 mph… not good for sails.  Needless to say, I called the local sail maker to come pick it up for more extensive repairs… It’s just money right?  I have so much to learn, like repairing sails on your own and being truly self-sufficient, baby steps.  I think I waited until the absolute hottest part of the day to put the main… the back sail… back on the rig.  It was difficult alone but I am counting it as exercise remember so it’s a win-win.

Miscellaneous
I often find myself looking around and thinking I’M NOT MAKING PROGRESS!  There are little piles of tools and rope laying about and other “stuff” that needs to find a place.  I did however manage to get the outboard stowed on its new bracket.  Completed the install of an auxiliary 1100 Watt inverter which will allow us to charge all the stuff we want to “disconnect” from out here.  Actually, it works very well and I am pleased with the results.  Got the outdoor grill hooked up too!  Everyone knows meat just tastes better when grilled and good food makes for a happy crew.  Did some provisioning at Walmart for the basics and some expensive engine oil.

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Redneck engine mount and gas grill all set!

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It’s nice to be cooking on gas again! Nothing like fresh coffee and a hot meal.

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Inverter install. Gotta charge all those gadgets we can’t live without.

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Pretty much every flat surface below deck looks like this. Random stuff everywhere!

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First trip to Wally World for some basics.

Final Thoughts
Life aboard is a fantastical thing.  I find my pattern of life transforming to fit the rhythm of the natural word around me.  Waking just before daylight and retiring after watching the sun slip below the distant horizon.  It’s a beautiful habit that affords such liberty, peace, and productivity.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about anything but I know the boat can handle more than me and he is well equipped for the journey.  If you wait until everything is perfect you will never leave the dock.  No regrets.  No coasting (unless you mean sailing).

How did we get here?

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Welcome Aboard!
We are a couple of middle-aged folks that aren’t terribly sexy or beautiful but have finally taken steps to overcome the fear of failure and pursue our (mostly mine) dream of seeing the world from the deck of our our own sailing boat.  Our hope is that this site will serve to bring you along in some small way on our adventures.

Crew:
Captain – Jason
First Mate – Cyndee
Chief Security Officer – Meeka (12 pound PeekaPoo)

In the beginning… Corcodile rock Cumbrae
I have always been fascinated by the sea.  I can remember looking out from the shore of the Isle of Cumbrae, Scotland, probably only 6 years old, and dreaming of adventures too far away destinations.  I would wander for hours peering into tidal pools fascinated by the vast array of life, trapped momentarily by the ever consistent ebb and flow of the seemingly endless expanse of sea water stretching to the horizon.  I would marvel at the grace and power with which the sailing boats moved across the waves, dreaming, wishing I could experience that freedom.

Ten years later I found myself living near the coast in Texas with unlimited access to a small boat named “sunshine” an Alcort Sunfish.  I would walk for an hour to the Houston Yacht Club where she was stored and spend the entire day out in Galveston Bay with no particular destination but experience and joy.  Let’s just say, it’s good to start sailing when the cost of poor judgement results only in getting wet and righting a capsized Sunfish!

Sealing the deal…
In the late 1980’s my father and his good friend Ray Porter purchased a 33’ Freedom Cat Ketch we named “Welfare”.  Sometime during this period I got my first taste of what boat ownership is all about… cleaning and fixing the boat!  We had sucFarra_86 on Boath great experiences… running aground, prop shafts slipping from transmissions, sailing into the slip engineless, you know, the usual.  We had the boat whipped into shape and planned to join the Regatta de Amigos, an annual sailing regatta from Galveston to Veracruz Mexico.  The experience of sailing over the horizon into water so deep the depth sounder was useless, where the ship’s radio was nothing but a decoration, was exhilarating and terrifying all at once!

After 5 days of motor sailing roughly 600 NM, not much wind that summer, we arrived off the coast of Veracruz in the dark.  Not Good.  Dad made what would ultimately be a life altering decision for me that evening… we would head out to sea and wait for daylight before attempting the tricky harbor entrance.  Mind you, this was before GPS technology was readily available and let’s just say the Mexican reef markers were inadequate to say the least.  Within hours we found ourselves in a crazy storm, lightning so close the hair on your arms would stand up even though soaked with rain and sea water.  50-60 MPH winds and swells towering above the 40 foot masts of our ever shrinking vessel.  It. Was. Awesome!  In some perverse way I felt so alive in those hours aboard.  I found myself repeating a phrase my father often muttered… “the boat can take more than you can”.  The next morning we followed a fishing boat into the harbor, no one knew what we had endured that night as we found our spot on the impressive concrete bulkhead.

I will never fully understand the transformation and seed of adventure that was planted in my soul that night.  I have been trying to orchestrate a scenario ever since then that would allow me to live on the sea, travel to places only imagined in the mind of God, and to discover how I can use this passion for His glory.

How did I get here?
Since that time I have spent more hours than I care to remember… sorry to all those who employed me during those 25 plus years… reading blogs, cruising sailing discussion boards, exploring options and information to form a foundation of information that would presumably provide a basis for making wise decisions regarding purchasing a boat and all things relating to the cruising and live aboard lifestyle. Needless to say yachtworld.com, sailboatlistings.com and craigslist were all frequented on nothing less than a daily basis as I searched for the best boat for the life I had been dreaming of.  Fortunately/Unfortunately I was comfortable with this scenario… if you never commit to the lifestyle you are dreaming about then your dream can’t come to and end… you can carry on the fantasy without risk.

As I have grown older and become more aware of the brevity of my own life I have landed on this defining principal.  Do what you love what you do.  I don’t want to have regrets.  I want to experience and BE who I am… at the core.

In 2015 my wife and I were confronted with the opportunity to sell our home, downsize to an apartment, and put up or shut up on this whole live aboard lifestyle.  Did I mention how amazing Cyndee is?  She encouraged me to actively pursue the purchase of our future sailing home.  I’m sure we will explore that process further in a future post but long story short is that we purchased a beautiful 1978 CSY 44 Walk Over in Trinidad named Kokoro.

I traveled to Trinidad in November 2015 to do a pre-purchase survey and launch a boat that had been stored on the hard (on dry land) for the past 6 years.  We (I) overcame our fears and signed off on the purchase… no turning back now!  Kokoro 2016

Kokoro literally means “heart”, yet the word contains shades of meaning, and can be translated as “the heart of things” or “feeling”.  Join us as we discover, fail, persevere, triumph and learn on this amazing journey.  If you are dreaming of your own journey, don’t wait… you will never regret becoming who you were created to be.  Don’t become paralyzed by fear of failure, but be catapulted into the fantastical unknown by the realization that life is but a vapor.  Pursue your passions.  Do what you love what you do.

Stay tuned for progress on our delivery back to Houston!

Embarking on New Adventures

In 2 weeks Jason and I will be headed to Puerto Rico to bring Kokoro back to Texas.  A part of me is so nervous about traveling 1750 miles across the ocean.  A part of me is so excited! A part of me is scared to death.  1750 miles across open ocean.  Amazing. When I think about it too long, I end up thinking…’why not’? .  Why not me?  If not me, then who?  We only have one life to live on this earth.  Why live safe?