Friday, April 30, 2010

The Sailcover, and What Else Happened

Alisa sewed most of the day on Monday, and most of the day on Tuesday.  By Tuesday night she was finally finished with the sailcover.  Here she is, lying on the completed project, a little too tired to enjoy her triumph.  We went to bed at 11 that night.

Two and a half hours later her water broke.  By three thirty Wednesday morning we were in the pregnancy assessment room at the hospital.

At eight in the morning this guy was born.

We named him Eric Leo Abookire Litzow (the First).

Alisa and Eric are both doing fine.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Baby's First Budgie Smuggler

OK, we're officially in limbo - Alisa is now five days past her due date.  She had a visit with the midwife a couple days ago, and mentioned in passing that she had been trying to finish sewing a new sailcover for the boat before the baby came along.  "Well," the midwife said, "the baby's waiting for something - you go home and finish that sailcover."

That's what she's doing right now - sewing the final seam on the sailcover in the next room, Elias asleep, Alisa and her mom chatting companionably over the noise of the sewing machine.  And here's Alisa two days ago, doing the last fitting on Pelagic.

Meanwhile, the portable baby shower has continued - good friends in Sydney ("I think they'd be the most sophisticated Australians that we know, except she's a Kiwi," I say to Alisa) sent down a wonderful collection of gifts.  A highlight was this tiny little Speedo.

This very kind gift gave us, first off, the chance to say "budgie smuggler".  In this land where professional comedians starve in the face of all the competition from amateurs, Speedos are widely called "budgie smugglers".

It also got me thinking.

Alisa started it when she said, "We'll have to get Elias a Speedo, then all the blokes in the family will have one."  (Extremely dedicated readers of Once In A Lifetime will recall that I was given a Speedo for my first birthday in the tropics, though I have manfully resisted the urge to share any pictures.)

"Oh, hey," I said.  "I think you're onto something."


"Well, you know how it is these days - pretty much everyone we know is out sailing the world, and blogging about it, and blathering about how they're 'gonna write a book'?"


"We clearly need something to set ourselves apart."


"Well, there used to be the Swedish Bikini Team in those beer commercials in the States.  Maybe we could do something along the line of the Pelagic Speedo team?  Me and the boys.  You know, we could do public appearances, marina openings, that sort of thing."

"I'm going to finish that sailcover."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

First Draft

This morning the excitement level had lifted noticeably.  Elias was running around the house and babbling nonsense from the moment he got up.  Alisa was extra animated, and I felt it too, a constant buzz in the back of my skull as I worked through the morning, a sense of immediate change in the offing.  I started to wonder - we were all picking up on some subtle clue of biology that told us the moment was nigh, or was it just the psychology of suspense that was making us all antsy?

Either way, nothing happened.


I haven't got Pelagic on the market yet, but today I did manage to finish the first draft of my book about our Pacific trip, the other task that I was aiming to have completed before Little Baby Brother came along.  The real action I have decided is in the all-important second draft, which is still months away.  But, as Alisa's mom pointed out, you have to finish the first draft before you can start on the second.  And it was a fun moment to finally print out the whole thing.  One hundred and eighteen thousand words - not a doorstop, but not a magazine piece either!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Baby Shower

Well, you know how it's meant to be with the second baby - people naturally don't make as big a fuss as they did for the first.  That, and the fact that we're a long way from anyone who we've known for more than three months (except Alisa's mom!), meant that the idea of a baby shower for Alisa and Little Baby Brother hadn't even crossed my mind.

But a box arrived from Kodiak today.  And when Alisa opened it, she found a portable baby shower inside: a collection of very sweet gifts for her and the Newest Addition, from some of our very good friends back in the home port.

You know how much effort it takes to get together this nice a selection of gifts and get it to the other side of the world in time for the big event, for friends you haven't even been in regular contact with for almost three years?  A lot.  There are no people like our friends in Alaska. 

Meanwhile, yesterday was the day before the due date.  Alisa stopped by Pelagic to replace a broken gear in the main halyard winch and to check the fit of the new sail cover.  And right now it's 2300 on the due date, and she's knocking out a few more seams on the sail cover project.

Cruising dudes of the world, continue to eat your hearts out!


I've overheard Alisa telling people "I'm as ready as I'm gonna be."  I guess I am too, but I also have a father's feeling of contingency about what's about to happen.  This new little dude-to-be is still so hypothetical.  I look at Elias, who is such a particular person, and such a force in my life, and realize that my imagination would never have been equal to the task of predicting him, of describing his individual self, before he was born.  Little Baby Brother is still in that stage of pure mystery, but very soon he will be a pure fact, and then none of us will quite remember what things were like before he was around.

For Elias, with his much more circumscribed life experience, our future as a family of four is even more hypothetical.

  If I run, he says, will he want to run too?
  Yes, I say.
  If I play, will he want to play too?
  If I pretend to hunt, will he pretend to hunt too?
  Ummm, if we ride in the car will he want to ride too?
  Will we let him?
  If we run errands will he come too?
  Why? He asks. Whywhy?


The Life Aquatic?

Today is the due date.  So we're thinking about... the next boat!
 I came upon this 47' steel morsel on a Kiwi website last night.  Not at all what we're looking for, but that didn't matter - a quick look and I felt that Palvovian response - elevated heartbeat and all that.  There's something wonderfully non-yachty about her, the combination of a ship-built interior and a do-it-yourself look to the cockpit and deck layout. 

Lots of things we didn't really want, like a ketch rig and a full keel, but it's just so easy to picture ourselves on this big, serious boat, with lots of space, sailing hither and yon all over the globe, in a family-circus-afloat, Life Aquatic sort of way. looks like she's in our budget.

I just keep reminding myself that there's nothing more expensive than an affordable large boat.

Meanwhile, we've got a new idea for how we might find a bargain.

"Do you think it's poor form to hope for a European sovereign debt crisis?" I asked Alisa.  "Then maybe we could afford one of those slick French centerboarders that are priced in euros."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Should Really Be Writing...

...since I'm on deadline.  (Once the baby comes, who will be able to write?)  And I also have a standard for blogging - Blog Only When You Have Something to Say.  The business of clogging up everyone's computer with the mental chaff of the moment I try to leave to others.

But I will take a moment to share this picture from last night... And to note that Elias was born spot on his due date.  And that Little Baby Brother's due date is in two days.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Big News... that there is no big news, yet.  But Alisa's mom has arrived, the bags are all packed for the hospital, and the car is full of gas petrol.  We are no longer in danger of being taken by surprise.  We hope.

And, we've enjoyed an immediate benefit of having Sandy here - the ability, last night, to go out for dinner and a movie.  Just leaving the squirt with a responsible family member (whom he adores) gave us an insight into how much easier child rearing must have been in the days of extended families.


Meanwhile, I've been getting up EARLY most mornings to write.  And this is the sight that greets me from the window at the start of each day.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We Need A Boat!

With Pelagic not yet on the market, we haven't yet been searching systematically for the next boat.  But of course I've been trolling the internet occasionally, looking at what's on offer, but not feeling any urgency, and not getting particulary excited about anything I see. 

Last week, that changed.

I found an ad for a six year old boat designed by Denis Ganley, a respected New Zealand naval architect.  She had just finished three years of Pacific cruising, and was sitting in Queensland, waiting for a new owner.  The gear looked good - a fleet of Anderson stainless winches, a low-hour Yanmar diesel sitting in a proper engine room.  Forty feet long, looking a good fit for our growing family, and with drawbacks, like a fugly center cockpit, that we could live with.  And, most notably, we could afford her, if the 'negotiable' tag on the asking process was a guide.

Suddenly, Alisa and I were entranced.  Could this be the one, the boat that would (inshallah) carry us hither and yon until high school beckoned Elias?  Our pulses raced, our pupils dilated.  We suddenly felt how lovely and relaxed it would be to just fly up to Queensland when this housesit is over and move onto our new boat, instead of taking the family to the other side of the world, our future in limbo, to some place where yachts are meant to be 'cheap'.

Unfortunately, a call to the broker revealed that she was a full keel design, something that is on our list of deal-killer criteria.  There was a comic interlude while he trotted out his Sales 101 techniques over the phone in an attempt to convince me that he, a man saltier than Poseidon, would never cruise in anything besides a full keel design.  ("And if the tide goes out on you some time, and you go aground, the rudder will be protected.")

So that was not the one.  But now our appetite is whetted by the whiff of success, the feeling that in all those overpriced dogs that are the world of used sailboats for sale, in all those other people's broken dreams that masquerade as deals, Our Boat is out there.

We'll let you know how it goes.


Meanwhile, Alisa had something to say about my last post. 

"Playgrounds and beaches?" she asked me.  "How about taxes and sewing projects and a three year old all day long?"

"But I only put that thing about playgrounds and beaches in there because you're such a hard worker," I pleaded.  "Otherwise it wouldn't be funny."

Here she is as I found her at eleven o'clock last night, as I was going to bed, learning the ins and outs of a borrowed sewing machine in preparation for getting deep into the new sail cover project: 

And for the record I am now of the opinion that she will finish the sail cover before Little Baby Brother is born.

But it might be close.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Endearing Australia

Check out our calender for April - it's a great example of two attributes of Australian culture that I find so endearing.  First of all, Oz is a place that doesn't wear its theism on its sleeve.  Note that Easter day is not indicated on the calendar.  On the other hand, Australians are known for their love of a day off.  So Good Friday gets a mention on the calendar - it's a public holiday.  The Monday after Easter is also a public holiday, so it needed a name, too - thus "Easter Monday", which Alisa and I had never heard of before.  The Taswegians, figuring that the only thing better than a four-day weekend is a five-day weekend, went ahead and added "Easter Tuesday."  And, to make the whole thing complete, there is the touch of mystery that still governs our interaction with this country.  Saturday isn't a special day off, so why is it called "Easter Saturday" if there isn't any Easter Sunday on the calendar?


Meanwhile, we got a text letting us know that Marls, one of our good dopplegangers, had her baby this morning.  Alisa's due date is only four days after Marls', so I guess we're now on high alert.  We have an overnight bag packed for Elias, and Ingfried, our Maria Island friend, has kindly offered to take him if the baby arrives before Alisa's mom gets here on Friday.  We asked Elias if he would mind staying overnight with Ingfried and Mike and their two girls if Little Baby Brother came early and he said, "I would love it!"

There's a world of self-confidence in that simple answer.

Realizing that Everything Is About to Change, last week I took a break from my routine of boat work and writing, and Alisa and Elias took a break from their routine of going to playgrounds and the beach, and we all went up to Mt. Field National Park.

We savored the feeling of taking a day out without packing diapers.

Our yachtie friend De also came by to help Alisa get started in the job of making a new sail cover for Pelagic.

I'm taking bets - will Alisa finish the sail cover before the baby comes, or not?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tie, Cut, Cut

Well, you give your kid an honest answer to the question of where meat comes from, and it comes back to haunt you in the strangest places.  Like in the supermarket on the day before Easter.

Elias and I were walking the crowded aisles, looking for ingredients to make Easter egg dye.  He dutifully tagged along, dodging among all the people shopping for their holiday feasts, and started telling me what he was going to do if he saw the Easter Bunny.

-I'm going to tie the Easter Bunny up.  This in his piercing, high-pitched voice.

-Um, OK, honey.

-And then I'm going to cut the line.

-Keep up, honey.

-And then I'm going to use a really sharp knife and cut his throat.

Silence from me.

-Tie, cut, cut.  And then I'm going to eat all of the meat and not waste any.  Isn't that very good of me?

My only consolation was the sure knowledge that the Australians around us would have a hard time understanding his three year old's American accent.

He really is a very sweet child.  He just might have seen one too many tuna butchered in our cockpit, and heard one too many Alaskan hunting stories from me.


Once we got home, we forgot about Tie, Cut, Cut and got the childhood Easter onto a more traditional footing.

We dyed Easter eggs:

And before he went to sleep Elias made a nest of his clean underwear for the Easter bunny to fill with chocolate during the night:

This is a tradition in my family, coming down I believe through my maternal grandmother.  I have often asked, but I have never met anyone else who grew up making nests from their underwear for the Easter Bunny.  Imagine my shock when I went forth in the world and found that this wasn't a central event in the way most people observed the holiday...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

She Swims

We relaunched today.  Our stint in the boatyard is over, and Pelagic made the transition from land-bound lump to swimming vessel, nearly animate in her natural realm.  Even if it was just for the 300 meter passage from the ramp to the marina dock.

To get us to this point, I worked in the yard for three weeks and two days without a day off.  In a perfect world, this is more than fun or good sense would allow.  And this is a good indication of why cruising boats and full time jobs are such a poor match - there's just not enough time for both.  Of course, some people pay other people to work on their boats, but our model for affordable cruising involves us doing all our own boat work.  Not having the full time job means not being able to afford professional boat yard help.  And we find that we typically do better work than the pros.  At the end of the day, the pros go home, and the sailors go sailing - who's going to do a more carfeful job?

The grand finale was the two days that I got to the yard at 0630 so that I could put the final coats of paint on the topsides (the part of the hull above the water) before the day heated up and the paint became too difficult to work with.  Repainting her was a huge job, maybe 100 hours all up.  Luckily, all that time seems to have produced a good result.


And, in a curious, circle-within-a-circle sort of twist, the boat that came onto the hard just before we launched was named Iolanthe.

This is only the second Iolanthe that I have ever seen.  The first was a Crealock 37 that had been sitting in the back corner of a boat yard in Annapolis for a little too long, waiting for a new owner, and which we proceeded to buy and rename Pelagic.

Meanwhile, the rest of our life is going on.  Elias is enjoying his weekly swimming lesson at the Hobart Aquatic Center, one of those public sport facilities that Oz does so well.

And we are settling into our new housesit in Kingston Beach, about twenty minutes south of Hobart.

Alisa has been busy, too.

The end.