Sunday, February 20, 2011

What We're Doing

Well, such fun - comments from what Alisa and I always like to call "our people", both the Holland and Australia chapters...

So, to answer the question from Miles and Melissa, no, we haven't sailed her yet.  My parents visited this last week, and we had them all lined out to babysit the day before the haulout so that Alisa and I could sail Taiko for the first time without having to worry about the kids, but then the weather turned out to be crappy so we stayed at the dock.  So it looks like all of our sailing on this new boat will be as a family!

And where, you might ask, are we going to be sailing the new ride?

Well, right now we're here, in Alameda, California....

And where we would really like to be is in Iluka, New South Wales...

Iluka is the place that Alisa and I like to think of as our spiritual home within Australia.  And right now Iluka seems particularly attractive,  a great antidote to all the ambition chasing that we've been up to, with our simultaneous child rearing, working, and preparation for world sailing.  It's been a crazy six months or so for the team, and there's no better antidote that we can think of than a few months of beach time in Iluka.

So the plan is to sail to Australia, again.

Please, no comments on how we were just in Australia, and how it might of made more sense to buy a boat there.  Believe me, we know.

With the start of the northern hemisphere hurricane season approaching, we'll be looking to leave in two and a half months or so.  This idea has quite frankly kept me up at night in recent weeks, something that usually never happens.  There's a lot to do to figure out the new boat, and I have significant work commitments to meet.  And of course there are our two darling ones, both keeping us busy and making the idea of less-than-adequate preparation for the crossing unacceptable.  And, I don't want to say anything until it's final, but there appear to be developments with my book manuscript that will require some time from me before we leave.  If everything else wasn't enough.

Stay tuned to see how it all turns out...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Despair, or The Boatyard

Well, the Romantic Period with this new boat is officially over.  Starry-eyed dreams are a thing of the past, and we find ourselves immersed in a sea of inescapable practical details.

We're in the boat yard.

I don't know how other people handle being in the boat yard, but for me it's always been a scorched-earth experience.  I always do the work myself, which means twelve hour days, bashed knuckles, and plenty of time to reflect bitterly on the foolishness of dreaming about palm-fringed anchorages.

This time around is no different.  We've been on the hard since Tuesday.  Every day I work all day but conclusively finish few (or no) jobs.  The beautiful weather that we enjoyed in January has left us, to be replaced by a traditional California winter.  It's been pouring rain for days and the temperature has been topping out around 45/7 and so the boat sits unpainted.  Meanwhile we're staying in a hotel, so every day that we don't get back into the water adds to our boat-related money hemorrhage, and the forecast promises little relief.

And, well, you get the picture.  Luckily I have the experience of the Pelagic years to draw on, and the realization that even the darkest haul-outs eventually end.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What we've got

After a year of looking, this is what we ended up with.

Taiko is a 45-foot steel cutter, one of two hulls built to a design by Gary Noble Curtis.  She has a bit of a history - hull completed in 1989, but the boat not launched until 2005, she's only done one round trip from California to Mexico but has managed to acquire five owners in her brief career (we're owner pair #5).

As expected, we ended up compromising on about half of our boat-buying criteria.  For one thing, she's steel (though corrosion-resistant corten, and well done), rather than the aluminum that I would have preferred.  For another thing she's big - 42 feet was really as big as we wanted to go.  And her engine is quite undersized and, because she hasn't cruised, there's all sorts of gear to add to her (more on that later!).  And (there seem to be a lot of compromises), she is not a production boat.  This means she will be more difficult to sell when the time comes, and she is also a bit of a mystery as far as the design's virtues and vices are concerned.

But, there was a lot of good that came with the package.  We didn't get her for a song, but the price was probably "reasonable" for what she is.  The mast, standing and running rig, mainsail and staysail are all brand new.  Much of the other gear is from 2005.  She has a very non-yacht interior, which is something that Alisa and I always wanted - boat builders put a huge amount of money into making sailboats look like floating bordellos, and we were always keen to skip paying for that sort of nonsense.  Another huge plus is that she appears to fit the bill as an "expedition" yacht - with some modifications, I think she'll take us to whatever icy corner of the globe we care to explore.  And, with all that length, some good things do come...
The "makes me feel like singing" galley.

The "I'm just going to go work on my project" engine room.

The "it's all mine until Eric is out of the crib" forward cabin, complete with roll-away desk for homework.

   The "how long can we get away with living like this?" aft cabin.

So that's the new ride.  Of course, the only point of having any sailboat is to sail, a lot.  We've cooked up a plan for doing just that - details to follow soon.

Monday, February 7, 2011

No Place Like Home

The 24 days that Mike spent in CA boat buying were a whirlwind for me and the boys. There were so many things to do in order to close up the year we'd spent living in Hobart, Tasmania.   In 10 months of living ashore, we stayed in 8 different homes. Only one place was a rental, the majority were housesits, and what we didn't pay in outright cash we paid in the stress and effort of moving so many times.  Moving with very young children.  It worked for us in a lot of ways – kept us very light in possessions and allowed us to see Hobart from all sides of town.  But there was a time not too long ago when a very tired Elias asked me 'where is home, mommy?'.  And I began to ask myself the same question.  Lo and behold, we have finally arrived at the answer to that question. And it's an answer that I like very much!

How to describe the palace that is now keeping us afloat? She is every bit as good as she looked in the photos online. She is beautiful and has so much storage! The galley is about twice as big yet still narrow enough to be functional while sailing. The deck lines are lovely. I am chuffed, as they say in Australian. In fact I am so starstruck with this boat that I have almost forgotten how awful the flight over was.  Almost, but not completely.

Please imagine me with Eric (9 months) and Elias (4.5 years), 4 bags weighing a total of 67 kg (almost 150 pounds), 2 car seats, a stroller, 4 carry-on bags that were heavy and really unmanageable once the strap on the laptop case broke.  Thanks to wonderful friends, we were off to a smooth start leaving Hobart. But rechecking bags in Sydney was horrible. I will skip the boggy details and instead ask you to picture me dripping in sweat from neck to ankle after lugging each piece of baggage from the taxi curb to the United desk (all the while wearing 11 kg Eric in my Ergo carrier), I am swooning from the physical effort and I wonder if I might collapse. No exaggeration. Then while Elias is on the floor having a very loud, very epic meltdown, the unhelpful woman representing United Airlines asked me in an accusatory tone 'why are you doing this alone?'.  As if I had said to my husband, "no dear, you take the earlier flight and I'll go alone with the kids".  Instead of answering her, I hugged Eric and thanked him for not crying during the ugly episode.  Once the bags were checked, we regrouped and had a pep-talk and then tackled the lines for security and customs. Elias' pony jumped up and hit a man in the face. This man was not happy about it and my four-year-old said loudly 'but mom, she is soft, it didn't hurt' and I just kept going – not insisting that he apologize.  I viewed it all from outside myself, amazed at how exhaustion could wear down my values. Once through all the checkpoints, I looked for our gate and found it flashing 'FINAL CALL' so we got to sprint to gate 61, which was terrifyingly hard to find amidst all the perfume an booze shops.  Poor Elias was crying that he couldn't run and his legs were going to fall off.  You never see those carts ferrying people to their gates when you really need one.  The 13 hour flight was no big deal after all that.  I arrived with bloodshot eyes hoping for some due pampering, only to see Mike waiting out side the customs gate looking like he did after I gave birth to our sons…he looked happy but thoroughly trashed and exhausted.  I am sorry to say that I didn't give him a proper hug until I downloaded all the gory details that I spared you about the flight over. It was a long rant in the car parking lot of the airport, but then I finally found myself and we were off to see the new yacht!

Where Pelagic was 37 feet long and had only 25 feet of waterline, Taiko is 45 feet long with 40 feet of waterline.  She is vast! But she doesn't have a very high freeboard and she looks like fun to sail – oh, I can't wait to sail her!! We are waiting until next week when Mike's parents visit and we can take her sailing without the kids aboard. I need to learn everything about handling her and handling such a big rig, and I want to focus without worrying about the kids. It was fitting that the day we departed Hobart on our way to see our new home, the potential new owner of Pelagic was taking her for a test sail and survey. A very big page was being turned.

And so now I am back in America after being gone for nearly 2 years. I enjoy the cultural diversity down every street, but I notice that people seem beaten down in spirit. I am also amazed at how disgusting orange cheddar cheese is, and I am reminded how strange I initially found the yellow (non-colored) cheddar cheese in Australia but I quickly came to prefer it.  More on cheese and other observations on America another time. For now, on this third night aboard, I will say with a tired and satisfied smile, "There's no place like home, there's no place like home". 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Full Crew

Alisa and the boys arrived two days ago.  I found my life partner a bit worse for wear when I met her at the airport.  The process of re-checking all her bags in Sydney seemed to have taken a particularly large toll - there was her, and the four huge duffels, and the four carry-ons, and the two car seats, and the stroller, and the two boys, all to be gotten from the curb where the cab dropped her to the check-in area inside the terminal.  All this with nary a baggage cart in sight, and a security guy warning her that she couldn't leave anything unattended while ferrying the load inside.  And, well, there was more.  When I met her at the international arrivals lounge in SFO she seemed to need to tell me every detail before she could accept a welcoming hug.

Elias started working on the boat immediately.

So when we got to the marina I showed the boat to Alisa and Elias for the very first time.  Alisa has been threatening to write up a blog post about her initial impressions, so I won't steal her thunder here.  I'll just say that the act of showing her the boat that we had agreed to buy before she even saw it was a very very special moment, long anticipated.  And like many long-anticipated moments it was just as powerful as I expected, and then quickly gone.  I made lunch, and we began to settle into the routine of our new life on this new boat.

Eric is nine months old - the same age Elias was when we moved on board Pelagic.

More soon, on both the details of our new ride and our immediate plans.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

She's ours

Just a quick note to share the news that we took possession of Taiko on Saturday.  In the picture the seller (Paul) and I are shaking hands on the deal during the "off-shore delivery" - our offer required that Paul had to deliver the boat to us outside of California so that the sale would not incur California sales tax - which is 9% in the county where the boat was docked!  So Paul hired someone with a Coast Guard six-pack license to drive the boat beyond the three-mile line which demarcates state waters.  Once there we signed all the final papers and took a picture of the GPS to document our location and I made first "functional use" of the boat outside of California waters by sailing around for a couple of hours before we drove back through the Golden Gate.  Paul is a Kiwi, and he was very aware of the farcical, only-in-America side of the whole thing.  The farce was pretty apparent to me as well, but I was mostly nervous that I would screw up on some trifling little legal detail.  But it all went fine.

It's hard now to remember just how nervous I was the night before we took possession - I literally haven't been so nervous since the day that Alisa and I were married.  But as soon as she was ours, all the nerves went away.  We've now made our choice and we'll be happy to live with it.  And, improbably enough, our full year of searching is suddenly over.  I love the feeling of living aboard again, even if it is only at a marina dock.  Alisa and the boys arrive Wednesday morning.

The picture below was taken much too late last night, as I was cleaning the bilges and taking stock of everything aboard.  Paul kindly left some tools and other useful items aboard (but, mate, I noticed that you kept the oil lamps!).  So now our big push to get the boat ready to cross the Pacific begins - more details on the boat, and the preparations, to follow soon.