Saturday, April 30, 2011

Twenty Miles

Well, we're anchored up in Half Moon Bay, just twenty miles south of San Francisco, waiting out a few days of high winds before we continue south.

We were so happy to finally leave Alameda... Alisa was dancing on the back deck as we motored away from the marina.

We spent the night in Sausalito - our first night at anchor on Galactic.  The next morning we sailed under the Golden Gate bridge - we on Galactic always put our hands in the air when we go under a bridge.

I was a little blasé about catching the flood tide through the Golden Gate, thinking that conditions on the bar would be pretty mellow even if we didn't get the tide right.

Well, I was wrong. We sailed out into a strong breeze with the ebb tide against the swell, which gave us an hour of putting up with steep waves right on the bow.  Elias was happy about the motion, though a little giddy about it all...

Hmmm... If that clip had loaded correctly, you would have noticed that Eric was looking a little groggy.  He was like that for much of the day - soundly asleep, waking only to eat and then vomit.  At one point Alisa got drenched in vomited-up milk - the romance of sailing with small children!

We're a little concerned that he was showing the classic signs of seasickness - Elias has never been seasick, so we never even considered the possibility that Eric would suffer...  Fingers crossed that it was a one-time thing!

It was a blustery day, and we were very happy with the way that the boat sailed.  There were a lot of bugs of course - things came unlashed; the preventer system I had set up wasn't all that hot; the cook, feeling worse for the motion, took forty minutes to produce top ramen for lunch.  And Elias, who of course hasn't sailed in a year, surprised us by being scared by the rolling motion of the boat.  "It's gonna tip!", he kept saying, sounding very much like someone who didn't sail across the equator before he was two.

So it was a slightly frazzled crew that arrived in Half Moon Bay.  But we're loving the feeling, after all the money and effort that we've expended on this new boat, to be living on the water again, heading somewhere far away.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Could it be?

Tomorrow, we have agreed, would be as good a day as any to begin our sail to Australia.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Survival Suits

Almost everyone who is on the water in Alaska carries survival suits, full-body neoprene outfits that dramatically increase the chances of survival for anyone who ends up in cold water.  We always carried ours on Pelagic, and they followed us onto Galactic.  We wouldn't buy them just for the trip to Australia, but we hope to eventually sail Galactic into high latitudes, so we're holding onto them.  And if you have survival suits on board, you need to occasionally practice getting into them.  So after lunch today, we all took turns getting into our suits - even Eric.

-Trying on survival suits, said Alisa.  You know we're getting close to leaving.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Yacht Jewelry

One of our rallying cries during this period of boat prep has been, 'It's cheaper here than in Australia'.  Whenever we consider whether we should get something for the boat now or wait for a year or so, we tend to get it now, since the current exchange rate means that boat gear will be so much more expensive once we get to Oz.

But at times recently we've find ourselves getting carried away, and bringing shiny yacht jewelry aboard Galactic.  A good example is the gaudy new radar mount that I'm holding in the picture above - way too shiny and expensive for something that just needs to serve as a plate to bolt the radar to!  When I found myself installing this thing I realized that we had let ourselves get sucked into the nonsensical, money-pit side of California yachting.

Definitely time to go sailing!

The good news is that we are getting close.  The boat is still disorganized, and it would be great to get 500 pounds of stuff off of her, but the job list is getting very short.  Which means that it's days, not weeks, until we start the trip to Australia.

The decks of Galactic are big enough to give Purple Pony a run.

The new whisker pole, ready for some tradewind sailing.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Last Two Days

-Just to prove to ourselves that we're making progress, Alisa said.

-That was so good, I'm licking the glass, she added.  Should we have another?  Might as well make it a double.  Before the ice melts.  We'll have to open some more tonic.

-Oh, no, she said.  The tonic is under all this stuff?

-OK, should we start with today and then do yesterday?  List everything that we've done?

-I'm ready, I said.

-OK. Well.  Today we:

  unloaded the U-haul (35 boxes of personal effects shipped from Australia)
  loaded 35 boxes of personal effects onto Galactic
  tinned the ends of the cables going into the course computer for the new autopilot
  flaked down, packed and stowed the series drogue
  had the radar guy on board to splice in the new radar cable
  lashed in the rode for the stern anchor
  took the radar guy out on the estuary to tune the radar
  unpacked all 35 boxes of personal effects shipped from Australia
  returned the U-haul
  took the new stern anchor drogue to the rig shop for a splice
  walked three miles round trip to the hardware store
  sealed up the old and new radar cable holes in the stern arch
  drilled out the remaining holes in the new radar tower
  tied guy wires onto the new radar tower
  mounted the new junction box on the radar cable (ok, I haven't done that yet, but will do before I sleep)
  mounted the life sling
  began stowing the 35 boxes of personal effects

-Is that all? I said.

-Is that all? Alisa said.  Isn't that enough?  And yesterday we:

  picked up the u-haul
  found a mechanic to come out and investigate the low oil pressure
  cleaned the air filter on the diesel
  topped up the oil on the diesel
  pumped out some oil after over-filling the diesel
  rode the bike over to the metal shop to have the new radar mount drilled out to accept the radar cable
  listened to the metal shop guy throw a tantrum when asked to drill out the new radar mount to accept  
     the radar cable
  had the autopilot guy on to
  took the boys to the playground
  drove the u-haul around Oakland, completely lost, with Elias, looking for the warehouse where our 35
     boxes of personal effects were waiting for us
  baked muffins
  went to the grocery store
  pulled the radar cable through the new hole in the new radar mount, mounted the radar on the new  
     radar pole, ran the new radar cable through the stern arch, then through the aft cabin, to join up with
     the old radar cable
  made two trips to the chandlery
  talked to the battery charger technician about why the new battery charger won't switch to equalize

-OK, I said.  I think that's enough.

-Oh, but, Alisa said.  The day actually began with me sewing the bimini, since I was sewing until three
  am the night before.

-Right, I said.  And there was the creepy guy in the trench coat who was stalking you when you were
     walking back to the boat at three am.  Should I put that in there?


-OK, I think that's enough.

-That's enough.

 Alisa and the new bimini.

 Mike and the old radar.

Elias and 35 boxes of personal effects shipped from Australia.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Thank god for deadlines.

April 15 Australia time was the deadline for the book re-write.  I nailed the deadline, sending manuscript and maps and photos off to the publisher two days ago.  And that means that I finally get to concentrate on just the boat - what a joy, yesterday, to start working on the boat first thing in the day, instead of writing through the morning and getting to the boat jobs in the afternoon.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

That's Not Our Trip

We've been back on Galactic for a week now, but I could swear it's been a month - the time has been that full.  We continue plugging away at jobs.  Last night we were both up until three or so - me wiring the new autopilot, Alisa making fixes to the sail cover.

We continue to be distracted from our preparations by non-boat concerns.  There are the ever-present kiddos, of course, and my science work continues to require attention.  And there is the book re-write - with the deadline smack on our target day for leaving San Francisco, it is perhaps the most inconveniently-timed re-write in history.

Not surprisingly, it all gets a little overwhelming at times - the science work and re-write require real concentration, and the number of details to master in a new boat is staggering.  Add in the responsibility to make sure that everything is as safe as possible for the boys, plus the looming seasonal deadline, and, well, you can see why we were up till three last night.

In the long term, we agree that we will do everything we can to avoid getting this over-committed again.  And in the short term, we're scaling back our expectations for the upcoming trip.  Other sailors write things about maximizing their use of the cyclone-free season to have as much time as possible to explore the delights of the South Pacific, they trade tips for getting extended visas for French Polynesia and cruising permits for the Galápagos.  Alisa and I agree that's not our trip - our crossing will be a delivery as much as it is a cruise.  Our ideas of doing some biology work in the Tuamotus and getting to the out-of-the-way Australs are being replaced by visions of sitting on the hook for weeks at a time at some of the larger, on-the-beaten-path islands where I can work on the boat and work on my other commitments. And then, inshallah, we'll be in Australia in seven months or so, with the boat an old friend, and we can find ourselves a somewhat slower pace.

Doesn't sound too bad!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

the blog continues elsewhere!

I noticed that we continue to add followers here.. you'll be disappointed, since we're no longer posting on this blog!  To reflect the new start that is represented by our switch to a new boat, we've started chronically our life afloat at a new blog, Twice In A Lifetime.


Introducing an Alaskan to Snow

For the last week and a half or so we've been taking a break from boat prep and visiting our families on the East Coast of the U.S.  And a quite freakish April snowstorm in Boston, where my sister lives, means that we got the chance yesterday to introduce Elias to snow.

It was a wet snow, not the greatest for playing in, but the kids didn't care at all - Elias and his cousin Kali sampled all of the childhood delights of winter - sledding, a snowball fight, snow angels, and a snow man.  And we, savvy parents that we are, made sure they did it all in half an hour, and then got them back in the car before wet clothes and cold toes could ruin the experience.

Elias still tells people that he's from Alaska, but he was seven months old or so the last time we were living in Kodiak for a snowfall, so he is that oddest of all Alaskans, one who doesn't know snow.  It was good to give him a little introduction.