Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Things I've Learned

Over the course of living on a sailboat, there are things I've learned quickly and slowly over time. It's humbling to gather some perspective on a life outside of the familiar. Here are some humorous things I've learned while living on a boat!

Don't keep gum on the boat - it turns to mush within days in tropical climates

I actually like my compost toilet - no fuss, no muss. No pumps, no hoses. It smells like Earth, seriously!

Pee before bedtime - when you sleep on the "inside" of the bed, climbing over another sleeping body isn't any fun, especially if the boat is rocking and you're still sleeping.

A brotherhood exists - Once you live in it, you don't quite know how this brotherhood will effect you. We rushed to help a sinking motor vessel the other day without knowing the captain or what to expect. We immediately dropped what we were doing to lend a helping hand, and bucket, before the USCG arrived.

You don't need much, especially in the kitchen - I use one cast iron skillet, one sauce pan and 1-2 wooden spoons to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner. The only other must-have kitchen item is my AeroPress for my morning coffee.

Dolphins never get old - whether under sail or at anchor, dolphins are always a joy to watch. Period.

Currents can be your best friend - I never understood the significance of currents until we were living them! We wait for currents to turn to help push the keel off the bottom. We wait for currents to float us through narrow channels and canals. We attempt to time currents to enter and exit harbors. We time our trips with tides and currents. I didn't know I'd make a new friend in this way!

There are two kinds of sailors: those that run aground and liars - and we are not liars!

Empty the pee bucket frequently - you don't want this to overflow on you!

Who needs cross training when you have kedging - thankfully we've only kedged twice, but its quite a workout. In my experience, kedging feels like rowing a dinghy while being pulled by a tugboat in the opposite direction whilst moving a heavy anchor chain and anchor. And it takes lots of grunting.

There are many things I've learned that I may not yet appreciate, but it's fun to reflect on things I didn't know I could and do appreciate!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mi manca l'Italia!

Topic: What do you miss? (a person, place, thing, a time in your life)

When I was studying at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA I was standing by an elevator after class staring at the plethora of flyers of announcements, campus clubs and upcoming events thumbtacked and stapled to bulletin boards, encouraging you to join. One flyer stood out with the title "Study Aboard". There were multiple foreign cities as options, but only one drew me in...Rome, Italy. I didn't have many friends at Duquesne so I thought this was a great opportunity to explore one of the most romantic countries on Earth, get to know myself better and integrate myself into a beautiful culture. Nervous yet eager, I found myself at an open house with my mom in tow. I discovered I could study abroad in Roma, Italia for the same price of studying in Pittsburgh. Doesn't take a college degree to tell you what the right answer is! 

In February 2001, with a non-refundable deposit, an MCI calling card, 12 credits and textbooks in tow, I was off to Italy for an opportunity of a lifetime. I have numerous memories and experiences that I could bore you with, but these are the ones I miss most...

My "dorm room" was one of two down on the ground level. My roommate and I got along great. The best part about my room was the view from the wooden Italian shutters and the water pressure in my shower. Overlooking the Italian landscape towards Ostia Antica, I could hop out my window and walk three feet to our one-room classroom; built that year for the students. I can still smell the freshly built schoolhouse. The chalkboard came on wheels. My Italian teacher was a beauty. My Arts History teacher commuted from the Vatican. Classes were held Monday-Thursday. Most Thursday nights were spent rushing to the train station to catch the overnight train to a country of our choice, usually one of six on our pre-paid Euro-rail pass. Thursday night in Italy, Friday morning in Switzerland.

We had organized class trips to multiple cities, including Assisi, Venice and Florence, complete with Italian meals at local restaurants. My mom and sister visited me for spring break and we took a mini-cruise to some of the Greek Isles and Kusadasi, Turkey. I did a roundoff back handspring in Piazza Novona for a free beer. One day I spent eight hours walking aimlessly through the Roman Forum reading a guide book from front to back, talking with tourists about the history of the ruins we were admiring. That was a magical day, something I cherish as one of my best days in Rome. I miss that.

Still to this day I become nostalgic by my Italian experiences. The rising sun and dewy mornings remind me of waking up in Italy. The smell of my body spray reminds me of a sweet scent I used on a daily basis. I fell in love with tomatoes and red wine throughout my life in Italy. I kissed an Italian. I spoke the language of love and spoke it well (for a time). I miss that.

I feel incredibly honored that I was able to study abroad, even make Dean's List, and have an experience only some young people dream about. I tell every high schooler or young college student, if within their means, to STUDY ABROAD! It will shape who you become. 

In the meantime, I continue to dream and consider my next visit to Italy, to relive my nostalgic moments and visit new landscapes. I'll continue to enjoy my scrapbook thick with photos. I've even thought of renting a villa for a year. Anyone care to join?! Where would I go? Does it matter? At least I'll visit the Italy I know, love and miss.

What do you miss? 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Gill Customer Service

I was hopeful that once I put in the request, I'd get what I asked for: great customer service including a new pair of sailing gloves!

My Gill sailing gloves have brought us thousands of miles through saltwater, sun and frigid temperatures. These Champion gloves are great because the thumb and index fingers are exposed for optimal dexterity, to undo knots, make knots or control the chartplotter on the iPad. However, my gloves have been ripped to shreds over the past 10 months. They are practically non-functional to pull lines without chafing my skin. They just don't make them like they used to!

Nate's gloves are 8 YEARS old and still going strong. Mine are 10 MONTHS old and need to be respectfully buried in a sailing glove graveyard. Whoever designed this particular glove put the materials in the wrong places and/or doesn't sail much...

Thanks Gill for your friendly and prompt customer service and understanding! Within 3 days of contacting customer support, I have a new pair of gloves headed my way. Sweet!

Split down the side of the index finger
Lots of holes!
Lots of shredding!
Poor gloves
Nate's 8 year-old gloves
Well used but not abused

Monday, June 8, 2015

Brightwork Project

Most sailboat owners will tell you that having varnished brightwork is quite a lovely thing to admire, worth the time invested and hands down, necessary to protect the integrity of your boat's wood from harmful UV rays. And most boat owners may tell you horror stories, use intimidation tactics and warn you not to even start this type of project. It takes lots and lots and lots of time and coats, coats and more coats for your brightwork to look its best. It would be better if you found a genie lamp on the beach, rubbed it and wished for someone else to do the work for you, for free! So I'm told a project of this magnitude take lots of time. I mean really, how much time could it take?

As they say "Ignorance is Bliss!"

When I decided to take on Aletheia's Brightwork Project, something I've had on my to-do list for longer than I care to admit, I received the same reaction from everyone..."are you sure you want to go down that road" look. People trying to talk me out of such an undertaking. I understood it was going to be time-consuming since it likely hadn't been done since 1978. The wood was stripped, rough and gray. All teak surfaces were in need of a complete makeover. For some reason I wanted to experience the art of varnishing and I was craving a project all my own. Besides, I didn't really have anything else to do.

I started sanding the toerails with a pad sander back in March. Although I had music buzzing in my ears, a cold beer to sip on while working on my tan, I lost motivation after just one afternoon. Fast-forward to April with the materials laughing at me, the time had come to get this project going and finished.

I purchased and borrowed the necessary supplies and got to work! I didn't stop. It was my mission to get this project completed before Nate's mom came for a visit. Nothing like having a visitor to motivate you!

Within a week, my project was near completion. I sanded the companionway, interior teak, toerails and handrails meticulously. Before each varnish layer, a light sanding (used #220 paper) and tacking was done. The tackcloth is used immediately after each sanding to "tack" or remove residual dirt particles prior to each layer. And of course I had to check the weather forecast because I couldn't varnish the exterior with a rainstorm in my imminent future and the varnish manufacturer frowns upon sanding in direct sunlight so it was early morning and late evening dates with my varnish and paintbrush. Every 12 hours. The more layers of varnish, the merrier. 

Two weeks later I finalized my Brightwork Project. Here are some before & after photos. And just in case you haven't come across the magical genie lamp, I've listed the materials we used in case there is a varnishing project in your future. Go on. You got this!

Companionway (5 coats): the wood that started it all! The orbital sander saved so much time and got down to a new layer of teak.
Neglected varnish and wood (before)
Amazing what a little sanding can do!
Top of companionway (before)
Top of companionway ready to varnish!
Yuck - gray and rough bottom left of companionway (before)
Bottom of companionway (before)
Freshly sanded wood
After multiple sheets of sandpaper, the companionway is ready to varnish!
Varnish on the left (first coat)
Multiple coats of varnish - what a difference!
Toerails (6 coats): This was most time-consuming because I used both the orbital sander to sand the top and sandpaper for the sides of 36' of teak. Trying to sand the sides was not fun, but necessary.
Gray toerail (before)
Toerail mid-sand. No gray!
Taped up, ready to varnish!
Varnishing first layer on port!
Varnishing first layer on starboard!
Nice dark teak, almost there!
Removing tape
Brightwork Project complete!

Handrails (6 coats): I was able to orbital sand both 6' handrails before hand sanding which saved time.
Neglected handrails (before)
Ready to varnish
Handrails complete!

Brightwork Project materials:
Captains varnish, tackcloth and painter's tape
Orbital sander, sandpaper, etc.
Sanding materials:

  1. orbital sander 
  2. #80 & #120 (Lower grit for neglected/damaged wood)
  3. #220 for final sanding, including a light sand prior to each layer of varnish
  4. Extension cord

Varnishing materials:

  1. #1015 Captain's Varnish2 quarts did the trick for 36' toerails, 6' handrails and companionway
  2. Wooster paint brushes (sizes: 1/2" & 1" brushes) - don't use cheap brushes!
  3. Paint thinner to clean the brush after each coat 
  4. Tackcloth (purchased at Home Depot)
  5. Latex gloves (helps keep hands clean while varnishing)
All in all, I'd say this was a gratifying experiment. I'd do it again. I charge $100/hour!


Friday, June 5, 2015

Because I'm Happy

Topic: Ten Things That Make You Happy

1) My morning coffee: it's a creature comfort and I enjoy sipping my coffee throughout the morning hours. I heart my AeroPress too!
A rich cup of coffee
2) Sunsets: they are all so unique and beautiful, most certainly on the water. It's nice to stop what you're doing and watch the Earth spin, knowing that the sun is on its way to waking others on the other side of the world.
Sunset in Key Largo, FL
3) Manicure & pedicure: I'm a pretty low-maintenance gal, but I treat myself to a mani/pedi once a year near my birthday (which is Christmas Eve, so it makes sense for the holidays). I'm not sure if it's living on a boat, but I've gotten three within the past 12 months. I'm constantly using my hands and roughing up my feet so it's not pretty. I've realized this little treat makes me feel good, so I've decided I can spend money on this (maybe 3-4 times per year or for a very special occasion) if I forgo something else that costs an equivalent amount. I get a good return on my investment!
Latest and most greatest!
4) Reuniting with family & friends (framily): I have some of the most loving friends and family members in my world and hanging out with them is so innate. Living on a boat certainly makes one realize the importance of connection and continued friendships.

5) Waking up next to my husband: I'm a lucky girl

6) Finding a good fiction author: I just discovered Diane Setterfield and read The Thirteenth Tale. I'm not a huge reader, but when I can't put a book down, I call that a WIN-WIN. Looks like I'll be reading her only other novel, Bellman & Black soon!

7) Teaching yoga: This is always a great way to work on building my confidence and pushing my students physically. My last week in Marathon, FL I decided to teach five days in a row. I can't teach without bodies and they showed up! This picture below is from a donation-based class I organized. Another great reason for teaching - giving back to others.
My studio
Students in Savasana
8) Running long distances: I've been a runner most of my life, at least since 7th grade when I started running cross country. Running is meditation. I find no shame in paying to run in grueling 24-hour relay races, high elevation trail runs or hot summer 10ks. Pushing my limits through running makes me happy and accomplished. My favorite shoe brand is Brooks. Their motto: Run Happy. What a coincidence!

9) Discovering a new IPA: I consider this exercising the tastebuds and visiting new breweries is a hobby of mine!
Tasted the Jollie Ollie IPA - great breweries popping up nationwide (St. Pete's)!
IPA on the right
10) Seeing new places: I have been blessed to visit many countries and states in my young life. I studied abroad in Roma, Italy and enjoy taking road trips. The views that Colorado offers never gets old. Although we haven't sailed internationally, I've seen some pretty cool and new places along our journey. Any new experience is one for the books!
Denali Brewery
FL Keys
Daytona Beach

Belhaven, NC
Portsmith, VA
Lady Liberty State Park, NYC
Boston, MA Freedom Trail
Halifax, NS
Halifax, NS
Shelburne, NS
Summer trip to AK