Monthly Archives: September 2014

Getting To Know You, Getting To Know All About You

I promise there will be absolutely no performances by Deborah Kerr at any time during this post.

I checked the day’s weather forecast while sipping my first cup of coffee. Fair to partly cloudy, with a 10% chance of afternoon showers. A small craft advisory in effect until 2PM, with winds from the NE at 18 to 20 knots, seas two feet. Sounds like a perfect day for sailing!

With nothing urgent on our calendar, we loaded up the truck and headed to the marina. We’ve had precious little time this year to use our new boat, and have yet to take it out in blustery weather. I have no doubt about our ability to put Eagle Too through her paces in benign conditions. But she has a feature, a bit of a quirk, that I know we need to learn more about, especially in the 20 – 25 knot winds that we’ll typically see down in the islands.

Our previous boat had a conventional mainsail, which you’d raise and lower as needed and pull in a reef or two (reduce the size of the sail by partially lowering it) when it starting blowing. We’d gotten pretty good at the drill. Turn into the wind, release the mainsheet, slacken the vang, take the reefing line on the appropriate winch (we had single line reefing), ease the halyard past the point we’d marked on the line, pull in the reef, and then re-tension the halyard. (If none of that makes sense to you, that’s OK. Imagine me using both hands, a foot, and my teeth to pull a bunch of ropes all at the same time and you’ll about have it).

Our new boat has a roller furling mainsail. And that, my friends, is a whole ‘nuther animal entirely.

FurlingMain So far we’re really liking the furling main. I don’t have to go forward and flake out a big sail, struggling to fold it in pleats over the boom in a neat pile with one hand while lowering with the other. There are no lazy jacks for the battens to hang up in, no cover to mess with. No sail ties to grip in my teeth, one arm wrapped around the swinging boom while I try to put the sail in bondage with the other. You just turn up wind, pull out or wind up the sail, and you’re done, easy peasy. Once the sail is furled, you’re left with a nice clean boom that’s easy to drape a boom tent over to keep the sun and rain off the boat. And for the crew of Plaintiff’s Rest (yes, I’m talking to you!) you never remove the main halyard, so there’s nothing to get lost up the mast.

That’s the theory, at least. In the real world, roller furling mains have gotten a bit of a bad reputation. So far, I think it’s undeserved, but many many people swear at them instead of by them. They claim they’re prone to jamming, always at the worst possible time, and require constant fussing with to get things to work properly.

Here are my thoughts on the subject based on our experience so far. The people who hate them have a point. Furling mains can be a royal PITA, IF you don’t take proper care of them. If you don’t make sure that you always have a nice new line on the furling drum, it’s gonna jam on you (replacing it every other season looks about right). If you don’t make sure the bearings on the outhaul car are clean and free, it’s gonna jam on you. If you don’t make sure to always release the mainsheet and vang to let the boom rise while you’re rolling up the sail, it’s gonna jam on you. If you don’t take a lazy wrap in the outhaul line around a spare winch to keep tension on the clew while furling the sail, it’s gonna jam on you. If you don’t take your sail in to the loft to get inspected every off-season to make sure it’s not stretching and developing a pot belly, it’s gonna jam on you. In other words, if you’re a lazy or inattentive sailor who can’t be bothered to keep up on the maintenance, you’re in for nothing but grief. You’d be better served by a conventional mainsail, which can be pretty much ignored until it’s ready to fall apart.

Where The Magic Happens

Where The Magic Happens

When we had the boat prepared for shipping from the marina in Tennessee where we bought her, the boat yard wanted to ship the mainsail inside the mast. We said no. Not gunna happen. We made them pull it out, which prevented it from chafing and flopping around inside the mast, potentially jamming the sail. Once we had it here, we put a new furling line on (which ran about $70, which was change in the couch cushions by that point), and dropped the mainsail off at Schurr Sails to make sure it hadn’t stretched any. We flushed the heck out of the bearings on the outhaul car with plenty of fresh water. No lubricants used here. Just regular flushing with water. When we stepped the rig, we made sure not to put excessive prebend in the mast. Furling mainsails like straight masts. So far, it’s seemed to work. The sail comes out, the sail goes in, just like an old-fashioned window shade. While I can’t always get it rolled up by hand once the wind pipes up, I’ve never had any problems putting the furling line on a winch and cranking it in.

But we hadn’t yet tried pulling in a reef while underway. And today looked perfect to give it a try. So we headed out onto the bay in 20 knots apparent wind and rolled out the main. I pulled it tight to get it nice and flat. Glancing at the wheel, I could see that Rhonda was having to compensate for way too much weather helm. She had the wheel about 30 degrees to leeward. Rolling out the jib 2/3rds of the way didn’t help. The boat still wanted to point up. Too much main, which was exactly what I was wanting, since this was going to be a reefing drill. So here goes—point up, loosen the mainsheet to douse the main, release the outhaul (but keep tension on it!) and pull the furling line with a winch. And it worked like a charm. It just rolled up. I pulled it in about a quarter of the way, which seemed about the equivalent of a single reef. Once everything was snugged back down, I re-tensioned the outhaul, and off we went. Sail shape was awesome. I’d always struggled to flatten the mainsail on our old boat once we’d pulled in a reef. You want your mainsail nice and flat in high winds to reduce the amount of lift it develops. But there was no problem at all here. The main looked great. And once we’d fiddled with things a bit, we got the boat balanced nicely. Just a few degrees of weather helm, and you could hold the course with one finger. Very nice.

So yes, so far we’re very much liking our roller furling mainsail. Does it take a bit more care to properly maintain? Yes it does. Is it worth it? I think so. In addition to the convenience, it gives us an infinitely reefable sail. I’m thinking it could even serve as a storm sail, because I believe that rolling out just a little bikini-bottom section of sail would be as good as a trysail if we ever get caught in something really bad.

So in conclusion, we’re getting to know Eagle Too, and because of all the beautiful and new things we’re learing about her, day by day, she’s helping to increase our confidence in her ability to take care of us when we ultimately embark on our Life On The Hook™.

After all that, you know there’s no way I’d let you leave without this. Go ahead, it will put a smile on your face!

See, I didn’t lie. That wasn’t Ms. Kerr. And I’ll bet you’re smiling 🙂


Decompressing at 47° North, Part One

I remember watching Bill Nye (the Science Guy) on a Seattle talk show back when he was still a Boeing engineer trying to make it in show business. The host asked Bill if he ever bought lotto tickets, to which Bill replied, “No, the lotto is just a tax on people who don’t understand probability.” I laughed, because he was right. Your odds of winning the lotto if you buy a ticket are statistically equivalent to winning if you don’t buy one. In other words, virtually zero. But if I were to ever buy a ticket, and somehow against all odds we became fabulously wealthy as a result, I’m pretty sure one of the things I’d like to do is find a condo in downtown Seattle that we could use every year from August 1st until September 15th. Because for those six weeks, there are few places on the planet as glorious as the Puget Sound area.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Rhonda and I wanted to get away from all the boat buying/house selling rigmarole for a while and take a little vacation to celebrate our anniversary. Since our special day fell right in the middle of Seattle’s weather sweet spot, I decided the best gift I could give her this year was a surprise trip to the Pacific Northwest to watch a Seahawks game and visit our old hometown of Port Orchard.

As many of you know, flying from Pensacola to almost anywhere requires a layover in Atlanta. My mother used to joke that when you died, you had to make a stop in Atlanta to get to heaven. Checking Delta’s schedule, I saw that Atlanta to Seattle was a five-hour flight. That was just too damn long to be shoehorned into a half-size-too-small seat being fed peanuts like a zoo animal. This was our anniversary after all. I wanted it to be as stress-free as possible. So unknown to Rhonda, I booked us into first class. It was the “something else” that I mentioned in the previous post that I was keeping a secret. I thought I was busted when she started pushing me to give her a copy of the itinerary, and I knew I was made when the clerk handed her her boarding pass at the airport, which clearly said “Seat 4D Sky Priority”. But somehow she never noticed, and it wasn’t until we were actually boarding the plane that she realized what I had done. Score one for the home team!


Wine, A Meal, Room To Stretch – Why, This Is Almost Civilized!

Our bottomless glasses of Woodford Reserve left us in such a good mood that we didn’t really mind that our bags took the scenic route, arriving at SeaTac on a different flight 90 minutes after we landed. We picked up our rental car and headed toward our hotel in Bremerton, on the west side of Puget Sound.


Why all the way over in Bremerton, rather than Seattle? If you’ve ever ridden the Washington State Ferries, you’ll understand. They’re an attraction all on their own. A hotel in Seattle within walking distance of CenturyLink Field, where we had tickets to the NFL season opener, was $250 to $300 a night. The Hampton Inn in Bremerton was $83 a night, and it was right across the street from the ferry terminal, where we could catch a ride for $8 roundtrip to downtown Seattle and an easy walk to everything we wanted to see.

The view from the hotel, with the Seattle ferry approaching:

So after spending a pleasant hour doing this:

FerryRideYou arrive here, with most of Seattle’s major attractions within easy walking distance.


But first we headed west. You know how you can live in an area for years but never get around to doing all the touristy things that people come for miles to see? Even though we’d once lived here in the great northwest for fifteen years, we’d never taken the time to go whale watching. So we planned to remedy that. Bremerton to Port Angeles is about 90 minutes, where the fine folks at Island Adventures took us on an amazing journey.

Humpbacks, Orcas and seals galore!

The next day was Game Day, and we were beyond excited to be heading to CenturyLink to watch the Seahawks take on the Green Bay Packers in the 2014 NFL season opener. But first we had a brief detour. Lunch at the Space Needle!

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Then is was showtime. It was absolutely amazing to be immersed in a city so completely in love with its team. The Twelves were everywhere!

And what an awesome stadium. The old Kingdome used to be a confined and almost depressing venue. But this place was magnificent. And the game was stupendous!

We wanted the experience to last forever. We lingered, just taking it all in, one of the last to leave, because we have no idea when life may allow us to pass this way again.


We finally had to reluctantly head to the ferry to catch a ride back to our hotel. But look at how the city honored its team and their fans! (Click to enlarge if you don’t immediately see it)


God how we love that town! From August 1st until September 15th anyway. The rest of the year, we’ll take a warm sandy beach and a fresh mojito, please!

On to part two…

The Calm Before The Storm?


Since returning from our recent travels to points west, I’ve been possessed by a vague sense of unease. Since at least mid-March (about the time we started this blog, matter of fact) it has felt as if we were on a headlong rush to catch up with events as they rapidly unfolded before us. It almost seemed as though a dam had burst, and we were riding the crest of the pent-up waters thus released, washing us rapidly toward our anticipated Life On The Hook™.

Safely home, suitcases unpacked and returned to the attic, we looked around and asked ourselves “Now what?” But all is still for the moment. No great task pushes to the forefront. Some things about the house still need to be set right, but nothing that precludes us from marketing it. No major boat chore looms—Eagle Too sits patiently at the dock, ready to go at a moments notice, all systems functional.

In my novel Lunar Dance, there’s a scene in which protagonist Tom Armac, CEO of Roadrunner Rockets, is gloomily brooding in his office, contemplating how reality threatens his dream. His corporate attorney Nicole Ferry finds him gazing out his window lost in thought.

“Is everything all right?” she asked.

“Yes, everything’s fine,” Tom answered, turning around to face her. “Everyone should have my problems,” he added with a grim smile. “I just hate continually finding myself is this situation,” he growled.

“What situation is that?”

“I do so much, and then everything depends on the whim of someone else to decide if I’ll succeed.” Turning to look out the window again, Tom added, “Some bureaucrat, or politician, or judge.” Pausing a moment, he spat out, “Or board member.”

At the moment, I feel a bit like Tom. We’ve done so much to move towards our goal, but for the moment, we are no longer in control. We find ourselves governed by the actions of others. In this case our realtor, and that most elusive quantity, the well-qualified buyer. We can’t turn the page, take the next step, move closer towards our goal, until someone makes us an offer on our house. Beyond some adjustment on the price, there is little we can do but wait.

But when that day comes, it will unleash a tempest of activity. Packing, discarding, storing, moving. Adjusting to a new waterborne life. So while things are currently quiet, something tells me that somewhere just beyond our perception, there’s a storm brewing…


Could This Be The Best Marina Ever?

Bayou Grande Marina

I know it’s a high bar to clear, but I found myself asking that question as I strolled the dock today at lunch. We’d just returned from our six-day excursion to the Seattle area, and I wanted to get eyes on Eagle Too and make sure everything onboard was OK.

I’ll have more about our trip in a later post. It will take quite a while to work through all the pictures and pick the best dozen or so. Not that I think you’re particularly anxious to learn what we did for our anniversary, but this blog has become sort of our personal online diary, and I want to put things in their proper chronological context.

So I’m walking down the dock at Bayou Grande marina. It’s fairly new, having been completely rebuilt after Hurricane Ivan wiped out the old one ten years ago this month. Before you say “Wait, how can it be a great marina if hurricanes can destroy it?” I should point out that Ivan was a class 3 storm with 140 mph winds, and Bayou Grande would have still been fine if it weren’t for the fact that Ivan’s storm surge was much larger than any ever experienced in the area. The floating docks were lifted completely off the fixed pilings, allowing the wind to then roll all the docks and the boats tied to them into a big ball of debris

Bayou Grande Marina After Ivan


When they rebuilt the marina, they made the pilings even taller than Ivan’s storm-of-the-century surge height. So I’m feeling pretty good about how we’d fare in another storm. FYI, we weren’t yet boat owners when the above calamity occurred, so none of those wrecked hulls are ours.

So back to why I think this could be the greatest marina ever. We have floating docks, which is nice. Seven dollars a foot for the month, water and power included, which may be a bit more than some places, but it’s the cheapest in the Pensacola area by far. Three hundred and sixty degree protection, because it’s tucked into an inlet that’s off a bayou that’s off Pensacola Bay, which is what basically makes it a hurricane hole. It has the best security you can imagine. It’s located on Pensacola Naval Air Station, and you have to pass through a gate manned 24/7 by armed sentries to get to the marina, plus base security makes regular patrols. In addition, there’s a “camp host” who lives on site in an RV. Let’s just say theft and trespassing aren’t really an issue. We’re tucked in behind two golf courses, so if that’s your game, you can throw your bag over your shoulder and be on the first tee in less than 10 minutes. There are two restaurants (the clubhouse at the golf course and the Mustin Beach Officer’s Club) within a five-minute drive, as well as a food court featuring all the usual suspects, two Starbucks, and a Redbox machine.

But the single biggest reason I think we could be docked in the best marina ever, the reason I’m thinking this thought as I’m strolling down the dock towards our boat, is this:

Blues1 Blues2 Blues3

We’re the only marina in the country, indeed the world, that comes with free Blue Angels airshows. These were all taken today from the swim platform of Eagle Too while docked in our slip, which is located about a quarter-mile from the end of the airstrip at Sherman Field, home to the US Navy’s Blue Angels. Some people plan all year to catch a Blue Angels performance. We get them twice a week, every Tuesday and Wednesday at lunchtime. Which is pretty cool in my book, and could just possibly put Bayou Grande in contention for the best marina ever.

Happy Anniversary Baby, Got You On My Mind

Last weekend was our anniversary. Thirty-five years ago (!) Rhonda and I exchanged rings and vows and embarked on this amazing journey together. We’re damn proud of the fact that we’ve beaten the odds. We’re still here, together, and excited about embarking on this next chapter of our mutual voyage, our Life On The Hook™.

Thirty-five years deserves more than a card and a steak dinner. I wanted to do something special. I haven’t quite decided whether I like the term “bucket list” or not, but most people know what it means, so I’ll use it. I wanted to spend our anniversary crossing off one of our bucket list items.

Those who know us well are aware that Rhonda and I lived in the Seattle area for quite a while. Port Orchard, actually. Nice town. Great people. So-so weather, but then if it were perfect, everyone would want to live there and it wouldn’t be Port Orchard anymore.


Port Orchard, Washington. I’d board a foot ferry from here for my daily commute across the inlet to my job at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

While we lived there, we had season tickets to the Seahawks for a few years (that’s an American professional football team for you international readers). That was back in the Kingdome days, when season tickets cost less than a single game does now and when the Seahawks were such a mediocre team that you couldn’t give your tickets away if you couldn’t make the game.

Since moving to Florida, we’ve never stopped following the Seahawks. We tried to warm up to the Saints, and I guess we should care at least a little about the Falcons, Jaguars or Dolphins (all teams in our geographic region), but the interest just never took hold. Don’t even get me started about college ball. To this day I just can’t understand how someone can be so rabidly fanatical about a team from a school they never attended. I mean, if you’re an alumni I can definitely see it, but if not, then come on, really?

As you may have heard, the Seahawks won the Super Bowl last season (Feb 2014). They have now officially become a Big Deal. And since we left the Seattle area, they imploded the Kingdome (which really was an ugly concrete pile even before they blew it up) and used some of Paul Allen’s $Billions to build a beautiful new stadium called CenturyLink Field.

CenturyLinkFieldOn Thursday, September 4th, the Seahawks meet the Green Bay Packers in the 2014 NFL Season Opener. It’s a day long event, sort of a football-themed street fair, with free concerts by Soundgarden and some guy in a funny hat called Pharrell who I understand makes people Happy, followed by what promises to be an awesome game in one of the country’s most beautiful stadiums.

So when Rhonda opened her anniversary card, she found these: Seahawks Tickets

So don’t be surprised if blogging is a bit light for a while. Because as you read this, we’re most likely winging our way to the west coast to watch the team we love play in the stadium we’ve wanted to see since it was built. And maybe grab a meal at the Space Needle, visit the awesome Dale Chihuly glass museum (Chihuly Garden and Glass), possibly some whale watching, and maybe even a thing or two that’s still a secret and I can’t tell you or Rhonda might find out. We want to do it while we still have jobs and the disposable income to be able to afford such an indulgence.

Because your 35th anniversary deserves more than just a card…