Friday, June 25, 2010

So, what do you do in summer?

Used to be, in summer, I'd put away the raingear but I'd keep out the coats, sweaters and sweat pants. The reason was the Humboldt Current flowing along the Northern California coast, where we lived. The prevailing northwesterlies would blow over this cold upwelling of water just before they hit land and the resulting climate was cold and rainless. I won't say dry. The Pacific Ocean, driven by these winds, would pound against the rocky, redwood strewn shore and spindrift would be caught in the winds and thrown against anything standing in it's way. Icicles of salt would form on automobiles... an oceanic blessing for body shop owners. And it was cold, hardly ever reaching over 65 degrees in the hottest part of the year. It rained in the winter and the rain was warmer than the air, it seemed. Summer was a colder, drier version.

The 1st Mate and I were the night managers for a romantic getaway, called Seacliff on the Bluff in Gualala, California and we lived above the lobby. Their website is here, and if the weather gets to be too hot for you, make a reservation. There are sixteen rooms in four separate buildings overlooking the Pacific, and each room has a tv, a king bed, a redwood deck, shower, two person jacuzzi, a fridge with complimentary champagne (or fizzy apple cider, your choice), gas fireplace with ceramic logs and no telephones. The gray whales roam along this coast and stop and rub their large bodies against the sandy bottom just before the surfline at Gualala. They're just 15 to 20 yards offshore. Amazing to watch.

But we left Gualala in 2005 to live in Mexico, and summers have never been the same (thank God!).

In a few days, we'll be driving to Mazatlan from San Carlos to prepare our sailboat BLISS for a trip to the Baja and the Sea of Cortez before crossing back over to San Carlos. At five miles an hour, it will take us a couple of weeks. And the temperatures will be close to double those of distant summers in the north.
This year we're taking a window-sized air conditioner and using our quiet little Honda eu2000i generator to power the ac. Tearing down the carburetor I discovered this in the gas bowl. Pink colored salt crystals. The coloring is dye they use in the gas, the crystals found their way into the gasoline somehow. I suspect the daily heating and cooling of the gas can, which sucks salty air into the jerry jug at night.

Sailing with an air conditioner is grand, by the way. The sea water is still below 90 degrees and will help when the air temps get over 110.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Belay That...

belay |biˈlā|verb [ trans. ]fix (a running rope) around a cleat, pin, rock, or other object, to secure it.• secure (a mountaineer) in this way he belayed his partner across the ice[ intrans. it is possible to belay here.[usu. in imperative Nautical slang stop; enough! “Belay that, mister. Man your post.”
I've had experience with addictions, and one feature of the addict's landscape is that after a length of time in recovery, the horror of addiction and toxic living doesn't seem so bad after all. For the unsuspecting, the unexperienced or the uneducated it leads back to another round of temporary joy, then indulgence, misery, wreckage, loss and finally if one is lucky, recovery. If unlucky, death, imprisonment, permanent disability, and/or complete poverty.

Nothing to mess with.

"My name is Jim. I'm a boataholic...."
Is my relationship with boats the same thing as an addiction to say, drugs or alcohol? I don't know. Though I find that after several months ashore, living in relative comfort, with an abundance of all the things not provided while aboard (unlimited food and fresh water, electric power, space, security, stability, companionship, communication, tools and equipment, easy and fast transportation, replacement parts, professional assistance, entertainment, medical help and supplies, etc), I want to go sailing.

Boating is expensive, and I attenuate the costs by doing most of my own work. It enables me to understand the systems that I might have to repair while underway. And repairing those things without anything on that long list in the preceding paragraph.

It has made me competent in a number of things, and has illuminated my shortcomings. (The repair of electronics and things that require welding and/or machining go to the shop.) I also do my own installations and I have completely rewired BLISS and will rewire her again now that I know a few more things... It's more work than I want to do though. It seems that the ratio between enjoyment of the vessel and the work to keep her fully functional has shifted out of balance. Way out of balance.

It's my fault. Rather than accept the limitations imposed by the nature of sailing a small yacht, I have added a lot things that I thought would make life aboard more pleasurable. I've increased the load on the electrical system with all my gadgets that I now need to have 500 pounds of batteries, a backup generator, fancy regulators and meters, inverters (convert battery voltage to household current), solar panels and wind generators (and their structures) and miles of additional wiring throughout the boat. All this stuff wears out or breaks down and costs money to fix or replace, and all of it requires my time and labor to install and uninstall, to run it out to a repair shop or sit down with my tools and soldering gun and an internet connection to find the repair info if I can't figure it out myself.

Gone is the serenity and happy-go-lucky joy of my first boat.

I'm reminded of a time I spent with my brother back in Pennsylvania in the early 70s. He was buying high quality surplus electrical cords with a good standard grounded plug on one end and some obsolete, funny connection on the other. He would take a hatchet and chop off the obsolete connector and then sell the perfectly functional cord to a company that needed them for a 300% markup. He called it de-manufacturing.

I need to apply that same logic here.

There may still be joy left in the old girl yet, after I wipe off all the make-up and lipstick, and remove the implants and tummy-tucks.