Thursday, December 10, 2009

Since the day we closed the deal on Maya, there have been two issues that have been at the back of my mind and of great bother to me.

Taxes and registration.

Without going into all of the legal mumbo jumbo, buying a boat out of state and moving it from jurisdiction to jurisdiction brings up all kinds of taxation and registration issues. The laws vary from state to state and there is no clear guidance on whom to pay taxes to or how much. Over the past year, I literally spent weeks on the phone and internet trying to figure out what we should do. I called the tax department in every state we transited as well as those we planned to visit in the future. As you might have guessed, I got different answers from every official I spoke with.

Florida has the most onerous restrictions and since we were going to be there for about a year, I decided that I had better comply with their rules just to be on the safe side. As they say, it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission. With that in mind, I visited the State of Florida department of Taxation and Revenue while down in Naples last week.

Before I go on, I should say for the record that I have the upmost respect and compassion for all of the good folks who work for the state of Florida. Theirs is a thankless job and I certainly would not like to work on their side of the plate glass window, but just once, I would like to be shown the courtesy and consideration customers should receive when they are forking over a large number of boat units.

Whoever designed the offices of the Florida Department of Revenue did not have the customer in mind. The plate glass window I spoke of has a small hole that you must speak through in order to be heard by the agent. This small hole is placed about four feet off the floor, so every time you want to talk you have to bend over, crank your head to one side and loudly state your case. I was wondering what kind of numbskull would devise such a system when it dawned on me that the height of the hole was there for the benefit of the agent. She sits all day and it is at perfect mouth level for her. But I digress.

I think the agent I dealt with knew right away that my situation was not going to be the standard car/license plate transaction they deal with most of the time. I was a non-resident, I had a boat (2 if you count the dinghy), the boat was documented by the U.S. Coast Guard and was bought out of state, there was a long line behind me and it was ten minutes till lunch. The perfect storm.

I thought I would try the 'lost puppy' routine on her to see if I could get past her air of indifference. You know the lost puppy routine. Act like you are totally lost and helpless, smile a lot and beg for any breaks that can be sent your way. This used to work well for me, especially when I was younger. I think now that I am without hair and generally irrelevant, I need to come up with a better schtick. I am not fooling anybody anymore.

I could tell in the first thirty seconds that she was not a dog lover of any kind and could care less about lost puppies, lost kittens or out of state boat owners. Her job was to get rid of me as quickly as possible as the noon hour approached. So much for the lost puppy routine. I decided to go for the more direct approach.

Bending down and leaning to one side, I told her that, "I had been in contact with the Department of Taxation in Tallahassee and they gave me a list of the documentation I needed to process my application for registration and title." I added, "I wanted to be prepared so we can do this as quickly as possible and so I won't waste your time." Raising one eyebrow (her only one as a matter of fact), I could tell immediately that she would be the judge of that.

One by one, she picked off all the documents that I needed. Like a machine, I presented each and every one according to her request, properly filled out and notarized. "Do you have Florida form 2271-A?" she asked? "Yep, right here," I said. "Damn" she must of thought, "this guy is good."

"Do you have a pencil tracing of the registration plate of the dinghy? I will need that you know...." "Of course," I said. As I slid the paper under the glass window, I saw some of the lilt go out of her eyebrow. "So you want to play hardball, do you sonny!" I could imagine her thinking.

But, she couldn't get me. Whatever she wanted, I had it... copies and all. Seventeen pieces of paper flew between the two of us. It was going to be a duel to the finish. She was just about out of cards when she said, "I will need your wife to sign this form. She is here isn't she?" As I swallowed hard and the color drained from my face, I meekly muttered "no." "Well come back when she is with you" was all she said as she closed her window and gave me that wry smile we all know too well.

Luckily Kim was not far away and by the time we got back, lunch was over. The agent had made her point, though. The victory was hers and we both knew it. From there on out, the process went very fast and after writing a boat unit sized check to the Commonwealth of Florida, I left with two yellow stickers the size of a postage stamp. "Make sure you stick these in the appropriate place," was her parting shot.

If only I could.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

For the longest time, we had been planning on getting together with our good friends Steve and Diane Koch. We met them last year at a Defever owner's rendezvous. Steve and Di are, besides being really nice people, experts at anything that has to do with Defevers. Steve and I spent three days down in the engine room where he showed me the finer points of taking care of our Lehman diesels. We cleaned the fuel injectors, reset the valves and installed some extra gauges. Along the way, Steve discovered some suspicious looking hoses and took care of a nagging leak we had back by the rudders.

But by the far the biggest project we tackled though, was replacing the ship's battery bank. As you may remember, Maya has a large cache of batteries that are used to supply our electrical needs while we are at anchor. From the microwave to the TV to the lights and pumps and yes, the blow dryer, the batteries have to have enough juice to make everything work. Like anything else, the batteries have a finite lifespan and ours were near the end of theirs. While we might have been able to squeak out another 6 months to a year on the current ones, with Steve there to help I thought it a good idea to make the change now and not have to worry about it later.

Maya had twelve of these batteries and they were all located down in the engine room. The space down there is a little tight and the batteries are located in a spot that is not easy to get to. Each one of these things weighs about 125 pounds and they are filled with acid. As we were to find out, some of them were leaking. Not good. This was not going to be one of those quick in and quick out 10 minute jobs. It was going to be a backbreaker.

One by one we lifted out the old batteries and hauled them onto the deck. From there we had to lower them onto the dock and get them out to the car where they would be then taken to the store and swapped for a new ones. Twelve bad ones out and 8 good ones in.

Thankfully, Steve had to foresight to ask around the marina and found some eager young turks who wanted to make a few extra bucks. Once we had them on the dock, the guys took the batteries off our hands and swapped them out at the store for us. It saved us a lot of time and probably kept my back out of traction. You know, I am not that old yet but watching these young guys struggle with the batteries was very satisfying to me.

It took the better part of a day and a half to get rid of the old and install the new and I will tell you that I was really feeling it there near the end. My only solace was that those twenty something year old guys were feeling it too. That was until I invited them up for a beer when we were finished. "Naw, thanks," they said. "We are on our way to the gym now to work out." "Thanks anyway."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

If you were a child of the 70's, you might remember reading the best seller, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a novel by Richard Bach. The story is about a seagull who wasn't content with the lifestyle he was living. Instead of 'flying with the pack', he chose to go off on his own and experience life in a way different from those around him. You might say he was the Jack Kerouac of the avian nation.

In our latest travels, we didn't see too many 'Jonathans' flying around. There weren't a lot of loners.

When Maya cuts through the water, her two big propellers move a lot of water. It takes that to move our 44,000 pounds along. With that, the water gets pretty much churned up causing all kinds of fish and plant life to come to the surface. The seagulls love this as it makes it easier for them to feed. And for a seagull, that is all life is about (unless you are Jonathan).

We took this video to show you how many friends we had following us on our latest trip. We generally left first thing in the morning which worked out great for the birds. I think they were hungry from the night before. As Maya chugged along, the seagulls dived in and out of our wake looking for food. They followed us for hours.

When they weren't eating, they were buzzing the flybridge or doing loop-d-loops in the air. It was great fun to watch. They also can make quite a racket, all their cooing and cawing. I wonder what they were talking about? We really enjoyed having their companionship with us....being part of nature and all that.

Later on in the day, I think I figured out what they were squawking about. Above our flybridge is a canvas bimini top. It protects us from the sun (and rain if we were in it). It is nice and white and I just spent several hours cleaning it before we left on this trip. Seems like the birds like to use it for "target" practice as well. I can hear them laughing to each other right now.

"Hey Fred, watch this one!" Plop! Or perhaps they were saying, "Look at those two in the boat smiling at us! What buffoons. Wait till they see what we left them."

I suppose all that food they ate had to go somewhere. I am just wondering that will all the wide open water they had to work with, why did they choose our boat to make their 'deposits'? Later that afternoon, I got to climb up on the side rails of the boat and reach out and clean all the presents they left for us. Mother Nature....what a mad scientist she is.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I want to take a short break from writing about our cruising adventures to tell you the story of another 'adventure.' This one involves my sister Kathy who has been battling ovarian cancer for the past several years. I don't get a chance to take my hat off to her very often but I thought this might be a good time to do it.

A few weeks ago, she invited Kim and me to join her and her husband Robby on a 'cancer walk'. It was a fund raiser for research efforts to find a cure for this awful disease.

I had never been to one of these walks. I will tell you that there seems to be a lot of 'walks' nowadays and I wasn't sure what to expect. My first reaction to this was that is was just another fund raiser... which was great but what I found was that it was much more than that. What I was expecting was a solemn procession of friends, family and supporters out for an important cause. The cold and rain of that morning certainly reinforced that mindset.

What I found was totally the opposite of what I had expected. What this was in reality was a
celebration. It was a celebration for life and perserverance, for hope and support and for love and compassion. The sight of all of the survivors gathered around by their family and friends was truly inspiring.

There were lots of tents and food. There were little speeches given and recognition to those who were fighting the battle. (Kathy got the honor of being one of those who had been fighting the longest... 24 years, and let me tell you that it has been a fight.) They had lots of giveaways and raffles. There was a silent auction and even a local celebrity showed up. Of course there were the T-shirts and 'the ribbon'. But, what I discovered was that all the fru-fru was just background noise. The real event was being with your loved one and acknowledging their struggle in an outward and public way. That was what the day was about.

So, at the appointed time we took off on our way around the three mile course. It was really neat seeing all of the people out for the walk. Kids, dogs, bikers and wagons peppered the trail as we made our way around Lunken Airport. It was great.

As we neared the end of the walk, I noticed that the clouds had begun breaking up and that the sun was beginning to shine. A more prophetic sign I cannot think of.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

With apologies to John Steinbeck, I would have to say that in many ways, this has been the 'Summer of my Discontent.' Seems that every time I headed down to the boat I came back with some kind of injury. If it wasn't a jellyfish sting it was some barnacle scrapes. If it wasn't a bonk on the head, it was a cut on the leg. Throw in various bruises and sprains and the list gets pretty long. This last trip added to that list and as usual, the injury was self inflicted.

As you may remember from reading about our pump out experience, the boat owner is responsible for dumping the sanitary holding tanks on his boat. The procedure is not for the faint of heart as you have to handle the nasty stuff we rarely discuss.

The last time we finished pumping out, I noticed that the gauge that measures the level of our holding tank still read half full. Hmmm. That was odd. We were quite sure the tank was empty. Why didn't the gauge agree? For most people, a discrepancy like that would be meaningless. In their minds, the gauge read wrong and all that was needed was to make the mental adjustment that a 'half full' indication really mean 'empty'. No big deal.

Well, whoever said that 'idle hands are the devil's playthings,' was thinking of me. I just can't sleep at night knowing that we have a bad gauge. So one quiet Tuesday afternoon, I decided to investigate this phenomenon. My first thought was just to look around the tank for loose wires or anything else that was an easy fix. Everything looked good however and I wasn't going to get off that easily. My second thought was to simply tighten up all the clamps and hoses thinking that it could be a vacuum issue. It wasn't. Finally, the least desirable option was to open up the tank and remove and clean the gauge sensor itself. That wasn't going to be fun.

Now I have never owned a septic tank and no nothing about them except that I am glad we have a city sewer system at our house. Without going into a lot of detail, its just plain nasty. The holding tank is a substantial unit and it is closed up pretty tight. There are all kinds of seals and rubber rings that keep the bad stuff locked up tight. In order to get to the sensor however, I had to break open one of those seals.

After removing the last of several screws that held the inspection plate in place, I took a deep breath, held my nose and lifted the cover. I was expecting to be hit with the foul stench of human byproducts but instead was sprayed with a voluminous amount of 'effluence' (that is the scientific word for potty water). I still don't know how or why this happened but in a nanosecond I was covered with this smelly green fluid.

I immediately started spitting profusely while keeping my eyes tightly shut. Feeling my way back to the galley, I found the sink and got to scrubbing the junk off of my face. Oh, the humanity! I sincerely hope that those antibacterial soaps really do work. I think I used a whole bottle. Anyway, it was off to the shower after that for a Phisohex rinse, a hydrogen peroxide gargle and a clorox spritz.

Being sanitized on the outside, I began to wonder what my insides were like. I am sure I got my mouth closed in time but I wasn't so sure about my eyes. You really can't close your nose, but I don't think the stuff got that far up there to do any damage. But for sure I thought, I should get some answers. A quick call to my doc back in Cincinnati confirmed that I should run, not walk to the nearest ER or urgent care center to get a Hep B and tetanus shot along with antibiotics for my eyes.

The girls at the Urgent Care center had a lot of fun with me that afternoon. They kept calling me 'potty mouth' and the 'creature from the green lagoon'. The doc said it was a good thing I came in because if I had waited until morning, my eyes would have been swollen shut with infection. All in all, it was an interesting way to spend an afternoon.

The good news is that I fixed the gauge. It reads empty like it should. Now I can get some sleep.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The last thing we did before we left Maya to come home was to prepare her for the worst...a hurricane. Of all the challenges a boater can face, this is the biggest.

We are not 'liveaboards' and most likely would not be physically present when and if the National Weather Service posted a hurricane warning. With that in mind, we had to prepare Maya with the assumption that during our absence, she might be caught in the crosshairs of one of these storms.

We all know that hurricanes can produce winds in excess of 150 miles per hour and dump several feet of rain in the space of a few hours. On top of that, the storm surge and tidal fluctuations can raise the water levels in excess of 15 feet above normal. Ironically however, the greatest danger to your vessel is not mother nature's wrath. The greatest danger comes from the guy in the boat next to you.

That's right. Depending how well your buddy next door (or in a slip across the way) prepares his boat, your chances of coming out of the storm unscathed increases dramatically. You see, most boats are damaged because another boat wasn't tied down properly and gets loose during the storm. At that point, the wayward ship becomes a 20 ton projectile, careening around the marina like a bull in a china shop. If you are unlucky enough that his boat puts a hole in yours, you are sunk. Literally.

I have heard that the safest place for your boat during a big 'blow' is to be anchored out at sea. That way, you don't have to worry about being slammed into by another ship. I cannot imagine little Maya being whipped around out in open waters, much less with Kim and me onboard. That is why we buy insurance... so we can sit it out in front of the Weather Channel at home in our living room.

That being said, there are some other things you can do to minimize the collateral damage. In a hurricane, the rain comes from all directions...above, below and sideways. If there is a crack or a seam that is open to the elements, water will get in. Additionally, the strong winds will blow anything that is not tied down into the next county. We spent the better part of a day taping up the spaces between the doors and the jambs, electrical outlets, windows and anywhere else we thought water might like to penetrate.

We also took down the bimini top that keeps us shaded up on the flybridge. That project caused me some worry. Maya has a very wonderful canvas bimini. It covers almost the entire length of the flybridge. You also can completely enclose the area with screening so you can sit outside at night, uptop, without being eaten alive by the bugs. It is fashioned together with literally hundreds of snaps, clips and zippers, none of which are marked. Apart, the bimini consists of 10 sections... all very large and bulky. Think of a giant jigsaw puzzle and you will get my drift.

About half way through the dismantling, it dawned on me that putting this thing back up was not going to be so easy. I am not really sure where to begin. Its like a Rubik's cube and sudoku rolled into one. All I know is that it will definitely be a two person affair and that communication and temper management will be key. I promise to have my video camera ready to record the event and I will post it later on YouTube for all to see. It will be for your entertainment and my protection.

Monday, September 7, 2009

One of the less glamourous aspects of living on a trawler is dealing with everyday sanitation issues. Washing dishes and showering uses a lot of water and it all has to go somewhere. Thankfully, this 'gray' water is pumped harmlessly overboard as it poses no threat to the environment (unless you are a fish that doesn't want jojoba or styling mousse passing through its gills). We use about 30 gallons of water every day we are onboard and if we had to process this water before sending it into the ocean, it would severely hamper the operation.

So, you ask, what happens to the 'other stuff'. Appropriately called 'black water', these are the substances you cannot just dump overboard.* You have to keep it somewhere until you are in a position to dispose of it properly. There are a couple of ways to do this. Some boats have a sanitation system that processes and treats the sewage much like our city run sanitation department does. With the push of a button, it takes the effluent and grinds it up, kills all the bad things and sends it overboard. It supposedly makes the discharge so clean you can drink it and be safe. I am not so sure that I would ever want to be in a position that I would have to test that theory so lets take their word for it and move on.

If you don't have one of those super-dooper systems then you will just have to hold it.

Well, not in the literal sense. You have to keep your black water in holding tanks until you are at such a time and place where you can discharge it safely. Maya comes with two holding tanks and each tank can hold about 30 gallons of "stuff." Under normal ops, this capacity should last us about a week to ten days before the tanks are full. So far, our record is four days. I am not sure what is going on here but eventually we are going to get to the bottom of it.

So what happens when the holding tanks are full? Well first off, we have some neat gauges that tell us when we are getting close to being full. I don't think you ever want to be at max capacity, figuratively or literally. So when you see you are getting near that point, you have to find a marina that has the ability to 'pump' you 'out'. This process involves a long hose and giant vacuum cleaner type pump. The attendant (Kim) wearing heavy rubber gloves, attaches the hose to an outlet on the outside of the boat. This outlet connects to the holding tanks. The administrator (me) heads down to the engine room to configure the valves and hoses..... its all very complicated....really complicated. When she is ready, the attendant has the dock hand start the motor to the pump and the sucking out process begins.

I am not sure why they call this procedure a 'pump out.' It is really more like a 'suction out.' Anyway, the attendant keeps pressure on the hose while at the same time watching a small clear window on the nozzle. This window allows you to see your progress. When 'stuff' stops going by the window, you know the tank is empty. See, I told you it was glamourous.

It is hard to engage the dock hand in small talk or idle chit chat while this process in underway. The whole thing is rather undignified and I think everyone involved feels a lot happier when the pump out is over. So as soon as she sees that the suctioning is complete, Kim hands the 'magic wand' (as I call it) back to the dock hand. He smartly replaces it in a covered compartment away from view. You don't want that thing hanging around in plain view. It is like the tools the dentist uses on you while you are in the chair. He keeps them covered until you are lying back and can't see them. You know they are there, but you don't want to see them.

Here you can see how they sanitize things after each use.

So when the process is complete and the appropriate gratuities have been dispersed, we button her up and head on our way. I don't know how or why but for some reason, the boat just feels better after a pump out.

*There is a third option for dealing with black water and we don't use it very much. It involves a big black pump down in the engine room called a macerator. Macerator is a nice word for the grinder pump. If you are three miles or more off shore, you can turn on this big pump and discharge your tanks directly into the ocean. There are no hoses or gloves involved. No dock hands or clear windows to watch. Just push the button and the tanks empty out overboard. The only things affected are those marine critters, who by now have lots of jojoba and mousse in their systems.

Next for dinner. Not.

Monday, August 24, 2009

So, we are parked at Lookout Point off the coast of North Carolina.  Our good fortune has continued as the weather is spectacular.  Fair skies and calm seas has been our story thus far.

This particular anchorage is the deepest water we have ever 'dropped the hook'.  The distance from the keel down to the sea bed was 26 feet and the water was so clear, you could see all the way to the bottom. 

This whole boating experience has been somewhat like a marriage.  We have gone through the courtship phase where we took Maya out a few times before making any commitments.  We met her parents, the previous owners.  We got to know her 'family' by looking at other Defevers and talking to their owners.  We made a proposal and got accepted.  The 'wedding' ceremony itself was a bit of a blur.  It, like our own wedding, was over in a blink of an eye and before we knew it, we were a couple.

While we were 'dating' Maya, we were just awestruck with her beauty.  From stem to stern and from top to bottom, she was a ten.  We weren't interested in seeing any other boats after we met Maya.  She was 'the one'.  Oh, there were a few brokers who tried to get us to go out on their boats, but in our hearts we knew no other could compare.

Now we are on to the honeymoon phase.  Honeymoons are an interesting phenomena.  For the most part, they can be a lot of fun.  Some people think of a honeymoon as a chance to take an exotic vacation with their newly acquired partner.  Others make their honeymoons a period of rest and relaxation after the whirlwind of excitement of the preceding months has finally come to an end.  If you haven't done that 'living together' thing prior to your nuptials, honeymoons can be a time of discovery too.

Up until now, all we saw in Maya was her beauty.  Our rose colored glasses were fixed solidly upon our heads.  Don't get me wrong, Maya is still a ten, however our honeymoon cruises exposed some flaws that we hadn't noticed before.  Lets just say there were some idiosyncrasies.  For instance, Maya looks great when she is all made up. That is, when she is clean and spotless.  After she sits in a marina for a few weeks though, she needs a lot of work to look good again.  Maya is also expensive.  I am not saying she is 'high maintenance' but there are some costs associated with having a boat that we did not anticipate.  Finally, in a few years, we are going to have to take Maya out of the water and send her to a plastic surgeon.  There are some cracks in her paint and of course she will need a bottom job.  The engines will need to be overhauled and most likely we will update her interior. 

But, we are on our honeymoon and those thoughts are miles away.  For now, we are happy as clams, enjoying getting to know each other.  We are in love.

So back to our deep water anchorage.  

Maya had been having a few problems below the water line.  Some were our fault.  Running over the top of crab traps and getting lines tangled around her running gear don't make for a smooth running boat.  Other issues were caused by little things living in the ocean.  Barnacles.

Maya has a special paint on her hull and keel that make it difficult for things to live and grow on her.  This paint is designed to wear away slowly and anything that wants to stick to it will tend to be cast off rather easily.  Barnacles love to make their homes on the bottoms of boats and Maya is no exception.  Many boat owners hire divers to swim under their boats and scrape off whatever is growing there.  It doesn't take too long but if you don't clean it regularly, the accumulation of those critters will adversely affect your performance, and could damage your craft.

This particular anchorage gave me the perfect opportunity to dive under Maya and check out the barnacle situation.  The water was clear and warm and I had nothing better to do at that particular moment.  So, I grabbed a scraper from our toolbox and jumped over the side.  All in all, Maya was in pretty good shape.  That special paint was doing a great job keeping those critters off the bottom.  What I did find was that the paint didn't work so well in keeping them off the propellers and rudders.  There were tons of them pasted all over the place.  Luckily it was easy to scrape them off but it did take a long time.

One thing about barnacles though.  They are very sharp.  They will cut you like a knife.  I found this out when I came up for a short break.  My hands were covered in blood, which unfortunately, was my own.  My hands were also covered in the blue ablative paint we have on the bottom.  I found that it also comes off when you rub against it.  Upon further inspection, my clothes, hair and skin were all covered with the paint.  I was a mess.  I looked a little like those guys from the Blue Man group, except I have more hair (for once).  

Well, Kim hauled me out of the water and fixed up my wounds.  We were able to get most of the paint off and after awhile, I was feeling good as new again.  

The honeymoon we are on is far from over, however in the short time we have been together, we have garnered a newfound respect for Maya and the sea upon which she travels.  We have found that if we take care of each other, things will be just fine.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

So far, most of our cruising time has been spent in the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway (ICW).  A little like the interstate highways that we are used to driving our cars on, the ICW allows boaters to travel up and down the eastern seaboard and gulf coast without ever having to venture out into the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico.  Because the ICW is inland and protected, boaters don't have to worry so much about the large waves and stormy weather you might have out on the ocean.

The ICW is essentially a mish mash of rivers, lakes and man made canals that connect to form a dedicated path from Texas to Maine.  It was started back in the 18th Century and is continually being updated and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.  Sometimes it is referred to as "The Ditch" as many parts were literally dug out of the landscape with bulldozers and backhoes.

We really like traveling the ICW.  There is so much to see.  Sometimes you might find yourself alone, quietly traversing a nature preserve.  A few miles later you might be among the hundreds and hundreds of multi-million dollar mansions that have been built right along the shore.  At ten miles per hour, we have plenty of time to rubber neck all the sights.  Nothing is passing us by too quickly.

However sometimes ten miles an hour can be a problem.  Like the drivers around here, no one likes a following a slow poke and we are definitely slow pokes.  Most of the other boats that we see on the ICW are powered ski boats and runabouts.  There are a ton of jet skiers and a fair amount of commercial barges and tows.  They like to travel at nearly twice our speed. Sometimes the ICW is fairly narrow and like a two lane road, you just have to slow down and wait until there is an opportunity for you to pass.  That's the theory anyway.

In our real life experience, that is not always the practice.

When boats are underway, they leave a wake behind them that can often be quite large. Depending on the size and speed of the boat making it, a wake can cause quite a thrill as it knocks you and your boat around.  Boaters are supposed to slow down to a 'no wake' speed as they pass one another as their wake can be quite dangerous.  In my limited experience, most boaters try to slow a little but frankly, many don't slow at all.

The other day we are making our way merrily down the Ditch just outside of Topsail Beach, North Carolina.  It was beautiful sunny day that had brought just about every boater in the county out for a day on the water.  Normally, we try to keep to the right as much as practical so we can stay out of the way of those who want to pass us.  This morning however, we found ourselves in a narrow section and had no choice but to run down the middle.  Moving over towards the side would have put us dangerously close to hitting the bottom.

Out of nowhere came this fairly large power boat... about a 24 footer I would say.  He passed us off our starboard side by about 5 feet doing easily 25 miles per hour.  Before I could even react, Maya was thrown into a 30 degree bank and heaved heavily to port.  I was able to right the ship quickly however if someone was standing near the rails or on the aft deck, they could have easily been swept overboard.  My first reaction was to catch up with that guy and give him a piece of my mind.   You know, like road rage.  That thought quickly passed as he would be back in his marina and on his way home before we could ever catch him.  I got my binoculars out and noted the name of his ship.  Ironically his boat was called the "Ding Dong".  I tried to hail him on the radio, but it was to no avail.  He was gone.

My second reaction, (which thinking back should have been my first) was, 'where was Kim?'  I thought she had gone down to the Salon as she had left the flybridge (where I was) fifteen minutes ago.  However, she could have been anywhere at the time when we were thrown by the wake.  
I couldn't leave the bridge to look for her so the first thing I did was yell.  I knew that probably wasn't going to work as the engines are noisy and you can't hear much while underway.  Even if she did hear me, I doubt if she would come running as, well.... we have been married almost 25 years and that kind of thing just doesn't happen anymore. 

The next thing I tried was blowing our horn.  The horn on MAYA is pretty loud and I thought that if Kim heard it, she might wander up to see what all the fuss was about.  If that didn't work, I was going to have to turn around and go look for her.

You know, the greatest fear I have as the pilot of the boat is that someone might fall overboard and I wouldn't know it.  I would keep on truckin' along oblivious to the event.  With only the two of us onboard, there is no one to be a lookout.  If someone went into the drink and you didn't see it, it would be dicey finding them again.  Now we have all this fancy safety equipment and unfortunately we keep it nice and safe on the couch right next to the flybridge helm where it can do absolutely no good.  If Kim had fallen in, I knew she wouldn't be wearing a floatation device as we had never put them on.  It was just plain dumb on our part.

Now this all happened in the space of about one minute, so I don't want you to think that I was speeding on down the ICW while contemplating Kim's fate.  I slowed the boat down to a stop and looked back to see if I could spot her bobbing around in the water behind us.  At ten miles per hour, if she fell in she would only be about 200 yards or so away.  Just then I heard the salon door slam and the sound of her footsteps coming up to the flybridge.  "What the h***  was that?!?" she exclaimed.  Apparently the wake had caused everything to fall out of the refrigerator and spill out onto the galley floor.  Kim had been downstairs cleaning up the mess and didn't hear my calls.
I told her about the guy in the speedboat and how his wake had made us roll like that. I think she was mad about it too, but as always she was the cooler head about these things and just let it go.  I also reached over and gave her a life jacket and said that as the captain, from now on, I am requiring all crew members to wear life jackets while underway.  That part about being the captain didn't carry much weight, however when I explained the part about her falling overboard I think she agreed with me.

In the future, I have to remember to replace the word 'captain' with the words "your loving husband".  If I ever fall over the side, I want her to turn around and come pick me up.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Probably the best thing about cruising is not about what you do on the boat, but rather what you do off of it. Being able to visit small waterfront towns, making new friends and getting off the beaten track is what this experience is really all about. I have had the good fortune of being able to travel my whole career and during that time, I have discovered a cornucopia of of local flavors and hidden treasures that you don't read about in guidebooks. For the most part, the really neat places were found, not by Googling a destination and planning a visit in advance, but rather by an accidental detour or last minute diversion. The scintillating aromas from a restaurant kitchen or perhaps the music and laughter from a county fair drift on soft breezes until they entice your senses enough that you just have to find out where they are coming from. When you discover these gems, you have to wonder whether it was fate or luck that brought you there. In "The King and I", Yul Brynner would have called it kismet!

Now, about the only thing ole' Yul and I have in common is our hairstyles, but I would have to agree with him that resigning yourself to destiny can often bring great fortune. The trick is to be open to all possibilities.

This cruise was highlighted by several enroute stops. While we enjoy anchoring out, it is also a lot of fun to get off the boat once in awhile and explore.
The first place we stopped was a little community called Surf City. We chose it mostly because we had heard that there was a Dairy Queen right across the street from our marina and I was craving some ice cream. (I guess that is as good a reason as any to stop!)

The marina was sorta small...a real mom and pop operation. There were only about a dozen slips but they were very nice. We arrived a little late in the afternoon and got one of the few remaining spots. Unfortunately they parked us right next to one of those obnoxious 'booze cruise' boats. You know, the kind that take tourists and their money on a two hour swing around the beach. If you like Jimmy Buffet and watered down pina coladas, you would love this thing. For most of the afternoon and early evening, there was a steady stream of party-goers lined up to get onboard. They all had to pass Maya in order to get on their ship and as a consequence, we drew the attention of many gawkers. It didn't take us long to get cleaned up and headed into town. There is nothing like having people looking in your windows as you are trying to relax.

Surf City is probably a lot like most of the smaller beachfront towns along the Atlantic Ocean. It was not overrun with fast food places (but thank goodness for the DQ) and there weren't many hotels there. It was mostly condos, local restaurants and cars with out of state license plates. We found this little bar that offered a fresh fish sandwich and ice cold beer so in we went. I like these kind of places. Nothing fancy. It was right on the beach and most of the diners there were barefoot and in their swimsuits. The food was served in a basket with plastic untensils and the napkins were from a roll of paper towels kept on your table. It was all good. The highlight of the evening though was our trip over to Dairy Queen. I think Kim was glad that we finally got there as I had been blabbering about that ice cream cone all day long. Now, at least I could shut up about it.
The next day found us in Southport, North Carolina, Maya's previous home port. Roger and Cathy Tatum, the couple from whom we purchased Maya, still live there and we took the opportunity to meet them for dinner. They are a delightful pair who still have a soft spot in their hearts for Maya. We spent the evening listening to stories of their cruising adventures. It was really a treat. Of course, I had to have some ice cream afterwards. When it is hot out, it just tastes so good.
Southport reminded me a lot of Mayberry. I half expected to see Aunt Bee out on her front porch and Goober down at the fillin' station pumping gas. It was Fourth of July weekend and the town was completely decked out in patriotic garb. There were flags and bunting everywhere. The big parade was the talk of the town and people were coming in from everywhere to see it. We would have liked to stay and seen it but the marina was booked up and they needed us out the next day. We put Southport on our list of places to visit again someday.
We wandered about the town for awhile after dinner just taking in the Americana and watching the sun go down. You could see the kids finally running out of energy after a long summer's day of play and weary parents getting ready for them to do it all over again tomorrow. I could see why the Tatum's enjoyed living here so much.
It was a short walk back to the marina where Maya bobbed patiently in her slip. Tomorrow we would leave the tranquility of small town America and head for the mayhem of Myrtle Beach. What a difference a day would make.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sound and vibrations.  That's what I am in tune with.  After being around engines and mechanical equipment for so many years,  you develop an awareness to changes in pitch and sound long before they might show up on the instruments you use to monitor the motors.  You just seem get a feel for when things aren't running right.

I know that some mothers can tell when their child is sick by the way they look, often before a fever sets in.  Its almost like they have a sixth sense.

Well we haven't been on Maya that long but the other day I knew something wasn't right with one of the engines.  The instrument panel didn't show anything abnormal, but something wasn't right.  There was this subtle vibration that I could feel.  It wasn't there all the time but there was definitely something going on.  At first I wanted to ignore it because after all, any problems we uncover eventually translates into boat units.  In some irrational part of my brain, I must have thought that by not investigating the problem, I could save some dough.  You know, out of sight out of mind.  Well its been said that most men lead lives of quiet desperation and I was quietly desperate that the slight vibration would resolve on its own and I could keep my wallet closed.

But it didn't.  As a matter of fact, after playing around with different power settings, I could pretty much make the vibration better or worse. The more power I added, the greater the shudder.  This was not good.  My experience over the years is that when an engine vibrates as thrust is added, it usually means that internally something is going bad.  It is the precursor to the mother of all boat unit expenditures.  The engine overhaul.  I couldn't even think about it.

Well, we motored down the intercoastal waterway for the rest of the day with the engines happy as clams at low power settings.  In the back of my mind though, I knew something was wrong.  Higher power settings produced that ominous vibration and eventually we were going to have to address the situation.

Later that afternoon when we had set the 'hook' (that's a synonym for the anchor... I hope you are making wallet cards) and were done for the day, I went down into the engine room to have a look around.  I couldn't find any leaks, the engine mounts were all tight and there were no broken lines or hoses lying around.  Of course, finding a bad bearing inside one of the engines would take the expertise of a diesel mechanic and we weren't near anyone like that.  But that would explain the vibrations.  It wasn't looking good.

Well, by now I had recovered from my jellyfish experience and I thought I would jump in the water and cool off for a bit. I could finish scrubbing the boat's water line from the last time when I was so rudely interrupted.  The waters where we were anchored were crystal clear as you could see the bottom 25 feet below the surface.  It was plain to see that there were no 'critters' floating around that might cause a swimmer pain, so in I went.  I was about a quarter of the way around the port side when I noticed a piece of rope (or "line") hanging down from one of the propellers.  That was odd.  I wondered where it had come from.

I dove down under the boat to get a closer look.  Sure enough, there was some nylon line wrapped around the starboard prop and shaft... about 15 feet worth.  Well, that would have to come off.  As luck would have it, I had just bought this groovy knife that was made especially for cutting lines.  Why it was special, I'm not sure.  All I know was that it cost a lot more than the steak knife I probably would have used and it looked cool.  Besides that, I am not sure future guests would enjoy hearing how their eating utensils were being used to perform minor mechanical chores.  

You might remember this show that was on TV back in the sixties called Flipper.  I don't remember much about the plots but it seems that the characters on the show were always going underwater to help Flipper save the day.  Every week in the climatic scene, they would dive from their boat with a knife in their mouth and swim great distances (behind Flipper) to cut free the endangered fish/child/boat... whatever.  The mental image of me swimming with a knife in my mouth was something that I considered to be totally insane.  If I didn't drop it or cut myself, I am quite sure that I would look like a total moron coming up for air with this knife between my teeth.  You know, that David Hasselhoff  Baywatch look?  So I decided to do the smart thing with the knife (or so it seemed at the time) and put it in my front pant's pocket.  

Now listen carefully here.  If you don't learn anything from my blog musings, know that it is not a good idea to dive off the boat and into the water with a sharp knife in your front pant's pocket.  Nuff' said.

I am happy to report that I was able to free the entangled line from our prop and shaft and that the heretofore vibrations were most certainly caused by its presence.  This was confirmed the next day when at high RPM's, the engines ran like butter.  The vibrations were gone.  I am also happy to report that the only thing that was cut that afternoon was the fouled line and that all body parts were later accounted for.

*Note to self:  Buy sheaf for knife.     

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

When I was a kid, I had this little tree house down in the woods behind our house.  Like most treehouses, it was small and compact but I didn't care.  It was a place that I could go whenever I wanted and just hang out.  It didn't matter if it was messy or dirty inside.  I didn't care if it got wet when it rained and I was always glad to have guests over whenever possible.  In some ways, it was a place that you could put all the normal ways of living aside and just 'be'.  Even on those days when you didn't have a care in the world, the tree house was an oasis.  Just knowing it was down in the woods made you feel good.  It was your place to escape when you wanted to get lost.  

For some reason as we get older and grow up, we give up our treehouses.  I don't know why. For heaven's sake, we need them now more than we did then.  Oh, some people might have a modern day treehouse that goes by another name.  Sometimes people will finish off their basements so that when they want some quiet they can head down there.  Others might find their treehouse on the golf course or in some other hobby they enjoy.  Still others might build their treehouses in a bottle of bourbon or a pint of ice cream.

It is not the same though.  Those 'psudo treehouses' are too complex.  Too complicated. Too expensive.  I want my treehouse to be as easy and stress free as possible.

So, we bought a boat.  A complex boat.  A complex boat that operates in an environment that sometimes is perilous, often expensive and always challenging.  Not exactly the  kind of oasis I had years before. Nonetheless, it does provide a certain amount of solice.  When we are not down on our hands and knees scrubbing floors or when we are not sweating buckets down in the engine room, Maya can actually be a peaceful respite from the outside world.  

One of the things I like best about this boat is the amount of space it has.  Surprisingly, there a lot of places you can go and hide.  I think Kim likes the flybridge the best.  Up there, you are 25 feet above the water and the views are often spectacular.  There are a couple of couches and chairs you can spread out on if you want and there is music piped in from down below.  Take a good book and a cold drink and you are set.  I like it because it is covered and the sun can't get you.  I am not a 'fan of the tan' as my fair skin just tends to burn and peel.

Most people who have the same model boat as we do enjoy the aft deck the most.  It is set up primarily for entertaining guests.  Ours has ample room for tables and chairs, a wet bar, gas grill, access to the water via the swim platform and a direct line to the all important bar.  It too is covered so the sun and (God forbid) rain can't spoil your fun.  Many boats don't have this much outdoor space available, so when other boaters are looking for a place to hang out, Maya is the place to go.

The inside cabins also have a lot of space.  The master stateroom has a big bed, large head (that's a bathroom... I looked at my card), lots of storage and 8 big windows.  Windows you say?  Well, Maya has the Master Stateroom low in the stern.  The water line is only a few short feet from the windows.  When you are at anchor and retiring for the night, you can hear the sound of the waves lapping up against the hull.  Add in the nice breezes that perpetually flow in and out and you have a recipe for a great night's sleep.

Finally there is the Main Salon, Galley and forward staterooms.  We don't seem to spend much time in these areas although they have a lot to offer.  The Salon has an entertainment system that includes satellite TV and surround sound.  It came with 5 different remote controls and I have yet figured out how to turn anything on.  Usually I am pretty good at getting electronics gear to work however this setup has gotten the best of me.  But hey, we didn't buy the boat to watch TV.  

So that is our basic layout.  Small and compact but in a big way.  We can't wait for all of you to come on down and join us for a cruise!  Just bring your favorite book and prepare for some R & R.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Most boats that have a draft (that is the part of the boat that extends below the water line) over 4 feet carry another smaller boat onboard called a dinghy.  The dinghy is used to get to and from the shore in places that are too shallow for you to anchor.  Usually these dinghies are not much more than an inflatable raft with an engine attached, but they don't need to be fancy.  They are only used to go 100 yards or so....about the distance most boats with a large draft have to park out away from the beach.

The dinghy that came with MAYA is a 10.5 foot hard bottom inflatable with a 15 horsepower engine.  It normally rests on the flybridge deck in a specially designed cradle made to hold the boat while underway.  In order to get it off the boat and into the water, you have to lift it up in the air, position it over the side and gently lower it into the drink.  This is accomplished by use of the davit.  (I know, its another nautical term that has no meaning to us landlubbers.  Personally, I keep a card in my wallet that has the layman's definition of all those words and refer to it often.  Whenever I am talking to an old tar and he starts using a nautical term that I can't remember, I reach in my wallet like I am looking for something and sneak a peak at my cheat sheet.  But I digress.)

The davit is a machine that works like a motorized pulley.  It has a long cable that connects to the dinghy.  You simply attach the cable to the boat, press the button and the motor lifts the dinghy up off the cradle and into the air. Once it is off its cradle, you rotate the dinghy so it is over the side of the boat.  From there you just push another button that lowers it down. How easy is that?

On this trip, one of the things we wanted to accomplish was to try out the dinghy.  We had never used it before and were anxious to give it a go.  The only problem was that we couldn't remember all the tips the previous owners had given us as to the operation of the thing.  Little things like, how to inflate it and where the davit connects were items that weren't coming back to us.  On top of that, the engine hadn't been started in over a year and I had serious doubts about it turning over.  Engines that aren't run often usually don't cooperate without at least a 'one boat unit' investment.   

Anyway, we got to our anchorage early one afternoon and decided to give it a whirl (whirl is a non nautical term).  The dinghy is about ten years old and hadn't been cleaned in a long time.  It was filled up with nasty water and dead bugs but it was no problem for us though.  We have gotten pretty good at cleaning since we bought Maya.  

It only took an hour or so and we had her up to speed and ready for launch.  I had previously bought new spark plugs and fresh gas for the engine in hopes that it might turn over without a lot of fuss, so all we had left to do was drop her in the water and start 'er up.  We were able, through some miracle of fate, to get the dinghy over the side and into the water.  That in itself was a success for us.  If nothing else, we now knew how to get it off the boat and into the water.  The next milestone was to get it around to the swim platform, get in (without killing ourselves) and try out the motor.  I thoughtfully tied her up to the back of the swim platform and after checking for jellyfish, stepped into the dinghy.  I felt a little like Neil Armstrong must of felt when he first stepped on the moon.  So much so that I actually wanted to say a few words.  But it was hot and Kim had that Buzz Aldrin look.... you know, lets keep it moving... so I did it silently.

I am not usually surprised but I was this time.  The engine roared to life on the first pull.  Heck my lawn mower never does that.  It was running!  I was so sure that it wouldn't fire up, I didn't have a plan for what to do next.  Meanwhile, Kim was uniting the lines so I guess that meant I was going boating!

I put her in gear and took it around the patch.  Kim ran in to put on her swimsuit  and do that sunscreen bit, so I knew I had a few minutes to try her out.  What fun!  Even with a little 15 hp motor, the dinghy has a lot of pep.  I zoomed around the anchorage for awhile getting a feel for it.  The beach was only about 200 yards away but I thought I should wait for Kim before heading over that way.

Before long, she was aboard and off we went.  The beach was fantastic and having this little mini boat made us feel like George and Judy Jetson (they always had neat stuff).  We pulled right up onto the sand and got out like we knew what we were doing.  I was a little hesitant turning off the engine as I thought that it might not start again.  Neil and Buzz must have held their breath too when they pushed the button that started the LEM that got them off the moon.  They were 240 million miles from earth.  We were 200 yards from our mother ship but it was a long way to paddle and we had put on enough shows for other boaters in the last few months.  The sight of the two of us operating the oars would have been on YouTube within an hour.

But, it sprang right to life and before we knew it, we were back along side Maya.  30 minutes later, the dinghy was back on the flybridge deck, safely tied down on her cradle.  We can't wait to do it again.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I think that Forrest Gump had it right when he said that "life was like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get..."  In many ways our second trip was like a box of chocolates.  As much planning and preparation as we did prior to our departure, we just didn't know what "we were going to get. "

The first day started off with a little 'dual' from a retired Coast Guard captain.  We had gotten his name from a mutual friend and we hired him to come out to the boat for a few hours to help us refine our docking techinques.  He was a wonderful instructor.  We were pretty good at getting the boat in and out of a slip.  What we wanted to learn was better coordination skills.  Many times our docking procedure looked a bit like a Keystone Kops movie where there was lots of running around and general chaos.  There is a lot going on when you come into a slip.  From the flybridge it is hard to see how close you are to the dock.  You need someone looking over the side for you to tell you how close you are.  Then there is coordination between the ship and those working the dock.  Lines must be handed over and secured and the communication between those above and those below has to be clear.  It sounds so simple and I guess after we do it a few more times it will become second nature.   We just wanted to get with someone who could offer us pointers and tips on how to best accomplish this task.  We couldn't have gotten a better person to work with us through the morning.  

So we finished our 'mini course' and said goodbye to New Bern.  We decided to head out a half day earlier than planned to check out this anchorage that looked pretty neat.  It was mostly on the way, no more than an hour off our float plan and we figured that we should get used to being spontaneous.  In this world that is so structured, it is hard breaking out of that mindset. So we packed up and went.

The anchorage was in a little inlet off the South River which is off the Neuse River in North Carolina.  The books and websites all gave it high marks for scenery and tranquility.  The weather was perfect, the fuel tanks full and the water was perfect.  What could go wrong?

Well, this spontaneity thing may not be all its cracked up to be.  You see, after we had gotten to the anchorage, which by the way was beautiful, I decided to be spontaneous again and get in the water to check out the boat.  Some crud had accumulated along the water line and I wanted to get in and take a scrub brush to it.  It was also pretty hot out and the water looked very cool and inviting.  So I got in the water from the swim platform which is at the back end of the boat (stern) and had just made it around to the front (bow) when I had the very painful sensation that I was being several places.  At first it felt like electricity but the pain quickly increased.  I looked around to see what it could be causing this but I couldn't see anything.  Suddenly there was another round of shocks and that was all I needed.  Michael Phelps couldn't have beaten me back to the stern of the boat and onto the swim platform.

I literally sprang out of the water and onto the aft deck.  Kim came running out to see what was going on.  All up and down my arm were these little welts (soon to be big welts) that were red and white.  There were also a few on my leg.  And boy did they hurt.  At first I thought that maybe there was some kind of fish out there that liked me more than its usual diet of bugs but it just didn't make any sense.  Kim took a look over the side of the boat and with a tone of shock and horror exclaimed, "Oh my god!"  Swimming all around the boat were hundreds of jellyfish.  These weren't the little guys I was used to seeing at the beach.  These were the big boys.  And they were everywhere.

Okay, so I am the unflappable guy.  You know, the one that won that award in high school.  So there would be no panicking.  Lets assess the situation.  I was in big time pain.  There were welts growing up and down my arm and leg and I was starting to lose sensation there.  We were at least an hour away from any help.  Our cell phone wasn't getting any bars and the perfect weather we had been experiencing was starting to turn ugly.  Dark clouds were forming off to the west.

My first thought was allergic reaction.  That could be bad.  We had very limited medical supplies....mostly neosporin and tequila.  I had developed some minor allergic reactions the past few years to things that would make me swell up and want to vomit.  Things like bee stings, kiwi and Phil Collins songs were on my top ten list of things to avoid.  Jellyfish have a neurotoxin in their stingers that cause the pain.  I was hoping that I wasn't going to have an allergic reaction to it as my options were very limited.

So for the next fifteen minutes or so we stood around waiting to see if my tongue was going to swell up and I was going to expire right there on the South River.  I kept checking my pulse and Kim kept asking me about life insurance.  "Where was that policy again?"  

The pain was inspiring to say the least.  In my fleeting moments of lucidity, I seemed to remember from the boy scouts (or was it Dr. Oz?) that the home remedy for a Jellyfish sting was to apply human urine to the wound site.  Something about the acid in it or whatever, but it was supposed to counteract the toxins in the barbs left by those monsters.

I mentioned this to Kim who didn't take long to see where this was headed.  I needed a human donor and she was the only one onboard.  Now Kim, like most women, is fairly modest and this was an unusual request for anyone to help out with.  I told her that it might work best if she would find a pot or pan and use that to 'secure' a sample.  With that, I could use a paper towel to apply as necessary.  What happened next was a bit of a blur.  I am not sure what was in that bowl.  It may have been warmed over tequila or possibly the urine, but upon application to the burgeoning welts, the relief was almost immediate.  Wow.  I didn't think it would work, but it did.  I was going to live dammit!

The rest of the evening was pretty quiet.  We decided to forgo margaritas that night and had several cold beers instead.  The storm that came quickly departed just as quickly and it turned out to be a nice evening.  It took several more hours but the welts started to subside and the pain gradually tapered off.  The lesson here was to take a minute or two before jumping in the water to make sure you know what is going to be out there swimming around with you.  Had I looked before I leaped, I would have seen the hundreds of jellyfish that were in the water all around the boat and probably not gone in.  Yep, when you don't look before you leap, you never know what you are going to get.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

When I was a senior in high school, I remember winning one of those ridiculous awards they hand out at the end of the school year.  You probably remember someone winning 'most likely to succeed' or 'best smile'.  Well, the one I won was called 'most unflappable.'  I must tell you that when the category was announced, I had no idea what it was.  Graciously accepting the award, I sheepishly didn't know if it was a joke or not.  It wasn't.

The dictionary will tell you that unflappable means 'not easily ruffled, stoic or not excitable.'  So, okay.  It wasn't 'most handsome' or 'best body' or one of the other sexy categories, but at least I won something.  I think the background on this award stemmed from some incidents that occurred at some of the proms we held.  I was class president and the person - defacto- in charge of the events.  We had a few small meltdowns at the dances, (but they are the subject of another post or made for TV movie) but I must have handled the situations with the desired level of calmness.  Hence the award.  

So far, my unflappable qualities have served us well while boating.  I never do seem to get too excited when things don't go right.  I attribute much of that to the planning we put into each trip.  Right now for example, we are getting ready for Voyage #2.  We will be leaving New Bern within the week and continue our journey south towards Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  Putting together the logistics and details for this trip is no small endeavour.  

Where to start?  Initially, we planned trips based on where we would like to end up.  Ideally, it would be a city that was served by Delta, as it makes it much easier to get home (and get back when the next trip starts).  After that, we have to account for the time and distances involved.  As I have mentioned, we only go about 9 miles per hour and seeing as how we like to be at anchor or in a marina no later than three p.m., we typically plan to go about 50 miles a day.  What we like to see is a suitable anchorage or marina near that 50 mile point along the way.  As anchoring is free, that is always our first preference.

The hard part in the planning stage is when you cannot find a place to stop that fits in with your travel day.  We don't want to stop short, as it will take forever to get somewhere, and and we don't want to go too far as weather and sunlight become players.  It is a balance.  Of course we have all the usual books, plotters, charts and websites to help us plan.  There is literally an avalanche of information.  The difficult part is weeding through all of it to find what applies to you.

For instance, we found an anchorage that would work well for us on the second night into the trip.  It was the right distance from our previous anchorage (about 50 miles).   It was in an area that was deep enough and had enough swing room for us in case the wind changed direction.  No large tidal swings is good too.  Unfortunately, as I later found out, this anchorage is part of a large Marine Corps base and often times they practice dropping bombs and simulating water attacks during the night.  Now they don't mind if you park your boat in their waters, however you have to put up with their exercises in the wee hours of the morning.

Bridges and tides also play a part in trip planning.  As everyone knows, the tides rise and fall with predicable regularity.  As the tides move in and out, it creates crosscurrents, tail 'winds' and 'head' winds.  It also lifts and lowers your boat, relative to slack tide.  So for instance, if you thought you were going to be anchoring in 10 feet of water and the ebb tide (low tide) drops the water level by 5 feet, you might find yourself in waters that are too skinny to accommodate your boat.  

Most new bridges are tall enough that we can pass beneath without any problems.  There are however, many drawbridges and pontoon bridges that we must plan around.  Their opening schedules are erratic and you don't want to find yourself waiting an hour or so for the next opening.  As they say, timing is everything and bridge openings another factor you must plan for.

Beyond that, there are the easier planning items like food menus, rental cars and fuel stops.  If you know me very well, you can vouch for the fact that I leave no stone unturned in search of a discount.  It is not that I am cheap, its more like an adventure for me, trying to get the lowest price... or at least that is my story. Anyway, we have spent a lot time on the internet and telephone finding the best prices.  I am not bashful in asking for discounts.  I know it embarrasses some people, but not me.   As long as you ask with a smile, people generally don't take queries about pricing the wrong way.

So after what seem like several weeks of planning, out trip has come together.  Our float plan looks very doable and has more opportunities for us to explore some towns along the way. The wild card, as always will be the weather.  Being the unflappable guy I am though, I have built in a few days of slack in case we have to sit out some storms or high winds.  Not knowing what is around the corner is what makes these trips so much fun.