Monday, December 3, 2018

Struggling to Reach the Dream - An Honest Post

Sometimes we have to look at this quote to remind us not to give up. As anxiety creeps in, we get impatient and the "what-if's" take over. It's easier to be a pessimist than an optimist! But, that's why I'm writing this post. I'm keeping it real, and hoping to inspire others to hang in there with whatever dreams they have. The struggle is real, and you're not alone!

Ken & I have been working on "living the dream" for nine years now (see our refit photo album here .. and that doesn't cover earlier years!), and I'm not gonna lie .. sometimes it's really tough! For starters, we thought we'd be cruising within 3 years of purchasing Nirvana, which would have meant "sailing away" the end of November, 2012. We're about six years behind schedule!

Anyway, we continue to miss our deadlines ... the latest one being this month. We had hoped to have enough done on Nirvana to head towards Florida this month, but after an unintended inspection of our standing rigging we were told it really should be replaced before entering the Gulf. We believe the rigging is original (1987), and it did show signs of damage & age so we reluctantly agreed.

The standing rigging was completed about two weeks ago, except for the forestay. The wire has been ordered and the roller furler will soon be disassembled and removed for the new forestay installation. While we hated to miss our deadline, our safety (and peace of mind) is more important. It is somewhat of a relief to now have new standing rigging. After all, it does hold the mast up!

It seems Nirvana has had everything replaced .. except the engine, rudder and a few other things. Wait, what if after all the recent repairs our engine goes out .. or what if we run aground and have to get a new rudder?! You see what I mean? The anxiety creeps in.

It wasn't just the rigging that held us back, but our barely used Tohatsu has started acting up. Ken has spent four days cleaning, draining and replacing parts with no success .. talk about a downer! He finally decided to take a break from that project for a bit. 

We're also in the process of installing our new Raymarine EV100 autopilot, as well as connecting our Lowrance GPS to our new Lowrance VHF with AIS. This means running a bunch of wires down the cockpit pedestal and into other hard-to-reach places, which also meant a few modifications along the way. The wires have been run down the cockpit pedestal and the four components of the auto-pilot have been mounted, so we're getting close. We just need to run the rest of the wires inside of Nirvana and to the components. 

Oh, and here's a little tip .. grill covers are on sale this time of year, and they make great pedestal covers. We got this "kettle grill" cover for $10 bucks! If fits great, and gathers at the bottom. Now our new GPS & autopilot will be protected, as well as our compass.

All of this will be worth it, as the VHF/AIS allows us to see other boats with AIS and we can contact them (via VHF) if it's on a collision course with us .. or just get outta the way! Other boats won't be able to see us, but that's because we chose the less expensive AIS option. Need I say anything about the auto-pilot? Once we get it going, it will be well worth the investment. Who wants to stand at the helm for hours on end?!

With the current state of things, we weren't ready to "just go". We definitely want our rigging complete, and the comfortable weather of November that we'd been looking forward to didn't come. November in Louisiana is usually in the mid-70's .. perfect for finishing our projects and starting our sailing adventure, but Winter (and rain) arrived instead. We also found ourselves with a vacant rental this month, and we spent a fair amount of time making repairs and finding a new tenant. We finished repairs this past Friday, a new tenant moved in this past weekend .. and we have another vacant rental as of today! More repairs & interviews in December. Ugh!

So anyway, things have been a bit of a bummer for the past month. The weather pretty much sucked, our projects aren't finished, and we're still at the dock. Once we finally admitted to each other that we weren't gonna make our goal, things were pretty somber. We didn't wanna spend another Winter on the boat. We hated last Winter on Nirvana .. the condensation & the cold really sucked! I want to keep this blog as realistic as possible, so I'm not gonna say it's all about the journey. We're ready to sail to some sort of destination after all these years, and we're getting impatient. We wanna start having some fun with Nirvana!

If another person tells us to "just go", I'm gonna scream! I know plenty of folks seem to buy the perfect boat and start cruising a couple of months later, but that's not our reality. We bought a project boat and had no idea what we were doing. We also needed to keep working full-time (until recently) to keep up with the boat expenses .. you know BOAT stands for "Bring Out Another Thousand"!

A reader who meant well told us to "just go" and not worry about having "so much stuff". The thing is, we're not going with all the fancy stuff. We won't have a windlass, a water maker, hot water, radar, or davits. We may leave without solar panels! 

The thing is, we're new to all this sailing & cruising stuff, even though we've been at it for 9 years! We had a lot of projects to make Nirvana safe on the water, and a ton of projects that required hours of research .. everything was new to us and we wanted to do it ourselves. Even with doing everything (except standing rigging) ourselves, the expenses have mounted up.

There have been times we've felt like giving up, moving into one of our rental houses and enjoying the conveniences of mainstream society. A warm shower just steps away, a comfy bed that doesn't require climbing in & out of, no long walks to our car in the cold and/or rain, room to spread out or walk around inside when it's bad weather, a dishwasher .. hot water! But you know what .. we couldn't live with ourselves if we gave up on our dream after so much time and effort. We think the sacrifices will be worth it once we start traveling .. and sailing. Unless something unknown throws us a curve, we're gonna do this! 

It's easy for us to get impatient & depressed, dwelling on the money & time spent and the sacrifices we've made. That's human nature, I think. So, we have our down days but we never forget how lucky we are. We celebrated Thanksgiving with family, and we're looking forward to Christmas with our grandson. It will be his first Christmas, and we're excited about being around at this special time. Our little guy will celebrate his 1st birthday the beginning of February, and we're really glad we won't miss that either. Is he cute or what?!

We spent Thanksgiving in the country .. at my brother & sister-in-law's place in Mississippi. We were lucky to have a break from the crappy weather the days before, and the day after. The weather was perfect! Here's my brother with us, our daughter, son-in-law, grandson, and my mom & step-dad. My dad & step-mom were there too .. wish they were in the photo. My brother and I are thankful that our mom & dad still get along after being divorced since I was an infant. It's nice to spend the holidays with both of them!

Another silver lining ... we're around to repair and rent our properties ourselves instead of hiring someone else to handle it. One more rental to repair, but it should be occupied by the end of the year. We should also complete our auto-pilot & AIS installation, our rigging, and a few other projects (like installing our new Mantus anchor) on Nirvana. I sure hope we get that Tohatsu running! We'll always have projects waiting, but we're focusing on the "must-do's". So, everything always works out as it should.

We've licked our wounds and .. we're escaping to somewhere warm after Christmas! We're headed to a 5-week adventure, and that's what our goals are really about .. making the most out of life. We'll be back on the boat the beginning of February for our grandson's birthday party, then we'll finish up any "must-do's" on Nirvana (shouldn't be much) and leave the dock the end of February/beginning of March. We'll avoid freezing our asses off this January and we'll get to visit a new tropical destination. Yep, things always work out.

When we expose ourselves to so many folks "out there", we sometimes feel vulnerable. We sometimes feel like we need to "just go" this Winter and freeze because ya'll are "watching us" and judging. Not just ya'll, but so many co-workers and friends ask why we're still here. But, I often tell Ken that we're doing what's best for us. Most people who ask what's taking so long don't have a boat and don't have a clue what's involved. We sure didn't! Anyone who judges will be eating their words once we finally do leave. If something tragic happens before then, they'd be cruel to judge us.

If you're reading this and are struggling with turning a dream into reality, know that you're not alone. It may be more difficult than you anticipated, and it may take much longer than anticipated but every baby step forward is progress. As Helen Keller said, a pessimist never "opened a new doorway for the human spirit". Hang in there!

So, we still have our down days but we're looking forward to the holidays with family .. and our getaway after Christmas. More about that later!

Hasta luego .. until then. Mid-Life Cruising!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Sailing With Our New Sail Pack & Lazy Jacks!

After replacing our running rigging, it was finally time to pull out our sails & sail pack out of storage. If you've been following along, you know that we've been emptying our storage lately .. first the Tohatsu, then the dinghy, followed by the bimini, and finally .. the sails! This was an exciting time for us, as Nirvana hadn't had her sails on since somewhere around 2012. Had it been that long?! I had to look up old posts on this blog to figure out just how long it had been. The post from our last sail was written just after we put our house up for sale. As you could tell by the title and the post ... I had no idea so many years would pass by before sailing Nirvana again. After so many years, Nirvana would finally be a sailboat again, and hopefully we'd be sailing soon!

Ken and I brought the main sail and sail pack to the boat, and tried to remember how to add our sail pack. We weren't very familiar with our sail pack, as it was sewn back in 2012 and then, you guessed it .. put in storage. As you can see from photos taken after the sail pack was sewn, we had the seamstress sew slugs into the bottom of the sail pack. We have a loose-footed main, and decided this would be a good way to secure the sail pack to the boom. Knowing little about sailing, we hoped that our solution would work.

Here's a photo of Robin back in 2012, sewing our sail pack. Robin did a fantastic job! We were lucky to have her sew our sail pack (learn how we found her through another cruiser here), and even luckier to have won the Sail Pack Kit from Sailrite. My entry into the contest can be found here.

After sliding the sail pack slugs onto the boom, it was time to add the main sail .. or was it?! When trying to add the main, we realized that we needed to start over.  

We removed the sail pack and played around with the main sail for just a bit .. it's big & heavy!

We decided to slide the first slug of the sail pack onto the boom, then attached the main sail to the outhaul, then slide the remaining sail pack slugs into the boom. It seemed this set-up would work, but we still needed to insert a piece of 3/4" 40 PVC pipe to the pockets on each side of the sail pack and figure out how we wanted to set up our new lazy jacks.

When the sail pack was sewn, we had Robin add loops for the lazy jacks that Ken was going to make. Our sail pack has three loops on each side, starting 18" away from the mast. We then have another loop on each side that is 4' further down, then one last loop another 4' down.

With a total of two blocks, four stainless rings (cheaper than blocks) and random rope that we had for a trial run, Ken set up our retractable lazy jack system. Once he was happy with it, he added the permanent lazy jack lines. We didn't utilize all of the loops that we had sewn on our sail pack .. who could remember our plans from so long ago?! Here's a photo of our sail pack with PVC pipe and lazy jacks ..

 With our new bimini canvas, new bimini frame and new running rigging, Nirvana is looking ready for a sail. She has come such a long way in the past year! With all the projects we've done, we thought we were ready to add our head sail as well. But, after the rigger recently pointed out some areas of concern on our standing rigging .. we decided to take his recommendation and have all of the standing rigging replaced. This decision was not made lightly, as this meant a delay on sailing further South .. and more money!

So anyway, we could have added our head sail but since it would soon be taken down to remove the roller furler and replace the wire underneath .. we decided to take advantage of a beautiful day and try out our new sail pack and lazy jacks.

Ken and I were both excited and nervous to leave the dock! It had been almost a year & a half since we motored to the marina, and as I mentioned .. about six years since we'd done any kind of sailing on Nirvana! As we motored into the lake, it was time to test things out.

As recommended by many, we made sure that the lazy jacks were retracted and we pointed into the wind before Ken raised the main sail. The sail didn't catch on the lazy jacks, and the sail went up without a hitch. A while back we had the rigger install new masthead sheaves, so we were also giving the new sheaves a test. Ken said they did seem to make raising the main less difficult. So far, so good!

As Ken turned off the engine, we began to relax a bit. The sound of nothing but the waves and the wind against the sail was long overdue. It felt so good to be back on the lake .. on our own boat!

We wondered how it would be to sail with a sail pack, and with it "relaxed" along the boom (photo above) ... it didn't interfere at all.

We spent a few hours on the lake, tacking a few times and getting re-acquainted with Nirvana. Slowly, our anxiety was replaced with enjoyment and I couldn't stop smiling. We only had one sail on Nirvana, but we were sailing!

We enjoyed the day, and eventually released our lazy jacks before lowering the main sail. We weren't sure what we were going to think of our new lazy jacks and sail pack, but once Ken lowered the sail .. we were impressed! The sail flaked easily into the sail pack, and we didn't have to worry about anything more until we were back at the dock. It was so easy!

As we headed back to the dock, we started to get a bit anxious again. We often docked behind our house, which didn't have anything in front of the bow to hit. But now, we had to make sure we didn't come in too fast and hit the dock!

Luckily, we docked like a pro and had a big boost in morale after a great day on the lake. We couldn't wait to do it again soon!

After posting these photos, I realize that I don't have a picture of the full lazy jack set-up. Basically, there's a block on each side about 2/3 up the mast, then a stainless ring on each side that the line goes through, then another ring on each side that a separate line runs through & attaches to the sail pack. The photo below kinda shows what I'm talking about ... you can see the two rings on each side.

We thought we'd have to make some adjustments after testing things out, but so far we're happy with our current set up. 

We're looking forward to getting back out on the lake again, but Winter came early and we're currently experiencing rain, high winds and high temps in the 40's .. damn it. We're supposed to be in the mid-70's here in Louisiana!

With the current conditions, the rigger had to cancel replacing our standing rigging and we haven't gotten back on the lake. We also had to put other boat projects on hold, and we're hoping that we can get back on track soon.

Hasta luego .. until then. Mid-Life Cruising!
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