Thursday, December 31, 2009


Tomorrow, I turn 50.

Recently a wise young man asked me, "How does it really feel to be turning 50?"

That got me thinking about life and aging, living and dying and landmarks -- and why turning 30 was totally devastating but turning 50 is utterly fabulous.

Twenty years ago, when I turned 30, I was living a life that probably looked fine from the outside, but on the inside, I was restless and unhappy. The life I had was not the life I wanted -- and I felt hopelessly stuck in it. I wanted to live by the ocean, but I was in the middle of Texas. I wanted to travel, but I'd never even been out of the country, nor even far from the southwest. I was married to someone who didn't share my adventurous spirit or the burning desire to indulge it.

Now as I'm turning 50, I'm poised on the glorious launch of a life that combines travel and the ocean in a way that would have blown my 30-year-old mind. The universe has given me an equal partner, a co-captain, a friend, a husband who brought with him my same love for adventure and the burning desire to indulge it, a desire that manifests itself in the hard, hard everyday work of making dreams come true. As a bonus, he has a heart as deep as the ocean and lets me sail there.

So, how do I feel about turning 50? The answer seems to be less about aging and more about living.

When I turned 30, I felt like I was dying. Turning 50, I feel like I'm just beginning to live.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Several times in the last week, I've left the wine shop to drive home and forgotten where I live.

As of today, we're in our fourth place since July. After a week in our cute little beach cottage, we've temporarily moved to the extra-large, oceanfront house where we'll be celebrating my 50th birthday -- with three days of parties.

After our week of luxurious, oceanfront living, we'll be heading to Maryland for the sea trial and survey on our new boat.

Perhaps this is a small taste of what it will be like to wake up in a new harbor every morning.

Where do we live? Wherever we are.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


"I can't find my spoon," I wailed.

Today we were moving the last of our things out of the apartment, standing amidst the half-filled boxes and cleaning supplies where I'd been searching for my missing spoon.

"Why does that upset you so much?" Chip asked, clearly confused that someone who has been gleefully throwing out belongings would be so upset that one left on its own.

But, this wasn't just any old spoon. This spoon was a miniature, two-inch work of art, sculpted of pewter with an intricate little face carved in the handle. I loved it, treasured it, used it every day to sprinkle salt on my food -- whether the food needed salt or not, because that spoon was awesome.

Through tears I lamented, "I've kept so few things, and now I've lost one of them."

All those belongings that I've pitched this past year were items I willingly -- but sometimes reluctantly -- released when I knew they were standing between me and the water. But this one? It met all the marine requirements: it was tiny; it wouldn't rust; it was durable, guaranteed to survive the rough and tumble life on a sailboat. And the most important requirement of all: I loved it. This was one of the precious few items I had chosen to keep.

And in that little spoon I had been precariously balancing some part of every one of my discarded possessions, all my things that were too fragile, too breakable, too bulky, or somehow uniquely inappropriate for life onboard.

Maybe that was just too much for a little spoon to bear.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


The vagabonds have a new temporary shelter. After several weeks of looking and weighing options, we moved into Raven's Roost.

It's a summer rental, fully furnished, so we can shed the last few pieces of furniture: a love seat, a chair, a mattress and a table. And since the kitchen is geared up, we can divest ourselves of a few more household items.

What do we have left?
--4 bins of tools, sandpaper, paint thinner, paintbrushes, fiberglass repair gear, stuff
--4 boxes of books
--a folding bike
--a marine sewing machine
--2 mast pulpits
--a briefcase with our files for selling the wine shop
--bedding and linens
--4 bins of miscellaneous stuff like a first aid kit, flashlights, bags

And a fully furnished house is something we're relishing. We have a new appreciation for a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, a bathtub and even TV. Our first morning here, we had toast, not because we wanted it, but just because we have a toaster.

So, here we are, lightening the load and once, again, in the "last" place before moving onboard.

First task in the new house: Christmas tree.

Monday, December 21, 2009


If you happen to be awake at 4:00 a.m., a dark crevasse opens in the night, a terrifying place filled with dark, icy shrieking-eel-infested waters.

Actually, they're talking eels that tell you evil, slimy things, like, "That new boat you just bought? The salon is way too small. SHREEEEEEEK. The fold-down table is too big. It takes up the whole tiny salon. SSHHREEEEEEEEEK. That boat is way too expensive. What were you thinking?! SHHREEEEEK!!!" (They don't know how to spell "shriek.)

And then, along about sunrise, the crevasse closes, the eels clam up, and you're left with this little niggling doubt in the back of your brain...

Three days of sheer joy
Two days of disbelief/denial
One day of buyer's remorse

What's next? Four shrieking birds?

I think I'll hit replay and go back to sheer joy.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


The first few days after we got the boat, you would have thought we were a young couple about to have a baby. We were glowing, telling everybody. In return, everybody was so happy for us.

Now, it doesn't seem real. That new boat is something we read about in a book -- with photos.

Well, when they cashed the $18K deposit check yesterday, that seemed real.

But a new boat? An Island Packet 380? NO WAY.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Why do we always buy boats in the winter???? We still have to do a sea trial, in the northern Chesapeake in January. BRRR.

Some particulars:
1999 Island Packet 380  Designer: Robert Johnson
Hull Material: Fiberglass
LOA: 39'7"     LWL: 32'0"     Beam: 13'2"
Displacement: 21,000 lbs     Draft: 4'7"     Bridge Clearance: 54'3"    Ballast: 9,000 lbs
Engines: Yanmar     Engine(s) HP: 51 hp FWC     Engine Model: 4JH3     Hours: 4090
Tankage  Fuel: 85 gal     Water: 170 gal     Holding: 40 gal

Here she is:

Transom with swim platform -- and look at those back rail seats. Chip's favorite feature!

Cutter rig with furlers on jib and staysail, traditional, fully battened main with Dutchman furling (!)

Awesome galley. Seriously.

State room with WALK AROUND v-berth. Such luxury!

Port settee and nav station.

Starboard settee. Love that upholstery.

Huge head with shower and shower door.
I found this sink in the aft cabin somewhat confounding -- until we decided it's a WET BAR!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Some days don't go at all like you imagine. Sometimes they're better.

Today dawned all GO!

I called Michele and cautiously stated we wanted to make an offer on Good Company.

The phone did not disconnect. There were no beeps -- just a very happy Michele on the other end.

She and I filled out the offer form together on the phone. At 2:00 p.m., Chip and I signed it and faxed it with a copy of our $18,000 deposit check. The seller would have 48 hours to respond, so we settled in for a long winter's wait.

I headed for Fed Ex to overnight the original form and check to Rock Hall. The guy at Fed Ex, who had up to that point been unresponsive and generally sulky said, "Rock Hall? I used to work at Skipjack Marina not far from there."

I told him he was holding an offer on an Island Packet 380.

"Wow," he said, suddenly all perky and almost buoyant, "what a great oceangoing boat!"

Yes, indeed, but let's don't get excited yet. We were making backup plans: how much should we offer on the New York boat if we don't get Good Company? If we can't get a good price on New York, should we settle for in-mast furling? What if we just can't afford a 380? There are hardly any 37s on the market, and we don't want a 35. Will more 380s come on the market as spring approaches?

At 4:00 p.m., two hours after we submitted the offer, my phone rang. I saw that it was Michele and assumed she was merely reporting on the tone of her conversation with the owner and when we might expect to hear a counteroffer.

She had spent almost two hours on the phone with him during which time he pondered taking the boat off the market and waiting a year. Gasp. But then, he said,

"Maybe it's time this boat has a new home."

He countered at less than 3% more than our offer. In practical terms, he had accepted our offer.


I burst into tears. I still cry when I type this.

We have a boat.

We have a boat.

Monday, December 14, 2009


I bought a pair of shoes yesterday. You wouldn't believe how much I loved them. They were beautiful and felt like slippers.

This morning I put them on, and they were too small. Well, bummer, but let's just try a bigger size. The store didn't have them in black. I tried another color in the next size. They were huge. No. How about this one? Didn't have my size. This one? No. This one? No.

Yesterday we decided we definitely want a traditional main -- no in-mast furling. That narrowed our choices to New York and Good Company in Rock Hall. We both felt confident: make an offer on Good Company.

After sleeping on that decision, and agreeing once more this morning, we were ready. I called Michele, asked her a few questions and as I said, "We want to make an offer...," the phone went BEEP BEEP BEEP. The connection was lost.

No shoes. No offers.

Does that mean we should go for the New York boat? It does have fewer engine hours and that amazing watermaker, but it's out of the water and won't be available until the spring. If we bought it, we couldn't do a sea trial until April or May. Do we want to wait in limbo again?

We'll see what tomorrow brings. Please be a YES day.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


We're still tooling along. No more doldrums. (Not yet.)

We've spent hours talking with Michele, studying, making lists, pricing equipment, debating in-mast furling. We're proud of our thoughtful approach, our steady hand at the helm. We're not in a hurry. It's a big decision, this, but we're progressing with confidence.

Geography matters. There's a great boat in Ecuador that we'd love to have, but Ecuador? There's another in Antigua that Michele and I are angling to have a look at, because, well, it's December and the boat is in Antigua. But we can't deny the thousands of dollars the location would add to the cost of the boat.

Features matter. The New York boat has a top-of-the-line watermaker. Rock Hall boat has a Zodiac 6-person life raft.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Anyone who has owned a used sailboat can tell you: When you buy a used boat, you are buying the owner. It's a little like marrying someone only worse. In this case, your actual life depends on them.

The first week we had Isabella home, I was standing on the companionway stairs, leaning out into the cockpit. I noticed the u-bolt where you hook your life vest harness, you know, tether yourself to the boat so you don't go flying away? I grabbed the bolt, and it broke off in my hand. The previous owner had attached the bolt with nuts of a different kind of metal, a science fair project on marine electrolysis. The bolt was completely eaten through.

So far, we've been impressed with the owners of Good Company. Michele has been studying the ship's log, and engine maintenance seems meticulous. It has higher engine hours than some of the other boats (4000), which is a bit of a concern. The New York boat has much lower engine miles and is a 2000 rather than a 1999.

Ah, the little things that don't seem so little. We hope to make a decision on an offer this weekend.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


It was 2003 when Chip and I first started shopping for a cruising boat. Armed with $40K and a lot of research, we made our first, wide-eyed trip to see the first boat on our list -- in Rock Hall, Maryland.

That boat was a Downeast 32, although not Isabella (we found Isabella in Ft. Lauderdale). No, that Downeast in Rock Hall was worthy of a whole blog entry of her own. I hope she has since been rescued from the woman who turned her into a dumping ground, a pig sty, a seagull's nest, a floating flea market, a dog kennel. Ugh.

We ran from that boat and into town, and at one point into Gratitude Yachting Center where we were introduced to Michele.

Even though her Island Packets were way beyond our modest budget, Michele, with her calm, wise manner, took the time to talk to us about life and cruising and sailboats. That day she sewed seeds of cruising-boat philosophy and friendship that have taken root and flourished over the years.

To say we never forgot Michele doesn't tell the whole story. When I starting writing an unfinished(!) novel in 2004, I used her look and serene spirit for one of my characters who sometimes quotes Michele verbatim. (I've never told Michele this -- until now.)

In 2008, when we made our decision to buy an Island Packet, we called Michele first.

"Oh, of course I remember you!" she said.

And now, all these years later, Michele has been a valuable third member of our crew, helping us evaluate the different Island Packet models from her many years of experience selling and sailing them, and once we decided on the 380, thoughtfully evaluating each one on the market, weighing their disparate pros and cons, offering us her seasoned and reasoned advice mixed with humor and big, gut-deep laughter.

"I love it when we get a chance to just sit and talk," she told me on the phone this week. "We have those huge laughs."

Funny, we were just saying the same thing.

Many more to come.

And to quote Michele and one of my novel characters: "It's a great day to be alive!"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


We are studying all the IP380s on the market. We're pretty sure we want a traditional main (raise and lower manually) v. in-mast furling (the ones that roll-up inside the mast like a roll of paper towels).

--will presumably hold their value better
--ease of use
--more on the market

--more reliable
--can get a better price right now
--hey, it's called traditional, because they've been in use for centuries

--failure is pretty catastrophic, because...
--failure is likely to be when it's blowing stink and you really need that main furled. Really.
--cost more

--will likely depreciate faster

FOOTNOTE: Driving back to the Outer Banks, we stopped just off Highway 13 in Cape Charles, north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on the eastern shore. Chip had read about it as a good sailing destination. On a quiet Wednesday night, we stumbled upon the only place open, the only bar in town, Kelly's Gingernut Pub, in a brick bank building built in 1906. The food was good, the beer list awesome, the place quaint. We'll definitely make that a stop on some future Chesapeake cruise ... Our charmed week continues.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


"I feel like we're motoring through deep water," I told Chip today. Not like flying at full speed, but a strong, steady pace. After months of feeling totally aground, this is a new and suspect feeling. Watch for shoals.

We met with Ted and Nancy and their contractor to help work out a little snag in the contract. The meeting went great.

Our pace is steady.

The four of us spent the afternoon shopping with Uncle George and Aunt Peggy, and like good, "active adults," zipped into the Texas Roadhouse in time to get the $7.99 early-bird dinners. ;-) And speaking of active adults, as we were leaving the restaurant, I noticed we had lost Nancy, Ted and Peggy.

"Chip, you better come see this!" I yelled.

Nancy, at 4'11" and 80 years old, had climbed up on the saddle by the hostess stand. Fueled by a strawberry margarita, she was laughing so hard she was having trouble with the dismount. Yee haw.

Our active elders then took us to the casino.

Chip put in one quarter, spun five gold bells and won $129.

No shoals in sight!

Monday, December 7, 2009


As we left Bridgeville this morning, Dylan called to tell us he was accepted to Appalachian in Boone, NC.

Hallelujah. He set out on a long, long trip from eking through high school to getting accepted to a state school at 21, a trip sewn with hard, ugly work and long, lonely months in a near empty apartment. Hmm. Sounds a little like someone else. Is this the week we all arrive?

A good start  -- and hopefully a good omen. We smiled the whole way to Rock Hall.

You might recall, we looked at several Island Packet 380s in Rock Hall in October, including the one we're here to see: Good Company.

On that last trip, Chip made one notation in his notebook about Good Company: GTV.

"What the heck is that?" I asked.

"Got The Vibe."

It's a funny thing when you're boat shopping. If you're smart, you keep your emotions in check, try not to fall in love with a boat and subsequently make bad decisions. But there's no denying the feel of a boat when you step onboard. It defies logic. We looked at two identical boats, side by side today. One felt cold and lonely, the other warm and homey.

And today, I got the vibe too. I didn't anticipate liking this boat as much as I did. Good Company has had one owner who is obviously meticulous. The boat is spotless inside. The bilge looks practically new. He changed the oil for the first time one month after he got the boat (!). The more we learn, the closer we look, the better it gets.

Michele, our broker, had a lot of info for us about other 380s on the market as well as a listing of what 380s have sold for in the last year. More homework for us ...

 ... and back to Bridgeville to see Ted and Nancy (Chip's parents) and Aunt Peggy and Uncle George!

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Starting point: Kill Devil Hills, NC
Ending point: Bridgeville, DE

After a week of trepidation about the very thought of buying a boat, today we drove north by northwest in utter peace.

All week I had been suffering from a breakout on my neck that was getting worse and worse, due in part to the anxiety about buying a boat. We were both wondering -- without telling each other -- if the breakout was telling us to postpone our trip.

I went to the emergency clinic Saturday and was diagnosed with contact dermatitis. They gave me steroids and said I'd be better in 48 hours. They were wrong. I was better in 12 hours. Let's go!

Leaving the Outer Banks was like turning a corner into smooth, clear waters. We both feel complete peace about where we are headed and whatever we might find there.


I read a magazine article recently that said we will be buying an Island Packet 35. You just can't believe everything you read.

We're off to Rock Hall, Maryland, to look at Island Packets tomorrow, but we're looking at 380s. Since our loan was approved, we might, maybe, perhaps be making an offer on a boat soon. Definitely.

You'll read it here first. And maybe this time it will be true.

(That article was one I wrote for Living Aboard last July.)

--One of our previous business prospects has dropped out. That's to compensate for the two new ones, I guess.
--A new prospect for Isabella turned up. From Brazil. (?)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


This week we felt the need to look outside our little apartment, to indulge in some serious escapism, maybe a deserted island, palm trees, beautiful beaches. Thanks to, we were completely transported.

Unfortunately it was to an island where the inhabitants shot, stabbed, head-butted, tortured and lied to each other while being attacked by polar bears, ghosts, psycho French women and bees.

We survived 14 episodes of Lost before deciding this was not helpful escapism.

Sometimes we have really bad ideas.

--We've been approved for a boat loan. We leave for Rock Hall on Sunday.
--Some new business prospects have emerged.
--Isabella has a new lower price and another round of online ads.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Our future seems so fictional. We talk about sailing but it circles so far outside our current reality that it might as well be a movie we're going to see.

Sometimes I try to pull it closer, but that has its own pitfalls. If I start placing myself inside the movie, imagining the warm, clear water, the palm trees, the tradewinds, it becomes maddening.

But the fictional version lacks motivation, spark, a certain je ne sais quoi.

There we are in-between again. In between the real and the imaginary, the truth and the fiction, today and the future.


How many crossroads can there be on one trip to the water? Seems like there's one every day, and we have no map.

We applied for a boat loan. If we're approved, we might go ahead and buy an Island Packet. Gasp. Two boats and no house? That seems ridiculous even to me. So instead of that oceanfront house, it could be a soundfront boat.

It's a thought we've been struggling with for about a month as we've watched IP380s selling like it's 1999. Our thoughts: Buy now while the prices are low. Live aboard and start fitting it out, getting used to it while we're  landbound, and, most importantly, start paying it off while we still have a good income. Why pay for housing when we could be paying off our boat ....

The problem: where to dock it. There is only one liveaboard option locally (Manteo), and it's full. This week we started looking at other options: Hatteras, Ocracoke, Deltaville, Norfolk, Edenton, Oriental. Chip would stay with friends two nights a week, and I would live aboard full time.

Yesterday, Chip got a call from the Manteo dockmaster. He unexpectedly has an opening. He called us first.

So in December, we're headed back up to Rock Hall, Maryland, to look at boats.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Can our relationship thrive on a boat? Actually I'm more worried about whether or not it can survive.

We do wonder what it will be like to live together in a space about the size of a double dumpster. No real doors to slam, no long drives or even walks to blow off steam.

I've been known to hypothesize that if we could start and run a business together, cruising together would seem simple.

Sure, working together taught us a lot about, well, working together toward one goal. It taught us how to communicate, not overnight and not without a lot of kicking and screaming. We've asked other couples who run businesses together how they manage. One woman told me running straight out the back door for about 20 paces is therapeutic. Another says leaving early helps. I asked if leaving in January counts as early.

Not long ago I read about a cruising couple who has a designated DMZ on the bow of the boat. If the other person is there, you can't enter the space or talk to them.

When I told a friend this, she said we might have to do that so we won't go nuts.

"We might go nuts anyway," I said.

"Maybe but the scenery will be fantastic!" she said.


You'd think we've taken a vow of poverty.

Our near-empty apartment has no comfortable place to sit. I huddle in a slack purple chair that passed its prime about the same time I did, because the couch sends my post-prime back into spasms. Our dorm-worthy desk chair groans and creaks, just like we do if we sit in it. My car, which should have been sold two years ago, has peeling paint, a broken radio knob and a smear of rust on the door.

My clothes are so pared down, it's a struggle to keep up a good land front, and last spring I actually turned down an invitation to a party in D.C., because I didn't have shoes to wear.

A normal person would buy new shoes and furniture, but we're not normal. We've taken a vow of sailing and any step back, be it amassing furniture or clothing, would be an admission of defeat.

And yet, in addition to that discomfiture (discomfurniture?) on land, I feel almost as ill-equipped for the next life too. I read about new radar technology, wind-speed indicators and navigation software like I'm trying to decipher the Rosetta Stone. And even though my clothing is ill-suited for land, I don't know if it's well-suited for sea living either -- because I'm not there yet.

When I talk about sailing with land people, I sound like a senior talking to a freshman. When I talk about sailing with sailors, it's me that's the rising freshman.

That's what we are. Rising sailors. One foot on land, the other in the water.

--Isabella gets better by the day: restitched the whole canopy; oiled the interior wood; cleaned the portholes; replacing the starter. We'll be painting the deck soon.
--Looking at financing options for purchasing an Island Packet soon.
--No winner in the house search yet. We have until the end of December ...

Sunday, November 8, 2009


We went on that sea trial today, but there were two no-shows: the boat buyer and the wind.

But the dolphins joined us at sunset.

Friday, November 6, 2009


With fresh bottom paint and her new hatches, Isabella's looking fabulous. We went over this morning to do a little extra scrubbing and polishing for a showing tomorrow.

It was chilly and the wind was picking up. Chip was below trying to start the engine. I was in the cockpit zipping in the canopy.

The engine refused to start, and the zipper seized up.

The cold wind caught the loose canopy fabric, and it flap, flap, flapped over my head. At once I went from being angry to feeling sad and terribly guilty.

There's a disease amongst boaters known as AYB, anthropomorphizing your boat. Okay, it's not called AYB, but most of us have it. Here we were giving Isabella all this attention, just so we could sell her, and in my mind she was hunkering down and growling at us. She didn't want to go.

"She's not gonna make it easy for us, is she," I said.

As the morning wore on, warm sunshine crept slowly down the companionway stairs, and we all warmed up a bit. The engine started, and with Chip's help, I finally got that canopy zipped into place. Pleased with my progress, I turned around to see a huge section on the opposite side ripped out.

I took the offending fabric off and home for a quick repair. As I was zipping it back into place, another zipper ripped out.

Then the guy who was going to look at the boat cancelled.

Just another day in paradise.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


People frequently look at us as if we're crazy.

And then we tell them we're selling everything and going sailing.

It's all relative. If you read the right things, you'll find we're relatively sane.

Wandering Dolphin
Wandering Dolphin is a 47' aluminum sailboat, home to a family of seven. Yes, seven people on one boat. Two parents and FIVE children. And by the way, they also have a dog on there, a dog that gets seasick. I read this blog with that sort of hands-over-your-eyes nervousness I have while watching bungee jumping.

Sereia is a 36' fiberglass ketch home to a family of three and 1/3 plus one. That is, two parents, a toddler, a fetus due in May and an unrelated crew member. To those clicking on this link, I bid you a fond farewell. You will fall in love with Antonia, her antics and her writing, which will pull you in, drag you to the bottom and pin you there with a death roll.

But you will find yourself thinking, "Maybe Chip and Tammy weren't as crazy as I thought ...."

--A potential buyer's coming to look at Isabella this weekend.
--Lots of good noise on the business this week.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


... not to be confused with boat drinks.

We made a list this week of all the add-ons we might want on our cruising boat. By the time we finished, it added up to a staggering $56,000.00. Shudder.

A friend of ours has come up with a brilliant scheme for softening the blow of throwing buckets of money at her boat: expenditures are now measured in Boat Units.

One Boat Unit = $1000.00.

Using this unit of measure, our wish list is magically transformed into a reasonable 56 Boat Units. At that price, we might add a cute little spinnaker and a sexy boot stripe to the list.

Monday, November 2, 2009


As reported a few weeks ago, Isabella was making a quick recovery.

The finish is beautiful. Here's the starboard settee before:

Here's the new locking, removable hatches under the cushions:

Here's all the great new storage underneath:

I love happy endings.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


After getting it all wrong taking Isabella to Wanchese, we managed to do a little better bringing her back home.

We thought we'd make it a third of the way but instead brought her all the way home this morning, tucking in just ahead of a three-day blow.

Everything was with us: the weather, the wind, the current, we even got a sunrise start this time. With a slick new bottom and a clean propeller, she flew, slip to slip in three hours.

It was clear, calm and beautiful and so was Isabella.

Just goes to show, good sailing yarns are not spun from perfect weather and seamless passages. THE END

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


 Have you ever played that game Concentration where all the cards are face down and you turn them over two at a time, trying to find a match? That's what our second bedroom has been like for the last three months.

All the stuff we're keeping -- taking on the boat with us -- has been in three extra large bins. Every time I needed something, I would open one of the bins and pilfer around inside it, hoping to unearth a hidden treasure.

In fact, four times since we moved here in July I have scrounged through those huge bins looking for a waterproof bag for my camera. Four times I came out without the bag but not empty handed: a set of prayer flags, a stuffed rabbit, a pair of sailing gloves and a tea strainer. But no waterproof bag.
Last night we disgorged the contents of the bins into the middle of the floor sorting it into somewhat sensible piles: first aid, knives (we seem to have a lot of them), flashlights, bags, kitchen stuff, etc. We then stored those piles together in bags and boxes in hopes of happier hunting.

Then we dumped out all six boxes of books. On Round One, we picked out the books that were NOT optional: Sailmaker's Apprentice, Sailing Alone Around the World, Knots. Round Two, we chose the books we really, really wanted: To Kill a Mockingbird, Kon-Tiki, Treasure Island. In Round Three, we heartlessly cast aside the books that hadn't made the team, some of which are now on our bedside tables (crates) waiting to be read: American Lion, Iraq War Report, Leaves of Grass.

Can we get rid of any more stuff? Never say never.

Oh, and I found that waterproof bag.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


We might be waiting, but we never rest. We're always scheming -- on several fronts right now.

SCHEME #1: Set a firm launch date. Haven't sold the business? Who cares! We're sailing away anyway. Actually it has a little more forethought than that. If the business has not sold by February, we'll take it off the market and hire a manager to run it while we're floating around in the ocean. This is not our ideal outcome, but it allows us to go sailing, which IS our ideal outcome. We've asked the universe to send us either a buyer or a good manager.

SCHEME #2: Move again. I know, we just moved into Camp III, our last stop before the boat, right? Well, I had a brainstorm last week: why don't we move into an oceanfront beach house for the winter -- for only a little more $$ than the apartment? We can ditch the last of the furniture and all of our kitchen stuff since beach houses come fully equipped. It means we could live in lush comfort on the waterfront (when will that ever happen again?) with a fireplace PLUS we'll have a washer and dryer!!! No more laundromat!! The hunt for the perfect house has begun.

SCHEME #3: Buy a boat -- NOW. Yes, that strange situation where we own two boats and no house just might happen. Our thought is that we can buy now and have a few months to outfit and get to know the boat in our own backyard (so to speak), have work done by people we know and trust. It just makes sense. As a bonus, we can start paying off a boat while we still have income.

SCHEME #4: Sell the business. Okay, that's the original scheme, and it's still very much in the mix. We've had a lot of positive noise going on, including that letter of intent that was promised in August plus a new prospect.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


These drawings are not to a consistent scale, but they give a good side-by-side comparison of the layouts.

The 35
Built from 1988-94
[LOA: 38]  [LWL: 30] [Beam: 12] [Mast: 48]
[Water: 90] [Fuel: 48] [Holding: 15] [SArea: 640] [Headroom: 6'4"]

The 37
Built from 1994-98
[LOA: 38.5] [LWL: 31] [Beam: 12'2"] [Mast: 49'6"]
[Water: 90] [Fuel: 40] [Holding: 18] [SArea: 800] [Headroom: 6'4"]

The 380
Built from 1998-03
[LOA: 39'7"] [LWL: 32] [Beam: 13'2"] [Mast: 54'3"]
[Water: 170] [Fuel: 85] [Holding: 40] [SArea: 885] [Headroom: 6'5"]

The 40
Built from 1993-00
[LOA: 41'6"] [LWL: 34] [Beam: 12'11"] [Mast: 53'8"]
[Water: 170] [Fuel: 90] [Holding: 30] [SArea: 907] [Headroom: 6'5"]

All these boats are awesome. We could cruise safely and comfortably in any of them. Our plan is to buy the newest model we can afford when we're ready to buy one. Soon. Please.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


At a glance these boat layouts look identical. We know.

On paper they have some definite pros and cons with waterline, sail area, tankage, etc. These notes are for our own reference. Read at your own risk.

Island Packet 380 is the boat we would buy if we had the money.  It has more waterline, a foot more in the beam, almost twice as much water storage, three times more holding tank capacity and 30% more sail area than the 35. Unfortunately it's almost twice the cost.

The v-berth has a lovely bed that can be entered from either side. Getting out doesn't require a reverse sommersault. It has a very strange sink in the after berth, which could be removed. Just happens to be the same size as our new sewing machine...

It has stainless steel handrails instead of teak and a swim platform on the stern. They used the extra foot in the beam to good effect for storage.

The only thing we could find to sort of not like about the living space it is that the salon seems slightly smaller, and we're not fans of the L-shaped settee, which juts out into the dance floor.

380 recap:
--The newest of the ones we've looked at
--Stainless handrails
--More LWL
--More beam
--Twice as much water storage
--Almost twice as much fuel tankage
--30% more sail area

Friday, October 16, 2009


I fully acknowledge how strange and tedious it is for us to be debating inches of waterline and feet of sail area. I'd rather be sailing, just as I'm sure you'd rather be reading about sailing. Unfortunately, this blog is about the minutia of our plod to the water, which happens to be measured in inches and feet right now instead of leaps and bounds. Bear with us.

We've been studying the IP37 on paper (electronic paper, that is) for a long time. We just never had an opportunity to see one until this week.

Even though it's called 37, it's only inches different from the 35. These numbers are for 35/37:
Length overall: 38'/38' 6"
Length at waterline: 30'/31'
Beam: 12'/12' 2"

The 37 has a taller mast and a lot more sail area, but perhaps the biggest argument in its favor is that 37s are newer boats. The 35 was made from 1988-94, the 37 from 1994-98. That's also the biggest argument against it, because the newer the IP, the more expensive.

However, we wanted to see it in 3-D, to get a feel for the difference. The one we saw was in the yard having work done, so it was not easy to pick through the mess. There's a slight change in the v-berth. Nothing huge. They put a bend in the salon settee that juts into what we call the "dance floor." It's amazing how every inch here or there makes a difference in such a small space.

Our overall feeling about the 37 is that it's a great boat (they all are) but we don't feel it justifies spending 50% more. Would we buy one if it cost the same as a 35? Hmmm. Probably. That would depend on the condition and what toys it came with.

--Newer and therefore theoretically in better condition
--An extra foot on the waterline
--More sail area
--More expensive
--Smaller feel in the salon

Thursday, October 15, 2009


After the Annapolis Sailboat Show, we took a side trip to Rock Hall, Maryland, to look at boats (just like we did last year). We plan to buy an Island Packet, but since we don't have a cool $300K, our pocketbook (packetbook?) limits us to used ones.

Island Packet has seven boats between 35 and 40 feet (not counting the new Estero). The differences between the various models gets tedious and just plain confusing. Chip has made charts to help us track the differences. Our goal was to narrow down our choices by seeing some of them side-by-side. We wanted to answer a few questions:
1. Are we sure we don't want a bigger boat, maybe a 40? Do the features outweigh the cost?
2. Should we spend 50-75% more for a 380?
3. Is the 37 different enough from the 35 to warrant spending 30-50% more?
4. Do we still like the 35 best for the money?

My next few posts will capture our thoughts and answers so we won't subsequently forget them (!). Since the 35 (not to be confused with the 350) is our front runner for now, I'll compare each boat to the 35. Today, question number one.

Island Packet 40:

The IP website has more info if you want to check out IP40s.  The one we looked at is a 1996 and is listed for $179,500 as compared to IP35s starting below $100K.

The layouts amongst the 35, 37, 38, 380 and 40 are very similar, but the extra feet on the 40 are used to add another bathroom in the bow. The unexpected consequence is that the salon is compressed. The settee angles out into the salon floor adding to that closed-in feeling. We didn't take a tape measure to it, but the salon feels smaller on the 40 than on the 35, and isn't it really about the feel?

Having that extra bath by the companionway would be awesome for use as a wet locker, but is it really worth an extra $70-80K? Besides, you trade one large bath for two small ones. The additional four feet of waterline adds comfort, but again, $70-80K worth?

It's more expensive to operate, maintain and even travel in a larger boat. The tradeoff would need to be substantial to make it worthwhile. The 40 didn't win us over.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


A friend of mine in New Mexico refers to homely women as "girls who make their own clothes."

I wonder how that applies to sailors who sew their own canvas?

We bought a Sailrite LSZ-1 at the boat show. It's a monstrously heavy, marine grade sewing machine that can sew an apron or a mainsail.

So now what do we do with our time? Watch sewing videos. We've fallen deep into the nerd well and can't get out.


Turns out Isabella's dent was not such a big deal. There was no delamination, which means the fiberglass hasn't been damaged. The surveyor tested it with a water meter and found it to be dry. Excellent!

Downeasts 32s (at least the 79s) have a swath of hull on the starboard side with no bulkheading. Imagine an umbrella missing one of its spines. Of course, the fiberglass is strong on its own, especially on Downeasts where the fiberglass is several inches thick, but really, I'd rather shore it up every few feet. The hull is, after all, what keeps you afloat.

That photo shows the cutout under the bench seat. The slanting part is the inside of the hull and the three cross pieces are the shoring that was added.

This area had two coolers that didn't offer much storage space, so in addition to improving the hull integrity, we added more storage. That's what I call better than new.

They've already painted the fiberglass work and will put in two new hatches to cover it. The bottom will get painted; the topsides (the part between the water and the rail) will be waxed. She'll be bright and shiny, ready to come home next week.

Or go somewhere else? We haven't decided yet....

Sunday, October 11, 2009


A new boat from Island Packet! So what if it costs 3 times what we can spend, that didn't keep us from window shopping.

The new Estero is a departure for Island Packet in many ways. At 36' feet it's dwarfed by their previous boat, the 460 (46'), which won Cruising World's Boat of the Year last year. The Estero is a sloop rig unlike most of IP's boats, which are cutters. The cabin layout is a huge departure from typical IP interiors. They went to the Gozzard-like layout with a settee in the V and the stateroom aft.

In my little opinion, here are the pros and cons:
--It's got almost NO TEAK on the outside -- including the eyebrow. (Have they been reading my blog?)
--The finally quit using those light fixtues I hate!
--They made it look sleek and elegant on deck without teak.
--It's self-tending (sloop instead of cutter, with self-tending jib).
--A nice little swim platform off the stern.

--It's got an unattractive snub nose and sheer line. In the first photo, the first two boats are Esteros. Look at its bow compared to the others on down the line. It just looks clunky in the water, especially in underway photos.
--The cabin layout is awkward and feels cramped.
--The galley and head are straight across from each other.
--I've always disliked drop-leaf tables that won't fold completely away. It has one smack in the middle of the V.
--The galley takes up too much central space and has almost no counter space.

My rating on a five-star scale: 2 stars. But what do I know? The Estero's nominated for Cruising World's Boat of the Year.

There are photos and layout drawings on their website. Judge for yourself.