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.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


The competitive spirit at the sailboat show bordered on brutal. It was nasty head-to-head combat, a veritable pissing match.

But this was not for Boat of the Year, it was for composting heads. Really.

Composting heads are brilliant. They are self-contained toilets that take otherwise icky contents and magically convert it to dirt -- almost odor free. You just dump the dirt, no search for pumpout stations, no messy connectors, no holding tank.

But the two producers of these composting heads were at the boat show and engaged in a stinky, junior-high style competition over who has the better product. One, who claims to be the original, has an entire sheet outlining the unpleasantness, including statements like, "they just can't have the breadth of understanding that I have" (about poop) and "I have made countless changes that really aren't noticeable to people." SOLD!

Ours has a remote fan!
Ours has an internal fan!
Ours has no dangerous separate seat!
Theirs has no separate seat!
Our seat is bigger!
Our seat is fine, but we made a bigger one just in case!

It's enough to make your head spin.

Friday, October 9, 2009


The sign read, "Marriage Savers!"

One of the vendors at the Annapolis Sailboat show was selling headphones designed for onboard communication. So, for instance, when your spouse is at the bow dropping the anchor and you are at the wheel, the headphones amplify what your spouse is screaming -- straight into your ear.

This is not a product I need.

The product I need is more of a United Nations variety where some calm, sane intercessor translates what my spouse is saying into soothing and sensible language I understand.

Here's how it would work:

Husband at the bow: What the $&*@) are you $*%*ing doing?!?! You're coming in too #*&$#( hot!!

Wife hears: Sweetie, you need to slow down a little.

Wife says: The #&#ing engine &$#$& up. You better (&#(*@ get your &$#ing *&#$ in the water and $&(*#&) the &*(#$^ line you kicked in the water off the &*(#$&$ing propeller.

Husband hears: I believe the engine has seized up, honey. Would you mind diving on the propellor to see if there's a problem? Maybe something to do with that little line you knocked into the water? Or maybe it was me that kicked it in. Yes. It must have been me. Wait, I'll go in. I'm a better swimmer.

Husband says: Mmph, nnh your mother zhen phflt.

Wife hears: This could be the best week of my life. All this togetherness just gets better and better.

Wife says: Zhenf eoridr, over my dead phenfnen.

Husband hears: Sweet Pea, after I chip all the barnacles off the bottom and wax the hull, I'll fix you a rum drink and your favorite dinner. You just relax.

Just think how smoothly this conversation would have gone with the headphones.

Translation headphones. There's a product that would save a marriage.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


If this blog were a book I was reading, I would totally be checking to see if we're close to the end. Surely this is the climax just before everything finds a swift and satisfying conclusion.

I'd be looking at the photos in the middle of the book to see what kind of boat they bought. I'd read the author bio on the last page to see where they were when the book was published:

Plodding to Paradise is the author's first book. Her writing has been published in Fabulous Sailing Magazine, Another Fabulous Sailing Magazine and other sailing magazines. The author and her husband, Chip, live aboard their Fabulous 38' sailboat and, at the time of publication, were cruising the Fabulous Islands.

After assuring myself a fabulous ending awaits, I would settle back in to find out how much it cost to fix the dent in the hull, if the author decided to have surgery, who bought the wine shop and how freakin' long it took for them to get on the water.

Are you getting bored too?

Thursday, October 1, 2009


QUESTION #3: Tammy has pain in her stomach because she:

a. swallowed a giant squid
b. did a huge belly flop in shallow water
c. has scar tissue from a war wound
d. has been practicing sword swallowing to earn cruising pennies
e. all of the above

If you answered c., you are correct. Okay, war wound might be a bit of an overstatement, but I can't just hand feed you the answers.

We went to the surgeon this morning to get the results of last week's x-rays, the one where they made me swallow glass after glass of white poison. The good news is, my intestines are working fine, considering. The bad news is the considering. After my kidney was removed three years ago (another tale entirely), my body reacted by spinning out scar tissue, which basically velcroed part of my intestines to my abdominal wall. They discovered this during that laparoscopic surgery in March. Photos available on request.

The choices? Live with the pain and potential of an obstruction or have more surgery.

What does it mean, Isabella and I and our belly wounds this week? What does it mean?

When I met Chip 12 years ago, his mantra was "What does it mean?" It's a valid question and an admirable pursuit, trying to learn from life's path, identify ways to grow and become a better person along the way. I've tried to learn from his learning.

He rarely says "what does it mean" any more. Maybe because my mantra became, "Stop saying that already!"

--The surveyor looked at Isabella's scar tissue this morning and said we have to either live with the pain (that being no chance of passing a survey if/when we sell her) or surgery. Right now they're removing the coolers under the settee to assess the damage and give us an estimate on repairs.
--We don't know what all of this means right now. We don't even know what we're going to do about us girls and our wounds. Sometimes meaning doesn't emerge until much water has passed under the hull. That will be another quiz for another day.