Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hello, cello!

When I was in the 5th grade, the local high school orchestra conductor came to my elementary school in an effort to recruit students for the 5th & 6th grade orchestra. To introduce us to the string family, he played a short piece on each of the instruments: the violin, viola, cello, and upright bass. His demonstration inspired me to play the cello. No, it wasn't the deep, warm tone of the cello that spoke to me. Not even close. What convinced me that the cello was the right instrument for me was something much more simplistic and rational. As the conductor played each instrument, I noticed that for all of the instruments except for the cello, he stood while playing. Since orchestra practice lasted for at least 30 minutes (an eternity when you are in the 5th grade), I decided the most sensible thing to do was to play the instrument that required the musician to sit while playing. This story horrifies most musicians, but it is the truth; I decided to play the cello because I got to sit down.

Despite my rather rudimentary way of selecting an instrument, I quickly learned to appreciate the finer, more complex characteristics unique to the cello.

Here is a picture of my acoustic cello:

It is a beautiful instrument that produces a strong, vibrant sound. My parents purchased it for me when I was in junior high, and I’ve had it ever since. While I learned the basics on a slightly smaller beginner’s cello, I honed my technique on the German instrument pictured above.

Now, when I think “boat,” I for sure don’t think “cello.” That is because cellos and boats don’t have anything to do with one another, nor should they. This is especially true when the boat is located in a tropical climate, like our boat will be. Cellos are made of wood and can warp when exposed to heat and humidity. In addition, they are rather large and require even larger cases. Since boats aren’t designed to accommodate large string instruments, it probably wouldn't surprise you to discover that our boat doesn’t have room to store something the size of a coffin. Even if we had the room, there was no way I was going to bring my cello on board and risk damaging it.

I’m not a writer, so it is hard for me to express how much my cello means to me, so I will just say that I love it. I love my cello so much that I’d rather it be owned by someone else than have something happen to it on our boat, which would be guaranteed. So, my cello had to go.

Now, just because I’m moving onto a boat doesn’t mean I’m going to give up playing. The only thing I'm giving up is my actual acoustic instrument. What will be coming on board is this:

OK, the actual instrument pictured above isn’t coming on board; however, I am now the proud owner of the same model. Sadly, mine isn’t gold. I'm a traditionalist after all.

Unlike a traditional cello, this particular electric cello collapses and fits securely into a case that is just slightly larger than a guitar. See for yourself:

Not too bad considering my old case was the size of a small adult.

Although my new cello is electric, I can play it with or without an amp (without the amp the cello sounds slightly muted, but distinctly cello-ey). Additionally, I can also plug earphones into it and practice without anyone having to listen –something I think my marina neighbors will appreciate.

Although I will miss my old acoustic cello dearly, I am very pleased with my new instrument, and am extremely happy it will be on board Sea Gem.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Introducing Sea Gem (We Found a Boat!)

As we earlier explained, we went to Florida earlier in July to look at several boats with the goal of selecting one to be our new home.  We did, in fact, find the perfect boat for us, and we did so on our very first day of the search.  So, why the two-week delay in disclosing our choice, you ask?  Without going into too much detail, it took us that long (working tirelessly) to secure financing and insurance for the boat.  Because both are required to acquire the boat, and because there were more than a few times when our prospects looked dire, we decided to keep things quiet until we were in a firmer position.  The good news is, that is now out of the way, and we'll be closing and moving aboard in less than two weeks!

We decided on a Gulfstar 54 Sailcruiser.  Before our trip, I posted a summary of the design here, and you can read a more thorough review here.  We actually looked at two Sailcruisers, and while both were very nice, the one we picked, Sea Gem, was simply the best boat we saw in virtually every dimension.  Right away, Both Krissy and I knew that it was the boat for us (Krissy even dreamed about Sea Gem shortly after we saw it).  And if our decision were not easy enough, each of the other boats we looked at had disqualifying attributes.  In brief, the Northwind was too small, the Hans Christian needed too much work, and the Taswell had too tall a mast. 

If you remember from my original post about the Sailcruiser, my most significant concern is that they are prone to structural problems that must be constantly monitored and repaired.  Well, not Sea Gem.  We talked to our surveyor about the issue (Sea Gem was the 12,080th boat he has surveyed), and what happened is that the builder, Gulfstar, would often build the hulls in stages.  They would first create the hull in the mold with 1/8" of fiberglass, then remove it from the mold and store it outside until they were ready to finish it, at which point they would add another 2" or so of fiberglass (which is a lot--these are strong boats).  The problem is that the new fiberglass would not properly adhere to the original 1/8", and, over time, the outer 1/8" (the new fiberglass was added to the inside of the hull) starts to separate and large "blisters" form that must be fixed.  That is a problem we'd rather not deal with.  Well, when Sea Gem's owners had her built in 1986, they visited the boatyard every single week to ensure that there were no delays.  As a result, the hull was built all at once, and there are therefore no adhesion issues and Sea Gem has never had a blister.  In addition, the owners also had Sea Gem rebuilt in areas where other design and construction defects were found.  The result is that Sea Gem is a substantially stronger and lower-maintenance boat than any other Sailmaster.  Indeed, Sea Gem's owners sailed her around the world from 1999 to 2002.  You can read about their many adventures at:

Krissy will be writing soon with more details about Sea Gem, and we'll add some good photos as soon as we move aboard.  In the meantime, I'll highlight a few of the things that we like best about Sea Gem.

  • Constantly maintained to a better-than-new standard.  Most used boats require substantial work to get them up to date and in good working order.  Sea Gem has been maintained since new according to an exacting schedule.  Although we need to pick up where her owners left off, there is no time-consuming (and very expensive) catching up to do.  There are a couple projects (e.g. polishing storm windows, replacing windlass switch covers) I'd like to do, but they are of the type that can all be completed in an afternoon.

  • Big and comfortable enough for all our anticipated needs.  With endless storage space, three comfortable staterooms, and two full bathrooms with full-size showers, there is enough room for us, Moishe, (future) kids, and visiting friends and family.  We'll never grow out of Sea Gem.

  • Small enough to maneuver and sail everywhere we'd like to go.  Most 54' boats would be way too big for us.  On a typical 54-footer, the masts are too tall for the bridges around Miami.  The sails are too big to be handled by two normal humans.  The keels are too deep for the Bahamas.  And they are too unwieldy for non-professionals like us to maneuver in docking situations.  But not Sea Gem.  Like all Sailcruisers, Sea Gem has a shallow, Bahamas-friendly draft; short masts that can clear any fixed bridge in the area; a sail plan divided up amongst multiple, smaller sails, each of which can be easily controlled; and twin engines that make docking much easier. 

  • Already optimized for liveability.  Because Sea Gem's owners have lived aboard her for extended periods of time, they have already made all of the liveability improvements that we'd have otherwise had to figure out and do on our own.  For example, substantial storage has been added.  The standard refrigerator has been replaced with a bigger, upright one.  And, the fixed dining table in the salon that comes with all Sailcruisers has been replaced with a much nicer table that converts into a coffee table (therefore converting the salon into a proper living room).  That is something that we would have done on our own, at great expense, and we wouldn't have come up with a design as elegant as the one executed by the current owners. 

  • Already optimized for seaworthiness.  The Sailcruiser was designed primarily as a coastal cruiser.  Our aspirations, however, are to someday go much further than the coast.  With any other Sailcruiser, that would mean either getting a different boat or spending lots of money modifying the boat for offshore use.  Well, the current owners have already made those modifications.  The rig has been strengthened.  The cockpit drains have been increased in size.  The bow was been reinforced.  The decks have been strengthened.  The mast support has been strengthened.  The large salon windows are protected by storm windows.  Every cabinet, locker, and door can be locked in both the open and the closed position (imagine free-swinging doors while being tossed around by the waves).  And much, much more.
At bottom, Sea Gem perfectly fits all of our current and anticipated needs, and we are both very excited to move aboard.  Hungry for more?  Expect a better, more entertaining post about Sea Gem from Krissy soon.

Friday, July 22, 2011

1,000 Words

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll keep this post short, and add some pictures. Like many people, I have a lot of photos, which resulted in multiple photo albums. Sadly, my albums sat in a large box stored out of sight and forgotten. For the last 4 years, I had been meaning to go through my photo albums and purge unwanted pictures (duplicates, photos of people I don’t know, unidentifiable objects, etc.). Since making plans for life on a boat, I realized I didn’t just need to clean out my albums; I needed to get rid of them.

In 2003, I got my first digital camera. Since then, I rarely, if ever, print photos. I keep all of my pictures on my computer (and backed up on an external hard drive) in well organized files. Because my digital photos are at my fingertips, I actually look at them with some regularity.

My albums were obviously too bulky for a boat, but even if we had room for them, I didn’t want to risk actually bringing the albums onto the boat (water + photos + heat & humidity = ruined photos). So, I decided to scan my photos and toss the originals. At first, this idea didn’t sit well with me, but then I reminded myself that I am fine with all of my current and future photos being digital.

The actual process of scanning thousands of photos was as tedious as you might imagine. It was also surprisingly entertaining. For 3 days straight, I got to look at photos I hadn’t seen in years. There were photos of bad haircuts, embarrassing expressions, the 80's, and awkward phases (which, by the way, for me, lasted from age 11 to age 21). I laughed a lot during those three days, and since these gems were all in a digital format, I decided to email them around to my family, so they could laugh with me. Ah, modern technology.

So, my photos (all of them) are safe, backed-up, digital, and unlike before, they are actually being viewed and enjoyed.

Here are a few of my favorites:

My older sisters and I (I'm in the polo shirt/bathing suit/tights combo)

Unimpressed by my sheet cake

Matching accessories and well-groomed hair are overrated

Thankfully, we were staying in a mullet-friendly camp site

Sunday, July 17, 2011

We're Not Getting the Northwind, and Moishe isn't Going Anywhere...

We like to keep track of which of our blog posts get the most traffic.  It is interesting to find out which of our ramblings attract the most visitors.  Since the earliest days of our blog, our post about Moishe, our tiny dog with even tinier legs, has been ahead by a mile.  The post includes photos of him looking unhappy in his life jacket and drinking from his water bottle like a big gerbil.  That is quality entertainment, so it came as no surprise that the Moishe post appeared unbeatable.

So we were stunned--stunned--when the Moishe post was surpassed this last week.  And not by only a few views, but by dozens of views.  The conqueror?  My completely informative, couldn't-be-less-funny post about one of the boats we were considering, the Northwind 43.  We are hoping that, in time, Moishe will come roaring back and the Northwind post will fade back into the middle of the pack.

Why?  Well, for starters, we are not going to get the Northwind, so it really shouldn't be that relevant to our readers going forward.  The Northwind was in many ways even nicer than we thought it would be.  It is stunning to look at and is built better than probably any boat I've ever been on.  It is an incredible boat.  But, it was just too small for us.  Way too small.  It was in fact the only boat that we looked at that we thought we would not be able to comfortably live on, at least with our current requirements (business suits, frozen pizzas, etc).  So, that's that for the Northwind.

Moishe, on the other hand, is not going anywhere.  We are currently training him to sleep and otherwise be by himself out of his crate, as we will not be bringing it onto the boat.  He is doing great.  We are also getting him used to having only two toys (it is incredible how quickly dog accessories can accumulate).  Moishe, too, needs to cut down on his belongings in order to live on the boat.  Fortunately, he is not a human with the ability to reminisce about better days with more toys to play with, but is rather a dog with a tiny head that is happy playing with whatever is in front of him.  He's adjusting just fine.

Moishe also went for his first sail the other day during the sea trial of the boat that we are going to get (more on that later this week!).  He loved it.  So, stay tuned for new Moishe posts with photos of Moishe sailing, Moishe sitting on the deck in the sun, Moishe in the kayak, and Moishe barking at fish and birds.  Moishe, unlike the Northwind, is here to stay, and we expect our view count to reflect that shortly.  In the meantime, here is a photo of Moishe looking rather distinguished wrapped in his pink Snuggie, which was a recent gift from one of his (human) friends:

Friday, July 15, 2011

We've Been Shopping!

We haven’t posted anything in over a week because we’ve been on the road looking at boats! Our trip was exhausting, but extremely productive. We drove a total of almost 3,000 miles! It was a long drive, but thanks to our favorite road trip game called "Brown Car," it was enjoyable.
A note about Brown Car:

The game Brown Car is fairly self-explanatory. It is a car game we invented where we count the number brown cars we see while driving.
To play, you simply shout "brown car!" when you see a brown car. It doesn't sound like a fun game, and truthfully, it's not, but it helps pass the time. Should you want to play, the only rule you need to be aware of involves what constitutes the color brown. This is very important. The color brown must be what Crayola considers to be brown, not a brown that could also go by the name Desert Taupe, Burnt Caramel, Cappuccino Mist, Bronzed Sunset, etc. These pseudo brown colored cars are abundant, while pure brown cars are rare. That is what makes the game so challenging. During this trip, we saw a two-toned brown El Camino. I've been playing Brown Car for years, and believe me, a two-toned brown El Camino is extremely rare. We gave ourselves 2 points for that one.
Here is our trip's itinerary:

Wednesday July 6th
  • Depart Louisville, KY at 4pm
  • Brief stop in Murfreesboro, TN for dinner at 7pm at Kirkenburt's Smokehouse. We recommend the onion rings and the wings. Moishe thought highly of the brisket.
  • Arrive in Atlanta, GA at 11pm
Thursday July 7th
  • Depart Atlanta, GA at 5am (ugh!)
  • Arrive in Flagler Beach, FL at 11:30am for lunch at the Flagler Beach Fish Company (well worth stopping in for a bite if you're in the area) and to see the first of two Gulfstars.
  • Depart Flagler Beach, FL at 3pm
  • Arrive in Titusville, FL at 4pm to see the 2nd Gulfstar
  • Depart Titusville, FL at 5:30pm
  • Arrive in Marco Island, FL at 10:30pm
Friday July 8th
  • Marco Island all day!
Saturday July 9th
  • Depart Marco Island at 7am
  • Arrive in Fort Lauderdale at 10am to see the Northwind and the Tayana
  • Depart Fort Lauderdale at 12:30pm
  • Arrive in Aventura, FL for a quick lunch before seeing the Taswell
  • Depart Aventura at 3pm
  • Arrive in Miami, FL at 3:30pm to obtain a slip at the marina
  • Depart Miami, FL at 4pm
  • Arrive in Marco Island, FL at 6:30pm
Sunday July 10th
  • Marco Island all day!
Monday July 11th
  • Depart Marco Island at 9am
  • Arrive in Miami at Noon (job interviews)
  • Depart Miami at 5pm
  • Arrive in Marco Island at 7pm
  • Depart Marco Island at 8pm
  • Arrive in undisclosed location late in the evening
Tuesday July 12th
  • Depart undisclosed location at 6am
  • Arrive in undisclosed location a short while later to have undisclosed boat surveyed
  • Depart undisclosed location at approximately 12pm
  • Arrive in Chapel Hill, NC in the late evening (yay! impromptu visit with my oldest big sis)
Wednesday July 13th
  • Depart Chapel Hill, NC at 8am
  • Arrive in Louisville, KY at 6:30pm
If you've been following our blog, you may have noticed from our itinerary that we did not look at the Hans Christian 44 Pilothouse. You may also have noticed that we looked at a boat, the Tayana, that we hadn't mentioned as a finalist. Let me explain. Before heading down to FL to look at all of the boats, we discovered the Hans Christian was not in "move-in" or "sail-away" condition, or anything even close to that condition. Since we aren't in the market for a fixer-upper, the Hans Christian was not a viable option. Eric did a little last minute online shopping and discovered the Tayana 48, so we added that to our list of candidates.

Immediately upon seeing the boat that we decided to buy, we knew it was exactly what we wanted. It is a beautiful boat and will be a wonderful home. As far as which one we picked, you'll have to wait just a little while to find out...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Woolly Pockets!

The other morning, distress came over me as I sat in my chair looking at this:

No, you aren’t missing anything. My anguish was due to my houseplants. As I sat staring at my plants, I realized there was no way they would be able to come with us on the boat.

Boats heel (tilt) as they sail, and as a result, you can’t have little potted plants, well, anywhere. Try to imagine a houseplant on the deck of a boat cruising along at this angle:

Obviously, a plant nestled in a top-heavy terracotta pot would topple over, and before tumbling into the ocean, spill its contents all over the deck. I suppose this is why the term houseplant is common and boatplant is not.

I really didn’t want to get rid of my plants. My jade is from my mother’s massive jade plant (it’s more of a jade tree, really). She started my plant from a small branch of hers and it has grown into a rather robust little jade. My snake plant (aka mother-in-law’s tongue) was also a gift from my mom, and like the jade, it was started from one of her plants. In my mind, these plants are an extension of my mother, so I can’t just toss them out! I love them and they must come with me. The mini rose bush was a gift from my husband (awww…), so that has to come, too.

By now, you are beginning to understand why the sight of my houseplants was so upsetting to me. As I sat there that morning, staring at them, I tried to invent some kind of device that would allow me to bring my plants safely on board. Basically, everything I came up with involved duct tape and would have been extremely unsightly and impractical. Well, the universe must have noted my internal strife because, a few hours later, my Food Network Magazine arrived in the mail (which, by the way, I highly recommend), and when I opened it, I saw this:

Woolly Pockets! They are a soft and secure alternative for potted houseplants! I immediately went to the Woolly Pocket website and became ecstatic when I read this description:
"Create a splish-splash of colorful life anywhere, even in the tiniest of spaces. Islands are perfect for your office, dorm room or yacht!"
That’s right – the Woolly Pocket Island Collection is perfect for your yacht! I couldn’t have been happier. My husband was happy for me, too; that is, until he discovered the particular Woolly Pocket I wanted was $90. While I had determined this was a legitimate and necessary expense, Eric felt that perhaps $90 was too much to spend on a plant, and suggested I wait a few years to get one (this is how Eric says “No” when he doesn’t want to crush my spending dreams). My distress returned, but not for long. After reading the descriptions of each Island Woolly model, Eric discovered the dimensions of the smaller Woollies (which were significantly less expensive) would provide more than enough space for my plants. At least for now…

I placed my Woolly order and waited anxiously for my Pockets to arrive in the mail. Thanks to online tracking, I followed their journey every single day as they made their way from California to Kentucky. Finally, my Pockets arrived at exactly 10:00 AM on their scheduled delivery date. Moishe, our miniaturized dog, alerted me to the approaching FedEx truck, which meant I was able to open my front door before the FedEx man even got out of his truck. I’m not sure what kind of giddy look I had on my face as I watched my package being carried from the truck to my outstretched arms, but considering the FedEx man was basically laughing at me as he made his way to my door, I assume I looked a little too excited about my package's arrival. I believe I may have even uttered the words "Gimme! Gimme!"

Since I am a sucker for presentation, I thought I’d share how the Woolly Pockets looked packaged:

They were so adorable, I hated to fill them with dirt; however, this hesitation passed and I removed my plants from their brittle terracotta pots and tucked them into their new, plush Woolly Pockets. Here they are now:

As you can see, unlike traditional pots, which have wide tops and narrow bases, the Woolly Pocket Islands carry weight on the bottom, so spills and tipping should be less common--even on a boat. We’ll still need to find a secure place for them while sailing at sea, but that will be true for all items not bolted to the floor. Additionally, since Woolly Pockets have built-in moisture barriers, our teak decks and floors won’t get wet after we water our plants. This same barrier also helps conserve water, which means less watering in general.

Given the practicality of this item, combined with the fact that Woolly Pockets are made in the U.S.A. from recycled plastic bottles, they are a great purchase (no matter what the price). Most importantly, however, they are super cute.