Friday, March 25, 2011

Picked Up a Loose Pointer

DrC has found his idea of heaven. It is a boat full of tools complete with a man who speaks Toolish. The captain of Loose Pointer thus far finds it amusing that the good doctor has borrowed his crimping tool on 4 separate occasions. I have, however, instituted a New Rule: If you borrow a tool from Dan three or more times, you have to march your butt down to Home Depot and buy one. I'm hoping this will gradually reduce the number of calls to our buddy boat.

Yes, buddy boat. The source of all this good toolishness is s/v Loose Pointer with Dan, Kathryn and Adam on board. When we met them, they were headed down the Central American coastline to see all sorts of amazing ruins and the like. However, about a week ago, they decided to hang a right and cross the South Pacific with us instead. Adam is a teen in the Jaime-ish age range. The appeal of heading out with another teen along with the lure of the many kid boats Jaime knows that are either ready to go (Evergreen, Watcha Gonna Do, et al) or on their way already (Calou) was apparently a big factor in this decision. The good news is that this is tantamount to shipping out with a large tool chest off the starboard beam. The bad news is that Dan and Kathryn are -seriously- more experienced than DrC and I; They have cruised all over everywhere including already completing the Puddle Jump. Loose Pointer has been prepping for exactly 4 days, as near as I can tell, and they are almost done provisioning. Really? Do you have to make us look like such pikers? And then Dan and Adam keep talking about how they need to leave early so that we'll "catch up to them on the crossing." I'm reluctant to put up sail anywhere within their line of sight and forever dash their romantic illusion that all catamarans are faster than all monohulls.

We'll be lucky, in fact, if we move at all. We've been buying stuff and moving it on board practically non-stop since we arrived in Mexico, and we haven't even gone grocery shopping yet. In addition to all the boat gear, we've added god knows how many meters of canvass, lightly used sunbrella (for replacement hatch covers and a dinghy cover), fabric for cushions, skirts, quilts, and a belly dancing costume, and all the trimmings, strap, velcro and thread to put all these grand dreams to practice. We still haven't gotten rid of the old chain so now we have 400' of 3/8 G4 chain on board. We've just about rebuilt the med, tool, and sewing kits as well as built a galley from the ground up starting with forks, plates and cups and extending to spatulas, tortilla maker and citrus squeezer. We've fixed, installed, and upgraded dozens of systems. For details, feel free to the Don Quixote ship log ( Warning: The ship log is the nautical equivalent of telling you what we ate for lunch.

Greg comes down in a few days bringing our cat with him. Getting Dulcinea down here is proving to be an incredible nightmare of vet visits and paperwork. I don't really understand how this can be, but I attribute it to the lunacy of the American air line system. Getting Dulci TO the United States required a plane ticket. Getting her out of the United States is insanely complicated. I don't know how we are ever going to pay Greg back in time and Herculean effort. I offered to give him my first child, but he apparently has read this blog and met Jaime and isn't interested. Snap. The upside is that in three short days, our cat will be back on board, and the family will be whole. Greg is also shlepping down some god awful amount of "last minute purchases." I think we would have been okay if DrC hadn't at the last minute decided he couldn't live without a buoyancy compensator. Honestly, we're lucky Greg didn't take one look at this entire endeavor and tell us to take a long hop off a short peer.

Immediately after Greg's arrival, Uncle Glenn comes down as well. It'll all be a bit tight on DQ for awhile, but we'll enjoy the company. DrC and I are setting Sunday as our last full working day. Boat prep has to be done. We'll use the excuse of renting a car to pick up Greg and the cat to do one third of our provisioning. The next day we'll do the second third. And then after Greg and Glenn have headed back to the States, we'll do the final third and all the fresh foods. If the boat is still floating, we'll be ready to leave Mexico. The plan is to stay in La Paz through Bay Fest April 9-10, then depart the next morning. Ideally, we'll pick up a good friend of DrC's from -way- back and take him with us as we make our way around the corner via Muertos and Frailes. We'll spend two days on the dock in San Jose Del Cabo checking out of the country. Then on April 15, we'll head off shore.

At this point, I must admit that I am not convinced that sailing across the Pacific with three children and a cat is such a good idea. It is a very big ocean, a very small boat, and I'm not sure I can find enough room to stow six months of chocolate let alone six months of food.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Investing in a Future

Daddy is Home
Daddy is Home
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
DrC calls it deferred maintenance. I call it B.O.A.T. days. We keep buying stuff. We keep fixing things. Spending money is becoming a way of life. I really want this phase of preparing for the Puddle Jump to be over. The combination of no income, downward spiraling economies, and repeated hot exposure of our credit cards to merchants all over La Paz is causing me to lose sleep and burn holes in my stomach.

My good friend Behan (s/v Totem) reassures us that this is a temporary phenomena and must be done to keep us safe and happy. I know she is right… and I know this at both the intellectual, objective level as well as the instinctive twitchy level. When I was a whipper snapper n00b five years ago and almost divorced my husband on the spot when he spent an insane amount on our windlass, I was in error. Yelling about all the purchases of books, parts, oils, and tools over the year was a mistake. The Toast of today preparing for the jump does not complain to DrC while paying the Visa, Defender, West Marine, Moore Medical, and Gallery Marine bills. All of these decisions are the correct ones.

Buy the immersion suits.
Haul and paint the boat and replace the sail drive seals.
Get the third reefing points added to the main.
Replace the 200' of G40 chain with new chain, not used. Keep only the best 100' of the old chain for the stern hook.
Get the second computer, the GPS units both USP and handheld, the extra paper charts, and the backup radio units.
Load nearly 6 months worth of staple goods and household supplies, deferring only the purchase of fresh items for the crossing.
Add diesel and water capacity to the boat and get a replacement throttle head for the outboard.
Pay the stainless steel guys to build the frame for the wind generator and buy that second pair of blades from Maitairoa.

I do not regret any single purchase. However, collectively we are spending more in six weeks than we did in the prior six months. We are spending more specifically on Don Quixote than we have in five years… which is probably why DrC is correct; Many of the additions, changes and fixes are simply deferred maintenance on a cruising sail boat. Other major purchases are specifically and solely for disaster mitigation and recovery which -- I admit it here publicly -- we should have undertaken prior to leaving Elliot Bay in Seattle. Mea culpa.

On the the hand, I read the news and listen to the Morning Talk here in La Paz and recognize a simple truth: the Zombie Apocalypse started years ago. I don't know why DrC and I thought we were preparing for its coming when in reality it started long ago. Like a frog slowly being brought to a boil, we weren't paying enough attention to get out of the pot before getting hurt. Now, however, I go online to transfer the last of my US dollars into my visa to pay off bills to Amazon, Seattle Fabrics and Fisheries Supply and reassure myself that I'm buying the nautical equivalent of gold. These things we are investing in are portable wealth. And unlike gold, Don Quixote can sustain us and feed us. She provides shelter, water, power, and sewage disposal. She is a form of safety net.

On the whole, we are very fortunate. When all is said and done, we'll have a well-equipped, well-founded sailing vessel which we can take nearly anywhere. The boat will be stocked with enough food and supplies to keep us going for a half year, longer if we push it. With the oil market going berserk in the face of revolutions throughout the Arab world, I think it's time the Conger family started going all Purist Sail-All-the-Way rather than loading up on more jerry cans.

Let's see… If I extend our fresh food supply for the first leg from 4 to 5 weeks, we could simply drift along until we get there. I think there might be a tiny bit of room left in the locker under Jaime's bed...

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


Comic DQ
Comic DQ
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Pwn is a leetspeak slang term derived from the verb "own", as meaning to appropriate or to conquer to gain ownership. The term implies domination or humiliation of a rival. - Wikipedia

Perhaps the single lesson that defines our entire last five years -- which I should have engraved on my forehead so as to never forget -- is the following:

Your things own you.

It is a mistake to believe the common myth that you buy things and then you own them. In reality, you work very hard at some task and then convert that effort into stuff which then consumes your very reason for being. You pile and store and stash. You organize and inventory and display. It lives in your basement and under the bed. It sits in the driveway or hangs on the wall. And every bit of that stuff has ties to your soul, your reason and your sanity. It requires effort to keep it and money to sustain it. It needs a place to live, and it builds friends and a following and a life of its own. Your things are alive in your life, influencing your behavior and decisions in ways that even your family frequently fails to achieve.

I remember walking down the long Marina de La Paz dock a year ago with two distinct thoughts warring in my mind. First, I will never live in a house as nice as Don Quixote ever again. Second, I never want to own another house or boat again. It was simultaneously sad and freeing -- the depressing realization that the era of free money and living profligately as only two young professionals with very high salaries in the early 20 oughts were able combined with a sense of elation that we were now only responsible for the clothes on our back and the bags we dragged banging along the dock with us.

In New Zealand, we didn't have much in the way of material goods. In fact, arguably we started with nothing. We brought those few bags of things and then some ass hat stole them. Some of it was found; Thanks to insurance we replaced a lot of it, but we had the new versions sent to my Mom in the States. And as a side note having now said "Hello, how are you?" to these new things, they are not the same. The binoculars, in particular, look and act just like the old ones but don't have a whiff of the fine people who worked for me and with me for seven years and gave me the original pair. I don't like them, and they don't like me. We can tell we're not going to get along. But to the main point… We had a few beds, a table, some smelly couches and a pressure cooker. A stack of boat cookware I couldn't part with and a cast iron skillet. That cast iron skillet was DrC's first priority purchase on our arrival, by the way, which speaks volumes for his priorities. On those infrequent occasions when we would have people visit us in Chicken House, I remember a vague feeling of embarrassment. I'd wave helplessly at the battered dining room chairs and invite my guests to sit down and drink from the Kiwi equivalent of BamBam glasses and jelly jars. With just the family, however, it didn't feel empty. We tossed our clothes into misshapen piles at the bottom of built-in closets and considered it well stored and well cared for.

That moment was probably the nadir of the trajectory of Conger Family Ownership. We will never be associated with such a small number of things again. When it came time to leave, we gave a bag or two to Debbie for her church, delivered a box of condiments and spices to Deb, and sold five things on TradeMe. Then we flew away.

Don Quixote was waiting. She missed us. On our arrival, she was dusty, dry, and petulant. It's taken me nearly two weeks just to get all the basic systems to a point where she'll admit that she is a boat and not simply a large piece of semi-white plastic floating in apparent relationship to a dock in Mexico. She's always been a cranky bitch, so it comes as no surprise that getting her engines going has been a herculean effort. Every day, Don Quixote reminds me that she didn't like being left alone. She complains. It's in the sticky shackles and the squeaky hinges, the clouds of dust that poof up when I sit on her cushions or the way all the really important tools have managed to settle into the bottom of the back end of the deepest part of whatever locker I look in.

We've spent more in the past 60 days prepping this boat to cross the Pacific than we did during our entire year in New Zealand. We arrived in Mexico with a van full of stuff, more stuff then we ever possessed while living on the hard last year. Why spend so much? Why so many items? You could say it's because we need all these things to cross the Pacific safely. Arguably that's true, though no doubt purest sailors would point out that Kon Tiki made it across in a raft so all of this expenditure is superfluous. In reality, we bought all this stuff because Don Quixote is a really expensive lady who requires boat jewelry. Our mistress exudes dominatrix level power over our submissive, awed and beaten selves. We bow down before her line wielding superiority. We are pwnd by the boat we call home.

I don't really like it. I like being here in La Paz. I actually love being back on the boat. We all snapped into place, the girls noting within days that it felt as though we had never left. I'm comfortable here at a bone deep level I never achieved in Chicken House. It is possible that I might actually BE a sailor and not just play one on the interwebs. So the thing I don't like is that I am constantly spending money now to take care of this place, this house, this boat, this thing. Money pours through my fingers like mercury in a glittering torrent returning in the form of more things to take care of, more items to stow, more bits to keep track of. I'm not sure this is an improvement. The verdict is out on whether or not on balance being owned by this beautiful, French, production, plastic catamaran is a boon and salve to my sailing soul or merely another pile of bricks in the backpack of life.