Friday, May 27, 2016

April / May in Seattle 2016

Finally after the all time record winter for Rains in Seattle we have more sun days than rainy days.

The barges hauling containers and all sorts of other stuff to Alaska are always interesting.
A screen shot taken from my Marine
App shows the tug to be The Alaska Titan

Bound for Whittier Alaska, the 120' tug looks small,  he has a ways to go.

Sun on the Patio is time to grill.

I stopped counting agter my 100th different PNW ale but that is no reason to not try something new.

We got a new volunteer gig at the ACT Theatre

A play about America's famous assassins, it all adds up when you consider their stories back to back.

This Little Steam Ship is having it's boiler reworked.

Rack and Pinion steering

Kelp just floating along.

Indigenous kids spiffing up the CWB Totem Pole.

Pirate out front on a fabulous day of Teaching Sail now Students.

Still considering trawlers, this is a Sockeye 45

Widgeon is for sale, really like the looks but just to big for us.

Still Swinging at the Chicken Park.

There are many of these old wood Chris Crafts completely restored $$$$

To busy to get the story on this one/

Drew is getting brave enough to start climbing with the big kides at the Blue Swing Park.

Cruise Season officially starts and Thousands come and go from Seattle as three cruise ships depart Seattle every Wed. and Sunday.

These type of ships common on the Gulf coast are a novelty up here. This Dockwise vessel is hauling away an old Dry Dock, guess someone in Mexico wants it :

Just when I thought the building boom was done in South Lake Union, More old  buildings are cleard for the amazon variety.

Whoops, our mistake to go to the REI flagship store on the first day of their spring Sale. about 200 people in line to checkout.

Always an interesting vessel on Lake Union

April in Seattle 2016

April was kind of like wait and see. If Wand'rin Star sold we would resume our boat search, especially since we already have a slip waiting for us in Eagle Harbor. We lowered the asking price of Wand'rin Star one more time and then started considering a plan to bring the boat to Seattle if there were no firm offers by May.A search for trucking companies, a few emails to our broker Kent Little in Kemah, and calls to boat yards here and in Kemah to make plans for de-commissioning and re-commissioning. The pleasant warmer weather made all the difference. 
As I write this we have evolved well into May and it seems Wand'rin Star is destined to return to the PNW. A contract with a Texas Trucker has been finalized we are just waiting on a date from the Trucker which is sometimes first of July. I will be heading down Early June to get preliminary de-commissioning completed and make arrangements with a rigger and boat yard for the work. May has also brought news of a new family member arriving around November 22. This baby girl will be our third granddaughter and the second child for our Seattle family. Just as we were starting to wind down our grand-parenting it has all started back up again.

May teased us with a early week of summer like Seattle weather, all sun and 80-89 degree temps, but the spring returned to normal with highs 65-low 70's and spotty rain. Just as I am about to go to Kemah I get a call from a broker and someone is interested in Wand'rin Star. I'm trying to be patient but it is hard since so much time has been spent already planning to have the boat moved here. Going to Texas anyway and what will be will be.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Which Came First, Wander or Wonder?

The weekend night concierge at our condo building suggested a book to me that one of his friends wrote, "Three Years in a 12-Foot Boat" by Stephen G. Ladd. It is an adventure story of 37 year old Ladd's three year journey in a very small. home built sailing/rowing, vessel down United States Rivers to the Gulf Of Mexico and eventually through the Panama Canal to the Pacific coast of Columbia. Then onward across South America's rivers to the Caribbean and then Northward through the Leeward and Windward island chain to Florida where he secured a car and trailer to return to his home in Bremerton, Washington. Ladd was no stranger to taking off on a seemingly crazy adventure. Right after graduating high school he traveled around alone throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. He even spent a month in a Moroccan Prison. When he returned home at the age of 20 he entered Harvard and eventually became a City Planner in communities near his hometown in Washington State.
His account of his three years in a 12-foot boat was sort of the feather that broke the camel's back. After reading so many adventure sailing stories, cruising blogs and, historical explorations such as Earnest Shackleton's my brain demanded that I just stop and try to find the common elements that seem to encourage persons from all types of background to leave their everyday lives to seek out their own adventure.
Ladd describes his want to take off on such adventures in many ways throughout his book but "wanderlust" is the word that he continues to return to. The short definition: wanderlust is a strong desire for or an impulse to wander. As you are in the quest to understand the desire you also run into "wonderlust". As a noun wonderlust is a desire for something strange and surprising, astonishment or admiration. This can cause an obsession with traveling to find adventure, excitement or escape from routine and responsibility, the desire to be in a constant state of wonder as in "Joe had a serious case of wonderlust: he was bored of anything ordinary."

Still trying to understand wander and wonder as it relates to humankind. I feel that it is somehow just innate in our DNA. Early man had to wander around just to get a bite to eat, not sure if they wondered about anything but surely at some point they had to wonder. Slow but surely humans wandered in search of food, water and more inhabitable environments long enough to populate most of the earths surface. Surely there must be a place to get a bite to eat that is not always extremely cold or extremely hot year round. Groups or tribes wandered together. Someone wondered enough to find a way to make a fire, then some dude made a wheel and and people stopped wandering around so much. They built more or less permanent shelter and communities. Once they exhausted the food and other stuff they began to need  in their neighborhood they sent out explorers to find more to bring back to the Queen Ant. The thing about the explorers though is that they were organized groups that had a mission. Many had large commissions that came with promised wealth and large support teams. They sort of wandered around till they found stuff and then brought it home to the Queen Ant. Humankind seem to evolve out of the pressing need to wander, especially since if they crossed the other tribes borders they could get killed. Economies developed to the extent that the tribes could trade their stuff for other tribes stuff. But there were still some pioneers, explorers and some mysterious lands like the Arctic, Antarctic and other far away lands. The expeditions led by Sir Earnest Shackelton to the Antarctic is certainly among the top survival stories. Shackelton and his men endured extreme hardships yet he was able to bring all his men back alive. I certainly have not read all the accounts from the explorers of planet earth but I have a hard time imagining anyone else who had to endure a more difficult mission than Earnest Shackleton and come out alive. Shackleton had a crew of able bodied men to help accomplish their feat. Large expeditions certainly had the elements of wander and wonder, but most had the additional motivations of riches, power, and/or notoriety. 

What about all the people who wander alone? 
Of course my recent blogs about Jousha Slocum sailing around the world alone contributed to this diatribe but there are all sorts of humans that have survived and died doing all sorts of incredible adventures from flying (where's Amelia?) , hiking, climbing, swimming, rowing, and many fruit cake ideas that bring into to play the need for the Darwin Awards:

Reza Beluchi is one of those fruitcakes but he did not even come close to a Darwin Award, after his first failed attempt and rescue he tried again:

What separates those that succeed in their endeavor and those that fail?
1. Preparedness? Bob Bitchin said "The difference between an adventure and an ordeal is attitude".
2. Luck? See number 6
3. Is it a matter of tolerance/intolerance? Either physical, mental , and/or cultural
4. Fear or Courage?  Fear and courage that is healthy or fear and courage that puts one at risk.
5. Cultural Responsivity?
6. Perhaps the "Laws of Attraction" are in play?

Stephen Ladd and Joshua Slocum certainly had the appropriate attitudes to end their quest successfully, One could argue that Slocum was much better prepared due to his long career commanding ships sailing the worlds ocean. When it came to tolerance I think Slocum and Ladd were pretty much equal, however Ladd shared much more of this side of him in his book than did Slocum. I believe they were pretty well matched on cultural responsivity, appropriate fear and courage as well . They both new and understood their own limits when it came to surviving in and among desperate communities. When they were challenged they each found a solution to their own survival.

How does all this translate to the cruising couple?
There are a lot of couples out there cruising the worlds waterways and oceans. Most are not on an expedition, they are just out there wandering around and often wondering at their own ability to actually be so independent far away from  the modern resources we all become accustomed to and take for granted on a daily basis. They develop a shared tolerance for each challenge they come upon in their travels. The person that is least tolerant tempers the other, the one that is most tolerant stretches the other. They sort of meet somewhere in the middle, thus the shared tolerance for anything perceived as different. They will also form some type of shared cultural responsivity. I think both fear and courage come into play. If that is true then certainly the Laws of Attraction have a big foothold in anyone's experience.

For instance due to the "Cruisers Net" many sailing around from island to island form a image of what to expect at their next destination due to the advice and warnings from those that come before them. The cruisers net is most helpful for navigation and weather reports but less valuable when it comes to how to interact with the culture that you are about to experience. Often the advice comes from some arrogance or fear rather than acceptance and respect. It is not uncommon to read sailing blogs that complain of the treatment they received on some Caribbean island and then read another's account who had a fantastic experience. Cruisers as a class are pretty tolerant and resourceful in general but sometimes they allow their "privilege" to rear its ugly head in someone else's country. Here comes the Law of Attraction.

In a more extreme example there are certainly countries where extreme poverty and or lack of government create hostile environments for your average cruising couple. Here is a map for 2016 on Piracy risk by nation:  A few  years ago there were a couple of reported incidents on private yachts in Venezuela. The SSCA or Seven Seas Cruisers Association issued a bulletin warning all cruisers to avoid Venezuela. However I read in in the same year some cruisers had uneventful and even excellent experiences cruising Venezuela. One couple cruised Venezuela purposely, the other couple were forced into Venezuela by storms when they intended not to. My guess is these people had the tolerance of Slocum and Ladd and fit into the Venezuelan culture without pissing anyone off and they were smart enough not to put themselves in compromising positions.

The Royal Caribbean's "Explorer of the Seas" leaving May 18,  Seattle to Alaska. At 1,025' it is the largest cruise ship to visit the West coast.
With 3,114 passengers the Explorer of the Seas will be a lifetime experience for many who take the Seven day cruise to Alaska. To some of them this will be a huge adventure on a ship in the ocean for the first time in their lives going to a distant corner on planet Earth. Each find their own comfort level when it comes to wandering.

Soon we will be able to restart our wandering aboard Wand'rin Star. For at least the next year or so our wandering will be confined to day or weekend trips as our second Pacific Northwest grandchild is due in November. We may even squeeze out a short voyage up to the San Juan Islands in the not to distant future.

Lee can tell you about it:

Just taking a stab but I think the wonder comes before the wander

Friday, May 6, 2016

In the Wake of the Spray - Kenneth E. Slack

A good sailor friend, Tom Arnold, of Corpus Christi,  Texas recommended that I read In the Wake of the Spray after I published a blog about attending one of the speaker series at the Center For Wooden Boats where the Great-Great granddaughter of Joshua Slocum, Susan Slocum Dryer spoke,

Written by Kenneth E. Slack, the book is an exhaustive research into all of the "Spray Hulls" built after Joshua Slocum's successful sail around the world alone during 1895-1898. The copies of Joshua Slocum's Spray varied widely from exact copies to enlarged copies with several deviations. Slack gives a lot of insight as to why anyone in the 20th century would want to build a copy of a vessel that was originally designed and built in the late 1700's. The hull that Joshua Slocum rebuilt was already 100 years old when he refit the entire vessel in the late 1800's. The lure of the Spray hull is primarily in it's sea keeping abilities. Two of which stand out: 1. the ability of the crew to balance the sails so the vessel will self steer for hours on end and 2. the ability to sail through storms, even very serious storms without shipping any big water or waves on deck. Safety and self steering are all important on ocean voyages, especially for short handed crews. Slack's book goes into great detail about these two features of the spray hull design in great detail, even so far as to provide the drawings so you could build your on if so motivated.

In the event you are not motivated to build your on but still want such a handy little ship then you of course can pay someone else to build you a copy. These days you can have someone like Bruce Roberts to custom build a Spray hull of any size for you. just see . OR you can actually buy one that someone else has started to build but is incomplete for one reason or the other at bargain prices
There are many used Spray hulls for sale by owner  as well see
or the Brokerage market
I never got around to reading Joshua Slocum's book until well after we bought Wand'rin Star so all of this interest in the Spray hull design never entered into any of our considerations as we searched for our cruising vessel. Wand'rin Star has shown to be a very safe vessel even in big seas and high winds. The self steering though is by a very dependable autopilot. I have to admit above all other considerations, some type of self steering system and safety are the top of the concerns when it comes to long distance cruising.

What continues to amaze me that even in this age of modern yachts and technology, this very old idea of how to sail across Oceans is still relevant.I am sure Slack's book just intensified the interest in the Spray hull. There are a couple of more books out there written about Joshua Slocum so I will find time to read them just to see what they add to this incredible story that continues to be written along with each new Spray that sets out for yet another world voyage.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Marina Search aka the Waiting List Game

The Marina Search aka the Waiting List Game

Everything about boating and sailing is different here in the Pacific Northwest compared to the Southern coast along the Gulf of Mexico. A lot of it has to do with the weather and environment and the rest of it has to do with the sailing culture that developed due to the environment here. I tried to describe it to my friends in Texas by describing the difference as being similar to the difference between a fine PNW IPA and a Bud Light. A few seemed to be miffed about my comparison but it is true! The Gulf of Mexico Coast is all flip flops and shorts and cold as you can get it Lager's of choice which turns out to be a Bud Lite, Miller Lite, Coors Lite, or in Florida a Natural Lite or PBR. If you fall off a boat in the Gulf of Mexico it is not near the circumstances of falling off into the 48 degree water up here. In the Gulf you can swim around for a few hours waiting on your friends to get the boat turned around and pick you up. Here you have about 15 minutes before hypothermia sets in. That fact alone sets the sailing culture in very different latitude and attitude. Things are much more laid back and easy going in the South, here everything is more serious and less tolerant of inexperience on the water.
The differences are seen in all aspects of boating including buying and selling boats, boat brokers, boat yards and those who do repair work, and in the Marinas where so many private vessels are moored. 
In our journey in the transition to having our own vessel in the PNW we have become acutely aware that every marina within 40 miles of Seattle has anywhere from a three month to a seven year wait list. Out of the marinas on Puget Sound in Seattle just one, Shillshole Marina allows live aboards. It is a huge marina and has a 300 vessel live aboard community since just 10% of the moorage slips are available for live aboard at all marinas in Washington state you can see the need for wait list. Shillshole has a one - two year wait list currently for live aboard status. We want to be close to family in Seattle and being near a Ferry Line can make it a whole lot easier to get into Seattle by car or by foot. 
The plan of course was to sell Wand'rin Star in Texas and buy perhaps a 37-39' trawler up here. Our vessel has yet to draw a serious offer and so we have decided that if there is not an offer on our vessel by end of May 2016, then we will just bring our vessel back up here. We have done a little shopping for boats here and most of the ones that we have seen in our price range will need some fixing up, much like our vessel required some substantial work before we started our cruise to Florida.So this is just one more reason to bring our vessel here since it is already fixed and simply requires a big truck to haul her up.

There is a great online resource for researching marinas throughout the Puget Sound and beyond area Puget Sound Marina Listings: . This listing along with the Active Captain interactive cruising guide and active map provide everything required to research area marinas. There are so many that you need the resources to cross off those on the list that do not meet your needs. 

It has been very time consuming and hard enough with these valuable resources so I'm not sure what it would be like without them. By using the resources we made a list of prospective marinas. We then went to each individual marinas web site to check on prices and wait list policy. Every marina has wait list from three months up to seven years! There are wait list for just a regular moorage slip and then there are wait list for live aboard status. Some marinas require you to have a vessel moored in their marina prior to being eligible for their live aboard wait list. Some wait list are free and others have a annual fee from $25-$50. The only way to know the details is to either call each individual marina or go visit them. Some marinas only have moorage available during the off season which is from September through April.

Port of Edmonds Marina, just about a two hour sail North of Seattle take live-aboards but you have to have your boat in the marina before you can get on the lengthy live aboard wait list. Port Kingston marina had a 7 year wait list and when I told her we would even take a 50' slip, she said that would be worse since they have a 10 year wait list!
I discovered the the marina in Bremerton had the shortest wait list of all, just three months. We had been over there before on a day trip and it was the only marina I have seen with several empty slips. Not sure why but things began adding up for us since it had a Ferry terminal to Seattle right next door. The marina looks nice, very wide concrete floating docks and everything looks to be pretty new. In fact the marina was converted to all new docks just a few years ago along with a new breakwater and several other upgrades. We paid a visit to the marina and I talked to several live-aboards to get some local info. The only thing about this location is that they can get 6 knot currents flowing through the marina at times. The local explained that if you happen to come in during a strong current you just tie up to one of the long docks where it is easy to navigate and them move your boat to your slip when the tide is much more calm.

The Port of Bremerton Marina is a 50 minute Ferry ride away from Seattle

The Bremerton navy Shipyards are also right next to the Marina

The ship yards as seen from the incoming Ferry

The Navy ship yards have been here since the 1930's and have a large footprint.

The Port of Bremerton Marina as seen from the incoming Ferry

An Aerial shot of the Bremerton Marina

Closer up showing the near by ship yards. and Ferry dock just to the right of the marina. Every time a Ferry docks a small wake enters the marina and rocks the boats. This goes on till about 1am. and restarts about 5am.

Just across Sinclair Inlet from Port of Bremerton Marina is Port Orchard also managed by the Port of Bremerton, another possible choice but we would have to take a  water taxi over to the ferry from here. No ferry wakes here and the tide is not as big a problem as it is at Bremerton.

Better view of the Cascades from Port Orchard.

We nearly wrote a check and a contract for the first available slip in Bremerton or Port Orchard. The reality of the difficulty of having a slip ready for whatever vessel we would end up with here started growing on us. Fortunately, the waiting list for the two marinas managed by the Port of Bremerton were free so we just put our names down.
The next Day I started researching the possibility of a Lake Union Marina. I found 15 marinas around the lake that accepted live-aboards. I planned on just walking around the lake and stopping in at each of the marina offices as the best way to get the job done. The Lake offers a fresh water moorage and of course instant access to Seattle by foot. It is a short motor down the Lake Washington ship canal to the locks and out to Puget Sound. You never know sometimes your timing just happens to be right and something pops up. I discussed it with the Admiral and we agreed we would rather be in the Sound of possible but we might use Lake Union as a short term option. The Admiral asked if I would consider Lake Washington Marinas and I have zero interest being that far from the sound.

An Aerial view of Lake Union looking South. The channel to the right goes out to Puget Sound and the channel to the left goes to Lake Washington.

A closer Aerial view lookin North shoes the numerous marinas lining the Lake
By Jelson25 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

I had already called Winslow Wharf Marina and two other marinas on the North shore of Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island, just a 35 minute Ferry ride from Seattle. All of the marinas on the North Shore are in easy walking distance to the Ferry. All of the marinas on the North shore had waiting list of 2 years or more. I thought I would research out the 2-3 marinas on the South Shore of Eagle Harbor and started by calling Eagle Harbor Marina. I talked to Doug, The Harbor Master. I told him I knew he had a waiting list but would like to get our name on if possible. Doug said " I don't have any waiting list for a vessel your size" WHAAAAT? I told him we would ride the Ferry over Thursday and come talk to him about the slip.

The Harbor behind the Ferry in the Distance is Eagle Harbor, just across Elliot Bay from Seattle. Those are the Olympic Mountains in the background.

It is about a 15 minute drive around to Eagle Harbor Marina from the Ferry dock

Spring was in full bloom and the tree pollen strong.

But it is an awesome harbor. Looking NorthWest towards the end of the cove.

Just across from the marina is a facility used to repair or decommission old ferries.

We were afraid there would be some huge wakes in here form the ferries, thought that may be why there were some empty and available slips. But No wake at all from the Ferries.

Looking East out the Mouth of the Harbor. The Marina is protected from all prevailing winds either Southeast or Northwest.

The Harbor Master Doug gave us a great tour of the marina and the facilities. They even have a small gym big enough for 3-4 persons and a big club room where you can watch the Seahawks with all the other live aboard community there. Doug Gave us the choice of four slips that were available but he was kind enough to point out the best of the four slips for a boat our size.
We were both excited to find this opportunity. a slip in an awesome Harbor with a short Ferry ride to Seattle seemed perfect. I knew we would have to talk about it a bit so I told Doug we would call him in a few hours to let him know. We had already planned on driving over to Poulsbo, about 30 minutes to the West in Liberty Bay to talk to the harbor Master of Liberty Bay Marina where we spent a couple of weeks after we bought Wand'rin Star. Liberty Bay has to be one of the most scenic areas near Seattle. The town there was settled and still is largely Scandinavian.
 We mentioned live aboard wait list and the Harbor Master just laughed. I knew that possibility was far fetched since I had already talked to the harbor master at Poulsbo and there was a several years wait list for live aboard there and you had to have your vessel in the marina before you could even get on the list. She did say that there would be a slip available for us July 3rd if we wanted it. She wrote down our contact info said she would call us to confirm in July.

View from Liberty Bay Marina.

Liberty Bay harbor Seal

We drove back to Eagle Harbor and found Harbor Master Doug was gone on an errand.

Upstairs clubhouse at Eagle Harbor with rest rooms, showers, and small gym on the first floor. 

Part of the resident pair of Eagles at Eagle Harbor.

Iv always wanted to drive to Blakely Harbor on the South end of Bainbridge just to see what's there. It was just a 10 minute drive away and something to do while we waited on Doug.

A few vessels out in the center on Mooring balls.

One at a private dock and a couple of boats anchored out.

Wondered if this was old marina at the end of Blakely Harbor

Low tide at Blakely Harbor

Doug drove up just as we returned to the Marina. We told Doug to write up a contract. He asked for a $250 deposit and the Lease starts in June. We walked back down to see the slip one more time and talked to some nearby tenets who confirmed everything we felt about the marina. 
We thought we would have to wait an hour or so for the next ferry but as it turned out the ferry was a little late so we got on immediately.

The ferry ride between Bainbridge and Seattle is the Best Happy Hour in the Region, they always have a fine IPA available in the Gallery.
Just a 35 minute ferry ride away.