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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

FAFFQ's ( Frequently Asked Family & Friend Questions)


Going to take the scenic route for a short trip here on the blog-way.  I should had warned you in the first blog something I tell my students; I never take the interstate when I have a choice, rather the scenic route, so this is a little of the scenic route.

As you know and perhaps have the scares to prove, we have just finished the holy trinity of the “family” holidays:  Thanksgiving, Christmas, and to a lesser degree New Years.  Now most of my holidays has been spent in a paint can as I renovate our house that we will be selling to buy the boat that will take us on our adventure; but (there’s always a but) we did venture both to Houston for Jo’s stepmothers 90 Birthday and to see her family then the day after Christmas to Colorado Springs to see my dad and his girlfriend (ok does that sound odd to anyone else).  Both those visits were, aside from their intended purpose, filled with questions that, well, questioned our sanity.  So I thought it would be interesting (well a least to me) to publically answer some of those questions and invite ones from you, so here goes!

1.     Are we crazy/insane/out of our mind/etc.?

This is easy; most of you know us, YES, next question. 

Well maybe a little more of an answer is needed.  Since I haven’t gotten beyond the “then I met a girl, with a boat” in my original thread of thought on Getting Started, some of this might not make sense.  Honestly if some of it makes sense I will be pleased.  I once read that going off to sea on a sailboat, you know sailing off into the sunset, was the modern day equivalent of sailing off the edge of the earth; you didn’t come back.  Crazy right?  Well since the world is round that if you keep your vessel upright and on top of the water (this is VERY important) that eventually you will end up in the general vicinity of where you began, give or take several thousand hundred miles.  It is, however, a total lifestyle change. Fires of all we will be going from something that is solid (except for my friends in California) land, to liquid i.e. water (since we will be sailing is the lower latitudes the only solid form of water, ice, we will see will be in our sundowner).  We will be going from over 3500 square feet of beautiful home (remember its for sale) to several hundred, if you include the deck, of constantly moving looking to bruise you boat.  Water is limited so showers are short, power is severely limited and reserved for those functions that keep you on top of the water and not running into things (you live off batteries), if you run out of flower, or Rum, there is no supermarket to run out to, there are no plumbers, electricians, doctors, or mechanics at sea, and you are at the mercy of mother nature.  Sounds like a blast, right, only a crazy person would do this.  So……

2.     Why go cruising on a small boat?

Well simple put, it’s the shared dream we both have had for a long time and life is all too short to not make your dreams a reality if you can.  Both Jo and I like adventure, (well me more that her) many of you have met our children!  We are attracted to the reality of waking up on the hook (anchored) in a secluded bay with no one else around and being able to take our island with us wherever we go.  Of course we like the idea of being self-sufficient and off-the-grid as much as possible.  I particularly like the idea that my new dress code will be shorts and flip-flops except when I have to check in and out of foreign countries.  We like the possibility of sharing our lifestyle with friends and meeting new friends who share our insanity.  We like the fact that it is not easy. 

3.     Will you have a homeport?

Yes and no.  Insomuch as will we have a home on land, no, we will remain a resident of a state, probably Texas but if not Florida.  Many cruisers make use of mail-forwarding services that function as their permanent residence on land for the sake of not only mail but for drivers licenses, passports, voting etc.  The one best set up to dealing with cruising sailors is in Florida, but there are many in Texas, and a large one in Houston which is where Jo’s family is so that might be best.  My father thinks we should have a condo or someplace on land to call home but the reality of the bank account will not allow for that.  In short, the boat is our home.  Where the boat is registered out of is another matter and has to do with taxes, which is why lawyers and brokers become involved in the process. 

4.     What kind of boat will you have?

Although we haven’t picked out the boat, we do know we want a catamaran (two hulls) as opposed to a mono hull (one hull).  The joke is, at least I think it is a joke, that with a cat if we get in a fight one can sleep in one hull and one in the other.  The real reason is we like the space and comfort afforded to us on two hulls.  There are lots of particulars involved but for now I will keep it basic. Living accommodations are located in the two hulls (the part that sits on the water) as well as the heads (restrooms) showers, and Jo’s sewing space.  The galley (kitchen) and eating/social space (salon) are located on the bridge-deck (the space between the two hulls).  Now some cats have the galley in one of the hulls but for now we will keep it in the salon, which makes it a “galley-up” arrangement.  The area outside the salon, usually aft (towards the back) also is a social space as well as often the helm (where you steer).  Forward of the salon is the foredeck that on most cat’s consist of a mesh trampoline like with the popular beach cats. 

As for which specific cat, well we have a short list that is always evolving.  A delivery captain, mentor, and friend of mine told me there are three things to consider when buying a boat: performance, comfort, and price.  The catch is, at least for most of us, you only get two of the three.  Since the cat we buy is directly tied to what we sell our house for one of my two in price and since we want to live aboard comfort is the second.  Yes you can have all three, it’s called a Gunboat and it costs 1.5 million or more.  The next consideration is new or used again price comes into consideration.  A friend asked me what does something like what you want cost?  This is the downside of a cat; for the most part they are considerably more expensive that a mono hull.  So for us, used, ideally 5-7 years old but an older vessel that is seaworthy and not been beat to death could work. For an example of what we are looking at go to:



5.     Are they safe?  Won’t they flip-over or sink?

The joke among mono hull sailors is that a cat’s most natural position is upside down, to which the cat sailors reply is the most natural position for a mono hull is on the bottom of the ocean.  Nothing is un-sinkable; if you try hard enough you can send anything to the bottom of the ocean.  Without going into Navel Architecture, the key to staying afloat on a mono hull is to stay upright.  The keel accomplishes this; a big heavy piece of led incased in fiberglass and bolted to the bottom of the hull.  It works to counterbalance the forces of the wind and weight of the mast (the big stick thing where the sail lives) and mainsail.  If for any reason the keel falls off (it happens more than you’d think) the boat goes down; not good.  With a cat, the weight and forces placed on the mast and rigging is counterbalances by the width of the boat.  Common design practices dictate the width (beam) is at least half the length.  There are minimal keels that serve to help the cat sail closer to the wind but it is the beam that keeps it upright.  In addition, they are designed in such a way that even if one or two of the hulls are filled with water the bridge deck will keep them afloat; you wont go anywhere but your afloat until help comes.  There are other things that can go wrong and make for a very bad day but the same is true of driving in Lubbock, Houston, or Dallas; well anywhere for that matter.

Here’s an interesting perspective from a cat sailor/broker:

This brings us to the next question:

6.     Aren’t you, scared?

 Of course, but with planning and common sense seamanship we should be ok.  I have taken several of the ASA (American Sailing Association) classes, in fact almost all of them and will be starting work on my USCG Masters License in the fall.  We have chartered several boats; one with just the two of us, and I am planning to take diesel mechanics classes (auxiliary engines are a necessity in my opinion) and we will be taking wilderness first aid or advanced first aid training.  We will control all we can control and hope for good luck and the kindness of strangers for the rest.  Speaking of strangers…..

7.     What about pirates, are you going to carry guns?

Pirates are a concern but we will stay away from Somali, Yemen, and parts of Indonesia and trouble spots in the Caribbean.   Most of what I have read and talked to others about is not what is going on in the waters off the coast of Somali, but more akin to armed robbery; yes sometimes with tragic consequences.  As of now I have no plans to carry guns.  The rest of the world, especially the third world, doesn’t embrace the 2nd amendment the way we do in the USA.  You must declare your guns when you check into the country at which time they keep either your guns or bullets until you leave their country and since guns & bullets go together one without the other is useless.   If you decide not to declare your weapon, well you don’t want to do that.  We will carry wasp/bear/pepper spray and maybe a Taser but for the most part we will try to avoid those locations known for this kind of activity.    

Here is an interesting websites with up to date piracy reports:


8.     Communications, how will you stay in touch?

It is easier than even with sat phones, the Wi-Fi all over the world and even cell phones.  We will also have a Single Sideband Radio SSB that will be hooked up to a modem for email and weather files.  We will have a Spot locator on board that will send locations to my Facebook page and of course I hope to keep this blog going.  We will also have emergency locator devices that will help locate us and send a distress message if we get in trouble.

9.     So what are you going to name your boat?

No one really has asked but I thought it would be interesting.  Of course it the boat already has a name a renaming ritual must be followed so we might leave it as is if we like it but right now (in no particular order) are names we have been kicking around:

Ob-La-Di (the dinghy Ob-La-Da)
Naked Turtle (Jo’s suggestion)
Sweat & Grace
Turn the Page
Semi True Story
Not Fade Away

Yes, all except Naked Turtle have ties to music.

The list is developing so feel free to suggest names.

10. What will you do with all your possessions?

Can you say estate sale?  No really, we plan to take very little with us, store some for at least a year and sell or giveaway the rest.  The house goes on the market this March, and if it sells quick and for enough we will move into an apartment until we cast-off the dock lines.

The biggest position in question is Jo’s long arm quilting machine.  The plan now is to break it down (it fit in the back of her Prius) make the machine head as water tight as possible and spray it all with WD 40 and when we decide to anchor in one location for a while see if we can find some space on the hard (land) to sit it up for her to do her work and to help others with their quilting.  All my fly fishing gear is pretty compact so it doesn’t take up much the space.  We are in the process of striking Christmas and have invited the girls over to take what they (some tears were involved) want and we will take one box of special decorations and sell/giveaway the rest.  For me the biggest question is what to do with work product of over 30 years of designing scenery and lights.  Drawings, renderings, models, there is a lot of shit I have accumulated.  I was going through my attic the other day and found my first rendering from undergraduate school (1976) and I have designed over 200 shows since then.  One thought is a huge bonfire.  It tired that after I graduated from TTU with my Italian books and Steve and I set the back yard on fire, so maybe not the best idea.  I may give them away, let my daughters take what they want, I just don’t know.  Other than that we are culling down and try not to buy anything that doesn’t fit on or is needed on the boat.  Things I know we won’t need:  sweaters, heavy winter gear, suits (well except one for marrying and burying) and ties, god I hate ties!  So if you’re around it will be one hell of a fire sale.

11. What about your children and family, aren’t you being selfish?

Those of you, who know us and know our son, know this is the single biggest issue.  As I posted to Facebook back in July of 2009, Erik is now in a group home with three other men.  Think of the Boy’s Next Door meets Animal House.  He had lived with us for 29 years and we knew this move was inevitable whether we sailed away or not.  I will say that we are mostly pleased with how it has worked out and he seems happy and is always content to go back to his house after a Sunday visit with mom and dad.  I am sure when we are physically gone from Lubbock there will be new anxiety on our part, maybe his too.  As for the girls, well that too will be rough but they will be fine and we have faith that even though nether has found a “career path” as we would define it they have a solid foundation.  It also solves the age-old question of what for Christmas; airplane tickets. 

So are we being selfish?  I’ll leave that up to those out there who like to pass judgment on others, as for us, it depends on which day you ask me and only time will tell if we have made the right decision. 

12. When is this “plan” going to happen?

Well as of today, 3, January 2012, 495 days, or May 2013, and yes there will be a party.  Jo is pushing for Las Vegas but I am angling for here or New Orleans.

Got any ideas?

OK, so these are some of the FAFFQ’s if you have your own please put them in the comments and I will answer them.  Oh, and if one of them is:  Can we come visit you on the boat?  The answer is, we are looking forward to it!

1 comment:

  1. Fred, I'm awed by your plan. If you embark at age 65, using your home equity to help purchase an 8 yr old cat and sail for 10 yrs, when you are 75 and the boat is 18, and you want or need to return to land . . .how do you manage?

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